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not his Liberty; and, what is more, it is re-
straint which is honourable even in the lower
animals. A butterfly is much more free than
a bee ; but you honour the bee more, j ust be-
cause it is subject to certain laws which fit it
for orderly function in bee society. And
throughout the world, of the twoabstract things,
liberty and restraint, restraint is always the
more honourable. It is true, indeed, that in
these and all other matters you never can rea-
son finally from the abstraction, for both
liberty and restraint are good when they are
nobly chosen, and both are bad when they are
basely chosen; but of the two, I repeat, it is
restraint which characterizes the higher crea-
ture and betters the lower creature: and, from



the ministering of the archangel to the labour
of the insect from the poising of the planets
to the gravitation of a grain of dust the
power and glory of all creatures, and all
matter, consist in their obedience, not in their
freedom. The sun has no liberty a dead leaf
has much. The dust of which you are formed
has no liberty. Its liberty will come with
its corruption. And, therefore, I say boldly,
though it seems a strange thing to say in
England, that as the first power of a nation
consists in knowing how to guide the Plough,
its second power consists in knowing how to

wear the Fetter.

JOHN BUSKIN.



A LAND SHIPWRECK.

In the height of their carousing, all their braius

Warm'tl with the he;it of wine, discourse was offered

Of ships, and storms at sea ; when suddenly,

Out of hia wild giddiness, one conceives

The room wherein they quaff 'd to be a pinnace,

Moving aud floating ; and the confused noise

To be the murmuring winds, gusts, mariners ;

That their nnsteadfast footing did proceed

From rocking of the vessel ; this conceived,

Each one begins to apprehend the danger,

And to look out for safety. Fly saith one,

Up to the main-top, and discover : he

Climbs by the bedpost to the tester, there

Reports a turbulent sea and tempest towards;

And wills them, if they'll save their ship and livc^

To cast their lading overboard. At this

All fall to work, and hoist into the street,

As to the sea, what next come to their hand

Stools, tables, tressel*, trenchers, bedsteads, cups,

Pots, plates, and glasses : here a fellow whistles ;

They take him for the boatswain ; one lies struggling

Upon the floor, as if he swam for life :

A third takes the bass viol for the cock-boat,

Sits in the belly on't, labours and rows;

His oar, the stick with which the fiddler play'd :

A fourth bestrides his fellows, thinking to 'scajie.

As did Arion, on the dolrhin's back,

Still fumbling 011 a gittern.

The rude multitude

Watching without, and gaping for the spoil

Cast from the windows, went by th' ears about it ;

The constable is called to atone the broil,

Which done, and hearing such a noise within,

Of imminent shipwreck, enters the Louse, and finds

them

In this confusion : they adore his staff,
And think it Neptune's trident ; and that he
Came with his Tritons (so they call'd his watch)
To calm the tempest and appe ise the waves :
And at this point we left them.

JOHN HLYWOOD (1565).



VAGABOND JACK.



233



VAGABOND JACK.

BY HENBY DE LA MADELINE.
L

Vagabond Jack was certainly worthy of his
nickname, for ever since he had arrived at
years of discretion he was not known to have
any home or any fixed abode. Always wander-
ing over the mountain he slept anywhere, care-
less though his bed were the bare ground. All
the caves, grottoes, caverns, and crevasses of
Mount Ventoux belonged to him of natural
right, and his sovereignty extended if need
were over forty leagues as the crow flies, from
the Barron to the borders of Savoy.

His real name was John Gravier; but where
will there be found a peasant in this part of
the country who is known under the name he
has derived from his forefathers? Except the
cure and the notary perhaps nobody in the
village knew who John Gravier was; but as
for Jack the Vagabond why, the very youngest
children knew this name, and he himself would
have scarcely answered to any other.

Being left an orphan while quite young,
Jack was a child of nature in the fullest sense
of the term. Very jealous of his liberty and
even somewhat wild, he could not long remain
in service in the house of a stranger, and soon
broke loose from all guardianship. Active as
a monkey, almost proof against fatigue, patient,
and temperate, he rapidly became an excellent
poacher, and able to give odds to the most ex-
pert trappers. As a matter of course he soon
had a crow to pluck with the gendarmes, whose
duty it was to keep order in the country; and
such fame did he gain in the battles that were
every now and again taking place that it was
always to him the hardest blows were attri-
buted. Matters were at this stage, and as yet
he had not brought himself under the notice
of the law farther than having information
lodged against him for breaches of the game-
laws, tavern quarrels, and such like, when a
decisive event took place that placed him in
open rebellion against the whole social order
of his country.

On the day of the conscription Jack did not
appear to draw his lot along with his comrades.
The maire drew for him, and drew one of the
most unlucky numbers. So here was Jack a
soldier for seven years, at the beck and call of
his officers. He a soldier! He to be forced
to dwell in towns, to wear a uniform, to obey
without a word, to submit to discipline, to
sleep in quarters, and to begin anew every day
for seven years the same dreary and monoto-



nous task! Poor Jack, was this possible! It
would have been something if there had been
a chance of fighting, as not long before; but
to rust slowly in a royal barrack, and to bo
only a show soldier the very thought of it
was enough to turn his stomach.

He received a notice to join one morning
and paid no attention to it. The mai.e, who
was an excellent man and very fond of him,
took him aside one Sunday after mass and
said to him, " Take care, Jack; you are getting
yourself into trouble: there is still time, and
if you will join I shall justify your delay by a
good certificate. I can do nothing more, my
poor fellow the law is the law."

" Many thanks for your good-will towards
me, sir; but I cannot do it. If I had the
misfortune to go I should desert in less than
a month, I feel that. I prefer to remain here
a refractory but not a deserter.''

" But, my poor fellow, you will be hunted
like a hare; and you cannot hope to keep out
of the reach of the blue.s long."

" That remains to be seen. I'm not afraid
of that, sir."

' How will you manage it?"

Jack with a smile showed the soles of his
shoes, which were studded with formidable nails.

" These have always served me as my sport-
ing license, and I'll wager they will give m
the route too."

"Very well," said the maire, "I have
warned you, and if you let yourself be taken
now, I wash my hands of you."

Jack acted as he had said, and for about five
years he with marvellous success foiled every
attempt to catch him, and disconcerted all his
enemies' plans with unfailing good fortune.
It must be recollected that Mount Ventoux
seems expressly made to be the scene of a life
such as this. Let the reader picture to him-
self an immense truncated cone, an outlier of
the main chain of the Alps, rising gradually
to the height of about 6500 feet above the level
of the sea. Everywhere, from base to summit,
over perhaps 100,000 acres, nothing but bare
rock, barrenness and desolation. Large ravines
of profound depth intersect the giant flanks
of the mountain, and form as they run down
to the plain narrow but fertile combes, where
the flocks find at all times a short sweet
herbage. Not a dwelling, not a cabin, only
here and there some rude hovels of dry stones
erected as places of shelter by the shepherds.

Who could believe and yet it is a fact
that rather less than a century ago this soli-
tude was covered with magnificent trees, pines,
larches, beeches, and oaks? Large game then



234



VAGABOND JACK.



abounded in these inaccessible forests, the
former beauty of which is yet attested by some
scanty remains; but the wild goat, the stag,
and the wild boar have long since fled before
the blind devastation which seemed everywhere
fated to attend the French Revolution, and
only the wolf, the fox, and the marten have
remained faithful to the mountain. The
small game, almost annihilated in the low
grounds, find a last refuge on Mount Ventoux;
coveys of red partridges and flocks of plovers
are met with, and the quail regularly halts
here in its migrations. A small, squat, dumpy
variety of rabbit, which lives exclusively on
wild thyme, is abundant. As for the hares
of Mount Ventoux they are simply unequalled,
and fully justify the preference accorded to
them by gourmets of the first rank.

Poacher, refractory, condemned to be cease-
lessly on the alert, his eye and his ear ever
ready, Jack could not have desired a more
favourable theatre for his exploits. Beloved
by the people of thirty villages round, and
esteemed for his honesty, Jack could always
find some one kind enough to sell his game
for him in town on the market-day. If the
three-cornered hat of a gendarme happened to
show itself unexpectedly in a village or in the
neighbourhood of a farm, a peculiar cry was
instantly heard, which being forthwith taken
up and repeated from farm to farm, gradually
gave Jack notice of the enemy's presence.
He had certain peculiar ways of knocking at
doors in the night, so that they would be
opened to him at any hour; and at many farms
he knew where the key was laid, and could let
himself in as if he had been at home. On
Sundays he generally attended high mass in
the village; and children, posted as scouts at
all the crossways, enabled honest Jack to per-
form his devotions in safety. When it was
impossible, or he thought it imprudent, to
attend, he remained on the mountain, where
he might have been seen kneeling down at the
sound of the bells of his parish, and joining in
intention the faithful assembled in the church.
This kind of mass he called hill top mass.

At first he was so hotly pursued that he had
been twice driven into Maurienne: and it was
there he had learned how to make gunpowder,
and had first thought of turning smuggler.
Afterwards, when it came to be almost tacitly
admitted that Jack could only be taken by
chance, he used to return there at fixed periods
thrice a year, and supplied almost single-
handed the demand for contraband goods over
forty square leagues of country.

After the revolution of July a general amnesty



was proclaimed, and Jack accordingly was at
perfect liberty to return to the village and re-
sume his civic rights. He did nothing of the
kind, however, but remained on the mountain
as before. This life of privation, fatigue,
strife, and hazard had become a second nature
to him, and henceforth he could enjoy no
other. He was left alone to live as he pleased.

He was then from three-and-thirty to five-
and-thirty years of age, and, without any ex-
aggeration, the best-looking fellow in the coun-
try, in spite of his sunburned face. More than
one girl looked kindly on him at mass on
Sunday, and said to herself, " What a pity
that such a handsome fellow should be a vaga-
bond!" Jack was by no means vain, but what
man is mistaken on this subject? Jack could
not help feeling secretly flattered by the atten-
tion he excited among the women.

At this time there lived at a neighbouring
farm a handsome slip of a girl, who turned all
the heads of the young men. and was the ob-
ject of many longings. Felise, pretty Felise,
was looked upon as an heiress, though her
father, Martin (Martinet or Tinet), lived in
the most sordid and miserly manner. Her
mother was dead, and through her she had
inherited some acres of meadow-land over at
Saintes- Marguerites. She was tall, well-made,
saucy, with a pair of eyes fit to ruin her soul,
and a perfect darling of a foot. She knew
that she was a good match, wore ribbons in
her caps, and was quite ready to flirt with the
handsome fellows who used to pay court to her.

Jack had known her from the time she was
a child, and had dandled her on his knees
many a time when she was a mere infant, but
he had never paid any particular attention to
her since she was grown up and old enough
to marry. He used frequently to come to her
father's farm, where, as it was situated well
up the mountain and about an hour's walk
from the village, he was not likely to be sur-
prised, and he had often found food and shelter
there. The first time that it came into his
head that F61ise was pretty, poor Jack was
greatly troubled. It was on a Sunday, the
first of May, after vespers. He was crossing,
without thought of evil, <he little square where
the plane-trees of the parsonage give so cool a
shade, when he was all at once surrounded by
a troop of laughing girls begging for the May
Queen.

"Give us something, Jack!"

"Jack, it will bring you luck!"

" The Holy Virgin will repay you a hundred-
fold!"

"Look, Jack, if our queen is not worth it!"



VAGABOND JACK.



Jack looked and was lost.

Seated on a raised platform, .under an
arch of verdure and roses, clothed in white,
crowned with white flowers and with white
flowers in her hand, the May Queen sat en-
throned like a real queen, provoking by her
sweetest smiles the generosity of the passers-
by. Jack, dazzled with admiration and sur-
prise, stopped short. " FeMise!" he murmured
in a voice altered by emotion. Ffilise indeed
it was; as, being the prettiest, she had been
chosen this year by her companions to repre-
sent and impersonate the spring.

The origin of this custom is lost in the mists
of antiquity; but it is more than probable that
it is a remnant of the worship of Cybele, still
holding its ground after almost twenty cen-
turies of Christianity. Formerly the festival
was celebrated on the 1st of May throughout
all the county of Venasque, both in towns and
villages, and I have a perfect recollection of
the pretty bakeress who was the last queen at
Carpentras, now nearly forty years ago. Now-
adays this custom is losing ground everywhere,
and one requires to go far up the mountain in
order to find it in its primitive simplicity.

Jack emptied his pockets to the last copper
into the wooden bowls that circled gaily round
him, and with his brain quite confused went
and stood leaning at the other end of the
square beside the fountain. His fascinated
eyes saw nothing but the vision in white; the
throng of laughing girls passed and repassed
before him without exciting his attention in
the least; he felt his breast heaving with the
pulsations of his heart, and a strange heat per-
vaded his whole frame. "Felise!" he re-
peated without even noticing that he pro-
nounced the sweet name aloud; Fglise!"
Poor Jack was over head and ears in love.

The fair Felise on her part returned home
in a very dreamy mood. She too had not been
able to see without emotion this bold fellow
regard her so obstinately with his large eyes
that sparkled like burning coals. Involun-
tarily she compared Jack to the other young
men who paid court to her little fortune, and
the comparison was hardly to their advantage.
They seemed clownish and awkward, without
grace or elegance, even on feast-days and in
their best clothes. Only see them beside Jack!
With what an air he entered the church, his
jacket negligently thrown over his left shoulder;
and how straight he stood during the service.
Jack had never bent his back to the hard
labours of the fields, and it was wonderful how
well he had preserved his youthful appearance,
suppleness, and activity. In place of the horny



paw covered with knobs of those accustomed
to pulling madder, Jack had the fine and
sinewy hand of the hunter, and it was a plea-
sure to feel his delicate fingers clasping ones
waist. But could an honest girl dream of
Jack with honour and propriety? What would
be thought of Felise if her secret preference
were discovered? Jack the Vagabond, without
a penny to bless himself with, without hearth
or home, game for the gendarmes, and nothing
but a cave for his abode that truly was a
lover to be preferred to all others by the fair
Felise! How the gossips would laugh at it
when they met to work together in the even-
ings; and the wedding-party would be almost
mobbed! And suppose they did jeer and
whisper maliciously what then? Was Jack
not worth bearing this for? He was poor, no
doubt; but who was his equal for honesty and
integrity? He was esteemed by all the coun-
try round; and the village folks that held their
heads highest shook hands with him cordially.
Besides, who could affirm that he was incap-
able of settling down to a regular course of
life! Does not a man who is in love do every-
thing to please his sweetheart; and would Jack
be the first on whom love had worked a com-
plete change!

But, indeed, what was she thinking of?
Was it not the feverish excitement caused by
want of sleep that was putting such ideas into
her head? Jack in love! what reason had she
for thinking that? He had looked at her, to
be sure in a manner as to the nature of which
women are rarely deceived ; but was this enough
to build so many fine suppositions and hopes
upon?

Poor Felise was racked and tormented by
her thoughts, and somewhat ashamed of her-
self into the bargain. Before long all her
gaiety disappeared, her cheeks grew pale and
thin,, making her eyes in which burned a
sombre fire seem larger than ordinary, and
she suffered from languor and lassitude that
had no apparent cause.

Jack made no sign; but all the world could
see that he was strangely preoccupied, and
that a great struggle was going on in his
breast. He scarcely ever left the neighbour-
hood now, and his visits to Tinet's became
exceedingly frequent. Old Martin was some-
what annoyed by him indeed.

" What's your errand this time?" he said to
him one day, looking him straight in the face.
" I mean no offence, but this is the third time
you have been here this week."

Jack taken thus unexpectedly, made up Ma
mind at once.



236



VAGABOND JACK.



"This is what brings me," he said boldly.
" I have come to talk with Felise, if she has no
objections."

" F61ise may please herself," said old Martin,
without appearing to be much surprised at the
request; "but I believe your time will be
wasted, my lad."

"That's my affair," said Jack. "Tell
F61ise that I shall be back this evening."

Over all the mountain and far into the plain,
this is the way in which gallants in quest of a
wife introduce themselves to the families. The
young people talk together for a longer or
shorter period before carrying matters farther;
sometimes they talk for years without any-
thing coming of it; or the talkinc/ may be
formally broken off without damaging the
reputation of the girl in the least. Every-
thing goes on openly in the simplest manner
possible: the lover comes after supper and
passes the evening, the girl" makes room for
him at her side, and continues her spinning
or knitting as if nothing were in the wind at
all. Now and again they exchange a word or
two in a low tone; generally they remain silent,
mutually observing each other, watching for
any little occasion when the real disposition
will betray itself, wholly engaged in trying to
become perfectly acquainted with each other,
and both carefully keeping their weaknesses as
much as possible out of sight. When it is
time to retire the lover bids the company good-
night, and goes home, singing by the way some
ditty expressive of the joy he feels; and so on
for night after night till he makes up his mind
to take the decisive step. It is clear that no-
thing could be simpler than these courtships.

Jack's entry in the character of a lover
authorized to talk was made quietly and with-
out fuss. He proceeded to seat himself by the
side of F6lise on her mute invitation, and
maintained a shy silence all the evening, hardly
uttering a word, but very happy nevertheless,
as any one may suppose. Fe'lise sat and span,
twirling her spindle with astonishing rapidity.
Old Martin seemed asleep, but kept a corner
of one eye open for the slightest movement of
the young people. Everything went on accord-
ing to ancient use and wont, and as custom
would have it.

The last days of July were at hand, and in
Bpite of the burning heat of a torrid sun, the
cattle were kept treading out the grain on the
thrashing-floors from dawn to nightfall. Jack,
full of praiseworthy zeal, would take part in
these labours and show his skill: and he aston-
ished everybody by his steadiness and his
cleverness in managing the mules. Felise



blushed with pleasure and said to herself,
" He'll make an excellent husband, I am sure,
whatever they may say of him."

Old Martin did not take quite the same vicv
of things as his daughter did. "This bu y
fit of his is all very fine, no doubt," said 1 \
" but what makes a better blaze than straw?
Wait till the poaching season comes on and
we'll see if the old man is really dead. I won't
believe it till I see Jack following the plough
instead of catching hares."

Martin's doubts were not altogether unjusti-
fiable. At the first call-notes of the new coveys
of red partridge, at the first marks of the
nocturnal excursions of the hares, Jack felt
himself seized by a violent desire to regain the
mountain and renew his past exploits. He
struggled long against the temptation and
wrestled with himself, but in the clear moon-
light, after a day of harassing toil, how was it
possible to hear unmoved the sound of the
poacher's guns? At the cry of a passing flock
of quails he would feel a terrible itching in his
limbs ; and it was sometimes as much as he
could do to stick to his plough and not leave
the furrow half made.

What had a still greater effect on him, and
inspired him even with a kind of remorse,
was the mute protestation of Maripan, his old
companion in adventure, who, as if he had
been the renegade sportsman's conscience in
bodily form, made him almost blush for his
steadiness as he ceaselessly followed him with
his eyes now beseeching, now indignant.

Maripan was a large lean dog of the lurcher
breed, bold, hardy, and almost wild, with the
feet dry and nervous, the breast full and strong,
the belly hollow, the loins vigorous and supple,
the tail straight, the ears mobile, the eye in-
quisitive and restless, and sparkling under
a pent-house of dense grayish hairs, fangs
pointed, projecting, and of dazzling whiteness,
and the nose moist, shining like a mulberry,
and as black as a roasted chestnut. As well
known as his master, the villagers vied with
each other in pampering him, and he had
always plenty of delicate morsels ever since it
was noticed that on returning even from the
longest run he would rather stretch himself
out and go to sleep than touch any vulgar mess
in which the bread was not irreproachable.
The princely air of disdain with which this
vagabond would then turn up his nose at the
pittance offered him had gained him the name
of Mar'pan (bad bread), under which he shared
the celebrity of Jack, and with him formed the
subject of many a fireside story.

No longer finding an outlet for his feverish



VAGABOND JACK.



237



activity, Maripan could not resign himself to
this sluggish life. At the least whiff of scent
which met his nose, the least rustle in the
bushes, he was off like lightning, jumping,
barking, and joyfully wagging his tail, but in
vain. His appeals met with no response, and
he had always to return disappointed and dis-
couraged to take his place at his master's heels,
whom he would piteously follow, with his tail
between his legs and his cars hanging. Some-
times, however, he revolted altogether. On
such occasions he would pass the plough with
a vigorous bound, plant himself beyond it with
his two fore-legs firmly supporting him, in
the energetic attitude of one who demands an
explanation, and then gravely sitting like a
judge, with his neck proudly raised, his head
inclined as if he waited for an answer, his eyes
wide open, and his ears erect, he would gaze
reproachfully on his master, as much as to say,

"Oh, you are laughing at me, are you?
But if you are pleased to give up our fine
wandering life, do you think that I was made
to turn the spit and serve as a plaything for
the village brats?"

There was that in the gaze of Maripan which,



Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 45 of 75)