An Accursed Race eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 34 pages of information about An Accursed Race.
he had to pay a fine of five sous, and to lose his dress.  He was expected to shrink away from any passer-by, for fear that their clothes should touch each other; or else to stand still in some corner or by-place.  If the Cagots were thirsty during the days which they passed in those towns where their presence was barely suffered, they had no means of quenching their thirst, for they were forbidden to enter into the little cabarets or taverns.  Even the water gushing out of the common fountain was prohibited to them.  Far away, in their own squalid village, there was the Cagot fountain, and they were not allowed to drink of any other water.  A Cagot woman having to make purchases in the town, was liable to be flogged out of it if she went to buy anything except on a Monday—­a day on which all other people who could, kept their houses for fear of coming in contact with the accursed race.

In the Pays Basque, the prejudices—­and for some time the laws—­ran stronger against them than any which I have hitherto mentioned.  The Basque Cagot was not allowed to possess sheep.  He might keep a pig for provision, but his pig had no right of pasturage.  He might cut and carry grass for the ass, which was the only other animal he was permitted to own; and this ass was permitted, because its existence was rather an advantage to the oppressor, who constantly availed himself of the Cagot’s mechanical skill, and was glad to have him and his tools easily conveyed from one place to another.

The race was repulsed by the State.  Under the small local governments they could hold no post whatsoever.  And they were barely tolerated by the Church, although they were good Catholics, and zealous frequenters of the mass.  They might only enter the churches by a small door set apart for them, through which no one of the pure race ever passed.  This door was low, so as to compel them to make an obeisance.  It was occasionally surrounded by sculpture, which invariably represented an oak-branch with a dove above it.  When they were once in, they might not go to the holy water used by others.  They had a benitier of their own; nor were they allowed to share in the consecrated bread when that was handed round to the believers of the pure race.  The Cagots stood afar off, near the door.  There were certain boundaries—­imaginary lines on the nave and in the isles which they might not pass.  In one or two of the more tolerant of the Pyrenean villages, the blessed bread was offered to the Cagots, the priest standing on one side of the boundary, and giving the pieces of bread on a long wooden fork to each person successively.

When the Cagot died, he was interred apart, in a plot burying-ground on the north side of the cemetery.  Under such laws and prescriptions as I have described, it is no wonder that he was generally too poor to have much property for his children to inherit; but certain descriptions of it were forfeited to the commune.  The only possession which all who were not of his own race refused to touch, was his furniture.  That was tainted, infectious, unclean—­fit for none but Cagots.

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An Accursed Race from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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