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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/68

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

On the principle that a man's vest is a child's cloak, the child was clad in a sailor's jacket, which reached to his knees. By his height you would have supposed him to be a boy of ten or eleven; his feet were bare.

The crew of the hooker was composed of a captain and two sailors. The hooker had apparently come from Spain, and was about to return thither. She was beyond a doubt engaged in a stealthy service from one coast to the other. The persons embarking in her whispered among themselves. The whisperings interchanged by these creatures was a composite sound,—now a word of Spanish, then of German, then of French, then of Gaelic, at times of Basque. It was either a patois or a slang. They appeared to be of all nationalities, and yet to belong to the same band. The motley group appeared to be a company of comrades, perhaps a gang of accomplices. The crew probably belonged to the same brotherhood.

If there had been a little more light, and if one could have seen more distinctly, one might have perceived under the rags of these people rosaries and scapulars half-hidden. One of the women in the group had a rosary almost equal in the size of its beads to that of a dervish, and easy to recognize for an Irish one made at Llanymthefry, which is also called Llanandriffy. One might also have seen, had it not been so dark, a gilded figure of Our Lady and Child on the bow of the hooker. It was probably that of the Basque Notre Dame,—a sort of Panagia of the old Cantabri. Under this image, which occupied the position of a figurehead, was a lantern, which at this moment was not lighted,—an excess of caution which implied an extreme desire of concealment. This lantern was evidently for two purposes: when lighted, it burned before the Virgin, and at the same time illumined the sea,—a beacon doing