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I HAVE mentioned that in our way hither we stopped at the house of Mrs. Salmier's sister-in-law, which is in the next commune to ours,-I call it Caulmain. Mrs. Gouchon, the sister-in-law, invited me to come the next day,-Sunday, -it being one of their fête-days. I did not understand her to invite me to dinner, and, as I had writing to do, I did not get off until late; Marie, the young daughter, accompanying me. We find the company still at the table, and Marie and I sit down, and food is brought to us. Mr. Salmier is there, our hostess being his sister, and the people are very much interested in talking with me about my country. Before we leave, Mr. Gouchon very kindly invites me to come the next day, which is the second day of the festival. This is not named for any saint, but is the fête of cherries. However, I see none. There is a more important festival in the fall. On our way back we stop in this village to see the ball-room, which is lighted up.
The dancing is not to begin this-Sunday-evening until nine. Mr. Salmier tells me that it is the influence of the curés, or parish priests, which prevents its beginning earlier, and I have imagined that the nearness of England has something to do with it. They dance the schottisch, polka, varsovienne, and mazurka, and what they call the jumping waltz. Old dances were the pastourelle and chassez four.
On Monday it is Mrs. Salmier who accompanies me to Mr. Napoleon Gouchon's to dine, and we arrive there be
tween one and two. A beautiful load of flax is standing before the door, and I speak of it to our host, who tells me that a good harvest of flax is worth ninety-two dollars per acre (computing five francs as a dollar). He gives me the expense of ploughing and cultivating, of manure, of seed, and of weeding, and the whole amounts to thirty-eight dollars, leaving fifty-four dollars clear profit. When, however, we learn that the best lands here are worth six hundred dollars per acre, and when we hear the great expense of renting land, our enthusiasm over the value of the crop will cool.
The family at Mr. Gouchon's consists first of my friend Napoleon and his wife. There are also two sons,—intelligent men, the older being married, and having children; his wife seems to be the housekeeper, or to do the principal part of the housework. At dinner we have first a good bouillon, or soup, with bread in, afterwards slices of cold roast beef with a dressing of herbs, containing probably garlic and poppy-seed oil, then veal with a plentiful supply of green peas. As this is the second day of the festival, we have cold roast turkey, with salad, and then the cold ham of yesterday. This turkey, which is not large, is quite a remarkable object in the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Salmier. We have also wine and beer, black coffee with the little glass of spirits, and sweet cakes and a little rock-candy. We are at the table about three hours. Among the guests is a stout man in a blue linen blouse, whom I call Deraismes. When he sees me put water into wine, he remarks that I am going to do penance. There is no water upon the table until I call for it, and disturb our young hostess to go and bring it. Their beer is not near so strong as lager; but they say that it will intoxicate. I afterwards hear of a carpenter who was gourmand, and who drank in half an hour about six quarts. At this dinner we have napkins,
and spoons and forks resembling pewter. Again I am asked much about my country; indeed, I seem quite a lion. Mr. Napoleon Gouchon-the old gentleman-and his friend Deraismes are Bonapartists; one of the young men says because they are rich, but that is ironical. Mr. Deraismes is sixty-eight, and remembers the burning of Moscow. He had picked up a few English words, when the English occupied this country for three years after the battle of Waterloo until the indemnity was paid them; but Mr. Deraismes's English is hard to understand. The two young Gouchons also wear blue linen blouses,—they are at home. They are intelligent; they and two youths who come in are republicans. They speak of the different parties, of the Orleanists and the Henri Quinquists. I ask how many Bourbonites there are. They do not readily understand me, for it seems that they generally call them Henri Quinquists, from the Bourbon heir to the throne. As soon as they do understand, the eldest son says that it is only the curés who support Henry V., adding afterwards, "Some great lords." In order to be fully correct, I turn to the father, Mr. Napoleon, the Bonapartist, and he replies that the greater part of the curés support Henry V. My neighbor at table, Mr. Deraismes, wishes to know whether Pekin is the capital of America; but one of the young men knows better. It is Voz-ann-ton, or perhaps Nev-Yor. When I remark that I can say in my country that all the young men I have seen are republicans, and, turning to my Napoleon and his friend, venture the remark that it is only the old gentlemen who are aristocrats, the bright younger son says, "They are old crusts," and Deraismes retaliates, "They are young rats."
This house where we dine is in the next commune to ours, the commune containing six hundred and seventy
two people, and having eleven estaminets, or places where drink is sold. On entering this commune, we see upon the roadside a large crucifix, at the top of a fine wide flight of steps. The figure on the cross is of life-size and life-like, and the crucifix is handsomely shaded with trees. It is called a calvary,-calvaire. Our host, Mr. Gouchon, has told me that it was put up by a private person; that the calvaries of the different townships are not established by the communes themselves. Some person was sick, and he promised if he got well to establish a calvary; and he left about five acres of ground, from the proceeds of which the calvary is to be maintained to eternity!
My host and his relatives are plain people, who work with their own hands. I do not have much opportunity to make the acquaintance of the great folks of the village. There are five houses in ours that have an étage, or a second story. The great majority are of one story; and at Mr. Salmier's, as at Boissières, the grain is kept in the garret. The day after my arrival the mayor is in at Mr. Salmier's; which is not surprising, as Mr. S. is town clerk. The mayor is not paid; he has the honor of being at the head of the seven hundred and twenty-five persons in this commune; and can sympathize with Julius Cæsar in preferring to be first in a certain village to being second in Rome. I tell Mr. Salmier that we have no mayors in our townships, and he asks me who registers births. And when I say that I do not think they are registered, he wants to know how we prevent infanticide.
The mayor-Mr. Cireau, as I call him—is big and burly, neatly dressed in his Sunday clothes,—a white linen waistcoat and light coat and pantaloons. (I have said that the
mayor never goes to church, except to funerals.) I learn that he has been to Paris,-to the Exposition; and well he may go, for he rents out one hundred acres of land, receiving about eighteen dollars an acre, renting his lands for eighteen years together, and the renter must pay the taxes. Mr. Cireau tells me that all the woods here are planted, and that the proprietor himself cannot cut them down without government permission. He can trim them or lop off the branches, but not root them out, the mayor says. I tell him that we cut down trees and then cultivate the ground; and here we come to a difficulty. He is sure that we cannot cultivate the ground without rooting out the trees. I tell him that if he will come to America he will see. Of course we do not cultivate the ground as it is cultivated here. There is something a little lonesome in this long stretch of land, with few trees, no fences nor dividing lines, and the corner-stones that serve to mark out properties so low as not to be visible when the grain is growing. Were not the ground handsomely undulating, it would be like a prairie.'
On Monday the mayor is in again in his blue blouse, and I inquire whether a stranger coming into the village can apply to the mayor for information as to where he can lodge. It seems that these estaminets, or restaurants, are not obliged to lodge people, nor even to feed them, and
*There are still native forests in France, principally in mountainous regions. About eighteen per cent. of the soil is in wood. A lady born in the department of Doubs, on the Swiss border, tells me that there are many forests there; but they belong to the communes, and not to individuals. The department of Le Nord, of which I speak in the text, is highly cultivated and populous. By census in 1876 it had fully 692 inhabitants to the square mile, whereas Pennsylvania, in 1870, had about 76.