HotFreeBooks.com
The Bible in Spain
by George Borrow
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

We reached Lugo about two hours past noon: during the last two or three leagues, I became so overpowered with weariness, the result of want of sleep and my late illness, that I was continually dozing in my saddle, so that I took but little notice of what was passing. We put up at a large posada without the wall of the town, built upon a steep bank, and commanding an extensive view of the country towards the east. Shortly after our arrival, the rain began to descend in torrents, and continued without intermission during the next two days, which was, however, to me but a slight source of regret, as I passed the entire time in bed, and I may almost say in slumber. On the evening of the third day I arose.

There was much bustle in the house, caused by the arrival of a family from Coruna; they came in a large jaunting car, escorted by four carabineers. The family was rather numerous, consisting of a father, son, and eleven daughters, the eldest of whom might be about eighteen. A shabby-looking fellow, dressed in a jerkin and wearing a high-crowned hat, attended as domestic. They arrived very wet and shivering, and all seemed very disconsolate, especially the father, who was a well-looking middle-aged man. "Can we be accommodated?" he demanded in a gentle voice of the man of the house; "can we be accommodated in this fonda?"

"Certainly, your worship," replied the other; "our house is large. How many apartments does your worship require for your family?"

"One will be sufficient," replied the stranger.

The host, who was a gouty personage and leaned upon a stick, looked for a moment at the traveller, then at every member of his family, not forgetting the domestic, and, without any farther comment than a slight shrug, led the way to the door of an apartment containing two or three flock beds, and which on my arrival I had objected to as being small, dark, and incommodious; this he flung open, and demanded whether it would serve.

"It is rather small," replied the gentleman; "I think, however, that it will do."

"I am glad of it," replied the host. "Shall we make any preparations for the supper of your worship and family?"

"No, I thank you," replied the stranger, "my own domestic will prepare the slight refreshment we are in need of."

The key was delivered to the domestic, and the whole family ensconced themselves in their apartment: before, however, this was effected, the escort were dismissed, the principal carabineer being presented with a peseta. The man stood surveying the gratuity for about half a minute, as it glittered in the palm of his hand; then with an abrupt Vamos! he turned upon his heel, and without a word of salutation to any person, departed with the men under his command.

"Who can these strangers be?" said I to the host, as we sat together in a large corridor open on one side, and which occupied the entire front of the house.

"I know not," he replied, "but by their escort I suppose they are people holding some official situation. They are not of this province, however, and I more than suspect them to be Andalusians."

In a few minutes the door of the apartment occupied by the strangers was opened, and the domestic appeared bearing a cruse in his hand. "Pray, Senor Patron," demanded he, "where can I buy some oil?"

"There is oil in the house," replied the host, "if you want to purchase any; but if, as is probable, you suppose that we shall gain a cuarto by selling it, you will find some over the way. It is as I suspected," continued the host, when the man had departed on his errand, "they are Andalusians, and are about to make what they call gaspacho, on which they will all sup. Oh, the meanness of these Andalusians! they are come here to suck the vitals of Galicia, and yet envy the poor innkeeper the gain of a cuarto in the oil which they require for their gaspacho. I tell you one thing, master, when that fellow returns, and demands bread and garlic to mix with the oil, I will tell him there is none in the house: as he has bought the oil abroad, so he may the bread and garlic; aye, and the water too for that matter."



CHAPTER XXVI



Lugo—The Baths—A Family History—Miguelets—The Three Heads—A Farrier—English Squadron—Sale of Testaments—Coruna—The Recognition—Luigi Piozzi—The Speculation—A Blank Prospect—John Moore.

At Lugo I found a wealthy bookseller, to whom I brought a letter of recommendation from Madrid. He willingly undertook the sale of my books. The Lord deigned to favour my feeble exertions in his cause at Lugo. I brought thither thirty Testaments, all of which were disposed of in one day; the bishop of the place, for Lugo is an episcopal see, purchasing two copies for himself, whilst several priests and ex-friars, instead of following the example of their brethren at Leon, by persecuting the work, spoke well of it and recommended its perusal. I was much grieved that my stock of these holy books was exhausted, there being a great demand; and had I been able to supply them, quadruple the quantity might have been sold during the few days that I continued at Lugo.

Lugo contains about six thousand inhabitants. It is situated on lofty ground, and is defended by ancient walls. It possesses no very remarkable edifice, and the cathedral church itself is a small mean building. In the centre of the town is the principal square, a light cheerful place, not surrounded by those heavy cumbrous buildings with which the Spaniards both in ancient and modern times have encircled their plazas. It is singular enough that Lugo, at present a place of very little importance, should at one period have been the capital of Spain: yet such it was in the time of the Romans, who, as they were a people not much guided by caprice, had doubtless very excellent reasons for the preference which they gave to the locality.

There are many Roman remains in the vicinity of this place, the most remarkable of which are the ruins of the ancient medicinal baths, which stand on the southern side of the river Minho, which creeps through the valley beneath the town. The Minho in this place is a dark and sullen stream, with high, precipitous, and thickly wooded banks.

One evening I visited the baths, accompanied by my friend the bookseller. They had been built over warm springs which flow into the river. Notwithstanding their ruinous condition, they were crowded with sick, hoping to derive benefit from the waters, which are still famed for their sanative power. These patients exhibited a strange spectacle as, wrapped in flannel gowns much resembling shrouds, they lay immersed in the tepid waters amongst disjointed stones, and overhung with steam and reek.

Three or four days after my arrival I was seated in the corridor which, as I have already observed, occupied the entire front of the house. The sky was unclouded, and the sun shone most gloriously, enlivening every object around. Presently the door of the apartment in which the strangers were lodged opened, and forth walked the whole family, with the exception of the father, who, I presumed, was absent on business. The shabby domestic brought up the rear, and on leaving the apartment, carefully locked the door, and secured the key in his pocket. The one son and the eleven daughters were all dressed remarkably well: the boy something after the English fashion, in jacket and trousers, the young ladies in spotless white: they were, upon the whole, a very good-looking family, with dark eyes and olive complexions, but the eldest daughter was remarkably handsome. They arranged themselves upon the benches of the corridor, the shabby domestic sitting down amongst them without any ceremony whatever. They continued for some time in silence, gazing with disconsolate looks upon the houses of the suburb and the dark walls of the town, until the eldest daughter, or senorita as she was called, broke silence with an "Ay Dios mio!"

Domestic.—Ay Dios mio! we have found our way to a pretty country.

Myself.—I really can see nothing so very bad in the country, which is by nature the richest in all Spain, and the most abundant. True it is that the generality of the inhabitants are wretchedly poor, but they themselves are to blame, and not the country.

Domestic.—Cavalier, the country is a horrible one, say nothing to the contrary. We are all frightened, the young ladies, the young gentleman, and myself; even his worship is frightened, and says that we are come to this country for our sins. It rains every day, and this is almost the first time that we have seen the sun since our arrival, it rains continually, and one cannot step out without being up to the ankles in fango; and then, again, there is not a house to be found.

Myself.—I scarcely understand you. There appears to be no lack of houses in this neighbourhood.

Domestic.—Excuse me, sir. His worship hired yesterday a house, for which he engaged to pay fourteen pence daily; but when the senorita saw it, she wept, and said it was no house, but a hog-sty, so his worship paid one day's rent and renounced his bargain. Fourteen pence a day! why, in our country, we can have a palace for that money.

Myself.—From what country do you come?

Domestic.—Cavalier, you appear to be a decent gentleman, and I will tell you our history. We are from Andalusia, and his worship was last year receiver-general for Granada: his salary was fourteen thousand rials, with which we contrived to live very commodiously—attending the bull funcions regularly, or if there were no bulls, we went to see the novillos, and now and then to the opera. In a word, sir, we had our diversions and felt at our ease; so much so, that his worship was actually thinking of purchasing a pony for the young gentleman, who is fourteen, and must learn to ride now or never. Cavalier, the ministry was changed, and the new corners, who were no friends to his worship, deprived him of his situation. Cavalier, they removed us from that blessed country of Granada, where our salary was fourteen thousand rials, and sent us to Galicia, to this fatal town of Lugo, where his worship is compelled to serve for ten thousand, which is quite insufficient to maintain us in our former comforts. Good-bye, I trow, to bull funcions, and novillos, and the opera. Good-bye to the hope of a horse for the young gentleman. Cavalier, I grow desperate: hold your tongue, for God's sake! for I can talk no more."

On hearing this history I no longer wondered that the receiver- general was eager to save a cuarto in the purchase of the oil for the gaspacho of himself and family of eleven daughters, one son, and a domestic.

We staid one week at Lugo, and then directed our steps to Coruna, about twelve leagues distant. We arose before daybreak in order to avail ourselves of the escort of the general post, in whose company we travelled upwards of six leagues. There was much talk of robbers, and flying parties of the factious, on which account our escort was considerable. At the distance of five or six leagues from Lugo, our guard, in lieu of regular soldiers, consisted of a body of about fifty Miguelets. They had all the appearance of banditti, but a finer body of ferocious fellows I never saw. They were all men in the prime of life, mostly of tall stature, and of Herculean brawn and limbs. They wore huge whiskers, and walked with a fanfaronading air, as if they courted danger, and despised it. In every respect they stood in contrast to the soldiers who had hitherto escorted us, who were mere feeble boys from sixteen to eighteen years of age, and possessed of neither energy nor activity. The proper dress of the Miguelet, if it resembles anything military, is something akin to that anciently used by the English marines. They wear a peculiar kind of hat, and generally leggings, or gaiters, and their arms are the gun and bayonet. The colour of their dress is mostly dark brown. They observe little or no discipline whether on a march or in the field of action. They are excellent irregular troops, and when on actual service are particularly useful as skirmishers. Their proper duty, however, is to officiate as a species of police, and to clear the roads of robbers, for which duty they are in one respect admirably calculated, having been generally robbers themselves at one period of their lives. Why these people are called Miguelets it is not easy to say, but it is probable that they have derived this appellation from the name of their original leader. I regret that the paucity of my own information will not allow me to enter into farther particulars with respect to this corps, concerning which I have little doubt that many remarkable things might be said.

Becoming weary of the slow travelling of the post, I determined to brave all risk, and to push forward. In this, however, I was guilty of no slight imprudence, as by so doing I was near falling into the hands of robbers. Two fellows suddenly confronted me with presented carbines, which they probably intended to discharge into my body, but they took fright at the noise of Antonio's horse, who was following a little way behind. The affair occurred at the bridge of Castellanos, a spot notorious for robbery and murder, and well adapted for both, for it stands at the bottom of a deep dell surrounded by wild desolate hills. Only a quarter of an hour previous I had passed three ghastly heads stuck on poles standing by the wayside; they were those of a captain of banditti and two of his accomplices, who had been seized and executed about two months before. Their principal haunt was the vicinity of the bridge, and it was their practice to cast the bodies of the murdered into the deep black water which runs rapidly beneath. Those three heads will always live in my remembrance, particularly that of the captain, which stood on a higher pole than the other two: the long hair was waving in the wind, and the blackened, distorted features were grinning in the sun. The fellows whom I met wore the relics of the band.

We arrived at Betanzos late in the afternoon. This town stands on a creek at some distance from the sea, and about three leagues from Coruna. It is surrounded on three sides by lofty hills. The weather during the greater part of the day had been dull and lowering, and we found the atmosphere of Betanzos insupportably close and heavy. Sour and disagreeable odours assailed our olfactory organs from all sides. The streets were filthy—so were the houses, and especially the posada. We entered the stable; it was strewed with rotten sea-weeds and other rubbish, in which pigs were wallowing; huge and loathsome flies were buzzing around. "What a pest-house!" I exclaimed. But we could find no other stable, and were therefore obliged to tether the unhappy animals to the filthy mangers. The only provender that could be obtained was Indian corn. At nightfall I led them to drink at a small river which passes through Betanzos. My entero swallowed the water greedily; but as we returned towards the inn, I observed that he was sad, and that his head drooped. He had scarcely reached the stall, when a deep hoarse cough assailed him. I remembered the words of the ostler in the mountains, "the man must be mad who brings a horse to Galicia, and doubly so he who brings an entero." During the greater part of the day the animal had been much heated, walking amidst a throng of at least a hundred pony mares. He now began to shiver violently. I procured a quart of anise brandy, with which, assisted by Antonio, I rubbed his body for nearly an hour, till his coat was covered with a white foam; but his cough increased perceptibly, his eyes were becoming fixed, and his members rigid. "There is no remedy but bleeding," said I. "Run for a farrier." The farrier came. "You must bleed the horse," I shouted; "take from him an azumbre of blood." The farrier looked at the animal, and made for the door. "Where are you going?" I demanded. "Home," he replied. "But we want you here." "I know you do," was his answer; "and on that account I am going." "But you must bleed the horse, or he will die." "I know he will," said the farrier, "but I will not bleed him." "Why?" I demanded. "I will not bleed him, but under one condition." "What is that?" "What is it!—that you pay me an ounce of gold." "Run for the red morocco case," said I to Antonio. It was brought; I took out a large fleam, and with the assistance of a stone, drove it into the principal artery horse's leg. The blood at first refused to flow; with much rubbing, it began to trickle, and then to stream; it continued so for half an hour. "The horse is fainting, mon maitre," said Antonio. "Hold him up," said I, "and in another ten minutes we will stop the vein."

I closed the vein, and whilst doing so I looked up into the farrier's face, arching my eyebrows.

"Carracho! what an evil wizard," muttered the farrier, as he walked away. "If I had my knife here I would stick him." We bled the horse again, during the night, which second bleeding I believe saved him. Towards morning he began to eat his food.

The next day we departed for Coruna, leading our horses by the bridle: the day was magnificent, and our walk delightful. We passed along beneath tall umbrageous trees, which skirted the road from Betanzos to within a short distance of Coruna. Nothing could be more smiling and cheerful than the appearance of the country around. Vines were growing in abundance in the vicinity of the villages through which we passed, whilst millions of maize plants upreared their tall stalks and displayed their broad green leaves in the fields. After walking about three hours, we obtained a view of the bay of Coruna, in which, even at the distance of a league, we could distinguish three or four immense ships riding at anchor. "Can these vessels belong to Spain?" I demanded of myself. In the very next village, however, we were informed that the preceding evening an English squadron had arrived, for what reason nobody could say. "However," continued our informant, "they have doubtless some design upon Galicia. These foreigners are the ruin of Spain."

We put up in what is called the Calle Real, in an excellent fonda, or posada, kept by a short, thick, comical-looking person, a Genoese by birth. He was married to a tall, ugly, but good- tempered Basque woman, by whom he had been blessed with a son and daughter. His wife, however, had it seems of late summoned all her female relations from Guipuscoa, who now filled the house to the number of nine, officiating as chambermaids, cooks, and scullions: they were all very ugly, but good-natured, and of immense volubility of tongue. Throughout the whole day the house resounded with their excellent Basque and very bad Castilian. The Genoese, on the contrary, spoke little, for which he might have assigned a good reason; he had lived thirty years in Spain, and had forgotten his own language without acquiring Spanish, which he spoke very imperfectly.

We found Coruna full of bustle and life, owing to the arrival of the English squadron. On the following day, however, it departed, being bound for the Mediterranean on a short cruise, whereupon matters instantly returned to their usual course.

I had a depot of five hundred Testaments at Coruna, from which it was my intention to supply the principal towns of Galicia. Immediately on my arrival I published advertisements, according to my usual practice, and the book obtained a tolerable sale—seven or eight copies per day on the average. Some people, perhaps, on perusing these details, will be tempted to exclaim, "These are small matters, and scarcely worthy of being mentioned." But let such bethink them, that till within a few months previous to the time of which I am speaking, the very existence of the gospel was almost unknown in Spain, and that it must necessarily be a difficult task to induce a people like the Spaniards, who read very little, to purchase a work like the New Testament, which, though of paramount importance to the soul, affords but slight prospect of amusement to the frivolous and carnally minded. I hoped that the present was the dawning of better and more enlightened times, and rejoiced in the idea that Testaments, though but few in number, were being sold in unfortunate benighted Spain, from Madrid to the furthermost parts of Galicia, a distance of nearly four hundred miles.

Coruna stands on a peninsula, having on one side the sea, and on the other the celebrated bay, generally called the Groyne. It is divided into the old and new town, the latter of which was at one time probably a mere suburb. The old town is a desolate ruinous place, separated from the new by a wide moat. The modern town is a much more agreeable spot, and contains one magnificent street, the Calle Real, where the principal merchants reside. One singular feature of this street is, that it is laid entirely with flags of marble, along which troop ponies and cars as if it were a common pavement.

It is a saying amongst the inhabitants of Coruna, that in their town there is a street so clean, that puchera may be eaten off it without the slightest inconvenience. This may certainly be the fact after one of those rains which so frequently drench Galicia, when the appearance of the pavement of the street is particularly brilliant. Coruna was at one time a place of considerable commerce, the greater part of which has latterly departed to Santander, a town which stands a considerable distance down the Bay of Biscay.

"Are you going to Saint James, Giorgio? If so, you will perhaps convey a message to my poor countryman," said a voice to me one morning in broken English, as I was standing at the door of my posada, in the royal street of Coruna.

I looked round and perceived a man standing near me at the door of a shop contiguous to the inn. He appeared to be about sixty-five, with a pale face and remarkably red nose. He was dressed in a loose green great coat, in his mouth was a long clay pipe, in his hand a long painted stick.

"Who are you, and who is your countryman?" I demanded; "I do not know you."

"I know you, however," replied the man; "you purchased the first knife that I ever sold in the market-place of N-."

Myself.—Ah, I remember you now, Luigi Piozzi; and well do I remember also, how, when a boy, twenty years ago, I used to repair to your stall, and listen to you and your countrymen discoursing in Milanese.

Luigi.—Ah, those were happy times to me. Oh, how they rushed back on my remembrance when I saw you ride up to the door of the posada. I instantly went in, closed my shop, lay down upon my bed and wept.

Myself.—I see no reason why you should so much regret those times. I knew you formerly in England as an itinerant pedlar, and occasionally as master of a stall in the market-place of a country town. I now find you in a seaport of Spain, the proprietor, seemingly, of a considerable shop. I cannot see why you should regret the difference.

Luigi (dashing his pipe on the ground).—Regret the difference! Do you know one thing? England is the heaven of the Piedmontese and Milanese, and especially those of Como. We never lie down to rest but we dream of it, whether we are in our own country or in a foreign land, as I am now. Regret the difference, Giorgio! Do I hear such words from your lips, and you an Englishman? I would rather be the poorest tramper on the roads of England, than lord of all within ten leagues of the shore of the lake of Como, and much the same say all my countrymen who have visited England, wherever they now be. Regret the difference! I have ten letters, from as many countrymen in America, who say they are rich and thriving, and principal men and merchants; but every night, when their heads are reposing on their pillows, their souls auslandra, hurrying away to England, and its green lanes and farm-yards. And there they are with their boxes on the ground, displaying their looking-glasses and other goods to the honest rustics and their dames and their daughters, and selling away and chaffering and laughing just as of old. And there they are again at nightfall in the hedge alehouses, eating their toasted cheese and their bread, and drinking the Suffolk ale, and listening to the roaring song and merry jest of the labourers. Now, if they regret England so who are in America, which they own to be a happy country, and good for those of Piedmont and of Como, how much more must I regret it, when, after the lapse of so many years, I find myself in Spain, in this frightful town of Coruna, driving a ruinous trade, and where months pass by without my seeing a single English face, or hearing a word of the blessed English tongue.

Myself.—With such a predilection for England, what could have induced you to leave it and come to Spain?

Luigi.—I will tell you: about sixteen years ago a universal desire seized our people in England to become something more than they had hitherto been, pedlars and trampers; they wished, moreover, for mankind are never satisfied, to see other countries: so the greater part forsook England. Where formerly there had been ten, at present scarcely lingers one. Almost all went to America, which, as I told you before, is a happy country, and specially good for us men of Como. Well, all my comrades and relations passed over the sea to the West. I, too, was bent on travelling; but whither? Instead of going towards the West with the rest, to a country where they have all thriven, I must needs come by myself to this land of Spain; a country in which no foreigner settles without dying of a broken heart sooner or later. I had an idea in my head that I could make a fortune at once, by bringing a cargo of common English goods, like those which I had been in the habit of selling amongst the villagers of England. So I freighted half a ship with such goods, for I had been successful in England in my little speculations, and I arrived at Coruna. Here at once my vexations began: disappointment followed disappointment. It was with the utmost difficulty that I could obtain permission to land my goods, and this only at a considerable sacrifice in bribes and the like; and when I had established myself here, I found that the place was one of no trade, and that my goods went off very slowly, and scarcely at prime cost. I wished to remove to another place, but was informed that, in that case, I must leave my goods behind, unless I offered fresh bribes, which would have ruined me; and in this way I have gone on for fourteen years, selling scarcely enough to pay for my shop and to support myself. And so I shall doubtless continue till I die, or my goods are exhausted. In an evil day I left England and came to Spain.

Myself.—Did you not say that you had a countryman at St. James?

Luigi.—Yes, a poor honest fellow, who, like myself, by some strange chance found his way to Galicia. I sometimes contrive to send him a few goods, which he sells at St. James at a greater profit than I can here. He is a happy fellow, for he has never been in England, and knows not the difference between the two countries. Oh, the green English hedgerows! and the alehouses! and, what is much more, the fair dealing and security. I have travelled all over England and never met with ill usage, except once down in the north amongst the Papists, upon my telling them to leave all their mummeries and go to the parish church as I did, and as all my countrymen in England did; for know one thing, Signor Giorgio, not one of us who have lived in England, whether Piedmontese or men of Como, but wished well to the Protestant religion, if he had not actually become a member of it.

Myself.—What do you propose to do at present, Luigi? What are your prospects?

Luigi.—My prospects are a blank, Giorgio; my prospects are a blank. I propose nothing but to die in Coruna, perhaps in the hospital, if they will admit me. Years ago I thought of fleeing, even if I left all behind me, and either returning to England, or betaking myself to America; but it is too late now, Giorgio, it is too late. When I first lost all hope, I took to drinking, to which I was never before inclined, and I am now what I suppose you see.

"There is hope in the Gospel," said I, "even for you. I will send you one."

There is a small battery of the old town which fronts the east, and whose wall is washed by the waters of the bay. It is a sweet spot, and the prospect which opens from it is extensive. The battery itself may be about eighty yards square; some young trees are springing up about it, and it is rather a favourite resort of the people of Coruna.

In the centre of this battery stands the tomb of Moore, built by the chivalrous French, in commemoration of the fall of their heroic antagonist. It is oblong and surmounted by a slab, and on either side bears one of the simple and sublime epitaphs for which our rivals are celebrated, and which stand in such powerful contrast with the bloated and bombastic inscriptions which deform the walls of Westminster Abbey:

"JOHN MOORE, LEADER OF THE ENGLISH ARMIES, SLAIN IN BATTLE, 1809."

The tomb itself is of marble, and around it is a quadrangular wall, breast high, of rough Gallegan granite; close to each corner rises from the earth the breech of an immense brass cannon, intended to keep the wall compact and close. These outer erections are, however, not the work of the French, but of the English government.

Yes, there lies the hero, almost within sight of the glorious hill where he turned upon his pursuers like a lion at bay and terminated his career. Many acquire immortality without seeking it, and die before its first ray has gilded their name; of these was Moore. The harassed general, flying through Castile with his dispirited troops before a fierce and terrible enemy, little dreamed that he was on the point of attaining that for which many a better, greater, though certainly not braver man, had sighed in vain. His very misfortunes were the means which secured him immortal fame; his disastrous route, bloody death, and finally his tomb on a foreign strand, far from kin and friends. There is scarcely a Spaniard but has heard of this tomb, and speaks of it with a strange kind of awe. Immense treasures are said to have been buried with the heretic general, though for what purpose no one pretends to guess. The demons of the clouds, if we may trust the Gallegans, followed the English in their flight, and assailed them with water-spouts as they toiled up the steep winding paths of Fuencebadon; whilst legends the most wild are related of the manner in which the stout soldier fell. Yes, even in Spain, immortality has already crowned the head of Moore;—Spain, the land of oblivion, where the Guadalete {16} flows.



CHAPTER XXVII



Compostella—Rey Romero—The Treasure-seeker—Hopeful Project—The Church of Refuge—Hidden Riches—The Canon—Spirit of Localism—The Leper—Bones of St. James.

At the commencement of August, I found myself at St. James of Compostella. To this place I travelled from Coruna with the courier or weekly post, who was escorted by a strong party of soldiers, in consequence of the distracted state of the country, which was overrun with banditti. From Coruna to St. James, the distance is but ten leagues; the journey, however, endured for a day and a half. It was a pleasant one, through a most beautiful country, with a rich variety of hill and dale; the road was in many places shaded with various kinds of trees clad in most luxuriant foliage. Hundreds of travellers, both on foot and on horseback, availed themselves of the security which the escort afforded: the dread of banditti was strong. During the journey two or three alarms were given; we, however, reached Saint James without having been attacked.

Saint James stands on a pleasant level amidst mountains: the most extraordinary of these is a conical hill, called the Pico Sacro, or Sacred Peak, connected with which are many wonderful legends. A beautiful old town is Saint James, containing about twenty thousand inhabitants. Time has been when, with the single exception of Rome, it was the most celebrated resort of pilgrims in the world; its cathedral being said to contain the bones of Saint James the elder, the child of the thunder, who, according to the legend of the Romish church, first preached the Gospel in Spain. Its glory, however, as a place of pilgrimage is rapidly passing away.

The cathedral, though a work of various periods, and exhibiting various styles of architecture, is a majestic venerable pile, in every respect calculated to excite awe and admiration; indeed, it is almost impossible to walk its long dusky aisles, and hear the solemn music and the noble chanting, and inhale the incense of the mighty censers, which are at times swung so high by machinery as to smite the vaulted roof, whilst gigantic tapers glitter here and there amongst the gloom, from the shrine of many a saint, before which the worshippers are kneeling, breathing forth their prayers and petitions for help, love, and mercy, and entertain a doubt that we are treading the floor of a house where God delighteth to dwell. Yet the Lord is distant from that house; he hears not, he sees not, or if he do, it is with anger. What availeth that solemn music, that noble chanting, that incense of sweet savour? What availeth kneeling before that grand altar of silver, surmounted by that figure with its silver hat and breast-plate, the emblem of one who, though an apostle and confessor, was at best an unprofitable servant? What availeth hoping for remission of sin by trusting in the merits of one who possessed none, or by paying homage to others who were born and nurtured in sin, and who alone, by the exercise of a lively faith granted from above, could hope to preserve themselves from the wrath of the Almighty?

Rise from your knees, ye children of Compostella, or if ye bend, let it be to the Almighty alone, and no longer on the eve of your patron's day address him in the following strain, however sublime it may sound:

"Thou shield of that faith which in Spain we revere, Thou scourge of each foeman who dares to draw near; Whom the Son of that God who the elements tames, Called child of the thunder, immortal Saint James!

"From the blessed asylum of glory intense, Upon us thy sovereign influence dispense; And list to the praises our gratitude aims To offer up worthily, mighty Saint James.

"To thee fervent thanks Spain shall ever outpour; In thy name though she glory, she glories yet more In thy thrice-hallowed corse, which the sanctuary claims Of high Compostella, O, blessed Saint James.

"When heathen impiety, loathsome and dread, With a chaos of darkness our Spain overspread, Thou wast the first light which dispell'd with its flames The hell-born obscurity, glorious Saint James!

"And when terrible wars had nigh wasted our force, All bright 'midst the battle we saw thee on horse, Fierce scattering the hosts, whom their fury proclaims To be warriors of Islam, victorious Saint James.

"Beneath thy direction, stretch'd prone at thy feet, With hearts low and humble, this day we intreat Thou wilt strengthen the hope which enlivens our frames, The hope of thy favour and presence, Saint James.

"Then praise to the Son and the Father above, And to that Holy Spirit which springs from their love; To that bright emanation whose vividness shames The sun's burst of splendour, and praise to Saint James."

At Saint James I met with a kind and cordial coadjutor in my biblical labours in the bookseller of the place, Rey Romero, a man of about sixty. This excellent individual, who was both wealthy and respected, took up the matter with an enthusiasm which doubtless emanated from on high, losing no opportunity of recommending my book to those who entered his shop, which was in the Azabacheria, and was a very splendid and commodious establishment. In many instances, when the peasants of the neighbourhood came with an intention of purchasing some of the foolish popular story-books of Spain, he persuaded them to carry home Testaments instead, assuring them that the sacred volume was a better, more instructive, and even far more entertaining book than those they came in quest of. He speedily conceived a great fancy for me, and regularly came to visit me every evening at my posada, and accompanied me in my walks about the town and the environs. He was a man of considerable information, and though of much simplicity, possessed a kind of good-natured humour which was frequently highly diverting.

I was walking late one night alone in the Alameda of Saint James, considering in what direction I should next bend my course, for I had been already ten days in this place; the moon was shining gloriously, and illumined every object around to a considerable distance. The Alameda was quite deserted; everybody, with the exception of myself, having for some time retired. I sat down on a bench and continued my reflections, which were suddenly interrupted by a heavy stumping sound. Turning my eyes in the direction from which it proceeded, I perceived what at first appeared a shapeless bulk slowly advancing: nearer and nearer it drew, and I could now distinguish the outline of a man dressed in coarse brown garments, a kind of Andalusian hat, and using as a staff the long peeled branch of a tree. He had now arrived opposite the bench where I was seated, when, stopping, he took off his hat and demanded charity in uncouth tones and in a strange jargon, which had some resemblance to the Catalan. The moon shone on grey locks and on a ruddy weather-beaten countenance which I at once recognized: "Benedict Mol," said I, "is it possible that I see you at Compostella?"

"Och, mein Gott, es ist der Herr!" replied Benedict. "Och, what good fortune, that the Herr is the first person I meet at Compostella."

Myself.—I can scarcely believe my eyes. Do you mean to say that you have just arrived at this place?

Benedict.—Ow yes, I am this moment arrived. I have walked all the long way from Madrid.

Myself.—What motive could possibly bring you such a distance?

Benedict.—Ow, I am come for the schatz—the treasure. I told you at Madrid that I was coming; and now I have met you here, I have no doubt that I shall find it, the schatz.

Myself.—In what manner did you support yourself by the way?

Benedict.—Ow, I begged, I bettled, and so contrived to pick up some cuartos; and when I reached Toro, I worked at my trade of soap-making for a time, till the people said I knew nothing about it, and drove me out of the town. So I went on and begged and bettled till I arrived at Orense, which is in this country of Galicia. Ow, I do not like this country of Galicia at all.

Myself.—Why not?

Benedict.—Why! because here they all beg and bettle, and have scarce anything for themselves, much less for me whom they know to be a foreign man. O the misery of Galicia. When I arrive at night at one of their pigsties, which they call posadas, and ask for bread to eat in the name of God, and straw to lie down in, they curse me, and say there is neither bread nor straw in Galicia; and sure enough, since I have been here I have seen neither, only something that they call broa, and a kind of reedy rubbish with which they litter the horses: all my bones are sore since I entered Galicia.

Myself.—And yet you have come to this country, which you call so miserable, in search of treasure?

Benedict.—Ow yaw, but the schatz is buried; it is not above ground; there is no money above ground in Galicia. I must dig it up; and when I have dug it up I will purchase a coach with six mules, and ride out of Galicia to Lucerne; and if the Herr pleases to go with me, he shall be welcome to go with me and the schatz.

Myself.—I am afraid that you have come on a desperate errand. What do you propose to do? Have you any money?

Benedict.—Not a cuart; but I do not care now I have arrived at Saint James. The schatz is nigh; and I have, moreover, seen you, which is a good sign; it tells me that the schatz is still here. I shall go to the best posada in the place, and live like a duke till I have an opportunity of digging up the schatz, when I will pay all scores.

"Do nothing of the kind," I replied; "find out some place in which to sleep, and endeavour to seek some employment. In the mean time, here is a trifle with which to support yourself; but as for the treasure which you have come to seek, I believe it only exists in your own imagination." I gave him a dollar and departed.

I have never enjoyed more charming walks than in the neighbourhood of Saint James. In these I was almost invariably accompanied by my friend the good old bookseller. The streams are numerous, and along their wooded banks we were in the habit of straying and enjoying the delicious summer evenings of this part of Spain. Religion generally formed the topic of our conversation, but we not unfrequently talked of the foreign lands which I had visited, and at other times of matters which related particularly to my companion. "We booksellers of Spain," said he, "are all liberals; we are no friends to the monkish system. How indeed should we be friends to it? It fosters darkness, whilst we live by disseminating light. We love our profession, and have all more or less suffered for it; many of us, in the times of terror, were hanged for selling an innocent translation from the French or English. Shortly after the Constitution was put down by Angouleme and the French bayonets, I was obliged to flee from Saint James and take refuge in the wildest part of Galicia, near Corcuvion. Had I not possessed good friends, I should not have been alive now; as it was, it cost me a considerable sum of money to arrange matters. Whilst I was away, my shop was in charge of the ecclesiastical officers. They frequently told my wife that I ought to be burnt for the books which I had sold. Thanks be to God, those times are past, and I hope they will never return."

Once, as we were walking through the streets of Saint James, he stopped before a church and looked at it attentively. As there was nothing remarkable in the appearance of this edifice, I asked him what motive he had for taking such notice of it. "In the days of the friars," said he, "this church was one of refuge, to which if the worst criminals escaped, they were safe. All were protected there save the negros, as they called us liberals." "Even murderers, I suppose?" said I. "Murderers!" he answered, "far worse criminals than they. By the by, I have heard that you English entertain the utmost abhorrence of murder. Do you in reality consider it a crime of very great magnitude?" "How should we not," I replied; "for every other crime some reparation can be made; but if we take away life, we take away all. A ray of hope with respect to this world may occasionally enliven the bosom of any other criminal, but how can the murderer hope?" "The friars were of another way of thinking," replied the old man; "they always looked upon murder as a friolera; but not so the crime of marrying your first cousin without dispensation, for which, if we believe them, there is scarcely any atonement either in this world or the next."

Two or three days after this, as we were seated in my apartment in the posada, engaged in conversation, the door was opened by Antonio, who, with a smile on his countenance, said that there was a foreign GENTLEMAN below, who desired to speak with me. "Show him up," I replied; whereupon almost instantly appeared Benedict Mol.

"This is a most extraordinary person," said I to the bookseller. "You Galicians, in general, leave your country in quest of money; he, on the contrary, is come hither to find some."

Rey Romero.—And he is right. Galicia is by nature the richest province in Spain, but the inhabitants are very stupid, and know not how to turn the blessings which surround them to any account; but as a proof of what may be made out of Galicia, see how rich the Catalans become who have settled down here and formed establishments. There are riches all around us, upon the earth and in the earth.

Benedict.—Ow yaw, in the earth, that is what I say. There is much more treasure below the earth than above it.

Myself.—Since I last saw you, have you discovered the place in which you say the treasure is deposited?

Benedict.—O yes, I know all about it now. It is buried 'neath the sacristy in the church of San Roque.

Myself.—How have you been able to make that discovery?

Benedict.—I will tell you: the day after my arrival I walked about all the city in quest of the church, but could find none which at all answered to the signs which my comrade who died in the hospital gave me. I entered several, and looked about, but all in vain; I could not find the place which I had in my mind's eye. At last the people with whom I lodge, and to whom I told my business, advised me to send for a meiga.

Myself.—A meiga! What is that?

Benedict.—Ow! a haxweib, a witch; the Gallegos call them so in their jargon, of which I can scarcely understand a word. So I consented, and they sent for the meiga. Och! what a weib is that meiga! I never saw such a woman; she is as large as myself, and has a face as round and red as the sun. She asked me a great many questions in her Gallegan, and when I had told her all she wanted to know, she pulled out a pack of cards and laid them on the table in a particular manner, and then she said that the treasure was in the church of San Roque; and sure enough, when I went to that church, it answered in every respect to the signs of my comrade who died in the hospital. O she is a powerful hax, that meiga; she is well known in the neighbourhood, and has done much harm to the cattle. I gave her half the dollar I had from you for her trouble.

Myself.—Then you acted like a simpleton; she has grossly deceived you. But even suppose that the treasure is really deposited in the church you mention, it is not probable that you will be permitted to remove the floor of the sacristy to search for it.

Benedict.—Ow, the matter is already well advanced. Yesterday I went to one of the canons to confess myself and to receive absolution and benediction; not that I regard these things much, but I thought this would be the best means of broaching the matter, so I confessed myself, and then I spoke of my travels to the canon, and at last I told him of the treasure, and proposed that if he assisted me we should share it between us. Ow, I wish you had seen him; he entered at once into the affair, and said that it might turn out a very profitable speculation: and he shook me by the hand, and said that I was an honest Swiss and a good Catholic. And I then proposed that he should take me into his house and keep me there till we had an opportunity of digging up the treasure together. This he refused to do.

Rey Romero.—Of that I have no doubt: trust one of our canons for not committing himself so far until he sees very good reason. These tales of treasure are at present rather too stale: we have heard of them ever since the time of the Moors.

Benedict.—He advised me to go to the Captain General and obtain permission to make excavations, in which case he promised to assist me to the utmost of his power.

Thereupon the Swiss departed, and I neither saw nor heard anything farther of him during the time that I continued at Saint James.

The bookseller was never weary of showing me about his native town, of which he was enthusiastically fond. Indeed, I have never seen the spirit of localism, which is so prevalent throughout Spain, more strong than at Saint James. If their town did but flourish, the Santiagians seemed to care but little if all others in Galicia perished. Their antipathy to the town of Coruna was unbounded, and this feeling had of late been not a little increased from the circumstance that the seat of the provincial government had been removed from Saint James to Coruna. Whether this change was advisable or not, it is not for me, who am a foreigner, to say; my private opinion, however, is by no means favourable to the alteration. Saint James is one of the most central towns in Galicia, with large and populous communities on every side of it, whereas Coruna stands in a corner, at a considerable distance from the rest. "It is a pity that the vecinos of Coruna cannot contrive to steal away from us our cathedral, even as they have done our government," said a Santiagian; "then, indeed, they would be able to cut some figure. As it is, they have not a church fit to say mass in." "A great pity, too, that they cannot remove our hospital," would another exclaim; "as it is, they are obliged to send us their sick, poor wretches. I always think that the sick of Coruna have more ill-favoured countenances than those from other places; but what good can come from Coruna?"

Accompanied by the bookseller, I visited this hospital, in which, however, I did not remain long; the wretchedness and uncleanliness which I observed speedily driving me away. Saint James, indeed, is the grand lazar-house for all the rest of Galicia, which accounts for the prodigious number of horrible objects to be seen in its streets, who have for the most part arrived in the hope of procuring medical assistance, which, from what I could learn, is very scantily and inefficiently administered. Amongst these unhappy wretches I occasionally observed the terrible leper, and instantly fled from him with a "God help thee," as if I had been a Jew of old. Galicia is the only province of Spain where cases of leprosy are still frequent; a convincing proof this, that the disease is the result of foul feeding, and an inattention to cleanliness, as the Gallegans, with regard to the comforts of life and civilized habits, are confessedly far behind all the other natives of Spain.

"Besides a general hospital we have likewise a leper-house," said the bookseller. "Shall I show it you? We have everything at Saint James. There is nothing lacking; the very leper finds an inn here." "I have no objection to your showing me the house," I replied, "but it must be at a distance, for enter it I will not." Thereupon he conducted me down the road which leads towards Padron and Vigo, and pointing to two or three huts, exclaimed "That is our leper-house." "It appears a miserable place," I replied: "what accommodation may there be for the patients, and who attends to their wants?" "They are left to themselves," answered the bookseller, "and probably sometimes perish from neglect: the place at one time was endowed and had rents which were appropriated to its support, but even these have been sequestered during the late troubles. At present, the least unclean of the lepers generally takes his station by the road side, and begs for the rest. See there he is now."

And sure enough the leper in his shining scales, and half naked, was seated beneath a ruined wall. We dropped money into the hat of the unhappy being, and passed on.

"A bad disorder that," said my friend. "I confess that I, who have seen so many of them, am by no means fond of the company of lepers. Indeed, I wish that they would never enter my shop, as they occasionally do to beg. Nothing is more infectious, as I have heard, than leprosy: there is one very virulent species, however, which is particularly dreaded here, the elephantine: those who die of it should, according to law, be burnt, and their ashes scattered to the winds: for if the body of such a leper be interred in the field of the dead, the disorder is forthwith communicated to all the corses even below the earth. Such, at least, is our idea in these parts. Lawsuits are at present pending from the circumstance of elephantides having been buried with the other dead. Sad is leprosy in all its forms, but most so when elephantine."

"Talking of corses," said I, "do you believe that the bones of St. James are veritably interred at Compostella?"

"What can I say," replied the old man; "you know as much of the matter as myself. Beneath the high altar is a large stone slab or lid, which is said to cover the mouth of a profound well, at the bottom of which it is believed that the bones of the saint are interred; though why they should be placed at the bottom of a well, is a mystery which I cannot fathom. One of the officers of the church told me that at one time he and another kept watch in the church during the night, one of the chapels having shortly before been broken open and a sacrilege committed. At the dead of night, finding the time hang heavy on their hands, they took a crowbar and removed the slab and looked down into the abyss below; it was dark as the grave; whereupon they affixed a weight to the end of a long rope and lowered it down. At a very great depth it seemed to strike against something dull and solid like lead: they supposed it might be a coffin; perhaps it was, but whose is the question."



CHAPTER XXVIII



Skippers of Padron—Caldas de los Reyes—Pontevedra—The Notary Public—Insane Barber—An Introduction—Gallegan Language— Afternoon Ride—Vigo—The Stranger—Jews of the Desert—Bay of Vigo—Sudden Interruption—The Governor.

After a stay of about a fortnight at Saint James, we again mounted our horses and proceeded in the direction of Vigo. As we did not leave Saint James till late in the afternoon, we travelled that day no farther than Padron, a distance of only three leagues. This place is a small port, situate at the extremity of a firth which communicates with the sea. It is called for brevity's sake, Padron, but its proper appellation is Villa del Padron, or the town of the patron saint; it having been, according to the legend, the principal residence of Saint James during his stay in Galicia. By the Romans it was termed Iria Flavia. It is a flourishing little town, and carries on rather an extensive commerce, some of its tiny barks occasionally finding their way across the Bay of Biscay, and even so far as the Thames and London.

There is a curious anecdote connected with the skippers of Padron, which can scarcely be considered as out of place here, as it relates to the circulation of the Scriptures. I was one day in the shop of my friend the bookseller at Saint James, when a stout good- humoured-looking priest entered. He took up one of my Testaments, and forthwith burst into a violent fit of laughter. "What is the matter?" demanded the bookseller. "The sight of this book reminds me of a circumstance": replied the other, "about twenty years ago, when the English first took it into their heads to be very zealous in converting us Spaniards to their own way of thinking, they distributed a great number of books of this kind amongst the Spaniards who chanced to be in London; some of them fell into the hands of certain skippers of Padron, and these good folks, on their return to Galicia, were observed to have become on a sudden exceedingly opinionated and fond of dispute. It was scarcely possible to make an assertion in their hearing without receiving a flat contradiction, especially when religious subjects were brought on the carpet. 'It is false,' they would say; 'Saint Paul, in such a chapter and in such a verse, says exactly the contrary.' 'What can you know concerning what Saint Paul or any other saint has written?' the priests would ask them. 'Much more than you think,' they replied; 'we are no longer to be kept in darkness and ignorance respecting these matters:' and then they would produce their books and read paragraphs, making such comments that every person was scandalized; they cared nothing about the Pope, and even spoke with irreverence of the bones of Saint James. However, the matter was soon bruited about, and a commission was dispatched from our see to collect the books and burn them. This was effected, and the skippers were either punished or reprimanded, since which I have heard nothing more of them. I could not forbear laughing when I saw these books; they instantly brought to my mind the skippers of Padron and their religious disputations."

Our next day's journey brought us to Pontevedra. As there was no talk of robbers in these parts, we travelled without any escort and alone. The road was beautiful and picturesque, though somewhat solitary, especially after we had left behind us the small town of Caldas. There is more than one place of this name in Spain; the one of which I am speaking is distinguished from the rest by being called Caldas de los Reyes, or the warm baths of the kings. It will not be amiss to observe that the Spanish Caldas is synonymous with the Moorish Alhama, a word of frequent occurrence both in Spanish and African topography. Caldas seemed by no means undeserving of its name: it stands on a confluence of springs, and the place when we arrived was crowded with people who had come to enjoy the benefit of the waters. In the course of my travels I have observed that wherever warm springs are found, vestiges of volcanoes are sure to be nigh; the smooth black precipice, the divided mountain, or huge rocks standing by themselves on the plain or on the hill side, as if Titans had been playing at bowls. This last feature occurs near Caldas de los Reyes, the side of the mountain which overhangs it in the direction of the south being covered with immense granite stones, apparently at some ancient period eructed from the bowels of the earth. From Caldas to Pontevedra the route was hilly and fatiguing, the heat was intense, and those clouds of flies, which constitute one of the pests of Galicia, annoyed our horses to such a degree that we were obliged to cut down branches from the trees to protect their heads and necks from the tormenting stings of these bloodthirsty insects. Whilst travelling in Galicia at this period of the year on horseback, it is always advisable to carry a fine net for the protection of the animal, a sure and commodious means of defence, which appears, however, to be utterly unknown in Galicia, where, perhaps, it is more wanted than in any other part of the world.

Pontevedra, upon the whole, is certainly entitled to the appellation of a magnificent town, some of its public edifices, especially the convents, being such as are nowhere to be found but in Spain and Italy. It is surrounded by a wall of hewn stone, and stands at the end of a creek into which the river Levroz disembogues. It is said to have been founded by a colony of Greeks, whose captain was no less a personage than Teucer the Telemonian. It was in former times a place of considerable commerce; and near its port are to be seen the ruins of a farol, or lighthouse, said to be of great antiquity. The port, however, is at a considerable distance from the town, and is shallow and incommodious. The whole country in the neighbourhood of Pontevedra is inconceivably delicious, abounding with fruits of every description, especially grapes, which in the proper season are seen hanging from the "parras" in luscious luxuriance. An old Andalusian author has said that it produces as many oranges and citron trees as the neighbourhood of Cordova. Its oranges are, however, by no means good, and cannot compete with those of Andalusia. The Pontevedrians boast that their land produces two crops every year, and that whilst they are gathering in one they may be seen ploughing and sowing another. They may well be proud of their country, which is certainly a highly favoured spot.

The town itself is in a state of great decay, and notwithstanding the magnificence of its public edifices, we found more than the usual amount of Galician filth and misery. The posada was one of the most wretched description, and to mend the matter, the hostess was a most intolerable scold and shrew. Antonio having found fault with the quality of some provision which she produced, she cursed him most immoderately in the country language, which was the only one she spoke, and threatened, if he attempted to breed any disturbance in her house, to turn the horses, himself, and his master forthwith out of doors. Socrates himself, however, could not have conducted himself on this occasion with greater forbearance than Antonio, who shrugged his shoulders, muttered something in Greek, and then was silent.

"Where does the notary public live?" I demanded. Now the notary public vended books, and to this personage I was recommended by my friend at Saint James. A boy conducted me to the house of Senor Garcia, for such was his name. I found him a brisk, active, talkative little man of forty. He undertook with great alacrity the sale of my Testaments, and in a twinkling sold two to a client who was waiting in the office, and appeared to be from the country. He was an enthusiastic patriot, but of course in a local sense, for he cared for no other country than Pontevedra.

"Those fellows of Vigo," said he, "say their town is a better one than ours, and that it is more deserving to be the capital of this part of Galicia. Did you ever hear such folly? I tell you what, friend, I should not care if Vigo were burnt, and all the fools and rascals within it. Would you ever think of comparing Vigo with Pontevedra?"

"I don't know," I replied; "I have never been at Vigo, but I have heard say that the bay of Vigo is the finest in the world."

"Bay! my good sir. Bay! yes, the rascals have a bay, and it is that bay of theirs which has robbed us all our commerce. But what needs the capital of a district with a bay? It is public edifices that it wants, where the provincial deputies can meet to transact their business; now, so far from there being a commodious public edifice, there is not a decent house in all Vigo. Bay! yes, they have a bay, but have they water fit to drink? Have they a fountain? Yes, they have, and the water is so brackish that it would burst the stomach of a horse. I hope, my dear sir, that you have not come all this distance to take the part of such a gang of pirates as those of Vigo."

"I am not come to take their part," I replied; "indeed, I was not aware that they wanted my assistance in this dispute. I am merely carrying to them the New Testament, of which they evidently stand in much need, if they are such knaves and scoundrels as you represent them."

"Represent them, my dear sir. Does not the matter speak for itself? Do they not say that their town is better than ours, more fit to be the capital of a district, que disparate! que briboneria! (what folly! what rascality!)"

"Is there a bookseller's shop at Vigo?" I inquired.

"There was one," he replied, "kept by an insane barber. I am glad, for your sake, that it is broken up, and the fellow vanished; he would have played you one of two tricks; he would either have cut your throat with his razor, under pretence of shaving you, or have taken your books and never have accounted to you for the proceeds. Bay! I never could see what right such an owl's nest as Vigo has to a bay."

No person could exhibit greater kindness to another, than did the notary public to myself, as soon as I had convinced him that I had no intention of siding with the men of Vigo against Pontevedra. It was now six o'clock in the evening, and he forthwith conducted me to a confectioner's shop, where he treated me with an iced cream and a small cup of chocolate. From hence we walked about the city, the notary showing the various edifices, especially, the Convent of the Jesuits: "See that front," said he, "what do you think of it?"

I expressed to him the admiration which I really felt, and by so doing entirely won the good notary's heart: "I suppose there is nothing like that at Vigo?" said I. He looked at me for a moment, winked, gave a short triumphant chuckle, and then proceeded on his way, walking at a tremendous rate. The Senor Garcia was dressed in all respects as an English notary might be: he wore a white hat, brown frock coat, drab breeches buttoned at the knees, white stockings, and well blacked shoes. But I never saw an English notary walk so fast: it could scarcely be called walking: it seemed more like a succession of galvanic leaps and bounds. I found it impossible to keep up with him: "Where are you conducting me?" I at last demanded, quite breathless.

"To the house of the cleverest man in Spain," he replied, "to whom I intend to introduce you; for you must not think that Pontevedra has nothing to boast of but its splendid edifices and its beautiful country; it produces more illustrious minds than any other town in Spain. Did you ever hear of the grand Tamerlane?"

"Oh, yes," said I, "but he did not come from Pontevedra or its neighbourhood: he came from the steppes of Tartary, near the river Oxus."

"I know he did," replied the notary, "but what I mean to say is, that when Enrique the Third wanted an ambassador to send to that African, the only man he could find suited to the enterprise was a knight of Pontevedra, Don—by name. Let the men of Vigo contradict that fact if they can."

We entered a large portal and ascended a splendid staircase, at the top of which the notary knocked at a small door: "Who is the gentleman to whom you are about to introduce me?" demanded I.

"It is the advocate -," replied Garcia; "he is the cleverest man in Spain, and understands all languages and sciences."

We were admitted by a respectable-looking female, to all appearance a housekeeper, who, on being questioned, informed us that the Advocate was at home, and forthwith conducted us to an immense room, or rather library, the walls being covered with books, except in two or three places, where hung some fine pictures of the ancient Spanish school. There was a rich mellow light in the apartment, streaming through a window of stained glass, which looked to the west. Behind the table sat the Advocate, on whom I looked with no little interest: his forehead was high and wrinkled, and there was much gravity on his features, which were quite Spanish. He was dressed in a long robe, and might be about sixty; he sat reading behind a large table, and on our entrance half raised himself and bowed slightly.

The notary public saluted him most profoundly, and, in an under voice, hoped that he might be permitted to introduce a friend of his, an English gentleman, who was travelling through Galicia.

"I am very glad to see him," said the Advocate, "but I hope he speaks Castilian, else we can have but little communication; for, although I can read both French and Latin, I cannot speak them."

"He speaks, sir, almost as good Spanish," said the notary, "as a native of Pontevedra."

"The natives of Pontevedra," I replied, "appear to be better versed in Gallegan than in Castilian, for the greater part of the conversation which I hear in the streets is carried on in the former dialect."

"The last gentleman which my friend Garcia introduced to me," said the Advocate, "was a Portuguese, who spoke little or no Spanish. It is said that the Gallegan and Portuguese are very similar, but when we attempted to converse in the two languages, we found it impossible. I understood little of what he said, whilst my Gallegan was quite unintelligible to him. Can you understand our country dialect?" he continued.

"Very little of it," I replied; "which I believe chiefly proceeds from the peculiar accent and uncouth enunciation of the Gallegans, for their language is certainly almost entirely composed of Spanish and Portuguese words."

"So you are an Englishman," said the Advocate. "Your countrymen have committed much damage in times past in these regions, if we may trust our histories."

"Yes," said I, "they sank your galleons and burnt your finest men- of-war in Vigo Bay, and, under old Cobham, levied a contribution of forty thousand pounds sterling on this very town of Pontevedra."

"Any foreign power," interrupted the notary public, "has a clear right to attack Vigo, but I cannot conceive what plea your countrymen could urge for distressing Pontevedra, which is a respectable town, and could never have offended them."

"Senor Cavalier," said the Advocate, "I will show you my library. Here is a curious work, a collection of poems, written mostly in Gallegan, by the curate of Fruime. He is our national poet, and we are very proud of him."

We stopped upwards of an hour with the Advocate, whose conversation, if it did not convince me that he was the cleverest man in Spain, was, upon the whole, highly interesting, and who certainly possessed an extensive store of general information, though he was by no means the profound philologist which the notary had represented him to be.

When I was about to depart from Pontevedra in the afternoon of the next day, the Senor Garcia stood by the side of my horse, and having embraced me, thrust a small pamphlet into my hand: "This book," said he, "contains a description of Pontevedra. Wherever you go, speak well of Pontevedra." I nodded. "Stay," said he, "my dear friend, I have heard of your society, and will do my best to further its views. I am quite disinterested, but if at any future time you should have an opportunity of speaking in print of Senor Garcia, the notary public of Pontevedra,—you understand me,—I wish you would do so."

"I will," said I.

It was a pleasant afternoon's ride from Pontevedra to Vigo, the distance being only four leagues. As we approached the latter town, the country became exceedingly mountainous, though scarcely anything could exceed the beauty of the surrounding scenery. The sides of the hills were for the most part clothed with luxuriant forests, even to the very summits, though occasionally a flinty and naked peak would present itself, rising to the clouds. As the evening came on, the route along which we advanced became very gloomy, the hills and forests enwrapping it in deep shade. It appeared, however, to be well frequented: numerous cars were creaking along it, and both horsemen and pedestrians were continually passing us. The villages were frequent. Vines, supported on parras, were growing, if possible, in still greater abundance than in the neighbourhood of Pontevedra. Life and activity seemed to pervade everything. The hum of insects, the cheerful bark of dogs, the rude songs of Galicia, were blended together in pleasant symphony. So delicious was my ride, that I almost regretted when we entered the gate of Vigo.

The town occupies the lower part of a lofty hill, which, as it ascends, becomes extremely steep and precipitous, and the top of which is crowned with a strong fort or castle. It is a small compact place, surrounded with low walls, the streets are narrow, steep, and winding, and in the middle of the town is a small square.

There is rather an extensive faubourg extending along the shore of the bay. We found an excellent posada, kept by a man and woman from the Basque provinces, who were both civil and intelligent. The town seemed to be crowded, and resounded with noise and merriment. The people were making a wretched attempt at an illumination, in consequence of some victory lately gained, or pretended to have been gained, over the forces of the Pretender. Military uniforms were glancing about in every direction. To increase the bustle, a troop of Portuguese players had lately arrived from Oporto, and their first representation was to take place this evening. "Is the play to be performed in Spanish?" I demanded. "No," was the reply; "and on that account every person is so eager to go; which would not be the case if it were in a language which they could understand."

On the morning of the next day I was seated at breakfast in a large apartment which looked out upon the Plaza Mayor, or great square of the good town of Vigo. The sun was shining very brilliantly, and all around looked lively and gay. Presently a stranger entered, and bowing profoundly, stationed himself at the window, where he remained a considerable time in silence. He was a man of very remarkable appearance, of about thirty-five. His features were of perfect symmetry, and I may almost say, of perfect beauty. His hair was the darkest I had ever seen, glossy and shining; his eyes large, black, and melancholy; but that which most struck me was his complexion. It might be called olive, it is true, but it was a livid olive. He was dressed in the very first style of French fashion. Around his neck was a massive gold chain, while upon his fingers were large rings, in one of which was set a magnificent ruby. Who can that man be? thought I;—Spaniard or Portuguese, perhaps a Creole. I asked him an indifferent question in Spanish, to which he forthwith replied in that language, but his accent convinced me that he was neither Spaniard nor Portuguese.

"I presume I am speaking to an Englishman, sir?" said he, in as good English as it was possible for one not an Englishman to speak.

Myself.—You know me to be an Englishman; but I should find some difficulty in guessing to what country you belong.

Stranger.—May I take a seat?

Myself.—A singular question. Have you not as much right to sit in the public apartment of an inn as myself?

Stranger.—I am not certain of that. The people here are not in general very gratified at seeing me seated by their side.

Myself.—Perhaps owing to your political opinions, or to some crime which it may have been your misfortune to commit?

Stranger.—I have no political opinions, and I am not aware that I ever committed any particular crime,—I am hated for my country and my religion.

Myself.—Perhaps I am speaking to a Protestant, like myself?

Stranger.—I am no Protestant. If I were, they would be cautious here of showing their dislike, for I should then have a government and a consul to protect me. I am a Jew—a Barbary Jew, a subject of Abderrahman.

Myself.—If that be the case, you can scarcely complain of being looked upon with dislike in this country, since in Barbary the Jews are slaves.

Stranger.—In most parts, I grant you, but not where I was born, which was far up the country, near the deserts. There the Jews are free, and are feared, and are as valiant men as the Moslems themselves; as able to tame the steed, or to fire the gun. The Jews of our tribe are not slaves, and I like not to be treated as a slave either by Christian or Moor.

Myself.—Your history must be a curious one, I would fain hear it.

Stranger.—My history I shall tell to no one. I have travelled much, I have been in commerce and have thriven. I am at present established in Portugal, but I love not the people of Catholic countries, and least of all these of Spain. I have lately experienced the most shameful injustice in the Aduana of this town, and when I complained, they laughed at me and called me Jew. Wherever he turns, the Jew is reviled, save in your country, and on that account my blood always warms when I see an Englishman. You are a stranger here. Can I do aught for you? You may command me.

Myself.—I thank you heartily, but I am in need of no assistance.

Stranger.—Have you any bills, I will accept them if you have?

Myself.—I have no need of assistance; but you may do me a favour by accepting of a book.

Stranger.—I will receive it with thanks. I know what it is. What a singular people? The same dress, the same look, the same book. Pelham gave me one in Egypt. Farewell! Your Jesus was a good man, perhaps a prophet; but . . . farewell!

Well may the people of Pontevedra envy the natives of Vigo their bay, with which, in many respects, none other in the world can compare. On every side it is defended by steep and sublime hills, save on the part of the west, where is the outlet to the Atlantic; but in the midst of this outlet, up towers a huge rocky wall, or island, which breaks the swell, and prevents the billows of the western sea from pouring through in full violence. On either side of this island is a passage, so broad, that navies might pass through at all times in safety. The bay itself is oblong, running far into the land, and so capacious, that a thousand sail of the line might ride in it uncrowded. The waters are dark, still, and deep, without quicksands or shallows, so that the proudest man-of- war might lie within a stone's throw of the town ramparts without any fear of injuring her keel.

Of many a strange event, and of many a mighty preparation has this bay been the scene. It was here that the bulky dragons of the grand armada were mustered, and it was from hence that, fraught with the pomp, power, and terror of old Spain, the monster fleet, spreading its enormous sails to the wind, and bent on the ruin of the Lutheran isle, proudly steered;—that fleet, to build and man which half the forests of Galicia had been felled, and all the mariners impressed from the thousand bays and creeks of the stern Cantabrian shore. It was here that the united flags of Holland and England triumphed over the pride of Spain and France; when the burning timbers of exploded war-ships soared above the tops of the Gallegan hills, and blazing galleons sank with their treasure chests whilst drifting in the direction of Sampayo. It was on the shores of this bay that the English guards first emptied Spanish bodegas, whilst the bombs of Cobham were crushing the roofs of the castle of Castro, and the vecinos of Pontevedra buried their doubloons in cellars, and flying posts were conveying to Lugo and Orensee the news of the heretic invasion and the disaster of Vigo. All these events occurred to my mind as I stood far up the hill, at a short distance from the fort, surveying the bay.

"What are you doing there, Cavalier?" roared several voices. "Stay, Carracho! if you attempt to run we will shoot you!" I looked round and saw three or four fellows in dirty uniforms, to all appearance soldiers, just above me, on a winding path, which led up the hill. Their muskets were pointed at me. "What am I doing? Nothing, as you see," said I, "save looking at the bay; and as for running, this is by no means ground for a course." "You are our prisoner," said they, "and you must come with us to the fort." "I was just thinking of going there," I replied, "before you thus kindly invited me. The fort is the very spot I was desirous of seeing." I thereupon climbed up to the place where they stood, when they instantly surrounded me, and with this escort I was marched into the fort, which might have been a strong place in its time, but was now rather ruinous. "You are suspected of being a spy," said the corporal, who walked in front. "Indeed," said I. "Yes," replied the corporal, "and several spies have lately been taken and shot."

Upon one of the parapets of the fort stood a young man, dressed as a subaltern officer, and to this personage I was introduced. "We have been watching you this half hour," said he, "as you were taking observations." "Then you gave yourselves much useless trouble," said I. "I am an Englishman, and was merely looking at the bay. Have the kindness now to show me the fort." . . .

After some conversation, he said, "I wish to be civil to people of your nation, you may therefore consider yourself at liberty." I bowed, made my exit, and proceeded down the hill. Just before I entered the town, however, the corporal, who had followed me unperceived, tapped me on the shoulder. "You must go with me to the governor," said he. "With all my heart," I replied. The governor was shaving, when we were shown up to him. He was in his shirt sleeves, and held a razor in his hand. He looked very ill- natured, which was perhaps owing to his being thus interrupted in his toilet. He asked me two or three questions, and on learning that I had a passport, and was the bearer of a letter to the English consul, he told me that I was at liberty to depart. So I bowed to the governor of the town, as I had done to the governor of the fort, and making my exit proceeded to my inn.

At Vigo I accomplished but little in the way of distribution, and after a sojourn of a few days, I returned in the direction of Saint James.



CHAPTER XXIX



Arrival at Padron—Projected Enterprise—The Alquilador—Breach of Promise—An Odd Companion—A Plain Story—Rugged Paths—The Desertion—The Pony—A Dialogue—Unpleasant Situation—The Estadea- -Benighted—The Hut—The Traveller's Pillow.

I arrived at Padron late in the evening, on my return from Pontevedra and Vigo. It was my intention at this place to send my servant and horses forward to Santiago, and to hire a guide to Cape Finisterra. It would be difficult to assign any plausible reason for the ardent desire which I entertained to visit this place; but I remembered that last year I had escaped almost by a miracle from shipwreck and death on the rocky sides of this extreme point of the Old World, and I thought that to convey the Gospel to a place so wild and remote, might perhaps be considered an acceptable pilgrimage in the eyes of my Maker. True it is that but one copy remained of those which I had brought with me on this last journey, but this reflection, far from discouraging me in my projected enterprise, produced the contrary effect, as I called to mind that ever since the Lord revealed himself to man, it has seemed good to him to accomplish the greatest ends by apparently the most insufficient means; and I reflected that this one copy might serve as an instrument of more good than the four thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine copies of the edition of Madrid.

I was aware that my own horses were quite incompetent to reach Finisterra, as the roads or paths lie through stony ravines, and over rough and shaggy hills, and therefore determined to leave them behind with Antonio, whom I was unwilling to expose to the fatigues of such a journey. I lost no time in sending for an alquilador, or person who lets out horses, and informing him of my intention. He said he had an excellent mountain pony at my disposal, and that he himself would accompany me, but at the same time observed, that it was a terrible journey for man and horse, and that he expected to be paid accordingly. I consented to give him what he demanded, but on the express condition that he would perform his promise of attending me himself, as I was unwilling to trust myself four or five days amongst the hills with any low fellow of the town whom he might select, and who it was very possible might play me some evil turn. He replied by the term invariably used by the Spaniards when they see doubt or distrust exhibited. "No tenga usted cuidao," I will go myself. Having thus arranged the matter perfectly satisfactorily, as I thought, I partook of a slight supper, and shortly afterwards retired to repose.

I had requested the alquilador to call me the next morning at three o'clock; he however did not make his appearance till five, having, I suppose, overslept himself, which was indeed my own case. I arose in a hurry, dressed, put a few things in a bag, not forgetting the Testament which I had resolved to present to the inhabitants of Finisterra. I then sallied forth and saw my friend the alquilador, who was holding by the bridle the pony or jaco which was destined to carry me in my expedition. It was a beautiful little animal, apparently strong and full of life, without one single white hair in its whole body, which was black as the plumage of the crow.

Behind it stood a strange-looking figure of the biped species, to whom, however, at the moment, I paid little attention, but of whom I shall have plenty to say in the sequel.

Having asked the horse-lender whether he was ready to proceed, and being answered in the affirmative, I bade adieu to Antonio, and putting the pony in motion, we hastened out of the town, taking at first the road which leads towards Santiago. Observing that the figure which I have previously alluded to was following close at our heels, I asked the alquilador who it was, and the reason of its following us; to which he replied that it was a servant of his, who would proceed a little way with us and then return. So on we went at a rapid rate, till we were within a quarter of a mile of the Convent of the Esclavitud, a little beyond which he had informed me that we should have to turn off from the high road; but here he suddenly stopped short, and in a moment we were all at a standstill. I questioned the guide as to the reason of this, but received no answer. The fellow's eyes were directed to the ground, and he seemed to be counting with the most intense solicitude the prints of the hoofs of the oxen, mules, and horses in the dust of the road. I repeated my demand in a louder voice; when, after a considerable pause, he somewhat elevated his eyes, without however looking me in the face, and said that he believed that I entertained the idea that he himself was to guide me to Finisterra, which if I did, he was very sorry for, the thing being quite impossible, as he was perfectly ignorant of the way, and, moreover, incapable of performing such a journey over rough and difficult ground, as he was no longer the man he had been, and over and above all that, he was engaged that day to accompany a gentleman to Pontevedra, who was at that moment expecting him. "But," continued he, "as I am always desirous of behaving like a caballero to everybody, I have taken measures to prevent your being disappointed. This person," pointing to the figure, "I have engaged to accompany you. He is a most trustworthy person, and is well acquainted with the route to Finisterra, having been thither several times with this very jaco on which you are mounted. He will, besides, be an agreeable companion to you on the way, as he speaks French and English very well, and has been all over the world." The fellow ceased speaking at last; and I was so struck with his craft, impudence, and villainy, that some time elapsed before I could find an answer. I then reproached him in the bitterest terms for his breach of promise, and said that I was much tempted to return to the town instantly, complain of him to the alcalde, and have him punished at any expense. To which he replied, "Sir Cavalier, by so doing you will be nothing nearer Finisterra, to which you seem so eager to get. Take my advice, spur on the jaco, for you see it is getting late, and it is twelve long leagues from hence to Corcuvion, where you must pass the night; and from thence to Finisterra is no trifle. As for the man, no tenga usted cuidao, he is the best guide in all Galicia, speaks English and French, and will bear you pleasant company."

By this time I had reflected that by returning to Padron I should indeed be only wasting time, and that by endeavouring to have the fellow punished, no benefit would accrue to me; moreover, as he seemed to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word, I might as well proceed in the company of any person as in his. I therefore signified my intention of proceeding, and told him to go back in the Lord's name, and repent of his sins. But having gained one point, he thought he had best attempt another; so placing himself about a yard before the jaco, he said that the price which I had agreed to pay him for the loan of his horse (which by the by was the full sum he had demanded) was by no means sufficient, and that before I proceeded I must promise him two dollars more, adding that he was either drunk or mad when he had made such a bargain. I was now thoroughly incensed, and without a moment's reflection, spurred the jaco, which flung him down in the dust, and passed over him. Looking back at the distance of a hundred yards, I saw him standing in the same place, his hat on the ground, gazing after us, and crossing himself most devoutly. His servant, or whatever he was, far from offering any assistance to his principal, no sooner saw the jaco in motion than he ran on by its side, without word or comment, farther than striking himself lustily on the thigh with his right palm. We soon passed the Esclavitud, and presently afterwards turned to the left into a stony broken path leading to fields of maze. We passed by several farm-houses, and at last arrived at a dingle, the sides of which were plentifully overgrown with dwarf oaks, and which slanted down to a small dark river shaded with trees, which we crossed by a rude bridge. By this time I had had sufficient time to scan my odd companion from head to foot. His utmost height, had he made the most of himself, might perhaps have amounted to five feet one inch; but he seemed somewhat inclined to stoop. Nature had gifted him with an immense head and placed it clean upon his shoulders, for amongst the items of his composition it did not appear that a neck had been included. Arms long and brawny swung at his sides, and the whole of his frame was as strong built and powerful as a wrestler's; his body was supported by a pair of short but very nimble legs. His face was very long, and would have borne some slight resemblance to a human countenance, had the nose been more visible, for its place seemed to have been entirely occupied by a wry mouth and large staring eyes. His dress consisted of three articles: an old and tattered hat of the Portuguese kind, broad at the crown and narrow at the eaves, something which appeared to be a shirt, and dirty canvas trousers. Willing to enter into conversation with him, and remembering that the alquilador had informed me that he spoke languages, I asked him, in English, if he had always acted in the capacity of guide? Whereupon he turned his eyes with a singular expression upon my face, gave a loud laugh, a long leap, and clapped his hands thrice above his head. Perceiving that he did not understand me, I repeated my demand in French, and was again answered by the laugh, leap, and clapping. At last he said in broken Spanish, "Master mine, speak Spanish in God's name, and I can understand you, and still better if you speak Gallegan, but I can promise no more. I heard what the alquilador told you, but he is the greatest embustero in the whole land, and deceived you then as he did when he promised to accompany you. I serve him for my sins; but it was an evil hour when I left the deep sea and turned guide." He then informed me that he was a native of Padron, and a mariner by profession, having spent the greater part of his life in the Spanish navy, in which service he had visited Cuba and many parts of the Spanish Americas, adding, "when my master told you that I should bear you pleasant company by the way, it was the only word of truth that has come from his mouth for a month; and long before you reach Finisterra you will have rejoiced that the servant, and not the master, went with you: he is dull and heavy, but I am what you see." He then gave two or three first-rate summersets, again laughed loudly, and clapped his hands. "You would scarcely think," he continued, "that I drove that little pony yesterday heavily laden all the way from Coruna. We arrived at Padron at two o'clock this morning; but we are nevertheless both willing and able to undertake a fresh journey. No tenga usted cuidao, as my master said, no one ever complains of that pony or of me." In this kind of discourse we proceeded a considerable way through a very picturesque country, until we reached a beautiful village at the skirt of a mountain. "This village," said my guide, "is called Los Angeles, because its church was built long since by the angels; they placed a beam of gold beneath it, which they brought down from heaven, and which was once a rafter of God's own house. It runs all the way under the ground from hence to the cathedral of Compostella."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse