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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/64

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

is Pyrenean grace as Savoy represents Alpine grace. With dangerous bays, with storms, with clouds, with flying spray, with the raging of the waves and winds, with terror, with uproar, are mingled boat-women crowned with roses. He who has seen the Basque country once longs to see it again. It is a favoured land,—two harvests a year; villages resonant and gay; a stately poverty; all Sunday the sound of guitars, dancing, castanets, love-making; houses clean and bright; storks in the belfries.

But let us return to Portland, that rugged mountain in the sea.

The peninsula of Portland, viewed geometrically, presents the appearance of a bird's head, of which the bill is turned towards the ocean, the back of the head towards Weymouth; the isthmus is its neck. Portland exists now only for trade. The value of the Portland stone was discovered by quarrymen and plasterers about the middle of the seventeenth century. Ever since that period what is called Roman cement has been made of the Portland stone,—a useful industry, enriching the district but disfiguring the bay. Two hundred years ago these coasts were being eaten away as a cliff; to-day, as a quarry. The pick bites meanly, the wave grandly; hence a diminution of beauty. To the magnificent ravages of the ocean have succeeded the measured strokes of men. These measured strokes have annihilated the creek where the Biscay hooker was moored. To find any vestige of the little anchorage, now destroyed, the eastern side of the peninsula should be searched, towards the point beyond Folly Pier and Dirdle Pier, beyond Wakeham even, between the place called Church Hope and the place called Southwell.

The creek, walled in on all sides by cliffs much taller than its width, was becoming more and more veiled in