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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/63

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PORTLAND BILL.

enclosed basins, as Pasages for instance) as well as the open sea. It could sail round a lake, and sail round the world,—a strange craft, as good for a pond as for a storm. The hooker is among vessels what the wagtail is among birds,—one of the smallest and yet one of the boldest. The wagtail perching on a reed scarcely bends it, and flying away crosses the ocean.

The hooker of the poorest Biscayan was gilded and painted. Tattooing was also one of the accomplishments of these people, who are still to some extent savage in their tastes. The superb colouring of their mountains, varied by dazzling snows and emerald meadows, teaches them the wonderful charm that ornamentation exerts. They are poverty-stricken and yet magnificent; they put coats-of-arms on their cottages; they have huge asses, which they bedizen with bells, and huge oxen, on which they put gay head-dresses of feathers. Their coaches, the wheels of which you can hear creaking two leagues off, are illuminated, carved, and decked with ribbons. A cobbler has a bas-relief on his door; it is only St. Crispin and an old shoe, but it is in stone. They trim their leathern jackets with lace. They do not mend their rags, but they embroider them. The Basques are like the Greeks, children of the sun; while the Valencian wraps himself, bare and sad, in his mantle of russet wool, with a hole to pass his head through, the natives of Galicia and Biscay delight in fine linen shirts, bleached in the dew. Their thresholds and their windows teem with fair and fresh faces, laughing under garlands of maize; a joyous and proud serenity shines out in their ingenious arts, in their trades, in their customs, in the dress of their maidens, in their songs. The mountain, that colossal ruin, is all aglow in Biscay: the sun's rays penetrate every nook and crevice. The wild jaïzquivel is full of idylls. Biscay