IN the autumn of the year 1839, I landed at Tarifa, from the coast of Barbary. I arrived in a small felouk laden with hides for Cadiz, to which place I was myself going. We stopped at Tarifa in order to perform quarantine, which, however, turned out a mere farce, as we were all permitted to come on shore; the master of the felouk having bribed the port captain with a few fowls. We formed a motley group. A rich Moor and his son, a child, with their Jewish servant Yusouf, and myself with my own man Hayim Ben Attar, a Jew. After passing through the gate, the Moors and their domestics were conducted by the master to the house of one of his acquaintance, where he intended they should lodge; whilst a sailor was despatched with myself and Hayim to the only inn which the place afforded. I stopped in the street to speak to a person whom I had known at Seville. Before we had concluded our discourse, Hayim, who had walked forward, returned, saying that the quarters were good, and that we were in high luck, for that he knew the people of the inn were Jews. 'Jews,' said I, 'here in Tarifa, and keeping an inn, I should be glad to see them.' So I left my acquaintance, and hastened to the house. We first entered a stable, of which the ground floor of the building consisted, and ascending a flight of stairs entered a very large room, and from thence passed into a kitchen, in which were several people. One of these was a stout, athletic, burly fellow of about fifty, dressed in a buff jerkin, and dark cloth pantaloons. His hair was black as a coal and exceedingly bushy, his face much marked from some disorder, and his skin as dark as that of a toad. A very tall woman stood by the dresser, much resembling him in feature, with the same hair and complexion, but with more intelligence in her eyes than the man, who looked heavy and dogged. A dark woman, whom I subsequently discovered to be lame, sat in a corner, and two or three swarthy girls, from fifteen to eighteen years of age, were flitting about the room. I also observed a wicked-looking boy, who might have been called handsome, had not one of his eyes been injured. 'Jews,' said I, in Moorish, to Hayim, as I glanced at these people and about the room; 'these are not Jews, but children of the Dar-bushi-fal.'
'List to the Corahai,' said the tall woman, in broken Gypsy slang, 'hear how they jabber (hunelad como chamulian), truly we will make them pay for the noise they raise in the house.' Then coming up to me, she demanded with a shout, fearing otherwise that I should not understand, whether I would not wish to see the room where I was to sleep. I nodded: whereupon she led me out upon a back terrace, and opening the door of a small room, of which there were three, asked me if it would suit. 'Perfectly,' said I, and returned with her to the kitchen.
'O, what a handsome face! what a royal person!' exclaimed the whole family as I returned, in Spanish, but in the whining, canting tones peculiar to the Gypsies, when they are bent on victimising. 'A more ugly Busno it has never been our chance to see,' said the same voices in the next breath, speaking in the jargon of the tribe. 'Won't your Moorish Royalty please to eat something?' said the tall hag. 'We have nothing in the house; but I will run out and buy a fowl, which I hope may prove a royal peacock to nourish and strengthen you.' 'I hope it may turn to drow in your entrails,' she muttered to the rest in Gypsy. She then ran down, and in a minute returned with an old hen, which, on my arrival, I had observed below in the stable. 'See this beautiful fowl,' said she, 'I have been running over all Tarifa to procure it for your kingship; trouble enough I have had to obtain it, and dear enough it has cost me. I will now cut its throat.' 'Before you kill it,' said I, 'I should wish to know what you paid for it, that there may be no dispute about it in the account.' 'Two dollars I paid for it, most valorous and handsome sir; two dollars it cost me, out of my own quisobi - out of my own little purse.' I saw it was high time to put an end to these zalamerias, and therefore exclaimed in Gitano, 'You mean two brujis (reals), O mother of all the witches, and that is twelve cuartos more than it is worth.' 'Ay Dios mio, whom have we here?' exclaimed the females. 'One,' I replied, 'who knows you well and all your ways. Speak! am I to have the hen for two reals? if not, I shall leave the house this moment.' 'O yes, to be sure, brother, and for nothing if you wish it,' said the tall woman, in natural and quite altered tones; 'but why did you enter the house speaking in Corahai like a Bengui? We thought you a Busno, but we now see that you are of our religion; pray sit down and tell us where you have been.' . .
MYSELF. - 'Now, my good people, since I have answered your questions, it is but right that you should answer some of mine; pray who are you? and how happens it that you are keeping this inn?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Verily, brother, we can scarcely tell you who we are. All we know of ourselves is, that we keep this inn, to our trouble and sorrow, and that our parents kept it before us; we were all born in this house, where I suppose we shall die.'
MYSELF. - 'Who is the master of the house, and whose are these children?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'The master of the house is the fool, my brother, who stands before you without saying a word; to him belong these children, and the cripple in the chair is his wife, and my cousin. He has also two sons who are grown-up men; one is a chumajarri (shoemaker), and the other serves a tanner.'
MYSELF. - 'Is it not contrary to the law of the Cales to follow such trades?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'We know of no law, and little of the Cales themselves. Ours is the only Calo family in Tarifa, and we never left it in our lives, except occasionally to go on the smuggling lay to Gibraltar. True it is that the Cales, when they visit Tarifa, put up at our house, sometimes to our cost. There was one Rafael, son of the rich Fruto of Cordova, here last summer, to buy up horses, and he departed a baria and a half in our debt; however, I do not grudge it him, for he is a handsome and clever Chabo - a fellow of many capacities. There was more than one Busno had cause to rue his coming to Tarifa.'
MYSELF. - 'Do you live on good terms with the Busne of Tarifa?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Brother, we live on the best terms with the Busne of Tarifa; especially with the errays. The first people in Tarifa come to this house, to have their baji told by the cripple in the chair and by myself. I know not how it is, but we are more considered by the grandees than the poor, who hate and loathe us. When my first and only infant died, for I have been married, the child of one of the principal people was put to me to nurse, but I hated it for its white blood, as you may well believe. It never throve, for I did it a private mischief, and though it grew up and is now a youth, it is - mad.'
MYSELF. - 'With whom will your brother's children marry? You say there are no Gypsies here.'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Ay de mi, hermano! It is that which grieves me. I would rather see them sold to the Moors than married to the Busne. When Rafael was here he wished to persuade the chumajarri to accompany him to Cordova, and promised to provide for him, and to find him a wife among the Callees of that town; but the faint heart would not, though I myself begged him to comply. As for the curtidor (tanner), he goes every night to the house of a Busnee; and once, when I reproached him with it, he threatened to marry her. I intend to take my knife, and to wait behind the door in the dark, and when she comes out to gash her over the eyes. I trow he will have little desire to wed with her then.'
MYSELF. - 'Do many Busne from the country put up at this house?'
GYPSY HAG. - 'Not so many as formerly, brother; the labourers from the Campo say that we are all thieves; and that it is impossible for any one but a Calo to enter this house without having the shirt stripped from his back. They go to the houses of their acquaintance in the town, for they fear to enter these doors. I scarcely know why, for my brother is the veriest fool in Tarifa. Were it not for his face, I should say that he is no Chabo, for he cannot speak, and permits every chance to slip through his fingers. Many a good mule and borrico have gone out of the stable below, which he might have secured, had he but tongue enough to have cozened the owners. But he is a fool, as I said before; he cannot speak, and is no Chabo.'
How far the person in question, who sat all the while smoking his pipe, with the most unperturbed tranquillity, deserved the character bestowed upon him by his sister, will presently appear. It is not my intention to describe here all the strange things I both saw and heard in this Gypsy inn. Several Gypsies arrived from the country during the six days that I spent within its walls; one of them, a man, from Moron, was received with particular cordiality, he having a son, whom he was thinking of betrothing to one of the Gypsy daughters. Some females of quality likewise visited the house to gossip, like true Andalusians. It was singular to observe the behaviour of the Gypsies to these people, especially that of the remarkable woman, some of whose conversation I have given above. She whined, she canted, she blessed, she talked of beauty of colour, of eyes, of eyebrows, and pestanas (eyelids), and of hearts which were aching for such and such a lady. Amongst others, came a very fine woman, the widow of a colonel lately slain in battle; she brought with her a beautiful innocent little girl, her daughter, between three and four years of age. The Gypsy appeared to adore her; she sobbed, she shed tears, she kissed the child, she blessed it, she fondled it. I had my eye upon her countenance, and it brought to my recollection that of a she-wolf, which I had once seen in Russia, playing with her whelp beneath a birch-tree. 'You seem to love that child very much, O my mother,' said I to her, as the lady was departing.
GYPSY HAG. - 'No lo camelo, hijo! I do not love it, O my son, I do not love it; I love it so much, that I wish it may break its leg as it goes downstairs, and its mother also.'
On the evening of the fourth day, I was seated on the stone bench at the stable door, taking the fresco; the Gypsy innkeeper sat beside me, smoking his pipe, and silent as usual; presently a man and woman with a borrico, or donkey, entered the portal. I took little or no notice of a circumstance so slight, but I was presently aroused by hearing the Gypsy's pipe drop upon the ground. I looked at him, and scarcely recognised his face. It was no longer dull, black, and heavy, but was lighted up with an expression so extremely villainous that I felt uneasy. His eyes were scanning the recent comers, especially the beast of burden, which was a beautiful female donkey. He was almost instantly at their side, assisting to remove its housings, and the alforjas, or bags. His tongue had become unloosed, as if by sorcery; and far from being unable to speak, he proved that, when it suited his purpose, he could discourse with wonderful volubility. The donkey was soon tied to the manger, and a large measure of barley emptied before it, the greatest part of which the Gypsy boy presently removed, his father having purposely omitted to mix the barley with the straw, with which the Spanish mangers are always kept filled. The guests were hurried upstairs as soon as possible. I remained below, and subsequently strolled about the town and on the beach. It was about nine o'clock when I returned to the inn to retire to rest; strange things had evidently been going on during my absence. As I passed through the large room on my way to my apartment, lo, the table was set out with much wine, fruits, and viands. There sat the man from the country, three parts intoxicated; the Gypsy, already provided with another pipe, sat on his knee, with his right arm most affectionately round his neck; on one side sat the chumajarri drinking and smoking, on the other the tanner. Behold, poor humanity, thought I to myself, in the hands of devils; in this manner are human souls ensnared to destruction by the fiends of the pit. The females had already taken possession of the woman at the other end of the table, embracing her, and displaying every mark of friendship and affection. I passed on, but ere I reached my apartment I heard the words mule and donkey. 'Adios,' said I, for I but too well knew what was on the carpet.
In the back stable the Gypsy kept a mule, a most extraordinary animal, which was employed in bringing water to the house, a task which it effected with no slight difficulty; it was reported to be eighteen years of age; one of its eyes had been removed by some accident, it was foundered, and also lame, the result of a broken leg. This animal was the laughing-stock of all Tarifa; the Gypsy grudged it the very straw on while alone he fed it, and had repeatedly offered it for sale at a dollar, which he could never obtain. During the night there was much merriment going on, and I could frequently distinguish the voice of the Gypsy raised to a boisterous pitch. In the morning the Gypsy hag entered my apartment, bearing the breakfast of myself and Hayim. 'What were you about last night?' said I.
'We were bargaining with the Busno, evil overtake him, and he has exchanged us the ass, for the mule and the reckoning,' said the hag, in whose countenance triumph was blended with anxiety.
'Was he drunk when he saw the mule?' I demanded.
'He did not see her at all, O my son, but we told him we had a beautiful mule, worth any money, which we were anxious to dispose of, as a donkey suited our purpose better. We are afraid that when he sees her he will repent his bargain, and if he calls off within four-and-twenty hours, the exchange is null, and the justicia will cause us to restore the ass; we have, however, already removed her to our huerta out of the town, where we have hid her below the ground. Dios sabe (God knows) how it will turn out.'
When the man and woman saw the lame, foundered, one-eyed creature, for which and the reckoning they had exchanged their own beautiful borrico, they stood confounded. It was about ten in the morning, and they had not altogether recovered from the fumes of the wine of the preceding night; at last the man, with a frightful oath, exclaimed to the innkeeper, 'Restore my donkey, you Gypsy villain!'
'It cannot be, brother,' replied the latter, 'your donkey is by this time three leagues from here: I sold her this morning to a man I do not know, and I am afraid I shall have a hard bargain with her, for he only gave two dollars, as she was unsound. O, you have taken me in, I am a poor fool as they call me here, and you understand much, very much, baribu.' (47)
'Her value was thirty-five dollars, thou demon,' said the countryman, 'and the justicia will make you pay that.'
'Come, come, brother,' said the Gypsy, 'all this is mere conversation; you have a capital bargain, to-day the mercado is held, and you shall sell the mule; I will go with you myself. O, you understand baribu; sister, bring the bottle of anise; the senor and the senora must drink a copita.' After much persuasion, and many oaths, the man and woman were weak enough to comply; when they had drunk several glasses, they departed for the market, the Gypsy leading the mule. In about two hours they returned with the wretched beast, but not exactly as they went; a numerous crowd followed, laughing and hooting. The man was now frantic, and the woman yet more so. They forced their way upstairs to collect their baggage, which they soon effected, and were about to leave the house, vowing revenge. Now ensued a truly terrific scene, there were no more blandishments; the Gypsy men and women were in arms, uttering the most frightful execrations; as the woman came downstairs, the females assailed her like lunatics; the cripple poked at her with a stick, the tall hag clawed at her hair, whilst the father Gypsy walked close beside the man, his hand on his clasp-knife, looking like nothing in this world: the man, however, on reaching the door, turned to him and said: 'Gypsy demon, my borrico by three o'clock - or you know the rest, the justicia.'
The Gypsies remained filled with rage and disappointment; the hag vented her spite on her brother. ''Tis your fault,' said she; 'fool! you have no tongue; you a Chabo, you can't speak'; whereas, within a few hours, he had perhaps talked more than an auctioneer during a three days' sale: but he reserved his words for fitting occasions, and now sat as usual, sullen and silent, smoking his pipe.
The man and woman made their appearance at three o'clock, but they came - intoxicated; the Gypsy's eyes glistened - blandishment was again had recourse to. 'Come and sit down with the cavalier here,' whined the family; 'he is a friend of ours, and will soon arrange matters to your satisfaction.' I arose, and went into the street; the hag followed me. 'Will you not assist us, brother, or are you no Chabo?' she muttered.
'I will have nothing to do with your matters,' said I.
'I know who will,' said the hag, and hurried down the street.
The man and woman, with much noise, demanded their donkey; the innkeeper made no answer, and proceeded to fill up several glasses with the ANISADO. In about a quarter of an hour, the Gypsy hag returned with a young man, well dressed, and with a genteel air, but with something wild and singular in his eyes. He seated himself by the table, smiled, took a glass of liquor, drank part of it, smiled again, and handed it to the countryman. The latter seeing himself treated in this friendly manner by a caballero, was evidently much flattered, took off his hat to the newcomer, and drank, as did the woman also. The glass was filled, and refilled, till they became yet more intoxicated. I did not hear the young man say a word: he appeared a passive automaton. The Gypsies, however, spoke for him, and were profuse of compliments. It was now proposed that the caballero should settle the dispute; a long and noisy conversation ensued, the young man looking vacantly on: the strange people had no money, and had already run up another bill at a wine-house to which they had retired. At last it was proposed, as if by the young man, that the Gypsy should purchase his own mule for two dollars, and forgive the strangers the reckoning of the preceding night. To this they agreed, being apparently stultified with the liquor, and the money being paid to them in the presence of witnesses, they thanked the friendly mediator, and reeled away.
Before they left the town that night, they had contrived to spend the entire two dollars, and the woman, who first recovered her senses, was bitterly lamenting that they had permitted themselves to be despoiled so cheaply of a PRENDA TAN PRECIOSA, as was the donkey. Upon the whole, however, I did not much pity them. The woman was certainly not the man's wife. The labourer had probably left his village with some strolling harlot, bringing with him the animal which had previously served to support himself and family.
I believe that the Gypsy read, at the first glance, their history, and arranged matters accordingly. The donkey was soon once more in the stable, and that night there was much rejoicing in the Gypsy inn.
Who was the singular mediator? He was neither more nor less than the foster child of the Gypsy hag, the unfortunate being whom she had privately injured in his infancy. After having thus served them as an instrument in their villainy, he was told to go home. . . .
THE GYPSY SOLDIER OF VALDEPENAS
It was at Madrid one fine afternoon in the beginning of March 1838, that, as I was sitting behind my table in a cabinete, as it is called, of the third floor of No. 16, in the Calle de Santiago, having just taken my meal, my hostess entered and informed me that a military officer wished to speak to me, adding, in an undertone, that he looked a STRANGE GUEST. I was acquainted with no military officer in the Spanish service; but as at that time I expected daily to be arrested for having distributed the Bible, I thought that very possibly this officer might have been sent to perform that piece of duty. I instantly ordered him to be admitted, whereupon a thin active figure, somewhat above the middle height, dressed in a blue uniform, with a long sword hanging at his side, tripped into the room. Depositing his regimental hat on the ground, he drew a chair to the table, and seating himself, placed his elbows on the board, and supporting his face with his hands, confronted me, gazing steadfastly upon me, without uttering a word. I looked no less wistfully at him, and was of the same opinion as my hostess, as to the strangeness of my guest. He was about fifty, with thin flaxen hair covering the sides of his head, which at the top was entirely bald. His eyes were small, and, like ferrets', red and fiery. His complexion like a brick, a dull red, checkered with spots of purple. 'May I inquire your name and business, sir?' I at length demanded.
STRANGER. - 'My name is Chaleco of Valdepenas; in the time of the French I served as bragante, fighting for Ferdinand VII. I am now a captain on half-pay in the service of Donna Isabel; as for my business here, it is to speak with you. Do you know this book?'
MYSELF. - 'This book is Saint Luke's Gospel in the Gypsy language; how can this book concern you?'
STRANGER. - 'No one more. It is in the language of my people.'
MYSELF. - 'You do not pretend to say that you are a Calo?'
STRANGER. - 'I do! I am Zincalo, by the mother's side. My father, it is true, was one of the Busne; but I glory in being a Calo, and care not to acknowledge other blood.'
MYSELF. - 'How became you possessed of that book?'
STRANGER. - 'I was this morning in the Prado, where I met two women of our people, and amongst other things they told me that they had a gabicote in our language. I did not believe them at first, but they pulled it out, and I found their words true. They then spoke to me of yourself, and told me where you live, so I took the book from them and am come to see you.'
MYSELF. - 'Are you able to understand this book?'
STRANGER. - 'Perfectly, though it is written in very crabbed language: (48) but I learnt to read Calo when very young. My mother was a good Calli, and early taught me both to speak and read it. She too had a gabicote, but not printed like this, and it treated of a different matter.'
MYSELF. - 'How came your mother, being a good Calli, to marry one of a different blood?'
STRANGER. - 'It was no fault of hers; there was no remedy. In her infancy she lost her parents, who were executed; and she was abandoned by all, till my father, taking compassion on her, brought her up and educated her: at last he made her his wife, though three times her age. She, however, remembered her blood and hated my father, and taught me to hate him likewise, and avoid him. When a boy, I used to stroll about the plains, that I might not see my father; and my father would follow me and beg me to look upon him, and would ask me what I wanted; and I would reply, Father, the only thing I want is to see you dead.'
MYSELF. - 'That was strange language from a child to its parent.'
STRANGER. - 'It was - but you know the couplet, (49) which says, "I do not wish to be a lord - I am by birth a Gypsy - I do not wish to be a gentleman - I am content with being a Calo!"'
MYSELF. - 'I am anxious to hear more of your history - pray proceed.'
STRANGER. - 'When I was about twelve years old my father became distracted, and died. I then continued with my mother for some years; she loved me much, and procured a teacher to instruct me in Latin. At last she died, and then there was a pleyto (law-suit). I took to the sierra and became a highwayman; but the wars broke out. My cousin Jara, of Valdepenas, raised a troop of brigantes. (50) I enlisted with him and distinguished myself very much; there is scarcely a man or woman in Spain but has heard of Jara and Chaleco. I am now captain in the service of Donna Isabel - I am covered with wounds - I am - ugh! ugh! ugh - !'
He had commenced coughing, and in a manner which perfectly astounded me. I had heard hooping coughs, consumptive coughs, coughs caused by colds, and other accidents, but a cough so horrible and unnatural as that of the Gypsy soldier, I had never witnessed in the course of my travels. In a moment he was bent double, his frame writhed and laboured, the veins of his forehead were frightfully swollen, and his complexion became black as the blackest blood; he screamed, he snorted, he barked, and appeared to be on the point of suffocation - yet more explosive became the cough; and the people of the house, frightened, came running into the apartment. I cries, 'The man is perishing, run instantly for a surgeon!' He heard me, and with a quick movement raised his left hand as if to countermand the order; another struggle, then one mighty throe, which seemed to search his deepest intestines; and he remained motionless, his head on his knee. The cough had left him, and within a minute or two he again looked up.
'That is a dreadful cough, friend,' said I, when he was somewhat recovered. 'How did you get it?'
GYPSY SOLDIER. - 'I am - shot through the lungs - brother! Let me but take breath, and I will show you the hole - the agujero.'
He continued with me a considerable time, and showed not the slightest disposition to depart; the cough returned twice, but not so violently; - at length, having an engagement, I arose, and apologising, told him I must leave him. The next day he came again at the same hour, but he found me not, as I was abroad dining with a friend. On the third day, however, as I was sitting down to dinner, in he walked, unannounced. I am rather hospitable than otherwise, so I cordially welcomed him, and requested him to partake of my meal. 'Con mucho gusto,' he replied, and instantly took his place at the table. I was again astonished, for if his cough was frightful, his appetite was yet more so. He ate like a wolf of the sierra; - soup, puchero, fowl and bacon disappeared before him in a twinkling. I ordered in cold meat, which he presently despatched; a large piece of cheese was then produced. We had been drinking water.
'Where is the wine?' said he.
'I never use it,' I replied.
He looked blank. The hostess, however, who was present waiting, said, 'If the gentleman wish for wine, I have a bota nearly full, which I will instantly fetch.'
The skin bottle, when full, might contain about four quarts. She filled him a very large glass, and was removing the skin, but he prevented her, saying, 'Leave it, my good woman; my brother here will settle with you for the little I shall use.'
He now lighted his cigar, and it was evident that he had made good his quarters. On the former occasion I thought his behaviour sufficiently strange, but I liked it still less on the present. Every fifteen minutes he emptied his glass, which contained at least a pint; his conversation became horrible. He related the atrocities which he had committed when a robber and bragante in La Mancha. 'It was our custom,' said he, 'to tie our prisoners to the olive-trees, and then, putting our horses to full speed, to tilt at them with our spears.' As he continued to drink he became waspish and quarrelsome: he had hitherto talked Castilian, but he would now only converse in Gypsy and in Latin, the last of which languages he spoke with great fluency, though ungrammatically. He told me that he had killed six men in duels; and, drawing his sword, fenced about the room. I saw by the manner in which he handled it, that he was master of his weapon. His cough did not return, and he said it seldom afflicted him when he dined well. He gave me to understand that he had received no pay for two years. 'Therefore you visit me,' thought I. At the end of three hours, perceiving that he exhibited no signs of taking his departure, I arose, and said I must again leave him. 'As you please, brother,' said he; 'use no ceremony with me, I am fatigued, and will wait a little while.' I did not return till eleven at night, when my hostess informed me that he had just departed, promising to return next day. He had emptied the bota to the last drop, and the cheese produced being insufficient for him, he sent for an entire Dutch cheese on my account; part of which he had eaten and the rest carried away. I now saw that I had formed a most troublesome acquaintance, of whom it was highly necessary to rid myself, if possible; I therefore dined out for the next nine days.
For a week he came regularly at the usual hour, at the end of which time he desisted; the hostess was afraid of him, as she said that he was a brujo or wizard, and only spoke to him through the wicket.
On the tenth day I was cast into prison, where I continued several weeks. Once, during my confinement, he called at the house, and being informed of my mishap, drew his sword, and vowed with horrible imprecations to murder the prime minister of Ofalia, for having dared to imprison his brother. On my release, I did not revisit my lodgings for some days, but lived at an hotel. I returned late one afternoon, with my servant Francisco, a Basque of Hernani, who had served me with the utmost fidelity during my imprisonment, which he had voluntarily shared with me. The first person I saw on entering was the Gypsy soldier, seated by the table, whereon were several bottles of wine which he had ordered from the tavern, of course on my account. He was smoking, and looked savage and sullen; perhaps he was not much pleased with the reception he had experienced. He had forced himself in, and the woman of the house sat in a corner looking upon him with dread. I addressed him, but he would scarcely return an answer. At last he commenced discoursing with great volubility in Gypsy and Latin. I did not understand much of what he said. His words were wild and incoherent, but he repeatedly threatened some person. The last bottle was now exhausted: he demanded more. I told him in a gentle manner that he had drunk enough. He looked on the ground for some time, then slowly, and somewhat hesitatingly, drew his sword and laid it on the table. It was become dark. I was not afraid of the fellow, but I wished to avoid anything unpleasant. I called to Francisco to bring lights, and obeying a sign which I made him, he sat down at the table. The Gypsy glared fiercely upon him - Francisco laughed, and began with great glee to talk in Basque, of which the Gypsy understood not a word. The Basques, like all Tartars, (51) and such they are, are paragons of fidelity and good nature; they are only dangerous when outraged, when they are terrible indeed. Francisco, to the strength of a giant joined the disposition of a lamb. He was beloved even in the patio of the prison, where he used to pitch the bar and wrestle with the murderers and felons, always coming off victor. He continued speaking Basque. The Gypsy was incensed; and, forgetting the languages in which, for the last hour, he had been speaking, complained to Francisco of his rudeness in speaking any tongue but Castilian. The Basque replied by a loud carcajada, and slightly touched the Gypsy on the knee. The latter sprang up like a mine discharged, seized his sword, and, retreating a few steps, made a desperate lunge at Francisco.
The Basques, next to the Pasiegos, (52) are the best cudgel-players in Spain, and in the world. Francisco held in his hand part of a broomstick, which he had broken in the stable, whence he had just ascended. With the swiftness of lightning he foiled the stroke of Chaleco, and, in another moment, with a dexterous blow, struck the sword out of his hand, sending it ringing against the wall.
The Gypsy resumed his seat and his cigar. He occasionally looked at the Basque. His glances were at first atrocious, but presently changed their expression, and appeared to me to become prying and eagerly curious. He at last arose, picked up his sword, sheathed it, and walked slowly to the door; when there he stopped, turned round, advanced close to Francisco, and looked him steadfastly in the face. 'My good fellow,' said he, 'I am a Gypsy, and can read baji. Do you know where you will be at this time to-morrow?' (53) Then, laughing like a hyena, he departed, and I never saw him again.
At that time on the morrow, Francisco was on his death-bed. He had caught the jail fever, which had long raged in the Carcel de la Corte, where I was imprisoned. In a few days he was buried, a mass of corruption, in the Campo Santo of Madrid.
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