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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/81

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CHAPTER IV.


QUESTIONS.


WHAT kind of a band was it that had left the child behind in its flight. Were those fugitives Comprachicos?

We have already noted the measures taken by William III., and passed by Parliament against the malefactors, male and female, called Comprachicos, otherwise Comprapequeños, otherwise Cheylas. There are laws which scatter people to the four corners of the earth. The law enacted against the Comprachicos determined, not only the Comprachicos, but vagabonds of all sorts on a general flight. It was the devil take the hindmost. A large number of Comprachicos returned to Spain, many of them, as we have said, being Basques. The law for the protection of children had at first this strange result,—it caused many children to be abandoned. The immediate effect of the penal statute was to produce a crowd of children, found, or rather lost. The reason is evident. Every wandering gang containing a child was liable to suspicion. The mere fact of the child's presence was in itself a denunciation. "They are probably Comprachicos." This was the very first idea of the sheriff, of the bailiff, and of the constable. Hence arrest and inquiry. People simply unfortunate, reduced to wander and to beg, were seized with a terror of being taken for Comprachicos, although they were