Puslapio vaizdai

longer existing for its own sake, but serving merely as an opportunity to gratify the gambler's instinct, has lost the charm it must have possessed in the old days, when champions of the home teams went forth to Mexico and South America to show their skill. Even now the game, as it is played on fête-days at St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, is far more interesting than the professional affair of San Sebastian. For there in the hills of the Pays Basque the court lies in a beautiful grove of trees, and the spectators are seated on the terraces down both sides of the field. The wicker glove is much lighter than the heavy basket of the Spanish players, weighing perhaps three hundred grams. The game varies somewhat in consequence. The players are three on a side and catch the ball as it rebounds from the front wall, then hurl it back again with tremendous force.

A visit to the Basque country would be incomplete without a chance to view some one of the numerous local celebrations. It was my good fortune to spend the seventh and eighth of September at Fuenterrabia the most important days of the annual festival in honor of the deliverance of the town from the French many centuries ago.

In 1638, so runs the story, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe listened to the prayers of the frantic inhabitants of the town, and accorded its defenders a victory over the French, who had besieged them without mercy. The triumph of arms came during the feast of the nativity, and in accordance with their vow, taken in time of dire distress, the people of Fuenterrabia have made an annual pilgrimage since 1639 to the shrine of their patron saint. At noon on the seventh of September the bells of the parochial church of Santa Maria and of the ancient chapel of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe rang long and loudly in unison. During the afternoon bursts of artillery and rifle-shots alternated with the bells, and at night, when I attended the festival mass in Santa Maria, the beautiful music was constantly drowned by the sounds of cannon just outside the church. Thus I was told did custom seek to reproduce in the minds of the modern worshipers the spirit of apprehension which filled the

souls of their ancestors in the dread days three hundred years before.

All through the festival the semimilitary character prevails, for from early morning of September 8, the great day of the fête, until the wee small hours, the uniforms of the companies from different quarters of the commune and of artillerymen from the neighboring fortress of Guadalupe are everywhere to be seen. The troops play an important part in the long procession which forms in the plaza de armas early in the day, and marches to the ancient chapel on the hill.

As I have already indicated, the dress of the modern Basque is simple in the extreme, and aside from cap, shoes, and the curious blouses of the men, has no marked peculiarities. On this occasion, however, the cherished fête-day costumes of days gone by are brought to light, and all who own the picturesque garments of their forefathers don them to do honor to the sacred day. interesting of all to me was the gaily colored raiment of the cantinera, the smiling damsel who marched proudly at the head of each company, representing the ancient prototype of the modern canteen girl, who proved indispensable in our own days of recent warfare.


Equal in interest to my wanderings in the hill country of the French Pays Basque were my tours along the Spanish sea-coast, so beautiful in prospect, so rich in historic lore. Every nook and corner has its own story, but none appealed to me more than the tiny hamlet of San Juan Pasajes, where I found myself one afternoon looking out on the glorious harbor which should ever be sacred to Americans. For through its narrow channel, out to the open sea, sailed the noble Lafayette, in all the glory of his adventurous youth, to cast the weight of his sword and the weightier influence of his liberty-loving soul on the side of our country in the War for Independence.

Perhaps as he saw the shores of Spain recede from view, as he set sail on his perilous adventure, he was cheered and strengthened by the thoughts of the hardy Basques from whom he had just parted, whose spirits were so in tune with his own.


The Awful Miss Brown


Illustrations by Arthur G. Dove

ESTER BROWN was the most striking personality in Dredgefield. This was indicated in her being invariably spoken of as "Miss Brown," though the parish contained no fewer than four other single ladies of the same name.


Born in Dredgefield, she had lived. there all her life, and at forty-three was a tall, slim woman, decidedly handsome in a rather forcible style. Dredgefield was proud of Miss Brown as of a woman whose equal none of the adjacent parishes could show; at the same time it occasionally remarked, behind her back, that she was "a bit of a Tartar." had served to protect her from the importunities of certain bucolic admirers who were anxious to settle in life, but who, shunning the ordeal of a proposal, remained single or married elsewhere. In recent years only one had been hardy enough to approach her with matrimonial intentions, and he had done so to the astonishment of all concerned that is to say, of the entire population.

Worldly-minded people would have considered Mr. Giles Jobson, the person referred to, as eligible a suitor as ever dined at a farmers' ordinary or took an extra glass on market-day; for he was a substantial freeholder, who paid his way and cared for no man. On the other hand, they would have thought no one less likely to make his appearance in the character of a wooer or to plant the myrtle of Venus in soil which could be turned to better account. Stout and ruddy, with a prosperous, broadcloth air, he was too solid a man to give undue attention to the trivialities of mere outward display, and when he was suddenly transformed into a middle-aged rustic buck of the first head, with a nosegay in his buttonhole, Dredgefield could scarcely believe its eyes.

"Why, Giles lad, be it you!" old farmer Dobbs exclaimed, surveying him one evening when he entered the parlor of The Load of Hay. "Vine veathers make vine birds. What be you arter?"

"Well, if you must know," he replied, overcoming a slight tendency to sheepishness, "I be going to court Miss Brown."

Mr. Jobson had expected the effect of this announcement with a certain degree of pride; its reception fully justified his expectations. His hearers, taking their clay-pipes from their mouths, stared at him and at one another for several minutes in amazement before they recovered themselves sufficiently to repeat: "Going to court Miss Brown! He be going to court Miss Brown!" What was to be made of it? Had Giles Jobson suddenly gone crazy, or was there that in him which they had never supposed to be there? Was he a fool or a hero? His reputation trembled in the balance; and then farmer Dobbs settled the point.

"Well, Giles lad," he cried, bringing his fist down upon the table, “thou 'rt the only man as I knows on who 'd venter it. Going to court Miss Brown? Dang! Ye 'll never beat that!"

"No, no," chorused the rest, “ye 'll never beat that!" The balance had turned in his favor: he was a hero.

THIS inspired Mr. Jobson with a dangerous confidence, so that Miss Brown was "woo'd and married and a'" before he had spoken a word to her on the subject. He pictured himself saying, in reply to the congratulations of his friends, "I just said to her, 'Miss Brown, maybe you 're not the popularist woman i' the parish, but you 're the one I think most on'; and i' less nor half an hour it was settled quite comfortable."

When he called on Miss Brown the affair was settled in considerably less

than half an hour, but by no means comfortably. Within ten minutes after entering her door he emerged again with an agitated air, and as he hurried along the garden path he glanced over his shoulder as if apprehensive that she might be following him, like a classical Fury, with a firebrand in one hand and a whip in the other. Crestfallen as he was, he bore the sallies of his friends with Christian meekness. Only once did he turn upon his persecutors at The Load of Hay when old farmer Dobbs jocosely inquired what Miss Brown had said to him.

"That ain't nobody's business," he retorted. "But," he added impressively, and looking round him almost with an air of triumph, "I'll tell ye one thing. It wor n't only o' me she said it. She said it o' the whole lot on us."

In that last sentence you had Miss Brown; there she was in a nutshell. Her salient characteristic was a contempt for the male sex as represented in the human biped.

But none of us is invariably consistent. More than once Miss Brown had been known to depart from the inexorable tenor of her way, though her manner of doing so was all her own. When one of her pigs disappeared, and was traced to Simon Grubb, Mrs. Grubb came to her with tearful protestations that she was the mother of six, and though Miss Brown told her it was a greater crime to have six children than to steal pigs, Simon escaped punishment for the sake of his wife and family. Again, when Martha Gibbs, who had served her faithfully for seven years, was going to be married at Easter, Miss Brown drew for her benefit a painful picture of married life among the peasantry, of wretched women slaving early and late to keep things together while the husbands sat in the public house over their beer and tobacco; but she did the handsome thing by Martha when the affair came off. Therefore many people asserted that Miss Brown "had a heart somewheres, though it did n't seem to be where most folk's were, and took a deal o' getting at."

For this reason Dredgefield commiserated the person whose fate was most directly under her influence the orphan child of the late Mrs. Brown's youngest

brother, about whom, like the majority of his sex, the least said the better. When Miss Brown heard of her being left, a mere waif, in a distant county, she sent instructions for her to be forwarded without delay to Hollybush Farm; and since it seemed absurd in a woman of thirty-odd to call a child of six her cousin, she decided to be her aunt instead.

In the mere fact of being a girl and not a boy, the forlorn little creature had the good fortune to gratify her aunt from the first; but things did not turn out so well afterward, for at nineteen Bella Croft was an attractive damsel, disinclined to a belief that the world would be a better place if man was known only as an antediluvian animal. Nevertheless, she was devoted to her aunt, and everybody agreed that Miss Brown had done her duty by her. Despite this she was commonly spoken of as "poor Bella Croft," for, though it was quite understood she would inherit Hollybush Farm and all her aunt's savings, it was predicted that "Miss Brown 'u'd never let a man come nigh her, unless it was Parson Doubleday or some un like him." Certainly no great harm could have resulted from this, seeing that the vicar was a meek little old bachelor who read his Bible very literally, and gave away among his poorer neighbors things he wanted very badly for himself.

The Rev. Theophilus Doubleday was indeed a worthy man and, moreover, a good scholar. Dredgefield, taking his erudition for granted, esteemed him for his worthiness, and none of his parishioners had a greater regard for him than a youthful connection of his own, Richard Merryweather. Richard was a nephew, by marriage, of the vicar's sister, who had given up housekeeping for her brother to marry Farmer Merryweather, who was a person of such consequence in the neighborhood that he might almost have been a justice of the peace in days when a J. P. had to be somebody. His red-brick house was one of the best in the parish, and, standing a good distance apart from the farm-buildings, had an air of being above its business. Dying childless, he left the house and land to his wife in trust for his nephew Richard. So when Richard's aunt died also and he

came to reside on his property, he was rich according to Dredgefield standards -that is, for one of good old yeoman stock. In his way he was a remarkable young man, and though Dredgefield began by resenting the cut of his coat and thinking him a little too cosmopolitan, he was so cheery and good-humored that it soon agreed to overlook his defects.

"Love laughs at locksmiths," but even if he regarded them seriously, Miss Brown could not have kept her niece under lock and key whenever her eyes were off her. To immure single young women for fear of the consequences was not the custom of the age and country in which she lived. It was not often, however, that Bella went anywhere without her aunt; but this occurred sometimes, and upon one of these rare occasions she met Richard Merryweather, with the result that after a few more meetings they fell in love with each other. When he told Bella that he loved her, despite all her aunt's teaching she believed him. This was probably due to the fact that, in discoursing of such matters, Miss Brown had dealt with man in the abstract, and to Bella, Richard Merryweather did not represent an abstract idea. A stipulation on her part that, so far as her aunt was concerned, there should be nothing clandestine in their proceedings was alarming; for that Miss Brown's consent could be obtained offhand was incredible and not to be expected. Richard would have preferred to get it over, and inform her of the event when the mischief was done; but when he found Bella's scruples insurmountable, a happy thought occurred to him, and he suggested that they should request the vicar to open the ball for them.

"We are related you know," he explained. "He 's a sort of an uncle of mine and one of the best old fellows in the world. Besides, he 's her pastor; so perhaps she'll listen to him when she would n't listen to you or me."

THE vicar sat by the open window of his little parlor, the bowl of his churchwarden pipe glowing within while the shadows gathered without. A placid serenity pervaded him. The stars were begin

ning to twinkle in the liquid depths of the clear summer sky, a nightingale preluded from an orchard close at hand, the soft breeze at once soothed and refreshed. How at such a moment could he dream there was trouble in the air and that a plot had just been hatched against his peace of mind?

Suddenly a step was heard on the garden walk, and a voice exclaimed:

"There you are, Uncle! I thought I should find you at your evening pipe." "Is it you, my dear Richard?" he responded. "Come in. You know your way."

"Rather," answered Merryweather, who, indeed, seemed very much at home, for when he entered the room he walked straight to a cupboard, and, returning with another churchwarden, seated himself near the vicar.

"Now, my dear Uncle," he said, "I hope you are at leisure for a little conversation, as I want to consult you about a rather serious matter."

The phrase "serious matter" sounded rather alarming.

"I hope, Richard," said the vicar, "that you have not been getting into any kind of trouble."

"Not a bit of it," answered Richard, cheerfully. "I am only thinking of getting married."

"Of getting married!" exclaimed the vicar, gazing at him in amazement. "Only thinking of getting married!"

Richard struck a match, lighted his pipe, then, leaning back in his chair, went on:

"You see, Uncle, my view is this. If a young fellow has the means of supporting a wife, he cannot do better than settle down into a quiet, respectable married man."

"You are perfectly right; that is, if a suitable partner can be found for him." "Or if he can find a suitable partner for himself."

"Certainly, certainly. And now, my dear Richard," he added, his curiosity overcoming his surprise, "who is she?" "Suppose you make a guess before I tell you."

The vicar's mind roamed for a moment among the rustic maidens of his parish and came back unsatisfied.

"Really, I am quite at a loss; and, to

[blocks in formation]

"Well, now the murder 's out, what do you say?"

"Really, I hardly know what to say, you have taken me so completely by surprise. She is a very good girl, quite a superior young woman for her class. If you are satisfied, and have no wish to look higher, I see no reason-no," reflected Mr. Doubleday, "I do not see any reason why you should not be very happy with her."

"My dear Uncle," said Richard, smiling, "her class is my class, I have no wish to look higher, and I mean

the subject they were discussing, was relapsing into silent enjoyment of his peaceful surroundings, when his nephew, returning from the stars, suddenly exclaimed, "And now comes another question. Bella's aunt is a dragon."

"Miss Brown is certainly a person of decided character," admitted the vicar; "but she is an excellent woman in her way and has a good heart."


"I be going to court Miss Brown' "

to be very happy with her. So all that is settled." Leaning back, he looked upward to the stars, which were now becoming more and more numerous every moment. The song of the nightingale came from the farther side of the tall hedge which separated the little orchard from the garden. Richard could not help pausing awhile to contemplate the happiness of which he felt so confident, and the vicar, interested though he was in

"You see," Richard went on, "Miss Brown is a deadly enemy to marriage. She thinks we should remain as we are until we all die off, and leave the world fit to live in because there is n't anybody left alive in it."

"I think even Miss Brown would scarcely go so far as that," replied the vicar, with a smile. "Anyhow," said Richard, "she 's always crying down matrimony and crying up single blessedness-bless her! I wished Bella to marry me first and tell her afterward, but she would n't hear of it."

"She was right, perfectly right," said the vicar, emphatically.

"Then I wanted to go straight off to

Miss Brown and have it out with her, but Bella thought that too risky. So we hit on a third plan, an excellent plan; and what do you think it was?"

"I am sure I cannot tell."

"Well, it was about the best way out of the difficulty any one could have imagined. We fell back on you!"

"Fell back on me!" cried the vicar. "That 's it. We want you to tackle Miss Brown."

« AnkstesnisTęsti »