« AnteriorContinuar »
every one was put to his wits to discover some method or other to get on his horse. The most active of the party having selected a pine which had a drooping branch, climbed on to it, and managed without much difficulty to effect their object. Several of the elderly ones, and some of the juniors, whose libations had placed their capacity on a level with that of their seniors, were not quite so successful. One heavy fellow, who had raised himself on the branch of a pine close to where we were sitting, had just succeeded in buckling on one of his stilts, when the branch on which he sat gave way. The leg with the stilt on was mechanically thrust out to break the fall, but the result was much the contrary, With only one support, a single stride was all that could be made, but that stride was a most important one; for, unable to de. viate from the direction in which the branch broke away, the heavy carcase of the fellow landed in the centre of a group whose advanced state of jollification altogether precluded their joining in the race. So rudely and unexpectedly assaulted, considerable damage was done on the occasion both to heads and wine-skins; and the sufferers, not quite comprehending the cause of the assault, evinced their sense of its effects by heartily pommeling the unlucky wight who rolled among them. Another fellow had, in the hurry of the moment, carried off one of his neighbour's sangues instead of his own, and did not discover the mistake until he had buckled them on, and thinking that all was right, started from his place of mounting. Then he found to his sur. prise that one stilt was half a foot shorter than the other, and that, ac. cordingly, to balance himself was quite impossible. So away he went staggering and limping, endeavouring to describe a circle, so as to get back to the tree from which he had sprung. But the odds were against his succeeding. The shorter stilt having sunk in the hollow of a decayed tree root, the discrepancy of length became still greater; to recover his equilibrium was impossible, and he measured his length on the ground.
Several incidents equally absurd took place before the competitors were assembled at the starting-post. One of these, as it was somewhat different from the others, is worth mentioning. Two of the hunters had buckled on their sangues, and seemed to all appearance prepared for the race. One of them, however, discovered, or believed that he had discovered, that the strap of one of his sangues, which he had missed before he left the village in the morning, was doing duty on the leg of his neighbour, and he lost not a moment in taxing him with the theft. The charge was rebutted with all the vehemence of voice and gesture which a Gascon, conscious of his innocence, may be supposed to display. It had not, however, the smallest effect on the individual who made the charge. He either knew the man with whom he had to deal, or more probably had taken just that quantity of drink which suffices to make some folks, whether right or wrong, most pertinaciously insist on the correctness of their own opinion. The protestations of the ac. cused fell, therefore, without effect on the ears of his opponent, who would be satisfied with nothing short of the immediate restitution of the article which he claimed, and which he threatened to take by force if not given up to him. This was too much for the hot blood of a Landais to submit to ; the accused now no longer protested his in. nocence, but dared the other to carry his threat into execution. No. thing daunted by this change in the bearing of his adversary, and determined at all hazards to regain possession of his bit of leather, he ad. vanced to seize upon it. The position, however, which his opponent
had assumed, somewhat checked his ardour. The accused (certainly the most sober of the two, although neither could be said to be actually drunk), stepped a few paces back, and, flourishing his long pole or crook over his head, prepared to give his insulter a warm reception.
That one or other of the parties would obtain a broken head was now very evident. Those around us seemed tu consider such a result a matter of necessity after such an altercation as that which had taken place. There was no use for any interference, therefore, on our part. În the Landes, as in other parts of the civilized world, individual honour must be satisfied by means of deadly shots or broken heads; and the principals had, besides, no fear of a reprimand from the priesthood for their conduct on the occasion. To it, then, the gentlemen went in right earnest, and played as pretty a game at quarterstaff as ever was seen in merry England.
The parties seemed very equally matched in regard to strength, and were proficients in the science of attack and defence; it appeared very doubtful, therefore, who should be the victor. For some time the blows fell thick and hard on both sides ; several of them taking effect, but most of them being parried with great adroitness. As usual, however, at such bouts, he that could bear the hardest thumps without losing his temper triumphed. A hit somewhat sharper than ordinary told with good effect on the left shoulder of him who fought for his "shoe tie.” To return it with interest, if possible, was now his sole ob. ject, and furiously he endeavoured to discharge the obligation. The blows were now all on his part; his opponent now skilfully stepping aside to avoid them ; now grasping the centre of his pole, and whirling it round and round his head, with such velocity as completely to protect his person.
It was easy to decide in whose favour the odds now were ; although the assailant's weapon was plied with an energy and power which appeared resistless. The accused (unjustly, as it was afterwards ascer. iained) pursuing the same system of defence, never offered to return the blows of his opponent; in fact, he seemed determined not to strike until fatigue and passion had wrought powerfully in his favour. At length the efforts of the assailant became relaxed, his blows descended with less rapidity, and the time for finishing the contest was at hand. Watching, therefore, his opportunity, as the wearied arm of his adver. sary, with somewhat of its original vigour, dealt forth a blow which might have felled an ox, the injured party leaped aside, and escaping it, in an instant, and before his opponent could recover his guard, returned the blow with all his force on the unprotected shoulders of his oppo. nent. The pole flew to pieces with the violence of the shock, and the originator of the dispute pitched head foremost to the ground.
Such scenes are of common occurrence in the Landes; and, with the exception of some severe thwacks given and received, it is seldom that serious injury is sustained by either party. I recollect, however, a conflict between two French Basques in the vicinity of Pau, which ter. minated fatally. The Basques invariably carry a long walking.stick, generally knotted at the ends; and, when they chance to quarrel, they do not hesitate in using it pretty freely. Two of them thus armed having quarrelled and fought, one of them received a blow over the temple which killed him on the spot. This was, however, a very rare occurrence; and the shilelah* of the Basque must, nevertheless, be
Query for Irish Antiquaries—“Does not the familiar use of the "shilelah” by the Basques,—the oldest nation on the continent,--strengthen the opinion of Irish descent from the Spanish or French people, who bear that name?
considered as a far better arbiter of disputes than the long knife of his brethren over the frontier.
On the present occasion the injury sustained by the beaten party was considered of no importance, and did not in the slightest degree interrupt the hilarity of the assembly. Everything was now prepared for the race, and the competitors, in number about iwo dozen, being drawn up in line, and the signal for siarting given, off they went in fine style. One of the hunters had been posted on a rising ground, about five hundred yards distant ; round him those engaged in the race were to turn, and Ghad taken care that, in placing this individual, no attention should be paid to the state of the ground over which the racers should
pass. For the first hundred yards the race was neck and neck, all in line, and no one jostling the other. This, however, was the only level part of the course. A hollow, with a brook running through it, was now to be passed, and we could distinguish a very considerable derangement in the ranks of the little band as they passed it. Still all held on, and one after another passed the pivot without accident of any kind. Some there were now who had gained considerably on the others; these were mostly running together, each determined to win : and as, among those who were behind them, each was determined not to be last, the utmost vigour and activity of the party were put forth.
As the competitors approached, the shouts of the spectators were incessant. “ Pierre le gagnera !”—“ Joseph le gagnera !” resounded as the heads of one or other of the “ favourites” first appeared above the unequal surface of the course : and, as they descended into the hol. low which we have noticed, it was apparent that either one or other of the favourites would prove the victor. This time, however, the brook was not so easily crossed; and, by one mishap or other, several were left in it, some of whom had hitherto been among the foremost, so that when the others topped the bank near the winning-post, they formed nearly as compact a body as when they started. Neither the whip, nor spur, nor the betting-book were in requisition, yet the contest now became really animating There was not nearly so great a disparity of fleetness as might have been expected among such a number; and it was very evident that whoever gained the race would not have a great superiority to boast of. On they came over the level piece of sward, amid the redoubled shouts of the spectators. In a few seconds it was crossed, and Joseph was the victor by a few feet. Of course, on the presentation of the prize, G
found it necessary to say something; but, being unaccustomed to "public speaking," and still less capable of speaking in French, he bethought him that some of his schoolboy recitations might avail him on the occasion. The address of Sempronius to the Roman senate was the first which came to mind; so, turning towards Joseph, and commencing with
My voice is still for war:
he delivered a portion of it with all the action and energy which a eu. logium on the merits of the successful racer might be supposed to re. quire. Shouts followed every cadence of the speaker, and the scene concluded amid “thunders of applause."
THE ABBOT'S OAK.
A LEGEND OF MONEY-HUTCH LANE.
“ In the parish of Redgrave, skirting the Park, is a narrow bye-road, which has from time immemorial borne the name of Money-Hutch Lane. Tradition says that it derived its appellation from a treasure buried in its immediate neighbour. hood, at the time of the suppression of the monasteries, one of which, a small offshoot from the great parent stem of St. Edmondsbury, stood in its vicinity. It is added, that though deposited under the guardianship of spell and sigil, it may yet be recovered by any one who bides the happy minute.”—Collect. for Hist. of Suffolk.
The Abbot sat by his glimmering lamp,
His brow was wrinkled with care,
And ever anon,
As the night wore on,
On that Abbot's brow the furrows were deep,
His hair was scant and white,
For many a live-long night.
During his sojourn there :
And sticking like wax to his chair.
No wonder his look
On that black-letter book
As he gazes around his cell!
“ I have found out the mystic spell !"
He just stay'd to sing
Out, for some one to bring
While his mitre, which hung by a peg on the door,
With a hint that he'd something important to say,
To keep you long waiting is not iny intention;
Where to hide our riches vast,
The proud, the profane,
Will search all in vain,
One day in the year
Was tarnish'd, I fear,
That's the time, and that's the hour,
Then, and then only, may burst the bands,
To bother that corpulent horrid old man,
The morning will show it,
Then let me know it.
Which not being granted
As soon as he wanted,
That the Pope might go
Things being thus,
Without any fuss,
To their broad lands he sends
His most intimate friends,