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rately noticing the demeanour of those around him; but by degrees he perceived that some stared at him in dismay, some in mockery ; that every female head was closely enveloped in its veil ; and that no single voice amidst the throng pronounced the wonted blessing. Still he rode on; for, alas! poor gentleman, he knew not what else to do; and by degrees the wondrous tale spread round that the King was clothed in magic robes, which none could see whose mothers were not honourable dames. The effect of this intelligence upon the multitude was far un. like that which it had produced upon the nobles.

* God and the Virgin absolve the soul of my mother!” cried one ; “ but to my eyes his Majesty is as naked as a new-born babe !"

“ And how much more d'ye think he has got upon him ?” said another.

“ Poor old gentleman !” exclaimed a third, “is it not a piteous sight to see him thus ?—and he made such a fool of by that rogue of a Chancellor ! Look you how the old villain grins, and lifts up his hands, and pretends to admire him! Isn't he a proper rascal ?”

“ If it be the last word I ever speak,” cried a young man, who felt fully as confident as the last speaker that the good old King was fooled by his false courtiers, “if I am hanged for it the moment after, I will tell him the truth." And so saying, he sprung forth from the crowd, thrust aside some half dozen of the nobles who attended on foot as a guard of honour to the King, and fearlessly seizing the royal rein, exclaimed in a voice that was heard by hundreds, 6 you are as naked as the hour you were born, O King. Believe your faithful subjects, and pass not so harsh a judgment on every mother in Madrid as to believe that not one among them has a son who is son to her husband also. Hark to that shout, great King, and mark the action of their living hands."

As he ceased speaking, a hundred honest citizens rushed forward, each one holding his cloak on high as an offering to the deluded Mo. narch, while a deafening cry of “Down with the traitors who tell the King that he is clothed !” rent the air on all sides.

The truth at once broke in upon the mind of King Alphonso.

6 Seize the Lord Chancellor!” he cried. “It was he who forbade an under-dress of velvet. He has had his joke, and dearly shall he pay for it!

Thankfully did the good King accept the offer of as inany cloaks as he could conveniently wear, and bidding the young citizen who had so bravely addressed him follow to the palace, he turned his horse's head, determined to seize on the crafty Frenchmen before they should have made their escape.

But they were already gone, no one knew how nor whither. All that could be discovered concerning the affair was, that the diamonds, pearls, and rubies were gone too. It was many years after this time before any more French rogues got a footing in Spain ; and, on the whole, the adventure was a fortunate one, as it cured his excellent Majesty King Alphonso of his passion for projectors, banished a very abominable old Chancellor from the court, and made thefortune of one of the honestest men in the country.

496

THE PYRENEAN HUNTER;

OR

WILD SPORTS OF THE SOUTH OF FRANCE.

BY THE HON. JAMES ERSKINE MURRAY.

WOLF-HUNTING IN THE LANDES.

It is very seldom that the wolf is met with in the Pyrenees. The bear and the izard (the chamois of these mountains) seem to hold un. divided possession of their fastnesses, and are in truth (with the exception of the bouquetin, which is sometimes, but very rarely, found among the wooded hills of Spanish Navarre) the only animals of the chase which the chasseur of the Pyrenees pursues. When, however, the winter storms have driven the flocks from the higher pastures into the valleys, a solitary wolf may now and then be found skulking among the coteaux in their vicinity ; but so scarce are they, that, though sometimes shot by the peasants, whom their depredations have informed of their “whereabouts," it is not among the Pyrenees, nor in their immediate neighbourhood, that wolf-hunting can be enjoyed.

In several of the French departments, however, wolves are both nu. merous and destructive, and there wolf hunting is sufficiently exciting to rank after bear and izard-hunting among the wild sports of the south of France.

Every one knows that the department of the Landes is that vast tract of country which extends along the Bay of Biscay from the mouth of the Garonne to the Adour, and from Bayonne almost 10 Bordeaux. That portion of this department to the south of Dax, Mont de Marsan, and Roquefort, presents a numberless succession of undu. lations covered with vines or copse wood, and surrounded by the little meadows which the industry of the inhabitants, almost all of them proprietors of a few arpens of land, has, by the assistance of a neighbouring brook, reclaimed from the otherwise barren heath. The remainder, and by far the largest portion of the Landes, is, however, of a very different character. Great tracts of heath or sandy downs, inter. spersed with forests of pine and beech, cover its surface. So inhos. pitable a region is but thinly peopled. The villages and hamlets within its bounds are situated upon the banks of the streams or lakes, and so far apart from each other, that it is no uncommon circumstance for the sportsman to have had a long day's walk, and a tolerably good day's shooting, while merely taking the nearest path from one village to another.

In these great plains, districts, twenty miles in extent, are scarcely ever disturbed except by the flocks which at particular seasons wander over them; and, although almost every Landais carries a gun, still so much of their time is occupied in knitting their own or their families' stockings, and in attending to their flocks, that this department may be considered one of the best in France for a sportsman. He must however, be one of the right sort,-one who sets little value on the luxuries of life, and can cheerfully submit to privation of every kind,

so long as he can find employment for his “Manton” or his “ Pur. die."

In this wild and pastoral country wolves are as numerous as in any part of France, and frequently commit great depredations among the flocks. The Landais have several methods of destroying them. Trapping is not unfrequently practised; but the method in most favour is by a ballue at which all the male peasantry of the canton assemble. Three or four hundred individuals are on such occasions collected together, and the spectacle which is then presented is one which can be seen nowhere but in the Landes.*

My friend G-- and I were at Mimizan, one of the most antique and curious little towns in the Landes, and which is threatened at no distant period to be engulfed in the sands, which have already choked up its ancient port, when we received the welcome intelligence that a great wolf-hunt was to take place on the following Monday, near the village of Onesse, some three or four leagues off. Having spent the evening in fishing in the Etang d'Aureillan, we returned to our quarters to prepare for our departure on the next morning.

To avoid the heat, for it was now the month of July, we were early astir, and few of the villagers had yet found their way to the chapel (it was Sabbath morning) as we passed by its massive porch. The Landais are a very superstitious people, perhaps the most so of the numerous and distinct iribes which are clustered round the Pyrenees. Their religious observances, their ceremonies, and their fêtes, which their comparative ignorance and separation from the rest of the world have preserved in all their pristine characters, are of frequent occurrence. Some of them are ludicrously absurd, while others, from their originality, are by no means uninteresting to the stranger. As good fortune would have it, we reached the village of Onesse just in time to be pres. ent at one of these fêtes peculiar to the Landes.

The service in the chapel being over, the whole of the parishioners, to the number of two or three hundred, were assembled in the open space in front of the place of worship. The elder of both sexes were seated on the ground, forming a circle, the men on one side, the wo. men on the other. The young people were scattered around this circle in couples, holding each other's hands, and dancing to the sound of the by no means musical voice of an old man, who was elevated on a heap of stones. The air, if it was really meant to be an air, which the old gentleman was croaking, had no cadence in it to which the dancers could keep time. Indeed, the dance itself seemed nothing more than a rapid inflection of the arms and legs, without any regard to measure, —what G- very appropriately styled a regular romp. The curate and the notary, spectators like ourselves of the scene, and who had been observing with much attention the various movements of the dancers, now whispered to us that several marriages were about to take place ; and on our asking our informants by what means they ascer. tained this, we were told that they had perceived certain pressures of the hands, which were an infallible sign of the intention of the parties. Accordingly, shortly after, three of the young couples successively left the dancers, a little apparent reluctance being shown by the fair one to follow her partner, which we supposed was only a necessary part of the ceremony. Once clear of the assemblage, they stood still regarding

* The Norwegian "skalls” have some resemblance to the wolf hunts of the Landes.

each other very attentively for a moment, and whispering a few words ; then bestowing on each other a hearty slap, (very probably equivalent to saying “all was right,”) they ran off to join their parents, and to tell the old folks “ qu'ils s'agréaient,” (that they had agreed.) the expression used on such occasions, and that they had determined to marry. The parents (unlike those “ cruel parents” in other countries) invari. ably reply that they consent, since the young people are agreed.

This little parley having taken place, the curate and the man of law were both summoned to the presence, and the day at once fixed for the drawing of the contract, the bestowal of the nuptial benediction, and the celebration of the marriage.

The Maire of the village was an acquaintance of our guide Pierre, and in his house (somewhat superior in accommodation to the other huts in its vicinity) we took up our quarters. The cottages of the peasantry of the Landes are by no means comfortable abodes. They are in general damp, have but a solitary fire-place; and the little chambers, or closets, which contain the sleeping-places of the various members of the household, are but very indifferently partitioned off from each other; while the imperfect construction of the whole frame. work renders them as intolerably hot in summer as they are cold in winter. As long, however, as we had enough to eat and drink, Gand I cared very little under what sort of roof we were housed, more especially as at that season of the year we could have bivouacked in the open air with perfect safety, and perhaps with more comfort to many of our senses.

Our host was in all respects, but in that of his rotundity of person, a veritable Gascon. All that he had ever done or said was vastly superior to what any one else could accomplish. The sandy plains of Aquitaine were, in his eyes, a perfect paradise, and all ihe world could not produce such “brave gens" as the (generally speaking) half-starved unhealthy-looking race who dwell on them.

The neces. sity of our being up betimes ihe next morning excused our late attend. ance on his worship; but long after we had retired to our couch of dried maize-leaves we could hear the little man, whom the thoughts of the morrow's chasse had rendered perhaps more than usually loqua. cious, instilling into Pierre anecdote after anecdote of his triumphs over the wolves.

At day-break we were called by Pierre. Our toilet was soon completed by the burnside ; and having despatched our breakfast, the principal articles of which were drawn from our own game-bag, we started for the place of rendezvous. From the difficulty of walking in the sands, the inhabitants of the Landes make use of stilts four or five feet in height, which they call sangues, and which are fastened to the leg with thongs, sufficient room being left for the knee to bend slightly. These they use with great agility, and the length of the stride which the Landais takes when mounted in this manner enables him to move along very rapidly, many of them being able to go as fast as a good horse can trot. By means of the elevation which the shepherd in this manner attains, he sees his flock much more perfectly; and when he wishes to rest, he fixes his long staff in the ground, and leaning against it, works away with his knitting-needles, without which he never stirs from home.

The little Maire, mounted on his sangues, led the way, his long-bar. relled fowling-piece slung behind him. His spirits seemed not in the east calmed by his night's rest, and his boasting was, if possible, re

doubled. In addition to his being a perfect hero in a wolf-hunt, as he had proved to us the preceding evening, no one could step out as he could on the sangues. Then he was the best dancer and musician in the district; in short, by his account, a paragon of perfection. Ghinted that we had been too long in Gascony to believe all that was told us ; and we did not doubt that before nightfall we should get some of his conceit shaken out of him.

Our host's impatience had made us earlier afoot than others who were to join in the sports of the day, so that, on our arrival at the ren. dezvous, we found ourselves among the first who had come up.

We could not, however, regret the circumstance, as it gave us an oppor. tunity of regarding the various groups as they came racing in from all quarters. Every one being mounted on sangues, the appearance of the parties as they came in sight was extremely singular. Those at a distance seemed moving along high above the surface of the ground, and without any visible support ; while others, surmounting a sandy knoll, continued to ascend long after the whole of their person

had

appeared above it.

Some wore the sombre-coloured cloak and narrow. crowned hood, out of which it was almost ludicrous to behold a young face peeping; others wore their sheep-skin jackets with the wool outside, some black, some white, and all of the strangest cut imaginable. There were evidently no tailors in the Landes, and each peasant manufactured for himself.

We were regularly introduced to the various little bands as they came up, all of whom had their particular tale to tell of the destruction which ihe wolves had lately made among their own or their neigh. bours' flocks, and many were the sacres which they bestowed on the rogues during the recital. Our spirits rose with each successive account of the numbers and ferocity of the animals; so that by the time the various arrangements had been completed, our force divided into sections, each under the orders of an appointed chief, we were all anxiety for the encounter. The manæuvres for the day being at last explained and understood, we were marched off to our different stations.

G and I were attached to the Maire's company, and every one being mounted but ourselves and Pierre, we found it rather fatiguing work to keep up with our party as they trotted over the downs, while our leader, as we now and then waded over a sand-hill, expatiated on the great merits of the sangues; and, as if to convince us still more forcibly of our want of education in not being able to use them, the old rascal stepped out the faster, our associates considering it a good joke to keep us at the top of our speed to hold up with them. The joke, such as it was, was however taken in very good part, if a muttered growl which sometimes escaped from us, when the sand was more than usually heavy, be not taken into account.

After an hour's sharp running, we arrived at the position which we were to occupy. It was situated at the extreme end of the forest, along the outskirts of which we had come from the place of rendezvous, and which varying from two to three miles in breadth, extended along the banks of the river for several leagues. The upper portion of the forest, that nearest to us, was interspersed with a great quanity of tangled brake and underwood, and seemed well adapted for the lairs of the ani. mals of which we were in search. The mode of beating and guarding the wood was very simple, but at the same time very well executed, better than I have witnessed on many a field-day at home.

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