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The Bible in Spain
by George Borrow
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The Gypsy Gospels had now been seized, at least as many as were exposed for sale in the despacho. The corregidor and his friends, however, were of opinion that many more might be obtained by means of a little management. Fellows, therefore, hangers-on of the police office, were daily dispatched to the shop in all kinds of disguises, inquiring, with great seeming anxiety, for "Gypsy books," and offering high prices for copies. They, however, returned to their employers empty-handed. My Gallegan was on his guard, informing all who made inquiries, that books of no description would be sold at the establishment for the present. Which was in truth the case, as I had given him particular orders to sell no more under any pretence whatever.

I got no credit, however, for my frank dealing. The corregidor and his confederates could not persuade themselves but that by some means mysterious and unknown to them, I was daily selling hundreds of these Gypsy books, which were to revolutionize the country, and annihilate the power of the Father of Rome. A plan was therefore resolved upon, by means of which they hoped to have an opportunity of placing me in a position which would incapacitate me for some time from taking any active measures to circulate the Scriptures, either in Gypsy or in any other language.

It was on the morning of the first of May, if I forget not, that an unknown individual made his appearance in my apartment as I was seated at breakfast; he was a mean-looking fellow, about the middle stature, with a countenance on which knave was written in legible characters. The hostess ushered him in, and then withdrew. I did not like the appearance of my visitor, but assuming some degree of courtesy, I requested him to sit down, and demanded his business. "I come from his excellency the political chief of Madrid," he replied, "and my business is to inform you that his excellency is perfectly aware of your proceedings, and is at any time able to prove that you are still disposing of in secret those evil books which you have been forbidden to sell." "Is he so," I replied; "pray let him do so forthwith, but what need of giving me information?" "Perhaps," continued the fellow, "you think his worship has no witnesses; know, however, that he has many, and respectable ones too." "Doubtless," I replied, "and from the respectability of your own appearance, you are perhaps one of them. But you are occupying my time unprofitably; begone, therefore, and tell whoever sent you, that I have by no means a high opinion of his wisdom." "I shall go when I please," retorted the fellow; "do you know to whom you are speaking? Are you aware that if I think fit I can search your apartment, yes, even below your bed? What have we here," he continued; and commenced with his stick poking a heap of papers which lay upon a chair; "what have we here; are these also papers of the Gypsies?" I instantly determined upon submitting no longer to this behaviour, and taking the fellow by the arm, led him out of the apartment, and then still holding him, conducted him downstairs from the third floor in which I lived, into the street, looking him steadfastly in the face the whole while.

The fellow had left his sombrero on the table, which I dispatched to him by the landlady, who delivered it into his hand as he stood in the street staring with distended eyes at the balcony of my apartment.

"A trampa has been laid for you, Don Jorge," said Maria Diaz, when she had reascended from the street; "that corchete came here with no other intention than to have a dispute with you; out of every word you have said he will make a long history, as is the custom with these people: indeed he said, as I handed him his hat, that ere twenty-four hours were over, you should see the inside of the prison of Madrid."

In effect, during the course of the morning, I was told that a warrant had been issued for my apprehension. The prospect of incarceration, however, did not fill me with much dismay; an adventurous life and inveterate habits of wandering having long familiarized me to situations of every kind, so much so as to feel myself quite as comfortable in a prison as in the gilded chamber of palaces; indeed more so, as in the former place I can always add to my store of useful information, whereas in the latter, ennui frequently assails me. I had, moreover, been thinking for some time past of paying a visit to the prison, partly in the hope of being able to say a few words of Christian instruction to the criminals, and partly with the view of making certain investigations in the robber language of Spain, a subject about which I had long felt much curiosity; indeed, I had already made application for admittance into the Carcel de la Corte, but had found the matter surrounded with difficulties, as my friend Ofalia would have said. I rather rejoiced then in the opportunity which was now about to present itself of entering the prison, not in the character of a visitor for an hour, but as a martyr, and as one suffering in the holy cause of religion. I was determined, however, to disappoint my enemies for that day at least, and to render null the threat of the alguazil, that I should be imprisoned within twenty-four hours. I therefore took up my abode for the rest of the day in a celebrated French tavern in the Calle del Caballero de Gracia, which, as it was one of the most fashionable and public places in Madrid, I naturally concluded was one of the last where the corregidor would think of seeking me.

About ten at night, Maria Diaz, to whom I had communicated the place of my retreat, arrived with her son, Juan Lopez. "O senor," said she on seeing me, "they are already in quest of you; the alcalde of the barrio, with a large comitiva of alguazils and such like people, have just been at our house with a warrant for your imprisonment from the corregidor. They searched the whole house, and were much disappointed at not finding you. Wo is me, what will they do when they catch you?" "Be under no apprehensions, good Maria," said I; "you forget that I am an Englishman, and so it seems does the corregidor. Whenever he catches me, depend upon it he will be glad enough to let me go. For the present, however, we will permit him to follow his own course, for the spirit of folly seems to have seized him."

I slept at the tavern, and in the forenoon of the following day repaired to the embassy, where I had an interview with Sir George, to whom I related every circumstance of the affair. He said that he could scarcely believe that the corregidor entertained any serious intentions of imprisoning me: in the first place, because I had committed no offence; and in the second, because I was not under the jurisdiction of that functionary, but under that of the captain-general, who was alone empowered to decide upon matters which relate to foreigners, and before whom I must be brought in the presence of the consul of my nation. "However," said he, "there is no knowing to what length these jacks in office may go. I therefore advise you, if you are under any apprehension, to remain as my guest at the embassy for a few days, for here you will be quite safe." I assured him that I was under no apprehension whatever, having long been accustomed to adventures of this kind. From the apartment of Sir George, I proceeded to that of the first secretary of embassy, Mr. Southern, with whom I entered into conversation. I had scarcely been there a minute when my servant Francisco rushed in, much out of breath, and in violent agitation, exclaiming in Basque, "Niri jauna (master mine), the alguaziloac and the corchetoac, and all the other lapurrac (thieves) are again at the house. They seem half mad, and not being able to find you, are searching your papers, thinking, I suppose, that you are hid among them." Mr. Southern here interrupting him, inquired of me what all this meant. Whereupon I told him, saying at the same time, that it was my intention to proceed at once to my lodgings. "But perhaps these fellows will arrest you," said Mr. S., "before we can interfere." "I must take my chance as to that," I replied, and presently afterwards departed.

Ere, however, I had reached the middle of the street of Alcala, two fellows came up to me, and telling me that I was their prisoner, commanded me to follow them to the office of the corregidor. They were in fact alguazils, who, suspecting that I might enter or come out of the embassy, had stationed themselves in the neighbourhood. I instantly turned round to Francisco, and told him in Basque to return to the embassy and to relate there to the secretary what had just occurred. The poor fellow set off like lightning, turning half round, however, to shake his fist, and to vent a Basque execration at the two lapurrac, as he called the alguazils.

They conducted me to the gefatura or office of the corregidor, where they ushered me into a large room, and motioned me to sit down on a wooden bench. They then stationed themselves on each side of me: there were at least twenty people in the apartment beside ourselves, evidently from their appearance officials of the establishment. They were all well dressed, for the most part in the French fashion, in round hats, coats, and pantaloons, and yet they looked what in reality they were, Spanish alguazils, spies, and informers, and Gil Blas, could he have waked from his sleep of two centuries, would, notwithstanding the change of fashion, have had no difficulty in recognizing them. They glanced at me as they stood lounging about the room; they gathered themselves together in a circle and began conversing in whispers. I heard one of them say, "he understands the seven Gypsy jargons." Then presently another, evidently from his language an Andalusian, said, "Es muy diestro (he is very skilful), and can ride a horse and dart a knife full as well as if he came from my own country." Thereupon they all turned round and regarded me with a species of interest, evidently mingled with respect, which most assuredly they would not have exhibited had they conceived that I was merely an honest man bearing witness in a righteous cause.

I waited patiently on the bench at least one hour, expecting every moment to be summoned before my lord the corregidor. I suppose, however, that I was not deemed worthy of being permitted to see so exalted a personage, for at the end of that time, an elderly man, one however evidently of the alguazil genus, came into the room and advanced directly towards me. "Stand up," said he. I obeyed. "What is your name?" he demanded. I told him. "Then," he replied, exhibiting a paper which he held in his hand, "Senor, it is the will of his excellency the corregidor that you be forthwith sent to prison."

He looked at me steadfastly as he spoke, perhaps expecting that I should sink into the earth at the formidable name of prison; I however only smiled. He then delivered the paper, which I suppose was the warrant for my committal, into the hand of one of my two captors, and obeying a sign which they made, I followed them.

I subsequently learned that the secretary of legation, Mr. Southern, had been dispatched by Sir George, as soon as the latter had obtained information of my arrest, and had been waiting at the office during the greater part of the time that I was there. He had demanded an audience of the corregidor, in which he had intended to have remonstrated with him, and pointed out to him the danger to which he was subjecting himself by the rash step which he was taking. The sullen functionary, however, had refused to see him, thinking, perhaps, that to listen to reason would be a dereliction of dignity: by this conduct, however, he most effectually served me, as no person, after such a specimen of uncalled-for insolence, felt disposed to question the violence and injustice which had been practised towards me.

The alguazils conducted me across the Plaza Mayor to the Carcel de la Corte, or prison of the court, as it is called. Whilst going across the square, I remembered that this was the place where, in "the good old times," the Inquisition of Spain was in the habit of holding its solemn Autos da fe, and I cast my eye to the balcony of the city hall, where at the most solemn of them all, the last of the Austrian line in Spain sat, and after some thirty heretics, of both sexes, had been burnt by fours and by fives, wiped his face, perspiring with heat, and black with smoke, and calmly inquired, "No hay mas?" for which exemplary proof of patience he was much applauded by his priests and confessors, who subsequently poisoned him. "And here am I," thought I, "who have done more to wound Popery, than all the poor Christian martyrs that ever suffered in this accursed square, merely sent to prison, from which I am sure to be liberated in a few days, with credit and applause. Pope of Rome! I believe you to be as malicious as ever, but you are sadly deficient in power. You are become paralytic, Batuschca, and your club has degenerated to a crutch."

We arrived at the prison, which stands in a narrow street not far from the great square. We entered a dusky passage, at the end of which was a wicket door. My conductors knocked, a fierce visage peered through the wicket; there was an exchange of words, and in a few moments I found myself within the prison of Madrid, in a kind of corridor which overlooked at a considerable altitude what appeared to be a court, from which arose a hubbub of voices, and occasionally wild shouts and cries. Within the corridor which served as a kind of office, were several people; one of them sat behind a desk, and to him the alguazils went up, and after discoursing with him some time in low tones, delivered the warrant into his hands. He perused it with attention, then rising he advanced to me. What a figure! He was about forty years of age, and his height might have amounted to some six feet two inches, had he not been curved much after the fashion of the letter S. No weazel ever appeared lanker, and he looked as if a breath of air would have been sufficient to blow him away; his face might certainly have been called handsome, had it not been for its extraordinary and portentous meagreness; his nose was like an eagle's bill, his teeth white as ivory, his eyes black (Oh how black!) and fraught with a strange expression, his skin was dark, and the hair of his head like the plumage of the raven. A deep quiet smile dwelt continually on his features; but with all the quiet it was a cruel smile, such a one as would have graced the countenance of a Nero. "Mais en revanche personne n'etoit plus honnete." "Caballero," said he, "allow me to introduce myself to you as the alcayde of this prison. I perceive by this paper that I am to have the honour of your company for a time, a short time doubtless, beneath this roof; I hope you will banish every apprehension from your mind. I am charged to treat you with all the respect which is due to the illustrious nation to which you belong, and which a cavalier of such exalted category as yourself is entitled to expect. A needless charge, it is true, as I should only have been too happy of my own accord to have afforded you every comfort and attention. Caballero, you will rather consider yourself here as a guest than a prisoner; you will be permitted to roam over every part of this house whenever you think proper. You will find matters here not altogether below the attention of a philosophic mind! Pray, issue whatever commands you may think fit to the turnkeys and officials, even as if they were your own servants. I will now have the honour of conducting you to your apartment—the only one at present unoccupied. We invariably reserve it for cavaliers of distinction. I am happy to say that my orders are again in consonance with my inclination. No charge whatever will be made for it to you, though the daily hire of it is not unfrequently an ounce of gold. I entreat you, therefore, to follow me, cavalier, who am at all times and seasons the most obedient and devoted of your servants." Here he took off his hat and bowed profoundly.

Such was the speech of the alcayde of the prison of Madrid; a speech delivered in pure sonorous Castilian, with calmness, gravity, and almost with dignity; a speech which would have done honour to a gentleman of high birth, to Monsieur Basompierre, of the Old Bastile, receiving an Italian prince, or the high constable of the Tower an English duke attainted of high treason. Now, who in the name of wonder was this alcayde?

One of the greatest rascals in all Spain. A fellow who had more than once by his grasping cupidity, and by his curtailment of the miserable rations of the prisoners, caused an insurrection in the court below only to be repressed by bloodshed, and by summoning military aid; a fellow of low birth, who, only five years previous, had been DRUMMER to a band of royalist volunteers!

But Spain is the land of extraordinary characters.

I followed the alcayde to the end of the corridor, where was a massive grated door, on each side of which sat a grim fellow of a turnkey. The door was opened, and turning to the right we proceeded down another corridor, in which were many people walking about, whom I subsequently discovered to be prisoners like myself, but for political offences. At the end of this corridor, which extended the whole length of the patio, we turned into another, and the first apartment in this was the one destined for myself. It was large and lofty, but totally destitute of every species of furniture, with the exception of a huge wooden pitcher, intended to hold my daily allowance of water. "Caballero," said the alcayde, "the apartment is without furniture, as you see. It is already the third hour of the tarde, I therefore advise you to lose no time in sending to your lodgings for a bed and whatever you may stand in need of, the llavero here shall do your bidding. Caballero, adieu till I see you again."

I followed his advice, and writing a note in pencil to Maria Diaz, I dispatched it by the llavero, and then sitting down on the wooden pitcher, I fell into a reverie, which continued for a considerable time.

Night arrived, and so did Maria Diaz, attended by two porters and Francisco, all loaded with furniture. A lamp was lighted, charcoal was kindled in the brasero, and the prison gloom was to a certain degree dispelled.

I now left my seat on the pitcher, and sitting down on a chair, proceeded to dispatch some wine and viands, which my good hostess had not forgotten to bring with her. Suddenly Mr. Southern entered. He laughed heartily at finding me engaged in the manner I have described. "B-," said he, "you are the man to get through the world, for you appear to take all things coolly, and as matters of course. That, however, which most surprises me with respect to you is, your having so many friends; here you are in prison, surrounded by people ministering to your comforts. Your very servant is your friend, instead of being your worst enemy, as is usually the case. That Basque of yours is a noble fellow. I shall never forget how he spoke for you, when he came running to the embassy to inform us of your arrest. He interested both Sir George and myself in the highest degree: should you ever wish to part with him, I hope you will give me the refusal of his services. But now to other matters." He then informed me that Sir George had already sent in an official note to Ofalia, demanding redress for such a wanton outrage on the person of a British subject. "You must remain in prison," said he, "to-night, but depend upon it that to-morrow, if you are disposed, you may quit in triumph." "I am by no means disposed for any such thing," I replied. "They have put me in prison for their pleasure, and I intend to remain here for my own." "If the confinement is not irksome to you," said Mr. Southern, "I think, indeed, it will be your wisest plan; the government have committed themselves sadly with regard to you; and, to speak plainly, we are by no means sorry for it. They have on more than one occasion treated ourselves very cavalierly, and we have now, if you continue firm, an excellent opportunity of humbling their insolence. I will instantly acquaint Sir George with your determination, and you shall hear from us early on the morrow." He then bade me farewell; and flinging myself on my bed, I was soon asleep in the prison of Madrid.



CHAPTER XL



Ofalia—The Juez—Carcel do la Corte—Sunday in Prison—Robber Dress—Father and Son—Characteristic Behaviour—The Frenchman— Prison Allowance—Valley of the Shadow—Pure Castilian—Balseiro— The Cave—Robber Glory.

Ofalia quickly perceived that the imprisonment of a British subject in a manner so illegal as that which had attended my own, was likely to be followed by rather serious consequences. Whether he himself had at all encouraged the corregidor in his behaviour towards me, it is impossible to say; the probability is that he had not: the latter, however, was an officer of his own appointing, for whose actions himself and the government were to a certain extent responsible. Sir George had already made a very strong remonstrance upon the subject, and had even gone so far as to state in an official note that he should desist from all farther communication with the Spanish government until full and ample reparation had been afforded me for the violence to which I had been subjected. Ofalia's reply was, that immediate measures should be taken for my liberation, and that it would be my own fault if I remained in prison. He forthwith ordered a juez de la primera instancia, a kind of solicitor-general, to wait upon me, who was instructed to hear my account of the affair, and then to dismiss me with an admonition to be cautious for the future. My friends of the embassy, however, had advised me how to act in such a case. Accordingly, when the juez on the second night of my imprisonment made his appearance at the prison, and summoned me before him, I went, but on his proceeding to question me, I absolutely refused to answer. "I deny your right to put any questions to me," said I; "I entertain, however, no feelings of disrespect to the government or to yourself, Caballero Juez; but I have been illegally imprisoned. So accomplished a jurist as yourself cannot fail to be aware that, according to the laws of Spain, I, as a foreigner, could not be committed to prison for the offence with which I had been charged, without previously being conducted before the captain-general of this royal city, whose duty it is to protect foreigners, and see that the laws of hospitality are not violated in their persons."

Juez.—Come, come, Don Jorge, I see what you are aiming at; but listen to reason: I will not now speak to you as a juez but as a friend who wishes you well, and who entertains a profound reverence for the British nation. This is a foolish affair altogether; I will not deny that the political chief acted somewhat hastily on the information of a person not perhaps altogether worthy of credit. No great damage, however, has been done to you, and to a man of the world like yourself, a little adventure of this kind is rather calculated to afford amusement than anything else. Now be advised, forget what has happened; you know that it is the part and duty of a Christian to forgive; so, Don Jorge, I advise you to leave this place forthwith. I dare say you are getting tired of it. You are this moment free to depart; repair at once to your lodgings, where, I promise you, that no one shall be permitted to interrupt you for the future. It is getting late, and the prison doors will speedily be closed for the night. Vamos, Don Jorge, a la casa, a la posada!

Myself.—"But Paul said unto them, they have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? Nay, verily: but let them come themselves and fetch us out."

I then bowed to the juez, who shrugged his shoulders and took snuff. On leaving the apartment I turned to the alcayde, who stood at the door: "Take notice," said I, "that I will not quit this prison till I have received full satisfaction for being sent hither uncondemned. You may expel me if you please, but any attempt to do so shall be resisted with all the bodily strength of which I am possessed."

"Your worship is right," said the alcayde with a bow, but in a low voice.

Sir George, on hearing of this affair, sent me a letter in which he highly commanded my resolution not to leave the prison for the present, at the same time begging me to let him know if there were anything that he could send me from the embassy to render my situation more tolerable.

I will now leave for the present my own immediate affairs, and proceed to give some account of the prison of Madrid and its inmates.

The Carcel de la Corte, where I now was, though the principal prison of Madrid, is one which certainly in no respect does credit to the capital of Spain. Whether it was originally intended for the purpose to which it is at present applied, I have no opportunity of knowing. The chances, however, are, that it was not; indeed it was not till of late years that the practice of building edifices expressly intended and suited for the incarceration of culprits came at all into vogue. Castles, convents, and deserted palaces, have in all countries, at different times, been converted into prisons, which practice still holds good upon the greater part of the continent, and more particularly in Spain and Italy, which accounts, to a certain extent, for the insecurity of the prisons, and the misery, want of cleanliness, and unhealthiness which in general pervade them.

I shall not attempt to enter into a particular description of the prison of Madrid, indeed it would be quite impossible to describe so irregular and rambling an edifice. Its principal features consisted of two courts, the one behind the other, intended for the great body of the prisoners to take air and recreation in. Three large vaulted dungeons or calabozos occupied three sides of this court, immediately below the corridors of which I have already spoken. These dungeons were roomy enough to contain respectively from one hundred to one hundred and fifty prisoners, who were at night secured therein with lock and bar, but during the day were permitted to roam about the courts as they thought fit. The second court was considerably larger than the first, though it contained but two dungeons, horribly filthy and disgusting places; this second court being used for the reception of the lower grades of thieves. Of the two dungeons one was, if possible, yet more horrible than the other; it was called the gallineria, or chicken coop, and within it every night were pent up the young fry of the prison, wretched boys from seven to fifteen years of age, the greater part almost in a state of nudity. The common bed of all the inmates of these dungeons was the ground, between which and their bodies nothing intervened, save occasionally a manta or horse-cloth, or perhaps a small mattress; this latter luxury was, however, of exceedingly rare occurrence.

Besides the calabozos connected with the courts, were other dungeons in various parts of the prison; some of them quite dark, intended for the reception of those whom it might be deemed expedient to treat with peculiar severity. There was likewise a ward set apart for females. Connected with the principal corridor were many small apartments, where resided prisoners confined for debt or for political offences. And, lastly, there was a small capilla or chapel, in which prisoners cast for death passed the last three days of their existence in company of their ghostly advisers.

I shall not soon forget my first Sunday in prison. Sunday is the gala day of the prison, at least of that of Madrid, and whatever robber finery is to be found within it, is sure to be exhibited on that day of holiness. There is not a set of people in the world more vain than robbers in general, more fond of cutting a figure whenever they have an opportunity, and of attracting the eyes of their fellow creatures by the gallantry of their appearance. The famous Sheppard of olden times delighted in sporting a suit of Genoese velvet, and when he appeared in public generally wore a silver-hilted sword at his side; whilst Vaux and Hayward, heroes of a later day, were the best dressed men on the pave of London. Many of the Italian bandits go splendidly decorated, and the very Gypsy robber has a feeling for the charms of dress; the cap alone of the Haram Pasha, or leader of the cannibal Gypsy band which infested Hungary towards the conclusion of the last century, was adorned with gold and jewels to the value of four thousand guilders. Observe, ye vain and frivolous, how vanity and crime harmonize. The Spanish robbers are as fond of this species of display as their brethren of other lands, and, whether in prison or out of it, are never so happy as when, decked out in a profusion of white linen, they can loll in the sun, or walk jauntily up and down.

Snow-white linen, indeed, constitutes the principal feature in the robber foppery of Spain. Neither coat nor jacket is worn over the shirt, the sleeves of which are wide and flowing, only a waistcoat of green or blue silk, with an abundance of silver buttons, which are intended more for show than use, as the vest is seldom buttoned. Then there are wide trousers, something after the Turkish fashion; around the waist is a crimson faja or girdle, and about the head is tied a gaudily coloured handkerchief from the loom of Barcelona; light pumps and silk stockings complete the robber's array. This dress is picturesque enough, and well adapted to the fine sunshiny weather of the Peninsula; there is a dash of effeminacy about it, however, hardly in keeping with the robber's desperate trade. It must not, however, be supposed that it is every robber who can indulge in all this luxury; there are various grades of thieves, some poor enough, with scarcely a rag to cover them. Perhaps in the crowded prison of Madrid, there were not more than twenty who exhibited the dress which I have attempted to describe above; these were jente de reputacion, tip-top thieves, mostly young fellows, who, though they had no money of their own, were supported in prison by their majas and amigas, females of a certain class, who form friendships with robbers, and whose glory and delight it is to administer to the vanity of these fellows with the wages of their own shame and abasement. These females supplied their cortejos with the snowy linen, washed, perhaps, by their own hands in the waters of the Manzanares, for the display of the Sunday, when they would themselves make their appearance dressed a la maja, and from the corridors would gaze with admiring eyes upon the robbers vapouring about in the court below.

Amongst those of the snowy linen who most particularly attracted my attention, were a father and son; the former was a tall athletic figure of about thirty, by profession a housebreaker, and celebrated throughout Madrid for the peculiar dexterity which he exhibited in his calling. He was now in prison for a rather atrocious murder committed in the dead of night, in a house at Caramanchel, in which his only accomplice was his son, a child under seven years of age. "The apple," as the Danes say, "had not fallen far from the tree"; the imp was in every respect the counterpart of the father, though in miniature. He, too, wore the robber shirt sleeves, the robber waistcoat with the silver buttons, the robber kerchief round his brow, and, ridiculous enough, a long Manchegan knife in the crimson faja. He was evidently the pride of the ruffian father, who took all imaginable care of this chick of the gallows, would dandle him on his knee, and would occasionally take the cigar from his own moustached lips and insert it in the urchin's mouth. The boy was the pet of the court, for the father was one of the valientes of the prison, and those who feared his prowess, and wished to pay their court to him, were always fondling the child. What an enigma is this world of ours! How dark and mysterious are the sources of what is called crime and virtue! If that infant wretch become eventually a murderer like his father, is he to blame? Fondled by robbers, already dressed as a robber, born of a robber, whose own history was perhaps similar. Is it right?

O, man, man, seek not to dive into the mystery of moral good and evil; confess thyself a worm, cast thyself on the earth, and murmur with thy lips in the dust, Jesus, Jesus!

What most surprised me with respect to the prisoners, was their good behaviour; I call it good when all things are taken into consideration, and when I compare it with that of the general class of prisoners in foreign lands. They had their occasional bursts of wild gaiety, their occasional quarrels, which they were in the habit of settling in a corner of the inferior court with their long knives; the result not unfrequently being death, or a dreadful gash in the face or the abdomen; but, upon the whole, their conduct was infinitely superior to what might have been expected from the inmates of such a place. Yet this was not the result of coercion, or any particular care which was exercised over them; for perhaps in no part of the world are prisoners so left to themselves and so utterly neglected as in Spain: the authorities having no farther anxiety about them, than to prevent their escape; not the slightest attention being paid to their moral conduct and not a thought bestowed upon their health, comfort or mental improvement, whilst within the walls. Yet in this prison of Madrid, and I may say in Spanish prisons in general, for I have been an inmate of more than one, the ears of the visitor are never shocked with horrid blasphemy and obscenity, as in those of some other countries, and more particularly in civilized France; nor are his eyes outraged and himself insulted, as he would assuredly be, were he to look down upon the courts from the galleries of the Bicetre. And yet in this prison of Madrid were some of the most desperate characters in Spain: ruffians who had committed acts of cruelly and atrocity sufficient to make the flesh shudder. But gravity and sedateness are the leading characteristics of the Spaniards, and the very robber, except in those moments when he is engaged in his occupation, and then no one is more sanguinary, pitiless, and wolfishly eager for booty, is a being who can be courteous and affable, and who takes pleasure in conducting himself with sobriety and decorum.

Happily, perhaps, for me, that my acquaintance with the ruffians of Spain commenced and ended in the towns about which I wandered, and in the prisons into which I was cast for the Gospel's sake, and that, notwithstanding my long and frequent journeys, I never came in contact with them on the road or in the despoblado.

The most ill-conditioned being in the prison was a Frenchman, though probably the most remarkable. He was about sixty years of age, of the middle stature, but thin and meagre, like most of his countrymen; he had a villainously-formed head, according to all the rules of craniology, and his features were full of evil expression. He wore no hat, and his clothes, though in appearance nearly new, were of the coarsest description. He generally kept aloof from the rest, and would stand for hours together leaning against the walls with his arms folded, glaring sullenly on what was passing before him. He was not one of the professed valientes, for his age prevented his assuming so distinguished a character, and yet all the rest appeared to hold him in a certain awe: perhaps they feared his tongue, which he occasionally exerted in pouring forth withering curses on those who incurred his displeasure. He spoke perfectly good Spanish, and to my great surprise excellent Basque, in which he was in the habit of conversing with Francisco, who, lolling from the window of my apartment, would exchange jests and witticisms with the prisoners in the court below, with whom he was a great favourite.

One day when I was in the patio, to which I had free admission whenever I pleased, by permission of the alcayde, I went up to the Frenchman, who stood in his usual posture, leaning against the wall, and offered him a cigar. I do not smoke myself, but it will never do to mix among the lower classes of Spain unless you have a cigar to present occasionally. The man glared at me ferociously for a moment, and appeared to be on the point of refusing my offer with perhaps a hideous execration. I repeated it, however, pressing my hand against my heart, whereupon suddenly the grim features relaxed, and with a genuine French grimace, and a low bow, he accepted the cigar, exclaiming, "Ah, Monsieur, pardon, mais c'est faire trop d'honneur a un pauvre diable comme moi."

"Not at all," said I, "we are both fellow prisoners in a foreign land, and being so we ought to countenance each other. I hope that whenever I have need of your co-operation in this prison you will afford it me."

"Ah, Monsieur," exclaimed the Frenchman in rapture, "vous avez bien raison; il faut que les eirangers se donnent la main dans ce . . . pays de barbares. Tenez," he added, in a whisper, "if you have any plan for escaping, and require my assistance, I have an arm and a knife at your service: you may trust me, and that is more than you could any of these sacres gens ici," glancing fiercely round at his fellow prisoners.

"You appear to be no friend to Spain and the Spaniards," said I. "I conclude that you have experienced injustice at their hands. For what have they immured you in this place?"

"Pour rien du tout, c'est a dire pour une bagatelle; but what can you expect from such animals? For what are you imprisoned? Did I not hear say for Gypsyism and sorcery?"

"Perhaps you are here for your opinions?"

"Ah, mon Dieu, non; je ne suis pas homme a semblable betise. I have no opinions. Je faisois . . . mais ce n'importe; je me trouve ici, ou je creve de faim."

"I am sorry to see a brave man in such a distressed condition," said I; "have you nothing to subsist upon beyond the prison allowance? Have you no friends?"

"Friends in this country, you mock me; here one has no friends, unless one buy them. I am bursting with hunger; since I have been here I have sold the clothes off my back, that I might eat, for the prison allowance will not support nature, and of half of that we are robbed by the Batu, as they call the barbarian of a governor. Les haillons which now cover me were given by two or three devotees who sometimes visit here. I would sell them if they would fetch aught. I have not a sou, and for want of a few crowns I shall be garroted within a month unless I can escape, though, as I told you before, I have done nothing, a mere bagatelle; but the worst crimes in Spain are poverty and misery."

"I have heard you speak Basque, are you from French Biscay?"

"I am from Bordeaux, Monsieur; but I have lived much on the Landes and in Biscay, travaillant a mon metier. I see by your look that you wish to know my history. I shall not tell it you. It contains nothing that is remarkable. See, I have smoked out your cigar; you may give me another, and add a dollar if you please, nous sommes creves ici de faim. I would not say as much to a Spaniard, but I have a respect for your countrymen; I know much of them; I have met them at Maida and the other place." {18}

"Nothing remarkable in his history!" Why, or I greatly err, one chapter of his life, had it been written, would have unfolded more of the wild and wonderful than fifty volumes of what are in general called adventures and hairbreadth escapes by land and sea. A soldier! what a tale could that man have told of marches and retreats, of battles lost and won, towns sacked, convents plundered; perhaps he had seen the flames of Moscow ascending to the clouds, and had "tried his strength with nature in the wintry desert," pelted by the snow-storm, and bitten by the tremendous cold of Russia: and what could he mean by plying his trade in Biscay and the Landes, but that he had been a robber in those wild regions, of which the latter is more infamous for brigandage and crime than any other part of the French territory. Nothing remarkable in his history! then what history in the world contains aught that is remarkable?

I gave him the cigar and dollar: he received them, and then once more folding his arms, leaned back against the wall and appeared to sink gradually into one of his reveries. I looked him in the face and spoke to him, but he did not seem either to hear or see me. His mind was perhaps wandering in that dreadful valley of the shadow, into which the children of earth, whilst living, occasionally find their way; that dreadful region where there is no water, where hope dwelleth not, where nothing lives but the undying worm. This valley is the facsimile of hell, and he who has entered it, has experienced here on earth for a time what the spirits of the condemned are doomed to suffer through ages without end.

He was executed about a month from this time. The bagatelle for which he was confined was robbery and murder by the following strange device. In concert with two others, he hired a large house in an unfrequented part of the town, to which place he would order tradesmen to convey valuable articles, which were to be paid for on delivery; those who attended paid for their credulity with the loss of their lives and property. Two or three had fallen into the snare. I wished much to have had some private conversation with this desperate man, and in consequence begged of the alcayde to allow him to dine with me in my own apartment; whereupon Monsieur Basompierre, for so I will take the liberty of calling the governor, his real name having escaped my memory, took off his hat, and, with his usual smile and bow, replied in purest Castilian, "English Cavalier, and I hope I may add friend, pardon me, that it is quite out of my power to gratify your request, founded, I have no doubt, on the most admirable sentiments of philosophy. Any of the other gentlemen beneath my care shall, at any time you desire it, be permitted to wait upon you in your apartment. I will even go so far as to cause their irons, if irons they wear, to be knocked off in order that they may partake of your refection with that comfort which is seemly and convenient: but to the gentleman in question I must object; he is the most evil disposed of the whole of this family, and would most assuredly breed a funcion either in your apartment or in the corridor, by an attempt to escape. Cavalier, me pesa, but I cannot accede to your request. But with respect to any other gentleman, I shall be most happy, even Balseiro, who, though strange things are told of him, still knows how to comport himself, and in whose behaviour there is something both of formality and politeness, shall this day share your hospitality if you desire it, Cavalier."

Of Balseiro I have already had occasion to speak in the former part of this narrative. He was now confined in an upper story of the prison, in a strong room, with several other malefactors. He had been found guilty of aiding and assisting one Pepe Candelas, a thief of no inconsiderable renown, in a desperate robbery perpetrated in open daylight upon no less a personage than the queen's milliner, a Frenchwoman, whom they bound in her own shop, from which they took goods and money to the amount of five or six thousand dollars. Candelas had already expiated his crime on the scaffold, but Balseiro, who was said to be by far the worst ruffian of the two, had by dint of money, an ally which his comrade did not possess, contrived to save his own life; the punishment of death, to which he was originally sentenced, having been commuted to twenty years' hard labour in the presidio of Malaga. I visited this worthy and conversed with him for some time through the wicket of the dungeon. He recognized me, and reminded me of the victory which I had once obtained over him, in the trial of our respective skill in the crabbed Gitano, at which Sevilla the bull-fighter was umpire.

Upon my telling him that I was sorry to see him in such a situation, he replied that it was an affair of no manner of consequence, as within six weeks he should be conducted to the presidio, from which, with the assistance of a few ounces distributed among the guards, he could at any time escape. "But whither would you flee?" I demanded. "Can I not flee to the land of the Moors," replied Balseiro, "or to the English in the camp of Gibraltar; or, if I prefer it, cannot I return to this foro (city), and live as I have hitherto done, choring the gachos (robbing the natives); what is to hinder me? Madrid is large, and Balseiro has plenty of friends, especially among the lumias (women)," he added with a smile. I spoke to him of his ill-fated accomplice Candelas; whereupon his face assumed a horrible expression. "I hope he is in torment," exclaimed the robber. The friendship of the unrighteous is never of long duration; the two worthies had it seems quarrelled in prison; Candelas having accused the other of bad faith and an undue appropriation to his own use of the corpus delicti in various robberies which they had committed in company.

I cannot refrain from relating the subsequent history of this Balseiro. Shortly after my own liberation, too impatient to wait until the presidio should afford him a chance of regaining his liberty, he in company with some other convicts broke through the roof of the prison and escaped. He instantly resumed his former habits, committing several daring robberies, both within and without the walls of Madrid. I now come to his last, I may call it his master crime, a singular piece of atrocious villainy. Dissatisfied with the proceeds of street robbery and house- breaking, he determined upon a bold stroke, by which he hoped to acquire money sufficient to support him in some foreign land in luxury and splendour.

There was a certain comptroller of the queen's household, by name Gabiria, a Basque by birth, and a man of immense possessions: this individual had two sons, handsome boys, between twelve and fourteen years of age, whom I had frequently seen, and indeed conversed with, in my walks on the bank of the Manzanares, which was their favourite promenade. These children, at the time of which I am speaking, were receiving their education at a certain seminary in Madrid. Balseiro, being well acquainted with the father's affection for his children, determined to make it subservient to his own rapacity. He formed a plan which was neither more nor less than to steal the children, and not to restore them to their parent until he had received an enormous ransom. This plan was partly carried into execution: two associates of Balseiro well dressed drove up to the door of the seminary, where the children were, and, by means of a forged letter, purporting to be written by the father, induced the schoolmaster to permit the boys to accompany them for a country jaunt, as they pretended. About five leagues from Madrid, Balseiro had a cave in a wild unfrequented spot between the Escurial and a village called Torre Lodones: to this cave the children were conducted, where they remained in durance under the custody of the two accomplices; Balseiro in the meantime remaining in Madrid for the purpose of conducting negotiations with the father. The father, however, was a man of considerable energy, and instead of acceding to the terms of the ruffian, communicated in a letter, instantly took the most vigorous measures for the recovery of his children. Horse and foot were sent out to scour the country, and in less than a week the children were found near the cave, having been abandoned by their keepers, who had taken fright on hearing of the decided measures which had been resorted to; they were, however, speedily arrested and identified by the boys as their ravishers. Balseiro perceiving that Madrid was becoming too hot to hold him, attempted to escape, but whether to the camp of Gibraltar or to the land of the Moor, I know not; he was recognized, however, at a village in the neighbourhood of Madrid, and being apprehended, was forthwith conducted to the capital, where he shortly after terminated his existence on the scaffold, with his two associates; Gabiria and his children being present at the ghastly scene, which they surveyed from a chariot at their ease.

Such was the end of Balseiro, of whom I should certainly not have said so much, but for the affair of the crabbed Gitano. Poor wretch! he acquired that species of immortality which is the object of the aspirations of many a Spanish thief, whilst vapouring about in the patio, dressed in the snowy linen; the rape of the children of Gabiria made him at once the pet of the fraternity. A celebrated robber, with whom I was subsequently imprisoned at Seville, spoke his eulogy in the following manner. -

"Balseiro was a very good subject, and an honest man. He was the head of our family, Don Jorge; we shall never see his like again; pity that he did not sack the parne (money), and escape to the camp of the Moor, Don Jorge."



CHAPTER XLI



Maria Diaz—Priestly Vituperation—Antonio's Visit—Antonio at Service—A Scene—Benedict Mol—Wandering in Spain—The Four Evangiles.

"Well," said I to Maria Diaz on the third morning after my imprisonment, "what do the people of Madrid say to this affair of mine?"

"I do not know what the people of Madrid in general say about it, probably they do not take much interest in it; indeed, imprisonments at the present time are such common matters that people seem to be quite indifferent to them; the priests, however, are in no slight commotion, and confess that they have committed an imprudent thing in causing you to be arrested by their friend the corregidor of Madrid."

"How is that?" I inquired. "Are they afraid that their friend will be punished?"

"Not so, Senor," replied Maria; "slight grief indeed would it cause them, however great the trouble in which he had involved himself on their account; for this description of people have no affection, and would not care if all their friends were hanged, provided they themselves escaped. But they say that they have acted imprudently in sending you to prison, inasmuch as by so doing they have given you an opportunity of carrying a plan of yours into execution. 'This fellow is a bribon,' say they, 'and has commenced tampering with the prisoners; they have taught him their language, which he already speaks as well as if he were a son of the prison. As soon as he comes out he will publish a thieves' gospel, which will still be a more dangerous affair than the Gypsy one, for the Gypsies are few, but the thieves! woe is us; we shall all be Lutheranized. What infamy, what rascality! It was a trick of his own. He was always eager to get into prison, and now in evil hour we have sent him there, el bribonazo; there will be no safety for Spain until he is hanged; he ought to be sent to the four hells, where at his leisure he might translate his fatal gospels into the language of the demons.' "

"I but said three words to the alcayde of the prison," said I, "relative to the jargon used by the children of the prison."

"Three words! Don Jorge; and what may not be made out of three words? You have lived amongst us to little purpose if you think we require more than three words to build a system with: those three words about the thieves and their tongue were quite sufficient to cause it to be reported throughout Madrid that you had tampered with the thieves, had learnt their language, and had written a book which was to overturn Spain, open to the English the gates of Cadiz, give Mendizabal all the church plate and jewels, and to Don Martin Luther the archiepiscopal palace of Toledo."

Late in the afternoon of a rather gloomy day, as I was sitting in the apartment which the alcayde had allotted me, I heard a rap at the door. "Who is that?" I exclaimed. "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 not you 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 every thing 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 haversac 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 uncooked, 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 caserolle 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 caserolle 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 haversac 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:

[Greek verse]

And in this manner, mon maitre, I left the house of the Count of— ."

Myself.—And a fine account you have given of yourself; by your own confession, your behaviour was most atrocious. Were it not for the many marks of courage and fidelity which you have exhibited in my service, I would from this moment hold no farther communication with you.

Antonio.—Mais qu' est ce que vous voudriez, mon maitre? Am I not a Greek, full of honour and sensibility? Would you have the cooks of Sceira and Stambul submit to be insulted here in Spain by the sons of counts rushing into the temple with manchets of bread. Non, non, mon maitre, you are too noble to require that, and what is more, TOO JUST. But we will talk of other things. Mon maitre, I came not alone; there is one now waiting in the corridor anxious to speak to you.

Myself.—Who is it?

Antonio.—One whom you have met, mon maitre, in various and strange places.

Myself.—But who is it?

Antonio.—One who will come to a strange end, FOR SO IT IS WRITTEN. The most extraordinary of all the Swiss, he of Saint James,—Der schatz graber.

Myself.—Not Benedict Mol?

"Yaw, mein lieber herr," said Benedict, pushing open the door which stood ajar; "it is myself. I met Herr Anton in the street, and hearing that you were in this place, I came with him to visit you."

Myself.—And in the name of all that is singular, how is it that I see you in Madrid again? I thought that by this time you were returned to your own country.

Benedict.—Fear not, lieber herr, I shall return thither in good time; but not on foot, but with mules and coach. The schatz is still yonder, waiting to be dug up, and now I have better hope than ever: plenty of friends, plenty of money. See you not how I am dressed, lieber herr?

And verily his habiliments were of a much more respectable appearance than any which he had sported on former occasions. His coat and pantaloons, which were of light green, were nearly new. On his head he still wore an Andalusian hat, but the present one was neither old nor shabby, but fresh and glossy, and of immense altitude of cone: whilst in his hand, instead of the ragged staff which I had observed at Saint James and Oviedo, he now carried a huge bamboo rattan, surmounted by the grim head of either a bear or lion, curiously cut out of pewter.

"You have all the appearance of a treasure seeker returned from a successful expedition," I exclaimed.

"Or rather," interrupted Antonio, "of one who has ceased to trade on his own bottom, and now goes seeking treasures at the cost and expense of others."

I questioned the Swiss minutely concerning his adventures since I last saw him, when I left him at Oviedo to pursue my route to Santander. From his answers I gathered that he had followed me to the latter place; he was, however, a long time in performing the journey, being weak from hunger and privation. At Santander he could hear no tidings of me, and by this time the trifle which he had received from me was completely exhausted. He now thought of making his way into France, but was afraid to venture through the disturbed provinces, lest he should fall into the hands of the Carlists, who he conceived might shoot him as a spy. No one relieving him at Santander, he departed and begged his way till he found himself in some part of Aragon, but where he scarcely knew. "My misery was so great," said Bennet, "that I nearly lost my senses. Oh, the horror of wandering about the savage hills and wide plains of Spain, without money and without hope! Sometimes I became desperate, when I found myself amongst rocks and barrancos, perhaps after having tasted no food from sunrise to sunset, and then I would raise my staff towards the sky and shake it, crying, lieber herr Gott, ach lieber herr Gott, you must help me now or never; if you tarry, I am lost; you must help me now, now! And once when I was raving in this manner, methought I heard a voice, nay I am sure I heard it, sounding from the hollow of a rock, clear and strong; and it cried, 'Der schatz, der schatz, it is not yet dug up; to Madrid, to Madrid. The way to the schatz is through Madrid.' And then the thought of the schatz once more rushed into my mind, and I reflected how happy I might be, could I but dig up the schatz. No more begging, then, no more wandering amidst horrid mountains and deserts; so I brandished my staff, and my body and my limbs became full of new and surprising strength, and I strode forward, and was not long before I reached the high road; and then I begged and bettled as I best could, until I reached Madrid."

"And what has befallen you since you reached Madrid?" I inquired. "Did you find the treasure in the streets?"

On a sudden Bennet became reserved and taciturn, which the more surprised me, as, up to the present moment, he had at all times been remarkably communicative with respect to his affairs and prospects. From what I could learn from his broken hints and innuendoes, it appeared that, since his arrival at Madrid, he had fallen into the hands of certain people who had treated him with kindness, and provided him with both money and clothes; not from disinterested motives, however, but having an eye to the treasure. "They expect great things from me," said the Swiss; "and perhaps, after all, it would have been more profitable to have dug up the treasure without their assistance, always provided that were possible." Who his new friends were, he either knew not or would not tell me, save that they were people in power. He said something about Queen Christina and an oath which he had taken in the presence of a bishop on the crucifix and "the four Evangiles." I thought that his head was turned, and forbore questioning. Just before taking his departure, he observed "Lieber herr, pardon me for not being quite frank towards you, to whom I owe so much, but I dare not; I am not now my own man. It is, moreover, an evil thing at all times to say a word about treasure before you have secured it. There was once a man in my own country, who dug deep into the earth until he arrived at a copper vessel which contained a schatz. Seizing it by the handle, he merely exclaimed in his transport, 'I have it'; that was enough, however: down sank the kettle, though the handle remained in his grasp. That was all he ever got for his trouble and digging. Farewell, lieber herr, I shall speedily be sent back to Saint James to dig up the schatz; but I will visit you ere I go—farewell."



CHAPTER XLII



Liberation from Prison—The Apology—Human Nature—The Greek's Return—Church of Rome—Light of Scripture—Archbishop of Toledo— An Interview—Stones of Price—A Resolution—The Foreign Language— Benedict's Farewell—Treasure Hunt at Compostella—Truth and Fiction.

I remained about three weeks in the prison of Madrid, and then left it. If I had possessed any pride, or harboured any rancour against the party who had consigned me to durance, the manner in which I was restored to liberty would no doubt have been highly gratifying to those evil passions; the government having acknowledged, by a document transmitted to Sir George, that I had been incarcerated on insufficient grounds, and that no stigma attached itself to me from the imprisonment I had undergone; at the same time agreeing to defray all the expenses to which I had been subjected throughout the progress of this affair.

It moreover expressed its willingness to dismiss the individual owing to whose information I had been first arrested, namely, the corchete or police officer who had visited me in my apartments in the Calle de Santiago, and behaved himself in the manner which I have described in a former chapter. I declined, however, to avail myself of this condescension of the government, more especially as I was informed that the individual in question had a wife and family, who, if he were disgraced, would be at once reduced to want. I moreover considered that, in what he had done and said, he had probably only obeyed some private orders which he had received; I therefore freely forgave him, and if he does not retain his situation at the present moment, it is certainly no fault of mine.

I likewise refused to accept any compensation for my expenses, which were considerable. It is probable that many persons in my situation would have acted very differently in this respect, and I am far from saying that herein I acted discreetly or laudably; but I was averse to receive money from people such as those of which the Spanish government was composed, people whom I confess I heartily despised, and I was unwilling to afford them an opportunity of saying that after they had imprisoned an Englishman unjustly, and without a cause, he condescended to receive money at their hands. In a word, I confess my own weakness; I was willing that they should continue my debtors, and have little doubt that they had not the slightest objection to remain so; they kept their money, and probably laughed in their sleeves at my want of common sense.

The heaviest loss which resulted from my confinement, and for which no indemnification could be either offered or received, was in the death of my affectionate and faithful Basque Francisco, who having attended me during the whole time of my imprisonment, caught the pestilential typhus or gaol fever, which was then raging in the Carcel de la Corte, of which he expired within a few days subsequent to my liberation. His death occurred late one evening; the next morning as I was lying in bed ruminating on my loss, and wondering of what nation my next servant would be, I heard a noise which seemed to be that of a person employed vigorously in cleaning boots or shoes, and at intervals a strange discordant voice singing snatches of a song in some unknown language: wondering who it could be, I rang the bell.

"Did you ring, mon maitre," said Antonio, appearing at the door with one of his arms deeply buried in a boot.

"I certainly did ring," said I, "but I scarcely expected that you would have answered the summons."

"Mais pourquoi non, mon maitre?" cried Antonio. "Who should serve you now but myself? N'est pas que le sieur Francois est mort? And did I not say, as soon as I heard of his departure, I shall return to my functions chez mon maitre, Monsieur Georges?"

"I suppose you had no other employment, and on that account you came."

"Au contraire, mon maitre," replied the Greek, "I had just engaged myself at the house of the Duke of Frias, from whom I was to receive ten dollars per month more than I shall accept from your worship; but on hearing that you were without a domestic, I forthwith told the Duke, though it was late at night, that he would not suit me, and here I am."

"I shall not receive you in this manner," said I; "return to the Duke, apologize for your behaviour, request your dismission in a regular way; and then if his grace is willing to part with you, as will most probably be the case, I shall be happy to avail myself of your services."

It is reasonable to expect that after having been subjected to an imprisonment which my enemies themselves admitted to be unjust, I should in future experience more liberal treatment at their hands than that which they had hitherto adopted towards me. The sole object of my ambition at this time was to procure toleration for the sale of the Gospel in this unhappy and distracted kingdom, and to have attained this end I would not only have consented to twenty such imprisonments in succession, as that which I had undergone, but would gladly have sacrificed life itself. I soon perceived, however, that I was likely to gain nothing by my incarceration; on the contrary, I had become an object of personal dislike to the government since the termination of this affair, which it was probable I had never been before; their pride and vanity were humbled by the concessions which they had been obliged to make in order to avoid a rupture with England. This dislike they were now determined to gratify, by thwarting my views as much as possible. I had an interview with Ofalia on the subject uppermost in my mind: I found him morose and snappish. "It will be for your interest to be still," said he; "beware! you have already thrown the whole corte into confusion; beware, I repeat; another time you may not escape so easily." "Perhaps not," I replied, "and perhaps I do not wish it; it is a pleasant thing to be persecuted for the Gospel's sake. I now take the liberty of inquiring whether, if I attempt to circulate the word of God, I am to be interrupted." "Of course," exclaimed Ofalia; "the church forbids such circulation." "I shall make the attempt, however," I exclaimed. "Do you mean what you say?" demanded Ofalia, arching his eyebrows and elongating his mouth. "Yes," I continued, "I shall make the attempt in every village in Spain to which I can penetrate."

Throughout my residence in Spain the clergy were the party from which I experienced the strongest opposition; and it was at their instigation that the government originally adopted those measures which prevented any extensive circulation of the sacred volume through the land. I shall not detain the course of my narrative with reflections as to the state of a church, which, though it pretends to be founded on Scripture, would yet keep the light of Scripture from all mankind, if possible. But Rome is fully aware that she is not a Christian church, and having no desire to become so, she acts prudently in keeping from the eyes of her followers the page which would reveal to them the truths of Christianity. Her agents and minions throughout Spain exerted themselves to the utmost to render my humble labours abortive, and to vilify the work which I was attempting to disseminate. All the ignorant and fanatical clergy (the great majority) were opposed to it, and all those who were anxious to keep on good terms with the court of Rome were loud in their cry against it. There was, however, one section of the clergy, a small one, it is true, rather favourably disposed towards the circulation of the Gospel though by no means inclined to make any particular sacrifice for the accomplishment of such an end: these were such as professed liberalism, which is supposed to mean a disposition to adopt any reform both in civil and church matters, which may be deemed conducive to the weal of the country. Not a few amongst the Spanish clergy were supporters of this principle, or at least declared themselves so, some doubtless for their own advancement, hoping to turn the spirit of the times to their own personal profit; others, it is to be hoped, from conviction, and a pure love of the principle itself. Amongst these were to be found, at the time of which I am speaking, several bishops. It is worthy of remark, however, that of all these not one but owed his office, not to the Pope, who disowned them one and all, but to the Queen Regent, the professed head of liberalism throughout all Spain. It is not, therefore, surprising that men thus circumstanced should feel rather disposed than not to countenance any measure or scheme at all calculated to favour the advancement of liberalism; and surely such an one was a circulation of the Scriptures. I derived but little assistance from their good will, however, supposing that they entertained some, as they never took any decided stand nor lifted up their voices in a bold and positive manner, denouncing the conduct of those who would withhold the light of Scripture from the world. At one time I hoped by their instrumentality to accomplish much in Spain in the Gospel cause; but I was soon undeceived, and became convinced that reliance on what they would effect, was like placing the hand on a staff of reed which will only lacerate the flesh. More than once some of them sent messages to me, expressive of their esteem, and assuring me how much the cause of the Gospel was dear to their hearts. I even received an intimation that a visit from me would be agreeable to the Archbishop of Toledo, the Primate of Spain.

Of this personage I can say but little, his early history being entirely unknown to me. At the death of Ferdinand, I believe, he was Bishop of Mallorca, a small insignificant see, of very scanty revenues, which perhaps he had no objection to exchange for one more wealthy; it is probable, however, that had he proved a devoted servant of the Pope, and consequently a supporter of legitimacy, he would have continued to the day of his death to fill the episcopal chair of Mallorca; but he was said to be a liberal, and the Queen Regent thought fit to bestow upon him the dignity of Archbishop of Toledo, by which he became the head of the Spanish church. The Pope, it is true, had refused to ratify the nomination, on which account all good Catholics were still bound to consider him as Bishop of Mallorca, and not as Primate of Spain. He however received the revenues belonging to the see, which, though only a shadow of what they originally were, were still considerable, and lived in the primate's palace at Madrid, so that if he were not archbishop de jure, he was what many people would have considered much better, archbishop de facto.

Hearing that this personage was a personal friend of Ofalia, who was said to entertain a very high regard for him, I determined upon paying him a visit, and accordingly one morning betook myself to the palace in which he resided. I experienced no difficulty in obtaining an interview, being forthwith conducted to his presence by a common kind of footman, an Asturian, I believe, whom I found seated on a stone bench in the entrance hall. When I was introduced the Archbishop was alone, seated behind a table in a large apartment, a kind of drawing-room; he was plainly dressed, in a black cassock and silken cap; on his finger, however, glittered a superb amethyst, the lustre of which was truly dazzling. He rose for a moment as I advanced, and motioned me to a chair with his hand. He might be about sixty years of age; his figure was very tall, but he stooped considerably, evidently from feebleness, and the pallid hue of ill health overspread his emaciated features. When he had reseated himself, he dropped his head, and appeared to be looking on the table before him.

"I suppose your lordship knows who I am?" said I, at last breaking silence.

The Archbishop bent his head towards the right shoulder, in a somewhat equivocal manner, but said nothing.

"I am he whom the Manolos of Madrid call Don Jorgito el Ingles; I am just come out of prison, whither I was sent for circulating my Lord's Gospel in this kingdom of Spain?"

The Archbishop made the same equivocal motion with his head, but still said nothing.

"I was informed that your lordship was desirous of seeing me, and on that account I have paid you this visit."

"I did not send for you," said the Archbishop, suddenly raising his head with a startled look.

"Perhaps not: I was, however, given to understand that my presence would be agreeable; but as that does not seem to be the case, I will leave."

"Since you are come, I am very glad to see you."

"I am very glad to hear it," said I, reseating myself; "and since I am here, we may as well talk of an all-important matter, the circulation of the Scripture. Does your lordship see any way by which an end so desirable might be brought about?"

"No," said the Archbishop faintly.

"Does not your lordship think that a knowledge of the Scripture would work inestimable benefit in these realms?"

"I don't know."

"Is it probable that the government may be induced to consent to the circulation?"

"How should I know?" and the Archbishop looked me in the face.

I looked in the face of the Archbishop; there was an expression of helplessness in it, which almost amounted to dotage. "Dear me," thought I, "whom have I come to on an errand like mine? Poor man, you are not fitted to play the part of Martin Luther, and least of all in Spain. I wonder why your friends selected you to be Archbishop of Toledo; they thought perhaps that you would do neither good nor harm, and made choice of you, as they sometimes do primates in my own country, for your incapacity. You do not seem very happy in your present situation; no very easy stall this of yours. You were more comfortable, I trow, when you were the poor Bishop of Mallorca; could enjoy your puchera then without fear that the salt would turn out sublimate. No fear then of being smothered in your bed. A siesta is a pleasant thing when one is not subject to be disturbed by 'the sudden fear.' I wonder whether they have poisoned you already," I continued, half aloud, as I kept my eyes fixed on his countenance, which methought was becoming ghastly.

"Did you speak, Don Jorge?" demanded the Archbishop.

"That is a fine brilliant on your lordship's hand," said I.

"You are fond of brilliants, Don Jorge," said the Archbishop, his features brightening up; "vaya! so am I; they are pretty things. Do you understand them?"

"I do," said I, "and I never saw a finer brilliant than your own, one excepted; it belonged to an acquaintance of mine, a Tartar Khan. He did not bear it on his finger, however; it stood in the frontlet of his horse, where it shone like a star. He called it Daoud Scharr, which, being interpreted, meaneth light of war."

"Vaya!" said the Archbishop, "how very extraordinary; I am glad you are fond of brilliants, Don Jorge. Speaking of horses, reminds me that I have frequently seen you on horseback. Vaya! how you ride; it is dangerous to be in your way."

"Is your lordship fond of equestrian exercise?"

"By no means, Don Jorge; I do not like horses; it is not the practice of the church to ride on horseback. We prefer mules: they are the quieter animals; I fear horses, they kick so violently."

"The kick of a horse is death," said I, "if it touches a vital part. I am not, however, of your lordship's opinion with respect to mules: a good ginete may retain his seat on a horse however vicious, but a mule—vaya! when a false mule tira por detras, I do not believe that the Father of the Church himself could keep the saddle a moment, however sharp his bit."

As I was going away, I said, "And with respect to the Gospel, your lordship; what am I to understand?"

"No se," said the Archbishop, again bending his head towards the right shoulder, whilst his features resumed their former vacant expression. And thus terminated my interview with the Archbishop of Toledo.

"It appears to me," said I to Maria Diaz, on returning home; "it appears to me, Marequita mia, that if the Gospel in Spain is to wait for toleration until these liberal bishops and archbishops come forward boldly in its behalf, it will have to tarry a considerable time."

"I am much of your worship's opinion," answered Maria; "a fine thing, truly, it would be to wait till they exerted themselves in its behalf. Ca! the idea makes me smile: was your worship ever innocent enough to suppose that they cared one tittle about the Gospel or its cause? Vaya! they are true priests, and had only self-interest in view in their advances to you. The Holy Father disowns them, and they would now fain, by awaking his fears and jealousy, bring him to some terms; but let him once acknowledge them and see whether they would admit you to their palaces or hold any intercourse with you: 'Forth with the fellow,' they would say; 'vaya! is he not a Lutheran? Is he not an enemy to the Church? A la horca, a la horca!' I know this family better than you do, Don Jorge."

"It is useless tarrying," said I; "nothing, however, can be done in Madrid. I cannot sell the work at the despacho, and I have just received intelligence that all the copies exposed for sale in the libraries in the different parts of Spain which I visited, have been sequestrated by order of the government. My resolution is taken: I shall mount my horses, which are neighing in the stable, and betake myself to the villages and plains of dusty Spain. Al campo, al campo: 'Ride forth because of the word of righteousness, and thy right hand shall show thee terrible things.' I will ride forth, Maria."

"Your worship can do no better; and allow me here to tell you, that for every single book you might sell in a despacho in the city, you may dispose of one hundred amongst the villages, always provided you offer them cheap: for in the country money is rather scant. Vaya! should I not know? am I not a villager myself, a villana from the Sagra? Ride forth, therefore; your horses are neighing in the stall, as your worship says, and you might almost have added that the Senor Antonio is neighing in the house. He says he has nothing to do, on which account he is once more dissatisfied and unsettled. He finds fault with everything, but more particularly with myself. This morning I saluted him, and he made me no reply, but twisted his mouth in a manner very uncommon in this land of Spain."

"A thought strikes me," said I; "you have mentioned the Sagra; why should not I commence my labours amongst the villages of that district?"

"Your worship can do no better," replied Maria; "the harvest is just over there, and you will find the people comparatively unemployed, with leisure to attend and listen to you; and if you follow my advice, you will establish yourself at Villa Seca, in the house of my fathers, where at present lives my lord and husband. Go, therefore, to Villa Seca in the first place, and from thence you can sally forth with the Senor Antonio upon your excursions. Peradventure, my husband will accompany you; and if so, you will find him highly useful. The people of Villa Seca are civil and courteous, your worship; when they address a foreigner they speak to him at the top of their voice and in Gallegan."

"In Gallegan!" I exclaimed.

"They all understand a few words of Gallegan, which they have acquired from the mountaineers, who occasionally assist them in cutting the harvest, and as Gallegan is the only foreign language they know, they deem it but polite to address a foreigner in that tongue. Vaya! it is not a bad village, that of Villa Seca, nor are the people; the only ill-conditioned person living there is his reverence the curate."

I was not long in making preparations for my enterprise. A considerable stock of Testaments were sent forward by an arriero, I myself followed the next day. Before my departure, however, I received a Benedict Mol.

"I am come to bid you farewell, lieber herr; I return to Compostella."

"On what errand?"

"To dig up the schatz, lieber herr. For what else should I go? For what have I lived until now, but that I may dig up the schatz in the end?"

"You might have lived for something better," I exclaimed. "I wish you success, however. But on what grounds do you hope? Have you obtained permission to dig? Surely you remember your former trials in Galicia?"

"I have not forgotten them, lieber herr, nor the journey to Oviedo, nor 'the seven acorns,' nor the fight with death in the barranco. But I must accomplish my destiny. I go now to Galicia, as is becoming a Swiss, at the expense of the government, with coach and mule, I mean in the galera. I am to have all the help I require, so that I can dig down to the earth's centre if I think fit. I— but I must not tell your worship, for I am sworn on 'the four Evangiles' not to tell."

"Well, Benedict, I have nothing to say, save that I hope you will succeed in your digging."

"Thank you, lieber herr, thank you; and now farewell. Succeed! I shall succeed!" Here he stopped short, started, and looking upon me with an expression of countenance almost wild, he exclaimed: "Heiliger Gott! I forgot one thing. Suppose I should not find the treasure after all."

"Very rationally said; pity, though, that you did not think of that contingency till now. I tell you, my friend, that you have engaged in a most desperate undertaking. It is true that you may find a treasure. The chances are, however, a hundred to one that you do not, and in that event, what will be your situation? You will be looked upon as an impostor, and the consequences may be horrible to you. Remember where you are, and amongst whom you are. The Spaniards are a credulous people, but let them once suspect that they have been imposed upon, and above all laughed at, and their thirst for vengeance knows no limit. Think not that your innocence will avail you. That you are no impostor I feel convinced; but they would never believe it. It is not too late. Return your fine clothes and magic rattan to those from whom you had them. Put on your old garments, grasp your ragged staff, and come with me to the Sagra, to assist in circulating the illustrious Gospel amongst the rustics on the Tagus' bank."

Benedict mused for a moment, then shaking his head, he cried, "No, no, I must accomplish my destiny. The schatz is not yet dug up. So said the voice in the barranco. To-morrow to Compostella. I shall find it—the schatz—it is still there—it MUST be there."

He went, and I never saw him more. What I heard, however, was extraordinary enough. It appeared that the government had listened to his tale, and had been so struck with Bennet's exaggerated description of the buried treasure, that they imagined that, by a little trouble and outlay, gold and diamonds might be dug up at Saint James sufficient to enrich themselves and to pay off the national debt of Spain. The Swiss returned to Compostella "like a duke," to use his own words. The affair, which had at first been kept a profound secret, was speedily divulged. It was, indeed, resolved that the investigation, which involved consequences of so much importance, should take place in a manner the most public and imposing. A solemn festival was drawing nigh, and it was deemed expedient that the search should take place on that day. The day arrived. All the bells in Compostella pealed. The whole populace thronged from their houses, a thousand troops were drawn up in the square, the expectation of all was wound up to the highest pitch. A procession directed its course to the church of San Roque; at its head was the captain-general and the Swiss, brandishing in his hand the magic rattan, close behind walked the meiga, the Gallegan witch-wife, by whom the treasure-seeker had been originally guided in the search; numerous masons brought up the rear, bearing implements to break up the ground. The procession enters the church, they pass through it in solemn march, they find themselves in a vaulted passage. The Swiss looks around. "Dig here," said he suddenly. "Yes, dig here," said the meiga. The masons labour, the floor is broken up,—a horrible and fetid odour arises. . . .

Enough; no treasure was found, and my warning to the unfortunate Swiss turned out but too prophetic. He was forthwith seized and flung into the horrid prison of Saint James, amidst the execrations of thousands, who would have gladly torn him limb from limb.

The affair did not terminate here. The political opponents of the government did not allow so favourable an opportunity to escape for launching the shafts of ridicule. The Moderados were taunted in the cortes for their avarice and credulity, whilst the liberal press wafted on its wings through Spain the story of the treasure- hunt at Saint James.

"After all, it was a trampa of Don Jorge's," said one of my enemies. "That fellow is at the bottom of half the picardias which happen in Spain."

Eager to learn the fate of the Swiss, I wrote to my old friend Rey Romero, at Compostella. In his answer he states: "I saw the Swiss in prison, to which place he sent for me, craving my assistance, for the sake of the friendship which I bore to you. But how could I help him? He was speedily after removed from Saint James, I know not whither. It is said that he disappeared on the road."

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Where in the whole cycle of romance shall we find anything more wild, grotesque, and sad, than the easily-authenticated history of Benedict Mol, the treasure-digger of Saint James?



CHAPTER XLIII



Villa Seca—Moorish House—The Puchera—The Rustic Council—Polite Ceremonial—The Flower of Spain—The Bridge of Azeca—The Ruined Castle—Taking the Field—Demand for the Word—The Old Peasant—The Curate and Blacksmith—Cheapness of the Scriptures.

It was one of the most fiercely hot days in which I ever braved the sun, when I arrived at Villa Seca. The heat in the shade must have amounted at least to one hundred degrees, and the entire atmosphere seemed to consist of flickering flame. At a place called Leganez, six leagues from Madrid, and about half way to Toledo, we diverged from the highway, bending our course seemingly towards the south- east. We rode over what are called plains in Spain, but which, in any other part of the world, would be called undulating and broken ground. The crops of corn and barley had already disappeared. The last vestiges discoverable being here and there a few sheaves, which the labourers were occupied in removing to their garners in the villages. The country could scarcely be called beautiful, being perfectly naked, exhibiting neither trees nor verdure. It was not, however, without its pretensions to grandeur and magnificence, like every part of Spain. The most prominent objects were two huge calcareous hills or rather one cleft in twain, which towered up on high; the summit of the nearest being surmounted by the ruins of an ancient castle, that of Villaluenga. About an hour past noon we reached Villa Seca.

We found it a large village, containing about seven hundred inhabitants, and surrounded by a mud wall. A plaza, or market- place, stood in the midst, one side of which is occupied by what is called a palace, a clumsy quadrangular building of two stories, belonging to some noble family, the lords of the neighbouring soil. It was deserted, however, being only occupied by a kind of steward, who stored up in its chambers the grain which he received as rent from the tenants and villanos who farmed the surrounding district.

The village stands at the distance of about a quarter of a league from the bank of the Tagus, which even here, in the heart of Spain, is a beautiful stream, not navigable, however, on account of the sandbanks, which in many places assume the appearance of small islands, and are covered with trees and brushwood. The village derives its supply of water entirely from the river, having none of its own; such at least as is potable, the water of its wells being all brackish, on which account it is probably termed Villa Seca, which signifies "the dry hamlet." The inhabitants are said to have been originally Moors; certain it is, that various customs are observable here highly favourable to such a supposition. Amongst others, a very curious one; it is deemed infamous for a woman of Villa Seca to go across the market-place, or to be seen there, though they have no hesitation in showing themselves in the streets and lanes. A deep-rooted hostility exists between the inhabitants of this place and those of a neighbouring village, called Vargas; they rarely speak when they meet, and never intermarry. There is a vague tradition that the people of the latter place are old Christians, and it is highly probable that these neighbours were originally of widely different blood; those of Villa Seca being of particularly dark complexions, whilst the indwellers of Vargas are light and fair. Thus the old feud between Moor and Christian is still kept up in the nineteenth century in Spain.

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