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Instructed and edified, we put aside our
newly-discovered periodicals, with an inaudibly
expressed hope that our distinguished name
may never figure in the columns of either.


"IT is neither a bold nor a diversified
country," said I to myself, "this country which
is three-quarters Flemish, and a quarter French;
yet it has its attractions too. Though great
lines of railway traverse it, the trains leave it
behind, and go puffing off to Paris and the
South, to Belgium and Germany, to the Northern
Sea-Coast of France, and to England, and merely
smoke it a little in passing. Then I don't know
it, and that is a good reason for being here; and
I can't pronounce half the long queer names I
see inscribed over the shops, and that is another
good reason for being here, since I surely ought
to learn how." In short, I was "here," and I
wanted an excuse for not going away from here,
and I made it to my satisfaction, and stayed

What part in my decision was borne by
Monsieur P. Salcy, is of no moment, though I own
to encountering that gentleman's name on a red
bill on the wall, before I made up my mind.
Monsieur P. Salcy, "par permission de M. le
Maire," had established his theatre in the white-
washed Hôel de Ville, on the steps of which
illustrious edifice I stood. And Monsieur P.
Salcy, privileged director of such theatre, situate
in "the first theatrical arrondissement of the
department of the North," invited French-
Flemish mankind to come and partake of the
intellectual banquet provided by his family of
dramatic artists, fifteen subjects in number.
La Famille P. SALCY, composée d'artistes
dramatiques, au nombre de 15 sujets."

Neither a bold nor a diversified country, I say
again, and withal an untidy country, but pleasant
enough to ride in, when the paved roads over
the flats and through the hollows, are not too
deep in black mud. A country so sparely
inhabited, that I wonder where the peasants who
till and sow and reap the ground, can possibly
dwell, and also by what invisible balloons they
are conveyed from their distant homes into the
fields at sunrise and back again at sunset. The
occasional few poor cottages and farms in this
region, surely cannot afford shelter to the
numbers necessary to the cultivation, albeit the
work is done so very deliberately, that on one
long harvest day I have seen, in twelve miles,
about twice as many men and women (all told)
reaping and binding. Yet have I seen more
cattle, more sheep, more pigs, and all in better
case, than where there is purer French spoken,
and also better ricksround swelling peg-top
ricks, well thatched: not a shapeless brown heap,
like the toast out of a Giant's toast-and-water,
pinned to the earth with one of the skewers out
of his kitchen. A good custom they have about
here, likewise, of prolonging the sloping tiled
roof of farm or cottage, so that it overhangs three
or four feet, carrying off the wet, and making a
good drying place wherein to hang up herbs, or
implements, or what not. A better custom than
the popular one of keeping the refuse-heap and
puddle close before the house door: which,
although I paint my dwelling never so brightly
blue (and it cannot be too blue for me,
hereabouts), will bring fever inside my door.
Wonderful poultry of the French- Flemish
country, why take the trouble to be poultry?
Why not stop short at eggs in the rising
generation, and die out and have done with it?
Parents of chickens have I seen this day,
followed by their wretched young families,
scratching nothing out of the mud with an air
tottering about on legs so scraggy and weak,
that the valiant word drumsticks becomes a
mockery when applied to them, and the crow of
the lord and master has been a mere dejected
case of croup. Carts have I seen, and other
agricultural instruments, unwieldy, dislocated,
monstrous. Poplar-trees by the thousand
fringe the fields and fringe the end of the flat
landscape, so that I feel, looking straight on
before me, as if, when I pass the extremest
fringe on the low horizon, I shall tumble over
into space. Little whitewashed black holes of
chapels, with barred doors and Flemish inscriptions,
abound at roadside corners, and often they
are garnished with a sheaf of wooden crosses,
like children's swords: or, in their default, some
hollow old tree with a saint roosting in it, is
similarly decorated, or a pole with a very
diminutive saint enshrined aloft in a sort of
sacred pigeon-house. Not that we are deficient
in such decoration in the town here, for, over at
the church yonder, outside the building, is a
scenic representation of the Crucifixion, built up
with old bricks and stones, and made out with
painted canvas and wooden figures: the whole
surmounting the dusty skull of some holy
personage (perhaps), shut up behind a little ashey
iron grate, as if it were originally put there to
be cooked, and the fire had long gone out. A
windmilly country this, though the windmills
are so damp and rickety, that they nearly knock
themselves off their legs at every turn of their
sails, and creak in loud complaint. A weaving
country, too, for in the wayside cottages the
loom goes wearilyrattle and click, rattle and
clickand, looking in, I see the poor weaving
peasant, man or woman, bending at the work,
while the child, working too, turns a little hand-
wheel put upon the ground to suit its height.
An unconscionable monster, the loom in a small
dwelling, asserting himself ungenerously as the
bread-winner, straddling over the children's
straw beds, cramping the family in space and
air, and making himself generally objectionable
and tyrannical. He is tributary, too, to ugly
mills and factories and bleaching-grounds,
rising out of the sluiced fields in au abrupt bare
way, disdaining, like himself, to be ornamental
or accommodating. Surrounded by these things,
here I stood on the steps of the Hôtel de Ville,
persuaded to remain by the P. Salcy family,
fifteen dramatic subjects strong.