tales from the lands of nuts and grapes
(SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE FOLKLORE)
BY CHARLES SELLERS.
Field & Tuer, The Leadenhall Press, E.C.
Simpkin, Marshall & Co.; Hamilton, Adams & Co.
I firmly believe that the following tales have never seen the light of publicity. They are the folklore of Spain and Portugal.
Since the day when Hernando del Castillo, in 1511, published some of the romances of Spanish chivalry collected from the people, various works have appeared at different times, adding to the already rich store from that inexhaustible mine of song and story.
But, unfortunately for those who appreciate originality in a people, it was discovered that Boccaccio had been most unceremoniously plagiarized, and, what was still worse, that his defects had not been avoided.
The "Decameron" has, in fact, been the foundation of the majority of the romances attributed to the natives of the Peninsula when, as has too often been the case, they have in their songs of chivalry overstepped the limits imposed by decorum.
But this does not argue that the Spaniards and Portuguese have no poetry and no folklore of their own, but rather that the latter have been ignored by the compilers of such literature, in order to satisfy the cravings of the unfortunately too many admirers, even in this day, of that which would have been of advantage to the world at large had it never been imagined.
In England the tale of "Jack the Giant Killer" is read with avidity by all young people, for it is a purely national tale; but in Spain and Portugal such simple tales very seldom find a publisher, and children, and even their elders have to content themselves with hearing them recited by those who enliven the long wintry nights with such lore as I have attempted to reproduce from my memory, told me in my youth in the bosom of those two sister lands which produced the Cid Campeador and the Gran Vasco da Gama.
And, before closing this preface, I would remark that the North of Portugal, where I was born and bred, is richer in folklore than the rest of the kingdom, especially in tales about enchanted Moors and warlocks, of whom I, in common with the Portuguese, say, "Abernuncio."
THE INGENIOUS STUDENT 1
THE UGLY PRINCESS 9
THE WOLF-CHILD 17
THE MAGIC MIRROR 26
THE BLACK SLAVE 34
A LEGEND OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW 46
THE WHITE CAT OF ECIJA 59
THE CHURCH AUCTIONEER AND CLOWN OF VILLAR 66
THE WISE KING OF LEON 79
THE COBBLER OF BURGOS 85
BARBARA, THE GRAZIER'S WIFE 92
THE WATCHFUL SERVANT 99
SILVER BELLS 105
KING ROBIN 112
THE WICKED KING 117
THE PALACE OF THE ENCHANTED MOORS 122
THE SEVEN PIGEONS 133
LADY CLARE 150
GOOD ST. JAMES, AND THE MERRY BARBER OF COMPOSTELLA 154
ELVIRA, THE SAINTED PRINCESS 165
THE ENCHANTED MULE 170
TALES FROM THE LANDS OF NUTS AND GRAPES.
THE INGENIOUS STUDENT.
There was once a student in Tuy who was so very poor that, if faith in Providence be not reckoned, he possessed no riches.
But Juan Rivas was endowed with a wonderfully fine gift of ingenuity, and although he was somewhat behind in the payment for the Masses on behalf of his predecessors, and even more so with his mundane creditors, still was he a man who meant well and would do the right thing if he only had the opportunity.
To the man of the world there is no greater pleasure than to pay his debts, for by so doing he increases his credit.
Juan Rivas would willingly have paid every creditor had his pocket been as full of the wherewithal as his heart was of gratitude for small mercies; but there is no difficulty about showing one's self desirous of satisfying one's debts—the only difficulty generally rests in being able to do so.
At college he had proved himself a good scholar and a true companion; but as he could no longer contribute toward the support of his college, his college could not be expected to support him.
His long black cap, his flowing robes, his pantaloons, and his shoes were altered in substance, and so was Juan Rivas.
Finally he became reduced to his last maravedi, and as his friends could no longer assist him, he thought it was high time he should assist himself.
"Providence," said he, "has never intended me for a poor man, but Fate has almost made me one. I will believe in Providence, and become rich from this day." Saying which, he went to some of his companions, who were almost as poor as he was, and asked them if they desired to be rich.
"Do you ask us if we want to be rich with so serious a face?" answered they. "Really, friend Juan, you are so strange that you do not seem to belong to this city!"
"No man can be rich," continued Juan, "by staying at home. We are students, and our studies should meet with some recompense. Will you do as I bid you?"
"Yes!" cried all his poor companions; "so long as you lead us not to the gallows, for we like not such playthings."
"Well, then, follow me," said Juan; "and when you see me release a prize that belongs to him who shall be bold enough to seize it, off with it to the market, and dispose of it at the best possible price."
"Done, and agreed to," shouted all, "if you will but seize the prize!"
"Leave that to me," said the poor student, "and I will hand you a prize fully worth twenty dollars without his garments."
"But, surely, you are not going to hand some man or woman over to us?" inquired they.
"Ask me no questions, as the Archbishop of Compostella said to the pretty widow, and I will be honest with you. The prize I shall hand you will fetch money in the market, and we sell not human beings in this country," urged Juan.
"That is right," they exclaimed; "and we will follow you."
The students followed Juan on to the high-road leading from the city to Ourense; and when they had walked for about two hours' time Juan told his companions to get behind the hedge and await results.
Soon after, the jingling of bells was heard, and a muleteer seated cross-legged on a mule, which preceded five others, was seen approaching.
As the muleteer had sold all his wares he was indulging in a sleep, and had it not been for the dog-flies that teased the mules they would also have slept.
Juan let the muleteer pass; but as the last mule came up he seized it, and, taking off its trappings, and disencumbering it of its ponderous albarda, or saddle, he freed the animal on the roadside, and replaced the trappings and the saddle on himself.
His companions were not slow in seizing the prize and hurrying away with it, while Juan Rivas continued for some distance along the road, following in the train of mules.
As soon as he considered that his companions would be out of sight, he commenced backing with all his strength, which brought the mules to a sudden halt and caused their bells to tinkle.
The muleteer looked back to see if anything was wrong, but, perceiving nothing, bestowed a hearty blow on his mule, and on he went again.
The student now began to rear and jump about so that the muleteer pulled up, and, having dismounted, proceeded to inquire into the cause of the mule so misbehaving itself; but his astonishment was great when, instead of a mule, he saw a human being bearing the trappings and the saddle.
"What merry freak is this," demanded the muleteer, addressing the student, "that I see you replacing my mule?"
"It is no merry freak, indeed it is not," replied Juan Rivas, "but a sad reality. You see before you, good master, a poor, miserable creature, who for his many offences against Mother Church was transformed into a mule, and sentenced to remain so for a number of years. My term of punishment has just expired, and I am restored to my natural form."
"But where is my mule that cost me one hundred crowns not many years ago?" asked the muleteer.
"You do not understand me, good master," replied the student. "I was the mule, and the mule was I; now I am I. When you used to kick your mule, you really kicked me; when you fed it, you fed me; and now, when you speak to me, you speak to all that remains of your mule. Now do you understand?"
"I am beginning to perceive," said the muleteer, scratching his head and looking very sorrowful, "that for your sins you were turned into a mule, and that for mine, I had the misfortune to purchase you. I always thought there was something strange about that mule!"
"There is no doubt that we all must put up with the consequences of our evil ways, and, as you very properly say, you have been punished by the loss of your mule; but, then, you can rejoice with me, seeing that the son of the first Grandee in Spain served you in the humble capacity of a beast of burden, and now is restored to rank and wealth."
"And are you a Grandee of Spain?" anxiously inquired the poor man, "Why, then, your excellency will never forgive me for the many kicks I have bestowed on your excellency's sides; and I am a ruined man, for you will have me punished."
"Not so, kind friend; not so," replied the student, in an assuring tone; "for how could you tell that your mule was not a mule?"
"Then your excellency will not be revenged on me?" continued the muleteer. "And if it will be of any consolation to your excellency, I promise never to divulge this mystery!"
"It will, indeed, be a great comfort to me to think that no one will know what became of me for so many years," replied the student. "And now I must bid you good-bye, for I am in a hurry to again embrace my dear parents if they be still living."
"Good-bye," said the muleteer, with emotion; "and may your excellency never again incur the displeasure of Mother Church."
Thus they parted good friends; the muleteer pondering over what he termed the mysteries of life, and Juan Rivas full of delight at the thought of rejoining his companions, and having a good supper with the proceeds of the mule, which pleasure was not denied him and his friends.
In a fortnight's time there was a cattle fair in the neighbourhood of Tuy, and as the muleteer required to replace the mule he had so mysteriously lost, he attended the fair, and was looking about him for a serviceable mule, when an acquaintance called out to him to know why he had parted with the other one.
"I have my private reasons," answered the muleteer, "and I am not here to let you know them."
"Very true," continued his inquisitive friend; "but the proverb says that 'the mule you know is better than the mule you don't know,' and if you will take my advice, you will buy your old mule back again, for there it is"—pointing to it.
The muleteer looked in the direction mentioned, and was horrified at seeing his late mule again; but, trying to conceal his emotion, he approached the animal and whispered in its ear, "Those who don't know what sort of a mule your excellency is may buy you, but I know the mule you are;" and, turning away, he sorrowfully exclaimed, "He has again offended. Terrible are the judgments of Providence!"
THE UGLY PRINCESS.
There was once a king who had an only daughter, and she was so very ugly and deformed that, when she rode through the streets of Alcantara, the children ran away, thinking she was a witch.
Her father, however, thought her the most lovely creature in his kingdom; and as all the courtiers agreed with him, and the Court poet was always singing her praises, the princess had been led to believe what most ladies like to believe; and as she was expecting a prince from a distant country, who was coming expressly to marry her, she had ordered many rich dresses which only made her look uglier.
The city of Alcantara was ready to receive Prince Alanbam, who was going to espouse the Princess Altamira.
Crowds thronged the streets, martial music was heard everywhere, and in the public square a splendid throne had been erected for the king, Princess Altamira, and Prince Alanbam.
Around the throne were formed large bodies of well-equipped cavalry, dark visaged warriors clad in white and gold, and mounted on superb Arab steeds.
Behind the king, on his left side, stood the royal barber with his retinue of apprentices; and on his right side was seen Nabo the headsman, a nigger of gigantic stature, with his implement of office, an axe, over his shoulder.
Seated on the steps of the throne were a number of musicians, and below these a guard of honour, composed of foot soldiers dressed in short vests, called "aljubas," and wide lower garments, and with their aljavas, or quivers, full of bright arrows.
From the throne the king could see the splendid bridge on six pillars, built by Trajan, along which a brilliant cavalcade was proceeding, namely, the procession formed by Prince Alanbam and his retainers.
As soon as the prince, after saluting the king, beheld the princess, he turned pale, for he had never seen any one so ugly; and however much he might have desired to keep up an appearance of courtesy to the princess before her father's subjects, he could not kiss her as she expected him to do, nor could he be persuaded to occupy the chair reserved for him beside the princess.
"Your mercy," said he, addressing the king, "must excuse my insuperable bashfulness; but the fact is that the Princess Altamira is so transcendently beautiful, and so dazzling to behold, that I can never expect to look upon her face again and live."
The king and the princess were highly flattered; but as Prince Alanbam continued obdurate in his professions of bashfulness, they commenced to feel somewhat vexed, and at last the king said in a loud voice—
"Prince Alanbam, we fully appreciate the motive that prompts your conduct, but the fact is the Princess Altamira is present to be wedded to you; and, as a Christian king, the first of my line, I desire to lead to the altar my only daughter, Princess Altamira, and her affianced husband, Prince Alanbam."
"It cannot be," said the prince. "I would rather marry some one less beautiful. Sir king, forgive me if I annoy you, but I will not be wedded to so much beauty."
The king was now incensed beyond measure, and the princess his daughter, thinking to spite Prince Alanbam, said—
"With your permission, royal father, since I am too beautiful for a prince, I will be married to the most learned man in your kingdom—Bernardo, the royal barber."
"And that you shall," said the king; but, on turning round to speak to the barber, he found that this the most learned man in his kingdom was all of a tremble, as if dancing to the music of St. Vitus.
"What has possessed thee, caitiff?" asked the king. "Hearest not thou the honour that is to be conferred on thee?"
"My royal master," muttered the poor frightened man of learning and lather, "I can no more avail myself of the honour which you would confer on me than the Archbishop of Villafranca could. His grace is bound to celibacy, and I am already married."
Now, the barber had on many occasions rendered himself obnoxious to Sanchez, the royal cobbler, who, seeing the king's perplexity, and a chance of avenging past insults, exclaimed—
"Royal master, it would be most acceptable to your subjects that so much beauty should be wedded to so much learning. Our good friend, Bernardo, was, it is true, married; but since he has been in attendance at the palace, he has so fallen in love with Princess Altamira that he no longer notices his wife; therefore, may it please your mercy to dissolve the first marriage, and announce this new one with her highness, your daughter?"
The barber at this harangue became so infuriated that he rushed blindly at the cobbler, and with his razor would have severed his head from the rest of his body, but that he was prevented by the guard, who held him down.
"Executioner, do your work!" cried the baffled king; and at one blow the head of the unfortunate barber rolled on the ground.
Prince Alanbam seeing this, and fearing that more mischief might ensue, proposed to the king that one hundred knights should be chosen, and that these should fight for the hand of the lovely Princess Altamira. "I myself will enter the lists," said the prince; "and the survivor will be rewarded by marrying your daughter."
"That is a good idea," said the king; and calling together ninety-nine of his best knights, he bade them fight valiantly, for their reward was very precious.
Fifty knights, mounted on beautiful chargers, placed themselves on one side, and were opposed by forty-nine equally well-mounted knights and Prince Alanbam; and at the word of command, given by the king, they advanced at headlong speed against each other; but, much to the astonishment of the spectators, no knight was unhorsed; rather did it seem that each knight did his utmost to get run through by his opponent.
At it they went again and again, but with the same result, for no man was hurt, although seeming to court death.
"We will alter the order of things," exclaimed the king. "The knight who is first wounded shall be the one to marry the princess."
This was no sooner said than the knights seemed to be possessed of a blind fury, and at the first charge nearly every knight was unhorsed and every one wounded, while the confusion and noise were awful. They were all accusing each other of being the first wounded; so that, in utter despair, the king declared his daughter should be married to the Church, enter a convent, and thus hide her transcendent beauty.
"No, father," exclaimed the ugly princess; "I will get a husband; and if in all the states of Spain no one be found worthy enough to be my husband, I will leave Spain for ever. There is a country where the day never dawns, and night is eternal. Thither will I go; for in the dark, as all cats are gray, so are all degrees of beauty brought to one common level. I now know that it is just as unfortunate to be too beautiful as it is to be very ugly."
Having delivered herself of this speech, Princess Altamira bade the king, her father, good-bye, and was on the point of leaving the royal presence, when the handsome figure of Felisberto, the blind fiddler, was seen to approach.
"Princess," exclaimed blind Felisberto, "to Spain nothing is denied. You speak of proceeding to the North, where the day never dawns, in search of a husband. You need but look at me to behold one to whom night and day, extreme ugliness and transcendent beauty, are alike; and since all are so bashful that they will not marry you, allow me, fair princess, to offer you my services as a husband. In my world 'handsome is that handsome does.'"
The king was so pleased with the blind fiddler's speech that he immediately made him a Grandee of Spain, and acknowledged him as his son-in-law elect.
In the North of Portugal there are many sequestered spots where the enchanted Moors and the wizards meet when it is full moon. These places are generally situated among high rocks on the precipitous sides of the hills overlooking rivers; and when the wind is very boisterous their terrible screams and incantations can be distinctly heard by the peasantry inhabiting the neighbouring villages.
On such occasions the father of the family sets fire to a wisp of straw, and with it makes the sign of the cross around his house, which prevents these evil spirits from approaching. The other members of the family place a few extra lights before the image of the Virgin; and the horse-shoe nailed to the door completes the safety of the house.
But it will so happen that sometimes an enchanted Moor, with more cunning than honesty, will get through one of the windows on the birth of a child, and will brand the infant with the crescent on his shoulder or arm, in which case it is well known that the child, on certain nights, will be changed into a wolf.
The enchanted Moors have their castles and palaces under the ground or beneath the rivers, and they wander about the earth, seeing but not seen; for they died unbaptized, and have, therefore, no rest in the grave.
They seem to have given preference to the North of Portugal, where they are held in great fear by the ignorant peasantry; and it has been observed that all such of the natives as have left their homes to study at the universities, on their return have never been visited by the enchanted Moors, as it is well known that they have a great respect for learning. In fact, one of the kings has said that until all his subjects were educated they would never get rid of the enchanted Moors and wizards.
In a village called Darque, on the banks of the Lima, there lived a farmer whose goodness and ignorance were only equalled by those of his wife. They were both young and robust, and were sufficiently well off to afford the luxury of beef once or twice a month. Their clothes were home-spun, and their hearts were homely. Beyond their landlord's grounds they had never stepped; but as he owned nearly the whole village, it is very evident that they knew something of this world of ours. They were both born and married on the estate, as their parents had been before them, and they were contented because they had never mixed with the world.
One day, when the farmer came home to have his midday meal of broth and maize bread, he found his wife in bed with a newborn baby boy by her side, and he was so pleased that he spent his hour of rest looking at the child, so that his meal remained untasted on the table.
Kissing his wife and infant, and bidding her beware of evil eyes, he hurried out of the house back to his work; and so great was his joy at being a father that he did not feel hungry.
He was digging potatoes, and in his excitement had sent his hoe through some of them, which, however, he did not notice until he happened to strike one that was so hard that the steel of his hoe flashed.
Thinking it was a pebble, he stooped to pick it up, but was surprised to see that it was no longer there.
However, he went on working, when he struck another hard potato, and his hoe again flashed.
"Ah," said he, "the evil one has been sowing this field with stones, as he did in the days of good Saint Euphemia, our patroness." Saying which, he drew out the small crucifix from under his shirt, and the flinty potato disappeared; but he noticed that one of its eyes moved.
He thought no more of this untoward event, and went on hoeing until sunset, when, with the other labourers, he shouldered his hoe and prepared to go home.
Never had the distance seemed so great; but at last he found himself by his wife's bedside. She told him that while he was absent an old woman had called, asking for something to eat, and that as she seemed to have met with some accident, because there was blood running down her face, she invited her in, and told her she might eat what her husband had left untasted.
Sitting down at the table, the old woman commenced eating without asking a blessing on the food; and when she had finished she approached the bed, and, looking at the infant, she muttered some words and left the house hurriedly.
The husband and wife were very much afraid that the old woman was a witch; but as the child went on growing and seemed well they gradually forgot their visitor.
The infant was baptized, and was named John; and when he was old enough he was sent out to work to help his parents. All the labourers noticed that John could get through more work than any man, he was so strong and active; but he was very silent.
The remarkable strength of the boy got to be so spoken about in the village that at last the wise woman, who was always consulted, said that there was no doubt but that John was a wolf-child; and this having come to the ears of his parents, his body was carefully examined, and the mark of the crescent was found under his arm.
Nothing now remained to be done but to take John to the great wise woman of Arifana, and have him disenchanted.
The day had arrived for the parents to take John with them to Arifana, but when they looked for him he could nowhere be found. They searched everywhere—down the well, in the river, in the forest—and made inquiries at all the villages, but in vain; John had disappeared.
Weeks went by without any sign of him; and the winter having set in, the wolves, through hunger, had become more undaunted in their attacks on the flocks and herds. The farmer, afraid of firing at them, lest he might shoot his son, had laid a trap; and one morning, to his delight, he saw that a very large wolf had been caught, which one of his fellow-labourers was cudgelling. Fearing it might be the lost wolf-child, he hastened to the spot, and prevented the wolf receiving more blows; but it was too late, apparently, to save the creature's life, for it lay motionless on the ground as if dead. Hurrying off for the wise woman of the village, she returned with him; and, close to the head of the wolf, she gathered some branches of the common pine-tree, and lighting them, as some were green and others dry, a volume of smoke arose like a tower, reaching to the top of a hill where lived some notorious enchanted Moors and wizards; so that between the wolf and the said Moors the distance was covered by a tunnel of smoke and fire. Then the wise woman intoned the following words, closing her eyes, and bidding the rest do so until she should tell them they might open them:—
"Spirit of the mighty wind That across the desert howls, Help us here to unbind All the spells of dreaded ghouls; Through the path of smoke and fire Rising to the wizards' mound, Bid the cursed mark retire From this creature on the ground; Bid him take his shape again, Free him from the Crescent's power, May the holy Cross remain On his temple from this hour."
She now made the sign of the Cross over the head of the wolf, and continued:—
"River, winding to the west, Stay thy rippling current, stay, Jordan's stream thy tide has blest, Help us wash this stain away; Bear it to the ocean wide, Back to Saracenic shore. Those who washed in thee have died But to live for evermore."
Then she sprinkled a few drops over the fire, which caused a larger amount of smoke, and exclaimed—
"Hie thee, spirit, up through smoke, Quenched by water and by fire; Hie thee far from Christian folk, To the wizard's home retire. Open wide your eyelids now, All the smoke has curled away; 'Neath the peaceful olive bough Let us go, and let us pray."
Then they all rose, and the wolf was no longer there. The fire had burned itself out, and the stream was again running. In slow procession they went to the olive grotto, headed by the wise woman; and, after praying, they returned to the house, where they found, to their delight, John fast asleep in his bed; but his arms showed signs of bruises which had been caused by the cudgelling he had received when he was caught in the trap.
There were great rejoicings that day in the village of Darque; and no one was better pleased than John at having regained his proper shape.
He was never known to join in the inhuman sport of hunting wolves for pleasure, because, as he said, although they may not be wolf-children, they do but obey an instinct which was given them; and to be kind-hearted is to obey a precept which was given us. And, owing to the introduction into Portugal of the Book in which this commandment is to be found, wolf-children have become scarcer, and the people wiser.
THE MAGIC MIRROR.
It was proclaimed throughout the kingdom of Granada that the king had decided on marrying. The news was first told to the court barber, then to the night watchmen, and, in the third place, to the oldest woman in the city of Granada.
The barber told all his customers, who again told all their friends. The night watchmen in crying the hour proclaimed the news in a loud voice, so that all the maidens were kept awake by thinking of the news, and by day they were being constantly reminded by all the old duenas that the king had resolved to marry.
After the news had become somewhat stale, the question was asked, "Who is the king going to marry?" To which the barber made reply, that probably "he would marry a woman."
"A woman!" exclaimed his hearers. "Why, what else could he marry?"
"Not all women are worthy the name," answered the barber. "Some more resemble the unbaptized, of whom I say, abernuncio."
"But what mean you, good friend?" demanded his customers. "Is not the king to find a woman for wife in our land of Spain?"
"He would," replied the barber, "with greater ease find the reverse; but to find a woman worthy to be his wife I shall have great trouble."
"What, you?" exclaimed all of them. "What have you got to do with providing the king with a wife?"
"I am under royal licence, remember," said he of the razor; "for I am the only man in the kingdom permitted to rub the royal features. I am the possessor of the magic mirror also, into which if any woman not being thoroughly good shall look, the blemishes on her character will appear as so many spots on its surface."
"Is this one of the conditions?" asked all.
"This is the sole condition," replied the barber, placing his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat and looking very wise.
"But is there no limit as to age?" they again inquired.
"Any woman from eighteen years upwards is eligible," said the possessor of the mirror.
"Then you will have every woman in Granada claiming the right to be queen!" all exclaimed.
"But, first of all, they will have to justify their claim, for I will not take any woman at her word. No; she will have to gaze into the mirror with me by her side," continued the barber.
The sole condition imposed on those who desired to become Queen of Granada was made known, and was much ridiculed, as may naturally be supposed; but, strange to say, no woman applied to the barber to have a look into the mirror.
Days and weeks went by, but the king was no nearer getting a wife. Some generous ladies would try and prevail on their lady friends to make the trial, but none seemed ambitious of the honour.
The king, be it known, was a very handsome man, and was beloved by all his subjects for his many virtues; therefore it was surprising that none of the lovely ladies who attended court should try to become his wife.
Many excuses and explanations were given. Some were already engaged to be married, others professed themselves too proud to enter the barber's shop, while others assured their friends that they had resolved on remaining single.
The latter seem to have been cleverer in their excuses, for it was soon observable that no man in Granada would marry, assigning as a reason for this that until the king was suited they would not think of marrying; though the real cause may have been due to the objection of the ladies to look into the mirror.
The fathers of families were much annoyed at the apparent want of female ambition in their daughters, while the mothers were strangely silent on the matter.
Every morning the king would ask the barber if any young lady had ventured on looking into the mirror; but the answer was always the same—that many watched his shop to see if others went there, but none had ventured in.
"Ah, Granada, Granada!" exclaimed the king; "hast thou no daughter to offer thy king? In this Alhambra did my predecessors enjoy the company of their wives; and am I to be denied this natural comfort?"
"Royal master," said the barber, "in those days the magic mirror was unknown and not so much required. Men then only studied the arts, but now is science added to their studies."
"You mean, then," asked the king, "that an increase in knowledge has done no good?"
"I mean more than that," continued the barber; "I mean that people are worse than they used to be."
"'God is great!' is what these walls proclaim; to know is to be wise," urged the king.
"Not always, sir," said the barber; "for the majority of men and women in the present know too much and are not too wise, although some deem them wise for being cunning. There is as great a distance between wisdom and cunning as there is between the heavens and the earth."
"Barber," shouted the king, "thou shalt get me a wife bright as the day, pure as dew, and good as gold—one who shall not be afraid to look into thy magic mirror!"
"Sir," replied the barber, "the only magic about my mirror is that which the evil consciences of the ladies of Granada conjure up. The simple shepherdess on the mountain side would brave the magic power of any mirror, strong in the consciousness of innocence; but would you marry such a lowly one?"
"Such a woman is worthy to be a queen, for she is a pearl without price," answered the king. "Go, bid her come here; and, in the presence of my assembled court, let the gentle shepherdess look into the mirror, after thou hast told her of the danger of so doing."
The barber was not long in bringing the shepherdess to court with him; and it having been proclaimed throughout the city that the trial was going to be made, the principal hall was soon filled with all the grand ladies and knights of the king's household.
When the shepherdess entered the royal presence she felt very shy at being surrounded by so much grandeur; but she knew enough about her own sex to understand that they inwardly considered her not quite so ugly as they audibly expressed her to be.
The king was very much pleased with her appearance, and received her very kindly, telling her that if she desired to be his wife she would have to gaze into the magic mirror, and if she had done aught which was not consistent with her maidenly character, the mirror would show as many stains on its surface as there might be blemishes on her heart.
"Sir," replied the maiden, "we are all sinners in the sight of God, they say; but I am a poor shepherdess, and surrounded by my flock. I have known what it is to be loved, for, when the sheep have perceived danger, they have come to me for protection. The wild flowers have been my only ornament, the sky almost my only roof, and God my truest and best friend. Therefore, I fear not to look into that magic mirror; for although I have no ambition to become queen, yet am I not lacking in that pride which is born of the desire to be good."
Saying which, she walked up to the mirror and gazed into it, blushing slightly, perhaps at the sight of her own beauty, which before she had only seen portrayed in the still brook.
The court ladies surrounded her; and when they saw that the magic mirror showed no stains on its surface, they snatched it from her, and exclaimed—
"There is no magic in it—a cheat has been put on us!"
But the king said—
"No, ladies; you have only yourselves to thank. Had you been as innocent as this shepherdess, who is going to be my queen, you would not have dreaded looking into the mirror."
After the marriage the barber was heard to say, that as the magic mirror had now lost its virtue, who could tell but what this charm might be restored to Granada?
THE BLACK SLAVE.
There was once a princess who had a black man slave.
"Princess," said the black slave one day, "I know that you love the good Count of Yanno very much; but you cannot marry him, for he is already married. Why not, then, marry me?"
"I love, as you say, the Count of Yanno, and I know that he is married; but my father is a very powerful king, and he can render his marriage void. As for you," continued the princess, "I would rather marry the lowest born man of my own race than a nigger!"
"Remember, princess, for how many years I have been your true slave—how I used to look after you when you were a child. Did I not once save you from the fangs of a wolf?"
"You need not tell me," answered the princess, "that you love me as slaves love their superiors; but should you ever speak again about marrying me, I will tell my royal father."
"If you mention the love that slaves generally have to their owners, I will not contradict you; but I think that sometimes masters are more unworthy the love of their slaves than the slaves are entitled to the love of their masters," said the slave.
"You belong to us by purchase or by inheritance," continued the princess, "and we do not belong to you. The white man gains the love of the lady of his choice by deeds of arms; he bears on his lance the banner embroidered by his lady-love, and, as a true knight, he makes verses in her honour."
"Chivalry, as you understand it, is to me a fable; for if one of your pale-faced knights risk his life, it is on behalf of his family pride, although he may mention his lady-love's name with his dying breath; but if a slave lay down his life for his master or mistress, it is only reckoned a part of his duty," urged the slave.
"I command you not to speak to me again like this," said the princess, "or I will have you severely punished."
The poor slave was very sorrowful when he heard the princess, whom he loved so dearly, threaten to have him punished. "Death is the leveller of all ranks and of all races," said he; "the dust of the dead white man and of the nigger are alike; in death, the king is no more than the beggar. I will run away from this palace and seek refuge in the northern provinces, where, if the climate be colder, they say the hearts of the people are warmer."
That very night did Mobarec—for that was the name of the slave—leave the palace of his lady-love, the beautiful banks of the Guadalquivir, and his favourite orange-groves. During the daytime he hid in the caves on the mountain-sides, and as soon as night set in he would continue his journey.
When he had been travelling like this for some weeks, and as he was making his way through a dark forest, he saw a brilliant light in the distance; and as he was very hungry, he hoped that it might be from some house where he might get food and rest. As he walked on he discovered that the light was not from a house, but that it was caused by a large bonfire, around which some men and women were seated.
Fearing that he might be in the neighbourhood of robbers, he took the precaution of approaching by hiding behind the trees; and when he got near enough to the group to see them plainly, he observed that close to the fire there was a very old woman standing with her arms over the fire, and holding a child which screamed as if it were being burned.
Mobarec thought that the child was going to be roasted, and did not know that what he saw was simply the act of disenchantment, which was being carried out by the wise woman of the village on a child born with the evil eye.
Approaching still nearer, he heard the crone mutter some words, which Mobarec imagined to be used in order to stifle the piteous cries of the child.
The crone suddenly commenced shrieking and jumping over the fire, while the men and women who surrounded her beat the air with big sticks, which is done when the evil one is supposed to be leaving the body of the child.
Just at this moment Mobarec happened to show himself from behind the tree, when he was immediately observed by the wise woman, who directed all eyes to him; and their horror can be easily imagined when it is said that Mobarec was the first nigger who had ever visited the northern parts of Spain.
Mobarec, on perceiving that he was seen, thought he would smile, in order to show them that he was a friend; but this made him look all the more terrible by the glare of the fire, and, thinking that he was the evil one that had just left the body of the child, they first of all crossed themselves and then ran towards Mobarec with their bludgeons, who, without more ado, took to his feet and was soon lost in the darkness of the forest.
Having baffled his pursuers, Mobarec sat down to rest and to think over what he had seen.
"I suppose," said he to himself, "that these people were trying to make a king by burning a white child until he became black, for I could see that they were not going to eat it. I have been told that in some parts they will only have black kings, and I am certainly in one of these parts."
Musing over this idea for a long time, he at last fell asleep, and dreamt that he had arrived at a large city, where the people had crowded to meet him, and that he was placed on a magnificent throne, crowned king, and had married his dear princess.
Then he thought he was in a magnificent bed-chamber, and that the sheets of his bed were fringed with fine lace; but purposing to raise the richly embroidered clothes a little higher, as he felt cold, he placed his hands on some stinging nettles, which made him wake and look around.
The day was already commencing; the timid rabbit was lurking about the dew-spangled leaves; the linnets were hopping about from branch to branch, and the wheels of some market carts were heard creaking in the distance.
Mobarec got up, and looking at himself in the waters of a passing stream, he was surprised to see that he had a golden crown on his head. It was, however, but the morning sun shining through the thick foliage above him.
"I was a slave last night," exclaimed Mobarec; "this morning I am a king."
He noticed the direction from which the noise of the cart wheels proceeded, and hurrying thither, he soon came within sight of some people who were carrying their wares to market.
Mobarec gradually approached them, and, seeing him advance, they dropped their baskets, and would have run away if fear had not deprived them of the power to do so.
"Be not afraid," said the nigger, "for I am your king. Hitherto you have had to work for the rich, but now the rich shall work for you. There shall be no poverty in my kingdom, no hunger, and no sorrow. Bad husbands shall take the place of the asses at the mills, and quarrelsome wives shall have a borough to themselves. Go," continued he, addressing the crowd, "and tell the inhabitants of the city that I am approaching."
"Long live the king!" shouted his hearers. "Long live the good king who will free us from our quarrelsome wives!" exclaimed the men; "And who will send our cruel husbands to replace the asses at the mills!" shrieked the women. "Long live the king who will banish poverty!" cried all together.
Having given vent to their enthusiasm, they hurried off to the city, and the good news soon spread that a new king was coming, and that they would all be rich.
Then they prepared a richly caparisoned white mule, with tinkling bells round its neck and a cloth of gold on its back, for the black king's use, and they went out in a body to meet him.
Having approached Mobarec, they prostrated themselves before him, and were at first very much afraid; but hearing him address the mule in a grand speech, they rose and listened.
"Sir," said Mobarec to the mule, "I feel highly flattered by this ovation, and I confer on you here the post of principal minister, which you richly deserve for the sagacity you have shown in preserving silence when all want to make themselves heard. You will see that the poor are provided for, and that they provide for the wants of their king and his chosen ministers, of which you are the chief. People," exclaimed Mobarec, "behold your king and his minister! And from this day forward let every man and woman in my kingdom strive to be as sure-footed, patient, and silent as this my minister."
It must be confessed that the people were somewhat surprised at the turn events had taken; but as, recently, they had had a most unjust chief minister, they contented themselves with the knowledge that his successor could not introduce any cruel measures.
With similar ideas occupying them, they retraced their way to the city, preceded by their black king and his chief minister.
Arrived at the palace, Mobarec entered and took his seat on the throne, his chief minister standing close to the lowest step. He then addressed the audience as follows—
"I make it known that the rich persons of this kingdom shall, if so required, give up their wealth to the poor, who will then become rich; but, as I would not that those who have hitherto been poor should forget their duty to their more unfortunate fellow-creatures, I declare that they shall have to contribute not only to the maintenance of the king, his ministers, and the state, but also to the requirements of those at whose expense they have themselves acquired riches. I also command that all disputes shall be submitted to the superior wisdom of my chief minister, without whose verbal consent it shall be treasonable to have recourse to blows; and I further require of my liege subjects that they engage in no war with neighbouring states without taking their wives to battle."
This speech was very much applauded, and the white mule, being unaccustomed to the surroundings, commenced braying so loudly that Mobarec got up from his throne and said—
"Listen to the voice of my minister; he bids you all be silent while you pay him homage."
Then one by one they passed before the mule, bowing to him; and when this ceremony was finished Mobarec informed them that all real kings were of his colour, but that he had resolved on marrying the daughter of Xisto, false king of Andalusia; and, therefore, he commanded twenty of his subjects to proceed to that kingdom, and bring back with them the fair Princess Zeyn, which was the name of the princess he loved.
"If they ask you what I am like, say that you have never seen one like me, and that my wisdom is only approached by that of my chief minister," said Mobarec.
At the end of a month the twenty men returned with the lovely princess, who, until her marriage-day, was lodged in another palace.
Great preparations were made for the occasion, excepting in one borough of the city, which was deserted, for it had been assigned to all quarrelsome wives.
The princess was naturally very anxious to see her future husband, but etiquette forbade her doing so. Often had she thought of her runaway slave and lover. Absence had made her fonder of him, and little by little he had grown less black to her imagination.
At last the wedding-day arrived. Mobarec, attended by all his court, proceeded to the princess's palace, dressed in magnificent apparel, his strong black arms bare, but with splendid gold bracelets round them, and a belt of the same metal round his waist. His coat of mail was interwoven with threads of gold; but his heart required no gold to set it off, it was purity itself.
As soon as the princess saw him she recognized her former slave, and, hurrying to meet him, threw her arms round his neck, exclaiming—
"I am not worthy to marry so good a man; but if you will have me, I am yours."
"Princess," exclaimed Mobarec, "if I before was thy slave, I am none the less so now; for since the first man was created, beautiful woman has made all men captives. If I have aught to ask of thee now, 'tis that thy dominion over thy new subjects shall be as pleasant to them as it will be delightful to me."
From so wise a king and good a queen the people derived great benefit; disputes never went beyond the ears of the chief minister, and, in the words of the immortal barber and poet of the city, "the kingdom flourished under the guidance of a mule; which proves that there are qualities in the irrational beings which even wisest ministers would do well to imitate."
A LEGEND OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW.
It is a point of faith accepted by all devout Portuguese that thirty-three baths in the sea must be taken on or before the 24th of August of every year. Although the motive may not seem to be very reasonable, still the result is of great advantage to those believers who occupy thirty-three days in taking the thirty-three baths, for otherwise the majority of them would never undergo any form of ablution.
That the demon is loose on the 24th of August is an established fact among the credulous; and were it not for the compact entered into between St. Bartholomew and the said demon, that all who have taken thirty-three baths during the year should be free from his talons, the list of the condemned would be much increased.
Now, there was a very powerful baron, whose castle was erected on the eastern slope of the Gaviarra, overlooking the neighbouring provinces of Spain, and he had always refused to take these thirty-three baths, for he maintained that it was cowardly on the part of a man to show any fear of the demon. His castle was fully manned; the drawbridge was never left lowered; the turrets were never left unguarded; and a wide and deep ditch surrounded the whole of his estates, which had been given him by Affonso Henriques, after the complete overthrow of the Saracens at Ourique, in which famous and decisive battle the baron had wrought wondrous deeds of bravery.
All round the castle were planted numerous vines, which had been brought from Burgundy by order of Count Henry, father of the first Portuguese king; and in the month of August the grapes are already well formed, but the hand of Nature has not yet painted them. Among the vines quantities of yellow melons and green water-melons were strewn over the ground, while the mottled pumpkins hung gracefully from the branches of the orange-trees.
In front of the castle was an arbour, formed of box-trees, under which a lovely fountain had been constructed; and here, in the hot summer months, would wander the baron's only daughter, Alina. She was possessed of all the qualities, mental and physical, which went towards making the daughter of a feudal lord desired in marriage by all the gallants of the day; and as she was heiress to large estates, these would have been considered a sufficient prize without the said qualities. But Alina, for all this, was not happy, for she was enamoured of a handsome chief, who, unfortunately, wore the distinctive almexia, which proved him to be a Moor, and, consequently, not a fit suitor for the daughter of a Christian baron.
"My father," she would often soliloquize, "is kind to me, and professes to be a Christian. My lover, as a follower of the Prophet, hates my father, but, as a man, he loves me. For me he says he will do anything; yet, when I ask him to become a Christian, he answers me that he will do so if I can prevail on my father to so far conform with the Christian law as to take the thirty-three baths; and this my father will not do. What am I to do? He would rather fight the demon than obey the saint."
One day, however, she resolved on telling her father about her courtship with the young chief, Al-Muli, and of the only condition he made, on which depended his becoming a convert to Christianity, which so infuriated the baron that, in his anger, he declared himself willing to meet the demon in mortal combat, hoping thus to free the world of him and of the necessity of taking the thirty-three baths.
This so much distressed Alina, that when, during the afternoon of the same day, Al-Muli met her in the arbour, she disclosed to him her firm resolution of entering a convent, and spending the rest of her days there.
"This shall not be!" cried Al-Muli; and, seizing her round the waist, he lifted her on to his shoulder, sped through the baronial grounds, and, having waded through the ditch, placed her on the albarda of his horse and galloped away.
Alina was so frightened that she could not scream, and she silently resigned herself to her fate, trusting in the honour of her lover.
The alcazar, or palace, of Al-Muli was situated on the Spanish side of the frontier; and, as they approached the principal gate, the almocadem, or captain of the guard, hurried to receive his master, who instructed him to send word to his mother that he desired of her to receive and look after Alina. This done, he assisted his bride elect to dismount, and, with a veil hiding her lovely features, she was ushered by Al-Muli's mother into a magnificently furnished room, and took a seat on a richly embroidered cushion, called an almofada.
To her future mother-in-law she related all that referred to her conversation with her father, and how she had been brought away from his castle; and she further said that she very much feared the baron would summon all his numerous followers to rescue her.
Al-Muli's mother was a descendant of the Moors who first landed at Algeziras, and from them had descended to her that knowledge of the black art which has been peculiar to that race. She, therefore, replied that although she could count on the resistance her almogavares, or garrison soldiers, would offer to the forces of the baron, still she would do her utmost to avoid a conflict. She then proceeded to another room, in which she kept her magic mirror, and having closed the door, we must leave her consulting the oracle.
The baron was not long in discovering the absence of his daughter, and he so stormed about the place that his servants were afraid to come near him.
In a short time, however, his reason seemed to return to him, and he sat down on his old chair and gave way to grief when he saw that his Alina's cushion was vacant.
"My child—my only child and love," sobbed the old man, "thou hast left thy father's castle, and gone with the accursed Moor into the hostile land of Spain. Oh, that I had been a good Christian, and looked after my daughter better! I have braved the orders of good St. Bartholomew; I would not take the thirty-three baths in the sea, and now I am wretched!"
The baron suddenly became aware of the presence of a distinguished and patriarchal looking stranger, who addressed him thus—
"You mortals only think of St. Barbara when it thunders. Now that the storm of sorrow has burst on you, you reproach yourself for not having thought of me and of my instructions. But I see that you are penitent, and if you will do as I tell you, you will regain your daughter."
It was St. Bartholomew himself who was speaking, and the baron, for the first time in his life, shook in his shoes with fear and shame.
"Reverend saint," at last ejaculated the baron, "help me in this my hour of need, and I will promise you anything—and, what is more, I will keep my promises."
"And you had better do so," continued the saint; "for not even Satan has dared to break his compact with me. You don't know how terrible I can be!"—here the saint raised his voice to such a pitch that the castle shook. "Only let me catch you playing false with me, and I'll—I'll—I don't know what I'll do!"
"Most reverend saint and father, you have only to command me and I will obey," murmured the affrighted baron—"I will indeed. Good venerable St. Bartholomew, only give me back my daughter—that is all I ask."
"Your daughter is now in the hands of Al-Muli, her lover, who dwells in a stronger castle than yours, and who, moreover, has a mother versed in the black art. It is no good your trying to regain her by the force at your disposal; you must rely on me—only on me. Do you understand?" asked the saint.
"Yes, dear, good, noble, and venerable saint, I do understand you; but what am I to do?"
"Simply follow me, and say not a word as you go," commanded the patriarch.
The baron did as he was told; and out from the castle the two went unseen by any one. The baron soon perceived that he was hurrying through the air, and he was so afraid of falling that he closed his eyes. All at once he felt that his feet were touching the ground; and, looking around him, what was his delight to find himself close to his dear daughter Alina.
"Father—dear father!" exclaimed Alina; "how did you come here so quickly, for I have only just arrived? And how did you pass by the guards?"
The baron was going to tell her, but the saint, in a whisper, enjoined silence on this point; and the baron now noticed that the saint was invisible.
"Never mind, dear child, how I came here; it is enough that I am here," replied her father. "And I intend taking you home with me, dear Alina. The castle is so lonely without you;" and the old man sobbed.
At this moment Al-muli entered the chamber, and, seeing Alina's father there, he thought there had been treachery among his guards; so striking a gong that was near him, a number of armed men rushed in.
"How now, traitors!" said he. "How have you been careful of your duties when you have allowed this stranger to enter unobserved?"
The soldiers protested their innocence, until at last Al-muli commenced to think that there must be some secret entrance into his castle.
"Search everywhere!" screamed the infuriated Moor. "Have the guard doubled at all the entrances, and send me up the captain!"
Al-muli's instructions were carried out, and the captain reported that all was safe.
"Old man," said the Moor, addressing the baron, "I have thee now in my power. Thou wert the enemy of my noble race. To thy blind rage my predecessors owed their downfall in Portugal. Thy bitter hatred carried thee to acts of vengeance. Thou art now in my power, but I will not harm one of thy grey hairs."
"Moor," replied the baron, with a proud look, "can the waters of the Manzanares and of the Guadalquivir join? No! And so cannot and may not thy accursed race join with ours! Thy race conquered our people, and in rising against thine we did but despoil the despoiler."
"Thy logic is as baseless as thy fury was wont to be," answered the Moor. "Though hundreds of miles separate the Manzanares from the Guadalquivir, yet do they meet in the mightier waters of the ocean. Hadst thou said that ignorance cannot join hands with learning, thou wouldst have been nearer the mark, or that the Cross can never dim the light of the Crescent."
These words were spoken in a haughty manner; and as Al-muli turned round and looked upon his splendidly arrayed soldiers, who surrounded the chamber, his pride seemed justified.
"Thou canst not crush me more than thou hast done, vile Moor," said the baron. "Thou hast robbed me of my daughter, not by force of arms, but stealthily, as a thief at midnight. If any spark of chivalry warmed thy infidel blood thou wouldst blush for the act thou hast wrought. But I fear thee not, proud Moor; thy warriors are no braver than thy women. Dare them to move, and I will lay thee at my feet."
"Oh, my father, and thou, dear Al-Muli, abandon these threats, even if you cannot be friends."
"No, maiden," exclaimed Al-Muli; "I will not be bearded in my own den. Advance, guards, and take this old man to a place of safety below!"
But not a soldier moved; and when Al-Muli was about to approach them to see what was the matter with them, his scimitar dropped from his hand, and he fell on the ground.
"What charm hast thou brought to bear on me, bold baron," screamed the Moor, "that I am thus rendered powerless? Alina, if thou lovest me, give me but that goblet full of water, for I am faint."
Alina would have done as her lover bade her, but just then the figure of the venerable St. Bartholomew was seen with the cross in his right hand.
"Moor and infidel," said the saint, "thou hast mocked at this symbol of Christianity, and thou hast done grievous injury to this Christian baron; but thou hast been conscientious in thy infidelity. Nor am I slow to recognize in thy race a knowledge of the arts and sciences not yet extended to the Christian. Yet, for all this, thou art but an infidel. Let me but baptize thee with the water thou wouldst have drunk, and all will yet be well."
"No, sir saint," answered the Moor. "When in my castle strangers thus treat me rudely, I can die, but not bend to their orders. If yonder baron is a true Christian, why has he not taken the thirty-three baths enjoined by thee?"
"And if my father do take them, wilt thou, as thou didst promise me," said Alina, "be converted to the true faith?"
"The Moor breaks not his promise. As the golondrina returns to its nest in due season, so the man of honour returns to his promise." Then, turning to the baron, he demanded to know if he would comply with the saint's instructions.
"Yes," answered the baron; "I have promised the good saint everything, and I will fulfil my promises. Al-Muli, if you love my daughter, love her faith also, and I will then have regained not only a daughter, but a son in my old age."
"The promise of the Moor is sacred," said Al-Muli. "Baptize me and my household; and do thou, good baron, intercede for me with the venerable saint, for I like not this lowly posture."
"My dear Al-Muli," sobbed Alina for joy, "the Cross and the Crescent are thus united in the mightier ocean of love and goodwill. May the two races whom one God has made be reconciled! And to-morrow's sun must not set before we all comply with the condition imposed by St. Bartholomew."
The saint was rejoiced with the work he had that day done, and declared that the churches he liked men to construct are those built within them, where the incense offered is prayer, and the work done, love. "As for the baths, they are but desirable auxiliaries," said he.
THE WHITE CAT OF ECIJA.
From the gates of the palace, situated on a gentle eminence in the vicinity of Ecija, down to the banks of the Genil, the ground was covered with olive-trees; and the wild aloes formed a natural and strong fence around the property of the White Cat of Ecija, whose origin, dating back to the days of Saracenic rule, was unknown to the liberated Spaniard.
There was a great mystery attaching to the palace and its occupants; and although the servants of the White Cat were to all appearances human beings, still, as they were deaf and dumb, and would not, or could not, understand signs, the neighbours had not been able to discover the secret or mystery.
The palace was a noble building, after the style of the alcazar at Toledo, but not so large; and the garden at the rear was laid out with many small lakes, round which, at short distances, stood beautifully sculptured statues of young men and women, who seemed to be looking sorrowfully into the water. Only the brain and hand of an exceptionally gifted artist could have so approached perfection as to make the statues look as if alive. At night strings of small lamps were hung round the lakes, and from the interior of the palace proceeded strains of sweet, but very sad music.
Curiosity had long ceased to trouble the neighbours as to the mysterious White Cat and her household, and, with the exception of crossing themselves when they passed by the grounds, they had given up the affair as incomprehensible.
Those, however, who had seen the White Cat, said that she was a beautiful creature; her coat was like velvet, and her eyes were like pearls.
One day a knight in armour, and mounted on a coal-black charger, arrived at the principal hostelry in Ecija, and on his shield he bore for his coat of arms a white cat rampant, and, underneath, the device, "Invincible."
Having partaken of some slight repast, he put spurs to his horse and galloped in the direction of the palace of the White Cat; but as he was not seen to return through the town, the people supposed that he had left by some other road.
The White Cat was seen next day walking about in the grounds, but she seemed more sorrowful than usual.
In another month's time there came another knight fully equipped, and mounted on a grey charger. On his shield he also displayed a white cat, with the device, "I win or die." He also galloped off to the palace, or alcazar, and was not seen to return; but next day the White Cat was still more sorrowful.
In another month a fresh knight appeared. He was a handsome youth, and his bearing was so manly that a crowd collected. He was fully equipped, but on his shield he displayed a simple red cross. He partook of some food, and then cantered out of the town with his lance at rest. He was seen to approach the palace, and as soon as he thrust open the gate with his lance, a terrific roar was heard, and then a sheet of fire flashed from the palace door, and they saw a horrid dragon, whose long tail, as it lashed the air, produced such a wind that it seemed as if a gale had suddenly sprung up.
But the gallant knight was not daunted, and eagerly scanned the dragon as if to see where he might strike him.
Suddenly it was seen that the dragon held the White Cat under its talons, so that the Knight of the Cross in charging the dragon had to take care not to strike her. Spurring his horse on, he never pulled up till he had transfixed the dragon with his lance, and, jumping off the saddle, he drew his sword and cut off the monster's head.
No sooner had he done this than he was surrounded by ten enormous serpents, who tried to coil round him; but as fast as they attacked him, he strangled them.
Then the serpents turned into twenty black vultures with fiery beaks, and they tried to pick out his eyes; but with his trusty blade he kept them off, and one by one he killed them all, and then found himself surrounded by forty dark-haired and dark-eyed lovely maidens, who would have thrown their arms around him, but that he, fearing their intentions were evil, kept them off; when, looking on the ground, he saw the White Cat panting, and heard her bid him "strike."
He waited no longer, but struck at them and cut off their heads, and then saw that the ground was covered with burning coal, which would have scorched the White Cat and killed her, had not the gallant knight raised her in his arms. He then placed her on his shield, and as soon as she touched the cross she was seen to change into a beautiful maiden, and all the statues round the lakes left their positions and approached her.
As soon as she could recover herself sufficiently to speak, she addressed the knight as follows—
"Gallant sir, I am Mizpah, only daughter of Mudi Ben Raschid, who was governor of this province for many years under the Moorish king, Almandazar the Superb. My mother was daughter of Alcharan, governor of Mazagan, and she was a good wife and kind mother. But my father discovering that she had forsaken the faith of her fathers, and had embraced the religion of the Cross, so worried her to return to her childhood's faith that she died broken-hearted. Then he married again, and his second wife, my stepmother, was a very wicked woman. She knew that I was a Christian at heart, and that my lover was also a Christian; so one day, when my father was holding a banquet, she said to him, 'Mudi Ben Raschid, the crescent of the Holy Prophet is waning in thy family—thy daughter is a renegade!'
"Then he was very much annoyed, and exclaimed that he would his palace and his riches were made over to the enemy of mankind and I turned into a cat, than that so great a stain should fall on his family. No sooner had he finished speaking than he fell dead and his wicked wife also, and I was turned into a cat; my lover, Haroun, and all my young friends were turned into stone, and my servants were stricken deaf and dumb. Many a brave knight has been here to try and deliver me; but they all failed, because they only trusted in themselves, and were therefore defeated. But thou, gallant knight, didst trust more on the Cross than on thyself, and thou hast freed me. I am, therefore, the prize of thy good sword; deal with me as thou wilt."
The Knight of the Cross assured her that he came from Compostella, where it was considered a duty to rescue maidens in distress, and that the highest reward coveted was that of doing their duty. He had in various parts of the world been fortunate enough in freeing others, and he had still more work before him. He trusted that the lovely Mizpah might long be spared to Haroun, and, saluting her, he galloped off.
Then was the wedding held, at which all the people from Ecija attended; and the bridegroom, rising, wished prosperity to the good knight, St. James of Compostella, who had been the means of bringing about so much happiness.
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 Jose Carcunda, or Joseph the Hunchback.
Jose 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. There is no law against such houses, but there is a popular prejudice.
Jose Carcunda was heard to say, after he had been guilty of drinking to excess when attired as Solomon, that his faithful dog Ponto refused to accompany him home on that occasion; "And as the creature stared at me," said he, "I could see shame and sorrow mingling in his eyes."
"There comes the Carcunda!" exclaimed the village belle, Belmira. "He is half hidden by the drum; but to-morrow we shall see him at early mass, when the good St. Anthony is to be raised to the rank of major."
"Yes," said her lover, Manoel; "and it will be a grand sight, for the priest showed me the Gazette in which is the king's warrant. St. Anthony's regiment is to arrive to-morrow, and after the image has donned the uniform the soldiers will present arms, the bombs will explode, rockets will be fired, and the band will play."
As the musicians entered the village, heralding the grand entertainment to be held next day, the people cheered them heartily, and followed them to the church, situated on the top of a small hill, around which bonfires were in course of preparation for the night.
A cart laden with water-melons, another with a pipe of green wine, and a few stalls where sweetstuff was exposed for sale, formed the principal feature of the fair.
The door of the church was thrown open, and the main altar was lit up with many lights. The chapels on each side were festooned with garlands of flowers; but that dedicated to the miraculous St. Anthony, junior major in the 10th regiment of infantry, was the grandest of all, with its magnificent silk draperies, and the altar decorated with flowers.
Jose Carcunda was a proud man that day. He had presided over all the arrangements, and they had given great satisfaction. Belmira had set the other girls the example of showing him their gratitude by kissing him. He was so overwhelmed by their caresses that he tried to get clear of them, lest his wife might be jealous; but it was of no use trying to free himself, for they made him sit on a stone bench, and, handing him a guitar, requested him to extemporize some verses:—
"Fair ladies mine, I love the wine, But music I love better; Still stronger far than song divine, I love the ladies better.
"I love the fields with flowerets bright, The birds with carol merry; I love the——"
"No, I cannot sing just now; I am too happy," exclaimed the hunchback. "I feel like the rich miser of Santillana, when he recollected that he would be buried at the expense of the parish. So as my helpmate Joanna come not here, I care not how long the troops delay in arriving. Ah, Joanna is too good for me, as the runaway criminal said of the gallows; and the older she gets the more I recognize it! Yes, Joanna is too good for me and for this world; but we don't make ourselves—no, we don't do that."
Here Jose Carcunda shook his head very wisely, and looked at his slippered feet with some pardonable pride.
"Look you here," said one of his fair companions, "you are very stupid to-day; you will not sing, nor will you dance. Will you, then, tell us the tale about the sorrowful mule, and what befell her, or about the merry friar who turned highwayman to enrich the Church, or about the palaces of the enchanted Moors?"
"I will tell you something that happened to me when I was a young man," answered the hunchback.
"Know, then," continued Jose Carcunda, "that in my younger days I was an almocreve (muleteer), and owned six of the finest mules in the province of the Beira. I used to attend the weekly fair held at the university city, Coimbra, where I found a good market for my earthenware with which I loaded the mules.
"Fortune had favoured me, and I had saved some gold crowns; and on Sundays, when I had shaved and put on clean linen, I was the pride of the village.
"One summer's day, as I was leading my six mules, fully laden with pots and pans, to Coimbra, a student, who was on the roadside, saluted me and said—
"'Good Jose, I have a great favour to ask of you, and one that I know you will not deny me.'
"'Your excellency,' said I, 'has but to order, and I will obey, so long as you place not my eternal happiness in jeopardy.'
"'The saints forbid,' answered the student, 'that I should ask you to do anything but what a Christian man should do! No, friend Jose, my errand is indeed a strange and sad one; but I feel that I must be as true to (with your leave) a mule as my profession requires me to be to a human being.'
"'What!' exclaimed I, 'are you under some spell, some wicked enchantment, that you make promises to (with your excellency's leave) a mule, which is the accursed animal since the days of Bethlehem?'
"'No, good friend,' continued the sorrowful student; 'I am under no spell, but under a vow; for I have promised to convey some sad news to (with your leave) that mouse-coloured mule of yours, and I feel that I must break it gently to her.'
"'Sir,' said I, 'you see before you a man who knows not the difference between the Credo and the Paternoster when they are written; and though I have heard say that if you want to see thieves you must get inside a prison and look at the passers-by, still am I not inclined to think that if you desire to see knaves you must look in at the windows of the university. My mule (with your excellency's permission) is but a mule, and has no knowledge of sorrow or of language; therefore, of what avail to speak to her?'
"'You are much mistaken,' answered the student, who now had tears in his eyes, 'for it is well known that even the irrational animals have feelings, and they have been heard to speak. Good friend, grant me my request, for, as I said before, I am under a vow.'
"'Have your way, dear sir,' said I; 'but if the animal bites you, blame not me. She is but a stubborn thing at the best of times.'
"The six mules were tied one to the other, and each had a big load of pots and pans. They were standing in the middle of the road with their gay trappings and bells about them; and as I looked at the mouse-coloured one, I wondered what the student could have to say to her and how he would say it; but, as you know, these men who frequent the university are so learned that they can repeat the Credo backwards way, which is the great secret in the black art.
"The student, having obtained my permission to speak to the mouse-coloured mule, approached her gradually, exclaiming at intervals, 'Poor creature, how she will take it to heart! But I am under a vow. I must tell her—I must; but it is so painful!'
"'Senhor,' I exclaimed, 'you remind me of the Alcaide of Montijo, who hesitated to approach his mother-in-law until she was gloved. What you have to say, that say, and let me go my way.'
"'Unthoughtful man!' cried the student; 'little you wot of the sad news I have to break to that poor creature! To you a mule is but a four-legged creature, the cathedral bell but a thing of brass, and the university but the abode of the black art. You are absolutely ignorant, sir,' continued the student, 'for which you have much to be thankful; for if you were a student you would not sell earthenware pans, and would therefore lose the profit which you now make; and were you a student, you would at this moment be all of a tremble, for you would then know that we are at this present moment standing over a frightful abyss that will soon yawn to receive its prey.'
"I was now terribly frightened lest the student, in his calculations, should have made the mistake of a minute, so I rushed to the foremost mule so as to get her to lead the way out of the danger; but the student prevented me, saying—
"'Not that way, for you will fall into the pit. Let me first of all whisper my news into the mouse-coloured mule's ear, and all may yet be well.'
"'Hurry, then,' said I, 'or else we shall all be lost.'
"'It is a very good thing to be in a hurry when you know what to do,' answered the student; 'but we must be cautious. Therefore, step lightly that way until you reach yonder lofty tree and get up it; but, before doing so, fill your pockets with stones.'
"I can assure you that I was not long in carrying out the student's instructions, and never have I trod so lightly on the ground as I did that day. The student, as soon as he saw me half-way up the tree, shouted out, 'Here it comes! Oh, this is awful—just as I told her all about it! Oh dear, oh dear!'
"I now noticed that the student was taking long jumps in the direction of the tree up which I had climbed, and at every jump he would call out, 'Shut your eyes, or you will become blind!'
"Then I heard a most dreadful noise, as if the end of the world had come; but I could still hear the student crying out, 'Shut your eyes, good friend, or you will be blinded!'
"I have never been so terrified either before or since that day, and I was also in considerable pain, as the stones which I had placed in the pockets of my pants had, with climbing, almost sunk into me.
"After having kept my eyes closed for some time, I ventured on opening them, and then I saw a sight which told me I was a ruined man. My mules were rolling about in the dust, and all my pots and pans were wrecked. The mouse-coloured mule, moreover, seemed to be demented; she rolled and writhed so that it seemed as if she were in awful distress, and there was no doubt but that she had dragged the others down with her.
"Suddenly I heard the voice of the student, and, looking down, I saw that he was seated on a branch just below me. 'Ah, poor creature,' said he, 'how terribly she feels the bereavement! Let us descend,' continued he, 'for the danger is now over, and we must, as Christian men, render aid to the poor dumb animals.' Saying which he slid down the tree, and I after him as well as I could; and as soon as we again got on the road, he bid me try to pacify the mouse-coloured mule, while he would do his utmost to get the leader to get up.
"I saw that all my earthenware was broken, and I gave myself up to grief. 'Unlucky man that I am!' I exclaimed. 'What harm can I have done to have deserved so great a punishment, and what, sir student, did you say to yon mule to make her act so?'
"'Alas, friend Jose,' said he, 'we of the educated class understand resignation, but to such as you, as well as to the irrational creation, is this virtue denied. You bemoan the loss of your earthenware; and yonder dumb creature, with perhaps a glimmering of humanity about her, but certainly with more reason than you, deplores the loss of a good and beloved parent, who, on his death-bed, implored me to inform his daughter when I should next see her that he had died thinking of her, and that he bequeathed to her all he had to give, namely, the right of pasturage over all the lands in Spain and Portugal, and as much more as she could snatch from her neighbour when in the stable. Good-bye, friend Jose; my vow is accomplished, and I leave you in peace with your mules.'
"'And with the broken earthenware,' said I, 'and with my fortunes blasted, and with my legs bleeding; and all because I met you!'
"'Say not so, friend Jose, for had it not been for me you would most assuredly have been swallowed up by the underground abyss. No, say not so, nor yet complain of your mouse-coloured mule, for to lament the death of a father is but natural.'
"The student walked quietly away, and I then set to making the mules get up, which, after much trouble, I succeeded in doing; but noticing that the mouse-coloured mule kept her head on one side as if in pain, I examined her, and on looking into her ear I discovered the end of a cigarette which that vile student had purposely dropped into it. I now knew that I had been deceived; but the cheat had already disappeared, so, like a wise man, I trudged home, sold my animals to pay my debts, and, having nothing better to do, I married Joanna and became, as you know, the church clown and auctioneer."
THE WISE KING OF LEON.
There was a rich nobleman who had three sons; and the king, being very fond of him, appointed the eldest son his page, the second his butler, and the youngest his barber.
The barber fell in love with the king's only daughter, who was equally fond of him; and when this came to the ears of the king, he decided on putting a stop to it; so he called for the princess, and said—
"I know that you are in love with my barber, and if you insist on marrying him I will have you killed."
The princess, on hearing her father say this, became very sorrowful, and asked him to allow her one day for consideration, to which the king acceded.
She then went to her room, and getting together some of her finest dresses, she made them up into a bundle, and left the palace by a secret door.
For seven days and nights did the princess walk through the forest, subsisting on wild fruit and the water from the rivulets. For seven days and nights did her father seek for her, and, not finding her, he sent for the barber, and told him that he must immediately go in search of the princess, and if he did not bring her back within a year he should die.
At the end of the seventh day the princess was so tired that she could not continue her journey; and being afraid of the wolves, she managed to climb on to the first branch of a large oak-tree; and when there, discovering that the trunk was hollow, she let herself slip down into the hollow, and there rested.
She had not been long in her hiding-place when her lover, the barber, approached, sighing, and saying to himself—
"Woe is me, for I shall never find the princess! There are so many lovely damsels in Castille, and yet I must fall in love with the king's only daughter."
The princess, hearing him speak, said in a disguised voice—
"Woe is the king's daughter! There are so many gallants in Spain, and yet she must fall in love with her father's barber!"
The barber was much surprised to hear this apt rejoinder; but he could not find out from whence the voice came. He looked about everywhere, and at last, feeling sleepy, he lay down under the oak-tree where the princess was hidden.
In a very short time the barber was fast asleep; and the princess, hearing him breathe heavily, got out of her hiding-place, mounted the barber's horse, which the king had given him, and rode away with the barber's bundle of clothes, leaving her own in its place.
When she had ridden at full speed for some hours she dismounted, and opening the barber's bundle, she then disrobed herself and put on male attire.
Next day she had arrived in the kingdom of Leon, and she rode up to the king's palace and offered her services to the king as barber.
The king, being much struck by the stately bearing of the stranger, willingly accepted the proffered services.
When the real barber awoke and found his horse and clothes gone he was much alarmed; but seeing a bundle close to him he opened it, and was delighted to find his lover's dresses in it.
Being a beardless youth, and very handsome, he bethought him of putting on the princess's finest dress; and as his hair was very long and curly, according to the fashion of the day, he made a very pretty woman.
Foot-sore and weary, he at last arrived at the palace of the King of Leon, and was admitted to the king's presence as the daughter of the neighbouring King of Castille.
The King of Leon was so charmed with the beauty of the new arrival that he could not sleep, and so he sent for the barber, to whom he confided his love.
The real princess was much astonished to hear that her lover was in the palace, for she guessed it was he in female attire; but she kept quiet until her lover was asleep in bed, and then she stole into his room, put back his clothes, and took her own away.
Next morning when the real barber awoke and found his magnificent dresses gone and his male attire restored to him he was indeed surprised; but there was no help for it—he must again become a man and a barber.
The princess put on her own clothes, and hid in a cupboard of the room. When she saw her lover leave the room, and heard him go down the staircase, she closed the door behind him and finished her toilet.
The king got up earlier than usual, for he was so anxious to see the new arrival; but before doing so he sent for the barber to shave him.
They looked everywhere for him, but without success; and at last, in despair, they went to the bedroom of the new arrival, and, knocking at the door, intimated the king's command that she should present herself.
The princess was ready; and, slipping past the courtiers, presented herself before the king.
"Who are you?" inquired the king.
"I am the daughter of the King of Castille, as I informed your mercy yesterday," answered the princess.
"But where, then, is my barber?" rejoined the king.
"What does one king's daughter know about another king's barber?" said the princess.
At this moment the real barber presented himself, and humbly begged the king's pardon for having deceived him.
"But who are you?" roared the king. "Are you a barber or a thief?"
"I am the youngest son of a marquess," answered the youth, "a barber by trade, and affianced to the daughter of the King of Castille."
Then the princess stepped forward and explained everything to the king, who was so interested with what he heard, that the princess and the barber had to tell the tale over and over again to him. Then he said—
"I have been shaved by the King of Castille's daughter, and I have courted his barber. I will not be again deceived. They shall now be man and wife for ever."
This was the wise King of Leon.
THE COBBLER OF BURGOS.
Not far from the Garden of the Widows, in Burgos, lived a cobbler who was so poor that he had not even smiled for many years. Every day he saw the widow ladies pass his small shop on the way to and from the garden; but in their bereavement it would not have been considered correct for them to have bestowed a glance on him, and they required all the money they could scrape together, after making ample provision for their comfort—which, as ladies, they did not neglect—to pay for Masses for the repose of the souls of their husbands, according to the doctrines of the faith which was pinned on to them in childhood.
The priests, however, would sometimes bestow their blessing on Sancho the cobbler; but beyond words he got nothing from the comforters of the widows and of the orphans.
Some of the great families would have their boots soled by him; but being very great and rich people, they demanded long credit, so that he was heard to say that a rich man's money was almost as scarce as virtue.
Now, one night, when he was about to close his shop, a lovely young widow lady pushed her way by him into the shop, and sitting on the only chair in the room, she bid him close the door immediately, as she had something to say to him in confidence.
Being a true Spaniard, he showed no surprise, but obeyed orders, and stood before the young widow lady, who, after looking at him carefully for a minute, implored him to go upstairs and see that the windows were secure and the shutters barred and bolted.
This done, he again stood before her, when she showed signs of fear, and requested him to ensure against the doors being burst open by piling what furniture he had against them and against the shutters; and then, assuring herself that she was safe, she exclaimed—
"Ah, friend Sancho, it is good to beware of evil tongues. I come to you because I know you to be honest and silent. To-night you must sleep on the roof; get out through the skylight, and I will rest here."
To refuse a lady's commands, however singular they may be, is not in the nature of a Spaniard, so Sancho got out through the skylight, when the young widow began screaming, "Let me out, kind people—let me out!"
The cobbler was now very much afraid of the consequences, especially as the night watchmen were banging against the street door, which they soon forced, knocking all the furniture which had been placed against it into the middle of the room.
When inside, they discovered the lovely young widow, who exclaimed—
"Good men, I am Guiomar, of Torrezon, widow of the noble Pedro de Torrezon, and because my late husband was owing Sancho for soling a pair of boots, I came here to pay the debt; but Sancho would have detained me against my will. He is concealed on the roof of the house, and if you leave me here he will murder me."
Then she naturally fainted and screamed for so long a time that the street was soon full of people who, hearing what had happened, cried out against Sancho.
The watchmen having secured him, he was led before the alcaide, and, being a poor man, he was sent to prison until such time as Donna Guiomar should feel disposed to pardon him.
At the end of a year Donna Guiomar obtained his liberty, but on the condition that he should forthwith proceed to Rome and do penance, which was to count for the benefit of her deceased husband.
This act of piety on her part was very much approved of by the priests, who required of Sancho that during the whole of his pilgrimage there he should not shave, nor have his hair nor his nails cut. He was, furthermore, to wear a suit of horse-hair cloth next to his skin, and was to subsist solely on onions, garlic, maize bread, and pure water.
But liberty is so sweet that Sancho did not mind his hard fare, and he went on his way to Rome repeating penitential prayers, while his hair and beard grew until his head and face were nearly hidden.
Arrived at Rome, the people wondered much to see such a strange-looking being; but when he opened his mouth to inquire his way to St. Peter's, so strong was the smell of onions and garlic that the people, accustomed as they were to these vegetables, could not stand against it, and as Sancho spoke in a foreign tongue they could not have understood him very easily.
At last he met a priest who was kind enough to listen to him, and he said he would be allowed audience of the Pope next morning with other pilgrims, but that meantime he had better confess what his fault had been.
Sancho recounted all about the lovely young widow, and the priest very properly admonished him for having dared to frighten a lady whose anxiety respecting her deceased husband was quite enough of sorrow without having it added to by being forcibly detained by a cobbler.
"It is a pity," said the worthy priest, "that you were not handed over to the inquisitorial brothers, for they would have burned you before you were allowed to import the odour of all the fields of Spanish onions and garlic into the Eternal City. It is a sign of the bad times that are approaching when errant cobblers are allowed to vitiate the precincts of St. Peter's with their pestilential breath. To-morrow you will be regaled with a view—mind, only a view—of his holiness's toe, and then you must depart this city."
Sancho recognized the truth of what the good priest said, and, having refreshed himself with some more onions and a glass of water, he lay down to sleep behind one of the large stone pillars and slept until next morning, when the large bell of the cathedral awoke him. He then hurried in to the presence of the Pope, nor had he much difficulty in so doing, for the other pilgrims were glad to get out of his way. Bowing low before the golden chair, he exclaimed—
"One weary soul, though cobbler he by trade, Comes here to seek a pardon for his sin; Most holy father, ere the daylight fade, Oh, let me in!
"From sunny Spain, where runs the Arlanzon, To thee, oh, father, come I now to crave That thou wilt raise Don Pedro Torrezon From restless grave,
"And to his widow him restore again. This done, dismiss me to my home in peace, To be thy servant as a priest in Spain, And faith increase."
To which the Pope replied—
"We smelt thee from afar, oh, son of Spain; We know thy errand, and we grant thy prayer. Where onions shed their perfume, son, remain, Thy presence spare.
"Yes, spare us all thy Spanish odours strong; Return unto thy country, Sancho—go; And as a blessing on thy journey long, Stoop, kiss our toe."
And when Sancho got back to Burgos he was met by Don Pedro de Torrezon, who, half in anger and half in sorrow, exclaimed—
"Good Sancho, I would spend eternity Surrounded by the pains of purgat'ry, Than be restored unto this mortal life, Where purgat'ry is but the name for wife."