The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2
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“Those men mean mischief,” said I to my friend D-, of the Morning Chronicle, who at this moment joined me; “and depend upon it, that if they are ordered they will commence firing, caring nothing whom they hit. But what can those cavalry fellows behind them mean, who are evidently of the other opinion by their shouting? Why don’t they charge at once this handful of foot people and overturn them? Once down, the crowd would wrest from them their muskets in a moment. You are a liberal, which I am not; why do you not go to that silly young man who commands the horse and give him a word of counsel in time?”
D– turned upon me his broad red good-humoured English countenance, with a peculiarly arch look, as much as to say… (whatever you think most applicable, gentle reader), then taking me by the arm, “Let us get,” said he, “out of this crowd and mount to some window, where I can write down what is about to take place, for I agree with you that mischief is meant.” Just opposite the post-office was a large house, in the topmost story of which we beheld a paper displayed, importing that apartments were to let; whereupon we instantly ascended the common stair, and having agreed with the mistress of the ?tage for the use of the front room for the day, we bolted the door, and the reporter, producing his pocket-book and pencil, prepared to take notes of the coming events, which were already casting their shadow before.
What most extraordinary men are these reporters of newspapers in general, I mean English newspapers! Surely if there be any class of individuals who are entitled to the appellation of cosmopolites, it is these; who pursue their avocation in all countries indifferently, and accommodate themselves at will to the manners of all classes of society: their fluency of style as writers is only surpassed by their facility of language in conversation, and their attainments in classical and polite literature only by their profound knowledge of the world, acquired by an early introduction into its bustling scenes. The activity, energy, and courage which they occasionally display in the pursuit of information, are truly remarkable. I saw them during the three days at Paris, mingled with canaille and gamins behind the barriers, whilst the mitraille was flying in all directions, and the desperate cuirassiers were dashing their fierce horses against these seemingly feeble bulwarks. There stood they, dotting down their observations in their pocket-books as unconcernedly as if reporting the proceedings of a reform meeting in Covent Garden or Finsbury Square; whilst in Spain, several of them accompanied the Carlist and Cristino guerillas in some of their most desperate raids and expeditions, exposing themselves to the danger of hostile bullets, the inclemency of winter, and the fierce heat of the summer sun.
We had scarcely been five minutes at the window, when we suddenly heard the clattering of horses’ feet hastening down the street called the Calle de Carretas.The house in which we had stationed ourselves was, as I have already observed, just opposite to the post-office, at the left of which this street debouches from the north into the Puerta del Sol: as the sounds became louder and louder, the cries of the crowd below diminished, and a species of panic seemed to have fallen upon all: once or twice, however, I could distinguish the words, “Quesada! Quesada!” The foot soldiers stood calm and motionless, but I observed that the cavalry, with the young officer who commanded them, displayed both confusion and fear, exchanging with each other some hurried words. All of a sudden that part of the crowd which stood near the mouth of the Calle de Carretas fell back in great disorder, leaving a considerable space unoccupied, and the next moment Quesada, in complete general’s uniform, and mounted on a bright bay thoroughbred English horse, with a drawn sword in his hand, dashed at full gallop into the area, in much the same manner as I have seen a Manchegan bull rush into the amphitheatre when the gates of his pen are suddenly flung open.
He was closely followed by two mounted officers, and at a short distance by as many dragoons. In almost less time than is sufficient to relate it, several individuals in the crowd were knocked down and lay sprawling upon the ground, beneath the horses of Quesada and his two friends, for as to the dragoons, they halted as soon as they had entered the Puerta del Sol. It was a fine sight to see three men, by dint of valour and good horsemanship, strike terror into at least as many thousands: I saw Quesada spur his horse repeatedly into the dense masses of the crowd, and then extricate himself in the most masterly manner. The rabble were completely awed, and gave way, retiring by the Calle del Comercio and the Calle del Alcal?. All at once, Quesada singled out two nationals, who were attempting to escape, and setting spurs to his horse, turned them in a moment, and drove them in another direction, striking them in a contemptuous manner with the flat of his sabre. He was crying out, “Long live the absolute queen!” when, just beneath me, amidst a portion of the crowd which had still maintained its ground, perhaps from not having the means of escaping, I saw a small gun glitter for a moment; then there was a sharp report, and a bullet had nearly sent Quesada to his long account, passing so near to the countenance of the general as to graze his hat. I had an indistinct view for a moment of a well-known foraging cap just about the spot from whence the gun had been discharged, then there was a rush of the crowd, and the shooter, whoever he was, escaped discovery amidst the confusion which arose.
As for Quesada, he seemed to treat the danger from which he had escaped with the utmost contempt. He glared about him fiercely for a moment, then leaving the two nationals, who sneaked away like whipped hounds, he went up to the young officer who commanded the cavalry, and who had been active in raising the cry of the constitution, and to him he addressed a few words with an air of stern menace; the youth evidently quailed before him, and, probably in obedience to his orders, resigned the command of the party, and rode away with a discomfited air; whereupon Quesada dismounted and walked slowly backwards and forwards before the Casa de Postas with a mien which seemed to bid defiance to mankind.
This was the glorious day of Quesada’s existence, his glorious and last day. I call it the day of his glory, for he certainly never before appeared under such brilliant circumstances, and he never lived to see another sun set. No action of any conqueror or hero on record is to be compared with this closing scene of the life of Quesada, for who, by his single desperate courage and impetuosity, ever stopped a revolution in full course? Quesada did: he stopped the revolution at Madrid for one entire day, and brought back the uproarious and hostile mob of a huge city to perfect order and quiet. His burst into the Puerta del Sol was the most tremendous and successful piece of daring ever witnessed. I admired so much the spirit of the “brute bull” that I frequently, during his wild onset, shouted “Viva Quesada!” for I wished him well. Not that I am of any political party or system. No, no! I have lived too long with Romany Chals154154
There is a celebrated coffee-house in the Calle del Alcal?, at Madrid, capable of holding several hundred individuals. On the evening of the day in question, I was seated there, sipping a cup of the brown beverage, when I heard a prodigious noise and clamour in the street; it proceeded from the nationals, who were returning from their expedition. In a few minutes I saw a body of them enter the coffee-house, marching arm in arm, two by two, stamping on the ground with their feet in a kind of measure, and repeating in loud chorus, as they walked round the spacious apartment, the following grisly stanza: —
A huge bowl of coffee was then called for, which was placed upon a table, around which gathered the national soldiers. There was silence for a moment, which was interrupted by a voice roaring out, “El pa?uelo!” A blue kerchief was forthwith produced, which appeared to contain a substance of some kind; it was untied, and a gory hand and three or four dissevered fingers made their appearance, and with these the contents of the bowl were stirred up. “Cups! cups!” cried the nationals..
“Ho, ho, Don Jorge,” cried Baltasarito, coming up to me with a cup of coffee, “pray do me the favour to drink upon this glorious occasion. This is a pleasant day for Spain, and for the gallant nationals of Madrid. I have seen many a bull funcion, but none which has given me so much pleasure as this. Yesterday the brute had it all his own way, but to-day the toreros have prevailed, as you see, Don Jorge. Pray drink; for I must now run home to fetch my pajandi to play my brethren a tune, and sing a copla. What shall it be? Something in Gitano?
You shake your head, Don Jorge. Ha, ha; I am young, and youth is the time for pleasure. Well, well, out of compliment to you, who are an Englishman and a monr?, it shall not be that, but something liberal, something patriotic, the Hymn of Riego.158158
At the commencement of November160160
I embarked in the Thames, on board the M- steamer. We had a most unpleasant passage to Falmouth. The ship was crowded with passengers; most of them were poor consumptive individuals, and other invalids fleeing from the cold blasts of England’s winter to the sunny shores of Portugal and Madeira. In a more uncomfortable vessel, especially steamship, it has never been my fate to make a voyage. The berths were small and insupportably close, and of these wretched holes mine was amongst the worst, the rest having been bespoken before I arrived on board; so that, to avoid the suffocation which seemed to threaten me, should I enter it, I lay upon the floor of one of the cabins throughout the voyage. We remained at Falmouth twenty-four hours, taking in coal and repairing the engine, which had sustained considerable damage.
On Monday, the 7th, we again started, and made for the Bay of Biscay. The sea was high, and the wind strong and contrary; nevertheless, on the morning of the fourth day, we were in sight of the rocky coast to the north of Cape Finisterre. I must here observe, that this was the first voyage that the captain who commanded the vessel had ever made on board of her, and that he knew little or nothing of the coast towards which we were bearing. He was a person picked up in a hurry, the former captain having resigned his command on the ground that the ship was not seaworthy, and that the engines were frequently unserviceable. I was not acquainted with these circumstances at the time, or perhaps I should have felt more alarmed than I did, when I saw the vessel approaching nearer and nearer the shore, till at last we were only a few hundred yards distant. As it was, however, I felt very much surprised; for having passed it twice before, both times in steam-vessels, and having seen with what care the captains endeavoured to maintain a wide offing, I could not conceive the reason of our being now so near this dangerous region. The wind was blowing hard towards the shore, if that can be called a shore which consists of steep abrupt precipices, on which the surf was breaking with the noise of thunder, tossing up clouds of spray and foam to the height of a cathedral. We coasted slowly along, rounding several tall forelands, some of them piled up by the hand of nature in the most fantastic shapes. About nightfall Cape Finisterre was not far ahead – a bluff, brown granite mountain, whose frowning head may be seen far away by those who traverse the ocean. The stream which poured round its breast was terrific, and though our engines plied with all their force, we made little or no way.
By about eight o’clock at night the wind had increased to a hurricane, the thunder rolled frightfully, and the only light which we had to guide us on our way was the red forked lightning, which burst at times from the bosom of the big black clouds which lowered over our heads. We were exerting ourselves to the utmost to weather the cape, which we could descry by the lightning on our lee, its brow being frequently brilliantly lighted up by the flashes which quivered around it, when suddenly, with a great crash, the engine broke, and the paddles, on which depended our lives, ceased to play.
I will not attempt to depict the scene of horror and confusion which ensued; it may be imagined, but never described. The captain, to give him his due, displayed the utmost coolness and intrepidity: he and the whole crew made the greatest exertions to repair the engine, and when they found their labour in vain, endeavoured, by hoisting the sails, and by practising all possible man?uvres, to preserve the ship from impending destruction. But all was of no avail; we were hard on a lee shore, to which the howling tempest was impelling us. About this time I was standing near the helm, and I asked the steersman if there was any hope of saving the vessel, or our lives. He replied, “Sir, it is a bad affair; no boat could live for a minute in this sea, and in less than an hour the ship will have her broadside on Finisterre, where the strongest man-of-war ever built must go to shivers instantly. None of us will see the morning.” The captain likewise informed the other passengers in the cabin to the same effect, telling them to prepare themselves; and having done so, he ordered the door to be fastened, and none to be permitted to come on deck. I however kept my station, though almost drowned with water, immense waves continually breaking over our windward side and flooding the ship. The water-casks broke from their lashings, and one of them struck me down, and crushed the foot of the unfortunate man at the helm, whose place was instantly taken by the captain. We were now close to the rocks, when a horrid convulsion of the elements took place. The lightning enveloped us as with a mantle; the thunders were louder than the roar of a million cannon; the dregs of the ocean seemed to be cast up, and in the midst of all this turmoil, the wind, without the slightest intimation, veered right about, and pushed us from the horrible coast faster than it had previously driven us towards it.
The oldest sailors on board acknowledged that they had never witnessed so providential an escape. I said, from the bottom of my heart, “Our Father – hallowed be Thy name.”
The next day we were near foundering, for the sea was exceedingly high, and our vessel, which was not intended for sailing, laboured terribly, and leaked much. The pumps were continually working. She likewise took fire, but the flames were extinguished. In the evening the steam-engine was partially repaired, and we reached Lisbon on the thirteenth, where in a few days we completed our repairs.
I found my excellent friend W– in good health. During my absence he had been doing everything in his power to further the sale of the sacred volume in Portuguese: his zeal and devotedness were quite admirable. The distracted state of the country, however, during the last six months, had sadly impeded his efforts. The minds of the people had been so engrossed with politics, that they found scarcely any time to think of the welfare of their souls. The political history of Portugal had of late afforded a striking parallel to that of the neighbouring country. In both a struggle for supremacy had arisen between the court and the democratic party; in both the latter had triumphed, whilst two distinguished individuals had fallen a sacrifice to the popular fury – Freire161161
The vessel being repaired, we again embarked, and in two days arrived in safety at Cadiz. I found great confusion reigning there; numerous bands of the factious were reported to be hovering in the neighbourhood. An attack was not deemed improbable, and the place had just been declared in a state of siege. I took up my abode at the French hotel, in the Calle de la Niveria, and was allotted a species of cockloft, or garret, to sleep in, for the house was filled with guests, being a place of much resort, on account of the excellent table d’h?te which is kept there. I dressed myself, and walked about the town. I entered several coffee-houses: the din of tongues in all was deafening. In one no less than six orators were haranguing at the same time on the state of the country, and the probability of an intervention on the part of England and France. As I was listening to one of them, he suddenly called upon me for my opinion, as I was a foreigner, and seemingly just arrived. I replied that I could not venture to guess what steps the two governments would pursue under the present circumstances, but thought that it would be as well if the Spaniards would exert themselves more, and call less on Jupiter. As I did not wish to engage in any political conversation, I instantly quitted the house, and sought those parts of the town where the lower classes principally reside.
I entered into discourse with several individuals, but found them very ignorant; none could read or write, and their ideas respecting religion were anything but satisfactory – most professing a perfect indifference. I afterwards went into a bookseller’s shop, and made inquiries respecting the demand for literature, which he informed me was small. I produced a London edition of the New Testament, in Spanish, and asked the bookseller whether he thought a book of that description would sell in Cadiz. He said that both the type and paper were exceedingly beautiful, but that it was a work not sought after and very little known. I did not pursue my inquiries in other shops, for I reflected that I was not likely to receive a very favourable opinion from booksellers respecting a publication in which they had no interest. I had, moreover, but two or three copies of the New Testament with me, and could not have supplied them, had they even given me an order.
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