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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 07, No. 41, March, 1861 online

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and alligator, I ever met.

Tradition still retains a hold upon the Hurons of Lorette, little as
remains to them of the character and lineaments of the red man. A
pitiable procession of their diluted "braves" may sometimes be seen in
the streets of Quebec, on such distinguished occasions as the Prince's
visit. But it is with a manifest consciousness of the ludicrous that
these industrials now do their little drama of the war-dance and the
oration and the council-smoke. That drama has degenerated into a very
feeble farce now, and the actors in it would be quite outdone in their
travesty by any average corps of "supes" at one of our theatres.
By-and-by all this will have died out, and the "Indian side" of the
stream at Lorette will be assimilated in all its features to the other.
The moccason is already typifying the decadence of aboriginal things
there. That article is now fitted with India-rubber soles for the Quebec
demand, - a continuation of the sole running in a low strip round the
edge of the foot. With the gradual widening of that strip, until the
moccason of the red man has been clean obliterated from things that are
by the India-rubber of the white, will the remnant of the Hurons have
passed away with things that were. Verdict on the "poor Indian": - "Wiped
out with an India-rubber shoe."

And then, in future generations, the tradition of Indian blood among
Canadian families of dark complexion, along these ridges, will be about
as vague as that of Spanish descent in the case of certain tribes of
fishermen on the western coast of Ireland. From the assimilation already
going on, however, it may be argued that the physical character of the
Indian will be gradually merged and lost in that of the French colonist.
The Hurons are described as having formerly been a people of large
stature, while those of the present day in Lower Canada are usually
rather undersized than otherwise, like their _habitant_ neighbors. As
a race, the latter are below the middle stature, although generally of
great bodily strength and endurance.

Physical size and grand proportions are looked upon by the
French-Canadian with great respect. In all the cases of popular
_émeutes_ that have from time to time broken out in Lower Canada, the
fighting leaders of the people were exceptional men, standing head
and shoulders over their confiding followers. Where gangs of raftsmen
congregate, their "captains" may be known by superior stature. The
doings of their "big men" are treasured by the French-Canadians in
traditionary lore. One famous fellow of this governing class is known
by his deeds and words to every lumberer and stevedore and timber-tower
about Montreal and Quebec. This man, whose name was Joe Monfaron, was
the bully of the Ottawa raftsmen. He was about six feet six inches high
and proportionably broad and deep; and I remember how people would turn
round to look after him, as he came pounding along Notre-Dame Street, in
Montreal, in his red shirt and tan-colored _shupac_ boots, all dripping
wet after mooring an acre or two of raft, and now bent for his
ashore-haunts in the Ste.-Marie suburb, to indemnify himself with
bacchanalian and other consolations for long-endured hardship. Among
other feats of strength attributed to him, I remember the following,
which has an old, familiar taste, but was related to me as a fact.

There was a fighting stevedore or timber-tower, I forget which, at
Quebec, who never had seen Joe Monfaron, as the latter seldom came
farther down the river than Montreal. This fighting character, however,
made a custom of laughing to scorn all the rumors that came down on
rafts, every now and then, about terrible chastisements inflicted by Joe
upon several hostile persons at once. He, the fighting timber-tower,
hadn't found his match yet about the lumber-coves at Quebec, and he only
wanted to see Joe Monfaron once, when he would settle the question as to
the championship of the rafts on sight. One day, a giant in a red shirt
stood suddenly before him, saying, -

"You're Dick Dempsey, eh?"

"That's me," replied the timber-tower; "and who are you?"

"Joe Monfaron. I heard you wanted me, - here I am," was the Caesarean
response of the great captain of rafts.

"Ah! you're Joe Monfaron!" said the bully, a little staggered at the
sort of customer he saw before him. "I said I'd like to see you, for
sure; but how am I to know you're the right man?"

"Shake hands, first," replied Joe, "and then you'll find out, may be."

They shook hands, - rather warmly, perhaps, for the timber-tower, whose
features wore an uncertain expression during the operation, and who at
last broke out into a yell of pain, as Joe cast him off with a defiant
laugh. Nor did the bully wait for any further explanations; for, whether
the man who had just brought the blood spouting out at the tips of his
fingers was Joe Monfaron or not, he was clearly an ugly customer and had
better be left alone.

There are several roads from Quebec to Lorette, all of them good for
carriages except one, which, from its extreme destitution of every
condition essential to easy locomotion on wheels, is called, in the
expressive language of the French colonists, _La Misère_. And yet this
is the only road which, from touching various points of the River St.
Charles, affords the traveller compensating glimpses of the picturesque
windings of that stream. The pedestrian, however, is the only kind of
explorer who really sees a country and its people; and for him who is
not too proud to walk, _La Misère_ is not so hard to bear as its name
might imply.

If iron takes the romance out of things, in a general way, as I
mentioned at the beginning of this article my impression that it
rather does, I know not whether primitive Lorette has not become sadly
vulcanized into prosaic progress by the grand system of water-works
established there for the benefit of Quebec. Connected as it is, now,
with the latter place, by seven miles of iron pipes, I would not
undertake to say that it retains aught of the rustic simplicity of its
greener days. Had the pipes been of wood, indeed, the place might
yet have had a chance. To understand this, one should hear the
French-Canadian expatiate upon the superiority of the wooden to the
metal bridge. Five years ago, the road-trustees of Quebec undertook to
span the Montmorency River, just above the great fall, with an iron
suspension-bridge. This would shorten the road, they said, by some two
or three hundred yards of divergence from the old wooden bridge higher
up. They built their bridge, which looked like a spider's web spanning
the verge of the stupendous cataract, when seen from the St. Lawrence
below. It was opened to the public in April, 1856, but was little used
for some days, as the conservative _habitans_, who had gone the crooked
road over the wooden bridge all their lives, declined to see what
advantage could be gained by taking to a straight one pontificed with
iron. It had not been open a week, however, when, as two or three
hurrying peasants were venturing it with their carts, it fell with a
crash, and all were washed headlong in an instant over the precipice
and into the boiling abyss below, from which not one vestige of their
remains was ever returned for a sign to their awe-stricken friends.
Supposing this bridge to be rebuilt, - which is not likely, - I do not
believe that a _habitant_ of all that region could be got to cross it,
even under the malediction, with bell, book, and candle, of his priest.
And so the old wooden bridge flourishes, and the crooked road is
travelled by gray-coated _cultivateurs_, whose forefathers went crooked
in the same direction for several generations, mounted upon persevering
ponies which wouldn't upon any account be persuaded into going straight.

A gleam of hope for Lorette flashes upon me since the above was written.
On looking over a provincial paper, I find astounding rumors of ghosts
appearing upon the track of a western railroad. Things clothed in the
traditional white appear before the impartial cow-catcher, which divides
them for the passage of the train, in the wake of which they immediately
reappear in a full state of repair and posture of contempt. If this
sort of thing goes on, what a splendid new field will be opened for the
writer of romance!

Certainly, I do not yet see what antidote there is for the primitive and
pastoral against seven miles of iron pipe; but it is cheerful to know
that ghosts are beginning to come about railroads, and all may yet be
well with Lorette.




BEHIND THE MASK.


It was an old, distorted face, -
An uncouth visage, rough and wild;
Yet from behind, with laughing grace,
Peeped the fresh beauty of a child.

And so contrasting, fair and bright,
It made me of my fancy ask
If half earth's wrinkled grimness might
Be but the baby in the mask.

Behind gray hairs and furrowed brow
And withered look that life puts on,
Each, as he wears it, comes to know
How the child hides, and is not gone.

For, while the inexorable years
To saddened features fit their mould,
Beneath the work of time and tears
Waits something that will not grow old!

And pain and petulance and care
And wasted hope and sinful stain
Shape the strange guise the soul doth wear,
Till her young life look forth again.

The beauty of his boyhood's smile, -
What human faith could find it now
In yonder man of grief and guile, -
A very Cain, with branded brow?

Yet, overlaid and hidden, still
It lingers, - of his life a part;
As the scathed pine upon the hill
Holds the young fibres at its heart.

And, haply, round the Eternal Throne,
Heaven's pitying angels shall not ask
For that last look the world hath known,
But for the face behind the mask!




DIAMONDS AND PEARLS.


We were lately lounging away a Roman morning among the gems in
Castellani's sparkling rooms in the Via Poli. One of the treasures
handed out for rapturous examination was a diamond necklace, just
finished for a Russian princess, at the cost of sixty thousand dollars,
and a set of pearls for an English lady, who must pay, before she bears
her prize homeward, the sum of ten thousand dollars. Castellani junior,
a fine, patriotic young fellow, who has since been banished for his
liberal ideas of government, smiled as he read astonishment in our eyes,
and proceeded forthwith to dazzle us still further with more gems of
rarest beauty, till then hidden away in his strong iron boxes.

Castellani, father and son, are princes among jewellers, and deserve to
be ranked as artists of a superior order. Do not fail to visit their
charming apartments, as among the most attractive lesser glories, when
you go to Rome. They have a grand way of doing things, right good to
look upon; and we once saw a countrywoman of ours, who has written
immortal words in the cause of freedom, made the recipient of a gem at
their hands, which she cannot but prize as among the chief tributes so
numerously bestowed in all parts of the Christian world where her feet
have wandered.

Castellani's jeweller's shop has existed in Rome since the year 1814.
At that time all the efforts of this artist (Castellani the elder) were
directed to the imitation of the newest English and French fashions, and
particularly to the setting of diamonds. This he continued till 1823.
From 1823 to 1827 he sought aid for his art in the study of Technology.
And not in vain; for in 1826 he read before the _Accademia dei Lincei_
of Rome, (founded by Federico Cesi,) a paper on the chemical process of
coloring _a giallone_ (yellow) in the manufacture of gold, in which he
announced some facts in the action of electricity, long before Delarive
and other chemists, as noticed in the "Quarterly Journal of Science,"
Dec., 1828, No. 6, and the "Bibliothèque Universelle de Genève," 1829,
Tom. xi. p. 84.

At this period Etruria began to lay open the treasures of her art.
All were struck by the beauty of the jewels found in the tombs; but
Castellani was the first who thought of reproducing some of them; and he
did it to the great admiration of the amateurs, foremost among whom may
be mentioned the Duke Don Michelangelo Caetani, a man of great artistic
feeling, who aided by his counsels and his designs the _renaissance_ of
Roman jewelry.

The discovery of the celebrated tomb Regulini-Galassi at Cervetri was
an event in jewelry. The articles of gold found in it (all now in the
Vatican) were diligently studied by Castellani, when called upon to
appraise them. Comprehending the methods and the character of the work,
he boldly followed tradition.

The discoveries of Campanari of Toscanella, and of the Marquis Campana
of Rome, gave valuable aid to this new branch of art.

Thus it went on improving; and Castellani produced very expert pupils,
all of them Italians. Fashion, if not public feeling, came to aid the
_renaissance_, and others, in Rome and elsewhere, undertook similar work
after the models of Castellani. It may be asserted that the triumph of
the classic jewelry is now complete. Castellani renounced the modern
methods of chasing and engraving, and adhered only to the antique
fashion of overlaying with cords, grains, and finest threads of
gold. From the Etruscan style he passed to the Greek, the Roman, the
Christian. In this last he introduced the rough mosaics, such as were
used by the Byzantines with much effect and variety of tint and of
design.

The work of Castellani is dear; but that results from his method of
execution, and from the perfect finish of all the details. He does not
seek for cheapness, but for the perfection of art: this is the only
thing he has in view. As he is a man of genius, we have devoted
considerable space to his admirable productions.

The Talmud informs us that Noah had no other light in the ark than that
which came from precious stones. Why do not our modern jewellers take a
hint from the ancient safety-boat, and light up accordingly? We dare
say old Tavernier, that knowing French gem-trader of the seventeenth
century, had the art of illuminating his château at Aubonne in a way
wondrous to the beholder. Among all the jewellers, ancient or modern,
Jean Baptiste Tavernier seems to us the most interesting character. His
great knowledge of precious stones, his acute observation and unfailing
judgment, stamp him as one of the remarkable men of his day. Forty years
of his life he passed in travelling through Turkey, Persia, and the
East Indies, trading in gems of the richest and rarest lustre. A great
fortune was amassed, and a barony in the Canton of Berne, on the Lake of
Geneva, was purchased as no bad harbor for the rest of his days. There
he hoped to enjoy the vast wealth he had so industriously acquired. But,
alas! stupid nephews abound everywhere; and one of his, to whom he had
intrusted a freight worth two hundred and twenty thousand livres, caused
him so great a loss, that, at the age of eighty-four, he felt obliged to
sail again for the East in order to retrieve his fortune, or at least
repair the ill-luck arising from his unfortunate speculation. He forgot,
poor old man! that youth and strength are necessary to fight against
reverses; and he died at Moscow, on his way, in 1689. When you visit the
great Library in Paris, you will find his "Travels," in three volumes,
published in 1677-79, on a shelf among the quartos. Take them down, and
spend a pleasant hour in looking through the pages of the enthusiastic
old merchant-jeweller. His adventures in search of diamonds and other
precious commodities are well told; and although he makes the mistakes
incident to many other early travellers, he never wilfully romances.
He supposed he was the first European that had explored the mines of
Golconda; but an Englishman of the name of Methold visited them as early
as 1622, and found thirty thousand laborers working away for the rich
Marcandar, who paid three hundred thousand pagodas annually to the king
for the privilege of digging in a single mine. The first mine visited by
Tavernier was that of Raolconda, a five-days' journey from Golconda. The
manner of trading there he thus describes: -

"A very pretty sight is that presented every morning by the children of
the master-miners and of other inhabitants of the district. The boys,
the eldest of which is not over sixteen or the youngest under ten,
assemble and sit under a large tree in the public square of the village.
Each has his diamond weight in a bag hung on one side of his girdle, and
on the other a purse containing sometimes as much as five or six hundred
pagodas. Here they wait for such persons as have diamonds to sell,
either from the vicinity or from any other mine. When a diamond is
brought to them, it is immediately handed to the eldest boy, who is
tacitly acknowledged as the head of this little band. By him it is
carefully examined, and then passed to his neighbor, who, having also
inspected it, transmits it to the next boy. The stone is thus passed
from hand to hand, amid unbroken silence, until it returns to that of
the eldest, who then asks the price and makes the bargain. If the little
man is thought by his comrades to have given too high a price, he must
keep the stone on his own account. In the evening the children take
account of stock, examine their purchases, and class them according to
their water, size, and purity, putting on each stone the price they
expect to get for it; they then carry the stones to the masters, who
have always assortments to complete, and the profits are divided among
the young traders, with this difference in favor of the head of the
firm, that he receives one-fourth per cent. more than the others. These
children are so perfectly acquainted with the value of all sorts of
gems, that, if one of them, after buying a stone, is willing to lose
one-half per cent. on it, a companion is always ready to take it."

Master Tavernier discourses at some length on the ingenious methods
adopted by the laborers to conceal diamonds which they have found,
sometimes swallowing them, - and he tells of one miner who hid in the
corner of his eye a stone of two carats! Altogether, his work is one
worthy to be turned over, even in that vast collection, the Imperial
Library, for its graphic pictures of gem-hunting two hundred years ago.

Professor Tennant says, "One of the common marks of opulence and taste
in all countries is the selection, preservation, and ornamental use of
gems and precious stones." Diamonds, from the time Alexander ordered
pieces of flesh to be thrown into the inaccessible valley of Zulmeah,
that the vultures might bring up with them the precious stones which
attached themselves, have everywhere ranked among the luxuries of a
refined cultivation. It is the most brilliant of stones, and the hardest
known body. Pliny says it is so hard a substance, that, if one should
be laid on an anvil and struck with a hammer, look out for the hammer!
[_Mem_. If the reader have a particularly fine diamond, never mind
Pliny's story: the risk is something, and Pliny cannot be reached for an
explanation, should his experiment fail.] By its own dust only can
the diamond be cut and polished; and its great lustre challenges
the admiration of the world. Ordinary individuals, with nothing to
distinguish them from the common herd, have "got diamonds," and
straightway became ever afterwards famous. An uncommon-sized brilliant,
stuck into the front linen of a foolish fellow, will set him up as
a marked man, and point him out as something worth looking at. The
announcement in the papers of the day, that "Mademoiselle Mars would
wear all her diamonds," never failed to stimulate the sale of tickets
on all such occasions. As it may interest our readers to know what
treasures an actress of 1828 possessed, we copy from the catalogue of
her effects a few items.

"Two rows of brilliants set _en chatons_, one row composed of forty-six
brilliants, the other of forty-four; eight sprigs of wheat in
brilliants, composed of about five hundred brilliants, weighing
fifty-seven carats; a garland of brilliants that may be taken to pieces
and worn as three distinct ornaments, three large brilliants forming the
centre of the principal flowers, the whole comprising seven hundred and
nine brilliants, weighing eighty-five carats three-quarters; a Sévigné
mounted in colored gold, in the centre of which is a burnt topaz
surrounded by diamonds weighing about three grains each, the drops
consisting of three opals similarly surrounded by diamonds; one of
the three opals is of very large size, in shape oblong, with rounded
corners; the whole set in gold studded with rubies and pearls.

"A _parure_ of opals, consisting of a necklace and Sévigné, two
bracelets, ear-rings the studs of which are emeralds, comb, belt-plate
set with an opal in the shape of a triangle; the whole mounted in
wrought gold, studded with small emeralds.

"A Gothic bracelet of enamelled gold, in the centre a burnt topaz
surrounded by three large brilliants; in each link composing the
bracelet is a square emerald; at each extremity of the topaz forming
the centre ornament are two balls of burnished gold, and two of wrought
gold.

"A pair of girandole ear-rings of brilliants, each consisting of a large
stud brilliant and of three pear-shaped brilliants united by four small
ones; another pair of ear-rings composed of fourteen small brilliants
forming a clustre of grapes, each stud of a single brilliant.

"A diamond cross composed of eleven brilliants, the ring being also of
brilliants.

"A bracelet with a gold chain, the centre-piece of which is a fine opal
surrounded with brilliants; the opal is oblong and mounted in the Gothic
style; the clasp is an opal.

"A gold bracelet, with a _grecque_ surrounded by six angel heads graven
on turkoises, and a head of Augustus.

"A serpent bracelet _à la Cléopatre_, enamelled black, with a turkois on
its head.

"A bracelet with wrought links burnished on a dead ground; the clasp a
heart of burnished gold with a turkois in the centre, graven with Hebrew
characters.

"A bracelet with a row of Mexican chain, and a gold ring set with a
turkois and fastened to the bracelet by a Venetian chain.

"A ring, the hoop encircled with small diamonds.

"A ring, _à la chevalière_, set with a square emerald between two
pearls.

"A gold _chevalière_ ring, on which is engraved a small head of
Napoleon.

"Two belt-buckles, Gothic style, one of burnished gold, the other set
with emeralds, opals, and pearls.

"A necklace of two rows coral; a small bracelet of engraved carnelians.

"A comb of rose diamonds, form D 5, surmounted by a large rose
surrounded by smaller ones, and a cinque-foil in roses, the _chatons_
alternated, below a band of roses."

The weight of the diamond, as every one knows, is estimated in _carats_
all over the world. And what is a carat, pray? and whence its name? It
is of Indian origin, a _kirat_ being a small seed that was used in India
to weigh diamonds with. Four grains are equal to one carat, and six
carats make one pennyweight. But there is no standard weight fixed for
the finest diamonds. Competition alone among purchasers must arrange
their price. The commercial value of gems is rarely affected, and
among all articles of commerce the diamond is the least liable to
depreciation. Panics that shake empires and topple trade into the dust
seldom lower the cost of this king of precious stones; and there is no
personal property that is so apt to remain unchanged in money-value.

Diamond anecdotes abound, the world over; but we have lately met with
two brief ones that ought to be preserved.

"Carlier, a bookseller in the reign of Louis XIV., left, at his death,
to each of his children, - one a girl of fifteen, the other a captain in
the guards, - a sum of five hundred thousand francs, then an enormous
fortune. Mademoiselle Carlier, young, handsome, and wealthy, had
numerous suitors. One of these, a M. Tiquet, a Councillor of the
Parliament, sent her on her fête-day a bouquet, in which the calices of
the roses were of large diamonds. The magnificence of this gift gave so
good an opinion of the wealth, taste, and liberality of the donor, that
the lady gave him the preference over all his competitors. But sad was
the disappointment that followed the bridal! The husband was rather poor
than rich; and the bouquet, that had cost forty-five thousand francs,
(nine thousand dollars,) had been bought on credit, and was paid out of
the bride's fortune."

"The gallants of the Court of Louis XV. carried extravagance as far


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Online LibraryVariousThe Atlantic Monthly, Volume 07, No. 41, March, 1861 → online text (page 17 of 21)