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In towns and cities some of the gypsy women have a
large and varied clientele : they are admitted to the best
houses, and the proudest sefloras deign to inspect the
ancient lace, the bric-a-brac and jewellery that they bring



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288 WILD SPAIN.

for sale. Of antique lace, elaborately wrought, and of
painted fans and such-like relics, the supply in Spain
seems inexhaustible : and eventually the glib tongue of the
gitana may probably obtain about half the price originally
asked.

Despite certain changes — hereafter described — the
Spanish gypsy remains exotic to Hispania, distinct in type
both of form and feature ; the restless, suspicious eye of the
hunted animal, the lithe build, and straight supple limbs,
even among the svelte and graceful Andalucians, still
distinguish these swarthy sons of the wilderness.* The
true-bred gypsy remains a distinct species. Though amen-
able to the same laws, and recognized as a Spanish subject,
he is distinguishable at a glance. The youths undergo
their allotted period of army service, but remain not an
hour beyond the stipulated time with the colours.

Their normal occupations to-day are chiefly those of
butchers — all the shambles of Spain are in their hands —
tinkers, horse-breakers, mule and donkey-dealers, and
basket-makers. But, at a pinch, the gitano now conde-
scends to engage on the lighter work of the land — hoeing,
weeding, &c. Like the Jew, the gypsy has ever hitherto
been conspicuous by his absence from every field of manual
labour : both prefer the lighter barters of life ; and that
the gitano should now — even casually— -take to such honest
work, is perhaps a sign of the times.

One great change has, however, been wrought by the
century of equal laws — a change perhaps of vital import
to the villain crew. The once sacred orate is contami-
nated. Marriages between the two races — with or without
the sanction of the church — are now frequent, though the
Spaniard who contracts such ill-savoured union loses
caste among his or her own people, and the children of
these mixed marriages never lose the taint.

By this means there has sprung into existence, during
late years, an intermediate class, neither pure Gitano nor

* In speed of foot, the gitano lads carry off the pahu, leaving all
competitors behind in the rare athletic contests which have taken
place in Southern Spain.



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THE SPANISH GYPSY OF TO-DAY. 289

Spanish, which is daily increasing, and, being free from
all the traditionary observances of the gypsy, mingles more
and more with the national life, carrying with it much of
the ready wit and piquancy of the latter.

The result of this grafting of an element of gitanismo
upon the original Castilian stock is the Flamenco of to-day,
and it is a curious satire on Spanish society that the style
and attire, even the language, of this wanton half-caste
breed have become a fashionable craze — have been by
some paradoxical freak adopted by a section of even the
higher Madrilenian circles who revel in copying the garb,
the manners, and the jargon of the once loathed gypsy.
Flamencos are found in every grade — well known among
the gilded youth of Madrid or Seville — but the bull-ring
appears to provide the most approved models for this school.
Nor is the mania confined to the men : the bright gala-dress
of the gitana has become fashionable among high-placed
sefloras who appear at dance or salon sporting the gaudy
Manila shawl with its flowing fringe, short frock, and with
hair coiflfeured a la Flamenca. To prefer the raciest and
most highly-flavoured Spanish dishes, to quaflf freely the
Manzanilla, to smoke cigarettes, to prefer olives to bon-
bons, to know the bull-fighters by their pet names, to be
loud if not witty, smart in repartee and slang — this is to
be Flamenca.

Both sexes of the Flamencos proper retain the dross
and manner of the original gypsy. The brazen beauty of
the young Flamencas has the same seductive charms for
the Bmn6; and it is from the half-caste that the dancing
girls of the cities and light-fingered gentry of many accom-
plishments are mostly recruited.

A considerable admixture of gypsy-blood is found among
the lower strata of the bull-fighting profession, though its
higher ranks are comparatively free from it. His in-
tensely superstitious nature unfits the true-bred gypsy
from real success in this or any pursuit where nerve and
decision are required. The only gitano espadas of note
are Chicorro and El Gallo. The former has latterly
lost nerve and prestige through a curious practical joke

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290 WILD SPAIN.

played upon his superstitious nature by a ventriloquial
member of his cuadrilla. As he stood, sword and miileta
in hand, facing a black bull of the Duke of Veragua's breed
in the Plaza of Madrid, suddenly the beast addressed him
in low sepulchral tones, *' Te roy a coger ! " — I am going
to catch you ! Such was the effect on Chicorro's nerves



GYPSY LAD.

that his life was only saved by his attendant chidos, who
drew oflf the brute's attack, nor has Chicorro ever since
dared to face a black bull.

The resident Spanish gypsies cluster together in some
separate quarter of the town, or form an isolated mud-
built harno outside its walls. Dwelling apart, and



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THE SPANISH GYPSY OP TO-DAY, 291

without the slightest bond of sympathy with their Cas-
tilian neighbours, their outward signs of joy or grief —
both demonstrative — pass unheard and ignored. In their
religion — adopted perforce of law, as before set forth, and
which savours of idolatry simple, with a dash of supersti-
tion and fanaticism — in their curious marriage and funereal
customs — both occasions of noisy orgy, the latter resem-
bling an Irish " wake " with its alternations of wailing by
the hour " to order," and feasting in turn — the gypsies are
left severely alone. There is no sympathy with them.
On the other hand, when civil or political disturbances
prevail, and southern fervour is all ablaze, the gypsy
barrio remains spectacular and unmoved.

No ** patriotic '* dreams or soaring ambitions disturb the
gypsy's squalid life — what has he to gain ? What can he
ever hope to be, but the despised and rejected, under any
form of government? No list of misguided peasantry,
beguiled and betrayed by base agitator, ever registers his
name : the midnight meetings of the ** Black Hand " find
no gitano present at their sworn and secret conclaves.
The vagabond is too shrewd uselessly to embroil himself
in abortive efforts to upset existing order : though there is
little doubt what his action would be should the oppor-
tunity of pillage with impunity ever present itself.

Los BoHEMios. — There remain to be noticed the bands
of nomad gypsies who flock to Spain during the winter
months, but whose true home is said to be in Bohemia.
These are not in touch with the native tribes, speaking
but few words of Spanish or of its gypsy jargon. In
summer they infest the roads and by-ways of Austria,
travelling southwards, as winter advances, thus resembling
in habit their British congeners. Their type of feature is
of more Eastern caste, their faces almost black, with long
tangled hair, in both sexes, hanging down to the shoulders.
Their home is the wigwam or rickety waggon with its load
of rags and babies, and its mixed team of mules, donkeys,
and ponies. The lurcher-dog and the snare assist these
Zingali to fill their ptichero. They traverse the wilds of
Spain in camps of thirty to fifty, squatting near village or

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292 WILD SPAIN.

outside city walls, ostensibly to occupy themselves with
iron and copper tinkery, kettle-making, and the like. Some
of the women of these Bohemians are striking enough in
their gypsy-beauty ; the same faces are seen in successive
years, so their journeyings are to some extent methodical.
One meets these nomad bands all over rural Spain,
laboriously ** trekking " axle-deep, across dusky-brown
plain or lonely waste of brushwood and palmetto — pic-
turesque objects— indeed the only element of life and colour
amidst these desolate scenes.



GYPSY DANCE.



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298



■ CHAPTER XXV.
IN SEARCH OF THE LAMMERGEYER.
A WINTER RIDE IN THE SIERRAS.

To the Lammergeyer tradition has assigned some roman-
tic attributes, and a character of wondrous dash and daring.
This is the bird that is credited with feats of hurling
hunters from perilous positions down crag or crevass,
carrying oflf children to its ej^ie, and kidnapping un-
guarded babes. Even Dr. Bree, in his "Birds of Europe,"
while doubting that it habitually assails grown-up people,
gravely asserts that a pair of these birds will not hesitate
to attack a man whom they have caught at a disadvan-
tage ; while one will venture, single-handed, an onslaught
on two hunters who are asleep. Some naturalists now
seem inclined to go to the other extreme, and to regard
the Lammergeyer as merely a huge Neophron.

No doubt the great size and weird, dragon-like appear-
ance of the Gjrpaetus have tended to promote exaggeration,
while its rarity and remote haunts have made it no easy
subject to study, and few have formed its acquaintance in
its own almost inaccessible domains. Our small expe-
riences, narrated in the two following chapters, seem to
show that the truth lies between the two extremes.

Towards the end of January we set out for a fortnight's
exploration of the mountains beyond Tempul and Algar, a
forty-mile ride to the eastward of Jerez. Bitter was the
cold as we rode off in the darkness at 5 a.m., only two
stars shining in the eastern firmament; truly the word
recreo, as Bias explained to the sentry on duty at the old
Moorish gateway, that we were only bound on pleasure,



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294 WILD SPAIN.

sounded almost satirical — as some one has said, life would
be endurable but for its pleasures. By dawn we were
crossing the hungry gravel-ridges beyond Cuartillos, and
watched the sun rise from behind the stony pile of San
Christobal, bathing the distant mountains, whither we
were bound, in glorious golden glow.

Crossing the Guadalete by the ford of Barca Florida,
our route led through leagues of lovely park-like land
— here straggling natural woods or ferny glades, anon
opening out upon stretches of heath and palmetto. The
track, where one existed, a typical Spanish by-way, shut in
between vertical banks of slippery white marl, that barely
left room for the laden mule ; its narrow bed was a turgid
mud-hole, honeycombed with the footprints of beasts that
had gone before. Where the heath was more open we
could take an independent course; but the scrub, as a
rule, was impenetrable, and left no alternative but to go
on plunging through the clinging mud. At noon we out-
spanned for almuerzo beneath a cork-oak, the weather and
the scene alike lovely beyond words. The evergreen woods
swarmed with Ufe ; over the green expanse of pahnetto
hovered hen-harriers : a pair of kites swept over the
wooded slopes of Berlanger, grey shrikes sat perched on
dead boughs; chats, larks, buntings, and goldfinches
swarmed, and all the usual Spanish birds, to wit,
bustards great and small, cranes, storks, peewits, red-legs,
kestrels, &c., were observed during the day's ride.

Later in the afternoon we were fairly among the out-
spurs of the sierra, and overhead, on heavy wing, soared
the vultures. What a curious commentary on the state
of a country are such hordes of huge carrion-feeders, and
how eloquently does their presence attest a backward and
listless condition in the lands they inhabit ! In Spain,
it is true, vultures serve a useful office as scavengers ;
yet in modem Europe they surely seem an anachronism.
No doubt it is due as much to the physical conditions, to
the desert character and semi-tropical climate of this wild
land, as to the apathy of the Spanish people, that they
exist in such numbers. Among nations more keenly im-



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IN SEARCH OF THE LAMMERGBYER. 295

bued with commercial instincts, the flock-master takes
care that his stock shall support themselves in order to
support him. The daily, hourly losses which are implied
in the supplementary support of hordes of huge flesh-



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296 WILD SPAIN.

in winter, when plains are flooded, and valleys water-
logged, the death-rate from cold, want, and disease is
hardly less heavy than that of summer. Small wonder
the great bare-necked scavengers of Nature increase and
flourish.

Passing beneath the twin crags of Las Dos Hermanas,
we struck the course of the Majaceite, whose rushing
stream, embowered amidst magnificent oleanders, looked
more like trout than anything we had then seen in these
sierras. Among the mountain streams above Alcald de
los Gazules and in the Sierra de la Jarda we have
observed its darting form, and further south some large
trout have more recently been captured.

It was necessary to ford the Majaceite, which, in its
swollen state and opaque current, was one of those things
that bring one's heart into one's mouth ; the bottom,
however, proved sound : we plunged through all right, and
after some stiflBsh mountain-riding reached the pueblocito
of Algar just as the setting sun was bathing the wild
serrania in softest purples and gold.

The posada was a typical Spanish village inn. Our
horses we had ourselves to see quartered in the stable,
which occupied one side of the courtyard, while our
dinner was being made ready in a small whitewashed
room adjoining. The sleeping-quarters above consisted of
a single small attic, absolutely devoid of furniture or of
contents beyond a pile of sacks containing com, or ** paja "
(chaff) > in one corner, and our own belongings, including
saddles, mule-pack, &c., &c., which lay littered all over
the floor. Three trestle-beds ("catres") were produced,
and in deference to the idiosyncrasies of the extranjero, a
tiny wash-basin was placed on the window-sill — not that
there was any iiindoic, beyond a folding wooden shutter.
Dinner consisted of an olkiy in which small morsels of
pork could be hunted up amidst the recesses of a steaming
mass of garhanzos (chick-pea), by no means bad, though
we were too hungry to be fastidious.

A small crowd of idlers, as usual, hung about the open
courtyard of the posada, watching for " any new thing,"



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IN SEARCH OP THE LAMMERGEYER. 297

and speculating on our objects in coming. I overheard
the word minmil, and remembering that I had been
amusing myself in sifting some of the sands of the Majaceite,
thought it best to dispel any false impressions by inviting the



DANCE AND GUITAR.



bystanders to share a boracha of the rough wine of local
growth, and the usual cigarette. It is always best to have
some definite object, so I told my guests that I had come
to the sierra to shoot the qtiebranta-httesos, literally,
** bone-smasher." They stared and mumbled over the



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298 WILD SPAIN.

name ; had never heard of such a thing ; the first
man one meets probably never has; but there was in
the village a goatherd, may inteligente en pajaros, " who
knew all about birds." I sent for this worthy, Francisco
Garcia de Conde by name, a light-built, wiry moun-
taineer. Francisco's ornithological repute was easily
acquired, for among the blind a one-eyed man is king;
but he certainly did know the Lammergeyer, and his
description of its habits and appewaixce passed the
evening away pleasantly enough. The quehranta-huesos he
described as a fierce and solitary bird — never seen more
than two together, and discriminated it from the vultures
as being muy dafdno — very destructive to goats, kids, and
other hill-stock, which it seizes and kills on the spot, or
hurls over the ledge of some precipice. He well described
their habit of engaging in aerial combat — ** siempre se
ponen peleando en el ayre " — and their loud wild " pwing !
pwing ! " resounding through the mountain solitudes. Of
their actual nesting-places, however (which I was most
anxious to discover), he knew nothing, beyond positively
stating (and in this he was corroborated by other hill-
men) that they bred exclusively in the loftier sierras
beyond Eonda. We had ourselves spent some time tra-
versing those very sierras without seeing anything of this
bird ; but should add, were not at that time specially in
search of it. Their eyries, Francisco asserted, were only
to be found in the region of ** living rocks" (piedras riicu),
which form the loftiest peaks. In this, however, as will
appear in the next chapter, our friend Francisco was
mistaken.

Our conversation was listened to — I don't imagine en-
joyed — by a pair of lovers, who, with a rather pretty girl,
the daughter of the house, presumably in the capacity of
duena, occupied the other side of the table. The en-
amorados scarcely ever spoke ; he sat looking mutely into
her face, only muttering a whisper at long intervals. She
was absolutely silent, and looked stolid and stupid too.

Leaving Algar, we crossed the bleak plateaux to the
eastward, brown, stony, and sterile ; thence descending to



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IN SBABCH OF THE LAMMERGEYER. 299

a forest region, where the track followed the course of a
clear mountain stream, embedded among oleander, laures-
tinus, and myrtle, their foliage forming an evergreen
tunnel, along which we rode in grateful shade. For
some distance our route and the bum ran parallel,
their courses sometimes coincident; then we diverged to
the left, ascending the slope of a garganta, amidst noble
oaks, chestnuts, and ilex, all, save the oaks, in full leaf,
and from the gnarled trunks hung hare's-foot ferns and
masses of ivy and parasitic plants in green festoons. Of
bird-life, but little beyond a few common small birds was
observable, and on a sunny slope we came suddenly on a
big grey mongoose, which, however, got to ground before
the gim could be unslung.

The first range explored was the series of crags ter-
minating the Sierra de las Cabras ; but it proved blank as
regarded our chief object. The summit is a long, narrow,
knife-edged ridge, along which vertical strata of lime-
stone, bleached white as marble, protrude abruptly as the
walls of a ruined city. Amidst these ruinous streets were
a few Black Chats, and on a shoulder of the hill a solitary
Blue Eock-Thrush ; a small eagle was sweeping over the
slopes, but not a sign of the Lammergeyer could we see.
The day was bright and clear, and the view extensive
and wild. On the north the granite mass of San Chris-
tobal, now Ughtly flecked with snow, limited our horizon ;
but in other directions rose an infinity of grey, stony
sierras, range beyond range, some sharp, jagged, and
cruelly bare of vegetation. To the south we could discern
the silvery sheen of the Lagunas de Janda, with glimpses
of the Straits of Gibraltar, and the misty outline of
African highlands beyond.

We had a long, hard day ere we reached the cortijo of a
hospitable hill-farmer among the cork-woods of the valley
beyond. Here we sought a night's lodging, and the kindly
mountaineer, "Francisco de Naranjo, su servidor de
usted," as with a low bow and typical Andalucian courtesy
he introduced himself, at once made us feel that the
Spanish welcome — "aqui tiene usted su casa" — was, in



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800 WILD SPAIN.

his case, no empty form of words. We dined together,
Francisco and I, on garbanzos, thrushes, a chicken, and
black puddings! These last, and the consciousness
that a newly-killed pig, whose life-blood no doubt had
furnished the delicacy, hung from the rafters immediately
behind my head, amidst store of algarrobas, capsicums,
and heads of golden maize, were the only drawbacks
to my comfort. We discussed agricultural and political
subjects, and agreed in sharing conservative views, though,
in Spain, I'fancy I might turn rather more of a reformer ;
but this I did not hint at. Francisco observed that
should Lord Salisbury's then existing Government in
England fall, it would be a mal rato (a bad time) for
property-owners everywhere ! My host told me that he
set his watch by the sun, and in answer to a question
when the sim would rise to-morrow, promptly replied,
" At 7.19."*

After dinner we adjourned to the large outer room,
where among the miscellaneous crew gathered round the
blazing logs were a wild-honey hunter, and a birdcatcher
who was plying his vocation in the adjacent woods. I was
surprised to find among his captures a number of red-
wings ; of a couple of dozen thrushes which I bought for
my own and men's eating, no less than eight were red-
wings, and on subsequent days he caught many more.
This man, though he knew that the song-thrushes were
migratory in Spain, saying they were pajaros de entrada,
which left when the swallows appeared, did not see any
difference between them and the redwings. He had also
caught a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and while I was
examining it, one of the half-wild cats of the farm,
cautiously stalking beneath my chair, seized the prey
and made off into outer darkness.

It was a typical Andalucian scene around the hearth,
the group of bronzed leather-clad mountaineers, some
already " gone to roost " (audibly) on the low mud settee
round the outer wall, while others rolled the everlasting

* These particulars are, however, given in nearly all Spanish
diaries and almanacs.



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IN SEARCH OP THE LAMMERGEYER. 301

" papelito," and one, as usual, " touched " the guitar.
My host had a narrow ** catre " set up for me in his own
room, and next morning, after an early cup of the delicious
thick Spanish chocolate and the sweet biscuits for which
the neighbouring village of Alcala bears a local repute, we
started on foot to ascend the range behind the house while
yet the hills were wrapped in mist-wreaths.

The ascent at first lay through hanging forests, broken
here and there by grey crags, the home of the chough and
the eagle-owl. Here a cushat occasionally dashed away,
or a jay awoke the echoes at safe distance. Above the
trees the climb became harder and the ground of the
roughest, stony acclivities choked with brushwood. Be-
yond these came the region of rock, vast monoliths and rock
walls beside which a man felt a very mite in the scale of
creation.

On the conical rock-pile, the Picacho del Aljibe, which
towers over the surrounding sierras not unlike a gigantic
Arthur's Seat over the Salisbury Crags, we had enjoyed in
a former year a sight of the Gypaetus ; but now it proved
blank, nor could our guides, nor a goatherd we met on the
mountain, give us any information beyond the customary
** hay muchos en Estremadura.'' Whatever one may seek,
it would appear, abounds in Estremadura ! The Spanish
peasant, whether from an over-anxious desire to assist, or
from a fear of appearing ignorant, is apt to err on the side
of imagination or exaggeration. Information received
from them needs careful sifting, or disappointment may
ensue. Thus, while on a fishing expedition in the north of
Spain, I was sounding my companion, a Gallegan peasant,
as to the bears, deer, and other game of the surrounding
sierras. At first his answers seemed straight and fair, but
a bear story or two took me aback, and presently he in-
sisted that the red deer in those hills never cast their horiu,
which grew to a fabulous size. Before abandoning the
discussion I said casually — with a view to " fix " him —
** Y leones V ** Lions ! No, sefior, here there are none ;
but further over yonder (this with a wave of his hand to
the westward) there are many.*' The expression, mas alia



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802 WILD SPAIN.

Iiay m^ichos, and the gesture that accompanied it, con-
veyed the impression that only a few leagues across the
mountains, there were swarms of lions : but on being
questioned more precisely as to the locality, he replied —
" In the United States ! " Possibly in that lad's mind, the
Estados Unidos commenced somewhere just beyond the
limit of his view — at any rate, further zoological discussion
was suspended.

Many of the crags were tenanted by vultures, but these
we expressly avoided, and directed the search to spots where
these birds were not. For some days we sought in vain :
at last we espied an eyrie which appeared to give promise of



Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 23 of 36)