The Bible in Spain, Or, the Journeys, Adventures, and Imprisonments of An Englishman: In An Attempt to Circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula

By George Borrow | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XI.

the Pass of Mirabéte--Wolves and Shepherds--Female Subtlety--Death by Wolves--The Mystery Solved--The Mountains--The Dark Hour-- The Traveller of the Night--Abarbenel--Hoarded Treasure--Force of Gold---The Archbishop--Arrival at Madrid.

[ PROCEEDED down the pass of Mirabéte, occasionally ruminating on the matter which had brought me to Spain, and occasionally admiring one of the finest prospects in the world; before me outstretched lay immense plains, bounded in the distance by huge mountains, whilst at the foot of the hill which I was now descending, rolled the Tagus, in a deep narrow stream, between lofty banks; the whole was gilded by the rays of the setting sun; for the day, though cold and wintry, was bright and clear. In about an hour I reached the river at a place where stood the remains of what had once been a magnificent bridge, which had, however, been blown up in the Peninsular war and never since repaired.

I crossed the river in a ferry-boat; the passage was rather difficult, the current very rapid and swollen, owing to the latter rains.

"Am I in New Castile?" I demanded of the ferryman, on reaching the further bank. "The raya is many leagues from hence," replied the ferryman; "you seem a stranger. Whence do you come?" "From England," I replied, and without waiting for an answer, I sprang on the burra, and proceeded on my way. The burra plied her feet most nimbly, and, shortly after nightfall, brought me to a village at about two leagues' distance from the river's bank.

I sat down in the venta where I put up; there was a huge fire, consisting of the greater part of the trunk of an olive tree; the company was rather miscellaneous: a hunter with his escopeta; a brace of shepherds with immense dogs, of that species for which Estremadura is celebrated; a broken soldier, just returned from the wars; and a beggar, who, after demanding charity for the seven wounds of Maria Santissima, took a seat amidst us, and made himself quite comfortable. The hostess was an active, bustling woman, and busied herself in cooking my supper, which consisted of the game which I had purchased at Jaraicejo, and which, on my taking leave of the gipsy, he had counselled me to take with me. In the meantime, I sat by the fire listening to the conversation of the company.

"I would I were a wolf," said one of the shepherds; "or, indeed, anything rather than what I am. A pretty life is lifts of ours, out in the campo, among the caraseales, suffering heat and cold for a peseta a day. I would I were a wolf; he fares better and is more respected than the wretch of a shepherd."

"But he frequently fares scurvily," said I; "the shepherd and dogs fall upon. him, and then he pays for his temerity with the loss of his head."

"That is not often the case, señor traveller," said the shepherd; "he watches his opportunity, and seldom runs into harm's way. And as

-74-

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