Billeder på siden

curculio, or plum-beetle, as Canada seems to be north of the range of the pea-weevil. We see at Mr. V.'s a hog, ten months old, estimated to weigh five hundred pounds. Mr. V. has more than one.

If it be not too great a step from swine to nobility, allow me, to add here that in the same great village with Mr. V. the Count of has a residence. He has altogether three residences, and is said to possess about two thousand five hundred acres.

[ocr errors]

One more excursion Mrs. Willems and I are to take. It is to her native village; and at the same time we will visit other places, where different acquaintances think that there are things worth seeing. And as madame wishes to be back soon, it is concluded to start on August 11th, which is Sunday. We pass through Malines, and I do not know until my return to my own country that it is Mechlin. We see peasants with handkerchiefs or little shawls pinned upon the crowns of their bonnets, and falling in folds on their necks. The ends may be pinned under the chin or tied upon the breast. One woman, who is quite well dressed, thus wears a little yellow silk shawl, with broad yellow lace around it. It seems to me that the Belgian Sunday more resembles ours than does the Parisian, but I am told at Mechlin that the stores are open.


At one of the stations that we pass, Mrs. Willems says that the station-keeper was a liberal, and that the peasants signed a petition and had him removed. Now he has a smaller place. "What for?" I ask; "there must have been a reason given." "There was some reason invented.

By Article XIV. of the Belgian Constitution, no person can be forced to observe the holidays of any religious body.

We e say," she adds, smiling, "when one wants to whip a dog one can always find a stick." I ask why the peasants are opposed to the liberals, who ought to be their friends. "Because they think them opposed to religion, and the curés tell them that they are." We change cars at Louvain, where is the university, which is Catholic; but Mrs. W. says that young men who go to it come out more liberal than others. After quitting Louvain, we see on our right a fine stretch of agricultural country, resembling France, almost treeless, and I see beets growing, and stacks of grain, and a great spread of land without houses, as in Le Nord, the department of France I lately left. We stop a few moments at Neerwinden. Here on a great plain was a great battle, and thousands of soldiers, Mrs. W. says, were buried in that plain. It was one of the battles of Louis XIV. War seems to have been a game that he loved to play at. About here the peasants who get into the cars are speaking Walloon, which Mrs. W. tells me is quite different from Flemish; one does not understand the other.*

We stop for the night at a flourishing town, where lives a gentleman to whom we have a letter of introduction. When we go to his house he and the family are absent, and we leave a note for him at a little shop near by. We then conclude to take up our quarters at the Blue Sheep, which, for an obvious reason, I prefer to the Golden Crown. The house seems to be kept by a woman; it is decent and comfortable, but probably we should have had better butter at the Golden Crown. At supper-time we have the company of a man of about thirty, who is stout, has curling hair, and looks to me like a travelling salesman. Before eating,

*Of course there are persons who speak both. "Cyclopædia," "Belgium."

See Appletons'

he crosses himself twice. I do not remember ever to have seen a man in France cross himself even once before eating, and rarely a woman. It turns out, however, that this young man at the Blue Sheep is a teacher, or is connected with the public schools, which are now in vacation. The landlady thinks that he is employed by the government. He himself tells us of a school examination that is now going on here; but it is private. He tells me that Mr. Van Ambek is going to introduce a system into all Belgian schools in imitation of that of America. Here I am told what I have before mentioned,—that public school education in Belgium comes next to that of Prussia; it is also said to be much more advanced than in France. Instruction in the common grade of public schools is gratuitous; and books are given to the indigent, but others must pay.

At this flourishing town we find, with some exceptions, that the stores are open this Sunday afternoon. In one window we see showy red cotton handkerchiefs, bearing the smiling face of Pope Leo XIII., " Papa," and besprinkled with little cross-keys; while on a border are larger ones. Mrs. Willems buys one for fourteen sous to give to an old man whom she is going to visit.

In the morning we find the gentleman to whom we brought the letter of introduction, and he tells us that he was at their country-house near the town, where there is a fine view; he thinks it a pity that we had not known where to find them. I make an inquiry concerning the farmers here, and he replies that they are generally very comfortable, but they are not the owners of lands; these belong to great seigneurs. He is so kind as to write in my note-book the names of a few proprietors, whence I learn that the Count of possesses about five thousand acres, rented to four farmers, except the woods, which are re

served for hunting. The count's family is very old. Several others are mentioned who own lesser quantities. The town in which we are-which is handsomely situated on a river —has grown up by its great manufactures of iron, paper, etc. It has manufactures of zinc and of tiles, has tanneries, and one or more distilleries. In the vicinity are mines of coal, iron, zinc, and lead. In this neighborhood almost all are liberal in politics, except the nobility. In religion all are Catholics,—at least, nominally. "The nobility," says this gentleman, "are more opposed to liberal ideas than the clergy." "Then," I say, "the clergy are obliged to follow them because they are dependent on them." "It is a chain," he answers.*

Our time this morning is very limited, but I get Mr. P. to call a carriage, and we ride out to see a farm belonging to a lady whose husband is of a distinguished Antwerp family.

We see the farmer's wife, who is much occupied, but shows us round during our brief stay. The floors that I see in the house are of stone. There are here about two hundred and fifty acres, sixteen working-horses, nine colts, fifty horned cattle, and fifteen hogs. Raising colts is one of their industries, and in a horse-stable I observe at each end a short bunk built against the wall at a considerable height, one having a ladder by which to go up. In the two sleep four men. It seems to me that these beds are too short. The farmer's wife, in speaking of the colts, speaks also of the mères, or mothers. Is this the origin of our word mare? We are now in the Walloon part of Belgium,

* Of course the seigneurs of Belgium have not the old feudal privileges; as I understand, they are only nobles, with landed possessions; nor can the clergy be said to be directly dependent upon them, for they are paid by the government.

or, as we may say, the French part. At this farm the manure is not protected, as at the one we visited near Antwerp, but there is a cistern in the barn-yard to collect the drainings of the stables, and a pump to take them out.

Mr. P., the gentleman who accompanies us, asks me a question about my country. When we were preparing for the journey, Mrs. Willems put on a black silk, while I wore a black woollen. She says that she must dress in going to her own village, or the people will be sure to say, "They must have lost money. Don't you see that she is not dressed so well as she used to be?" The question which Mr. P. asks me is, whether we occupy ourselves much with the toilet in America. "Oh, yes," I answer. "At New York?" he asks. "Oh, in other places," I reply. "I thought that perhaps you are too advanced," he concludes. In this town where Mr. P. lives we see little wagons or trucks drawn by dogs, carrying each a small cask. He says that these contain the refuse of the distillery, taken to feed animals. He says that the ouvriers-by which I suppose he means the workingmen of the town-drink beer and gin. While at the town, a woman tells us that there is a grotto we ought to see, to Our Lady of Lourdes. It is in the hospital-yard, close by the great church, and, seeing the hospital gate open, we go in. It is an artificially constructed grotto, with a little image of Bernadotte kneeling, and higher up Mary without the infant Jesus. There is also a box for you to put money in. In the church the altar is very plain, except the great painted window behind it. The church has two stoves, but Mrs. Willems says that theirs at Antwerp have none. One chapel, she says, has fire, but no church except the Protestant ones. We bid Mr. P. goodby; he has been quite cordial; and we make our way by rail to a station about a mile from the first village at which


« ForrigeFortsæt »