Copyright
Francis Wharton.

Wharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. online

. (page 3 of 36)
Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 3 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


face, after a long and clean right-and-left, and deep is the
concentrated expressiveness of the single untranslatable
word he utters. The first opportunity is taken to have
a quiet examination of the English gun and cartridges,
and with what respect he handles these latest develop-
ments of power and precision ! One cannot help fearing
that upon his next miss some particle of mistrust may,
with a sportsman's facility of excuse, find the fault in
his old and trusted friend: or that his ever-ready
explanation, " las polvoras estaban fiias,** i.e., the powder
was cold/ will be associated with, treasonable doubts
of his old Brown Bess. We hope not. Good, honest
fellow, may he ever remain content and satisfied with
the old gun, for it affords almost the only solace of his
lonely life !

In this rough herdsman there beats the kindliest heart :
there exist the best feelings of hospitality as he offers
you, a brother sportsman, the shelter of his hut and a
share of his humble fare, offered with the simple un-
affected ease of an equal, and the natural grace charac-
teristic of his class throughout the south of Spain.

Besides these humble and harmless inhabitants, the
Spanish sierras have also ever afforded a refuge for the
brigand and outlaw, and many deeds of murder and
violence are associated with these wild regions. Until
the year 1889 the mountain land was dominated by two
famous villains known as Vizco el Borje and Melgarez,
his lieutenant, who commanded a band of desperadoes, the
scourge and dread of the whole southern sierra, from
Gibraltar to Almerla. Vizco el Borje held human life
cheap : he stuck at no murder, though he sought not
bloodshed, for his tactics were to take alive and hold to
ransom. AU sorts of tales are told of the courage and
generosity of this Spanish Robin Hood. Vizco el Borje
robbed only from the rich, and was profuse in the distri-
bution of money and plunder among the peasantry. But
whatever redeeming features may have existed in this
robber chief, Melgarez, his lieutenant, is a very fiend of



Digitized by



Google



18 WILD SPAIN.

malice and cruelty, revelling in bloodshed and revolting
butcheries.*

To those unacquainted with Spain, '' la tierra de vice
versa/' as they themselves call it, it must appear a mystery
how this robber-band could remain at large, practical
masters of great areas, in defiance of law and order, and
of the civil and military power of Spain. But there is
less diflBculty for those who can see to read between the
lines, in a land where, according to one of their own
authors, every one has his price, that protection is
afforded to the outlaws by those in place and power, on
condition that they and their properties remain unmo-
lested. +

In another chapter we will relate a couple of episodes which
have occurred within our personal knowledge, and which
will serve to illustrate the robbers' methods of procedure,
and the condition of personal security among the sierras
of Southern Spain.

"^ In a subsequent chapter we give some account of the life — and
death — of Vizco el Borje.

+ See " El Bandolerismo," by El Excm". 6 Dmo. SeBor Don Julian
de Zugasti, late Governor of the province of C6rdova (Madrid, 1876).



A WATER-CARRIEB.



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



Plato IV. DAUGHTERS OF AXDALUCIA. Page 10.



Digitized by



Google



A NIGHT AT A POSADA. 19



A Night at a Posada.



The wayfarer has been travelling all day across the
scrub-clad wastes, fragrant with rosemary and wild thjrme,
without perhaps seeing a human being beyond a stray
shepherd or a band of nomad gypsies encamped amidst the
green palmettos. Towards night he reaches some small
village where he seeks the rude posada. He sees his horse
provided with a good feed of barley and as much broken
straw as he can eat. He is himself regaled with one dish — ^
probably the olla^ or a guiso (stew) of kid, either of them,
as a rule, of a rich red-brick hue from the colour of the
red pepper, or capsicum in the chorizo or sausage, which ii
an important (and potent) component of most Spanish
dishes. The steaming oUa will presently be set on a low
table before the large wood-fire, and, with the bjISt of crisp
white bread and wine, the traveller enjoys hii meal in
company with any other guest that may have arrived at
the time — be he muleteer or hidalgo. What a fund of infor-
mation may be picked up during that promiscuous supper—^
there will be the housewife, the barber and the Padre of
the village, perhaps a goatherd come down from the moun-^
tains, a muleteer, and a charcoal-burner or two, each ready
to tell his own tale, or enter into friendly discussion with
the Ingles, . Then, as you light your breva, a note or two
struck on the guitar fall on ears predisposed to be pleased.
How well one knows those first few opening notes ! No
occasion to ask that it may go on : it will all come in time>
and one knows there is a merry evenilig in prospect. One
by one the villagers drop in, and an ever-widening circle
is formed around the open hearth ; rows of children collect,
even the dogs draw around to look on. The player and
the company gradually warm up till couplet after couplet of
pathetic ^^ malaguefias'' follow in quick succession. These
songs are generally topical, and almost always extempore :
and as most Spaniards can — or rather are anxious to —
sing, one enjoys many verses that are very prettily as well
as wittily conceived.



Digitized by



Google



20 WILD SPAIN.



But the girls must dance, and find no diflBculty in
getting partners to join them. The muiagn^flas cease, and
one or perhaps two couples stand up, and a pretty sight
they afford ! Seldom does one see gu-1-faces so full of fun



DANCERS WITH CASTANETS.

and so supremely happy, as they adjust the castanets, and
one damsel steps aside to whisper something sly to a sister
or friend. And now the dance commences : observe there
is no slurring or attempt to save themselves in any move-
ment. Each step and figure is carefully executed, but



Digitized by



Google



A NIGHT AT A POSADA. 21

with easy spontaneous grace and precision, both by the
girl and her partner.

Though two or more pairs may be dancing at once, each
is quite independent of the others, and only dance to
themselves : nor do the partners ever touch each other.*
The steps are diflficult and somewhat intricate, and there is
plenty of scope for individual skill, though grace of move-
ment and supple pliancy of limb a^d body are almost
universal and are strong points in dancing both the fan-
dango and minuet. Presently the climax of the dance



TUB VILLAGE POSADA.



approaches. The notes of the guitar grow faster and
faster : the man— a stalwart shepherd lad — leaps and
bounds around his pirouetting partner, and the steps,
though still well ordered and in time^ grow so fast one can
hardly follow their movements.
Now others rise and take the places of the first dancers,

* We have seen an exception to this in the mountain villages of
the Castiles, where, on fiesta nights, a sort of rude valse is danced in
the open street.



Digitized by



Google



22 WILD SPAIN.

and 80 the evening passes : perhaps a few glasses of
aguardiente are handed round — certainly much tobacco is
smoked — the older folks keep time to the music with hand-
clapping, and all is good nature and merriment.

What is it that makes the recollection of such evenings
so pleasant ? Is it merely the fascinating simplicity of the
music and freedom of ihe dance ; is *it the spectacle of
those weird, picturesque groups, bronze-visaged men and
dark-eyed maidens, all lit up by the blaze of the great
wood-fire on the hearth and low-burning oil-lamp
suspended from the rafters ? Perhaps it is only the re-
membrance of many happy evenings spent among these
same people since our boyhood. This we can truly say,
that when at last you turn in to sleep you feel happy
and secure among a peasantry with whom politeness and
sympathy are the only passports required to secure to
you both friendship and protection if required. Nor is
there a pleasanter means of forming some acquaintance
with Spanish country life and customs than a few evenings
spent thus at farm-house or village-inn in any retired
district of laughter-loving Andalucia.



Digitized by VjOOQIC

rJ



28



CHAPTEK 11.
A BOARHUNT IN THE SIERRA.

Late one March evening we encamped on the spurs of a
great Andalucian sierra. Away in the west, beyond the
rolling prairie across which we had been riding all day,
the sun was slowly sinking from view, and to the east-
ward the massive pile of San Christoval reflected his
gorgeous hues in a soft rosy blush, which mantled its
snow-streaked summit. Below in the valley we could
discern the little white hermitage of La Aina, once the
prison of a British subject, a Mr. Bonnell, who, captured
in 1870* near Gibraltar, was carried thither by sequestra-
dores, and concealed in this remote spot till the stipulated
ransom had been lodged by the Governor of Gibraltar in
the consulate at Cadiz : an incident which led to unpleasant
correspondence between the British and Spanish Govern-
ments, and which was luckily closed by the tragic deaths
of all the offenders.

These miscreants had also formed a plan for an attack
upon a private house at Utrera; but their intentions
having become known (through treachery) to the Civil
Guards, the latter surrounded the house, and drove the
robbers into the patio^ where a simultaneous volley ter-
minated the careers of the whole crew. For advancing
the ransom, £6,000 (which, after various adventures, in-
volving more bloodshed, fell finally into the hands of a

* The sporting incidents here narrated occurred twenty years ago,
viz., in March, 1872. This.was the authors* first shooting expedition
'togetJier : for which reason we place its record in the first chapter.



Digitized by



Google



24 WILD SPAIN.

fresh robber-gang), the then Governor of Gibraltar was
freely " hauled over the coals " m the House of Commons
at the time.

Wild tales of similar bearing beguiled the dark hours in
the gloom of the forest where our big fire burned cheerily.
Despite a fine, warm, winter climate, the Andalucian
atmosphere is chilly enough after sundown, and we were
glad to draw up close around the blazing logs, where a
savoury olla was cooking : and afterwards, while enjoying
our cigarettes and that delicious " natural " wine of Spain
which the British public, like a spoilt child, first cries for
and then abuses.

Towards nine o'clock the moon rose, and we continued
our journey along the dark defiles of the sierra, pushing a
way through evergreen thicket, or silent forest, where
the startling cries of the eagle-owl outraged the stillness
of night. As far as one could see by the dim moon-
light, our course alternated for a long distance between a
boulder-strewn ravine and a glacis of smooth sloping rock,
steep as a roof, and more suited to the nocturnal gambols
of cats than for horsemen. But the Andalucian jaca is
hardly less sure of foot, and in due course we emerged
into a more level valley, where, after riding some miles
beneath huge cork-oaks and ilex, we heard at length the
distant challenge of our friend Gaspar's big mastiff, and
soon the long ride was over, and we entered the portals of
the rancho which for the succeeding week was to be our
home.

Here we were confronted by a nuisance in the non-
arrival of the commissariat. The pack-mules, despatched
two days in advance, had not turned up. It transpired
that the men, loitering away the daylight, as is the custom
in Andalucia (and elsewhere), had lost the way in the
darkness, almost immediately after leaving the last
vestiges of a track, and had bivouaced among the scrub
awaiting the break of day. Our resources for the night
were thus limited to the scanty contents of the alforjas
(saddle-bags). We had, however, each provided ourselves
with a big sackful of chaff at the last outpost of the corn-



Digitized by



Google



tmim^^tmmm



A BOAR-HUNT IN THE SIERRA. 25

lands — chaflf, or rather broken straw, being the staple food
of the Spanish horse; and these now formed our beds,
though their softness decreased nightly by reason of the
constant inroads on their substance made by our Rosi-
nantes. Otherwise the naked stone-paved room was
absolutely innocent of either furniture or food ; yet we
were happy enough, as, rolled in our manias, we lay down
to sleep on those long pokes.

Early in the morning the mountaineers began to assem-
ble in the courtyard of the rancho. Light of build as a
rule, sinewy, and bronzed to a copper hue, looking as if



'FURNITURE.'



their very blood was parched and dried up by tobacco
and the fierce southern sun, and with navajas stuck in
their scarlet waistbands, these wild men might each have
served as a melodramatic desperado. Three brothers of
our host had ridden up from a distant farm ; there was
old Christoval, the ready-witted squatter on the adjoining
rancho, a cheery old fellow, carrying fun and laughter
wherever he went ; last came the Padre from the nearest
hill-village (Patema), whose sporting instinct had made
light work of the long and early ride across the sierra to
join our hatida. Alonzo, the herdsman, who added to his
pastoral knowledge an intimate acquaintance with the wild



Digitized by



Google






26 WILD SPAIN.

beaBts of his native mountains, was placed in command of
the beaters, a motley, picturesque group with their leathern
accoutrements and scarlet fajm. Of dogs, we had four
podencoSy tall, stiflf-built, wiry-liaired "terrier-greyhounds,"
fleet of foot, trained to find and harass the boar, to force
him to break covert, but yet so wary at feint and retreat
as to avoid the sweep of his tusks. Then there was huge
" Moroy'' Don Gaspar's half-mastiff, haJf-bloodhound, whose
staunchness was tested of old, and others of lesser note.
Around our quarters were cultivated clearings of a few



OUR QUARTERS IN THE SIICRRA.

aci^s, fenced with the usual aloe and cactus : otherwise
the landscape was one panorama of forest and evergreen
brushwood, extending far up the mountain-sides, and
towards the barren stony summits. These sierras of
Jerez are of no great height relatively — ^perhaps 3,000 to
4,000 feet — and many of them bear unmistakable evi-
dence of their long struggles with glacial ice in bygone
ages — each tall slope consisting of a regular series of
vertical bastions, or buttresses, alternating with deep glens
in singular uniformity. Their conformation recalled the
distant valleys of Spitsbergen, where we have seen the



Digitized by



Google



A BOAR-HUNT IN THE SIERRA, 27

power of ice in actual operation, and carving out those
grim Arctic hills after a precisely similar pattern. Here,
however, dense jungle had for ages replaced the snow, and
the wild boar now occupied strongholds where, possibly, the
reindeer had once ranged in search of scanty lichen. For
the season (March) the greenness of all foliage was remark-
able ; the oaks alone remained naked, and even from their
leafless boughs hung luxuriant festoons of ivy and parasitic
plants.

The upper end of our valley was shut in by the tower-
ing, transverse mass of the Sierra de las Cabras, which
terminates hard by, in a fine abrupt gorge or chasm caUed
the Boca de la F02. It was to the deep-jungled corries
which furrow the sides of this chasm that Alonzo had that
morning traced to their cumas some six or eight pig,
including a couple of boar of the largest size, and this was
to be the scene of our first day's operations.

A pitiable episode occurred while we were surveying our
surroundings, and preparing for a start From close
behind, suddenly resounded a peal of strange inhuman
laughter, followed by incoherent words ; and through the
iron bars of a narrow window we discerned the emaciated
figure of a man, wild and unkempt of aspect, and whose
eagle-like claws grasped the barriers of his cell — a poor
lunatic. No connected replies could we get — nothing but
vacuous laughter and gibbering chatter: now he was at
the theatre and quoted magic jargon ; now supplicating
the mercy of a judge ; then singing a stanza of some old
song, to break off as suddenly into a fierce denunciation of
one of m as, the cause of all his troubles. Poor wretch !
He had once been a successful lawyer and advocate, but
having developed signs of madness, which increased with

years, the once popular Carlos B was now reduced to the

wretched durance of this iron-girt cell ; his only share and
view of God's earth just so much of sombre everlasting
sierra as the narrow opening permitted. We were told it
was hopeless to make any effort to ameliorate his lot— his
case was too desperate. What hidden wrongs and outrage
exist in a land where no judicial intervention is permitted



Digitized by



Google



28 WILD SPAIN.

between the ** rights *' of families and their insane relations
(or those whom they may consider such), is only too much
open to suspicion.

The day was still young when we mounted and set out
for the point where Alonzo's report had led us to hope for
success. The first covert tried was a strong jungle flank-
ing the main gorge ; but this, and a second batida, proved
blank, only a few foxes appearing, and a wild cat was shot.
Two roe-deer were reported to have broken back, and
several mongoose, or ichneumon, were also observed
during these drives, but were always permitted to pass.
The Spanish ichneumon {Herpestes widdringtoni) , being
pecuUar to the Peninsula, deserves a passing remark ; it
is a strange, grizzly-grey beast, shaggy as a badger, but
more slim in build, with the brightest of bright black eyes,
and a very long bushy tail. Owing to his habit of eating
snakes and other reptiles (in preference, it would seem, to
rabbits, &c.)» the ichneumon stinks beyond other beasts of
prey. A large black ichneumon happened to be the first
game that fell to the WTiter's rifle in Spain, and was care-
fully stowed in the mule-panniers— never to be seen again;
for no sooner were our backs turned, than the men dis-
creetly pitched out the malodorous trophy.

As we approached our third beat — the main manchoBy
or thickets of the Boca de la Foz, the " rootings " and
recent sign of pig became frequent, and we advanced to
our allotted positions in silence, leaving the horses picketed
far in the rear.

The line of guns occupied the ridge of a natural amphi-
theatre, which dipped sharply away beneath us, the centre
choked with strong thorny jungle. On the left towered a
range of limestone crags, the right flank being hemmed in
by huge uptilted rocks, like ruined towers, and white as
marble. One of us occupied the centre, the other guarded
a pass among these pinnacle rocks on the right. While
waiting at our posts we could descry the beaters, mere
dots, winding along the glen, 1,500 feet below. The
mountain scenery was superb ; but no sound broke the
stillness save the distant tinkle of a goat-bell ; nor was



Digitized by



Google



A BOAR-HUNT IN THE SIERRA. 29

there a sign of life except that feathered recluse, the blue
rock^hrush, (in Spanish ^ solitario,'') and far overhead
floated great tawny vultures. Ten minutes of profound
silence, and then the distant shouts and cries of the
beaters in the depths beneath told us the fray had
begun.

The heart of the jungle — all lentisk, or mimosa and
thorn, interlaced with briar — being impenetrable, the
efforts of our men were confined to directing the dogs, and
by incessant noise to drive the game upwards. First a tall
grey fox stole stealthily past, looked me full in the face
and went on without increasing his speed ; then a pair of
red-legs, unconscious of a foe, sped by like 100-yard
" sprinters " — a marvellous speed of foot have these birds
on the roughest ground, and well are Spanish by-ways
named caminos de perdicesf Then the crash of hound-
music proclaimed that the nobler quarry was at home.
This boar proved to be one of those grizzly monsters of
which we were speciaUy in search; his lair a chaotic
jumble of boulders islanded amid deepest thicket. Here
he held his ground, declining to recognize in his noisy
aggressors a superior force ; and, though " Moro " and the
boar-hounds speedily reinforced the skirmishers of the
pack, the old tusker showed no sign of abandoning his
stronghold. For minutes, that seemed like hours, the con-
flict raged stationary ; the sonorous baying of the boar-
hounds, the " yapping " of the smaller dogs, and shouts of
the mountaineers, blended with the howl of an incautious
pod^nco as he received his death-rip — all these formed a
chorus of sounds which carried suflBcient excitement to
the sentinel guns above. Such and kindred moments are
worth months of ordinary life.

The actual scene of war lay some half-mile below,
hence no immediate issue was probable or expected ; then
came a crashing of the brushwood on my front, and
a three-parts-grown boar dashed straight for the narrow
pass where the writer barred the way. The suddenness
of the encounter was disconcerting, and the first shot was
a miss, the bullet, all but grazing his back and splashing



Digitized by



Google



80 WILD SPAIN.

on the grey rock beyond, and time barely remained to jump
aside to avoid collision. The left barrel told with bettei"
effect : a stumble as he received it, followed by a frantic
grunt as an ounce of lead penetrated his vitals, and the
beast plunged headlong among the brushwood, his life-
blood dyeing the weather-blanched rocks and dark green
palmettos. There for a moment he lay, kicking and groan-
ing; but ere the cold steel could administer a quietus, he
regained his legs and dashed straight back. Whether that



■- "^ V.




A STRAIGHT CHARGE.

charge was prompted by revenge, or was merely an effort
to regain the thickets he had just left, matters not ; for a
third bullet, at two yards* distance, laid him lifeless.

During this interlude, though it had only occupied a few
moments, the main combat below was approaching its
climax. The old boar had at length left his hold, and
after sundry sullen stands and promiscuous skirmishes
with the hounds, he took to flight. Showing first on the
centre, he was covered for some seconds by a '450 express ;



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by



Google



H

00

H

Q
O



I



Digitized by



Google



A BOAR-HUNT IN THE SIERRA. 31

but not breaking covert, no shot could be fired, and when
he at last appeared in view, he was trotting up the stony
slopes on the extreme left. Here a rifle-shot at long range
broke a fore-leg below the shoulder. This was the turning
point : the wounded boar, no longer able to face the hill,
wheeled and retreated to the thickets below, scattering the
dogs and passing through the beaters at marvellous speed,
considering his disabled condition. And now commenced
the hue and cry and the real hard work for those who
meant to see the end and earn the spoils of war. Soon
"Moro's" deep voice told he had the tusker at bay, down
in the defile, far below. What followed in that hurly-
burly — that mad scramble through brake and thicket,
down crag and scree — is impossible to tell. Each man
only knows what he did himself — or did not do. We can
answer for three ; one of these seated himself on a rock
and lit a cigarette ; the others, ten minutes later, arrived
on the final scene — one minus his nether garments and
sundry patches of skin, but in time to take part in the
death of as grand a boar as ever roamed the Spanish
sierras.

Furst to arrive was Gaspar himself, familiar with every
by-way and goat-track on the hills, and nervous for the
safety of his hound ; but only a few seconds before the
denuded Ingles. In a pool of the rock-strewn brook, the
beast stood at bay, "Moro's" teeth clenched in one ear
and two podencos attacking in flank and rear. 6asp^
elected to finish the business with the knijfe, fixed bayonet-
wise, but the horn haft slipped from the muzzle, and
a moment later two simultaneous bullets had closed the
affair.

One by one the scattered guns turned up : some, who
had taken a circuitous course, arriving before others whose
ardour had led them to follow direct — so dense was the
brushwood and rugged the sierra. A picturesque group
stood assembled around the blood-dyed pool with its
wild environment and bold mountain background ; but
rejoicings were tempered by the loss of two of our



Online LibraryFrancis WhartonWharton and Stillé's medical jurisprudence .. → online text (page 3 of 36)