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the hill above the vineyards. Here the of the first quality, is sent into distant lower formation was schistous, the upper countries whose people little imagine that calcareous. The sun was intensely hot, its constituents are drawn from a desert but there was the shade of walnut-trees, where there is little else but stones. which I took advantage of, although it is I came in view of the village, clinging said to be poisonous, like that of the ole- as it seemed to the steep at the base ander.
of a huge bastion of stark jurassic rock. When I reached the plateau there was Facing it was another barren hill, and in no shade whatever, baneful or beneficent. the valley beneath were mamelons of dark If there was ever any forest here all ves. clay and stones partly conquered by the tige of it has disappeared. I was on the great broom and burning with its flame of border of the Causse de Larzac, one of the gold. When I reached the village I felt highest, most extensive and savagely bar- that I had earned a rest. ren of the calcareous deserts 'which sepa- Cheese, which has been the fortune of rate the rivers in this part of France. Roquefort, has destroyed its picturesque. Not a drop of water save what may have ness. It has brought speculators there been collected in tanks for the use of who have raised great, ugly, square buildsheep, and the few human beings who eke ings of dazzling whiteness in harsh conout an existence there, is to be found trast with the character and sombre tone upon them. Swept by freezing winds in of the old houses. Although the place is winter and burnt by a torrid sun in sam- so small that it consists of only one street mer, their climate is as harsh as the soil and a few alleys, the more ancient dwell. is ungenerous.
ings are remarkable for their height. It But although I was sun-broiled upon is surprising to see in a village lost among this causse, I was interested at every step the sterile hills houses three stories high. by the flowers that I found there. Dry, The fact that there is only a ledge on chaffy, or prickly plants, corresponding in which to build must be the explanation. their nature to the aridity and asperity of What is most curious in the place is the the land, were peculiarly at home upon cellars. Before the cheese became an the undulating stoniness. The most beau- important article of commerce these were tiful flower then blooming was that of the natural caverns, such as are everywhere to catananche, which has won its poetic be found in this calcareous formation; French pame, cupidon bleu, by the bril- but now they are really cellars that have liant color of its blossom. Multitudes of been excavated to such a depth in the yellow everlastings also decked the soli- rock that they are to be seen in as many iude.
as five stages, where long rows of cheeses On reaching the highest ground the are stacked one over the other. The vir. crests of the bare Cevennes were seen tue of these cellars from the cheese-making against the cloudless sky to the south. A point of view is their dryness and their little to the east, beyond the valley of the scarcely varying temperature of about go Cernon, which I intended to cross, were centigrade summer and winter. But the high hills or cliffs, treeless and sterile, demand for Roquefort cheese has become with hard-cut angular sides, terminating so great that trickery now plays a part in upwards in vertical walls of naked stone. the ripening process. The peasants have These were the buttresses of the Causse learnt that time is money," and they de Larzac. The lower sides of some of have found that bread-crumbs mixed with the hills were blue with lias marl, and the curd cause those green streaks of wherever they were steep not a blade of mouldiness, which denote that the cheese grass grew.
is fit for the market, to appear much more Having descended to the valley, I was readily than was formerly the case when soon climbing towards Roquefort by the it was left to do the best it could for itself flanks of those melancholy hills which with the aid of a subterranean atmosphere. seemed to express the hopelessness of This is not exactly cheating; it is comi. nature after ages of effort to overcome mercial enterprise, the result of competisome evil power. And yet the tinkling of tion and other circumstances too strong innumerable sheep-bells told that even for poor human nature. In cheese-!nakhere men had found a way of earning ing, bread-crumbs are found to be a cheap their bread. I saw the flocks moving high substitute for time, and it is said that above me where all was wastefulness and those who have taken to beer-brewing in rockiness, and heard the voices of the this region have found that box, which shepherds. There were the Roquefort here is the commonest of shrubs, is a sheep whose milk, converted into cheese cheap substitute for hops. The notion that brass pins are stuck into Roquefort | sunshine, then I met the Tarn again and cheese to make it turn green is founded reached Millau, a weary and dusty way. on fiction.
farer. Having remained at Roquefort long I stopped in Millau (sometimes spelt enough to see all that was needful, to Milhau) more than a day in order to rest lunch, and to be overcharged — commer- and to ramble – moderately. Although cial enterprise is very infectious – 1 the town, with its sixteen thousand inhab. turned my back upon it and scrambled itants, is the most populous in the departdowc a stony path to the bottom of the ment of the Aveyron, it is so remote from valley where ibe Cernon — now a mere all large centres and currents of human thread of a stream – curled and sparkled movement that very little French is spoken in the middle of its wide channel, the yel- there. And this French is about on a par low flowers and pale green leaves of the with the English of the Sheffield grinders. horned poppy basking upon the rocky lo the better-class families an effort now banks. Following it down to the Tarn 1 is made to keep patois out of doors for the came to the village of St. Rome de Cer- sake of the children; but there is scarcely non, where the houses of dark grey stone, a middle-aged native to whom it is not the built on a hillside, are overtopped by the mother tongue. The common dialect is round tower of a small mediæval fortress not quite the same throughout Guienne which has been patched up and put to and Languedoc; but the local variations some modern use. I thought the people are much less marked than one would very ill-favored by nature here, but per. expect, considering that the langue d'oc haps they are not more so than others in has been virtually abandoned as a literary the district. The harshness of nature is vehicle for centuries. Curiously enough, strongly reflected in all faces. Having the word oc (yes), which was once the passed a man on the bank of the stream most convenient sound to distinguish the washing his linen - presumably his own dialect from that of the northern half of — with bare arms, sinewy and hairy like France, has fallen completely into disuse; a gorilla's, I was again in the open coun. so much so, that all the Languedocians try; but instead of following donkey-paths whom I questioned on the subject did not and sheep-tracks I was upon the dusty know at it meant, until at length an highroad. Well, even a route nationalé, educated one told me that the form was however not and dusty, so that it be not very old and had long died out. All these too straight, has its advantages, which are people can understand Spanish when felt after you have been walking an uncer- spoken slowly. Many can catch your tain number of miles over a very rough meaning when you speak to them in country, trusting to luck to lead you where French, but reply in patois. I had grown you wished to go. The feeling that you accustomed, although not reconciled, to may at length step out freely and not this manner of conversing with peasants, worry yourself with a map and compass but I was surprised to find on entering a is a kind of pleasure which, like all others, shop at Millau that neither the man nor is only so by the force of contrast and his wife there could reply to
me in the charm of variety. I knew that I French. could now tramp along this road without This towo lies in the bottom of a basin; troubling myself about anything, and that some of the high hills, especially those on I should reach Millau sooner or later. the east, showing savage escarpments It was really very hot; ideal sunstroke with towering masses of yellow or reddish weather, verging on 90° in the shade; rock at the summits. The climate of the but I had become hardened to it, and was valley is delightful in winter, but sultry as dry as a smoked herring. For miles I and enervating in summer. It is so prosaw no human being and heard no sound tected from the winds that the mulberry of life except the shrilling of grasshop- flourishes there; and countless almondpers and the more strident song of the trees rise above the vines on the burning cicades in the trees. By and by houses hillsides. showed themselves, and I came to the Millau presents a good deal of interest village of St. Georges beside the bright to the archæologist. Very noteworthy is little Cernon, but surrounded by wasteful, the ancient market.place, where the first desolate hills, one of which, shaped like a and upper stories project for over the pav. cone, reared its yellow, rocky summit farling and are supported by a colonnade. towards the blue solitude of the dazzling Some of the columns, with elaborately sky. I passed by little gardens where carved Romanesque capitals, date from great hollyhocks flamed in the afternoon the twelfth century, and look ready to fall
into fragments. At one end of the square can manage to live by the sweat of his is an immense modern crucifix -- a sure brow. Many of these peasant proprietors sign that the civic authorities do not yet can barely keep body and soul together; share the views of the municipal council. but when they lie down upon their lors of Paris in regard to religious em- wretched beds at night, they feel thankful blems. Protestants, however, are numer. that the roof that covers them, and the soil ous at Millau as well as at St. Affrique, that supports them, are their own. The both towns having been important cenires wind may howl about the eaves, and the of Calvinism ai the time of the Revocation snow may drift against the wall, but they of the Fdict of Nantes; and after the know that the one will calm down, and that forced emigration many of the inhabitants the other will melt, and that life will go on must have strongly sympathized with their as before — hard, back-breaking, grudging persecuted neighbors,' the Camisards. even the dark bread, but secure and indeNevertheless the department of the Avey- pendent. Waiting to be hired by another ron, taken in its entirety, is now one of man almost like a beast of burden - what the most fervently Catholic in France. a trial is here for pride! Happily for the
The church is Romanesque with a human race, pride, although it springs marked Byzantine tendency. It has an naturally in the breast of man, only beelegant apse decorated in good taste ; but comes luxuriant with cultivation. The the edifice having received various patch-poor laborer does not feel it unless his ings and decorations at the time of the instinctive sense of justice has been outRenaissance, the uniformity of style has raged. been spoilt. The most striking architectu
EDWARD HARRISON BARKER. ral feature of the town is a high Gothic belfry of octagonal form with a massive square tower for its base.
In the Middle Ages the government of this town was vested in six consuls who
From The Spectator. received twenty gold florins a year as sal
" DEATH WEEK" IN RURAL RUSSIA. ary, and also a new robe of red and black “ DEATH WEEK," the "Smartna Necloth with a hood. In 1341 they furnished delya” of the Slavonic peoples, marks the forty men-of-arms for the war against the end of winter in rural Russia. It is kept English, but the place was given up to during the last seven days of March, and Chandos in 1362. "The rising of 1369 de. is a survival pure and simple of early livered the burghers again from the Brit- paganism. In the old Slavonic mythology, ish power, but for twenty-two years they as in the minds of the mass of untaught were continually fighting with the English Russians nowadays, the idea of Death and companies.
Winter is closely associated; and the cereThe evening before I left Millau Imonies proper to the “Death Week," from strolled into the little square where the the sacrifice to the “ Vodyanoi," or Watergreat crucifix stands. I found it densely Spirit, with which it begins, to the drivcrowded. Three or four hundred men ing-out and drowning of Death, with which were there, each wearing a blouse and it terminates, are based upon the supercarrying a sickle with a bit of osier laid stition that was formerly universal in upon the sharp edge of the blade along its northern Europe. That writers on Ruswhole length, and firmly tied. All these sia and the Russians have given no acharvesters were waiting to be hired for the count of the “Death-Week" celebration, following week. They belonged to a class is due, no doubt, to the fact that it takes much less numerous in France than in place at a time of year when travellers are England - the agricultural laborers who rarely tempted to visit Russia, and is conhave no direct interest in the soil that they fined to rural districts out of the beaten help to cultivate, and the crops that they track, which are unlikely to attract foreignhelp to gather in. I have often met them ers. on the dusty roads, frequently walking When the ice begins to break on the with bare feet, carrying the implements of water, winter is considered over in Rus. their husbandry and a little bundle of sia ; and the breaking of the ice is due clothes. It must be very hard to ask for the Russian peasants hold to the work from farm to farm. I can enter fully Vodyanoi,” or Water-Spirit, who has his into the attachment of the French peasant abode in the rivers and streams. He has to his bit of land which, although it may slept over the winter, they say, and awakes yield him little more than his black bread, hungry and angry, with the first rays of the cannot be taken from him so long as he returning sun. He bursts the congealed
covering of the water, sends the ice-floes | lage, headed by the “ Lyalya,” stopping at drifting, drives the fish from their haunts, certain dwellings settled upon beforehand. and causes the streams to overflow. In At the first of the houses where a halt is the last week of March, therefore, before made, a cake prepared over night is the ice begins to break, the peasants in handed to the party. At the next, they rural Russia start the "Death-Week" cel. receive a basket containing as many eggs ebration by preparing a sacrifice for the as there are girls in the procession, and “Vodyanoi,” so that he shall not be kept one over. At the third house they get a waiting when he awakes from his winter measure of mixed grain. Preceded still sleep. They meet together in the village by the “Lyalya,” they leave the village, where the celebration is to take place, and stopping, however, at the last house, subscribe a sum of money for the purchase where an egg is taken from the basketful of a young horse. The animal must not and thrown clear over the roof. The be a gift, but bought for money; it must party now make the round of the fields not be bargained for, and no one person belonging to the village, each one dipping must contribute more than another to the her hand into the grain-measure, and amount required. The horse is taken to strewing a few of the seeds over the a stable specially reserved for the gift to ground. This is supposed to ensure fer. the “Vodyanoi," and fed for three days tility in the coming year. When all the on bread and oil-cake. On the fourth day, fields have been traversed, the procession at midnight, the horse is taken from the returns to the spot whence a start was stall, and conducted to the nearest river made; the cake and eggs are divided, and or stream, the villagers following in a each girl returns to her home. The egg body. The mane is decorated with red and cake must not be eaten, but are preribbons, the head smeared with honey, the served as charms against all sorts of mislegs are tied together, and a couple of mill. fortune. The young women who have stones secured to the neck. Then a hole taken part in the procession can, if they is made in the ice, and the horse thrown are curious that way, ascertain on the into the water, a living sacrifice to the night of the “ Lyalya” whether they are “ Vodyanoi.” Fisher-folk in the Archan. likely to marry in the course of the next gel district pour a quantity of fat into the twelve months, and if so, in which month. water instead of throwing in a horse ; and They must procure an onion, and take off the millers of the Ukraine cast the horse's twelve layers, and put them in a row behead into the river, and not the living tween the piece of the "Lyalya " cake and animal. After appeasing the Water- the egg. Each layer of onion represents Spirit, the House-Spirit, the “ Domovoi," a month, and if one of them be quite dry calls for a sacrifice. He awakes on the by the morning, it is a sign of marriage, night of March 25th, and will only wait and the order in which the piece stands three days for his offering. So on return shows the month in which the marriage ing from the riverside, the villagers pre- will take place. pare a suitable gift for him. They take a All is now ready for the ceremony of fat black pig, kill it, and cut it into as driving out Death, from which the week many pieces as there are residents in the derives its designation. Early in the place. Each resident receives one piece, morning the residents of the village, men, which he straightway buries under the women, and children, meet in the market. doorstep at the entrance to his house. In place. Some bring packages of rags and some parts, it is said, the country folk old clothes, others bundles of straw, long bury a few eggs beneath the threshold of sticks, and cross-pieces. Out of these, the dwelling to propitiate the “ Domovoi." three or four expert hands, accustomed to
On the following day, the ceremony the work, manufacture a dummy figure known as the “ Lyalya " takes place. The resembling an old woman. The face is “ Lyalya" is not the Goddess of Spring, painted and made as hideous as possible. but a personification of the season. The This is the figure of Death – Death, acceremony of the day is known as the cording to Slavonic mythology, being a * Lyalynik," and only young unmarried woman. The dummy is perched aloft girls take part in it. They all meet in a upon a long pole, which is given to a field outside the village, and select one sturdy peasant, who is dressed out in what who is to be the “ Lyalya.” She is attired is left of the rags and tatters used in the in a white robe, with a crown of green construction of the figure. The men then stuff on her head, and a staff, decorated arm themselves with whips and whistles, with green leaves, in her hands. Bare- the women and children bring pots and footed the girls then perambulate the vil- paos and iron kettles — any utensils, in
fact, they can bang upon and make a earthly clatter. On they go, dashing up clatter with — and the procession starts, one street and down another, past pillar the peasant carrying the image of Death and post, always quicker and quicker, in front. Off he starts at a smart run, the while children stumble and elderly people villagers after him, cracking their whips, fall into the rear, until, exhausted and out blowing their whistles, banging on the of breath, the noisy multitude return to the pots and pans. On the party go, shout- point whence the start was made. ing and hooting, driving Death in front, It is generally evening by the time to the nearest river or stream. Here a halt Death has been drowned, and the place is made, a circle is formed by the river- cleared of evil spirits. The villagers take side, and the dummy is thrown headlong a rest, and then prepare to camp-out for into the water. The party then return in the night; among the southern Slavs, no orderly procession, calling out as they one ever dreams of going to sleep on the march along: “We have driven out Death, evening of the festival. It is an old and bring in the New Year.” In many Slavonic belief that on this night the gates parts of Russia, the villagers content of heaven are opened, and if any one asks themselves with giving the figure of Death for a special gift at the actual moment of a good ducking, and then throwing it upon opening, it will certainly be granted. At the nearest piece of vacant ground. In that particular instant, too, all trees are such cases, too, if the villagers happen to said io bear golden fruits, and whoever is have a grievance against any neighboring lucky enough to grasp them just then, hamlet, they carry the figure to the boun- may retain them for his own. The Rus. daries of the latter, and leave it upon their sian peasant, therefore, stays out in the neighbors' land. This is certain to lead field all night, in order to watch for the to a series of free fights between the two opening of the sky. That he does not villages. It is an insult to throw the figure make much of the opportunity, is perhaps of Death on other people's land, and is due to the fact that he often takes advan. considered to bring misfortune with it be- tage of the camping-out festivity to get so sides. The dummy is carried back by drunk on vodki, that were the heavens those who find it within their boundaries, really to rain gifts during the night, he while the village folk who left it there would be in no condition to profit by the gather to oppose its return. The fighting bounty of the skies. As soon as the first in such cases is prolonged, and is not un signs of sunrise are observed in the east frequently attended with fatal results. by the women who keep watch, the vil. The more peaceable villagers are content lagers are roused, and are speedily afoot. to leave the dummy in the water where it in a body they proceed to the nearest hill is thrown.
facing east, where the earliest rays of the On returning to the village sundry addi- spring sun fall, there to welcome “ Vesna,” tions are made to the instruments with the goddess of returning summer. The which the people are provided. The bells iwo elders of the village take with them a are taken from the necks of the cows, as clean white cloth and some bread and well as the horns used for calling cattle salt. Arrived at the summit of the hill, together. One or two procure drums to the cloth is spread upon the ground, and beat. Then, men, women, and children fastened down by pegs to prevent it blowbegin to run round the village as fast as ing away. The bread and salt are placed they can, making as much noise as possi- upon it, and the men call out loudly: ble. The object of this performance is to "Mother Vesna! see here!” desiring the drive out the evil spirits Death is supposed goddess to accept their welcome. And to have left behind. The quicker the with this invocation the special ceremopeople go, and the more noise they make, nies of the “Death Week” terminate. the more effectually is the place cleared In western Russia, the “Smartna Neof the imps supposed to follow in the delya" is not much observed. But in the train of Death, and the greater will be the rural districts of central and southern blessings of the coming season. The vil. Russia, this week, with its pagan cere. lagers, therefore, rush along pell-mell, as monies, is celebrated as regularly, and for a wager, the men hooting, the women with much the same simple belief on the screaming at the top of their voices, the part of the country-folk, as among their children joining in with a piping treble, heathen ancestors on the banks of the horns blowing, drums beating, and bells Ural and the Irtysh. ringing, the pots and pans making an un