Imagens das páginas

into the salle-d-manger, to despatch as rapidly as I could a mouthful of something preparatory to the journey. Ten minutes was enough ; for I thought the only way I could make amends to the unfortunate passengers for the past was by losing as little time as possible, and insisting on the Fleur du Midi's starting immediately I was ready.

“ They order these things differently in England," was my reflection.

Whilst I was despatching with the utmost celerity a scrap breakfast, the subofficials of the hotel were busy in arranging what little baggage I had ;-it is astonishing how much work a moderate knapsack will occasion three or four sturdy Frenchmen upon the top of a diligence ;--so that when I reappeared in the courtyard, the driver was in his seat, the conductor ready to see me mount, and the horses, weary of inaction, were panting to be off. In these days of steam, iron roads, and trains, it is refreshing to fall back occasionally on the subdued mode of transport enjoyed by the last generation. There is something wonderfully harmonious in the rumble of the wheels, the crack of the whip, the grunting of the grooms, the slang of the coachman-the slang, I mean, he uses to his horses,--the vivacity of the conductor, the bidding adieus of the passengers, and the zigzagging motion of the swinging vehicle. It is for that reason that I avail myself of the opportunity once or twice in the summer of taking the coach to Brighton, from Holborn, and running over the old road traversed with such pride and gusto by our ancestors.

Tarbes was reached late in the night, or rather early in the morning, that hour when sleep is deepest, and when the air is stillest and the motion of the spheres is least felt--three o'clock; nevertheless there was an appearance of bustle not usual in a French town at that hour of the morning. The cause I had learnt on the road. It was the annual fair there the next day.

I was now fairly in the gateway of the Pyrenees. From this point the massive and formidable barrier of Spain rises with a thousand peaks along the whole line of the horizon, mingling with the clouds, and sometimes becoming confounded with them; and here, when the fair is held, are to be seen all the races and the costumes of these Spanish Alps-the white bonnet of Bigorre, the brown of Fois, and the red of Roussillon. Sometimes even the large flat hat of Arragon, the round hat of Navarre, and the pointed bonnet of Biscay, are to be met with ; whilst, to complete the picture, the Basque voiturier wearing the béret of Bearn, comes, with his long cart drawn by three horses, humbly riding at their side on a diminutive donkey. Yet the Basque is a proud race,--proud of his pedigree, proud of the house whose name he bears. The Basque knows that he belongs to the oldest of the races of the West, where, motionless in its corner of the Pyrenees, it has seen all the nations pass before it-Carthaginian, Celt, Roman, Goth, Saracen. A Basque would look with contemptuous pity on the length of the longest Norman scroll-on our young antiquities, as he would term them, of France or England or Ger

many. “We date from a thousand years back," once said a Montmorenci to a Basque. “And we," replied the latter," have left off dating.”

I considered myself, therefore, particularly fortunate when, descending the next morning, and going out into the market-place, I was enabled to survey (as it were at a glance) these motley groups of races clad in so widely different costumes, each indicating a separate and independent though closely allied and neighbourly tribe. An hour devoted to this agreeable study, and I was off to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, in the neighbourhood of which resided for centuries the Cagots, and still reside the residue of that Proscribed Race.

In reflecting upon the Cagots, I have attempted to find a parallel to them in the history of nations, but have failed to do so; though it is not necessary to travel very far even in France and Spain to discover traces of whole classes, who, from some cause or other, have incurred the ban of the Church and the censure of the State, and being thus excommunicated, as it were, have been compelled to dwell apart, in a state of complete isolation from the other members of the villages in which they were located. We can understand why a brand was set on the leper, and he became excluded from the society of his fellow-creatures; the chronicles of Greece explain the origin of the helots; it is not difficult to account for the degradation of the fellahs of Egypt, the rayahs of Turkey, the pariahs of India; even the gipsies—the Gitana of Italy, the Zingari of Spain, the Bohemian of Hungary-present a less formidable mystery. They exist amongst us, though they are not of us ; they still survive as a race, nomad and predatory, having certain traditions in common, and knit together by the bond of race and habits. But the Cagots, who were they? What were they? Whence did they come? Why were they so shamefully used ? What was the crime for which Heaven had assigned this punishment—this more than ten times forty years' wandering in the wilderness? Sometimes called Cagots, sometimes Gaffets, they have sojourned a thousand years in the valleys of the Hautes Pyrenées without being permitted to mingle with the other inbabitants, and yet have never been treated either as helots, serfs, or slaves. It would appear that they were too despised to be made use of as menials, to be employed in domestic service, to be had in even the most degraded consideration.

Before proceeding further, it may be as well to state that the social condition of the Cagots does not continue to be what it was; in fact, that it has undergone a radical modification within the last sixty or seventy years, much to the disappointment of the antiquarian, though much to the credit of modern civilisation. It was impossible that the doctrines of liberté, équalité, fraternité, should be preached, that trees of liberty should be planted, the bonnet rouge of revolutions waved, and monarchs lose their heads on the scaffold, without these great events vibrating even to the valleys of the Pyrenees, and influencing those who had been for ages oppressed by the tyranny both of Church and State. Such was the case. With the downfall of feudalism, a large measure of benefit extended to this despised and outcast race. The rigorous severity of the excommunication practised towards them by the meek prelates of the Church has been relaxed; and whereas before the year 1793 it was deemed scandalous, and was even a punishable offence, to have friendly intercourse with Cagots, not only have friendships been formed between them and their neighbours, but marriages, with the benediction of the clergy, frequently occur. From this a special, though not by us regrettable, disadvantage arises. The Cagots no longer-80 speedy has been the transformation— form a distinct and separate community; consequently many of the characteristics by which they were formerly recognised have become in a great measure obliterated. However, traces of them still remain, and, even mingled as they are with the native race, they are sufficiently interesting, as the descendants of a people treated not a hundred years ago as the offscouring of the earth, to be visited and studied.

As Montgaillard and Campan, villages in the neighbourhood of Bagnères-de-Bigorre, were the principal settlements of the Cagots, and as here the most distinct traces of them are still to be found, to these villages I directed my steps. Of the manner in which the proscribed race was treated officially we have convincing proofs in Montgaillard. They enjoyed the privilege of attending divine service,- for they professed the Catholic faith, such as it was in their district,—but were not placed on an equality, even within the house of God, with their fellow-worshipers, their fellowworms. Perhaps this may not be thought much of, considering that in our own country we have high-boarded pews and benches, where the poor may sit and worship apart. But the Cagot was excluded from the body of the church altogether, and was thrust back to the farthest point from the altar, in a recess constructed especially for their profane persons. Moreover, they were not allowed to enter by the northern or southern porch, but only by a side-door under the belfry; a separate bénitier, or shell containing holy water, was kept for iSeir use; they were denied the privilege of the sacraments; and when they died, their were not suffered to lie in the burial-ground of their common Christian brethren. They consequently had a cemetery of their own; and so habituated have they become to this separate interment, that to this day, notwithstanding the barriers of the ancient social distinctions have been broken down, the Cagot dead are laid in this isolated field. This practice may, however, result less from any spirit of persecution than from that intense desire which we all share of reposing in the resting-place of our forefathers. This reverential feeling may operate strongly, we have a right to believe, with the remnants of this Proscribed Race.

Both at Campan and Montgaillard the doorways under the belfry through which the Cagots used to slink to their worship still remain, but they are blocked


It is piteous to reflect upon the degradation to which any class or

race of men may be reduced by the oppression of power; and our antipathies to the violence of tyranny naturally rouse in us a spirit of indignation. But there is, we must confess, a large element of romance in our speculations, and we love rather to picture to ourselves a high and nobleminded people suffering than imagine we are sympathising with a puny lilliputian race. We sigh when we hear the righteous death-warrant read to a Neapolitan bandit, as he lies in the fatal cart, attended by a priest, crucifix in hand, and a brown maiden all in tears bewailing his hard lot. When we read of the gipsies, with their king and their queen, and their free and fetterless life, a feeling akin to enthusiasm is kindled in the mind; and I must confess that I prefer to call a coal-black son of Western Africa “a man and a brother” when a few miles separate us, than when he occupies the next seat at a dinner-table or the proximate stall at the opera. " It was from a parity of feeling that the solidarity which ought to have bound me to the Cagot lost something of its cubic regularity when I saw a specimen of the race. Of course this is no justification of oppression and cruelty; and I reprehend myself severely for allowing such an influence to detract from my enthusiasm about and sympathy for the historic Cagot. But only imagine a village the inhabitants of which are low in stature, with clumsy, ill-formed figures, feeble and tottering, with sallow complexions, weak intellects,-in a word, beings the unlike of any thing you have ever seen or could have conjectured. Yet such are the descendants of the Cagots,--short, illshaped, debilitated in mind and body, with unhealthy-looking skins, and, dared one say so, apparently formed to be the servants of the human race. May not, however, ages of servitude, or rather of neglect and isolation, have made them what they are, and is it not rather the finger of man and not the curse of God which has wrought upon them this great calamity? But there they are, a palpable fact; lower than a western Irishman; low as we would wish humanity to sink.

In olden times their principal occupation was that of carpentring; hence, in the village of Montgaillard, the locality in which they dwelt is still called the Quartier des Charpentiers.

Various theories have been put forward by different writers on ethnology and philology to account for the origin of the Cagots; Faurie!, Ramon, Michel, Pelasson, have all their different opinions, more or less clashing with each other. Some have assumed them to be the descendants of the Goths, who invaded the south of France in the fifth century, and were defeated by Clovis; others, that they are the descendants of the Arabs, defeated by Charles Martel, near Poitiers, in the eighth century; others, that they are a remnant of the Albigenses, against whom the Church of Rome, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, marshalled the hosts of northern Europe; others represent them as being the offspring of those Christians who first visited from the West the Holy Sepulchre, and returning from their pilgrimage brought with them the taint of leprosy; others, again, have attributed to them a Jewish origin. All of these speculations are plausible, inasmuch as they place the Cagots in a state of antagonism with the surrounding communities; for whether they were Goths, Arabs, Albigenses, Israelites, or lepers, they equally excited the antipathies of the people and the priesthood, and necessarily became outcasts.

Whether they were lepers or not, we find upon examination that they were subject to the same regulations, civil and ecclesiastical, to which this afflicted class was subject. By the Council of Latran, held in 1179, it was decreed that lepers should not be entitled to the ministrations of the regular priest, that they should frequent a separate part of the church, and that they should provide themselves with a distinct burial-ground. This, we have seen, was the case with the Cagots. The Cagots were also deprived of the privilege of bearing arms, a restriction laid upon lepers by the regulations of the Maladerie d'Amiens in 1305. They were excluded from all offices, and from many civil rights; the testimony of five Cagots was required to counterbalance the testimony of any other person; and, by a curious display of tenderness, they were exempt from taxation. But even this clemency may have been the result of contempt; as probably they were considered to be too wretched and miserable to be indulged with such an honour. Besides these deprivations, their personal character was assailed; for they were frequently accused of unholy practices, and of holding intercourse with the Spirit of Evil.

But supposing that the Cagots were treated as lepers, the question naturally arises, whence did the charge of leprosy originate? The Abbé Venuti maintains the proposition to which we have alluded, that is, that the proscribed race are the descendants of the Navarrese or Béarnian Christians, who undertook the earliest pilgrimage to the East, and returned home with the infection of leprosy. It may, however, be urged that, granted the original pilgrims to the Holy Land did return afflicted with this disease, no evidence exists to prove that it was perpetuated in their families, and that it was set upon them by Providence as a brand and mark. We have every reason, on the contrary, to believe that such was not the case, and that the worthy Abbé's inferences are unnatural and illogical; for we have, in fact, no records to show that the Cagots, thou treated lepers, were ever leprous. We find, however, that leprosy and heresy were regarded as synonymous in the earlier ages of the Church, and treated accordingly; it being piously believed—perhaps the wish was father to the thought—that heretics were judicially stricken with leprosy. The Goths, for example, being Arians, and therefore hereties in the eye of the Church, were involved in the suspicion of leprosy. Gregory of Tours, in his Ecclesiastical History, as well as his work De Miraculis Sancti Martini, in which he avows the inseparable nature of the physical and moral taint, gloats over the idea. Not being influenced by the superstitious theory of Gregory of Tours or the Abbé Venuti, we must conclude that the internal evidence of leprosy from the existence of heresy falls to the ground. But we may further inquire what is the external evidence ?

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