The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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