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                  CATS' MOUNT.

NOT every May morning of 1853 breathed
forth such a balmy atmosphere as that on
which I started on a pilgrimage to the Mont
des Cats, or Mont des Chats, as it is
sometimes erroneously called. The Catti, or Kats,
were a people of ancient Germany, some of
whose blood may be supposed still to flow in
the veins of the Kittons of England and the
Catons of Sutherland; and it owes its somewhat
ambiguous name not to having been, at
any epoch, the headquarters of a herd of cats,
but to the circumstance of being the nest of a
warlike clan of human beings. The Mount
itself, though Flemish to the backbone, stands
just within the limits of France. From that
direction I had to approach it. Sweeping
down the slopes of Cassel, a few miles south
of St. Omer, you skirt the side of a wooded
hill. Your road continues to be an unyielding
pavement, and the necessity of the arrangement
is plain. On the vast alluvial tracts
which follow, you have soil and subsoil
without a pebble. The squared stone therefore
which is brought from a distance, is
much too valuable to be broken up and
macadamised, but is laid down in the shape of a
permanently paved road. Once on the plain,
the scene becomes monotously richteeming
with abundance, but otherwise offering little
to strike either the eye or the imagination.
At every step, the country and the people are
less and less French. Flemish inscriptions
over the door announce the existence of very
goode dranken. Little roadside chapels of
brick, face you at the most obvious corners;
whilst others of wood not bigger than birdcages,
and containing only a Virgin and Child,
are fastened to the wayside trees. Every
person you meet on the road salutes you; and
you are thought a pig if you do not return the
greeting. To be the first to salute is inculcated
in some of the popular catechisms as a religious
duty, under the form of an act of humility.
Donkeys covered with warm sheepskin
saddles trot backwards and forwards, ridden
by men and women, who indifferently and
universally are mounted sidewise. The national
sports of Flanders are represented by an
enormously high mast, or pole, surmounted
at the top with iron branches, on the tips of
which little wooden birds are fixed; to be
shot at and bagged at holiday times. The
national drink is indicated by hopgrounds
filled with poles of extraordinary altitude;
and, if you only look at the staple of the
soil that is laid bare on the sides of the
ditches, you will see that it has within
it the elements wherewith to make the
" bine" mount to the top. The national
taste in domestic pets is already but too
frequently revealed by blinded chaffinches
chaunting their lively but brief melody, in
spite of the narrowness of the wretched
prison in which they exist, and sing with
their eyes put out. At the door of the next
public-house which we pass, there lies a
savage dog, fastened with a leash; and by his
side a formidable-looking carbine leans against
the wall. Both the brute and the gun are
weapons of offence which belong to the
douanier, or frontier customs'-guard, who is
refreshing himself with a pint of beer to
sharpen his scent after tramping smugglers.
A few furlongs further we meet a man with
a haggard face, an uncertain eye, and a shabby
blouse, which, in respect to the thinness of
his figure, would seem to denote an unusual
development of chest. Or is it tobacco
which pads his bosom, and which he yesterday
picked up in Belgium? Beware, my friend
for so I will call you, though I should not
care to meet you alone here in the dark. 'Tis
not I who will whistle a signal of your
approach; but mind how you step for the
next half-hour. Because, if the carbine do
not check your speed, the dog, let slip, most
certainly will. More hop-grounds and meadows,
and we are at Steenewoorde.

From Steenewoorde to the Mont des Cats
let no one venture in a carriage. The distance,
about three miles English, must be performed
either on horseback, donkeyback, or foot; for
the road over the pebble-less alluvial soil is
nothing but a stream of slime, which might
issue from the nastiest of mud volcanoes.
After a few days' soaking wet, the passage
would be impracticable, were it not for a sort
of footpath at the side formed by a series of
rough-squared stepping-stones, that are let
into the earth about the same distance they
would be, to help a passenger to cross a brook.
Although by no means easy walking, the
stepping-stone path still carries you onwards,
now and then joined by like thoroughfares