Copyright
Francis Wharton.

Wharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. online

. (page 25 of 36)
Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 25 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


** white-shouldered," and the like ? Even on the assump-
tion — not proven in this case — that the word conveys an
inference not strictly accurate, there are precedents for its
retention, e.g., Caprimulgus, Goatsucker, Nycticorax, Ber-
nicla, the Bemacle Goose, Oyster-catcher, and many
more. We hesitate to accept such substitutes as Tures
and Bearded Vulture for the time-honoured designations
of Ibex and Lammergeyer.



.\^.



Digitized by



Google



816 WILD SPAIN.



CHAPTER XXVn.

RAMON AND THE TWO BIG RAMS.

AN INCIDENT OF IBEX-STALKINO.

For more than an hour we had been lying expectant^
Bamon and I. Our position was in a tumble of rocks^
which commanded the approach to a pass — a little portiUoy
the only one by which the beetling crags above were
surmountable, even to an ibex. The pass was a narrow
cleft or fissure, traversing transversely the whole height
of the crags, whose sheer dolomite precipices otherwise
presented an utterly unscaleable face. Our post was a
favourable one, hence it was with a tinge of disappoint-
ment that we observed the appearance of one of our drivers
on the heights of the opposite sky-line.

Bamon lay just in front of me on the narrow shelving
ledge, his head considerably lower than his feet, his lithe
body entwined around a projecting rock-buttress, while his
keen eye surveyed everything that moved in the panorama
of wild rock-chaos beneath. During these hours of medita-
tion I began more clearly to understand one, at least, of the
raisons d'etre for that remarkable acuteness of smell which
is attributed to the ibex. The ibex-hunters invariably
assured us that the goats relied more on their sense of
smell than on that of sight — " they have more nose than
eyes — mas nariz que ojoSy' in Spanish phrase. This, I now
realized, was not, after all, so inexplicable, for the skin-
clad hunter before me was decidedly aromatic. It became
easy of comprehension that his presence might be more
readily perceptible to the nose than to the eyes ; for, while
Bamon's serpentine form, curving round a rock-angle, and
appearing to fit into its sinuosities, was all but invisible,
his whereabouts, even to human olfactory organs, might



Digitized by



Google



RAMON AND THE TWO BIG RAMS. 817

probably be detected at a considerable distance. No wonder
the native hunter is careful to keep always under the lee
of the breeze.

" Do you see where Guarro is now ? " presently remarked
Bamon, "crossing the ridge below the glacier-foot."
After scanning for some minutes every inch of the spot
indicated with a strong field-glass, I made out at length a
minute moving dot that might be our friend Guarro y
Guarro, the ruddy-faced goatherd, who was in charge of
the batida.* " Well, that is where I shot the first of the
two big machos on Thursday — the other on these broken
pinnacles lower down on the right." To kill two first-rate
males, single-handed, in a day was no small feat, and
Bamon's tale of the achievement was an interesting
sporting episode.

" I was attending my goats," he said, " in the Arroyo
del Gerradillo, the ravine above where we shot the small
macho yesterday ; and as I came within sight of the high
crags at its smnmit, I crept carefully forward, * speering *
round the rocks to see if any ibex chanced to be in them.
They are a favourite haunt of the goats during the day,
and as there are some large males on that side, it is
always worth while to be prepared and cautious. That
morning there were two — both large ibex, with very long
horns, as long as a man's arms. They were at first walk-
ing away, but soon lay down on a ledge where it was
possible to crawl to within fifty or sixty yards of them.
Unfortunately, part of the stalk was through soft snow,
and, in consequence, the gun missed fire."

Eamon's gun, by the way, was an' exceptionally rickety
old weapon, with many signs of rude repairs, and bore on
its single barrel, counter-sunk in golden letters, the
inscription " Plasencia, 1841." No doubt it owed the
Imperial exchequer of Spain something like fifty pounds

* Both my companion Bamon Bomatez, and Juan Guarro y Guarro,
as well as several of our other men, were independent yeomen, owning
from 150 to 200 goats apiece, which they pastured on the slopes of the
sierra. They were, however, glad to accompany us for the sum of
eight redles (one jshilling and eightpence) a day.



Digitized by



Google



318 WILD SPAIN.

sterling in respect of license duty during half a century,
not one centimo of which is ever likely to find its way into
the Spanish Treasury.

Poor Eamon, though well provided with powder and ball,
had but two caps ; hence it was necessary, after the mis-
fire, to draw the faithless charge in order to save intact the
two precious viitos, ** Meanwhile," continued Kamon, "the
two ibex had moved up the rocks, and soon crossed the
sky-line just above those snow-gullies. They did not appear
much alarmed, never having seen me ; so I followed round
the shoulder of the main spur, as the goats had gone down-
wind. In the afternoon I came up with them^ just where I
showed you. There were now four of them — all big males,
and as the two nearer were lying down in a favourable
position, I got a good shot, killing the largest quite dead,
with a bullet through chest and heart.

" The other three, still uncertain whence the shot had
come, owing to the echo reverberating among the hills,
hesitated a few moments, and then sprang downwards, one
passing so near that, had I had another gun, I might
perhaps have killed him. My dog, which had followed me,
and which was well accustomed to herding my own goats,
now gave chase« I knew the ibex could not pass the ice-
slope of Cerradillo [two miles away] , and in the hope that
I might cut off their retreat by the Garganta del Canchon,
I set off, after reloading, to cross the two ravines." (This,
by the way, would have taken an average Englishman at
least an hour's difficult and laborious climbing.) **I
reached those steeple-rocks on the second ridge just in the
nick of time to meet the three ibex ascending on the other
side. The dog was nowhere in sight, though he was still
following. I had not gained the pass two minutes when
the ibex crossed in front, travelling slowly over a patch of
snow, where I shot the largest of the three at about eighty
paces distant. He fell to the shot, floundering for some
seconds in the loose snow, but recovered and went on
some distance, till the dog at last came up with him and
pulled him down."

On surveying the field of operations carefully through



Digitized by



Google



RAMON AND THE TWO BIO RAMS. 319

the binoculars, and estimating the distances traversed
respectively by Eamon and his three opponents, we could
only marvel at the wondrous feat he had performed in
crossing that fearful gorge, with its miles of snow and
rocks, in time to cut out the hunted and light-footed



ibex. The latter, it is true, had something like four times
the distance to cover, but even that, one would have
thought, was far too light a handicap.

These two ibex were both eight-year old males, and their
horns measured, respectively : —

No. 1. — Length, 28 J inches. Circumference, 9 J inches.
No. 2.— „ 27J „ „ 9



Digitized by



Google



320 WILD SPAIN.



CHAPTER XXVm.
THE IBEX-HUNTER'S BETROTHAL.

Bernal Gonzalvo was the smartest of all the shepherd-
lads in the mountain village of Valdama, and universally
acknowledged as the best shot and most successful ibex-
hunter in that part of the sierra. But in his wanderings
near the clouds, his thoughts of late had often strayed from
his flock: other music than the tinkling of their many bells
was sweeter to his ear. His thoughts would carry him a
thousand times a day to the hamlet which nestled far
below. In short, Bernal was in love ; for the first time in
his simple life of three-and-twenty years his spirit was
made captive by a daughter of Eve. Concha, the pretty
brunette of the paradovy had heard the old, old story from
his Hps, and he had found favour in her eyes. Concha's
good luck made her the envy of all the girls of the hamlet.
For not only was Bernal a handsome lad of the sprightly,
graceful type peculiar to the mountain region, but he
was also rich — he owned over two hundred goats, and had
inherited a two-roomed choza and an acre of trailing
vines.

Engagements in these primitive nooks of the world are
not of long duration. The following week it was arranged
his betrothal should be announced, and the dichos declared
— the custom of avowing publicly the mutual accept-
ance of nuptial obligations, which in Spain corresponds
with our ** calling the banns." On such occasions it
is customary in Valdama for the bridegroom-elect to
provide a feast whereat the friends of the fiances assemble
after this preliminary ceremony. The marriage itself



Digitized by



Google



THE ibex-hunter's BETROTHAL. 321

does not take place till some days later. After the dichos
the rest of that day is spent in conviviality.

Bemal owned plenty of goats, but, being a lad of some
originality, he determined to give his ** novia " something
different to the regulation marriage-feast of stewed kid.
Concha's nuptials should mark an epoch in the annals of
Valdama — nothing less than the venison of a wild ibex
should betoken his plighted troth. He was a mighty
hunter, and Concha's first offering at his hands should
be one appropriate to his fame and skill with the rifle-ball.

The season was mid- winter and the snow lay deep and
treacherous on all the great sierras that overhang his
native village. Few are venturesome enough to brave
the dangers and hard work that the pursuit of ibex in
winter must entail. All the more reason why Bernal
should distinguish himself, and all the more acceptable
the gift.

On the morning before the ceremony of the dichos, he
set out at daybreak; his gun slung on his shoulder, a
crust of brown bread, some meat and olives in his
" alfoijas," and his favourite dog " Vasco " at his heel.
As the earher risers among the damsels of the hamlet
wended their way towards the well for the day's supply of
water, each with a- big brown cantaro poised on her head,
they lingered to scan the hill and watch Bernal's retreating
figure as he leaped upwards from rock to rock, ascending
towards the snowy pinnacles of Las Lanzas. Soon he .
disappeared from view, turning off into the snow-filled
gullet of the Salto del loho — the wolfs leap.

The day was bright and glorious as a winter's day in
Spain can be, but before dusk heavy cloud-banks had
darkened the western horizon, and the sun sank in lurid
light amidst gathering murk that boded ill for the night.
Darkness had set in, but Bemal had not returned. Hour
after hour passed by without sign of him, and Concha's
anxiety grew more and more intense. Not all the
sympathy of her maiden friends could cheer her ; but
some consolation the poor girl tried to find in the
assurances of the rough hunters who came to comfort

Y



Digitized by



Google



822 WILD SPAIN.

her — Bernal, thej' asserted, was safe enough ; he had
been caught in those scudding snow-clouds, and, as many a
belated herdsman had done before, had sought shelter for
the night in some cave or crevice, awaiting the return of
daylight before attempting the descent. Had he, as was
probable, succeeded in shooting an ibex, it was natural
that with such a burden he would find himself unable to
return in the short winter's day. With these and similar
assurances poor Concha was fain to console herself.

Before midnight the threatened storm burst : the gale
howled through the gorges of the sierra and along the
narrow street of Valdama. Thickly, too, fell the snow;
before dawn the whole landscape lay enveloped in the
white mantle, and the bye-ways of the hamlet were choked
to the lintels. Snow-wreaths hung in majestic forms
over each prominent escarpment, threatening destruction
to the villagers' stock of olives, figs, and vines which
grew beneath. The older men gathered in knots dis-
cussing Bernal's chances of escape from the higher
regions; no help was possible, and the general opinion
was that till the gale had partially swept the dry powdery
snow into the ravines and hollows, his descent would be
perilous, even if possible. Again the day passed by
without sign of the missing bridegroom. The dichos were
postponed, and the hamlet slept with a heavy load of doubt
and fear oppressing its mind.

Thus passed two days — three since the adventurous
hunter had set forth, but on the fourth morning it was
thought an ascent might be attempted. Three search
parties, each composed of three mountaineers, started in
different directions, but at nightfall they returned without
news or trace of lost Bernal.

* Next morning the search was renewed. Towards noon
the party, led by our friend Claudio, descried among the
bare rocks of a ridge high above them a moving object.
Their cries and shots attracted attention, and presently
poor Vasco, Bernal's faithful companion, struggled to
reach them. The three men decided to continue calling
out Bernal's name, in order to convey to the dog the idea



Digitized by



Google



THE ibex-hunter's BETROTHAL. 823

that they were in search of his master ; but this the wise
beast seemed to have intuitively understood, for he imme-
diately set out in the direction whence he had come.
Claudio and his two companions followed Vasco's lead for
nearly a league, when the dog stopped and commenced
scratching away the snow from below a projecting rock.
Here were found the " alforjas " (wallet) of the lost
man, still containing the bread and olives with which he
had set out. Yasco at once continued his course, leading
the way to one of the deepest and most magnificent canons
of the whole sierra. Here, on the very verge of a precipice
of a thousand feet sheer, the dog directed the rescuers to
his master's gun, which lay buried in the snow within- a
foot of the abyss. The gim was cocked — a sure sign to the
serranos that at the moment of leaving it Bernal had been
in presence of game, momentarily expecting a shot.
Further the dog would not, or could not, go ; yet no sign
of Bernil could be seen on the crag-top. Clearly he must
have slipped, fallen over into the tremendous abyss beneath.
The men separated, two going to right and left to seek some
spot, some cleft or ledge, by which the crag might be
descended, the third remaining above to guide the search.
It was a perilous service on those slippery, ice-clad rocks.
After an hour's labour, Claudio managed to reach a ledge
midway down the precipice, just beneath the spot where
Guarro remained on the height above : and here the dog
(which had steadily followed the climber whose course at
the moment led in the right direction) at once indicated a
point above some big boulders which lay balanced on the
narrow shelf. Here, beneath the frozen snow, lay poor
Bernal Gonzalvo, almost every bone in his once shapely
form smashed into splinters by that terrible fall of
500 feet. And there, on that dizzy ledge, his remains
lie still. There they had to be left ; for it was found
impossible to remove the body, or to carry it along the
ledges and " chimneys " by which the rescue party had
descended. It was, after all, an appropriate resting-place
for the luckless ibex-hunter. The three men heaped up a
pile of stones to protect his remains from the maw of

Y 2



Digitized by



Google



824 WILD SPAIN.

vulture or prowling wolf, and there we may leave him in
peace.

Perhaps it would be wiser to leave the story, too, at this
point ; but we are simply historians without aspiration for
the novelist's role, and are impelled to complete faithfully
this sad little story of the sierra. Concha was, of course,
almost beside herself with grief. During the long winter
months, while the snow whirled round the ravines of
Valdama, the poor girl remained inconsolable. But time
is a wondrous restorer. When spring came round, and
the vines and chestnuts unfolded their shoots, making
Valdama all green and beautiful, then youth and buoyant
spirits reasserted their power, and, less than a twelve-
month afterwards. Concha had found consolation. Friend
Claudio, the discoverer of her lost lover's remains, and
to whom we are indebted for this little tale, had mean-
while become her husband.



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google






PC
55



Q

H
O



X



Digitized by



Google



825



CHAPTER XXIX.
ON VITICULTURE IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL

It is a pleasant contrast in the blazing month of July,
when one passes from the parched stubbles of the corn-
land, or the arid half-shade of the olivary and enters upon
the green luxuriance of the vineyard. Eye and mind
are refreshed by that broad expanse of spreading vines
clothing hill and valley with their close-set trailing
verdure.

Before us stands the somewhat pretentious gateway in
the fence of prickly-pear which surrounds the property —
a handsome wrought-iron lattice gate swung on stone
pillars which bear the inscription ** Nuestra Sefiora de
Piedad, — de Caridad," **Cruz Santa,'* or some such title.
Passing through, one walks waist-deep along a narrow path-
way amidst green vines. No need to ask which is Nature's
most favoured plant in this simny land. Stand on one of
the Jerez hills at this season and look across the districts
of the Marcharnudo or Carrascal and see the triumph
of the vine. All other vegetation pants beneath the
pitiless sun; tree, shrub, and bush droop withered and
Ufeless ; the grass and wild-flowers have disappeared from
off the face of the calcined earth, not a blossom remains ;
the bees have lost their employment, and already their
persecutors, the Bee-eaters, are departing for less torrid
regions. Yet all around lie thousands of acres of vines
in the full exuberance of Ufe and vigour, drinking in
growth and increase from the very rays that are fatal to
all beside* Vine roots reach down very great depths
into the earth — often twenty feet and more, the tap-roots
threading their way through the slightest cracks or



Digitized by



Google



326 WILD SPAIN.

cleavages of what appears solid rock, thickening out again
as they reach a wider fissure of ** fatter" soil, as may
be seen in road or railway-cuttings.

Nothing can be a greater contrast than the appearance
of the vines at Christmas or in January when not even
a branch survives, each vine then being cut back, till
nothing remains but a gnarled, knobby stump some two
feet high, limbless and lifeless. The vineyards then
assume a barren hungry look, a grey expanse studded
with rows of the inanimate stocks.

During early spring much care and labour are devoted



VINES IN MARCH.

to the vineyards. The soil around each vine is drawn
back with hoes and small adze-shaped spades, the blades
of which are turned inwards, till the plant stands in
the centre of a hollowed square, the heaped-up earth
around serving to catch and direct the moisture towards
its roots. For a time the vineyards resemble huge chess-
boards, till in April the spreading tendrils and bright
green leaves once more hide the face of the earth from
view.

The workmen who are employed upon these operations



Digitized by



Google



ON VITICULTURE IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL. 327

have assigned to them a large bam-like room on the
ground-floor of the casa de viiias, destitute of any sem-
blance of furniture or fittings. In this they cook their
pucherosy smoke infinite cigarettes, and when times are
peaceful, wind up the day with a few touches on the guitar
and weird Andalucian melodies ; but during the troublous
periods of anarchy and discontent so frequent in un-
happy Spain, politics supplant music and fierce discus-
sions rage far into the night. Well do we remember the
violence of these disputes during the mano negra fever,
and earlier, in the spring of 1872, when living at a
vineyard with only a floor between us and the peasant
politicians. Amidst the babel of contending voices one
heard perpetually bandied about the names of Zorilla,
Castelar, Sagasta, and others of the haute politique of
Spain. The lot of the Spanish labourer is none of the
happiest, certainly; but it may be doubted if they will
mend it by argument and wordy warfare any more than
by force. Poor fellows ! they are the raw material which
the high-falutin'v scoundrels who promote rebelUons by
popular ** cries " and pronunciamentos use for their own
ends, and then abandon to the bullets of guardas civiles
or the sabres of the cavalry. But, good times or bad,
the guitar or the revolutionary rag — whichever it may be
— are at length laid aside, they strfetch themselves in rows
on their grass- woven mats, like sardines in a keg, and in
sleep the troubled spirits are at rest.

The vineyards, some of which (especially those in the
Ganaleja, Badalejo, and Caulina districts) have pedigrees
that can be traced back for upwards of six hundred years,
are mostly interspersed with fields of corn and groves of
olive-trees, and intersected by sandy roads bordered with
hedges of cane and cactus. Occasional avenues lead to
picturesque villas embowered in flowering shrubs and
trees, among which the adelfa, or rose-laurel, the acacia,
eucalyptus and cypress are conspicuous: The hill-tops
are generally crowned with snow-white casus de viiiaSf and
among the vines there rise little huts of esparto called
bien-te-veos, perched on four tall aloe-poles. These are



Digitized by



Google



328 WELD SPAIN.

the look-outs for the guards who, armed with old-fashioned
fire-locks, keep watch and ward over the ripening grapes
and grain.

The scene around Jerez at vintage time is a busy and
picturesque one — the narrow sandy lanes alive with
gaudily-trapped mules bearing panniers of grapes to the
wine-presses, and creaking bullock-carts conveying newly-
pressed ** must " to the Jerez bodegas. The vineyards
themselves are thronged with vintagers — all of the male
sex, for in Andalucia woman's right to take any part is
altogether ignored.

The vintagers work in gangs of ten, each under the
direction of a capatazy dexterously lopping off the bunches
of grapes with their ever-ready navajas, or bowie knives.
The bunches are thrown into ''tinetas,** square wooden
boxes, each holding some twenty-five pounds of grapes.
As these are filled the men hoist them on their heads and
march off to the almijar or court adjoining the press-
house. Here, after all blighted and decayed grapes are
removed, they are then spread out to dry in the sun, and
remain thus exposed for from one to three days, when they
are ready for the press.

The long wooden troughs, or lagares^ having been
partially filled with grapes, a couple of swarthy bare-
legged fellows in striped shirts, and leathern shoes studded
with broad-headed nails, jump into each lagar and, after
spreading out the bunches, commence footing it ankle-
deep among the crushed fruit, while the juice pours forth
through spouts into casks placed to receive it. The men
dance with a rapid swaying movement which is held to
express the juice from the grapes in a more satisfac-
tory manner than can be accomplished by any known
mechanical appliance.

After being trodden, the grapes are finally subjected to
the action of a screw, which is fixed over the centre of each
lagar. The pile of half-crushed fruit is enclosed in a band
of esparto-matting, and the handles of the screw being
turned, a wooden slab descends, and the remaining juice
pours forth through the interstices of the esparto, and is



Digitized by



Google



Q
O

n

H



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



ON VITICULTURE IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL. 829

collected in the butts beneath. These casks, as filled, are
hoisted upon bullock-carts, and sent jolting away to the
Jerez bodegas.

The vindimia, or vintage, is always an animated scene,
whether on the gently undulating vine lands of Andalucia,
or in Portugal, on the steep terraced slopes of the moun-
tains which shut in the wild Alto Douro, Afar across
those Lusitanian glens resound the musical chant and
characteristic sing-song ditties of the Gallegan peasantry
— like cicadas, they sing and answer each other from
hill to hill the livelong day, the happy, despised, bond-
slaves of the Peninsula, who, at vintage-time, flock from
their rude barren province of Galicia to revel in abun-
dance in the Alto Douro on a couple of testoons, say,
tenpence a day, supplemented by an allowance of oil, a



Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 25 of 36)