YOU must know then, in the first place, that my name is Lázaro de Tormes, and that I am the son of Thomas Gonzalez and Antonia Perez, natives of Tejares, a village of Salamanca. My sirname was acquired by the singular circumstance of my birth, which happened in the river Tormes, and in the following manner. My father (to whom God be merciful) was employed to superintend the operations of a water mill which was worked by the course of the above river (a situation that he held above fifteen years), and my mother at that time being enceinte with me, while staying one night at the mill was suddenly seized with the pains of labour, which terminating happily, it may with truth be said, that my sirname, borrowed from the river, was not inaptly bestowed.
I had only reached my ninth year, when my unfortunate father was charged with administering certain 52 copious but injudicious bleedings to the sacks of customers to the mill; a lowering system which was voted by them to be neither salutary nor profitable. He was forthwith taken into custody; when, not being able to deny the indiscreet application of his professional ability, he experienced the usual penalty of the law. It is, however, to be hoped that he is now reaping the reward which has been faithfully promised by the Evangelist to all those who have suffered persecution for justice sake; for they are declared to be in the highest degree fortunate in such their tribulations. By this disaster, my poor father being thrown out of employment, joined an armament then preparing against the Moors; in the quality of mule-driver to a gentleman; and in that expedition, like a loyal servant, he, along, with his master, finished his life and services together.
My widowed mother thus bereft of husband and of home, determined, in order to acquire a reputation, to associate herself with people of character; she therefore hired a small place in the city, and opened an eating house for the accommodation of the students, adding likewise to her gains, by washing linen for the servants of his Excellency, the Comendador of the order of Magdalens. It was in the exercise of the duties of this latter branch of industry that she became acquainted with a groom of the stables, a man of colour rather than of character or fortune. 53 Under the pretence of buying eggs he would continually come to our house, and at last obtained an intimate footing therein. At first, in consequence of his colour and the roughness of his manners, I was frightened at him; but when I found that our scanty fare was changed by his visits into abundance, for he always brought bread and meat, and in winter wood for our fire, I not only conquered my repugnance, but even hailed his appearance with pleasure. One unpleasantness attended this intimacy, which was that my mother presented me with a little brother, very pretty, though of a darkish complexion, and whom I was obliged to assist in nursing and bringing up.
Matters were not carried on so secretly, however, but that some intelligence of Zayde’s gallantry reached the ears of the Comendador’s majordomo, who, on enquiry, found a terrible deficiency in the barley, to say nothing of currycombs, brushes, and such like moveables, which had been unaccountably lost; and it was found also, that when nothing better offered itself, even the horses were unshod for the sake of iron, and all was unluckily traced to my mother for the support of my little brother.
One can hardly wonder at a priest or a friar, the one robbing the poor, the other his convent for the sake of their fair and devout believers, when love can stimulate a poor slave to do the like. All this was fully proved; for when they came to me, like a child as I was, and fearful of the threats of punishment, I 54 discovered to them all I knew of the matter, even to the very horse-shoes which my mother had directed me to sell to the farrier. My poor father-in-law was soundly flogged, and his flesh was tickled with drops of scalding fat; while my mother was forbidden the house of the Comendador, and was commanded, under the severest penalties never to receive Zayde into her presence again. Not to make matters worse, my mother fulfilled the obligation of the sentence, and to avoid danger, as well as to escape further scandal, she engaged herself to serve the guests at the inn of the Solana, where, notwithstanding she suffered a thousand inconveniences, she managed to rear my little brother. As to myself, I went on errands, and endeavoured to make myself as useful as possible.
About this time a blind man came to lodge at the house, and thinking that I should do very well to lead him about, asked my mother to part with me for that purpose. My mother recommended me strongly, stating that I was the son of an excellent man who died in battle against the enemies of our faith, and “I trust in God,” added she, “that he will never make a worse man than was his father.” She confided me to his care as an orphan boy, and entreated him to use me with kindness. The old man promised to receive me, not as a servant, but as a son; and thus I commenced service with my new though blind and aged master. We remained in Salamanca some few days, but my master finding his 55 gains in that city to be very inconsiderable, determined to seek greater profits elsewhere. When we were ready to depart, I went to take leave of my mother, who, with an abundance of tears, from which I, too, could not refrain, gave me her blessing, and said, “My son, this may probably be the last time I shall ever see you; endeavour for my sake to be good, and may the Almighty assist you. I have reared you from childhood, and now provide you with a kind master; look to yourself for the future, and farewell.” I then went to rejoin my master, who was waiting for me at a short distance.
We left Salamanca, and having arrived at the bridge, my master directed my attention to an animal carved in stone in the form of a bull, and desried me to take him near it. When I had placed him close to it, he said, “Lazaro, if you put your ear close to this bull, you will hear an extraordinary noise within.” In the simplicity of my heart, believing ti to be as he said, I put my ear to the stone, when the old man gave my head such a violent thump against it, that I was almost bereft of sense, and for three days after I did not lose the pain I suffered from the blow. My old master laughed heartily at the joke: “You rogue,” said he, “you ought to know that a blind man’s boy should have more cunning than the very devil himself.”
It seemed to me as though that moment had 56 awakened me from the simplicity of childhood, and I said to myself, “The old man says truly. I am now alone, and if I do not keep a sharp look out for myself, I shall find none to assist me.” We commenced our journey, and in a very few days I began to reap the benefit of my master’s instruction. As he found me an apt scholar, he was much pleased, and would say, “I have no silver or gold to give you; but, what is far better, I can impart to you the result of my experience, which will always enable you to live; for though God has created me blind, yet he has endowed me with faculties which have served me well in the course of my life.” And I verily believe that, since God created the world, he never formed a human being with intellects more acute than those of my blind old master. He was as keen as an eagle in his own calling. He knew upwards of a hundred prayers by heart. His tone of voice was pleasing, and though low, was distinct enough to be heard all over the church where he usually recited them. His countenance was humble and devout; and is deportment when he recited his prayers, as free from affectation and distortion of visage, which so may are apt to practice.
Besides this, he had a thousand other ways of making money. He could repeat prayers which were available for all occasions; for women who had no children; for those who had expectancy; for those 57 likewise who were unhappily married, and sought to increase the affection of their husbands. He could also prognosticate truly to ladies whether the result of their travail would be a boy or a girl; and with respect to the medicinal art, he would tell you that Galen himself was an ignoramus compared with himself. Indeed, he acted as though he really thought so; for no one ever came to consult him, that he did not say without the slightest hesitation, “Take this, do that;” and in such a manner, that he had all the world after him, especially the women, who had the utmost confidence in every thing he told them. By these means his profits were very considerable. He gained more in one month than a hundred other blind men would in a year.
With all this, however, I am sorry to say that I never met with so avaricious and so wicked an old curmudgeon; he allowed me almost to die daily of hunger, without troubling himself about my necessities; and, to say the truth, if I had not helped myself by means of a ready wit and nimble fingers, I should have closed my account from sheer starvation.
Notwithstanding all my master’s astuteness and cunning, I contrived so to outwit him, that generally the best half came to my share. But to accomplish this, I was obliged to tax my powers of invention to the uttermost. Of this I will recount a few specimens, although perhaps they may not tell much to my 58 credit. The old man was accustomed to carry his bread, meat, and other things, in a sort of linen knapsack, which was closed at the mouth with an iron ring, and secured also by a padlock; but in adding to his store, or taking from it, he used such vigilance, that it was almost an impossibility to cheat him of a single morsel. However, when he had given me my pittance, which I found no difficulty in dispatching at about two mouthfuls, and closed his budget, thinking himself perfectly secure from depredation, I began my tactics, and my means of a small rent, which I slyly effected in one of the seams of the bag, I used to help myself to the choicest pieces of meat, bacon, and sausage, taking care to close the seam according as opportunity occurred. But in addition to this, all that I could collect together, either by fraud or otherwise, I carried about me in half farthings; so that when the old man was sent for to pray, and they gave him farthings, (all which passed through my hands, he being blind,) I contrived to slip them into my mouth, by which process so quick an alteration was effected, that when they reached his hand they were invariably reduced to half the original value.
The cunning old fellow, however, suspected me, for he used to say, “How the deuce is this? ever since you have been with me they give me nothing but half-farthings; whereas before, it was not an unusual thing to be paid with halfpence, but never less 59 than farthings. I must be sharp with you, I find.” Whenever we ate, the old man took care to keep a small jar of wine near him, which was reserved for his own especial service; but I very soon adopted the practice of bestowing on this favourite jar sundry loving through stolen embraces. Such pleasures were but short-lived, for the fervency of my attachment was soon discovered in the deficiency of the wine; and the old man afterwards to secure his draught, never let he jar go without tying it to him by the handle. But I as a match for him even there; for I procured a large straw, and dipping it into the mouth of the jar, renewed my intimacy with such effect, that but a small share was his who came after me. The old traitor was not long in finding me out; I think he must have heard me drink, for he quickly changed his plan, and placed the jar between his knees, keeping the mouth closed with his hand, and in this manner considered himself secure from my depredations.
Being thus deprived of my customary allowance from the jar, I was ready to die with longing; and finding my plan of the straw no longer available, I took an opportunity of boring a very small hole in the bottom of the jar, which I closed very delicately with wax. At dinner-time, when the poor old man sat over the fire, with the jar between his knees, the heat, slight as it was, melted the piece of wax, 60 with which I closed the hole, and I, feigning to be cold, drew close to the fire, and placed my mouth under the little fountain in such a manner, that the whole contents of the jar came to my share. When the old boy had finished his meal, and thought to regale himself with his draught of wine, the deuce a drop did he find, which so enraged and surprised him, that he thought the devil himself had been at work; nor could he conceive how it could be. “Now uncle,” said I, “don’t say that I drank your wine, seeing that you have had your hand on it the whole time.” But he was not satisfied with my declaration of innocence, so turning and twisting he jar about in every direction, he at last discovered the hole, which at once let him into the secret of my ingenious contrivance. He concealed his discovery so well, that I had not the slightest suspicion that my ruse was detected; so the next day, having prepared my jar as before, little foreseeing the consequences, nor dreaming of the wicked thoughts which were passing in the old man’s mind, I places myself under the jar, which presently began to distil its delicious contents, my face turned towards heaven, and my eyes partly closed, the better to enjoy the delightful draught. The evil-minded old man, judging this to be the time to take his vengeance, raised with both hands the sweet, thought alas, to me, bitter jar, and let if fall directly on my mouth, adding to its weight by 61 giving all the impetus in his power. The poor unhappy Lazaro, who little reckoned on such a disaster, but had quietly resigned himself to the delicious enjoyment of the moment, verily believed in the crash which succeeded, that the heavens with all they contained had fallen upon him. The blow was so tremendous that my senses fairly left me, and the jar breaking, cut my face in many places, several pieces remaining in the wounds, besides breaking nearly all my teeth, the loss of which I feel to this day.
From that hour I bore an inveterate grudge against my old rogue of a master, for though he attended to me, and cured me of my wounds, I could plainly see that he enjoyed my cruel chastisement. He washed the wounds with wine which the broken jar had made in my face; and would say smiling, ‘Lazaro, my boy, what is that which makes you ill, cures you and gives you strength?” with other little witticisms, which he would repeat, not by any means to my taste.
When I was nearly cured of my wounds and bruises, considering that by a few more such pleasantries the old man would effectually get rid o me, I began to think how I might in the best manner get rid of him; however, I resolved to wait until an opportunity should offer of effecting my purpose 62 with safety to myself, and more to my satisfaction with regard to the past proceedings of my master.
Although I might in time have pardoned the jar adventure, yet the continual ill treatment to which I was henceforward subjected kept alive the vindictive feeling which it originally occasioned; for now, upon the slightest occasion, and even without cause, he would beat and flog me without any mercy. If any humane person interfered, he immediately recounted the history of the jar, prefacing it with some such expression as, ‘Don’t believe the young rogue is quite so innocent as he looks; just listen, and then say whether the devil himself would ever have had the cunning to do the like.” Those who listened would reply, “Who could have thought that so much wickedness could be packed in such a small compass?” and they would laugh heartily at my exploit, and say, “Thrash him well, good man; thrash him well; he deserves it richly!” With such encouraging advice he persevered to the very letter, and I can say to my coxt, that in his leisure hours, he did little else; in return I took him over the worst roads I could find, and led him wherever there was the slightest chance of his huring himself. If stones were near, over the very sharpest; if mud, through the deepest; and although this mode of travelling was not the pleasantest, yet if I 63 inconvenienced myself, I annoyed the old man still more, which was all I desired to do. It is trued that my head and shoulders were subjected in consequence to the angry visitations of his staff; and though I continually assured him that his uneasy travelling was not the result of my ill will, but for want of better roads, yet the old traitor had too much cunning to believe a word I said.
That I may not be tiresome, I shall omit many curious anecdotes of this my first service, and will only related the following, and then say how I at last took my leave of my blind master. We were in Escalona, a place belonging to the Duke of that name, when one day he gave me a piece of a large sausage to cook. While the sausage was in the roaster before the fire, he regaled himself with the dripping; and then taking out his purse, gave me a halfpenny to fetch him some wine. I don’t know how it was, unless the devil placed the means before my eyes, but I was tempted to play the thief; for on looking round I saw a turnip, not unlike the shape of the sausage, which had been thrown away as unfit for use. There was nobody near us, and I, with a raging appetite, still further stimulated by the savoury smell of the sausage, which I knew full well was all the old man intended for my share, without a thought for the consequences, snatched the sausage from the roaster while the old man was 64 fumbling for his money, and in a twinkling supplied its place with the turnip.
As I started for the wine, my master began to blow up the fire, thinking the more speedily to cook, what his miserable parsimony, and my urgent appetite, had caused to vanish. On my road for the wine, I was not long in dispatching the sausage; and when I returned, I found the miserable old sinner with the turnip stuck between two slices of bread, preparing, as the thought, to make a most delicious repast. AS he bit through the bread, however, thinking to take part of the sausage, his teeth encountered the cold hard turnip, when the truth flashing on his mind, he exclaimed in an altered tone, “Lazarillo, how is this?” “Mercy on me,” said I, do you suspect me? Have I not this instant returned with your wine? Somebody has been here and played this trick upon you.” “No, no,” said he, “my hand has been on the roaster all the time, that is impossible.” I turned to swear and forswear myself as being innocent of this fraud, but little did the old man credit me. He arose, and seizing me by the head, as he possessed as keen a scent as a spaniel, determined to satisfy himself of the truth; so opening my mouth by main force, he thrust therein his ugly nose, which was long and pointed, and at that time had increased considerably in length from spite and anger. With this, and the excessive fear which came over 65 me, added to the shortness of time allowed for my stomach to settle, and more than all, the tickling of that immense proboscis, so unpleasant a feeling began to manifest itself, that hardly had the old man withdrawn his trunk, that the whole contents of my stomach followed, and with such force as entirely to cover his face. Had he not been blind before, his eyesight could hardly have escaped such an explosion. Oh! heavens! what were my feelings at that unhappy moment! never shall I forget it! Such was the rage of that diabolical old man, that had not my screams attracted some people, I verily believe I should never have escaped with life.
I escaped from his hands in the best way I could, leaving the few hairs that remained to me in his grasp, my face, neck, and throat bearing the marks of his vindictive talons. Lest the bystanders should compassionate me, the old man recounted my exploits to them, which set them into such a roar of laughter, that the place soon became thronged like a fair. And with such humour did the old rogue varnish my misdeeds, that, weeping and wounded as I was, I could easily forgive their mirth.
While this was going on, the remembrance of a singular want of wit and keenness occurred to me, which not only betrayed my incapacity, but a cowardly and grovelling fear, for which I could not easily forgive myself. It was that, when I had the 66 opportunity, I did not bite off the old fellow’s nose, seeing that at one time it was so completely in my power, and by that means save myself all the unpleasantness I now endured by not being able to turn the laugh against my tormentor.
The innkeeper’s wife, and some others who were there, now washed my face and neck with the wine I had brought, and this afforded the old man anotehr opportunity for a joke, saying, “Of a truth, this boy costs me more wine for one washing of his wounds than I drink in two days.” And then he told how may times he had scarified me and cured me with the wine; ‘If ever man in the world,” he said, “is fortunate by wine, it will be you.” Those who were bathing my face could not help laughing at the old fellow’s humour, though I was wincing with the smart, not only of his jibes but of his blows. This prophecy of the old man did not turn out false; and oftentimes have I since thought of him, and what he made me suffer, though in the end I paid him well for it, little dreaming that what he then rapped out in jest would so turn out.
Considering the injuries I had sustained, in addition to the ridicule to which I was continually exposed, I determined at all hazards to leave the old tyrant to shi fate, and chose the following opportunity of doing so. The next day we went about the town to ask alms; but as the weather turned out 67 very wet, we did not stir from beneath the arcades, with which this place is provided. As the night approached, and the rain had not ceased, the old man said, “Lazaro, this wet weather is very unwholesome, and as night comes on it will be still more so, let us therefore get home in good time.”
On our return we had to pass a small stream of water, which with the day’s rain had considerably increased, I therefore said, “Uncle, the brook is very much swollen; but I see a place a little higher, where, by giving a little jump, we may pass almost dry shod.” “Thou art a good lad,” said the old man; “I like you for your carefulness. Take me to the narrowest part, for at this time of the year to get one’s feet wet would be dangerous.” Delighted that my plot seemed to succeed so well, I led him from beneath the arcades, and took him directly opposite to a pillar, or rather a large stone post, which I observed in the square. “Now, Uncle,” said I, “this is the place where the brook is the narrowest.” The rain was pouring down, and the old man was getting very wet; and whether it was by haste he made to avoid it, or, what was more probable, Providence had at that moment beguiled him of his usual cunning, that he might the more readily fall into the snare, and give me my revenge; so it was, that for once he believed me, and said, “Now place me directly opposite the spot, and then jump 68 yourself.” I placed him exactly opposite the pillar, so that he could not miss it, and leaping myself, I took my position immediately behind it, crying out, “Now, master, jump with all your force, and you will clear the water.” I had hardly said the words, when the poor old rogue jumped up as nimbly as a goat, giving all his strength to the leap, and taking a step or two backwards by way of impetus, which lent him such force, that instead of alighting on soft ground, as he supposed, he gave his poor bald pate such a smash against the pillar, that he fell on the pavement without sense or motion.
“Take that, you unhappy old thief,” said I, “and remember the sausage;” then leaving him to the care of the people who began to gather around, I took to my heels as swiftly as possible through the town gates, and before night reached Torrijos. What became of the old man afterwards I don’t know, and neither did I ever give myself any pains to enquire.
THE next day, not considering myself quite safe where I was, I went to a place called Maqueda, where, as it were in punishment of my evil deeds, I fell in with a certain priest. I accosted him for alms, when 69 he enquired whether I knew how to assist at mass. I answered that I did, which was true, for he old man, notwithstanding his ill treatment, taught me many useful things, — and this was one of them. The priest, therefore, engaged me on the spot.
There is an old proverb which speaks of getting out of the frying pan into the fire, which was indeed my unhappy case in this change of masters. The old blind man, selfish as he was, seemed an Alexander the Great, in point of munificence, on comparison with this priest, who was, without exception, the most niggardly of all miserable devils I have ever met with. It seemed as though the meanness of the whole world was gathered together in his wretched person. It would be hard to say whether he inherited this disposition, or whether he had adopted it with his cassock and gown. He had a large old chest, well secured by a lock, the key of which he always carried about him, tied to a part of his clothing. When the charity bread came from the church, he would with his own hands deposit it in the chest, and then carefully turn the key.
Throughout the whole house there was nothing to eat. Even the sight of such things as we see in other houses, such as smoked bacon, cheese, or bread, would have done my heart good, although I might have been forbidden to taste them. The only eatable we had was a string of onions, and these were locked 70 up in a garret. Every fourth day I was allowed one; and when I asked for the key to take it, if any once chanced to be present, he would make a serious matter of it, saying, as he gave me the key, “Take it, and return quickly; for when you go to that tempting room; you never know when to come out of it;” — speaking as though all the sweets of Valencia were there, when I declare to you, as I said before, the devil a bit of anything was there but this string of onions hung on a nail, and of these he kept such an account, that if my unlucky stars had tempted me to take more than my allowance, it would have cost me very dear.
In the end, I should in fact have died of hunger, with so little feeling did this reverend gentlemen treaty me, although with himself he was rather more liberal. Five farthings’ worth of meat was his allowance for dinner and supper. It is trued that he divided the brother with me; but my share of the meat I might have put in my eye instead of my mouth, and have been none the worse for it: but sometimes, by good luck, I got a little morsel of bread. In this part of the country it is the custom on Sundays to eat sheeps’ heads, and he sent me for one that was not to come to more than three farthings. When it was cooked, he ate all the tit bits, and never left it while a morsel of the meat remained; but the dry bones he turned over to me, saying, — “There, you rogue, eat that; 71 you are in rare luck: the Pope himself has not such fare as you.” “God give him as good!” said I to myself.
At the end of the three weeks that I remained with him, I arrived at such an extreme degree of exhaustion, from sheer hunger, that it was with difficulty I stood on my legs. I saw clearly that I was in the direct road to the grave, unless God and my own wit should help me out of it. For the dexterous application of my fingers there was no opportunity afforded men, seeing there was nothing to practice on: and if there were, I should never have been able to have cheated the priest as I did the old man, whom God absolve, if by my means it went ill with him after his leap. The old man, though cunning, yet wanting sight, gave me now and then a chance; but as to the priest, never had any one so keen a sight as he.
When we were at mass, no money came to the plate at the offering that he did not observe; he had one eye on the people and the other on my fingers. His eyes danced about the money-box as though they were quicksilver. When offerings were given, he kept an account, and when it was finished, that instant he would take the plate from my hands, and put it on the altar. I was not able to rob him of a single maravede in all the time I lived with him, or rather all the time I starved with him. I never fetched him any wine from the tavern, but the little 72 little that was left at church he locked up in his chest, and he would make that serve all the week. In order to excuse all this covetousness, he said to me, “You see, my boy, that priests ought to be very abstemious in their food. for my part, I think it a great scandal to indulge in viands and wine as many do.” But the curmudgeon lied most grossly, for at convents or at funerals, when we went to pray, he would eat like a wolf, and drink like a mountebank; and not I speak of funerals — God forgive me, I was never an enemy to the human race but at that unhappy period of my life, and the reason was solely, that on those occasions I obtained a meal of victuals.
Every-day did I hope, and even pray, that God would be pleased to take his own. Whenever we were sent for to administer the sacrament to the sick, the priest would of course desire all present to join in prayer. You may be certain I was not the last in these devout exercises, and I prayed with all my heart that the lord would compassionate the afflicted, not by restoring him to the vanities of life, but by relieving him from the sins of this world; and when any of these unfortunates recovered — the Lord forgive me — in the anguish of my heart I wished him a thousand times in perdition; but if he died, no one was more sincere in his blessings than myself.
During all the time I was in this service, which was nearly six months, only twenty persons paid the 73 debt of nature, and these, I verily believe that I killed, or rather that they died, by the incessant importunity of my particular prayers. Such was my extreme suffering, as to make me think that the Lord, compassionating my unhappy and languishing condition, visited some with death to give me life. But for my present necessity there was no remedy; if on the days of funerals I lived well, the return to my old allowance of an onion every fourth day seemed doubly hard; so that I may truly say, I took delight in nothing but death, and oftentimes I have invoked it for myself as well as for others. To me, however, it did not arrive, although continually hovering about me in the ugly shape of famine and short commons. I thought many times of leaving my brute of a master, but two reflections disconcerted me; the first was, the doubt whether I could make my way by reason of the extreme weakness to which hunger had reduced me; and the second suggested, that my first master, having done his best to starve me, and my next having succeeded so far in the same humane object as to bring me to the brink of the grave, whether the third might not, by pursuing the same course, actually thrust me into it.
These considerations made me now pause, lest, by venturing a step further, it would be my certain fate to be a point lower in fortune, and then the world might truly say, “Farewell Lazaro.”74
It was during this trying and afflicting time, when, seeing things going from bad to worse, without any one to advise with, I was praying with all Christian humility, that I might be released from such misery, that one day, when my wretched, miserable, covetous, thief of a master, had gone out, an angel, in the likeness of a tinker, knocked at the door — for I verily believe he was directed by Providence to assume that habit and employment — and enquired whether I had any thing to mend? suddenly a light flashed upon me, as though imparted by an invisible and unknown power: — “Uncle,” said I, “I have unfortunately lost the key of this great chest, and I’m sadly afraid my master will beat me; for God’s sake try if you can fit it, and I will reward you.” The angelic tinder drew forth a large bunch of keys, and began to try them, while I assisted his endeavours with my feeble prayers; when lo! and behold! when least I thought it, the lid of the chest arose, and I almost fancied I beheld the divine essence therein in the shape of loaves of bread. “I have no money,” said I to my preserver, “but give me the key and help yourself.” He took some of the whitest and best bread he could find, and went away well pleased, though not half so well as myself. I refrained from taking any for the present, lest the deficiency might be noticed; and contented myself with the hope, that, on seeing so much in my power, hunger would hardly dare to approach me.75
My wretched master returned, and it pleased God that the offering my angel had been pleased to accept, remained undiscovered by him. The next day, when he went out, I went to my farinaceous paradise, and taking a loaf between my hands and teeth, in a twinkling it became invisible; then, not forgetting to lock the treasure, I capered about the house for joy to think that my miserable life was about to change, and for some days following, I was as happy as a king. But it was not predestined for me that such good luck should continue long; on the third day symptoms of my old complaint began to shew themselves, for I beheld my murderer in the act of examining our chest, turning and counting the loaves over and over again. Of course I dissimulated my terror, but it was not for want of my prayers and invocations, that he was not struck stone-blind like my old master, — but he retained his eyesight.
After he had been sometime considering and counting, he said, “If I were not well assured of the security of this chest, I should say that somebody had stolen my bread; but, however, to remove all suspicion, from this day I shall count the loaves; there remain now exactly nine and a piece.”
“May nine curses light upon you, you miserable beggar,” said I to myself — for his words went like an arrow to my heart, and hunger already began to 76 attack me, seeing a return to my former scanty fare now inevitable.
No ssonder did the priest go out, than I opened the chest to console myself even with the sight of food, and as I gazed on the nice white loaves, a sort of adoration arose within me, which the sight of such tempting morsels could alone inspire. I counted them carefully to see, if, perchance, the curmudgeon had mistaken the number; but, alas! I found he was a much better reckoner than I could have desired. The utmost I dared do, was to bestow on these objects of my affection a thousand kisses, and, in the most delicate manner possible, to nibble here and there a morsel of the crust. With this I passed the day, and not quite so jovially as the former, you may suppose.
But as hunger increased, and more so in proportion as I had fared better the few days previously, I was reduced to the last extremity. Yet, all I could do was to open and shut the chest, and contemplate the divine image within. Providence, however, who does not neglect mortals in such an extreme crisis, suggested to me a slight palliation of my present distress. After some consideration, I said within myself, “This chest is very large and old, and in some parts, though very slightly, is broken. It is not impossible to suppose that rats may have made an entrance, and gnawed the bread. To take a whole 77 loaf would not be wise, seeing that it would be missed by my most liberal master; but the other plan he shall certainly have the benefit of.” Then I began to pick the loaves, on some table cloths which were there, not of the most costly sort, taking one loaf, and leaving another, so that in the end, I made up a tolerable supply of crumbs, which I ate like so many sugar plumbs; and with that I in some measure consoled myself and contrived to live.
The priest, when he came home to dinner and opened the chest, beheld with dismay the havoc made in his store; but he immediately supposed it to have been occasioned by rats, so well, had I imitated the style of those depredators. He examined the chest narrowly, and discovered the little holes through which the rats might have entered; and calling me, he said, “Lazaro, look what havoc has been made in our bread during the night.” I seemed very much astonished, and asked what it could possibly be?” “What has done it?” quoth he, “why rats; confound ’em, there is no keeping any thing from them.” I fared well at dinner, and had no reason to repent of the trick I played, for he pared off all the places which he supposed the rats had nibbled at, and, giving them to me, he said, “There, eat that, rats are very clean animals.” In this manner, adding what I thus gained, to that acquired by the labour of my hands, or rather my nails, I managed tolerably well, though I little 78 expected it. I was destined to receive another shock, when I beheld my miserable tormentor carefully stopping up all the holes in the chest with small pieces of wood, which he nailed over them, and which bade defiance to further depredations. “Oh Lord!” I cried involuntary, “to what distress and misfortunes are we unhappy mortals reduced; and how short-lived are the pleasures of this our transitory existence. No sooner did I draw some little relief from the measure which kind fortune suggested, than it is snatched away; and this last act is like closing the door of consolation against me, and opening that of my misfortunes.
It was thus I gave vent to my distress, while the careful workman, with abundance of wood and nails, was finishing his cruel job, saying with great glee, “Now, you rascals of rats, we will change sides, if you please, for your future reception in this house will be right little welcome.”
The moment he left the house, I went examine his work, and found he had not left a single hole unstopped by which even a musquito could enter. I opened the chest, though without deriving the smallest benefit from its contents; my key was not utterly useless; but as I gazed with longing eyes on the two or three loaves which my master believed to be bitten by the rats, I could not resist the temptation of nibbling a morsel more, though touching 79 them in the lightest possible manner, like an experienced swordsman in a friendly assault.
Necessity is a great master, and being in this straight, I passed night an dday in devising means to get out of it. All the rascally plans that could enter the mind of man, did hunger suggest to me; for it is a saying, and a true one, as I can testify, that hunger makes rogues, and abundance, fools. One night, when my master slept, of which disposition he always gave sonorous testimony, as I was revolving in my mind the best mode of renewing my intimacy with the content sof the chest, a thought struck me, which I forthwith put in execution. I arose very quietly, and taking an old knife, which, having some little glimmering of the same idea the day previous, I had left for an occasion of this nature, I repaired to the chest, and at the part which I considered the least guarded, I began to bore a hole. The antiquity of the chest seconded my endeavours, for the wood had become rotten with age, and easily yielded to the knife, so that in a short time I managed to display a hole of very respectable dimensions, I then opened the chest very gently, and taking out the bread, I treated it much in the same manner as heretofore, and then returned safe to my mattress.
The next day my worthy master soon spied my handy-work, as well as the deficiency in his bread — and began by wishing the rats at the devil. “What 80 can it mean?” said he; “during all the time I have been here, there have never been rats in the house before.” And he might say so with truth; if ever a house in the kingdom deserved to be free from rats, it was his, as they are seldom known to visit where there is nothing to eat. He began again with nails and wood; but when night came, and he slept, I resumed my operations, and rendered nugatory all his ingenuity.
In this manner we went on; the moment he shut one door, I opened another: like the web of Penelope, what he spun by day, I unravelled by night; and in the course of a few nights the old chest was so maltreated, that little remained of the original that was not covered with pieces and nailing. When the unhappy priest found his mechanical ability of no avail, he said, “Really this chest is in such a state, and the wood is so old and rotten, that the rats make nothing of it. The best plan I can think of, since what we have done is of no use, is to arm ourselves within, against these cursed rats.” He then borrowed a rat-trap, and baiting it with bits of cheese which he begged from the neighbours, set it under the chest. This was a piece of singular good fortune for me, for although my hunger needed no sauce, yet I did not nibble the bread at night with less relish, because I added thereto the bait from the rat-trap. When in the morning he found not only 81 the bread gone as usual, but the bait likewise vanished, and the trap without a tenant, he grew almost beside himself. He ran to the neighbours, and asked of them what animal it could possibly be that could positively eat the very cheese out of the trap, and yet escape untouched. The neighbours agreed that it could be no rat that could thus eat the bait, and not remain within the trap, and one more cunning than the rest observed, — “I remember once seeing a snake about your premises, and depend on it that is the animal which has done you this mischief, for it could easily pick the bait from the trap without entering entirely, and thus too it might easily escape.” The rest all agreed that such must be the fact, which alarmed my master a good deal.
He now slept not near so soundly as before, and at every little noise, thinking it was the snake biting the chest, he would get up, and taking a cudgel which he kept at his bed’s head for the purpose, began to belabour the poor chest with all his might, so that the noise might frighten the reptile from his unthrifty proceedings. He even awoke the neighbours with such prodigious clamour, and I could not get a single minute’s rest. He turned me out of bed, and looked amongst the straw, and about the blanket, to see if the creature was concealed anywhere; for, as he observed, at night they seek warm places, and not unfrequently injure people by biting them in bed. 82 When he came, I always pretended to be very heavy with sleep, and he would say to me in the morning, “Did you hear nothing last night, boy? The snake was about, and I think I heard him at your bed, for they are very cold creatures, and love warmth.” “I hope to God he will not bite me,” returned I, “for I am very much afraid.” He was so watchful at night, that, by my faith, the snake could not continued his operations as usual, but in the morning when the priest was at church, he resumed them pretty steadily as usual.
Looking with dismay at the damage done to his store, and the little redress he was likely to have for it, the poor priest became quite uneasy from fretting, and wandered about all night like a hobgoblin. I began very much to fear that, during one of these fits of watchfulness, he might discover my key, which I placed for security under the straw of my bed. I therefore, with a caution peculiar to my nature, determined in future to keep this treasure by night safe in my mouth; and this was an ancient custom of mine, for during the time I lived with the blind man, my mouth was my purse, in which I could retain ten or twelve maravedies in farthings, without the slightest inconvenience in any way. Indeed, had I not possessed this faculty, I should never have had a single farthing of my own, for I had neither pocket nor bag that the old man did not continually search. Every 83 night I slept with the key in my mouth without fear of discovery; but, alas! when misfortune is our lot, ingenuity can be of little avail.
It was decreed, by my evil destiny, or rather, I ought to say, as a punishment for my evil doings, that one night, when I was fast asleep, my mouth being somewhat open, the key became placed in such a position therein, that my breath came in contact with the hollow of the key, and caused — the worse luck for me, — a loud whistling noise. On this my watchful master pricked up his ears, and thought it must be the hissing of the snake which had done him all the damage, and certainly he was not altogether wrong in his conjectures. He arose very quietly, with his club in his hand, and stealing towards the place whence the hissing sound proceeded, thinking at once to put an end to his enemy, he lifted with his club, and with all his force discharged such a blow on my unfortunate head, that it needed not another to deprive me of all sense and motion. The moment the blow was delivered, he felt it was no snake that had received it; and guessing what he had done, called out to me in a loud voice, endeavouring to recall me to my senses. Then touching me with his hands, he felt the blood, which was by this time in great profusion about my face, and ran quickly to procure a light. On his return, he found me moaning, yet still holding the key in my mouth, and 84 partly visible, being in the same situation which caused the whistling noise he had mistaken for the snake. Without thinking much of me, the attention of the slayer of snakes was attracted by the appearance of the key, and drawing it from my mouth, he soon discovered what it was, for, of course, the wards were precisely similar to his own. He ran to prove it, and with that, at once, found out the extent of my ingenuity.
“Thank God,” exclaimed the cruel snake hunter, “that the rats and snakes which have so long made war upon me, and devoured my substance, are both at last discovered.”
Of what passed for three days afterward, I can give no account; but that which I have related, I heard my master recount to those who came there to see me. At the end, however, of the third day, I began to have some consciousness of what was passing around me, and found myself extended on my straw, my head bound up, and covered with ointment and plasters.
“What is the meaning of all this?” I cried, in extreme alarm. The heartless priest replied, “I have only been hunting the rats and snakes, which have almost ruined me.” Seeing the condition in which I was, I then guessed what had happened to me. At this time an old nurse entered, with some of the neighbours, who dressed the wounds on my 85 head, which had assumed a favourable appearance; and as they found my senses were restored to me, they anticipated but little danger, and began to amuse themselves with my exploits, while I, unhappy sinner, could only deplore their effects.
With all this, however, they gave me something to eat, for I was almost dying with hunger; and at the end of fourteen or fifteen days I was able to rise from my bed without danger, though not even then without hunger, and only half cured. The day after I got up, my worthy and truly respectable master, took my hand, and opening the door, put me into the street, saying, “Lazaro, from this day look out for yourself, seek another master, and fare you well. No one will ever doubt that you have served a blind man; but for me, I do not require so diligent nor so clever a servant.” Then shaking me off, as though I was in league with the evil one, he went back into this house and shut the door.
NOTWITHSTANDING the weak state to which I was reduced, I was obliged to take heart, and with the assistance of some kind people, I gradually made my way to the famous city of Toledo, where, 86 by the mercy of God, I was shortly cured of my wounds.
While I laboured under sickness there were always some well disposed persons who were willing to give me alms; but no sooner was I recovered, than they said, “Why do you stay idling here? why don’t you seek a master?” On which the reply would rise to my lips, “it is very easy to talk, but it is hard to find one.”
In this manner I went on, seeking my living from door to door, and a mighty poor living it was, for charity has left us mortals here to take a flight to heaven long since. But one day I accidentally encountered a certain esquire in the street; he was of a good appearance, well dressed, and walked with an air of ease and consequence. As I cast my eyes upon him, he fortunately took notice of me, and said, “Are you seeking a master, my boy?” I replied that I as. “Then follow me,” said he, “you have reason to thank your stars for this meeting: — doubtless you have said your prayers with a better grace than usual this morning.” I followed him, returning thanks to providence for this singular good turn of fortune, for, if one might judge from appearances, here was exactly the situation which I had so long desired. It was early in the morning when I was engaged by this kind master, and I continued to follow him, as he desired, till. we made the tour of a 87 great part of the city. AS we passed the market, I hoped that he would give me a load to carry home, as it was then about the hour that people usually made their purchased of that nature; but he passed by without taking the slightest notice. “Peradventure,” quoth I to myself, “these commodities are not exactly to his taste; we shall be more fortunate in some other quarter.”
It was now eleven o’clock, and my master went into the cathedral to hear prayers, where I likewise followed him. Here we stayed until the whole service was finished and the congregation were departed; and then my master left, and proceeded towards one of the back streets of the city. Never was anybody more delighted than I, to find my master had not condescended to trouble himself about supplying his table, concluding, of course, that he was a gentleman whose means enabled him to consign to others such inferior domestic cares, and that on our arrival at home we should find everything in order, — an anticipation of great delight to me, and, in fact, by this time almost a matter of necessity. The clock had struck one, when we arrived at a house before which my master stopped, and throwing his cloak open, he drew from his sleeve a key with which he opened the door.
I followed my master into the house, the entrance of which was extremely dark and dismal, so much 88 so, as to create a sensation of fear in the mind of a stranger; and when within found it contained a small court-yard and tolerably sized chambers. The moment he entered, he took off his cloak, and enquiring whether I had clean hands, assisted me to fold it, and then, carefully wiping the dust from a seat, laid it thereon. He next very composedly seated himself, and began to ask me a variety of questions, as to who I was, where I came from, and how I came to that city; to all which I gave a more particular account than exactly suited me at that time, for I thought it would have been much more to the purpose had he desired me to place the table and serve up the soup, than ask me the questions he then did.
With all this, however, I contrived to give him a very satisfactory account of myself, dwelling on my good qualities, and concealing those which were not suitable to my present auditory. But I began now to grow very uneasy, for two o’clock arrived, and still no signs of dinner appeared, and I began to recollect that ever since we had been in the house I had not heard the foot of a human being, either above or below. All I had seen were bare walls, without even a chair or a table, — not so much as an old chest like that I had such good occasion to remember. In fact, it seemed to me like a house labouring under the influence of an enchantment.89
“Boy, hast thou eaten anything to-day?” asked my master at last, “No, Sir,” I replied, “seeing that it was scarcely eight o’clock when I had the good fortune to meet your honour.”
“Early as it was,” returned my master, “I had already breakfasted, and it is never my custom to eat again till the evening; manage as you can till then; you will have the better appetite for supper.”
It may be easily supposed, that, on hearing, this, my newly raised hopes vanished as rapidly as they had risen; it was not hunger alone that caused me to despond, but the certainty that fortune had not yet exhausted her full store of malice against me. Already I saw in perspective my troubles renewed, and I turned to weep over my unhappy anticipation. The consideration which prevented my taking an abrupt departure from the priest, arose to my remembrance — that of falling from bad to worse, and I beheld it, as I feared, realized. I could not but weep over the incidents of my past unfortunate career, and anticipate its rapidly approaching close; yet withal, concealing my emotion as well as possible, I said, “Thank God! Sir, I am not a boy that troubles himself much about eating and drinking; and for this quality I have been praised even to this very day by all the masters whom I have ever served.” “Abstinence is a great virtue,” returned my master, “and for this I shall esteem 90 thee still more; gourmandizing is only for swine, men of understanding require little to allay their appetite.” “I can understand that sentiment right well” — quoth I to myself, “my masters have all advised the same course; thought the devil a bit do they find the virtues of starvation so very pleasant, by all that I have seen.”
Seating myself near the door, I now began to eat some crusts fo bread which I had about me; they were part of some scraps I hd collected in my career of charity. “Come here, boy,” said my master, “what are you eating?” I went to him and shewed him the bread. He selected from the three pieces which I had, the best and largest, and said, “Upon my life, but this seems exceedingly nice bred.” — “Yes, Sir,” I replied, “it is very good.” — “It really is,” he continued, “Where did you get it? was it made with clean hands, I wonder?” “That I can’t answer for,” I replied, “but the flavour of it does not come amiss to me.”
“Nor to me either, please God!” said my poor devil of a master; and, having finished his scrutiny, he raised the bread to his mouth, and commenced as fierce an attack on it, as I quickly did on the other.
“By heavens! but this bread is beautiful!” exclaimed he; and I, beginning to see how matters stood with him, redoubled my haste with the 91 remainder, being well assured that if he finished first, he would have little hesitation in assisting me: but luckily we finished together. He then carefully picked up the crumbs which had fallen, and entering a small chamber adjoining, brought out an old jar with a broken mouth. Having drank therefrom he handed it to me, but to support my character of abstemiousness, I excused myself, saying, “No, Sir, I thank you; I never drink wine.”
“The contents of the jar will not hurt you,” he said, “it is only water!” I took the jar, but a very small draught satisfied me, fro thirst was one of the few things from which I suffered no inconvenience.
Thus we remained till night, I anticipating my supper, and my master asking me many questions, to all of which I answered in the best manner I was able. Then he took me into the chamber whence he had brought the jar of water, and said, “Stay here, my boy, and see how to make this bed, as from henceforth you will have this duty.” We then placed ourselves on each side of this bed, if such it can be called, to make it; though little enough there was to make. On some benches was extended a sort of platform of reeds, on which were placed the clothes, which, from want of washing were not the whitest in the world. The deuce of any thing was there in the shape of feather-bed or mattress, but the canes shewed like the ribs 92 of a lean hog, through an old covering which served to lie upon, and the colour of which one could not exactly praise.
It was night when the bed was made, and my master said, “Lazaro! it is rather late now, and the market is distant; likewise the city abounds with rogues; we had better therefore pass the night as we can, and to-morrow morning we will fare better. Being a single man, you see, I don’t care much for these things, but we will arrange better in future.”
“Sir, as to myself,” I replied, “I beg you will on no account distress yourself. I can pass a night without food with no inconvenience, or even more indeed, if it were necessary.” “Your health will be all the better for it,” he said, “for take my word for it, as I said to-day, nothing in the world will insure length of life so much as eating little.”
“If life it to be purchased on such terms,” said I to myself, “is shall never die, for hitherto I have been obliged to keep this rule, whether I will or no; and, God help me, I fear I shall keep it all my long life.”
My master then went to bed, putting his clothes under his head, instead of a pillow, and ordered me to seek my rest at his feet; which I accordingly did, thought the situation precluded all hope of sleep. The canes, of which the bedstead was composed, and my bones, which were equally prominent, were, 93 throughout the night, engaged in a continual and most unpleasant intimacy; for considering my illness, and the privations which I had endured, to say nothing of my present starving condition, I do not believe I had a single pound of flesh on my whole body. Throughout the day I had eaten nothing but a crust of bread, and was actually mad with hunger, which is in itself a bitter enemy to repose. A thousand times did I curse myself and my unhappy fortunes — the Lord forgive my impiety; and what was a sore addition to my misery, I dared not to move, nor vent my grief in audible expressions, for fear of waking my master; many times during this night did I pray to God to finish my existence!
As the morning appeared, we arose, and I set about cleaning my master’s clothes, and putting them in order; and helped him to dress, very much to his satisfaction. AS he placed his sword in his belt, he said, “Do you know the value of this weapon, my boy? The gold was never coined that should buy this treasure of me. Of all the blades Antonio ever forged, he never yet made its fellow.” And then drawing it from the scabbard and trying the edge with his fingers, he added, “with this blade I would engage to sever a bale of wool” — “and I would do more than that with my teeth,” said I to myself, “for though they are not made of steel, I 94 would engage to sever a four pound loaf and devour it afterwards.”
He then sheathed his sword and girded it round him, and with an easy, gentlemanlike carriage, bearing himself erect, and throwing the corner of his cloak over his shoulder, or over his arm, placing his right hand on his side, he sallied forth, saying: “Lazaro, see to the house while I go to hear mass, and make the bed during my absence; the vessel for water wants filling, which you can do at the river which runs close by; though take care to lock the door when you go, lest we should be robbed, and put the key on this hinge, in case I return before you, that I may let myself in.”
He then walked up the street with such an air of gentility, that a stranger would have taken him for a near relation of the Count of Arcos, or, at least, for his valet de chambre.
“Blessed be the Lord!” said I, “who, if he inflicts misfortunes, gives us the means of bearing them. Now who, on meeting my mater, would dream but that he had supped well and slept well; and, although early in the morning, but that he had also breakfasted well. There are many secrets, my good master, that you know, and that all the world is ignorant of. Who would not be deceived by that smiling face and that fine cloak? and who would 95 believe that such a fine gentleman had passed the whole of yesterday without any other food than a morsel of bread, that his boy had carried in his breast for a day and a night? To day washing his hands and face, and, for want of a towel, obliged to dry them with the lining of his garments — no one would ever suspect such things from the appearance before them. Alas! how many are there in this world who voluntarily suffer more for their false idea of honour, than they would undergo for their hopes of an hereafter!”
Thus I moralized at the door of our house, while my master paced slowly up the street; and then, returning within, I lost no time in making the tour of the house, which I did, though without making any fresh discovery whatever; or finding anything of a more consolatory nature than my own gloomy thoughts.
I quickly made our bed, such as it was, and taking the water jar, went with it to the river. There I saw my gay master in one of the gardens by the river side, in close conversation with two ladies, closely veiled, for there were many who were in the habit of resorting thus early in the morning to enjoy the fresh air, and to take breakfast with some of the gentlemen of the city, who likewise frequented the spot. There he stood between them, saying softer things than Ovid ever did; while they, seeing him apparently so enamoured, made no scruple of hinting 96 their wish to breakfast. Unfortunately his purse was as empty as his heart was full, therefore this attack on his weaker position threw him somewhat suddenly into disorder, which became evident from his confusion of language, and the lame excuses of which he was obliged to avail himself. The ladies were too well experienced not to perceive, and that quickly, how matters stood; it was not long, therefore, before they exchanged him for a more entertaining gallant.
I was all this time slily munching some cabbage stalks, for want of a better breakfast, which I dispatched with considerable alacrity, and then returned home, without being seen by my master, to await his orders respecting breakfast on his return.
I began to think seriously what I should do, still hoping, however, that, as the day advanced, my master might return with the means to provide, at least, for our dinner, but in vain. Two o’clock came, but no master; and, as my hunger now became insupportable, without further consideration I locked the door, and, placing the key where I was told, sallied out in search of food. With a humble subdued voice, my hands crossed upon my breast, and the name of the Lord upon my tongue, I went from house to house begging bread. The practice of this art, I may say, I imbibed with my mother’s milk’ or rather, that having studied it under the greatest 97 master in all Spain, it is no wonder that I was so great an adept in all its various branches.
Suffice it to say, that although in this city there is no more charity than would save a saint from starvation, yet such was my superiority in talent, that before four o’clock, I had stowed away nearly four pounds of bread in my empty stomach, and two pounds more in my sleeves, and in the inside of my jacket. Passing then by the tripe market, I begged of one of the women that keep the stalls, who gave be a good sized piece of cow-heel, with some other pieces of boiled tripe. When I got home, I found my good gentleman already arrived, and having folded and brushed his cloak, he was walking about the court-yard. As I entered, he came up to me, as I thought, to chide me for my absence, but, thank God, it was far otherwise. He enquired where I had been, to which I replied, “Sir, I remained at home till two o’clock; but when I found that your honour did not return, I went out, and recommended myself so well to the notice of the good people of this city, that they have given me what you see.” I then shewed him the bread and tripe which I had collected. At the sight of these delicacies, his countenance brightened up. “Ah!” said he, “I waited dinner for you some time; but as it grew late I finished. You have nevertheless acted very properly in this matter; for it is much better to ask, for the 98 love of God, than to steal. I only charge you on no account to say you live with me, as such proceedings would not exactly redound to my honour — although I hardly think there is any danger, seeing that I am known so little in this city.” “Do not alarm yourself, Sir, on that head,” said I, “for people thought as little of asking who was my master, as I of telling them.” “Eat away, then, you young rogue,” said he, “and with the blessing of God, we shall not long have need of such assistance, though I must say, since I have been in this house, good fortune has never visited me. There are houses, from some reason or other, so unlucky, that every one who occupies them becomes infected with their ill fortune, and this is without doubt one of them; but I promise you that directly the month is up, I will leave, even if they should offer it to me for nothing.” I seated myself on the end of the bench, and commenced my supper with the tripe and bread. My poor unhappy master all the time eyed me askance, and never once took his eyes from my skirts, which at that time served me instead of a dinner-service. Providence had that day so favoured me, that I resolved my master should partake of my abundance, for I could well understand his feelings, having experienced them of old, and to that very day, indeed, I was no stranger to them. I began to think whether it would exactly become me to invite him to my repast, but as he had 99 unfortunately said he had dined, I feared lest he might take it amiss. However, I very much wished that the poor sinner might have the benefit of my labour, and break his fast as he had done the day before, particularly as the food was better, and my hunger less. My good wishes towards him were speedily gratified, as they happened to jump with his own humour, for directly I commenced my meal, he began walking up and down the room, and approaching me rather closely —
“Lazaro,” said he, “I really cannot help remarking the extreme grace with which you make your meal. I don’t think I ever saw any one eat with more natural elegance; certain it is, that an observer might benefit by your example.”
“Doubtless, my good Sir,” thought I, “it can only be to your extreme amiability, that I am indebted for this compliment.” Then, in order to give him the opportunity which I knew he longed for, I said, “Good materials, Sir, required good workmen. This bread is most delicious, and this cow-heel is so well cooked and seasoned, that the smell alone is sufficient to tempt any one.”
“Cow-heel, is it?” said he.
“It is, Sir,” I replied.
“Ah!” said he, “cow’s heel is one of the most delicate morsels in the world, there is nothing I am so fond of.”100
“Then taste it, Sir,” said I, “and try whether this is as good as you have eaten.” He seated himself on the bench beside me, and laying hands of the cow-hell, with three or four pieces of the whitest bread, commenced in such good earnest, that one might easily see his rations were not disagreeable to him — grinding every bone as ravenously as a greyhound. “With a nice sauce of garlic,” said he, “this would be capital eating.”
“You eat it with a better sauce than that, my good Sir,” thought I.
“By heavens,” said he, “any body would think, to see me eat, that I had not touched a morsel to-day.”
“I wish I was as sure of good luck as I’m sure of that,” said I to myself. He asked me for the water jug, and I gave it to him, which, by the way, was a sure proof he had eaten nothing, for it was as full as when I brought it from the river. After drinking, we went to bed in the same manner as on the night before, though it must be confessed in a much more contented mood.
Not to dwell too much on this part of my story, I shall only say, that in this manner we passed eight or ten days, my worthy master taking the air every day, in the most frequented parts, with the most perfect ease of a man of fashion, and returning home to feast on the contribution of the charitable, levied by poor Lazaro.101
Many times did he reflection suggest itself, that, when with former masters I prayed so heartily to be released from such miserable service, my desire was certainly gratified, though with this difference, that not only did my present one decline feeding me, but expected that I should maintain him.
With all this, however, I liked him very much, seeing he had not the ability to do more, — in fact, I was much more sorry for his unfortunate condition than angry at the situation in which his deficiencies placed me; and many times I have been reduced to short commons myself, that I might bring home a certain share for my unlucky master. But he was poor, and nobody can give what he has not got, — an excuse which I cannot make for the old scoundrels I served before — though as God is my witness, to this very day I never see a gentleman, like my master, strutting along as though the street was hardly wide enough for him, without marking the singular way in which Fortune apportions her favours. I pitied him from my heart, to think that with all his apparent greatness he might at that moment suffer privations equally hard to endure. But with all his poverty, I found greater satisfaction in serving him than either of the others, for the reasons I have stated. All that I blamed him for, was the extravagance of his pride, which, I thought, might have been somewhat abated towards one who, like myself, knew 102 his circumstances so intimately. It seems to me, however, that the poorest gentlefolk are always the most proud; but there is consolation in the thought, that death knows no distinction, but at length most generally places the commoner in higher ground than it does the peer. I lived for some time in the manner I have related, when it pleased my miserable fortune, which seemed never tired with persecuting me, to envy me even my present precarious and unhappy condition.
It appeared that the season in that country had been unfavourable to corn; therefore it wa sordained by the magistracy, that all strangers who subsisted by alms should quit the city, or risk the punishment of the whip. This law was enforced so rigidly, that only four days after its promulgation, I beheld a procession of miserable wrtethces who were suffering the penalty through the streets of the city; a sight which so alarmed me, that I did not dare for the future to avail myself of my accustomed means of subsistence. It can hardly be possible to imagine the extreme necessity to which our house was reduced, or the mournful silence of those who were expiring within; for two or three days we neither spoke a word nor had a mouthful to eat. With regard to myself, there were some young women, who earned their living by cotton-spinning, and making caps, and with whom, being near neighbours 103 of ours, I had some slight acquaintanceship; our of their pittance these poor girls gave me a morsel, which just served to keep life within me.
I did not, however, feel my own situation so keenly as I did that of my poor master, who, during the space of eight days, to the best of my knowledge, never touched a mouthful; at least, I can say, the deuce a morsel ever entered our door. Whether he ever got anything to eat when he went out I cannot determine; but I know well, that he sallied out every day with a waist as fine as a greyhound of the best breed; and the better, as he thought, to evade suspicion, he would take a straw from the mattrass(!--Susan note -Sp!--> which could even ill spare the loss, and go swaggering out of the house, sticking it in his mouth for a toothpick! He continued to attribute all his ill-fortune to the unlucky house in which we were lodged. “The evils we have to bear,” he would say, “are all owing to this unfortunate dwelling — as you see it is indeed sad, dark, and dismal: nevertheless, here we are, and, I fear, must continue awhile to suffer; I only wish the month was past, that we might well be quit of it.”
It happened one day, suffering, as I have described, this afflicting persecution of hunger, that, by some extraordinary chance, I know not what, nor did I think it dutiful to enquire, there fell into my poor master’s poverty-stricken possession the large sum of 104 one rial, with which he came home as consequentially as thought he had brought the treasure of Venice, saying to me, with an air of extreme satisfaction and contentment, “Here Lazaro, my boy, take this — Providence is at last beginning to smile on us — go to the market, and purchase bread, meat, and wine; we will not longer take things as we have done. I have other good news, likewise. I have taken another lodging; so that there will be no occasion to remain in this wretched place longer than the end of the month. Curse the place, and he who laid the first brick; by the Lord, since I’ve been here, not a drop of wine have I drunk, nor have I tasted a morsel of meat, neither have I enjoyed the smallest comfort whatsoever; but everything has been, as you see, miserable and dismal to the last degree. However, go, and quickly, for to-day we will feast like lords.”
I took my rial and jar, and without another word set out on my errand with the utmost speed, making towards the market-place in the most joyous and light-hearted mood imaginable. But alas! what enjoyment could I expect, when my adverse fortune so preponderated, that the slightest gleam of sunshine in my career was sure to be overtaken by a storm? I was making my way, as I said, in extremely good spirits, revolving in my mind in what manner I should lay out my money to the best advantage, and returning heartfelt thanks to Providence 105 for favoring my master with this unexpected stroke of fortune, when I saw a great crowd at the other end of the street, among whom were many priests; and I soon found to my horror that they were accompanying a corpse. I stood up against the wall to give them room; and as the body passed I beheld one, who, as I supposed, from the mourning she wore, was the widow of the deceased, surrounded by friends. She was weeping bitterly, and uttering in a loud voice the most piteous exclamations. “Alas!” she cried, “my dear husband and lord! whither are they taking you? To that miserable and unhappy dwelling! To that dark and dismal habitation! To the house where there is neither eating nor drinking!” Good heavens! never shall I forget the moment when I heard those words; it seemed in my fright as though heaven and earth were coming together. “Miserable and unhappy wretch that I am,” I exclaimed in an agony of mind, “it is to our house then that they are bearing this body!”
I rushed from the place where I stood, through the crown, forgetting in my fright the object of my errand, and made with all speed towards home. The instant I arrived, I closed the door, barred and bolted it, and cried out to my master with the utmost earnestness of manner to help me to defend the entrance. He, greatly alarmed, and with the impression that it was something else, 106 called to me, “What is the matter, boy? why do you slam the door with such fury?”
“Oh, master,” said I, “come here and assist me, for they are bringing a dead body here! I met them in the street above, and I heard the widow of the dead man crying out, ‘Alas! husband and master, whither do they take you? To the dark and dismal house; — to the house of misery and misfortune; — to the house where they neither eat nor drink.’ To what other house then can they be bringing him than this?” Directly my master heard these words, albeit in no merry humour, he burst out into such a fit of laughing, that it was some time before he could utter a word.
During this time, I was holding fast the door, placing my shoulder against it, for better securtiy. The crowd passed with the body; though still I could not persuade myself but that they intended to bring it in. When my master was more satiated with mirth than with food, he said to me, in a good-tempered manner, “It is very just, Lazaro; according to what the widow said, you were right in thinking as you did; but as they have thought better of it, and passed on, open the door, and go on your errand.” “Stop a little longer, Sir,” said I, ‘let them pass the end of the street, that we may be sure;” but he would not wait, and coming to the street door, he opened it, and forced me away, for I hardly knew 107 what I did, with fright, and so he dispatched me again to the market.
We dined well that day, though my appetite was but indifferent; and it was some time before I recovered from the effect of that misadventure, though it was an excellent source of mirth to my master, whenever it was brought to his recollection.
In this manner I lived some little time with my third and poorest master, the Esquire; having great curiosity to know what could possibly have induced him to come to that part of the world, for I knew he was a stranger on the first day I lived with him, from the fact of his not knowing a single soul in the city. At last my wish was gratified; for one day, when we had feasted pretty well, and were consequently in good humour, he told me a little of his history. He was a native of Old Castile, and had quitted his country, because he had refused to salute a neighbouring gentleman of consequence, by taking off his hat first, which, according to punctilio, was construed into an insulting mark of disrespect. My honourable master wished to convince me, that, being a gentleman, the other, though superior, had an equal right to doff his bonnet to him; “For,” said he, “though I am, as you see, but an Esquire, I vow to God, if the Count himself were to meet me in the street, and did not take off his hat to me, aye, and entirely off, the next time we met I would 108 turn into some shop, pretending business, rather than pay him the least mark of respect. And though you see me here but poorly off, yet in my own country I have an estate in houses in good condition, and well rented, only sixteen leagues from the place where I was born, worth at least two hundred thousand maravedis; so you see that they must be of good size and in good repair. I have likewise a dovecot, which if it were taken care of, which it is not, would furnish upwards of two hundred young birds annually; and many other things I possess, which I have relinquished solely because I would not have the slightest imputation cast upon my honour, by yielding precedence to one who was in fact no better than myself; and I came to this city hoping to obtain some honourable employment, though I have not succeeded so well as I could have wished.”
In this manner my master was going on with his narrative, giving me an account of the honourable proceeding by which he had suffered, when he was interrupted by the appearance of an old man and woman; the former came to demand the rent of thhouse, and the latter that of the bed. They brought the account, and claimed for two months more than he could raise in a year; I think, it was aobut twelve or thirteen rials. He answered them very courteously, that he was then going out to change a 108 piece of ogd, and should return in the evening. But he made his exit this time for good; and when the good people came for their money, I was obliged to tell them that he had not yet returned, The night came, but without my master, and being fearful of remaining in the house by myself, I went to our neighborrs, to whom I related the circumstance, and they allowed me to remain with them.
Early in the morning, the creditors returned, and enquired of the neighbours. The women replied, that his boy was there, and the key of the door ready for them. They then asked me about my master, and I told them that I knew not where he was, and that I had not seen him since he went out to change the piece of gold; but that I though it was most likely he was gone off with the change.
On hearing this news, they sent for a lawyer and a constable, and called on me and others to witness their taking possession of my master’s effects in payment of their demands. They went all over the house, and found just as much furniture as I have recounted before, when they demanded of me, “What has become of your master’s property? where are his trunks? and where is his household furniture?” “I’m sure I don’t know,” I replied. “Doubtless,” said they, “the property has been removed during the night. Señor Alguazil, take that boy into custody; he knows whither it has 110 been taken.” On this up came the Aguazil, and seizing me by the collar, said, “Boy, thou art my prisoner, if thou reveal not where thy master hath hid his effects.” I, as if quite new to this sort of thing, expressed the utmost surprise and terror, and promised to state every thing I knew, which seemed a little to disarm his anger. “That is right,” exclaimed all, “tell all you know, and fear nothing.” The man of law seated himself at a desk, and desired me to begin. “Gentlemen,” I continued, “my master is in possession of a good stock of houses and an old dovecot.” “So far well,” was the reply; “however little worth, it will meet the debt he owes us; in what part of the city do they lie?” “On his own estate, to be sure,” was my answer. “That is all the better,” they exclaimed; “and where is his estate?” “In old Castile, I replied, as he told me.” Both Alguazil and notary laughed out at hearing this, exclaiming, “Quite enough — quite enough to cover your claim, though it were even greater.” The neighbours who had gathered round us, now said: “Gentlemen, this here is a very honest boy; he has not been long in the ’squire’s service, and knows no more of him than does your worship; the poor little sinner came knocking at our doors, and for charity’s sake we gave him something to eat; after which he has gone to sleep at his master’s.”
Seeing that I was innocent, they let me go free; 111 but the notary and the Alguazil now came on the owners for the taxes, which gave rise to no very friendly discussion, and a most hideous din; the man and woman maintained very stoutly that they had neither the will nor the means to pay them. The others declared they had other business in view of more importance; but I left hem without stopping to see the issue of the affair, though I believe the unfortunate owner had to pay all, and he well deserved to do it, for when he ought to have taken his ease and pleasure, after a life of labour, he still went on hiring out houses to increase his gain.
It was in this way that my third and poorest master took leave of me, by which it seems I put the seal to my bad fortune, which, while exercising its utmost rigour against me, had this singularity in it, that though most domestics are known to run away from their masters, it was not thus in my case, inasmuch as my master had fairly run away from me.
I HAD now to seek a fourth master; and this turned out to be a holy friar, to whom I was conducted by the ladies before alluded to, and who were related to him, He was a great enemy to psalm- 112 singing, and of the usual convent fare; fond of roaming out, and eager indeed in the pursuit of every kind of secular business and amusement. In fact, he wore out more shoes than all the rest of the convent put together. It was he who gave me the first pair of shoes I ever had given me in my life; and they did not last me much above a week, so constantly did he keep me on the trot. In short, I could not endure it; and for this and other reasons, not worth stating, I took my leave of him, without asking leave.
THE fifth master that fortune threw in my way, was a Bulero, or a dealer in papal indulgences — one of the most impudent and barefaced, yet cleverest rogues, that I have ever seen, or shall see. He practised all manner of deceit, and resorted to the most subtle inventions to gain his end. On his arrival at any place to present his credentials and open his traffic, the first thing he did, was to send small presents of no great value to the clergy, by which means he would gain a civil reception — and perhaps assistance in his negotiations. He made himself acquainted with the character of these persons; 113 when to some he would say, that he never spoke in Latin, but always preferred a chaste and elegant diction in his native tongue. To others again, he would talk Latin for two hours; at least so it would seem to those who heard him, although perhaps it was not half that time. When he found that no great success attended his usual endeavours, he would have recourse to artifice; but as a regular account of them would fill a volume, I will only recount one little manœuvre, which will give you some idea of his genius and invention.
He had preached two or three days, at a place near Toledo, and had not neglected his usual offerings; but he found his indulgences go off but slowly; with very little appearance of improvement, for which he very heartily wished the good people at the devil. Being at his wit’s end what to do, he invited all the people to the church the next morning, to take his farewell. After supper that evening, he and the Alguazil sat down to enjoy themselves, and in the course of their entertainment, some dispute arose, which increased to very high words. He called the Alguazil thief, which the other retorted by calling him impostor. On this, the Bulero caught up a weapon lying near, and the Alguazil drew his sword to defend himself. The noise was so great, that the neighbours ran in to enquire into the cause, and with some difficulty separated the enraged 114 combatants. They continued, however, to revile each other with words, although, by reason of the house being filled with people, they could not vent their rage with blows; the Alguazil continually calling out that my master was an impostor, and that his indulgences were forged. The neighbours seeing that peace could not be restored, took away the Alguazil to another inn, to prevent mischief; and after some time, the uproar subsiding, we went to bed.
In the morning my master went to the church to preach his farewell sermon. The people were all there, murmuring about the authenticity of the bull, saying that the Alguazil had discovered it to them; and if they were indisposed towards the indulgences before, they were now little likely to purchase them. The reverend commissary ascended the pulpit, and commenced his sermon. He expatiated on the merits of the Pope’s holy commission, and of the infallible virtues of the indulgences which the bull guaranteed. The sermon was proceeding in this manner when the Alguazil entered the church, and taking advantage of an opportunity, rose, and with a loud voice but discreet manner he addressed the congregation: — “My good people; hear me but one word, and listen to whomsoever you please afterwards. I came here with yonder cheat who is now preaching to you, and, seduced by him, I promised to 115 favour his deception and divide the gains. But as my conscience is uneasy at thus assisting to rob you of your money, I take this opportunity of declaring before you all that the bull is forged, and that the indulgences are false. And after this confession I beg you to bear witness, if at any future time this rogue meet with punishment as an impostor, that I am not implicated therein, but have done all in my power to expose him and warn you.”
Many respectable people, to prevent the scandal of the thing proceeding further, wished to turn the Alguazil out of the church, but the reverend preacher would by no means permit such violence; and thus the Alguazil had the liberty of saying all he wished. When he was silent, my master rose and asked him if he wished to say more? on which he replied, “I could say plenty more concerning your rogueries, but for the present what I have said is sufficient.”
The devout commissary of his holiness then threw himself on his knees in the pulpit, and casting his arms and eyes towards heaven, he exclaimed, — “Oh! Lord, to whom nothing is hidden, thou knowest the truth, and how cruelly I am calumniated. I forgive all that personally concerns me, but to that which relates to my hole calling I cannot be indifferent; inasmuch as many here may be induce to give credit to what has been falsely spoken, to the injury of their own souls and of my holy mission. I therefore 116 pray thee, Oh, Lord, to vouchsafe by a miracle to shew the whole truth as to this matter. If I deal in falsehood and iniquity, may the pulpit on which I now kneel sink with me seven fathoms below the earth, so that I may never be heard of again, — and if what is said be false, and prompted by the devil to deprived these good people her of the comforts of which I am the bearer, let the author of this calumny be punished, so that all present may be convinced of his malice.”
Hardly had my pious master finished his prayer, when the Alguazil fell from the place where he was standing, and with such a noise that the whole church resounded with the fall. His countenance became distorted, and he began to foam at the mouth, uttering frightful curses, and rolling about in the utmost apparent agony. At this wonderful interposition of Providence, the clamour became so great that no one could hear himself speak. Some were frightened, and cried, “Lord, Lord, have mercy on the sinner;” while others said, “It served him right for his false testimony — let him kick and go to the devil!”
Finally, however, some individuals went to his assistance, though not without evident fear, and tried to hold his arms and legs; but he gave them such fierce salutes, dealing his favours so vigorously and dexterously, that many were much hurt, and it required at least seventeen men to hold him down.117
While this was proceeding, my sainted master was on his knees in the pulpit, his hadns and eyes turned towards heaven, apparently filled with the divine essence, and utterly unconscious of the noises and disturbance around him, so completely was he wrapt in his heavenly meditations. Some approached him, and begged him, “for the love of God, to succour the poor wretch who was dying; and that, doubtless, at his intercession, the Lord would not prolong his suffereings.”
The devout commissary, as though disturbed from a sweet vision, looked around him, first at the suppliants and then at the delinquent. “My good friends,” said he slowly, “you ought not to ask a favour for him whom God has so signally chastised. But as he has commanded that we should return good for evil, we may with more confidence implore his pardon for the poor wretch who had dared to place an obstacle in the way of his holy commission.” Then, descending from the pulpit, he desired them all to pray for the sinner, and that the devil with which he was possessed might be cast out. The congregation with one accord threw themselves on their knees, and commenced in a low voice to repeat the litany; while my master, before he approached the possessed sinner with the cross and holy water, turning his eyes to heaven till the whites could only be seen, delivered a pious oration, which 118 drew tears from the eyes of the hearers. This being finished, he commanded the holy bull to be brought and placed on the head of the possessed, and immediately the sinner of an Alguazil began by degrees to recover himself. Directly he was restored to consciousness, he threw himself at the feet of the holy commissary, and implored his pardon. He confessed that what he did was by the commandment of the Devil, who was excessively annoyed at the appearance of the holy man, and was fearful that he should lose his dominion over the people if they were to purchase his indulgences. My master, in the most benevolent manner, pardoned him, and interchanged kindnesses with him, giving him advice very much to his comfort and advantage. Great now was the demand for indulgences amongst the bystanders, and not an individual would go from church without one, neither man woman nor child.
The news soon spread, and people came flocking from all parts, of that no sermons were necessary in the church to convince them of the benefits likely to result to the purchasers. The inn where we resided was crowded with applicants, and wherever we went in that district, thousands of indulgences were sold without a single sermon being preached. I must confess that I, amongst many others, was deceived at the time, and thought my master a miracle of sanctity; but hearing the merriment which 119 afforded to the holy commissary and the Alguazil, I began to suspect that it originated in the peculiarly fertile invention of my master, and although young, from that moment I ceased to be a child of grace; for I argued within myself, “If I, being an eye-witness to such an imposition, could almost believe it, how many more, amongst this poor innocent people, must be imposed on by these robbers.”
I quitted my fifth master at the end of four months, during which I experienced some very fatiguing and unpleasant adventures.”
I NEXT entered into arrangements with a certain chaplain whom I met in the great church, and who seeing in me a well-grown and conditioned youth, took me forthwith into his service, and put under my care a fine ass, and four narrow necked pitchers, along with a whip, with all which I commenced to cry one of the four elements, namely, pure water, through the city.
This was the first step which I had yet made towards attaining an easy life, for I had here a mouthful at will. Every day I delivered to my 120 master thirty maravedis, and on the Sabbaths I gained what I could for myself, amounting, with what I made in the week, to at least thirty more. Such was my success in this new office, that at the end of four years, by the use of some caution and address, I began to cut a very gentlemanlike appearance out of my master’s wardrobe, by the sale of which I was enabled to buy a doublet of old fustian, a large coat with trimmed sleeves, and a cloak lined with silk, besides one of the old famous swords of Cuellar. I had no sooner beheld myself thus arrayed like a man of some note, than I requested of my master to take care of the ass himself, for that I had done with that particular office.
HAVING bidden the chaplain farewell, I joined the train of justice, and entered the service of an Alguazil. I did not, however, remain in it long, inasmuch as I found it a dangerous employment, and particularly on one night, when a party we were conducting set on and stoned us, treating my master, whom they killed, exceedingly ill, but fortunately stopping short of that with myself.121
With this I threw up the trade, and considering in what mode I should next live with a little more safety and ease, as well as profit, to supply my old age, it pleased Heaven to enlighten and put me into a much better way, insomuch that I forgot all my past anxieties and pains in the favour of those friends and gentlemen who procured me — an office under the royal government; for I saw that no one so well thrived as he who held such a situation. This also I yet keep, and flourish in it, with the permission of God, and of every good customer. In fact, my charge is that of making public proclamation of the wine which is sold in these places, and at auctions, &c.’ of bearing those company who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, and publishing to the world, with a loud voice, their faults.
I have succeeded in the office so well, and with so much ease, that almost all matters relating to it are known to go through my hands, insomuch, that the man who has got wine or other thing to sell, begins to think if a losing concern if Lazaro de Tormes has not something to do with it.
About this time, perceiving my ability and my style of life, the arch-priest of Salvador, to whim I was introduced, and who was under obligation to me for crying his wine, shewed his sense of it by uniting me with one of his own domestics.
I conceived that nothing but a favourable influence 122 and patronage would accrue from this step, and from that hour I have never repented it; for besides being a good creature, diligent and useful, my wife has preserved the countenance of my lord arch-priest, and on holy days and festivals, he is sure to make her some solid present, either from his larder or his wardrobe, which really serves to keep us in good plight; and as to house rent, he engaged for us, and we live within a short distance of him. Many a good day, in fact, we celebrate at his own table; but evil tongues will be busy, and give out all kinds of reports, as to all this being done more out of compliment to my wife, than to myself. God give the world more grace to tell the truth; not that my wife disturbs herself for the wagging of a few tongues, and a little barking where they cannot bite. Our good priest, moreover, came one day, and thus addressed me: “Lazaro, my friend, whoever pays attention to the envious remarks of others, will never thrive. I say it, lest you should heed what they say respecting your wife’s visits to see her old master: it is all kindly meant; and your honour is safe, that I can promise you. Dream not of honour then, but stick to profit, and conduct thyself like a wise man.”
“My lord,” I replied, “it is true, that some of my friends have touched upon this subject, and even dared to assert, that, before my marriage with your 123 maid, she had already been brought to be three times, speaking with all reverence, by means of your lordship; such is the power of calumny in ill-disposed minds.”
Upon hearing this, my wife, who was present, began to cross herself and appeal to all the saints, so that I feared the house would open under our feet; after this she burst out into a loud weeping, and rapped out a thousand maledictions upon the head of him who had first joined her in wedlock with Lazaro de Tormes — my humble self. “Would,” she said, “I had died, ere that fatal word had issued from these lips.” But I on one side, and my lord on the other, soon succeeded in drying her tears, vowing, as I did, never to allude, in the slightest manner, to that delicate subject more, assuring her that such was my confidence, that I would be glad to see her going at all hours, either by night or day, into my good patron’s house. In this way we all three soon became reconciled to ourselves and to each other. Never to this day has a hint escaped me relative to the matter; and f I hear nay one so much as approach the most distant confines of it, I seize him by the button, and exclaim, “If you be a friend of mine, do not utter what you know will give me pain; for I do not hold him a true one who wishes to excite mischief, and more especially between me and my wife — the object to whom I am most attached in life, and who, by the grace of 124 God, confers on me greater benefit than I can ever deserve. I would swear to you, by the Holy Host, she is as good a wife as lives within the walls of Toledo; and let my worst enemy say no, and I will fight him on that theme to the death.”
All this happened the same year that our victorious Emperor Charles made his entry into this celebrated city of Toledo, and there held his court, bringing with him a season of feast and jubilee, of which all must have heard.
AT this time I had reached my most prosperous “and palmy state.” I was at the top of the ladder and enjoyed all kind of good fortune. Wherever I went I was accompanied by a good assortment of fruits and other rarities, such as are produced and cries in this our favoured land, samples of all which I displayed to view; and thus obtained such a connection, both among natives and foreigners, that I found open house wheresoever I chose to direct my steps. I was, in short, such a favourite, that, I believe, had I wished to kill a man out of mere 125 whim, or chanced to fall into any horrible scrape, I should have found every body upon my side, and got clear off by means of noble friends and connections in high life. I never left them empty-handed; they always took from me some of the most choice articles in the city — a city in which we spent so glorious a life. When in their company, they never permitted us to put our hands into our pockets or expend the least item, declaring that, both on my wife’s account and my own, they should take it as an affront. I could not find words to express the pleasure I felt in their society; and not only this — but they crowded our table with every delicacy of the season; so that every day we had a store by us enough to last a whole family for a week. In this land of plenty I often recalled to mind my days of fast and penance, and gave thanks to the Lord that things, both in general and in particular, went so well.
But as the old proverb has it: —
So indeed it happened to me, for the grand court changed its residence; and though my great friends wished me to go along with them, and promised me fine things, I bethought me again of the old saying, that a “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and so we took leave of them with many expressions of sorrow and regret.126
Of a truth, had I not been married I could have gone along with them, — so much was their society agreeable to my taste, and their life, moreover, being one every way worthy of imitation; abounding in all that is good and pleasing, and suffering none within its happy sphere to feel any wish unsatisfied.
But the love of my wife and of my country prevailed; and I remained in the city, although well known to its inhabitants, apart from the pleasure of a court and the society of such friends. My satisfaction was shortly afterwards increased by the birth of a daughter; a little beauty, which my wife declared by all the saints she believed to be my own. This happy state I now conceived would continue; but fortune soon began to show another aspect, and a fresh series of miseries and difficulties of every kind followed her altered looks, which ended in death, and which it would be too cruel and severe a task for me to pretend to recount.