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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/111

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skipper of the hooker was a Basque of Guipuzcoa. One sailor was a Basque from the northern slope of the Pyrenees; the other was from the southern slope,—that is to say, they were of the same race, although the first was Trench and the latter Spanish. The Basques acknowledge no official country. "My mother is called the mountain,"[1] as Zalareus, the muleteer, used to say. Of the five men on the hooker, one was a Frenchman of Languedoc, one a Frenchman of Provence, one a Genoese; one, the old man who wore a sombrero without a hole for a pipe, appeared to be a German. The fifth, the chief, was a Basque of the Landes from Biscarrosse. It was he who had with a kick of his heel cast the plank into the sea just as the child was going aboard the hooker. This man, robust, agile, quick in movement, covered, as may be remembered with trimmings, slashings, and glistening tinsel, could not keep still, but sat down, rose up, and continually walked to and fro from one end of the vessel to the other, as if debating uneasily on what had been done and what was going to happen.

This chief of the band, the captain, and the two sailors, all four Basques, spoke sometimes Basque, sometimes Spanish, sometimes French,—these three languages being common on both slopes of the Pyrenees. But generally speaking, all except the women talked something like French, which was the foundation of their slang. The French language, about this period, began to be chosen by the peoples as a happy medium between the excess of consonants in the north and the excess of vowels in the south. In Europe, French was the language of commerce, and also of felony. It will be remembered that Gibby, a London thief, understood Cartouche.

The hooker, a fine sailer, was making rapid progress;

  1. Mi madre se llama Montaña.