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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/55

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35
THE COMPRACHICOS.

what the lean and ragged witch said, when she saw them setting fire to the stake: "Le jeu n'en vaut pas la chandelle." It is possible, nay probable (their chiefs remaining unknown), that the wholesale contractors in the trade were rich. After the lapse of two centuries it would be difficult to throw any light on this point.

They were, as we have said, a fellowship. They had their laws, their oaths, their formulæ,—almost their cabala. Any one nowadays wishing to know all about the Comprachicos, need only go into Biscaya or Galicia; there were many Basques among them, and it is in those mountains that one hears their history. To this day the Comprachicos are spoken of at Oyarzun, at Urbistondo, at Leso, at Astigarraga. "Aguardate niño, que voy a llamar al Comprachicos" (Take care, child, or I'll call the Comprachicos) is the cry with which mothers frighten their children in that country.

The Comprachicos, like the Zigeuner and the Gipsies, had appointed places for periodical meetings. Their leaders conferred together from time to time. In the seventeenth century they had four principal points of rendezvous,—one, the pass of Pancorbo in Spain; one, the glade called the Wicked Woman, near Diekirsch, in Germany, where there are two strange bas-reliefs, representing a woman with a head and a man without one; one in France, the hill where the colossal statue of Massue-la-Promesse stood in the old sacred wood of Borvo Tomona, near Bourbonne les Bains; and one in England, behind the garden wall of William Challoner, Squire of Gisborough in Cleveland, Yorkshire.