The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2
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One of my first cares was to wait on Mr. Villiers, who received me with his usual kindness. I asked him whether he considered that I might venture to commence printing the Scriptures without any more applications to government. His reply was satisfactory: “You obtained the permission of the government of Isturitz,” said he, “which was a much less liberal one than the present. I am a witness to the promise made to you by the former ministers, which I consider sufficient. You had best commence and complete the work as soon as possible, without any fresh application; and should any one attempt to interrupt you, you have only to come to me, whom you may command at any time.” So I went away with a light heart, and forthwith made preparation for the execution of the object which had brought me to Spain.
I shall not enter here into unnecessary details, which could possess but little interest for the reader; suffice it to say that, within three months from this time, an edition of the New Testament, consisting of five thousand copies, was published at Madrid. The work was printed at the establishment of Mr. Borrego,199199
The Spanish version of the New Testament which was thus published had been made many years before by a certain Padre Filipe Scio,200200
In the case of the New Testament it would not do to follow the usual plan of publication in Spain, namely, to entrust the work to the booksellers of the capital, and rest content with the sale which they and their agents in the provincial towns might be able to obtain for it in the common routine of business; the result generally being the circulation of a few dozen copies in the course of the year: as the demand for literature of every kind in Spain was miserably small.
The Christians of England had already made considerable sacrifices in the hope of disseminating the word of God largely amongst the Spaniards, and it was now necessary to spare no exertion to prevent that hope becoming abortive.Before the book was ready I had begun to make preparations for putting a plan into execution, which had occupied my thoughts occasionally during my former visit to Spain, and which I had never subsequently abandoned. I had mused on it when off Cape Finisterre in the tempest, in the cut-throat passes of the Sierra Morena, and on the plains of La Mancha, as I jogged along a little way ahead of the contrabandista.
I had determined, after depositing a certain number of copies in the shops of the booksellers of Madrid, to ride forth, Testament in hand, and endeavour to circulate the word of God amongst the Spaniards, not only of the towns, but of the villages; amongst the children not only of the plains, but of the hills and mountains. I intended to visit Old Castile, and to traverse the whole of Galicia and the Asturias; to establish Scripture dep?ts in the principal towns, and to visit the people in secret and secluded spots; to talk to them of Christ, to explain to them the nature of His book, and to place that book in the hands of those whom I should deem capable of deriving benefit from it. I was aware that such a journey would be attended with considerable danger, and very possibly the fate of St. Stephen might overtake me; but does the man deserve the name of a follower of Christ who would shrink from danger of any kind in the cause of Him whom he calls his Master? “He who loses his life for my sake shall find it,” are words which the Lord Himself uttered. These words were fraught with consolation to me, as they doubtless are to every one engaged in propagating the Gospel in sincerity of heart, in savage and barbarian lands..
I now purchased another horse; for these animals, at the time of which I am speaking, were exceedingly cheap. A royal requisition was about to be issued for five thousand, the consequence being that an immense number were for sale, for, by virtue of this requisition, the horses of any person not a foreigner could be seized for the benefit of the service. It was probable that, when the number was made up, the price of horses would be treble what it then was, which consideration induced me to purchase this animal before I exactly wanted him. He was a black Andalusian stallion201201
The state of the surrounding country at this time was not very favourable for venturing forth. Cabrera202202
I now made preparations for my journey into the north. I was already provided with horses well calculated to support the fatigues of the road and the burdens which I might deem necessary to impose upon them. One thing, however, was still lacking, indispensable to a person about to engage on an expedition of this description; I mean a servant to attend me. Perhaps there is no place in the world where servants more abound than at Madrid, or at least fellows eager to proffer their services in the expectation of receiving food and wages, though, with respect to the actual service which they are capable of performing, not much can be said; but I was in want of a servant of no common description, a shrewd active fellow, of whose advice, in cases of emergency, I could occasionally avail myself; courageous withal, for it certainly required some degree of courage to follow a master bent on exploring the greater part of Spain, and who intended to travel, not under the protection of muleteers and carmen, but on his own cabalgaduras. Such a servant, perhaps, I might have sought for years without finding; chance, however, brought one to my hand at the very time I wanted him, without it being necessary for me to make any laborious perquisitions. I was one day mentioning the subject to Mr. Borrego, at whose establishment I had printed the New Testament, and inquiring whether he thought that such an individual was to be found in Madrid, adding that I was particularly anxious to obtain a servant who, besides Spanish, could speak some other language, that occasionally we might discourse without being understood by those who might overhear us. “The very description of person,” he replied, “that you appear to be in need of, quitted me about half an hour ago, and, it is singular enough, came to me in the hope that I might be able to recommend him to a master. He has been twice in my service: for his talent and courage I will answer; and I believe him to be trustworthy, at least to masters who may chime in with his humour, for I must inform you that he is a most extraordinary fellow, full of strange likes and antipathies, which he will gratify at any expense, either to himself or others. Perhaps he will attach himself to you, in which case you will find him highly valuable; for, if he please, he can turn his hand to anything, and is not only acquainted with two, but half a dozen languages.”
“Is he a Spaniard?” I inquired.
“I will send him to you to-morrow,” said Borrego, “you will best learn from his own mouth who and what he is.”
The next day, as I had just sat down to my sopa, my hostess informed me that a man wished to speak to me. “Admit him,” said I, and he almost instantly made his appearance. He was dressed respectably in the French fashion, and had rather a juvenile look, though I subsequently learned that he was considerably above forty. He was somewhat above the middle stature, and might have been called well made, had it not been for his meagreness, which was rather remarkable. His arms were long and bony, and his whole form conveyed an idea of great activity united with no slight degree of strength. His hair was wiry, but of jetty blackness; his forehead low; his eyes small and grey, expressive of much subtlety and no less malice, strangely relieved by a strong dash of humour; the nose was handsome, but the mouth was immensely wide, and his under jaw projected considerably. A more singular physiognomy I had never seen, and I continued staring at him for some time in silence. “Who are you?” I at last demanded.
“Domestic in search of a master,” answered the man in good French, but in a strange accent. “I come recommended to you, my Lor, by Monsieur B-.”
Myself. – Of what nation may you be? Are you French or Spanish?
Man. – God forbid that I should be either, mi Lor; j’ai l’honneur d’?tre de la nation Grecque; my name is Antonio Buchini, native of Pera the Belle,204204
Myself. – And what brought you to Spain?
Buchini. —Mi Lor, je vais vous raconter mon histoire du commencement jusqu’ici. My father was a native of Sceira,205205
Myself. – You mean, I suppose, Zea Bermudez,207207
Buchini. – Just so, mi Lor, and with him I continued during his stay. He put great confidence in me, more especially as I spoke the pure Spanish language, which I acquired amongst the Jews, who, as I have heard Monsieur Zea say, speak it better than the present natives of Spain.
I shall not follow the Greek step by step throughout his history, which was rather lengthy: suffice it to say, that he was brought by Zea Bermudez from Constantinople to Spain, where he continued in his service for many years, and from whose house he was expelled for marrying a Guipuzcoan damsel, who was fille de chambre to Madame Zea; since which time it appeared that he had served an infinity of masters, sometimes as valet, sometimes as cook, but generally in the last capacity. He confessed, however, that he had seldom continued more than three days in the same service, on account of the disputes which were sure to arise in the house almost immediately after his admission, and for which he could assign no other reason than his being a Greek, and having principles of honour. Amongst other persons whom he had served was General Cordova, who he said was a bad paymaster, and was in the habit of maltreating his domestics. “But he found his match in me,” said Antonio, “for I was prepared for him; and once, when he drew his sword against me, I pulled out a pistol and pointed it in his face. He grew pale as death, and from that hour treated me with all kinds of condescension. It was only pretence, however, for the affair rankled in his mind; he had determined upon revenge, and on being appointed to the command of the army, he was particularly anxious that I should attend him to the camp. Mais je lui ris au nez, made the sign of the cortamanga,208208
“I am afraid,” said I, “that you are of a turbulent disposition, and that the disputes to which you have alluded are solely to be attributed to the badness of your temper.”
“What would you have, Monsieur? Moi je suis Grec, je suis fier, et j’ai des principes d’honneur. I expect to be treated with a certain consideration, though I confess that my temper is none of the best, and that at times I am tempted to quarrel with the pots and pans in the kitchen. I think, upon the whole, that it will be for your advantage to engage me, and I promise you to be on my guard. There is one thing that pleases me relating to you, you are unmarried. Now, I would rather serve a young unmarried man for love and friendship, than a Benedick for fifty dollars per month. Madame is sure to hate me, and so is her waiting-woman; and more particularly the latter, because I am a married man. I see that mi Lor is willing to engage me.”
“But you say you are a married man,” I replied; “how can you desert your wife? for I am about to leave Madrid, and to travel into the remote and mountainous parts of Spain.”
“My wife will receive the moiety of my wages while I am absent, mi Lor, and therefore will have no reason to complain of being deserted. Complain! did I say; my wife is at present too well instructed to complain. She never speaks nor sits in my presence, unless I give her permission. Am I not a Greek, and do I not know how to govern my own house? Engage me, mi Lor; I am a man of many capacities – a discreet valet, an excellent cook, a good groom and light rider; in a word, I am ????????.209209
I asked him his terms, which were extravagant, notwithstanding his principes d’honneur. I found, however, that he was willing to take one-half.
I had no sooner engaged him than, seizing the tureen of soup, which had by this time become quite cold, he placed it on the top of his fore finger, or rather on the nail thereof, causing it to make various circumvolutions over his head, to my great astonishment, without spilling a drop, then springing with it to the door, he vanished, and in another moment made his appearance with the puchera, which, after a similar bound and flourish, he deposited on the table; then suffering his hands to sink before him, he put one over the other, and stood at his ease, with half-shut eyes, for all the world as if he had been in my service twenty years.
And in this manner Antonio Buchini entered upon his duties. Many was the wild spot to which he subsequently accompanied me; many the wild adventure of which he was the sharer. His behaviour was frequently in the highest degree extraordinary, but he served me courageously and faithfully: such a valet, take him for all in all —
But I am anxious to enter upon the narrative of my journey, and shall therefore abstain from relating to my readers a great many circumstances which occurred previously to my leaving Madrid on this expedition. About the middle of May I had got everything in readiness, and I bade farewell to my friends. Salamanca was the first place which I intended to visit.
Some days previous to my departure I was very much indisposed, owing to the state of the weather, for violent and biting winds had long prevailed. I had been attacked with a severe cold, which terminated in a disagreeable cough, which the many remedies I successively tried seemed unable to subdue. I had made preparations for departing on a particular day, but, owing to the state of my health, I was apprehensive that I should be compelled to defer my journey for a time. The last day of my stay in Madrid, finding myself scarcely able to stand, I was fain to submit to a somewhat desperate experiment, and by the advice of the barber-surgeon who visited me, I determined to be bled. Late on the night of that same day he took from me sixteen ounces of blood, and having received his fee left me, wishing me a pleasant journey, and assuring me, upon his reputation, that by noon the next day I should be perfectly recovered.
A few minutes after his departure, whilst I was sitting alone, meditating on the journey which I was about to undertake, and on the rickety state of my health, I heard a loud knock at the street door of the house, on the third floor of which I was lodged. In another minute Mr. S-,211211
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