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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/127

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121
A PEASANT PROMETHEUS.

entertained by the ships. He had two beautiful little girls, and their governess, who had come from Copenhagen for three years' stay, was a most elegant and refined young lady. How she could exist with happiness in so desolate a region was more than we could understand.

Within two or three hundred yards of the houses we saw with horror a number of coffins on the ground, most of them broken and decayed, and exposing human skeletons; they were evidently very old, yet portions of clothing still remained in some coffins. I believe that some of our party persuaded the governor to see them decently interred. But there was a modern cemetery at some distance, where the dead are buried in a proper manner.

We left this place on October 2, and soon experienced bad weather again, which accompanied us nearly all the way home. The men had by this time become so thoroughly disgusted with preserved meats that they were unable any longer to eat them, and we gladly presented them with butter, cheese, Swiss milk, soups, and all our private stock that we could spare; it was evidently high time that we got home. On the 16th we came up with the "Pandora," but three days after lost her, and also the "Alert," in a heavy gale, and sighted them no more during the whole voyage. The next day one of our boats, hanging from the davits, was smashed by the sea, and had to be cut adrift. I thought I had never seen the sea so rough.

But at last we got into finer weather, and entered Cork harbor on the 28th of October. A pilot boat came off to us, wishing to take us into Queenstown. Asking from whence we came, a voice was heard to say, "The North Pole," and they were about as wise as before. Our appearance much puzzled them, for in the shabby figures clothed in sealskin and box-cloth, patched with green baize and duffel, they failed to recognize men-of-war's men, mostly so trim and neat. Still they thought the number of officers inconsistent with the merchant service; neither did our white ensign inform them of our real character. Next morning we entered Queenstown, and received an enthusiastic greeting; and as we gazed fondly on the green trees and verdant meadows of home, we felt fortunate and thankful at having brought our voyage to a happy conclusion, and escaped from the hardships and monotony of a second Arctic winter.




A PEASANT PROMETHEUS.

TRANSLATED FOR THE LIVING AGE FROM THE FRENCH OF EMILE SOUVESTRE.

I had once a class-mate in Paris, a medical student, who when he graduated (being a Breton) settled down in what has been called the Land's End of France. He went to live at Commana, a little hamlet in the mountains, near the extremity of that peninsula which breasts the full force of the Atlantic Ocean. His nearest town was Quimper, to which there is now a railroad, but no railroad had been even projected in Brittany in that day.

The country in which he lived was more wild, and yet more lovely, more lonely and yet more full of recollections, than any country I have ever been in. Wide moorlands, often divided by great banks and hedgerows (for no purpose one can imagine, since nothing grows in these enclosures but furze, fern, and heather) terminate in cliffs that go sheer down into the ocean. Here and there, like cracks in the brown moorland, are valleys of the loveliest green, with fields of hemp and buckwheat, meadows of rich grass, willow gardens, teeming orchards, and homesteads nestled in great clumps of elms. The shore of the bay is a succession of black cliffs and exquisite small beaches of white sand. The whole terminated by that astonishing place Penmarc'h, or the Torch of the Horse's Head.

Soon after he had settled at Commana, my friend the doctor sent me an invitation to come and stay with him. The travelling public had not then found out the attractions of Brittany, but I was a Breton born, though not from that part of the country.

I went down to Quimper by diligence, whence I hired a horse and guide to take me by peasant tracks over the purple moorland. Near Penmarc'h we passed over the ruins of what in the Middle Ages had been a great commercial city. A city which it is said in history could equip three thousand fighting men, and shelter seven hundred craft in its wide harbor. It was partly destroyed by the English in 1404, and wholly desolated, a century and a quarter later, in the wars of the League.

As I rode over its ruins, fragments of which stuck up like boulders through the purple heath and pale pink pimpernel, my guide said, — even where I could not see a stone, — "This is the goldsmiths' street, — now we are in the smiths' street, — this is the street of the stonemasons."

I grew sad, as I always do when moving