The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2
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The next day, as I was again passing through the corridor, I observed the old man in the same place, and saluted him. He returned my salutation with much courtesy, and closing the book, placed it upon his knee, as if willing to enter into conversation. After exchanging a word or two, I took up the book for the purpose of inspecting it.
“You will hardly derive much instruction from that book, Don Jorge,” said the old man; “you cannot understand it, for it is not written in English.”
“Nor in Spanish,” I replied. “But with respect to understanding the book, I cannot see what difficulty there can be in a thing so simple; it is only the Roman breviary written in the Latin tongue.”
“Do the English understand Latin?” exclaimed he. “Vaya! Who would have thought that it was possible for Lutherans to understand the language of the church? Vaya! the longer one lives the more one learns.”
“How old may your reverence be?” I inquired.
“I am eighty years, Don Jorge; eighty years, and somewhat more.”
Such was the first conversation which passed between his reverence and myself. He soon conceived no inconsiderable liking for me, and favoured me with no little of his company. Unlike our friend the landlord, I found him by no means inclined to talk politics, which the more surprised me, knowing, as I did, the decided and hazardous part which he had taken on the late Carlist irruption into the neighbourhood. He took, however, great delight in discoursing on ecclesiastical subjects and the writings of the fathers.
“I have got a small library at home, Don Jorge, which consists of all the volumes of the fathers which I have been able to pick up, and I find the perusal of them a source of great amusement and comfort. Should these dark days pass by, Don Jorge, and you should be in these parts, I hope you will look in upon me, and I will show you my little library of the fathers, and likewise my dovecote, where I rear numerous broods of pigeons, which are also a source of much solace, and at the same time of profit.”
“I suppose by your dovecote,” said I, “you mean your parish, and by rearing broods of pigeons, you allude to the care you take of the souls of your people, instilling therein the fear of God and obedience to his revealed law, which occupation must of course afford you much solace and spiritual profit.”
“I was not speaking metaphorically, Don Jorge,” replied my companion; “and by rearing doves, I mean neither more nor less than that I supply the market of Cordova with pigeons, and occasionally that of Seville; for my birds are very celebrated, and plumper or fatter flesh than theirs I believe cannot be found in the whole kingdom. Should you come to my village, you will doubtless taste them, Don Jorge, at the venta where you will put up, for I suffer no dovecotes but my own within my district. With respect to the souls of my parishioners, I trust I do my duty – I trust I do, as far as in my power lies.I always took great pleasure in these spiritual matters, and it was on that account that I attached myself to the Santa Casa190190
The House of the Inquisition, or Holy Office.
[Закрыть] of Cordova, the duties of which I assisted to perform for a long period.”
“Your reverence has been an inquisitor?” I exclaimed, somewhat startled.
“From my thirtieth year until the time of the suppression of the holy office in these afflicted kingdoms.”
“You both surprise and delight me,” I exclaimed. “Nothing could have afforded me greater pleasure than to find myself conversing with a father formerly attached to the holy house of Cordova.”
The old man looked at me steadfastly. “I understand you, Don Jorge. I have long seen that you are one of us. You are a learned and holy man; and though you think fit to call yourself a Lutheran and an Englishman, I have dived into your real condition. No Lutheran would take the interest in church matters which you do, and with respect to your being an Englishman, none of that nation can speak Castilian, much less Latin. I believe you to be one of us – a missionary priest; and I am especially confirmed in that idea by your frequent conversation and interviews with the Gitanos; you appear to be labouring among them. Be, however, on your guard, Don Jorge; trust not to Egyptian faith; they are evil penitents, whom I like not. I would not advise you to trust them.”
“I do not intend,” I replied; “especially with money. But to return to more important matters: – of what crimes did this holy house of Cordova take cognizance?”
“You are of course aware of the matters on which the holy office exercises its functions. I need scarcely mention sorcery, Judaism, and certain carnal misdemeanours.”
“With respect to sorcery,” said I, “what is your opinion of it? Is there in reality such a crime?”
“Que s? yo?”191191
“Did many cases of sorcery occur within your own sphere of knowledge?”
“One or two, Don Jorge: they were by no means frequent. The last that I remember was a case which occurred in a convent at Seville. A certain nun was in the habit of flying through the windows and about the garden over the tops of the orange-trees. Declarations of various witnesses were taken, and the process was arranged with much formality: the fact, I believe, was satisfactorily proved. Of one thing I am certain, that the nun was punished.”
“Were you troubled with much Judaism in these parts?”
“Wooh! Nothing gave so much trouble to the Santa Casa as this same Judaism. Its shoots and ramifications are numerous, not only in these parts, but in all Spain; and it is singular enough, that, even among the priesthood, instances of Judaism of both kinds were continually coming to our knowledge, which it was of course our duty to punish.”
“Is there more than one species of Judaism?” I demanded.
“I have always arranged Judaism under two heads,” said the old man, “the black and the white: by the black, I mean the observance of the law of Moses in preference to the precepts of the church; then there is the white Judaism, which includes all kinds of heresy, such as Lutheranism, freemasonry, and the like.”
“I can easily conceive,” said I, “that many of the priesthood favoured the principles of the Reformation, and that the minds of not a few had been led astray by the deceitful lights of modern philosophy, but it is almost inconceivable to me that there should be Jews amongst the priesthood who follow in secret the rites and observances of the old law, though I confess that I have been assured of the fact ere now.”
“Plenty of Judaism amongst the priesthood, whether of the black or white species; no lack of it, I assure you, Don Jorge. I remember once searching the house of an ecclesiastic who was accused of the black Judaism, and, after much investigation, we discovered beneath the floor a wooden chest, in which was a small shrine of silver, inclosing three books in black hog-skin, which, on being opened, were found to be books of Jewish devotion, written in Hebrew characters, and of great antiquity; and on being questioned, the culprit made no secret of his guilt, but rather gloried in it, saying that there was no God but one, and denouncing the adoration of Maria Sant?sima as rank idolatry.”
“And between ourselves, what is your own opinion of the adoration of this same Maria Sant?sima?”
“What is my opinion! Que s? yo?” said the old man, shrugging up his shoulders still higher than on the former occasion; “but I will tell you. I think, on consideration, that it is quite right and proper; why not? Let any one pay a visit to my church, and look at her as she stands there, tan bonita, tan guapita192192
“And now, with respect to carnal misdemeanours. Did you take much cognizance of them?”
“Amongst the laity, not much; we, however, kept a vigilant eye upon our own body; but, upon the whole, were rather tolerant in these matters, knowing that the infirmities of human nature are very great indeed. We rarely punished, save in cases where the glory of the church and loyalty to Maria Sant?sima made punishment absolutely imperative.”
“And what cases might those be?” I demanded.
“I allude to the desecration of dovecotes, Don Jorge, and the introduction therein of strange flesh, for purposes neither seemly nor convenient.”
“Your reverence will excuse me for not yet perfectly understanding.”
“I mean, Don Jorge, certain acts of flagitiousness practised by the clergy in lone and remote palomares in olive-grounds and gardens; actions denounced, I believe, by the holy Pablo in his first letter to Pope Sixtus.193193
“I think I understand you,” I replied.
After remaining several days more at Cordova, I determined to proceed on my journey to Madrid, though the roads were still said to be highly insecure. I, however, saw but little utility in tarrying and awaiting a more tranquil state of affairs, which might never arrive. I therefore consulted with the landlord respecting the best means of making the journey. “Don Jorgito,” he replied, “I think I can tell you. You say you are anxious to depart, and I never wish to keep guests in my house longer than is agreeable to them; to do so would not become a Christian innkeeper. I leave such conduct to Moors, Cristinos, and Negros. I will further you on your journey, Don Jorge: I have a plan in my head which I had resolved to propose to you before you questioned me. There is my wife’s brother, who has two horses which he occasionally lets out for hire; you shall hire them, Don Jorge, and he himself shall attend you to take care of you and to comfort you, and to talk to you, and you shall pay him forty dollars for the journey. Moreover, as there are thieves upon the route, and malos sujetos194194
One fine morning I departed from Cordova, in company with the contrabandista; the latter was mounted on a handsome animal, something between a horse and a pony, which he called a jaca, of that breed for which Cordova is celebrated. It was of a bright bay colour, with a star in its forehead, with strong but elegant limbs, and a long black tail which swept the ground. The other animal, which was destined to carry me to Madrid, was not quite so prepossessing in its appearance. In more than one respect it closely resembled a hog, particularly in the curving of its back, the shortness of its neck, and the manner in which it kept its head nearly in contact with the ground; it had also the tail of a hog, and meandered over the ground much like one. Its coat more resembled coarse bristles than hair; and with respect to size, I have seen many a Westphalian hog quite as tall. I was not altogether satisfied with the idea of exhibiting myself on the back of this most extraordinary quadruped, and looked wistfully on the respectable animal on which my guide had thought proper to place himself. He interpreted my glances, and gave me to understand that as he was destined to carry the baggage, he was entitled to the best horse – a plea too well grounded on reason for me to make any objection to it.
I found the contrabandista by no means such pleasant company on the road as I had been led to suppose he would prove from the representation of my host of Cordova. Throughout the day he sat sullen and silent, and rarely replied to my questions, save by a monosyllable; at night, however, after having eaten well and drunk proportionably at my expense, he would occasionally become more sociable and communicative. “I have given up smuggling,” said he, on one of these occasions, “owing to a trick which was played upon me the last time that I was at Lisbon: a Jew, whom I had been long acquainted with, palmed upon me a false brilliant for a real stone. He effected it in the most extraordinary manner, for I am not such a novice as not to know a true diamond when I see one; but the Jew appears to have had two, with which he played most adroitly, keeping the valuable one for which I bargained, and substituting therefor another which, though an excellent imitation, was not worth four dollars. I did not discover the trick until I was across the border, and upon my hurrying back, the culprit was not to be found; his priest, however, told me that he was just dead and buried, which was of course false, as I saw him laughing in the corners of his eyes. I renounced the contraband trade from that moment.”
It is not my intention to describe minutely the various incidents of this journey. Leaving at our right the mountains of Jaen, we passed through Andujar and Bailen, and on the third day reached Carolina, a small but beautiful town on the skirts of the Sierra Morena, inhabited by the descendants of German colonists. Two leagues from this place we entered the defile of Despe?aperros, which, even in quiet times, has an evil name, on account of the robberies which are continually being perpetrated within its recesses, but at the period of which I am speaking, it was said to be swarming with banditti. We of course expected to be robbed, perhaps stripped and otherwise ill treated; but Providence here manifested itself. It appeared that the day before our arrival, the banditti of the pass had committed a dreadful robbery and murder, by which they gained forty thousand reals.195195
On the following day we arrived at Madrid, where we had the good fortune to find everything tranquil and quiet. The contrabandista continued with me for two days, at the end of which time he returned to Cordova upon the uncouth animal on which I had ridden throughout the journey. I had myself purchased the jaca, whose capabilities I had seen on the route, and which I imagined might prove useful in future journeys. The contrabandista was so satisfied with the price which I gave him for his beast, and the general treatment which he had experienced at my hands during the time of his attendance upon me, that he would fain have persuaded me to retain him as a servant, assuring me that, in the event of my compliance, he would forget his wife and children and follow me through the world. I declined, however, to accede to his request, though I was in need of a domestic; I therefore sent him back to Cordova, where, as I subsequently learned, he died suddenly, about a week after his return.
The manner of his death was singular: one day he took out his purse, and, after counting his money, said to his wife, “I have made ninety-five dollars by this journey with the Englishman and by the sale of the jaca; this I could easily double by one successful venture in the smuggling lay. To-morrow I will depart for Lisbon to buy diamonds. I wonder if the beast requires to be shod?” He then started up and made for the door, with the intention of going to the stable; ere, however, his foot had crossed the threshold, he fell dead on the floor. Such is the course of the world. Well said the wise king, “Let no one boast of the morrow.”
On my arrival at Madrid I did not repair to my former lodgings in the Calle de la Zarza, but took others in the Calle de Santiago, in the vicinity of the palace. The name of the hostess (for there was, properly speaking, no host) was Maria Diaz, of whom I shall take the present opportunity of saying something in particular.
She was a woman of about thirty-five years of age, rather good-looking, and with a physiognomy every lineament of which bespoke intelligence of no common order. Her eyes were keen and penetrating, though occasionally clouded with a somewhat melancholy expression. There was a particular calmness and quiet in her general demeanour, beneath which, however, slumbered a firmness of spirit and an energy of action which were instantly displayed whenever necessary. A Spaniard, and, of course, a Catholic, she was possessed of a spirit of toleration and liberality which would have done honour to individuals much her superior in station. In this woman, during the remainder of my sojourn in Spain, I found a firm and constant friend, and occasionally a most discreet adviser. She entered into all my plans, I will not say with enthusiasm, which, indeed, formed no part of her character, but with cordiality and sincerity, forwarding them to the utmost of her ability. She never shrank from me in the hour of danger and persecution, but stood my friend notwithstanding the many inducements which were held out to her by my enemies to desert or betray me. Her motives were of the noblest kind – friendship, and a proper feeling of the duties of hospitality: no prospect, no hope of self-interest, however remote, influenced this admirable woman in her conduct towards me. Honour to Maria Diaz, the quiet, dauntless, clever Castilian female! I were an ingrate not to speak well of her, for richly has she deserved an eulogy in the humble pages of The Bible in Spain.
She was a native of Villa Seca, a hamlet of New Castile, situated in what is called the Sagra,197197
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