صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

another story from the same Italian novelist that supplied our last. Our author is Massuccio of Salerno, a novelist who disputes with Bandello the rank next in popularity to Boccaccio. We have not the original by us, and must be obliged to an English work for the groundwork of our story, as we have been to Paynter's Palace of Pleasure for the one just related. But we take the liberty usual with the repeaters of these stories; we retain the incidents, but tell them in our own way, and imagine what might happen in the intervals.

16

men.

Two Neapolitan sharpers, having robbed a Genoese merchant of his purse, make the best of their way to Sienna, where they arrive during the preaching of St. Bernardin. One of them attends a sermon with an air of conspicuous modesty and devotion, and afterwards waits upon the preacher, and addresses him thus: "Reverend father, you see before you a man, poor indeed, but honest. I do not mean to boast; God knows, I have no reason. Who upon earth has reason, unless it be one who will be the last to boast, like yourself, holy father?" Here the saintly orator shook his head. "I do not mean," resumed the stranger, to speak even of the reverend and illustrious Bernardin, but as of a man among For my part, I am, as it were, a creeping thing among them; and yet I am honest. If I have any virtue, it is that. I crawl right onward in my path, looking neither to the right nor to the left; and yet I have my temptations. Reverend father, I have found this purse. I will not deny, that being often in want of the common necessaries of life, and having been obliged last night, in particular, to sit down faint at the city gates, for want of my ordinary crust and onion, which I had given to one (God help him) still worse off than myself, I did cast some looks-I did, I say, just open the purse, and cast a wistful eye at one of those shining pieces, that lay one over the other inside, with something like a wish that I could procure myself a meal with it, unknown to the lawful proprietor. But my conscience, thank Heaven, prevailed. I have to make two requests to you, reverend father. First, that you will absolve me for this my offence; and second, that you will be pleased to mention in one of your discourses, that a poor sinner from Milan, on his road to hear them, has found a purse, and would willingly restore it to the right owner. I would fain give double the contents of it to find him out; but then, what can I do? All the wealth I have consists in my honesty. Be pleased, most illustrious father, to mention

In the original edition of the Indicator this article was divided into three numbers. Perhaps it would have been better had the division been retained; but perplexities occur in hastily correcting a work for a new edition, which the reader will have the goodness to

excuse.

this in your discourse, as modestly as becomes my nothingness; and to add especially, that the purse was found on the road from Milan, lying, miraculously as it were, upon a sunny bank, open to the view of all, under an olivetree, not far from a little fountain, the pleasant noise of which peradventure had invited the owner to sleep." The good father, at hearing this detail, smiled at the anxious sincerity of the poor pilgrim, and, giving him the required absolution, promised to do his utmost to bring forth the proprietor. In his next sermon, he accordingly dwelt with such eloquence on the opportunities thrown in the way of the rich who lose purses to behave nobly, that his congregation several times half rose from their seats out of enthusiasm, and longed for some convenient loss of property, that might enable them to show their disinterestedness. At the conclusion of it, however, a man stepped forward, and said, that anxious as he was to do justice to the finder of the purse, which he knew to be his the moment he saw it (only he was loth to interrupt the reverend father), he had claims upon him at home, in the person of his wife and thirteen children,-fourteen perhaps, he might now say,-which, to his great sorrow, prevented him from giving the finder more than a quarter of a piece; this however he offered him with the less scruple, since he saw the seraphic disposition of the reverend preacher and his congregation, who he had no doubt would make ample amends for this involuntary deficiency on the part of a poor family man, the whole portion of whose wife and children might be said to be wrapped up in that purse. His sleep under the olive-tree had been his last for these six nights (here the other man said, with a tremulous joy of acknowledgment, that it was indeed just six nights since he had found it); and Heaven only knew whe he should have had another, if his children's bread, so to speak, had not been found again." With these words, the sharper (for such, of course, he was) presented the quarter of a piece to his companion, who made all but a prostration for it; and hastened with the purse out of the church. The other man's circumstances were then inquired into, and as he was found to have almost as many children as the purse-owner, and no possessions at all, as he said, but his honesty,-all his children being equally poor and pious, a considerable subscription was raised for him; so large indeed, that on the appearance of a new claimant next day, the pockets of the good people were found empty. This was no other than the Genoese merchant, who having turned back on his road when he missed his purse, did not stop till he came to Sienna, and heard the news of the day before. Imagine the feelings of the deceived people! Saint Bernardin was convinced that the two cheats

D

were devils in disguise. The resident canon had thought pretty nearly as much all along, but had held his tongue, and now hoped it would be a lesson to people not to listen to everybody who could talk, especially to the neglect of Saint Antonio's monastery. As to the people themselves, they thought variously. Most of them were mortified at having been cheated; and some swore they never would be cheated again, let appearances be what they might. Others thought that this was a resolution somewhat equivocal, and more convenient than happy. For our parts, we think the last were right: and this reminds us of a true English story, more good than striking, which we heard a short while ago from a friend. He knew a man of rugged manners, but good heart (not that the two things, as a lover of parentheses will say, are at all bound to go together), who had a wife somewhat given to debating with hackney-coachmen, and disputing acts of settlement respecting halfmiles, and quarter-miles, and abominable additional sixpences. The good housewife was lingering at the door, and exclaiming against one of these monstrous charioteers, whose hoarse low voice was heard at intervals, full of lying protestations and bad weather, when the husband called out from a back-room, "Never mind there, never mind:-let her be cheated; let her be cheated."

This is a digression; but it is as well to introduce it, in order to take away a certain bitterness out of the mouth of the other's moral.

We now come to a very unromantic set of rogues; the Spanish ones. In a poetical sense, at least, they are unromantic; though doubtless the mountains of Spain have seen as picturesque vagabonds in their time as any. There are the robbers in Gil Blas, who have, at least, a respectable cavern, and loads of polite superfluities. Who can forget the loftynamed Captain Rolando, with his sturdy height and his whiskers, showing with a lighted torch his treasure to the timid stripling, Gil Blas? The most illustrious theft in Spanish story is one recorded of no less a person than the fine old national hero, the Cid. As the sufferers were Jews, it might be thought that his conscience would not have hurt him in those days; but "My Cid" was a kind of early soldier in behalf of sentiment; and though he went to work roughly, he meant nobly and kindly. "God knows," said he, on the present occasion, "I do this thing more of necessity than of wilfulness; but by God's help I shall redeem all." The case was this. The Cid, who was too good a subject to please his master, the king, had quarrelled with him, or rather, had been banished; and nobody was to give him house-room or food. A number of friends, however, followed him; and by the help of his nephew, Martin Antolinez, he pro

posed to raise some money. Martin accordingly negotiated the business with a couple of rich Jews, who, for a deposit of two chests full of spoil, which they were not to open for a year, on account of political circumstances, agreed to advance six hundred marks. "Well, then," said Martin Antolinez, "ye see that the night is advancing; the Cid is in haste, give us the marks." "This is not the way of business," said they; "we must take first, and then give." Martin accordingly goes with them to the Cid, who in the meantime has filled a couple of heavy chests with sand. The Cid smiled as they kissed his hand, and said, "Ye see I am going out of the land because of the king's displeasure; but I shall leave something with ye." The Jews made a suitable answer, and were then desired to take the chests; but, though strong men, they could not raise them from the ground. This put them in such spirits, that after telling out the six hundred marks (which Don Martin took without weighing), they offered the Cid a present of a fine red skin; and upon Don Martin's suggesting that he thought his own services in the business merited a pair of hose, they consulted a minute with each other, in order to do everything judiciously, and then gave him money enough to buy, not only the hose, but a rich doublet and good cloak into the bargain*.

The regular sharping rogues, however, that abound in Spanish books of adventure, have one species of romance about them of a very peculiar nature. It may be called, we fear, as far as Spain is concerned, a 66 romance of real life." We allude to the absolute want and hunger which is so often the original of their sin. A vein of this craving nature runs throughout most of the Spanish novels. In other countries theft is generally represented as the result of an abuse of plenty, or of some other kind of profligacy, or absolute ruin. But it seems to be an understood thing, that to be poor in Spain is to be in want of the commonest necessaries of life. If a poor man, here and there, happens not to be in so destitute a state as the rest, he thinks himself bound to maintain the popular character for an appetite, and manifests the most prodigious sense of punctuality and anticipation in all matters relating to meals. Who ever thinks of Sancho, and does not think of ten minutes before luncheon? Don Quixote, on the other hand, counts it ungenteel and undignified to be hungry. The cheat who flatters Gil Blas

* See Mr. Southey's excellent compilation entitled The Chronicles of the Cid, book iii. sec. 21. The version at the end of the book, attributed to Mr. Hookham Frere, of a passage out of the Poema del Cid, is the most native and terse bit of translation we ever met with. It rides along. like the Cid himself on horseback, with an infinite mixture of ardour and self-possession; bending, when it chooses, with grace, or bearing down everything with mastery.

reckons himself entitled to be insultingly triumphant, merely because he has got a dinner out of him.

whom, but it is worthy of De Foe. Lazarillo is supposed to tell his adventures himself. "You won't accuse me any more, I hope,' cried I, 'of drinking your wine*, after all the fine precautions you have taken to prevent it?' To that he said not a word; but feeling all about the pot, he at last unluckily discovered the hole, which dissembling at that time, he let me alone till next day at dinner. Not dreaming, my reader must know, of the old man's malicious stratagem, but getting in between his legs, according to my wonted custom, and receiving into my mouth the distilling dew, and pleasing myself with the success of my own ingenuity, my eyes upward, but half shut, the furious tyrant, taking up the sweet, but hard pot, with both his hands, flung it down again with all his force upon my face; with the violence of which blow, imagining the house had fallen upon my head, I lay sprawling without any sentiment or judgment; my forehead, nose, and mouth, gushing out of blood, and the latter full of broken teeth, and broken pieces of the can. From that time forward, I ever abominated the monstrous old churl, and in spite of all his flattering stories, could easily observe how my punishment tickled the old rogue's fancy. He washed my sores with wine; and with a smile, 'What sayest thou,' quoth he, Lazarillo? the thing that hurt thee, now restores thee to health. Courage, my boy.' But all his raillery could not make me change my mind."

6

Of all these ingenious children of necessity, whose roguery has been sharpened by perpetual want, no wit was surely ever kept at so subtle and fierce an edge as that of the never-to-be-decently-treated Lazarillo de Tormes. If we ourselves had not been at a sort of monastic school, and known the beatitude of dry bread and a draught of springwater, his history would seem to inform us, for the first time, what hunger was. His cunning so truly keeps pace with it, that he seems recompensed for the wants of his stomach by the abundant energies of his head. One-half of his imagination is made up of dry bread

scraps, and the other of meditating how to get at them. Every thought of his mind and every feeling of his affection coalesces and tends to one point with a ventripetal force. It was said of a contriving lady, that she took her very tea by stratagem. Lazarillo is not so lucky. It is enough for him, if by a train of the most ingenious contrivances, he can lay successful siege to a crust. To rout some broken victuals; to circumvent an onion or so, extraordinary, is the utmost aim of his ambition. An ox-foot is his beau ideal. He has as intense and circuitous a sense of a piece of cheese, as a mouse at a trap. He swallows surreptitious crumbs with as much zest as a young servant-girl does a plate of preserves. But to his story. He first serves a blind beggar, with whom he lives miserably, except when he commits thefts, which subject him to miserable beatings. He next lives with a priest, and finds his condition worse. His third era of esuriency takes place in the house of a Spanish gentleman; and here he is worse off than ever. The reader wonders, as he himself did, how he can possibly ascend together; which that we may share like brothers, this climax of starvation. To overreach a blind beggar might be thought easy. The reader will judge by a specimen or two. The old fellow used to keep his mug of liquor between his legs, that Lazarillo might not touch it without his knowledge. He did, however; and the beggar discovering it, took to holding the mug in future by the handle. Lazarillo then contrives to suck some of the liquor off with a reed, till the beggar defeats this contrivance by keeping one hand upon the vessel's mouth. His antagonist upon this makes a hole near the bottom of the mug, filling it up with wax, and so tapping the can with as much gentleness as possible, whenever his thirst makes him bold. This stratagem threw the blind man into despair. He "used to swear and domineer," and wish both the pot and its contents at the devil. The following account of the result is a specimen of the English translation of the work, which is done with great tact and spirit, we know not by

do you take but one at a time, and be sure
not to cheat me, and I promise you, for my
part, I shall take no more.' That I readily
agreed to, and so we began our banquet; but
at the very second time he took a couple,
believing, I suppose, that I would do the same.
And finding he had shown me the way, I made
no scruple all the while to take two, three, or
four at a time; sometimes more and sometimes
less, as conveniently I could. When we had
done, the old man shook his head, and hold-
ing the stalk in his hand, 'Thou hast cheated
me, Lazarillo,' quoth he, for I could take my
oath, that thou hast taken three at a time.'-
'Who, I! I beg your pardon,' quoth I, 'my
conscience is as dear to me as another.'-
'Pass that jest upon another,' answered the
old fox, 'you saw me take two at a time with-
out complaining of it, and therefore you took
three.' At that I could hardly forbear laugh-
*The reader is to understand a common southern wine,
very cheap.

At another time, a countryman giving them a cluster of grapes, the old man, says Lazarillo, "would needs take that opportunity to show me a little kindness, after he had been chiding and beating me the whole day before. So setting ourselves down by a hedge, 'Come hither, Lazarillo,' quoth he, and let us enjoy ourselves a little, and eat these raisins to

ing; and at the same time admired the justness of his reasoning." Lazarillo at length quitted the service of the old hard-hearted miser, and revenged himself upon him at the same time, in a very summary manner. They were returning home one day on account of bad weather, when they had to cross a kennel which the rain had swelled to a little torrent. The beggar was about to jump over it as well as he could, when Lazarillo persuaded him to go a little lower down the stream, because there was a better crossing; that is, there was a stone pillar on the other side, against which he knew the blind old fellow would nearly dash his brains out. "He was mightily pleased with my advice. Thou art in the right on it, good boy,' quoth he, and I love thee with all my heart, Lazarillo. Lead me to the place thou speakest of; the water is very dangerous in winter, and especially to have one's feet wet.' And again-Be sure to set me in the right place, Lazarillo,' quoth he; and then do thou go over first.' I obeyed his orders, and set him exactly before the pillar, and so leaping over, posted myself behind it, looking upon him as a man would do upon a mad bull. Now your jump,' quoth I; and you may get over to rights, without ever touching the water.' I had scarce done speaking, when the old man, like a ram that's fighting, ran three steps backwards, to take his start with the greater vigour, and so his head came with a vengeance against the stone pillar, which made him fall back into the kennel half dead." Lazarillo stops a moment to triumph over him with insulting language; and then, says he, resigning my blind, bruised, wet, old, cross, cunning master to the care of the mob that was gathered about him, I made the best of my heels, without ever looking about, till I had got the town-gate upon my back; and thence marching on a merry pace, I arrived before night at Torrigo."

At the house of the priest, poor Lazarillo gets worse off than before, and is obliged to resort to the most extraordinary shifts to arrive at a morsel of bread. At one time, he gets a key of a tinker, and opening the old trunk in which the miser kept his bread (a sight, he says, like the opening of heaven), he takes small pieces out of three or four, in imitation of a mouse; which so convinces the old hunks that the mice and rats have been at them, that he is more liberal of the bread than usual. He lets him have in particular "the parings above the parts where he thought the mice had been." Another of his contrivances is to palm off his pickings upon a serpent, with which animal a neighbour told the priest that his house had been once haunted. Lazarillo, who had been used when he lived with the beggar to husband pieces of money in his mouth (substituting some lesser coin in the blind man's hand, when people gave him any

[ocr errors]

thing), now employs the same hiding-place for his key; but whistling through it unfortunately one night, as he lay breathing hard in his sleep, the priest concludes he has caught the serpent, and going to Lazarillo's bed with a broomstick, gives him at a venture such a tremendous blow on the head, as half murders him. The key is then discovered, and the poor fellow turned out of doors.

He is now hired by a lofty-looking hidalgo; and follows him home, eating a thousand good things by anticipation. They pass through the markets however to no purpose. The squire first goes to church too, and spends an unconscionable time at mass. At length they arrive at a dreary, ominous-looking house, and ascend into a decent apartment, where the squire, after shaking his cloak, and blowing off the dust from a stone seat, lays it neatly down, and so makes a cushion of it to sit upon. There is no other furniture in the room, nor even in the neighbouring rooms, except a bed "composed of the anatomy of an old hamper." The truth is, the squire is as poor as Lazarillo, only too proud to own it; and so he starves both himself and his servant at home, and then issues gallantly forth of a morning, with his Toledo by his side, and a countenance of stately satisfaction; returning home every day about noon with "a starched body, reaching out his neck like a greyhound." Lazarillo had not been a day in the house, before he found out how matters went. He was beginning, in his despair of a dinner, to eat some scraps of bread which had been given him in the morning, when the squire observing him, asked what he was about. "Come hither, boy," said he, "what's that thou art eating?"—"I went," says Lazarillo, "and showed him three pieces of bread, of which taking away the best, Upon my faith,' quoth he, this bread seems to be very good.' "Tis too stale and hard, Sir,' said I, 'to be good.'-'I swear 'tis very good,' said the squire; 'Who gave it thee? Were their hands clean that gave it thee?'-'I took it without asking any questions, Sir,' answered I, and you see I eat it as freely.'- Pray God it may be so,' answered the miserable squire; and so putting the bread to his mouth, he eat it with no less appetite than I did mine; adding to every mouthful, Gadzooks, this bread is excellent.'"

<

6

(

[merged small][ocr errors]

some tripe given him by a butcher-woman. On coming home with his treasure, he finds the hidalgo impatiently walking up and down, and fears he shall have a scolding for staying so long; but the squire merely asks where he has been, and receives the account with an irrepressible air of delight. “I sate down," says Lazarillo, upon the end of the stone seat, and began to eat that he might fancy I was feasting; and observed, without seeming to take notice, that his eye was fixed upon my skirt, which was all the plate and table that I

66

had.

"May God pity me as I had compassion on that poor squire: daily experience made me sensible of his trouble. I did not know whether I should invite him, for since he had told me he had dined, I thought he would make a point of honour to refuse to eat; but in short, being very desirous to supply his necessity, as I had done the day before, and which I was then much better in a condition to do, having already sufficiently stuffed my own guts, it was not long before an opportunity fairly offered itself; for he taking occasion to come near me in his walks, Lazarillo,' quoth he (as soon as he observed me begin to eat), 'I never saw anybody eat so handsomely as thee; a body can scarce see thee fall to work without desiring to bear thee company; let their stomachs be never so full, or their mouth be never so much out of taste. Faith, thought I to myself, with such an empty belly as yours, my own mouth would water at a great deal less.

[ocr errors]

(

"But finding he was come where I wished him: Sir,' said I, 'good stuff makes a good workman. This is admirable bread, and here's an ox-foot so nicely dressed and so well-seasoned, that anybody would delight to taste of it.'

How!' cried the squire, interrupting me, 'an ox-foot 'Yes, sir,' said I, 'an ox-foot.' -'Ah! then,' quoth he, thou hast in my opinion the delicatest bit in Spain; there being neither partridge, pheasant, nor any other thing that I like nearly so well as that.'

"Will you please to try, sir?' said I (putting the ox-foot in his hand, with two good morsels of bread): when you have tasted it, you will be convinced that it is a treat for a king, 'tis so well dressed and seasoned.'

"Upon that, sitting down by my side, he began to eat, or rather to devour, what I had given him, so that the bones could hardly escape. 'Oh! the excellent bit,' did he cry, that this would be with a little garlic !' Ha! thought I to myself, how hastily thou eatest it without sauce. Gad,' said the squire, 'I have eaten this as heartily as if I had not tasted a bit of victuals to-day:' which I did very readily believe.

civilly invited me to do the like; and thus ended our feast."

"He then called for the pitcher with the water, which was as full as I had brought it home; so you may guess whether he had had When his squireship had drank, he

any.

We hope the reader is as much amused with this prolongation of the subject as ourselves, for we are led on insensibly by these amusing thieves, and find we have more to write upon them, before we have done. We must give another specimen or two of the sharping Spaniard, out of Quevedo. The Adventures, by the way, of Lazarillo de Tormes, were written in the sixteenth century by a Spanish gentleman, apparently of illustrious family, Don Diego de Mendoza, who was sometime ambassador at Venice. This renders the story of the hidalgo still more curious. Not that the author perhaps ever felt the proud but condescending pangs which he describes; this is not necessary for a man of imagination. He merely meant to give a hint to the poorer gentry not to overdo the matter on the side of loftiness, for their own sakes; and hunger, whether among the proud or the humble, was too national a thing not to be entered into by his statistic apprehension.

The most popular work connected with sharping adventures is Gil Blas, which, though known to us as a French production, seems unquestionably to have originated in the country where the scene is laid. It is a work exquisitely easy and true; but somehow we have no fancy for the knaves in it. They are of too smooth, sneaking, and safe a cast. They neither bespeak one's sympathy by necessity, nor one's admiration by daring. We except, of course, the robbers beforementioned, who are a picturesque patch in the world, like a piece of rough poetry.

Of the illustrious Guzman d'Alfarache, the most popular book of the kind, we believe, in Spain, and admired, we know, in this country by some excellent judges, we cannot with propriety speak, for we have only read a few pages at the beginning; though we read those twice over, at two different times, and each time with the same intention of going on. In truth, as Guzman is called by way of eminence the Spanish Rogue, we must say for him, as far as our slight acquaintance warrants it, that he is also "as tedious as a king." They say, however, he has excellent stuff in him.

We can speak as little of Marcos de Obregon, of which a translation appeared a little while ago. We have read it, and, if we remember rightly, were pleased; but want of memory on these occasions is not a good symptom. Quevedo, no ordinary person, is very amusing. His Visions of Hell, in particular, though of a very different kind from Dante's, are more edifying. But our business at present is with his "History of Paul the Spanish Sharper, the Pattern of Rogues and Mirror of Vagabonds." We do not know that he deserves these appellations so much as some others ; but

« السابقةمتابعة »