Not more unquestioned is Cervantes’ claim to be the first of Spanish humorists than that of Quevedo to be the second. Among his own countrymen the title, which is generally the more disputable, has been by a singular consensus of opinion assigned to Quevedo. The author of Don Quixote apart, who is with the Immortals, there is no greater name among the writers of Spain than that of the author of The Visions, of Don Pablo, of innumerable poems, pamphlets, satires, pieces of wit, and works serious, moral, sportive, and fanciful. In that Golden Age, prolific of authors, the hundred years between the birth of Cervantes and the prime of Calderón, there was no genius so fruitful in every kind of intellectual product. Poet, politician, humorist, satirist, theologian, moralist, historian, novelist—Quevedo stands out a prodigy of learning, wit, and quick and various invention, even among the crowd of gifted writers who made that period famous in letters. He has been called the Spanish Juvenal—the Spanish Ovid—the Spanish Lucian. He is something of all these, and yet is unlike any of them. He wrote lyrics with the grace, simplicity, and ease of Horace. He is as prodigal of humour as Rabelais, whom he resembles also in his unfastidiousness, his obscurity, and his extravagance. He has been likened to our English Swift, to whom he is akin in the quality of his mordant wit, and almost approaches in his anti-humanity; but he is lacking in the creative force of the author of Gulliver. Not unlike Swift was Quevedo in fortune as in genius, for it was disappointed ambition which wore out his heart and drove him to satire, to visions, and assaults on human folly and vice.
From his earliest years Quevedo was marked for distinction. When scarcely more than twenty-three he corresponded with the great scholars of Germany and the Low Countries, the great Lipsius hailing him as magnum decus Hispanorum, and in complimentary epistles urging him to undertake the vindication of Homer. If we may believe the contemporary records, Quevedo had by this time acquired all profane knowledge and human learning. He was versed in all the languages, even Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic. He began to write early, and continued to write during the whole of his busy and turbulent life, with an industry, energy, and fecundity which made him the wonder of his age. The catalogue of his works embraces every department of authorship, and there appears to be no species of composition, from an exhortation to a holy life to the more than ribald canzonet, which he did not attempt. The gayest themes were as much to his mind as the gravest studies, and from Paul the Apostle he could pass at will to Paul the Sharper, with no apparent effort of wit or strain of conscience. Some of his works have been lost, but enough remains to testify to the astonishing vigour, exuberance, and versatility of his genius. There are religious treatises and biographies of saints, a Defence of the Faith, and a homily on the sacred cradle and sepulchre. There is a metrical translation of Epictetus, and another of (the false) Phocylides. There is a life of Marcus Brutus. There are letters to kings and statesmen, and tracts on the currency. There are satires in verse and lampoons in prose. There are poems, odes, ballads, and sonnets innumerable. Even the drama he did not leave unattempted, though his comedies have perished, together with many other works, including Considerations on the New Testament and a Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul. Finally, there is the picaresque novel here presented to the English reader under the title of Don Pablo de Segovia, or Paul the Sharper.
Francisco de Quevedo, or, to give him his full title, Francisco de Gomez de Quevedo Villegas, was born at Madrid on the 26th of September, 1580. He was thus thirty-three years younger than Cervantes, eighteen years younger than Lope de Vega, and some twenty years older than Calderón. His father had been a servant to the Emperor Charles V, and his mother was a lady in attendance upon Philip II’s fourth wife, Anne of Austria. The family of Quevedo drew its source from the mountains of Old Castile, near Burgos. This was a circumstance of which every good Spaniard of the age was proud, as proving that he was descended from the pure Gothic race, who maintained their hold of the soil even after the Moorish invasion, and therefore was an “old Christian,” of blood unmixed with Moor or Jew. From his parents’ position the young Francisco must have been early trained in the life of the Court and brought into contact with those who dispensed the power and patronage of the king. He was educated at the University of Alcalá de Henares, then in the height of its fame. At fifteen he graduated in theology, and soon afterwards acquired great distinction for his attainments in the civil and common law and in the learned languages. That he was early distinguished as a scholar is proved by his correspondence with Lipsius and other foreign men of learning, by whom he was addressed as an equal. For some time, however, Quevedo seems to have lived the usual life of a gay cavalier of the Court, indulging, as he confesses himself, in the pleasures of his age and the time, and taking part in those adventures which formed matter for his lighter works. At twenty-three he was already a poet distinguished enough to be included in Espinosa’s Flores de Poetas Ilustres (1603). A few years afterwards was published the first collection of his prose satires, which are better known to the world as Visions—the Zahúrdas de Plutón (Pigsties of Pluto), with a dedication to the Conde de Lemos—a Mæcenas of the period, to whom afterwards Cervantes dedicated the second part of his Don Quixote. The pieces which are known as Visions are among the most characteristic and original, as they have been the most popular, of all Quevedo’s works. They bear such titles as “El Sueño de las Calaveras” (The Dream of Skulls); “El Alguacil Alguacilado” (The Catchpole Caught); “Visita de los Chistes” (Visitation of the Jests); “El Mundo por de Dentro” (The World Inside Out); “El Entremetido, la Dueña, y el Soplón” (The Intermeddler, the Duenna, and the Informer); and (the authorship of which is more doubtful) “La Casa de los Locos de Amor” (The House of the Love-Madmen). These, which were published at various times, are satires of a kind then new to the world, or known only in the works of Lucian; audacious and somewhat extravagant of conception; abounding in wit, in fancy, and in humour; various in character and in design, but all intended to ridicule or censure some reigning folly or vice or abuse. They have been called “Visions” because most of them are cast in the form of dreams, in which the author takes us into the world below, among the Devil and his attendants, who are introduced with many lively touches of wit and strokes of humour. It is an invention which has been in favour with poets and satirists of all time, from Lucian to Dante, and from Dante to Lord Byron.
By these Visions (by himself never so called collectively) the name of Quevedo has been chiefly made known out of Spain. They are among the most characteristic of his works, in which his audacious humour and impetuous fancy found full exercise and a congenial element. They have been often translated into the various European languages, and were much read and quoted in the commerce of letters. Besides these, the Visions proper, which are serious satires levelled at the abuses and the evils of the times, there were numerous other squibs, jests, and pasquinades, of less solid substance or of lower aim, in rebuke of the fashionable follies or the vulgar tastes, such as “El Cuento de los Cuentos” (The Tale of Tales), which is levelled at the excessive use of proverbs; “El Caballero de la Tenaza” (The Knight of the Forceps), being the apology of a miser for himself; “La Perinola” (The Teetotum), which is a personal attack on the fussy and frivolous Pérez de Montalván, one of Quevedo’s favourite butts. There are numerous others, of which the very titles are so coarse as not to be fit for mention—ephemeral and obscure, which have died with the occasions which gave them birth.
That at least before 1613 Quevedo was esteemed, by those best capable of judging, as among the best wits of the time, appears from the very flattering notice of him which is contained in Cervantes’ Viage del Parnaso (Voyage to Parnassus). He is there called “Apollo’s son—son of the Muse Calliope”; and his aid is declared to be absolutely necessary in the war which the god of poetry is about to wage with the bad poets. It is true that Cervantes was in the habit of praising almost everybody, but from the warmth of the terms used, and from other indications in Quevedo’s own works, we may infer that the two greatest wits of the period had, as great wits rarely have, a just appreciation of each other. Lope de Vega also, who was of a different order of genius, as well of a nature dissimilar, ever suspicious of a rival and jealous of the applause given to another, could bring himself to speak of Quevedo in his Laurel de Apolo as “prince of the lyric poets,” the Juvenal of Spanish verse, who might rival Pindar and replace Apollo himself if the god were to fail.
But before Quevedo had made his name in letters he was destined to earn distinction in a public career, which afforded him a rare opportunity for displaying the versatility of his talents and the soundness of his judgment. Debarred from the profession of arms by his physical infirmity—he was lame of both feet from his birth—he was driven to seek a career in civil employment. An adventure which befell him at Madrid served to fix his destiny. Being in a church at Madrid during the Holy Week, he saw a gallant of the Court offer a gross insult to a modest woman. He interfered to protect her, swords were drawn, and Quevedo slew the aggressor. The slain man being discovered to be a person of rank, nearly related to those who had power at Court, Quevedo was forced to fly the country, taking refuge in Sicily, then a dependency of Spain. The governor or viceroy of the island was Don Pedro Téllez Girón, Duke of Osuna, a powerful grandee, of whom it was said that “nature made him a very little gentleman and his deeds a very great lord”; a man of mark in the civil and military transactions of Philip III. Quevedo was made his secretary by the Duke, and employed in many delicate and important affairs of state, in all of which he is declared to have proved, on the Duke’s own testimony, his prudence, courage, and ability. The Duke of Osuna was transferred, in 1615, from the government of Sicily to that of Naples, and thither he was followed by Quevedo, who was made Minister of Finance. In the interval between his employment in Sicily and his higher office at Naples, Quevedo was despatched to Madrid on a confidential mission in connection with the revenues of the island, and was able to commend himself so greatly to the authorities that the affair of the fatal duel was condoned and a pension of four hundred ducats bestowed on him. At Naples Quevedo discharged his duties of financial secretary with great ability and conspicuous success, so that we are told that, while he reduced the burdens of the people, he augmented the revenues of the State. During the years following he seems to have been employed in various high and secret diplomatic businesses in connection with the policy of the ambitious and turbulent Duke, his master, being entrusted with the duties of a plenipotentiary at Rome and at Venice, and managing them, according to the contemporary historians, with much address and discretion. In the course of his political adventures Quevedo was involved, in 1617, in that strange affair among conspiracies which has since been so great a puzzle to historians, the so-called Conjuracion de Venise, which has furnished St. Real with a subject for his history, and Otway with characters and a plot for his tragedy. Whether there really was, on the part of the Spanish Viceroy of Naples, an attempt to overthrow the government of the Venetian Republic, or whether, as later historians are inclined to believe, the whole business was planned by the agents of the Venetian Senate to enable them to reach certain of their political enemies, is a question which is still under controversy—a controversy in which we are not concerned to take a part. Certain it is that Quevedo contrived, as an agent of Spain, to make himself a person the most ungrateful to the Republic, which pursued him, for some months afterwards, with a fury of hate and bitterness of malice, which, though flattering to his character of political intriguant, seem irreconcilable with the theory of his innocence. He even ran a narrow risk of losing his life when on a visit, apparently secret and unauthorized, to Venice. He was chased by the officers of justice, and only escaped, we are told, through the completeness of his disguise, being habited in the rags of a beggar, and his perfect command of the Venetian dialect. He had the honour of being afterwards burnt in effigy, a compliment he returned by pouring a stream of invective on Venice and her government out of the resources of his abundant rhetoric. Venice he called “the lumber-house of the world—the tollbooth of princes—a republic such as cannot be credited and cannot be forgotten—greater than it is fitting for her to be, and less than she gives herself out to be; powerful in treaties, and feeble in power; sumptuous in arsenals, profuse in ships; terrible to those who fear the hulks of a fleet, where fleet is none—a dominion which exposes the hollowness of many fears. It is a state the more prone to dissensions of all that exist, more hurtful to her friends than to her enemies, whose embrace is a peaceful war”—with a good deal else, in a tone which savours of very bitter recollections.
Quevedo had now arrived at the zenith of his fame and fortunes. In 1617 he was in Madrid, where he was received with great honour by the King, Philip III, and his minister, the all-powerful Duke of Lerma. He was advanced to the much-coveted distinction of a Knight of the Order of Santiago. The highest posts seemed to be awaiting him at home, through favour of the feeble and besotted King, then under the influence of a corrupt and incapable favourite, who was himself ruled by his minion, Don Rodrigo Calderón. The ambition of Quevedo, as all his serious works clearly show, was rather for power as a man of affairs than for fame as a man of letters. But now he was destined to encounter a sudden change of fortune. The death of Philip III brought to the throne, in 1621, his son, Philip IV, then a lad of seventeen, under the dominion of his gentleman of the bedchamber, known to history as the Count-Duke Olivares. All the principal officers of the late administration were dismissed in disgrace. Even the powerful and able Duke of Osuna, whose brilliant and successful rule in Naples had shed so much lustre on the reign of the feeble Philip III, was recalled from his post. His ministers and secretaries were involved in his fate. Quevedo was sentenced to exile from Court, and confined to his patrimonial village of La Torre de Juan Abad, where he was kept in a kind of imprisonment for more than three years. To a man of his fervid temperament and aspiring hopes this was a punishment worse than death, which seems forever after to have embittered his soul and soured his temper. Writing to the President of Castile to complain of his miserable state and the treatment to which he was subjected, he tells him that “he had seen many men condemned to death, but no one condemned to make away with himself.” He was ultimately allowed to go free without being told of what charge there had been against him or any reason given for his detention. Henceforth Quevedo seems to have abandoned all hopes of preferment at Court, exhibiting more philosophy and more steadfastness in his resolve to abstain from further thoughts of political life than other men of letters have shown, in a similar turn of fate, who have been endowed with the same taste for the delights of office. He seems to have recovered some portion of the royal favour. He was offered various high posts in the State, among others the embassy to Genoa, but he refused them, and would only accept the honorary title of King’s Secretary. He did not wholly exclude himself from politics, however, but, like Swift, continued to vex himself with public affairs, showing by his sensibility to the follies and errors of statesmen where his heart lay, and what was the secret of the saeva indignatio by which he was tortured. He was free with his pen in condemnation of crying abuses and defects in the administration. He was prolific of letters, pamphlets, and satires in prose and verse, all written with a boldness and freedom to which the age was unaccustomed, which brought their author frequently into trouble. He assailed a scheme for the debasement of the coinage with a courage and a power of wit and sarcasm such as were not excelled even by the famous Drapier, on the same theme, a hundred years later. He exposed certain abuses in the distribution of the patronage of the military order of Santiago with a fearlessness which cost him another period of banishment from Court. He wrote letters to the King of France (Louis XIII) and others, more or less directly impugning the conduct of affairs then under the worthless favourite, the Count-Duke of Olivares.
In 1634 Quevedo, being in his fifty-fourth year, married—to the surprise, and somewhat to the amusement, of his friends. His way of life hitherto had scarcely been such as to proclaim his confidence in the married state; and a letter which he had written to his friend, the widowed Duchess of Lerma, on the qualities required of a wife, had seemed to set his standard of taste so high as to condemn him to celibacy. His wife died soon after their marriage, leaving Quevedo with fresh troubles, arising out of his satirical humour, or rather from his reputation for satire. He had betaken himself, after his wife’s death, to his country retreat at Torre de Juan Abad to seek consolation in literature; and this was probably his busiest period of production. He wrote a life of Marcus Brutus, of which the scarcely concealed intention was to point to the Caesar who then tyrannized over Spain. He aimed satires in verse, after the classical model, at the reigning favourite. He wrote the Politica de Dios y Gobierno de Cristo (Policy of God and Government of Christ), which, under the guise of a religious work, was a biting satire on the King and the Count-Duke. He wrote other works, some of which have perished, distinguished by elegance of style and energy of expression, none of them deserving of more than a passing mention, and all belonging rather to the political history than to the literature of Spain. To this period also, probably, are to be referred the greater part of those satirical works, under the name of Visions, which have chiefly contributed to make the name of Quevedo known to the nations outside of Spain—those bitter, half-humorous, half-serious, and all-fantastical inventions, such as “The Dream of Skulls” and “The World Inside Out.”
In 1639, when it might have seemed to him that Fortune had already done her worst to plague him, and he had no more either to hope or fear from kings or ministers, there happened to Quevedo the worst of all the calamities which marked his busy and troubled life. A satirical sonnet was found under the King’s napkin at supper, which contained violent reflections on the Government of the Count-Duke Olivares. Quevedo was believed to be the author, and, without any inquiry or trial, he was seized at dead of night, in the Duke of Medina Celi’s palace, and hurried off to a dungeon under the cells of the Royal Convent of San Marcos at Leon. Here he was kept in strict confinement for nearly four years, in spite of a pitiful appeal to Olivares, in which, while protesting his innocence of the offence imputed to him, Quevedo wrote: “No clemency can add many years to my life; no rigour can take many away.” He was asked to declare which of the many satires there were going about were his and which were not, but he returned a proud and disdainful answer. The real author of the lampoon for which Quevedo was punished was discovered soon after, but this made little or no difference in the treatment to which he was subjected. In vain did he entreat the Count-Duke for justice and relief. He pleaded that he was blind of the left eye, crippled, and afflicted with ulcers, declaring that he sought not liberty but change of regimen and of prison, “and this change, the gospel says, Christ granted to a great number of devils who besought it of Him.” In vain were all these pleas. They were probably glad to be able to silence, on any pretext, that bold and biting tongue, which had already done so much to proclaim to posterity the iniquities of the Government. It was not until after the fall of the Count-Duke himself, amidst the rejoicings of the whole nation, that Quevedo was restored to liberty. But his four years’ imprisonment, during part of which time he had been treated, as he complains, “like a wild beast” shut up alone without human intercourse, had ruined his health and broken his spirits. His estate had been sequestrated, and he was never able to recover more than a small part of it, so that poverty was added, for the first time in his life, to his other trials. Worn out by his infirmities, he died at last, of an imposthume in the chest, contracted during his imprisonment in a damp cell of the Convent, on the 8th of September, 1645, having previously made his peace with God and the Church in the usual manner.
More fortunate than his master and great contemporary, Cervantes, Quevedo survives in canvas and in marble, so that we are able to realize the external features of the man. His portrait by Velasquez, representing him with a huge pair of spectacles on his nose and the cross of Santiago on his left bosom, is that by which he is best known. There is also a bust of him in the Public Library at Madrid. The first of his biographers, the Neapolitan Tarsia, has drawn this picture of him, evidently from recollection, in words: “Quevedo was of middling stature; his hair black and somewhat frizzled” (encrespado), “his eyes very brilliant, but so short of sight that he constantly wore spectacles; the nose and other features well proportioned; and of a medium frame well made above, although lame and crippled in both feet, which were twisted inwards; somewhat bulky without being misshapen; very fair of countenance, and in the main with all those marks coexistent in his person which physiognomists commend as indicating a good temperament and a virtuous disposition.” His biography by Tarsia, published in 1663, is a dull and tedious piece of work. By far the best account of Quevedo is that which I have made the basis of this sketch, the biography attached to the only complete collection of Quevedo’s works, by Don Aureliano Fernandez Guerra y Orbe, which forms three volumes in Rivadeneyra’s Biblioteca de los Autores Españoles. The Essai sur la Vie et les Œuvres de Quevedo, by Ernest Merimée (Paris, 1886), is a careful and painstaking work, of which the materials have been taken from Guerra y Orbe.
To judge the character of the man is easier for posterity than to estimate the worth of his products in literature. The greater part of his writings, those which brought him most fame in his lifetime, men have ceased to read even in Spain itself. Of the eleven octavo volumes which constituted the first complete edition of Quevedo’s works (1791–94) it may be said that it would be no loss to the world had three-fourths shared the doom which their author, on his deathbed, requested might overtake them all. The orthodox would thus have been saved much scandal, the expurgators a great deal of trouble, the critics and the commentators an endless amount of curious inquiry. The theology and the politics (these in Quevedo are much confused) have already perished. The satires have been visited by the destiny which invariably attends the works of wit which are dedicated to passing uses, when literature stoops to the service of politics.
But while the graver works of Quevedo, those which won him the applause of the learned and the favour of the great, have perished or are sunk into oblivion, there have survived enough of those lighter pieces born of his humour or his fancy, which he could scarcely be got to own in his lifetime, to keep his name alive and to secure for him a permanent place in literature. His lyrics are among the best in the language, and still keep their place in every collection of classic Castilian poetry. Those written in his early days, which include odes, sonnets, ballads, quintillas, and redondillas, mostly cast in a light and graceful mould, are distinguished for elegance of language, delicacy of fancy, and simple, tender expression. His burlesque poems (which include some pieces of a breadth such as excludes them from polite society), written in the picaresque dialect, of which, like Cervantes, he was a past master—the Jácaras, in which the people, the gitanos, the jaques, and the buzos, speak the language of Germania—the langue verte of Spain—are said still to be heard in the country, sung to the strumming of guitars. His regular verse is chiefly satire in the manner of Juvenal, against the corruption of morals and the evils of misgovernment. Of his prose writings the best are those which are purely sportive and fanciful, without serious intention, as the “Visita de los Chistes,” where he makes pleasant fun of the personages which figure in the old proverbs and popular sayings, as Mateo Pico, who is enshrined in the phrase, No dijerá mas Mateo Pico; Agrages, the boaster from Amadis of Gaul, who is forever quoted as saying, “Agora lo verédes” (see Don Quixote, passim); Pero Grullo, the prophet who prophesied only of what he knew had come to pass; Calainos, of the ballad Cabalgaba Calainos; Don Diego de Noche; Marta, who is forever expressing her satisfaction that though she died, she died with a bellyful; and Villadiego, whose breeches have immortalized his name; with Juan Ramos, and the rest. The fun which Quevedo makes out of this flimsy material is only to be understood by those who know the proverbs of Spain, and the great part they play in the national talk and literature.
Less innocent, perhaps, are some of Quevedo’s other burlesque pieces, which neither gods, men, nor county councillors may allow. In these the poet sins, however, more from carelessness of humour than grossness of imagination. It is not his ideas that are nasty so much as his words which are coarse. He uses words at random, and is reckless of the effect produced, letting his fancy run away with his pen, to the detriment of his art. He is wanting in the exquisite simplicity and delicacy of the master of whose work he was a chief admirer, whose style he followed, and in whose path he attempted to walk—his friend, Miguel de Cervantes. So passionate was his love for Don Quixote that we are told he would throw down the book in an ecstasy and declare that he would gladly burn all his works to be able to write something like Don Quixote. Between the two wits it is pleasant to record that there was nothing like jealousy. Cervantes, in the references he makes to Quevedo, seems to speak with more than his wonted kindliness of the younger man, as though from personal intimacy. In the Voyage to Parnassus Quevedo is rallied upon his lameness with a freedom which only a friend might take. In summing up the roll of the good poets who are to be Apollo’s allies in the winning of Parnassus, the name of Quevedo is last on the list. But Cervantes interrupts the god-messenger to remind him of Quevedo’s infirmity:—
Scarce can Francisco de Quevedo be
In time, I said. Nay, quoth he, on this cruise
I do not go, unless he go with me;
He is Apollo’s son, son of the Muse
Calliope; we cannot, it is clear,
Go hence without him; I do not choose;
He is the scourge of all the poets drear,
And from Parnassus, at the point of wit,
Will chase the miscreants we expect and fear!
My lord, I said, his pace is most unfit,
He’ll be a century upon the route!
Quoth Mercury: It matters not a whit;
For be the poet gentleman to boot,
Upon a dappled cloud, and through the air,
He shall be borne, his courtly taste to suit!1
In the delightful prose appendix to the same poem, the “Adjunta al Parnaso,” Don Pancracio de Roncesvalles brings to Cervantes’ house a letter from the god Apollo, dated the 22nd of July, 1614. In this there is another reference to Quevedo: “If Don Francisco de Quevedo hath not left for Sicily, where they await him, seize him by the hand and tell him he must not fail to visit me in a neighbourly way; for his late sudden departure gave me no time to talk with him.”
Quevedo’s worldly circumstances, as the owner of a landed estate, and his rank in the public service under the powerful Duke of Osuna, kept him, happily, free from that necessity of writing for bread which oppressed the fine genius but could not stifle the kind heart of the author of Don Quixote. But they did not preserve him from the envy of his other less fortunate brothers of the pen. With Lope de Vega, with whom he could have no rivalry, whom he survived ten years, his relations seem to have been tolerably friendly—that is to say, they exchanged compliments and commendatory sonnets. With Góngora there was too much similarity of humour to be much love. They had various tilts at each other, in which there was too much venom spilt for either to emerge with honour. When Góngora abandoned his early simplicity of style and took to that affected and extravagant way of writing which came to be called after him, Gongorismo, which corresponded to the disease called Euphuism in England and Marinism in Italy—Quevedo took up his lance against the intruder and in defence of the language, writing a pamphlet, La Culta Latiniparla, in which, under the guise of a catechism for the instruction of ladies of culture in the new way of speech, he quizzes his rival and the new invention very happily. A French critic and student of Spanish letters, M. Germond de Lavigne, in his account of Quevedo, has shown himself so far lost to the sense of humour as to call this piece un discours critique litteraire; which is as though we should class Swift’s Argument Against the Abolition of Christianity among works of devotion. Quevedo’s wit had little effect in checking the depraved fashion of writing; and it is sad to tell that he himself, in his later years, was infected with the barbarous taste, and Gongorized like the rest. Góngora bitterly resented the attack upon his style, and there passed between the two much dyslogistic verse in the shape of epigram and sonnet. Góngora relieves his feelings by a poem in which he charges his critic with being no great scholar, and with “wandering slow with heavy pace”—one who “sleeps in Spanish and dreams in Greek”—insinuating that he is unsound in his religion. In another sonnet Góngora sneers at his critic’s learning, his limping gait, and his blindness, laughs at his red cross of Santiago, and his adventures, calling him borracho (drunkard), pedante gofo (stupid pedant), muy crítico y muy lego, etc. Quevedo retorted with equal spirit and good taste, reflecting on his rival’s origin, and hinting that he was no better Catholic than he should be:—
He de untarte mis versos con tocino
Porque no me los roas, Gongorilla.
(I have to anoint my verses with bacon fat
That you may not gnaw them, Gongorilla.)
The point of which jest, heightened by the contemptuous diminutive, lies in the hint that Góngora, then a priest in orders, was no “old Christian,” but either Jew or Morisco. Another enemy of Quevedo was Pérez de Montalvan, a writer of plays the favourite disciple, parasite, and bully of Lope de Vega—whom our satirist was fond of assailing in verse and prose for his dogmatism, his arrogance and his “inscrutable ignorance.” Montalvan took his revenge in a volume entitled El Tribunal de la Justa Venganza, written under an assumed name, in which Quevedo’s satirical works are tried and condemned for their offences against religion and morality.
Among the works of Quevedo, that which, perhaps, is most characteristic of his genius, and most valuable as a picture of contemporary life and manners, is Don Pablo de Segovia, here presented in an English dress, and, as we venture to believe, in a most appropriate and harmonious setting, through the art of M. Vierge. Don Pablo de Segovia, otherwise known as El Gran Tacaño (The Great Sharper), is a prime sample of that species of romance which was native of the soil of Spain—there first engendered at least, and flourishing nowhere else in the same vigour and luxuriance—the picaresque novel. The picaro—from picar, to peck, to nibble at—if he was not a special product of Spain, throve there in the sixteenth century as he did nowhere else in the nations. He was not necessarily a rogue, but always a vagabond. He was one who was at odds with the world—a remnant left over in the making of society—a survival of the age gone by. Of his order were all the broken men of the time—a time in which there was much breaking of men—those who lived by their wits on the witless, the mumpers and beggars, strolling quacks, sham pilgrims, charm-sellers, discharged or runaway soldiers, thieves by profession and knaves by necessity, gypsies, bullies and bravoes, jailbirds, roughs, prisoners, and the baser sort of parasites—the excrement of life, the scum and draff of society. In this kind of material, admirable stuff for the humorist and the painter, Spain was especially rich in the sixteenth century. A capital sample of the accomplished picaro is Ginés de Pasamonte, the galley-slave freed by Don Quixote, who robbed Sancho of his ass, and afterwards appeared as Master Peter, the puppet-showman. He is the typical rogue, whose model in youth, in manhood, and in age is to be found on the canvas of Velasquez and of Murillo. He is a stock figure in the national drama. He must have been a familiar sight to the Spaniards of that age, standing at every street corner, every convent door. He was as common as the poor poet in the marketplace. The favourite haunts of the picaresque gentry, the Bohemian and the Alsatian, are they not enumerated by the roguish innkeeper in Don Quixote, himself one of the craft, who plays so deftly upon the knight and his humour?—“the Fish-Market of Malaga, the Islets of Riarán, the Compass of Seville, the Aqueduct-Square of Segovia, the Olive Grove of Valencia, the Suburbs of Granada, the Strand of San Lucar, the Clot-Fountain of Córdova, the Pothouses of Toledo.”2
The causes of this rank growth of the picaresque element in Spain are to be sought in the national history. The long series of exhausting wars in the Netherlands and in Italy; the discovery and development of America; the monstrous multiplication of monks, priests, and religious houses during the reigns of Philip and of his successor—these three, the chief causes of Spain’s decadence, may be taken to account for the poverty, and the vice, and the bitterness of the struggle for existence, of which the picaresque order, in its extraordinary luxuriance, was the outgrowth. The cutpurses, the beggars, the professional rogues and sharpers, were but the product of the unwholesome working of the organs of life—the remainder ruffianry of that period of diseased energy. The internal corruption, of which they were the signs, was the consequence of the fever which shook the frame and the fury which stirred the blood of Spain during all that period of seeming grandeur but of real disease. The picaro was the adventurer who had missed his chance in the general scramble, who did not or could not go to Flanders or to America, or who, having been, had returned empty. He was the conquistador out of date—the gold-seeker run to seed. How near he was to the failures of the Church—the vagabond friar, the religious mendicant—is clearly seen from this story of Paul the Sharper, as well as from the other tales of the class. The peace of 1609, which secured the independence of Holland and put an end to the long war in the Low Countries, only aggravated the evil condition of Spain, by filling the country with a swarm of needy adventurers and disabled and discharged soldiers, for whom the State made no provision. How fruitful a source of demoralization and misery they were we may learn from all the literature of the period, from Don Quixote downwards. As for America, the reaction of the tide which brought wealth and new life to Spain had set in even before the middle of the sixteenth century. The flood which carried all the men of enterprise and independent spirit to Peru or to Mexico had left Spain drained of her best lifeblood. The sudden influx of gold tended to sharpen the distinction between rich and poor—to make it more difficult for the poor to live, while spoiling them for honesty. The old Castilian simplicity of life was destroyed, and the antique honour, the legacy left by the heroic age which closed with the fall of Granada, corrupted. The new rich introduced luxuries and vices which till then had been alien to the Spanish character. The fortunate adventurers who came back from the New World were as great a terror to public morals through their extravagance and their recklessness, as the unsuccessful through their destitution and despair. The national inclination to the sins of pride, idleness, and boastfulness—how could it happen but that it should be enormously fostered and heightened by the easy conquests in America, following upon the shrinking of the martial power and the prodigious swelling of the ecclesiastical? With nearly ten thousand monasteries and nunneries, and more than thirty thousand monks, of the two orders, Franciscan and Dominican, alone—is it a wonder that the Spain of Philip III should be hastening to decay? The picaro was the fungus which grew out of this mass of corruption. To these running sores was added the expulsion of the Moriscoes under Philip III—an act of cruelty equally base, barbarous, and stupid, of which the direct consequences were an increase in the cost of life, the stagnation of trade, and the decline of industry, commerce, and agriculture. The blow which reduced the forces of national industry by nearly a million of honest, hardy, thrifty, and skilful workmen, could not but lead to a great increase of poverty, of vice, and of disorder. On this waste, and out of this rottenness, fattened and throve exceedingly the rank weed picaro.
The gusto picaresco, of which Don Pablo de Segovia is the purest expression, arose in Spain upon the decay of the so-called romance of chivalry. Indeed, the first book in that kind, Lazarillo de Tormes, was published when the chivalric romance was in full blast, fifty years before Don Quixote was written; nor is there any evidence to show that the author was actuated by a spite against the prevailing fashion. On the contrary, if the author was, as I presume he was, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, we know that he was a fond admirer of Amadis, taking only that book with him and Celestina—that curious tragicomedy, which was, in some sense, a forerunner of the picaresque novel—when despatched to the Eternal City as ambassador of Charles V. There was a close connection between the romantical books of the later period and the earliest of the picaresque stories. The picaro, in fact, is the direct descendant and the legitimate child of the debased knight-errant. The public were beginning to get weary of the endless histories of the knights-adventurers—all equally puissant and valorous—and longed for common food. It was not the adventurers, however, of which people were sick, but of the dull and stupid books which pretended to tell of their exploits. Whatever chivalry there was in Spain had died out before the blighting influence of the Second Philip—that antithesis incarnate of all romance. The taste for low life was a natural and to a great extent a healthy reaction from the unwholesome diet, miscalled romance and of chivalry, on which the people had fed. The successor of the knight-errant, the picaro, was a good deal like the last of the line preceding, with much the same features. He was more picturesque than the knight-errant, and no greater rogue. Little Lazarus and his kin, Paul the Sharper, Justina, Rinconete, and Cortadillo, spoke at least the language of the people. It was a return to nature—the triumph of the real over the romantic—a veritable revolution, which doubtless led the way to a healthier taste and a higher art.
The revolt against the old style was headed by the book which still stands at the head of picaresque literature, Lazarillo de Tormes—the work, according to the best tradition and authority, of the famous Castilian statesman, diplomatist, and writer, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza. I write this with full cognizance of the attempt recently made by M. Morel-Fatio, in the Revue de Deux Mondes, to deprive Mendoza of that honour. It is contended by M. Morel-Fatio that there is no direct evidence of Mendoza’s being the author of Lazarillo; that he never claimed it as his writing; that it was only attributed to him fifty years after his death; and that an equal if not superior claim is that of Father Juan de Ortega, general of the order of Hieronymite monks, to whom the book is ascribed by a monk of his fraternity, in a work published in 1605. The arguments by which M. Morel-Fatio maintains his theory seem to me to be wholly insufficient against Mendoza’s claim, and extravagantly wild and weak in favour of Ortega’s. It is true that Mendoza never declared himself to be the author of Lazarillo de Tormes. There was ample reason why he should not. The book was first published in 1554; and immediately on its appearance was suppressed by order of the Inquisition, and put in the Index Expurgatorius. But in 1554 Mendoza was at the very climax of his public reputation, having just returned from Italy with great credit as Charles V’s ambassador to the Pope. It was scarcely a time which he would choose to put his name to a book which had been declared offensive to faith and morals, in which the abuses of the Church were boldly attacked, and even its ceremonies ridiculed. The next year Philip II came to the throne, when Mendoza found himself in disgrace, and had to retire to his estates. It was a period still less favourable for his appearing as the author of a loose and ribald book called Lazarillo de Tormes.
Again, it is contended that Mendoza, a grave and haughty noble, of the proudest family in Spain, who aspired to high place and power at Court, could hardly have written such a story, dealing with low life and vulgar people. But Mendoza was a man of varied accomplishments, of wide knowledge of life, unencumbered with the prejudices of caste and of singular literary gifts, who might have been one of the great authors of Spain had he not been content to be a great statesman. He had been trained for the Church, had been a student at Salamanca, and had served in the Spanish armies in Italy. He was thus thoroughly well equipped with all that was required to qualify him for loose literature. Moreover, as one who had been intended for the priesthood—a calling which he abandoned for soldiership—he could be no friend to the cloth, and was precisely the man to ridicule, as he has done, the abuses of the Church and the vices of the priests, even to caricature the bulero and the hawker of indulgences. Lastly, there is this further circumstance in support of his claim that he was known to be a lover of popular literature, and had shown precisely the same literary talent, humour, and idiomatic grace which are characteristic of Lazarillo, in some acknowledged letters, still extant, in which he satirizes, with ample knowledge of their tricks and way of life, the catariberas—the needy adventurers and greedy office-seekers of the period. As to Ortega, whose claim, first put forth only as a piece of rumour—and, in such a case, of scandal—in 1605, and never since by any Spanish authority repeated—is it necessary to dwell on the absurdity of an ecclesiastic of his eminence writing a book against the vices of his own caste and assailing his own order—a book dealing with the lives of rogues and vagabonds—which had to be suppressed by the Church as soon as it appeared? Nor has M. Morel-Fatio been able to produce any scrap of Ortega’s writing, of character and style like Lazarillo. Priests and monks have, indeed, in that age and in every other, produced much loose literature. It was a priest who wrote La Picara Justina, the dirtiest of its class. It was a Dominican monk who is charged with the authorship of the false Second Part of Don Quixote. Without occupying any more of my space on this subject, it is enough to repeat that the weight of testimony since the days of Nicolas Antonio, the learned and accurate author of the Bibliotheca Hispana Nova, to the present time, is in favour of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza as the author of Lazarillo de Tormes.
Of the picaresque stories, Lazarillo de Tormes, though imperfect and without a proper conclusion, must still be regarded as the first in merit as it was the first in time. It has been the model for all its numerous successors, just as the Amadis of Gaul of the previous fashion had been the model for the romances of chivalry. For gaiety of humour, the easy and natural tone of life and simplicity of colouring, it has been held in great favour ever since its appearance; by no one relished more than by the author of Don Quixote. The next in date was Guzman de Alfarache, by Mateo Alemán, a native of Seville, of which the first part was published in 1599. This, though almost as popular as its predecessor, and even more frequently reprinted and translated, has been much overpraised. It is, in truth, a somewhat arid and tedious performance, written in a poor style. The hero is less interesting than his class, for he is not only a rogue but a hypocrite, who pretends to deceive himself as much as he deceives others, and aspires to be good and pious, which makes him less picturesque and more immoral than if he were a picaro proper and true. Next to follow in that line was the Picara Justina, published in 1605, the work of a Dominican whose real name was Andrés Pérez. For the better prevention of scandal, Father Pérez, being likewise the author of divers devotional books, assumed the name of López de Ubeda. Justina has nothing to recommend her, not even her viciousness. She is false, affected, and silly, and worthy to end, as she does, by becoming the wife of Guzman de Alfarache. The book is perhaps the worst of its class, in art as in ethics, being made additionally nauseous by the moral warnings and tags of virtuous sentiment with which the chapters conclude. Perhaps anterior to both Guzman de Alfarache and Picara Justina, though not published till 1613, were Cervantes’ two sketches of picaresque life, Rinconete y Cortadillo and Los Perros de Mahudes, the scene of which is laid in the Triana, the suburb of Seville, then, as now, the favourite home and headquarters of the picaresque gentry. There is internal evidence to show that both these stories, which are clearly drawn from real life and actual experience, were written before the death of Philip II, in 1598. Cervantes resided at Seville with his family between 1588 and 1598, and there is little doubt that the picture he draws of Seville low life is of this period. Rinconete y Cortadillo, in all the qualities of the higher art, must be placed at the head of this species of literature. Although only a sketch, it is brimful of humour, wit, and life, drawn with the same delicate and masterly hand which has given us Don Quixote. What is admirable in the picture is the skill with which a repulsive subject is treated, so that, while preserving all its truth, it is redeemed from grossness. There is not a word which is offensive to taste; yet the thieves, the bullies, the bona robas, and the other delightful but most improper people, move and breathe and talk as “full of life as if they lived indeed.” In others of his books, Cervantes has shown his wide and profound knowledge—doubtless born of actual experience—of this lower order of humanity, as in his Rufian Dichoso, the Fortunate Bully, and in some of his plays and interludes.
It is needless to follow in detail the history of the later experiments in the gusto picaresco. As we approach later times the stories become duller and more respectable. The Marcos de Obregon of Vicente Espinel appeared in 1618. It is a story of adventure abroad rather than of low life at home, not wanting in spirit, and with a more regular construction than most stories of this class, from which Le Sage has stolen very largely and boldly in his Gil Blas, even appropriating the name of the hero, and giving it to one of his characters. In 1624 came another of the picaresque brood, called Alonso, Mozo de Muchos Amos (Alonso, Servant of Many Masters), by one Yanez y Rivera, which deals with the humours of domestic service. We need not occupy ourselves with the long string of lesser works of this character, which are rather romances of real life than picaresque tales—the Niña de los Embustes (the Child of Tricks) and the Garduña de Sevilla (the She-Marten of Seville) of Solorzano; the Diablo Cojuelo (the Lame Devil) of Guevara, and Estevanillo Gonzalez, attributed to the same author, which is the pretended autobiography of a buffoon, better known by Le Sage’s French version than in the original. Last of all, we come to that which by some is reckoned to be the picaresque novel par excellence—the well-known work of Le Sage himself, in collaboration with many others, called Gil Blas. This, with all its merits, is no picaresque novel at all, except in an oblique sense as being the work of a “picaroon”—a clever theft by an adept in literary conveyance, the very Autolycus of authors. While the matter is Spanish, the form and, oddly enough, a great deal of the spirit, is French. I will not go into the question of what were the sources from which Le Sage drew his story. That very Spanish and yet curiously French work (“Spanish bricks in French mortar”) is a wonderful piece of literary craft, showing a genius in the art of stealing which is equal to that of original composition, and even more rare. But Gil Blas, when all is said, is not a true picaroon, of the breed of Lazarillo and Rinconete. He is an impostor, but in another than the true sense. He is a fortune-hunter, who looks closely to the main chance, who descends to be respectable, who aims at a social position, like Jerome Paturot. He marries twice, and lives comfortably in a fine house—a prosperous gentleman, after bidding hope and fortune farewell. He is no more a picaro than Ruy Blas is a Spaniard or Djalma an Indian prince.
Of the picaresque novel, which is the special product of Spain—never successfully acclimatized in any other country, and as entirely Spanish as the olla or the gazpacho—one of the purest specimens is Don Pablo de Segovia (Paul the Sharper), exemplo de Vagamundos y espejo de Tacaños—pattern of Vagabonds and mirror of rogues. The book is generally known as El Buscón, or El Gran Tacaño. The latter title, which is not Quevedo’s, was made the leading designation of the book after the author’s death, and is still that by which the book is most popular in Spain. Buscón is from buscar, to seek, and means a pursuer of fortune, a searcher after the means of life, a cadger. Tacaño is ingeniously derived by old Covarrubias, in the earliest Spanish dictionary, from the Greek κακός, being a corruption of cacaño; or from the Hebrew tachach, which is said to mean fraud and deceit. Don Pablo, however his titles may be derived, is generally admitted to be the perfect type of an adventurer of the picaresque school. The book of his exploits, though left, like so many Spanish books, unfinished, is described by Quevedo’s best critic as “of all his writings the freest from affectation, the richest in lively and natural humours, the brightest, simplest, and most perspicuous; in which he comes nearest to the amenity, artlessness, and delightful and delicate style of Don Quixote.” These praises are not undeserved, although the knight of industry, in his quest of adventures, is very far from being of kin to the warrior of chivalry, the gentle and perfect knight of La Mancha. Disfigured as it is by all Quevedo’s faults of style and manner, Don Pablo deserves to be rescued from the fate to which its faults of language, rather than its defects of taste or its failure in the moral part, have hitherto consigned it, at least in England. As a picture of low, vagabond life, it necessarily deals with vice, but it cannot be said that the vice is rendered attractive. All the characters are bad, in the sense that they all belong to the class who have failed to achieve a decent life. The company is not select in which we move, but it can hardly be said that there is contamination in it any more than we get from looking at Hogarth’s Gin Lane, or the Borrachos of Velasquez. From beginning to end Don Pablo’s career is one of undisguised trickery, dissimulation, and lying. All his companions are thieves, or impostors, or rogues, patent or undetected. The scenes are laid almost entirely in the lowest places—in the slums of Segovia, of Madrid, and of Seville, mostly in prison or in some refuge from the law. The manners of the people, men and women, are as repulsive as their morals; and they talk (which is not unusual) after their natures. When we concede all this we admit the worst which can be said of Quevedo’s work, and impute nothing against the author, either as artist or moralist. It is difficult to imagine any virtue of a texture so frail as to be injured by the reading of Paul the Sharper. There is no vice in the book, even though it deals exclusively with vicious people. There is nothing hurtful in the character of the complete rogue, nor is he painted in any but his natural colours, as a mean, sordid vagabond, who does or says nothing whatever to gild his trade or to embellish his calling. This is the crowning merit of Quevedo’s book, among those of its class, that there are no shabby tricks played upon the reader, such as other writers of even higher pretensions are guilty of—no attempt to pass off a rogue as though he were a hero in distress—a creature deserving of sympathy, who is only treating the world as the world treated him—a victim of fortune, whose ill-usage by society justifies his attitude towards the social system. There is no sentiment expended over Paul of Segovia. There is no snivelling over his low condition, or railing at his unhappy lot. He is not conscious of his degradation. He is a thief, the son of a thief, with a perfect knowledge of what his mother is; but he makes no secret of his calling, nor indulges in excuses for himself or his family. The other heroes of the picaresque novel make some faint pretence to decent behaviour, but Paul never deviates into respectability. He is picaro to the fingers’ ends—in either sense. Through all his changes of character and of costume he is still rogue, entire and perfect, without any sprouts of honesty or repinings after a better life. The naivete with which he tells of his exploits, without boasting and without shame, is of the highest art—true to nature, nor offensive to morality. Whether he is cheating a jailer or bilking a landlady, dodging the alguacil or bamboozling the old poet, or befooling the nun, or tricking the bully, he is always true to himself, without affectation or conceit of being other than he is. There are no asides, where either the hero or the author (as the bad modern custom is) communes with his conscience, or finds excuses for himself, or draws a moral, or in some way or other imparts to the reader how much superior he (the writer) is to his hero, and how conscious he is of the reader’s presence, giving him to understand, in a manner unflattering to his intelligence, how that all that he writes is in joke and not to be taken in bad part. That Quevedo does not do so is his chief point of art in the book, which deserves to be ranked among the best of its class, as a chapter out of the great comedy of human life. The simplicity with which the story is told, without those digressions and interruptions to which the Spanish storyteller is so prone, make it a work almost unique among books of the kind. For once Quevedo has spoken in a language direct and plain, without a riddle or a hidden motive. It is of course a satire, but a satire of the legitimate kind, not upon persons, but upon mankind—against general vice, not against particular sins. The characters of the story, which seems rather to tell itself than to be told, are all such as were the common property of the comic writers of the period, but scarcely anywhere else are they found invested with so much of the breath of life. Don Pablo himself, his companions, his fellow-students, the crazy old poet, the villainous jailer, the braggart espadachins, the poor hidalgo, the strolling players, the beggars, the gay ladies, the jailbirds, bullies, and thieves—every member of that unclean company, with all their unsavoury surroundings, is a real, living personage.
Don Pablo de Segovia was first published in 1626, at Saragossa, and had a great success, several editions being called for before the author’s death. There is reason to believe that it was written some years before, being probably circulated in manuscript among the author’s friends before being printed, as was the custom of the time. In 1624 Quevedo had been lately released from the first of his imprisonments at Torre de San Juan Abad, and had partially recovered the favour of the Court. It was a period when the printers were most busy with his works—when satires, political apologues, religious tracts, visions, burlesque and piquant odes, fantasies, and calls to devotion were being poured forth abundantly out of his fruitful brain. Señor Guerra y Orbe believes that Don Pablo was written in 1608. That it was composed before 1624 is proved, I think, by the character of the book, which is certainly more juvenile than belongs to a man of forty-six, as well as by a piece of evidence to be found within. In chapter VIII, when on the road to Torrejón, Don Pablo comes up with a crazy man mounted on a mule, who proves to be a master of the art of fencing, with several extravagant projects in his brain for the good of the kingdom. Among these he has two schemes to propose to the king for the reduction of Ostend. Now the great siege of Ostend, which is doubtless the one referred to, was that which ended, after three years’ fighting in which an extraordinary number were slain on both sides, in September, 1604. It is a reasonable conjecture, therefore, that Don Pablo, at least as far as chapter VIII, was written prior to this date. The chapters in which the students’ adventures at Alcalá are described seem to me also to bear internal evidence of having been written when the impression of university life was still fresh upon the author. This theory of the date of Don Pablo makes the author a young man of twenty-three when the book was composed; and the book itself the third, in order of time, of the picaresque romances, following closely after Guzman de Alfarache.
Don Pablo de Segovia has been always popular in its native country, and has been frequently translated into other languages. Señor Guerra y Orbe notes more than forty editions of the original in Spain and in the Spanish dominions. An Italian translation, by Juan Pedro Franco, appeared in 1634 at Venice. A French version, by Geneste, was included among the burlesque works of Quevedo, translated into that language in 1641. Other early French versions are those of Lyons and of Brussels. In 1842 M. Germond de Lavigne brought out his translation of Don Pablo which is spirited and readable, but a good deal changed from the original. Portions of other works by Quevedo are inserted in the text, a prologue borrowed from the Hora de Todos, and a conclusion added from out of the manufactory of M. Lavigne himself. In M. Lavigne’s latest edition of 1882 appeared the first of M. Vierge’s admirably spirited and characteristic sketches.
Don Pablo was early introduced into the English tongue, though it is perhaps the least known of Quevedo’s works. The Visions, translated by the indefatigable Sir Roger L’Estrange, first appeared in 1688, and went through many editions in that and the succeeding century. The English version has the merit, which belongs to all L’Estrange’s work, of being in good, sound, and vigorous language, lively and not inelegant, but it is far from faithful to the original, the translator taking great liberties with his author in the attempt to bring him up to the level of the “humour of the times.” The Visions were much read and often quoted by English writers of the last century. The Buscón, shorn of much of his stature, was Englished by “a person of quality” so early as 1657, with a dedication to a lady. It was still further reduced in 1683, both in size and art, though most of the grossness was left untouched. The well-known Captain John Stevens, who translated Mariana’s History and professed (without warrant) to improve and correct Shelton’s Don Quixote (which he did not do to any appreciable extent), also took Quevedo in hand, translating Don Pablo, among other comical pieces, in 1707. A new translation was given to the world in 1734 by Don Pedro Pineda, a teacher of the Spanish language, then resident in London. Pineda it was who revised the Spanish text of the splendid edition of Don Quixote, published at the charge of Lord Carteret in 1734, four handsome quarto volumes—the first in which print and paper did full justice to Cervantes’ masterpiece. Though a person of little humour, who fell a victim to Cervantes’ irony in the matter of the poet Lofraso and his Fortuna de Amor, Pineda was a competent Spanish scholar, at least for that age. How far his English was his own we have no means of knowing, but his perfect knowledge of the language of the original recommended him to the editors of the edition of Quevedo’s Works, published at Edinburgh in 1798, as a person fit to revise and correct the version of Mr. Stevens. That version, though not satisfactory in all respects, is still the best we have in English. It is almost too faithful to the original in respect that it retains many expressions, phrases, and words, of the kind in which Quevedo loved to indulge, which, however appropriate in the mouths of the speakers in a thieves’ den or a convict prison, are scarcely delicate enough for the taste of the modern English public, or necessary to bring out the full humour of the story.
The text of the English translation of 1798, corrected and revised, is that which has been followed in the present publication, of which the immediate object is less to rescue Quevedo’s story from oblivion than to bring to the notice of the public the singular merit of his countryman, M. Vierge (Daniel Urrabieta), as an artist in black and white.
I sir, was born at Segovia, my father’s name was Clemente Pablo, a native of the same town; may God keep him in heaven. I need not speak of his virtues, for those are unknown, but by trade he was a barber, though so high minded, that he took it for an affront to be called by any name but that of a cheek-shearer and beard-tailor. They say he came of a good stock, and his actions showed it. He was married to Aldonza Saturno de Rebollo, daughter to Octavio de Rebollo Codillo, and grandchild to Lepido Ziuraconte. The town foully suspected that she was no old Christian,3 though she strongly urged the names of her progenitors, to prove herself descended from those great men that formed the Triumvirate at Rome. She was very handsome, and so famous, that all the ballad rhymers of her time made verses of her, which were sung about the streets. She ran through many troubles, when first married, and long after, for there were scandalous tongues in the neighbourhood that did not stick to say my father was willing to wear the horns, provided they were tipped with gold. It was proved upon him, that whilst he was lathering the beards of those he was to trim, a small brother of mine, about seven years of age, rifled their pockets. The little angel died of a whipping he had in the gaol; and my father was much concerned at the loss, because he won the hearts of them all. He was himself a while in prison for some small trifles of this nature; but I am told he came off so honourably, that at his first walking abroad from gaol two hundred cardinals went behind him, of whom ne’er a one was monsignor,4 and the ladies stood at their windows to see him pass by; for my father always made a good figure, either a-foot or a-horseback. I do not speak it out of vanity, for everybody knows that to be foreign to me.
My mother, good woman, had no share of troubles. An old woman that bred me, commending her one day, said, she was of such a taking behaviour, that she bewitched all she had to do with; but they say, she talked something concerning her intercourse with a great he-goat, which had like to have brought her to the stake, to try whether she had anything of the nature of the salamander, and could live in fire. It was reported that she had an excellent hand at soldering cracked maidens, and disguising of grey hairs. Some gave her the name of a pleasure-broker, others of a reconciler; but the ruder sort, in coarse language, called her downright bawd, and universal money-catcher. It would make anybody in love with her to see with what a pleasant countenance she took this from all persons. I shall not spend much time in relating what a penitential life she led; but she had a room into which nobody went besides herself, and sometimes I was admitted on account of my tender years; it was all beset with dead men’s skulls, which she said were to put her in mind of mortality, though others in spite to her pretended they were to put tricks upon the living. Her bed was corded with halters malefactors had been hanged in; and she used to say to me: “D’ye see these things? I show them as remembrances to those I have a kindness for, that they may take heed how they live, and avoid coming to such an end.”
My parents had much bickering about me, each of them contending to have me brought up to his or her trade; but I, who from my infancy had more gentleman like thoughts, applied myself to neither. My father used to say to me: “My child, this trade of stealing is no mechanic trade, but a liberal art.” Then pausing and fetching a sigh, he went on: “There is no living in this world without stealing. Why do you think the constables and other officers hate us as they do? Why do they sometimes banish, sometimes whip us at the cart’s tail, and at last hang us up like flitches of bacon without waiting for All Saints’ Day to come?”5 (I cannot refrain from tears when I think of it, for the good old man wept like a child, remembering how often they had flogged him.) “The reason is, because they would have no other thieves among them but themselves and their gang; but a sharp wit brings us out of all dangers. In my younger days I plied altogether in the churches, not out of pure religious zeal, and had been long ago carted, but that I never told tales, though they put me to the rack; for I never confessed but when our holy mother the Church commands us. With this business and my trade, I have made a shift to maintain your mother as decently as I could.” “You maintain me!” answered my mother, in a great rage (for she was vexed I would not apply me to the sorcery), “it was I that maintained you; I brought you out of prison by my art, and kept you there with my money. You may thank the potions I gave you for not confessing, and not your own courage. My good pots did the feat; and were it not for fear I should be heard in the streets, I would tell all the story, how I got in at the chimney, and brought you out at the top of the house.” Her passion was so high, that she would not have given over here, had not the string of a pair of beads broke, which were all dead men’s teeth she kept for private uses. I told them very resolutely I would apply myself to virtue, and go on in the good way I had proposed, and therefore desired them to put me to school, for nothing was to be done without reading and writing. They approved of what I said, though they both muttered at it a while betwixt them. My mother fell to stringing her dead men’s teeth, and my father went away, as he said, to trim one—I know not whether he meant his beard or his purse. I was left alone, praising God that he had given me such clever parents, and so zealous for my welfare.
The next day my primer was bought, and my schoolmaster bespoke. I went to school, sir, and he received me with a pleasant countenance, telling me I had the looks of a sharp lad and intelligent. That he might not seem to be mistaken in his judgment, I took care to learn my lessons well that morning. My master made me sit next to him, and gave me good marks every day, because I came first and went away last, staying behind to run on some errands for my mistress, and thus I gained all their affections. They favoured me so much that all the boys were envious. I made it my business to keep company with gentlemen’s sons, above all others, but particularly with a son of Don Alonso Coronel de Zuñiga: I used to eat my afternoon’s luncheon with him, went to his house every holiday, and waited on him upon other days. The other boys, either because I took no notice of them, or that they thought I aimed too high, were continually giving of me nicknames relating to my father’s trade. Some called me Mr. Razor, others Mr. Stuckup. One to excuse his envy would say he hated me, because my mother had sucked the blood of his two little sisters in the night; another, that my father had been sent for to his house to frighten away the vermin, for nothing was safe where he came. Some, as I passed by cried out “Cat”; others, “Puss, Puss.” Another said, “I threw rotten oranges at his mother when she was carted.” Yet, for all their backbiting, glory to God, my shoulders were broad enough to bear it; and though I was out of countenance yet I took no notice, but put all up, till one day a boy had the impudence to call me son of a whore and a witch; he spoke it so plain, that though I had been glad it had been better wrapped up, I took up a stone, and broke his head. Away I went, running as fast as I could to my mother to hide me, telling her all the story. She said, “It was very well done of you, and like yourself; but you were in the wrong that you did not ask him who told him so.” Hearing what she said, and having always had high thoughts, I turned to her, and said, “Mother, all that troubles me is, that some of the standers-by told me I had no cause to be disturbed at it; and I did not ask them what they meant, because he was so young that said it.” I prayed her to tell me, whether I could have given him the lie with a safe conscience, or whether I was begot in a huddle, by a great many, or was the true son of my father. She laughed, and answered, “God a-mercy, lad, are you so cunning already! You’ll be no fool, you have sense enough; you did very well in breaking his head, for such things are not to be said, though never so true.” This struck me to the heart, and I was so very much out of countenance, that I resolved, as soon as possible, to lay hold of all I could, and leave my father’s house. However, I dissembled; my father went and healed the boy; all was made up, and I went to school again. My master received me in an angry manner, till being told the occasion of the quarrel, his passion was assuaged, considering the provocation given me. Don Alonso de Zuñiga’s son, Don Diego, and I were very great all this while, because he had a natural affection for me; and besides, I used to change tops with him, if mine were better than his; I gave him anything I had to eat, and never asked for what he had; I bought him pictures, I taught him to wrestle, played at leap frog with him, and was so obliging in all respects, that the young gentleman’s parents observing how fond he was of my company, would send for me almost every day to dine and sup, and sometimes to stay all night with him.
It happened one day soon after Christmas, as we were going to school, that a counsellor, called Pontio de Aguirre, passed along the street; little Don Diego seeing him, bid me call him Pontius Pilate, and run away when I had done. To please my friend, I did so, and the man was so affronted at it, that he scoured after me as hard as he could, with a knife in his hand to stab me, so that I was forced to take sanctuary in my master’s house, crying out with might and main. The man was in as soon as I; my master saved me from his doing me any mischief, promising to whip me, and was as good as his word, though my mistress, in consideration of the great service I did her, interceded for me. He bid me untruss, and every lash he gave me, cried, “Will you ever call Pontius Pilate again?” I answered, “No, sir,” every time he put the question; and it was such a warning to me, that dreading the name of Pontius Pilate, the next day, when we were ordered to say our prayers, according to custom, coming to the Creed (pray observe the innocent cunning) instead of saying “He suffered under Pontius Pilate,” believing I was never more to name Pilate, I said, “He suffered under Pontio de Aguirre.” My master burst out a laughing at my simplicity, and to see how I dreaded the lashing; and embracing me, promised to forgive the two first whippings I should deserve, which I took as a great favour of fortune, and a kindness in him.
To be brief, came Shrovetide, and our master to divert the boys, and make sport, ordered that there should be a king of cocks6 among us, and we casts lots for that honour among twelve he had appointed for it. I was the lucky person it fell upon, and spoke to my father and mother to provide me fine clothes. When the day came, abroad I went upon a starved poor jade of a horse, that fell to saying his prayers at every step; his back looked like a saw; his neck like a camel’s, but somewhat longer; his head like a pig, only it had but one eye, and that moon-blind; all this plainly showed the knavery of his keeper, who made him do penance, and fast, cheating him of his provender. Thus I went, swinging from side to side, like a jointed baby, with all the rest of the boys after me, tricked up as fine as so many puppets, till we came into the market place—the very naming of it frights me; and coming to the herb-women’s stalls, the Lord deliver us from them, my horse being half starved, snapped up a small cabbage, which no sooner touched his teeth but it was down his throat, though, by reason of the length of his neck, it came not into his belly for a long time after. The herb-woman who, like the rest of them, was an impudent jade, set up the cry, the others of the trade flocked about her, and among them abundance of the scoundrels of the market; all these fell a-pelting the poor king with carrot and turnip tops, rotten oranges, and all the offals of the market. Considering the enemies’ forces were all foot,7 and therefore I ought not to charge them a-horseback, I would have alighted, but my horse received such a shot in the head that as he went to rear, his strength failing him, we both came down into the sewer. You may imagine what a condition I was in. By this time my subjects, the boys, had armed themselves with stones, and charging the herb-women, broke two of their heads. For my part after my fall into the sewer, I was good for little, unless it were to drive all from me with stink and filth. The officers coming up, seized two of the herb-women and some of the boys, searching them for their weapons, which they took away, for some had drawn daggers they wore for the greater show, and others short swords. They came to me, and seeing no weapons about me, because I had taken them off, and put them into a house to be cleaned, with my hat and cloak, one of them asked me for my arms; I answered, that in that filthy condition I had none but what were offensive to the nose alone. I cannot but acquaint you, sir, by the by, that when they began to pelt me with the rotten oranges, turnip-tops, etc., my hat being stuck with feathers, as they do the bawds in Spain when they cart them, I fancied they mistook me for my mother, and thought they threw at her, as they had done several times before. This foolish notion being got into my young head, I began to cry out, “Good women, though I wear feathers in my cap, I am none of Aldonza Saturno de Rebollo; she is my mother”; as if they could not perceive that by my shape and face. However, the fright I was in may excuse my ignorance, especially considering the misfortune came so suddenly upon me. To return to the officer; he would willingly have carried me to prison, but did not, because he could not find a clean place to lay hold of me, for I was all over mire. Some went one way, and some another, and I went directly home from the market place, punishing all the noses I met by the way. As soon as I got home I told my father and mother all the story, who were in such a passion to see me in that nasty pickle, that they would have beat me. I excused myself the best I could, laying all the blame on the two leagues of attenuated horse they had provided for me; and finding nothing would appease them, left the house, and went away to see my friend Don Diego, whom I found at home with a broken head, and his parents fully resolved, for this reason, that he should go to school no more. There was I informed, that my steed, finding himself in distress, summoned up all the strength he had to salute his enemies with his heels, but was so weak that he put out his hips with the effort, and lay in the mud expiring. Considering that all the sport was spoiled, the mob alarmed, my parents in a rage, my friend’s head broken, and my horse dead, I resolved to go no more to school, nor to my father’s house, but to stay and wait upon Don Diego, or rather to bear him company, which his parents were well pleased with, because their son was so taken with me. I wrote home to tell them I had no need to go to school any longer, for though I could not write a good hand, that was no fault, because it was more becoming me, who designed to be a gentleman, to write an ill one; and therefore, from that time, I renounced the school, to save them charges, and their house, that they might have no trouble with me. I acquainted them where and what post I was in, and that I should see them no more, till they gave me leave.
Don Alonso resolved to send his son to a boarding school; both to wean him from his tender keeping at home, and at the same time to ease himself of that care. He was informed there was a master of arts in Segovia whose name was Cabra, that made it his business to breed up gentlemen’s sons;8 thither he sent his, and me to wait on him. The first Sunday after Lent we were brought into the house of famine, for it is impossible to express the penury of the place. The master was a skeleton, a mere shotten herring, or like a long slender cane, with a little head upon it, and red haired; so that there needs no more to be said to such as know the proverb, that “neither cat nor dog of that colour is good.” His eyes were sunk into his head, as if he had looked through a fruit bottle, or the deep windows in a linen draper’s shop; his nose turning up, and somewhat flat, for the bridge was almost carried away with an inundation of a cold rheum, for he never had the disease, because it costs money; his beard had lost its colour for fear of his mouth, which being so near, seemed to threaten to eat it for mere hunger; his teeth had many of them forsaken him for want of employment, or else were banished for being idle livers; his neck as long as a crane’s, with the gullet sticking out so far, as if it had been compelled by necessity to start out for sustenance; his arms withered; his hands like a bundle of twigs, each of them, taken downwards, looking like a fork or a pair of compasses; with long slender legs. He walked leisurely, and whensoever he happened to move anything faster his bones rattled like a pair of snappers. His voice was weak and hollow; his beard bushy and long, for he never trimmed to save charges, though he pretended it was so odious to him to feel the barber’s hands all over his face that he would rather die than endure it. One of the boys cut his hair. In fair weather he wore a threadbare cap, an inch thick in grease and dirt, made of a thing that was once cloth, and lined in scurf and dandruff. His cassock, some said, was miraculous, for no man knew what colour it was of; some seeing no sign of hair on it, concluded it was made of frogs’ skins; others said it was a mere shadow, or a phantom; near at hand it looked somewhat black, and at a distance bluish. He wore no girdle, cuffs, nor band; so that his long hair and scanty short cassock made him look like the messenger of death. Each shoe might have served for a Philistine’s coffin. As for his chamber, there was not so much as a cobweb in it, the spiders being all starved to death. He put spells upon the mice, for fear they should gnaw some scraps of bread he kept. His bed was on the floor, and he always lay upon one side, for fear of wearing out the sheets; in short, he was the Arch-pauper and Proto-miser. Into this prodigy’s hands I fell, and lived under him with Don Diego. The night we came, he showed us our room, and made us a short speech, which was no longer, out of mere good husbandry. He told us how we were to behave ourselves, and the next morning we were employed till dinner time; thither we went, the masters dined first, and the servants waited. The dining-room was as big as a half peck; five gentlemen could eat in it at one table. I looked about for the cat, and seeing none, asked a servant, who was an old hand, and in his leanness bore the mark of the boarding school, how it came they had none? The tears stood in his eyes, and he said, “What do you talk of cats? Pray who told you that cats loved penance and mortification? Your fat sides show you are a newcomer.” This, to me, was the beginning of sorrow; but I was worse scared, when I observed that all those who were before us in the house looked like so many pictures of death. Master Cabra said grace, and sat down, and they ate a meal, which had neither beginning nor end. They brought the broth in wooden dishes, but it was so clear, that Narcissus going to drink of it would be in worse danger than at the fountain. I observed how eagerly they all dived down after a poor single pea that was in every dish. Every sip he gave, Cabra cried, “By my troth there is no dainty like the olla, or boiled meat and broth. Let the world say what it will, all the rest is mere gluttony and extravagancy.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he belched out all the porrenger, saying, “This is good for the health, and sharpens the wit.” A curse on thee and thy wit, thought I, and at the same time saw a servant like a walking ghost, and no more substantial, bring in a dish of meat, which looked as if he had picked it off his bones. Among it was one poor stray turnip, at whose sight the master said, “What, have we turnips today? No partridge is, in my opinion, to compare to them. Eat heartily, for I love to see you eat.” He gave everyone such a wretched bit of meat, that I believe it all stuck to their nails, and between their teeth, so that no part of it ever went into their bellies. Cabra looked on, and said, “Eat away, for it is a pleasure to me to see what good stomachs you have.” Think what a comfort this was for them that were pining with hunger! When dinner was over, there remained some scraps of bread on the table, and a few hits of skin and bones in the dish, and the master said, “Let this be left for the servants; they must dine too; it is not for us to gormandize all.” A vengeance on thee, and may what thou hast eaten choke thee, thou wretched miser! thought I; what a consternation have you put my guts into! He gave thanks, and said, “Now let us give way to the servants, and go ye use some exercise until two of the clock, lest your dinner do you harm.” I could no longer forbear laughing for my life, but burst out into a loud fit. He was very angry, and bid me learn to behave myself modestly, ripping up two or three old mouldy sentences, and so went his way. We sat down, and I seeing such short commons, and hearing my guts roar for provender, being cunning and stronger than the rest, clapped both hands in the dish, as others did, and whipped down two scraps of bread out of three there were left, and one piece of skin. The others began to murmur, and making a noise, in came Cabra, saying, “Eat lovingly together like brethren, since God provides for you; do not fall out, for there is enough for you all.” This said, he returned to sun himself, and left us to ourselves. I declare it, there was one of these servants, his name Surre, a Biscayner, who had so absolutely forgot the way and method of eating, that he put a small bit of crust, which fell to his share, to his eyes twice, and even the third time knew not how to carry it to his mouth. I asked for drink; the rest, who had scarce broke their fast, never thinking of it, and they gave me a dish with some water, which I had no sooner laid to my lips, but the sharp-gutted lad I spoke of, snatched it away, as if I had been Tantalus and that the flitting river he stands in up to the chin.
Thus we passed on till night. Don Diego asked me how he should do to persuade his guts that they had dined, for they would not believe it. That house was an hospital of dizzy heads, proceeding from empty stomachs, as others are of surfeits. Suppertime came, for afternoonings were never heard of there; it was much shorter than the dinner, and not mutton, but a little roasted goat: sure the devil could never have contrived worse. Our starveling Master Cabra said, “It is very wholesome and beneficial to eat light suppers, that the stomach may not be overburdened”; and then he quoted some cursed physician, that was long since in hell. He extolled spare diet, alleging that it prevented uneasy dreams, though he knew that in his house it was impossible to dream of anything but eating. They supped, and we supped, and none had supper. We went to bed, and neither Don Diego nor I could sleep one wink all that night, for he lay contriving how to complain to his father, that he might remove him, and I advising him so to do; and at last I said to him, “Pray, sir, are you sure we are alive, for, to tell you the truth, I have a strong fancy that we were slain in the battle with the herb-women, and are now souls suffering in purgatory, in which case it will be to no purpose to talk of your father’s fetching us away, without he has our souls prayed out of this place of punishment.” Having spent the whole night in this discourse, we got a little nap towards morning, till it was time to rise; six o’clock struck, Cabra called, and we all went to school; but when I went to dress me, my doublet was two handfuls too big; and my breeches, which before were close, now hung so loose as if they had been none of my own. My very teeth were already all furred, and looked as yellow as amber; such a wonderful change had one day wrought. When we came to school, I was ordered to decline some nouns, and was so wonderful hungry, that I ate half my words for want of more substantial diet. Any man will easily believe this, who does but hear what Cabra’s man told me, which was, that at his first coming he saw two great Flanders geldings brought into the house, and two days after they went out perfect racers, so light, that the very wind would carry them away; that he saw mastiff dogs come in, and in less than three hours they went out converted into greyhounds; that one Lent he saw abundance of men, some thrusting their heads, some their feet, and some their whole body, into the porch; and this continued a long time, very many people flocking from all parts to do so; and that he asking one day, what could be the meaning of it, Cabra was very angry, but one in the crowd answered, “Some of those people are troubled with chilblains, others with the itch, and others with lice; all which distempers and vermin died as soon as they came into that house, so that they never felt them more.” He assured me this was very true, and I, who was acquainted with the house, believe it, which I am fain to take notice of, lest what I say should be looked upon as an hyperbole.
To return to the school, he set us our lesson, and we conned it, and so we went on in the same course of life I have here delivered, only that our master added bacon in the boiling of his pot, because going abroad one day, he was told that to boil meat without bacon, betokened a scandalous race descended either from Moors or Jews. For this reason he provided a small tin case, all full of holes, like a nutmeg-grater, which he opened, and put in a bit of bacon that filled it; then shutting the box close, hung it with a string in the pot, that some relish of it might come through the holes, and the bacon remain for the next day. Afterwards he thought this too great an expense, and therefore for the future only dipped the bacon into the pot. It is easy to guess what a life we led with this sort of diet and usage. Don Diego and I were in such miserable condition, that since we could find no relief as to eating, after a month was expired, we contrived, at last, not to rise so early in the morning, and therefore resolved to pretend we were sick, but not feverish, because that cheat we thought would be easily discovered. The head or toothache were inconsiderable distempers; at last we said we had the gripes, believing, that rather than be at a penny charges, our master would apply no remedy. The devil ordered worse than we expected, for Cabra had an old receipt, which descended to him by inheritance from his father, who was an apothecary. As soon as he was told our distemper, he prepared a clyster, and sending for an old aunt of his, threescore and ten years of age, that served him for a nurse upon occasion, ordered her to give each of us a potion. She began with Don Diego; the poor wretch shrunk up, and the old jade being blind, and her hands shaking, instead of giving him it inwardly, let it fly betwixt his shirt and his back up to his very poll; so that became an outward ornament which should have served for a lining within. Only God knows how we were plagued with the old woman. She was so deaf, that she heard nothing, but understood by signs, though she was half blind; and such an everlasting prayer, that one day the string of her beads broke over the pot as it was boiling, and our broth came to table sanctified. Some said, “These are certainly black Ethiopian peas”; others cried they were in mourning, and wondered what relation of theirs was dead. Our master happened to bite one of them, and it pleased God that he broke his teeth.
On Fridays the old woman would dress us some eggs, but so full of her reverend grey hairs, that they appeared no less aged then herself. It was a common practice with her to dip the fire-shovel into the pot instead of the ladle, and to serve up porrengers of broth stuffed with coals, vermin, chips, and knots of flax she used to spin, all which she threw in to fill up and cram the guts. In this misery we continued till the next Lent, at the beginning of which one of our companions fell sick. Cabra, to save charges, delayed sending for a physician, till the patient was just giving up the ghost and desired to prepare for another world; then he called a young quack, who felt his pulse, and said, “Hunger had been beforehand with him, and prevented his killing that man.” These were his last words; the poor lad died, and was buried meanly because he was a stranger. This struck a terror into all that lived in the house; the dismal story flew all about the town, and came at last to Don Alonso Coronel’s ears, who having no other son, began to be convinced of Cabra’s inhumanity, and to give more credit to the words of two mere shadows, for we were no better at that time. He came to take us from the boarding school, and asked for us, though we stood before him; so that finding us in such a deplorable condition, he gave our pinch-gut master some hard words. We were carried away in two chairs, taking leave of our famished companions, who followed us, as far as they could, with their eyes and wishes, lamenting and bewailing, as those do who remain slaves at Algiers when their other associates are ransomed.
When we came to Don Alonso’s house, they laid us very gently on to two beds, for fear of rattling our bones, they were so bare with starving; then with magnifying glasses they began to search all about our faces for our eyes, and were a long time before they could find out mine, because I had suffered most, being treated like a servant, and consequently mine was a royal hunger. Physicians were called, who ordered the dust should be wiped off our mouths with foxtails, as if we had been paintings; and indeed we looked like the picture of death; and that we should be nourished with good broths and light meats, for fear of overloading our weak stomachs. Who can be able to express the rejoicing there was in our guts, the first good soup that we tasted, and afterwards when we came to eat some fowl? All these things to them were unknown novelties. The doctors gave order that for nine days nobody should talk in our chamber, because our stomachs were so empty that the least word returned an echo in them. These and suchlike precautions used caused our spirits to return to us in some measure; but our jaws were so tanned and shrivelled up that there was no stretching of them, and therefore care was taken that they should be every day gently forced out, and, as it were, set upon the last with the bottom of a pestle. In a few days we got up to try our limbs, but still we looked like the shadows of other men, and so lean and pale as if we were lineally descended from the fathers in the desert. We spent the whole day in praising God for having delivered us out of the clutches of the most inhuman Cabra, and offered up our earnest prayers, that no Christian might ever fall into that miserable thraldom. If ever, when we were eating, we happened to think of the miserable boarding school table, it made us so hungry that we devoured twice as much as at any other time. We used to tell Don Alonso, how, when Cabra sat down to table, he would inveigh against gluttony though he never knew any thing of it in his life; and he laughed heartily when we informed him that, in speaking of the commandment “Thou shall not kill,” he made it extend to partridges and capons, and such other dainties as never came within his doors, and even to killing of hunger, which he certainly counted a heinous sin, and therefore had an aversion to all eating. We were three whole months upon our recovery, and at the end thereof Don Alonso began to think of sending his son to Alcalá, to finish his Humanity. He asked me whether I would go, and I thinking I could never be far enough from that inhuman monster of misery and famine, offered to serve his son faithfully, as experience should show. He provided him another servant, in the nature of steward, to look after him, and give an account of the money he sent for his expenses, by bill upon one Julian Merluza. We put all our equipage into a cart belonging to one Diego Monge; it consisted of a small bed for our master, and a truckle bed to run under it, for me and the steward whose name was Aranda, five quilts, four pair of sheets, eight pillows, four hangings, a trunk of linen, and other furniture for a house. We went ourselves into a coach in the evening, a little before nightfall, and about midnight came to the ever accursed lone inn of Viveros. The innkeeper was a Morisco, and a downright thief; and all my life I never saw cat and dog so united in peace as that day.9 He received us very lovingly, because he and the carters went snacks, for we travelled so slowly that they were there before us. He came to the coach-side, gave me his hand to alight, and asked me, “Whether I was going to the University?” I told him I was. He put me into the house, where two bullies were with some wenches, a curate praying by them, an old covetous shopkeeper endeavouring to forget his supper, and two scoundrelly shabby scholars, contriving how to fill their bellies free of cost. My master, as being the last comer and but a boy, said, “Landlord, get what you have in the house for me and two servants.” “We are all your servants, sir,” said the sharpers, “and will wait on you. Here, landlord, take notice; this gentleman will stand treat; fetch out all you have in the larder.” This said, one of them stepped up to Don Diego, and taking off his cloak, laid it by, saying, “Pray, sir, sit down and rest you.” This puffed me up so full of vanity that the inn was too little to hold me. One of the damsels said, “What a well shaped gentleman it is; is he going to his studies? Are you his servant, sir?” I, fancying that every word they said was sincere, answered, “That I and the other were both his servants.” They asked me his name, and it was scarce out of my mouth, before one of the scholars went up to him, with tears in his eyes, and embracing him, as if he had been his brother, said, “O my dear Don Diego! who would have thought, ten years ago, to have seen you thus. Unhappy man, I am in such a condition that you will not know me.” My master and I were both amazed, and swore we had never seen him in all our days. The scholar’s companion stared Don Diego in the face, and said to his friend, “Is this the gentleman of whose father you told me so many stories? It is extraordinary fortunate that we have met him, and know him. He is grown very tall; God bless him.” With this he began to cross himself, and seemed so overjoyed, that any man would have thought we had been brought up together. Don Diego made him many compliments; and as he was asking him his name, out came the innkeeper, and laid the cloth; and smelling the joke, said, “Let that alone and talk of it after supper, for the meat will be cold.” One of the bullies stepped up, and set stools for everybody, and an arm chair for Don Diego; the other of them brought in a dish. The scholars said, “Do you sup, sir, and whilst they dress what the house affords for us, we will wait on you at table.” “God forbid,” answered Don Diego; “pray, gentlemen, sit down if you please.” The bullies, though he did not speak to them, readily answered, “Presently, good sir; all is not ready yet.” When I saw some invited and the others invite themselves, my heart was in my mouth, and I dreaded what came to pass; for the scholars laying hold of the salad, which was a good dishful, and looking upon my master, said, “It would be unreasonable that these ladies should be left supperless, where a gentleman of such quality is; pray, sir, give them leave to take a bit.” My master, like a true cully, invited them to partake. They sat down, and between the scholars and them, in a trice, there was but one single lettuce of all the salad left, which last bit Don Diego had; and as the accursed students gave it him, he said, “Sir, you had a grandfather, who was my father’s uncle, that swooned at the sight of a lettuce; he was a man of such an odd disposition.” This said, he fetched himself down a brick of bread, and his companion did the like. The damsels had made a great hole in a good loaf; but yet the poor curate ate more than all of them with his eyes and wishes. The bullies bringing in a whole side of kid roasted, and a dish of pigeons and bacon boiled, took their places at the table, saying to the priest, “Why, father, what makes you stand there? Draw near and reach a bit, for Don Diego treats us all.” No sooner were the words spoken but he sat down. When my master perceived that they had all intruded upon him he began to be much concerned. They divided the spoil, giving Don Diego some few bones to pick; the rest the curate and the others devoured. The bullies said, “Pray, sir, do not eat too much supper, lest it does you harm”; and the devil of a scholar answered, “Besides, sir, you must begin to practice to be abstemious considering the life you are to lead at Alcalá.” I and the other servant prayed heartily that God would put it into their hearts to leave something; and when they had devoured every bit, and the curate was picking the bones over again, one of the bullies turned about, and said, “God bless us, we have left nothing for the servants; come hither, gentlemen. Here, landlord, give them all the house affords; take this pistole to pay for it.” Up started immediately my master’s confounded imaginary kinsman, I mean the scholar, saying, “With your leave, good sir, I must tell you, I fear your breeding is not much; it is a sign you are not acquainted with my cousin; he will provide for his own servants and for ours too, if we had any, as he has done for us.” “Be not in a passion, sir,” replied the other, “we did not know so much before.” When I saw all this sly dissimulation, I began to curse them and thought I should never have done. The cloth was taken away, and they all desired Don Diego to go to bed. He would have paid for the supper, but they answered that in the morning would be time enough. They stayed a while chatting together; my master asked the scholar his name, and he answered Don something Coronel. The devil confound the deceitful dog, whosoever he is. Then perceiving that the griping shopkeeper was asleep, he said, “Will you have a little sport, sir, to make you laugh? Let us put some trick upon this fellow, who has eaten but one pear upon the road, and is as rich as a Jew.” The bullies cried, “God-a-mercy, Master Licentiate, do so, it is but right.” With this approbation he drew near the poor sleeping old fellow, and slipped a wallet from under his feet, untied it, and took out a box, all the company flocking about, as if it had been lawful prize taken in war. He opened it, and found it full of lozenges; all which he took out, and supplied their place with stones, chips, and any rubbish that came next to hand, then laid about a dozen of little glittering stones there are among some fine lime with which in Spain, they plaster the outsides of houses, which glitters in the sun like bits of glass. This done, he shut up the box, and said, “I have not done yet, for he has a leather bottle”; out of which he poured all the wine, only some little he left in the bottom, and then stuffed it up with tow and wool, and stopped it. The scholar put all again into the wallet, and a great stone into the hood of his travelling coat, and then he and all the rest went to bed, to sleep about an hour or little more.
When it was time to set out, all the company waked and got up, and still the old man slept; they called him and he could not get up for the weight of the stone that was in his hood. He looked to see what it was, and the innkeeper pretended to quarrel with him, saying, “God o’ my life, could you pick up nothing else to carry away, father, but this stone? I had been finely served, gentlemen, if I had not discovered it; I value it above an hundred crowns because it is good for the pain in the stomach.” The old man swore and cursed that he had not put it into his hood; the bullies reckoned up the bill, which came to six crowns; but the best arithmetician in Christendom could never have made out that sum. The scholars asked what service they could do us at Alcalá; the reckoning was paid, we breakfasted, and the old man took up his wallet; but for fear we should see what he had in it, and so he might be obliged to distribute any, he untied it in the dark under his great coat, and laid hold of a bit of lime well daubed, which he clapped into his mouth, and going to crunch it with a tooth and a half he had, was like to lose them both. He began to spit and make faces, what with the pain, and what with the loathsome bit he had put into his mouth. We all went up to him, and the curate among the first, asking, “What ailed him?” He began to curse and swear, dropped down the wallet, and the scholar came up to him, saying, “Get behind me, Satan; here is the cross.” The other opened a breviary and would persuade him he was possessed, till at last he told what ailed him, and begged they would give him leave to wash his mouth with some wine he had in his leather bottle. They let him go, he opened his bottle, and pouring into a small dish, out came a little wine, so hairy and full of tow, that there was no drinking or enduring the sight of it. Then the old man fell a raving beyond measure, but seeing all the company burst their sides with laughing, he was fain to grow calm, and get up into the wagon with the bullies and wenches. The curate and scholars mounted on asses, and we went into the coach. We were scarce gone from the door before they all began to banter and ridicule us, declaring the trick they had put upon us. The innkeeper cried, “Good master freshman, a few of these handsels will make you old and wise.” The cursed scholar said, “Pray, cousin, the next time scratch when it itches, and not afterwards.” In short, everyone had his say; but we thought best to take no notice, though, God knows, we were quite out of countenance. At length we got to Alcalá and alighted at an inn, where we spent all that day, for we came in at nine in the morning, in reckoning up the particulars of our last supper, but could never make out the account.
Towards the evening, before it was dark, we left the inn, to go to the house that had been hired for us, which was without the Santiago Gate, in a court full of scholars; but in our house there were only three families of us. The owner, or landlord of it was one of those who believe in God out of complaisance or only in outward show, such as they vulgarly called Moriscos; for there are abundance of this sort of people, and of those that have great noses and cannot endure the smell of bacon. Yet I do not by this mean to reflect upon the people of quality, which are there very numerous and unspotted in blood. The landlord received me with a worse countenance than if I had been an Inquisitor come to ask him for his billet of faith; I know not whether he did it to make us respect him the more, or whether it was the nature of the beast, for it is no wonder they should be ill natured who are of such bad principles. We brought in our goods, made the beds, and rested that night. When it was day, all the scholars in the house came in their shirts to demand entrance money of my master. He being an utter stranger to that affair, asked me, “What it was they would be at?” whilst I at the same time, for fear of what might happen, thrust myself between two quilts, with only half my head out, like a tortoise. They demanded a couple of crowns, which were given them; and they set up a hellish cry, singing, “Long live our companion, and let him be admitted into our friendship; let him enjoy all the privileges of a freeman, and be allowed to have the itch, to be greasy, and as hungry as we are.” This said, they all tumbled down the stairs, we dressed ourselves, and set out for the schools. My master was conducted by some collegians, his father’s friends, and so took his place in the school; but I, being to go to another place, went all alone, and began to quake for fear. I had scarce set my foot into the great court, before they all faced me, and began to cry, “A new fellow!” The better to colour the matter, I fell a-laughing, as if I had not regarded it; but it availed me not, for eight or nine of them standing about me began to grin and laugh out. I blushed; would to God I had not, for immediately one that was next me clapped his hand to his nose, and stepping aside, said, “This Lazarus is for rising from the dead, he stinks so.” Then they all stood off, stopping their noses. I thinking to escape that way, held my nose too, and said, “You are in the right, gentlemen, here is a great stink.” They all burst out a-laughing, and getting farther off, gathered about a hundred strong. They began to hawk, and give the alarm with their throats, and by their coughing, and opening and shutting of their mouths, I perceived what they were preparing for me.10 By this time I was daubed all over from head to foot; but a sly dog observing that I was covered, and had nothing on my face, came running towards me, crying out, as if he had been in a passion, “Enough; do not murder him.” After all this they would have necked me as they do rabbits to kill them; but there was no touching me, without carrying off some part of their loathsome bounty, which hung all about my wretched cloak, then turned grey with filth, though it came in black. They left me, looking all over like an old man’s spitting-sheet. I went home, though I scarce knew the way; and it was good luck that this happened in the morning, for I met but two or three boys, who, I believe, were good-natured, for they only threw half a dozen dirty clouts at me, and went their ways. I got into the house, and the Moorish landlord seeing me, fell a-laughing, and made show us if he would have spit upon me; which I dreading, cried out, “Hold, landlord, for I am not the picture of Christ!” Would to God I had never said it, for he laid on to me several pounds with a couple of weights he had in his hand. Having got this good help besides all the rest, though half revenged, I went up, and was a long time before I could find out where to take hold of my cloak and cassock. At last I took them off, hanged them up on the terrace, and laid me down upon the bed.
My master coming in found me asleep, and not knowing of my loathsome disaster, was in a passion, and fell a-tugging me by the hair so furiously, that had I not waked immediately he had made me bald before my time. I started up, crying out and complaining, and he still more passionate, said, “This is a fine way of serving me, Pablo; ’tis a new way of life.” This went to my heart, and I answered, “You are a great comfort to me, sir, in my afflictions; do but see what a condition that cloak and cassock are in, which have served for handkerchiefs to the filthiest noses that ever poisoned clean linen.” This said, I fell a-weeping; which he perceiving, believed me, looked for the cassock, and seeing it, took pity on me, and said, “Pablo, be on your guard, and take care of yourself, for you have no father or mother to take your part here.” I told him all that had befallen me, and he ordered me to strip and go to my chamber, where four servants of the other lodgers in the house lay. I went to bed and slept, and being refreshed with that and a good supper, I found myself as well as if nothing had happened to me. But when misfortunes begin to fall, there is such a series of them linked together, as if they would never have an end. The other servants came to bed, who all saluted and asked me, “Whether I was sick, and what made me so soon abed?” I told them the whole story; and immediately, as if they had been innocence itself, they began to cross themselves, and said, “Was there ever such wickedness acted? This would not be tolerated among infidels.” Another cried, “The proctors are in the fault, that they do not take care to prevent it. Shall you know them again?” I answered, I should not, and thanked them for the kindness they seemed to show me. This discourse lasted till they stripped, went to bed, put out the candle, and I fell asleep, as if I had been with my mother and brothers. It was about twelve of the clock, I believe, when one of them waked me, roaring out in a dismal manner, “Help, help; they kill me; thieves!” At the same time there was a noise in his bed of voices and lashes. I held up my head, and said, “What is the matter there?” As soon as ever I uncovered myself, they laid on to my back with a rope made into a cat-o’-nine-tails. I cried out, and would have got up; the other complained as much as I, but it was me only they flogged. I called out for help in God’s name, but the lashes fell so thick upon me, they having pulled all the clothes off me, that I had no other refuge but to creep under the bed. I did so, and immediately the other three, who seemed to be sleeping, began all to roar out, and I hearing the lashes still, concluded that some stranger scourged us all. In the meanwhile the hellhound that was next me, skipped into my bed. This done the lashes ceased, and all four of them got up, crying out again, “It is a great villainy, and not to be endured.” Still I lay under my bed, whining like a dog that is pinched in a door, and shrinking myself all up, as if I had been drawn together by the cramp. The others made as if they had shut the door; then I crept out, got into my bed again, and asking, whether any of them was hurt, they all complained bitterly. I lay down, covered myself up warm, and fell asleep again; and happening to tumble about in my sleep, when I waked, I found myself all daubed up to my very neck. They all got up, and I pleaded the flogging for an excuse to lie abed. The devil himself could not turn me from one side. I was full of confusion, considering whether the fright and disorder had occasioned my committing myself in my sleep. In short, I was innocent and guilty at the same time, and knew not what excuse to make for myself. It is impossible to express the anguish I was in, what with shame, what with my finger that was disjointed, and what with the dread of being cramped. At length, fearing they would really put that villainy in execution, for they had really put cords about my thighs, I made as if I came to myself; yet I was not so quick, but that the rogues being knavishly bent, had whipped the cords about my thighs, and tugged so hard that they sunk them an inch into my flesh. Then they left me, crying, “Bless us, what a puny creature you are.” I cried for mere vexation, and they archly said, “It is all for your health’s good to be bemired; hold your peace.” This done, they washed me, laid me in the bed again, and went their way. Being left alone, I lay and considered, that what I had endured in one day at Alcalá was worse than all my sufferings under Cabra at the boarding school. At noon I dressed me, cleaned my cloak and cassock the best I could, washing it like an old clout, and waited for my master, who, when he came, asked me, “How I did?” All the family dined, and so did I, though I ate but little, having but an indifferent stomach at that time, and after dinner we all met to chat in an open gallery. The other servants, when they had sufficiently bantered me, discovering the trick they had put upon me, laughed heartily. I was worse out of countenance than before, and said to myself, “Look to yourself, Pablo, be on the alert.” I resolved to begin a new course of life; we were all made friends, and from that day forward lived as lovingly in the house together as if we had been all one mother’s children, and no man disturbed me any more at the schools or public places.
Do as you see them do, says the proverb; and it is well said. I took it so seriously into consideration, that I fully resolved to play the knave among knaves, and to outdo them all if possible. I know not whether I succeeded as I designed, but I am sure I used all my endeavours. I began by making a law, that it should be no less than death for any pigs to come into our house, or for any of our old housekeeper’s chickens to run out of the yard into our room. It happened one day, that two of the most elegant porkers that ever my eyes beheld slipped into our domain; I was then at play with the other servants, and hearing them grunt, said to one of my companions, “Go, see who it is that grunts in our house.” He went, and brought word they were two swine. No sooner had I heard these words but I went out in a passion, saying, “It was a great deal of impudence in them to grunt in other people’s houses.” Then clapping the door to, in the same heat of blood, I ran my sword into the throats of them both, and then we cut off their heads. To prevent their cry being heard abroad, we all set up our throats, roaring as loud as possibly we could, as if we had been singing; and so they gave up the ghost among us. We paunched them, saved the blood, and by the help of our straw bed, half singed them in the back yard; so that when our masters came home all was over, though after an indifferent manner; only the puddings were not yet made, which was not for want of expedition, for we had left half they had in the guts, merely to save loss of time. Don Diego and our steward were told the story, and flew into such a passion against me that the other lodgers, who were ready to burst with laughing, thought fit to take my part. Don Diego asked me what I could say for myself if the thing should be found out, and I should be taken up for it? I answered I would plead hunger, which is the common refuge of all scholars; and if that was not enough, I would urge that, seeing them come into the house without knocking as if they had been at home, I thought they had been our own. They all laughed at my plea, and Don Diego said, “By my troth, Pablo, you begin to understand your trade.” It was very well worth observing the difference between my master and me, he so sober and religious, and I so arch and knavish, so that the one was a foil to the other and served to set off either his virtue or vice. Our old housekeeper was pleased to the very heart, for we both played our parts, and had conspired against the larder. I was caterer, and a very Judas in my employment, and ever since retained an inclination to cribbing and stealing. The meat always wasted in the old jade’s keeping, and she never dressed wether-mutton when she could get ewe or goat; besides, she picked the flesh off the bones before she boiled them, so that the dishes served up looked as it the cattle had died of a consumption; and the broth was so clear, that, had it been consolidated, it might have passed for crystal; only now and then for change, that the soup might look a little fat, she clapped in a few candle ends. When I was by she would say to my master, “In troth, sir, little Pablo is the best servant in Spain, bating his unluckiness; but that may well enough be borne with, because he is honest. He buys the best the market affords.” I gave the same character of her, and so we put upon the whole house. If there was any store of coals, bacon, or oil laid in, we stole half of it, and some while after would say, “Pray, gentlemen, retrench your expenses a little, for if you go on at this rate, you had need have a mint of money; the coals or the oil is spent, but no wonder at the rate that you use it; you had best order more to be brought in. Sir, give little Pablo the money, and you will have a better account of it.” Money was accordingly given me, and we sold them the other half we had stole, and half of what we brought, and that was in full.
If ever I happened to buy anything in the market at the real value, then the old housekeeper and I would pretend to fall out and quarrel, and she seeming to be in a passion, would say, “Do not tell me, Pablo, that this is a pennyworth of salad.” Then I would seem to cry, and make a great deal of noise, went to complain to my master, and persuaded him to send the steward to inquire, that the old woman might be convinced, who still scolded on designedly. The steward went and found as I said, by which means both master and steward were imposed upon, and had the better opinion of me for my honesty, and of the housekeeper for her care. Don Diego being thus fixed in his good opinion of me, used to say to her, “Would to God Pablo were otherwise as virtuous as he is honest; I see plainly he is as trusty as you represent him.” Thus we held them in ignorance, and sucked them like horse leeches. I do not at all doubt, sir, but you wonder how much we might cheat them of at the year’s end; the total was certainly considerable, yet I suppose we were not obliged to make restitution, for the old woman never missed going to church daily, yet I never saw any disposition in her to restore the least part; nor did I perceive any scruple of conscience she made of it, though she was so great a saint. She always wore a pair of beads about her neck, so big that the wood of them might have served to roast a sirloin of beef. It was all hung with crosses, medals, pictures, and other trinkets, on all which she said she prayed every night for her benefactors. She had a catalogue of an hundred and odd saints that were her patrons; and in truth she had need of no less help to bear her out of all her wickedness. Her chamber was over my master’s, where she set up more prayers than a blind begger. And all in Latin, such as it was, for neither mortals on earth nor angels in heaven could understand it, which she did to appear the more innocent and simple; but we were ready to split our sides with laughing. Besides these she had many other excellent qualifications, for she was an extraordinary messenger of love and contriver of pleasure, which is the same as a bawd; but her excuse to me was that it came to her by descent, just as the kings of France had the gift of curing the king’s evil. You will imagine perhaps that we always lived in unity; but who does not know that the two best friends, if they are covetous, and live together, will endeavour to cheat one another; and I took care to let slip no opportunity.
The old woman kept hens in the yard, and had about a dozen or fourteen well-grown chickens, which made my teeth water to be at them, or they were fit to be served up to any gentleman’s table. It happened on day that when going to feed them, as the common custom is in Spain, she called them together, crying, “Pio, Pio, Pio.” This she repeated very often, and I being upon the catch, cried out as loud as she, “As God shall save me, mistress, I wish I had seen you kill a man, or clip the king’s coin, for then I might have kept your counsel—rather than do as you have done; and now I must be forced to discover it. The Lord have mercy upon us both!” She seeing me act all that concern and disorder, was somewhat startled, and said, “Why, what have I done, Pablo? If you are in jest, do not tease me any longer.” “What do you mean by jesting?” said I; “a curse on it, I cannot possibly avoid giving information to the Inquisition, else I shall be excommunicated.” “The Inquisition,” quoth she, trembling like a leaf on a tree; “why, have I committed any crime against religion?” “Why, there’s the case,” answered I; “don’t you think to dally with the Inquisitors. You had better own you were in the wrong, that you spoke like a fool; eat your words, and not deny the blasphemy and irreverence.” She replied in a great consternation: “But tell me, Pablo, will they punish me if I recant?” “No,” said I, “for then they will only absolve you.” “Then I recant,” quoth she; “but do you tell me what it is I am to recant, for I know nothing of it as I hope for mercy.” “Bless me,” replied I, “is it possible you should be so dull as not to reflect that, but I don’t know how to express it—the disrespect was so great that I am afraid to repeat it. Don’t you remember you called the chickens ‘Pio, Pio,’ and Pius is the name of several Popes, vicars of Christ, and heads of the Church? Now, do you consider whether that be any trifling sin?” She stood as if she had been thunderstruck, and after a while cried, “ ’Tis true I said so, Pablo, but may I be curs’d if I did it with any ill design. I recant; do you consider whether some means may not be found to avoid informing against me? For I shall die if they get me into the Inquisition.” “Provided you will take your oath,” answered I, “on the holy altar, that you did it not with any ill intent. I may, upon that assurance, forbear impeaching you; but then you must give me those two chickens that fed when you were calling them by that most sanctified name of the Popes, that I may carry them to an officer of the Inquisition for him to burn them, for they are defiled; and in the next place, you must swear positively never to be guilty of the like again. This you must do now, for tomorrow I’ll swear.” For the better fixing of this notion in her head, I went on: “The worst of it is, Cipriana” (for that was her name), “that I shall be in danger, for the Inquisitor will ask whether I am not the person, and may put me to trouble. Do you e’en carry them yourself, for I am afraid.” “For the Lord’s sake,” cried she, “Pablo, take pity on me, and do you carry them; there is no danger of your coming to any harm.” I made her press me a long while, and at last, though it was the thing I aimed at, I suffered myself to be persuaded. I took the chickens, hid them in my chamber, made show as it I went abroad, and came in again, saying, “It has fallen out better than I expected; the cunning officer would fain have come after me to see the woman, but I gave him the slip cleverly, and did the trick.” She hugged and kissed me, and gave me another chicken for my pains, which I carried to his companions, had them all dressed at the cook’s, and ate them with my fellow-servants. Don Diego and the housekeeper came to hear of the trick, and all the family made excellent sport with it. The old woman had like to have fretted herself to death for mere vexation, and was a thousand times in the mind, for revenge, to discover all my cheats, but that she was as deep in the dirt as I was in the mire. Being thus at variance with the old woman, and no way now left to put upon her, I contrived new ways to play my pranks, and fell to that the scholars call snatching and shoplifting, at which sport I had many pleasant adventures.
One night, about nine of the clock, at which time there are but few people abroad, passing through the great street, I spied a confectioner’s shop open, and in it a basket of raisins upon the counter. I whipped in, took hold of it, and set off a-running. The confectioner scoured after me, and so did several neighbours and servants. Being loaded, I perceived that though I had the start they would overtake me, and therefore turning the corner of the street, I clapt the basket upon the ground, sat down upon it, and wrapping my cloak about my leg, began to cry out, holding it with both hands, “God forgive him, he has trod upon me and crippled me.” They heard what I said, and when they came up I began to cry, “For the Lord’s sake pity the lame! I pray God you may never be lame!” They came to me, panting, and out of breath, and said, “Friend, did you see a man run this way?” “He is ahead of you,” answered I, “for he trod upon me.” With this they started again, and vanished. I was left alone, carried my basket home and told the story, which they would not believe, though they highly applauded the ingenuity, for which reason I invited them to see me steal a box of sweetmeats another night. They came, and observing that all the boxes were so far within the shop that there was no reaching them, concluded the thing was impracticable, especially because the confectioner, having heard what had happened to the other one, was upon his guard. However, I went on, and drawing my sword, which was a stiff tuck, about a dozen paces short of the shop, run on, and when I came up to the door, I cried out, “You are a dead man,” and made a strong pass just before the confectioner’s breast, who dropped down, calling for help, and my sword run clear through a box of sweetmeats, which I drew out with it and carried off. They were all amazed at the contrivance, and ready to burst with laughing, to hear the confectioner bid the people search him, for he was certainly wounded, and knew the other to be a man he had a falling out with; but when he turned about, the other boxes being disordered by the pulling out of that one, he discovered the cheat, and fell a blessing himself as if he would never have done. The truth of it is, I never ate anything that pleased me so well. My companions used to say, I could maintain the family with what I lifted, which is only a modest term for stealing. Being then but a boy, and hearing myself commended for these knavish pranks, it encouraged me to commit more. I used to bring home my girdle hung all round with little pitchers, which I stole from nuns, begging some water to drink of them, and when they turned it out in their wheel, I went off with the mugs, they being shut up, and not able to help themselves; so that it became a fashion not to give out anything without a pledge for the vessel.
After this I promised Don Diego and his companions that I would one night disarm the round. The night was appointed, and we set out upon the exploit. I went foremost with another servant of our family, and as soon as I discovered the watch, went up as if I had been in a great fright, saying, “Is it the round?” They answered, “It was.” Then said I, “Is the officer here?” They replied, “He was.” Then I kneeled down, and said, “Sir, it is in your power to do me right, to revenge my wrong, and to do the public a great piece of service; be pleased to hear a word or two I have to communicate in private, if you desire to secure some notorious criminals.” He stepped aside, and some of his officers were laying hands on their swords, and others taking out their rods of authority, whilst I said, “Sir, I am come from Seville, in pursuit of six of the most notorious malefactors in the world; they are all thieves and murderers, and among them is one that killed my mother and a brother of mine, without any provocation but to exercise his barbarity. This is proved upon him, and they all come, as I heard them say, with a French spy; and by what I can further guess from their words, he is sent (then I lowered my voice) by Antonio Pérez.”11 At these words the officer gave a start, and cried, “Where are they?” “They are, sir,” said I, “in a house of ill-fame; do not stay, good sir; the souls of my mother and brother will requite you with their prayers, and the king will reward you.” He said very earnestly, “Good God! let us lose no time; follow me all of you, and give me a target.” I took him aside again, and added, “Sir, the whole business will be spoiled if you do so; the only way to do it is, for them all to go in without swords, and one by one, for they are above in the rooms, and have pistols, and as soon as they see any come with swords, knowing that none can wear them but officers of justice, they will be sure to fire. It is better only to go in with your daggers, and then seize them by the arms behind, for we are enough of us.” The officer being eager to secure them at any rate, approved of my contrivance. By this time we were come near the place, and the officer, thus instructed by me, ordered them all to hide their swords in a field there is just before the house, under the grass. They did so, and went on. I had already instructed my companion that as soon as ever they laid their swords down, he should seize them, and make the best of his way home. He did so, and when they were all going into the house, I stayed out the last; and as soon as they were entered, being followed by several people they picked up by the way, I gave them the slip, and turned short into a narrow lane that comes out near the Victoria, running all the way as swift as a greyhound. When the round was all in the house, and found none there but scholars and scoundrels—which is all one—they began to look about for me, and not finding me, suspected it was some trick put upon them. Being thus disappointed, they went to take their swords, but there was no sign of them. It is impossible to tell what pains the officer, attended by the rector of the university, took that night. They searched all the town to the very beds, and when they came to ours, I was in bed, with a nightcap on, and close covered, for fear of being known, a candle lighted in one hand and a crucifix in the other, with a sham priest praying by me, and all the rest of my companions on their knees about the bed. The rector, with all his officers, came in, and seeing that spectacle, went out again, supposing no such prank could be played by any there. They made no search, but the rector prayed by me, and asked whether I was speechless; they answered, I was; and so away they went, in despair of making any discovery. The rector swore he would deliver up the offender, if he could find him; and the officer vowed he would hang him, though he were the son of a grandee of Spain. I got up, and this prank makes sport at Alcalá to this very day. To avoid being tedious, I omit giving an account of my robbing in the open market, as if it had been on a mountain; not a box or case escaped me, but I had it home, and kept the house in fuel all the year; and as for the apple-women, nothing was ever safe in their stalls or standings, for I had declared perpetual war against them, on account of the affront put upon me when I was king at Segovia. I pass by the contributions I raised on the fields of beans, vineyards, and orchards, all about that part of the country. These and the like practices gained me the reputation of a mischievous, cunning fellow among all people. The young gentlemen were so fond of me, that I had scarce leisure to wait on Don Diego, whom I honoured as he deserved for the great kindness he bore me.
At length Don Diego received a letter from his father, and with it one for me, from an uncle of mine, whose name was Alonso Ramplón, a man near akin to all the virtues, and very well known in Segovia as being the finisher of the law, and for four years past the carrying out of all its decrees went through his hands. In short, to speak plain, he was the executioner or hangman; but such a clever fellow at his business that it would not vex a man to be hanged by him, he did it so neatly. This worthy person wrote to me from Segovia to Alcalá as follows:
“Son Pablo” (for so he called me for the much love he bore me)—
“The great affairs of this employment in the which it has pleased his majesty to place me, have been the occasion of my not writing to you before; for if there be anything to find fault with in the king’s service, it is the great trouble and attendance it requires; which, however, is in some measure requited by the honour of being his servant. It troubles me to be forced to send you disagreeable news; but your father died eight days ago, with as much bravery and resolution as ever man did; I speak of my own knowledge, as having trussed him up myself. The cart became him as well as if it had been a chariot, and all that saw the rope about his neck concluded him as clever a fellow as ever was hanged. He looked up all the way he went at the windows, very much unconcerned, courteously bowing to all the tradesmen, that left their shops to gaze at him, and turned up his whiskers several times. He desired the priests that went to prepare him for death, not to be too eager, but to rest and take a breathing time, extolling any remarkable expressions they used. Being come to the triple tree, he presently set his foot on the ladder, and went up it nimbly, not creeping on all-four as others do; and perceiving that one of the rounds of it was cracked through, he turned to the officers attending, and bid them get it mended for the next that came, because all men had not his spirit. I cannot express how much his person and carriage were applauded. At the top of the ladder he sat down, set his clothes handsomely about him, took the rope and clapped the noose to his ear, and then perceiving the Jesuit was going to preach to him, he turned to him and said, ‘Father, I accept of the will for the deed. Let us have a few staves of a psalm, and have done quickly, for I hate to be tedious.’ This was done accordingly; he charged me to put on his cap a little to one side and to wipe his mouth, which I did. And then he swang, without shrinking up his legs, or making ugly faces; but kept such sedateness in his countenance that it was a pleasure to behold him. I quartered him out, and left the several parts on the highways. God knows what a trouble it is to me to see him there daily treating the crows and ravens. I cannot give you a much better account of your mother, for, though still living, she is a prisoner in the Inquisition at Toledo, because she would not let the dead rest in their graves. They give out that every night she used to salute a great he-goat, kissing him on the eye which has no pupil. In her house were found as many arms, legs, and heads as would have stocked a charnel house; and she reckoned it one of her smallest abilities to counterfeit virgins and solder cracked virtues. They say she would fly up a chimney, and ride faster upon a broom-staff than another can upon the best Andalusian nag. I am sorry she disgraces us all, and me more particularly as being the king’s officer, and such kindred does not become my post. Dear child, here are some goods of your father’s that have been concealed to the value of four hundred ducats; I am your uncle, and all I have is yours. Upon sight hereof you may come away hither, for your skill in Latin and rhetoric will qualify you to make you an excellent hangman. Let me have your answer speedily, and till then God keep you, etc.”
I must confess, I was much troubled at this fresh disgrace, and yet, in some measure, I was glad of it, for the scandalous lives of parents make their greatest misfortunes a comfort to their children. I went away hastily to Don Diego, who was then reading his father’s letter, in which he ordered him to leave the university and return home, but not to take me with him, because of the account he had received of my trickiness. He told me he must be gone, and how his father commanded him to part with me, which he was sorry for; and I was so much more. He added, he would recommend me to another gentleman, his friend, to serve him. I smiled, and answered, “Sir, the case is altered; I have other designs in my head, and aim at greater matters, so that I must take another course; for though hitherto I was at the foot of the ladder, in order to mount, you must understand that my father has got up to the top of it.” With this I told how bravely he had died, at his full stretch; how he was carved out, and served up as a feast to the birds of the air. That my good uncle, the executioner, had sent me the whole account, and acquainted me with my mammy’s confinement; for I could be plain with him, because he knew all my pedigree. He seemed to be much concerned, and asked how I intended to bestow myself. I informed him of all my resolutions, and so the very next day he went away for Segovia, very melancholy, and I stayed in the house, without taking the least notice of my misfortune. I burned the letter, for fear it might be dropped, and somebody read it, and began to provide for my journey to Segovia, designing to take possession of what was my due, and to know my kindred, that I might shun them.
At length the day came when I left the sweetest life I have ever known. I cannot express how much it troubled me to leave so many friends and dear acquaintance, for they were very numerous. I sold what little I had got underhand, to bear my charges on the way; and with some tricks and sleights of hand, made up about forty crowns, hired a mule, and left my lodging, where I had nothing to leave behind. The Lord alone knows what a hue and cry there was after me; the shoemaker roared for the shoes he had trusted me with; the old housekeeper scolded for her wages; the landlord fretted for his rent. One cried, “My heart always misgave me that I should be so served”; another said, “They were much in the right who told me that this fellow was a cheat.”
In short, I was so generally beloved that I left half the town in tears for me when I came away, and the other half laughing at those that bemoaned themselves. I diverted myself with these thoughts along the road, when having passed through the town of Torote, I overtook a man riding on a he-mule, with a pannel. He talked to himself very rapidly, and was so wrapt in imagination that he did not perceive me, though I was close by his side. I saluted him, and he returned the courtesy; then I asked which way he was travelling; and after a few such questions and answers had passed between us, began to discourse about the Turks coming down, and the king’s forces. Then he began to lay a scheme for recovering of the Holy Land, and the taking of Algiers; by which discourse I perceived that he was mad upon politics and government. We went on with our dialogue as became a couple of pleasant fellows, and skipping from one subject to another, fell last upon Flanders. There I hit his vein, for he fetched up a deep sigh, and said, “That country has cost me more than it has done the king; for I have been upon a project about these fourteen years, which were it not impracticable, as it is, would have set all right there long ago.” “What can that be,” answered I, “which is so convenient and useful, and yet at the same time impracticable, and not to be put in execution?” “Who told you,” replied he, very hastily, “that it cannot be put in execution? It can be executed, for its being impracticable is another matter; and were it not for fear of being troublesome, I would tell you what is; but it will all out; for I design very suddenly to print it, with some other small works of mine, among which I propose to the king two several methods for recovering Ostend.”12 I entreated him to acquaint me with them; and he, pulling some papers out of his pocket, showed me a draught of the enemy’s works and of ours, and said, “Sir, you plainly see that all this difficulty lies in this inlet of the sea; now, my contrivance is to suck it dry with sponges, and so to remove that obstacle.” This wild notion made me burst into a loud fit of laughter, and he, looking me earnestly in the face, went on, “I never showed it to anybody but has done the same as you do, for they are all mightily pleased with it.” “Truly,” replied I, “it is an extraordinary pleasure and satisfaction to me to be acquainted with a design so novel and reasonable; but, sir, be pleased to consider, that when you have once sucked up the water that is in it, the sea will throw in more.” “The sea will do no such thing,” answered he, “for I have examined it very nicely; besides that, I have found out an invention to sink the sea twelve fathoms all about there.” I durst not make any objection, for fear he should say he had a project to draw down the sky to us. In all my days I never met with such a madman. He told me that Juanelo, a famous engineer, who brought water from the river Tagus up a vast hill, to serve the city Toledo, had done nothing; for he was now contriving to bring the whole river up to that city a much easier way; and when he came to explain the method, it was to be by a spell; pray do but mind whether ever such follies were heard of in the world; but he went on, and added, “Yet I do not design to put this in execution, unless the king will first settle a good estate upon me, and knight me, for I am capable enough of that honour, because I have good testimonials of my gentility.” This rambling, wild discourse lasted us to Torrejón, where he stayed to see a kinswoman. I went on very well pleased, and laughing heartily at the projects he spent his time in.
I had not gone far before I spied at a distance a mule loose, and a man by her afoot, who looking into a book, drew some lines, and measured them with a pair of compasses. He leaped and skipped about from side to side, and now and then laying one finger upon the other, made several extravagant motions. I must confess, that stopping at a good distance some time to observe him, I at first concluded he was a conjurer, and was almost afraid to go on. At last I resolved to venture, and drawing near, he spied me, shut his book, and going to mount, his foot slipped out of the stirrup and he fell. I helped him up, and he said, “I took not the due proportion in rising, to make the half circumference of mounting.” I did not understand what he meant, but presently guessed what he was, for a more extravagant distracted man was never born of a woman. He asked whether I was going to Madrid in a direct line, or took a circumflex road? Though I did not understand him, yet I answered, “That by circumflex.” Next he asked me whose sword that was by my side? and having answered it was mine, he viewed it, and said, “That bar ought to be longer, to ward off the cuts that are made upon the centre of the thrusts.” And thus he went on, sputtering out such a parcel of big words, that I was fain to ask him what his profession was? He told me that he was a solid master of the noble science of defence, and would make it good upon any ground in Spain. I could not forbear laughing, and answered, “By my troth, sir, I rather took you for a conjurer, when I saw you describing circles, and making such antic motions in the field.” “The reason of that,” replied he, “was because there occurred to me a thrust in quart, fetching the greater compass, to engage my adversary’s sword, and killing him before he can say his soul is his own, that he may not discover who did it; and I was then reducing of it to mathematical rules.” “Is it possible,” said I, “that the mathematics should be concerned in that affair?” “Not only the mathematics,” quoth he, “but divinity, philosophy, music, and physic.” “I do not question it as to the last,” said I, “since that art aims at killing.” “Do not make a jest of it,” continued he, “for I will now teach you an excellent guard, and at the same time you shall lay on the great cuts, which shall contain the spiral lines of the sword.” “I do not understand one word of all you say,” answered I. And he again, “Why, here you have them in this book, which is called, The Wonders of the Sword.13 It is an excellent one, and contains prodigious things; and to convince you of it, at Rejas, where we shall lie tonight, you shall see me perform wonders with two spits; and you need not question but that whosoever reads this book, will kill as many as he pleases.” “Either that book teaches men how to make plagues,” replied I, “or it was written by some doctor of physic.” “What do you mean by a doctor?” replied he. “He is an extraordinary wise man, and I could find in my heart to say more.”
We held on this ridiculous discourse till we came to Rejas, and went into an inn; but as we were alighting, he called out to me as loud as he could, to be sure first to form an obtuse angle with my legs, and then reducing them to parallel lines, to come perpendicularly to the ground. The landlord seeing me laugh, did so to, and asked me, “Whether that gentleman was an Indian, that he spoke in such a sort.” I thought I should have died with laughing between them; but he presently went up to the host, and said, “Pray, sir, lend me a couple of spits to make two or three angles, and I will restore them immediately.” “Lord bless me, sir,” answered the host, “give me the angles, and my wife will roast them in a trice, though they are a sort of birds I never heard the names of before.” “They are no birds,” replied the other; and turning to me, added, “Pray, sir, do but observe the effects of ignorance. Let me have the spits, for I want them only to fence with, and perhaps you will see me do that today which may be worth more to you than all you have got in your life.” In fine, the spits were in use, and we were fain to take up with two long ladles. Never was anything so ridiculous seen in this world. He gave a skip, and said, “This sally gains me more ground, and puts by my adversary’s sword; now I make my advantage of the remiss motion to kill in the natural way; this should be a cut, and this a thrust.” He came not within a mile of me, but danced round with his ladle; now I standing still all the while, all his motions looked as if he were fencing with a pot that is boiling over the fire. Then he went on, saying, “In short, this is the true art, not like the drunken follies of fencing-masters, who understand nothing but drinking.” The words were scarce out of his mouth before a great he-mulatto stepped out of the next room, with a pair of whiskers like two brushes, a hat as big as an umbrella, a buff-doublet under a loose coat, bandy-legged, hook-nosed, and with two or three signs of the cross on his face, a dagger that might have served Goliath, and a hanging look, and said, “I am an approved master, and have my certificate about me, and by this light I’ll make an example of any man that dare presume to reflect upon so many brave fellows as profess the noble science.”14 Seeing we were likely to be in a broil, I stepped in, and said, “He had not spoken to him, and therefore he had no occasion to be affronted.” “Draw your sword, if you have ever a one,” added he, “and let us try who has most skill, without playing the fool with ladles.” My poor wretched companion opened his book, and cried aloud, “Here it is, as I say, in the book, and it is printed by authority; and I’ll maintain with the ladle that all it contains is true; or else without the ladle, either here, or upon any other ground; and if anybody does not believe it, let us measure it.” This said, he pulled out his compasses, and went on, “This is an obtuse angle.” The fencing-master drew his dagger, and replied, “I neither know who is angle, nor who is obtuse; nor did I ever hear such words before; but I’ll cut you in pieces with this dagger in my hand.” He ran at the poor devil, who fled from him amain, skipping about the house, and crying, “He cannot hurt me, for I have gained upon his sword.” The landlord and I parted them, with the help of other people that came in, though I was scarce able to stand for laughing. The honest madman was put into his chamber, and I with him. We supped, and all the house went to bed. About two of the clock he got up in his shirt, and began to ramble about the room, skipping and sputtering a deal of nonsense in mathematical terms. He waked me, and not satisfied with this, went down to the landlord to give him a light, saying he had found a fixed object for the cross pass upon the bow. The landlord wished him at the devil for waking him; but still the other tormented him, till he called him a madman, and then he came up and told me, if I would rise I should see the curious fence he had found out against the Turks and their scimitars, and added, he would go show it to the king immediately, because it was very advantageous to Christendom. By this time it was day, we all got up and paid our shot. We reconciled the madman and the fencing-master, who went away, saying, “That what my companion alleged was good in itself, but it made more men mad than skilful at their weapon, because not one in a hundred understood the least part of it.”
I held on my journey to Madrid, and my mad companion went off to go another road; when he had gone a little way he turned back very hastily, and calling on me as loud as he could, though we were in the open where none could hear us, he whispered in my ear, “Pray, sir, let me conjure you, as you hope to live, not to discover any of the mighty secrets I have acquainted you with, relating to the art of fencing, but keep them to yourself, since you are a man of sound judgment.” I promised so to do; he went his way again, and I fell a-laughing at the comical secret. I travelled about a league without meeting anybody, and was considering with myself how difficult a matter it was for me to tread the paths of virtue and honour, since it was requisite, in the first place, that I should hide the scandal of my parents, and then have so much worth myself as to conceal me from their shame. These thoughts seemed to me so honourable, that I congratulated myself on them, and said, “It will be much more honourable in me, who had none to learn virtue from, than in those who had it hereditary from their predecessors.” My head was full of these ideas, when I overtook a very old clergyman riding on a mule towards Madrid. We fell into discourse, and he asked me whence I came? I told him, from Alcalá. “God’s curse,” said he, “on those low people, since there was not one man of sense to be found among them.” I asked how could that be said of such a town, where there were so many learned men? He answered, in a great passion, “Learned! I’ll tell you how learned, sir! I have for these fourteen years last past made all the songs and ballads and the verses for the bedels at Corpus Christi and Christmas, in the village of Majalahonda,15 where I am reader; and those you call learned men, when I put up some of my works among the rest, at the public act, took no notice of mine. And that you may be sensible, good sir, of the wrong they did me, I will read them to you;” and accordingly he began as follows:
Come, shepherds, let us dance and play
On great saint Corpus Christi’s day;
For he comes down to give its thanks,
For all our kind and loving pranks.
When we have drunk and made all even,
He flies back again to heaven.
What he does there I cannot say,
Since here with us he will not stay.
Come, shepherds, let us dance and play, etc.
Having read this admired piece, which was too long to remember any more of it, he proceeded: “Now, sir, could the very inventor of doggerel himself have said anything finer than this? Do but consider what a deal of mystery there is in that word ‘Shepherds’; it cost me about a month’s hard study.” I could no longer contain myself within bounds, for I was ready to burst, and so breaking out into a loud fit of laughter, I said, “It is most wonderful; but I observe you call great saint ‘Corpus Christi,’ whereas ‘Corpus Christi’ is not the name of a saint, but a festival instituted in honour of the blessed sacrament.” “That’s a pretty fancy,” replied he, scornfully, “I’ll show you him in the calendar, and he is canonized, and I’ll lay my head on it.” I could not contend any more with him for laughing at his unaccountable ignorance, but told him his verses deserved to be highly rewarded, for I had never seen anything more comical in my life. “No?” said he; “then pray hear a little of a small book I have written in honour of the eleven thousand virgins. I have composed fifty stanzas, of eight verses each, to every one of them; a most excellent piece.” For fear of being pestered with so many millions of his lines, I desired him to show me anything that was not godly; and then he began to recite a comedy, which had as many acts as there are days in a year. He told me he writ it in two days, and that was the rough draught, and might be about half a ream of paper. The name of it was Noah’s Ark; the whole represented by cocks and mice, asses, foxes, and wild boars, like Æsop’s fables. I extolled both the plot and the conduct; and he answered, “I ought not to commend it because it is my own, but the like was never made in the world, besides that it is altogether new; and if I can but get it acted, there will be nothing so fine. All the difficulty lies in that, for if it were not, could anything be so sublime and lofty? However, I have contrived to have it all acted by parrots, jackdaws, magpies, starlings, and all other sorts of birds as speak, and to bring in monkeys for the farce.” “That indeed will be very extraordinary,” answered I. “All this is nothing,” replied the old man, “to what I have done for the sake of a woman I love. Here are nine hundred and one sonnets, and twelve rondeaux”—as if he had been reckoning up pounds, shillings, and pence—“made in praise of my mistress’s legs.” I asked him whether he had ever seen them? He replied he had not, on his word as a priest, but that all his conceits were by way of prophecy. Though it was a diversion to hear his nonsense, I must confess I dreaded such a multitude of barbarous verses, and therefore endeavoured to turn off the discourse another way, telling him I saw hares. “Then,” cried he, “I’ll begin with one, in which I compare her legs to that creature.” Still to bring him off that subject, I went on, “Don’t you see that star, sir, which appears by daylight?” “As soon as I have done with this,” replied he, “I will read you the thirtieth sonnet, where I call her a star, for you talk as if you were acquainted with my fancies.” It was such a vexation to me to find I could name nothing but what he had writ some nonsense upon, that I was all joy when I perceived we drew near Madrid, believing he would then give over for shame; but it proved quite contrary, for as soon as we came into the street, he began to raise his voice, to show what he was. I entreated him to forbear, lest if the boys should once get the scent of a poet, all the rotten oranges and cabbage stumps in the town should come after us, in regard the poets were declared madmen, in a proclamation set out against them, by one that had been of the profession, but recanted and took up in time. This put him in a great consternation, and he begged me to read it to him if I had it. I promised him so to do when we came to the lodging-house; and accordingly we went to one where he used to alight, and found at least a dozen blind ballad-singers at the door. Some knew him by the scent, and others by his voice, and all of them gave him a volley of welcomes. He embraced them all, and then some began to ask him for verses on the day of judgment in a lofty, bombastical style, that might provoke action; others would have commemorations for the departed; and so the rest, everyone according to his fancy, giving him eight reals a-man earnest. He dismissed them, and said to me, “I shall make above three hundred reals of the blind men, and therefore, with your leave, sir, I’ll withdraw for awhile now, to compose some lines, and after dinner we will hear the proclamation read, if you please.” Wretched life! for none are more miserable than those madmen that get their bread by such as are as mad as themselves.
The poet withdrew awhile to study profaneness and nonsense for the blind ballad-singers till it was dinnertime, which being over, they desired to have the proclamation read, and having nothing else to do at that time, I drew it out and complied with their desires. I have inserted it here, because I reckon it ingenious, and pat to the purposes mentioned in it. It ran as follows:
The old poetaster laughed out very heartily when he heard this title, and said, “I might have had business cut out till tomorrow; I thought this had concerned me, and it is only against numskull poets.” I was mightily pleased with his conceit, as if he had been a Horace or a Virgil. I skipped over the preamble, and began with the first article, which was as follows:
In regard that this sort of vermin, called “poets,” are our neighbours and Christians, though wicked ones, and considering they spend all their days in worshipping of eyes, mouths, noses, and old ribbons and slippers, besides many other abominable sins they are guilty of, we think fit to direct and ordain, that all common halfpenny poets be confined together against Easter, as lewd women are wont to be, and that care be taken to convince them of their evil practices, and to convert them; and to this purpose we do appoint monasteries of penitent poets.
Item. Observing the excessive heats and droughts in the dog-days, caused by the abundance of suns, and other brighter stars, created and produced by those high-flying poets, we enjoin perpetual silence as to all heavenly beings, and appoint two months’ vacation for the Muses, as well as for the law, that they may have some time to recruit and recover the continual charge they are at.
Item. Forasmuch as this infernal sect of men, condemned to eternal flights, as murderers of good words and ravishers of sentences, have infected the women with the plague of poetry, we declare that we look upon this mischief done them as a sufficient revenge for the damage we received from their sex at the beginning of the world; and to supply the present wants and necessities the world now labours under, we do farther ordain, that all the songs and other verses, made by poets in praise of women, be burned like old lace, to take out the gold and silver they put into their lady’s hair and skins, and that all the oriental pearls, rubies, and precious stones be picked out of them, since they are so full of those rich metals and jewels.
Here the old poetaster was quite out of patience, and starting up in a fume, cried, “They had even as good rob us of all we have. Pray, sir, let us have no more of it, for I design to reverse that judgment, and remove the cause, not to chancery, for that would be a wrong to my coat and dignity, but to the spiritual court, where I will spend all I am worth. It would be very pleasant that I, who am a churchman, should put up with that wrong. I will make it appear that an ecclesiastical poet’s verses are not liable to that proclamation, and to lose no time, I will go and prove it in open court immediately.” I could have laughed heartily at him, but for the more expedition, because it grew late, I said to him, “Sir, this proclamation is made only for diversion, and is of no force, nor binding, as having no lawful authority.” “A vengeance on it,” replied the old man, in a great heat, “you should have told me so much before, sir, and might have saved me all this trouble. Do you consider what a thing it is for a man to have a stock of eight hundred thousand songs and ballads by him, and to hear such a decree? Proceed, sir, and God forgive you for putting me into such a fright.” Then I went on thus:
Item. For that very many, since they left their ancient idolatry of heathen gods and goddesses, still retaining some Pagan superstitions, are turned shepherds, which is the cause that the cattle are withered up with drinking nothing but their tears, and parched with the fire that continually burns in their souls, and so charmed with their music, that they forget to feed; we do ordain, that they quit that employment, and that such as love solitude have hermitages appointed them, and the rest be coachmen and watermen, because those are callings given to much mirth and ribaldry.
“It was some scoundrel, cuckoldy whoreson,” cried the mad rhymer, “that contrived this proclamation; and if I knew the dog, I would write such a satire upon him as should fret his soul, and all that read it. What a pretty figure a smooth-faced man as I am would make in a hermitage? And would it be fit for a person dignified as reader to turn coachman? Enough, sir, those jests are not to be borne with.” “I told you before,” said I, “that this is all a jest, and as such you may hear it.” This said, I proceeded:
Item. To prevent all wrongs, we do appoint that, for the future, no verses be imported from France or Italy, or other foreign parts, whence our poets steal, and pretend to make them their own; and that whatsoever poet shall be found guilty of this offence, be obliged to wear good clothes, and to keep himself clean and sweet for a week at least.
Our poet was very well pleased with this decree, for he wore a cassock that was grey with age, and so ragged, that it was a wonder he could go about without dropping in pieces. His gown and other accoutrements were only fit to manure the ground, which made me smile. And I told him: It is further ordained, That all women, who fell in love with mere poets, should be reputed as desperate persons, who hang or drown themselves, and as such never be buried in hallowed ground. And considering the mighty crop of roundelays, sonnets, songs and ballads, these over-rank years have produced, we do ordain, that all parcels of them, which have escaped the grocers and tobacconists as unworthy those employments, be sent to the necessary houses, without any appeal allowed them.
To conclude; I came to the last article which runs thus:
However, taking it into our pitiful consideration, that there are three sorts of persons in the nation so very miserable that they cannot live without this sort of poets, which are players, blind men, and ballad-singers; we do ordain that there may be some journeymen of this profession, provided they be licensed by the aldermen-poets of their wards; with this limitation, that the players-poets shall not use any devils or conjurers in their farces, nor conclude their comedies in matrimony; that the blind men shall not sing dismal stories which happened at Jerusalem or Morocco, nor patch up their verses with “eke also, and well a-day,” and the like; and, that the ballad-singers shall no longer run upon Gil and Pascual, nor quibble upon words, nor contrive their songs so, that altering but the names, they may serve upon all occasions. To conclude, we command all poets in general to discard Jupiter, Venus, Apollo, and all the herd of heathen gods and goddesses, on pain of having none but them to pray by them on their deathbed.
All that heard the proclamation read were highly pleased, and begged copies of it; only the old man began to swear by his Bible, that it was a satire upon him, because of what it contained concerning the blind men, and that he knew what he did better than any man, and went on, saying, “Do not mistake me, I once lay in the same house with Liñan, and dined several times with Espinel, and was in Madrid as near Lope de Vega as to any man in the room, and have seen Don Alonso de Ercilla a thousand times, and have a picture at home of the divine Figueroa, and I bought the old breeches Padilla left off when he became a friar, which I still wear, though bad enough.” These were all old Spanish famous poets, with whom he pretended to be thus acquainted, as if the knowledge of them would have made his nonsense the more tolerable. At the same time he showed us the breeches, which set all the company into such a fit of laughing, that none of them cared to leave the lodging. But it was now two of the clock, and having to travel further, we left Madrid. I took my leave of him, though unwillingly enough, and travelled on towards the pass on the mountains.
It pleased God, to divert me from evil thoughts, that I met with a soldier; we fell into discourse. He asked me whether I came from the Court? I told him I only passed through the town. “It is fit for nothing else,” answered the soldier, “it is full of base people; by the Lord, I had rather lie at a siege up to the waist in snow, expecting a kind bullet, and half starved, than endure the insolencies they offer a man of honour.” I replied, he should consider that at Court there were people of all sorts, and that they made great account of any person of worth. He cut me off short, saying in a great passion, “Why, I have been this half year at Court, suing for a pair of colours, after twenty campaigns, and having shed my blood in the king’s service, as appears by these wounds.” And at the same time he showed me a scar half a quarter long on his groin, which was as plain a tumour as the light of the sun; and two seams on his heels, saying, they had been shots; but I concluded, by some I have of the same sort, that they had been chilblains broken. He pulled off his hat to show me his face, where appeared a long gash from ear to ear, and quite across his nose, besides other smaller cuts, that made it look like a mathematical draught, all of lines. “These,” said he, “I received at Paris, serving my God and my king, for whom I have had my countenance carved out and disfigured; and in return, I have received nothing but fair words, which are equivalent at present to foul actions. Let me entreat you, learned sir, to read these papers; for, by heavens, a more remarkable man, I vow to God, never went into the field”; and he spoke truth, for he had marks enough to be known by. With this, he began to pull out tin-cases, and to show me a multitude of papers, which I believed belonged to another, whose name he had borrowed. I read them, and said a thousand things in his praise, pretending that neither the Cid nor Bernardo could compare with him. He laid hold of what I said in a passion, and cried, “To compare with me; by this light! no more can García de Paredes, Julian Romero, nor others as great as they! Damn all they did, there was no cannon in their days. The devil take me, Bernardo would be a mere chicken now. Pray, sir, do you but inquire in the Low Countries about the exploit performed by the person that wanted a tooth in front, and you will hear what they say of it.” “Are you the person, sir?” said I. And he replied, “Why, who do you think it was? Do you not see here is a breach in my teeth? But let us talk no more of it, for it does not become a man to praise himself.” This discourse held us along till we overtook a hermit riding on an ass, with a long beard like a brush, lean, and clad in sackcloth. We saluted him as usual with the words Deo Gratias; and he began to extol the corn on the ground, and in it the mercies of God. The soldier immediately flew out, and said, “Father, I have seen pikes charged against me thicker than that corn; and I vow to God, I did all that man could do at the sacking of Antwerp, that I did by the Lord!” The hermit reproved him for swearing so much, and he answered, “It is a sign you were never a soldier, Father, since you reprove me for exercising my calling.” It made me laugh to hear what he made soldiery to consist in, and perceived he was some scoundrel, who knew little of that noble profession, but that infamous part most used by the scum of those that follow it.
We came at length to the pass in the mountains, the hermit praying all the way on a pair of beads so big, it was a load; and every bead he dropped sounded like a stroke with a mallet. The soldier compared the rocks to the forts he pretended to have seen, observed what place was strong, and where the cannon might be planted for battery. I had my eyes fixed on them both, and was as much afraid of the hermit’s monstrous beads as of the soldier’s extravagant lies. “How easily,” said he, “would I blow up a great part of this pass with gunpowder, and do all travellers good service.” Thus we came to Cerecedilla, and went into an inn all three of us, after nightfall; we ordered supper, though it was Friday, and in the meanwhile the hermit said, “Let us divert ourselves awhile, for idleness is the source of all vice. Let us play for Ave Marias;” and so saying, he dropped a pack of cards out of his sleeve. I could not but laugh at that pleasant sight, considering the great beads; but the soldier cried, “Let us have a friendly game as far as an hundred reals will go I have about me.” Being covetous, I said I would venture the like sum, and the hermit, rather than disoblige, consented, telling us he had about two hundred reals to buy oil for the lamp. I must confess I thought to have sucked up all his oil, but may the Turk always succeed as I did. We played at lanskenet, and the best of it was he pretended that he did not understand the game, and made us teach it him. He let us win for two deals, but then turned so sharp upon us, that he left us bare, and became our heir before we were dead. The dog palmed upon us so slily, it was a shame to see him; he would now and then let us draw a single stake, and then double it upon us. The soldier, every card he lost, let fly half a score oaths, and twice as many curses, wrapped up in blasphemies. For my part, I was eating my nails, whilst the hermit drew my money to him. He called upon all the saints in heaven, and in short left us penniless. We would have played on upon some little pledges, but when he had won my six hundred reals and the soldier’s hundred, he said that was only for pastime, and we were all brethren, and therefore he would not meddle any farther. “Do not swear,” said he, “for you see I have had good luck, because I prayed to God.” We believed him, as not knowing the sleight he had at packing the cards; the soldier swore he would never play again, and so did I. “A curse on it,” cried the poor ensign, for he then told me he was so; “I have been among Turks and infidels, but was never so stripped.” The good hermit laughed at all we said, and pulled out his beads again. Having never a stiver left, I desired him to treat me at supper, and pay for our lodgings till we came to Segovia, since he had cleared our pockets. He promised so to do, devoured threescore eggs, the like I never beheld, and said he would go take his rest. We all lay in a great hall among other people, all the rooms being taken up before. I lay down very melancholy. The soldier called the landlord, and gave him charge of his papers in the tin cases, and a bundle of tattered shirts, and so we went to sleep. The hermit made the sign of the cross, and we blessed ourselves from him.
He slept, and I watched, contriving how to get his money from him. The soldier talked in his sleep about his hundred reals, as if they had not been past retrieving. When it was time to rise, he called hastily for a light, which was brought, and the landlord gave the soldier his bundle, but forgot his papers. The poor ensign made the house ring, calling for his services. The landlord was amazed, and everybody pressing that he should give them, he ran out and brought three close-stools, saying, “There is one for each of you, would you have any more?” (For in Spanish, “services” is a polite word for a close-stool.) This had like to have spoiled all, for the soldier got up in his shirt, with his sword in his hand, and ran after the landlord, swearing he would murder him; because he made a jest of him, who had been at the battles of Lepanto, St. Quintin, and several others, and brought him close-stools instead of the papers he had given him. We all ran after to hold him, and could not, whilst the landlord cried, “Sir, you asked me for services; I was not bound to know, that in the language of soldiers, they gave that name to the certificates of their exploits.” At length we appeased them, and returned to our room. The hermit, fearing the worst, lay abed, pretending the fright had done him harm; however, he paid our reckoning, and we set out towards the mountain, very much disturbed at his behaviour towards us, and much more for that we had not been able to get his money from him.
We came up with a Genoese, I mean one of those bankers who help to drain Spain of all its money. He was going up the mountain, with a servant behind him, and an umbrella over his head, much like a rich usurer. We fell into discourse with him, and still he turned it to talk of money, for they are a people that seem born for nothing but the purse. He presently fell upon Besançon, and to argue whether it were convenient or no to put out money at Besançon. At last the soldier and I asked him what gentleman that was he talked of? He answered, smiling, “It is a town in Italy, where all the great money-dealers meet to settle the exchange and value of coin.” By which we understood that Besançon was the great exchange of usurers. He entertained us on the way, telling he was undone because a bank was broke in which he had above sixty thousand ducats; and swore by his conscience to all he said, though I am of opinion that conscience among traders is like a virtue among whores, which they sell though they have none. Scarce any trader has any conscience, for being informed that it has a sting, they leave it behind them with the navel-string when they come into the world. We held on our conversation till we spied the walls of Segovia, which was a great satisfaction to me, though the thoughts of what I had endured under the wicked Cabra, at the starving boarding school, would have given a check to my joy. When I came to the town, I spied my father waiting upon the road, which brought tears to my eyes; but I went on, being much altered since I left the place, for I began to have a beard and was well clad. I parted from my company, and considering who was most likely to know my uncle besides the gallows, I could not imagine whom to apply myself to. I went up and asked several people for Alonso Ramplón, and nobody could give me any tidings of him, everyone said he did not know him: I was very glad to find so many honest men in my town. As I stood there, I heard the common crier set up his note, and after him my good uncle playing his part. There came a file of bareheaded fellows, naked to the waist, before my uncle, and he played a tune upon all their backs, going from the one to the other. I stood gazing at this sight, with a man I had been inquiring of, and told him I was a person of high birth; when I saw my uncle draw near, and he espying me, ran to embrace me, calling me nephew. I thought I should have died for shame; I never looked back to take leave of the man I was with, but went along with my uncle, who said to me, “You may follow till I have done with these people, for we are now upon our return, and you shall dine with me today.” I, being mounted on my mule, and thinking in that gang I should be but one degree less exposed than those that were whipped, told him I would wait there, and stepped a little aside, so very much out of countenance that had not the recovery of my inheritance depended on him, I would never more have spoken to him, or been seen in that place. He concluded his exercise, came back, and carried me to his house, where I alighted, and we dined.
My worthy uncle was lodged near the slaughterhouse, at a water-seller’s house. We went in, and he said to me, “My lodging is not a palace, but I assure you, nephew, it stands conveniently for my business.” We went up such a pair of stairs that I longed to be at the top, to know whether there was any difference betwixt it and the ladder at the gallows. There we came into such a low room that we walked about as if we had been all full of courtesy, bowing to one another. He hung up the cat-of-nine-tails on a nail, about which there were others with halters, broad knives, axes, hooks, and other tools belonging to the trade. He asked me why I did not take off my cloak and sit down? I answered, “I did not use to do so.” I cannot express how much I was out of countenance at my uncle’s infamous profession, who told me it was lucky that I came at such a time, for I should have a good dinner, because he had invited some friends. As we were talking, in came one of those that beg money at the church-doors for the release of souls, in a purple gown down to his heels, and rattling his questing box, said, “I have got as much today by my souls as you have done by the rogues you flogged.” They made grimaces at one another; the wicked soul-broker tucked up his long robe, discovering a pair of bandy legs and canvas breeches, and began to shift about, asking whether Clement was come? My uncle told him he was not, when at the same time in came an acorn thresher—I mean a swineherd, wrapped up in a clout, with a pair of wooden shoes on. I knew him by his horn he had in his hand, which had been more fashionable had it been upon his head. He saluted us after his manner, and next to him in came a left-handed squinting mulatto, with a hat that had brims like an umbrella and a crown like a sugar-loaf; his sword with more guards about it than at the king’s hunting; a buff-doublet; and a face as full of scars as if it had been made of patches stitched together. He sat down, saluting all the company, and said to my uncle, “By my troth, Alonso, Flat Nose and the Nailer have been well mauled today.” Up started he of the souls, and cried “I gave Flechilla, the hangman of Ocana, four ducats, to put on the ass apace and play with a slender cat-of-nine-tails, when I was fly-flapp’d there.” “By the Lord,” quoth the mulatto, “I was too kind to the dog Lobrezno at Murcia, for the ass went a snail’s gallop all the way, and the rogue laid them on so, that my back was all weals.” “My back is virgin still,” said the swineherd. “To every hog comes his Martinmas,” answered the beggar.16 “I must say that for myself,” quoth my good uncle, “that of all whipsters I am the man, who am true and trusty to these that bespeak me; these today gave me five crowns, and they had a parcel of friendly lashes with the single cat-of-nine-tails.” I was so much out of countenance to see what good company my uncle kept, that my blushes betrayed me, and the mulatto perceiving it, said, “Is this reverend gentleman the person that suffered the other day, and had a certain number of stripes given him?” I answered, “I was none of those that suffered as they had done.” With this my uncle started up, and said, “This is my nephew, a graduate at Alcalá, and a great scholar.” They begged my pardon, and made tenders of great friendship.
I was quite mad to eat my dinner, receive what was due, and get as far as I could from my uncle. The cloth was laid, and the meat drawn up in an old hat, as they draw up the alms that is given in prisons. It was dished up in broken platters, and pieces of old crocks and pans, being dressed in a stinking cellar, which was still more plague and confusion to me. They sat down, the beggar at the upper end, and the rest as it fell out. I will not tell what we ate, but only that they were all dainties to encourage drinking. The mulatto, in a trice, poured down three pints of pure red. The swineherd seeing the cup stand at me, still whipt it off, pledging more healths than we spoke words; no man called for water, or so much as thought of it. Five good meat pasties were served up; they raised the crusts, and taking a holy-water sprinkler, said a short prayer for the soul to whom the flesh belonged. Then said my uncle, “You remember, nephew, what I wrote to you about your father; it now comes afresh into my mind.” They all ate, but I took up only with the bottoms, and ever since then I have retained the custom of saying a prayer for the soul departed when I eat meat pies. The pots went round without ceasing, and the mulatto and the beggar plied it so hard, that a dish of scurvy sausages, looking like fingers of blacks cut off, being set upon the table, one of them asked what they meant by serving up dressed charcoal? My uncle by this time was in such a condition, up to the throat in wine, with one eye almost out and the other half drowned, that laying hold of one of the sausages, in a hoarse and broken voice, he said, “By this bread, which is God’s creature, made to his own image and likeness, I never ate better black meat, nephew.” It made me laugh with one side of my mouth, and fret with the other, to see the mulatto, stretching out his hand, lay hold of the salt-dish, and cry, “This pottage is hot;” and at the same time the swineherd took a whole handful of salt, and clapping it into his mouth, said, “This is a pretty provocative for drinking.” After all this medley there came some soup, so orderly was our entertainment. The beggar laying hold of a porringer with both hands, cried, “God’s blessing on cleanliness;” and instead of clapping of it to his mouth, laid it to his cheek, where he poured it down, scalding his face and washing himself in grease from head to foot, in a most shameful manner. Being in this miserable plight, he tried to get up, but his head being too heavy, he was fain to rest with both his hands upon the table, which was only a board set upon two tressels, so that it overturned and begrimed all the rest; and then he cried that the swineherd had pushed him. The swineherd seeing the other fall upon him, scrambled up, and laying hold of his horn trumpet, beat it about his ears. They grappled and clung so close together that the beggar set his teeth in the swineherd’s cheek, and both of them rolling on the ground, made such a wambling in the swineherd’s belly, that he cast up all he had ate and drunk in the beggar’s face. My uncle, who was the soberest of all the company, asked who had brought so many clergy into the house? Perceiving that they all looked through multiplying glasses, I parted the two combatants, made them friends, and helped up the mulatto, who lay on the ground maudlin drunk, and weeping bitterly. I laid my uncle on his bed, who made a low bow to a tall wooden candlestick he had, thinking it had been one of his guests. Next I took away the swineherd’s horn, but there was no silencing him after all the rest were asleep; he was still calling for his horn, and said, “No man ever could play more tunes on it, and he would now imitate the organ.”
In short, I never left them till they were all fast asleep; then I went abroad, and spent the afternoon in seeing the town; I passed by Cabra’s house, and heard he was dead, but never asked of what distemper, knowing he could die of none as long as it was possible to starve. At night I returned home, full four hours after I had gone out, and found one of the company awake, crawling about the room on all-four to find the door, and complaining he had lost the house. I raised him up, and let the rest sleep till eleven at night, when they awaked of themselves, stretching and yawning. One of them asked, “What o’clock it was?” The swineherd, who had not laid half his fumes, answered, “It was still afternoon, and the weather piping hot.” The beggar, as well as he could speak, asked for his cloak, saying, “The distressed families had been long neglected, the whole care of their souls lying upon his hands;” and thinking to go to the door, he went to the window, where seeing the stars, he cried out to the others, telling them, “That the sky was hill of stars at noonday, and there was a mighty eclipse.” They all blessed themselves, and kissed the ground. Having observed the villainy of the beggar, I was much scandalized, and resolved to take heed of that sort of men. The sight of all these abominable practices made me the more impatient to be among gentlemen and persons of worth. I got them all away one by one, the best I could, and put my uncle to bed, who, though not foxed, was drunk enough, and made the best shift I could myself, with my own clothes, and some of the poor departed souls’ that lay about the room. Thus we passed the night, and in the morning I discoursed my uncle about seeing my inheritance and taking possession of it, telling him I was quite tired, and knew not with what. He stretched one leg out of bed, and got up; we had much talk concerning my affairs, and I had enough to do with him, he was so tipsy and dull. At length I prevailed with him to tell me of part or my inheritance, though not all; and so he told me of three hundred ducats my worthy father had got by sleight of hand, and left them in custody of a decent woman, that was the receiver of all that was stolen for ten leagues round the country. To be short, I received and pouched my money, which my uncle had not yet drank out, nor consumed; and that was very much, considering he was such a brutal man; but the reason was, he thought it would serve me to take my degrees, and, with a little learning, I might come to be a cardinal, which to him seemed no difficult matter. When he understood I had the money, he said to me, “My child, Pablo, it will be your own fault if you do not thrive and are not a good man since you have a good example before you. You have got money, and I will always be your friend, for all I have and all I earn is yours.” I returned him thanks for his kind offers. We spent the day in extravagant talk, and in returning visits to the aforesaid persons. They passed the afternoon playing at knuckle-bones, the same company—my uncle, the swineherd, and the beggar, this last squandering the money of the poor at a villainous rate. It was wonderful to see how dexterous they were at it, catching them up in the air and shaking them up as they fell on the wrist. Night came on, the guests went away, and my uncle and I to bed, for he had now got me a quilt. When it was day, I got up before he was awake, and went away, without being perceived, to an inn, locking the door on the outside, and thrusting in the key at a cranny. I went away, as I have said, to an inn, to hide myself, and wait the next opportunity to go to Madrid. I left him a letter sealed up in the room, wherein I gave an account of my departure, and the reasons that moved me so to do, desiring he would make no inquiry after me, for I would never see him more.
A carrier was setting out that morning with a load from the inn for Madrid. He had a spare ass, which I hired, and went before to wait for him without the city gate. He came accordingly; I mounted, and began my journey, and said to myself, “Farewell to thee forever, thou knave of an uncle, dishonour of our family, stretcher of windpipes.” I considered I was going to Madrid, the Court of Spain, where, to my great satisfaction, nobody knew me, and there I must trust to my ingenuity. The first thing I resolved to do was to lay aside my scholar’s habit, and clothe myself in the fashion. But let us return to my uncle, who was in a great rage at the letter I left him, which was to this effect:
“Mr. Alonso Ramplón.
“Since it has pleased God to show me such signal mercies, as to take away my good father, and to order my mother to be conveyed to Toledo, where I know the best that can come of her is to vanish away in smoke; all I could wish for at present would be to see you served as you serve others. I design to be singular in my family, for I can never make more than one, unless I fall under your hands, and you carve me up as you do others. Do not inquire after me, for I am in duty bound to deny the kindred that is between us. Serve God and the king.”
It is impossible to express how, in all likelihood, he railed and swore at me; but let us leave him there, and return to my journey. I was mounted on a dappled ass of La Mancha, and wished with all my heart that I might meet nobody; when on a sudden I discovered at a distance a gentleman going apace, with his cloak hanging on his shoulders, his sword by his side, close breeches, and boots on, altogether, to outward appearance, genteel enough, with a clean starched band, and his hat on one side. I conceived he was some man of quality that was walking, and had left his coach behind him; and accordingly, when I came up, I saluted him. He looked at me, and said, “It is very likely, good sir, that you travel more easy on that ass than I do with all my equipage.” Imagining he had meant his coach and servants he left behind, I answered, “In troth, sir, I reckon it more easy travelling than in a coach, for though there is no dispute that you go very easily in that you have left behind you, yet the jolting of it is troublesome.” “What coach behind?” replied he, much disturbed, and turning short to look about him, the sudden motion made his breeches drop down, for it broke the one point he had to hold them up; and though he saw me ready to burst with laughing, he asked to borrow one of me. Perceiving he had no more shirt than would come within the waistband of his breeches, and scarce reach to acquaint his breech he had any, I replied, “As I hope for mercy, sir, you had best wait till your servants come up, for I cannot possibly assist you, having but one single point to hold up my own breeches.” “If you are in jest, sir,” quoth he, holding his breeches in his hands, “let it pass, for I do not understand what you mean by servants.” With this he went on, and was so plain in letting me know he was poor, that before we had gone half a league together, he owned he should never be able to get to Madrid, unless I would let him ride upon my ass awhile, he was so tired with walking with his breeches in his hands, which moved me to compassion, and I alighted. He was so encumbered with his breeches, that I was fain to help him up, and was much surprised at what I discovered by my feeling; for behind, as far as was covered with the cloak, the hinder parts had no other fence against the eyes and the air. He, being sensible of the discovery I had made, very discreetly prevented what reflection I might make by saying, “All is not gold that glitters, sir Licentiate,” giving me that title on account of my long scholar’s robe; “no doubt but when you saw my fine starched band, and the show I made, you fancied I was the Lord knows who.17 Little do you think how many fine outsides are as bare within as what you felt.” I assured him upon my word that I had conceited much different matters from what I found. “Why then, sir,” replied he, “let me tell you, all you have seen as yet is nothing, for everything about me is remarkable, and no part of me is truly clad. Such as you see me, I am a real substantial gentleman, of a good family and known seat on the mountains; and could I but feed my body as I keep my seat and gentility, I should be a happy man. But as the world goes, good sir, there is no keeping up noble blood without bread and meat, and, God be praised, it runs red in every man’s veins; nor can he be a worthy person who is worth nothing.18 I am now convinced of the value of a good pedigree, for being ready to starve one day, they would not give a chop of mutton in the cook’s-shop for mine; for they said it was not flourished with gold letters; but the leaf gold on pills is more valuable, and few men of letters have any gold. I have sold all to my very burial-place, that nothing may be called mine when I am dead, for my father Toribio Rodriguez Vallejo Gomez de Ampuero y Jordan lost all he had in the world by being bound for others. I have nothing now left to sell but the title of Don, and I am so unfortunate, that I can find nobody that has occasion for it, because there is scarce a scoundrel now but usurps it.” Though the poor gentleman’s misfortunes were intermixed with something that was comical, I could not but pity him, asked his name, whither he was going, and what to do? He answered with all his father’s names, Don Toribio Rodriguez Vallejo Gomez de Ampuero y Jordan. Never did I hear such an empty sounding jingling name, or so like the clattering of a bell, as beginning in “Don” and ending in “dan.” He added, he was going to Madrid, because a threadbare elder brother, as he was, soon grew tainted and mouldy in a country town, and had no way to subsist; and therefore he was going to the common refuge of distressed persons, where there is room for all, and open house kept for wandering spongers: “And I never want five or six crowns in my pocket,” said he, “as soon as I am there, nor a good bed, meat, and drink, and sometimes a forbidden pleasure; for a good wit at Court is like the philosopher’s stone, which converts all it touches into gold.” This to me was the most welcome news I had ever heard; and therefore, as it were to divert the tediousness of our journey, I desired him to inform me how, and by whom, he, and others in his condition, could live at Court; for to me it appeared a very difficult matter, because everyone there seemed so far from being contented with his own, that he aimed at what belonged to others. “There are many of all sorts,” replied my spark, “but flattery is like a master-key, which introduces a man wheresoever he pleases, in such great places; and that you may not think strange of what I say, do but listen to my adventures and contrivances, and you will be convinced of the truth of it.”
“The first thing you are to observe is, that at Court there are always the wisest and the weakest, the richest and the poorest, and the extremes of all other sorts. There the virtuous are concealed, and the wicked not taken notice of; and there live a sort of people like myself, who are not known to have any estates, real or personal, nor does it appear whence they came, or how they live. Among ourselves we are distinguished by several names, some are called ‘gentlemen-mumpers,’ others ‘sharpers,’ others ‘pinchguts,’ others ‘barebones,’ and others ‘commoners’; but in general we live by our wits. For the most part, we cheat our guts of their due, for it is a very dangerous and troublesome thing to live upon others. We are scarecrows at all good tables, the terror of cook-shops, and always unbidden and unwelcome guests, living like chameleons by the air, and so contented. When we happen to dine upon a leek, we strut and look as big as if stuffed with capon. Whosoever comes to visit us, never fails to find mutton and fowl bones, and parings of fruit about the house, and the doors strewed with feathers and young coney skins; all which we pick up over night, about the streets, to credit us the next day. As soon as the friend comes in, we fall into a passion, and cry, ‘It is a strange thing that I can never make this maid sweep the room in time. Good sir, excuse me, for I have had some friends at dinner, and these servants never mind their business,’ etc. Such as do not know us believe it, and think we have had an entertainment. Next, as for dining at other men’s houses, whensoever we have spoke but three words with a man, we take care to know where he lives, thither we are sure to make just at eating-time, when we know he is at table; we tell him his conversation has so charmed us, that we are not able to keep away, for he is the most taking person in the world. If he asks whether we have dined, and they have not yet begun, we answer in the negative. If they invite us, we never stay to be asked twice, because those ceremonies have often made us go with hungry bellies. If they have begun to eat, we say we have dined, and then, though the master of the house carves up his fowl, or any joint of meat never so dexterously, that we may have the opportunity of chopping up a mouthful or two, we cry, ‘By your leave, sir, pray let me have the honour of being your carver, for I remember (naming some duke or earl that is dead, God rest his soul), used to take more delight in seeing me carve than in eating.’ This said, we lay hold of the knife, cut out curious bits, and say, ‘How deliciously it smells! It would be an affront to the cook not to taste it; what a delicate hand she has at seasoning!’ With this we fall on, and down goes half the meat in the dish for a taste. If there be bacon, we call it our delight; if mutton, the only thing we love; if but a turnip, an excellent morsel; and so everything that comes in our way is ever the thing that we most admire. If all this fails, we are sure of the alms of some monastery, which we do not receive in public among the beggars, but privately, endeavouring to persuade the friars that we rather take it out of devotion than for want.
“It is pleasant enough to see one of us in a gaming-house, how diligently he attends, snuffs the candles, reaches the pots, fetches cards, applauds all the winner says, and all this for a poor real or two he gives him. We carry in our mind the whole inventory of our wardrobe or ragshop, in order to dress us; and as in some places they observe set times for prayer, so do we for mending and botching. It is wonderful to see what variety of rubbish we lay up, and produce upon occasion. We look upon the sun as our mortal enemy, because he discovers our darns, stitches, and patches; and yet are forced to be beholden to him, standing up with our legs wide open in the morning where he shines in, to discover by the shadows on the ground what shreds or rags hang between our legs, and then with a pair of scissors we trim the breeches. Now that part betwixt the thighs being so apt to wear, it is very odd to observe what gaps we make behind to fill up the forepart, so that very often the posteriors are hacked away till they remain quite naked. Only the cloak is privy to this secret, and therefore we are very cautious of windy days, and of going upstairs that are light, or mounting a-horseback. We make it our business to study postures against the light; and if it prove a very bright day, we walk with our legs as close as may be, and sit as if our knees were clung together, for fear lest we open them the gashes may appear. There is nothing about us but what has been another thing before, and may have a particular history writ of it; as for instance, you see this waistcoat. Sir, it was once a pair of wide-kneed breeches, grandchild to a short cape, and great-grandchild to a long mourner’s cloak, which was its first parent, and now it waits to be converted into footing for stockings, and forty other things. Our socks were once handkerchiefs, descended from towels, which had been shirts, and those the issue of sheets; after all this, they are made into paper, on which we write, and at last burn to make blacking for our shoes, where I have seen it perform wonders, recovering many a pair that was condemned as only fit for the dunghill. At night we never fail to get at the greatest distance we can from the light, for fear of discovering our threadbare cloaks and woolless coats, for there is no more nap on them than is upon a stone; and though it pleases God to give us hair on our faces, we have none on our clothes; and therefore, to save the expense of a barber, we always contrive to stay till two of us want trimming together, and then we scrape one another, following the advice of the gospel, ‘Be helpful to one another, like loving brethren.’ Besides, we always take care not to intrude into the houses of others, for everyone keeps his own and timely notice is given to avoid contention, being very jealous in the point of eating. It is an indispensable duty among us to ride about all the great noted streets once a quarter, though it be on an ass-colt, and once a year to go in a coach, when we are sure to sit as close to the door as possible, thrusting out our heads, bowing to all that pass by to be seen, and talking to our friends and acquaintance, though they do not see or mind us. If any unmannerly creature happens to bite us before ladies, we have ways to scratch in public, without being taken notice of; for if it happened to be on the thigh, we tell a story of a soldier we saw had a shot through there, clapping our fingers on the place that itches, and clawing instead of pointing. If it is in the church, and they sting on our breasts, we beat them by way of devotion, though it be at a christening; for the back, we lean against a pillar or wall, and rub it there, as if we only stood up to observe something. To deal ingenuously, as to the matter of lying, not one word of truth ever comes out of our mouths. In all companies we run over a bead-roll of dukes and counts, making some of them our friends, and others our relations, always observing that those great men must be either dead or very remote. The best of all is that we never fall in love, unless it be to earn our bread; for by our constitutions, coy ladies, though never so beautiful, are absolutely forbidden; so that we ever court a tripe-man for our meat, the landlady for our lodging, the starcher for our band and other necessaries; and though such slender diet makes us unfit to satisfy them all, yet we keep them in good humour. Will anybody that sees the boots on my legs believe they are upon the bare skin, without any stockings? Or will anyone that sees my curious starched band imagine I have no shirt? Let me tell you, sir, a gentleman may make a shift without those things, but there is no living for him without a set starched band. This is an outward ornament, altogether necessary to grace a man; and besides, when he has turned it and wound it every way, the starch in it will make him a mess as good as watergruel. In short, reverend sir, a gentleman of our stamp must go through all sorts of wants and hardships, and that is the way to live at Court. Sometimes he flourishes and rolls in plenty, and at another time he falls into an hospital; but still he lives; and he who knows how to manage is a king, though he has never so little.”
I was so well pleased with the gentleman’s strange ways of living, and so much diverted with his relation, that I went on afoot as far as Rozas, where we lay that night. The squire supped with me, for he had not one doit, and I thought myself beholden to him for his instructions, because they led me into abundance of secrets, and put me into the way of sharping. I acquainted him with my designs before we went to bed, which he returned with a thousand embraces, telling me he had always been in hopes since he met me that his words would work some good effect on a person of my capacity. He offered me his service towards introducing me at Madrid into the society of the tricking brotherhood, and a lodging among them. I accepted of his kindness, without letting him know what was my treasure in ducats, which was only an hundred reals, which, with the kindness I had done, and was still continuing, purchased his friendship. I bought him three points from our landlord; he tied up his hose, we rested that night, got up early in the morning, and away we went to Madrid.
We got to Madrid at ten o’clock in the morning, and went lovingly together by consent to the house where Don Toribio’s friends lived. A very old woman miserably clad opened the door; he inquired for his friends, and she answered, they were gone out a-seeking. We continued by ourselves until noon, diverting the time, he encouraging me to follow the sponging course of life, and I listening carefully to his advice. Half an hour after twelve in came a scarecrow, clad in black baize down to his heels, more threadbare than his conscience. They talked to one another in the thieves’ cant, the result whereof was his embracing me and offering his service. We discoursed awhile, and then he pulled out a glove, in which were sixteen reals, and a letter, by virtue of which he had collected that money, pretending it was a licence to beg for a woman in distress. He took the money out of the glove, drew another to it out of his pocket, and folded them together as physicians do. I asked him why he did not wear them? And he answered, because they were both for one hand, and that way they served as well as if they had been fellows. All this while I observed he did not let go his cloak, which was wrapped about him; and, being but a novice, for my better information took the liberty to inquire why he still hugged himself up so close in his cloak? He replied, “My friend, there is a great rent down my back, made up with a patch of old stuff, besides a great spot of oil; this piece of a cloak hides all, and thus I can appear abroad.” At length he unwrapped himself, and under his cassock I perceived a great bulk sticking out, which I took to have been trunk-breeches, for it looked like them, until he, going in to louse himself, tucked up his coats, and I perceived there were only two hoops of pasteboard tied to his waist, and joined to his thighs, which stuck out under his mourning, for he wore neither shirt nor breeches, but was so naked that he had scarce anything to lose. He went into the lousing room, and turned a little board that hung at the door, on which was written, “One is lousing,” that no other might go in until he had done. I blessed God with all my heart to see how he had provided for men, giving them ingenuity if they wanted riches. “For my part,” said my friend, “I have something the matter with my breeches with travelling, and therefore must withdraw to mend.” He asked whether there were any rags? The old woman, who gathered them twice a week about the streets, as the rag-women do for the paper mills, to cure the incurable diseases of those gentlemen, answered there were none; and that Don Lorenzo Yñiguez del Pedroso had kept his bed a fortnight for want of them, being bad of his coat. At this time in came one booted, in a travelling garb, a grey suit, and a hat bridled up on both sides. The others told him who I was, and he, saluting me very lovingly, laid down his cloak; and it appeared—who would imagine it?—that the fore part of his coat was of grey cloth, and the back of white linen, well stained with sweat. I could not forbear laughing, and he very demurely said, “You’ll come into action, and then you won’t laugh; I’ll lay a wager you don’t know why I wear my hat with the brims bridled up.” I answered, “Out of gallantry, and that they may the better see your face.” “That’s your mistake,” said he, “I do it to prevent them seeing; it is because I have no hatband, and this hides it.” This said, he pulled out about twenty letters, and as many reals, saying, he could not deliver those. Every one was marked a real postage, and they were all folded alike. He signed any name that came into his head, writ news of his own making, and delivered them in that habit to people of fashion, receiving the postage, which he practised once a month; all which to me was very amazing.
Next came two others, one of them with a cloth coat, reaching but half way down his wide Walloon trunks, and a cloak of the same, with his band ruffled up to hide the lining, which was rent. The breeches were of camlet, but only as far as appeared, for all the rest was of red baize. This man was jangling and wrangling with the other, who wore a ruff for want of a band, a hanging coat for want of a cloak, and went upon a crutch, with one leg bound up in rags and furs, because he had but one stocking. He pretended to be a soldier, and had been so, but a scurvy one and in peaceful regions, and by the privilege of a soldier intruded into any house. He in the coat and half breeches cried, “The one half, or at least a considerable part, is due to me; if you do not give it me, I swear to God—” “Do not swear to God,” replied the other, “for I am not lame at home, and if you prate, I’ll lay this crutch about your ears.” “You shall give it.” “I shall not give it.” So they came to high words, and gave one another the lie; then falling to blows, the clothes in a moment flew all about in rags at the first handling. We parted them, and inquiring into the cause of the quarrel, the soldier cried, “Put tricks upon me! you shall not have the value of a doit. You must understand, gentlemen, that being at St. Saviour’s Church, there came a child to this poor fellow, and asked him whether I was the ensign Juan de Lorenzana? who answered, I was, because he saw he had something in his hand. With this, he brought the child to me, and, calling me ensign, said, ‘Here, sir, see what this child would have with you.’ I understood the trick, and said I was the man, took his message, and with it a dozen of handkerchiefs, returning an answer to his mother, who sent them to some person of that name. Now he demands half, and I’ll be torn in pieces before I’ll part with them; my own nose shall have the wearing of them all out.” The cause was adjudged in his favour, only he was forbid blowing his nose in them, and ordered to deliver them up to the old woman, to make ruffles and cuffs for the honour of the community, to represent shirtsleeves; for blowing the nose was absolutely prohibited. When night came we all went to bed, and lay as close together as herrings in a barrel, or tools in a tweezer-case. As for supper, there was not so much as a thought of it; most of the gang never stripped, for they were naked enough to go to bed as they went all day.
Day came, and we all started to action. I was as well acquainted with them already as if we had been one mother’s children; for there is ever an easiness and sweetness in things evil. It was very pleasant to see one put on his shirt at ten several times, because it consisted of as many several clouts, and say a prayer at everyone, like a priest that is vesting to go to the altar. One could not find the way into his breeches; another called out for help to put on his doublet, for none of them knew the right side from the wrong, or the head from the heels. When this was over, which afforded no little pleasure, they all laid hold of their needles and thread, and it was darn, stitch, and patch. One fixed an arm against a wall, to draw together the rents in a sleeve; another kneeled down, to botch up the holes in his hose; another clapped his head betwixt his legs, to come at a breach upon his buttocks. Bosco19 never painted such variety of strange figures as I saw there; they botched, and the old woman supplied them with materials, rags and clouts of all the colours of the rainbow, which she had picked up on Saturday night.
When the mending time was over, as they called it, they all viewed one another narrowly to see what was amiss, in order to go abroad a-shifting. I told them I would have them order my dress, for I designed to lay out the hundred reals I had on a suit of clothes, and leave off my cassock. “That must not be,” said they, “let the money be put into the common stock; we will clothe him immediately out of our wardrobe, and appoint him his walk in the town, where he shall range and nibble for himself.” I consented, deposited the money, and in a trice they made me a mourning cloth coat out of my cassock, cut my long cloak into a short one, and trucked the remains of it for an old hat new dressed, making a hatband very neatly of some cotton picked out of inkhorns. They took off my band and wide-kneed breeches, and instead of these, put me on a pair of close hose, slashed only in front, for the sides and the back part were nothing but sheepskins. The silk stockings they gave me were not half stockings, for they reached but four fingers below the knees, the rest being covered with a tight pair of boots over my own red hose. The collar they gave me was all in rags, and when they put it on, they said, “The collar is somewhat imperfect on the sides and behind; if anybody looks at you, sir, you must be sure to turn about as they do, like the sunflower, which still moves as he does. If there happen to be two at once observing you on both sides, fall back; and to prevent being observed behind, let your hat hang down on your neck, so that the brim may cover the band, leaving all your forehead bare; and if anybody asks why you wear it so, tell him, it is because you dare show your face in any part of the world.” Next they gave me a box containing black and white thread, sewing silk, packthread, a needle, a thimble, bits of cloth, linen, and silk, with other shreds and scraps, and a knife. To my girdle they fastened a tinderbox, with steel and flint in a little pouch, saying, “This box will carry you through the world, without the help of friends or relations; this contains all we stand in need of; take and keep it.” They appointed the ward of San Luis for my walk, and so I entered upon my employment. We all went out together, but because I was a novice, they ordered him that brought and converted me to be my godfather in the trade of sharping.
We set out very gravely, walking in state, with our beads in our hands, and made towards my precinct. We paid respect to all we met, taking off our hats to the men, though we had rather have taken their cloaks; to the women we bowed low, because they are fond of respect and proud of being honoured. My worthy tutor, as he went along, would say to one creditor, “I shall receive money tomorrow;” to another, “Have patience for a day or two; the bankers put me off.” One asked him for his cloak, another for his girdle; by which I perceived he was such a true friend to his friend, that he had nothing which was his own. We went in and out from one sidewalk to another, winding and turning about, to avoid the houses of creditors. Here one whipped out to demand his house-rent, there another the hire of his sword, presently a third the loan of his sheets and shirts; so that one seemed to be a gentleman on hire, like a mule. It happened he spied a man at a good distance, who, as he told me, was ready to tear him to pieces for a debt, but could not tear the money from him. To prevent being known by him, he let fall his long hair, which before was tucked up behind his ears, and looked like a shock dog that was never shorn. Then he clapped a patch upon one eye, and began to talk to me in Italian. He had time enough to do this before the other came up, who had not yet observed him. I declare I saw the man turn round and round, as a dog does before he lies down; he blessed himself as if he had been bewitched, and went away, saying, “God bless me, I durst have sworn it had been he; what a mighty mistake I had like to commit; he who has lost oxen always fancies he hears their bells.” I was ready to burst with laughing to see what a figure my friend made; he stepped into a porch to tuck up his hair again, and pull off his patch, and said, “This is the dress for denying of debts; learn, my friend, for you will see a thousand such shifts in this town.” We went on, and at the corner of a street took two slices of gingerbread and as many drams of brandy of one of the sisterhood, who gave it us for nothing, after wishing my director welcome to town, who said, “This puts a man in a condition to make shift without a dinner for this day, for at worst he is sure of so much.” It went to my very heart to think it was doubtful whether we should have any dinner, and answered him very disconsolately on behalf of my stomach, to which he replied, “You are a man of small faith, and repose little confidence in our mumping profession. God Almighty provides for the crows and jackdaws, and even for scriveners; and should he fail us poor pinchguts? You have but a poor stomach.” “You are in the right,” quoth I, “but still I fear I shall make it poorer, for there is nothing in it.”
As we were talking after this manner, a clock struck twelve, and being yet a stranger to that profession, my stomach took no notice of the gingerbread, but I was as if I had eaten nothing. Being thus put in mind again of that want, I turned to my conductor, and said, “My friend, this business of starving is very hard to be learned at first; I was used to feed like a farmer, and am now brought to fast like an anchorite. It is no wonder you are not hungry, who have been bred to it from your infancy, like king Mithridates with poison, so that it is now familiar and habitual to you. I do not perceive you take any diligent care to provide belly-timber, and therefore I am resolved to shift as well as I can.” “God o’ my life,” quoth he, “what a pleasant spark you are! it is but just now struck twelve, and are you in such a mighty haste already? Your stomach is very exact to its hours, and immediately cries out cupboard; but it must practise patience, and learn to be in arrears at times. What, would you be cramming all day? The very beasts can do no more. It does not appear in history that ever knight of our order was troubled with indigestion. I told you already, that God provides for all men, yet, if you are in such stress, I am going to receive alms at the Monastery of St. Jerome, where there are friars fat as capons; there I will stuff my crop. If you will go along with me, well and good; if not, everyone take his own course.” “Farewell,” said I, “my wants are not so small as to be satisfied with the leavings of others; every man shift for himself.”
My friend walked very upright, now and then looking down to his feet, and took out a few crumbs of bread, which he carried for that purpose in a little box; these he strewed about his beard and clothes, so that he looked as if he had dined. I coughed and hawked to conceal my weakness, wiping my whiskers, muffled up with my cloak upon the left shoulder, playing with my tens, for I had but ten beads upon my string. All that saw me believed I had dined, and had they thought creatures were then dining upon me they had guessed right. All my confidence was in my crowns I had sunk, though it smote my conscience that it was against the rules of our profession to pay for a dinner, being obliged to feed upon the public; but I was resolved to break the fast and transgress the ordinances. By this time I was come to the corner of the street of San Luis, where a pastry-cook lived. On the counter lay a curious mutton pie, delicately baked, and piping hot out of the oven; my nose stumbled at it, and I made a full set like a dog at a partridge, fixing my eyes and gazing so steadfastly that it shrunk up as if it had been blasted. It had been pleasant enough to know how many ways I cast about to steal it, and then again I resolved to buy it. By this time it struck one, which put such a damp upon me, that I resolved to roll into the next cook’s shop. As I was steering towards one, it pleased God that I met with a friend of mine, called the licentiate Flechilla, who came swinging his cassock down the street, his face all flushed and his long robes full of daglocks. As soon as he spied me, he ran to embrace me, and yet I wonder he should know me in that condition. I returned his embrace. He asked how I did? and I answered, “I have plenty of stories to tell you, Mr. Licentiate; all that troubles me is, that I must be gone tonight.” “I am sorry for that,” quoth he, “and were it not late, and that I am going in haste to dinner, I would stay with you; but a sister I have that is married, and her husband expects me.” “Is Mistress Anne here?” said I. “So then I’ll leave all, and go and wait upon her; that is a duty I cannot dispense with.” Hearing him say he had not yet dined, made me sharp; away I went with him, and by the way told him, that a wench he had been very fond of at Alcalá was then in town, and I could get him admittance into her house. He was mightily pleased at this motion, for I purposely contrived to talk of such things as might be pleasing to him. This discourse held us till we came to his sister’s house; in we went; I made very great tenders of service to both husband and wife, and they believing that I had come on invitation, coming as I did at that hour of the day, began to excuse themselves, saying, they would have made some provision had they thought of such a guest. I laid hold of the opportunity, and invited myself, telling them I was no stranger but an old friend, and should take it unkindly to be treated with ceremony. They sat down, I did so too; and the better to stop the other’s mouth, who had not invited me, nor ever thought of any such thing, every now and then I gave him a remembrance of the wench, saying, she had asked for him, and was infinitely fond of him, with many more lies to that purpose, which made him bear the more patiently with my cramming, for such havoc as I made in the first course was never seen. The boiled meat was served up; I tumbled the best part of it down my throat in a moment, without nicety, but in such a hurry as if I had not thought it safe enough betwixt my teeth. As I hope for mercy, I laid about me at such a rate, as if my life depended on it, and things vanished in my presence as quickly as corpses are said to disappear in the old burying ground of Valladolid. No doubt but they observed how I poured down the soup, how soon I drained the dish, how clean I picked the bones, and how cleverly I despatched the meat, and to say the truth, at every turn I clapped a good hunch of bread into my pocket till it could hold no more.
When the cloth was removed, the licentiate and I stepped aside to talk about our going to the aforesaid wench’s house, which I represented to him as a very easy matter; but as we were talking at the window, I pretended somebody had called to me from the street, and answered, “Sir, I come this moment;” asked leave of my friend, promising to return immediately. I left him waiting for me, and so he might have done to this day, for I slipped away, and my belly being full had no more occasion for him. I met him several times after, and excused myself, telling a thousand lies, which are not to our purpose. Rambling thence about the streets at random, I came to the Guadalajara gate, and sat down on one of the benches that are at the mercers’ door. As God would have it, there came two of those creatures that raise money upon their handsome faces to the shop; they were both close veiled, with only one eye bare to see their way, and attended by an old woman and a little page boy. They asked for some very rich new fashion embroidered velvet. To commence a discourse, I began to play and pun upon the velvet, turning and winding, till I brought it to all the waggish lewd meanings I had a mind to. I perceived my freedom had put them in hopes they might carry off some present from the shop; and knowing I could be no loser, I offered them whatsoever they pleased. They stood out a little, pretending they did not use to accept of anything from persons they were not acquainted with. I laid hold of that opportunity, telling them that I owned it was a presumption in me to offer them anything there, but that I desired them to accept of a parcel of rich silks sent me from Milan, which that page of mine should carry them at night, pointing to one that stood over the way bareheaded, waiting for his master, who was in a shop. And that they might take me for some man of quality, and well known, I pulled off my hat to all the judges, privy-counsellors and gentry that went by, bowing as if we had been very well acquainted, though I knew none of them. These outward shows, and my taking a piece of gold of my hidden treasure, on pretence of giving an alms to a poor body that begged of me, made them conclude I was some gentleman of note. They made as if to go home because it grew late, and took their leave, charging me to be sure the page should go as privately as might be. I begged of them, but as a favour and token of their good will, a pair of beads, all set and linked in gold, which the handsomest of them had in her hand, as a pledge for me to visit them the next day without fail. They made some difficulty to part with it, till I offered them a hundred crowns in pawn for it, which they refused, hoping by that means to draw me in for a better penny, asked where I lodged, and told me their quarters, desiring me to observe that they could not receive messages at all times, because they were persons of quality. I led them through the High Street, and before we turned out of it made choice of the largest and fairest house I could, which had a coach without horses standing at the door, telling them it was mine, and at their service, as were the horses and master of them. My name, I told them, was Don Álvaro de Córdova, and in I went by the gate right before their faces. At our coming out of the shop, I remember, I called over one of the pages from the other side of the way, beckoning to him very stately with my hand, and pretending to order him and the rest of them to wait there till I came, but in reality only asked whether he did not belong to my uncle the Commander; he answered me he did not, and so I dismissed him, setting myself off with borrowed feathers.
When it was dark night we all went home, and, coming in, I found the counterfeit soldier, that had the clouted leg, with a white wax flambeau they had given him to attend a funeral, and he run away with it. This fellow’s name was Magazo, born at Olias; he had been captain in a play, and had fought abundance of Moors in a sword-dance. When he talked with any that had served in the Low Countries, he told them he had been in China; and if he happened to meet with any that had been there, he pretended he had served in Flanders. He talked much of encamping, and lying out in the field, though he had never been in any unless it were to louse himself; named abundance of strongholds, and knew none but the common gaols; highly extolled the memory of Don John of Austria, commended the Duke of Alva for a generous, true friend, and had abundance of names of noted Turks, galleys, and great officers at his fingers’ ends, all which he had picked out of a ballad then in vogue concerning the like affairs. But being altogether unacquainted with geography or anything of the sea, discoursing about the famous battle of Lepanto, he said that Lepanto was a very brave Turk. The poor wretch was so ignorant that he served to make us excellent sport.
Soon after in came my companion with his nose beaten almost flat to his face, all his head wrapped up in clouts very bloody and dirty. We asked him how he came into that pickle? He told us he went to the alms at the Monastery of St. Jerome, and asked for a double portion, pretending it was for some poor people that could not beg; the friars stopped so much from the common mumpers to give it him, that they, being provoked, tracked him, and found he was sucking it up with might and main in a dark corner behind a door. They fell into a dispute whether it was lawful to cheat to fill one’s own belly, and to rob others to serve one’s self. The contest rose to high words, which were followed with blows, and those raised many knobs and bumps on his head. They attacked him with the pots they received the pottage in, and the damage done to his nose came by a wooden dish they gave him to smell to, more hastily than had been convenient. They took away his sword; out came the porter at the noise, and had enough to do to part them. In short, our poor brother found himself in so much danger that he offered to return all he had eaten, and it would not serve his turn; for they insisted that he begged for others, and had no feeling of his trade. Out started from among the rest of the gang a two-handed mendicant scholar, crying, “Do but behold the figure made up of clouts like a rag baby, as poor as a pastrycook in Lent, as full of holes as a flageolet, all patches like a magpie, as greasy as an oilman, and as tattered as an old flag! Pitiful scoundrel, there are those that receive the holy saints’ alms that are fit to be bishops, or for any other dignity; I myself am a graduate of Siguenza.” The porter interposed, hearing a little old fellow cry out that though he came there for pottage he was descended from the famous Great Captain, and had many lofty relations. But I will leave them here, since our companion was now got off, and endeavouring to shake his bones into their places again.
The next that came was Merlo Diaz, his girdle hung all round with earthen cups and glasses, which he had got at nunneries, begging drink at the wheel, without the least remorse of conscience. Don Lorenzo de Pedroso relieved him, coming in with an excellent good cloak, which he had exchanged at a billiard table for his own, which had no sign it had been made of wool, it was so threadbare. This fellow used to take off his cloak, as if he designed to play, and to lay it among the rest, and then not agreeing about the match, he returned to the place, took up the cloak he liked best, and went his way; the same he did at ninepins and other games. All this was nothing in comparison of Don Cosme, who came in with a regiment of boys at his tail, that were troubled with the king’s evil, cancers, or leprosy, or were hurt or lame. He played the white witch, or doctor, that cured by prayers and blessings, having to this purpose learned some superstitious ceremonies and cramp words of an old woman. By this cheat he got more than all the rest together, for if anyone came to be cured without something to make a show under his cloak, or the jingle of money in his pocket, or the cry of some live fowl, he was never at leisure. He had made fools of half the town, making them believe whatsoever he pleased, for there never was so absolute a master at lying, insomuch that he never spoke truth but accidentally. His common discourse was of heaven; when he came into a house he always said, “God be here;” and going out, “The Lord have you in his keeping.” He carried with him all the apparatus of hypocrisy; a pair of beads as big as walnuts; the fag end of a scourge, bloodied from his nose, he would contrive to be peeping out from under his cloak; when he shrugged to remove the creatures that bit him, he persuaded others it was the hair cloth he wore next his skin, and that this starving was a voluntary fast. Then would he tell stories of strange temptations he had overcome; if the devil happened to be named, he cried, “The Lord deliver and preserve us,” kissed the ground when he went into the church, called himself unworthy sinner, never lifted up his eyes to look at women, though he might their coats. These cheats had so far prevailed on the multitude that they begged his prayers, and might as well have applied themselves to the devil; for he was not only a gamester, but a very shark or pickpocket, who never took the name of God in vain, being always sure to get something by it. As for women, he had several children scattered about, and two hermitesses with child at that time.
The next that came was Polanco, making a great noise, and asking for a long, sad-coloured gown, a big cross, an overgrown false beard, and a bell. He used to go about at night in this dress, crying, “Remember you are to die, and be kind to the souls departed, etc.,” which brought him in considerable alms; and when he found a house open, he went in, and if nobody was in the way stole all that came to his hand. If anybody saw him, he rung his bell, and in a dismal tone, as he knew how to frame it, cried, “Remember, brethren, etc.” All these and many more contrivances, and strange ways of stealing, I learned in a month I continued among them. To return where I left off: I showed the beads and told them the story; they applauded my ingenuity, and the old woman took them, and went about saying they belonged to a poor maiden gentlewoman, who was fain to sell them for bread, having her story ready for every occasion. The old jade wept whenever she pleased, wrung her hands, and sighed most bitterly; she called all the people, children; and over a good smock, jerkin, gown and petticoats, wore a tattered long robe of sackcloth, given her by an anchorite, her friend, who lived on the mountains by Alcalá. Her business was to manage the wardrobe, to counsel and conceal; but the devil, who is always kind to his servants, so ordered it, that going one day to a house to sell some clothes and other things, somebody there knew their own goods, sent for an officer, secured the old hag, whom we called Mother Lebrusca, and she presently discovered all the plot, told how we all lived, and that we were gentlemen of prey. The officer left her in the gaol, and came to our house, where he found me and all my companions. He had half a dozen under-catchpoles along with him, and removed the whole sharping congregation to the prison, where our gentility saw itself in great peril.
They clapped on each of us, as we came in, two pair of irons, and took us off to the dungeon; but I made use of the money I had to prevent falling into that hell, pulling out a pistole, and making it glitter in the gaoler’s eyes, saying, “Pray, sir, be pleased to hear me a word in private.” He having seen a glimpse of the gold, took me aside, and I went on, “I beseech you, sir, take pity of an unfortunate man.” Then I took him lovingly by the hand, and clapped in the piece, which he greedily grasped, being used to such ceremonies, and answered, “I will examine into your disorder, and if it is dangerous, you shall not go down into the hole.” I understood him, and submitted myself humbly, so that he left me out, and turned down my companions. I will not take up time by relating what sport we made in the prison and as we went along the streets; for being pushed and dragged along, bound, some of us without cloaks, and others with them, it was comical to see such a parcel of ragamuffins, all patches, and particoloured black and white, like magpies. The officers knew not how to take fast hold of them, they were all in such tatters; some they thought to grasp by the flesh, and finding none, for it was all starved away, they feared to be answerable for disjointing the bones. Others lost their coats and breeches by the rough handling of those unmerciful fellows. When they unbound the rope, as they led them all in, the rags and clouts dropped off with it. At night I was carried to the common side, where I had a little bed allotted me. It was odd to see some lie down in their whole case, without taking of the least rag they wore in the day. Others at one motion put off all the clothes they had; others played; but at last we were made fast, and the light put out. We all forgot our irons, and took our rest very favourably.
The gaoler then fancying I would drop him another pistole rather than be let down into the hole, ordered me to be buried among the rest, which I resolved to endure rather than break bulk any more. I was conveyed down, where my old friends received me with a great shout and much satisfaction. That night I lay cool, without anything to cover me; when it was day, we all came out of the dungeon, saw one another’s faces, and presently our companions demanded the usual garnish-money, on pain of a good liquoring. I presently disbursed six reals; but my companions having nothing to give, the matter was left over till night. Among the rest in the dungeon, was a tall one-eyed young fellow, with a great pair of whiskers, a sour look, round shouldered, and those well flogged. He had a whole smith’s forge upon him, double fetters on his legs, and a great chain hanging from his neck; they called him the Giant; and he said of himself that he was in prison for petty trifles, which I concluded to be some mere larceny; and if anybody asked him whether that was the crime, he answered in the negative, but that it was for backward sins. When the gaoler reproved him for his tricks, he would call him the hangman’s pantryman, and general storekeeper of sin. At other times he would cry, “You are a fool to contend with one that will vanish in smoke; by the Lord I will stifle you as I go off.” This he had said, expecting to be burnt alive. He contracted friendship with another they called Robledo, and by a nickname the Tumbler, who said he was in prison for his dexterity, which consisted in making everything vanish he laid his hands on. He had been lashed by all the beadles and hangmen in Spain; his face was all over cuts and scars; his ears were at a great distance, for he carried but one about him, having left the other behind him in his travels; his nose was soldered together, having been cleft with a cut of a sword. Four other rampant fellows, like lions in heraldry, herded with those two, all of them loaded with chains, and condemned to thrash the sea, that is, to the galleys. These said they might boast, in a short time, that they had served the king both by sea and land; and a man would not believe how impatiently they expected their commission. These people taking it ill that my comrades had not discharged the duty of garnish, contrived to give them a sound lashing at night, with a curious rope’s end, provided for that purpose. When night came we were put into the dismal vault, they put out the light, and I presently secured myself under my bed; two of them began to whistle, and a third to lay about him with the rope’s end. The sparks perceiving it was like to go ill with them, crowded themselves up so close together, all the flesh of their bones being before devoured by the mange and lice, that they found room enough in a cranny between the boards, lying like so many fleas in a seam, or bugs in a bedstead. The lashes sounded on the boards, but the bodies they were designed for lay close without speaking a word. The whipsters observing they did not complain, laid aside their discipline, and began to pelt them with stones, bricks, and rubbish, they had gathered to that effect. This project succeeded better, for a stone hit Don Toribio on the neck, and raised a bunch as thick as his fist. He cried out “Murder!” and the knaves, that he might not be heard, fell a-singing all together, and rattled their chains. Don Toribio struggled with his companions to get undermost, and in the scuffle, their bones rattled like castanets, their coats fell all in tatters, and not a rag was left upon them. The stones flew about so thick, that in a short space poor Don Toribio had as many knobs on his head as there are on a pineapple. Finding there was no manner of protection against that dreadful shower of hail that fell upon us, but there he was like to die a martyr, without being guilty of the least piety or religion, he cried out, begging they would let him get out of that place, and he would pay immediately, delivering up his clothes in pledge. The persecutors consented, and though his companions would have held him, because he sheltered them, he got up the best he could, all battered, and came over to my side. The rest were not so quick at promising the same, but that they had as many knocks as hairs on their heads, yet offered up their clothes towards paying the garnish; thinking it was better to lie abed for want of clothes than for broken bones. Accordingly they were let go for that night, but in the morning they had orders to strip; they did so, and it appeared that all their clothes put together would not bring one halfpenny loaf. They lay abed, that is, wrapped up in a blanket belonging to the public.
I slipped out of the dungeon, desiring them to excuse me for not bearing them company, because it was not convenient. I greased the gaoler over again with three pieces of eight, and being informed who the clerk was that had the charge of prosecuting us, sent for him by a young running thief. He came, I got into a room with him, and after some discourse concerning our business in general, I told him I had some little money, which I desired him to keep for me; and that as far as might be done with safety, he would favour an unfortunate young gentleman who had been unadvisedly drawn into that offence. “Believe me, sir,” said he, when he had grasped the ready, “the whole matter depends upon us; and he that has a mind to be a knave, may do a great deal of mischief. I have sent more men to the gallows without any cause, but for my pleasure, than there are words in an indictment. Leave it to me, and do not question but I’ll bring you off safe and sound.” This said, he made as if he was going away, but came back again from the door to ask something for honest Diego García, the constable, for it was convenient to stop his mouth with a silver gag; something more he hinted at concerning the clerk of the court; saying, “It is in this clerk’s power, sir, to undo a man by turning up the whites of his eyes, raising his voice, making a noise to rouse a magistrate or recorder when they are asleep, as it often happens, and many other such dangerous actions.” I apprehended him, and lugged out fifty reals more; in return for which he bid me set my cloak right, taught me two cures for a cold I had got in the prison; and to conclude, said, “Make yourself easy, the gaoler will be kind to you, if you give him but a piece of eight, for these sort of people do nothing out of good nature, but all for interest.” I could not but smile at his hint, he went his way, and I gave the gaoler a crown; he knocked off my irons, and gave me leave to go to his house. He had a wife like a whale, and two daughters as ugly as the devil, and as wicked, yet of the game, in spite of their faces.
It happened that the gaoler, whose name was one Blandones de San Pablo, and his wife’s Donna Anna Moraez, came home to dinner one day, when I was there, in a great rage, fuming, and would not eat. His wife dreading some mighty thing had happened, drew near, and tormented him so long with the usual importunities, that at last he said, “What the devil d’ye think ails me? That scoundrel dog of Almendros, the lodging-house keeper, having some words with me about farming the gaol, told me you are not spotless.” “Has the villain ever scoured me?” cried she. “By my grandame’s soul, you don’t deserve to be called man since you did not tear his beard for him. Did I ever employ his servants to clean me?” Then turning to me, she went on, “By the Lord, he cannot call me Jew, like himself, for of the four parts he has, two are villain and two are Jew. By my troth, Don Pablo, had I heard him, I would have put him in mind that the Inquisition had laid the St. Andrew’s cross upon his back.” The gaoler in very doleful manner replied, “Alas, wife! I held my peace because he told me you were doubly and trebly allied to that race; for he did not talk of your not being spotless on account of swine, but for not eating their flesh.” “Then he called me Jew,” quoth she, “and you could take it so calmly. Brave times! is that the regard you have for the honour of Donna Anna Moraez, the daughter of Estefania Rubio and Juan de Madrid, both of them well known to God and all the world.” “Daughter to Juan de Madrid?” said I. “To Juan de Madrid of Auñon,” cried she. “By the Lord,” quoth I, “the rogue that spoke so is a whoreson Jew and a cuckold.” Then turning to them, I went on: “The honoured Juan de Madrid, whose soul rest in peace, was my father’s own cousin-german, and I will make it appear what he was, and whence he came, for it concerns me; and if once I get out of prison, I’ll make the dog eat his words. I have my pedigree here in town in gold letters, which makes out both families.” They were all overjoyed with their new relation, and much encouraged to hear of the pedigree; and at the same time I had no such thing, nor did I know who they were. The husband began to sift out the point of kindred, coming to particulars, but I to prevent being caught in a lie, made as if I was going out in a passion, swearing and cursing. They all held me, desiring no more might be said of the matter. Every now and then I would let fly, “Juan de Madrid! what a pedigree I have of his!” Another time, as if I were musing, I dropt, “Juan de Madrid the elder, father to Juan de Madrid, was married to Anna de Azevedo the stout,” and then I was quieted a little. In short I managed this tack so well, that the gaoler kept me at bed and board in his house; and then the honest clerk, at his request, and for the bribe I gave him, ordered the business so well, that the old woman was taken out before them all upon a dapple grey ass, with a crier before her, making proclamation that she was a thief, and close at her heels the hangman, scoring her on the ribs as he had been directed by the gentlemen of the long robe. Then followed all my companions upon braying palfreys, bareheaded and faced, thus to be exposed to public shame, like standing on the pillory, and so ragged that they could not hide their nakedness. After this solemnity they were banished for six years. For my part I was bailed out with the assistance of the clerk; and the other at the court played his part, for he changed his tone, spoke low, skipped over some words, and swallowed whole sentences.
Being out of prison, I found myself all alone and destitute of friends, though I was told they were travelling towards Seville at the public expense; yet I would not follow them, but went away to a lodging. Here I fell in with a fair, clear skinned wench, free, pleasant, sometimes forward and sometimes coy. She lisped a little, was afraid of mice, prided herself upon her hands; and the better to show them, always snuffed the candles, carved up the meat at table, and held them up at church; in the street was always pointing where everybody lived; sitting in company continually contrived to be pinning up her headgear; and of all games loved to play at draughts, because then her hands were never off the board. She would frequently yawn, though she had no need, to show her teeth, and then cross her mouth; and in short the whole house had so much of her hands, that her very father and mother were out of patience with them. They entertained me very well in their house, for they made it their business to let lodgings, and could receive but three at once, which, at this time, were myself, a Portuguese, and a Catalonian. All of them were very courteous to me; I liked the wench well enough by way of diversion, and thought it a convenience to have her in the house. I courted her; told her abundance of pleasant stories I had picked up to pass the time; brought them home news, though there were none abroad; did them all the service I could, provided it cost nothing; persuaded them I understood witchcraft, and was a conjurer, and could make it appear as if the house were sinking, or all in a flame, without doing the least harm; all which the credulous, foolish women easily believed. All the family were civil and kind to me; but all this did not amount to love, for being but indifferently clad, though I had somewhat mended my apparel with the help of the gaoler, keeping up the kindred by continual sponging at his house; they did not take so much notice of it as I could have wished. To gain the reputation of being a man of wealth, though I concealed it, I contrived to send some of my acquaintance to ask for me when I was not at home. One of these came and inquired for Don Ramiro de Guzman, for I had told them that was my name, having been informed by my friends that changing of names was not expensive, and might prove very advantageous. The man, I say, inquired for Don Ramiro, a rich merchant, who had lately farmed two branches of the revenue of the king. Neither the old nor the young landlady knew me by this description, and therefore answered that no such man lived there, but only one Don Ramiro de Guzman, who was rather ragged than rich, a little fellow, hard favoured, and poor. “That is the person I want,” replied the man; “and as light as you make of him, I would desire no more, if it were God’s will, than as much as he is worth above two thousand ducats a year.” He told them a great many more lies of this sort; they stood amazed, and he left them a sham bill of exchange he pretended he had on me for nine thousand ducats, desiring them to get me to accept it. Both mother and daughter gave credit to my wealth, and immediately pricked me down for a husband. I came home very unconcerned, as if I knew nothing of the matter; immediately they gave me the bill of exchange, saying, “Wealth and love are hardly to be concealed, Don Ramiro. It is very well that you make us such strangers to what you are, when you know we have so much kindness for you.” I made as if I was displeased at his leaving the bill, and went away to my chamber. It was pleasant to see how they changed their note as soon as they thought I had money; they said everything became me, admired every word I spoke, and I was the most accomplished person in the world.
Perceiving they had bit at the bait I had laid for them, I made the wench acquainted with my affections, which she received with much joy, returning a thousand loving expressions, and so we parted for that time. The next night, the more to confirm them in the conceit of my wealth, I shut myself up in my chamber, which was parted from theirs only by a thin wall of lath and plaster, and taking out fifty crowns, counted them over so often that they reckoned six thousand. This contrivance of making them believe I was rich, succeeded as well as I could wish, for their whole study was to please and make much of me. The Portuguese, who lodged in the house with me, was called Don Vasco de Meneses, and was knight of the famous order of Christ in Portugal. He wore a black cloak, a pair of boots, a little band, and large whiskers, and was passionately in love with Donna Berenguela de Rebolledo, for that was our mistress’s name. When he courted her, he would make long speeches, sighing like a nun at a sermon in Lent, and singing very scurvily. There was continual bickering between him and the Catalonian, who was the most wretched, miserable creature that ever God put life into; for, like a tertian ague, he fed but once in three days, and the bread was so hard that it had broke several of his teeth. His way of making love was looking big and bullying, though at the same time he had no more heart than a hen, and cackled as much. These two perceiving I had got the start of them in the amorous adventure, made it their whole business to rail at me. The Portuguese said I was a shabby, lousy scoundrel; the Catalonian gave out that I was a pitiful coward. I knew all they said, and sometimes heard it, but did not think fit to make any reply. In short, the wench gave me a full hearing, and received my love letters, which I began, according to the laudable custom, with “Pardon my presumption,” “The power of your beauty,” etc. Then I went on with the terms of passion and flames, and feigned myself her slave, sealing it with a heart struck through with a dart. After all this ceremony we came to plain “thee” and “thou”; and to clench the notion of my quality, already conceived, I went abroad, hired a mule, and muffling myself up in my cloak, and changing my voice, asked for myself, inquiring whether Don Ramiro de Guzman, lord of Valcerado and Vellorete, lived there. The wench made answer, “Here is a gentleman of that name, of a low stature,” and described me. I replied he was the man, and desired her to tell him that Diego de Solarzano, his steward, was going to receive his rents, and called as he went by to kiss his hand. Having left this message I went away, and came home awhile after. They received me with the greatest joy imaginable, complaining that I would not let them know I was lord of Valcerado and Vellorete, and delivered the message they had for me. This made the wench mad to secure such a rich husband, and so she contrived that I should talk with her at one o’clock in the morning, getting out of a gallery upon the tiles her window looked over.
The devil, who is always contriving of mischief, so ordered it, that at night, being eager to improve that opportunity, I went up into the gallery, and getting out of it upon the tiles, where I was to entertain my lady, my feet slipped, and I came down upon a neighbour’s house, who was a notary, with such force, that I broke all the tiles, and left the print of them in my sides. The dreadful noise waked half the house, and fancying there had been thieves, for that sort of people are always apprehensive of them, they came out upon the top of the house. I would have hid myself behind a chimney, which made the suspicion the greater; for the notary, with the assistance of two servants and a brother, beat me like a stock-fish, and bound me in the presence of my mistress, without any regard to what I could say for myself. She laughed heartily, because having told her before that I could play abundance of odd pranks by the help of the magic art, she concluded the fall had been only a trick to make sport, and therefore lay calling to me to come up, for I had done enough. This and the beating made me roar out unmercifully; and the best of it was, that she believed it was all sham, and laughed immoderately. The notary began to draw up a process, and because he heard some keys rattle in my pocket, he not only said, but writ it down, that they were picklocks, though they were showed him, and it was impossible to beat it out of him. I told him I was Don Ramiro de Guzman, at which he laughed heartily. Seeing myself in a wretched condition, unmercifully beaten before my mistress, and like to be hurried away to gaol with a scandalous name, though innocent, I knew not what course to take. I fell upon my knees before the notary, and begged of him for the love of God, but all that would not prevail with him to quit me. Hitherto we were still upon the tiles, for these people have never the more conscience for being the nearer heaven; they then took me down below, through a skylight that was over a kitchen.
I had not one wink of sleep all that night, thinking on my misfortune, which was not my falling upon the tiles, but into the cruel and merciless clutches of the notary; and when I called to mind the pretended picklocks he had found in my pocket, and how many leaves he had writ of my process, I perceived there is nothing in nature increases so fast as a crime, when a notary has the handling of it. I spent the night in hatching schemes; sometimes I resolved to beg him for Jesus Christ’s sake; but then reflecting how He was used, when upon earth, by men of that kidney, I put off doing so. I tried several times to unbind myself, but he presently heard me, and came to see if all was fast; for he was more watchful, studying how to make out a lie, than I was to clear myself. He got up by break of day, and was dressed so early, that there was no creature stirring in the whole house besides himself and the devil that prompted him; he laid hold of a good leather belt, strapped me soundly with it over and over again, and reproved me severely for the vile sin of thieving, as being a thing he was so well acquainted with himself. This was the posture we were in, he laying on me, and I almost resolved to give him money, which is the only thing in nature that mollifies those stony hearts. By this time my mistress, who had seen my fall and cudgelling, being convinced it was a real misfortune and no enchantment, had, by her earnest prayers and entreaties, prevailed upon the Portuguese and Catalonian to come to my assistance, as they did. The notary hearing them speak to me, immediately drew out his pen to insert them into his process as accessories. The Portuguese had not patience to hear it, but let fly some ill language, telling him he was a man of quality, and the king’s servant, and that I was a very honest gentleman, and it was very knavishly done to bind me after that manner. This said, he began to unbind me, and the notary to cry out for help. In came two servants of his, half bum-bailiff and half porter, treading upon their own cloaks, and tearing their bands, as they use to do, to make it appear as if they had been beaten in the execution of their office, and roared out for all people to aid and assist them in the king’s name. However, the Portuguese and Catalonian unbound me, and the notary perceiving there was nobody to stand by him, said, “I vow to God I am not to be so served, and were not you, gentlemen, persons of such worth, it might cost you dear; however, bid these witnesses be contented, and take notice, that I serve you generously without any prospect of interest.” I understood the hint; took out a piece of eight and gave it him, and had a very good mind to return the beating he had given me, but forbore rather than own the receipt of it, and went away with them, returning hearty thanks for my deliverance, my face all bruised with the cuffs and my back weal’d with cudgelling. The Catalonian made very merry, and advised the wench to marry me to invert the proverb, “That I might not be cuckolded first and beaten after, but first beaten and then cuckolded.” He called me a bold desperate fellow, ironically alluding to my cudgelling, which sly way of his still put me out of countenance. If I happened to go in to give them but a friendly visit, he presently began a discourse of thrashing, of canes and cudgels.
Finding myself thus run down, and that they began to discover the cheat of my riches, I laid about how to get away from the house and carry off my equipage, without paying for my diet or lodging, which amounted to some money. I agreed with one, Licentiate Brandalagas, of the town of Hornillos, and two friends of his, that they should come and seize upon me. They came at the day appointed, told the landlady they were sent by the Inquisition, and charged her with secrecy. The whole family quaked for fear, because I had pretended to them that I was a conjurer. They spoke not a word against carrying me off, but when they saw my equipage moving they would have made a seizure for what I owed, but the others answered, “That all the goods belonged to the Inquisition.” At this they had no word to say; they let them go peaceably, and when they were gone, said, “They had always dreaded it.” The Portuguese and Catalonian positively affirmed that those who used to inquire for me were devils; that I had certainly a familiar spirit, and when the women told them how much money I had counted, they swore it was no money, though it seemed so, and the others believed them.
I got clear off, and saved all my diet and lodging, and then, with the advice of those that had stood my friends, I contrived to alter my dress into the genteel fashion, to put on strait breeches, and a great collar, and get a scoundrel by the name of a page, and two rogues for footmen, as the mode then was. The others encouraged me so to do, showing how I might make myself at once by that means, getting a wife with a great fortune, by making such a figure, which frequently happened at Madrid; adding, that they would put me in the way, finding out one for my turn, and contriving how I might gain admittance. Covetousness prevailing, and the desire of a wife, I consented, searched all the brokers’ shops, bought my wedding clothes, hired a horse, and mounted in great state that very day, but could not light on a footman. Away I made to the High Street, and stopped at a saddler’s shop, as if I were buying some furniture. Two gentlemen on horseback asked me, “Whether I was about buying a rich embroidered saddle and housing I had in my hand?” I laid it down immediately, saying, “It was at their service, if they liked it,” and kept them awhile with a thousand compliments. At length they said they would go and divert themselves in the Prado. I told them I would wait on them, if they would give me leave; and left word with the saddler, that in case my pages and footmen came thither, he should send them after me, describing the livery to him; which said, I clapped in between the two gentlemen, and away we went. By the way I considered with myself, that none who saw us could possibly guess or decide to which of us the pages and footmen belonged, or which of us had none. I began to talk very loud of the tilting and other sports on horseback at Talavera, and of a piebald horse I had, highly commending a lusty stallion I expected from Córdova. Every page or footman I met on horseback I stopped, asking, “Whose it was?” Then talked of his marks like a jockey, and asked, “Whether he was to be sold?” Then I would make him take a turn or two up and down the street, and though there were no fault, would find one in the bridle, and tell him how to mend it. Fortune so ordered it that I met with several opportunities of showing my talent. The gentlemen were mystified, and, as I fancied, thought with themselves, “What upstart country squire is this?” One of them had a plain badge of knighthood on his breast, the other his hanging at a chain set with diamonds; and therefore, to amuse them, I said I was looking out to buy some choice horses for myself and a kinsman of mine that were to be at some sports on horseback. When we came to the Prado, I took my feet out of the stirrups, turning my heels out and walking easily, with my cloak hanging upon one shoulder, and my hat in my hand. Everybody gazed at me; one said, “I have seen that spark walk on foot;” another, “The scoundrel makes a pretty figure.” I made as if I did not hear them, and walked on. The two gentlemen went up to a coach full of ladies, and desired me to amuse them awhile. I left the side where the young ones were, and went to the other where there was a mother and an aunt, two pleasant old jades, the one about fifty years of age, the other little less. I told them a thousand amorous lies, and they listened to them; for there is no woman, though never so old, but has a good conceit of herself; offered to treat them, and asked whether the other ladies were married? They replied they were maids, and it was easy enough to guess at it by their talk. Then I made the usual compliment, wishing they might see them well preferred to their mind, and they were much taken with it. Next they asked me how I spent my time at Court? To which I answered, that I kept out of the way from a father and mother, who would fain marry me, against my will, to a woman that was ugly, foolish, and of a mean family, only because she had a vast portion. “And for my part, ladies,” I said, “I had rather have a wife well born, in her smock, than the wealthiest Jew that is; for, God be praised, my patrimony is worth about forty thousand ducats a year; and if I succeed in a lawsuit, which goes hitherto well on my side, I shall want no more.” The aunt hearing this account, very promptly cried, “Lord, sir, I admire you for that humour. Do not marry unless you please, and with a woman of a good family, for I do assure you, that though I am not very rich, I have refused to marry off my niece, who has had very rich suitors, because they were not of quality. She is poor, it is true, for her portion is but six thousand ducats; but as for blood she is inferior to none.” “I do not question that, Madam,” said I. At this the damsels ended their discourse with the gentlemen, and asked for some refreshment. The two gazed upon one another, and began to quake for fear; but I laying hold of the opportunity, told them I was sorry my pages were out of the way, because I had nobody to send home for some boxes of sweetmeats. They returned thanks, and I desired them to be the next day at the summerhouse in the Prado, and I would send them a cold refection. They accepted of the invitation, told me their address, and inquired after mine; so the coach went off, and my companions and I made towards our homes. They observing that I was so generous in offering the treat, began to take a fancy to me, and the more to oblige me, desired I would sup with them that night. I stood off a little, but not too long, and supped with them, sending out several times to seek my servants, and swearing I would turn them away. When it struck ten I told them I had an assignation, and therefore begged they would excuse me for that time and went away; first engaging them to meet the next day at the summerhouse. From them I went to return the hired horse to the owner, and thence home, where I found my companions playing at reversis. I told them what had happened and of the engagement I had made. We resolved to send the collation without fail, and to lay out two hundred reals on it. Having thus ordered affairs, we went to bed, where I own I could not sleep all night for thinking how I should invest the dowry, for I could not resolve whether it were better with it to build a good house, or to put it out to interest, not knowing which would be better and of more benefit for me.
In the morning we got up to provide the plate, servants, and collation; and there being nothing in this world that money cannot command, as being a thing worshipped by all men, I found a nobleman’s butler that furnished plate, and undertook to wait himself with three of his fellow-servants. The forenoon was spent in arranging affairs, and after dinner I hired a nag and at the appointed time set out for the summerhouse. I had abundance of papers sticking out of my pockets; besides that, my coat being unbuttoned, some peeped out at my bosom, as if I had been a man of mighty business. When I came to the place the ladies and gentlemen were there; the former received me with much show of love, and the latter talked to me by plain “thee” and “thou,” in token of familiarity. I had told them my name was Don Philip Tristan, and nothing was to be heard in all their mouths but Don Philip and Don Philip; but I told them I had been so entirely taken up with some business of the king’s and the accounts of my estate, that I had much ado to be as good as my word, and therefore they must expect a hurried repast. By this time the butler came with all his tackle, plate and servants; the gentlemen and ladies looked at me and held their peace. I ordered him to go into the eating-room and lay the cloth, whilst we went to divert ourselves at the fishponds. The old women drew near to fawn and flatter, and I was glad to see the young girls unveiled, for since I was born I never saw so delicate a creature as that was whom I designed for my wife. A skin as white as alabaster, delicate fair hair, a singular fresh colour in her cheeks, a little mouth, fine, small teeth standing close together, a well-shaped nose, large black eyes, tall of stature, charming hands, with a delicate little lisp. The other was not amiss, but more wanton, and I suspected she had been handled. We went to the fishponds, saw all that could be seen, and by her talk I found that my intended bride would have been in danger in Herod’s days of being included among the innocents. In short, she had not a grain of sense; however, as I never love them for counsellors or jesters, but only to take my pleasure with them—and if they are ugly and clever it is like lying with Aristotle or Seneca or a book—I always pitch upon those that are properest for the use I would make of them. This consideration comforted me; we went towards the banqueting-house, and as we passed along a branch of the hedge got hold of the lace of my band, and tore it a little; the young lady stepped up and pinned it with a silver pin, and her mother bade me send it to her house the next day, and Donna Anna, so the maiden was called, would mend it. All the repast was in excellent order, hot and cold, fruit and sweetmeats.
When the cloth was taken away, I spied a gentleman coming along the garden with two servants after him, and who should this be but my old master, Don Diego Coronel. He drew near, and, seeing me in this habit, could not take his eyes off me, talked to the women, calling them cousins, and all the time turned to look again and again. I kept talking to the butler, while the other two gentlemen, my master’s friends, were in deep discourse with him. He asked them, as afterwards appeared, my name, and they answered, it was Don Philip Tristan, a very honest gentleman of a great estate. I saw him cross himself, and at length he came up to me before them all, and said, “Sir, will you pardon me, for, by the Lord, till I heard your name, I took you for a different person from what you are; in my life I never saw anything so like a servant I had at Segovia, called little Pablo, the son of a barber in that town.” They all laughed heartily, and I used all the art I could to forbear betraying myself by blushing, and said, “I long mightily to see that man, because abundance of people had told me I was extremely like him.” “Good God,” cried Don Diego, “like him! I never saw such a resemblance, his very shape, voice and mien. I declare to you, sir, it is a marvel, and I never beheld any two so exactly alike.” The old women, mother and aunt, asked how it was possible that a gentleman of such quality should be so like that mean scoundrel. And that there should be no suspicion on them, one said, “I know Don Philip very well, it was he that entertained us at Ocaña, by my husband’s order.” I took the cue, and answered, “I should always be ready to do them all the service I could everywhere.” Don Diego offered his service and begged pardon for the affront of taking me for the barber’s son, adding, “Sir, you will scarce believe it, but his mother was a witch, his father a thief, his uncle the hangman, and he himself the wickedest base fellow in the world.” It is easy to guess what I felt, hearing such scandalous things said of me to my face; I sat upon thorns, though I did all I could to dissemble my uneasiness. My two new acquaintance and I took our leave, and Don Diego went into the coach with the ladies. Then he asked them what was the meaning of the treat, and their being with me? The mother and aunt told him I was heir to so many thousand ducats a year, and had a mind to marry Anna; that he might inquire into the matter, and he would see how proper an affair it was, and how advantageous to their family. This discourse lasted till they got home, which was near the church of St. Philip. My comrades and I went together to their house, as we had done the night before, and they having a mind to fleece me, asked me whether I would play. I guessed at their meaning, and set to it; the cards were brought; I let them win at first, but soon fetched it about; won about three hundred reals, took my leave and went home.
There I found my two companions, the Licentiate Brandalagas, and Pedro López, who were practising new cheats upon the dice. As soon they saw me, they left off to inquire how I had sped. I only told them that I had been in great danger; how I had met with Don Diego, and how I came off. They comforted and encouraged me to proceed, and not to desist from the enterprise by any means. We had now notice given us that they used to play at an apothecary’s house close by. I understood the game at that time tolerably well, had cards made for the purpose, and knew all sorts of cheats, so we resolved to go put in for the plate among them. I sent my friends before me, who at their coming, asked them whether they would please to play with a monk of the order of St. Benedict, who was just come to town to be cured of a tedious distemper among his relations and friends, and was well stocked with crowns and ducats? This set them all agog, and they cried, “Let the friar come, in God’s name.” “He is a man of note in the order,” added Pedro López, “and being out for a sally, has a mind to amuse himself for a few hours, and does it only for company’s sake.” “Let him come,” quoth they, “we do not care what his motive is.” “We tell you so much as a caution,” answered Brandalagas. “Enough,” said the man of the house, “you need say no more.” This satisfied them that the thing was so, and the lie was believed. My two acolytes came for me, and I was dressed with my nightcap on, in a Benedictine habit, which I had got by the wheel of fortune in my rambles, a pair of spectacles on my nose, and a short, bushy beard, to show as if it were grown since my sickness. I walked in very demurely, sat down, and we began to play. They all combined to put upon me, but I swept all before me, being much sharper at it than they, so that in about three hours’ time I won upwards of thirteen hundred reals. I gave them a trifle for luck, and took my leave with the usual compliment of, “The Lord be praised,” charging them not to be scandalised to see me play, for it was mere diversion and nothing else. They who had lost their money cursed themselves to the pit of hell. I took my leave again, and we sallied out, got to our lodging about half after one, divided our booty, and so to bed.
This was some satisfaction to me for the unlucky accident before. I got up in the morning to hire a horse, but they were all let, by which I perceived there were more in my case besides myself. To walk the streets afoot did not look well, especially at that time. I went towards St. Philip’s, where I found a lawyer’s footman with a horse in his hand, waiting for his master, who had just alighted to hear mass in that church. I clapt four reals in his hands, to let me ride two or three turns along the next street, where my mistress lived. He consented; I mounted; rode twice up and down the street, without seeing anybody, but at the third turn Donna Anna looked out. When I saw her, thinking to show off my horsemanship, and being but an indifferent jockey and unacquainted with the horse’s qualities, I gave him two cuts with the whip, reining him in at the same time; he reared first, then striking out behind, set a-running at full speed, so that I came clear over his head into a puddle. I had no other recourse in this pitiful plight, all beset with boys, and in the presence of my mistress, but to cry out, “A cursed dog! My sorrel would never have done so. I shall pay for these mad pranks one time or other. They told me of his tricks, and yet I would needs be defying him.” By this time the footman brought me the horse again, for he had stopped as soon as he had thrown me; I mounted again, and Don Diego Coronel, who lived in the same house with his kinswoman, hearing the noise, looked out. The sight of him startled me very much; he asked, “Whether I had any hurt?” I answered, “No,” though at the same time one of my legs was almost lamed. The footman pressed me hard to give him his horse, for fear his master should come out of the church and see me, for he was going to Court. It was my misfortune, that as he was speaking to me, the lawyer came behind us, and knowing his steed, ran at the footman, beating him about the head and face with his fist, and asking him, as loud as he could cry, “How he durst have the impudence to let anybody ride his horse?” And what was worst of all, he turned to me, and in a very angry manner, bade me get down with many curses. All this was in the full view of my mistress and Don Diego Coronel, which put me as much out of countenance as if I had been whipped at the cart’s tail. I was wonderfully cast down and melancholy, and with good cause, to have two such misfortunes befal me upon so small a spot of ground. In fine, I was fain to alight; the lawyer mounted, and went his way; and I the better to carry off the business, stayed in the street, talking to Don Diego, and said, “I never mounted such an unlucky jade in all my days. My cream-coloured horse is yonder by St. Philip’s church, and is very hard-mouthed when he sets a-galloping. I was telling some people there how I used to ride him at full speed, and pull him up at one check. They told me, I could not do it with a horse that stood there, which was the lawyer’s you saw; I resolved to try; you cannot imagine what a restive jade it is, and has such a scurvy saddle, that it was a wonder he did not kill me.” “It was so, indeed,” answered Don Diego; “and yet, sir, you seem hurt in that leg.” “I do so,” replied I, “and therefore I’ll go take my own horse and get home.” The young lady was fully satisfied that all I said was true, for I could perceive she was much concerned at my fall; but Don Diego, who saw farther, grew suspicious through what had happened with the lawyer in the street.
This proved the cause of my ruin, besides many other unlucky accidents that befel me; and the greatest of all was, that when I went home and came to a chest, where in a portmanteau I had left all the remains of my inheritance, and what I won at play, except only an hundred reals I had about me, I found my good friends the Licentiate Brandalagas and Pedro López had laden themselves with it, and were fled. This was a mortal stroke, and I stood confounded, not knowing which way to turn myself, and saying, “A curse on him that puts his trust in ill-gotten wealth, which goes as it comes.” Unhappy man! what shall I do? I could not tell whether it were best to go myself, or send a hue and cry after them. I did not like this course, because if they should happen to be taken, they would charge me with the disguise of the monk’s habit, and other matters, and that was the direct way to the gallows; and as for following of them, I knew not which way. At last, for fear of spoiling my marriage, which I looked upon as secure, and likely to make amends for all losses, I resolved to stay and push it on vigorously. I dined, after dinner hired a horse, went away towards my mistress’s street; and having no footman, and it not being decent to be seen without one, I waited at the corner of the street until some man passed by that looked like one, and away I went after him, making him a footman, though he was none. At the other end of the street I did the like, standing out of sight until another went by like the former, and then rode down again. I know not whether it was a conviction of the truth that I was the very scoundrel that Don Diego suspected, or the fresh cause of suspicion, on account of the lawyer’s horse and footman, or what else that did it, but he took care to inquire who I was, what I lived on, and observed all my actions. At last he discovered the whole intrigue the strangest way that could be imagined, for I pressed on the business of matrimony very hotly, plying the ladies continually with letters; and Don Diego being as eagerly importuned by them, who were in haste to conclude it, as he was upon the scent after me, met the Licentiate Flechilla, the man I invited myself to dine with, when first I entered myself among the sharping gang at Madrid before my imprisonment. This man taking it ill that I had not gone to see him again, according to promise, happening to talk with Don Diego, and knowing I had been his servant, told him how I met him when I went to dine with him; and that but two days ago he had seen me on horseback, and I informed him I was going to be married to a great fortune. This was enough for Don Diego, who returning home immediately, met with the two gentlemen I had made myself so familiar with, gave them an account of the whole affair, and desired them to be ready at night to give me a good thrashing in his street, where he would contrive I should be, and they might know me by his cloak, which he would take care I should have on. They agreed, saw me presently in the street, and all of them carried it so fair at that time, that I never thought myself so secure of their friendship as then. We continued talking together how to divert ourselves at night, till towards the close of the evening the two gentlemen took their leave, and went down the street. Don Diego and I being left by ourselves, turned towards the church of St. Philip. When we came to the next turning, Don Diego said to me, “Let me beg the favour of you, Don Philip, to change cloaks with me, for I have occasion to go this way, and would not be known.” “With all my heart,” answered I. I took his cloak very innocently, and gave him mine in an unhappy hour, offering to go along and stand by him if need were; but he having projected to stand by me to break my bones, replied, “He was obliged to go alone, and therefore desired me to leave him.”
No sooner had I parted from him, but the devil contrived that two who were lying in wait there to give him a thrashing on account of a wench, thinking, by the cloak, that I was Don Diego, fell a-cudgelling me as thick as hail; I cried out, and by my voice and face they discovered I was the wrong man, at which they ran away, and I was left with my beating, which raised three or four big lumps on my head. I had to make a halt, not daring to go into my mistress’s street a while for fear. At last about twelve, which was the time when I talked with her, I came up to the door where one of Don Diego’s friends that waited for me, being ready with a good cudgel, gave me two blows across the shins, which laid me flat on the ground; as soon as I was down, the other played his part, giving me a slash across the face from ear to ear. They then took away my cloak, and left me on the ground, saying, “This is the reward of false, deceitful, baseborn scoundrels.” I cried out for help, not knowing to whom I was beholden for that usage, though, by what they said at parting, I guessed it might perhaps be the landlord I had cheated, with the contrivance of being taken up by the Inquisition, or the gaoler I had so long imposed upon, or my companions who had fled; for, to say the truth, I expected that cut from so many places, that I could not be positive from whom it might come. Don Diego was the person I least suspected, and I was farthest from the mark; but still cried out, “Thieves! Thieves!” which at length brought the watch, who took me up, and spying a gash a foot long on my face, and that I had no cloak, nor could tell how that misfortune came, they carried me away to a surgeon’s house, where I was dressed; then they asked where I lived, and thither they conducted me. I went to bed and lay all night awake, full of remorse and confusion; my face being cut in two, my body bruised, and my legs so crippled with the cudgelling, that I could not stand nor had scarce any feeling in them. In fine, I was wounded, robbed, and in such a condition, that I could neither follow my friends, nor proceed with my marriage, nor stay in Madrid, nor get away.
The next morning, by break of day, the lady of the house appeared at my bed’s head. She was a good sort of old woman, at the years of discretion, past fifty-five, a great pair of beads in her hand, a face like a dried apple, or a walnut shell, it was so full of furrows. She had a great name in the neighbourhood, and so she lay in bed till noon when she pleased, and with as many as pleased. She promoted pleasure and contrived delight; her name was one La Guía; her trade to let lodgings at home, and hire others abroad. Her house was never without lodgers all the year round. It was pleasant to see how she instructed a young girl in veiling herself, teaching her what parts of her face she must be sure to expose to sight. If she had good teeth, she advised her to be always a-laughing, though it were at a visit of condolence; if she had fine hands, she taught her to be always playing with them; if fair hair, to have some loose locks peeping out under the veil; if good eyes, to be continually ogling; and if sparkling small ones, to shut and then open them wide, and be sure to look up. As for washes, and other cosmetics for the skin, she would make an Ethiopian as fair of complexion as a Dane; so that many women came to her, and went home so altered, that their own husbands did not know them; but her greatest art consisted in mending virgins, and making up damsels. All this I saw performed by the time I had been but eight days in the house; and to complete all, she directed the women how to pick pockets, and taught them what pretty expressions they should use. She showed them how they should wheedle a jewel out of a man; young girls were to do it by way of pleasantry and jest, ripe maids as a due, and old women as a piece of respect and obligation. She put them in the way how to beg money, and how to draw rings and other trinkets. Upon occasion, she quoted some famous ones of her own profession at Alcalá, at Burgos, and in other parts of Spain where any had gained renown in this art of cullying. I have given this account of her that I may be pitied, considering into what hands I was fallen; and the words she said to me may be the more taken notice of. She was always very fond of proverbs, and began her speech after this manner: “ ‘Where you take and not put, you soon reach the bottom’; ‘As you sow, so will you reap’; ‘As the wedding so the cake.’ My son, Don Philip, to deal plainly, I do not understand you, nor can I conceive how you live. You are young, and it is no wonder you should be somewhat wild, without considering, that even whilst we sleep, we are travelling to our end. I, who have now one foot in the grave, have the privilege to tell you so much. It is very odd I should be told that you spent much money, and nobody knows how; and that you have, since you came to town, sometimes appeared like a scholar, sometimes a sharper, and sometimes like a gentleman. All this comes of keeping company; for, my son, ‘tell me where you herd, and I’ll tell you what you are’; and ‘birds of a feather flock together’; and ‘many a good bit is lost between the lip and the dish.’ Go, you fool; if you had a hankering after women, did not you know that I had always a good stock of that commodity by me, and that I live by that trade? I breed them up to hand, and fit them for that business, and then I have them ready at my beck. What occasion have you to be drawn away by one scoundrel today, and by another rascal tomorrow; picking up a dirty drab here, and a pickled jade there, who fleece you to keep another? I vow and swear you had saved many a crown if you had applied yourself to me, for I am not over fond of money. By my father’s soul, and as I hope for mercy, I would not have asked you now for what is due for lodging, but that I want it for some private uses, and to buy some little candles and herbs.” She had her gallipots, though she was neither surgeon or apothecary, and if anybody greased her she anointed herself, and flew out with the smoke.20
I perceived that all her discourse and long speech ended in a dun; for though that was her text, she did not begin with it as others do, but made it her conclusion; when I found that I was not at all to seek for the occasion of her loving visit, which was the first she made me whilst I lodged in her house, excepting only one day, when she came to answer for herself, because she heard I had been told some story about her witchcraft, and that when the officers came to seize her, she had cast such a mist before their eyes, that they could neither find the house nor the street. She came then to tell me it was all a mistake, for they meant another of her name; and no wonder, for there were more of the name and profession. I paid her down the money, and as I was telling it out, ill fortune, which always attends me, and the devil, who never forgets to plague me, so ordered it, that the officers came to seize her for a scandalous liver, and had information that her gallant was in the house. They came directly into my room, and seeing me in bed and her by me, they laid hold of us both, gave me half a score good blows, and dragged me out of bed. Two others held her fast, saluting her with the titles of bawd and witch. Who would have thought it of a woman that lived as I have said? The noise the constables made, and my cries, gave the alarm to her gallant, who was a fruiterer, and lay in the next room within. He set off a-running. They observing it, and being informed by another lodger in the house that I was not the man, scoured after, and laid hold of him, leaving me well beaten and my hair torn off; yet for all I had endured, I could not forbear laughing to hear how the dogs complimented the old woman. One cried, “How gracefully you will look in a cart, mother; by my troth, it will be a great satisfaction to me to see a thousand or two of rotten oranges and turnip tops fly after you.” Another said, “We have taken care that you shall make a good show, and be well attended.” At last they caught her bully, bound them both, begged my pardon, and left me to myself.
It was some comfort to me to see my good landlady in the way to preferment, so that all my care was to be in a readiness that I might throw one rotten orange at her; though considering what a maid of hers, who was left behind, told me, I much doubted whether ever they could secure her in prison, for she talked of flying, and some other matters I did not at all like. I lay eight days in the house under the surgeon’s hands, and was scarce able to go abroad at the end of them, for they were fain to stitch up my face, and I could not go without crutches. By this time my money was spent, for the hundred reals all went in lodging, diet, and cure; so that to avoid further expenses, when my treasure was gone, I resolved to go abroad upon crutches, and sell my linen and clothes, which were very good. I did so and with part of the money bought an old leather jerkin, a canvas waistcoat, a patched beggar’s great coat down to my ankles, spatter-dashes on my legs, and great clouted shoes, the hood of the great coat on my head, a large brass crucifix about my neck, and a pair of beads in my hand. A mumper, who was a master at his trade, taught me the doleful tone and proper phrases for begging, so I began immediately to practise it about the streets. Sixty reals I had left I sewed up in my doublet, and so set up for a beggar, much confiding in my cant. I went about the streets for a whole week, howling in a dismal tone, and repeating my lesson after this manner: “Good Christian servants of the Lord, take pity on a poor distressed, miserable, wounded, and maimed creature, that has no comfort of his life.” This was my working day note, but on Sundays and holidays I altered my voice, and said, “Good charitable people, for the exalted Princess, Queen of the Angels, Mother of God, give an alms to the poor cripple whom the Lord has visited.” Then I stopped a little, which does good service, and went on again: “See my poor limbs were blasted, unhappy wretch that I am, as I was working in a vineyard; I lost the use of all my precious limbs; for I was as strong and as sound as any of you are, the Lord be forever praised, and preserve your health and limbs.” Thus the farthings came tumbling in by shoals; I got abundance of money, and was in a way of getting much more, had I not been thwarted by an ill-looking lusty young fellow, lame of both arms and with but one leg, who plied my own walks in a wheelbarrow, and picked up more pence than I did, though he begged not half so genteelly; for he had a hoarse voice, which ended in a squeak, and said, “Faithful servants of Jesus Christ, behold how the Lord hath afflicted me for my sins; give one farthing to the poor, God will reward you,” and then he added, “for the sweet Jesu’s sake.” This brought him a mighty revenue, and I observed it, and for the future I cut off the s, and said only Jesu, because I perceived it moved to greater devotion. In short, I altered my phrases as occasion served, and there was no end of my gettings. I had both my legs bound up in a leather bag, and lay in a surgeon’s porch, with a beggar that plied at the corner of a street, one of the arrantest knaves that ever God put life into. He was very rich, and as it were our superior, and earned as much as all of us. His belly hung out in a bunch; besides, he bound one arm tight with a rope above the shoulder, which made his hand look as if it were lame, swollen, and had an inflammation. He lay flat on his back, with all the rupture naked, which was as big as his head, and cried, “Behold my misery, see how the Lord chastises his servants.” If a woman happened to pass by, “Sweet, beautiful lady, the Lord bless your dear soul.” Most of them would give him an alms for calling them handsome, and would make that their way to their visits, though it were not their road. If any ragged soldier came by, he called him “Noble Captain;” if any other sort of man, “Good worthy gentleman;” if he saw anybody in a coach, “Right Honourable Lord;” and if a clergyman on a mule, “Most Reverend Archdeacon.” In short, he was a most intolerable flatterer, and had particular ways of begging on holidays. I contracted such intimacy with him that he acquainted me with a secret, which in a few days made us rich; and it was, that he kept three little boys, who begged about the streets, stole everything that came in their way, which they brought to him, and he was the receiver; besides, he had two small children that learned to pick pockets, and he went halves with them. Being so well instructed by such an able master, I took to the same courses, and he provided me with fit instruments for my purpose. In less than a month’s time I had got above forty crowns clear of expenses, and at last, designing that we should go away together, he disclosed to me the greatest secret and cunningest design that ever beggar had in his head, which we both joined in; and it was, that between us we every day stole four or five children, which being cried, we presently appeared, inquired what marks they had to be known by, and said, “Good God, sir, I found this child at such a time, and had I not come as I did, a cart had run over it, but I have taken care of it.” They readily paid us the reward, and it throve so well, that I got above fifty crowns more, and by this time my legs were well, though I still wore them wrapped in clouts. I resolved to leave Madrid and go away to Toledo, where I knew nobody and nobody knew me. Having taken this resolution, I bought an old suit of grey clothes, a sword and bands, took leave of Valcazar, the beggar I last mentioned, and went about the inns to find some way to go to Toledo.
At a certain inn I met with a company of strolling players, who were going to Toledo, and had three carts with them. It pleased God that among the gang I found one who had been my fellow-student at Alcalá, who had played the wag, and was turned actor. I told him what a mind I had to go to Toledo, and he scarce knew me for the scar across my face, and he could not forbear crossing himself at the sign of my cross.21 In conclusion, for a small spill of money, he was so much my friend as to prevail with the rest to let me go with them. We were a scratch lot, men and women together, and I was mightily taken with one of the crew, who was the chief dancer, and acted the queen and other great parts in plays, for she was a notable jilt. Her husband happened to sit next to me, and not thinking to whom I spoke, but following my inclination, I asked him, “How could a man do to have a little talk with this woman, that I might spend twenty crowns upon her, for I have a great liking to her?” “It does not become me to answer your question, as I am her husband,” replied the man, “nor is it fit I should talk of any such thing; but to speak without feeling, for I have none, she deserves to have any money spent upon her, for there is not a more dainty bit of flesh upon the earth, nor such a playsome wench.” This said, he leaped out of the cart, and got into another, in all likelihood that I might have an opportunity of making my addresses to her. I was pleased with the man’s answer, and perceived it may be said of such men, that they had wives as if they had none. I laid hold of the opportunity; she asked me whither I was going, and some questions concerning my life and circumstances; and in conclusion, after much talk, postponed the affair to Toledo.
We diverted ourselves by the way as best we could, and I happened to act a piece out of a play of San Alejo that I had borne a part in when I was a boy, which I did so well, that they took a liking to me, and learning of my friend, who was in the company, of all my misfortunes and hard circumstances which I had made him acquainted with, she asked me whether I would make one among them? They so highly extolled their strolling course of life, and I was then in such want of some support, and so fond of the wench, that I agreed with the manager for two years. Writings were signed between us to oblige me to stay with them, so they gave me my allowance, and allotted my parts, and thus we came to Toledo. They gave me two or three prologues to get by heart, and some other grave parts, which suited well with my voice. I applied myself to it, and spoke the first prologue in the town, which was about a ship in distress, as they all are, and wanting provisions, which put into that port. I called the folks a “Senate,” begging their attentions, pardon for all faults, and so went off. There was great clapping of hands, and in fine I was liked on the stage. We acted a play, written by one of our actors, and I wondered how they should come to be poets, for I thought it belonged only to very learned and ingenious men, and not to persons so extremely ignorant. But it is now come to such a pass that every head of them writes plays, and every actor makes drolls and farces; though formerly I remember no plays would go down but such as were written by the good Lope de Vega and Doctor Ramon. In short, the play was acted the first day, and no soul could make anything of it. The second day we began it again, and as God would have it, there was some warlike exploit to begin with; and I came upon the stage in armour, and with a target on my arm, which was a great mercy, or else I had infallibly been pelted to death with cabbage-stalks and pumpkins, and all things that came to hand. Such a storm of hail was never seen, and the play deserved it, for it represented a king of Normandy in a hermit’s habit, without any sense or reason, had two scoundrel footmen to make sport, and when they came to unravel the plot, there was nothing but marrying of all the company, and there was an end; so that, to say the truth, we got but what we deserved. We all fell foul of our companion, the pretended poet, and I bade him consider what a danger we had escaped, and take warning by it; he answered, he had not made one word of the play, but only picked up bits and scraps, some from one and some from another, as they came in his way, which he had jumbled together, like a beggar’s cloak made of all sorts of rags; and the ill luck was, that it had not been neatly joined. He owned, that all the players who wrote plays, were obliged to make restitution, because they only stole from all the parts they acted, which was easily done, and they were willing to run all hazards in hopes of getting ten or twenty crowns. Besides that, going about all the country, and being shown plays by several persons, they borrowed them to read, and then stole them, to which, when they had done, they only added some scurvy part, and left out another better, and so they called it their own; protesting that no player ever knew how to write a scene any other way.
I liked the contrivance and took a great fancy to try it myself, as having some small turn for poetry, and being somewhat versed in poets, for I had read Garcilaso, and others, and so I resolved to fall into that trade; so that with this, and my actress, and my own playing, I made a shift to live. By that time we had been a month at Toledo, acting several new plays, and endeavouring to retrieve our first failure, and they had come to call me little Alonso, for I had given out that my name was Alonso, to which the generality added the title of “the Cruel,” because I had acted a part of that nature, to the great liking of the pit and upper galleries. I had now got several new suits of clothes, and there were some heads of other strollers who endeavoured to inveigle me away from my company. I set up for a critic of comedy, commented on the famous actors, reprehended the attitudes of Pinedo, gave my vote for Sanchez’s natural sedateness, called Morales pretty good, so that my advice was always taken in contriving the scenes and adorning the stage; and if any play came to be offered, it was left to me to examine it. Being encouraged by this applause, I made my maiden effort as a poet in a little ballad, and then wrote a small farce, which was well approved of. Next I ventured a play, and that it might not escape being a thing divine, made it all of devotion, and full of the Blessed Virgin. It began with music, had fine shows of souls in purgatory, and devils appearing, as was the fashion then, with old gibberish when they appeared, and strange shrieks when they vanished. The mob was mightily pleased with my rhymes about Satan, and my long discourses about his falling from Heaven, and suchlike. In short the play was acted, and well liked. I had more business than I could turn my hands to, for all sorts of lovers flocked to me, some would have songs on their mistress’s eyes, others on their foreheads, others on their white hands, and others on their golden locks. There was a set price for everything; but I sold cheap to draw the more custom, because there were other shops besides mine. As for godly ballads, I supplied all the country clerks and runners of monasteries; and the blind men were my best friends, for they never allowed less than eighty reals, and I always took care they should be bombastic, and stuffed with cramp words, which neither they nor I understood. I brought up many new fashions in verse, as tailors do in clothes, and was the first that concluded my songs like sermons, praying for grace in this world and glory in the next.
Thus was I happy, with the wind blowing fair as I could wish, my pockets full of money, highly in vogue, and in such a prosperous condition that I aimed at being chief of a company of strollers. My house was handsomely furnished, for the devil put into my head to buy the old mouldy tapestry of taverns to hang my rooms at a cheap rate, all which cost me about five or six crowns; for they afforded a better prospect than any the king has, for being so ragged you might see through any part of them, which you cannot do through any of his. The oddest thing happened to me one day that ever was heard of, which I will not forbear to make known, though it be to my shame. When I was writing a play, I used to shut myself up at home in the garret, where I kept close and dined. The maid used to bring up my dinner, and leave it there; and it was my way to act all I wrote, and talk aloud, as if I had been upon the stage. As the devil would have it, when the maid was coming up the stairs, which were dark and steep, with the dish of meat and plates in her hand, I was composing a scene of hunting a bear, and, being wholly intent upon my play, cried out as loud as I could:
“Fly, fly, the bloody bear; take heed, I say,
Alas, I’m killed, and you’ll become its prey.”
The poor wench, who was a silly Galician, hearing me roar that I was killed, and she in danger to become a prey to the bear, thought it had been real matter of fact, and that I called to her to save herself. Upon this conceit she took to her heels, and treading on her coats in the confusion, tumbled down all the stairs. The soup was spilt, the plates were broken, and she run out roaring into the street, “that a bear was killing a man.” I could not be so nimble but that all the neighbours were about me, asking where the bear was? and I could scarce make them believe me, though I told them it was the maid’s foolish mistake, for I was only acting a part of a play. I lost my dinner that day; my companions were told of it, and all the town made sport with it. Many such accidents befel me whilst I followed the trade of poetising, and would not forsake that wicked course of life.
It happened, as frequently does to that sort of people, that the chief of our company, being known to have done very well at Toledo, was arrested for some old debts and thrown into gaol, which broke up our gang, and everyone went his own way. As for my part, though my comrades would have introduced me into other companies, having no great inclination to that calling, for I had followed it out of mere necessity; I thought of nothing but taking my pleasure, being then well dressed and in no want of money. I took my leave of them all, they went their ways; and I, who had proposed to quit an ill course of life, by desisting from being a stroller, to mend the matter, dropped out of the frying-pan into the fire, for I fell into much worse. I became a candidate for Antichrist; to speak plainly, I became a gallant of nuns. The encouragement I had to commit this madness, was, that I understood there was a nun, the goddess Venus herself, at whose request I had written abundance of little devout pastorals; and she had taken some liking to me on that account, and seeing me act Saint John the Evangelist in a Sacramental play. The good lady made very much of me, and told me there was nothing troubled her so much as my being a player; for I had pretended to her that I was the son of a gentleman of quality, and therefore she pitied me, and I at last resolved to send her the following lines:
“I have quitted the company of players, rather to comply with your desires, than because it was otherwise convenient for me so to do; but to me all the company in the world, without yours, is solitude. I shall now have the more opportunity of being yours, as being absolutely my own master. Let me know when I may have speech with you, and when I shall know when I may be happy, etc.”
The runner carried the note, the good nun was wonderfully pleased to hear of my change of life, and answered me as follows:—
“I rather expect to be congratulated than to congratulate you on your good fortune; for my wishes and your prosperity are inseparable. You may be looked upon as recovered out of a desperate estate; it only remains that you persevere, as I shall do. I question whether there will be any liberty at the grate today; but do not fail to come at evensong, for there at least we shall see one another, and perhaps I may find means to put some trick upon the lady abbess.
I liked the note, for the woman was really witty, and very handsome. After dinner I put on the best suit I used to act the gallant in on the stage, went to church, pretended to pray, and then began to examine every inch of the grating and veil before the choir, to see if I could discover her. At length it pleased God I had the good fortune, or rather the devil contrived me the ill luck, that I heard the old sign; I began to cough, she answered—it was a cough of Barabbas. We followed each other in the catarrh, and it seemed as if they had strewn pepper in the church. At last, when I was quite weary of coughing, a wheezy old woman appeared at the grate, and I discovered my mistake; for this is a very uncertain sign in a convent, because, as it serves for a sign among young ones, it is habitual with old ones, and when a man thinks it a call to catch a nightingale, he finds nothing but an owl. I stayed a long time in the church, till evensong began, which I heard out, for the admirers of nuns have this madness, besides all the rest, that they must play the hypocrite and pray against their will; besides that, they never go beyond the eve, being ever in expectation, but the day of enjoyment never comes. I never failed being at evensong, and stretched out my neck a handful longer than it was, to endeavour to see into the choir. The sacristan and clerk were my constant companions, and I was well received by the vicar, who was a pleasant man, and walked as stiff and upright as if a spit had been run through him. I went by times to take my place in a court the nuns’ windows looked into, where it was comical to see the strange postures of others, as mad pretenders as myself. One gazed without ever so much as winking; another stood with one hand on his sword, and his beads on the other, like a statue upon a tomb; another with his arms stretched out as if he were flying; some gaping, as if they would have had their hearts fly out at their mouths; some leaning against the walls, as if they had come to support them; some walking as if to be bought for their pacing, like horses; and others with billets doux in their hands, like falconers, to bring the hawk to the lure. The jealous lovers were in another band; some smiling, and gazing up at their mistresses; others reading verses, and showing them; one, pacing the terrace with a damsel in hand out of pique; another, talking to a suborned servant-maid, who was giving him a letter. All this was below where we were, but above the place for the nuns was a little old tower, all full of cracks, chinks, and peeping holes, where appeared nothing but a confusion—here a hand, there a foot, in another place a head, in another a handkerchief, a glove, or the like; some walked, others coughed, and so everyone had her particular way. In summer it is pleasant enough to see the men so parched and the women so cool. In winter some of us stay so long in the wet that we are mouldy, and the moss grows upon us; neither snow nor rain can drive us away; and all this is only to see a woman through a grate and a glass, like some holy relic, or curious piece of workmanship, for that is all we can ever expect. It is just like falling in love with a blackbird in a cage, if ever she talks; or with a fine picture, if she does not. The greatest favour ever to be attained is to touch the ends of the fingers. They lean their heads against the double grates, and shoot volleys of fine conceits through those loopholes. ’Tis perfect love at hide and seek, and yet for this we study to talk fine and whisper, must endure every old woman that chides, every doorkeeper that commands, and everyone at the wheel that gives what answer she pleases.
I had followed this cursed employment so long that I was well looked upon by the lady abbess, civilly treated by the good priest, and a familiar with the clerk, for we hid our folly from them; and this is all the happiness such madmen can aspire to. I began to be weary of the doorkeeper’s turning me away, and of the nuns begging, and methought how dear I endeavoured to purchase a place in hell, which others have at so easy a rate, and that I even anticipated to take share of it in this world by such extravagant means. It was plain that I rode post to perdition, and threw away my soul only for a few looks. When I talked to her, for fear of being overheard by the rest, I used to thrust my head so close to the grate, that the print of it would not come out in two days, and at the same time spoke so low that she could not understand one word without a trumpet at her ear. Everybody that saw me, cried, “A curse on thee, thou wicked, nun-hunting dog!” besides many other worse compliments. All these things brought me to my senses, and I resolved to quit my nun, even though it cost me my living; and this I determined to do on St. John’s Day. I had come to know what nuns were. I need not tell you, sir, how the she-votaries of St. John get themselves hoarse of spite, so that, instead of chanting the mass, they groan it; nor do they wash their faces, but don their old garments. I got off her the value of fifty crowns of her work, in silk stockings, rich purses, and sweetmeats, pretending to have them raffled for; but as soon as I had them in possession, I set out for Seville to try my fortune there, as the greater city. The pious reader may guess how much the nun was concerned, not for me, but what I cheated her of.
I had a good journey from Toledo to Seville, for I was sharp at play, had loaded dice, both high and low, and could palm a dice, hold four, and throw out three; besides, I had false cards, and knew how to pack any, and turn up what I pleased, and abundance of other fine arts and sleights of hand, which I pass by as tedious, and for fear they might rather serve to teach others evil practices, than for warnings of what they are to shun; but perhaps some few words of advice may be of use to such as are not skilled in those practices; and they who read my book, if they are cheated, may thank themselves. Never think yourself safe because you find the cards, for they will change them upon you whilst a candle is snuffing. Take care they make no scratches or other marks on the cards; and if my reader is a poor vagabond, he must observe, that, among that gang of rake-hells, they prick the cards they would know with a pin, or handle them so as to leave a crease. If you happen to play among a better sort of people, take heed of cards which are originally falsified, and have private marks on the pasteboard. Never trust to a clean card, nor think yourself safe with a foul one, for the cheat is equal in both. Take heed the dealer never bends any cards more than others, which is a certain way to pick your pocket; and observe that no motions be made with the fingers, or no hints given by the first letters of words. I will not let you farther into this secret; this is enough to make you always stand upon your guard, for you may be assured I do not tell the hundredth part of the cheats.
Being master of these arts, I got to Seville at my fellow-travellers’ expense, winning all the hire of the mules, my other charges, and money to boot, of them and my landlords at the inns. I alighted at that they call “The Moor,” where I was found out by one of my schoolfellows at Alcalá, whose name was Mata, but he, thinking it did not make noise enough, had changed it to Matorral. He dealt in men’s lives, and sold cuts and slashes, a trade which throve well with him; he carried the sign of it on his face, where he had received his share. He always made his bargain to a nicety for length and depth, when he was to bestow any, and said, “No man is so absolute a master, as he who has been well hacked and hewn himself.” And he was in the right, for his face was one seam, and himself all slashes. He told me, I must go sup with him and his comrades, and they would bring me back to the inn. I went with him, and when we were in his lodging, he said, “Come, spark, lay by your cloak and look like a man, for this night you shall see all the brave fellows in Seville; and that they may not look upon you as a cully, tumble your band, thrust out your back, and let your cloak hang loose, as if it were dropping off, for we hate to see any man’s cloak set fast upon his back. Screw your chops about, and make faces with both sides of your mouth, then talk big, using the rough words of us gentry.” I learned his lesson, and he lent me a dagger, broad enough to have been a scimitar, and for length it wanted nothing of a sword but the name. “Now drink off this quart of wine,” said he, “for without you vapour you will not look like a true bully.” We had gone so far in my instructions, and I was half seas over with what I had drank, when in came four of the gang, with faces like old gout-shoes, bound about the middle like monkeys with their cloaks instead of ropes, their hats standing a tiptoe on their heads, and cocked up, as if the brims were nailed to the crowns; a whole armourer’s shop about them in swords and daggers, and the points of them beating against their right heels; their eyes staring, their whiskers turned up, and their beards like brushes. They made their compliment with their mouths, and then, in a hoarse tone, and clipping their words, saluted my companion in a gibberish, who answered in like manner. They sat down, and spoke not one word to ask who I was, but one of them looking at Matorral, and opening his mouth, thrust out his under lip, by way of pointing at me. My introducer answered in the same language, laying hold of his beard, and looking down; after which they all got up, embraced, and expressed a great deal of kindness for me. I returned the same compliments, which were like smelling to so many hogsheads of wine. When it was supper time, in came a parcel of strapping scoundrels to wait at table, whom the topping bullies call under-spur-leathers. We all sat down together at table, and the first thing they served up was a dish of pickles, which as soon as they had tasted, they all fell to drinking to my honour, by way of welcome; and till I saw them drink to it, I must confess I never knew I had any. Next came fish and flesh, all of it high seasoned to promote drinking. There was a great bowl full of wine, like a half tub, on the ground, and he that was to pledge, lay all along to drink by wholesale. I was taken with the contrivance, but by the time a few healths had gone about we none of us knew one another. They fell to talk of warlike affairs, and oaths flew as thick as hail. A matter of twenty or thirty persons were cut out for destruction. The Mayor of the city was adjudged to be cut in pieces; then they talked of the glorious memory of Domingo Tirynado and Gayon, and poured out wine in quantity for the soul of Escamilla.22 Some that were maudlin wept bitterly, calling to mind the untimely end of Alonzo Alvarez, one of their brethren, whose body was exposed on a gibbet for the crows to feast on. By this time my companion’s brains were turned topsy-turvy, and laying hold of a loaf, and looking earnestly on the candle, he said with a hoarse voice, “By this, which is the face of God, and by that light which came out of the angel’s mouth, if you think fit, gentlemen, we will this very night maul the sergeant’s man that pursued our poor one-eyed friend.” They all set up a dismal cry, ratifying the proposal made by an oath after this manner: They drew their daggers, laid their hands on the edge of the bowl, and lying along with their chops to it, said, “As we drink this wine, so will we suck the blood of every informing catchpole.” “Who was this Alonzo Alvarez,” said I, “whose death is so much regretted?” “He was,” answered one of them, “a brave fighting lad, a man of spirit, full of mettle, and a good companion. Let us go, for the devil begins to be strong in me.” This said, we all went out a catchpole-hunting. Being quite overcome with wine, and all my reason drowned, I never reflected on the danger I was running myself into. We came to the Strand, where we met the round, which no sooner appeared, but our swords were drawn and we attacked them. I did like the rest, and at the first charge we made way for the filthy souls of two catchpoles to fly out of their bodies. The constable took to his heels, and ran up the street, crying out for help. We could not pursue, because he had too much the start, but took sanctuary in the cathedral, where we were sheltered against justice, and slept as much as was requisite to discharge the fumes of the wine we had drank. When we came to our senses, I could not but wonder that two catchpoles should be killed by, and a constable fly from, a parcel of mere hogsheads of wine, for we were no better at that time. We fared well in our sanctuary, for the gay nymphs of the town flocked to us, and spent all they had upon us. A strapping jade, called La Grajales, took a fancy to me, and clothed me from head to foot in her own colours. I liked this sort of living better than any I had yet tried, and therefore resolved to stick to my trusty Grajales till death. I learnt all the cant, and in a short time was an absolute master among the ruffians. The officers of justice took all possible care to search for us, and kept rounds about the sanctuary; yet for all that we took our rambles after midnight in disguise.
Perceiving that this was like to be a tedious business, and that ill fate pursued me everywhere, though it made me never the wiser to take warning for the future, tiring me out like a true obstinate sinner, I therefore, with the advice of my doxy Grajales, resolved to go to the Indies, taking her along with me, to try whether I could meet with better fortune in another country. But it proved worse, for they never mend their condition who only change places without mending life and manners.
From Mr. J. Y. Gibson’s spirited translation of El Viage del Parnaso (1883). ↩
Don Quixote, Part I, chapter III. ↩
I.e., she was Jew. ↩
Cardinal, a weal raised by a lash. ↩
In allusion to the proverb—á cada puerco viene su San Martin—to every pig comes its Martinmas. ↩
In allusion to the Shrovetide sport of throwing at cocks. ↩
Era batalla nabal, a play upon the word nabal, meaning “belonging to turnips (nabos)” as well as “naval.” ↩
No imaginary but a real personage, whose true name was Antonio Cabreriza. ↩
The Morisco was called “dog” by the Christians; and “cat” (gato) was a cant word for “thief.” ↩
There is a scene here which will not bear an English dress. The scholars stand around and spit at Pablo. There is no other humour of which the reader is deprived. ↩
The famous secretary of Philip II, whose intrigues against Spain never ceased till his death in 1611. ↩
Ostend was taken by the Spaniards under Espinola, on the 22nd September, 1604, after a siege which lasted more than three years. ↩
A book so named, written by a famous master of the sword, Pacheco de Narváez, was published at Madrid in 1600. ↩
There was actually a famous fencing-master, a mulatto, Francisco Hernandez, of whom his rival, Narváez, wrote slightingly. Probably they are both ridiculed in this passage. ↩
Majalahonda is a village ten miles from Madrid, famous for the rudeness of its inhabitants and their speech. See Don Quixote, Part II, chapter XIX. ↩
Demandador—one who begs for alms for the release of the souls of the poor from purgatory, elsewhere called facetiously animero. ↩
In the original, “que era un Conde de Irlos.” The Conde de Irlos was one of the heroes of the ancient ballads. He was the Marquis de Carabas of Spanish legend. ↩
Literally, “he who is nothing cannot be a son of something,” i.e., hidalgo—hijo de algo. ↩
Jerome Bosch, a Dutch painter who settled in Spain in the latter half of the fifteenth century, famous for his eccentric works—the Spanish Callot. ↩
Meaning that she pretended to practise witchcraft, like others of her calling. ↩
Signum crucis—slang for a sword-cut across the face. ↩
Noted bravoes of the period. ↩
Pablo de Segovia, the Spanish Sharper
was published in 1626 by
Francisco de Quevedo.
It was translated from Spanish in 1798 by