From Peter the Cruel, The Life Of The Notorious Don Pedro of Castile Together With An Account Of His Relations With The Famous Maria de Padilla, by Edward Storer; London: John Lane, The Bodley Head; New York: John Land Company, 1911; pp. 83-109.
WHEN, with his retinue of 1500 cavaliers and the support of numerous other knights and dependents, Alburquerque took the road in pursuit of his King, it was to be almost the last occasion on which he should ever do so. As a man of influence and authority in the state, Alburquerque, though he was a schemer, plotter, traitor, self-seeker, and even murderer, was a statesman of strength and power. In his evil qualities, he was much the same as everybody else in his circle, with perhaps a deeper craft and cynicism of his own, but he had at any rate governed with some show of strength and purpose while the portfolio was in his hands.
A little way on the road to Montalvan, there came to him Don Simuel el Levi, a Jew whose Hispanicized patronymic looks more intensely Hebraic than ever in this guise.
This Jew was now Grand Treasurer of Castile, an office which his friendship with the Padillas had brought him. It is, perhaps, from such associations as these that rumour and legend have always sought to refer Maria de Padilla to the Jewish race. In reality, however, she was a Christina, of ancient lineage, but her own and her family’s, and Don Pedro’s 84 intimacy with so many Jews is a curious fact. Smilingly this bearer of royal messages greeted the fallen minister.
“The King,” he said to Alburquerque, “has still great respect for your experience, and now as ever counts upon your good offices. You may safely appear before him; but he is surprised that you are attended by so numerous a retinue, and he begs you to dismiss your attendants.”
After having delivered himself of his official message, it is understood that he conversed with Alburquerque in a more familiar manner, telling him the views of the Padillas and urging his own, all of which bore a friendly relation towards the minister. Levi advised an interview with the King, and promised reconciliation and good fortune.
But some of the staff of the Jewish treasurer, recognising among Alburquerque’s host certain of their friends, conversed with them in a yet freer and more natural manner than that employed by their captains. There passed from lip to lip rumours of another kind, whispers of intentions less pacific than those which were mirrored in the face and words of the courtly, smiling Jew. Talk of war, and of preparations at Toledo, of blocked gates, summonings of garrisons, and changes of officers.
In this babble of the lesser ones, Alburquerque fancied he saw more of truth than in the speeches of the Grand Treasurer, and, excusing himself, from an immediate return to the King with Don Levi, he called his friends around him.85
And while they talked thus, there came from the court a second messenger from Don Pedro, who urged the immediate return of Alburquerque to his sovereign.
So warm an invitation seemed to the cautious Portuguese only answerable by a refusal, and among the doubts and disturbances of his camp he wrote the following message for the King, which he entrusted to his Major-Domo, Ruy Diaz Cabeza de Vaca: —
“Don Juan Alonso kisses your hands, and commends himself to your favour. He would be this moment in your presence, if he had not learned that evil-minded counselors have calumniated him to you. You know, Sire, all that Don Juan Alonso has done in your service, and in that of the queen, your mother. He has been your Chancellor ever since your birth. He has always served you loyally, as he served the late King, your father. For you he ran great personal risk at the time when Leonor de Guzman and her faction had supreme power in the kingdom. As yet, he is ignorant of the crimes laid to his charge. When they are known to him, he will immediately clear his character. Meanwhile, if any cavalier question his honour and his loyalty, his vassal Ruy Diaz Cabeza de Vaca will answer him, sword in hand.”
Pedro heard this daring speech in silence, and quickly dismissed the messenger, after telling him that his master’s best plan was to trust to the King’s clemency.
Alburquerque showed by his action that he did not set any particular value on this quality of Pedro, for he 86 set out almost immediately for the Portuguese frontier, where he secured himself in one of his castles.
Meanwhile, at Court, the downfall of all who had held office under favour of the exiled minister became complete.
A further shuffle of positions took place, and the Padilla family found itself further enriched and empowered. No revolution followed the change in the government, for the people felt no immediate effect from the altered state of things. It concerned them little what the names of the favorites who surrounded the King were, for their own lives went on just the same. And so long as the Padillas did not show themselves too grasping and greedy in the use of their new power, the nobles of the kingdom regarded their elevation with no particular hostility. Alburquerque’s name had ceased to inspire the confidence necessary for revolt and the disruption of established authority, and beyond his own immediate vassals and kinsmen his fall excited small sympathy. Certain of these latter gentry expressed their displeasure at the new turn of things by pillaging and seizing the lands of anyone who was not strong enough to defend them, nor did these sporadic ravages and assaults tend to increase the popularity of the disgraced favourite.
To such a point did this kind of thing advance, that complaints were carried to the King’s ears. The resulting threats of royal retribution made Alburquerque fearful for his own large possessions.
He treated for the King’s favour once more in all 87 humility and deference, even accepting to that end the offices of his rival Don Juan Tenorio, who was, in some measure, enjoying his old position at the Court.
Alburquerque’s sons came to Pedro as hostages, and, in return, the King promised the security of his late counsellor’s lands and estates.
Misfortune now naturally fell on those who had allied themselves with the lost cause, and the people who had been staunchest in their fidelity had nothing left for them but exile or the chance of the clemency and forgiveness of Don Pedro. Two knights in particular, Gonzales de Moran, and Perez de Castro, the latter the brother of the famous Inez de Castro, made a pilgrimage to the throne to ask pardon for their misfortunes. Only by the interposition of Maria, who sent the knights a warning, did they, by flight, escape a bloody and cruel death.
Everything that the envy and hatred of the Padillas and the anger of the king against his late minister could suggest, in the way of insult and annoyance, was done. His confidant and brother-at-arms, Don Juan Nuñez de Prado, was brought to his death through the machinations of Diego de Padilla and indirectly through the wish of the king. Yet Pedro can hardly be charged with the guilt of this murder. He was ignorant of its commission at the time. Although he must surely have known to what end the authority and hatred of Diego de Padilla would lead.
In his exile in Portugal, Alburquerque heard all this news with a bitter heart, in which were fermenting 88 passions of revenge and desires for retaliation. But he kept quiet; secure in having gained the confidence and aid of the King of Portugal. Yet, although Alburquerque himself made no sign, several of his more rash and impetuous vassals in Castile expressed their displeasure with the existing condition of things in the manner usual to the times, by laying waste the lands and castles of the people with whom they disagreed.
This irritated Pedro so much, that, forgetful of his promises, he began to lay siege to some of the towns which called Alburquerque lord. After capturing the town of Medellin, his army besieged the larger city of Alburquerque, which gave its master his name. The reduction of this place promised to be a matter of some time, so Don Pedro left his brothers, Don Fadrique and Don Enrique, before its walls and returned to Castile. He sent ambassadors to Portugal demanding Alburquerque from Alfonso IV. This monarch was in no hurry to deliver up the ex-minister to the vengeance of the King of Castile and his friends, and temporised until he should have time to see how matters were likely to turn out. Alburquerque defended his conduct to the Portuguese monarch in a long speech, wherein he recited his virtues at length and omitted his failings. Not that good or evil qualities, or right or wrong, or merit or demerit were likely to enter much into any consideration; but, no doubt, Alburquerque hoped to impress Pedro’s ambassadors who stood around, and to strengthen by an exhibition of character the good impression he 89 had already created for himself in his royal host’s mind.
Don Pedro, who at this time was engaged in frivolities and amours at home in the company of his young courtiers, seems just now to have abated something in his wrath and warlikeness, and for the moment to have preferred the delights of love to the business of war. About this time it was that he wavered in is one great passion to pay court to other women, one of whom was the unfortunate Juana de Castro, the story of whose one night’s empire over his fierce and fickle heart will later appear.
These were days of dalliance that nearly cost Pedro dear.
Enrique and Fadrique who, by comparison with their brother, were insignificant characters in the way of libertinage, and newly-married men, perceived in the general condition of things an immediate opportunity of self-advancement.
An alliance between Alburquerque and the two young princes struck the treacherous Conde as being a political move of no little importance. We know it was from his young brain that this piece of treason sprang, for Ayala who “served his cause with his own sword” as Merimée (Susan note missing first accent) has it, and wrote his chronicles under his ægis, distinctly states so.
Alburquerque, in whom we do not find a treachery so sudden and lightning-like as this, felt at any rate no compunction in availing himself of its consequences.
Enrique’s plan was, curiously enough, not to offer himself as a Pretender to the throne in the place 90 of Don Pedro when he should have been removed, but to put the Infant of Portugal into this position. It was an arrangement which had in it certain possibilities for the nobles and commons of Castile. The Infante was heir to another great kingdom, and would bring a territory of vast value as his portion. Being the grandson of Don Sancho on his mother’s side, he was nearer the royal family of Castile by one degree than Don Pedro himself, whose right came through his being the son of Alfonso, and great-grandson of the original Don Sancho.
Although Alburquerque, whose position had now made him ready to espouse any cause which seemed tolerably sure of success, and at the same time capable of furthering his own interests, adopted the scheme with energy and enthusiasm, it was otherwise with the father of the young prince who aspired to the sceptre of Castile.
Don Alfonso IV. of Portugal, foreseeing either the failure of the plan, or distrusting his own son’s capacity, or not anxious to see his kingdom involved in a war with Castile, did not hesitate a moment in expressing his absolute disapproval of the revolt. He recalled his son, and did all in his power to express his strong condemnation of the action of the young conspirators.
Queen Maria of Castile, Pedro’s mother, who was at this time at the Portuguese court, had there a love adventure, which, as it afterwards proved, was to cost her and her knight dear. She must have been a lady of middle age, when she began this kind of Indian summer in her sentimental life. In the 91 delight of her newly-found youth, she forgot all about politics, and sought only to efface the memory of the last bitter years of her life in Castile. All her interest in the wrangling and warring factions of Alburquerque and his foes suddenly ceased. Blanche and her young sorrows were forgotten. Maria de Padilla, Pedro, Enrique, all now amounted to little in her eyes, because of a certain Portuguese knight called Martin Alfonso Telho.
Lest anything should disturb the course of this new passion of hers, Maria made haste to leave Portugal in order that her presence there might not, in the conditions existing between that land and Castile, be held indicative of treason or collusion on her part. And further, lest she might meet any of the troops of the rebellious allies, she and her knight returned to Castile by a round-about and extended route. Of this journey, which we may be sure was not unduly hurried, Ayala says that Telho “held her horse’s bridle the whole way.”
But, leaving Maria with her knight in their pleasant and leisurely journey from Portugal; leaving Telho holding the bridle, and helping Maria to mount and dismount, we turn to Castile to find a new revolt in the making.
Allied against Don Pedro were not only his brothers, Enrique, Fadrique, and Tello, but many nobles and Ricos Hombres, who had reasons for complaining of his treatment of them or their families.
One of Pedro’s first moves, a move strictly political though full of future military possibilities, was to 92 marry Doña Isabel de Lara, second daughter of Don Juan Nuñez, to the Infante Don Juan de Aragon. He thus disinherited the elder sister of this lady and bestowed upon the Infante in his wife’s right the title of Lord of Biscay and Lara. This move was particularly aimed against Don Tello, who was then in the province of Biscay, inciting the countryside to revolt.
The various armies dispersed then about the country, were not in any hurry to co-operate and join other friendly forces nor to engage in a pitched battle with their foes. They all preferred to lay waste defenseless lands, to crush weak castles, to pillage, harass, and sack. Pedro turned his attention towards the territories of Alburquerque. This latter, along with the Conde de Trastamara, had crossed the Tagus, and was devastating the neighboring country.
At Barrios de Salas, the little army of Henry and Alburquerque met that which was gathered under the standard of Fernando de Castro, brother to the unfortunate Juana whose treatment by Pedro had helped to throw him in arms against his King. These knights and their men-at-arms met with the forces of the Infante of Aragon, whose sword Pedro now imagined to be on his side by virtue of the gift of Biscay. But, as the Infante showed no particular hostility towards the open enemies of his lord the King, it is fair to conjecture that there had been a little further underhand diplomacy at work.
About this time the city of Toledo was disturbed by that little boudoir conspiracy mentioned in the 93 last chapter, and the general disaffection towards the King seemed to be spreading all over the land, till gradually the rebels had so strong a hand that the Infantes of Aragon decided to throw in their lot with them.
It was by suffering acts of treachery like this that Pedro’s character was moulded into that fierce and cruel shape which, from about this time, it began to take. He trusted his brothers, and at the first opportunity they rebelled against him. He trusted his cousins, the Aragonese princes, and they, too, defaulted from his side in the hour of necessity. He soon saw that trust and confidence were virtues of almost no account in fourteenth century kingship. Even his aunt, Doña Leonor, went over to Enrique at Cuenca de Tameriz, when that city fell into his possession.
The various armies and forces opposed to the authority of Don Pedro were now so numerous and so powerful that they ceased their policy of individual skirmishing and pillage, and made some show of uniting under a common cause.
This took the form of a national protest of indignation against the King’s treatment of his wife, Blanche, and an objection to the government of the Padilla family.
One of the first cares of the young sovereign thus so sorely pressed by his rebel nobles and lieges was for the safety of his mistress, Maria. He placed her in the castle of Tordesillas, one of the few places which still acknowledged his authority. Then he 94 sat down and composed a long letter to the Infante of Aragon, at the time acting as Regent of that land, in the place of Pedro IV., who was in Sardinia.
This epistle was written to seek aid from his brother prince in this his hour of distress. It runs: —
“Don Pedro, by the Grace of God, King of Castile, etc., to you as Infante Don Pedro of Aragon, health as to one whom we love and esteem, and to whom we wish fortune and honour. We would have you know that the Infantes Don Fernando and Don Juan, our cousins and the brothers of the King of Aragon, living with us, and in our kingdom, being our vassals and holding important offices in our household and in our kingdom, wherein the Infante Don Fernando is Grand Adelantado of the frontiers and High Chancellor, and the Infante Don Juan our Grand Standard Bearer, both holding of us extensive domains, for which they owe us service, receiving, moreover, money from our treasury in order to assist us in the war that we wage with the Conde and Don Fernando de Castro, have secretly departed and joined the said Conde, Don Juan Alfonso, and Don Fernando, at the very time when we thought to employ them in our service, and therefore kept them near us. They have taken with them Don Tello, and have entered into a treaty and compact against us. They have, in fact, all and each of them at once commenced numberless illegal acts in this country, and are inciting it to war. And although, by the Grace of God, we hope to restore order, and make an example of those who have borne a part in this great wickedness and 95 desertion of their lord and King, we have thought it good to inform you of it, certain that you will take it to heart and assist us against the said Infantes. Wherefore, we pray you to be with us against them and their adherents; to attack and lay waste their lands, to take from them all that they have, so that they no longer have the power further to injure us, you, or the King of Aragon.
“In this way you will do what is right, and as we would do for you, were you ever by misfortune placed in a similar strait. From Tordesillas the 28th day of October, in the year of the era 1392 (1354).”1
A young statesman’s letter, surely. A little naïve, yet dignified, and containing in that enunciation of what he considered should be done to the rebels a hint of the ferocious Pedro of later years.
“As we would do for you, . . .” strikes one as rather boyish, and indeed, it was only a young man of twenty who thus faced the hostility of almost the whole of Castile.
Maria may perhaps have been consulted in the writing of this letter. Perhaps she looked over Pedro’s shoulder as he traced out his thoughts — he essentially the man of action to whom the least literary effort must have been something of an affliction.
This epistle evoked only an evasive answer.
Aragon abandoned Don Pedro to his fate.
It was, indeed, a desperate position for a young 96 man to find himself in, but whatever else he was Pedro was never a coward.
And had he had to deal with one man of strong character and a fixed plan of campaign, things would have gone badly with him indeed. Had Alburquerque been given the supreme command of all the allied rebel forces, there can be little doubt that he would soon have reduced Pedro to a state of submission and impotence. But broken counsels prevailed. Temporising measures; rapine rather than war; inaction rather than battles were the order of the day. The allied forces sought rather to gain their ends by seducing everyone from Pedro’s side until mere weight of numbers should deliver him into their hands. Again, their ends were so indefinite that many of the nobles felt them hardly worth the risk of a pitched battle. On the rebel side, everyone was waiting for some advantage to happen to themselves.
And then Alburquerque died. Whether naturally or by poison is not definitely known, for the two original copies of the chronicle differ.2 Maestre Pablo, his physician, is suspected of having offered a draught of a deadly character in the guise of a drug for some slight indisposition from which he was suffering. Don Pedro, at any rate, if not an accessory before the fact, made himself one after the fact by liberally rewarding this Italian doctor for his useful absentmindedness.
To his deathbed the old Portuguese minister 97 called his friends and vassals, and when all these were assembled in the room at Medina del Campo, he made them a little speech.
“Make no truce with the King,” he commanded, “until my wrongs are satisfied. When I am dead, you shall carry my body at the head of the army wherever it goes, so long as the war lasts, and do not bury me until it is finished and I am avenged.”
The rough and untempered nobles heard these strange words with awe and sorrow, and promised their dying master their observance of his request.
And when he was dead, they placed him in his coffin, and set it before the army as he had directed. And when deliberations were in progress, and a matter required decision, the leaders all repaired to the side of the corpse, and asked it what they should do.
And Cabeza de Vaca, who had been Major-Domo to the dead, replied always to the questions in his master’s name.
1 Zurita-Llaguno’s note to Ayala, p. 149.
2 The two MSS., known as the abreviada and the vulgar.
“On n’aime plus comme on aimoit jadis.”
— Amours du bon vieux tems.
ONCE upon a time, there lived a king in a beautiful country beyond the mountains. His was a wonderful land, so full of sunshine and life, that the people of all the neighboring countries said that the men and women there did nothing in all the world but make love to each other.1 They spent, said these fold, all their days in making assignations and all their nights in keeping them.
And the king of these people, who was a young man, made more love than anybody else.
He had, indeed, a palace of great beauty in the chief city of the land. Its walls were of the whitest, so white and wonderful that, when it snowed, which it did but rarely, people might have said — “How dirty all the roofs are to-day!” And it was the merest vanity to call anything blue after looking at their sky.
The palace gardens were all perfume and colour. Lemon and orange trees, whose gleaming fruit burned like little lamps of amber and topaz on the slender 99 boughs, were rivalled in beauty by oleanders, which seemed to rock themselves in dreamy ecstasies at their own faint, crimson beauty.
BATHS OF MARIA DE PADILLA, THE ALCAZAR, SEVILLE
In these gardens there were fountains that spurted little columns of silver from their slender throats, for sheer joy of living, and in a certain grove behind some orange trees a wonderful open-air bath.2 Here often bathed the favorite Sultana of this king, while the orange and lemon trees that grew around drew close together, and held out their skirts like dancing girls so that not even the wind might play Peeping Tom to their beautiful charge. This lady was paid court to by all the nobles and knights in attendance on the young king, and it became fashionable for the gallants of the court to drink of the waters of the bath after the favourite had left it.3
The name of this wonderful city, which burned like a full-blown rose on the bosom of Spain, was Seville; the fairy palace was its Alcazar; the lady, Maria, and the King, Don Pedro.
Seville, the fair capital of Andalusia, was among all the cities that were under the sway of Peter the Cruel, the one most intimately connected with him. It was his favourite city, as its Alcazar was his favourite palace. It existed in Roman times, when it was called Hispalis, and, under the dominion of the Moors, it had borne the name of Ishbiliyah.
In Don Pedro’s day it must have worn a very 100 oriental aspect. The place was full of Moorish workmen, for it was mainly by the hands of his African subjects that the King was able to secure that extension and restoration of the Alcazar which he had so much at heart. Don Pedro, in fact, lived in some measure in Seville the life of an Eastern despot. “What Harum-‘al-Rashid is” we read, “in the ‘Story of Bagdad’ is this ferocious monarch in the annals of Seville.” If only Don Juan Tenorio had carried out the literary part of his career as a Castilian Petronius, what a story of the doings of Pedro and his companions there would be to tell. As it is, there are many tales and legends of his amours and escapades in this city, which has ever been renowned for gallantry. Don Pedro was a very gallant person, and in his day he seems thoroughly to have sustained the reputation of his Andalusian capital.
Often, we know, did he wander through the city’s ways at night, eager for adventure, curious to see for himself the lives and manners of his subjects in a way that made his memory with them always an object of their affection.
Turning now into the strange ways of the Ghetto, watching the artisans, the smiths, and merchants working or bargaining in the street or on their doorsteps; smiling now at a pretty face, and noting, perhaps, the address of its owner; now interrupting some dispute of the people and declaring his identity to give them the benefit of a summary, kingly verdict, he went his way among them by day or night. By reason of these acts of royal Bohemianism, Pedro 101 won for himself among the people a kind of affectionate reputation for a certain capricious justice, which was generally in favour of the people as against the nobles.
If monarchs would only think of it, there is nothing easier than to please the people. They make no extravagant demands on their king’s charity or time. Prove to them, O kings, that you are human just as they, in one or two particulars at any rate, and they will let your imagined divinity shield all your other deeds.
Kiss somebody’s child, make love to somebody’s daughter, execute some piece of poetic justice, and the great, sentimental populace will take you to its heart for ever. One of the surest ways for a king to win the affections of his subjects is for him to have a child. It is so natural that the crowd thinks it extraordinary. For them, it makes their own child-getting and bearing more original, daring, and aristocratic.
One night Don Pedro was in his dressing-room disguising himself for an adventure. Laughing over his disguise with a companion, Pedro bid him good-night, declining his company, saying he would fare alone on this occasion.
In all the sweet unreasonableness of twenty then; disguised, singing perhaps softly to himself, and ready to defy man or devil, while walking in the city, he was struck by the attitude of a man standing at the end of a narrow street.
The stranger’s manner seems to have irritated the King.
At the end of the road which the stranger appeared 102 thus to be barring was, tradition says, a friend engaged in amorous chatter with a woman.
The stranger’s business was to secure an uninterrupted audience. This method of love-making is, I believe, common in many southern countries. As a rule, people respect the temporary closing of the thoroughfare, in the hope that they may themselves be similarly favored should occasion ever arise.
Don Pedro, however, sought to force his way past the stranger, whereon swords were drawn, and the defender of the thoroughfare died at the point of the King’s blade.
At the approach of justice and the night-watchmen, Don Pedro took to flight. He regained the Alcazar, hoping that his identity would remain undiscovered, although there lingered in his mind a confused recollection of an old woman with a lamp whom the din and clatter of steel had called to her door. It came to his mind, too, when he had time to think over the whole matter, that he had just promulgated an edict making the magistrates of the city’s police responsible with their lives for the maintenance of good conduct and order throughout Seville.
Don Pedro saw in these circumstances just the sarcastic kind of joke he could thoroughly appreciate.
He summoned the alcade, and told him that he expected his edict to be obeyed, and the murderer to be brought to immediate justice.
At the inquiry which followed, the old dame who had witnessed the episode related, that, though the combatants had hidden their faces, she had caught a 103 glimpse of the murderer and — had heard his knees crack, as he walked away. Her evidence made a stir, for this peculiarity of Don Pedro’s walking was common knowledge in the city.
The circumstance was enough to identify him with the crime. Much pained by the uncourtierlike turn which the evidence had taken, and naturally highly embarrassed the magistrate did not at first quite know what to do.
The method obvious to fourteenth century justice was either to punish the old woman or to reward her very handsomely, reward her to the point where she could comfortably perjure herself without loss of self-respect.
The proper punishment for the murderer was beheading and exposure of his head at the place where the crime had occurred.
The alcade was troubled, but found a way out.
Remembering his master’s injunction, and knowing Pedro’s temper he felt the case called for an original exercise of justice. He invited the King to attend the execution of the murderer. Don Pedro arrived, highly amused and curious as to what turn things had taken. At the place appointed, he found an effigy of himself hanging by the neck. Fantastic sentences of this kind were what the Castilian always delighted in, so he commended the alcade, saying that justice had been done.
In remembrance of the occasion, Pedro ordered that a model of his head should be placed in a niche at the spot where the duel had taken place. A stone replica 104 of the original bust in terra cuite is, I believe, still to be seen in the Calle del Candilejo in Seville.
Many such adventures had Don Pedro if we may believe the poets and romancers of Spain, adventures often of a nature more tender, more intimately personal and more delicate. Pretty trysts, the fluttering of hearts and hopes in quiet homes, assignations; in fact the whole stock-in-trade of a naughty little French book of Confessions or Mémoires privées.
Material, perhaps, for a little Boccaccio, or Brantôme or a Faublas with maris complaisants, and baggages bundled in and out of the palace by stealth at night, and amiable prelates and infuriated fathers and all the rest of it.
Elvira that would, and Doña Juana that would not, and Isabel that was never asked, and the story of the “Two Gold Candlesticks: and “The Notary’s Daughter,” and many other “most pleasant and delectable tale.”
Seville has been always a true city of romance. Romance, gallantry, and passion were there different from that of other famous and ancient capitals. More simple and passionate than the decadent macabre manners of the Rome of Nero or Heliogabalus; not artificial and precious as it gleams at us from the paintings of Boucher, Watteau, and Fragonard: large, primitive, fierce, voluptuous, like the south itself.
But if Seville had its colored side, there was, too, a black and mysterious portion of it.105
In Seville and Toledo4 strange sorceries and magic were wrought. Lonely students and crack-brained ascetics turned the stream of their fierce energy on wild and extravagant superstitions and ideas. Seville in the fourteenth century was just one of those hot-beds of humanity whence, in the middle ages, blossomed such strange flowers of passion and thought. In the dark ways of cities like this — in Florence, in Prague, in Vienna — new sects arose, new sorceries were invented, new doubts and schisms hatched. Orders like the Flagellants — not that their origin was Spanish — the Gallois and Galloises, the Fraternity of Penitents in love, the Jacquerie, and curious secret societies and brotherhoods were incubated in the mysterious quarters of such towns as this. There were practiced and perfected strange rites of sorcery and devil-worship, and astrologers and witches were to be found posing over unpleasant stews or busying themselves with astrolabe, athanor, and alembic.
In Seville, in Toledo, and in Bordeaux, in this and the succeeding century were practiced the rites of The Sabbat. To these times belong the Lycantropes, and Incubi and Succubi.
From such cities as these crept palely into existence, like tortured and misshaped moon-children of the brain, the mysterious theories and gross superstitions of which one may read in old books like those of Gauccius, Remy, Del Rio, Delancre, and Bodin.
It is a fascinating subject, this aspect of the large 106 mediæval cities, for a city is so live a thing for all its bricks and clay. It is dull or piquant, blonde or brunette, fair or homely, just like a woman.
I have never been to Seville, but another one — among many voiceless or poor voiced ones I doubt not — a great, great one has been there. I mean Gautier, whose memory may all the nine Muses cherish! the sweet, fantastic, humorous Théophile whose words are like narcissi, and whose laugh is like a cool, fresh breeze that blows among them.
Of Seville, which he visited in the year 1840, he says: “Séville a toute la pétulance et le bourdonnement de la vie: une folle rumeur plane sur elle à tout instant du jour.”
And then he speaks of the “œillades incendiaires,” of the lovely Andalusian women, who, as regards their beauty and manner, are the Maria de Padillas of to-day.
He tells us, however — and it is not difficult to believe it — that these apparently inflammatory glances are really of no precise significance.
“A young Andalusian regards with those passionate looks,” he says, “a passing cart, a dog running after his tail, or children playing at bull-fights,”5 which may well enough stand as true for the Sevillian women of Don Pedro’s day. In matters of the passions the South is, in general, primitive. Don Pedro himself was a primitive of chivalry and life let loose on armour in his century.
GENERAL VIEW OF SEVILLE (TO-DAY) FROM THE TOP OF THE GIRALDA
One admits his sense of humour, which is not a 107 prerogative of the primitive man; but a strange, sulphurous kind of humour it is, after all.
More in keeping with the Arabian-Night-like character of Don Pedro’s adventures in Seville are the stories of the shoemaker, in which can be detected an Æsopian flavour, the tale of the four judges, and the episode of examination by orange. All of these stories, as in a less degree the one of the King’s effigy, bear a strong Oriental influence.
And therefore, be they true or not, they are interesting and illuminating as reflections of the manners of what was in those days almost an African city.
It is said — and the careful Mérimée admits this story into his Histoire — that a certain shoemaker, by name Emmanuel Peres, had suffered a grievous injury from the hands of a priest, one Don Jaime de Colminares. The priest had, it is said, deceived and — according to one account — even murdered the sister of this unfortunate cobbler.6
Taking the law into his hands, he revenged the family honour at the point of the knife. Arrest followed, and, in due course, appeal by the prisoner to the King.
Asked by Pedro, in cross-examination, what sentence the monastic authorities, to whom alone Don Jaime was amenable, had inflicted on the deceased at his trial, the prisoner answered: “One year’s abstention from saying Mass.”
To the secular mind of Peres this sentence had seemed 108 grossly inadequate, and had been the cause of his action, as he explained to the King. It seems almost unnecessary to supply the King’s decision in this case, for any reader who has studied the principles of poetic justice at all will surely be able to supply it himself. Don Pedro of course forthwith proceeded to order that the shoemaker be punished only to the extent of being forbidden to make any shoes whatsoever for a space of one year.
One day Don Pedro was walking in the gardens of Alcazar, when there came to him four lawyers who sought his decision as to which of them should be elected the judge of a certain place. Pedro, who must have been either very tired, or have cared very little who his judges wee, saw something yellow, like an orange, floating on a little pond near by.
“Tell me,” said Don Pedro to the first candidate, “What is that?”
The lawyer who had been expecting, perhaps, a question from the law of the Partidas, replied cheerfully, “An orange, Sire!”
The second, equally relieved and pleased with this new kind of law examination, answered in similar wise.
The third, rendered more careful by the apparent non-success of his two companions, stared hard at the pond to be sure that it was not a lemon after all.
Yet he, too, like the others, answered, “An orange, Sire.”
But when it came to the turn of the fourth, going to the pond, he fished out the fruit with a stick, and picking it up in his fingers, examined it carefully.109
“Half an orange, Sire,” exclaimed the future judge.
Don Pedro was one day sitting in the Sala de Justicia, when he heard four people discussing the division of a bribe which they had received. They turned out to be four judges, not, it is to be hoped, any of our friends of the last episode. Pedro considered their conversation an act distinctly ultra vires, and had them beheaded on the spot.
He decorated his bed-chamber, it is said, with their skulls. At any rate, I believe it is a fact that the portraits of these unfortunates are to be seen in his room in the Alcazar at Seville to-day.
Once upon a time there lived a king in a beautiful country beyond the mountains. . . . He had, indeed, a palace of great beauty, a palace whose walls were so white and wonderful, that when it snowed (if ever it did) the people said . . .
And all the streets were tuneful with the fiddles of love and laughter. And soft breezes came yearning up from Africa with nut-brown hands, whose fingers were tight clasped on spices and perfumes. Great palms slept monotonously in the sunshine, and underneath their shade, white-turbaned moors passed the hours away with a tale or story, or the “musky rhymes” of some old Arabian poet.
Ah, once upon a time!
1 There is a Spanish saying to the effect that the Andalusians do nothing but smoke and make love.
2 Maria de Padilla’s bath, still shown in the gardens of the Alcazar at Seville.
3 This is related of Maria de Padilla.
4 Toledo was, perhaps, the centre of the Black Art at this time in Spain. Scientia Toletana became a phrase used throughout Europe.
5 Gautier, “Voyage in Espagne.”
6 The poet Jose Zorrilla has a play on this episode, El Zapatero y el Rey.
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