Laughs Man A rolling stone and a roving trade gather no moss. The Comprachicos were poor. They might have said what the lean and ragged witch observed, when she saw them setting fire to the stake, "Le jeu n'en vaut pas la chandelle." It is possible, nay probable (their chiefs remaining unknown), that the wholesale contractors in the trade were rich. After the lapse of two centuries, it would be difficult to throw any light on this point.
It was, as we have said, a fellowship. It had its laws, its oaths, its formulæ—it had almost its cabala. Any one nowadays wishing to know all about the Comprachicos need only go into Biscaya or Galicia; there were many Basques among them, and it is in those mountains that one hears their history. To this day the Comprachicos are spoken of at Oyarzun, at Urbistondo, at Leso, at Astigarraga. Aguardate niño, que voy a llamar al Comprachicos—Take care, child, or I'll call the Comprachicos—is the cry with which mothers frighten their children in that country.
The Comprachicos, like the Zigeuner and the Gipsies, had appointed places for periodical meetings. From time to time their leaders conferred together. In the seventeenth century they had four principal points of rendezvous: one in Spain—the pass of Pancorbo; one in Germany—the glade called the Wicked Woman, near Diekirsch, where there are two enigmatic bas–reliefs, representing a woman with a head and a man without one; one in France—the hill where was the colossal statue of Massue–la–Promesse in the old sacred wood of Borvo Tomona, near Bourbonne les Bains; one in England—behind the garden wall of William Challoner, Squire of Gisborough in Cleveland, Yorkshire, behind the square tower and the great wing which is entered by an arched door.
The laws against vagabonds have always been very rigorous in England. England, in her Gothic legislation, seemed to be inspired with this principle, Homo errans fera errante pejor. One of the special statutes classifies the man without a home as "more dangerous than the asp, dragon, lynx, or basilisk" (atrocior aspide, dracone, lynce, et basilico). For a long time England troubled herself as much concerning the gipsies, of whom she wished to be rid as about the wolves of which she had been cleared. In that the Englishman differed from the Irishman, who prayed to the saints for the health of the wolf, and called him "my godfather."