HUMOROUS ROMANCES OF SPAIN
Cervantes, the bold metal of thy lance
Shatters the crystal torrets of Romance
Down falls the wreck in roin most immense
Upon the dreary plains of common sense.
CERVANTES was one of the world's great satirists, a man gifted with a keen and peculiar sense of the ridiculous. He would himself have been the first to laugh at those modern critics who professed to see in him a great poet, and indeed, at the end of his days, when he assessed his life's work in his mock-heroic Voyage to Parnassus, he admitted that he had not the poetic gift. That he had a golden imagination is obvious to anyone who cares to read his Galatea, imitative as it is, and Don Quixote over-flows with imagination and invention, although certain later passages of the wondrous satire are extremely reminiscent of some of its earlier pages.
To me Don Quixote has always seemed one of the most precious and curious of books, but probably for very different reasons from those by which it makes its appeal to the majority of people, for it is because of the information it affords concerning romantic literature and customs that I treasure it most. Where the satire is really legitimate I revel in the fun as much as it is possible for anyone to do, but I feel that many of its passages are rather shabbily iconoclastic, and that some of its strictures are levelled not only against the absurdities of chivalric extravagance, but against the whole spirit and structure of romance. It had been well, too,
for Cervantes had he confined himself entirely to the satiric vein, for when he essays to employ the very literary vehicle at which he chiefly scoffed he frequently becomes more maudlinthat is the only word for itthan the most sentimental writers against whom he girds. His shepherds and shepherdesses and his runaway nuns are long-winded and pedantic, and he was indeed badly bitten by that tiresome Arcadian phase in European literature which culminated in the prose pastoral, which had its roots in false conventions and employed as its mise en scène an atmosphere of sham rural felicity. Sannazaro, in his Arcadia, had indeed piped the tune to which Cervantes danced for many a day ere his own strong common sense showed him the fatuity of the models which he followed. The author of the Pastor de Fitida, Luiz Galvez de Montalvo, was his own close friend, and there is every evidence that he made wholesale raids upon the distinctly minor efforts of such poetasters as Hebrao and Alonso Perez. The works of the men who composed this school of pseudo-Arcadianism had none of the charm of the delightful canvases of Watteau and Fragonard, silk-coated and satin-gowned though their shepherds and shepherdesses be. The country of the Spanish pastoral had a background of pasteboard scenery, and theatrical effects of lighting flashed across its stage. It was peopled by bores of the most intolerable description, who, instead of looking after their live stock, as they were paid to do, wearied each other and the wretched traveller who was unhappy enough to encounter them with their amorous bellowings and interminable tales of misfortune. Little wonder that the native good sense of Cervantes recoiled later from this unworthy and unmanly nonsense. But it is extraordinary that although he meted out such
merciless treatment to chivalric romance, he still retained a weakness for the follies of Arcady, from which, to the last, he was unable to free himself.
The circumstances of Cervantes career undoubtedly assisted him to discipline his ideas. As a collector of taxes he had, perforce, to come into contact with the seamy side of life, and much of his time was spent in the Bohemian atmosphere of inns, where he was compelled to lodge while he worked the district allotted to him. In these circumstances and in these places he encountered men and women of flesh and blood, and came up against the iron wall of hard, solid reality. Such an experience is undoubtedly most valuable to a man of romantic or imaginative temperament, gifted with creative ability. It tempers his natural capacities and enlarges his views. Doubtless Cervantes, when he first went his rounds, had been in the habit of regaling his fellow-travellers in the posadas in which he sojourned with high-falutin stories of errant shepherds and wandering shepherdesses. We can imagine the degree of amusement with which the rough muleteer, the blunt soldier, and the travelling quack would greet those sallies. The criticism of such people is not strainedit is annihilating! Can we doubt that the laughter with which his earlier rhapsodies were received in company of this sort blew away the fantastic cobwebs from Cervantes brain?
I have already indicated that in the age in which he lived the romance proper had fallen unto considerable popular disfavour. This was due partly to the circumstances of a changed environment, and partly to the type of literary opinion which had recently been fostered by the rise of the Spanish drama, which had
brought about an entirely new literary ideal. Can it be that Cervantes, finding that his audiences regarded the Arcadian type of tale with disfavour, attributed this to the circumstance that it was fashionable in high circles, and fell back upon the romance, only to find that it too was greeted with guffaws and laughed out of the inn parlour? Was it in the quips and sneers of such audiences, the very autithesis of the romantic personages of whom he had dreamed, that the idea of Don Quixote took shape in his brain, and that in the laughter of clowns and men of the hard world, of the struggling lower middle class, he perceived the certain popularity which a caricature of chivalry would enjoy? So, it seems to me, it may have been.
For many a year the sham romance of chivalry had been regarded as a pest. Serious and responsible writers had thundered against it and there is every evidence that in a measure it stood between a certain section of the people of Spain and anything like mental advancement. It had, indeed, turned the heads of that portion of the nation unaccustomed to think for itself, and unable to form a rational opinion regarding its demerits. In all countries and at all times, this class, usually impressionable and easily led, falls an easy prey to the blandishments of the hack writer of sensational proclivities. It is not too much to say that unhealthy sensationalism in literature constitutes a real and active danger to national well-being. It seduces the people from their duties, unfits them for the serious business of life, renders them pretentious rather than independent, and leads them to the belief that they reflect the virtues or vices of the absurd heroes and heroines of their favourite tales. The one weapon which the more sensible portion
of the community can bring to bear against such a pernicious condition of affairs is healthy ridicule, which it usually meets with from the rational and the well-balanced. But the danger exists that in the revulsion of public feeling against literary extravagance not only the absurdities which have obsessed he thoughtless and irritated the sensible will undergo destruction and banishment, but those higher virtues and graces of which they are the distorted reflection will not be discriminated against, but will be demolished along with them. Such indeed, was the fate which befell the greater romances, those jewels of human imagination, which, although Cervantes himself made an effort to save them, shared in the general wreck and ruin of the fiction of which they were the flower, until the taste and insight of a later day excavated them from the super-incumbent mass under which they lay buried.
The Figure of Don Quixote
Don Quixote, the central figure of the mighty satire which gave its death-blow to chivalry, is perhaps typical of the romance reader of Cervantes' day. Crack-brained and imaginative to the verge of madness, he is entirely lost to the uses of everyday existence. He lives in a world of his own, and has nothing in common with that of his time, to the spirit of which he cannot adapt himself. In this gentleman of La Mancha the vices of the imagination are well portrayed, but they are unaccompanied by those gifts through which imagination can be rendered of utility to the community. Don Quixote dwells on the heights of a chivalric Parnassus, a land of magic peopled by the spectres and shadows which he has encountered in the books with which his
library is so well furnished. His imagination is thus not even creative, but derivative; reliance upon the "idols he has loved so long" has "done his credit in men's eyes much wrong," and he is regarded by his neighbours as an amiable lunatic of no importance. But the dreamer, when roused to action, can be a very terrible person if his visions chance to direct him astray, and if he attempt to realize a nightmare. Thus it was with Don Quixote. Scarcely mad enough for confinement, but yet sufficiently crazy to become a public nuisance, if not a public menace, he justly typifies the kind of person in whom romance runs mad, and is thus of the same class as the small boy who is incited to acts of petty larceny by the perusal of detective stories, or the young lady behind the ribbon-counter who is under the impression that she is the long-lost daughter of a mysterious peer.
It is symptomatic of such craziness that it craves companionship. It is indeed a species of vanity which must have an audience, however small or however unsuited to its purposes. Again, the element of conspiracy is as the apple of its eye, and it must confide its ideas and aspirations to one sympathetic ear at least. In Sancho Panza, Don Quixote finds a strange confidant. The luckless peasant is completely unable to comprehend his master's point of view, but is carried away by his rodomontades and the glib and gorgeous promises of preferment and prosperity which the crack-brained knight holds out to him. To his participation in the wild scheme of the visionary Don, Sancho's shrewd spouse violently objects, but when dreamer and dunce get together common sense may hold its tongue and content itself with the knowledge that it is not until
windmills have been tilted at and sound trouncings have been received that its advice will be listened to.
But though he begins his travels as a dunce, Sancho by no means remains one. He profits from his experiences, and almost every page shows him increasing in judgment and in that humour which is the salt of good judgment. As his master grows madder, Sancho grows wiser, until at last he becomes capable of direction and guidance toward the rueful knight. As we proceed we begin to suspect that the peasant-squire exists as a kind of chorus to illustrate the excesses of his master and criticize his absurdities. But apart altogether from Don Quixote, Sancho Panza is a striking and arresting figure in modern fiction, possessing a philosophy of his own, rich in worldly wisdom and abounding with practical ability. On the humorous side he is equal to Falstaff, only whereas Falstaff's humour is typically English that of Sancho Panza is universal. He is a world-clown, with the outlook of a philosopher and the unconscious humour of a Handy Andy.
The Adventure at the Inn
The true measure of the character of Don Quixote is perhaps met with in that chapter which recounts what occurred to him in the inn which he took for a castle. The place seems to have been a very ordinary Spanish posada. The host and hostess were kindly folk whom the knight at once exalted to the rank of a castellan and chátelaine, and in the dowdy maidservant, who has been immortalized under the name of Maritornes, he saw a great lady who dwelt in their company. After the terrible trouncing he had received from the Yanguesian carriers the wretched knight was glad to rest his battered
limbs in a miserable garret of the place, while Sancho explained to the inn-folk the nature of a knight-errant and the vicissitudes of errantry, which one day compelled its adherents to undergo such hardship as the Don now suffered from, and the next exalted them to the heights of sovereignty over many empires. These explanations were seconded by the Knight of the Rueful Countenance himself, who, sitting up in bed, entertained the hostess and maidservant to a speech so grandiloquent that, lost in wonder at his eloquence, "they admired him as a man of another world." But Don Quixote, anxious to recover from his injuries, begged his squire to procure from "the governor of the castle" the ingredients of a magical balm of which he had read in some book of chivalry. These he obtained, and Don Quixote busied himself by concocting the enchanted liquor over the fire, saying over it many credos and paternosters. Then he drank deeply of the awful compound, with distressing effect, and Sancho, following his example, underwent a similar but more violent experience, and was assured by his master that the balsam disagreed with him because he had not received the order of knighthood!
Saddling his horse, the knight was about to proceed on his journey, but before he set out he assured "the lord governor of the castle" how deeply grateful he was for the honours he had received while under his roof. The innkeeper suggested that the time for paying his reckonmg had come, but Don Quixote retorted that it was impossible for him to do so, as no knight-errant of whom he had ever read was wont to pay for board and lodging. The innkeeper protested loudly, whereupon, clapping spurs to Rozinante, the knight rode out at the gate. The innkeeper then attempted to extort his dues from
Sancho Panza, but without avail, as the squire quoted the same authorities as his master, whereupon some of those who sojourned at the inn seized him and tossed him in a blanket. Don Quixote, hearing his cries, rode back, but although he stormed loudly the travellers still continued to toss Sancho in the blanket, until at length, tired of the exercise, they let him go.
Don Quixote's Love-Madness
In the space at our disposal it would be impossible to follow Don Quixote step by step through the land of false romance which he had created for himself. We will recall how Amadis on the Firm Island bemoaned his separation from his lady-love, and how, when he came to a locality known as the Black Mountain, Don Quixote resolved to follow the example of the great hero of chivalry. Before he left his native village he had placed his affections upon a country wench, to whom he gave the romantic name of Dulcinea del Toboso, and now that he had come to the Black Mountain he resolved to spend his time in meditation upon the virtues and beauties of this super-excellent damsel. After lecturing Sancho Panza upon the duty of a knight-errant in meditation upon his lady, he became irritated with the squire because he could not understand the reason for his amorous fury.
"Pray, sir," quoth Sancho, "what is it that you mean to do in this fag-end of the world?"
"Have I not already told thee," answered Don Quixote, "that I intend to copy Amadis in his madness, despair and fury? Nay, at the same time I will imitate the valiant Orlando Furioso's extravagance when he ran mad, at which time in his frantic despair he tore up tree
by the roots, troubled the waters of the clear fountains, slew the shepherds, destroyed their flocks, and committed a hundred thousand other extravagances worthy to be recorded in the eternal register of fame."
"Sir," quoth Sancho, " I dare say the knight who did these penances had some reason to be mad. But what lady has sent you a-packing, or even so much as slighted you?"
"That is the point," cried Don Quixote, "for in this consists the singular perfection of my undertaking. It is neither strange nor meritorious for a knight to run mad upon any just occasion. No, the rarity is to run mad without a cause, without the least constraint or necessity, for thus my mistress must needs have a vast idea of my love. Waste no more time, therefore, in trying to divert me from so rare, so happy, and so singular an imitation. I am mad and will be mad until you return with an answer to the letter which you must carry from me to the Lady Dulcinea. If it be favourable, my penance shall end, but if not, then shall I be emphatically mad."
"Body o me!" quoth Sancho, "why run you on at such a rate, Sir Knight? All these tales of yours of the winning of kingdoms and bestowing of islands rather appear to me as so much braggartry, and now this latest mood of yours"
"Now as I love bright arms," cried the Don, "I swear that thou art an addle-pated ass. Know you not that all the actions and adventures of a knight-errant seem to be mere chimeras and follies? Not that they are so, but merely have that appearance through the malice and envy of powerful enchanters."
As they talked they came near to a high rock, round
which the wild trees, plants, and flowers grew in profusion, and here the Knight of the Woeful Figure resolved to perform his amorous penance. Throwing himself on the ground, he broke into a loud frenzy of grief. "Go not yet," he cried to Sancho, "for I desire that thou shalt be a witness of what I will do for my lady's sake, that thou mayst give her an account of it."
"Bless us," cried Sancho, "what can I see more that I have not seen already?"
"Nothing as yet," replied Don Quixote. "Thou must see me throw away mine armour, tear my clothes, knock my head against the rocks, and do a thousand other things of that kind that will fill thee with astonishment."
"Beware, sir," cried the squire. " If you needs must knock your noddle, do so gently, I pray you."
The Army of Sheep
But surely the most mirth-provoking of all the adventures of Don Quixote is that in which he takes a flock of sheep for an army. He and Sancho were riding at bridle-pace over a wide plain, when they perceived a thick cloud of dust in the distance.
"The day is come," cried the knight, "the happy day that fortune has reserved for me, and in which the strength of my arm shall be signalized by such exploits as shall be transmitted even to the latest posterity. Seest thou yonder cloud of dust ? Know then that it is raised by a prodigious army marching this way and composed of an infinite number of nations."
The wretched Don's brain was of course full to overflowing of the accounts of those stupendous battles of myriads of paynims which, as we have seen, are so frequently encountered in the old romances, and he was delighted
when Sancho pointed out that two separate hosts seemed to be approaching from different points of the compass.
"Ha, so! " cried Don Quixote, flourishing his lance, "then shall we assist the weaker side. Know, Sancho, that the host which now confronts us is commanded by the great Alifanfaron, Emperor of the Island of Taprobana. The other that advances behind us is his sworn enemy, Pentapolin of the Naked Arm, King of the Garamantians."
"Pray, sir," quoth Sancho, "what is the cause of this quarrel between two such great men?"
"It is a simple matter," answered Don Quixote. "The pagan Alifanfaron dares to make his addresses to the daughter of Pentapolin, who has told him that he will have naught of him unless he abjure his false beliefs."
"If a battle be at hand," said Sancho nervously, "where shall I place my ass, for I fear he will not prove of much avail in the charge."
"True," answered Don Quixote. "We will soon provide a destrier for thee when the knights begin to fall from their saddles. But let us scan their ranks. He who wears the gilded arms and bears on his shield a crowned lion couchant at the feet of a lady is the valiant Lord Luarcalco, Lord of the Silver Bridge. Yonder is the formidable Micocolembo, the great Duke of Quiracia, wearing armour powdered with flowers of gold. The gigantic form upon his right is the dauntless Brandabarbaran, sovereign of the Three Arabias, whose armour is made of serpents' skins, and who carries for a shield the gate of the temple which Samson pulled down at his death. But our allies also advance. Yonder marches Timonel of Carcaxona, Prince of New Biscay, who bears on his shield a cat or in a held guIes, with the
motto Miau. Beside him rides Espartafilardo of the Wood, whose blue shield is powdered with asparagus plants. But the pagans press on. To the right cluster those who drink the pleasant stream of the Xanthus, there the rude mountaineers of Massilia, behind them those who gather gold from the sands of Arabia Felix, the treacherous Numidians, the bowmen of Persia, the Medes and Parthians who fight flying, the houseless Arabians, and the sooty Ethiopians."
"Upon my soul," cried Sancho, "surely thy magicians are at work again, for not a single knight, giant or man can I see of all those you talk of now."
"Blockhead!" cried Don Quixote. " Hark to the neighing of countless horses, the fanfare of the trumpets, and the thunder of many drums."
"Surely this is sorcery," replied the puzzled Sancho, "for I hear nothing but the bleating of sheep."
"Retreat, if thou fearest the engagement," replied the Don, with a haughty sneer, "for I with my single arm am sufficient to give the victory to that side which I shall favour with my assistance," and with a loud and warlike cry he couched his lance, clapped spurs to the lean side of Rozinante, and charged like a thunderbolt into the plain, crying: "Courage, brave knights! Woe upon that great infidel Alifanfaron of Taprobana."
In another moment he was among the flock of sheep, charging through and through it, and piercing an animal at each thrust of his lance. The shepherds, in great dismay, unloosed their slings and began to ply him with stones as big as their fists. But, disdainful of this petty artillery, he cried upon Alifanfaron, whom in imagination he was about to engage, when a stone as big as a good-sized pippin struck him heavily upon the
short ribs. Thinking himself desperately wounded, he pulled out the earthen flask which contained his magic balsam; but just as he was in the act of raising this to his lips, a stone from the sling of a shepherd struck it so forcibly as to shiver it to atoms, and passing through it broke three of his teeth and tumbled him from the saddle. The shepherds, fearing that they had killed him, picked up the dead sheep and made off; leaving him more dead than alive.
No less notable is Cervantes' account of the adventure in which Don Quixote succeeded in obtaining the helmet of Mambrino. At a distance he espied a horseman who wore upon his head something that glittered like gold. Turning to Sancho, he said:
"Behold, yonder comes he who wears upon his head the helmet of Mambrino, which I have sworn to make mine own."
"Now the truth of the story," says Cervantes, '' was this: there were in that part of the country two villages, one of which was so little that it had not so much as a shop in it, nor any barber; so that the barber of the greater village served also the smaller. And thus a person happening to have occasion to be let blood, and another to be shaved, the barber was going thither with his brass basin, which he had clapped upon his head to keep his hat, that chanced to be a new one, from being spoiled by the rain; and as the basin was new scoured, it made a glittering show a great way off. As Sancho had well observed, he rode upon a grey ass, which Don Quixote as easily took for a dapple-grey steed as he took the barber for a knight, and his brass basin for
a golden helmet; his distracted brain easily applying every object to his romantic ideas. Therefore, when he saw the poor imaginary knight draw near, he fixed his lance, or javelin, to his thigh, and without staying to hold a parley with his thoughtless adversary, flew at him as fiercely as Rozinante would gallop, resolved to pierce him through and through; crying out in the midst of his career: "Caitiff! wretch! defend thyself, or immediately surrender that which is so justly my due.'" The barber, seeing this awful apparition come thundering down upon him, and in terror lest he should be run through by Don Quixote's lance, threw himself off his ass on to the ground and, hastily rising, ran off at the top of his speed, leaving both his ass and his basin behind him.
"Of a truth," said Don Quixote, "the miscreant who has left this helmet has shown himself as prudent as the beaver, who, finding himself hotly pursued by the hunters, to save his life cuts off with his teeth that for which his natural instinct tells him he was followed."
"Upon my word," cried Sancho, "it is a right good basin, and worth at least a piece of eight."
Don Quixote at once placed it on his head, but could find no visor, and when he perceived that it had none, "Doubtless," said he, "the pagan for whom this famous helmet was first made had a head of a prodigious size, but unfortunately part of it is wanting."
At this Sancho laughed outright.
"I fancy," continued Don Quixote, "that this enchanted helmet has fallen by some strange accident into the hands of some one who for the lucre of a little money, and finding it to be of pure gold, melted one half of it
and of the other made this headpiece, which as thou sayest has some resemblance to a barber's basin."
The Adventure of the Windmills
The most celebrated, if not the most amusing of Don Quixote's adventures is certainly that of the windmills. Indeed " tilting at windmills " has passed into a proverb. The dismal Don and his squire had entered a certain plain where stood thirty or forty windmills, and as soon as the knight espied them he cried: "Fortune directs our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. See, Sancho, there are at least thirty outrageous giants whom I intend to encounter, and with whose spoils we shall enrich ourselves."
"What giants?" quoth Sancho Panza.
"Those whom thou seest yonder," answered Don Quixote, "with their long, extended arms."
"By your leave, sir," said the squire, "those things yonder are no giants, but windmills."
"Alas, Sancho," said Don Quixote, "thou art but little acquainted with adventures. I tell thee they are giants, and therefore if thou art afraid, turn aside and say thy prayers, for I am resolved to engage in an unequal combat against them all." Without another word he clapped spurs to his horse, crying out: "Stand your ground, ignoble creatures, and fly not basely from a single knight who dares encounter you all." At that moment the wind rose and the mill-sails began to move, at which the Don cried aloud : " Base miscreants! though you move more arms than the giant Briareus, you shall pay for your arrogance. Then, devoutly recommending himself to his lady, he bore down upon the first windmill, and running his lance into the sail,
transfixed it. The sail, however, continued to rise, drawing up both knight and horse along with it, until at last the lance broke into shivers and Rozinante and his master fell a good distance to the ground.
Sancho Panza at once ran up to the dismounted knight, who seemed to have fared badly. "Alas, your worship," he cried, "did hot I tell you they were windmills, and that nobody could think otherwise unless he had windmills in his head."
"Peace! " replied Don Quixote, who had been badly shaken by the fall. "I am verily persuaded that the cursed necromancer Freston, who continues to persecute me, has transformed these giants into windmills. But, mark you, in the end all his pernicious wiles and stratagems shall prove ineffectual against the prevailing edge of my sword."
The Story of the Captive
One of the most remarkable of the tales which are interspersed throughout the history of Don Quixote is that of the captive which the hero encounters at a certain inn, and which, if it is not actually based upon the facts of Cervantes' own personal captivity among the Moorish pirates, certainly draws much of its substance and colour therefrom. On 26th September, 1575, the Spanish vessel Sol, on which Cervantes served as a private soldier, was separated from the rest of the Spanish squadron in the neighbourhood of Marseilles, and, falling in with a flotilla of Moorish pirates, was captured after a desperate resistance. Cervantes himself was sold as a slave to one Dali Mami, a Greek renegade, who found upon his prisoner certain highly eulogistic letters from Don John of Austria and the Duke of Sessa. These flattering
credentials led his new master to suppose that Cervantes was a man of consequence, and that he would presumably be able to draw a large ransom for him. But although the great are often quite ready to provide genius with grandiloquent testimonials which cost them only the expense of a little ink and paper, they are by no means prone to back their assertions of ability by tabling large sums of money, and Cervantes continued to languish in captivity. In 1576 he attempted to escape with other prisoners, but their Moorish guide played them false, and, threatened by hunger, the party was forced to return to Algiers. In the following year Cervantes brother was ransomed, and he undertook to send a vessel to carry off Miguel and his friends. Meanwhile the author of Don Quixote enlisted the sympathies of a Spanish renegade, a Navarrese gardener named Juan. Between them they dug a cave in a garden near the sea, and secreted in it, one by one, fourteen Christian slaves, who were secretly fed during several months by the help of another rencoade known as El Dorador. The vessel sent by Rodrigo de Cervantes stood in to the shore, and was on the point of embarking those hidden in the cave when a Moorish fishing-boat passed by, and so alarmed the rescuers that they put to sea again. Meanwhile the treacherous El Dorador had revealed the plan to Flassan Pasha, the Dey of Algiers, and when several of the crew of rescuers landed on a second occasion to convey the fugitives on board, the Dey's troops surrounded the garden, and the entire band of Christians was captured. Cervantes, with that true nobility which characterized him throughout life, took the entire blame of the conspiracy upon himself. Dragged bound before Hassan he adhered to his statement, and although the unfortunate
gardener was hanged, Hassan decided to spare Cervantes' life, and for some reason known to himself purchased the poet from Dali Mami for five hundred crowns. Perhaps the tyrant expected an immense ransom from a man whose nobility of bearing must have impressed him. But be that as it may, Cervantes at once began to set on foot a third scheme of escape. He sent a letter to the Spanish Governer of Oran, asking for assistance, but this was intercepted, and the poet was sentenced to two thousand blows, which, however, were never inflicted. Cervantes now conceived the idea of inducing the Christian population of Algiers to rise and capture the city. In this project he was assisted by some Valencian traders, but the scheme was revealed to Hassan by a Dominican monk, and the Valejicians, hearing of the priest's treachery, and fearing lest they might be implicated, begged Cervantes to make his escape on a ship which was about to start for Spain. But Cervantes refused to desert his friends, and when he was once more dragged before Hassan with a hangman's rope round his neck, and threatened with instant death unless he revealed the names of his accomplices, he obstinately refused to betray them.
Meanwhile his family were doing their utmost to procure his release, and in order that they might collect his ransom, his mother, the better to inspire pity, actually passed herself off as a widow, though her husband, a medical practitioner of great age, was still alive. By tremendous exertions they succeeded in collecting two hundred and fifty ducats, which they paid to a certain monk who went regularly to Algiers, but this Hassan refused to accept, asking for one prisoner of distinction, called Palafox, the sum of one thousand ducats. The
monk seems to have acted as an official ransomer to the Spaniards, and when Hassan found that he would pay no more than five hundred ducats for Palafox, he offered to ransom Cervantes for that sum by way of making a bargain. So after five years of slavery the author of Don Quixote was set free, and returned to his native soil. But the Dominican monk who had revealed to Hassan his attempted escape, and who was probably afraid that Cervantes would charge him with this treachery, no sooner heard that he had landed in Spain than he spread false reports regarding his conduct. These, however, Cervantes was easily able to rebut, and his character as a heroic leader among the captives was amply vindicated. The captive's story, for which Cervantes had had the mournful privilege of collecting so much 'local colour,' is recounted to Don Quixote by an escaped slave, who, with his Moorish lady-love, has come to the inn where the woeful knight is sojourning. I shall adhere to Cervantes' manner of recounting it in the first person, but as it occupies a considerable portion of the first part of his famous history, considerations of space will necessitate its condensation.
"My family had its origin in the mountains of Leon, and although my father had considerable substance, he had by no means been prudent in his expenditure, and at an early age my brothers and myself were faced with the necessity for carving out our own fortunes. One of my brothers resolved to go to the Indies, the youngest embraced Holy Orders, and I concluded that for my part I would be a soldier. With a thousand ducats in my pocket I travelled to Alicant, whence I took ship to Genoa. From that city I went to Milan, where I joined the forces of the great Duke of Alva and saw
service in Flanders. Some time after my arrival in that country there came news of the league concluded by Pope Pius V in conjunction with Spain against the Turks, who had at that time taken the island of Cyprus from the Venetians, Hearing that Don John of Austria had been given the conduct of this expedition, I returned to Italy, enrolled myself in his service, and was present at the great battle of Lepanto, on which glorious day the fable that the Turk was invincible, which had so long deluded Christendom, was dissipated. But instead of participating in this victory, I was so unfortunate as to be made a prisoner in the course of the engagement. Vehali, the bold pirate king of Algiers, having boarded and taken the galley Capitana of Malta, the vessel of Andrea Doria, to which had been commissioned, bore up to assist it. I leaped on board the enemy's ship, which, however, succeeded in casting off the grappling-irons thrown upon it, and I found myself surrounded by enemies who quickly bore me down. I was carried to Constantinople, and was made a slave in the captured Capitana at Navarino.
"As I did not wish to burden my father with the collection of a ransom, I refrained from letting him know of my circumstances. My master Vehali dying, I fell to the share of a Venetian renegade called Azanaga, who sailed for Algiers, where I was shut up in prison. As it was thought that I might be ransomed, the Moors placed me in a bagnio, and I was not forced to labour like those captives who had no hope of redemption. Upon the courtyard of this place there opened the windows of the house of a wealthy Moor, and it chanced one day that I was standing underneath one of these, when there appeared from it a long cane, to which was attached a
piece of linen. This was moved up and down as if it was expected that some of us should lay hold upon it, and one of our number stood immediately beneath it to see if it would be lowered. But just as he came to it, the cane was drawn up and shaken to and fro sideways, as if in denial. Another of my comrades advanced, and had the same success as the former. Seeing this, I resolved to try my fortune also, and as I came under the cane, it fell at my feet. I untied the linen, and found wrapped up in it about ten gold coins called zianins. I took the money, broke the cane, and looking upward, beheld a white hand close the window in haste. Shortly afterward there appeared out of the same casement a little cross made of cane, and by this token we concluded that some Christian woman was a slave in that house. But the whiteness of the hand and the richness of the bracelets upon the arm made us think that perhaps we had to deal with a Christian lady who had turned Mohammedan.
"For more than fifteen days we received no other token of the lady's presence, although we watched carefully for the same, but we learned that the house belonged to a Moor of high rank, called Agimorato. At the end of this time the cane appeared once more, and on this occasion I found that the linen bundle contained no less than forty crowns of Spanish gold, with a paper written in Arabic, at the top of which was a great cross. But none of us understood Arabic, and it was with difliculty that we could find an interpreter. At last I resolved to trust a renegade of Murcia, who had shown me great proofs of his kindness. He agreed to translate it, and I found the contents were as follow:
"'As a child I had a Christian nurse who taught me
much of your religion, and especially of Lela Marien, whom you call the Virgin. When this good slave died, she appeared to me in a vision and bid me go to the land of the Christians to see the Virgin, who had a great kindness for me. I have seen many Christians Out of this window, but none has appeared to me so much of a gentleman as thyself. I am young and hand-some and can carry with me a great deal of money and other riches. Pray consider how we may escape together, and thou shalt be my husband in thine own country, if thou art willing. But if not, it does not matter, for the Virgin will provide me a husband. Trust no Moor with this letter, for they are all treacherous.
The renegade to whom I had given the letter for translation promised to assist us in every way in his power, should we venture upon making our escape, and indeed the hearts of all of us rose high, for we argued that the influence and means of the lady who had befriended me might greatly help us in our efforts for freedom. I dictated a reply to the renegade, who translated it into the Arabic tongue, offering the lady my services and those of my companions, and promising on the word of a Christian to make her my wife. Soon the cane was let down from the window once more. I attached the note to it and it was drawn up. That night we prisoners discussed the best means of effecting our escape, and at last we agreed to wait for the answer of Zoraida (for such we discovered was the lady's name), feeling assured that she could best advise us how to proceed.
For some days the bagnio was full of people, during which time the cane was invisible, but when we were once more left to ourselves it was thrust through the
window, and on this occasion the bundle which depended from it contained a letter and a hundred crowns in gold.
"The renegade speedily translated the missive, which stated that although the writer could not contrive the manner of our escape, she could still furnish us with sufficient money to enable us to buy our ransoms. She suggested that having done this one of us should proceed to Spain, purchase a ship there, and return for the others. She concluded by saying that she was now about to proceed to the country with her father, and that she would pass all the summer in a place near the seaside, which she closely described.
"Every one of our company offered to be the man who should go to Spain and purchase the ship which was to deliver the rest, but the renegade, who was experienced in such matters, strongly opposed this proposal, saying that he had seen too many such enterprises wrecked by placing trust in a single individual. He offered to purchase a ship in Algiers, and pretend to turn merchant, by which means, he said, he could contrive to get us out of the bagnio and the country. Meanwhile I answered Zoraida, assuring her that we would do all she advised, and in reply to this she gave us, by means of the cane, two thousand crowns in gold. Of this sum we gave the renegade five hundred crowns to buy the ship, and through the good offices of a merchant of Valencia, then in Algiers, I effected my own ransom with another eight hundred crowns. But on the advice of this trader the money was not paid down to the Dey at once, lest his suspicions should be aroused, but he was informed that it would shortly be forthcoming from Spain, and meanwhile I remained in the Valencian's house upon parole. Before Zoraida finally departed for her father's
summer residence she gave us another thousand crowns, explaining, by letter, that she kept the keys of her father's treasury, and on this occasion I made arrangements for ransoming three of my friends.
The Flight from Algiers
"Soon after this the renegade purchased a vessel capable of carrying above thirty people, in which he pretended to make several voyages in company with a Moorish partner whom he took in order to avoid suspicion. Each time he passed along the coast he cast anchor in a little bay close to the house where Zoraida lived, so that the people of the place should get used to his doing so. He even landed on several occasions and begged fruit from Zoraida's father, which he always received, for the old Moor was of a liberal spirit. But he could never succeed in having speech with Zoraida herself. Our plan was now upon such a footing that he asked me to fix a (lay upon which we might make the great effort upon which everything depended. So I collected twelve Spaniards known to be good oarsmen and whose comings and goings were not very closely watched. It was arranged among us that we should steal out of the town upon the evening of the next Friday, and rendezvous at a certain spot near Agimorato's dwelling. But it was necessary that Zoraida herself should be apprised of our intention, and with this object in view I entered her garden one day upon pretence of gathering a few herbs. Almost at once I encountered her father, who asked me what I (lid there. I told him I was a slave of Arnaut Mami, who I knew was a friend of his, and that I wanted a few herbs to make up a salad. While we spoke Zoraida came out of the garden house, and as it was quite the custom for
the Moorish women to be seen before Christian slaves, her father called her to come to him. She was most richly dressed and wore a profusion of jewels, and now that I beheld her for the first time I was astounded by her beauty. Her father told her for what purpose I was there, and she asked me if I were about to be ransomed. Speaking in lingua franca, I replied that I had already been ransomed, and that I intended to embark on the morrow upon a French ship.
"At that juncture the old Moor was called away upon business, and I at once assured Zoraida that I would come for her on the morrow. She immediately threw her arms around my neck and began to walk toward the house, but her father returning at that moment espied us, and came running to us in some alarm. Immediately Zoraida pretended to be in a fainting condition, and explained to Agimorato that she had suddenly felt indisposed. I yielded her up to him and they retired into the house.
"Next evening we embarked and dropped anchor opposite Zoraida's dwelling. When darkness had come we walked boldly into the garden, and finding the gate of the house open entered the courtyard. Zoraida immediately emerged from the house carrying a small trunk full of treasure, and told us that her father was asleep, but as misfortune would have it, some slight noise that we made awakened him and he came to a window calling out, 'Thieves, thieves! Christians, Christians!' The renegade at once rushed upstairs and secured him, and we carried father and daughter on board. We also made prisoners of the few Moors who remained on the vessel, bent to the oars, and set out to sea.
"At first we endeavoured to make for Majorca, but a strong wind arising, we were driven along the coast. We were in great fear that we might encounter some of the Moorish cruisers which we knew to be in the vicinity. I made very effort in my power to assure Agrimorato that we would give him his liberty on the very first occasion, and told him that his daughter had become a Christian and desired to live the rest of her life in a Christian land. On hearing this, the old man behaved as if suddenly seized by a frenzy, and rising cast himself into the sea, whence we succeeded with difficulty in rescuing him. Shortly afterward we drove into a small bay, where we set Agrimorato ashore. I shall never forget his curses and imprecations upon his daughter, but as we sailed away he called out, begging her to return. However, she hid her face in her hands and commended him to the Virgin.
"We had proceeded some little distance from the coast when the light of the moon became obscured. All at once we nearly collided with a large vessel, which hailed as in French, bidding us to heave to. Perceiving that it was a French pirate, we made no answer, but pressed onward, whereupon its crew launched a boat, boarded us and dragged us on board, stripping Zoraida of all her jewels and throwing us into the hold. As we neared the Spanish shore next morning they placed us in their long-boat with two barrels of water and a small quantity of biscuits, and the captain, touched with some remorse for the lovely Zoraida, gave her at parting about forty crowns of gold. We rowed us through the early dawn, and after some hours of plying the oars landed. After proceeding some miles inland we came upon a shepherd, who on seeing our Moorish dress
made off and gave the alarm. Soon we encountered a company of horsemen, one of whom chanced to be related to one of our member. They placed us on their horses and we soon reached the city of Vedez Malaga. There we were brought to church to thank God for His great mercy upon us, and there for the first time Zoraida saw and recognized a picture of the Virgin. With some of the money the pirate had given Zoraida I bought an ass and resolved to discover whether or no my father and brothers were still alive. That is, gentlemen, the sum of our adventures."
The escaped Christian had scarcely finished his narration when a splendid coach drove up to the door of the inn. From this equipage there alighted a richly dressed gentleman and lady, who entered the posada and were met with great courtesy by Don Quixote. The Christian refugee recognized the gentleman as his brother, now a judge of the Court of Mexico, who greeted him affectionately and introduced the as his daughter. The man of many adventures with his Moorish bride resolved to return with the judge to Seville, whence they intended to advise their father of these strange happenings, that he might come to see the baptism and marriage of Zoraida, for whose future, and that of his sorely tired brother, the grandee resolved to make ample provision.
The Growth of Cervantes
It is in such a tale as the above that we observe how Cervantes style grows more supple and adaptable as his work proceeds. It is clear that he has made an effort to shake off the literary trammels of his time, and that he has succeeded. No longer does he find it necessary
to imitate such writers as Antonio de Guevara, as in the passage in which Don Quixote describes the Age of Gold. He has shaken off the rather recondite euphuism of some of the earlier passages, and has become more human and familiar. His speeches are appropriate to his characters; his dialogue is full of life and his narrative of incident. But although in these pages we behold the evolution of a realist, Cervantes never altogether throws off the cloak of the academic eloquenceonly it becomes a carefully restrained eloquence which has left affectation far behind.
The great and immediate success of Don Quixote was, however, principally due to its large humour, and to its faithful portraiture of the Spanish types of Cervantes day. Into juxtaposition with figures that were familiar to all he brought the extraordinary character of the Knight of the Rueful Countenance, disturbing its ordinary routine and quarreling with its conventions, carrying the days of chivalry in his head, and projecting their phantasms on the landscape by means of the all too powerful light of his imagination. But if the incongruity of the Don is a modern setting roused grave and sober Spain to inextinguishable laugher, his character and that of Sancho Panza were still recognized as triumphs of creative fictionthe representatives of imagination run mad and of the grossest common sense.
The perfection and finish of Don Quixote, and the consummate craftsmanship with which it is conceived,
cannot fail to commend themselves to readers of discretion. It is full of the knowledge of the man of the world; it breathes leisure and urbanity, its spirit is that which stamps the work of the great master. Here there are no loose ends, no clumsy constructions, no weaknesses of diction. It does not seem to me that Cervantes wrote with any great facility, and herein probably lies the measure of his great literary excellence. On the other hand, no drudgery is apparent in his composition. He strikes the happy medium between brilliant facility and that meticulous and often nervously apprehensive mode which so frequently disgraces the work of modern stylists. He is precise and wonderfully sure-footed, and we cannot imagine him grasping in alarm at every projection in the course of his ascent. Whatever the secret of his style, it succeed in producing a wonderfully equable yet varied narrative, just and appropriate in expression. His entire canvas is filled in and completed with a masterly eye to the smallest detail.
The Second Part of "Don Quixote"
We can see by the time which he permitted to elapse between the first and second parts of his great romance how careful Cervantes was not to hazard his well-won reputation upon an unfortunate sequel, and the fictioneer of our own time, harassed by a public greedy for sensation and flushed by momentary success, might well turn to him for an example in this respect. It is often alleged that the circumstances of modern literature do not permit the leisure which is necessary to the excogitation of a carefully developed technique or a sound style. This, alas! is only too true. The
successful author of to-day can scarcely permit ten months, much less ten years, to elapse between one effort and another, and to this feverish condition of things we undoubtedly owe those disappointing sequels to great novels with which all of us must be only too familiar. Ours is emphatically not an age of connoisseurs. We eat, drink, and read pretty much what is given us, and if we grumble a little at the quality thereof, we feel that no complaints will alter the conditions which produce the things against which we inveigh. The Spain of Cervantes day offered a much more critical environment. Bad or hastily conceived work it would not tolerate. But there were elements within it which frequently did much to hasten the publication of a sequel, and the chief of these was undoubtedly literary piracy. Cervantes appears to have been spurred on in the publication of the second part of Don Quixote by the appearance in 1614 of a book by Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda, a spurious sequel to the first portion of his great work, the preface of which is filled with personalities of the most insolent kind. That he resented the piracy is shown by the circumstance that he put all his other work aside and brought Don Quixote to a hurried conclusion.
In the last chapters of Don Quixote he was forced to write hastily because his rival had stolen his plan, and it was necessary for him to recast it as well as to bring out his novel with all speed. But, these blemishes notwithstanding, much of the sequel is truly epical in its grandeur. Don Quixote, if less amusing, is greatly more thought-provoking, and Sancho Panza becomes even richer in common sense and clear-sightedness. The portraiture of the remaining characters, too, is
sharper in outline than in the first part. The sequel, indeed, is a great mirror in which the Spanish society of Cervantes' day is reflected with all the thaumaturgy of genius. The immense success which followed it must have afforded the greatest gratification to the dying novelist, and must in great measure have consoled him for the disappointments of a career spent in the shallows of exile and poverty.
Lazarillo de Tormes
The greatest humorous romance which Spain had produced prior to Don Quixote was the Lazarillo de Tormes of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, a many-sided man and once Spanish Ambassador to England. He was of noble extraction on both sides, and was born in Granada in 1503. As a younger son he was destined for the Church, and studied at the university of Salamanca, where, while still a student, he wrote the novel which rendered him famous. Its graphic descriptions, its penetration into character, and its vivacity and humour instantly gained for it a high place in contemporary Spanish literature. But Mendoza soon exchanged the clerical for the political sphere of activity, and Charles V created him Captain-General of Siena, a small Italian republic which had been brought beneath Spanish rule. Haughty and unfeeling, Mendoza exercised a most tyrannical sway over the wretched people committed to his care. They complained bitterly to the Emperor regarding his conduct, and when this remained without effect, his life was attempted by assassination. On one occasion, indeed, his horse was killed under him by a musket-shot aimed at himself. During his absence Siena was captured by a French army, and as
the weakness of the city was attributed to his withdrawal of certain troops he was recalled to Spain in 1554.
But while thus employed in Italy as a statesman and a soldier Mendoza had not been idle in a literary sense, for he had written his political commentaries, a paraphrase of Aristotle, a treatise on mechanics, and other notable works, none of which, however, have achieved for him a tithe of the popularity of his first literary effort.
Lazaro, or, to give him his diminutive name, Lazarillo, was the son of a miller who plied his trade by the banks of the river Tormes, from which he took his name. When he was only ten years old his father was killed in a campaign against the Moors, and as his mother was unable to support him she gave him into the charge of a blind man who wandered about the country as a beggar. While at the bridge of Salamanca the boy noticed an animal carved in stone in the form of a bull, and was told by his master that if he placed his ear to the effigy he would hear it roar. He did so, when the old man gave his head such a violent thump against it as almost to bereave him of sense, and, laughing brutally, told him that a blind man's boy must needs have his wits about him. "I have no silver or gold to give you," said he, "but what is far better, I can impart to you the result of my experiences, which will always enable you to live."
The little Lazarillo had much difficulty in getting enough food to keep body and soul together. The old beggar kept his bread and meat in a linen knapsack, the neck of which was tightly secured. But the boy made a small rent in one of the seams of the bag, and thus helped himself to the choicest pieces of meat, bacon, and
sausage. It was his task also to receive the alms which charitable people bestowed on the blind man, and part of this he secreted in his mouth, until, by dint of practice, he was able to hide a goodly treasure of copper money in that receptacle. It irked him on a hot day to watch the beggar drinking his wine while he himself went thirsty. The wine was kept in a large jar, and from time to time he managed to get a sip of the cooling liquor. But his master soon discovered the practice and kept the jar between his knees, with his hand on its mouth. Lazarillo therefore bored a small hole in the bottom of the jar, which he closed with wax. At dinnertime, when the blind beggar sat over the fire, the wax melted, and Lazarillo, putting his mouth to the hole, absorbed the wine. His master was enraged and surprised when he found that the liquor had vanished, and attributed its disappearance to magical means. But the next time his charge attempted the feat the crafty old mendicant seized the jar with both hands and dealt him such a blow on the face with it as to break the vessel and wound the boy severely. From that day Lazarillo bore a grudge against the sightless old tyrant, and took a sly revenge by guiding him over the worst roads he could find and through the deepest mud.
Resolving to quit a service the perquisites of which were all kicks and no halfpence, Lazarillo led his master to the Arcade at Escalona, beside which a brook ran rather swiftly. In order to cross this it was necessary either to jump or to wade almost up to the neck in water, and when this was explained to him the old beggar chose the former method of negotiating it. The crafty Lazarillo told him that the narrowest place was Opposite a great stone pillar, and the wretched mendicant, taking
a step or two backward to give him impetus, leapt with such force that he crashed into the pillar, at the bottom of which he immediately fell unconscious. With a shout of triumph Lazarillo ran off and from that day never set eyes upon the blind man again.
The next master whose service he entered was a priest, and if his experiences with the beggar had been unhappy, they were as nothing to what he now had to bear, for the holy man was a miser of the most pitiful description, and starved him in a shameful manner. He kept his bread in a large wooden chest, to which Lazarillo got a travelling tinker to fit a key during the priest's absence, and was thus able to regale himself daily, until his miserly master discovered the shortage. This he attributed to rats, and as there were several holes in the box he carefully mended it with small pieces of wood; but still the bread disappeared, and as one of the neighbours had seen a snake in the priests domicile the padre concluded that this reptile was the cause of the depredations. To avoid discovery, Lazarillo slept with the key of the chest in his mouth, but one night his breathing caused a whistling sound upon the orifice of the implement, and the old priest, taking this for the hissing of the snake, delivered such a shrewd blow in the direction of the noise as to render the unfortunate Lazarillo an invalid for some considerable time. When he had recovered, the old priest took him by the hand and, leading him into the street, said to him, "Lazarillo my son, thou hast great natural gifts ; thou art indeed far too clever for an old man like me, and I assure thee that I do not wish to see thee more. Farewell."
Lazarillo, however, was not long in attaching himself to another master, who appeared to be a gentleman of
birth and breeding. But now he found that he was in worse straits than ever, as though his master seemed a cavalier of family, he had not a penny in the world, and was entirely dependent for his daily bread upon what the boy could beg from charitably disposed persons. One day the landlord called for the rent, and the gentleman, assuring him that he would fetch it from his banker's, sallied forth and never returned, so that once more the wretched urchin was without a master.
He next succeeded in obtaining the patronage of a pardoner who travelled from place to place selling indulgences and relics. On one occasion they stayed at an inn, where his master struck up a friendship with an alguazil, or constable. One night the pair sat late carousing, when a quarrel arose between them, and next day, as the pardoner was preaching in the church preparatory to selling his wares, the alguazil entered and denounced him as an impostor. The pardoner, with a great show of piety, prayed loudly that the heavenly powers would vindicate his character and would punish the alguazil, who immediately fell to the ground in the most dreadful convulsions. Some of the congregation prayed the pardoner that he would attempt some mitigation of the wrath of heaven upon his traducer, and the holy man stepped from the pulpit and laid a bull which he pretended he had received from the Pope upon the sufferer's forehead. The man instantly rose as if cured, and the people, convinced that a miracle had occurred, at once bought up the pardoner's entire stock. But the acute Lazarillo soon discovered that the pair had been in league with one another.
The last master to whose service Lazarillo attached himself was the Arch-priest of Salvador, in whose
service he flourished exceedingly, and one of whose servants he married. But scandal crept into his household, and with the death of his wife he found himself as poor as ever.
Here the tale ends. It is impossible in such a brief sketch as this to do justice to the great degree of insight into the workings of the human heart which characterizes the authorship of this little novel, the first of its kind. Lazarillo de Tormes was the forerunner and exemplar of the entire school of the Picaresque novel, which at a later date became almost typical of Spanish fiction, and which gave rise to such masterpieces as Guzman de Aifarache, the Gil Bias of Le Sage, and the novels of Scarron, and the spirit of which to some extent was mirrored in our own Laurence Sterne; nor is its influence by any means defunct, as can readily be seen by reference to certain of the works of Mr Maurice Hewlett and Mr Jeffery Farnol.
Guzman de Alfarache
Mateo Aleman, the author of the great Picaresque romance of Guzman de Alfarache, was a native of Seville.
Throwing up a Government appointment in early life, he crossed the sea to Mexico, where in 1609 he published a work on Spanish orthography and several treatises in Latin. But the effort which has gained for him the title of novelist was his Vita del Picaro Guzman de Alfarache, a work which has been translated into every European language from the date of its first appearance in 1599. Although written in the most correct and approved literary style, it is yet easy and familiar in manner, and is unrivalled in the picture it presents not only of the lowest grades of Castilian
society, but of the more exclusive orders of life at the period in which he wrote.
"My ancestors," he says, "were originally from the Levant, but settled in Genoa and employed themselves in the mercantile life of that city in such a manner that they were accused of usury."
Thus the stock from which the lively adventurer came was of such a character as to bring him at an early age into contact with the realities of roguery. But if his relations were by no means particular in trade, they concealed their ignominious conduct under the cloak of hypocrisy and social correctness. They never failed to be present at Mass, and the finger of reproach could not be pointed against their family life. Before Guzman was born his father learned that one of his correspondents at Seville had become bankrupt, and setting out for Spain in order to investigate his affairs on the spot, he was captured by an Algerine pirate, adopted the religion of Mohammed, and married a Moorish lady. His agent at Seville, having heard of what had happened to his principal creditor, adjusted his affairs without him, and was soon in a better condition than ever. But the elder de Alfarache succeeded in making his escape, and, coming to Seville, demanded a reckoning from his rascally business confrère, from whom he succeeded in extorting a considerable sum. He set himself up in business at Seville, and bought an estate, which he named St Juan de Alfarache. Here he lived right royally, and, having married the wealthy widow of an old knight, he found himself in a fortunate position. Soon after this his son Guzman was born. But de Alfarache was unfortunately prone to the distractions of company, splendour, and show, and having dissipated most of his means, ere long
became himself bankrupt, and shortly afterward paid the debt of nature.
His widow and the little Guzman were only indifferently provided for, and when the boy had entered his fourteenth year he resolved to seek his fortune, and set out for Genoa, in the hope that his father's relations would extend their assistance to him. Soon he arrived at a miserable tavern, where he asked for something to eat, and was given an omelet, which, he says, might more properly have been called an "egg poultice," but which he attacked "as hogs do acorns.' Leaving the inn, he soon felt very ill, and in a condition bordering upon collapse he encountered a muleteer, to whom he described the unsavoury meal he had just eaten, and who laughed heartily at his story. The kindly fellow told him to jump on one of his mules, and soon they were trotting nimbly eastward. Shortly after this they met two friars, and arrived at an inn, where they were given another indifferent meal, which the host extolled so much that the simple boy was fain to swallow the mess without making any great ado. But to his horror he later discovered that it had been made from the flesh of a young mule. On being challenged with this the innkeeper drew a long sword, whereupon the muleteer seized a pitchfork, and murder would have been done had not the town police separated the parties. The dishonest landlord was taken to prison, but although he confessed to passing off the mule for veal he would not admit that he had stolen Guzman's cloak, which had gone amissing, and the boy had perforce to leave the place minus this article of apparel.
Riding on their way, Guzman and the muleteer were soon overtaken on the road by two persons on mules,
who examined them with the greatest attention, and then quite suddenly threw themselves upon the unfortunate lad, asserting that he had stolen some jewels of value. The muleteer interfered, but only to receive a rough handling, and the strangers tied the comrades to their mules with cords. At this juncture the party was joined once more by the friars, who amused themselves by telling tales, the morals of which hinged upon the mutability of human affairs; but these are much too long and too slightly connected with the thread of our story to be repeated here. The party then arrived at the gates of Cazalla, and the officers of the law, finding that they had made a mistake in arresting Guzman, gave him his liberty. He put up at the best inn that the place afforded, and on the following morning took the direct road to Madrid on foot. At an inn on the outskirts of the capital he met with a beneficent priest, who shared his meal with him, but in the morning the landlord attempted to overcharge him, and was about to take his coat in payment of his bill when the muleteer, who had rejoined him, interfered, and gave it as his opinion that Guzman had run away from home. The villainous landlord, seeing in this some hope of enriching himself, offered to take the lad into his service as a kind of stable-boy, his duty being to band out straw and oats to the muleteers who put up at the place. Here the young Guzman was initiated into habits of dishonesty and sharp practice, for when a cavalier or person of consequence visited the inn he usually doled out a mere handful of provender to his horses 'or mules, while charging him the usual sum for it. The place was, indeed, a regular sink of iniquity, and for Guzman life became so miserable that, relying
upon the little money he had saved, and selling his coat and waistcoat, he absconded, and joined a passing company of beggars. These people lived right royally on what they begged and what they poached. They were inveterate gamblers, and in the evening Guzman found every opportunity of picking up tricks with playing-cards. Soon after, however, he took employment as scullion to a cook in the service of a nobleman.
Guzman as Scullion
In this situation Guzman passed a jovial time, for there was no lack of good cheer in the knight's establishment. Albeit the lad did his work to admiration. But the vice of gambling seized upon him, and every day he joined the lackeys and pages at cards, often sitting up all night to indulge in this pastime. In this way he soon got rid of the money he received in gratuities, and being short of funds wherewith to gratify his passion for gaming, began to pilfer such small articles as he could find about the house, excusing himself by saying that he only did as others did. One day his master had given a great carouse to some friends, and Guzman entered the room where they had been drinking to find them fast asleep. On the table he observed a large silver goblet, and this he purloined. The cook's wife soon missed the article, and inquiries with regard to it were set afoot, whereupon the cunning youngster, taking the cup to a jeweller, had it cleaned in such a manner that it resembled a new one. Carrying it back to the woman, who was in great fear that her master would hear of the loss, he told her that he had found a similar goblet at a jeweller's, which he could procure for fifty-six reales, and, anxious to avert trouble, she at once gave him the sum to purchase
it. The money thus dishonestly won was instantly thrown in gaming, and Guzman was no better off than before.
About this time the cook was requested to prepare a splendid dinner for a foreign nobleman who had newly arrived at Madrid. A large sack containing game was entrusted to the lad, and this he carried home, but as it was late he took it up to his own garret. In the middle of the night he was wakened by cats, who fought over one of the hares which he had brought home. Seeing that this was not missed, and that his brother lackeys stole the provisions right and left, Guzman presently slipped half a dozen eggs into his pocket. But the head cook observed him do so, and dealt him such a furious kick that he fell, and the broken eggs gushed from his pocket, to the amusement of all present. Guzman however, managed to embezzle a couple of partridges and some quails. These he took to sell to another cook, but his master, suspecting him, followed and discovered what he was about, and immediately dismissed him after thrashing him soundly.
After this nothing was left for the young adventurer but to return to his old trade of running errands. He soon heard that certain troops were about to be embarked for Genoa, and resolved to follow them and enlist. A certain old apothecary, who had always found him honest in his dealings, sent him to a foreign merchant with a large quantity of silver, and this Guzman secreted in a large hole by the riverside. In the morning he returned to the place, and, digging up the bags of money, found that they contained two thousand five hundred reales in silver and thirty pistoles in gold. Slinging the bags on his back, to resemble a traveller's pack, he
set off in the direction of Toledo, making his way across the fields and carefully avoiding the high road. Arriving within two leagues of Toledo, he entered a wood, where he intended to rest the whole of the day, as he did not wish to approach the city till nightfall. His plan was to betake himself to Genoa and introduce himself to his relations, and he was thinking of the best way to lay out his money in order to reach them and make a good appearance before them, when he heard a noise and, turning hastily, beheld a young man of about his own age reclining on the ground, with his head against a tree. Guzman shared his wine with him, and the youth informed him that he was penniless. Guzman offered to buy some of the clothes he carried with him in a bundle, and, opening one of his money-bags, reassured him as to his ability to pay. For a hundred reales a handsome suit changed hands, and, taking leave of the stranger, Guzman entered Toledo, where he at once put up at the best inn. Next day he fitted himself out with such articles of attire as he required, but his vanity got the better of him, and he ordered a most magnificent suit, which cost him a long price. On Sunday he betook himself to the cathedral, where he met a very fine lady, who asked him to accompany her home to supper. For this occasion Guzman ordered a magnificent feast, but the pair had hardly sat down to partake of it when a loud knocking was heard at the door, and the lady cried out in alarm that her brother had returned and that he had better conceal himself. The only place in which he could do so with advantage was inside a great inverted bath, and from this place of concealment he had the mortification of beholding the gentleman who entered devour the gorgeous supper which he had
provided and drink every drop of the four bottles of wine he had purchased for his own use. Soon the gentleman, having eaten and drunk thus sumptuously, fell sound asleep, and Guzman took the opportunity of stealing from the house, a sadder but a wiser lad.
Hearing that an alguazil had been inquiring very particularly regarding him, Guzman hurriedly left Toledo, and, arriving at the town of Almagro, joined the company of soldiers who were bound for Genoa. Their captain, taken with his distinguished appearance, hailed him as a brother in arms, and treated him as an equal. Guzman had engaged the services of a page at Toledo, and this little rascal assisted him greatly in his new sphere by spreading the report that he was a gentleman of consequence. But our hero's purse was now sadly depleted, although he had still about half of his ill-gotten gains left. Instead of embarking at once the company remained at Barcelona for three months, so that his resources soon gave out, and he was neglected by the officers, and even avoided by the soldiers. His captain, indeed, condoled with him, and offered him a place in his household at the servants' table, assuring him that this was all he could do for him, as he himself was compelled to dine out from his utter incapacity to receive his friends at home. Guzman assured him of his gratitude, and hinted that he might in turn be able to assist him. The soldiers were billeted in the village, and Guzman commenced a system of imposing a larger number of men upon each house than was necessary, or at least threatening to do so, so that the anxious inhabitants were only too glad to buy him off. In this manner he completely re-established the captain's finances, and as presents of provisions poured in from
the frightened villagers the young rascal and his chief lived well. But he now grew bolder, and, selecting half a dozen of the most desperate men in the company, began to rob passengers on the high road. His captain, learning of this, however, immediately put a stop to such dangerous proceedings.
One day Guzman observed that among the few jewels the captain still had left to him there was a very handsome gold reliquary set with diamonds, and this he begged his superior to lend him for a few days. The audacious stripling at once took it to a jeweller's, to whom he offered it for two hundred crowns. But the man would only tender him a hundred and twenty, and this Guzman refused. The jeweller called upon him next day to renew his offer, which the lad accepted. Guzman handed him the purse in which the reliquary was kept, receiving the hundred and twenty crowns in exchange. But the old fellow had scarcely left the house when the young adventurer raised a cry of "Stop thief! Stop thief!" Some soldiers immediately arrested the jeweller, and Guzman cried out that he had robbed him of the captain's reliquary. The jeweller assured the arquebusiers that he had paid a hundred and twenty crowns for the article, but this Guzman denied. The wretched goldsmith was haled before a magistrate, and, as he had a bad reputation for usury, was forced to disgorge the reliquary. But although the captain was glad enough to get the money thus scurvily gained, he f~ared that further association with such a rascal as de Alfarache would ruin him. In a few days the company set sail for Genoa, and when they had arrived there his superior intimated that they must part, at the same time thrusting a pistole into his hand.
Tormented by Devils
The young adventurer now began to make inquiries about his relations, and was informed that they were the most rich and powerful persons in the republic. He inquired the way to their mansion, where he was but ill received, all the more so as his appearance was shabby in the extreme. But as he had taken care to make his relationship to them public property, they could not very well repulse him. One evening he met a venerable-looking old man, who told him that he had known his father, and that he felt quite indignant at the behaviour of his relations toward him, and offered him an asylum at his own house. Without giving him anything to eat, he at once sent him to bed, where the wretched lad lay tormented by the pangs of hunger. Before he went to sleep the old man informed him that the room he occupied had the reputation of being haunted by evil spirits. Famished and restless, Guzman lay awake, when to his horror four figures in the shape of devils entered the chamber and dragged him out of bed. Throwing him into a blanket, they tossed him in the air with such violence that he struck the ceiling again and again, until, exhausted by the exercise, they placed him in bed once more and departed. In the early morning, stiff, sore, and dejected, Guzman crawled from the mansion, but he registered an oath never to forget the detestable manner in which his acquaintance had treated him, and resolved to be avenged upon him at the first opportunity.
Guzman Joins the Beggars of Rome
Leaving Genoa in this miserable plight, in which he compares himself to one of those who escaped from the
battle of Roncesvalles, Guzman resolved to make his way to Rome. Italy, he says, is the most charitable country in the world, and anyone who can beg can travel within its bounds without concerning himself about his next meal. In a few weeks he found himself in the Roman Catholic capital, with money enough in his pocket to buy a new suit of clothes, but he resisted the temptation to do so, and wandered about the streets of the Imperial city seeking alms. He soon fell in with a comrade in distress, who enlightened him regarding the manners and customs of the beggars of Rome and who gave him such good instructions that he soon received more money than he could spend. In a short time Guzman was a perfect master of the trade of begging. After spending some weeks in this kind of life he fell in with one of the master-beggars of the city, who instructed him in the laws of begging, which he sets forth at length in his autobiography. These laws Guzman got by heart. The beggars lived together, and met in the evening to practise and invent new exclamations to excite pity. In the morning there was usually a scramble among them to see who could get nearest the holy water at the entrance to the churches, for there it was that the greatest harvest was reaped, and in the evening the beggars usually made a round of the country seats in the neighbourhood of Rome, whence they returned laden with provisions. Nearly all of the beggars were adepts at simulating bodily malformations or loathsome diseases. On one occasion, in the town of Gaeta, Guzman simulated a terrible disease of the head, and the Governor, who was passing, gave him alms. Next day he sat at the porch of a church with what appeared to be a grievous affection of the leg, and
much money was flowing in upon him, when unhappily the Governor chanced to pass, and recognizing him, told him that he would give him some cast-off clothing if he would follow him home. Arrived there the Governor asked him by what singular remedy he had contrived to cure himself of his former complaint within the short space of one day, and without waiting for an answer sent for a surgeon, who, on examining the leg, assured the Governor that it was perfectly sound. The Governor then handed Guzman over to his lackeys, who trounced him severely and thrust him forth from the town.
One morning our rascally hero had posted himself at the gate of a certain Cardinal celebrated for his compassionate disposition, who, on passing and hearing his plaint, told his domestics to convey the seeming sufferer to a chamber in his mansion and attend to his wants. Guzman had once more simulated a terrible disease of the leg, and the Cardinal, observing this, sent for two of the most celebrated surgeons in Rome. Their preparations were of such a nature that Guzman feared they were about to amputate his leg, so when they consulted together in an adjoining room he went to the door to listen to what they were saying. One of them gave it as his opinion that the disorder was merely a bogus one, but the other as warmly maintained that it was genuine. At length they agreed to lay their deliberations before the Cardinal, and were about to do so when Guzman, entering the room where they consulted, admitted his fraud, and proposed that they should combine in deceiving the Cardinal. To this the surgeons agreed, and when his Eminence appeared they made the most alarming and touching report
regarding Guzman's sham disorder. The Cardinal, who was a man of lofty character and unsuspicious nature, begged them to take as much time as they thought proper in effecting a cure, and to neglect nothing that might contribute to the patient's recovery. So anxious were the surgeons to pile up their fees that they compelled Guzman to keep his bed for three months, which appeared three ages to him, so keen was his desire to return to the gaming which had become second nature to him. At the end of this time they presented their bill to the Cardinal, telling him that a complete cure had been effected, and so pleased was the churchman at having assisted in so remarkable a case, and so keen his appreciation of Guzman's native wit, that he ended by taking the youthful charlatan into his service as one of his pages.
Guzman was, however, not very well satisfied with his new life, which in great measure consisted in waiting in ante-chambers and serving at table. The discipline was rigorous, and all that he could purloin was a few candle-ends. But he found that a large quantity of very fine preserved fruit was kept in a certain chest, and to this he applied himself. The Cardinal discovered the peculation, yet failed to trace it to its source; but when Guzman was rifling the chest on a second occasion his Eminence entered and caught him in the act. He received a thorough castigation at the hands of the major-domo, which put an end to his knaveries for some considerable time.
Guzman Cheats a Banker
But Guzman played so many tricks in the Cardinal's palace that at length this excellent prelate had to
dispense with his services. He then entered the service of the Spanish Ambassador, who was a friend of the Cardinal's, and who knew all about our hero's capacities. After some considerable time spent in the service of this dignitary, Guzman resolved to leave Rome for a tour through Italy. Shortly before this he had encountered a Spaniard called Sayavedra, with whom he became very friendly. Provided with about three hundred pistoles and some jewels, which he had purloined from the ambassador, Guzman set out on his travels. But Sayavedra had taken a wax impression of Guzman's keys, and pilfered his luggage before he left, so that if it had not been for the generosity of the ambassador he could not have left Rome. At Siena, however, Guzman fell in with Sayavedra once more, who entreated him to pardon his perfidy, and offered to become his servant. Guzman, who was sorry for his miserable condition, agreed to the proposal, and the pair, going to Florence, began to concert measures for improving their position. It was bruited abroad that Guzman was a nephew of the Spanish Ambassador, arid he even had the insolence to present himself at Court, where he was received by the Grand Duke in that capacity. Here he met a charming widow of great wealth, with whom he fell violently in love. But her relatives, making inquiries about him, discovered that he had once begged in the streets of Rome, and he was forced to leave the city. At Bologna he gained a good deal of money at play, and on arriving at Milan he and Sayavedra took apartments in that city and cast about for some means of putting their newly acquired funds to use. Here they soon fell in with a rascally friend employed as clerk in a banker's house, and concerted
with him as to how they should relieve his master of his surplus wealth. Guzman called upon the banker and told him he wished to deposit with him about twelve thousand francs in gold. He was well received, and -the financier entered his name and other particulars in his daybook. On his way home he bought a gilt casket, which he filled with pieces of lead, and, giving this to Sayavedra, along with a bag of real money, enjoined that he should get into conversation with the landlord of the inn where they were staying, and tell him that he was taking the cash to the banker's house which of course he was not to do. The banker's clerk got false keys made to fit his master's coffer, and, when the latter was at Mass on Sunday, he opened it and placed therein the gilt casket, which, instead of lead, now contained ten quadruples, thirty Roman crowns, and a written account of its contents. He then counterfeited his master's handwriting, and completed the entry in the daybook which he had begun, making it appear that not only the casket, but all the money in the coffer, had been credited to Guzman.
On the Monday Guzman called at the banker's and asked him very politely to return the cash that had been sent to him a few days before. The man naturally denied that any sum had been lodged with him at all, where-upon Guzman made so great an outcry that a large crowd collected, and the quarrel assumed such a serious aspect that a constable appeared on the scene, accompanied by the landlord of the inn at which Guzman was staying. Guzman asserted that if the banker's books were examined the sum he mentioned would be found noted in them, and on the daybook being produced this was proved to be the case. The wretched banker admitted that part
of the writing was in his own hand, and this was sufficient to incense the crowd, with whom he had a very bad reputation for usury and sharp practice. Guzman, too, was able to give a most circumstantial account of the contents of the coffer, which, on being opened, was found, to the banker's amazement, to contain the gilt casket he spoke of and the exact sum named by him, including even the various coinages he had enumerated and the written note of its contents. The landlord was able to corroborate Guzman's ownership of the casket, and as the evidence seemed conclusive the local magistrate awarded him the money, which he divided with his confederates.
Guzman now resolved to return to Genoa for the purpose of being revenged upon the relatives who had treated him so scurvily upon his previous visit to that city. Disguising himself as a Spanish abbot of consequence, he put up at the best inn of the place, and his relatives, learning of his arrival, and of the pomp he displayed, hastened to pay their respects to him. They failed to identify him with the ragged and friendless urchin who had sought their assistance some years before, and his uncle even retailed the adventure of the devils to him as if it had been played upon an impostor. Guzman completely gained their confidence, and as he had plenty of money to spare they readily entrusted to his keeping a valuable collection of jewels, which he told them a friend desired to borrow for his wedding ceremony. With these he and Sayavedra made off to Spain, but on the way the latter fell ill of a fever, and, rushing on the deck of the galley, threw himself overboard and was drowned.
Guzman, reaching his native country, after a number
of adventures arrived in Madrid, where he sold his jewels to a rich merchant, who, believing him to be a person of consequence, gave him his daughter in marriage. The merchant relied upon Guzman's supposed wealth to further his financial operations, Guzman relied upon his father-in-law's equally supposititious resources, and as the extravagant young wife relied on both, all were soon plunged into bankruptcy. The shock was too much for the lady, and she expired, but her cunning parent succeeded in saving sufficient from the wreck to commence business once more.
Guzman, however, was tired of the world of finance, and decided to invest the remainder of his ill-gotten gains in studying for the Church. With this object in view, he betook himself to the university of Alcala de Henares, where he took his Bachelor of Arts degree, and after four years hard reading at divinity only awaited a benefice to permit him to graduate as a full-fledged priest, when evil influences once more began to beset him. He made the acquaintance of a lady who had a family of daughters, with one of whom he became infatuated, and whom he married. The pair betook themselves to Madrid, where they embarked upon an adventurous career, after some years of which the lady eloped, taking with her everything of value which she could lay hands upon. By this time Guzman had presented himself to his mother, who, so far from dissuading him from his evil courses, assisted him in his schemes of roguery, so that shortly, going from bad to worse, he found himself doomed to a long period of servitude in the royal galleys. But here he was able to assist the authorities in discovering a mutiny, for which he was rewarded with his freedom.
At this stage we take our leave of the most consummate rogue in fiction; but if Guzman de Alfarache is perhaps the most wily scoundrel in the records of romance, he is certainly one of the most original and amusing. It is noticeable, however, that his career, on the whole, was not a remunerative one, and that when he makes his farewell bow to us he is no better off than when we first encountered him. Perhaps the most amusing thing about his narrative is the sham propriety of tone in which it is couched-a style which was almost slavishly copied by Le Sage in his Gil Blas, who was not only obliged to this novel for its general atmosphere, but for many of the incidents which occur in his celebrated work.
We have trodden the ways of Spanish story, sublime, mock-heroic, and humorous. Perhaps no chapter in the world's literature is so rich in colour, or displays such a variety of mood and sentiment. Still the key-note is one of noble and dignified beauty, of chivalrous distinction, of exquisite propriety, courteous, immaculate, and unspotted by vulgarity or sordid meanness. The wine-cup of Spanish romance is filled with the heart's blood of a nation august, knightly, imaginative, a people who have preferred ideals to gross realities, and the heights of national aristocracy to the deserts of false democracy "Poor Spain!" How often does the Anglo-Saxon utter the phrase in complacent self-assurance? With the solace of such a treasure-house of poetic and romantic wealth as she possesses, Spain may well rest in assured hope of the return of the brave days in praise of which her trovadores struck the lyre and her poets sang in stately
epic. Poor Spain! Nay, golden Spain-enchanted cavern, glowing with the spoil of song, the rainbow treasure of legend, and the gem-like radiance of immortal romance!
Her citizens, imperial spirits,
Rule the present from the past;
On all this world of men inherits
Their seal is set.