The Bible in Spain. Volume 1 of 2
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There was no lack of guests at the Trojan Horse, where we had taken up our abode at Valladolid. Amongst others who arrived during my sojourn was a robust buxom dame, exceedingly well dressed in black silk, with a costly mantilla. She was accompanied by a very handsome, but sullen and malicious-looking urchin of about fifteen, who appeared to be her son. She came from Toro, a place about a day’s journey from Valladolid, and celebrated for its wine.234234
Lady. —Vaya, vaya, what a tiresome place is Valladolid! How different from Toro!
Myself. – I should have thought that it is at least as agreeable as Toro, which is not a third part so large.
Lady. – As agreeable as Toro! Vaya, vaya! Were you ever in the prison of Toro, Sir Cavalier?
Myself. – I have never had that honour; the prison is generally the last place which I think of visiting.
Lady. – See the difference of tastes: I have been to see the prison of Valladolid, and it seems as tiresome as the town.
Myself. – Of course, if grief and tediousness exist anywhere, you will find them in the prison.
Lady. – Not in that of Toro.
Myself. – What does that of Toro possess to distinguish it from all others?
Lady. – What does it possess? Vaya! Am I not the carcelera? Is not my husband the alcayde?235235
Myself. – I beg your pardon, I was not aware of that circumstance; it of course makes much difference.
Lady. – I believe you. I am a daughter of that prison: my father was alcayde, and my son might hope to be so, were he not a fool.
Myself.– His countenance, then, belies him strangely. I should be loth to purchase that youngster for a fool.
Gaoleress. – You would have a fine bargain if you did: he has more picardias than any calabozero in Toro. What I mean is, that he does not take to the prison as he ought to do, considering what his fathers were before him. He has too much pride – too many fancies; and he has at length persuaded me to bring him to Valladolid, where I have arranged with a merchant who lives in the Plaza to take him on trial. I wish he may not find his way to the prison: if he do, he will find that being a prisoner is a very different thing from being a son of the prison.
Myself. – As there is so much merriment at Toro, you of course attend to the comfort of your prisoners.
Gaoleress. – Yes, we are very kind to them – I mean to those who are caballeros; but as for those with vermin and miseria, what can we do? It is a merry prison that of Toro; we allow as much wine to enter as the prisoners can purchase and pay duty for. This of Valladolid is not half so gay: there is no prison like Toro. I learned there to play on the guitar. An Andalusian cavalier taught me to touch the guitar and to sing ? la Gitana. Poor fellow, he was my first novio. Juanito, bring me the guitar, that I may play this gentleman a tune of Andalusia.
The carcelera had a fine voice, and touched the favourite instrument of the Spaniards in a truly masterly manner. I remained listening to her performance for nearly an hour, when I retired to my apartment and my repose. I believe that she continued playing and singing during the greater part of the night, for as I occasionally awoke I could still hear her; and even in my slumbers the strings were ringing in my ears.
After a sojourn of about ten days at Valladolid, we directed our course towards Leon. We arrived about noon at Due?as,236236
I looked at the corporal – his nose and eyes were in the horse’s mouth: the rest of the party, who might amount to six or seven, were not less busily engaged. One was examining his fore feet, another his hind; one fellow was pulling at his tail with all his might, while another pinched the windpipe, for the purpose of discovering whether the animal was at all touched there. At last, perceiving that the corporal was about to remove the saddle, that he might examine the back of the animal, I exclaimed —
“Stay, ye chab?s of Egypt, ye forget that ye are hundunares,239239
The corporal at these words turned his face full upon me, and so did all the rest. Yes, sure enough, there were the countenances of Egypt, and the fixed filmy stare of eye. We continued looking at each other for a minute at least, when the corporal, a villanous-looking fellow, at last said, in the richest gypsy whine imaginable, “The erray knows us, the poor Calor?! And he an Englishman! Bullati! I should not have thought that there was e’er a Busn? would know us in these parts, where Gitanos are never seen. Yes, your worship is right; we are all here of the blood of the Calor?. We are from Melegrana, your worship; they took us from thence and sent us to the wars. Your worship is right; the sight of that horse made us believe we were at home again in the mercado of Granada; he is a countryman of ours, a real Andalou. Por dios, your worship, sell us that horse; we are poor Calor?, but we can buy him.”
“You forget that you are soldiers,” said I. “How should you buy my horse?”
“We are soldiers, your worship,” said the corporal, “but we are still Calor?. We buy and sell bestis; the captain of our troop is in league with us. We have been to the wars, but not to fight; we left that to the Busn?. We have kept together, and, like true Calor?, have stood back to back. We have made money in the wars, your worship. No tenga usted cuidao.240240
“If I were willing to sell,” I replied, “what would you give me for that horse?”
“Then your worship wishes to sell your horse – that alters the matter. We will give ten dollars for your worship’s horse. He is good for nothing.”
“How is this?” said I. “You this moment told me he was a fine horse – an Andalusian, and a countryman of yours.”
“No, se?or! we did not say that he was an Andalou. We said he was an Estremou, and the worst of his kind. He is eighteen years old, your worship, short-winded and galled.”
“I do not wish to sell my horse,” said I; “quite the contrary. I had rather buy than sell.”
“Your worship does not wish to sell your horse,” said the gypsy. “Stay, your worship; we will give sixty dollars for your worship’s horse.”
“I would not sell him for two hundred and sixty. Meclis! Meclis! say no more. I know your gypsy tricks. I will have no dealings with you.”
“Did I not hear your worship say that you wished to buy a horse?” said the gypsy.
“I do not want to buy a horse,” said I; “if I need anything it is a pony to carry our baggage. But it is getting late. Antonio, pay the reckoning.”
“Stay, your worship, do not be in a hurry,” said the gypsy; “I have got the very pony which will suit you.”
Without waiting for my answer, he hurried into the stable, from whence he presently returned, leading an animal by a halter. It was a pony of about thirteen hands high, of a dark red colour; it was very much galled all over, the marks of ropes and thongs being visible on its hide. The figure, however, was good, and there was an extraordinary brightness in its eye.
“There, your worship,” said the gypsy; “there is the best pony in all Spain.”
“What do you mean by showing me this wretched creature?” said I.
“This wretched creature,” said the gypsy, “is a better horse than your Andalou!”
“Perhaps you would not exchange,” said I, smiling.
“Se?or, what I say is, that he shall run with your Andalou, and beat him.”
“He looks feeble,” said I; “his work is well-nigh done.”
“Feeble as he is, se?or, you could not manage him; no, nor any Englishman in Spain.”
I looked at the creature again, and was still more struck with its figure. I was in need of a pony to relieve occasionally the horse of Antonio in carrying the baggage which we had brought from Madrid, and though the condition of this was wretched, I thought that by kind treatment I might possibly soon bring him round.
“May I mount this animal?” I demanded.
“He is a baggage pony, se?or, and is ill to mount. He will suffer none but myself to mount him, who am his master. When he once commences running, nothing will stop him but the sea. He springs over hills and mountains, and leaves them behind in a moment. If you will mount him, se?or, suffer me to fetch a bridle, for you can never hold him in with the halter.”
“This is nonsense,” said I. “You pretend that he is spirited in order to enhance the price. I tell you his work is done.”
I took the halter in my hand and mounted. I was no sooner on his back than the creature, who had before stood stone still, without displaying the slightest inclination to move, and who in fact gave no farther indication of existence than occasionally rolling his eyes and pricking up an ear, sprang forward like a racehorse, at a most desperate gallop. I had expected that he might kick or fling himself down on the ground, in order to get rid of his burden, but for this escapade I was quite unprepared. I had no difficulty, however, in keeping on his back, having been accustomed from my childhood to ride without a saddle. To stop him, however, baffled all my endeavours, and I almost began to pay credit to the words of the gypsy, who had said that he would run on until he reached the sea. I had, however, a strong arm, and I tugged at the halter until I compelled him to turn slightly his neck, which from its stiffness might almost have been of wood; he, however, did not abate his speed for a moment. On the left side of the road down which he was dashing was a deep trench, just where the road took a turn towards the right, and over this he sprang in a sideward direction. The halter broke with the effort; the pony shot forward like an arrow, whilst I fell back into the dust.
“Se?or,” said the gypsy, coming up with the most serious countenance in the world, “I told you not to mount that animal unless well bridled and bitted. He is a baggage pony, and will suffer none to mount his back, with the exception of myself who feed him.” (Here he whistled, and the animal, who was scurring over the field, and occasionally kicking up his heels, instantly returned with a gentle neigh.) “Now, your worship, see how gentle he is. He is a capital baggage pony, and will carry all you have over the hills of Galicia.”
“What do you ask for him?” said I.
“Se?or, as your worship is an Englishman, and a good ginete, and, moreover, understands the ways of the Calor?, and their tricks and their language also, I will sell him to you a bargain. I will take two hundred and sixty dollars for him, and no less.”
“That is a large sum,” said I.
“No, se?or, not at all, considering that he is a baggage pony, and belongs to the troop, and is not mine to sell.”
Two hours’ ride brought us to Palencia,242242
Tired at last with rambling, we repaired to a coffee-house, where they regaled me with chocolate and sweetmeats. Such was their hospitality; and of hospitality of this simple and agreeable kind there is much in Spain.
On the next day we pursued our journey, a dreary one, for the most part, over bleak and barren plains, interspersed with silent and cheerless towns and villages, which stood at the distance of two or three leagues from each other. About midday we obtained a dim and distant view of an immense range of mountains,245245
“Trust me, mon ma?tre,” said Antonio to me, in French, “those two fellows are Carlist priests, and are awaiting the arrival of the Pretender. Les imbeciles!”
We conducted our horses to the stable, to which we were shown by the woman of the house. “Who are those men?” said I to her.
“The eldest is head curate to our pueblo,” said she; “the other is brother to my husband. Pobrecito! he was a friar in our convent before it was shut up and the brethren driven forth.”
We returned to the door. “I suppose, gentlemen,” said the curate, “that you are Catalans? Do you bring any news from that kingdom?”
“Why do you suppose we are Catalans?” I demanded.
“Because I heard you this moment conversing in that language.”
“Ahem, brother Pedro! This gentleman says that the greater part of Catalonia is in the hands of the royalists. Pray, sir, where may Don Carlos be at present with his army?”
“He may be coming down the road this moment,” said I, “for what I know;” and, stepping out, I looked up the way.
The two figures were at my side in a moment. Antonio followed, and we all four looked intently up the road.
“Do you see anything?” said I at last to Antonia.
“Non, mon ma?tre.”
“Do you see anything, sir?” said I to the curate.
“I see nothing,” said the curate, stretching out his neck.
“I see nothing,” said Pedro, the ex-friar; “I see nothing but the dust, which is becoming every moment more blinding.”
“I shall go in, then,” said I. “Indeed, it is scarcely prudent to be standing here looking out for the Pretender; should the nationals of the town hear of it, they might perhaps shoot us.”
“Ahem!” said the curate, following me; “there are no nationals in this place: I would fain see what inhabitant would dare become a national. When the inhabitants of this place were ordered to take up arms as nationals, they refused to a man, and on that account we had to pay a mulct; therefore, friend, you may speak out if you have anything to communicate; we are all of your opinion here.”
“I am of no opinion at all,” said I, “save that I want my supper. I am neither for Rey nor Roque.248248
In the evening I strolled by myself about the village, which I found still more forlorn and melancholy that it at first appeared; perhaps, however, it had been a place of consequence in its time. In one corner of it I found the ruins of a large clumsy castle, chiefly built of flint stones: into these ruins I attempted to penetrate, but the entrance was secured by a gate. From the castle I found my way to the convent, a sad desolate place, formerly the residence of mendicant brothers of the order of St. Francis. I was about to return to the inn, when I heard a loud buzz of voices, and, following the sound, presently reached a kind of meadow, where, upon a small knoll, sat a priest in full canonicals, reading in a loud voice a newspaper, while around him, either erect or seated on the grass, were assembled about fifty vecinos, for the most part dressed in long cloaks, amongst whom I discovered my two friends the curate and friar. A fine knot of Carlist quidnuncs, said I to myself, and turned away to another part of the meadow, where the cattle of the village were grazing. The curate, on observing me, detached himself instantly from the group, and followed. “I am told you want a pony,” said he; “there now is mine feeding amongst those horses, the best in the kingdom of Leon.” He then began with all the volubility of a chalan to descant on the points of the animal. Presently the friar joined us, who, observing his opportunity, pulled me by the sleeve and whispered, “Have nothing to do with the curate, master; he is the greatest thief in the neighbourhood. If you want a pony, my brother has a much better, which he will dispose of cheaper.” “I shall wait till I arrive at Leon,” I exclaimed, and walked away, musing on priestly friendship and sincerity.
From – to Leon, a distance of eight leagues, the country rapidly improved: we passed over several small streams, and occasionally found ourselves amongst meadows in which grass was growing in the richest luxuriance. The sun shone out brightly, and I hailed his reappearance with joy, though the heat of his beams was oppressive. On arriving within two leagues of Leon, we passed numerous cars and waggons, and bands of people with horses and mules, all hastening to the celebrated fair which is held in the city on St. John’s or Midsummer day, and which took place within three days after our arrival. This fair, though principally intended for the sale of horses, is frequented by merchants from many parts of Spain, who attend with goods of various kinds, and amongst them I remarked many of the Catalans whom I had previously seen at Medina and Valladolid.
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