CHAPTER XXV

 

Villafranca--The Pass--Gallegan Simplicity--The Frontier Guard—The Horse-shoe--Gallegan Peculiarities--A Word on Language—The Courier--Wretched Cabins--Host and Guests--Andalusians.

 

"Ave Maria," said the woman; "whom have we here?  This is not Gil the clock-maker."  "Whether it be Gil or Juan," said I, "we are in need of your hospitality, and can pay for it."  Our first care was to stable the horses, who were much exhausted.  We then went in search of some accommodation for ourselves.  The house was large and commodious, and having tasted a little water, I stretched myself on the floor of one of the rooms on some mattresses which the woman produced, and in less than a minute was sound asleep.

 

The sun was shining bright when I awoke.  I walked forth into the market-place, which was crowded with people, I looked up, and could see the peaks of tall black mountains peeping over the tops of the houses.  The town lay in a deep hollow, and appeared to be surrounded by hills on almost every side.  "Quel pays barbare!" said Antonio, who now joined me; "the farther we go, my master, the wilder everything looks.  I am half afraid to venture into Galicia; they tell me that to get to it we must clamber up those hills:  the horses will founder."  Leaving the market-place I ascended the wall of the town, and endeavoured to discover the gate by which we should have entered the preceding night; but I was not more successful in the bright sunshine than in the darkness.  The town in the direction of Astorga appeared to be hermetically sealed.

 

I was eager to enter Galicia, and finding that the horses were to a certain extent recovered from the fatigue of the journey of the preceding day, we again mounted and proceeded on our way.  Crossing a bridge, we presently found ourselves in a deep gorge amongst the mountains, down which rushed an impetuous rivulet, overhung by the high road which leads into Galicia.  We were in the far-famed pass of Fuencebadon.

 

It is impossible to describe this pass or the circumjacent region, which contains some of the most extraordinary scenery in all Spain; a feeble and imperfect outline is all that I can hope to effect. The traveller who ascends it follows for nearly a league the course of the torrent, whose banks are in some places precipitous, and in others slope down to the waters, and are covered with lofty trees, oaks, poplars, and chestnuts.  Small villages are at first continually seen, with low walls, and roofs formed of immense slates, the eaves nearly touching the ground; these hamlets, however, gradually become less frequent as the path grows more steep and narrow, until they finally cease at a short distance before the spot is attained where the rivulet is abandoned, and is no more seen, though its tributaries may yet be heard in many a

gully, or descried in tiny rills dashing down the steeps. Everything here is wild, strange, and beautiful:  the hill up which winds the path towers above on the right, whilst on the farther side of a profound ravine rises an immense mountain, to whose extreme altitudes the eye is scarcely able to attain; but the most singular feature of this pass are the hanging fields or meadows which cover its sides.  In these, as I passed, the grass was growing luxuriantly, and in many the mowers were plying their scythes, though it seemed scarcely possible that their feet could find support on ground so precipitous:  above and below were drift-ways, so small as to seem threads along the mountain side.  A car, drawn by oxen, is creeping round yon airy eminence; the nearer wheel is actually hanging over the horrid descent; giddiness seizes the brain, and the eye is rapidly withdrawn.  A cloud intervenes, and when again you turn to watch their progress, the objects of your anxiety have disappeared.  Still more narrow becomes the path along which you yourself are toiling, and its turns more frequent. You have already come a distance of two leagues, and still one-third of the ascent remains unsurmounted.  You are not yet in Galicia; and you still hear Castilian, coarse and unpolished, it is true, spoken in the miserable cabins placed in the sequestered nooks which you pass by in your route.

 

Shortly before we reached the summit of the pass thick mists began to envelop the tops of the hills, and a drizzling rain descended. "These mists," said Antonio, "are what the Gallegans call bretima; and it is said there is never any lack of them in their country." "Have you ever visited the country before?" I demanded.  "Non, mon maitre; but I have frequently lived in houses where the domestics were in part Gallegans, on which account I know not a little of their ways, and even something of their language."  "Is the opinion which you have formed of them at all in their favour?" I inquired. "By no means, mon maitre; the men in general seem clownish and simple, yet they are capable of deceiving the most clever filou of Paris; and as for the women, it is impossible to live in the same house with them, more especially if they are Camareras, and wait upon the Senora; they are continually breeding dissensions and disputes in the house, and telling tales of the other domestics.  I have already lost two or three excellent situations in Madrid, solely owing to these Gallegan chambermaids.  We have now come to the frontier, mon maitre, for such I conceive this village to be."

 

We entered the village, which stood on the summit of the mountain, and as our horses and ourselves were by this time much fatigued, we looked round for a place in which to obtain refreshment.  Close by the gate stood a building which, from the circumstance of a mule or two and a wretched pony standing before it, we concluded was the posada, as in effect it proved to be.  We entered:  several soldiers were lolling on heaps of coarse hay, with which the place, which much resembled a stable, was half filled.  All were exceedingly ill-looking fellows, and very dirty.  They were conversing with each other in a strange-sounding dialect, which I supposed to be Gallegan.  Scarcely did they perceive us when two or three of them, starting from their couch, ran up to Antonio, whom they welcomed with much affection, calling him companheiro.  "How came you to know these men?" I demanded in French.  "Ces messieurs sont presque tous de ma connoissance," he replied, "et, entre nous, ce sont des veritables vauriens; they are almost all robbers and assassins.  That fellow, with one eye, who is the corporal, escaped a little time ago from Madrid, more than suspected of being concerned in an affair of poisoning; but he is safe enough here in his own country, and is placed to guard the frontier, as you see; but we must treat them civilly, mon maitre; we must give them wine, or they will be offended.  I know them, mon maitre--I know them. Here, hostess, bring an azumbre of wine."

 

Whilst Antonio was engaged in treating his friends, I led the horses to the stable; this was through the house, inn, or whatever it might be called.  The stable was a wretched shed, in which the horses sank to their fetlocks in mud and puddle.  On inquiring for barley, I was told that I was now in Galicia, where barley was not used for provender, and was very rare.  I was offered in lieu of it Indian corn, which, however, the horses ate without hesitation. There was no straw to be had; coarse hay, half green, being the substitute.  By trampling about in the mud of the stable my horse soon lost a shoe, for which I searched in vain.  "Is there a blacksmith in the village?" I demanded of a shock-headed fellow who officiated as ostler.

 

Ostler.--Si, Senhor; but I suppose you have brought horse-shoes with you, or that large beast of yours cannot be shod in this village.

 

Myself.--What do you mean?  Is the blacksmith unequal to his trade? Cannot he put on a horse-shoe?

 

Ostler.--Si, Senhor; he can put on a horse-shoe if you give it him; but there are no horse-shoes in Galicia, at least in these parts.

 

Myself.--Is it not customary then to shoe the horses in Galicia?

 

Ostler.--Senhor, there are no horses in Galicia, there are only ponies; and those who bring horses to Galicia, and none but madmen ever do, must bring shoes to fit them; only shoes of ponies are to be found here.

 

Myself.--What do you mean by saying that only madmen bring horses to Galicia?

 

Ostler.--Senhor, no horse can stand the food of Galicia and the mountains of Galicia long, without falling sick; and then if he does not die at once, he will cost you in farriers more than he is worth; besides, a horse is of no use here, and cannot perform amongst the broken ground the tenth part of the service which a little pony mare can.  By the by, Senhor, I perceive that yours is an entire horse; now out of twenty ponies that you see on the roads of Galicia, nineteen are mares; the males are sent down into Castile to be sold.  Senhor, your horse will become heated on our roads, and will catch the bad glanders, for which there is no remedy.  Senhor, a man must be mad to bring any horse to Galicia, but twice mad to bring an entero, as you have done.

 

"A strange country this of Galicia," said I, and went to consult with Antonio.

 

It appeared that the information of the ostler was literally true with regard to the horse-shoe; at least the blacksmith of the village, to whom we conducted the animal, confessed his inability to shoe him, having none that would fit his hoof:  he said it was very probable that we should be obliged to lead the animal to Lugo, which, being a cavalry station, we might perhaps find there what we wanted.  He added, however, that the greatest part of the cavalry soldiers were mounted on the ponies of the country, the mortality amongst the horses brought from the level ground into Galicia being frightful.  Lugo was ten leagues distant:  there seemed, however, to be no remedy at hand but patience, and, having refreshed ourselves, we proceeded, leading our horses by the bridle.

 

We were now on level ground, being upon the very top of one of the highest mountains in Galicia.  This level continued for about a league, when we began to descend.  Before we had crossed the plain, which was overgrown with furze and brushwood, we came suddenly upon half a dozen fellows armed with muskets and wearing a tattered uniform.  We at first supposed them to be banditti:  they were, however, only a party of soldiers who had been detached from the station we had just quitted to escort one of the provincial posts or couriers.  They were clamorous for cigars, but offered us no farther incivility.  Having no cigars to bestow, I gave them in lieu thereof a small piece of silver.  Two of the worst looking were very eager to be permitted to escort us to Nogales, the village where we proposed to spend the night.  "By no means permit them, mon maitre," said Antonio, "they are two famous assassins of my acquaintance; I have known them at Madrid:  in the first ravine they will shoot and plunder us."  I therefore civilly declined their offer and departed.  "You seem to be acquainted with all the cut-throats in Galicia," said I to Antonio, as we descended the hill.

 

"With respect to those two fellows," he replied, "I knew them when I lived as cook in the family of General Q-, who is a Gallegan: they were sworn friends of the repostero.  All the Gallegans in Madrid know each other, whether high or low makes no difference; there, at least, they are all good friends, and assist each other on all imaginable occasions; and if there be a Gallegan domestic in a house, the kitchen is sure to be filled with his countrymen, as the cook frequently knows to his cost, for they generally contrive to eat up any little perquisites which he may have reserved for himself and family."

 

Somewhat less than half way down the mountain we reached a small village.  On observing a blacksmith's shop, we stopped, in the faint hope of finding a shoe for the horse, who, for want of one, was rapidly becoming lame.  To our great joy we found that the smith was in possession of one single horse-shoe, which some time previously he had found upon the way.  This, after undergoing much hammering and alteration, was pronounced by the Gallegan vulcan to be capable of serving in lieu of a better; whereupon we again mounted, and slowly continued our descent.

 

Shortly ere sunset we arrived at Nogales, a hamlet situate in a narrow valley at the foot of the mountain, in traversing which we had spent the day.  Nothing could be more picturesque than the appearance of this spot:  steep hills, thickly clad with groves and forests of chestnuts, surrounded it on every side; the village itself was almost embowered in trees, and close beside it ran a purling brook.  Here we found a tolerably large and commodious posada.

 

I was languid and fatigued, but felt little desire to sleep. Antonio cooked our supper, or rather his own, for I had no appetite.  I sat by the door, gazing on the wood-covered heights above me, or on the waters of the rivulet, occasionally listening to the people who lounged about the house, conversing in the country dialect.  What a strange tongue is the Gallegan, with its half singing half whining accent, and with its confused jumble of words from many languages, but chiefly from the Spanish and Portuguese.  "Can you understand this conversation?" I demanded of Antonio, who had by this time rejoined me.  "I cannot, mon maitre," he replied; "I have acquired at various times a great many words amongst the Gallegan domestics in the kitchens where I have officiated as cook, but am quite unable to understand any long conversation.  I have heard the Gallegans say that in no two villages is it spoken in one and the same manner, and that very frequently they do not understand each other.  The worst of this language is, that everybody on first hearing it thinks that nothing is more easy than to understand it, as words are continually occurring which he has heard before:  but these merely serve to bewilder and puzzle him, causing him to misunderstand everything that is said; whereas, if he were totally ignorant of the tongue, he would occasionally give a shrewd guess at what was meant, as I myself frequently do when I hear Basque spoken, though the only word which I know of that language is jaunguicoa."

 

As the night closed in I retired to bed, where I remained four or five hours, restless and tossing about; the fever of Leon still clinging to my system.  It was considerably past midnight when, just as I was sinking into a slumber, I was aroused by a confused noise in the village, and the glare of lights through the lattice of the window of the room where I lay; presently entered Antonio, half dressed.  "Mon maitre," said he, "the grand post from Madrid to Coruna has just arrived in the village, attended by a considerable escort, and an immense number of travellers.  The road they say, between here and Lugo, is infested with robbers and Carlists, who are committing all kinds of atrocities; let us, therefore, avail ourselves of the opportunity, and by midday to-morrow we shall find ourselves safe in Lugo."  On hearing these

words, I instantly sprang out of bed and dressed myself, telling Antonio to prepare the horses with all speed.

 

We were soon mounted and in the street, amidst a confused throng of men and quadrupeds.  The light of a couple of flambeaux, which were borne before the courier, shone on the arms of several soldiers, seemingly drawn up on either side of the road; the darkness, however, prevented me from distinguishing objects very clearly. The courier himself was mounted on a little shaggy pony; before and behind him were two immense portmanteaux, or leather sacks, the ends of which nearly touched the ground.  For about a quarter of an hour there was much hubbub, shouting, and trampling, at the end of which period the order was given to proceed.  Scarcely had we left the village when the flambeaux were extinguished, and we were left in almost total darkness; for some time we were amongst woods and trees, as was evident from the rustling of leaves on every side. My horse was very uneasy and neighed fearfully, occasionally raising himself bolt upright.  "If your horse is not more quiet, cavalier, we shall be obliged to shoot him," said a voice in an Andalusian accent; "he disturbs the whole cavalcade."  "That would be a pity, sergeant," I replied, "for he is a Cordovese by the four sides; he is not used to the ways of this barbarous country."  "Oh, he is a Cordovese," said the voice, "vaya, I did not know that; I am from Cordova myself.  Pobrecito! let me pat him--yes, I know by his coat that he is my countryman--shoot him, indeed! vaya, I would fain see the Gallegan devil who would dare to harm him.  Barbarous country, io lo creo:  neither oil nor olives, bread nor barley. You have been at Cordova.  Vaya; oblige me, cavalier, by taking this cigar."

 

In this manner we proceeded for several hours, up hill and down dale, but generally at a very slow pace. The soldiers who escorted us from time to time sang patriotic songs, breathing love and attachment to the young Queen Isabel, and detestation of the grim tyrant Carlos.  One of the stanzas which reached my ears, ran something in the following style:-

 

"Don Carlos is a hoary churl,

Of cruel heart and cold;

But Isabel's a harmless girl,

Of only six years old."

 

At last the day began to break, and I found myself amidst a train of two or three hundred people, some on foot, but the greater part mounted, either on mules or the pony mares:  I could not distinguish a single horse except my own and Antonio's.  A few soldiers were thinly scattered along the road.  The country was hilly, but less mountainous and picturesque than the one which we had traversed the preceding day; it was for the most part partitioned into small fields, which were planted with maize.  At the distance of every two or three leagues we changed our escort, at some village where was stationed a detachment.  The villages were mostly an assemblage of wretched cabins; the roofs were thatched, dank, and moist, and not unfrequently covered with rank vegetation.  There were dunghills before the doors, and no lack of pools and puddles.  Immense swine were stalking about, intermingled with naked children.  The interior of the cabins corresponded with their external appearance:  they were filled with filth and misery.

 

We reached Lugo about two hours past noon:  during the last two or three leagues, I became so overpowered with weariness, the result of want of sleep and my late illness, that I was continually dozing in my saddle, so that I took but little notice of what was passing. We put up at a large posada without the wall of the town, built upon a steep bank, and commanding an extensive view of the country towards the east.  Shortly after our arrival, the rain began to descend in torrents, and continued without intermission during the next two days, which was, however, to me but a slight source of regret, as I passed the entire time in bed, and I may almost say in slumber.  On the evening of the third day I arose.

 

There was much bustle in the house, caused by the arrival of a family from Coruna; they came in a large jaunting car, escorted by four carabineers.  The family was rather numerous, consisting of a father, son, and eleven daughters, the eldest of whom might be about eighteen.  A shabby-looking fellow, dressed in a jerkin and wearing a high-crowned hat, attended as domestic.  They arrived very wet and shivering, and all seemed very disconsolate, especially the father, who was a well-looking middle-aged man. "Can we be accommodated?" he demanded in a gentle voice of the man of the house; "can we be accommodated in this fonda?"

 

"Certainly, your worship," replied the other; "our house is large. How many apartments does your worship require for your family?"

 

"One will be sufficient," replied the stranger.

 

The host, who was a gouty personage and leaned upon a stick, looked for a moment at the traveller, then at every member of his family, not forgetting the domestic, and, without any farther comment than a slight shrug, led the way to the door of an apartment containing two or three flock beds, and which on my arrival I had objected to as being small, dark, and incommodious; this he flung open, and demanded whether it would serve.

 

"It is rather small," replied the gentleman; "I think, however, that it will do."

 

"I am glad of it," replied the host.  "Shall we make any preparations for the supper of your worship and family?"

 

"No, I thank you," replied the stranger, "my own domestic will prepare the slight refreshment we are in need of."

 

The key was delivered to the domestic, and the whole family ensconced themselves in their apartment:  before, however, this was effected, the escort were dismissed, the principal carabineer being presented with a peseta.  The man stood surveying the gratuity for about half a minute, as it glittered in the palm of his hand; then with an abrupt Vamos! he turned upon his heel, and without a word of salutation to any person, departed with the men under his command.

 

"Who can these strangers be?" said I to the host, as we sat together in a large corridor open on one side, and which occupied the entire front of the house.

 

"I know not," he replied, "but by their escort I suppose they are people holding some official situation.  They are not of this province, however, and I more than suspect them to be Andalusians."

 

In a few minutes the door of the apartment occupied by the strangers was opened, and the domestic appeared bearing a cruse in his hand.  "Pray, Senor Patron," demanded he, "where can I buy some oil?"

 

"There is oil in the house," replied the host, "if you want to purchase any; but if, as is probable, you suppose that we shall gain a cuarto by selling it, you will find some over the way.  It is as I suspected," continued the host, when the man had departed on his errand, "they are Andalusians, and are about to make what they call gaspacho, on which they will all sup.  Oh, the meanness of these Andalusians! they are come here to suck the vitals of Galicia, and yet envy the poor innkeeper the gain of a cuarto in the oil which they require for their gaspacho.  I tell you one thing, master, when that fellow returns, and demands bread and garlic to mix with the oil, I will tell him there is none in the house:  as he has bought the oil abroad, so he may the bread and garlic; aye, and the water too for that matter."

 

 

CHAPTER XXVI

 

Lugo--The Baths--A Family History--Miguelets--The Three Heads—A Farrier--English Squadron--Sale of Testaments--Coruna—The Recognition--Luigi Piozzi--The Speculation--A Blank Prospect—John Moore.

 

At Lugo I found a wealthy bookseller, to whom I brought a letter of recommendation from Madrid.  He willingly undertook the sale of my books.  The Lord deigned to favour my feeble exertions in his cause at Lugo.  I brought thither thirty Testaments, all of which were disposed of in one day; the bishop of the place, for Lugo is an episcopal see, purchasing two copies for himself, whilst several priests and ex-friars, instead of following the example of their brethren at Leon, by persecuting the work, spoke well of it and recommended its perusal.  I was much grieved that my stock of these holy books was exhausted, there being a great demand; and had I been able to supply them, quadruple the quantity might have been sold during the few days that I continued at Lugo.

 

Lugo contains about six thousand inhabitants.  It is situated on lofty ground, and is defended by ancient walls.  It possesses no very remarkable edifice, and the cathedral church itself is a small mean building.  In the centre of the town is the principal square, a light cheerful place, not surrounded by those heavy cumbrous buildings with which the Spaniards both in ancient and modern times have encircled their plazas.  It is singular enough that Lugo, at present a place of very little importance, should at one period have been the capital of Spain:  yet such it was in the time of the Romans, who, as they were a people not much guided by caprice, had doubtless very excellent reasons for the preference which they gave to the locality.

 

There are many Roman remains in the vicinity of this place, the most remarkable of which are the ruins of the ancient medicinal baths, which stand on the southern side of the river Minho, which creeps through the valley beneath the town.  The Minho in this place is a dark and sullen stream, with high, precipitous, and thickly wooded banks.

 

One evening I visited the baths, accompanied by my friend the bookseller.  They had been built over warm springs which flow into the river.  Notwithstanding their ruinous condition, they were crowded with sick, hoping to derive benefit from the waters, which are still famed for their sanative power.  These patients exhibited a strange spectacle as, wrapped in flannel gowns much resembling shrouds, they lay immersed in the tepid waters amongst disjointed stones, and overhung with steam and reek.

 

Three or four days after my arrival I was seated in the corridor which, as I have already observed, occupied the entire front of the house.  The sky was unclouded, and the sun shone most gloriously, enlivening every object around.  Presently the door of the apartment in which the strangers were lodged opened, and forth walked the whole family, with the exception of the father, who, I presumed, was absent on business.  The shabby domestic brought up the rear, and on leaving the apartment, carefully locked the door, and secured the key in his pocket.  The one son and the eleven daughters were all dressed remarkably well:  the boy something after the English fashion, in jacket and trousers, the young ladies in spotless white:  they were, upon the whole, a very good-looking family, with dark eyes and olive complexions, but the eldest daughter was remarkably handsome.  They arranged themselves upon the benches of the corridor, the shabby domestic sitting down amongst them without any ceremony whatever.  They continued for some time in silence, gazing with disconsolate looks upon the houses of the suburb and the dark walls of the town, until the eldest daughter, or senorita as she was called, broke silence with an "Ay Dios mio!"

 

Domestic.--Ay Dios mio! we have found our way to a pretty country.

 

Myself.--I really can see nothing so very bad in the country, which is by nature the richest in all Spain, and the most abundant.  True it is that the generality of the inhabitants are wretchedly poor, but they themselves are to blame, and not the country.

 

Domestic.--Cavalier, the country is a horrible one, say nothing to the contrary.  We are all frightened, the young ladies, the young gentleman, and myself; even his worship is frightened, and says that we are come to this country for our sins.  It rains every day, and this is almost the first time that we have seen the sun since our arrival, it rains continually, and one cannot step out without being up to the ankles in fango; and then, again, there is not a house to be found.

 

Myself.--I scarcely understand you.  There appears to be no lack of houses in this neighbourhood.

 

Domestic.--Excuse me, sir.  His worship hired yesterday a house, for which he engaged to pay fourteen pence daily; but when the senorita saw it, she wept, and said it was no house, but a hog-sty, so his worship paid one day's rent and renounced his bargain. Fourteen pence a day! why, in our country, we can have a palace for that money.

 

Myself.--From what country do you come?

 

Domestic.--Cavalier, you appear to be a decent gentleman, and I will tell you our history.  We are from Andalusia, and his worship was last year receiver-general for Granada:  his salary was fourteen thousand rials, with which we contrived to live very commodiously--attending the bull funcions regularly, or if there were no bulls, we went to see the novillos, and now and then to the opera.  In a word, sir, we had our diversions and felt at our ease; so much so, that his worship was actually thinking of purchasing a pony for the young gentleman, who is fourteen, and must learn to ride now or never.  Cavalier, the ministry was changed, and the new corners, who were no friends to his worship, deprived him of his situation.  Cavalier, they removed us from that blessed country of Granada, where our salary was fourteen thousand rials, and sent us to Galicia, to this fatal town of Lugo, where his worship is compelled to serve for ten thousand, which is quite insufficient to maintain us in our former comforts.  Good-bye, I trow, to bull funcions, and novillos, and the opera.  Good-bye to the hope of a horse for the young gentleman.  Cavalier, I grow desperate:  hold your tongue, for God's sake! for I can talk no more."

 

On hearing this history I no longer wondered that the receiver-general was eager to save a cuarto in the purchase of the oil for the gaspacho of himself and family of eleven daughters, one son, and a domestic.

 

We staid one week at Lugo, and then directed our steps to Coruna, about twelve leagues distant.  We arose before daybreak in order to avail ourselves of the escort of the general post, in whose company we travelled upwards of six leagues.  There was much talk of robbers, and flying parties of the factious, on which account our escort was considerable.  At the distance of five or six leagues from Lugo, our guard, in lieu of regular soldiers, consisted of a body of about fifty Miguelets.  They had all the appearance of banditti, but a finer body of ferocious fellows I never saw.  They were all men in the prime of life, mostly of tall stature, and of Herculean brawn and limbs.  They wore huge whiskers, and walked with a fanfaronading air, as if they courted danger, and despised it.  In every respect they stood in contrast to the soldiers who had hitherto escorted us, who were mere feeble boys from sixteen to eighteen years of age, and possessed of neither energy nor activity.  The proper dress of the Miguelet, if it resembles anything military, is something akin to that anciently used by the English marines.  They wear a peculiar kind of hat, and generally leggings, or gaiters, and their arms are the gun and bayonet.  The colour of their dress is mostly dark brown.  They observe little or no discipline whether on a march or in the field of action.  They are excellent irregular troops, and when on actual service are particularly useful as skirmishers.  Their proper duty, however, is to officiate as a species of police, and to clear the roads of robbers, for which duty they are in one respect admirably calculated, having been generally robbers themselves at one period of their lives.  Why these people are called Miguelets it is not easy to say, but it is probable that they have derived this appellation from the name of their original leader.  I regret that the paucity of my own information will not allow me to enter into farther particulars with respect to this corps, concerning which I have little doubt that many remarkable things might be said.

 

Becoming weary of the slow travelling of the post, I determined to brave all risk, and to push forward.  In this, however, I was guilty of no slight imprudence, as by so doing I was near falling into the hands of robbers.  Two fellows suddenly confronted me with presented carbines, which they probably intended to discharge into my body, but they took fright at the noise of Antonio's horse, who was following a little way behind.  The affair occurred at the bridge of Castellanos, a spot notorious for robbery and murder, and well adapted for both, for it stands at the bottom of a deep dell surrounded by wild desolate hills.  Only a quarter of an hour previous I had passed three ghastly heads stuck on poles standing by the wayside; they were those of a captain of banditti and two of his accomplices, who had been seized and executed about two months before.  Their principal haunt was the vicinity of the bridge, and it was their practice to cast the bodies of the murdered into the deep black water which runs rapidly beneath.  Those three heads will always live in my remembrance, particularly that of the captain, which stood on a higher pole than the other two:  the long hair was waving in the wind, and the blackened, distorted features were grinning in the sun.  The fellows whom I met wore the relics of the band.

 

We arrived at Betanzos late in the afternoon.  This town stands on a creek at some distance from the sea, and about three leagues from Coruna.  It is surrounded on three sides by lofty hills.  The weather during the greater part of the day had been dull and lowering, and we found the atmosphere of Betanzos insupportably close and heavy.  Sour and disagreeable odours assailed our olfactory organs from all sides.  The streets were filthy--so were the houses, and especially the posada.  We entered the stable; it was strewed with rotten sea-weeds and other rubbish, in which pigs were wallowing; huge and loathsome flies were buzzing around. "What a pest-house!" I exclaimed.  But we could find no other stable, and were therefore obliged to tether the unhappy animals to the filthy mangers.  The only provender that could be obtained was Indian corn.  At nightfall I led them to drink at a small river which passes through Betanzos.  My entero swallowed the water greedily; but as we returned towards the inn, I observed that he was sad, and that his head drooped.  He had scarcely reached the stall, when a deep hoarse cough assailed him.  I remembered the words of the ostler in the mountains, "the man must be mad who brings a horse to Galicia, and doubly so he who brings an entero." During the greater part of the day the animal had been much heated, walking amidst a throng of at least a hundred pony mares.  He now began to shiver violently.  I procured a quart of anise brandy, with which, assisted by Antonio, I rubbed his body for nearly an hour, till his coat was covered with a white foam; but his cough increased perceptibly, his eyes were becoming fixed, and his members rigid.  "There is no remedy but bleeding," said I.  "Run for a farrier."  The farrier came.  "You must bleed the horse," I shouted; "take from him an azumbre of blood."  The farrier looked at the animal, and made for the door.  "Where are you going?" I demanded.  "Home," he replied.  "But we want you here."  "I know you do," was his answer; "and on that account I am going."  "But you must bleed the horse, or he will die."  "I know he will," said the farrier, "but I will not bleed him."  "Why?" I demanded.  "I will not bleed him, but under one condition."  "What is that?" "What is it!--that you pay me an ounce of gold."  "Run for the red morocco case," said I to Antonio.  It was brought; I took out a large fleam, and with the assistance of a stone, drove it into the principal artery horse's leg.  The blood at first refused to flow; with much rubbing, it began to trickle, and then to stream; it continued so for half an hour.  "The horse is fainting, mon maitre," said Antonio.  "Hold him up," said I, "and in another ten minutes we will stop the vein."

 

I closed the vein, and whilst doing so I looked up into the farrier's face, arching my eyebrows.

 

"Carracho! what an evil wizard," muttered the farrier, as he walked away.  "If I had my knife here I would stick him."  We bled the horse again, during the night, which second bleeding I believe saved him.  Towards morning he began to eat his food.

 

The next day we departed for Coruna, leading our horses by the bridle:  the day was magnificent, and our walk delightful.  We passed along beneath tall umbrageous trees, which skirted the road from Betanzos to within a short distance of Coruna.  Nothing could be more smiling and cheerful than the appearance of the country around.  Vines were growing in abundance in the vicinity of the villages through which we passed, whilst millions of maize plants upreared their tall stalks and displayed their broad green leaves in the fields.  After walking about three hours, we obtained a view of the bay of Coruna, in which, even at the distance of a league, we could distinguish three or four immense ships riding at anchor. "Can these vessels belong to Spain?"  I demanded of myself.  In the very next village, however, we were informed that the preceding evening an English squadron had arrived, for what reason nobody could say.  "However," continued our informant, "they have doubtless some design upon Galicia.  These foreigners are the ruin of Spain."

 

We put up in what is called the Calle Real, in an excellent fonda, or posada, kept by a short, thick, comical-looking person, a Genoese by birth.  He was married to a tall, ugly, but good-tempered Basque woman, by whom he had been blessed with a son and daughter.  His wife, however, had it seems of late summoned all her female relations from Guipuscoa, who now filled the house to the number of nine, officiating as chambermaids, cooks, and scullions: they were all very ugly, but good-natured, and of immense volubility of tongue.  Throughout the whole day the house resounded with their excellent Basque and very bad Castilian.  The Genoese, on the contrary, spoke little, for which he might have assigned a good reason; he had lived thirty years in Spain, and had forgotten his own language without acquiring Spanish, which he spoke very imperfectly.

 

We found Coruna full of bustle and life, owing to the arrival of the English squadron.  On the following day, however, it departed, being bound for the Mediterranean on a short cruise, whereupon matters instantly returned to their usual course.

 

I had a depot of five hundred Testaments at Coruna, from which it was my intention to supply the principal towns of Galicia. Immediately on my arrival I published advertisements, according to my usual practice, and the book obtained a tolerable sale--seven or eight copies per day on the average.  Some people, perhaps, on perusing these details, will be tempted to exclaim, "These are small matters, and scarcely worthy of being mentioned."  But let such bethink them, that till within a few months previous to the time of which I am speaking, the very existence of the gospel was almost unknown in Spain, and that it must necessarily be a difficult task to induce a people like the Spaniards, who read very little, to purchase a work like the New Testament, which, though of paramount importance to the soul, affords but slight prospect of amusement to the frivolous and carnally minded.  I hoped that the present was the dawning of better and more enlightened times, and rejoiced in the idea that Testaments, though but few in number, were being sold in unfortunate benighted Spain, from Madrid to the furthermost parts of Galicia, a distance of nearly four hundred miles.

 

Coruna stands on a peninsula, having on one side the sea, and on the other the celebrated bay, generally called the Groyne.  It is divided into the old and new town, the latter of which was at one time probably a mere suburb.  The old town is a desolate ruinous place, separated from the new by a wide moat.  The modern town is a much more agreeable spot, and contains one magnificent street, the Calle Real, where the principal merchants reside.  One singular feature of this street is, that it is laid entirely with flags of marble, along which troop ponies and cars as if it were a common

pavement.

 

It is a saying amongst the inhabitants of Coruna, that in their town there is a street so clean, that puchera may be eaten off it without the slightest inconvenience.  This may certainly be the fact after one of those rains which so frequently drench Galicia, when the appearance of the pavement of the street is particularly brilliant.  Coruna was at one time a place of considerable commerce, the greater part of which has latterly departed to Santander, a town which stands a considerable distance down the Bay of Biscay.

 

"Are you going to Saint James, Giorgio?  If so, you will perhaps convey a message to my poor countryman," said a voice to me one morning in broken English, as I was standing at the door of my posada, in the royal street of Coruna.

 

I looked round and perceived a man standing near me at the door of a shop contiguous to the inn.  He appeared to be about sixty-five, with a pale face and remarkably red nose.  He was dressed in a loose green great coat, in his mouth was a long clay pipe, in his hand a long painted stick.

 

"Who are you, and who is your countryman?" I demanded; "I do not know you."

 

"I know you, however," replied the man; "you purchased the first knife that I ever sold in the market-place of N-."

 

Myself.--Ah, I remember you now, Luigi Piozzi; and well do I remember also, how, when a boy, twenty years ago, I used to repair to your stall, and listen to you and your countrymen discoursing in Milanese.

 

Luigi.--Ah, those were happy times to me.  Oh, how they rushed back on my remembrance when I saw you ride up to the door of the posada. I instantly went in, closed my shop, lay down upon my bed and wept.

 

Myself.--I see no reason why you should so much regret those times. I knew you formerly in England as an itinerant pedlar, and occasionally as master of a stall in the market-place of a country town.  I now find you in a seaport of Spain, the proprietor, seemingly, of a considerable shop.  I cannot see why you should regret the difference.

 

Luigi (dashing his pipe on the ground).--Regret the difference!  Do you know one thing?  England is the heaven of the Piedmontese and Milanese, and especially those of Como.  We never lie down to rest but we dream of it, whether we are in our own country or in a foreign land, as I am now.  Regret the difference, Giorgio!  Do I hear such words from your lips, and you an Englishman?  I would rather be the poorest tramper on the roads of England, than lord of all within ten leagues of the shore of the lake of Como, and much the same say all my countrymen who have visited England, wherever they now be.  Regret the difference!  I have ten letters, from as many countrymen in America, who say they are rich and thriving, and principal men and merchants; but every night, when their heads are reposing on their pillows, their souls auslandra, hurrying away to England, and its green lanes and farm-yards.  And there they are with their boxes on the ground, displaying their looking-glasses and other goods to the honest rustics and their dames and their daughters, and selling away and chaffering and laughing just as of old.  And there they are again at nightfall in the hedge alehouses, eating their toasted cheese and their bread, and drinking the Suffolk ale, and listening to the roaring song and merry jest of the labourers.  Now, if they regret England so who are in America, which they own to be a happy country, and good for those of Piedmont and of Como, how much more must I regret it, when, after the lapse of so many years, I find myself in Spain, in this frightful town of Coruna, driving a ruinous trade, and where months pass by without my seeing a single English face, or hearing a word of the blessed English tongue.

 

Myself.--With such a predilection for England, what could have induced you to leave it and come to Spain?

 

Luigi.--I will tell you:  about sixteen years ago a universal desire seized our people in England to become something more than they had hitherto been, pedlars and trampers; they wished, moreover, for mankind are never satisfied, to see other countries: so the greater part forsook England.  Where formerly there had been ten, at present scarcely lingers one.  Almost all went to America, which, as I told you before, is a happy country, and specially good for us men of Como.  Well, all my comrades and relations passed over the sea to the West.  I, too, was bent on travelling; but whither?  Instead of going towards the West with the rest, to a country where they have all thriven, I must needs come by myself to this land of Spain; a country in which no foreigner settles without dying of a broken heart sooner or later.  I had an idea in my head that I could make a fortune at once, by bringing a cargo of common English goods, like those which I had been in the habit of selling amongst the villagers of England.  So I freighted half a ship with such goods, for I had been successful in England in my little speculations, and I arrived at Coruna.  Here at once my vexations began:  disappointment followed disappointment.  It was with the utmost difficulty that I could obtain permission to land my goods, and this only at a considerable sacrifice in bribes and the like; and when I had established myself here, I found that the place was one of no trade, and that my goods went off very slowly, and scarcely at prime cost.  I wished to remove to another place, but was informed that, in that case, I must leave my goods behind, unless I offered fresh bribes, which would have ruined me; and in this way I have gone on for fourteen years, selling scarcely enough to pay for my shop and to support myself.  And so I shall doubtless continue till I die, or my goods are exhausted.  In an evil day I left England and came to Spain.

 

Myself.--Did you not say that you had a countryman at St. James?

 

Luigi.--Yes, a poor honest fellow, who, like myself, by some strange chance found his way to Galicia.  I sometimes contrive to send him a few goods, which he sells at St. James at a greater profit than I can here.  He is a happy fellow, for he has never been in England, and knows not the difference between the two countries.  Oh, the green English hedgerows! and the alehouses! and, what is much more, the fair dealing and security.  I have travelled all over England and never met with ill usage, except once down in the north amongst the Papists, upon my telling them to leave all their mummeries and go to the parish church as I did, and as all my countrymen in England did; for know one thing, Signor Giorgio, not one of us who have lived in England, whether Piedmontese or men of Como, but wished well to the Protestant religion, if he had not actually become a member of it.

 

Myself.--What do you propose to do at present, Luigi?  What are your prospects?

 

Luigi.--My prospects are a blank, Giorgio; my prospects are a blank.  I propose nothing but to die in Coruna, perhaps in the hospital, if they will admit me.  Years ago I thought of fleeing, even if I left all behind me, and either returning to England, or betaking myself to America; but it is too late now, Giorgio, it is too late.  When I first lost all hope, I took to drinking, to which I was never before inclined, and I am now what I suppose you see.

 

"There is hope in the Gospel," said I, "even for you.  I will send you one."

 

There is a small battery of the old town which fronts the east, and whose wall is washed by the waters of the bay.  It is a sweet spot, and the prospect which opens from it is extensive.  The battery itself may be about eighty yards square; some young trees are springing up about it, and it is rather a favourite resort of the people of Coruna.

 

In the centre of this battery stands the tomb of Moore, built by the chivalrous French, in commemoration of the fall of their heroic antagonist.  It is oblong and surmounted by a slab, and on either side bears one of the simple and sublime epitaphs for which our rivals are celebrated, and which stand in such powerful contrast with the bloated and bombastic inscriptions which deform the walls of Westminster Abbey:

 

"JOHN MOORE,

LEADER OF THE ENGLISH ARMIES,

SLAIN IN BATTLE,

1809."

 

The tomb itself is of marble, and around it is a quadrangular wall, breast high, of rough Gallegan granite; close to each corner rises from the earth the breech of an immense brass cannon, intended to keep the wall compact and close.  These outer erections are, however, not the work of the French, but of the English government.

 

Yes, there lies the hero, almost within sight of the glorious hill where he turned upon his pursuers like a lion at bay and terminated his career.  Many acquire immortality without seeking it, and die before its first ray has gilded their name; of these was Moore. The harassed general, flying through Castile with his dispirited troops before a fierce and terrible enemy, little dreamed that he was on the point of attaining that for which many a better, greater, though certainly not braver man, had sighed in vain.  His very misfortunes were the means which secured him immortal fame; his disastrous route, bloody death, and finally his tomb on a foreign strand, far from kin and friends.  There is scarcely a Spaniard but has heard of this tomb, and speaks of it with a strange kind of awe.  Immense treasures are said to have been buried with the heretic general, though for what purpose no one pretends to guess.  The demons of the clouds, if we may trust the Gallegans, followed the English in their flight, and assailed them with water-spouts as they toiled up the steep winding paths of Fuencebadon; whilst legends the most wild are related of the manner in which the stout soldier fell.  Yes, even in Spain, immortality has already crowned the head of Moore;--Spain, the land of oblivion, where the Guadalete {16} flows.

 

CHAPTER XXVII

 

Compostella--Rey Romero--The Treasure-seeker--Hopeful Project—The Church of Refuge--Hidden Riches--The Canon--Spirit of Localism—The Leper--Bones of St. James.

 

At the commencement of August, I found myself at St. James of Compostella.  To this place I travelled from Coruna with the courier or weekly post, who was escorted by a strong party of soldiers, in consequence of the distracted state of the country, which was overrun with banditti.  From Coruna to St. James, the distance is but ten leagues; the journey, however, endured for a day and a half.  It was a pleasant one, through a most beautiful country, with a rich variety of hill and dale; the road was in many places shaded with various kinds of trees clad in most luxuriant foliage.  Hundreds of travellers, both on foot and on horseback, availed themselves of the security which the escort afforded:  the dread of banditti was strong.  During the journey two or three alarms were given; we, however, reached Saint James without having been attacked.

 

Saint James stands on a pleasant level amidst mountains:  the most extraordinary of these is a conical hill, called the Pico Sacro, or Sacred Peak, connected with which are many wonderful legends.  A beautiful old town is Saint James, containing about twenty thousand inhabitants.  Time has been when, with the single exception of Rome, it was the most celebrated resort of pilgrims in the world; its cathedral being said to contain the bones of Saint James the elder, the child of the thunder, who, according to the legend of the Romish church, first preached the Gospel in Spain.  Its glory,

however, as a place of pilgrimage is rapidly passing away.

 

The cathedral, though a work of various periods, and exhibiting various styles of architecture, is a majestic venerable pile, in every respect calculated to excite awe and admiration; indeed, it is almost impossible to walk its long dusky aisles, and hear the solemn music and the noble chanting, and inhale the incense of the mighty censers, which are at times swung so high by machinery as to smite the vaulted roof, whilst gigantic tapers glitter here and there amongst the gloom, from the shrine of many a saint, before which the worshippers are kneeling, breathing forth their prayers and petitions for help, love, and mercy, and entertain a doubt that we are treading the floor of a house where God delighteth to dwell. Yet the Lord is distant from that house; he hears not, he sees not, or if he do, it is with anger.  What availeth that solemn music, that noble chanting, that incense of sweet savour?  What availeth kneeling before that grand altar of silver, surmounted by that figure with its silver hat and breast-plate, the emblem of one who, though an apostle and confessor, was at best an unprofitable servant?  What availeth hoping for remission of sin by trusting in the merits of one who possessed none, or by paying homage to others who were born and nurtured in sin, and who alone, by the exercise of a lively faith granted from above, could hope to preserve themselves from the wrath of the Almighty?

 

Rise from your knees, ye children of Compostella, or if ye bend, let it be to the Almighty alone, and no longer on the eve of your patron's day address him in the following strain, however sublime it may sound:

 

"Thou shield of that faith which in Spain we revere,

Thou scourge of each foeman who dares to draw near;

Whom the Son of that God who the elements tames,

Called child of the thunder, immortal Saint James!

 

"From the blessed asylum of glory intense,

Upon us thy sovereign influence dispense;

And list to the praises our gratitude aims

To offer up worthily, mighty Saint James.

 

"To thee fervent thanks Spain shall ever outpour;

In thy name though she glory, she glories yet more

In thy thrice-hallowed corse, which the sanctuary claims

Of high Compostella, O, blessed Saint James.

 

"When heathen impiety, loathsome and dread,

With a chaos of darkness our Spain overspread,

Thou wast the first light which dispell'd with its flames

The hell-born obscurity, glorious Saint James!

 

"And when terrible wars had nigh wasted our force,

All bright 'midst the battle we saw thee on horse,

Fierce scattering the hosts, whom their fury proclaims

To be warriors of Islam, victorious Saint James.

 

"Beneath thy direction, stretch'd prone at thy feet,

With hearts low and humble, this day we intreat

Thou wilt strengthen the hope which enlivens our frames,

The hope of thy favour and presence, Saint James.

 

"Then praise to the Son and the Father above,

And to that Holy Spirit which springs from their love;

To that bright emanation whose vividness shames

The sun's burst of splendour, and praise to Saint James."

 

At Saint James I met with a kind and cordial coadjutor in my biblical labours in the bookseller of the place, Rey Romero, a man of about sixty.  This excellent individual, who was both wealthy and respected, took up the matter with an enthusiasm which doubtless emanated from on high, losing no opportunity of recommending my book to those who entered his shop, which was in the Azabacheria, and was a very splendid and commodious establishment.  In many instances, when the peasants of the neighbourhood came with an intention of purchasing some of the foolish popular story-books of Spain, he persuaded them to carry home Testaments instead, assuring them that the sacred volume was a better, more instructive, and even far more entertaining book than those they came in quest of.  He speedily conceived a great fancy for me, and regularly came to visit me every evening at my posada, and accompanied me in my walks about the town and the environs.  He was a man of considerable information, and though of much simplicity, possessed a kind of good-natured humour which was frequently highly diverting.

 

I was walking late one night alone in the Alameda of Saint James, considering in what direction I should next bend my course, for I had been already ten days in this place; the moon was shining gloriously, and illumined every object around to a considerable distance.  The Alameda was quite deserted; everybody, with the exception of myself, having for some time retired.  I sat down on a bench and continued my reflections, which were suddenly interrupted by a heavy stumping sound.  Turning my eyes in the direction from which it proceeded, I perceived what at first appeared a shapeless bulk slowly advancing:  nearer and nearer it drew, and I could now distinguish the outline of a man dressed in coarse brown garments, a kind of Andalusian hat, and using as a staff the long peeled branch of a tree.  He had now arrived opposite the bench where I was seated, when, stopping, he took off his hat and demanded charity in uncouth tones and in a strange jargon, which had some resemblance to the Catalan.  The moon shone on grey locks and on a ruddy weather-beaten countenance which I at once recognized: "Benedict Mol," said I, "is it possible that I see you at Compostella?"

 

"Och, mein Gott, es ist der Herr!" replied Benedict.  "Och, what good fortune, that the Herr is the first person I meet at

Compostella."

 

Myself.--I can scarcely believe my eyes.  Do you mean to say that you have just arrived at this place?

 

Benedict.--Ow yes, I am this moment arrived.  I have walked all the long way from Madrid.

 

Myself.--What motive could possibly bring you such a distance?

 

Benedict.--Ow, I am come for the schatz--the treasure.  I told you at Madrid that I was coming; and now I have met you here, I have no doubt that I shall find it, the schatz.

 

Myself.--In what manner did you support yourself by the way?

 

Benedict.--Ow, I begged, I bettled, and so contrived to pick up some cuartos; and when I reached Toro, I worked at my trade of soap-making for a time, till the people said I knew nothing about it, and drove me out of the town.  So I went on and begged and bettled till I arrived at Orense, which is in this country of Galicia.  Ow, I do not like this country of Galicia at all.

 

Myself.--Why not?

 

Benedict.--Why! because here they all beg and bettle, and have scarce anything for themselves, much less for me whom they know to be a foreign man.  O the misery of Galicia.  When I arrive at night at one of their pigsties, which they call posadas, and ask for bread to eat in the name of God, and straw to lie down in, they curse me, and say there is neither bread nor straw in Galicia; and sure enough, since I have been here I have seen neither, only something that they call broa, and a kind of reedy rubbish with which they litter the horses:  all my bones are sore since I entered Galicia.

 

Myself.--And yet you have come to this country, which you call so miserable, in search of treasure?

 

Benedict.--Ow yaw, but the schatz is buried; it is not above ground; there is no money above ground in Galicia.  I must dig it up; and when I have dug it up I will purchase a coach with six mules, and ride out of Galicia to Lucerne; and if the Herr pleases to go with me, he shall be welcome to go with me and the schatz.

 

Myself.--I am afraid that you have come on a desperate errand. What do you propose to do?  Have you any money?

 

Benedict.--Not a cuart; but I do not care now I have arrived at Saint James.  The schatz is nigh; and I have, moreover, seen you, which is a good sign; it tells me that the schatz is still here.  I shall go to the best posada in the place, and live like a duke till I have an opportunity of digging up the schatz, when I will pay all scores.

 

"Do nothing of the kind," I replied; "find out some place in which to sleep, and endeavour to seek some employment.  In the mean time, here is a trifle with which to support yourself; but as for the treasure which you have come to seek, I believe it only exists in your own imagination."  I gave him a dollar and departed.

 

I have never enjoyed more charming walks than in the neighbourhood of Saint James.  In these I was almost invariably accompanied by my friend the good old bookseller.  The streams are numerous, and along their wooded banks we were in the habit of straying and enjoying the delicious summer evenings of this part of Spain. Religion generally formed the topic of our conversation, but we not unfrequently talked of the foreign lands which I had visited, and at other times of matters which related particularly to my companion.  "We booksellers of Spain," said he, "are all liberals; we are no friends to the monkish system.  How indeed should we be friends to it?  It fosters darkness, whilst we live by disseminating light.  We love our profession, and have all more or less suffered for it; many of us, in the times of terror, were hanged for selling an innocent translation from the French or English.  Shortly after the Constitution was put down by Angouleme and the French bayonets, I was obliged to flee from Saint James and take refuge in the wildest part of Galicia, near Corcuvion.  Had I not possessed good friends, I should not have been alive now; as it was, it cost me a considerable sum of money to arrange matters. Whilst I was away, my shop was in charge of the ecclesiastical officers.  They frequently told my wife that I ought to be burnt for the books which I had sold.  Thanks be to God, those times are past, and I hope they will never return."

 

Once, as we were walking through the streets of Saint James, he stopped before a church and looked at it attentively.  As there was nothing remarkable in the appearance of this edifice, I asked him what motive he had for taking such notice of it.  "In the days of the friars," said he, "this church was one of refuge, to which if the worst criminals escaped, they were safe.  All were protected there save the negros, as they called us liberals."  "Even murderers, I suppose?" said I.  "Murderers!" he answered, "far worse criminals than they.  By the by, I have heard that you English entertain the utmost abhorrence of murder.  Do you in reality consider it a crime of very great magnitude?"  "How should we not," I replied; "for every other crime some reparation can be made; but if we take away life, we take away all.  A ray of hope with respect to this world may occasionally enliven the bosom of any other criminal, but how can the murderer hope?"  "The friars were of another way of thinking," replied the old man; "they always looked upon murder as a friolera; but not so the crime of marrying your first cousin without dispensation, for which, if we believe them, there is scarcely any atonement either in this world or the next."

 

Two or three days after this, as we were seated in my apartment in the posada, engaged in conversation, the door was opened by Antonio, who, with a smile on his countenance, said that there was a foreign GENTLEMAN below, who desired to speak with me.  "Show him up," I replied; whereupon almost instantly appeared Benedict Mol.

 

"This is a most extraordinary person," said I to the bookseller. "You Galicians, in general, leave your country in quest of money; he, on the contrary, is come hither to find some."

 

Rey Romero.--And he is right.  Galicia is by nature the richest province in Spain, but the inhabitants are very stupid, and know not how to turn the blessings which surround them to any account; but as a proof of what may be made out of Galicia, see how rich the Catalans become who have settled down here and formed establishments.  There are riches all around us, upon the earth and in the earth.

 

Benedict.--Ow yaw, in the earth, that is what I say.  There is much more treasure below the earth than above it.

 

Myself.--Since I last saw you, have you discovered the place in which you say the treasure is deposited?

 

Benedict.--O yes, I know all about it now.  It is buried 'neath the sacristy in the church of San Roque.

 

Myself.--How have you been able to make that discovery?

 

Benedict.--I will tell you:  the day after my arrival I walked about all the city in quest of the church, but could find none which at all answered to the signs which my comrade who died in the hospital gave me.  I entered several, and looked about, but all in vain; I could not find the place which I had in my mind's eye.  At last the people with whom I lodge, and to whom I told my business, advised me to send for a meiga.

 

Myself.--A meiga!  What is that?

 

Benedict.--Ow! a haxweib, a witch; the Gallegos call them so in their jargon, of which I can scarcely understand a word.  So I consented, and they sent for the meiga.  Och! what a weib is that meiga!  I never saw such a woman; she is as large as myself, and has a face as round and red as the sun.  She asked me a great many questions in her Gallegan, and when I had told her all she wanted to know, she pulled out a pack of cards and laid them on the table in a particular manner, and then she said that the treasure was in the church of San Roque; and sure enough, when I went to that church, it answered in every respect to the signs of my comrade who died in the hospital.  O she is a powerful hax, that meiga; she is well known in the neighbourhood, and has done much harm to the cattle.  I gave her half the dollar I had from you for her trouble.

 

Myself.--Then you acted like a simpleton; she has grossly deceived you.  But even suppose that the treasure is really deposited in the church you mention, it is not probable that you will be permitted to remove the floor of the sacristy to search for it.

 

Benedict.--Ow, the matter is already well advanced.  Yesterday I went to one of the canons to confess myself and to receive absolution and benediction; not that I regard these things much, but I thought this would be the best means of broaching the matter, so I confessed myself, and then I spoke of my travels to the canon, and at last I told him of the treasure, and proposed that if he assisted me we should share it between us.  Ow, I wish you had seen him; he entered at once into the affair, and said that it might turn out a very profitable speculation:  and he shook me by the hand, and said that I was an honest Swiss and a good Catholic.  And I then proposed that he should take me into his house and keep me there till we had an opportunity of digging up the treasure together.  This he refused to do.

 

Rey Romero.--Of that I have no doubt:  trust one of our canons for not committing himself so far until he sees very good reason. These tales of treasure are at present rather too stale:  we have heard of them ever since the time of the Moors.

 

Benedict.--He advised me to go to the Captain General and obtain permission to make excavations, in which case he promised to assist me to the utmost of his power.

 

Thereupon the Swiss departed, and I neither saw nor heard anything farther of him during the time that I continued at Saint James.

 

The bookseller was never weary of showing me about his native town, of which he was enthusiastically fond.  Indeed, I have never seen the spirit of localism, which is so prevalent throughout Spain, more strong than at Saint James.  If their town did but flourish, the Santiagians seemed to care but little if all others in Galicia perished.  Their antipathy to the town of Coruna was unbounded, and this feeling had of late been not a little increased from the circumstance that the seat of the provincial government had been removed from Saint James to Coruna.  Whether this change was advisable or not, it is not for me, who am a foreigner, to say; my private opinion, however, is by no means favourable to the alteration.  Saint James is one of the most central towns in Galicia, with large and populous communities on every side of it, whereas Coruna stands in a corner, at a considerable distance from the rest.  "It is a pity that the vecinos of Coruna cannot contrive to steal away from us our cathedral, even as they have done our government," said a Santiagian; "then, indeed, they would be able to cut some figure.  As it is, they have not a church fit to say mass in."  "A great pity, too, that they cannot remove our hospital," would another exclaim; "as it is, they are obliged to send us their sick, poor wretches.  I always think that the sick of Coruna have more ill-favoured countenances than those from other places; but what good can come from Coruna?"

 

Accompanied by the bookseller, I visited this hospital, in which, however, I did not remain long; the wretchedness and uncleanliness which I observed speedily driving me away.  Saint James, indeed, is the grand lazar-house for all the rest of Galicia, which accounts for the prodigious number of horrible objects to be seen in its streets, who have for the most part arrived in the hope of procuring medical assistance, which, from what I could learn, is very scantily and inefficiently administered.  Amongst these unhappy wretches I occasionally observed the terrible leper, and instantly fled from him with a "God help thee," as if I had been a Jew of old.  Galicia is the only province of Spain where cases of leprosy are still frequent; a convincing proof this, that the disease is the result of foul feeding, and an inattention to

cleanliness, as the Gallegans, with regard to the comforts of life and civilized habits, are confessedly far behind all the other natives of Spain.

 

"Besides a general hospital we have likewise a leper-house," said the bookseller.  "Shall I show it you?  We have everything at Saint James.  There is nothing lacking; the very leper finds an inn here."  "I have no objection to your showing me the house," I replied, "but it must be at a distance, for enter it I will not." Thereupon he conducted me down the road which leads towards Padron and Vigo, and pointing to two or three huts, exclaimed "That is our leper-house."  "It appears a miserable place," I replied:  "what accommodation may there be for the patients, and who attends to their wants?"  "They are left to themselves," answered the bookseller, "and probably sometimes perish from neglect:  the place at one time was endowed and had rents which were appropriated to its support, but even these have been sequestered during the late troubles.  At present, the least unclean of the lepers generally takes his station by the road side, and begs for the rest.  See there he is now."

 

And sure enough the leper in his shining scales, and half naked, was seated beneath a ruined wall.  We dropped money into the hat of the unhappy being, and passed on.

 

"A bad disorder that," said my friend.  "I confess that I, who have seen so many of them, am by no means fond of the company of lepers. Indeed, I wish that they would never enter my shop, as they occasionally do to beg.  Nothing is more infectious, as I have heard, than leprosy:  there is one very virulent species, however, which is particularly dreaded here, the elephantine:  those who die of it should, according to law, be burnt, and their ashes scattered to the winds:  for if the body of such a leper be interred in the field of the dead, the disorder is forthwith communicated to all the corpses even below the earth.  Such, at least, is our idea in these parts.  Lawsuits are at present pending from the circumstance of elephantides having been buried with the other dead.  Sad is leprosy in all its forms, but most so when elephantine."

 

"Talking of corpses," said I, "do you believe that the bones of St. James are veritably interred at Compostella?"

 

"What can I say," replied the old man; "you know as much of the matter as myself.  Beneath the high altar is a large stone slab or lid, which is said to cover the mouth of a profound well, at the bottom of which it is believed that the bones of the saint are interred; though why they should be placed at the bottom of a well, is a mystery which I cannot fathom.  One of the officers of the church told me that at one time he and another kept watch in the church during the night, one of the chapels having shortly before been broken open and a sacrilege committed.  At the dead of night, finding the time hang heavy on their hands, they took a crowbar and removed the slab and looked down into the abyss below; it was dark as the grave; whereupon they affixed a weight to the end of a long rope and lowered it down.  At a very great depth it seemed to strike against something dull and solid like lead:  they supposed it might be a coffin; perhaps it was, but whose is the question."

 

CHAPTER XXVIII

Skippers of Padron - Caldas de los Reyes - Pontevedra - The Notary Public - Insane Barber - An Introduction - Gallegan Language - Afternoon Ride - Vigo - The Stranger - Jews of the Desert - Bay of Vigo - Sudden Interruption - The Governor.

 

After a stay of about a fortnight at Saint James, we again mounted our horses and proceeded in the direction of Vigo. As we did not leave Saint James till late in the afternoon, we travelled that day no farther than Padron, a distance of only three leagues. This place is a small port, situate at the extremity of a firth which communicates with the sea. It is called for brevity's sake, Padron, but its proper appellation is Villa del Padron, or the town of the patron saint; it having been, according to the legend, the principal residence of Saint James during his stay in Galicia. By the Romans it was termed Iria Flavia. It is a flourishing little town, and carries on rather an extensive commerce, some of its tiny barks occasionally finding their way across the Bay of Biscay, and even so far as the Thames and London.

There is a curious anecdote connected with the skippers of Padron, which can scarcely be considered as out of place here, as it relates to the circulation of the Scriptures. I was one day in the shop of my friend the bookseller at Saint James, when a stout good-humoured-looking priest entered. He took up one of my Testaments, and forthwith burst into a violent fit of laughter. "What is the matter?" demanded the bookseller. "The sight of this book reminds me of a circumstance": replied the other, "about twenty years ago, when the English first took it into their heads to be very zealous in converting us Spaniards to their own way of thinking, they distributed a great number of books of this kind amongst the Spaniards who chanced to be in London; some of them fell into the hands of certain skippers of Padron, and these good folks, on their return to Galicia, were observed to have become on a sudden exceedingly opinionated and fond of dispute. It was scarcely possible to make an assertion in their hearing without receiving a flat contradiction, especially when religious subjects were brought on the carpet. `It is false,' they would say; `Saint Paul, in such a chapter and in such a verse, says exactly the contrary.'  `What can you know concerning what Saint Paul or any other saint has written?' the priests would ask them. `Much more than you think,' they replied; `we are no longer to be kept in darkness and ignorance respecting these matters:' and then they would produce their books and read paragraphs, making such comments that every person was scandalized; they cared nothing about the Pope, and even spoke with irreverence of the bones of Saint James. However, the matter was soon bruited about, and a commission was dispatched from our see to collect the books and burn them. This was effected, and the skippers were either punished or reprimanded, since which I have heard nothing more of them. I could not forbear laughing when I saw these books; they instantly brought to my mind the skippers of Padron and their religious disputations."

 

Our next day's journey brought us to Pontevedra. As there was no talk of robbers in these parts, we travelled without any escort and alone. The road was beautiful and picturesque, though somewhat solitary, especially after we had left behind us the small town of Caldas. There is more than one place of this name in Spain; the one of which I am speaking is distinguished from the rest by being called Caldas de los Reyes, or the warm baths of the kings. It will not be amiss to observe that the Spanish CALDAS is synonymous with the Moorish ALHAMA, a word of frequent occurrence both in Spanish and African topography. Caldas seemed by no means undeserving of its name: it stands on a confluence of springs, and the place when we arrived was crowded with people who had come to enjoy the benefit of the waters. In the course of my travels I have observed that wherever warm springs are found, vestiges of volcanoes are sure to be nigh; the smooth black precipice, the divided mountain, or huge rocks standing by themselves on the plain or on the hill side, as if Titans had been playing at bowls. This last feature occurs near Caldas de los Reyes, the side of the mountain which overhangs it in the direction of the south being covered with immense granite stones, apparently at some ancient period eructed from the bowels of the earth. From Caldas to Pontevedra the route was hilly and fatiguing, the heat was intense, and those clouds of flies, which constitute one of the pests of Galicia, annoyed our horses to such a degree that we were obliged to cut down branches from the trees to protect their heads and necks from the tormenting stings of these bloodthirsty insects. Whilst travelling in Galicia at this period of the year on horseback, it is always advisable to carry a fine net for the protection of the animal, a sure and commodious means of defence, which appears, however, to be utterly unknown in Galicia, where, perhaps, it is more wanted than in any other part of the world.

 

Pontevedra, upon the whole, is certainly entitled to the appellation of a magnificent town, some of its public edifices, especially the convents, being such as are nowhere to be found but in Spain and Italy. It is surrounded by a wall of hewn stone, and stands at the end of a creek into which the river Levroz disembogues. It is said to have been founded by a colony of Greeks, whose captain was no less a personage than Teucer the Telemonian. It was in former times a place of considerable commerce; and near its port are to be seen the ruins of a farol, or lighthouse, said to be of great antiquity. The port, however, is at a considerable distance from the town, and is shallow and incommodious. The whole country in the neighbourhood of Pontevedra is inconceivably delicious, abounding with fruits of every description, especially grapes, which in the proper season are seen hanging from the "parras" in luscious luxuriance. An old Andalusian author has said that it produces as many oranges and citron trees as the neighbourhood of Cordova. Its oranges are, however, by no means good, and cannot compete with those of Andalusia. The Pontevedrians boast that their land produces two crops every year, and that whilst they are gathering in one they may be seen ploughing and sowing another. They may well be proud of their country, which is certainly a highly favoured spot.

 

The town itself is in a state of great decay, and notwithstanding the magnificence of its public edifices, we found more than the usual amount of Galician filth and misery. The posada was one of the most wretched description, and to mend the matter, the hostess was a most intolerable scold and shrew. Antonio having found fault with the quality of some provision which she produced, she cursed him most immoderately in the country language, which was the only one she spoke, and threatened, if he attempted to breed any disturbance in her house, to turn the horses, himself, and his master forthwith out of doors. Socrates himself, however, could not have conducted himself on this occasion with greater forbearance than Antonio, who shrugged his shoulders, muttered something in Greek, and then was silent.

"Where does the notary public live?" I demanded. Now the notary public vended books, and to this personage I was recommended by my friend at Saint James. A boy conducted me to the house of Senor Garcia, for such was his name. I found him a brisk, active, talkative little man of forty. He undertook with great alacrity the sale of my Testaments, and in a twinkling sold two to a client who was waiting in the office, and appeared to be from the country. He was an enthusiastic patriot, but of course in a local sense, for he cared for no other country than Pontevedra.

 

"Those fellows of Vigo," said he, "say their town is a better one than ours, and that it is more deserving to be the capital of this part of Galicia. Did you ever hear such folly? I tell you what, friend, I should not care if Vigo were burnt, and all the fools and rascals within it. Would you ever think of comparing Vigo with Pontevedra?"

 

"I don't know," I replied; "I have never been at Vigo, but I have heard say that the bay of Vigo is the finest in the world."

 

"Bay! my good sir. Bay! yes, the rascals have a bay, and it is that bay of theirs which has robbed us all our commerce. But what needs the capital of a district with a bay? It is public edifices that it wants, where the provincial deputies can meet to transact their business; now, so far from there being a commodious public edifice, there is not a decent house in all Vigo. Bay! yes, they have a bay, but have they water fit to drink? Have they a fountain? Yes, they have, and the water is so brackish that it would burst the stomach of a horse. I hope, my dear sir, that you have not come all this distance to take the part of such a gang of pirates as those of Vigo."

 

"I am not come to take their part," I replied; "indeed, I was not aware that they wanted my assistance in this dispute. I am merely carrying to them the New Testament, of which they evidently stand in much need, if they are such knaves and scoundrels as you represent them."

 

"Represent them, my dear sir. Does not the matter speak for itself? Do they not say that their town is better than ours, more fit to be the capital of a district, QUE DISPARATE! QUE BRIBONERIA! (what folly! what rascality!)"

 

"Is there a bookseller's shop at Vigo?" I inquired.

 

"There was one," he replied, "kept by an insane barber. I am glad, for your sake, that it is broken up, and the fellow vanished; he would have played you one of two tricks; he would either have cut your throat with his razor, under pretence of shaving you, or have taken your books and never have accounted to you for the proceeds. Bay! I never could see what right such an owl's nest as Vigo has to a bay."

 

No person could exhibit greater kindness to another, than did the notary public to myself, as soon as I had convinced him that I had no intention of siding with the men of Vigo against Pontevedra. It was now six o'clock in the evening, and he forthwith conducted me to a confectioner's shop, where he treated me with an iced cream and a small cup of chocolate. From hence we walked about the city, the notary showing the various edifices, especially, the Convent of the Jesuits: "See that front," said he, "what do you think of it?"

 

I expressed to him the admiration which I really felt, and by so doing entirely won the good notary's heart: "I suppose there is nothing like that at Vigo?" said I. He looked at me for a moment, winked, gave a short triumphant chuckle, and then proceeded on his way, walking at a tremendous rate. The Senor Garcia was dressed in all respects as an English notary might be: he wore a white hat, brown frock coat, drab breeches buttoned at the knees, white stockings, and well blacked shoes. But I never saw an English notary walk so fast: it could scarcely be called walking: it seemed more like a succession of galvanic leaps and bounds. I found it impossible to keep up with him: "Where are you conducting me?" I at last demanded, quite breathless.

 

"To the house of the cleverest man in Spain," he replied, "to whom I intend to introduce you; for you must not think that Pontevedra has nothing to boast of but its splendid edifices and its beautiful country; it produces more illustrious minds than any other town in Spain. Did you ever hear of the grand Tamerlane?"

 

"Oh, yes," said I, "but he did not come from Pontevedra or its neighbourhood: he came from the steppes of Tartary, near the river Oxus."

 

"I know he did," replied the notary, "but what I mean to say is, that when Enrique the Third wanted an ambassador to send to that African, the only man he could find suited to the enterprise was a knight of Pontevedra, Don - by name. Let the men of Vigo contradict that fact if they can."

 

We entered a large portal and ascended a splendid staircase, at the top of which the notary knocked at a small door: "Who is the gentleman to whom you are about to introduce me?" demanded I.

 

"It is the advocate -," replied Garcia; "he is the cleverest man in Spain, and understands all languages and sciences."

 

We were admitted by a respectable-looking female, to all appearance a housekeeper, who, on being questioned, informed us that the Advocate was at home, and forthwith conducted us to an immense room, or rather library, the walls being covered with books, except in two or three places, where hung some fine pictures of the ancient Spanish school. There was a rich mellow light in the apartment, streaming through a window of stained glass, which looked to the west. Behind the table sat the Advocate, on whom I looked with no little interest: his forehead was high and wrinkled, and there was much gravity on his features, which were quite Spanish. He was dressed in a long robe, and might be about sixty; he sat reading behind a large table, and on our entrance half raised himself and bowed slightly.

 

The notary public saluted him most profoundly, and, in an under voice, hoped that he might be permitted to introduce a friend of his, an English gentleman, who was travelling through Galicia.

 

"I am very glad to see him," said the Advocate, "but I hope he speaks Castilian, else we can have but little communication; for, although I can read both French and Latin, I cannot speak them."

 

"He speaks, sir, almost as good Spanish," said the notary, "as a native of Pontevedra."

 

"The natives of Pontevedra," I replied, "appear to be better versed in Gallegan than in Castilian, for the greater part of the conversation which I hear in the streets is carried on in the former dialect."

 

"The last gentleman which my friend Garcia introduced to me," said the Advocate, "was a Portuguese, who spoke little or no Spanish. It is said that the Gallegan and Portuguese are very similar, but when we attempted to converse in the two languages, we found it impossible. I understood little of what he said, whilst my Gallegan was quite unintelligible to him. Can you understand our country dialect?" he continued.

 

"Very little of it," I replied; "which I believe chiefly proceeds from the peculiar accent and uncouth enunciation of the Gallegans, for their language is certainly almost entirely composed of Spanish and Portuguese words."

 

"So you are an Englishman," said the Advocate. "Your countrymen have committed much damage in times past in these regions, if we may trust our histories."

 

"Yes," said I, "they sank your galleons and burnt your finest men-of-war in Vigo Bay, and, under old Cobham, levied a contribution of forty thousand pounds sterling on this very town of Pontevedra."

 

"Any foreign power," interrupted the notary public, "has a clear right to attack Vigo, but I cannot conceive what plea your countrymen could urge for distressing Pontevedra, which is a respectable town, and could never have offended them."

 

"Senor Cavalier," said the Advocate, "I will show you my library. Here is a curious work, a collection of poems, written mostly in Gallegan, by the curate of Fruime. He is our national poet, and we are very proud of him."

 

We stopped upwards of an hour with the Advocate, whose conversation, if it did not convince me that he was the cleverest man in Spain, was, upon the whole, highly interesting, and who certainly possessed an extensive store of general information, though he was by no means the profound philologist which the notary had represented him to be.

 

When I was about to depart from Pontevedra in the afternoon of the next day, the Senor Garcia stood by the side of my horse, and having embraced me, thrust a small pamphlet into my hand: "This book," said he, "contains a description of Pontevedra. Wherever you go, speak well of Pontevedra." I nodded. "Stay," said he, "my dear friend, I have heard of your society, and will do my best to further its views. I am quite disinterested, but if at any future time you should have an opportunity of speaking in print of Senor Garcia, the notary public of Pontevedra, - you understand me, - I wish you would do so."  "I will," said I.

 

It was a pleasant afternoon's ride from Pontevedra to Vigo, the distance being only four leagues. As we approached the latter town, the country became exceedingly mountainous, though scarcely anything could exceed the beauty of the surrounding scenery. The sides of the hills were for the most part clothed with luxuriant forests, even to the very summits, though occasionally a flinty and naked peak would present itself, rising to the clouds. As the evening came on, the route along which we advanced became very gloomy, the hills and forests enwrapping it in deep shade. It appeared, however, to be well frequented: numerous cars were creaking along it, and both horsemen and pedestrians were continually passing us. The villages were frequent. Vines, supported on parras, were growing, if possible, in still greater abundance than in the neighbourhood of Pontevedra. Life and activity seemed to pervade everything. The hum of insects, the cheerful bark of dogs, the rude songs of Galicia, were blended together in pleasant symphony. So delicious was my ride, that I almost regretted when we entered the gate of Vigo.

 

The town occupies the lower part of a lofty hill, which, as it ascends, becomes extremely steep and precipitous, and the top of which is crowned with a strong fort or castle. It is a small compact place, surrounded with low walls, the streets are narrow, steep, and winding, and in the middle of the town is a small square. There is rather an extensive faubourg extending along the shore of the bay. We found an excellent posada, kept by a man and woman from the Basque provinces, who were both civil and intelligent. The town seemed to be crowded, and resounded with noise and merriment. The people were making a wretched attempt at an illumination, in consequence of some victory lately gained, or pretended to have been gained, over the forces of the Pretender. Military uniforms were glancing about in every direction. To increase the bustle, a troop of Portuguese players had lately arrived from Oporto, and their first representation was to take place this evening. "Is the play to be performed in Spanish?" I demanded. "No," was the reply; "and on that account every person is so eager to go; which would not be the case if it were in a language which they could understand."

 

On the morning of the next day I was seated at breakfast in a large apartment which looked out upon the Plaza Mayor, or great square of the good town of Vigo. The sun was shining very brilliantly, and all around looked lively and gay. Presently a stranger entered, and bowing profoundly, stationed himself at the window, where he remained a considerable time in silence. He was a man of very remarkable appearance, of about thirty-five. His features were of perfect symmetry, and I may almost say, of perfect beauty. His hair was the darkest I had ever seen, glossy and shining; his eyes large, black, and melancholy; but that which most struck me was his complexion. It might be called olive, it is true, but it was a livid olive. He was dressed in the very first style of French fashion. Around his neck was a massive gold chain, while upon his fingers were large rings, in one of which was set a magnificent ruby. Who can that man be? thought I; - Spaniard or Portuguese, perhaps a Creole. I asked him an indifferent question in Spanish, to which he forthwith replied in that language, but his accent convinced me that he was neither Spaniard nor Portuguese.

"I presume I am speaking to an Englishman, sir?" said he, in as good English as it was possible for one not an Englishman to speak.

 

MYSELF. - You know me to be an Englishman; but I should find some difficulty in guessing to what country you belong.

 

STRANGER. - May I take a seat?

 

MYSELF. - A singular question. Have you not as much right to sit in the public apartment of an inn as myself?

 

STRANGER. - I am not certain of that. The people here are not in general very gratified at seeing me seated by their side.

 

MYSELF. - Perhaps owing to your political opinions, or to some crime which it may have been your misfortune to commit?

 

STRANGER. - I have no political opinions, and I am not aware that I ever committed any particular crime, - I am hated for my country and my religion.

 

MYSELF. - Perhaps I am speaking to a Protestant, like myself?

 

STRANGER. - I am no Protestant. If I were, they would be cautious here of showing their dislike, for I should then have a government and a consul to protect me. I am a Jew – a Barbary Jew, a subject of Abderrahman.

 

MYSELF. - If that be the case, you can scarcely complain of being looked upon with dislike in this country, since in Barbary the Jews are slaves.

 

STRANGER. - In most parts, I grant you, but not where I was born, which was far up the country, near the deserts. There the Jews are free, and are feared, and are as valiant men as the Moslems themselves; as able to tame the steed, or to fire the gun. The Jews of our tribe are not slaves, and I like not to be treated as a slave either by Christian or Moor.

 

MYSELF. - Your history must be a curious one, I would fain hear it.

 

STRANGER. - My history I shall tell to no one. I have travelled much, I have been in commerce and have thriven. I am at present established in Portugal, but I love not the people of Catholic countries, and least of all these of Spain. I have lately experienced the most shameful injustice in the Aduana of this town, and when I complained, they laughed at me and called me Jew. Wherever he turns, the Jew is reviled, save in your country, and on that account my blood always warms when I see an Englishman. You are a stranger here. Can I do aught for you? You may command me.

 

MYSELF. - I thank you heartily, but I am in need of no assistance.

 

STRANGER. - Have you any bills, I will accept them if you have?

 

MYSELF. - I have no need of assistance; but you may do me a favour by accepting of a book.

 

STRANGER. - I will receive it with thanks. I know what it is. What a singular people? The same dress, the same look, the same book. Pelham gave me one in Egypt. Farewell! Your Jesus was a good man, perhaps a prophet; but . . . farewell!

 

Well may the people of Pontevedra envy the natives of Vigo their bay, with which, in many respects, none other in the world can compare. On every side it is defended by steep and sublime hills, save on the part of the west, where is the outlet to the Atlantic; but in the midst of this outlet, up towers a huge rocky wall, or island, which breaks the swell, and prevents the billows of the western sea from pouring through in full violence. On either side of this island is a passage, so broad, that navies might pass through at all times in safety. The bay itself is oblong, running far into the land, and so capacious, that a thousand sail of the line might ride in it uncrowded. The waters are dark, still, and deep, without quicksands or shallows, so that the proudest man-of-war might lie within a stone's throw of the town ramparts without any fear of injuring her keel.

 

Of many a strange event, and of many a mighty preparation has this bay been the scene. It was here that the bulky dragons of the grand armada were mustered, and it was from hence that, fraught with the pomp, power, and terror of old Spain, the monster fleet, spreading its enormous sails to the wind, and bent on the ruin of the Lutheran isle, proudly steered; - that fleet, to build and man which half the forests of Galicia had been felled, and all the mariners impressed from the thousand bays and creeks of the stern Cantabrian shore. It was here that the united flags of Holland and England triumphed over the pride of Spain and France; when the burning timbers of exploded war-ships soared above the tops of the Gallegan hills, and blazing galleons sank with their treasure chests whilst drifting in the direction of Sampayo. It was on the shores of this bay that the English guards first emptied Spanish bodegas, whilst the bombs of Cobham were crushing the roofs of the castle of Castro, and the vecinos of Pontevedra buried their doubloons in cellars, and flying posts were conveying to Lugo and Orensee the news of the heretic invasion and the disaster of Vigo. All these events occurred to my mind as I stood far up the hill, at a short distance from the fort, surveying the bay.

 

"What are you doing there, Cavalier?" roared several voices. "Stay, Carracho! if you attempt to run we will shoot you!"  I looked round and saw three or four fellows in dirty uniforms, to all appearance soldiers, just above me, on a winding path, which led up the hill. Their muskets were pointed at me. "What am I doing? Nothing, as you see," said I, "save looking at the bay; and as for running, this is by no means ground for a course."  "You are our prisoner," said they, "and you must come with us to the fort."  "I was just thinking of going there," I replied, "before you thus kindly invited me. The fort is the very spot I was desirous of seeing."  I thereupon climbed up to the place where they stood, when they instantly surrounded me, and with this escort I was marched into the fort, which might have been a strong place in its time, but was now rather ruinous. "You are suspected of being a spy," said the corporal, who walked in front. "Indeed," said I. "Yes," replied the corporal, "and several spies have lately been taken and shot."

 

Upon one of the parapets of the fort stood a young man, dressed as a subaltern officer, and to this personage I was introduced. "We have been watching you this half hour," said he, "as you were taking observations."  "Then you gave yourselves much useless trouble," said I. "I am an Englishman, and was merely looking at the bay. Have the kindness now to show me the fort." . . .

 

After some conversation, he said, "I wish to be civil to people of your nation, you may therefore consider yourself at liberty."  I bowed, made my exit, and proceeded down the hill. Just before I entered the town, however, the corporal, who had followed me unperceived, tapped me on the shoulder. "You must go with me to the governor," said he. "With all my heart," I replied. The governor was shaving, when we were shown up to him. He was in his shirt sleeves, and held a razor in his hand. He looked very ill-natured, which was perhaps owing to his being thus interrupted in his toilet. He asked me two or three questions, and on learning that I had a passport, and was the bearer of a letter to the English consul, he told me that I was at liberty to depart. So I bowed to the governor of the town, as I had done to the governor of the fort, and making my exit proceeded to my inn.

 

At Vigo I accomplished but little in the way of distribution, and after a sojourn of a few days, I returned in the direction of Saint James.

 

CHAPTER XXIX

 

Arrival at Padron--Projected Enterprise--The Alquilador--Breach of Promise--An Odd Companion--A Plain Story--Rugged Paths—The Desertion--The Pony--A Dialogue--Unpleasant Situation--The Estadea--Benighted--The Hut--The Traveller's Pillow.

 

I arrived at Padron late in the evening, on my return from Pontevedra and Vigo.  It was my intention at this place to send my servant and horses forward to Santiago, and to hire a guide to Cape Finisterra.  It would be difficult to assign any plausible reason for the ardent desire which I entertained to visit this place; but I remembered that last year I had escaped almost by a miracle from shipwreck and death on the rocky sides of this extreme point of the Old World, and I thought that to convey the Gospel to a place so wild and remote, might perhaps be considered an acceptable pilgrimage in the eyes of my Maker.  True it is that but one copy remained of those which I had brought with me on this last journey, but this reflection, far from discouraging me in my projected enterprise, produced the contrary effect, as I called to mind that ever since the Lord revealed himself to man, it has seemed good to him to accomplish the greatest ends by apparently the most insufficient means; and I reflected that this one copy might serve as an instrument of more good than the four thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine copies of the edition of Madrid.

 

I was aware that my own horses were quite incompetent to reach Finisterra, as the roads or paths lie through stony ravines, and over rough and shaggy hills, and therefore determined to leave them behind with Antonio, whom I was unwilling to expose to the fatigues of such a journey.  I lost no time in sending for an alquilador, or person who lets out horses, and informing him of my intention.  He said he had an excellent mountain pony at my disposal, and that he himself would accompany me, but at the same time observed, that it was a terrible journey for man and horse, and that he expected to be paid accordingly.  I consented to give him what he demanded, but on the express condition that he would perform his promise of attending me himself, as I was unwilling to trust myself four or five days amongst the hills with any low fellow of the town whom he might select, and who it was very possible might play me some evil turn.  He replied by the term invariably used by the Spaniards when they see doubt or distrust exhibited.  "No tenga usted cuidao," I will go myself.  Having thus arranged the matter perfectly satisfactorily, as I thought, I partook of a slight supper, and shortly afterwards retired to repose.

 

I had requested the alquilador to call me the next morning at three o'clock; he however did not make his appearance till five, having, I suppose, overslept himself, which was indeed my own case.  I arose in a hurry, dressed, put a few things in a bag, not forgetting the Testament which I had resolved to present to the inhabitants of Finisterra.  I then sallied forth and saw my friend the alquilador, who was holding by the bridle the pony or jaco which was destined to carry me in my expedition.  It was a beautiful little animal, apparently strong and full of life, without one single white hair in its whole body, which was black as the plumage of the crow.

 

Behind it stood a strange-looking figure of the biped species, to whom, however, at the moment, I paid little attention, but of whom I shall have plenty to say in the sequel.

 

Having asked the horse-lender whether he was ready to proceed, and being answered in the affirmative, I bade adieu to Antonio, and putting the pony in motion, we hastened out of the town, taking at first the road which leads towards Santiago.  Observing that the figure which I have previously alluded to was following close at our heels, I asked the alquilador who it was, and the reason of its following us; to which he replied that it was a servant of his, who would proceed a little way with us and then return.  So on we went at a rapid rate, till we were within a quarter of a mile of the Convent of the Esclavitud, a little beyond which he had informed me that we should have to turn off from the high road; but here he suddenly stopped short, and in a moment we were all at a standstill.  I questioned the guide as to the reason of this, but received no answer.  The fellow's eyes were directed to the ground, and he seemed to be counting with the most intense solicitude the prints of the hoofs of the oxen, mules, and horses in the dust of the road.  I repeated my demand in a louder voice; when, after a considerable pause, he somewhat elevated his eyes, without however looking me in the face, and said that he believed that I entertained the idea that he himself was to guide me to Finisterra, which if I did, he was very sorry for, the thing being quite impossible, as he was perfectly ignorant of the way, and, moreover, incapable of performing such a journey over rough and difficult ground, as he was no longer the man he had been, and over and above all that, he was engaged that day to accompany a gentleman to Pontevedra, who was at that moment expecting him.  "But," continued he, "as I am always desirous of behaving like a caballero to everybody, I have taken measures to prevent your being disappointed.  This person," pointing to the figure, "I have engaged to accompany you.  He is a most trustworthy person, and is well acquainted with the route to Finisterra, having been thither several times with this very jaco on which you are mounted.  He will, besides, be an agreeable companion to you on the way, as he speaks French and English very well, and has been all over the world."  The fellow ceased speaking at last; and I was so struck with his craft, impudence, and villainy, that some time elapsed before I could find an answer.  I then reproached him in the bitterest terms for his breach of promise, and said that I was much tempted to return to the town instantly, complain of him to the alcalde, and have him punished at any expense.  To which he replied, "Sir Cavalier, by so doing you will be nothing nearer Finisterra, to which you seem so eager to get.  Take my advice, spur on the jaco, for you see it is getting late, and it is twelve long leagues from hence to Corcuvion, where you must pass the night; and from thence to Finisterra is no trifle.  As for the man, no tenga usted cuidao, he is the best guide in all Galicia, speaks English and French, and will bear you pleasant company."

 

By this time I had reflected that by returning to Padron I should indeed be only wasting time, and that by endeavouring to have the fellow punished, no benefit would accrue to me; moreover, as he seemed to be a scoundrel in every sense of the word, I might as well proceed in the company of any person as in his.  I therefore signified my intention of proceeding, and told him to go back in the Lord's name, and repent of his sins.  But having gained one point, he thought he had best attempt another; so placing himself about a yard before the jaco, he said that the price which I had agreed to pay him for the loan of his horse (which by the by was the full sum he had demanded) was by no means sufficient, and that before I proceeded I must promise him two dollars more, adding that he was either drunk or mad when he had made such a bargain.  I was now thoroughly incensed, and without a moment's reflection, spurred the jaco, which flung him down in the dust, and passed over him. Looking back at the distance of a hundred yards, I saw him standing in the same place, his hat on the ground, gazing after us, and crossing himself most devoutly.  His servant, or whatever he was, far from offering any assistance to his principal, no sooner saw the jaco in motion than he ran on by its side, without word or comment, farther than striking himself lustily on the thigh with his right palm.  We soon passed the Esclavitud, and presently afterwards turned to the left into a stony broken path leading to fields of maze.  We passed by several farm-houses, and at last arrived at a dingle, the sides of which were plentifully overgrown with dwarf oaks, and which slanted down to a small dark river shaded with trees, which we crossed by a rude bridge.  By this time I had had sufficient time to scan my odd companion from head to foot.  His utmost height, had he made the most of himself, might perhaps have amounted to five feet one inch; but he seemed somewhat inclined to stoop.  Nature had gifted him with an immense head and placed it clean upon his shoulders, for amongst the items of his composition it did not appear that a neck had been included.  Arms long and brawny swung at his sides, and the whole of his frame was as strong built and powerful as a wrestler's; his body was supported by a pair of short but very nimble legs.  His face was very long, and would have borne some slight resemblance to a human countenance, had the nose been more visible, for its place seemed to have been entirely occupied by a wry mouth and large staring eyes.  His dress consisted of three articles:  an old and tattered hat of the Portuguese kind, broad at the crown and narrow at the eaves, something which appeared to be a shirt, and dirty canvas trousers.  Willing to enter into conversation with him, and remembering that the alquilador had informed me that he spoke languages, I asked him, in English, if he had always acted in the capacity of guide?  Whereupon he turned his eyes with a singular expression upon my face, gave a loud laugh, a long leap, and clapped his hands thrice above his head.  Perceiving that he did not understand me, I repeated my demand in French, and was again answered by the laugh, leap, and clapping.  At last he said in broken Spanish, "Master mine, speak Spanish in God's name, and I

can understand you, and still better if you speak Gallegan, but I can promise no more.  I heard what the alquilador told you, but he is the greatest embustero in the whole land, and deceived you then as he did when he promised to accompany you.  I serve him for my sins; but it was an evil hour when I left the deep sea and turned guide."  He then informed me that he was a native of Padron, and a mariner by profession, having spent the greater part of his life in the Spanish navy, in which service he had visited Cuba and many parts of the Spanish Americas, adding, "when my master told you that I should bear you pleasant company by the way, it was the only word of truth that has come from his mouth for a month; and long before you reach Finisterra you will have rejoiced that the servant, and not the master, went with you:  he is dull and heavy, but I am what you see."  He then gave two or three first-rate summersets, again laughed loudly, and clapped his hands.  "You would scarcely think," he continued, "that I drove that little pony yesterday heavily laden all the way from Coruna.  We arrived at Padron at two o'clock this morning; but we are nevertheless both willing and able to undertake a fresh journey.  No tenga usted cuidao, as my master said, no one ever complains of that pony or of me."  In this kind of discourse we proceeded a considerable way through a very picturesque country, until we reached a beautiful village at the skirt of a mountain.  "This village," said my guide,

"is called Los Angeles, because its church was built long since by the angels; they placed a beam of gold beneath it, which they brought down from heaven, and which was once a rafter of God's own house.  It runs all the way under the ground from hence to the cathedral of Compostella."

 

Passing through the village, which he likewise informed me possessed baths, and was much visited by the people of Santiago, we shaped our course to the north-west, and by so doing doubled a mountain which rose majestically over our heads, its top crowned with bare and broken rocks, whilst on our right, on the other side of a spacious valley, was a high range, connected with the mountains to the northward of Saint James.  On the summit of this range rose high embattled towers, which my guide informed me were those of Altamira, an ancient and ruined castle, formerly the principal residence in this province of the counts of that name. Turning now due west, we were soon at the bottom of a steep and rugged pass, which led to more elevated regions.  The ascent cost us nearly half an hour, and the difficulties of the ground were such, that I more than once congratulated myself on having left my own horses behind, and being mounted on the gallant little pony which, accustomed to such paths, scrambled bravely forward, and eventually brought us in safety to the top of the ascent.

 

Here we entered a Gallegan cabin, or choza, for the purpose of refreshing the animal and ourselves.  The quadruped ate some maize, whilst we two bipeds regaled ourselves on some broa and aguardiente, which a woman whom we found in the hut placed before us.  I walked out for a few minutes to observe the aspect of the country, and on my return found my guide fast asleep on the bench where I had left him.  He sat bolt upright, his back supported against the wall, and his legs pendulous, within three inches of the ground, being too short to reach it.  I remained gazing upon him for at least five minutes, whilst he enjoyed slumbers seemingly as quiet and profound as those of death itself.  His face brought powerfully to my mind some of those uncouth visages of saints and abbots which are occasionally seen in the niches of the walls of ruined convents.  There was not the slightest gleam of vitality in his countenance, which for colour and rigidity might have been of stone, and which was as rude and battered as one of the stone heads at Icolmkill, which have braved the winds of twelve hundred years. I continued gazing on his face till I became almost alarmed, concluding that life might have departed from its harassed and fatigued tenement.  On my shaking him rather roughly by the shoulder he slowly awoke, opening his eyes with a stare and then closing them again.  For a few moments he was evidently unconscious of where he was.  On my shouting to him, however, and inquiring whether he intended to sleep all day instead of conducting me to Finisterra, he dropped upon his legs, snatched up his hat, which lay on the table, and instantly ran out of the door, exclaiming, "Yes, yes, I remember--follow me, captain, and I will lead you to Finisterra in no time."  I looked after him, and perceived that he was hurrying at a considerable pace in the direction in which we had hitherto been proceeding.  "Stop," said I, "stop! will you leave me here with the pony?  Stop, we have not paid the reckoning. Stop!"  He, however, never turned his head for a moment, and in less than a minute was out of sight.  The pony, which was tied to a crib at one end of the cabin, began now to neigh terrifically, to plunge, and to erect its tail and mane in a most singular manner. It tore and strained at the halter till I was apprehensive that strangulation would ensue.  "Woman," I exclaimed, "where are you, and what is the meaning of all this?"  But the hostess had likewise disappeared, and though I ran about the choza, shouting myself hoarse, no answer was returned.  The pony still continued to scream and to strain at the halter more violently than ever.  "Am I beset with lunatics?" I cried, and flinging down a peseta on the table, unloosed the halter, and attempted to introduce the bit into the mouth of the animal.  This, however, I found impossible to effect. Released from the halter, the pony made at once for the door, in spite of all the efforts which I could make to detain it.  "If you abandon me," said I, "I am in a pretty situation; but there is a remedy for everything!" with which words I sprang into the saddle, and in a moment more the creature was bearing me at a rapid gallop in the direction, as I supposed, of Finisterra.  My position, however diverting to the reader, was rather critical to myself.  I was on the back of a spirited animal, over which I had no control, dashing along a dangerous and unknown path.  I could not discover the slightest vestige of my guide, nor did I pass anyone from whom I could derive any information.  Indeed, the speed of the animal was so great, that even in the event of my meeting or overtaking a passenger, I could scarcely have hoped to exchange a word with him. "Is the pony trained to this work?" said I mentally.  "Is he carrying me to some den of banditti, where my throat will be cut, or does he follow his master by instinct?"  Both of these suspicions I however soon abandoned; the pony's speed relaxed, he appeared to have lost the road.  He looked about uneasily:  at last, coming to a sandy spot, he put his nostrils to the ground, and then suddenly flung himself down, and wallowed in true pony fashion.  I was not hurt, and instantly made use of this opportunity to slip the bit into his mouth, which previously had been dangling beneath his neck; I then remounted in quest of the road.

 

This I soon found, and continued my way for a considerable time. The path lay over a moor, patched heath and furze, and here and there strewn with large stones, or rather rocks.  The sun had risen high in the firmament, and burned fiercely.  I passed several people, men and women, who gazed at me with surprise, wondering, probably, what a person of my appearance could be about without a guide in so strange a place.  I inquired of two females whom I met whether they had seen my guide; but they either did not or would not understand me, and exchanging a few words with each other, in one of the hundred dialects of the Gallegan, passed on.  Having crossed the moor, I came rather abruptly upon a convent, overhanging a deep ravine, at the bottom of which brawled a rapid stream.

 

It was a beautiful and picturesque spot:  the sides of the ravine were thickly clothed with wood, and on the other side a tall, black hill uplifted itself.  The edifice was large, and apparently deserted.  Passing by it, I presently reached a small village, as deserted, to all appearance, as the convent, for I saw not a single individual, nor so much as a dog to welcome me with his bark.  I proceeded, however, until I reached a fountain, the waters of which gushed from a stone pillar into a trough.  Seated upon this last, his arms folded, and his eyes fixed upon the neighbouring mountain, I beheld a figure which still frequently recurs to my thoughts, especially when asleep and oppressed by the nightmare.  This figure was my runaway guide.

 

Myself.--Good day to you, my gentleman.  The weather is hot, and yonder water appears delicious.  I am almost tempted to dismount and regale myself with a slight draught.

 

Guide.--Your worship can do no better.  The day is, as you say, hot; you can do no better than drink a little of this water.  I have myself just drunk.  I would not, however, advise you to give that pony any, it appears heated and blown.

 

Myself.--It may well be so.  I have been galloping at least two leagues in pursuit of a fellow who engaged to guide me to Finisterra, but who deserted me in a most singular manner, so much so, that I almost believe him to be a thief, and no true man.  You do not happen to have seen him?

 

Guide.--What kind of a man might he be?

 

Myself.--A short, thick fellow, very much like yourself, with a hump upon his back, and, excuse me, of a very ill-favoured countenance.

 

Guide.--Ha, ha!  I know him.  He ran with me to this fountain, where he has just left me.  That man, Sir Cavalier, is no thief. If he is any thing at all, he is a Nuveiro,--a fellow who rides upon the clouds, and is occasionally whisked away by a gust of wind.  Should you ever travel with that man again, never allow him more than one glass of anise at a time, or he will infallibly mount into the clouds and leave you, and then he will ride and run till he comes to a water brook, or knocks his head against a fountain--then one draught, and he is himself again.  So you are going to Finisterra, Sir Cavalier.  Now it is singular enough, that a cavalier much of your appearance engaged me to conduct him there this morning.  I however lost him on the way.  So it appears to me our best plan to travel together until you find your own guide and I find my own master.

 

It might be about two o'clock in the afternoon, that we reached a long and ruinous bridge, seemingly of great antiquity, and which, as I was informed by my guide, was called the bridge of Don Alonzo. It crossed a species of creek, or rather frith, for the sea was at no considerable distance, and the small town of Noyo lay at our right.  "When we have crossed that bridge, captain," said my guide, "we shall be in an unknown country, for I have never been farther than Noyo, and as for Finisterra, so far from having been there, I never heard of such a place; and though I have inquired of two or three people since we have been upon this expedition, they know as little about it as I do.  Taking all things, however, into consideration, it appears to me that the best thing we can do is to push forward to Corcuvion, which is five mad leagues from hence, and which we may perhaps reach ere nightfall, if we can find the way or get any one to direct us; for, as I told you before, I know nothing about it."  "To fine hands have I confided myself," said I: "however, we had best, as you say, push forward to Corcuvion, where, peradventure, we may hear something of Finisterra, and find a guide to conduct us."  Whereupon, with a hop, skip, and a jump, he again set forward at a rapid pace, stopping occasionally at a choza, for the purpose, I suppose, of making inquiries, though I understood scarcely anything of the jargon in which he addressed the people, and in which they answered him.

 

We were soon in an extremely wild and hilly country, scrambling up and down ravines, wading brooks, and scratching our hands and faces with brambles, on which grew a plentiful crop of wild mulberries, to gather some of which we occasionally made a stop.  Owing to the roughness of the way we made no great progress.  The pony followed close at the back of the guide, so near, indeed, that its nose almost touched his shoulder.  The country grew wilder and wilder, and since we had passed a water mill, we had lost all trace of human habitation.  The mill stood at the bottom of a valley shaded by large trees, and its wheels were turning with a dismal and monotonous noise.  "Do you think we shall reach Corcuvion to-night?" said I to the guide, as we emerged from this valley to a savage moor, which appeared of almost boundless extent.

 

Guide.--I do not, I do not.  We shall in no manner reach Corcuvion to-night, and I by no means like the appearance of this moor.  The sun is rapidly sinking, and then, if there come on a haze, we shall meet the Estadea.

 

Myself.--What do you mean by the Estadea?

 

Guide.--What do I mean by the Estadea?  My master asks me what I mean by the Estadinha. {17}  I have met the Estadinha but once, and it was upon a moor something like this.  I was in company with several women, and a thick haze came on, and suddenly a thousand lights shone above our heads in the haze, and there was a wild cry, and the women fell to the ground screaming Estadea!  Estadea! and I myself fell to the ground crying out Estadinha!  The Estadea are the spirits of the dead which ride upon the haze, bearing candles in their hands.  I tell you frankly, my master, that if we meet the assembly of the souls, I shall leave you at once, and then I shall run and run till I drown myself in the sea, somewhere about Muros. We shall not reach Corcuvion this night; my only hope is that we may find some choza upon these moors, where we may hide our heads from the Estadinha.

 

The night overtook us ere we had traversed the moor; there was, however, no haze, to the great joy of my guide, and a corner of the moon partially illumined our steps.  Our situation, however, was dreary enough:  we were upon the wildest heath of the wildest province of Spain, ignorant of our way, and directing our course we scarcely knew whither, for my guide repeatedly declared to me, that he did not believe that such a place as Finisterra existed, or if it did exist, it was some bleak mountain pointed out in a map. When I reflected on the character of this guide, I derived but little comfort or encouragement:  he was at best evidently half witted, and was by his own confession occasionally seized with paroxysms which differed from madness in no essential respect; his wild escapade in the morning of nearly three leagues, without any apparent cause, and lastly his superstitious and frantic fears of meeting the souls of the dead upon this heath, in which event he intended, as he himself said, to desert me and make for the sea, operated rather powerfully upon my nerves.  I likewise considered that it was quite possible that we might be in the route neither of Finisterra nor Corcuvion, and I therefore determined to enter the first cabin at which we should arrive, in preference to running the risk of breaking our necks by tumbling down some pit or precipice. No cabin, however, appeared in sight:  the moor seemed interminable, and we wandered on until the moon disappeared, and we were left in almost total darkness.

 

At length we arrived at the foot of a steep ascent, up which a rough and broken pathway appeared to lead.

 

"Can this be our way?" said I to the guide.

 

"There appears to be no other for us, captain," replied the man; "let us ascend it by all means, and when we are it the top, if the sea be in the neighbourhood we shall see it."

 

I then dismounted, for to ride up such a pass in such darkness would have been madness.  We clambered up in a line, first the guide, next the pony, with his nose as usual on his master's shoulder, of whom he seemed passionately fond, and I bringing up the rear, with my left hand grasping the animal's tail.  We had many a stumble, and more than one fall:  once, indeed, we were all rolling down the side of the hill together.  In about twenty minutes we reached the summit, and looked around us, but no sea was visible:  a black moor, indistinctly seen, seemed to spread on every side.

 

"We shall have to take up our quarters here till morning," said I.

 

Suddenly my guide seized me by the hand:  "There is lume, Senhor," said he, "there is lume."  I looked in the direction in which he pointed, and, after straining my eyes for some time, imagined that I perceived, far below and at some distance, a faint glow.  "That is lume," shouted the guide, "and it proceeds from the chimney of a choza."

 

On descending the eminence, we roamed about for a considerable time, until we at last found ourselves in the midst of about six or eight black huts.  "Knock at the door of one of these," said I to the guide, "and inquire of the people whether they can shelter us for the night."  He did so, and a man presently made his appearance, bearing in his hand a lighted firebrand.

 

"Can you shelter a Cavalheiro from the night and the Estadea?" said my guide.

 

"From both, I thank God," said the man, who was an athletic figure, without shoes and stockings, and who, upon the whole, put me much in mind of a Munster peasant from the bogs.  "Pray enter, gentlemen, we can accommodate you both and your cavalgadura besides."

 

We entered the choza, which consisted of three compartments; in the first we found straw, in the second cattle and ponies, and in the third the family, consisting of the father and mother of the man who admitted us, and his wife and children.

 

"You are a Catalan, sir Cavalier, and are going to your countryman at Corcuvion," said the man in tolerable Spanish.  "Ah, you are brave people, you Catalans, and fine establishments you have on the Gallegan shores; pity that you take all the money out of the country."

 

Now, under all circumstances, I had not the slightest objection to pass for a Catalan; and I rather rejoiced that these wild people should suppose that I had powerful friends and countrymen in the neighbourhood who were, perhaps, expecting me.  I therefore favoured their mistake, and began with a harsh Catalan accent to talk of the fish of Galicia, and the high duties on salt.  The eye of my guide was upon me for an instant, with a singular expression, half serious, half droll; he however said nothing, but slapped his thigh as usual, and with a spring nearly touched the roof of the cabin with his grotesque head.  Upon inquiry, I discovered that we were still two long leagues distant from Corcuvion, and that the road lay over moor and hill, and was hard to find.  Our host now demanded whether we were hungry, and upon being answered in the affirmative, produced about a dozen eggs and some bacon.  Whilst our supper was cooking, a long conversation ensued between my guide and the family, but as it was carried on in Gallegan, I tried in vain to understand it.  I believe, however, that it principally related to witches and witchcraft, as the Estadea was frequently mentioned.  After supper I demanded where I could rest:  whereupon the host pointed to a trap-door in the roof, saying that above there was a loft where I could sleep by myself, and have clean straw.  For curiosity's sake, I asked whether there was such a thing as a bed in the cabin.

 

"No," replied the man; "nor nearer than Corcuvion.  I never entered one in my life, nor any one of my family:  we sleep around the hearth, or among the straw with the cattle."

 

I was too old a traveller to complain, but forthwith ascended by a ladder into a species of loft, tolerably large and nearly empty, where I placed my cloak beneath my head, and lay down on the boards, which I preferred to the straw, for more reasons than one. I heard the people below talking in Gallegan for a considerable time, and could see the gleams of the fire through the interstices of the floor.  The voices, however, gradually died away, the fire sank low and could no longer be distinguished.  I dozed, started, dozed again, and dropped finally into a profound sleep, from which I was only roused by the crowing of the second cock.

 

CHAPTER XXX

 

Autumnal Morning--The World's End--Corcuvion--Duyo--The Cape—A Whale--The Outer Bay--The Arrest--The Fisher-Magistrate—Calros Rey--Hard of Belief--Where is your Passport?--The Beach--A Mighty Liberal--The Handmaid--The Grand Baintham--Eccentric Book--Hospitality.

 

It was a beautiful autumnal morning when we left the choza and pursued our way to Corcuvion.  I satisfied our host by presenting him with a couple of pesetas, and he requested as a favour, that if on our return we passed that way, and were overtaken by the night, we would again take up our abode beneath his roof.  This I promised, at the same time determining to do my best to guard against the contingency; as sleeping in the loft of a Gallegan hut, though preferable to passing the night on a moor or mountain, is anything but desirable.

 

So we again started at a rapid pace along rough bridle-ways and footpaths, amidst furze and brushwood.  In about an hour we obtained a view of the sea, and directed by a lad, whom we found on the moor employed in tending a few miserable sheep, we bent our course to the north-west, and at length reached the brow of an eminence, where we stopped for some time to survey the prospect which opened before us.

 

It was not without reason that the Latins gave the name of Finnisterrae to this district.  We had arrived exactly at such a place as in my boyhood I had pictured to myself as the termination of the world, beyond which there was a wild sea, or abyss, or chaos.  I now saw far before me an immense ocean, and below me a long and irregular line of lofty and precipitous coast.  Certainly in the whole world there is no bolder coast than the Gallegan shore, from the debouchement of the Minho to Cape Finisterra.  It consists of a granite wall of savage mountains, for the most part serrated at the top, and occasionally broken, where bays and firths like those of Vigo and Pontevedra intervene, running deep into the land.  These bays and firths are invariably of an immense depth, and sufficiently capacious to shelter the navies of the proudest maritime nations.

 

There is an air of stern and savage grandeur in everything around, which strongly captivates the imagination.  This savage coast is the first glimpse of Spain which the voyager from the north catches, or he who has ploughed his way across the wide Atlantic: and well does it seem to realize all his visions of this strange land.  "Yes," he exclaims, "this is indeed Spain--stern flinty Spain--land emblematic of those spirits to which she has given birth.  From what land but that before me could have proceeded those portentous beings, who astounded the Old World and filled the New with horror and blood:  Alba and Philip, Cortez and Pizarro: stern colossal spectres looming through the gloom of bygone years, like yonder granite mountains through the haze, upon the eye of the mariner.  Yes, yonder is indeed Spain; flinty, indomitable Spain; land emblematic of its sons!"

 

As for myself, when I viewed that wide ocean and its savage shore, I cried, "Such is the grave, and such are its terrific sides; those moors and wilds, over which I have passed, are the rough and dreary journey of life.  Cheered with hope, we struggle along through all the difficulties of moor, bog, and mountain, to arrive at--what? The grave and its dreary sides.  Oh, may hope not desert us in the last hour:  hope in the Redeemer and in God!"

 

We descended from the eminence, and again lost sight of the sea amidst ravines and dingles, amongst which patches of pine were occasionally seen.  Continuing to descend, we at last came, not to the sea, but to the extremity of a long narrow firth, where stood a village or hamlet; whilst at a small distance, on the Western side of the firth, appeared one considerably larger, which was indeed almost entitled to the appellation of town.  This last was Corcuvion; the first, if I forget not, was called Ria de Silla.  We hastened on to Corcuvion, where I bade my guide make inquiries respecting Finisterra.  He entered the door of a wine-house, from which proceeded much noise and vociferation, and presently returned, informing me that the village of Finisterra was distant about a league and a half.  A man, evidently in a state of

intoxication, followed him to the door:  "Are you bound for Finisterra, Cavalheiros?" he shouted.

 

"Yes, my friend," I replied, "we are going thither."

 

"Then you are going amongst a flock of drunkards (fato de barrachos)," he answered.  "Take care that they do not play you a trick."

 

We passed on, and striking across a sandy peninsula at the back of the town, soon reached the shore of an immense bay, the north-westernmost end of which was formed by the far-famed cape of Finisterra, which we now saw before us stretching far into the sea.

 

Along a beach of dazzling white sand, we advanced towards the cape, the bourne of our journey.  The sun was shining brightly, and every object was illumined by his beams.  The sea lay before us like a vast mirror, and the waves which broke upon the shore were so tiny as scarcely to produce a murmur.  On we sped along the deep winding bay, overhung by gigantic hills and mountains.  Strange recollections began to throng upon my mind.  It was upon this beach that, according to the tradition of all ancient Christendom, Saint James, the patron saint of Spain, preached the Gospel to the heathen Spaniards.  Upon this beach had once stood an immense commercial city, the proudest in all Spain.  This now desolate bay had once resounded with the voices of myriads, when the keels and commerce of all the then known world were wafted to Duyo.

 

"What is the name of this village?" said I to a woman, as we passed by five or six ruinous houses at the bend of the bay, ere we entered upon the peninsula of Finisterra.

 

"This is no village," said the Gallegan, "this is no village, Sir Cavalier, this is a city, this is Duyo."

 

So much for the glory of the world!  These huts were all that the roaring sea and the tooth of time had left of Duyo, the great city! Onward now to Finisterra.

 

It was midday when we reached the village of Finisterra, consisting of about one hundred houses, and built on the southern side of the peninsula, just before it rises into the huge bluff head which is called the Cape.  We sought in vain for an inn or venta, where we might stable our beast; at one moment we thought that we had found one, and had even tied the animal to the manger.  Upon our going out, however, he was instantly untied and driven forth into the street.  The few people whom we saw appeared to gaze upon us in a singular manner.  We, however, took little notice of these circumstances, and proceeded along the straggling street until we found shelter in the house of a Castilian shopkeeper, whom some chance had brought to this corner of Galicia,--this end of the world.  Our first care was to feed the animal, who now began to exhibit considerable symptoms of fatigue.  We then requested some refreshment for ourselves; and in about an hour a tolerably savoury fish, weighing about three pounds, and fresh from the bay, was prepared for us by an old woman who appeared to officiate as housekeeper.  Having finished our meal, I and my uncouth companion went forth and prepared to ascend the mountain.

 

We stopped to examine a small dismantled fort or battery facing the bay; and whilst engaged in this examination, it more than once occurred to me that we were ourselves the objects of scrutiny and investigation:  indeed I caught a glimpse of more than one countenance peering upon us through the holes and chasms of the walls.  We now commenced ascending Finisterra; and making numerous and long detours, we wound our way up its flinty sides.  The sun had reached the top of heaven, whence he showered upon us perpendicularly his brightest and fiercest rays.  My boots were torn, my feet cut, and the perspiration streamed from my brow.  To my guide, however, the ascent appeared to be neither toilsome nor difficult.  The heat of the day for him had no terrors, no moisture was wrung from his tanned countenance; he drew not one short breath; and hopped upon the stones and rocks with all the provoking agility of a mountain goat.  Before we had accomplished one half of the ascent, I felt myself quite exhausted.  I reeled and staggered. "Cheer up, master mine, be of good cheer, and have no care," said the guide.  "Yonder I see a wall of stones; lie down beneath it in the shade."  He put his long and strong arm round my waist, and though his stature compared with mine was that of a dwarf, he supported me, as if I had been a child, to a rude wall which seemed to traverse the greatest part of the hill, and served probably as a kind of boundary.  It was difficult to find a shady spot:  at last he perceived a small chasm, perhaps scooped by some shepherd as a couch, in which to enjoy his siesta.  In this he laid me gently down, and taking off his enormous hat, commenced farming me with great assiduity.  By degrees I revived, and after having rested for a considerable time, I again attempted the ascent, which, with the assistance of my guide, I at length accomplished.

 

We were now standing at a great altitude between two bays:  the wilderness of waters before us.  Of all the ten thousand barks which annually plough those seas in sight of that old cape, not one was to be descried.  It was a blue shiny waste, broken by no object save the black head of a spermaceti whale, which would occasionally show itself at the top, casting up thin jets of brine.  The principal bay, that of Finisterra, as far as the entrance, was beautifully variegated by an immense shoal of sardinhas, on whose extreme skirts the monster was probably feasting.  From the northern side of the cape we looked down upon a smaller bay, the shore of which was overhung by rocks of various and grotesque shapes; this is called the outer bay, or, in the language of the country, Praia do mar de fora:  a fearful place in seasons of wind and tempest, when the long swell of the Atlantic pouring in, is broken into surf and foam by the sunken rocks with which it abounds.  Even in the calmest day there is a rumbling and a hollow roar in that bay which fill the heart with uneasy sensations.

 

On all sides there was grandeur and sublimity.  After gazing from the summit of the Cape for nearly an hour we descended.

 

On reaching the house where we had taken up our temporary habitation, we perceived that the portal was occupied by several men, some of whom were reclining on the floor drinking wine out of small earthen pans, which are much used in this part of Galicia. With a civil salutation I passed on, and ascended the staircase to the room in which we had taken our repast.  Here there was a rude and dirty bed, on which I flung myself, exhausted with fatigue.  I determined to take a little repose, and in the evening to call the people of the place together, to read a few chapters of the Scripture, and then to address them with a little Christian exhortation.  I was soon asleep, but my slumbers were by no means tranquil.  I thought I was surrounded with difficulties of various kinds amongst rocks and ravines, vainly endeavouring to extricate

myself; uncouth visages showed themselves amidst the trees and in the hollows, thrusting out cloven tongues and uttering angry cries. I looked around for my guide, but could not find him; methought, however, that I heard his voice down a deep dingle.  He appeared to be talking of me.  How long I might have continued in these wild dreams I know not.  I was suddenly, however, seized roughly by the shoulder and nearly dragged from the bed.  I looked up in amazement, and by the light of the descending sun I beheld hanging over me a wild and uncouth figure; it was that of an elderly man, built as strong as a giant, with much beard and whiskers, and huge bushy eyebrows, dressed in the habiliments of a fisherman; in his hand was a rusty musket.

 

Myself.--Who are you and what do you want?

 

Figure.--Who I am matters but little.  Get up and follow me; it is you I want.

 

Myself.--By what authority do you thus presume to interfere with me?

 

Figure.--By the authority of the justicia of Finisterra.  Follow me peaceably, Calros, or it will be the worse for you.

 

"Calros," said I, "what does the person mean?"  I thought it, however, most prudent to obey his command, and followed him down the staircase.  The shop and the portal were now thronged with the inhabitants of Finisterra, men, women, and children; the latter for the most part in a state of nudity, and with bodies wet and dripping, having been probably summoned in haste from their gambols in the brine.  Through this crowd the figure whom I have attempted to describe pushed his way with an air of authority.

 

On arriving in the street, he laid his heavy hand upon my arm, not roughly however.  "It is Calros! it is Calros!" said a hundred voices; "he has come to Finisterra at last, and the justicia have now got hold of him."  Wondering what all this could mean, I attended my strange conductor down the street.  As we proceeded, the crowd increased every moment, following and vociferating.  Even the sick were brought to the door to obtain a view of what was going forward and a glance at the redoubtable Calros.  I was particularly struck by the eagerness displayed by one man, a cripple, who, in spite of the entreaties of his wife, mixed with the crowd, and having lost his crutch, hopped forward on one leg,

exclaiming,--"Carracho! tambien voy yo!"

 

We at last reached a house of rather larger size than the rest; my guide having led me into a long low room, placed me in the middle of the floor, and then hurrying to the door, he endeavoured to repulse the crowd who strove to enter with us.  This he effected, though not without considerable difficulty, being once or twice compelled to have recourse to the butt of his musket, to drive back unauthorized intruders.  I now looked round the room.  It was rather scantily furnished:  I could see nothing but some tubs and barrels, the mast of a boat, and a sail or two.  Seated upon the tubs were three or four men coarsely dressed, like fishermen or shipwrights.  The principal personage was a surly ill-tempered-looking fellow of about thirty-five, whom eventually I discovered to be the alcalde of Finisterra, and lord of the house in which we now were.  In a corner I caught a glimpse of my guide, who was evidently in durance, two stout fishermen standing before him, one with a musket and the other with a boat-hook.  After I had looked about me for a minute, the alcalde, giving his whiskers a twist, thus addressed me:-

 

"Who are you, where is your passport, and what brings you to Finisterra?"

 

Myself.--I am an Englishman.  Here is my passport, and I came to see Finisterra.

 

This reply seemed to discomfit them for a moment.  They looked at each other, then at my passport.  At length the alcalde, striking it with his finger, bellowed forth:

 

"This is no Spanish passport; it appears to be written in French."

 

Myself.--I have already told you that I am a foreigner.  I of course carry a foreign passport.

 

Alcalde.--Then you mean to assert that you are not Calros Rey.

 

Myself.--I never heard before of such a king, nor indeed of such a name.

 

Alcalde.--Hark to the fellow:  he has the audacity to say that he has never heard of Calros the pretender, who calls himself king.

 

Myself.--If you mean by Calros, the pretender Don Carlos, all I can reply is, that you can scarcely be serious.  You might as well assert that yonder poor fellow, my guide, whom I see you have made prisoner, is his nephew, the infante Don Sebastian.

 

Alcalde.--See, you have betrayed yourself; that is the very person we suppose him to be.

 

Myself.--It is true that they are both hunchbacks.  But how can I be like Don Carlos?  I have nothing the appearance of a Spaniard, and am nearly a foot taller than the pretender.

 

Alcalde.--That makes no difference; you of course carry many waistcoats about you, by means of which you disguise yourself, and appear tall or low according to your pleasure.

 

This last was so conclusive an argument that I had of course nothing to reply to it.  The alcalde looked around him in triumph, as if he had made some notable discovery.  "Yes, it is Calros; it is Calros," said the crowd at the door.  "It will be as well to have these men shot instantly," continued the alcalde; "if they are not the two pretenders, they are at any rate two of the factious."

 

"I am by no means certain that they are either one or the other," said a gruff voice.

 

The justicia of Finisterra turned their eyes in the direction from which these words proceeded, and so did I.  Our glances rested upon the figure who held watch at the door.  He had planted the barrel of his musket on the floor, and was now leaning his chin against the butt.

 

"I am by no means certain that they are either one or the other," repeated he, advancing forward.  "I have been examining this man," pointing to myself, "and listening whilst he spoke, and it appears to me that after all he may prove an Englishman; he has their very look and voice.  Who knows the English better than Antonio de la Trava, and who has a better right?  Has he not sailed in their ships; has he not eaten their biscuit; and did he not stand by Nelson when he was shot dead?"

 

Here the alcalde became violently incensed.  "He is no more an Englishman than yourself," he exclaimed; "if he were an Englishman would he have come in this manner, skulking across the land?  Not so I trow.  He would have come in a ship, recommended to some of us, or to the Catalans.  He would have come to trade, to buy; but nobody knows him in Finisterra, nor does he know anybody:  and the first thing, moreover, that he does when he reaches this place is to inspect the fort, and to ascend the mountain where, no doubt, he has been marking out a camp.  What brings him to Finisterra if he is neither Calros nor a bribon of a faccioso?"

 

I felt that there was a good deal of justice in some of these remarks, and I was aware, for the first time, that I had, indeed, committed a great imprudence in coming to this wild place, and among these barbarous people, without being able to assign any motive which could appear at all valid in their eyes.  I endeavoured to convince the alcalde that I had come across the country for the purpose of making myself acquainted with the many remarkable objects which it contained, and of obtaining information respecting the character and condition of the inhabitants.  He could understand no such motives.  "What did you ascend the mountain for?"  "To see prospects."  "Disparate! I have lived at Finisterra forty years and never ascended that mountain.  I would not do it in a day like this for two ounces of gold.  You went to

take altitudes, and to mark out a camp."  I had, however, a staunch friend in old Antonio, who insisted, from his knowledge of the English, that all I had said might very possibly be true.  "The English," said he, "have more money than they know what to do with, and on that account they wander all over the world, paying dearly for what no other people care a groat for."  He then proceeded, notwithstanding the frowns of the alcalde, to examine me in the English language.  His own entire knowledge of this tongue was confined to two words--knife and fork, which words I rendered into Spanish by their equivalents, and was forthwith pronounced an Englishman by the old fellow, who, brandishing his musket, exclaimed:-

 

"This man is not Calros; he is what he declares himself to be, an Englishman, and whosoever seeks to injure him, shall have to do with Antonio de la Trava el valiente de Finisterra."  No person sought to impugn this verdict, and it was at length determined that I should be sent to Corcuvion, to be examined by the alcalde mayor of the district.  "But," said the alcalde of Finisterra, "what is to be done with the other fellow?  He at least is no Englishman. Bring him forward, and let us hear what he has to say for himself. Now, fellow, who are you, and what is your master?"

 

Guide.--I am Sebastianillo, a poor broken mariner of Padron, and my master for the present is the gentleman whom you see, the most valiant and wealthy of all the English.  He has two ships at Vigo laden with riches.  I told you so when you first seized me up there in our posada.

 

Alcalde.--Where is your passport?

 

Guide.--I have no passport.  Who would think of bringing a passport to such a place as this, where I don't suppose there are two individuals who can read?  I have no passport; my master's passport of course includes me.

 

Alcalde.--It does not.  And since you have no passport, and have confessed that your name is Sebastian, you shall be shot.  Antonio de la Trava, do you and the musketeers lead this Sebastianillo forth, and shoot him before the door.

 

Antonio de la Trava.--With much pleasure, Senor Alcalde, since you order it.  With respect to this fellow, I shall not trouble myself to interfere.  He at least is no Englishman.  He has more the look of a wizard or nuveiro; one of those devils who raise storms and sink launches.  Moreover, he says he is from Padron, and those of that place are all thieves and drunkards.  They once played me a trick, and I would gladly be at the shooting of the whole pueblo.

 

I now interfered, and said that if they shot the guide they must shoot me too; expatiating at the same time on the cruelty and barbarity of taking away the life of a poor unfortunate fellow who, as might be seen at the first glance, was only half witted; adding, moreover, that if any person was guilty in this case it was myself, as the other could only be considered in the light of a servant acting under my orders.

 

"The safest plan after all," said the alcalde, "appears to be, to send you both prisoners to Corcuvion, where the head alcalde can dispose of you as he thinks proper.  You must, however, pay for your escort; for it is not to be supposed that the housekeepers of Finisterra have nothing else to do than to ramble about the country with every chance fellow who finds his way to this town."  "As for that matter," said Antonio, "I will take charge of them both.  I am the valiente of Finisterra, and fear no two men living.  Moreover, I am sure that the captain here will make it worth my while, else he is no Englishman.  Therefore let us be quick and set out for Corcuvion at once, as it is getting late.  First of all, however, captain, I must search you and your baggage.  You have no arms, of course?  But it is best to make all sure."

 

Long ere it was dark I found myself again on the pony, in company with my guide, wending our way along the beach in the direction of Corcuvion.  Antonio de la Trava tramped heavily on before, his musket on his shoulder.

 

Myself.--Are you not afraid, Antonio, to be thus alone with two prisoners, one of whom is on horseback?  If we were to try, I think we could overpower you.

 

Antonio de la Trava.--I am the valiente do Finisterra, and I fear no odds.

 

Myself.--Why do you call yourself the valiente of Finisterra?

 

Antonio de la Trava.--The whole district call me so.  When the French came to Finisterra, and demolished the fort, three perished by my hand.  I stood on the mountain, up where I saw you scrambling to-day.  I continued firing at the enemy, until three detached themselves in pursuit of me.  The fools! two perished amongst the rocks by the fire of this musket, and as for the third, I beat his head to pieces with the stock.  It is on that account that they call me the valiente of Finisterra.

 

Myself.--How came you to serve with the English fleet?  I think I heard you say that you were present when Nelson fell.

 

Antonio de la Trava.--I was captured by your countrymen, captain; and as I had been a sailor from my childhood, they were glad of my services.  I was nine months with them, and assisted at Trafalgar. I saw the English admiral die.  You have something of his face, and your voice, when you spoke, sounded in my ears like his own.  I love the English, and on that account I saved you.  Think not that I would toil along these sands with you if you were one of my own countrymen.  Here we are at Duyo, captain.  Shall we refresh?

 

We did refresh, or rather Antonio de la Trava refreshed, swallowing pan after pan of wine, with a thirst which seemed unquenchable. "That man was a greater wizard than myself," whispered Sebastian, my guide, "who told us that the drunkards of Finisterra would play us a trick."  At length the old hero of the Cape slowly rose, saying, that we must hasten on to Corcuvion, or the night would overtake us by the way.

 

"What kind of person is the alcalde to whom you are conducting me?" said I.

 

"Oh, very different from him of Finisterra," replied Antonio. "This is a young Senorito, lately arrived from Madrid.  He is not even a Gallegan.  He is a mighty liberal, and it is owing chiefly to his orders that we have lately been so much on the alert.  It is said that the Carlists are meditating a descent on these parts of Galicia.  Let them only come to Finisterra, we are liberals there to a man, and the old valiente is ready to play the same part as in the time of the French.  But, as I was telling you before, the alcalde to whom I am conducting you is a young man, and very learned, and if he thinks proper, he can speak English to you, even better than myself, notwithstanding I was a friend of Nelson, and fought by his side at Trafalgar."

 

It was dark night before we reached Corcuvion.  Antonio again stopped to refresh at a wine-shop, after which he conducted us to the house of the alcalde.  His steps were by this time not particularly steady, and on arriving at the gate of the house, he stumbled over the threshold and fell.  He got up with an oath, and instantly commenced thundering at the door with the stock of his musket.  "Who is it?" at length demanded a soft female voice in Gallegan.  "The valiente of Finisterra," replied Antonio; whereupon the gate was unlocked, and we beheld before us a very pretty female with a candle in her hand.  "What brings you here so late, Antonio?" she inquired.  "I bring two prisoners, mi pulida," replied Antonio.  "Ave Maria!" she exclaimed, "I hope they will do no harm."  "I will answer for one," replied the old man; but, as for the other, he is a nuveiro, and has sunk more ships than all his brethren in Galicia.  But be not afraid, my beauty," he continued, as the female made the sign of the cross:  "first lock the gate, and then show me the way to the alcalde.  I have much to tell him."  The gate was locked, and bidding us stay below in the courtyard, Antonio followed the young woman up a stone stair, whilst we remained in darkness below.

 

After the lapse of about a quarter of an hour we again saw the candle gleam upon the staircase, and the young female appeared. Coming up to me, she advanced the candle to my features, on which she gazed very intently.  After a long scrutiny she went to my guide, and having surveyed him still more fixedly, she turned to me, and said, in her best Spanish, "Senhor Cavalier, I congratulate you on your servant.  He is the best-looking mozo in all Galicia. Vaya! if he had but a coat to his back, and did not go barefoot, I would accept him at once as a novio; but I have unfortunately made a vow never to marry a poor man, but only one who has got a heavy purse and can buy me fine clothes.  So you are a Carlist, I suppose?  Vaya! I do not like you the worse for that.  But, being so, how went you to Finisterra, where they are all Christinos and negros?  Why did you not go to my village?  None would have meddled with you there.  Those of my village are of a different stamp to the drunkards of Finisterra.  Those of my village never interfere with honest people.  Vaya! how I hate that drunkard of Finisterra who brought you, he is so old and ugly; were it not for the love

which I bear to the Senhor Alcalde, I would at once unlock the gate and bid you go forth, you and your servant, the buen mozo."

 

Antonio now descended.  "Follow me," said he; "his worship the alcalde will be ready to receive you in a moment."  Sebastian and myself followed him upstairs to a room where, seated behind a  table, we beheld a young man of low stature but handsome features and very fashionably dressed.  He appeared to be inditing a letter, which, when he had concluded, he delivered to a secretary to be transcribed.  He then looked at me for a moment fixedly, and the following conversation ensued between us:-

 

Alcalde.--I see that you are an Englishman, and my friend Antonio here informs me that you have been arrested at Finisterra.

 

Myself.--He tells you true; and but for him I believe that I should have fallen by the hands of those savage fishermen.

 

Alcalde.--The inhabitants of Finisterra are brave, and are all liberals.  Allow me to look at your passport?  Yes, all in form. Truly it was very ridiculous that they should have arrested you as a Carlist.

 

Myself.--Not only as a Carlist, but as Don Carlos himself.

 

Alcalde.--Oh! most ridiculous; mistake a countryman of the grand Baintham for such a Goth!

 

Myself.--Excuse me, Sir, you speak of the grand somebody.

 

Alcalde.--The grand Baintham.  He who has invented laws for all the world.  I hope shortly to see them adopted in this unhappy country of ours.

 

Myself.--Oh! you mean Jeremy Bentham.  Yes! a very remarkable man in his way.

 

Alcalde.--In his way!  In all ways.  The most universal genius which the world ever produced:- a Solon, a Plato, and a Lope de Vega.

 

Myself.--I have never read his writings.  I have no doubt that he was a Solon; and as you say, a Plato.  I should scarcely have thought, however, that he could be ranked as a poet with Lope de Vega.

 

Alcalde.--How surprising!  I see, indeed, that you know nothing of his writings, though an Englishman.  Now, here am I, a simple alcalde of Galicia, yet I possess all the writings of Baintham on that shelf, and I study them day and night.

 

Myself.--You doubtless, Sir, possess the English Language.

 

Alcalde.--I do.  I mean that part of it which is contained in the writings of Baintham.  I am most truly glad to see a countryman of his in these Gothic wildernesses.  I understand and appreciate your motives for visiting them:  excuse the incivility and rudeness which you have experienced.  But we will endeavour to make you reparation.  You are this moment free:  but it is late; I must find you a lodging for the night.  I know one close by which will just suit you.  Let us repair thither this moment.  Stay, I think I see a book in your hand.

 

Myself.--The New Testament.

 

Alcalde.--What book is that?

 

Myself.--A portion of the sacred writings, the Bible.

 

Alcalde.--Why do you carry such a book with you?

 

Myself.--One of my principal motives in visiting Finisterra was to carry this book to that wild place.

 

Alcalde.--Ha, ha! how very singular.  Yes, I remember.  I have heard that the English highly prize this eccentric book.  How very singular that the countrymen of the grand Baintham should set any value upon that old monkish book.

 

It was now late at night, and my new friend attended me to the lodging which he had destined for me, and which was at the house of a respectable old female, where I found a clean and comfortable room.  On the way I slipped a gratuity into the hand of Antonio, and on my arrival, formally, and in the presence of the alcalde, presented him with the Testament, which I requested he would carry back to Finisterra, and keep in remembrance of the Englishman in whose behalf he had so effectually interposed.

 

Antonio.--I will do so, your worship; and when the winds blow from the north-west, preventing our launches from putting to sea, I will read your present.  Farewell, my captain, and when you next come to Finisterra I hope it will be in a valiant English bark, with plenty of contrabando on board, and not across the country on a pony, in company with nuveiros and men of Padron.

 

Presently arrived the handmaid of the alcalde with a basket, which she took into the kitchen, where she prepared an excellent supper for her master's friend.  On its being served up the alcalde bade me farewell, having first demanded whether he could in any way forward my plans.

 

"I return to Saint James to-morrow," I replied, "and I sincerely hope that some occasion will occur which will enable me to acquaint the world with the hospitality which I have experienced from so accomplished a scholar as the Alcalde of Corcuvion."

 

CHAPTER XXXI

 

Coruna--Crossing the Bay--Ferrol--The Dockyard--Where are we now?--Greek Ambassador--Lantern-light--The Ravine--Viveiro--Evening--Marsh and Quagmire--Fair Words and Fair Money--The Leathern Girth--Eyes of Lynx--The Knavish Guide.

 

From Corcuvion I returned to Saint James and Coruna, and now began to make preparation for directing my course to the Asturias.  In the first place I parted with my Andalusian horse, which I considered unfit for the long and mountainous journey I was about to undertake; his constitution having become much debilitated from his Gallegan travels.  Owing to horses being exceedingly scarce at Coruna, I had no difficulty in disposing of him at a far higher price than he originally cost me.  A young and wealthy merchant of Coruna, who was a national guardsman, became enamoured of his glossy skin and long mane and tail.  For my own part, I was glad to part with him for more reasons than one; he was both vicious and savage, and was continually getting me into scrapes in the stables of the posadas where we slept or baited.  An old Castilian peasant, whose pony he had maltreated, once said to me, "Sir Cavalier, if you have any love or respect for yourself, get rid I beseech you of that beast, who is capable of proving the ruin of a kingdom."  So I left him behind at Coruna, where I subsequently learned that he became glandered and died.  Peace to his memory!

 

From Coruna I crossed the bay to Ferrol, whilst Antonio with our remaining horse followed by land, a rather toilsome and circuitous journey, although the distance by water is scarcely three leagues. I was very sea-sick during the passage, and lay almost senseless at the bottom of the small launch in which I had embarked, and which was crowded with people.  The wind was adverse, and the water rough.  We could make no sail, but were impelled along by the oars of five or six stout mariners, who sang all the while Gallegan ditties.  Suddenly the sea appeared to have become quite smooth, and my sickness at once deserted me.  I rose upon my feet and looked around.  We were in one of the strangest places imaginable. A long and narrow passage overhung on either side by a stupendous barrier of black and threatening rocks.  The line of the coast was here divided by a natural cleft, yet so straight and regular that it seemed not the work of chance but design.  The water was dark and sullen, and of immense depth.  This passage, which is about a mile in length, is the entrance to a broad basin, at whose farther extremity stands the town of Ferrol.

 

Sadness came upon me as soon as I entered this place.  Grass was growing in the streets, and misery and distress stared me in the face on every side.  Ferrol is the grand naval arsenal of Spain, and has shared in the ruin of the once splendid Spanish navy:  it is no longer thronged with those thousand shipwrights who prepared for sea the tremendous three-deckers and long frigates, the greater part of which were destroyed at Trafalgar.  Only a few ill-paid and half-starved workmen still linger about, scarcely sufficient to repair any guarda costa which may put in dismantled by the fire of some English smuggling schooner from Gibraltar.  Half the inhabitants of Ferrol beg their bread; and amongst these, as it is said, are not unfrequently found retired naval officers, many of them maimed or otherwise wounded, who are left to pine in indigence; their pensions or salaries having been allowed to run three or four years in arrear, owing to the exigencies of the times.  A crowd of importunate beggars followed me to the posada, and even attempted to penetrate to the apartment to which I was conducted.  "Who are you?" said I to a woman who flung herself at my feet, and who bore in her countenance evident marks of former gentility.  "A widow, sir," she replied, in very good French; "a widow of a brave officer, once admiral of this port."  The misery and degradation of modern Spain are nowhere so strikingly manifested as at Ferrol.

 

Yet even here there is still much to admire.  Notwithstanding its present state of desolation, it contains some good streets, and abounds with handsome houses.  The alameda is planted with nearly a thousand elms, of which almost all are magnificent trees, and the poor Ferrolese, with the genuine spirit of localism so prevalent in Spain, boast that their town contains a better public walk than Madrid, of whose prado, when they compare the two, they speak in terms of unmitigated contempt.  At one end of this alameda stands the church, the only one in Ferrol.  To this church I repaired the day after my arrival, which was Sunday.  I found it quite insufficient to contain the number of worshippers who, chiefly from the country, not only crowded the interior, but, bare-headed, were upon their knees before the door to a considerable distance down the walk.

 

Parallel with the alameda extends the wall of the naval arsenal and dock.  I spent several hours in walking about these places, to visit which it is necessary to procure a written permission from the captain-general of Ferrol.  They filled me with astonishment. I have seen the royal dockyards of Russia and England, but for grandeur of design and costliness of execution, they cannot for a moment compare with these wonderful monuments of the bygone naval pomp of Spain.  I shall not attempt to describe them, but content myself with observing, that the oblong basin, which is surrounded with a granite mole, is capacious enough to permit a hundred first-rates to lie conveniently in ordinary:  but instead of such a force, I saw only a sixty-gun frigate and two brigs lying in this basin, and to this inconsiderable number of vessels is the present war marine of Spain reduced.

 

I waited for the arrival of Antonio two or three days at Ferrol, and still he came not:  late one evening, however, as I was looking down the street, I perceived him advancing, leading our only horse by the bridle.  He informed me that, at about three leagues from Coruna, the heat of the weather and the flies had so distressed the animal that it had fallen down in a kind of fit, from which it had been only relieved by copious bleeding, on which account he had been compelled to halt for a day upon the road.  The horse was evidently in a very feeble state; and had a strange rattling in its throat, which alarmed me it first.  I however administered some remedies, and in a few days deemed him sufficiently recovered to proceed.

 

We accordingly started from Ferrol; having first hired a pony for myself, and a guide who was to attend us as far as Rivadeo, twenty leagues from Ferrol, and on the confines of the Asturias.  The day at first was fine, but ere we reached Novales, a distance of three leagues, the sky became overcast, and a mist descended, accompanied by a drizzling rain.  The country through which we passed was very picturesque.  At about two in the afternoon we could descry through

the mist the small fishing town of Santa Marta on our left, with its beautiful bay.  Travelling along the summit of a line of hills, we presently entered a chestnut forest, which appeared to be without limit:  the rain still descended, and kept up a ceaseless pattering among the broad green leaves.  "This is the commencement of the autumnal rains," said the guide.  "Many is the wetting that you will get, my masters, before you reach Oviedo."  "Have you ever been as far as Oviedo?" I demanded.  "No," he replied, "and once only to Rivadeo, the place to which I am now conducting you, and I tell you frankly that we shall soon be in wildernesses where the way is hard to find, especially at night, and amidst rain and waters.  I wish I were fairly back to Ferrol, for I like not this route, which is the worst in Galicia, in more respects than one; but where my master's pony goes, there must I go too; such is the life of us guides."  I shrugged my shoulders at this intelligence, which was by no means cheering, but made no answer.  At length, about nightfall, we emerged from the forest, and presently descended into a deep valley at the foot of lofty hills.

 

"Where are we now?" I demanded of the guide, as we crossed a rude bridge at the bottom of the valley, down which a rivulet swollen by the rain foamed and roared.  "In the valley of Coisa doiro," he replied; "and it is my advice that we stay here for the night, and do not venture among those hills, through which lies the path to Viveiro; for as soon as we get there, adios!  I shall be bewildered, which will prove the destruction of us all."  "Is there a village nigh?"  "Yes, the village is right before us, and we shall be there in a moment."  We soon reached the village, which stood amongst some tall trees at the entrance of a pass which led up amongst the hills.  Antonio dismounted and entered two or three of the cabins, but presently came to me, saying, "We cannot stay here, mon maitre, without being devoured by vermin; we had better be amongst the hills than in this place; there is neither fire nor light in these cabins, and the rain is streaming through the roofs."  The guide, however, refused to proceed:  "I could scarcely find my way amongst those hills by daylight," he cried, surlily, "much less at night, midst storm and bretima."  We procured some wine and maize bread from one of the cottages.  Whilst we were partaking of these, Antonio said, "Mon maitre, the best thing we can do in our present situation, is to hire some fellow of this village to conduct us through the hills to Viveiro.  There are no beds in this place, and if we lie down in the litter in our damp clothes we shall catch a tertian of Galicia.  Our present guide is of no service, we must therefore find another to do his duty." Without waiting for a reply, he flung down the crust of broa which he was munching and disappeared.  I subsequently learned that he went to the cottage of the alcalde, and demanded, in the Queen's name, a guide for the Greek ambassador, who was benighted on his way to the Asturias.  In about ten minutes I again saw him, attended by the local functionary, who, to my surprise, made me a profound bow, and stood bare-headed in the rain.  "His excellency," shouted Antonio, "is in need of a guide to Viveiro.  People of our description are not compelled to pay for any service which they may require; however, as his excellency has bowels of compassion, he is willing to give three pesetas to any competent person who will accompany him to Viveiro, and as much bread and wine as he can eat and drink on his arrival."  "His excellency shall be served," said the alcalde; "however, as the way is long and the path is bad, and there is much bretima amongst the hills, it appears to me that, besides the bread and wine, his excellency can do no less than offer four pesetas to the guide who may be willing to accompany him to Viveiro; and I know no one better than my own son-in-law, Juanito."  "Content, senor alcalde," I replied; "produce the guide, and the extra peseta shall be forthcoming in due season."

 

Soon appeared Juanito with a lantern in his hand.  We instantly set forward.  The two guides began conversing in Gallegan.  "Mon maitre," said Antonio, "this new scoundrel is asking the old one what he thinks we have got in our portmanteaus."  Then, without awaiting my answer, he shouted, "Pistols, ye barbarians!  Pistols, as ye shall learn to your cost, if you do not cease speaking in that gibberish and converse in Castilian."  The Gallegans were silent, and presently the first guide dropped behind, whilst the other with the lantern moved before.  "Keep in the rear," said Antonio to the former, "and at a distance:  know one thing moreover, that I can see behind as well as before.  Mon maitre," said he to me, "I don't suppose these fellows will attempt to do us any harm, more especially as they do not know each other; it is well, however, to separate them, for this is a time and place which might tempt any one to commit robbery and murder too."

 

The rain still continued to fall uninterruptedly, the path was rugged and precipitous, and the night was so dark that we could only see indistinctly the hills which surrounded us.  Once or twice our guide seemed to have lost his way:  he stopped, muttered to himself, raised his lantern on high, and would then walk slowly and hesitatingly forward.  In this manner we proceeded for three or four hours, when I asked the guide how far we were from Viveiro. "I do not know exactly where we are, your worship," he replied, "though I believe we are in the route.  We can scarcely, however, be less than two mad leagues from Viveiro."  "Then we shall not arrive there before morning," interrupted Antonio, "for a mad league of Galicia means at least two of Castile; and perhaps we are doomed never to arrive there, if the way thither leads down this precipice."  As he spoke, the guide seemed to descend into the bowels of the earth.  "Stop," said I, "where are you going?"  "To Viveiro, Senhor," replied the fellow; "this is the way to Viveiro, there is no other; I now know where we are."  The light of the lantern shone upon the dark red features of the guide, who had turned round to reply, as he stood some yards down the side of a dingle or ravine overgrown with thick trees, beneath whose leafy branches a frightfully steep path descended.  I dismounted from the pony, and delivering the bridle to the other guide, said, "Here is your master's horse, if you please you may load him down that abyss, but as for myself I wash my hands of the matter."  The fellow, without a word of reply, vaulted into the saddle, and with a vamos, Perico! to the pony, impelled the creature to the descent. "Come, Senhor," said he with the lantern, "there is no time to be lost, my light will be presently extinguished, and this is the worst bit in the whole road."  I thought it very probable that he was about to lead us to some den of cut-throats, where we might be sacrificed; but taking courage, I seized our own horse by the bridle, and followed the fellow down the ravine amidst rocks and brambles.  The descent lasted nearly ten minutes, and ere we had entirely accomplished it, the light in the lantern went out, and we remained in nearly total darkness.

 

Encouraged, however, by the guide, who assured us there was no danger, we at length reached the bottom of the ravine; here we encountered a rill of water, through which we were compelled to wade as high as the knee.  In the midst of the water I looked up and caught a glimpse of the heavens through the branches of the trees, which all around clothed the shelving sides of the ravine and completely embowered the channel of the stream:  to a place more strange and replete with gloom and horror no benighted traveller ever found his way.  After a short pause we commenced scaling the opposite bank, which we did not find so steep as the other, and a few minutes' exertion brought us to the top.

 

Shortly afterwards the rain abated, and the moon arising cast a dim light through the watery mists; the way had become less precipitous, and in about two hours we descended to the shore of an extensive creek, along which we proceeded till we reached a spot where many boats and barges lay with their keels upward upon the sand.  Presently we beheld before us the walls of Viveiro, upon which the moon was shedding its sickly lustre.  We entered by a lofty and seemingly ruinous archway, and the guide conducted us at once to the posada.

 

Every person in Viveiro appeared to be buried in profound slumber; not so much as a dog saluted us with his bark.  After much knocking we were admitted into the posada, a large and dilapidated edifice. We had scarcely housed ourselves and horses when the rain began to fall with yet more violence than before, attended with much thunder and lightning.  Antonio and I, exhausted with fatigue, betook ourselves to flock beds in a ruinous chamber, into which the rain penetrated through many a cranny, whilst the guides ate bread and drank wine till the morning.

 

When I arose I was gladdened by the sight of a fine day.  Antonio forthwith prepared a savoury breakfast of stewed fowl, of which we stood in much need after the ten league journey of the preceding day over the ways which I have attempted to describe.  I then walked out to view the town, which consists of little more than one long street, on the side of a steep mountain thickly clad with forests and fruit trees.  At about ten we continued our journey, accompanied by our first guide, the other having returned to Coisa doiro some hours previously.

 

Our route throughout this day was almost constantly within sight of the shores of the Cantabrian sea, whose windings we followed.  The country was barren, and in many parts covered with huge stones: cultivated spots, however, were to be seen, where vines were growing.  We met with but few human habitations.  We however journeyed on cheerfully, for the sun was once more shining in full brightness, gilding the wild moors, and shining upon the waters of the distant sea, which lay in unruffled calmness.

 

At evening fall we were in the neighbourhood of the shore, with a range of wood-covered hills on our right.  Our guide led us towards a creek bordered by a marsh, but he soon stopped and declared that he did not know whither he was conducting us.

 

"Mon maitre," said Antonio, "let us be our own guides; it is, as you see, of no use to depend upon this fellow, whose whole science consists in leading people into quagmires."

 

We therefore turned aside and proceeded along the marsh for a considerable distance, till we reached a narrow path which led us into a thick wood, where we soon became completely bewildered.  On a sudden, after wandering about a considerable time, we heard the noise of water, and presently the clack of a wheel.  Following the sound, we arrived at a low stone mill, built over a brook; here we stopped and shouted, but no answer was returned.  "The place is deserted," said Antonio; "here, however, is a path, which, if we follow it, will doubtless lead us to some human habitation."  So we went along the path, which, in about ten minutes, brought us to the door of a cabin, in which we saw lights.  Antonio dismounted and opened the door:  "Is there any one here who can conduct us to Rivadeo?" he demanded.

 

"Senhor," answered a voice, "Rivadeo is more than five leagues from here, and, moreover, there is a river to cross!"

 

"Then to the next village," continued Antonio.

 

"I am a vecino of the next village, which is on the way to Rivadeo," said another voice, "and I will lead you thither, if you will give me fair words, and, what is better, fair money."

 

A man now came forth, holding in his hand a large stick.  He strode sturdily before us, and in less than half an hour led us out of the wood.  In another half hour he brought us to a group of cabins situated near the sea; he pointed to one of these, and having received a peseta, bade us farewell.

 

The people of the cottage willingly consented to receive us for the night:  it was much more cleanly and commodious than the wretched huts of the Gallegan peasantry in general.  The ground floor consisted of a keeping room and stable, whilst above was a long loft, in which were some neat and comfortable flock beds.  I observed several masts and sails of boats.  The family consisted of two brothers with their wives and families; one was a fisherman, but the other, who appeared to be the principal person, informed me that he had resided for many years in service at Madrid, and having amassed a small sum, he had at length returned to his native village, where he had purchased some land which he farmed.  All the family used the Castilian language in their common discourse, and on inquiry I learned that the Gallegan was not much spoken in that neighbourhood.  I have forgotten the name of this village, which is situated on the estuary of the Foz, which rolls down from Mondonedo.  In the morning we crossed this estuary in a large boat

with our horses, and about noon arrived at Rivadeo.

 

"Now, your worship," said the guide who had accompanied us from Ferrol, "I have brought you as far as I bargained, and a hard journey it has been; I therefore hope you will suffer Perico and myself to remain here to-night at your expense, and to-morrow we will go back; at present we are both sorely tired."

 

"I never mounted a better pony than Perico," said I, "and never met with a worse guide than yourself.  You appear to be perfectly ignorant of the country, and have done nothing but bring us into difficulties.  You may, however, stay here for the night, as you say you are tired, and to-morrow you may return to Ferrol, where I counsel you to adopt some other trade."  This was said at the door of the posada of Rivadeo.

 

"Shall I lead the horses to a stable?" said the fellow.

 

"As you please," said I.

 

Antonio looked after him for a moment, as he was leading the animals away, and then shaking his head followed slowly after.  In about a quarter of an hour he returned, laden with the furniture of our own horse, and with a smile upon his countenance:  "Mon maitre," said he, "I have throughout the journey had a bad opinion of this fellow, and now I have detected him:  his motive in requesting permission to stay, was a desire to purloin something from us.  He was very officious in the stable about our horse, and I now miss the new leathern girth which secured the saddle, and which I observed him looking at frequently on the road.  He has by this time doubtless hid it somewhere; we are quite secure of him, however, for he has not yet received the hire for the pony, nor the gratuity for himself."

 

The guide returned just as he had concluded speaking.  Dishonesty is always suspicious.  The fellow cast a glance upon us, and probably beholding in our countenances something which he did not like, he suddenly said, "Give me the horse-hire and my own propina, for Perico and I wish to be off instantly."

 

"How is this?" said I; "I thought you and Perico were both fatigued, and wished to rest here for the night; you have soon

recovered from your weariness."

 

"I have thought over the matter," said the fellow, "and my master will be angry if I loiter here:  pay us, therefore, and let us go."

 

"Certainly," said I, "if you wish it.  Is the horse furniture all right?"

 

"Quite so," said he; "I delivered it all to your servant."

 

"It is all here," said Antonio, "with the exception of the leathern girth."

 

"I have not got it," said the guide.

 

"Of course not," said I.  "Let us proceed to the stable, we shall perhaps find it there."

 

To the stable we went, which we searched through:  no girth, however, was forthcoming.  "He has got it buckled round his middle beneath his pantaloons, mon maitre," said Antonio, whose eyes were moving about like those of a lynx; "I saw the protuberance as he stooped down.  However, let us take no notice:  he is here surrounded by his countrymen, who, if we were to seize him, might perhaps take his part.  As I said before, he is in our power, as we have not paid him."

 

The fellow now began to talk in Gallegan to the by-standers (several persons having collected), wishing the Denho to take him if he knew anything of the missing property.  Nobody, however, seemed inclined to take his part; and those who listened, only shrugged their shoulders.  We returned to the portal of the posada, the fellow following us, clamouring for the horse-hire and propina. We made him no answer, and at length he went away, threatening to apply to the justicia; in about ten minutes, however, he came running back with the girth in his hand:  "I have just found it,"

said he, "in the street:  your servant dropped it."

 

I took the leather and proceeded very deliberately to count out the sum to which the horse-hire amounted, and having delivered it to him in the presence of witnesses, I said, "During the whole journey you have been of no service to us whatever; nevertheless, you have fared like ourselves, and have had all you could desire to eat and drink.  I intended, on your leaving us, to present you, moreover, with a propina of two dollars; but since, notwithstanding our kind treatment, you endeavoured to pillage us, I will not give you a cuarto:  go, therefore, about your business."

 

All the audience expressed their satisfaction at this sentence, and told him that he had been rightly served, and that he was a disgrace to Galicia.  Two or three women crossed themselves, and asked him if he was not afraid that the Denho, whom he had invoked, would take him away.  At last, a respectable-looking man said to him:  "Are you not ashamed to have attempted to rob two innocent strangers?"

 

"Strangers!" roared the fellow, who was by this time foaming with rage; "Innocent strangers, carracho! they know more of Spain and Galicia too than the whole of us.  Oh, Denho, that servant is no man but a wizard, a nuveiro.--Where is Perico?"

 

He mounted Perico, and proceeded forthwith to another posada.  The tale, however, of his dishonesty had gone before him, and no person would house him; whereupon he returned on his steps, and seeing me looking out of the window of the house, he gave a savage shout, and shaking his fist at me, galloped out of the town, the people pursuing him with hootings and revilings.

 

CHAPTER XXXII

 

Martin of Rivadeo--The Factious Mare--Asturians--Luarca--The Seven Bellotas--Hermits--The Asturian's Tale--Strange Guests--The Big Servant--Batuschca

 

"What may your business be?" said I to a short, thick, merry-faced fellow in a velveteen jerkin and canvas pantaloons, who made his way into my apartment, in the dusk of the evening.

 

"I am Martin of Rivadeo, your worship," replied the man, "an alquilador by profession; I am told that you want a horse for your journey into the Asturias to-morrow, and of course a guide:  now, if that be the case, I counsel you to hire myself and mare."

 

"I am become tired of guides," I replied; "so much so that I was thinking of purchasing a pony, and proceeding without any guide at all.  The last which we had was an infamous character."

 

"So I have been told, your worship, and it was well for the bribon that I was not in Rivadeo when the affair to which you allude occurred.  But he was gone with the pony Perico before I came back , or I would have bled the fellow to a certainty with my knife.  He is a disgrace to the profession, which is one of the most honourable and ancient in the world.  Perico himself must have been ashamed of him, for Perico, though a pony, is a gentleman, one of many capacities, and well known upon the roads.  He is only inferior to my mare."

 

"Are you well acquainted with the road to Oviedo?" I demanded.

 

"I am not, your worship; that is, no farther than Luarca, which is the first day's journey.  I do not wish to deceive you, therefore let me go with you no farther than that place; though perhaps I might serve for the whole journey, for though I am unacquainted with the country, I have a tongue in my head, and nimble feet to run and ask questions.  I will, however, answer for myself no farther than Luarca, where you can please yourselves.  Your being strangers is what makes me wish to accompany you, for I like the conversation of strangers, from whom I am sure to gain information both entertaining and profitable.  I wish, moreover, to convince you that we guides of Galicia are not all thieves, which I am sure you will not suppose if you only permit me to accompany you as far as Luarca."

 

I was so much struck with the fellow's good humour and frankness, and more especially by the originality of character displayed in almost every sentence which he uttered, that I readily engaged him to guide us to Luarca; whereupon he left me, promising to be ready with his mare at eight next morning.

 

Rivadeo is one of the principal seaports of Galicia, and is admirably situated for commerce, on a deep firth, into which the river Mirando debouches.  It contains many magnificent buildings, and an extensive square or plaza, which is planted with trees.  I observed several vessels in the harbour; and the population, which is rather numerous, exhibited none of those marks of misery and dejection which I had lately observed among the Ferrolese.

On the morrow Martin of Rivadeo made his appearance at the appointed hour with his mare.  It was a lean haggard animal, not much larger than a pony; it had good points, however, and was very clean in its hinder legs, and Martin insisted that it was the best animal of its kind in all Spain.  "It is a factious mare," said he, "and I believe an Alavese.  When the Carlists came here it fell lame, and they left it behind, and I purchased it for a dollar.  It is not lame now, however, as you shall soon see."

 

We had now reached the firth which divides Galicia from the Asturias.  A kind of barge was lying about two yards from the side of the quay, waiting to take us over.  Towards this Martin led his mare, and giving an encouraging shout, the creature without any hesitation sprang over the intervening space into the barge.  "I told you she was a facciosa," said Martin; "none but a factious animal would have taken such a leap."

 

We all embarked in the barge and crossed over the firth, which is in this place nearly a mile broad, to Castro Pol, the first town in the Asturias.  I now mounted the factious mare, whilst Antonio followed on my own horse.  Martin led the way, exchanging jests with every person whom he met on the road, and occasionally enlivening the way with an extemporaneous song.

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