George Borrow.

The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2

We passed through the entire length of the town ere we reached the posada: the streets were dark and almost entirely deserted. The posada was a large building, the windows of which were well fenced with rejas, or iron grating: no light gleamed from them, and the silence of death not only seemed to pervade the house, but the street in which it was situated. We knocked for a long time at the gate without receiving any answer; we then raised our voices and shouted. At last some one from within inquired what we wanted. Open the door and you will see, we replied. I shall do no such thing, answered the individual from within, until I know who you are. We are travellers, said I, from Seville. Travellers, are you? said the voice; why did you not tell me so before? I am not porter at this house to keep out travellers. Jesus Maria knows we have not so many of them that we need repulse any. Enter, cavalier, and welcome, you and your company.

He opened the gate and admitted us into a spacious courtyard, and then forthwith again secured the gate with various bolts and bars. Are you afraid that the Carlists should pay you a visit, I demanded, that you take so much precaution? It is not the Carlists we are afraid of, replied the porter; they have been here already, and did us no damage whatever. It is certain scoundrels of this town that we are afraid of, who have a spite against the master of the house, and would murder both him and his family, could they but find an opportunity.

I was about to inquire the cause of this enmity, when a thick bulky man, bearing a light in his hand, came running down a stone staircase, which led into the interior of the building. Two or three females, also bearing lights, followed him. He stopped on the lowest stair. Whom have we here? he exclaimed; then advancing the lamp which he bore, the light fell full upon my face. Ola! he exclaimed; is it you? Only think, said he, turning to the female who stood next him, a dark-featured person, stout as himself, and about his own age, which might border upon fifty; only think, my dear, that at the very moment we were wishing for a guest, an Englishman should be standing before our doors, for I should know an Englishman at a miles distance, even in the dark. Juanito, cried he to the porter, open not the gate any more to-night, whoever may ask for admission. Should the nationals come to make any disturbance, tell them that the son of Belington173173

is in the house ready to attack them sword in hand unless they retire; and should other travellers arrive, which is not likely, inasmuch as we have seen none for a month past, say that we have no room, all our apartments being occupied by an English gentleman and his company.

I soon found that my friend the posadero was a most egregious Carlist.

Before I had finished supper during which, both himself and all his family were present, surrounding the little table at which I sat, and observing my every motion, particularly the manner in which I handled my knife and fork and conveyed the food to my mouth he commenced talking politics. I am of no particular opinion, Don Jorge, said he, for he had inquired my name in order that he might address me in a suitable manner; I am of no particular opinion, and I hold neither for King Carlos nor for the chica Isabel: nevertheless, I lead the life of a dog in this accursed Cristino town, which I would have left long ago, had it not been the place of my birth, and did I but know whither to betake myself. Ever since the troubles have commenced, I have been afraid to stir into the street, for no sooner do the canaille of the town see me turning round a corner, than they forthwith exclaim, Halloo, the Carlist! and then there is a run and a rush, and stones and cudgels are in great requisition; so that unless I can escape home, which is no easy matter, seeing that I weigh eighteen stone, my life is poured out in the street, which is neither decent nor convenient, as I think you will acknowledge, Don Jorge. You see that young man, he continued, pointing to a tall swarthy youth who stood behind my chair, officiating as waiter; he is my fourth son, is married, and does not live in the house, but about a hundred yards down the street. He was summoned in a hurry to wait upon your worship, as is his duty: know, however, that he has come at the peril of his life. Before he leaves this house, he must peep out into the street to see if the coast is clear, and then he must run like a partridge to his own door. Carlists! why should they call my family and myself Carlists? It is true that my eldest son was a friar, and when the convents were suppressed, betook himself to the royal ranks, in which he has been fighting upwards of three years; could I help that? Nor was it my fault, I trow, that my second son enlisted with Gomez and the royalists when they entered Cordova. God prosper him, I say; but I did not bid him go! So far from being a Carlist, it was I who persuaded this very lad who is present to remain here, though he would fain have gone with his brother, for he is a brave lad and a true Christian. Stay at home, said I, for what can I do without you? Who is to wait upon the guests when it pleases God to send them? Stay at home, at least till your brother, my third son, comes back; for, to my shame be it spoken, Don Jorge, I have a son a soldier and a sergeant in the Cristino armies, sorely against his own inclination, poor fellow, for he likes not the military life, and I have been soliciting his discharge for years; indeed, I have counselled him to maim himself, in order that he might procure his liberty forthwith. So I said to this lad, Stay at home, my child, till your brother comes to take your place and prevent our bread being eaten by strangers, who would perhaps sell me and betray me; so my son staid at home, as you see, Don Jorge, at my request, and yet they call me a Carlist!

Gomez and his bands have lately been in Cordova,174174
Cordova was taken on October 1, 1836.

said I; of course you were present at all that occurred: how did they comport themselves?

Bravely well, replied the innkeeper, bravely well, and I wish they were here still. I hold with neither side, as I told you before, Don Jorge, but I confess I never felt greater pleasure in my life than when they entered the gate. And then to see the dogs of nationals flying through the streets to save their lives that was a sight, Don Jorge. Those who met me then at the corner forgot to shout, Hola! Carlista! and I heard not a word about cudgelling. Some jumped from the wall and ran no one knows where, whilst the rest retired to the house of the Inquisition, which they had fortified, and there they shut themselves up. Now you must know, Don Jorge, that all the Carlist chiefs lodged at my house Gomez, Cabrera, and the Sawyer; and it chanced that I was talking to my Lord Gomez in this very room in which we are now, when in came Cabrera in a mighty fury he is a small man, Don Jorge, but he is as active as a wild cat and as fierce. The canaille, said he, in the Casa of the Inquisition refuse to surrender; give but the order, general, and I will scale the walls with my men, and put them all to the sword. But Gomez said, No, we must not spill blood if we can avoid it. Order a few muskets to be fired at them; that will be sufficient! And so it proved, Don Jorge, for after a few discharges their hearts failed them, and they surrendered at discretion: whereupon their arms were taken from them, and they were permitted to return to their own houses. But as soon as ever the Carlists departed, these fellows became as bold as ever, and it is now once more, Hola! Carlista! when they see me turning the corner; and it is for fear of them that my son must run like a partridge to his own home, now that he has done waiting on your worship, lest they meet him in the street, and kill him with their knives!

You tell me that you were acquainted with Gomez: what kind of man might he be?

A middle-sized man, replied the innkeeper; grave and dark. But the most remarkable personage in appearance of them all was the Sawyer: he is a kind of giant, so tall, that when he entered the doorway he invariably struck his head against the lintel. The one I liked least of all was one Palillos, who is a gloomy savage ruffian, whom I knew when he was a postilion. Many is the time that he has been at my house of old; he is now captain of the Manchegan thieves, for, though he calls himself a royalist, he is neither more nor less than a thief. It is a disgrace to the cause that such as he should be permitted to mix with honourable and brave men. I hate that fellow, Don Jorge: it is owing to him that I have so few customers. Travellers are, at present, afraid to pass through La Mancha, lest they fall into his hands. I wish he were hanged, Don Jorge, and whether by Cristinos or Royalists, I care not.

You recognized me at once for an Englishman, said I; do many of my countrymen visit Cordova?

Toma! said the landlord, they are my best customers; I have had Englishmen in this house of all grades, from the son of Belington to a young medico, who cured my daughter, the chica here, of the earache. How should I not know an Englishman? There were two with Gomez, serving as volunteers. Vaya: que gente!175175
Look you, what men they were!

what noble horses they rode, and how they scattered their gold about! They brought with them a Portuguese, who was much of a gentleman, but very poor; it was said that he was one of Don Miguels people, and that these Englishmen supported him for the love they bore to royalty. He was continually singing

El Rey chegou El Rey chegou,
E en Belem desembarcou!176176
The king has come, the king has come, and disembarked at Belem. Miguelite song.


Those were merry days, Don Jorge. By-the-by, I forgot to ask your worship of what opinion you are?

The next morning whilst I was dressing, the old Genoese entered my room: Signore, said he, I am come to bid you farewell. I am about to return to Seville forthwith with the horses.

Wherefore in such a hurry? I replied. Assuredly you had better tarry till to-morrow; both the animals and yourself require rest. Repose yourselves to-day, and I will defray the expense.

Thank you, Signore, but we will depart forthwith, for there is no tarrying in this house.

What is the matter with the house? I inquired.

I find no fault with the house, replied the Genoese; it is the people who keep it of whom I complain. About an hour since, I went down to get my breakfast, and there, in the kitchen, I found the master and all his family. Well, I sat down and called for chocolate, which they brought me, but ere I could despatch it, the master fell to talking politics. He commenced by telling me that he held with neither side, but he is as rank a Carlist as Carlos Quinto:177177
Charles V., or Carlos Quinto, is the title all too meekly accorded even in Spain to their king Charles I., fifth only of German Karls on the imperial throne, the Holy Roman Emperor. If Charles himself was not unpopular in Spain, even though he kept his mother Joanna, the legitimate queen, under lock and key, that he might reign as Charles the First in Spain, his Germans and his Germanism were devoutly hated. The next Carlos who reigned in Spain, correctly styled the Second, was nearly a fool, but Charles III. was the best and most enlightened of the sovereigns of Spain until the days of Alfonso XII. Charles IV. abdicated under pressure of Napoleon in 1808, and then Don Carlos the Pretender naturally assumed the style and title of Charles the Fifth.

for no sooner did he find that I was of the other opinion than he glared at me like a wild beast. You must know, Signore, that in the time of the old constitution I kept a coffee-house at Seville, which was frequented by all the principal liberals, and was, indeed, the cause of my ruin; for, as I admired their opinions, I gave my customers whatever credit they required, both with regard to coffee and liqueurs, so that by the time the constitution was put down and despotism re-established, I had trusted them with all I had. It is possible that many of them would have paid me, for I believe they harboured no evil intention; but the persecution came, the liberals took to flight, and, as was natural enough, thought more of providing for their own safety than of paying me for my coffee and liqueurs; nevertheless, I am a friend to their system, and never hesitate to say so. So the landlord, as I told your worship before, when he found that I was of this opinion, glared at me like a wild beast. Get out of my house, said he, for I will have no spies here; and thereupon he spoke disrespectfully of the young Queen Isabel and of Christina, who, notwithstanding she is a Neapolitan,178178
See Introduction.

I consider as my countrywoman. Hearing this, your worship, I confess that I lost my temper and returned the compliment, by saying that Carlos was a knave, and the Princess of Beira179179
The Genoese was presumably referring to the sister-in-law of Don Carlos, called La Beira. See Ford, Handbook of Spain, 1st edit., p. 822.

no better than she should be. I then prepared to swallow the chocolate, but ere I could bring it to my lips, the woman of the house, who is a still ranker Carlist than her husband, if that be possible, coming up to me struck the cup into the air as high as the ceiling, exclaiming, Begone, dog of a negro; you shall taste nothing more in my house. May you be hanged even as a swine is hanged! So your worship sees that it is impossible for me to remain here any longer. I forgot to say that the knave of a landlord told me that you had confessed yourself to be of the same politics as himself, or he would not have harboured you.

My good man, said I, I am invariably of the politics of the people at whose table I sit, or beneath whose roof I sleep; at least I never say anything which can lead them to suspect the contrary; by pursuing which system I have more than once escaped a bloody pillow, and having the wine I drank spiced with sublimate.


Cordova Moors of Barbary The English An Old Priest The Roman Breviary The Dovecote The Holy Office Judaism Desecration of Dovecotes The Innkeepers Proposal.

Little can be said with respect to the town of Cordova, which is a mean, dark, gloomy place, full of narrow streets and alleys, without squares or public buildings worthy of attention, save and except its far-famed cathedral; its situation, however, is beautiful and picturesque. Before it runs the Guadalquivir, which, though in this part shallow and full of sandbanks, is still a delightful stream; whilst behind it rise the steep sides of the Sierra Morena, planted up to the top with olive groves. The town or city is surrounded on all sides by lofty Moorish walls, which may measure about three-quarters of a league in circumference; unlike Seville, and most other towns in Spain, it has no suburbs.

I have said that Cordova has no remarkable edifices, save its cathedral, yet this is perhaps the most extraordinary place of worship in the world. It was originally, as is well known, a mosque, built in the brightest days of Arabian dominion in Spain. In shape it was quadrangular, with a low roof, supported by an infinity of small and delicately rounded marble pillars, many of which still remain, and present at first sight the appearance of a marble grove; the greater part, however, were removed when the Christians, after the expulsion of the Moslems, essayed to convert the mosque into a cathedral,180180
This is not strictly accurate. The Mezquita, as designed by Abdur Rahm?n I. in 786, contained about 1200 pillars; when the mosque was enlarged by Almanzor at the end of the tenth century, the number was doubtless increased. Yet at the present day more than nine hundred are still standing in the building, which ranks second as regards area among the churches of Christendom, and in historic interest is surpassed only by the Mosque of Agia Sofia at Constantinople (see Burkes History of Spain, vol. i. pp. 130133).

which they effected in part by the erection of a dome, and by clearing an open space for a choir. As it at present exists, the temple appears to belong partly to Mahomet, and partly to the Nazarene; and though this jumbling together of massive Gothic architecture with the light and delicate style of the Arabians produces an effect somewhat bizarre, it still remains a magnificent and glorious edifice, and well calculated to excite feelings of awe and veneration within the bosom of those who enter it.

The Moors of Barbary seem to care but little for the exploits of their ancestors: their minds are centred in the things of the present day, and only so far as those things regard themselves individually. Disinterested enthusiasm, that truly distinguishing mark of a noble mind, and admiration for what is great, good, and grand, they appear to be totally incapable of feeling. It is astonishing with what indifference they stray amongst the relics of ancient Moorish grandeur in Spain. No feelings of exultation seem to be excited by the proof of what the Moor once was, nor of regret at the consciousness of what he now is. More interesting to them are their perfumes, their papouches, their dates, and their silks of Fez and Maraks,181181

to dispose of which they visit Andalusia; and yet the generality of these men are far from being ignorant, and have both heard and read of what was passing in Spain in the old time. I was once conversing with a Moor at Madrid, with whom I was very intimate, about the Alhambra of Granada, which he had visited. Did you not weep, said I, when you passed through the courts, and thought of the Abencerrages?182182
The Abencerrages were a family, or perhaps a faction, that held a prominent position in the Moorish kingdom of Granada for some time before its fall in 1492. The name is said to be derived from Yusuf ben Cerr?g, the head or leader of the family in the time of Mohammed VII., but nothing is known with any certainty of their origin. In the Guerras civiles de Granada of Gines Perez de Hita, the feuds of the Abencerrages with the rival family of the Zegris is an important incident, and Chateaubriands Les Aventures du dernier Abencerages is founded upon Hitas work.

No, said he, I did not weep; wherefore should I weep? And why did you visit the Alhambra? I demanded. I visited it, he replied, because, being at Granada on my own affairs, one of your countrymen requested me to accompany him thither, that I might explain some of the inscriptions. I should certainly not have gone of my own accord, for the hill on which it stands is steep. And yet this man could compose verses, and was by no means a contemptible poet. Once at Cordova, whilst I was in the cathedral, three Moors entered it, and proceeded slowly across its floor in the direction of a gate, which stood at the opposite side. They took no farther notice of what was around them than by slightly glancing once or twice at the pillars, one of them exclaiming, Hu?je del Mselmeen, hudje del Mselmeen (things of the Moors, things of the Moors), and showed no other respect for the place where Abderrahman the Magnificent prostrated himself of old, than facing about on arriving at the farther door and making their egress backwards; yet these men were hajis and talibs,183183
A haji is a man who has made the haj or pilgrimage to Mecca. As a title it is prefixed to the name. The Levantine Greeks who have made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem are also accustomed to use the same title, and their Haji Michaeli or Haji Yanco is as common a mode of address as Haji Ali. Haji Stavros in Abouts Roi des Montagnes may be happily remembered.

men likewise of much gold and silver men who had read, who had travelled, who had seen Mecca, and the great city of Negroland.184184
The great city of Negroland is, I presume, Khartoum, capital of the Soudan, known to our fathers as Nigritia.


I remained in Cordova much longer than I had originally intended, owing to the accounts which I was continually hearing of the unsafe state of the roads to Madrid. I soon ransacked every nook and cranny of this ancient town, formed various acquaintances amongst the populace, which is my general practice on arriving at a strange place. I more than once ascended the side of the Sierra Morena, in which excursions I was accompanied by the son of my host, the tall lad of whom I have already spoken. The people of the house, who had imbibed the idea that I was of the same way of thinking as themselves, were exceedingly courteous; it is true, that in return I was compelled to listen to a vast deal of Carlism, in other words, high treason against the ruling powers in Spain, to which, however, I submitted with patience. Don Jorgito, said the landlord to me one day, I love the English; they are my best customers. It is a pity that there is not greater union between Spain and England, and that more English do not visit us. Why should there not be a marriage? The king will speedily be at Madrid. Why should there not be bodas between the son of Don Carlos and the heiress of England?

It would certainly tend to bring a considerable number of English to Spain, said I, and it would not be the first time that the son of a Carlos has married a Princess of England.185185
Philip II., eldest son of Carlos I. of Spain (the Emperor Charles V.), married Mary of England the 25th of July, 1555.


The host mused for a moment, and then exclaimed, Carracho, Don Jorgito, if this marriage could be brought about, both the king and myself should have cause to fling our caps in the air.

The house or posada in which I had taken up my abode was exceedingly spacious, containing an infinity of apartments, both large and small, the greater part of which were, however, unfurnished. The chamber in which I was lodged stood at the end of an immensely long corridor, of the kind so admirably described in the wondrous tale of Udolfo.186186
The Mystery of Udolpho, the once celebrated but now forgotten romance of Mrs. Radcliffe (17641823).

For a day or two after my arrival I believed myself to be the only lodger in the house. One morning, however, I beheld a strange-looking old man seated in the corridor, by one of the windows, reading intently in a small thick volume. He was clad in garments of coarse blue cloth, and wore a loose spencer over a waistcoat adorned with various rows of small buttons of mother of pearl; he had spectacles upon his nose. I could perceive, notwithstanding he was seated, that his stature bordered upon the gigantic. Who is that person? said I to the landlord, whom I presently met; is he also a guest of yours? Not exactly, Don Jorge de mi alma,187187
Sir George of my soul, i.e. My dear Sir George.

replied he. I can scarcely call him a guest, inasmuch as I gain nothing by him, though he is staying at my house. You must know, Don Jorge, that he is one of two priests who officiate at a large village188188
Puente. See The Zincali, part i. chap. ix.

at some slight distance from this place. So it came to pass, that when the soldiers of Gomez entered the village, his reverence went to meet them, dressed in full canonicals, with a book in his hand, and he, at their bidding, proclaimed Carlos Quinto189189
See ante, note on p. 235.

in the market-place. The other priest, however, was a desperate liberal, a downright negro, and upon him the royalists laid their hands, and were proceeding to hang him. His reverence, however, interfered, and obtained mercy for his colleague, on condition that he should cry Viva Carlos Quinto! which the latter did in order to save his life. Well, no sooner had the royalists departed from these parts than the black priest mounts his mule, comes to Cordova, and informs against his reverence, notwithstanding that he had saved his life. So his reverence was seized and brought hither to Cordova, and would assuredly have been thrown into the common prison as a Carlist, had I not stepped forward and offered to be surety that he should not quit the place, but should come forward at any time to answer whatever charge might be brought against him; and he is now in my house, though guest I cannot call him, for he is not of the slightest advantage to me, as his very food is daily brought from the country, and that consists only of a few eggs and a little milk and bread. As for his money, I have never seen the colour of it, notwithstanding they tell me that he has buenas pesetas. However, he is a holy man, is continually reading and praying, and is, moreover, of the right opinion. I therefore keep him in my house, and would be bail for him were he twenty times more of a skinflint than he seems to be.

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