George Borrow.

The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2





But I was eager to continue my journey, and my friend was no less anxious to return to Salamanca. Upon taking leave of the hospitable curate, I presented him with a copy of the New Testament. He received it without uttering a single word, and placed it on one of the shelves of his study; but I observed him nodding significantly to the Irish student, perhaps as much as to say, Your friend loses no opportunity of propagating his book; for he was well aware who I was. I shall not speedily forget the truly good presbyter, Antonio Garcia de Aguilar, cura of Pitiegua.

We reached Pedroso shortly before nightfall. It was a small village, containing about thirty houses, and intersected by a rivulet, or, as it is called, a regata. On its banks women and maidens were washing their linen, and singing couplets; the church stood alone and solitary on the farther side. We inquired for the posada, and were shown a cottage, differing nothing from the rest in general appearance. We called at the door in vain, as it is not the custom of Castile for the people of these halting-places to go out to welcome their visitors: at last we dismounted and entered the house, demanding of a sullen-looking woman where we were to place the horses. She said there was a stable within the house, but we could not put the animals there, as it contained malos machos221221
Savage mules.


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belonging to two travellers, who would certainly fight with our horses, and then there would be a funcion, which would tear the house down. She then pointed to an out-house across the way, saying that we could stable them there. We entered this place, which we found full of filth and swine, with a door without a lock. I thought of the fate of the curas mule, and was unwilling to trust the horses in such a place, abandoning them to the mercy of any robber in the neighbourhood. I therefore entered the house, and said resolutely that I was determined to place them in the stable. Two men were squatted on the ground, with an immense bowl of stewed hare before them, on which they were supping; these were the travelling merchants, the masters of the mules. I passed on to the stable, one of the men saying softly, Yes, yes, go in and see what will befall. I had no sooner entered the stable than I heard a horrid discordant cry, something between a bray and a yell, and the largest of the machos, tearing his head from the manger to which he was fastened, his eyes shooting flames, and breathing a Whirlwind from his nostrils, flung himself on my stallion. The horse, as savage as himself, reared on his hind legs, and, after the fashion of an English pugilist, repaid the other with a pat on the forehead, which nearly felled him.

A combat instantly ensued, and I thought that the words of the sullen woman would be verified by the house being torn to pieces. It ended by my seizing the mule by the halter, at the risk of my limbs, and hanging upon him with all my weight, whilst Antonio, with much difficulty, removed the horse. The man who had been standing at the entrance now came forward, saying, This would not have happened if you had taken good advice. Upon my stating to him the unreasonableness of expecting that I would risk horses in a place where they would probably be stolen before the morning, he replied, True, true, you have perhaps done right. He then re-fastened his macho, adding for additional security a piece of whipcord, which he said rendered escape impossible.

After supper, I roamed about the village. I addressed two or three labourers whom I found standing at their doors; they appeared, however, exceedingly reserved, and with a gruff buenas noches turned into their houses without inviting me to enter. I at last found my way to the church porch, where I continued some time in meditation. At last I bethought myself of retiring to rest; before departing, however, I took out and affixed to the porch of the church an advertisement to the effect that the New Testament was to be purchased at Salamanca. On returning to the house, I found the two travelling merchants enjoying profound slumber on various mantas, or mule-cloths, stretched on the floor. You are a French merchant, I suppose, Caballero, said a man, who it seemed was the master of the house, and whom I had not before seen. You are a French merchant, I suppose, and are on the way to the fair of Medina. I am neither Frenchman nor merchant, I replied, and, though I purpose passing through Medina, it is not with the view of attending the fair. Then you are one of the Irish Christians from Salamanca, Caballero, said the man; I hear you come from that town. Why do you call them Irish Christians? I replied. Are there pagans in their country? We call them Christians, said the man, to distinguish them from the Irish English, who are worse than pagans, who are Jews and heretics. I made no answer, but passed on to the room which had been prepared for me, and from which, the door being ajar, I heard the following short conversation passing between the innkeeper and his wife:

Innkeeper. Muger, it appears to me that we have evil guests in the house.

Wife. You mean the last comers, the Caballero and his servant. Yes, I never saw worse countenances in my life.

Innkeeper. I do not like the servant, and still less the master. He has neither formality nor politeness: he tells me that he is not French, and when I spoke to him of the Irish Christians, he did not seem to belong to them. I more than suspect that he is a heretic, or a Jew at least.

Wife. Perhaps they are both. Maria Sant?sima! what shall we do to purify the house when they are gone?

Innkeeper. Oh, as for that matter, we must of course charge it in the cuenta.

I slept soundly, and rather late in the morning arose and breakfasted, and paid the bill, in which, by its extravagance, I found the purification had not been forgotten. The travelling merchants had departed at daybreak. We now led forth the horses, and mounted; there were several people at the door staring at us. What is the meaning of this? said I to Antonio.

It is whispered that we are no Christians, said Antonio; they have come to cross themselves at our departure.

In effect, the moment that we rode forward a dozen hands at least were busied in this evil-averting ceremony. Antonio instantly turned and crossed himself in the Greek fashion much more complex and difficult than the Catholic.

Mirad que Santiguo! que Santiguo de los demonios!222222
See the crossing! see what devilish crossing! Santiguar is to make the sign of the cross, to cross ones self. Santiguo is the action of crossing ones self.


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exclaimed many voices, whilst for fear of consequences we hastened away.

The day was exceedingly hot, and we wended our way slowly along the plains of Old Castile. With all that pertains to Spain, vastness and sublimity are associated: grand are its mountains, and no less grand are its plains, which seem of boundless extent, but which are not tame unbroken flats, like the steppes of Russia. Rough and uneven ground is continually occurring: here a deep ravine and gully worn by the wintry torrent; yonder an eminence not unfrequently craggy and savage, at whose top appears the lone solitary village. There is little that is blithesome and cheerful, but much that is melancholy. A few solitary rustics are occasionally seen toiling in the fields fields without limit or boundary, where the green oak, the elm, or the ash are unknown; where only the sad and desolate pine displays its pyramid-like form, and where no grass is to be found. And who are the travellers of these districts? For the most part arrieros, with their long trains of mules hung with monotonous tinkling bells. Behold them with their brown faces, brown dresses, and broad slouched hats; the arrieros, the true lords of the roads of Spain, and to whom more respect is paid in these dusty ways than to dukes and condes; the arrieros, sullen, proud, and rarely courteous, whose deep voices may be sometimes heard at the distance of a mile, either cheering the sluggish animals, or shortening the dreary way with savage and dissonant songs.

Late in the afternoon we reached Medina del Campo,223223
As late as 1521, Medina del Campo was one of the richest towns in Spain. Long one of the favourite residences of the Castilian court, it was an emporium, a granary, a storehouse, a centre of medi?val luxury and refinement. But the town declared for the Comuneros of Castile, and was so pitilessly sacked, burned, and ravaged by the Flemish Cardinal Adrian, acting for the absent Charles of Hapsburg (in 1521), that it never recovered anything of its ancient importance. The name, half Arab, half Castilian, tells of its great antiquity. To-day it is known only as a railway station!


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formerly one of the principal cities of Spain, though at present an inconsiderable place. Immense ruins surround it in every direction, attesting the former grandeur of this city of the plain. The great square or market-place is a remarkable spot, surrounded by a heavy massive piazza, over which rise black buildings of great antiquity. We found the town crowded with people awaiting the fair, which was to be held in a day or two. We experienced some difficulty in obtaining admission into the posada, which was chiefly occupied by Catalans from Valladolid. These people not only brought with them their merchandise, but their wives and children. Some of them appeared to be people of the worst description: there was one in particular, a burly savage-looking fellow, of about forty, whose conduct was atrocious; he sat with his wife, or perhaps concubine, at the door of a room which opened upon the court: he was continually venting horrible and obscene oaths, both in Spanish and Catalan. The woman was remarkably handsome, but robust, and seemingly as savage as himself; her conversation likewise was as frightful as his own. Both seemed to be under the influence of an incomprehensible fury. At last, upon some observation from the woman, he started up, and drawing a long knife from his girdle, stabbed at her naked bosom; she, however, interposed the palm of her hand, which was much cut. He stood for a moment viewing the blood trickling upon the ground, whilst she held up her wounded hand; then, with an astounding oath, he hurried up the court to the Plaza. I went up to the woman and said, What is the cause of this? I hope the ruffian has not seriously injured you. She turned her countenance upon me with the glance of a demon, and at last with a sneer of contempt exclaimed, Car?ls, que es eso?224224
Carajo, what is this?


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Cannot a Catalan gentleman be conversing with his lady upon their own private affairs without being interrupted by you? She then bound up her hand with a handkerchief, and going into the room brought a small table to the door, on which she placed several things, as if for the evenings repast, and then sat down on a stool. Presently returned the Catalan, and without a word took his seat on the threshold; then, as if nothing had occurred, the extraordinary couple commenced eating and drinking, interlarding their meal with oaths and jests.

We spent the night at Medina, and departing early next morning, passed through much the same country as the day before, until about noon we reached a small venta, distant half a league from the Duero;225225
We have adopted in English the Portuguese form Douro, which gave the title of Marquis to our great duke.. of Ciudad Rodrigo, as the Spaniards prefer to call him.


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here we reposed ourselves during the heat of the day, and then, remounting, crossed the river by a handsome stone bridge, and directed our course to Valladolid. The banks of the Duero in this place have much beauty: they abound with trees and brushwood, amongst which, as we passed along, various birds were singing melodiously. A delicious coolness proceeded from the water, which in some parts brawled over stones or rippled fleetly over white sand, and in others glided softly over blue pools of considerable depth. By the side of one of these last sat a woman of about thirty, neatly dressed as a peasant; she was gazing upon the water, into which she occasionally flung flowers and twigs of trees. I stopped for a moment to ask a question; she, however, neither looked up nor answered, but continued gazing at the water as if lost to consciousness of all beside. Who is that woman? said I to a shepherd, whom I met the moment after. She is mad, la pobrecita, said he; she lost her child about a month ago in that pool, and she has been mad ever since. They are going to send her to Valladolid, to the Casa de los Locos.226226
Madhouse.


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There are many who perish every year in the eddies of the Duero; it is a bad river; vaya usted con la Virgen, Caballero.227227
May the Virgin protect you, sir: lit. May you go with the Virgin.


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So I rode on through the pinares, or thin scanty pine forests, which skirt the way to Valladolid228228
Valladolid, like so many place-names, not only in southern, but in central Spain, is Arabic, Balad al Walid, the land of Walid, the caliph in whose reign the Peninsula was overrun by the Moslems. The more ancient name of Pincia is lost.


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in this direction.

Valladolid is seated in the midst of an immense valley, or rather hollow, which seems to have been scooped by some mighty convulsion out of the plain ground of Castile. The eminences which appear in the neighbourhood are not properly high grounds, but are rather the sides of this hollow. They are jagged and precipitous, and exhibit a strange and uncouth appearance. Volcanic force seems at some distant period to have been busy in these districts. Valladolid abounds with convents, at present deserted, which afford some of the finest specimens of architecture in Spain. The principal church, though rather ancient, is unfinished: it was intended to be a building of vast size, but the means of the founders were insufficient to carry out their plan. It is built of rough granite. Valladolid is a manufacturing town, but the commerce is chiefly in the hands of the Catalans, of whom there is a colony of nearly three hundred established here. It possesses a beautiful alameda, or public walk, through which flows the river Escueva. The population is said to amount to sixty thousand souls.

We put up at the Posada de las Diligencias, a very magnificent edifice. This posada, however, we were glad to quit on the second day after our arrival, the accommodation being of the most wretched description, and the incivility of the people great; the master of the house, an immense tall fellow, with huge moustaches and an assumed military air, being far too high a cavalier to attend to the wants of his guests, with whom, it is true, he did not appear to be overburdened, as I saw no one but Antonio and myself. He was a leading man amongst the national guards of Valladolid, and delighted in parading about the city on a clumsy steed, which he kept in a subterranean stable.

Our next quarters were at the Trojan Horse, an ancient posada, kept by a native of the Basque provinces, who at least was not above his business. We found everything in confusion at Valladolid, a visit from the factious being speedily expected. All the gates were blockaded, and various forts had been built to cover the approaches to the city. Shortly after our departure the Carlists actually did arrive, under the command of the Biscayan chief, Zariategui.229229
A friend and comrade of Zumalacarregui, who came into notice after the death of the greater leader in June, 1835.


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They experienced no opposition, the staunchest nationals retiring to the principal fort, which they, however, speedily surrendered, not a gun being fired throughout the affair. As for my friend the hero of the inn, on the first rumour of the approach of the enemy, he mounted his horse and rode off, and was never subsequently heard of. On our return to Valladolid, we found the inn in other and better hands, those of a Frenchman from Bayonne, from whom we received as much civility as we had experienced rudeness from his predecessor.

In a few days I formed the acquaintance of the bookseller of the place, a kind-hearted, simple man, who willingly undertook the charge of vending the Testaments which I brought.

I found literature of every description at the lowest ebb at Valladolid. My newly acquired friend merely carried on bookselling in connection with other business; it being, as he assured me, in itself quite insufficient to afford him a livelihood. During the week, however, that I continued in this city, a considerable number of copies were disposed of, and a fair prospect opened that many more would be demanded. To call attention to my books, I had recourse to the same plan which I had adopted at Salamanca, the affixing of advertisements to the walls. Before leaving the city I gave orders that these should be renewed every week; from pursuing which course I expected that much and manifold good would accrue, as the people would have continual opportunities of learning that a book which contains the living word was in existence, and within their reach, which might induce them to secure it, and consult it even unto salvation..

In Valladolid I found both an English230230
The Colegio de Ingleses was endowed by Sir Francis Englefield, a partisan of Mary Queen of Scots, who came to Spain after her execution. Philip II. granted certain privileges to the students in 1590. The number of students at the present day is about 45.


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and Scotch231231
The Celegio de Escoceses was founded only in 1790.


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College. From my obliging friends, the Irish at Salamanca, I bore a letter of introduction to the rector of the latter. I found this college an old gloomy edifice, situated in a retired street. The rector was dressed in the habiliments of a Spanish ecclesiastic, a character which he was evidently ambitious of assuming. There was something dry and cold in his manner, and nothing of that generous warmth and eager hospitality which had so captivated me in the fine Irish rector of Salamanca; he was, however, civil and polite, and offered to show me the curiosities of the place. He evidently knew who I was, and on that account was, perhaps, more reserved than he otherwise would have been: not a word passed between us on religious matters, which we seemed to avoid by common consent. Under the auspices of this gentleman, I visited the college of the Philippine Missions, which stands beyond the gate of the city, where I was introduced to the superior, a fine old man of seventy, very stout, in the habiliments of a friar. There was an air of placid benignity on his countenance which highly interested me; his words were few and simple, and he seemed to have bid adieu to all worldly passions. One little weakness was, however, still clinging to him.

Myself. This is a noble edifice in which you dwell, father; I should think it would contain at least two hundred students.

Rector. More, my son: it is intended for more hundreds than it now contains single individuals.

Myself. I observe that some rude attempts have been made to fortify it; the walls are pierced with loopholes in every direction.

Rector. The nationals of Valladolid visited us a few days ago, and committed much useless damage; they were rather rude, and threatened me with their clubs. Poor men, poor men!

Myself. I suppose that even these missions, which are certainly intended for a noble end, experience the sad effects of the present convulsed state of Spain?

Rector. But too true: we at present receive no assistance from the government, and are left to the Lord and ourselves.

Myself.How many aspirants for the mission are you at present instructing?

Rector. Not one, my son; not one. They are all fled. The flock is scattered, and the shepherd left alone.

Myself. Your reverence has doubtless taken an active part in the mission abroad?

Rector. I was forty years in the Philippines, my son, forty years amongst the Indians. Ah me! how I love those Indians of the Philippines!

Myself. Can your reverence discourse in the language of the Indians?

Rector. No, my son. We teach the Indians Castilian. There is no better language, I believe. We teach them Castilian, and the adoration of the Virgin. What more need they know?

Myself. And what did your reverence think of the Philippines as a country?

Rector. I was forty years in the Philippines, but I know little of the country. I do not like the country. I love the Indians. The country is not very bad; it is, however, not worth Castile.

Myself. Is your reverence a Castilian?

Rector. I am an Old Castilian, my son.232232
I.e. uncontaminated with the black blood of Moorish or Jewish converts; possibly also referring to the use of New Castilian for Gitano. See The Zincali, part i. chap. i.


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From the house of the Philippine Missions my friend conducted me to the English College: this establishment seemed in every respect to be on a more magnificent scale than its Scottish sister. In the latter there were few pupils, scarcely six or seven, I believe, whilst in the English seminary I was informed that between thirty and forty were receiving their education. It is a beautiful building, with a small but splendid church, and a handsome library. The situation is light and airy: it stands by itself in an unfrequented part of the city, and, with genuine English exclusiveness, is surrounded by a high wall, which incloses a delicious garden. This is by far the most remarkable establishment of the kind in the Peninsula, and I believe the most prosperous. From the cursory view which I enjoyed of its interior, I of course cannot be expected to know much of its economy. I could not, however, fail to be struck with the order, neatness, and system which pervaded it. There was, however, an air of severe monastic discipline, though I am far from asserting that such actually existed. We were attended throughout by the sub-rector, the principal being absent. Of all the curiosities of this college, the most remarkable is the picture-gallery, which contains neither more nor less than the portraits of a variety of scholars of this house who eventually suffered martyrdom in England, in the exercise of their vocation in the angry times of the Sixth Edward and fierce Elizabeth. Yes, in this very house were many of those pale, smiling, half-foreign priests educated, who, like stealthy grimalkins, traversed green England in all directions; crept into old halls beneath umbrageous rookeries, fanning the dying embers of Popery, with no other hope nor perhaps wish than to perish disembowelled by the bloody hands of the executioner, amongst the yells of a rabble as bigoted as themselves; priests like Bedingfield and Garnet,233233
Temp. Elizabeth and James I.


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and many others who have left a name in English story. Doubtless many a history, only the more wonderful for being true, could be wrought out of the archives of the English Popish seminary at Valladolid.





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