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The Church Auctioneer and Clown of Villar

Down the slopes of the neighbouring mountains were heard the stirring sounds of the bagpipes and drums, and at short intervals a halfpenny rocket would explode in mid-air, streaking the blue sky with a wreath of smoke.

Nearer and nearer came the sounds, and the villagers stood at their cottage doors waiting for the musicians to pass. Next to the firing of rockets nothing can be more heart-stirring than the martial sound of the pipes and drums. The big drum was, on this occasion, played most masterly by the auctioneer and clown of the parish church, called José Carcunda, or Joseph the Hunchback.

José Carcunda was dressed in his gala uniform—cocked hat, scarlet coat with rich gold lace embroidery, white trousers, and red morocco slippers. He was a clever man, and could take many parts in the church plays acted in public for the benefit of the faithful. Sometimes he was Herod, at others, St. Joseph; again he would appear as Judas, and then as Solomon; but in this latter capacity he had given some offence to the vicar by appearing on the stage under the influence of drink.

Of all the weaknesses to which human flesh is heir, none is more despised in Portugal than drunkenness. Wine is emblematical of that stream which flowed from the Crucified on Calvary, and the abuse of such a precious gift is not easily overlooked.

Within the narrow bounds of their primitive way of thinking are cast some of the finest traits in the character of the Portuguese peasantry, although, in many instances, to this very same source must be attributed some of their peculiar ideas as to fate. They are fatalists to a very great extent.

In Roman Catholic countries, the Sabbath is remembered by attending mass in the morning, and by amusements in the afternoon. No public-house, with its glittering lights within, with its bright and cosy fire, and with its grand display of mirrors and pictures, invites the peasant to step inside and gossip about his neighbours, while sipping the genial juice of the grape, or the fire-water that gives to the eye a supernatural brightness, and to the tongue a rush of foolish language.

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