Images de page
PDF
ePub

have two mules: Very well, get me two. Then returning, a man was not to be had; with fresh expressions of surprise, that I should be eager to see mountains that did not concern me. After raising fresh difficulties to every thing I said, they at last plainly told me, that I should neither have mule nor man; and this with an air that evidently made the case hopeless. About an hour after, I received a polite message from the Marquis Deblou, seigneur of the parish, who hearing that an inquisitive Englishman was at the inn, inquiring after volcanoes, proposed the pleasure of taking a walk with me. I accepted the offer with alacrity, and going directly towards his house met him on the road. I explained to him my motives and my difficulties; he said, the people had gotten some absurd suspicions of me from my questions, and that the present time was so dangerous and critical to all travellers, that he would advise me by no means to think of any such excursions from the great road, unless I found much readiness in the people to conduct me: that at any other moment than the present he should be happy to do it himself, but that at present it was impossible for any person to be too cautious. There was no resisting this reasoning, and yet to lose the most curious volcanic remains in the country, for the crater of the mountain is as distinct in the print of Mons. de St. Fond, as if the lava were now running from it, was a mortifying circumstance. The Marquis then shewed me his garden and his chateau, amidst the mountains; behind it is that of Gravene, which is an extinguished volcano likewise, but the crater not discernible without difficulty. In conversation with him and another gentleman, on agriculture, particularly the produce of mulberries, they mentioned a small piece of land that produced, by silk only, 120 livres (51. 5s.) a year, and being contiguous to the road we walked to it. Appearing very small for such a produce, I stepped it to ascertain the contents, and minuted them in my pocket-book. Soon after, growing dark, I took my leave of the gentlemen, and retired to my inn. What I had done had more witnesses than I dreamt of; for at eleven o'clock at night, a full hour after I had been asleep, the commander of a file of twenty milice bourgeoise, with their musquets, or swords, or sabres, or pikes, entered my chamber, surrounded my bed, and demanded my passport. A dialogue ensued, too long to minute; I was forced first to give them my passport, and, that not satisfying them, my papers. They told me that I was undoubtedly a conspirator with the queen, the count d'Artois, and the count d'Entragues (who has property here) who had employed me as an arpenteur, to measure their fields, in order to double their taxes. My papers being in English saved me. They had taken it into their heads that I was not an Eng lishman-only a pretended one; for they speak such a jargon themselves, that their cars were not good enough to discover by my language that I was an undoubted foreigner. Their finding no maps, or plans, nor any thing that they could convert by supposition to a cadastre of their parish, had its effect, as I could see by their manner, for they conversed entirely in Patois. Perceiving, however, that they were not satisfied, and talked much of the count d'Entragues, I opened a bundle of letters that were sealed; these, gentlemen, are my letters of recommendation to various cities of France and Italy, open which you please, and you will find, for they are written in French, that I am an honest Englishman, and not the rogue you take me for. On this they held a fresh consultation and debate, which ended in my favour; they refused to open the letters, prepared to leave me, saying, that my numerous questions about lands, and measuring a field, while I pretended to come after volcanoes, had raised great suspicions, which they observed were natural at the time when it was known to a certainty that the queen, the count d'Artois, and the count d'Entragues were in a conspiracy against the Vivarais. And thus, to my entire satisfaction, they wished me a good night,

[graphic][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

and left me to the bugs, which swarmed in the bed like flies in a honey-pot. I had a narrow escape; it would have been a delicate situation to have been kept prisoner probably in some common jail, or, if not, guarded at my own expence, while they sent a courier to Paris for orders. 20 miles.

The 20th. The same imposing mountainous features continue to Villeneuve de Berg. The road, for half a mile, leads under an immense mass of basaltac lava, run into configurations of various forms, and resting on regular columns; this vast range bulges in the centre into a sort of promontory. The height, form, and figures, and the decisive volcanic character the whole mass has taken, render it a most interesting spectacle to the learned and unlearned eye. Just before Aubenas, mistaking the road, which is not half finished, I had to turn; it was on the slope of the declivity, and very rare that any wall or defence is found against the precipices. My French mare has an ill talent of backing too freely when she begins: unfortunately she exercised it at a moment of imminent danger, and backed the chaise, me and herself down the precipice; by great good luck, there was at the spot a sort of shelf of rock, that made the immediate fall not more than five feet direct. I leaped out of the chaise in the moment, and fell unhurt: the chaise was overthrown and the mare on her side, entangled in the harness, which kept the carriage from tumbling down a precipice of sixty feet. Fortunately she lay quietly, for had she struggled both must have fallen. I called some lime-burners to my assistance, who were with great difficulty brought to submit to directions, and not each pursue his own idea to the certain precipitation of both mare and chaise. We extricated her unhurt, secured the chaise, and then, with still greater difficulty, regained the road with both. This was by far the narrowest escape I have had. A blessed country for a broken limb; confinement for six weeks or two months at the Cheval Blanc, at Aubenas, an inn that would have been purgatory itself to one of my hogs: alone: without relation, friend, or servant, and not one person in sixty that speaks French. Thanks to the good providence that preserved me! What a situation; I shudder at the reflection more than I did falling into the jaws of the precipice. Before I got from the place there were seven men about me, I gave them a 3 livre piece to drink, which for some time they refused to accept, thinking, with unaffected modesty, that it was too much. At Aubeans repaired the harness, and, leaving that place, viewed the silk mills, which are considerable. Reach Villeneuve de Berg. I was immediately hunted out by the milice bourgeoise. Where is your certificate? Here again the old objection that my features and person were not described. Your papers? The importance of the case, they said, was great: and they looked as big as if a marshal's batton was in hand. They tormented me with an hundred questions; and then pronounced that I was a suspicious looking person. They could not conceive why a Suffolk farmer could travel into the Vivarais. Never had they heard of any person travelling for agriculture! They would take my passport to the hotel de ville, have the permanent council assembled, and place a centinel at my door. I told them they might do what they pleased, provided they did not prohibit my dinner, as I was hungry; they then departed. In about half an hour a gentleman-like man, a Croix de St. Louis came, asked me some questions very politely, and seemed not to conclude that Maria Antonietta and Arthur Young were at this moment in any very dangerous conspiracy. He retired, saying, he hoped I should not meet with any difficulties. In another half hour a soldier came to conduct me to the hotel de ville; where I found the council assembled; a good many questions were asked; and some expressions of surprise that an English farmer should travel so far for agriculture; they had never heard of such a thing; but all was in a polite liberal manner; and though travelling for agriculture was as new to them, as if

it had been like the ancient philosopher's tour of the world on a cow's back, and living on the milk; yet they did not deem any thing in my recital improbable, signed my passport very readily, assured me of every assistance and civility I might want, and dismissed me with the politeness of gentlemen. I described my treatment at Thuytz, which they loudly condemned. I took this opportunity to beg to know where that Pradel was to be found in this country, of which Oliver de Serres was seigneur, the well known French writer on agriculture in the reign of Henry IV. They at once pointed out of the window of the room we were in to the house, which in Villeneuve de Berg belonged to him, and informed me that Pradel was within a league. As this was an object I had noted before I came to France, the information gave me no slight satisfaction. The mayor, in the course of the examination, presented me to a gentleman who had translated Sterne into French, but who did not speak English: on my return to the auberge I found that this was Mons. de Boissiere, avocat general of the parliament of Grenoble. I did not care to leave the place without knowing something more of one who had distinguished himself by his attention to English literature; and I wrote to him a note, begging permission to have the pleasure of some conversation with a gentleman who had made our inimitable author speak the language of a people he loved so well. Mons. de Boissiere came to me immediately, conducted me to his house, introduced me to his lady and some friends, and as I was much interested concerning Oliver de Serres, he offered to take a walk with me to Pradel. It may easily be supposed that this was too much to my mind to be refused, and few evenings have been more agreeably spent. I regarded the residence of the great parent of French agriculture, and who was undoubtedly one of the first writers on the subject that had then appeared in the world, with that sort of veneration, which those only can feel who have addicted themselves strongly to some predominant pursuit, and find it in such moments indulged in its most exquisite feelings. Two hundred years after his exertions, let me do honour to his memory, he was an excellent farmer, and a true patriot, and would not have been fixed on by Henry IV, as his chief agent in the great project of introducing the culture of silk in France, if he had not possessed a considerable reputation; a reputation well earned, since posterity has confirmed it. The period of his practice is too remote to gain any thing more than a general outline of what may now be supposed to have been his farm. The basis of it is lime-stone; there is a great oak wood near the chateau, and many vines, with plenty of mulberries, some apparently old enough to have been planted by the hand of the venerable genius that has rendered the ground classic. The estate of Pradel, which is about 5000 livres (2181. 15s.) a year, belongs at present to the Marquis of Mirabel, who inherits it in right of his wife, as the descendant of de Serres. I hope it is exempted for ever from all taxes; he whose writings laid the foundation for the improvement of a kingdom, should leave to his posterity some marks of his countrymen's gratitude. When the present bishop of Sisteron was shewn like me, the farm of de Serres, he remarked, that the nation ought to erect a statue to his memory. The sentiment is not without merit, though no more than common snuff-box chat; but if this bishop has a well cultivated farm in his hands it does him honour. Supped with Mons. and Madame de Boissiere, &c. and had the pleasure of an agreeable and interesting conversation. 21 miles.

The 21st. Mons. de Boissiere, wishing to have my advice in the improvement of a farm, which he has taken into his hands, six or seven miles from Berg, in my road to Viviers, accompanied me thither. I advised him to form one well executed and well improved inclosure every year; to finish as he advances, and to do well what he attempts to do at all; and I cautioned him against the common abuse of that excellent

« PrécédentContinuer »