Transcribed from the 1912 Chatto & Windus edition by David Price, email email@example.com
THE POCKET GEORGE BORROW PASSAGES CHOSEN FROM THE WORKS OF BORROW BY EDWARD THOMAS
To my brother Julian.
When a man has read once, or twice, or three times, through Borrow's books, he will probably dip into them here and there at intervals. By so doing he gradually makes his own anthology; but it may be that he will yet find place for another man's, if it has no pretension to completeness or authority, and will go into his pocket. Borrow is not a pithy writer, nor is he best when sententious; the following passages are, therefore, somewhat longer than is usual in this series of Anthologies. Even so, many of the best things in his books, especially from Wild Wales, have had to be omitted, because they are longer still. But this selection aims only at giving strangers to Borrow an invitation or challenge, and lovers a few sprigs of his heather for a keepsake. Those who find themselves disagreeing with it may at any rate have had their own taste cleared and braced in the process.
ROMANTIC BALLADS TARGUM ZINCALI: THE GYPSIES OF SPAIN THE BIBLE IN SPAIN LAVENGRO ROMANY RYE WILD WALES THE SLEEPING BARD ROMANO LAVO-LIL THE TURKISH JESTER AND OTHER TRANSLATIONS
It is very possible that the reader . . . Zincali "Are you of the least use?" . . . Lavengro "People are becoming vastly sharp" . . . Lavengro "Will you take a glass of wine?" . . . Lavengro One day it happened . . . Lavengro Because they have been known . . . Zincali One fact has always struck us . . . Zincali Many of them reside in caves . . . Zincali It has always struck me . . . Lavengro A sound was heard . . . Lavengro After much feasting . . . Zincali The English Gypsies . . . Zincali "I say, Jasper!" . . . Romany Rye "What is your opinion of death, Mr. Petulengro?" . . . Lavengro Beating of women . . . Romany Rye Of my wife . . . Wild Wales In the summer. . . . Wild Wales Fear God, and take your own part . . . Romany Rye Soldiers and sailors . . Romany Rye There they come, the bruisers . . . Lavengro The writer now wishes . . . Romany Rye "No," said I . . . Romany Rye Oh, genial and gladdening! . . . Lavengro On the whole . . . Romany Rye On the following day . . . Romany Rye The binding . . . Lavengro I commenced the Bible in Spain . . . Zincali And, as I wandered . . . Lavengro At length the moon shone out . . . Bible in Spain Upon the shoulder of the goatherd . . . Bible in Spain I have always found . . . Bible in Spain "C'est moi, mon maitre" . . . Bible in Spain After travelling four days and nights . . . Bible in Spain The posada. . . . Bible in Spain The landlord brought the ale . . . Wild Wales "Young gentleman" . . . Lavengro Becoming soon tired . . . Wild Wales Late in the afternoon . . . Bible in Spain I had till then . . . Bible in Spain "What mountains are those?" . . . Bible in Spain We had scarcely been five minutes . . . Bible in Spain I have heard talk . . . Lavengro "Well," said the old man . . . Lavengro I sat upon the bank . . . Lavengro Ah, that Irish! . . . Lavengro I said: "Now, Murtagh!" . . . Romany Rye Here I interrupted . . . Romany Rye "And who is Jerry Grant?" . . . Lavengro "Is it a long time?" . . . Wild Wales Now, a tinker . . . Lavengro "Did you speak, Don Jorge" . . . Bible in Spain Francis Ardry and myself . . . Romany Rye After a slight breakfast . . . . Romany Rye I did not like reviewing . . . . Lavengro A lad, who twenty tongues can talk . . . Romantic Ballads "He is a great fool" . . . Romany Rye I informed the landlord . . . Romany Rye "When you are a gentleman" . . . Romany Rye I was bidding him farewell . . . Romany Rye At the dead hour of night . . . Lavengro I should say . . . Lavengro To the generality of mankind . . . Lavengro I cannot help thinking . . . Lavengro O, Cheapside! . . . Lavengro Oh, that ride! . . . Lavengro Of one thing I am certain . . . Lavengro My curiosity . . . Bible in Spain The morning of the fifth of November . . . Wild Wales "Good are the horses of the Moslems" . . . Bible in Spain "The burra," I replied . . . Bible in Spain I was standing on the castle hill . . . Lavengro In Spain I passed five years . . . Bible in Spain On the afternoon of the 6th of December . . . Bible in Spain I know of few things . . . Bible in Spain It was not without reason . . . Bible in Spain Apropos of bull-fighters . . . Bible in Spain The waiter drew the cork . . . Romany Rye Leaving the bridge . . . Lavengro I went to Belle's habitation . . . Romany Rye I found Belle seated by a fire . . . Lavengro I put some fresh wood on the fire . . . Lavengro After ordering dinner . . . Wild Wales The strength of the ox . . . The Targum I began to think . . . Romany Rye On I went . . . Romany Rye As I was gazing . . . Wild Wales "Pray, gentleman, walk in!" . . . Wild Wales Now, real Republicanism . . . Romany Rye "Does your honour remember?" . . . Wild Wales I was the last of the file . . . Wild Wales For dinner . . . Wild Wales Came to Tregeiriog . . . Wild Wales The name "Pump Saint" . . . Wild Wales After the days of the great persecution . . . Zincali
GEORGE BORROW SELECTED PASSAGES
It is very possible that the reader during his country walks or rides has observed, on coming to four cross-roads, two or three handfuls of grass lying at a small distance from each other down one of these roads; perhaps he may have supposed that this grass was recently plucked from the roadside by frolicsome children, and flung upon the ground in sport, and this may possibly have been the case; it is ten chances to one, however, that no children's hands plucked them, but that they were strewed in this manner by Gypsies, for the purpose of informing any of their companions, who might be straggling behind, the route which they had taken; this is one form of the patteran or trail. It is likely, too, that the gorgio reader may have seen a cross drawn at the entrance of a road, the long part or stem of it pointing down that particular road, and he may have thought nothing of it, or have supposed that some sauntering individual like himself had made the mark with his stick: not so, courteous gorgio; ley tiro solloholomus opre lesti, you may take your oath upon it that it was drawn by a Gypsy finger, for that mark is another of the Rommany trails; there is no mistake in this. Once in the south of France, when I was weary, hungry, and penniless, I observed one of these last patterans, and following the direction pointed out, arrived at the resting-place of 'certain Bohemians,' by whom I was received with kindness and hospitality, on the faith of no other word of recommendation than patteran. There is also another kind of patteran, which is more particularly adapted for the night; it is a cleft stick stuck at the side of the road, close by the hedge, with a little arm in the cleft pointing down the road which the band have taken, in the manner of a signpost; any stragglers who may arrive at night where cross-roads occur search for this patteran on the left-hand side, and speedily rejoin their companions.
By following these patterans, or trails, the first Gypsies on their way to Europe never lost each other, though wandering amidst horrid wildernesses and dreary denies. Rommany matters have always had a peculiar interest for me; nothing, however, connected with Gypsy life ever more captivated my imagination than this patteran system: many thanks to the Gypsies for it; it has more than once been of service to me.
* * * * *
'Are you of the least use? Are you not spoken ill of by everybody? What's a gypsy?'
'What's the bird noising yonder, brother?'
'The bird! oh, that's the cuckoo tolling; but what has the cuckoo to do with the matter?'
'We'll see, brother; what's the cuckoo?'
'What is it? you know as much about it as myself, Jasper.'
'Isn't it a kind of roguish, chaffing bird, brother?'
'I believe it is, Jasper.'
'Nobody knows whence it comes, brother?'
'I believe not, Jasper.'
'Very poor, brother, not a nest of its own?'
'So they say, Jasper.'
'With every person's bad word, brother?'
'Yes, Jasper; every person is mocking it.'
'Tolerably merry, brother?'
'Yes, tolerably merry, Jasper.'
'Of no use at all, brother?'
'None whatever, Jasper.'
'You would be glad to get rid of the cuckoos, brother?'
'Why, not exactly, Jasper; the cuckoo is a pleasant, funny bird, and its presence and voice give a great charm to the green trees and fields; no, I can't say I wish exactly to get rid of the cuckoo.'
'Well, brother, what's a Rommany chal?'
'You must answer that question yourself, Jasper.'
'A roguish, chaffing, fellow; ain't he, brother?'
'Ay, ay, Jasper.'
'Of no use at all, brother?'
'Just so, Jasper; I see—'
'Something very much like a cuckoo, brother?'
'I see what you are after, Jasper.'
'You would like to get rid of us, wouldn't you?'
'Why, no; not exactly.'
'We are no ornament to the green lanes in spring and summer time; are we, brother? and the voices of our chies, with their cukkerin and dukkerin, don't help to make them pleasant?'
'I see what you are at, Jasper.'
'You would wish to turn the cuckoos into barn-door fowls, wouldn't you?'
'Can't say I should, Jasper, whatever some people might wish.'
'And the chals and chies into radical weavers and factory wenches; hey, brother?'
'Can't say that I should, Jasper. You are certainly a picturesque people, and in many respects an ornament both to town and country; painting and lil writing too are under great obligations to you. What pretty pictures are made out of your campings and groupings, and what pretty books have been written in which gypsies, or at least creatures intended to represent gypsies, have been the principal figures. I think if we were without you, we should begin to miss you.'
'Just as you would the cuckoos, if they were all converted into barn-door fowls. I tell you what, brother; frequently, as I have sat under a hedge in spring or summer time, and heard the cuckoo, I have thought that we chals and cuckoos are alike in many respects, but especially in character. Everybody speaks ill of us both, and everybody is glad to see both of us again.'
* * * * *
'People are becoming vastly sharp,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'and I am told that all the old-fashioned good-tempered constables are going to be set aside, and a paid body of men to be established, who are not to permit a tramper or vagabond on the roads of England; and talking of roads, puts me in mind of a strange story I heard two nights ago, whilst drinking some beer at a public-house, in company with my cousin Sylvester. I had asked Tawno to go, but his wife would not let him. Just opposite me, smoking their pipes, were a couple of men, something like engineers, and they were talking of a wonderful invention which was to make a wonderful alteration in England; inasmuch as it would set aside all the old roads, which in a little time would be ploughed up, and sowed with corn, and cause all England to be laid down with iron roads, on which people would go thundering along in vehicles, pushed forward by fire and smoke. Now, brother, when I heard this, I did not feel very comfortable; for I thought to myself, what a queer place such a road would be to pitch one's tent upon, and how impossible it would be for one's cattle to find a bite of grass upon it; and I thought likewise of the danger to which one's family would be exposed of being run over and severely scorched by these same flying fiery vehicles; so I made bold to say, that I hoped such an invention would never be countenanced, because it was likely to do a great deal of harm. Whereupon, one of the men, giving me a glance, said, without taking the pipe out of his mouth, that for his part, he sincerely hoped that it would take effect; and if it did no other good than stopping the rambles of gypsies, and other like scamps, it ought to be encouraged. Well, brother, feeling myself insulted, I put my hand into my pocket, in order to pull out money, intending to challenge him to fight for a five-shilling stake, but merely found sixpence, having left all my other money at the tent; which sixpence was just sufficient to pay for the beer which Sylvester and myself were drinking, of whom I couldn't hope to borrow anything—"poor as Sylvester" being a by-word amongst us. So, not being able to back myself, I held my peace, and let the gorgio have it all his own way, who, after turning up his nose at me, went on discoursing about the said invention, saying what a fund of profit it would be to those who knew how to make use of it, and should have the laying down of the new roads, and the shoeing of England with iron. And after he had said this, and much more of the same kind, which I cannot remember, he and his companion got up and walked away; and presently I and Sylvester got up and walked to our camp; and there I lay down in my tent by the side of my wife, where I had an ugly dream of having camped upon an iron road; my tent being overturned by a flying vehicle; my wife's leg injured; and all my affairs put into great confusion.'
* * * * *
'Will you take a glass of wine?'
'That's right; what shall it be?'
The magistrate gave a violent slap on his knee; 'I like your taste,' said he, 'I am fond of a glass of Madeira myself, and can give you such a one as you will not drink every day; sit down, young gentleman, you shall have a glass of Madeira, and the best I have.'
Thereupon he got up, and, followed by his two terriers, walked slowly out of the room.
I looked round the room, and, seeing nothing which promised me much amusement, I sat down, and fell again into my former train of thought.
'What is truth?' said I.
'Here it is,' said the magistrate, returning at the end of a quarter of an hour, followed by the servant with a tray; 'here's the true thing, or I am no judge, far less a justice. It has been thirty years in my cellar last Christmas. There,' said he to the servant, 'put it down, and leave my young friend and me to ourselves. Now, what do you think of it?'
'It is very good,' said I.
'Did you ever taste better Madeira?'
'I never before tasted Madeira.'
'Then you ask for a wine without knowing what it is?'
'I ask for it, sir, that I may know what it is.'
'Well, there is logic in that, as Parr would say; you have heard of Parr?'
'Yes, old Parr, but not that Parr; you mean the English, I the Greek Parr, as people call him.'
'I don't know him.'
'Perhaps not—rather too young for that, but were you of my age, you might have cause to know him, coming from where you do. He kept school there, I was his first scholar; he flogged Greek into me till I loved him—and he loved me. He came to see me last year, and sat in that chair; I honour Parr—he knows much, and is a sound man.'
'Does he know the truth?'
'Know the truth! he knows what's good, from an oyster to an ostrich—he's not only sound but round.'
'Suppose we drink his health?'
'Thank you, boy: here's Parr's health, and Whiter's.'
'Who is Whiter?'
'Don't you know Whiter? I thought everybody knew Reverend Whiter, the philologist, though I suppose you scarcely know what that means. A man fond of tongues and languages, quite out of your way—he understands some twenty; what do you say to that?'
'Is he a sound man?'
'Why, as to that, I scarcely know what to say; he has got queer notions in his head—wrote a book to prove that all words came originally from the earth—who knows? Words have roots, and roots live in the earth; but, upon the whole, I should not call him altogether a sound man, though he can talk Greek nearly as fast as Parr.'
'Is he a round man?'
'Ay, boy, rounder than Parr; I'll sing you a song, if you like, which will let you into his character:—
'"Give me the haunch of a buck to eat, and to drink Madeira old, And a gentle wife to rest with, and in my arms to fold, An Arabic book to study, a Norfolk cob to ride, And a house to live in shaded with trees, and near to a river side; With such good things around me, and blessed with good health withal, Though I should live for a hundred years, for death I would not call."
Here's to Whiter's health—so you know nothing about the fight?'
'No, sir; the truth is, that of late I have been very much occupied with various matters, otherwise I should, perhaps, have been able to afford you some information. Boxing is a noble art.'
'Can you box?'
'I tell you what, my boy; I honour you, and, provided your education had been a little less limited, I should have been glad to see you here in company with Parr and Whiter; both can box. Boxing is, as you say, a noble art—a truly English art; may I never see the day when Englishmen shall feel ashamed of it, or blacklegs and blackguards bring it into disgrace! I am a magistrate, and, of course, cannot patronize the thing very openly, yet I sometimes see a prize-fight. I saw the Game Chicken beat Gulley.'
* * * * *
One day it happened that, being on my rambles, I entered a green lane which I had never seen before; at first it was rather narrow, but as I advanced it became considerably wider; in the middle was a driftway with deep ruts, but right and left was a space carpeted with a sward of trefoil and clover; there was no lack of trees, chiefly ancient oaks, which, flinging out their arms from either side, nearly formed a canopy, and afforded a pleasing shelter from the rays of the sun, which was burning fiercely above. Suddenly a group of objects attracted my attention. Beneath one of the largest of the trees, upon the grass, was a kind of low tent or booth, from the top of which a thin smoke was curling; beside it stood a couple of light carts, whilst two or three lean horses or ponies were cropping the herbage which was growing nigh. Wondering to whom this odd tent could belong, I advanced till I was close before it, when I found that it consisted of two tilts, like those of waggons, placed upon the ground and fronting each other, connected behind by a sail or large piece of canvas, which was but partially drawn across the top; upon the ground, in the intervening space, was a fire, over which, supported by a kind of iron crowbar, hung a cauldron. My advance had been so noiseless as not to alarm the inmates, who consisted of a man and woman, who sat apart, one on each side of the fire; they were both busily employed—the man was carding plaited straw, whilst the woman seemed to be rubbing something with a white powder, some of which lay on a plate beside her. Suddenly the man looked up, and, perceiving me, uttered a strange kind of cry, and the next moment both the woman and himself were on their feet and rushing upon me.
I retreated a few steps, yet without turning to flee. I was not, however, without apprehension, which, indeed, the appearance of these two people was well calculated to inspire. The woman was a stout figure, seemingly between thirty and forty; she wore no cap, and her long hair fell on either side of her head, like horse-tails, half-way down her waist; her skin was dark and swarthy, like that of a toad, and the expression of her countenance was particularly evil; her arms were bare, and her bosom was but half-concealed by a slight bodice, below which she wore a coarse petticoat, her only other article of dress. The man was somewhat younger, but of a figure equally wild; his frame was long and lathy, but his arms were remarkably short, his neck was rather bent, he squinted slightly, and his mouth was much awry; his complexion was dark, but, unlike that of the woman, was more ruddy than livid; there was a deep scar on his cheek, something like the impression of a halfpenny. The dress was quite in keeping with the figure: in his hat, which was slightly peaked, was stuck a peacock's feather; over a waistcoat of hide, untanned and with the hair upon it, he wore a rough jerkin of russet hue; small clothes of leather, which had probably once belonged to a soldier, but with which pipe-clay did not seem to have come in contact for many a year, protected his lower man as far as the knee; his legs were cased in long stockings of blue worsted, and on his shoes he wore immense old-fashioned buckles.
* * * * *
Because they have been known to beg the carcass of a hog which they themselves have poisoned, it has been asserted that they prefer carrion which has perished of sickness to the meat of the shambles; and because they have been seen to make a ragout of boror (snails), and to roast a hotchiwitchu or hedgehog, it has been supposed that reptiles of every description form a part of their cuisine. It is high time to undeceive the Gentiles on these points. Know, then, O Gentile, whether thou be from the land of the Gorgios or the Busne, that the very Gypsies who consider a ragout of snails a delicious dish will not touch an eel, because it bears resemblance to a snake; and that those who will feast on a roasted hedgehog could be induced by no money to taste a squirrel, a delicious and wholesome species of game, living on the purest and most nutritious food which the fields and forests can supply. I myself, while living among the Roms of England, have been regarded almost in the light of a cannibal for cooking the latter animal and preferring it to hotchiwitchu barbecued, or ragout of boror. 'You are but half Rommany, brother,' they would say, 'and you feed gorgiko-nes (like a Gentile), even as you talk. Tchachipen (in truth), if we did not know you to be of the Mecralliskoe rat (royal blood) of Pharaoh, we should be justified in driving you forth as a juggel-mush (dog man), one more fitted to keep company with wild beasts and Gorgios than gentle Rommanys.'
* * * * *
One fact has always struck us with particular force in the history of these people, namely, that Gitanismo—which means Gypsy villainy of every description—flourished and knew nothing of decay so long as the laws recommended and enjoined measures the most harsh and severe for the suppression of the Gypsy sect; the palmy days of Gitanismo were those in which the caste was proscribed, and its members, in the event of renouncing their Gypsy habits, had nothing farther to expect than the occupation of tilling the earth, a dull hopeless toil; then it was that the Gitanos paid tribute to the inferior ministers of justice, and were engaged in illicit connection with those of higher station and by such means baffled the law, whose vengeance rarely fell upon their heads; and then it was that they bid it open defiance, retiring to the deserts and mountains, and living in wild independence by rapine and shedding of blood; for as the law then stood they would lose all by resigning their Gitanismo, whereas by clinging to it they lived either in the independence so dear to them, or beneath the protection of their confederates. It would appear that in proportion as the law was harsh and severe, so was the Gitano bold and secure.
* * * * *
Many of them reside in caves scooped in the sides of the ravines which lead to the higher regions of the Alpujarras, on a skirt of which stands Granada. A common occupation of the Gitanos of Granada is working in iron, and it is not unfrequent to find these caves tenanted by Gypsy smiths and their families, who ply the hammer and forge in the bowels of the earth. To one standing at the mouth of the cave, especially at night, they afford a picturesque spectacle. Gathered round the forge, their bronzed and naked bodies, illuminated by the flame, appear like figures of demons, while the cave, with its flinty sides and uneven roof, blackened by the charcoal vapours which hover about it in festoons, seems to offer no inadequate representation of fabled purgatory.
* * * * *
It has always struck me that there is something highly poetical about a forge I am not singular in this opinion: various individuals have assured me that they can never pass by one, even in the midst of a crowded town, without experiencing sensations which they can scarcely define, but which are highly pleasurable. I have a decided penchant for forges, especially rural ones, placed in some quaint, quiet spot—a dingle for example, which is a poetical place, or at a meeting of four roads, which is still more so, for how many a superstition—and superstition is the soul of poetry—is connected with these cross roads! I love to light upon such a one, especially after nightfall, as everything about a forge tells to most advantage at night, the hammer sounds more solemnly in the stillness, the glowing particles scattered by the strokes sparkle with more effect in the darkness, whilst the sooty visage of the sastramescro, half in shadow, and half illumined by the red and partial blaze of the forge, looks more mysterious and strange. On such occasions I draw in my horse's rein, and seated in the saddle endeavour to associate with the picture before me—in itself a picture of romance—whatever of the wild and wonderful I have read of in books, or have seen with my own eyes in connection with forges.
* * * * *
A sound was heard like the rapid galloping of a horse, not loud and distinct as on a road, but dull and heavy as if upon a grass sward, nearer and nearer it came, and the man, starting up, rushed out of the tent, and looked around anxiously. I arose from the stool upon which I had been seated, and just at that moment, amidst a crashing of boughs and sticks, a man on horseback bounded over the hedge into the lane at a few yards' distance from where we were; from the impetus of the leap the horse was nearly down on his knees; the rider, however, by dint of vigorous handling of the reins, prevented him from falling, and then rode up to the tent. ''Tis Nat,' said the man; 'what brings him here?' The new comer was a stout, burly fellow, about the middle age; he had a savage, determined look, and his face was nearly covered over with carbuncles; he wore a broad slouching hat, and was dressed in a grey coat, cut in a fashion which I afterwards learnt to be the genuine Newmarket cut, the skirts being exceedingly short; his waistcoat was of red plush, and he wore broad corduroy breeches and white top-boots. The steed which carried him was of iron grey, spirited and powerful, but covered with sweat and foam. The fellow glanced fiercely and suspiciously around, and said something to the man of the tent in a harsh and rapid voice. A short and hurried conversation ensued in the strange tongue. I could not take my eyes off this new comer. Oh, that half-jockey half-bruiser countenance, I never forgot it! More than fifteen years afterwards I found myself amidst a crowd before Newgate; a gallows was erected, and beneath it stood a criminal, a notorious malefactor. I recognised him at once; the horseman of the lane is now beneath the fatal tree, but nothing altered; still the same man; jerking his head to the right and left with the same fierce under-glance, just as if the affairs of this world had the same kind of interest to the last; grey coat of Newmarket cut, plush waistcoat, corduroys, and boots, nothing altered; but the head, alas! is bare and so is the neck. Oh, crime and virtue, virtue and crime!—it was old John Newton I think, who, when he saw a man going to be hanged, said: 'There goes John Newton, but for the grace of God!'
* * * * *
After much feasting, drinking, and yelling, in the Gypsy house, the bridal train sallied forth—a frantic spectacle. First of all marched a villainous jockey-looking fellow, holding in his hands, uplifted, a long pole, at the top of which fluttered in the morning air a snow-white cambric handkerchief, emblem of the bride's purity. Then came the betrothed pair, followed by their nearest friends; then a rabble rout of Gypsies, screaming and shouting, and discharging guns and pistols, till all around rang with the din, and the village dogs barked. On arriving at the church gate, the fellow who bore the pole stuck it into the ground with a loud huzza, and the train, forming two ranks, defiled into the church on either side of the pole and its strange ornaments. On the conclusion of the ceremony, they returned in the same manner in which they had come.
Throughout the day there was nothing going on but singing, drinking, feasting, and dancing; but the most singular part of the festival was reserved for the dark night. Nearly a ton weight of sweetmeats had been prepared, at an enormous expense, not for the gratification of the palate, but for a purpose purely Gypsy. These sweetmeats of all kinds, and of all forms, but principally yemas, or yolks of eggs prepared with a crust of sugar (a delicious bonne-bouche), were strewn on the floor of a large room, at least to the depth of three inches. Into this room, at a given signal, tripped the bride and bridegroom, dancing romalis, followed amain by all the Gitanos and Gitanas, dancing romalis. To convey a slight idea of the scene is almost beyond the power of words. In a few minutes the sweetmeats were reduced to a powder, or rather to a mud, the dancers were soiled to the knees with sugar, fruits, and yolks of eggs. Still more terrific became the lunatic merriment. The men sprang high into the air, neighed, brayed, and crowed; whilst the Gitanas snapped their fingers in their own fashion, louder than castanets, distorting their forms into all kinds of obscene attitudes, and uttering words to repeat which were an abomination. In a corner of the apartment capered the while Sebastianillo, a convict Gypsy from Melilla, strumming the guitar most furiously, and producing demoniacal sounds which had some resemblance to Malbrun (Malbrouk), and, as he strummed, repeating at intervals the Gypsy modification of the song.
* * * * *
The English Gypsies are constant attendants at the racecourse; what jockey is not? Perhaps jockeyism originated with them, and even racing, at least in England. Jockeyism properly implies the management of a whip, and the word jockey is neither more nor less than the term slightly modified, by which they designate the formidable whips which they usually carry, and which are at present in general use amongst horse- traffickers, under the title of jockey whips. They are likewise fond of resorting to the prize-ring, and have occasionally even attained some eminence, as principals, in those disgraceful and brutalizing exhibitions called pugilistic combats. I believe a great deal has been written on the subject of the English Gypsies, but the writers have dwelt too much in generalities; they have been afraid to take the Gypsy by the hand, lead him forth from the crowd, and exhibit him, in the area; he is well worth observing. When a boy of fourteen, I was present at a prize-fight; why should I hide the truth? It took place on a green meadow, beside a running stream, close by the old church of E—-, and within a league of the ancient town of N—-, the capital of one of the eastern counties. The terrible Thurtell was present, lord of the concourse; for wherever he moved he was master, and whenever he spoke, even when in chains, every other voice was silent. He stood on the mead, grim and pale as usual, with his bruisers around. He it was, indeed, who got up the fight, as he had previously done twenty others; it being his frequent boast that he had first introduced bruising and bloodshed amidst rural scenes, and transformed a quiet slumbering town into a den of Jews and metropolitan thieves. Some time before the commencement of the combat, three men, mounted on wild-looking horses, came dashing down the road in the direction of the meadow, in the midst of which they presently showed themselves, their horses clearing the deep ditches with wonderful alacrity. 'That's Gypsy Will and his gang,' lisped a Hebrew pickpocket; 'we shall have another fight.' The word Gypsy was always sufficient to excite my curiosity, and I looked attentively at the new-comers.
I have seen Gypsies of various lands, Russian, Hungarian, and Turkish; and I have also seen the legitimate children of most countries of the world; but I never saw, upon the whole, three more remarkable individuals, as far as personal appearance was concerned, than the three English Gypsies who now presented themselves to my eyes on that spot. Two of them had dismounted, and were holding their horses by the reins. The tallest, and, at the first glance, the most interesting of the two, was almost a giant, for his height could not have been less than six feet three. It is impossible for the imagination to conceive anything more perfectly beautiful than were the features of this man, and the most skilful sculptor of Greece might have taken them as his model for a hero and a god. The forehead was exceedingly lofty,—a rare thing in a Gypsy; the nose less Roman than Grecian,—fine yet delicate; the eye large, overhung with long drooping lashes, giving them almost a melancholy expression; it was only when the lashes were elevated that the Gypsy glance was seen, if that can be called a glance which is a strange stare, like nothing else in this world. His complexion was a beautiful olive; and his teeth were of a brilliancy uncommon even amongst these people, who have all fine teeth. He was dressed in a coarse waggoner's slop, which, however, was unable to conceal altogether the proportions of his noble and Herculean figure. He might be about twenty-eight. His companion and his captain, Gypsy Will, was, I think, fifty when he was hanged, ten years subsequently (for I never afterwards lost sight of him), in the front of the jail of Bury St. Edmunds. I have still present before me his bushy black hair, his black face, and his big black eyes fixed and staring. His dress consisted of a loose blue jockey coat, jockey boots and breeches; in his hand was a huge jockey whip, and on his head (it struck me at the time for its singularity) a broad-brimmed high- peaked Andalusian hat, or at least one very much resembling those generally worn in that province. In stature he was shorter than his more youthful companion, yet he must have measured six feet at least, and was stronger built, if possible. What brawn!—what bone!—what legs!—what thighs! The third Gypsy, who remained on horseback, looked more like a phantom than anything human. His complexion was the colour of pale dust, and of that same colour was all that pertained to him, hat and clothes. His boots were dusty of course, for it was midsummer, and his very horse was of a dusty dun. His features were whimsically ugly, most of his teeth were gone, and as to his age, he might be thirty or sixty. He was somewhat lame and halt, but an unequalled rider when once upon his steed, which he was naturally not very solicitous to quit. I subsequently discovered that he was considered the wizard of the gang.
I have been already prolix with respect to these Gypsies, but I will not leave them quite yet. The intended combatants at length arrived; it was necessary to clear the ring,—always a troublesome and difficult task. Thurtell went up to the two Gypsies, with whom he seemed to be acquainted, and with his surly smile, said two or three words, which I, who was standing by, did not understand. The Gypsies smiled in return, and giving the reins of their animals to their mounted companion, immediately set about the task which the king of the flash-men had, as I conjecture, imposed upon them; this they soon accomplished. Who could stand against such fellows and such whips? The fight was soon over—then there was a pause. Once more Thurtell came up to the Gypsies and said something—the Gypsies looked at each other and conversed; but their words then had no meaning for my ears. The tall Gypsy shook his head—'Very well,' said the other, in English, 'I will—that's all.'
Then pushing the people aside, he strode to the ropes, over which he bounded into the ring, flinging his Spanish hat high into the air.
Gypsy Will.—'The best man in England for twenty pounds!'
Thurtell.—'I am backer!'
Twenty pounds is a tempting sum, and there were men that day upon the green meadow who would have shed the blood of their own fathers for the fifth of the price. But the Gypsy was not an unknown man, his prowess and strength were notorious, and no one cared to encounter him. Some of the Jews looked eager for a moment; but their sharp eyes quailed quickly before his savage glances, as he towered in the ring his huge form dilating, and his black features convulsed with excitement. The Westminster bravoes eyed the Gypsy askance; but the comparison, if they made any, seemed by no means favourable to themselves. 'Gypsy! rum chap.—Ugly customer,—always in training.' Such were the exclamations which I heard, some of which at that period of my life I did not understand.
No man would fight the Gypsy.—Yes! a strong country fellow wished to win the stakes, and was about to fling up his hat in defiance, but he was prevented by his friends, with—'Fool! he'll kill you!'
As the Gypsies were mounting their horses, I heard the dusty phantom exclaim—
'Brother, you are an arrant ring-maker and a horse-breaker; you'll make a hempen ring to break your own neck of a horse one of these days.'
They pressed their horses' flanks, again leaped over the ditches, and speedily vanished, amidst the whirlwinds of dust which they raised upon the road.
The words of the phantom Gypsy were ominous. Gypsy Will was eventually executed for a murder committed in his early youth in company with two English labourers, one of whom confessed the fact on his death-bed. He was the head of the clan Young, which, with the clan Smith, still haunts two of the eastern counties.
* * * * *
'I say, Jasper, what remarkable names your people have!'
'And what pretty names, brother; there's my own for example, Jasper; then there's Ambrose and Sylvester; then there's Culvato, which signifies Claude; then there's Piramus—that's a nice name, brother.'
'Then there's your wife's name, Pakomovna; then there's Ursula and Morella.'
'Then, brother, there's Ercilla.'
'Ercilla! the name of the great poet of Spain, how wonderful; then Leviathan.'
'The name of a ship, brother; Leviathan was named after a ship, so don't make a wonder out of her. But there's Sanpriel and Synfye.'
'Ay, and Clementina and Lavinia, Camillia and Lydia, Curlanda and Orlanda; wherever did they get those names?'
'Where did my wife get her necklace, brother?'
'She knows best, Jasper. I hope—'
'Come, no hoping! She got it from her grandmother, who died at the age of 103, and sleeps in Coggeshall churchyard. She got it from her mother, who also died very old, and who could give no other account of it than that it had been in the family time out of mind.'
'Whence could they have got it?'
'Why, perhaps where they got their names, brother. A gentleman, who had travelled much, once told me that he had seen the sister of it about the neck of an Indian queen.'
'Some of your names, Jasper, appear to be church names; your own, for example, and Ambrose, and Sylvester; perhaps you got them from the Papists, in the times of Popery; but where did you get such a name as Piramus, a name of Grecian romance? Then some of them appear to be Slavonian; for example, Mikailia and Pakomovna. I don't know much of Slavonian; but—'
'What is Slavonian, brother?'
'The family name of certain nations, the principal of which is the Russian, and from which the word slave is originally derived. You have heard of the Russians, Jasper?'
'Yes, brother, and seen some. I saw their crallis at the time of the peace; he was not a bad-looking man for a Russian.'
'By-the-bye, Jasper, I'm half-inclined to think that crallis is a Slavish word. I saw something like it in a lil called Voltaire's Life of Charles. How you should have come by such names and words is to me incomprehensible.'
* * * * *
'What is your opinion of death, Mr. Petulengro?' said I, as I sat down beside him.
'My opinion of death, brother, is much the same as that in the old song of Pharaoh, which I have heard my grandam sing:—
'"Cana marel o manus chivios ande puv, Ta rovel pa leste o chavo ta romi."
When a man dies, he is cast into the earth, and his wife and child sorrow over him. If he has neither wife nor child, then his father and mother, I suppose; and if he is quite alone in the world, why, then, he is cast into the earth, and there is an end of the matter.'
'And do you think that is the end of a man?'
'There's an end of him, brother, more's the pity.'
'Why do you say so?'
'Life is sweet, brother.'
'Do you think so?'
'Think so! There's night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise the wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?'
'I would wish to die—'
'You talk like a gorgio—which is the same as talking like a fool—were you a Rommany Chal you would talk wiser. Wish to die, indeed! A Rommany Chal would wish to live for ever!'
'In sickness, Jasper?'
'There's the sun and stars, brother.'
'In blindness, Jasper?'
'There's the wind on the heath, brother; if I could only feel that, I would gladly live for ever. Dosta, we'll now go to the tents and put on the gloves; and I'll try to make you feel what a sweet thing it is to be alive, brother!'
* * * * *
Beating of women by the lords of the creation has become very prevalent in England since pugilism has been discountenanced. Now the writer strongly advises any woman who is struck by a ruffian to strike him again; or if she cannot clench her fists, and he advises all women in these singular times to learn to clench their fists, to go at him with tooth and nail, and not to be afraid of the result, for any fellow who is dastard enough to strike a woman, would allow himself to be beaten by a woman, were she to make at him in self-defence, even if, instead of possessing the stately height and athletic proportions of the aforesaid Isopel, she were as diminutive in stature, and had a hand as delicate, and foot as small, as a certain royal lady, who was some time ago assaulted by a fellow upwards of six feet high, whom the writer has no doubt she could have beaten had she thought proper to go at him. Such is the deliberate advice of the author to his countrymen and women—advice in which he believes there is nothing unscriptural or repugnant to common sense.
* * * * *
Of my wife I will merely say that she is a perfect paragon of wives—can make puddings and sweets and treacle posset, and is the best woman of business in Eastern Anglia—of my step-daughter—for such she is, though I generally call her daughter, and with good reason, seeing that she has always shown herself a daughter to me—that she has all kinds of good qualities, and several accomplishments, knowing something of conchology, more of botany, drawing capitally in the Dutch style, and playing remarkably well on the guitar—not the trumpery German thing so-called—but the real Spanish guitar.
* * * * *
In the summer of the year 1854 myself, wife, and daughter determined upon going into Wales, to pass a few months there. We are country people of a corner of East Anglia, and, at the time of which I am speaking, had been residing so long on our own little estate, that we had become tired of the objects around us, and conceived that we should be all the better for changing the scene for a short period. We were undetermined for some time with respect to where we should go. I proposed Wales from the first, but my wife and daughter, who have always had rather a hankering after what is fashionable, said they thought it would be more advisable to go to Harrowgate, or Leamington. On my observing that those were terrible places for expense, they replied that, though the price of corn had of late been shamefully low, we had a spare hundred pounds or two in our pockets, and could afford to pay for a little insight into fashionable life. I told them that there was nothing I so much hated as fashionable life, but that, as I was anything but a selfish person, I would endeavour to stifle my abhorrence of it for a time, and attend them either to Leamington or Harrowgate. By this speech I obtained my wish, even as I knew I should, for my wife and daughter instantly observed, that, after all, they thought we had better go into Wales, which, though not so fashionable as either Leamington or Harrowgate, was a very nice picturesque country, where, they had no doubt, they should get on very well, more especially as I was acquainted with the Welsh language.
* * * * *
'Fear God, and take your own part. There's Bible in that, young man; see how Moses feared God, and how he took his own part against everybody who meddled with him. And see how David feared God, and took his own part against all the bloody enemies which surrounded him—so fear God, young man, and never give in! The world can bully, and is fond, provided it sees a man in a kind of difficulty, of getting about him, calling him coarse names, and even going so far as to hustle him: but the world, like all bullies, carries a white feather in its tail, and no sooner sees the man taking off his coat, and offering to fight its best, than it scatters here and there, and is always civil to him afterwards. So when folks are disposed to ill-treat you, young man, say, "Lord have mercy upon me!" and then tip them Long Melford, to which, as the saying goes, there is nothing comparable for shortness all the world over; and these last words, young man, are the last you will ever have from her who is nevertheless,
'Your affectionate female servant, 'Isopel Berners.'
* * * * *
Soldiers and sailors promoted to command are said to be in general tyrants; in nine cases out of ten, when they are tyrants, they have been obliged to have recourse to extreme severity in order to protect themselves from the insolence and mutinous spirit of the men,—'He is no better than ourselves: shoot him, bayonet him, or fling him overboard!' they say of some obnoxious individual raised above them by his merit. Soldiers and sailors in general, will bear any amount of tyranny from a lordly sot, or the son of a man who has 'plenty of brass'—their own term—but will mutiny against the just orders of a skilful and brave officer who 'is no better than themselves.' There was the affair of the Bounty, for example: Bligh was one of the best seamen that ever trod deck, and one of the bravest of men; proofs of his seamanship he gave by steering, amidst dreadful weather, a deeply laden boat for nearly four thousand miles over an almost unknown ocean—of his bravery, at the fight of Copenhagen, one of the most desperate ever fought, of which after Nelson he was the hero: he was, moreover, not an unkind man; but the crew of the Bounty mutinied against him, and set him half naked in an open boat, with certain of his men who remained faithful to him, and ran away with the ship. Their principal motive for doing so was an idea, whether true or groundless the writer cannot say, that Bligh was 'no better than themselves'; he was certainly neither a lord's illegitimate, nor possessed of twenty thousand pounds.
* * * * *
There they come, the bruisers, from far London, or from wherever else they might chance to be at that time, to the great rendezvous in the old city; some came one way, some another: some of tip-top reputation came with peers in their chariots, for glory and fame are such fair things that even peers are proud to have those invested therewith by their sides; others came in their own gigs, driving their own bits of blood, and I heard one say: 'I have driven through at a heat the whole one hundred and eleven miles, and only stopped to bait twice.' Oh, the blood- horses of old England! but they too have had their day—for everything beneath the sun there is a season and a time. But the greater number come just as they can contrive; on the tops of coaches, for example; and amongst these there are fellows with dark sallow faces and sharp shining eyes; and it is these that have planted rottenness in the core of pugilism, for they are Jews, and, true to their kind, have only base lucre in view.
It was fierce old Cobbett, I think, who first said that the Jews first introduced bad faith amongst pugilists. He did not always speak the truth, but at any rate he spoke it when he made that observation. Strange people the Jews—endowed with every gift but one, and that the highest, genius divine,—genius which can alone make of men demigods, and elevate them above earth and what is earthy and what is grovelling; without which a clever nation—and who more clever than the Jews?—may have Rambams in plenty, but never a Fielding nor a Shakespeare; a Rothschild and a Mendoza, yes—but never a Kean nor a Belcher.
So the bruisers of England are come to be present at the grand fight speedily coming off; there they are met in the precincts of the old town, near the Field of the Chapel, planted with tender saplings at the restoration of sporting Charles, which are now become venerable elms, as high as many a steeple; there they are met at a fitting rendezvous, where a retired coachman, with one leg, keeps an hotel and a bowling-green. I think I now see them upon the bowling-green, the men of renown, amidst hundreds of people with no renown at all, who gaze upon them with timid wonder. Fame, after all, is a glorious thing, though it lasts only for a day. There's Cribb, the champion of England, and perhaps the best man in England; there he is, with his huge, massive figure, and face wonderfully like that of a lion. There is Belcher, the younger, not the mighty one, who is gone to his place, but the Teucer Belcher, the most scientific pugilist that ever entered a ring, only wanting strength to be, I won't say what. He appears to walk before me now, as he did that evening, with his white hat, white greatcoat, thin, genteel figure, springy step, and keen, determined eye. Crosses him—what a contrast!—grim, savage Shelton, who has a civil word for nobody, and a hard blow for anybody—hard! one blow, given with the proper play of his athletic arm, will unsense a giant. Yonder individual, who strolls about with his hands behind him, supporting his brown coat lappets, undersized, and who looks anything but what he is, is the king of the light weights, so called,—Randall! the terrible Randall, who has Irish blood in his veins; not the better for that, nor the worse; and not far from him is his last antagonist, Ned Turner, who, though beaten by him, still thinks himself as good a man, in which he is, perhaps, right, for it was a near thing; and 'a better shentleman,' in which he is quite right, for he is a Welshman. But how shall I name them all? they were there by dozens, and all tremendous in their way. There was Bulldog Hudson and fearless Scroggins, who beat the conqueror of Sam the Jew. There was Black Richmond—no, he was not there, but I knew him well; he was the most dangerous of blacks, even with a broken thigh. There was Purcell, who could never conquer till all seemed over with him. There was—what! shall I name thee last? ay, why not? I believe that thou art the last of all that strong family still above the sod, where mayst thou long continue—true piece of English stuff, Tom of Bedford—sharp as winter, kind as spring.
Hail to thee, Tom of Bedford, or by whatever name it may please thee to be called, Spring or Winter. Hail to thee, six-foot Englishman of the brown eye, worthy to have carried a six-foot bow at Flodden, where England's yeomen triumphed over Scotland's king, his clans and chivalry. Hail to thee, last of England's bruisers, after all the many victories which them hast achieved—true English victories, unbought by yellow gold; need I recount them? nay, nay! they are already well known to fame—sufficient to say that Bristol's Bull and Ireland's Champion were vanquished by thee, and one mightier still, gold itself, thou didst overcome; for gold itself strove in vain to deaden the power of thy arm; and thus thou didst proceed till men left off challenging thee, the unvanquishable, the incorruptible.
* * * * *
The writer now wishes to say something on the subject of canting nonsense, of which there is a great deal in England. There are various cants in England, amongst which is the religious cant. He is not going to discuss the subject of religious cant: lest, however, he should be misunderstood, he begs leave to repeat that he is a sincere member of the old-fashioned Church of England, in which he believes there is more religion, and consequently less cant, than in any other Church in the world; nor is he going to discuss many other cants; he shall content himself with saying something about two—the temperance cant and the unmanly cant. Temperance canters say that, 'it is unlawful to drink a glass of ale.' Unmanly canters say that 'it is unlawful to use one's fists.' The writer begs leave to tell both these species of canters that they do not speak the words of truth.
* * * * *
'No,' said I, 'I do not mean to go to church.' 'May I ask thee wherefore?' said Peter. 'Because,' said I, 'I prefer remaining beneath the shade of these trees, listening to the sound of the leaves, and the tinkling of the waters.'
* * * * *
Oh, genial and gladdening is the power of good ale, the true and proper drink of Englishmen. He is not deserving of the name of Englishman who speaketh against ale, that is good ale, like that which has just made merry the hearts of this poor family; and yet there are beings, calling themselves Englishmen, who say that it is a sin to drink a cup of ale, and who, on coming to this passage will be tempted to fling down the book and exclaim: 'The man is evidently a bad man, for behold, by his own confession, he is not only fond of ale himself, but is in the habit of tempting other people with it.' Alas! alas! what a number of silly individuals there are in this world; I wonder what they would have had me do in this instance—given the afflicted family a cup of cold water? go to! They could have found water in the road, for there was a pellucid spring only a few yards distant from the house, as they were well aware—but they wanted not water; what should I have given them? meat and bread? go to! They were not hungry; there was stifled sobbing in their bosoms, and the first mouthful of strong meat would have choked them. What should I have given them? Money! what right had I to insult them by offering them money? Advice! words, words, words; friends, there is a time for everything; there is a time for a cup of cold water; there is a time for strong meat and bread; there is a time for advice, and there is a time for ale; and I have generally found that the time for advice is after a cup of ale—I do not say many cups; the tongue then speaketh more smoothly, and the ear listeneth more benignantly; but why do I attempt to reason with you? do I not know you for conceited creatures, with one idea—and that a foolish one—a crotchet, for the sake of which ye would sacrifice anything, religion if required—country? There, fling down my book, I do not wish ye to walk any farther in my company, unless you cast your nonsense away, which ye will never do, for it is the breath of your nostrils; fling down my book, it was not written to support a crotchet, for know one thing, my good people, I have invariably been an enemy to humbug.
* * * * *
On the whole, I journeyed along very pleasantly, certainly quite as pleasantly as I do at present, now that I am become a gentleman and weigh sixteen stone, though some people would say that my present manner of travelling is much the most preferable, riding as I now do, instead of leading my horse; receiving the homage of ostlers instead of their familiar nods; sitting down to dinner in the parlour of the best inn I can find, instead of passing the brightest part of the day in the kitchen of a village ale-house; carrying on my argument after dinner on the subject of the corn-laws, with the best commercial gentlemen on the road, instead of being glad, whilst sipping a pint of beer, to get into conversation with blind trampers, or maimed Abraham sailors, regaling themselves on half-pints at the said village hostelries. Many people will doubtless say that things have altered wonderfully with me for the better, and they would say right, provided I possessed now what I then carried about with me in my journeys—the spirit of youth. Youth is the only season for enjoyment, and the first twenty-five years of one's life are worth all the rest of the longest life of man, even though those five- and-twenty be spent in penury and contempt, and the rest in the possession of wealth, honours, respectability, ay, and many of them in strength and health, such as will enable one to ride forty miles before dinner, and over one's pint of port—for the best gentleman in the land should not drink a bottle—carry on one's argument, with gravity and decorum, with any commercial gentleman who, responsive to one's challenge, takes the part of humanity and common sense against 'protection' and the lord of the land.
* * * * *
On the following day at four o'clock I dined with the landlord, in company with a commercial traveller. The dinner was good, though plain, consisting of boiled mackerel—rather a rarity in those parts at that time—with fennel sauce, a prime baron of roast beef after the mackerel, then a tart and noble Cheshire cheese; we had prime sherry at dinner, and whilst eating the cheese prime porter, that of Barclay, the only good porter in the world. After the cloth was removed we had a bottle of very good port; and whilst partaking of the port I had an argument with the commercial traveller on the subject of the corn-laws.
* * * * *
The binding was of dingy calf-skin. I opened it, and as I did so another strange thrill of pleasure shot through my frame. The first object on which my eyes rested was a picture; it was exceedingly well executed, at least the scene which it represented made a vivid impression upon me, which would hardly have been the case had the artist not been faithful to nature. A wild scene it was—a heavy sea and rocky shore, with mountains in the background, above which the moon was peering. Not far from the shore, upon the water, was a boat with two figures in it, one of which stood at the bow, pointing with what I knew to be a gun at a dreadful shape in the water: fire was flashing from the muzzle of the gun, and the monster appeared to be transfixed. I almost thought I heard its cry. I remained motionless, gazing upon the picture, scarcely daring to draw my breath, lest the new and wondrous world should vanish of which I had now obtained a glimpse. 'Who are those people, and what could have brought them into that strange situation?' I asked of myself; and now the seed of curiosity, which had so long lain dormant, began to expand, and I vowed to myself to become speedily acquainted with the whole history of the people in the boat. After looking on the picture till every mark and line in it were familiar to me, I turned over various leaves till I came to another engraving; a new source of wonder—a low sandy beach on which the furious sea was breaking in mountain-like billows; cloud and rack deformed the firmament, which wore a dull and leaden-like hue; gulls and other aquatic fowls were toppling upon the blast, or skimming over the tops of the maddening waves—'Mercy upon him! he must be drowned!' I exclaimed, as my eyes fell upon a poor wretch who appeared to be striving to reach the shore; he was upon his legs but was evidently half-smothered with the brine; high above his head curled a horrible billow, as if to engulf him for ever. 'He must be drowned! he must be drowned!' I almost shrieked, and dropped the book. I soon snatched it up again, and now my eye lighted on a third picture: again a shore, but what a sweet and lovely one, and how I wished to be treading it; there were beautiful shells lying on the smooth white sand, some were empty like those I had occasionally seen on marble mantelpieces, but out of others peered the heads and bodies of wondrous crayfish; a wood of thick green trees skirted the beach and partly shaded it from the rays of the sun, which shone hot above, while blue waves slightly crested with foam were gently curling against it; there was a human figure upon the beach, wild and uncouth, clad in the skins of animals, with a huge cap on his head, a hatchet at his girdle, and in his hand a gun; his feet and legs were bare; he stood in an attitude of horror and surprise; his body was bent far back, and his eyes, which seemed starting out of his head, were fixed upon a mark on the sand—a large distinct mark—a human footprint! Reader, is it necessary to name the book which now stood open in my hand, and whose very prints, feeble expounders of its wondrous lines, had produced within me emotions strange and novel? Scarcely, for it was a book which has exerted over the minds of Englishmen an influence certainly greater than any other of modern times, which has been in most people's hands, and with the contents of which even those who cannot read are to a certain extent acquainted; a book from which the most luxuriant and fertile of our modern prose writers have drunk inspiration; a book, moreover, to which, from the hardy deeds which it narrates, and the spirit of strange and romantic enterprise which it tends to awaken, England owes many of her astonishing discoveries both by sea and land, and no inconsiderable part of her naval glory.
Hail to thee, spirit of De Foe! What does not my own poor self owe to thee? England has better bards than either Greece or Rome, yet I could spare them easier far than De Foe, 'unabashed De Foe,' as the hunchbacked rhymer styled him.
* * * * *
I commenced the Bible in Spain. At first I proceeded slowly—sickness was in the land, and the face of nature was overcast—heavy rainclouds swam in the heavens,—the blast howled amid the pines which nearly surround my lonely dwelling, and the waters of the lake which lies before it, so quiet in general and tranquil, were fearfully agitated. 'Bring lights hither, O Hayim Ben Attar, son of the miracle!' And the Jew of Fez brought in the lights, for though it was midday I could scarcely see in the little room where I was writing. . . .
A dreary summer and autumn passed by, and were succeeded by as gloomy a winter. I still proceeded with the Bible in Spain. The winter passed, and spring came with cold dry winds and occasional sunshine, whereupon I arose, shouted, and mounting my horse, even Sidi Habismilk, I scoured all the surrounding district, and thought but little of the Bible in Spain.
So I rode about the country, over the heaths, and through the green lanes of my native land, occasionally visiting friends at a distance, and sometimes, for variety's sake, I stayed at home and amused myself by catching huge pike, which lie perdue in certain deep ponds skirted with lofty reeds, upon my land, and to which there is a communication from the lagoon by a deep and narrow watercourse. I had almost forgotten the Bible in Spain.
Then came the summer with much heat and sunshine, and then I would lie for hours in the sun and recall the sunny days I had spent in Andalusia, and my thoughts were continually reverting to Spain, and at last I remembered that the Bible in Spain was still unfinished; whereupon I arose and said: 'This loitering profiteth nothing'—and I hastened to my summer-house by the side of the lake, and there I thought and wrote, and every day I repaired to the same place, and thought and wrote until I had finished the Bible in Spain.
* * * * *
And, as I wandered along the green, I drew near to a place where several men, with a cask beside them, sat carousing in the neighbourhood of a small tent. 'Here he comes,' said one of them, as I advanced, and standing up he raised his voice and sang:—
'Here the Gypsy gemman see, With his Roman jib and his rome and dree— Rome and dree, rum and dry Rally round the Rommany Rye.'
It was Mr. Petulengro, who was here diverting himself with several of his comrades; they all received me with considerable frankness. 'Sit down, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'and take a cup of good ale.'
I sat down. 'Your health, gentlemen,' said I, as I took the cup which Mr. Petulengro handed to me.
'Aukko tu pios adrey Rommanis. Here is your health in Rommany, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro; who, having refilled the cup, now emptied it at a draught.
'Your health in Rommany, brother,' said Tawno Chikno, to whom the cup came next.
'The Rommany Rye,' said a third.
'The Gypsy gentlemen,' exclaimed a fourth, drinking.
And then they all sang in chorus:—
'Here the Gypsy gemman see, With his Roman jib and his rome and dree— Rome and dree, rum and dry Rally round the Rommany Rye.'
'And now, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'seeing that you have drunk and been drunken, you will perhaps tell us where you have been, and what about?'
'I have been in the Big City,' said I, 'writing lils' [books].
'How much money have you got in your pocket, brother?' said Mr. Petulengro.
'Eighteen pence,' said I; 'all I have in the world.'
'I have been in the Big City, too,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'but I have not written lils—I have fought in the ring—I have fifty pounds in my pocket—I have much more in the world. Brother, there is considerable difference between us.'
'I would rather be the lil-writer, after all,' said the tall, handsome, black man; 'indeed, I would wish for nothing better.'
'Why so?' said Mr. Petulengro.
'Because they have so much to say for themselves,' said the black man, 'even when dead and gone. When they are laid in the churchyard, it is their own fault if people a'n't talking of them. Who will know, after I am dead, or bitchadey pawdel, that I was once the beauty of the world, or that you, Jasper, were—'
'The best man in England of my inches. That's true, Tawno—however, here's our brother will perhaps let the world know something about us.'
'Not he,' said the other, with a sigh; 'he'll have quite enough to do in writing his own lils, and telling the world how handsome and clever he was; and who can blame him? Not I. If I could write lils, every word should be about myself and my own tacho Rommanis—my own lawful wedded wife, which is the same thing. I tell you what, brother, I once heard a wise man say in Brummagem, that "there is nothing like blowing one's own horn," which I conceive to be much the same thing as writing one's own lil.'
* * * * *
At length the moon shone out faintly, when suddenly by its beams I beheld a figure moving before me at a slight distance. I quickened the pace of the burra, and was soon close at its side. It went on, neither altering its pace nor looking round for a moment. It was the figure of a man, the tallest and bulkiest that I had hitherto seen in Spain, dressed in a manner strange and singular for the country. On his head was a hat with a low crown and broad brim, very much resembling that of an English waggoner; about his body was a long loose tunic or slop, seemingly of coarse ticken, open in front, so as to allow the interior garments to be occasionally seen. These appeared to consist of a jerkin and short velveteen pantaloons.
I have said that the brim of the hat was broad, but broad as it was, it was insufficient to cover an immense bush of coal-black hair, which, thick and curly, projected on either side. Over the left shoulder was flung a kind of satchel, and in the right hand was held a long staff or pole.
There was something peculiarly strange about the figure; but what struck me the most was the tranquillity with which it moved along, taking no heed of me, though of course aware of my proximity, but looking straight forward along the road, save when it occasionally raised a huge face and large eyes towards the moon, which was now shining forth in the eastern quarter. . . .
'A cold night,' said I at last. 'Is this the way to Talavera?'
'It is the way to Talavera, and the night is cold.'
'I am going to Talavera,' said I, 'as I suppose you are yourself.'
'I am going thither, so are you, bueno.'
The tones of the voice which delivered these words were in their way quite as strange and singular as the figure to which the voice belonged. They were not exactly the tones of a Spanish voice, and yet there was something in them that could hardly be foreign; the pronunciation also was correct, and the language, though singular, faultless. But I was most struck with the manner in which the last word, bueno, was spoken. I had heard something like it before, but where or when I could by no means remember. A pause now ensued, the figure stalking on as before with the most perfect indifference, and seemingly with no disposition either to seek or avoid conversation.
'Are you not afraid,' said I at last, 'to travel these roads in the dark? It is said that there are robbers abroad.'
'Are you not rather afraid,' replied the figure, 'to travel these roads in the dark?—you who are ignorant of the country, who are a foreigner, an Englishman?'
'How is it that you know me to be an Englishman?' demanded I, much surprised.
'That is no difficult matter,' replied the figure; 'the sound of your voice was enough to tell me that.'
'You speak of voices,' said I; 'suppose the tone of your own voice were to tell me who you are?'
'That it will not do,' replied my companion; 'you know nothing about me—you can know nothing about me.'
'Be not sure of that, my friend; I am acquainted with many things of which you have little idea.'
'Por exemplo,' said the figure.
'For example,' said I, 'you speak two languages.'
The figure moved on, seemed to consider a moment and then said slowly, 'Bueno.'
'You have two names,' I continued; 'one for the house, and the other for the street; both are good, but the one by which you are called at home is the one which you like best.'
The man walked on about ten paces, in the same manner as he had previously done; all of a sudden he turned, and taking the bridle of the burra gently in his hand, stopped her. I had now a full view of his face and figure, and those huge features and Herculean form still occasionally revisit me in my dreams. I see him standing in the moonshine, staring me in the face with his deep calm eyes. At last he said—
'Are you then one of us?'
* * * * *
Upon the shoulder of the goatherd was a beast, which he told me was a lontra, or otter, which he had lately caught in the neighbouring brook; it had a string round its neck, which was attached to his arm. At his left side was a bag, from the top of which peered the heads of two or three singular looking animals; and at his right was squatted the sullen cub of a wolf, which he was endeavouring to tame. His whole appearance was to the last degree savage and wild. After a little conversation, such as those who meet on the road frequently hold, I asked him if he could read, but he made me no answer. I then inquired if he knew anything of God or Jesus Christ; he looked me fixedly in the face for a moment, and then turned his countenance towards the sun, which was beginning to sink in the west, nodded to it, and then again looked fixedly upon me. I believe that I understood the mute reply, which probably was, that it was God who made that glorious light which illumes and gladdens all creation; and, gratified with that belief, I left him and hastened after my companions, who were by this time a considerable way in advance.
* * * * *
I have always found in the disposition of the children of the fields a more determined tendency to religion and piety than amongst the inhabitants of towns and cities, and the reason is obvious—they are less acquainted with the works of man's hands than with those of God; their occupations, too, which are simple, and requiring less of ingenuity and skill than those which engage the attention of the other portion of their fellow-creatures, are less favourable to the engendering of self-conceit and self-sufficiency, so utterly at variance with that lowliness of spirit which constitutes the best foundation of piety.
* * * * *
'C'est moi, mon maitre,' cried a well-known voice, and presently in walked Antonio Buchini, dressed in the same style as when I first introduced him to the reader, namely, in a handsome but rather faded French surtout, vest, and pantaloons, with a diminutive hat in one hand, and holding in the other a long and slender cane.
'Bon jour, mon maitre,' said the Greek; then, glancing around the apartment, he continued, 'I am glad to find you so well lodged. If I remember right, mon maitre, we have slept in worse places during our wanderings in Galicia and Castile.'
'You are quite right, Antonio,' I replied; 'I am very comfortable. Well, this is kind of you to visit your ancient master, more especially now he is in the toils; I hope, however, that by so doing you will not offend your present employer. His dinner hour must be at hand; why are you not in the kitchen?'
'Of what employer are you speaking, mon maitre?' demanded Antonio.
'Of whom should I speak but Count —-, to serve whom you abandoned me, being tempted by an offer of a monthly salary less by four dollars than that which I was giving you?'
'Your worship brings an affair to my remembrance which I had long since forgotten. I have at present no other master than yourself, Monsieur Georges, for I shall always consider you as my master, though I may not enjoy the felicity of waiting upon you.'
'You have left the Count, then,' said I, 'after remaining three days in the house, according to your usual practice.'
'Not three hours, mon maitre,' replied Antonio; 'but I will tell you the circumstances. Soon after I left you I repaired to the house of Monsieur le Comte; I entered the kitchen, and looked about me. I cannot say that I had much reason to be dissatisfied with what I saw: the kitchen was large and commodious, and everything appeared neat and in its proper place, and the domestics civil and courteous; yet, I know not how it was, the idea at once rushed into my mind that the house was by no means suited to me, and that I was not destined to stay there long; so, hanging my haversack upon a nail, and sitting down on the dresser, I commenced singing a Greek song, as I am in the habit of doing when dissatisfied. The domestics came about me, asking questions. I made them no answer, however, and continued singing till the hour for preparing the dinner drew nigh, when I suddenly sprang on the floor, and was not long in thrusting them all out of the kitchen, telling them that they had no business there at such a season. I then at once entered upon my functions. I exerted myself, mon maitre—I exerted myself, and was preparing a repast which would have done me honour; there was, indeed, some company expected that day, and I therefore determined to show my employer that nothing was beyond the capacity of his Greek cook. Eh bien, mon maitre, all was going on remarkably well, and I felt almost reconciled to my new situation when who should rush into the kitchen but le fils de la maison, my young master, an ugly urchin of thirteen years, or thereabouts. He bore in his hand a manchet of bread, which, after prying about for a moment, he proceeded to dip in the pan where some delicate woodcocks were in the course of preparation. You know, mon maitre, how sensitive I am on certain points, for I am no Spaniard, but a Greek, and have principles of honour. Without a moment's hesitation I took my young master by the shoulders, and hurrying him to the door, dismissed him in the manner which he deserved. Squalling loudly, he hurried away to the upper part of the house. I continued my labours, but ere three minutes had elapsed, I heard a dreadful confusion above stairs, on faisoit une horrible tintamarre, and I could occasionally distinguish oaths and execrations. Presently doors were flung open, and there was an awful rushing downstairs, a gallopade. It was my lord the count, his lady, and my young master, followed by a regular bevy of women and filles de chambre. Far in advance of all, however, was my lord with a drawn sword in his hand, shouting, "Where is the wretch who has dishonoured my son, where is he? He shall die forthwith." I know not how it was, mon maitre, but I just then chanced to spill a large bowl of garbanzos, which were intended for the puchera of the following day. They were un-cooked, and were as hard as marbles; these I dashed upon the floor, and the greater part of them fell just about the doorway. Eh bien, mon maitre, in another moment in bounded the count, his eyes sparkling like coals, and, as I have already said, with a rapier in his hand. "Tenez, gueux enrage," he screamed, making a desperate lunge at me; but ere the words were out of his mouth, his foot slipping on the pease, he fell forward with great violence at his full length, and his weapon flew out of his hand, comme une fleche. You should have heard the outcry which ensued—there was a terrible confusion; the count lay upon the floor to all appearance stunned. I took no notice, however, continuing busily employed. They at last raised him up, and assisted him till he came to himself, though very pale and much shaken. He asked for his sword: all eyes were now turned upon me, and I saw that a general attack was meditated. Suddenly I took a large casserole from the fire in which various eggs were frying; this I held out at arm's length, peering at it along my arm as if I were curiously inspecting it, my right foot advanced and the other thrown back as far as possible. All stood still, imagining, doubtless, that I was about to perform some grand operation, and so I was: for suddenly the sinister leg advancing, with one rapid coup de pied, I sent the casserole and its contents flying over my head, so that they struck the wall far behind me. This was to let them know that I had broken my staff and had shaken the dust off my feet; so casting upon the count the peculiar glance of the Sceirote cooks when they feel themselves insulted, and extending my mouth on either side nearly as far as the ears, I took down my haversack and departed, singing as I went the song of the ancient Demos, who, when dying, asked for his supper, and water wherewith to lave his hands—
And in this manner, mon maitre, I left the house of the Count of —-'
* * * * *
After travelling four days and nights, we arrived at Madrid without having experienced the slightest accident, though it is but just to observe, and always with gratitude to the Almighty, that the next mail was stopped. A singular incident befell me immediately after my arrival. On entering the arch of the posada called La Reyna, where I intended to put up, I found myself encircled in a person's arms, and on turning round in amazement beheld my Greek servant, Antonio. He was haggard and ill- dressed, and his eyes seemed starting from their sockets.
As soon as we were alone he informed me that since my departure he had undergone great misery and destitution, having, during the whole period, been unable to find a master in need of his services, so that he was brought nearly to the verge of desperation; but that on the night immediately preceding my arrival he had a dream, in which he saw me, mounted on a black horse, ride up to the gate of the posada, and that on that account he had been waiting there during the greater part of the day. I do not pretend to offer an opinion concerning this narrative, which is beyond the reach of my philosophy, and shall content myself with observing, that only two individuals in Madrid were aware of my arrival in Spain. I was very glad to receive him again into my service, as, notwithstanding his faults, he had in many instances proved of no small assistance to me in my wanderings and Biblical labours.
* * * * *
The posada where I had put up was a good specimen of the old Spanish inn, being much the same as those described in the time of Philip the Third or Fourth. The rooms were many and large, floored with either brick or stone, generally with an alcove at the end, in which stood a wretched flock bed. Behind the house was a court, and in the rear of this a stable, full of horses, ponies, mules, machos, and donkeys, for there was no lack of guests, who, however, for the most part slept in the stable with their caballerias, being either arrieros or small peddling merchants, who travelled the country with coarse cloth or linen. Opposite to my room in the corridor lodged a wounded officer, who had just arrived from San Sebastian on a galled broken-kneed pony: he was an Estrimenian, and was returning to his own village to be cured. He was attended by three broken soldiers, lame or maimed, and unfit for service: they told me that they were of the same village as his worship, and on that account he permitted them to travel with him. They slept amongst the litter, and throughout the day lounged about the house smoking paper cigars. I never saw them eating, though they frequently went to a dark cool corner, where stood a bota or kind of water pitcher, which they held about six inches from their black filmy lips, permitting the liquid to trickle down their throats. They said they had no pay and were quite destitute of money, that su merced the officer occasionally gave them a piece of bread, but that he himself was poor and had only a few dollars. Brave guests for an inn, thought I; yet, to the honour of Spain be it spoken, it is one of the few countries in Europe where poverty is never insulted nor looked upon with contempt. Even at an inn, the poor man is never spurned from the door, and if not harboured, is at least dismissed with fair words, and consigned to the mercies of God and his mother. This is as it should be. I laugh at the bigotry and prejudices of Spain, I abhor the cruelty and ferocity which have cast a stain of eternal infamy on her history, but I will say for the Spaniards that in their social intercourse no people in the world exhibit a juster feeling of what is due to the dignity of human nature, or better understand the behaviour which it behoves a man to adopt towards his fellow beings. I have said that it is one of the few countries in Europe where poverty is not treated with contempt, and I may add, where the wealthy are not blindly idolized. In Spain the very beggar does not feel himself a degraded being, for he kisses no one's feet, and knows not what it is to be cuffed or spit upon; and in Spain the duke or the marquis can scarcely entertain a very overweening opinion of his own consequence, as he finds no one, with perhaps the exception of his French valet, to fawn upon or flatter him.
* * * * *
The landlord brought the ale, placed it on the table, and then stood as if waiting for something.
'I suppose you are waiting to be paid,' said I, 'what is your demand?'
'Sixpence for this jug, and sixpence for the other,' said the landlord.
I took out a shilling and said: 'It is but right that I should pay half of the reckoning, and as the whole affair is merely a shilling matter, I should feel obliged in being permitted to pay the whole, so, landlord, take the shilling, and remember you are paid.' I then delivered the shilling to the landlord, but had no sooner done so than the man in grey, starting up in violent agitation, wrested the money from the other, and flung it down on the table before me saying:—
'No, no, that will never do. I invited you in here to drink, and now you would pay for the liquor which I ordered. You English are free with your money, but you are sometimes free with it at the expense of people's feelings. I am a Welshman, and I know Englishmen consider all Welshmen hogs. But we are not hogs, mind you! for we have little feelings which hogs have not. Moreover, I would have you know that we have money, though perhaps not so much as the Saxon.' Then putting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out a shilling, and giving it to the landlord, said in Welsh: 'Now thou art paid and mayst go thy ways till thou art again called for. I do not know why thou didst stay after thou hadst put down the ale. Thou didst know enough of me to know that thou didst run no risk of not being paid.'
* * * * *
'Young gentleman,' said the huge, fat landlord, 'you are come at the right time; dinner will be taken up in a few minutes, and such a dinner,' he continued, rubbing his hands, 'as you will not see every day in these times.'
'I am hot and dusty,' said I, 'and should wish to cool my hands and face.'
'Jenny!' said the huge landlord, with the utmost gravity, 'show the gentleman into number seven that he may wash his hands and face.'
'By no means,' said I, 'I am a person of primitive habits, and there is nothing like the pump in weather like this.'
'Jenny!' said the landlord, with the same gravity as before, 'go with the young gentleman to the pump in the back kitchen, and take a clean towel along with you.'
Thereupon the rosy-faced clean-looking damsel went to a drawer, and producing a large, thick, but snowy-white towel, she nodded to me to follow her; whereupon I followed Jenny through a long passage into the back kitchen.
And at the end of the back kitchen there stood a pump; and going to it I placed my hands beneath the spout, and said, 'Pump, Jenny,' and Jenny incontinently, without laying down the towel, pumped with one hand, and I washed and cooled my heated hands.
And, when my hands were washed and cooled, I took off my neckcloth, and unbuttoning my shirt collar, I placed my head beneath the spout of the pump, and I said unto Jenny: 'Now, Jenny, lay down the towel, and pump for your life.'
Thereupon Jenny, placing the towel on a linen horse, took the handle of the pump with both hands and pumped over my head as handmaid had never pumped before; so that the water poured in torrents from my head, my face, and my hair down upon the brick floor.
And after the lapse of somewhat more than a minute, I called out with a half-strangled voice, 'Hold, Jenny!' and Jenny desisted. I stood for a few moments to recover my breath, then, taking the towel which Jenny proffered, I dried composedly my hands and head, my face and hair; then, returning the towel to Jenny, I gave a deep sigh and said: 'Surely this is one of the pleasant moments of life.'
* * * * * *
Becoming soon tired of walking about, without any particular aim, in so great a heat, I determined to return to the inn, call for ale, and deliberate on what I had best next do. So I returned and called for ale. The ale which was brought was not ale which I am particularly fond of. The ale which I am fond of is ale about nine or ten months old, somewhat hard, tasting well of malt and little of the hop—ale such as farmers, and noblemen too, of the good old time, when farmers' daughters did not play on pianos and noblemen did not sell their game, were in the habit of offering to both high and low, and drinking themselves. The ale which was brought to me was thin washy stuff, which though it did not taste much of hop, tasted still less of malt, made and sold by one Allsopp, who I am told calls himself a squire and a gentleman—as he certainly may with quite as much right as many a lord calls himself a nobleman and a gentleman; for surely it is not a fraction more trumpery to make and sell ale than to fatten and sell game. The ale of the Saxon squire, for Allsopp is decidedly an old Saxon name, however unakin to the practice of old Saxon squires the selling of ale may be, was drinkable, for it was fresh, and the day, as I have said before, exceedingly hot; so I took frequent draughts out of the shining metal tankard in which it was brought, deliberating both whilst drinking, and in the intervals of drinking, on what I had next best do.
* * * * *
Late in the afternoon we reached Medina del Campo, formerly one of the principal cities of Spain, though at present an inconsiderable place. Immense ruins surround it in every direction, attesting the former grandeur of this 'city of the plain.' The great square or market place is a remarkable spot, surrounded by a heavy massive piazza, over which rise black buildings of great antiquity. We found the town crowded with people awaiting the fair, which was to be held in a day or two. We experienced some difficulty in obtaining admission into the posada, which was chiefly occupied by Catalans from Valladolid. These people not only brought with them their merchandise, but their wives and children. Some of them appeared to be people of the worst description: there was one in particular, a burly savage-looking fellow, of about forty, whose conduct was atrocious; he sat with his wife, or perhaps concubine, at the door of a room which opened upon the court: he was continually venting horrible and obscene oaths, both in Spanish and Catalan. The woman was remarkably handsome, but robust, and seemingly as savage as himself; her conversation likewise was as frightful as his own. Both seemed to be under the influence of an incomprehensible fury. At last, upon some observation from the woman, he started up, and drawing a long knife from his girdle, stabbed at her naked bosom; she, however, interposed the palm of her hand, which was much cut. He stood for a moment viewing the blood trickling upon the ground, whilst she held up her wounded hand; then, with an astounding oath, he hurried up the court to the Plaza. I went up to the woman and said, 'What is the cause of this? I hope the ruffian has not seriously injured you.' She turned her countenance upon me with the glance of a demon, and at last with a sneer of contempt exclaimed, 'Carals, que es eso? Cannot a Catalan gentleman be conversing with his lady upon their own private affairs without being interrupted by you?' She then bound up her hand with a handkerchief, and going into the room brought a small table to the door, on which she placed several things, as if for the evening's repast, and then sat down on a stool. Presently returned the Catalan, and without a word took his seat on the threshold; then, as if nothing had occurred, the extraordinary couple commenced eating and drinking, interlarding their meal with oaths and jests.
* * * * *
I had till then considered him a plain, uninformed old man, almost simple, and as incapable of much emotion as a tortoise within its shell; but he had become at once inspired: his eyes were replete with a bright fire, and every muscle of his face was quivering. The little silk skull- cap which he wore, according to the custom of the Catholic clergy, moved up and down with his agitation; and I soon saw that I was in the presence of one of those remarkable men who so frequently spring up in the bosom of the Romish church, and who to a child-like simplicity unite immense energy and power of mind—equally adapted to guide a scanty flock of ignorant rustics in some obscure village in Italy or Spain, as to convert millions of heathens on the shores of Japan, China, and Paraguay.
He was a thin spare man, of about sixty-five, and was dressed in a black cloak of very coarse materials; nor were his other garments of superior quality. This plainness, however, in the appearance of his outward man was by no means the result of poverty; quite the contrary. The benefice was a very plentiful one, and placed at his disposal annually a sum of at least eight hundred dollars, of which the eighth part was more than sufficient to defray the expenses of his house and himself; the rest was devoted entirely to the purest acts of charity. He fed the hungry wanderer, and despatched him singing on his way, with meat in his wallet and a peseta in his purse; and his parishioners, when in need of money, had only to repair to his study, and were sure of an immediate supply. He was, indeed, the banker of the village, and what he lent he neither expected nor wished to be returned. Though under the necessity of making frequent journeys to Salamanca, he kept no mule, but contented himself with an ass, borrowed from the neighbouring miller. 'I once kept a mule,' said he; 'but some years since it was removed without my permission by a traveller whom I had housed for the night: for in that alcove I keep two clean beds for the use of the wayfaring, and I shall be very much pleased if yourself and friend will occupy them, and tarry with me till the morning.'
* * * * *
'What mountains are those?' I inquired of a barber-surgeon who, mounted like myself on a grey burra, joined me about noon, and proceeded in my company for several leagues. 'They have many names, Caballero,' replied the barber; 'according to the names of the neighbouring places, so they are called. Yon portion of them is styled the Serrania of Plasencia; and opposite to Madrid they are termed the Mountains of Guadarrama, from a river of that name, which descends from them. They run a vast way, Caballero, and separate the two kingdoms, for on the other side is Old Castile. They are mighty mountains, and, though they generate much cold, I take pleasure in looking at them, which is not to be wondered at, seeing that I was born amongst them, though at present, for my sins, I live in a village of the plain. Caballero, there is not another such range in Spain; they have their secrets, too—their mysteries. Strange tales are told of those hills, and of what they contain in their deep recesses, for they are a broad chain, and you may wander days and days amongst them without coming to any termino. Many have lost themselves on those hills, and have never again been heard of. Strange things are told of them: it is said that in certain places there are deep pools and lakes, in which dwell monsters, huge serpents as long as a pine tree, and horses of the flood, which sometimes come out and commit mighty damage. One thing is certain, that yonder, far away to the west, in the heart of those hills, there is a wonderful valley, so narrow that only at mid-day is the face of the sun to be descried from it. That valley lay undiscovered and unknown for thousands of years; no person dreamed of its existence. But at last, a long time ago, certain hunters entered it by chance, and then what do you think they found, Caballero? They found a small nation or tribe of unknown people, speaking an unknown language, who, perhaps, had lived there since the creation of the world, without intercourse with the rest of their fellow-creatures, and without knowing that other beings besides themselves existed! Caballero, did you never hear of the valley of the Batuecas? Many books have been written about that valley and those people. Caballero, I am proud of yonder hills; and were I independent, and without wife or children, I would purchase a burra like that of your own—which I see is an excellent one, and far superior to mine—and travel amongst them till I knew all their mysteries, and had seen all the wondrous things which they contain.'
* * * * *
We had scarcely been five minutes at the window, when we suddenly heard the clattering of horses' feet hastening down the street called the Calle de Carretas. The house in which we had stationed ourselves was, as I have already observed, just opposite to the post-office, at the left of which this street debouches from the north into the Puerta del Sol: as the sounds became louder and louder, the cries of the crowd below diminished, and a species of panic seemed to have fallen upon all: once or twice, however, I could distinguish the words, 'Quesada! Quesada!' The foot soldiers stood calm and motionless, but I observed that the cavalry, with the young officer who commanded them, displayed both confusion and fear, exchanging with each other some hurried words. All of a sudden that part of the crowd which stood near the mouth of the Calle de Carretas fell back in great disorder, leaving a considerable space unoccupied, and the next moment Quesada, in complete general's uniform, and mounted on a bright bay thoroughbred English horse, with a drawn sword in his hand, dashed at full gallop into the area, in much the same manner as I have seen a Manchegan bull rush into the amphitheatre when the gates of his pen are suddenly flung open.
He was closely followed by two mounted officers, and at a short distance by as many dragoons. In almost less time than is sufficient to relate it, several individuals in the crowd were knocked down and lay sprawling upon the ground, beneath the horses of Quesada and his two friends, for as to the dragoons, they halted as soon as they had entered the Puerta del Sol. It was a fine sight to see three men, by dint of valour and good horsemanship, strike terror into at least as many thousands: I saw Quesada spur his horse repeatedly into the dense masses of the crowd, and then extricate himself in the most masterly manner. The rabble were completely awed, and gave way, retiring by the Calle del Comercio and the Calle del Alcala. All at once, Quesada singled out two nationals, who were attempting to escape, and setting spurs to his horse, turned them in a moment, and drove them in another direction, striking them in a contemptuous manner with the flat of his sabre. He was crying out, 'Long live the absolute queen!' when, just beneath me, amidst a portion of the crowd which had still maintained its ground, perhaps from not having the means of escaping, I saw a small gun glitter for a moment; then there was a sharp report, and a bullet had nearly sent Quesada to his long account, passing so near to the countenance of the general as to graze his hat. I had an indistinct view for a moment of a well-known foraging cap just about the spot from whence the gun had been discharged, then there was a rush of the crowd, and the shooter, whoever he was, escaped discovery amidst the confusion which arose.