Dialogue Between Scipio and Bergensa

Author: Miguel de Cervantes  | Date: 1613

A Dialogue Between Scipio and Bergansa

Two Dogs belonging to the City of Toledo.

Giving an Account of their Lives and Adventures.


Their Reflections on the Lives, Humours, and Employments

of the Masters They Lived With.

SCIPIO: FRIEND Bergansa, let us leave the hospital this night to providence, and retire to this unfrequented place, where we may enjoy, without being heard, this uncommon favour which heaven has granted to us both at the same instant.

BERGANSA: Scipio, I hear you speak, and I am sensible I speak to you, and yet I can not believe it, because I think our speaking is so supernatural.

SCIPIO: What you say, Bergansa, is very true, and this prodigy is so much the greater, in that we not only speak, but with judgement, as if we were capable of reasoning, this being the only difference between brutes and men, that man is a rational, and a brute an irrational creature.

BERGANSA: I understand, Scipio, all you say; and that you are able to speak, and I to understand, excites in me new admiration and astonishment: It is true, that in the course of my life, I have many times heard our superior excellence, above other animals, spoken of; and that some have thought that we have a natural instinct so quick and penetrating in many life, I have many times heard our superior excellence, above other animals, spoken of; and that some have thought that we have a natural instinct so quick and penetrating in many things, that it differs little from the faculty of reasoning.

SCIPIO: What I have heard most extolled, is our great memory, our gratitude, and our fidelity, so that it is customary to paint us as a symbol of friendship; and in like manner you may have seen, (if you have ever minded it) that on those marble monuments, where the persons who are interred beneath are presented, when they are man and wife, they place at their feet the figure of a dog, denoting, that during their life-time, they preserved an inviolable friendship and fidelity to one another.

BERGANSA: I know well enough, that there have been dogs so loving, that they have thrown themselves into the same grave with the dead bodies of their masters; others have staid upon their master’s graves without stirring a moment from them, and have voluntarily starved themselves to death, refusing to touch the food that was brought them: I know likewise, that after the elephant, the dog holds the first place for sagacity; next the horse; and lastly the ape.

SCIPIO: I allow it to be so; but still you must own, that you have never either seen or heard that any elephant, dog, horse, or ape, ever spoke. From whence I conceive, that this our speaking so of a sudden, falls under the denomination of those things which are called prodigies; which, when they happen, experience has shewn, that some great calamity threatens the world.

BERGANSA: I believe, indeed, that this presages no good to the world; for I heard a student say, a few days since, going through Alcala de Henares -/p>

SCIPIO: What did you hear him say?

BERGANSA: He said, that out of five thousand students that frequented the university that year, two thousand of them studied physic.

SCIPIO: But what do you infer from that?

BERGANSA: I infer, that either these two thousand physicians must always keep people sick, that they may have employment, (which would be a sufficient plague and misfortune to the world) or else they themselves must starve: But let it be as it will, we speak, be it a prodigy or not, for what heaven has ordained should come to pass, no human prudence or diligence can prevent; and therefore we have no occasion to dispute by what means, or wherefore we speak; but it will be better, since we now have the opportunity, and know not how long this our good fortune will last, to make the best use of it we can, and let us talk all this night, without giving way to sleep, that it may not deprive us of this pleasure, so long wished for by me.

BERGANSA: And by me also; for ever since I could gnaw a bone, I have been very desirous to speak, that I might tell the things which I have kept in memory, the ideas of which, by length of time, and the variety of them, were either very much confused, or else quite forgotten: But now that I see myself so unexpectedly enriched with this divine gift of speech, I think to enjoy it as much as I can, and make the best use of it, by telling every thing that I can recollect, although it may be in a confused and undigested manner; for I know not how soon this blessing which is now lent me, may be required again.

SCIPIO: Let this be the method, friend Bergansa. This night you shall give me an account of your life and adventures to the present time; and, if to-morrow night we enjoy the gift of speaking, I will relate mine to you; for it is better to spend the time in relating our own affairs, than endeavouring to know other people’s.

BERGANSA: I have always, Scipio, accounted you discreet, and now I do it more than ever, since, as a friend, you are willing to impart to me your adventures. I shall in like manner inform you of mine, agreeable to the time thus appointed.- But see, first, if no one hears us.

SCIPIO: Not a soul, I believe, for although there is hard by a soldier taking sweats, yet at such a time he will be more ready to sleep, than to hearken to any one.

BERGANSA: Well, if I can speak with so much security, give attention, and if I should tire you with my relation, either chide me, or bid me hold my peace.

SCIPIO: Speak till morning, or until we are heard. I shall hearken to you with a great deal of pleasure, without interrupting you, unless I see it necessary.

BERGANSA: I conjecture, that the first time I saw the light, was in a slaughter-house at Seville; from whence I should conclude, (was it not for that which I shall acquaint you with presently) that I was descended from some of those mastiffs which are train’d up by the sons of noise and confusion, commonly called butchers: The first master I had, was one Nicholas the Flat-nosed, a lusty young fellow, as deceitful and choleric as the rest of his brother butchers; this same Nicholas taught me and my fellow puppies to run at bulls, and catch them by the ears; at which maxim I soon became very expert.

SCIPIO: I do not wonder at it, Bergansa, for as we are naturally prone to ill, we quickly learn to practise it.

BERGANSA: What would you have said, Scipio, if you had seen what I saw in the slaughter-house, and the extravagant things which are transacted there? In the first place, you must look upon all that are employed therein, from the least to the greatest, as a set of people extremely wicked, having no conscience or religion, nor any regard for the king, or his laws, the greatest whore-masters, and the most blood-thirsty men alive: But nothing astonished me more, nor seemed to me more shocking, than to see these butchers make no more of killing a christian, than if they were sticking a bull. It was rarely a day passed without frays and blood-shed, and sometimes not without murders; they all value themselves on being valiant, but their courage is no more than a brutal fury, and yet there is not one of them who has not his guardian angel, in the monastery of San Francisco, to whom he offers up, on certain days, some part of the meat he steals.

SCIPIO: Friend Bergansa, if you are as long in relating the qualities and occupations of all your masters, as you have been about this, we ought to pray to heaven to grant us the gift of speech for a year, at least, and even then, I fear, that at the rate you go on, you would not have told half your story: And I will caution you of one thing, which you shall see a proof of, when I relate my adventures; and that is, that some relations have a peculiar grace naturally in themselves, others in the manner of telling them; I mean, that there are some which please, though they are told without any preamble or flourishing of words; others there are, which must be set off with the most elegant terms, and the voice of gestures adapted to them; and by these means, stories which are of themselves dull and insipid, become lively and entertaining; and forget not to make use of this caution in what you have to say more.

BERGANSA: I will do so, if I am able, although I believe it will be a very difficult task for me to forbear.

SCIPIO: Whatever you do, bridle your tongue; for the want of this precaution, is the cause of the great mischiefs of human life.

BERGANSA: I say then, that my master taught me to carry a basket in my mouth, and to defend it from any one who attempted to take it from me; he likewise taught me to know his mistress’s house, and by this means saved her the trouble of sending her servant to the slaughter-house, for I always carried her early in the morning, what he stole in the night.

As I was once going very diligently at break of day to carry something to her, I heard somebody call me by my name out of a window: I looked up, and saw a very beautiful young woman; I stopt a little: She came down to the door, and called me again; I went to her, as if it were to see what she wanted, which was nothing more than to take from me what I carried in my basket, and put an old patten in its stead. Having taken away what she wanted, she said, Go and tell Nicholas the Flat-nos’d, your master, that he should not trust to animals, and remind him of the old proverb, Plunder a wolf, tho’ it be but of an hair, and that of his forehead. I could easily have taken it from her again, but I would not, because I was unwilling to defile her white and delicate hands, with my dirty and bloody mouth.

SCIPIO: You did very well; it being the prerogative of beauty to command respect.

BERGANSA: Yes, yes, I was mighty respectful indeed, and I was highly rewarded for it too, as you shall hear presently; I returned to my master with nothing but my patten, he thought that I returned sooner than usual, and seeing the patten, guess’d what trick had been put upon me, upon which, this bloody man begun to swear most horridly, and pulling out his long knife, struck at me with so much fury, that if I had not slip’d aside, you would never have heard this relation, nor many others, which I intend to tell you: I set feet to the ground, and scampered away as fast as my legs could carry me through the fields that are behind St. Bernardo, not taking any particular road, but guided wholly by fortune; that night I lay in the open air, and the next by good luck, I met with a flock of sheep; as soon as I saw them, I thought I had found the center of my happiness and repose, thinking the care and guard of the flocks to be the proper and natural employment of dogs, and which may be reckoned a great and noble virtue, as it consists in protecting and defending the humble and weak from the proud and powerful; no sooner had one of the three shepherds, who kept the flock, seen me, but he called me, and I, who desired nothing more, went to him, hanging down my head, and wagging my tail, he stroaked me, opened my mouth, and spit in it, he examined my jaws, found the marks of my age, and said to the other shepherds, that I had all the marks of a dog of a good breed; just at this instant came the master of the flock, mounted on a grey mare, and armed with a lance and target, that he seemed more like a knight-errant, than a master of a flock, he asked the shepherd, what dog is that, he looks like a good one? Your worship may be assured of that, answered the shepherd, for I have examined him nicely, and there is not one mark in him but promises well; he came here just now, and I know not whose he is, but I am sure he does not belong to any of the flocks hereabouts: Since it is so, replied he, let them put him on immediately the collar of Leonzillo, the dog that died, and give him the same allowance as the rest, and make much of him, that he may take a liking to the flock, and continue in it; saying this, he went away, and the shepherd immediately put about my neck, a collar full of steel points, having first given me in a trough, a great quantity of bread soak’d in milk; he likewise named me, calling me Barzino. I was very well pleased with my second master, and my new office, and was very diligent and careful in watching the flock, without ever stirring from it, except in the heat of the day, which I passed either under the shade of some tree, or else of some hill or rock, or upon the banks of some rivulet, that gently glided through that place; and these vacant hours were not wholly unemployed, for I spent them in calling to mind several things, and more particularly in reflecting on the strange life I lead in the slaughter-house, and that which my master and all those lead, who, like him, are slaves to the extravagant, and never-satisfied desires of their mistresses: O how many things could I tell you now, which I learned in the school of this butcher-lady! but I shall not mention them, lest you should think me a censorious pratter.

SCIPIO: Having heard what a famous poet among the ancients said, viz. That it was a difficult thing to forbear writing Satires, I will allow you to point out faults, but not to injure or wound the character of any one, by the thing hinted at; for that satire is not good or commendable which hurts any one, though it may make many laugh; and if you can please without that, I shall think you very discreet.

BERGANSA: I shall take your advice, and will wait with great impatience, till the time comes for you to relate your adventures, by which I shall know the faults I have committed, in relating mine, and may amend them; for I imagine, yours will be related in such a manner, that they may please, and instruct at the same time. But to pursue the thread of my story, I say, that in those quiet and unfrequented places where I pass’d the heats of the day, among many other things, I reflected, that what I had heard say of the lives of shepherds, could not be true, at least of those which I sometimes heard my mistress reading of, in books which treated wholly of shepherds and shepherdesses, relating how they passed their whole lives in singing and playing on pipes, flutes and other fine musical instruments; I used to stay to hear her read, and she read how the shepherd Amfriso sung divinely sweet the phrases of the peerless Belisarda, and that there was not a tree in all the mountains of Arcadia, under which he had not sat down to sing, from the time that the sun arose in the arms of Aurora, till he set in those of Thetis; and even after the dusky night had spread her gloomy wings over the face of the earth, he did not cease his melodious strains, and mournful complaints; she read how the shepherd Elicio, more enamoured than courageous, did not keep within bounds, but forgetful of his own amours and flocks, intermeddled with other people’s business, concerning the despair of Sireno, and the grief of Diana; the Author said, that he gave thanks to heaven; and the sage Felicia, who by the means of her inchanted water, unraveled that heap of intricacies, and laid open that labyrinth of difficulties; I called to mind several other books of that sort which I had heard read; but they were not worth thinking of.

SCIPIO: Take my advice, Bergansa, censure, sting, and go on, and let your intention be good, although your tongue may be a little too free.

BERGANSA: In these matters, the tongue never exceeds proper bounds, unless the intention is first bad: But if by chance, through negligence or malice, I should censure any thing, I shall only say as the fool said, Let him take the cap, who thinks it fits him.

SCIPIO: If you are discreet, or would endeavour to be so, you will never say any thing which you must afterwards be obliged to excuse: But proceed in your story-

BERGANSA: I say then, that all these reflections which I have mentioned, and many more, made me see the different lives and employments my shepherds, and all in that place lead, from those which I had heard read of in these books; for if mine sung, it was not in melodious strains, but See, see, the wolf comes, and such-like, and this not to be the sound of pipes or flutes, but to that of two crooks stuck together, or else of a pair of snappers which they held between their fingers; their voices were not fine and delicate, nor ravishingly sweet, but hoarse and untuneful, that either alone, or in concert, they seemed rather to cry and grunt like hogs, than to sing. They passed the greatest part of the day in picking their fleas, or mending their shoes; there were no such names amongst them as Amarillis, Chloe, Galatea, Phillis, or Diana, nor were there any Adolis’s, Endimon’s, Philoret’s, or Strephon’s, nothing was heard amongst them but Roger, Harry, and Dick; from whence I conclude, what I think all ought to believe, viz. That all those books are mere chimaera’s of the brain, and written only for the entertainment of those who have nothing else to do, and contain not the least truth in them; otherwise there would have been some small remains among my shepherds, of that most happy life, and of those pleasant meadows, spacious woods, sacred mountains, beautiful gardens, lympid brooks, and crystal fountains; and of those chaste, and soft amorous expressions, in this place, would have been a shepherd in despair; in another, a shepherdess; there, one would have been playing on his pipe; and here, another on his oaten reed.

SCIPIO: Enough, enough, Bergansa, stop your digressions, and go on with your story.

BERGANSA: I thank you friend, Scipio, for had not you checked me, I was so warm in discourse, that before I had stopped, I should have said enough of those who had deceived me so much, to have filled a volume. But the time will come, when I shall be able to tell you the whole in better words, and with more judgment.

SCIPIO: Look at your feet, Bergansa, and you will spoil all, I mean, that you should consider that you are an irrational animal, and if you now shew any signs of reason, we have already both of us agreed, that it is super-natural, and that such a thing was never seen or heard of before.

BERGANSA: I should think so too, if I was in my former ignorance; but now I have recollected what I should have told you at the beginning of our discourse, I am so far from wondering that I speak, that I shall be more astonished when I cease to speak.

SCIPIO: Cannot you tell me now, what you have recollected?

BERGANSA: It is concerning a certain adventure which passed between me and a famous witch, the disciple of Camacha of Montilla.

SCIPIO: Tell it now, I beseech you, before you proceed any further in the account of your life.

BERGANSA: I shall not do it indeed, till its proper time; have patience, and give ear to my adventures in their natural order, and they will afford you the greater pleasure, unless you want to know the middle before the beginning.

SCIPIO: Be brief, and tell what you will, and how you will.

BERGANSA: I say then, that I liked very well my employment of guarding the flocks, reckoning that I earned my bread by my labour, and the sweat of my brow, and that idleness, the root and mother of all evil, would not spoil me, for if I was idle in the day-time, yet I slept not a wink at night, the wolves assaulting and alarming us very often; and scarcely had the shepherds said to me, To the wolf, Barzino, but I run before the other dogs, to the place they pointed out to me, where the wolf was; I run through the valleys, searched the mountains diligently, entered into the thickest parts of the woods, leaped the ditches, crossed the roads, and in the morning returned to the flock, (without having found the wolf, or even so much as the track of him) panting, wearied, torn by the bushes, and my feet pricked with the thorns. I commonly found in the flock, either a lamb or a sheep killed, and half eaten by the wolf: I was in despair to see of what little service my great care and diligence was. The master of the flock came, the shepherds went out to receive him with the skins of the dead sheep: He blamed the shepherds for their negligence, and ordered the dogs to be beaten for their idleness; we was cudgeled heartily, and the shepherds were chided. After this, being severely chastised without any fault, and finding that my diligence, nimbleness and courage, availed nothing to take the wolf, I determined to change my method, and instead of going out to seek him, as I used to do, I was resolved to keep near the flock, for since the wolf came there, it would be the likeliest place to catch him: every week they alarmed us, and in the darkest night, I could see the wolves, from whom it was impossible for the flock to defend themselves: I lay down behind a bush, my fellow dogs passed forwards, and from hence I observed, and saw two shepherds lay hold of one of the best sheep in the fold, and kill and tear it in such a manner, that in the morning it appeared indeed, as if the wolf had been its executioner. I was astonished, and remained as it were thunder-struck some time, when I saw that the shepherds were the wolves, and that those who had the guard of it, tore the flock to pieces. They immediately acquainted their master with the havock the wolf had made, and gave him the skin, and part of the flesh, but the greatest and best part they eat themselves. The master scolded them again, and the dogs were likewise beaten: I would fain have said that it was not the wolf, which destroyed the flock in that manner, but alas! I could not speak. All this filled me with astonishment and trouble. God help me, said I to myself, who can remedy this evil? Who will be able to tell that the defenders offend, that the centinels sleep, that those who are trusted rob, and those who are for your guard kill you?

SCIPIO: You say very well Bergansa, for there is no greater nor more crafty thief, than the domestic one, and there are more miscarry of those who are ready to trust every one, than of those who are wary and circumspect; but the mischief is, that it is impossible for people to live in the world without trusting one another; but let this rest where it was, for I would not be taken for a preacher; therefore go on with your story.

BERGANSA: I was determined to leave this employment, although I liked it so well, and to seek out some other, where at least I should not be punished for doing good, if I was not rewarded. I returned to Seville, and got into the service of a very rich merchant.

SCIPIO: What method did you take to get you this new master, for now a-days, it is a very difficult task for a man of worth to find him a master, for our earthly masters are very different from our heavenly one? These before they receive any one into their service, enquire strictly whether he is of a good family, prove his abilities, examine his comeliness of person, and will even know whether he has good cloaths or no. But with God, the poorest is accounted as the richest, the most humble, as the best descended; and he requires no more in any one, than a sincere desire to serve him, to receive his pay, which he gives with so liberal a hand, that it exceeds our utmost expectations.

BERGANSA: This is preaching indeed, my friend, Scipio.

SCIPIO: I think so too, and therefore I will have done. Concerning what you asked me, by what means I got this new master? I make no answer, that humility, as you know, is the basis and foundation of all virtues, and without it there is nothing that deserves the name; so it removes all obstructions, and overcomes all difficulties, and is always, in the end, attended with success; it makes our enemies our friends; it allays the choler of the angry, and softens the arrogance of the proud; it is the mother of modesty, and the sister of good-nature; even vice, when accompanied with this, appears not so odious, for its mildness and gentleness, may be said to throw a veil over the crimes of the vicious, and hide the deformity of them: I made use then of this virtue, when I intended to be received into any house, having first considered well, whether it was a house that would receive, and could maintain a great dog, I immediately went to the gate, and when any stranger, as I thought, came in, I barked at him; but when the master of the house came, I hung down my head, and wagging my tail, went to him, and licked his feet. If they beat me away, I endured it patiently, and even fawned upon him that struck me; so that seeing my perseverance and good-nature, no one could find in his heart to beat me a second time. Having played this game once or twice, I was received into the house, where I was always very diligent, and quickly gained the love of every one. I was seldom turned away, though I oftentimes used to take French leave, or, in other words, run away.

SCIPIO: In the same manner as you have mentioned, I got my masters, and it seems as if we read each other’s thoughts.

BERGANSA: If I am not deceived, I know how we came to agree in these things, and I will tell you in its proper order, as I have already promised: But now give ear to what happened to me- after I had left the flock in the keeping of these rascals, I returned to Seville, as I have already said, which is the support of the poor, and the shelter of the despised, and not only those of an inferior rank are contained within it, but its grandeur, and extent is so great, that even the rich and great ones are obscured, and, as it were, lost in it. I went up to the gate of a great house belonging to a merchant, I made my usual applications, and was soon received into it, where they kept me tied behind the gate in the day-time, and let me loose at night; and on my part, I was very diligent and watchful, barking at strangers, and growling at those I was not acquainted with; I kept awake all night, taking my rounds about the court-yards, and going upon the terrasses, keeping strict watch on every side of my master’s and the neighbours houses: my master was so well pleased with my good service, that he ordered them to treat me well, and to give me a quantity of bread, and the bones which were carried away, or flung from his table, and the remains that were left in the kitchen, for all which I shewed myself very thankful, leaping about with the greatest joy imaginable, whenever I saw my master, especially when he returned home, after he had been out some time: and so great were the signs of joy I gave, and so many the leaps, that my master gave orders I should be untied, and go loose both day and night: as soon as I was untied, I ran to my master, and round him several times, but without daring to lay my paws on him, calling to mind the fable of Aesop, When the ass was so much an ass, that he would needs fawn upon his master, in the same manner as a favourite lap-dog used to do, and was heartily cudgelled for his pains. This fable, in my opinion, was designed to shew, that what is agreeable and becoming in one man, may not be so in another, and that every one ought to live and act according to their profession and quality: Let the buffoon deal about his jests; the stroller play tricks, and vault in the air; the scullion bray like an ass; and the man of a lower class, imitate the singing of birds, and the different gestures and actions of animals and men; but let not the man of rank and fortune, ever concern himself with these things, for though he may arrive to the greatest degree of excellency in them, yet it will not redound in the least to his honour or credit.

SCIPIO: Enough, Bergansa, go on, for I understand you.

BERGANSA: Would to God, that those upon whose account I mention this, would understand me as well as you do, for I know not what good qualities I have myself; but it gives me the greatest pain to see a gentleman of fortune acting the part of a juggler, and highly valuing himself, because he can play the cups and balls, and that he surpasses every one in dancing the chacona. I knew a gentleman who thought he had performed a noble action, in having, at the request of a sexton, cut out thirty-two flowers in paper to be placed on a monument over the black cloth; and he made so great an account of these cut papers, that he carried all his friends to see them, with as much ostentation and pleasure, as if he was carrying them to see the colours and spoils of enemies, that were hung up over the sepulchres of his ancestors. But to return to my story, I say, the merchant, my master, had two sons, one about twelve years of age, the other fourteen, who studied grammar in the Jesuits college; they used to go thither with great pomp, on horseback, if it was fair, or in a coach, if it rained, attended by their tutor, and followed by two or three pages, who carried their books, and that which they call their Vade-mecum, or theme-book: Seeing them go with so much pomp and grandeur, made me take notice of, and reflect on the great plainness with which their father went to the exchange to transact business, for he never carried any servant with him but one black, and if ever he rode out, it was on a little mule, which made a very shabby appearance.

SCIPIO: You must know, Bergansa, that it is the custom and temper of the merchants of Seville, and likewise of other great cities, to shew their grandeur and riches, not in themselves, but in the persons of their sons, so that the merchants are greater in their shadows than in themselves: And as they seldom concern themselves with any thing but their mercantile affairs, they use no pomp, but go after a plain and decent manner: As they are ambitious to appear great, and think their riches avail nothing, unless shewn to the eyes of the public, so they bring up their sons in as much pomp and grandeur, and cause the same respect to be paid them, as if they were the sons of some prince; and there are some who purchase them titles, and the honour to wear that mark on their breast, which makes so great distinction between the nobility and common people.

BERGANSA: It is ambition indeed, but it may be reckoned a generous one, to endeavour to better our condition, if it is done without injustice or oppression.

SCIPIO: But ambition seldom or never obtains its end, without hurting somebody.

BERGANSA: We have already said, that we must not calumniate.

SCIPIO: You say true, and therefore I calumniate no more.

BERGANSA: Now I find what I have often heard said, to be true, viz. a malicious detractor will calumniate a dozen families, and scandalize twenty good men; and if any one reproves him for what he has said, he will answer, that he meant no harm; and if he has said any, he did not do it with design; and if he had thought it would have given offence to any one, he would not have said it: In good truth, Scipio, he ought to know much, and have a great deal of patience, who would converse two hours together, without railing at one or another; for I see in myself, who am a brute animal, that at every four sentences I speak, malicious and ill-natured words come in my mouth as fast as flies about wine: Wherefore, I say again, what I have said before, that we derive a tendency to do, and speak ill, from our first parents, and suck it in with our milk, which is evidently enough seen; for scarce has the infant got his arms loose from the swaithing bands, but it lifts up his hand to revenge himself of any one whom he thinks has offended him; and almost the first word he speaks plain, is to call his nurse, or mother, whore.

SCIPIO: You say true, and I confess my fault, but I hope you will excuse me, since I have excused you so many; and from hence forwards let us rail no more, but go on with your story, which you broke off when you was relating the pomp with which your master’s sons went to the Jesuits college.

BERGANSA: I agree to that at all hazards; for though I think it a very difficult thing to leave off railing, I think to make use of some such remedy as I have heard say a great swearer made use of, who, repenting of his bad custom, every time he swore afterwards, gave himself a pinch on the arm, or kissed the ground, as a punishment for his fault; but yet with all that, they say, he could not forbear swearing; So I, every time, go contrary to the advice you have given me, and contrary to my own resolution, not to rail: I will bite the tip of my tongue, till it may pain me, that I may avoid doing it again.

SCIPIO: This is such a remedy, that if you make use of it, I expect you will bite so often, that you will at last bite your tongue off, and that indeed will be the way to prevent your railing.

BERGANSA: I will use my utmost endeavour, and leave the rest to heaven; and so I pursue the thread of my story. One day my master’s sons happened to leave their themebook in the court-yard, where I chanced to be at that time; and as I had been taught by my first master, the butcher, to carry a basket in my mouth, I laid hold of the themebook, and went after them, resolving not to let it go, till I came to the school; every thing happened to me as I wished, for my masters seeing me come after them, with their book in my mouth, bid one of their pages take it from me, but I was not in the humour to let him, but carried it into the school, which caused a great laughter in all the scholars. I went to the eldest of my masters, and gave it into his hands, with a very good grace, as I thought, and set myself down at the school-door; my masters were very well pleased that I should carry their book for them, which I did very willingly, and by this means led the life of a king; for I lived entirely at my ease, because the scholars used to divert themselves with me; and I made myself so familiar with them, that they used to put their hands in my mouth, and even the most of them would venture to get upon my back: They threw their caps or hats, and I fetched them again with great dexterity, and shewed that I did it with a great deal of pleasure. They gave me to eat whatever they could get; and were highly delighted when they had any nuts, to see me crack them like a monkey, leaving the shells, and eating the kernels. There was one, who to make proof of my abilities, brought me in a handkerchief, a great quantity of sallad, which I eat as if I had been a christian. It was now winter, at which time rolls and butter in a morning are very common at Seville, with which I was likewise feasted, so that more than two antonio’s were either pawned or sold every day for my breakfast. In a word, I lived a scholar’s life, without either hunger or the itch, which is the only thing wanting to make it entirely agreeable; for was it not for the itch, and a hungry belly, two inseparable companions of school-boys, there would be no state of life afford more satisfaction or diversion; because, here virtue and pleasure go hand in hand together, and our youth is spent, some times in searching out the paths of wisdom, and at other times, in innocent pleasures and diversions. But at last, as my ill fortune would have it, the masters took it in their heads, that their scholars did not employ the half hour there is between lessons, in looking over their books, but in playing with me; and therefore they ordered them to bring me no more to school; they obeyed, and returned me to my old post, behind the gate; and my old master forgetting the liberty he had given me before, of going loose both day and night, now confined my neck to the chain, and my body to a little mat, which they laid behind the gate. Ah! my friend Scipio, did you but know how shocking it is to fall from a happy and agreeable state of life to a painful and miserable one: When misfortunes rowl in upon us with a full current, and without any intervals of ease, they either quickly bring on death, and put an end to all our pains, or the constancy of them, inures and accustoms us to bear them, which makes the sharpest afflictions seem lighter, and more tolerable; but when from an unhappy and distressed condition, all of a sudden, and without so much as expecting it, one is raised to a prosperous and agreeable state, and soon after reduced to our former condition, the pains and misfortunes we have gone through, are so piercing, that life itself grows a burden: I say then, that I was forced to take up with my dogs commons again; and the bones which a black belonging to the house threw me, and even these were tithed by two boar-cats, who, as they were loose, could easily take whatever fell not within the reach of my chain. Brother Scipio, hear me with patience, philosophize a little, so may heaven grant you all your desires; for, if I should omit to mention some things which happened to me, at that time, which I have this moment recollected, I believe my history would not be compleat, nor of any advantage.

SCIPIO: Take care, Bergansa, that this inclination, which you say you have just now to philosophize, be not the temptation of the devil; for slander has no better veil to disguise and conceal its wicked intentions, than for the slanderer to think, that all he says are the sentences of philosophers; and that to speak ill of any one, is only a friendly rebuke; and to lay open the faults of another, a commendable zeal. And if you search and enquire into the life of any one of these slanderers, you will find it full of vices and insolence; and having premised this, I permit you to philosophize as much as you will.

BERGANSA: You may be assured, Scipio, I shall not rail at any one, because I am determined against it. And so to proceed in my story; I say, that I was idle the whole day, and idleness is the mother of thoughts, I employed myself in calling to mind several Latin sentences, which I still remembered out of many which I had heard, when I went to the school along with my masters, and I imagined my understanding somewhat improved by them, and resolved, as though I had been able to speak, to make use of them on proper occasions, but not in the same manner as some ignorant pedants do, who, in all sorts of conversation, intermix with almost every sentence little scraps of Latin, making those believe who do not understand it, that they are great scholars, when they scarce know how to decline a noun, or conjugate a verb.

SCIPIO: I look upon this a less fault, than that which some of those who really understand Latin, are guilty of, who often are so indiscreet, that if they talk with ever so indifferent a person, throw out their Latin sentences like water.

BERGANSA: From this we are to infer, that he is guilty of as great a fault who speaks Latin before those who are ignorant of it, as he who pretends to speak it, when he does not understand it himself.

SCIPIO: I can likewise tell you another thing, which is, there are some, who though they are great Latinists, yet are great asses.

BERGANSA: Who can make the least doubt of that? For it is evident enough, seeing that in the time of the Romans, when they all spoke Latin, being their mother-tongue, there were some blockheads amongst them, whom the speaking of Latin did not excuse from being fools.

SCIPIO: To know how to hold one’s peace in our mother-tongue, and how to speak in Latin, one has need of much discretion, Bergansa.

BERGANSA: You say true, for a foolish saying may as well be spoke in Latin as in our native tongue, and I have seen, not only once, but many times, learned fools, and dull grammarians; and those that understood nothing but their mother-tongue, so striped with their threads of Latin, that they were enough to tire out the patience of every one.

SCIPIO: But let us leave this subject, and begin your philosophical reasonings you just now spoke of.

BERGANSA: I have already done so; these are them which I have just now finished.

SCIPIO: What do you mean?

BERGANSA: I mean those about Latinists, etc. which I began, and you made an end of.

SCIPIO: Do you call censuring other peoples actions philosophising? So it is: But, Bergansa, you may canonize, if you will, the cursed plague of detraction, and give it what name you please; but I am sure, it will give us the name of cynicks, that is, of snarling dogs; and therefore I beg you will hold your peace, and go on with your story.

BERGANSA: How must I go on if I hold my peace?

SCIPIO: I mean, that you should tell it without so many digressions.

BERGANSA: I say then, that dame fortune, not contented with having taken me from my studies, and from the jovial and pleasant life I passed in them, and with having dragged me to my old post again behind the gate, nor with having changed my commons from the liberality with which the scholars supplied me, to the scanty morsels which the negro gave me, resolved to disturb that little ease and quietness which I still enjoyed; for you may hold it as a certainty, Scipio, that misfortunes follow the unfortunate, and find him out, though he hides himself in the remotest corners of the earth: A negro woman, who lived in the same house with me, happened to fall in love with a black, one of her fellow-servants, who lay in the porch, which is between the outward and inward gate, behind which I was tied; they had not any opportunities to come together, unless in the night, and for that purpose they had either stolen the keys, or got false ones; and so almost every night the negro woman came down, and stopping my mouth with a piece of meat, or cheese, opened the door to the black, which she might easily do, having bribed me to hold my tongue, which she purchased at the expence of several things which she stole for me; for some days the bribes of this she black corrupted my honesty, I being afraid, that if it was not for these, my sides would be so pinched up by my short commons, that from a mastiff I should dwindle into a greyhound: But at last, stirred up by my natural good disposition, I was resolved to do my duty to my master, since I received his pay, and eat his bread; which is what not only faithful dogs, but all who are in the capacity of servants, ought to do.

SCIPIO: This may be called philosophy indeed, Bergansa! for these are wise and true maxims; and therefore go on.-

BERGANSA: But first tell me, I beseech you, if you can, what the word philosophy means? for though I name it so often, I know not what it is; I only imagine it is a good thing.

SCIPIO: I will tell you in a few words: This appellation is compounded of two Greek words, which are, Philos and Sophia; Philos signifies love, and Sophia knowledge; so that philosophy signifies love of knowledge; and a philosopher a lover of knowledge.

BERGANSA: You are extremely wise, Scipio, who the Devil taught you Greek?

SCIPIO: In good truth, Bergansa, you are very simple, in making so great account of this, for these are things which every schoolboy, even those in the lowest forms are acquainted with; and there are likewise some who pretend to talk Greek, as well as Latin, who know nothing of either.

BERGANSA: This is what I say, and I would have all such put into a press, and the juice of all their knowledge squeezed out of them by main force, that they might not go about deceiving people with the tinsel of their scraps of Greek and false Latin, as the Portuguese do with the negroes in Guinea.

SCIPIO: Bergansa, you ought to bite your tongue now, according to your agreement; for we have been doing nothing all this while, but censuring peoples actions.

BERGANSA: You say true; but I am not obliged to do as I have heard said a certain Tyrian, by name Choronas, did; who made a law, which inflicted death on any one who came armed into the council-house; but forgetting this law himself, he came one day into the council, with his sword girt upon his thigh; some of his friends advised him of it, and he recollecting the punishment inflicted upon it by the law, drew his sword in a moment, and run it into his breast, and so was the first who made the law, and the first who broke it, and underwent the penalty of it. What I said was not to lay a law upon me, but only a bare promise, that I would bite my tongue, whenever I censured any thing; and now-a-days such things are not so strictly observed, as formerly; for today a law is made, and tomorrow it is broken, because perhaps it suits not with our conveniency to keep it; and in one moment we promise to amend our faults, and the next fall into greater; it is one thing to commend good laws and regulations, and another to submit ourselves to them; in a word, saying and doing are two things; let the devil bite himself if he will, for me, for I am not such a fool as to bite my own self, nor practise things upon a mat, where there is no one sees me, who may applaud my heroic actions.

SCIPIO: I find by this, Bergansa, that if you were a man, you would be a hypocrite, and that all your deeds would be only in outward appearance, done in the eyes of the world, and covered with the cloak of virtue, that you might gain the praise of good men, as in general all hypocrites endeavour to do.

BERGANSA: I know not what I should do then, I am only sensible what I shall do now, which is, that I will not bite my tongue, having so many things to say, that I know not how nor when I shall be able to finish them; and more so, seeing I am afraid, lest at the break of day our speech should be taken from us again, and then we must remain in the dark, as to all these things.

SCIPIO: Heaven will be more kind to us, I hope; do you only follow closely the thread of your story, and do not go out of your high road for the sake of these unnecessary digressions, and then, as long as your story is, you soon will finish it.

BERGANSA: I say then, that seeing the impudence, thefts, and dishonesty of the blacks, I was resolved, as a good servant, to hinder it as much as lay in my power: The negro woman came down, as I have already told you, to divert herself with the black, imagining that the pieces of meat, bread, and cheese, which she threw me, would stop my mouth: Bribes and gifts avail much, Scipio.

SCIPIO: Much indeed; but no more of your digressions, but go on with your story.

BERGANSA: I remember, that when I studied, I heard the master mention a Latin proverb, which I think they call an adage, which said, Habet bovem in lingua.

SCIPIO: O! in what an ill hour have you brought in your Latin; have you so soon forgot what we said a little while ago, against those who intermixed scraps of Latin; when they were discoursing in their mother-tongue?

BERGANSA: But this Latin comes very a propos; for you must know, that the Athenians had amongst their other coins a piece of money stamped with the figure of an ox; and when any judge, for the sake of a bribe, had passed sentence in any affair, contrary to right reason and justice, they used to say, He has an ox upon his tongue.

SCIPIO: But I do not see how you apply this?

BERGANSA: No! why, it is plain enough; for if the bribes of the negro woman could make me dumb many days, that I neither would, nor dared to bark, when she came down to see her beloved black, I have reason to say bribes are very powerful.

SCIPIO: I have already answered you, that they are so; and if it was not for making a long digression, I could prove, by a thousand examples, the great force of bribes; but perhaps I shall tell it you, if heaven grants me time, opportunity and speech, to relate to you my adventures.

BERGANSA: May God grant you what you desire; but give attention to me. At last, my good disposition and resolution overcame the corrupting bribes of the negro woman, who coming down one very dark night, to her usual diversion. I went up close to her without barking, that I might not disturb the people in the house, and in a moment tore her shift quite to pieces, and tore out a piece of her thigh, a jest, which was sufficient to make her keep her room eight days in earnest, pretending I know not what disorder to her masters: As soon as she was well, she came down again one night, and I renewed the fray again, and without biting, scratched all her body, as if I had been carding a blanket. We had all our battles to ourselves, and I always came off conqueror, and the negro woman stopped from her design, very much out of humour: But my poor carcase suffered severely for her anger, and the marks of her displeasure might be seen pretty plainly upon me; she left off giving me my usual allowance, so that my backbone began to stare, and you might easily have counted all my ribs: But with all this, although they kept me from eating, they could not keep me from barking; and therefore the negro woman, to make an end of me, brought me one day a spunge fried in butter: I refused to eat it, knowing the ill qualities of it, and that it was worse than crooked pins, because it sticks fast in the stomach, and never comes out again, without loss of life. And thinking it was impossible for me to preserve myself long from the snares of such bitter enemies, I thought it was my best way to get far enough from them, or, in other words, if I found an opportunity, to run away. By good luck, I got loose one day, and without bidding adieu to any one in the house, I ran into the street; and scarcely had I gone one hundred paces, but I met the alguazil, who, I told you at the beginning of my story, was a great crony of my master Nicholas the Flat-nos’d; he knew me as soon as he saw me, although I was nothing but skin and bones, and called me by my name; I likewise knew him, and at his calling me went to him with my usual compliments and caresses; he caught hold of me by my neck, and said to his two catchpoles, ’This is a fierce and courageous dog, able to defend us on any occasion; I know him very well, for he belonged once to an intimate friend of mine, let us carry him home with us.’ The catchpoles were very well pleased, and said, that if I was a dog of courage, I should be of great service to them all. They would have laid hold of me to have carried me, but my master told them, that there was no occasion for it, for I would follow them of my own accord, because I knew him. I forgot to tell you, that a gipsey took from me the collar of steel points, which I had on when I ran away, and left the flock, and that in Seville I went without any; but the alguazil immediately put me on a collar studded with brass. Reflect now a little, Scipio, how fortune has turned her wheel about; yesterday I saw myself a student, and to-day you see me a catchpole.

SCIPIO: This is the way of the world, and I think you have no great occasion now to complain so highly of the changes of fortune; for I see no great difference there is between having a butcher or a catchpole for ones master. I have no patience to hear the complaints which some men make against fortune, when the greatest height of grandeur they ever could pretend to, was only the hopes and expectations of becoming a lady’s gentleman; with what bitter curses do they load her, and with how many reproaches will they revile her! and for no other reason, but that the people who hear them may think they have fell from a high and prosperous condition, to the poor and miserable one they are in at present.

BERGANSA: You are in the right; but to proceed with my story. I say, that the alguazil was very intimate with an attorney; they both kept company with two women of the town, who had little beauty, but a great deal of assurance, and of that subtilty and wheedling art which whores are commonly expert in: They fished on shore with both net and hook, as the saying is; they dressed themselves in such a manner, that by the pip you might know what the card was, and in the twinkling of an eye one might see they were ladies of pleasure. They were always upon the hunt after foreigners; and when the Bourdeaux fleet arrived at Cadiz and Seville, then was the time they brought grist to their mill, not leaving one Frenchman unattacked. When any one whose pockets were well lined, and who was unacquainted with their subtilties, fell into the hands of these fine ladies, they immediately informed the alguazil, and the attorney, what house they went to; and when they were in bed together, they rushed in upon them, and apprehended them as whore-masters; but they never carried them to prison, because foreigners always paid a sum of money to be rid of such a troublesome affair. It happened then, that Colindres, for that was the name of my master’s lady, hooked a Frenchman, who agreed to sup, and spend the night with her at her lodgings; she expected this would have been a brave fish, and immediately gave the rod to my master, that he might play him; and scarcely were they undressed when the alguazil, the attorney, two catchpoles, and I, rushed in upon them. The lovers were in a terrible fright; the alguazil cried up the heinousness of their crime, and ordered them to dress themselves immediately, that he might carry them to prison; the Frenchman was almost scared out of his wits; and the attorney, good man, out of mere charity and pity, was mediator; and by the force of his entreaties reduced his punishment to the small trifle of only one hundred rials. The Frenchman asked for a pair of leather breeches, which he had laid on a chair at the bed’s feet, wherein he had money to purchase his liberty; but the breeches could not be found any where; and good reason why, for as soon as I came into the chamber, I snuffed up a delicate smell of bacon, which was very refreshing to me; I discovered from whence it proceeded, by my nose, and found it was in one of the breeches pockets, I mean, I found therein a piece of rare gammon of bacon; and that I might feast upon it the better, and pull it out without being heard, I dragged the breeches into the street, and there took my fill of the bacon, without being disturbed, and made an excellent repast. When I returned into the chamber again, I found the poor Frenchman bawling out as loud as he could, in broken Spanish, but so that he might be understood, they should give him his breeches, and that he had in them fifty crowns in gold. The attorney thought either Colindres, or the catchpoles had stole them; the alguazil thought the same: He called them aside, they all denied it, and gave themselves to the devil, if they knew any thing about the breeches. I seeing what confusion and hurly-burly they were in, ran as fast as I could to the street, where I had left the breeches, thinking to have brought them again, since it was only the bacon, and not the money, I wanted; but I found myself as much to seek as they were; for some lucky person passing by, had already picked them up. As the alguazil saw the Frenchman had no money to bribe him, he raved like a madman, and thought to pump out of the mistress of the house, what he could not get out of the Frenchman; he ordered her to be called up, and she came half naked; when she heard the Frenchman swearing and bewailing his fate, she saw Colindres crying in her shift; the attorney in an angry mood; the alguazil in a furious passion; and the catchpoles stripping the room of every thing they could lay hands on; she did not half like this: The alguazil, without any compliments, ordered her to dress herself immediately, and come along with him to prison, because she suffered men and women of bad repute to rendezvous in her house. Now it was the sport began, and their noise and bawling increased, and their confusion was greater than before; for the landlady cried out, Mr. alguazil, and Mr. lawyer, play none of your tricks with me, I beseech you, for I see through them all; no, no, put none of your cheats upon me, but be quiet, and go about your business, and God go with you; if not, it will be none of my fault, if I turn the house topsy-turvy, and discover the whole mystery of this affair; for I very well know who my lady Colindres is, and I know that it is many months that Mr. alguazil has been her bully; and you had best not provoke me to explain myself any further; but return the gentleman his money, that we may all be friends again, and not lose our good name; for I would have you to know, I am a woman of credit and reputation; I have a husband who has (God be praised) an instrument to prove his gentility, drawn up in full form, with the seals annexed thereto; and I exercise my function with a good character, and without prejudice to any one. I have the copy of my husband’s instrument of gentility, nailed up, where every body may see it; and therefore fling none of your scandals upon me, for by my faith I know how to clear myself: It is likely indeed, a woman of strict honour, as I am, should permit women to bring in strange men, if she knew it; but they have the keys of their own apartments, and I am not so quick-sighted, that I can see through seven walls. My masters were quite thunder-struck to hear the long harangue of the landlady, and to see how she read them the whole history of their lives; but as they saw, there was no man whom they could get any money of, except it was of her, they persisted in carrying her to prison: She complained aloud to heaven of the injustice they did her in her husband’s absence, who was so principal a gentleman. The Frenchman roared out for his fifty crowns: The catchpoles persisted obstinately, that they had never seen the breeches, and said, God forbid they should ever be guilty of any such thing: The attorney pressed the alguazil privately, that he should search Colindres, for that he suspected she must have the fifty crowns, it being her usual custom to dive into the private fobs and pockets of those who fell into her clutches: She said, that the Frenchman was drunk, and what he said about the money was all a lie: In short, there was nothing but noise and confusion, crying and bawling, cursing and swearing, and there was no pacifying them, nor would they have been till now, had not the civil magistrate of the night, at that very instant entered the chamber, who going his rounds through that quarter of the city, their noise and cries brought him hither: He asked what was the occasion of this disturbance? The landlady answered him in a few words; she told him who the nymph Colindres was, who by this time had got her cloaths on; she declared the great familiarity there was between her and the alguazil; she discovered all their sharping tricks, and their ways of robbing gentlemen; she excused herself, saying, that no woman of an ill character had ever come within her doors, by her consent; she canonized herself a saint, and her husband for a good and holy man, and she bawled out to a young girl to run and fetch out of the great chest, her husband’s instrument of gentility, that his worship might see it; telling him, by that it would be plainly seen, that the wife of so honourable a husband could not do such an ill thing; and that if she kept a lodging house, it was because she was necessitated to it, and heaven knew how much it grieved her; and that she had much rather, if she could, get her livelihood any other way, than by following that employment. The magistrate, quite tired with her long tale, and her presuming so much on her husband’s gentility, said to her, Good madam, I do not at all doubt that your husband has his instrument of gentility, since you tell me he is a gentleman inn-keeper. And with much honour, answered the landlady; and what family is there in the world, let it be never so good, that has not some blemish in it? What I say to you, madam, answered the magistrate, is that you dress yourself quickly, for you must come along with me to prison; which news struck the poor landlady to the ground; she tore her face with her nails, and sent forth piercing cries; but notwithstanding all this, the severe magistrate was not at all softened, but carried them all to prison; namely, the Frenchman, Colindres, and the landlady: I afterwards learned, that the Frenchman lost his fifty crowns, and even more, they say, for they made him pay costs; the landlady paid as much; and Colindres, who had friends in court, came off scot-free: And the same day they released her, she caught a sailor, whom she made pay for the Frenchman, by the same trick of informing the alguazil. Thus you see, Scipio, how many and how great mischiefs were occasioned by my gluttony.

SCIPIO: Rather say, the knavery of your master.

BERGANSA: But give attention a little, for these were not all the tricks he had, although it grieves me to speak ill of alguazils and lawyers.

SCIPIO: But speaking ill of one, does not include all; are there not some honest ones amongst them, who will not concern themselves but with a good cause? They do not all spin out their suits to the length of seven years, or more, and take fees of both parties, nor do they all take more than their dues, and intermeddle and foment disputes in families, to make themselves employment; neither are they all in confederacy with the judge, as the old saying has it, Do you trim my beard, and I’ll trim your foretop: In the same manner there are alguazils, who do not associate themselves with rascally fellows and sharpers; nor do they all keep mistresses, as your master did, by whose help they may cheat people; there are some of them gentlemen by birth, and of gentleman-like dispositions; they are not all such blustering, insolent, ill-bred, mean-spirited wretches, as those who go about to the inns measuring foreigners swords, and if they find them but an hair’s-breadth longer than the due size, they bring the owners of them into trouble; neither do they all pretend to take up and release people, and be both judge and advocate, just when they have a mind.

BERGANSA: My master soared higher than all this, and went another way to work; he pretended to be mighty valiant, and to execute dangerous arrests; but upheld his reputation for valour, without hazarding his person, tho’ his purse was forced to bleed for it. One day he attacked six noted bravoes under the gate Xeroz, without the assistance of any one, neither could I be of any service to him, my mouth being muzzeled (for he used to keep me so in the day-time, and took it off at night) I was quite astonished to see his boldness, bravery and resolution; for he made no more of the swords of these six ruffians, than if they had been osier twigs. It was indeed matter of wonder to see with what agility he attacked them, the thrusts he made, and with what swiftness he turned his eye about on every side, and what a strict guard he kept, that they might not surround him. In a word, he was looked upon by me, and all who beheld the fray, as a second Don Quixote, having drove his enemies from the gate of Xeroz to the college of Roderigo, which is more than a hundred paces. He left them there, and returned to gather up the spoils of the battle, which were three scabbards, and immediately went and shewed them to the civil magistrate, who at that time, if I mistake not, was the civilian Sarmiento de Valladares. The people stared at my master as he went along the streets, pointing to him, as much as to say, There goes the valiant man, who had the courage to combat alone with the very flower of the bravoes of Andaluzia. My master spent the rest of the day in going up and down the city to shew himself; and the night came upon us in the street called Triana, near the powder-mill. My master having pried about, to see if no one observed him, he went into a house, and I after him. We found in the court-yard all those giants, (as I may very well call them) who before had made the fray, without either cloaks or swords; and one of them, whom I judged to be the landlord, held in one hand a jug of wine, and in the other a large goblet, which he filled up to the brim with generous and sparkling wine, and drank to all the company. As soon as they saw my master, they ran to him with open arms, they all drank to him, and he pledged them; he would even have done it to as many more, being a good-natured soul, and one who would not quarrel with his friend for a small matter. Should I attempt to relate every thing that was treated of there, in what manner they supped, the frays which they recounted, the thefts they related, the ladies which were thought qualified for their employment, and those which were rejected; the praises which they gave one another, the absent bullies which were mentioned, the flourishing of their hands, and the fine words they made use of, and lastly, the odd figure of the landlord, to whom they all paid respect, as to a master or father, I should bring myself into a labyrinth, from whence I could not get out again when I had a mind. In a word, I found out at last, that the master of the house, whose name was Monipodio, was one who harboured thieves and bravoes, and that my master’s terrible fray had been first concerted amongst them, as likewise their running away, and leaving their scabbards; for which my master paid down a sum of money, and likewise the expence of their supper, which was concluded about break of day, to the satisfaction of them all. Just before they broke up, they gave information to my master of a strange bully who was just come into the city, and whom, as he was more valiant than themselves, they informed against, out of mere spite. My master took him the next night in bed, and he chose the right time, for if he had been dress’d, I saw by his mien, he would not have been so easily taken. By this action, which followed just upon the heels of the fray, the fame of my cowardly master was augmented, for he was naturally more faint-hearted and fearful than a hare, being only one of your pot-valiant people; and whatever he got by his office, or informations, went down the channel of his valour, or, in other words, was spent in good eating and drinking. But have patience, and give ear to an adventure which happened to him, and which I shall tell, without adding or diminishing one word from the real truth of it.

Two thieves stole a very good horse in Antequera; they brought him to Seville, and made use of, in my opinion, a cunning and witty stratagem to sell him without danger: they went and put up at two different inns, when one of them went to the magistrate, and made information that Pedro de Losada owed him four hundred rials, which he had lent him, as appeared by a note signed with his own hand, which he produced. The magistrate ordered that this same Losada should acknowledge the note, and that if he did acknowledge it, they should either take from him some pledge of as great value, or else put him in prison. This affair happened to fall to my master and the attorney his friend. The thief carried them to the inn where the other lodged, and he immediately acknowledged his hand, confessed the debt, and consigned the horse as a pledge for the payment of it; which being seen by my master, he liked him so well, that he was very desirous of having him, and marked him for his own, if he should happen to be sold. The thief let the time allowed by law for the payment of the money elapse, and the horse was put up to sale at the inn, and was knocked down at five hundred rials, to one whom my master had privately ordered to buy it. The horse worth half as much again as he gave for it, but as there was not much company in the inn, no body bid higher; so one of the thieves recovered the debt, which was never due to him, and the other an acquaintance, which he had no need of, and my master remained in possession of the horse. The thieves immediately decamped; and two days afterwards, my master having new burnished up the furniture, and got every thing that was wanting to the horse, appeared upon him in the market place of San Francisco, more proud and stately than a clown in his holyday cloaths. His friends congratulated him a thousand times on his good bargain, affirming that it was as well worth an hundred and fifty ducats, as an egg a maravedi; and he making the horse prance and caper about, acted his own tragedy on the theatre of the above-mentioned market-place. While he was wheeling and prancing about in this manner, two men who looked like gentlemen, being very well dress’d, came up to him, and one of them cried out, Surely this is my horse, which was stolen from me a few days ago in Antequera. All those who were with him, which were four servants, confirmed what he said, and that it was the very horse that had been stolen from him; with this, my master was thunderstruck; the owner of the horse made great complaints, and gave such good proofs that it was his, that sentence was passed in his favour, and my master dispossessed of the horse. The comical trick of the thieves, in making use of the hands of justice itself to sell what they had stolen, was talked of all about the city; and almost every one was well pleased that my master’s greediness had at last burst the bag with overcramming it. But his misfortunes did not stop here; for that very same night, the civil magistrate going upon the patrol through the street, having had information given him, that there were some robbers in the quarter of St. Julian; just as we came to a cross-way, they espied a man running by, and at this very moment, the magistrate taking me by my collar, and clapping me on the back, cried, To the thief, Gavilan, to the thief: I, who was quite provoked, and my patience wearied out, by the sharping and base tricks of my master, that I might execute fully Mr. magistrate’s orders, immediately fell upon my master, and without his being able to help himself, I flung him to the ground, and if they had not taken me off, I should have taken more than a four-fold vengeance on him. The catchpoles would have beaten me, and even have knocked me on the head, had not Mr. magistrate said, in a magisterial tone, Let no one touch him, for the dog did what I ordered him. But however, seeing their indignation, I, without taking leave of any one, got through a little hole in the townwall into the fields, and before day-break found myself in Mayrena, a town about four leagues from Seville. My good luck would have it so, that I found therein a company of soldiers, who I heard say were going to embark at Carthagena. There were amongst them four bullies, who were great cronies of my master, and one of them was a drummer, who had been before a catchpole, and was a great juggler, as drummers commonly are: They all knew me, and they all spoke to me, and asked me where my master was, as if I had been able to have answered them: But he who took the most notice of me was the drummer, and so I determined to stay with him, if he would let me, and to follow him whithersoever he went, though it should be into Italy or Flanders; because I am of opinion, that although the proverb says, He that goes to Rome a fool, will return a fool, yet the visiting divers countries, and the conversing with different nations and people, may make a man wise.

SCIPIO: You say right; for I remember to have heard one of my masters, who was a great scholar, say, that a famous Greek, called Ulysses, had the reputation of being a very wise man, for only having travelled through many countries, and conversed with different people of various nations; therefore I commend the resolution you took, to go where-ever they should carry you.

BERGANSA: The drummer, to set off his juggling tricks to the better advantage, taught me to dance to the sound of a drum, and to play several other monkey tricks, very much above the capacity of any other dog but myself: The time of their commission being almost expired, they began to march by short stages: By good luck we had no commissary to restrain us; the captain was a young man, but a very valiant gentleman; as for our ensign, it was not long since he left the court, and the public feasts; and our serjeant was a good-natured soul, and one who was the diversion of all companies: But the misfortune was, our company was full of prating bullies, who committed insolencies in the towns, through which we took our rout, which occasioned curses to be poured on his head, who did not deserve them. It is the unhappiness of a good prince, to be blamed by his people for the faults of his officers, because some are the plagues of others, without any fault of the prince; for although he was ever so desirous, and should use his utmost endeavours, he would not be able to remedy these evils; because war is really a scourge, and will always carry with it something of roughness and severity, and be attended with many inconveniences. In short, in less than fifteen days, by means of my quick apprehension and readiness to learn, with the diligence of him whom I chose for my patron, I knew how to dance, when I was bid to do it, for the king of France, and not to wag a foot for the tavern woman: He taught me to curvet and prance like a Neapolitan horse, and to go round like a mule in a mill, with other such like things; that if I had not found by experience, that I had sufficient abilities to perform them, I should have been doubtful whether it was not some devil in the shape of a dog, who performed all these things.

My master gave me the title of the Wise Dog; and we no sooner arrived at any of our quarters, but he went through the whole town, beating his drum, and giving notice to all persons, who had the curiosity to come and see the wonderful qualities, and surprising performances of the Wise Dog, that they were shewn in such a house, or such an hospital, at the price of eight or four maravedies a-piece, according to the largeness or smallness of the town. My master made so eloquent an harangue on my noble qualifications, that there was not one person in the town, who did not come to see me; and every body went home again struck with astonishment, and very well pleased with my performances. My master triumphed in his great gains, and maintained six of his comrades like so many kings. Covetousness and envy incited in these ruffians a great desire to steal me, and they sought an opportunity to do it; for many are in love with, and greedy of gain, only that they may spend it in good eating and drinking. This makes so many, who go about in Spain with puppet-shows, and others selling pins and ballads, that the whole flock, though they should sell it all, would not be sufficient to keep them one day; and besides, both the one and the other are never out of the cook-shops, and the public-houses, all the year round; from when I conceive, that their drunkenness and gluttony must be supported by some other means, than the profits of their respective trades. They are all of them a vagabond useless set of people, who suck in wine like a spunge, and are great devourers of bread.

SCIPIO: No more, Bergansa, let us not return to our old trade again, but go on with your story, for the night wears away, and I would not have any part of your story untold at break of day.

BERGANSA: Give attention then: As it is an easy thing to make improvements and additions to things once invented, my master seeing how well I could imitate a Neapolitan courser, made me a housing of gilt leather, and a small saddle, which he put on my back; he made likewise a little figure of a man, with a lance in his hand, as they have when they ride at the ring; he mounted the little gentleman on my back, taught me to run dexterously at a ring, which he placed between two sticks; and the day I was to run at it, he gave notice, that the Wise Dog would run at the ring that day, and perform many other new and surprising tricks, such as had never been seen before, which, as they say, I performed with great dexterity, that I might not make my master a liar. We arrived, at length, by our set stages, to Montilla, a town belonging to that famous and good christian the marquis of Priego, lord of the house of Aguilar and Montilla. They quartered my master in an hospital, according to his desire; he immediately made his usual proclamation, and as Fame blew before, to carry the news of the surprising qualities and wonderful performances of the Wise Dog, in less than an hour, the yard was full of people. My master was overjoyed to see what a plentiful harvest he had, and shewed that day, several tricks more than usual. My first performance, was leaping through a hoop several times, and in a different manner: He made use of the usual words, to conjure me, and when he held down a little wand, which he held in his hand, was a sign for me to jump; and when he held it up, for me to stand still: The first word of command he gave me that day, (which was one of the most memorable of my whole life) was, Come my brave lad Gavilan, leap for that old man who you know blacks his whiskers every morning, to make himself look young; and if not for him, leap for the pomp and grandeur of the new-made countess Pimpinela, of Plasagonia, who is always talking of her quality, though before her husband married her, she was but a cook-maid. Do you not like the word of command, Gavilan? Leap then for the batchelar Pasilas, who signed himself a master of arts, without having taken any degree; O, you are lazy, I believe, why don’t you leap? But I guess what you would be at; leap then for the wine of Esquivias, equally famous with that of the royal city, St. Martin and Ribidavia: He held down his wand, and I jumped up. He immediately turned about to the people, and said with a loud voice, Do not think, most noble and illustrious audience, that it is only a few trifling things this dog knows. I have taught him twenty-four things, the least of which, it is worth going thirty leagues to see: He can dance a saraband, and the chacona, better than even the inventors of them; he can drink three pints of wine, without leaving a drop; he sings sol, fa, mi, la, as well as any parish clerk in the kingdom; all these things, and many more, too tedious to mention, you shall see fresh proofs of, every day, while our company stays here; and now one more leap of this Wise Dog, and then we shall entertain you with his other performances.

With this, he kept in suspence the minds of his most noble audience, as he called them, and inflamed them with a vehement desire of seeing all my fine performances: And turning about to me, he said, Come Gavilan, repeat once more, what you performed just now, for the sake of that famous witch, who they say lives in this place. Scarcely had he spoke these words, when an old woman of about three-score, who belonged to the hospital, set up a loud cry, bawling out, Thou knavish impostor, and prating mountebank, thou son of a whore, who dost thou call a witch, for there is never a one in this place? If thou meanest the famous witch Camacha, she has long since paid for all her offences, and is now, God only knows where: But if thou meanest me, saucy buffoon, know I neither am, nor ever have been a witch; and if you have heard so, you have been falsely informed.- All the world knows the penance I do, not for my witchcrafts, for I never practised any; but the many other sins, which, as a sinful woman I have committed: And therefore thou knavish piper, get thee gone out of the hospital, or else by my faith, I shall make you mend your pace. With this, she set up such a scolding, and rung such a peal in my master’s ears, that he was almost scared out of his wits; in fine, she would not suffer him by any means to go on with his show. My master was not at all displeased with this hurly-burly, because he had got the money into his pocket, and set apart for another day and another hospital, the remaining part of my performances. The people went away cursing the old woman, calling her not only a witch, but an old bearded sorceress. But however, we staid in the hospital that night; and the old woman meeting me alone in the court-yard, said to me, Do I see thee, my son Montiel? Have I at last the happiness to behold thee, my son? Hearing this, I lift up my head, and looked stedfastly at her for a good while, which she seeing, ran to me with tears in her eyes, and throwing her arms about my neck, would fain have kissed me, if I would have let her; but I loathing the very thoughts of it, would not permit her.

SCIPIO: You did well; for it is not a pleasure but punishment, to kiss, or be kissed by an old woman.

BERGANSA: What I am going to tell you, I should have told you at the beginning of my story, and so we should have been less astonished at hearing ourselves speak; for you must know, the old woman said to me, Follow me, my son Montiel, and I will shew you where my chamber is; contrive to meet me there alone this night; I will leave the door open for you, for know, I have many things to acquaint you with concerning your life, which it imports you much to be informed of. I held down my head, in token of obedience, by which she was thoroughly confirmed in her belief, that I was the dog Montiel whom she sought for, as she afterwards told me. I remained quite amazed and perplexed, expecting night with the greatest impatience, to see where this mystery or prodigy of the old woman’s words to me would end; and as I heard them say she was a witch, I expected to see and hear great things from her. At last the long-wished for moment came, that I saw myself in her chamber, which was a little dark cell; there was no other light in it, but what the faint glimmerings of an earthen lamp afforded. When I went in, the old woman was sitting upon a little chest, stirring the fire; she immediately called me to her, and without speaking a word, began to embrace me again, and I was forced to be upon the watch, that she might not kiss me. The first words she broke silence with, were, I always trusted heaven, that before these eyes were closed in eternal night, I should behold thee, my son; and now that I have seen thee, let death come and free me from this troublesome life: You must know my son, that in this city lived the most famous witch that ever was in the world, whom they called Camacha de Montilla. She was so expert in her enchantments, that neither the Ericte’s, Circe’s, Medea’s, or any others of those, of whom I have heard say histories are full, were to compare to her. She could congeal the clouds whenever she had a mind, covering therewith the face of the sun; and when she pleased, she could make the most cloudy and tempestuous sky become clear and serene. She transported men in the twinkling of an eye, from the most distant countries, and had a wonderful cure for those virgins who had been negligent in guarding their honour. She concealed the faults of widows in such a manner, that though they were wanton, yet they were accounted modest. She parted those that were married, and married whomsoever she pleased. In December she had fresh roses in her garden, and in January she cut wheat. To make water-cresses grow in a tray, or to shew any person that was required, either alive or dead, in a looking-glass or in a bason of water, was accounted but a trifle by her. She is said to have transformed men into beasts, and that she really made use of a sexton six years, under the form of an ass, which I have never been able to comprehend how it is done. For that which is said of those ancient enchantresses, who transformed men into beasts, the most learned men say, that it was nothing else, but that they, with their great beauty and allurements, drew in men to be deeply in love with them, and subjected them in such a manner, making them subservient to all their wanton desires, that they were more like beasts than men. But in you, my son, experience shews me the contrary, for I know that thou art a man, though I see thee in the likeness of a dog, unless this is effected by what they call a Deceptio visus, which makes one thing appear for another. Let that be as it will, what grieves me is, that neither I nor thy mother, for we were disciples of the good Camacha, ever arrived to such a degree of perfection in this art, as she herself; not because we had not capacities and inclinations to learn, for we had rather too much than too little of these; but because of her malice and envy, for she would never communicate to us the more hidden secrets of her art, but reserved them to herself. Your mother, son, was called Montiela, and, after Camacha, was very famous; my name is Cannizares, and if am not so wise as those two, yet at least I have as good desires as the best of them. It is true, that even Camacha herself did not surpass your mother in courage, for she would draw a circle, and shut herself up in it, with a whole legion of devils: For my part, I must confess I was always a little fearful, and contented myself with conjuring up half a legion. But with reverence be it spoken of them both, in respect of that which concerns the mixing and preserving the ointments, with which we anoint ourselves, I will not yield to either of them, nor to any who at this day are proficients in the same art. But you must know, my son, that as I have seen, and see daily, that life, which runs upon the swift wings of time, comes to an end at last, I have resolved to leave all the crimes of witchcraft, and have contented myself with only being a sorceress, which is a very difficult vice to forsake; your mother did the same, she forsook a great many vices, and did a great many good deeds in this life; but she at last died a sorceress; she did not die of any infirmity, but of grief, which Camacha her mistress was the cause of, either out of spite, which she conceived against her, because she was grown almost as great a proficient in our art as herself, or else from some other private grudge, or little pique of jealousy, which I could never thoroughly sift out; for your mother being with child, and the hour of her delivery being come, Camacha was her midwife, who received into her hands what your mother brought forth; and she immediately shewed her, that she had been delivered of two little puppies; and as soon as she saw them she cried out, Good heavens! what malice and villainy is here? Nevertheless, sister Montiela, I am thy friend, and will conceal this delivery; do you but take care to recover your strength and health again, and be assured your disgrace shall remain buried in oblivion. Let not this adventure give you any uneasiness, for you are sensible that I know well enough, that you have been concerned with no other a long time, but your friend Roderigo the porter; and therefore your being delivered of these dogs, proceeds from some other cause, and contains some mystery in it. Your mother and I, who was present all the while, were quite astonished at this strange adventure. Camacha went out and carried away the whelps; I staid with your mother, to assist her in what she wanted, who could not believe what had happened to her; sometime afterwards Camacha drawing nigh her end, and being in the last moments of her life, she called your mother, and told her how she had transformed her sons into dogs, to revenge herself for an old grudge which she owed her; but that she should not be troubled at it, for they would return to their first shape and condition, when it was least expected; but that it could not be till they had seen with their own eyes, the following prediction accomplished:

Let this remembrance some relief afford,

To human shape they’ll be again restor’d,

When they shall see thrown groveling to the ground,

Those that erect, as lofty pines were found:

And those that laid low in the dust this hour,

Shall be rais’d up by the same mighty power.

These were the words Camacha spoke to your mother, with her dying breath, as I have already told you. Your mother took them down in writing, and engraved them deeply in her memory, as I likewise did in mine, in case we should, by good luck, ever have the opportunity of acquainting either of you with it; and that I might find you out, I called all the dogs I saw of your colour, by the name of your mother; not that I thought that as dogs you would know the name, but to see if any of them would answer to a name so different from what dogs are commonly called by; and to-night, when I saw you perform so many surprising things, and that you were called the Wise Dog; and likewise how you lift up your head, and looked at me, when I called you in the court-yard, I suspected you were the son of Montiela, and therefore, with the greatest pleasure, have made you acquainted with the history of your birth, and by what means you are to recover your former shape, which I heartily wish was as easy as that which they say the golden ass made use of, which consisted only in eating a rose; but thine depends upon other people’s actions, and not on thy own. And therefore all thou hast to do, son, is to recommend thyself to God, in thy private thoughts, and wait with patience; for these, I will not call them prophecies, but divinations, which will shortly come to pass, according to your wishes; for since the good Camacha has pronounced them, I make not the least doubt of their happening; and you, with your brother, if he is alive, shall see all these expectations answered. What grieves me is, that I am so near my end, that I shall not be able to see it. Many times I made account to enquire of my familiar spirit, what end this adventure of yours shall have, but I never did, because he never gives a direct answer to any of our enquiries, but couches it in dark and obscure terms, which have several significations; so that there is no depending upon any answer which this our lord and master gives; for with one word of truth, he mixes a thousand lies: And as far as I can gather by his answers, he knows nothing of futurity for certain, but only by guesses. Notwithstanding all this, he so deludes us witches, that although he makes a mock of us many times, and plays a thousand tricks upon us, yet we cannot forsake him. We go a great way from hence, to see him in a large field, wherein an infinite number of sorcerers and sorceresses assemble together; and there he gives us something to eat, of a very unpleasant taste; and there are other things transacted, which, in good truth, I dare not tell you, because they are foul and loathsome, and I will not offend your chaste ears. Some are of opinion, that we go to these feasts in imagination only; and that the devil imprints thereon, the images of all those things, which we afterwards relate have happened to us; others say not, but that we really go there both in body and soul; and for my part, I hold that both these opinions are true, insomuch, that we ourselves do not know when we go one way or other; because all that passeth with us in imagination only, is so intensely imprinted, that it is exactly the same, as if we had actually gone there in person. The inquisitors have made some experiments of this upon some of us, whom they have kept pressed down, and I think they have found what I say to be true. At last, I had a mind to forsake this sin, and have used my endeavours to do it: I have betaken myself to this hospital, where I cure the poor, but some of them die, which gives me new life, by what they bequeath to me, or what old cloaths they leave behind them, for my care. I pray a little in public, and murmur much in private: It goes better with me by being a hypocrite, than with being an open sinner. The appearances of my present good deeds, blot out from the memory of those that know me, my former bad ones. In a word, a hypocritical holiness does no harm to any one, but to him who practises it. Son Montiel, take this advice of me, do all the good you can; but if you must be wicked, endeavour to hide it much as you can. I am a sorceress, I do not deny it to you; and that your mother was a witch and a sorceress, I can as little deny. Nevertheless, the fine outward appearances of us both, were sufficient to gain us a good reputation with every one. Three days before she died, we had both of us been to a merry-making, in one of the valleys between the Pyrenean mountains; and when she died, it was with so much calmness and serenity, that excepting a few wry faces, which she made a quarter of an hour before she gave up the ghost, she seemed as easy as if she had been upon a bridal bed strewed with flowers. The transformation of her two sons broke her heart, and she never would, even at the point of death, forgive Camacha: I closed her eyes, and attended her to her grave; and there I left her, never to see her more, although I have not lost all hopes of seeing her before I die, because it is talked in the town, that some persons have seen her walking in the church-yards and cross-ways in different shapes; and perhaps some time or other I shall meet her; and I will ask her, if she would have me do any thing to unburthen her conscience.

Every thing the old woman said to me, in praise of her, who she told me was my mother, was as a spear which pierced me to the heart, and I had a great mind to fall upon her, and tear her to pieces; but I did not do it, because I was unwilling death should seize her in so unprepared and sinful a condition. Finally, she told me, that she designed to anoint herself that night, to go to one of their usual nocturnal meetings, and that whilst she was there, she intended to enquire of her familiar, a little of what was to befall me. I would have asked, if I could have spoke, what those ointments were, which she mentioned, and it seems, that she read my thoughts, since she answered, (as if I had asked her) what I wanted to be informed of, in these words: This ointment, with which we witches anoint ourselves, is made up of the juices of herbs, of an extreme cold nature, and not (as it is commonly said to be) of the blood of those infants which we strangle. Here you may likewise ask me, what pleasure and profit the devil has by making us kill these harmless creatures, since he knows, that being baptized, they are received into heaven, as being innocent, and without sin; and that he himself suffers an additional torment by every christian soul that escapes him? To which I can give you no other answer, but what the proverb says, which is, That he puts out both his own eyes, to put out one of his enemy’s: I mean, the excessive grief he pierces the parents with, by killing their children. And that which concerns him most, is to make us commit, at every step, so cruel and diabolical a crime; and all this God permits, for the sins of men; for without his permission, I have seen by experience, that the devil cannot hurt so much as an ant; and this is so true, that having asked him one time to destroy my enemy’s vine, he made answer, that he could not so much as touch a leaf of it, because God would not permit him: By which thou mayest know, when thou art a man, that all the misfortunes that happen to nations, kingdoms, cities, and towns, sudden deaths, shipwrecks, and contagious distempers, in a word, all the ills which we call accidents, proceed from the hand of the Most High, and are permitted by his will; but that our sins and wicked actions proceed entirely from ourselves. God is sinless, from whence we may infer, that we are the authors of sin, forming it in thought, word, and deed; God permitting it all for our offences, as I have before said. You will say now, son, if you understand what I am saying, who hath made me a divine; and you will perhaps say within yourself, Body of this old whore, why don’t she leave off being a sorceress, and return to God, since she knows, that he is more ready to pardon sins, than to permit them? To this I make answer, (as if you had really asked me) that a habit of sinning, becomes in time a second nature; and this of sorcery becomes as dear and necessary to us, as our very flesh and blood; and so stupifies the soul, that it even cools and benumbs its faith, from whence arises a forgetfulness of itself, and it neither remembers the terrors with which God threatens it, nor the glory to which he invites it; and, in fine, as it is a sin which consists in sensual pleasures, it deadens and stupefies all our faculties, not permitting them to perform their proper offices as they ought; and so the soul remaining useless, disordered, and slothful, cannot raise its consideration, if it would, to any good thought; and suffering itself to be swallowed up in the profound abyss of its misery, it cannot raise itself to God.- I have one of these souls which I have described to you, I see it, and know it well; but as sensual pleasure hath fettered my will, I have always been, and always shall be wicked.

But let us leave this, and talk a little about the ointments, which I say are so extremely cold, that when we anoint ourselves with them, they deprive us of all our senses, and we remain stretched upon the ground naked, and then it is, they say, that every thing which seems to us, to be really transacted, passes only in our imagination. Other times, having made an end of anointing ourselves, we are transformed, as we think, into cocks, owls, or crows; and in this shape we go to the place where our master expects us, and there we come to our first shape again, and partake of pleasures which I shall pass over in silence, because they are such, that it even gives me pain to call them back to memory, and my tongue flies back with horror from relating them; and yet notwithstanding all this, I am a sorceress, and I cover with the cloak of hypocrisy, all my faults. It is true, that if some esteem and honour me as a good woman, there are not wanting many, who tell me of the marks which the fury of a choleric judge imprinted on us; who, in former times, having some accusation against me, and your mother, delivered us up to the hangman to execute his anger upon us, who, not being see’d, used his full power and rigour upon our shoulders. But this is passed, as all things pass away, slipping out of the memory; and people being tired with talking always of one thing, new events making us forget the old. I live in this hospital, and in outward appearance am very good; I am not so old, but I may live a year longer, although I am now seventy-five; and now I cannot fast for my great age, nor pray for the swimmings in my head, nor go any more pilgrimages, because of the feebleness of my legs, and cannot give alms, because I am poor, nor even think well, because I delight in doing ill; with all this I know that God is good and merciful. But enough of this, let us have no more of this talk, for in good truth it makes me sad: but come, my son, and you shall see me anoint myself, for a fat sow is better than a lean one, and it is good to make hay while the sun shines, and not to mourn when we may laugh: I mean, that although the pleasures which the Devil gives us are sometimes real, and sometimes imaginary only; nevertheless they seem pleasures to us, and the delight is much greater in imagination than enjoyment; although in true pleasures it ought to be to the contrary. Having thus finished her long tale, she rose up, and taking the lamp, went into another room, less than the former; I followed her, distracted by a thousand different thoughts, and struck with astonishment at what I had heard, and what I expected to see; Cannizares hung the lamp upon the wall, and hastily undressed herself to her shift; and taking out of a corner a glazed pot, she put her hand in it, and muttering between her teeth, anointed herself from the sole of her foot, to the crown of her head, which was quite bare; before she had made an end of anointing herself, she told me, that whether her body should remain without life or motion in the chamber, or should vanish out of it, that I should not be frightened, but stay there till morning; because I should know some news of what adventures I should still run through, before I regained my first shape. I let her know, by bowing down my head, that I would obey her; and with this she made an end of anointing herself, and remained stretched on the ground as if she had been dead; I put my mouth to her’s, and found she did not breathe in the least. I will confess the truth to you, Scipio, that I was terribly affrighted to see myself shut up in that little chamber, with that strange figure before my eyes, which I will describe to you, the best I am able. It was about seven foot long, the whole was an anatomy of bones, covered with a black hairy skin; her breasts seemed like two empty bladders, dry and wrinkled; her lips black, her teeth closed, her nose crooked, her eyes started out of their sockets, her head bald, her cheeks were sunk in, her throat narrow. In a word, every part of her was possessed by the Devil; I set myself to examine her attentively, but fear soon took possession of me, reflecting on the ugly sight of her body, and the worse employment of her soul. I would have bit her, to see whether she would come to herself again, but I could not find any part about her, but what was so loathsome, that I could not find in my heart to touch it. However, I laid hold of her heel, and dragged her into the court-yard; but for all this she gave no signs of her being sensible of it. There, with looking at the sky, and seeing myself in a wide place, my fear left me; at least it was moderated in such a manner, that I had the courage to stay to see how this horrible scene would end. In the mean time, I asked myself, Who has made this wicked old woman so discreet, and yet so wicked? From whence does she know what misfortunes are accidents, and what proceed from our own sins? By what means does she understand and speak so much of God, and yet deals so much with the devil? How can she sin so much, when she can in no ways plead ignorance? In these meditations the night slipped away, and the day approached, which found us in the midst of the court-yard; she not come to herself, and I sitting on my legs near her, attentively beholding her frightful and foul aspect. The people of the hospital came, and seeing this sight, some cried out, Alas! the holy Cannizares is dead, see to what a weak and disfigured condition her penitence and fastings reduced her; others more considerate felt her pulse, and perceiving it to beat, found she was not dead, from whence they conceived she was in a trance; others said, This old whore must without doubt be a sorceress, and is now anointed, for the saints are never in such unseemly raptures, and she has always, amongst those that know her, had more the reputation of a sorceress, than a saint. There were some so curious, that they went up to her, and stuck pins in her flesh, from head to foot; but all this did not awake this sound sleeper, nor did she come to herself again, till seven o’clock the next morning; and as she felt herself pricked by the pins, bit by the heels, bruised with the dragging her out of the chamber, and in the presence of so many people, who stood looking at her; she immediately believed, and very rightly too, that I had been the author of her disgrace; and so running to me, and laying both her hands on my throat, she endeavoured to throttle me, crying out, O ungrateful, ignorant, and malicious villain! is this the reward I deserve for the good services I have done your mother, and those which I intended to have done you? Seeing myself in danger of losing my life, in the claws of this furious harpy, I snapped at her, and catching hold of her old wrinkled skin, I dragged her all about the court-yard, she bawling out, that they should deliver her from the teeth of the evil spirit. Hearing these words of the wicked old woman, the greatest part of them believed, that I was one of those demons who have a continual grudge against good christians, and some run to throw holy water upon me; others did not dare to come near me; others cried out they should exorcise me; the old woman muttered, and I kept fast hold; the confusion grew greater and greater; and my master, whom the noise had brought hither, raved like a madman, hearing them say, that I was a devil come out of hell; others who did not understand exorcisms, laid hold of three or four cudgels, with which they begun to exorcise my loins for me, in a very disagreeable manner; I did not like the jest, and so let go the old woman, and in three leaps got into the street; and in a few more out of the town, followed by an infinite number of boys at my heels, crying out as loud as they could, Get out of the way, make room, for the Wise Dog is run mad; others cried, He is not mad, but it is the devil in the shape of a dog. I got out of the town horribly bruised, great numbers following me, who undoubtedly believed I was a devil, as well for the things they had seen me perform, as for the words the old woman spoke when she awoke out of her accursed sleep. I run away so fast, and made such haste in getting out of their sight, that they thought I had vanished away like a devil; in six hours I went twelve leagues, at the end of which, I came to the quarters of some gipsies, which was in a field near Granada. I stopped here a little, and because some of the gipsies knew me to be the Wise Dog, they received me with no little pleasure, and hid me in a cave, that I might not be found, if I was sought for, with an intention, as I afterwards learned, of getting money by me, as the drummer my master had done. Twenty days I continued with them, in which I examined their life and manners, which being pretty remarkable, I cannot omit giving you an account of them.

SCIPIO: Before you proceed any farther, Bergansa, it will be better that we stop a little, at what the sorceress told you, and examine if the great lie, to which you give credit, can possibly be true. Consider, Bergansa, it would be the greatest folly to believe that Camacha ever changed men into beasts, and that the sexton served her so many years, as they say, in the shape of an ass. All these things, and the like, are only lies, or the deceits of the devil; and if it seems to us now, that we have some understanding, and are capable of reasoning, being really dogs, or under the form of them, we have already said, that it is a wonderful and strange thing, and what was never seen before. Would you be convinced more fully, consider on what trifling things, and silly points Camacha said our recovering our first shape again depended; and those which you think prophecies, are only foolish stories, and old women’s tales; such as those concerning the horse without a head, and the enchanted wand, with which, the long winter nights are passed away at the fire side; for if they had been any other, they would have been accomplished before now, unless it is that her words are to be taken in a sense, which I have heard say, is called allegorical, which sense does not signify what the words literally mean, but some other thing, which although it is different, has some analogy to them, and so to say:

Let this remembrance some relief afford,

To human shape they’ll be again restor’d,

When they shall see thrown groveling to the ground,

Those that erect, as lofty pines were found:

And those that laid low in the dust this hour,

Shall be rais’d up by the same mighty power.

Taking it in the sense which I have mentioned, it seems to me, to signify, that we shall recover our first shape again, when we shall see those, who were yesterday on the highest spokes of fortune’s wheel, today cast down, and trampled under foot by misfortunes, and held in little account by those who most esteemed them. And in the same manner, when we shall see others who two hours ago had no other portion in this world, but only to fill up a vacant place, and increase the number of its inhabitants, and now they are raised to such towering heights of fortune, that we lose sight of them; and if before, they could not be seen for their littleness and obscurity, now we cannot reach them for their greatness and exalted splendor: and if our putting on the form you speak of, had consisted in this, we have already seen it, and we see it at every step; from whence I conceive, that the verses of Camacha are not to be taken in an allegorical sense, but a literal one, and our remedy consists as little in this, since we have seen many times what they signify, and yet we are as much dogs as ever, as you may see; so that Camacha was a false deceiver, Cannizares a lying, prating gossip, and Montiela a silly, malicious beldam, with respect be it spoken, if she really is the mother of us both, or your’s only; for I will not have her for my mother: I say then, that the literal and true meaning is a game of nine-pins, wherein with ready diligence they throw down those which are standing, and set up those which are fallen, and this by the hand of one who is able to do it. Consider then, if in the course of our life we have ever seen them play at nine-pins, and if we have seen them, according to this, we should have been changed into men.

BERGANSA: I own you are in the right, Scipio, and that you are wiser than I thought for; and from what you have said, I begin to think and believe, that all we have been doing hitherto, and what we are doing now, is a dream, and that we are really dogs. But however, let us enjoy as much as we can, this gift of speech, which we have, and this so great pre-eminence, of being capable to discourse according to reason; and therefore do not be tired with hearing me relate what happened to me amongst the gipsies who hid me in the cave.

SCIPIO: I hearken to you willingly, to oblige you to give attention to me, when I relate to you, if heaven pleases, the adventures of my life.

BERGANSA: I employed myself while I was with the gipsies, to observe their sly tricks and deceits, by which they imposed upon people; the great mischiefs they did, and the thefts which the gipsies of both sexes practise, from almost the very moment they leave off their blankets and are able to run alone: You see what a multitude there is of them dispersed throughout all parts of Spain: but they all know, and keep correspondence with one another, and carry on a trade by exchanging their thefts: They pay greater obedience than they do to their lawful king, to one whom they stile the count, who, with all his successors, goes by the sirname of Maldonado; not because they are any ways descended from that noble family, but because a page belonging to a gentleman of that name became enamoured with a gipsy, who would not grant him her love, unless he made himself a gipsy, and married her: The page did so, and he pleased the other gipsies so much, that they made him their king, and paid him obedience as such; and, as a token of their vassalage, they allow him a part of all they steal, when it is of any value. They employ themselves, to give colour to their idleness, in working things in iron, and so you will always see them setting forth to sale, in the streets and highways, pincers, nail-piercers, hammers, and such like trifles, which they likewise make use of themselves, to execute their robberies: The women are their own midwives, and in this they have the advantage of our women, that they bring forth their births into the world without cost or charge; they wash their young children with cold water as soon as they are born; and from that time to the day of their death, they are hardened and inured to bear the inclemencies and rigours of the different seasons, so that they are nimble and brisk, and are great runners, vaulters and dancers. They always marry amongst themselves, that their cheating tricks and frauds may not come to be known to any but those of their fraternity: When they ask alms, they get it more by their jests and cunning lies, than their devotions; and under pretence that there is no one will trust them, they get into no service, but give themselves up to an idle lazy life: And seldom or never have I seen, if I remember aright, any gipsy receiving the communion at the foot of the altar, although I have gone many times into the churches: Their thoughts are wholly employed in contriving how they shall cheat people, and where they shall steal: They relate their thefts to one another, and in what manner they effected them: One day a gipsy related to the others before me, a trick that he had put upon a countryman; which was, that the gipsy had an ass with a short tail, and on the little bare stump of his tail, he ingrafted a false one, that was very full of hair, which was so well set on, that it seemed as if it was his own natural one: He brought it into the market place, and a countryman bought it of him for ten ducats; as soon as he sold it, and received the money, he told the countryman, that if he had a mind to buy the brother of it, who was every bit as good, he would sell it him a better pennyworth. The countryman bid him go and fetch it, and that he would purchase it of him, and in the mean while he would carry that which he had bought to his lodgings. The countryman went his way, the gipsy followed him, and by some means or other, the gipsy had the dexterity to steal the ass from the countryman, whom he had sold it to; and immediately he took off the sham-tail, and left him only his own bare stump: He changed the pannel and halter, and was bold enough to go and seek out the countryman, that he might sell it him a second time; he found him before he had missed the first ass, and after a few words, he bought the second. He went to his lodgings to pay the money, where he found the first ass missing; and although it was very unlikely, yet he suspected the gipsy had stole it from him, and refused to pay him; the gipsy run out for witnesses, and brought in those who had received the duty for the first ass, and they swore, that the gipsy had sold the countryman an ass with a very large and bushy tail, very different from this second one which he sold him. Besides all this, there was an alguazil present, who espoused the cause of the gipsy with so much earnestness, that the countryman was obliged to pay for the ass twice over. They related a great many other thefts, and all or the greatest part of them were of beasts, in stealing of which they are very expert, and make it their chief employment. In a word, they are a very wicked set of people; and although many and very wise judges have endeavoured to reform them, yet they are not in the least amended. At the end of twenty days, they had a mind to carry me to Murcia, for which purpose, we were obliged to pass through Granada, where the company to which the drummer my master belonged, was at that time quartered: As the gipsies had information of it, they kept me locked up in a chamber belonging to the inn where they lay; I heard them mention the reason of it, and did not much like the intended journey, and so I was resolved to get loose, if I could, and afterwards put it in execution. In going out of Granada, I came to an orchard belonging to a Moor, who received me with a good will, and I stayed with a better, thinking that he would want me for nothing else but to guard his orchard, an employment, in my opinion, of less trouble and labour, than that of guarding the flock; and as there was no need to stand wrangling about wages, the Moor easily found a servant whom he might command, and I a master to serve: I stayed with him above a month, not because I liked my way of life so well, but on account of the pleasure I conceived in remarking and finding out the life my master led, and by this means, that of all the Moors in Spain. O how many strange things could I tell you, Scipio, of this Moorish crew, if I was not afraid we should not be able to make an end of them these two weeks; and if I was to be particular, I should not even finish them in two months. My master being a miserable covetous wretch, as all of that breed are, he fed me with bread made of millet, and with little bits and scraps which was his own common food: But kind heaven enabled me to bear this hardship, by a very strange accident, as you shall hear; every morning, as soon as the day began to break, a young man who seemed to be a student, came and sat down under one of the many pomegranate trees that were in that place; he was dressed in bays, which by long wear, had changed colour, and looked a little thread-bare: He was always very busy in writing in a pocket-book, and every now and then, he struck his forehead with the palms of his hands, and bit his nails, looking up stedfastly to the sky; other times he was so wrapt in thought, that he neither stirred hand or foot, nor even his eye-lids, so great were his raptures. One time I went near him, without his perceiving me; I heard him mutter something between his teeth, and after some pause, he cried out aloud, Thanks to my lucky stars, this is the best stanza I ever made in my whole life! and writing it down as fast as he could in his book, he seemed to be highly delighted with it; all which made me conjecture, that this happy man must needs be a poet. I fawned upon him with my usual caresses, to assure him of my tameness; I threw myself at his feet, and he being assured of my gentleness by this mark of respect, pursued his thoughts, and began to scratch his head, and to be in his high-flown raptures again, and to write as before. While he was thus employed, there came a gay well dressed young man into the orchard, with some papers in his hand, in which he read from time to time; he came to the other, and said to him, Have you finished the first act? I have just now finished it, answered the poet, the most happily that can be imagined. In what manner? asked the other. After this manner, answered the poet; his holiness the pope appears cloathed in his pontifical habits, with twelve cardinals all dressed in purple; for when the event, which is the subject of my comedy happened, there was a Mutatio Caparum, and the cardinals did not go dressed in red, but purple; and therefore it is highly necessary, in order to keep a due propriety, that these my cardinals should be cloathed in purple; and this is a matter of great importance to the comedy; I cannot be mistaken in this point, because I have read over the whole book of the Roman ceremonies, only that I might be in the right, as to these habits. But where the devil do you think, replied the other, we can get purple dresses for twelve cardinals? Get them you must, answered the poet, though you go to Rome for them; for if you take only one away of these, I will give you my comedy for nothing. Body of me! must this grand and magnificent appearance be lost? Imagine to yourself what a fine shew his holiness the pope will make on the stage, surrounded with twelve grave cardinals, and the other attendants which he must necessarily have with him; by heaven! it will be one of the grandest and most magnificent scenes, that has ever been seen in comedy, not excepting that called the Nosegay, written by Daraja. By this I was fully assured the one was a poet, and the other a player. The player advised the poet to clip off a few of their eminences, if he would not make the comedy impossible to be acted: To which the poet replied, that they might thank him, that he had not brought in the whole conclave, to grace the memorable action which was the subject of his most ingenious and well-contrived comedy. The actor laughed at this, and left him to his employment, to return to his own, which was to study a part in a new comedy. The poet having wrote some more stanza’s of his magnificent comedy, pulled out of his pocket, with great gravity and deliberation, some broken pieces of bread, and about twenty raisins, as I think; for although I counted them, yet I am in doubt if there were so many or no, because there were some crums of bread mixt with them: He separated, and blowed away the crums, and eat the raisins one by one, and I believe he even eat the stalks, for I saw him fling nothing away; he would fain have eaten too, (for his appetite seemed in no wise to be fully satisfied) the broken pieces of bread, which being coloured by the nap of his pocket, looked as if they were mouldy, but they were so hard, that tho’ he endeavoured to soften them by chewing, not only once, but several times, yet he was not able to master them; all which redounded to my profit, for he flung them to me, saying, Here, take them, and much good may they do thee.

Good gods! cried I, within myself, is this, which this poet gives me, the Nectar or Ambrosia, which they say the gods, and his patron Apollo live upon in heaven. In a word, the poverty and wretchedness of the poets, is generally very great; however, my necessity was greater, since it obliged me to eat what he flung away. All the time he was composing his comedy, he never missed coming to the orchard, nor did I want for crusts of bread, for he divided them with me very liberally, and we used to go together, after our repast, to the well, where we both quenched our thirst, as great as two monarchs, I laying down and lapping, and he making use of one of the pots which was fastened to the wheel. But the poet having finished his comedy, came no more to the orchard; and hunger pressed me so much, that I was resolved to leave the Moor, and go into the city to seek some better fortune; for as the proverb says, He finds it out at last, who often removes his quarters. Just as I entered the city, I met my poet; as soon as he saw me, he came to me with open arms, and I went to him, seeming to be overjoyed that I had met with him. He immediately begun to pull out pieces of bread, a little tenderer than those he used to bring with him to the orchard, and delivered them up to my jaws, without chewing them in his own, a favour which satisfied my hunger, with uncommon pleasure. He went through the city, I followed him, resolving to have him for my master, if he would receive me, imagining I could keep my camp from starving, by what was overplus in his fortress; for there is no better, nor more lasting purse than charity and generosity, whose liberal hands are never poor. And therefore I don’t agree that that proverb, which says, Mas da el duro, que el desnudo; The niggard, or hard-hearted man, gives more than the poor man; as if the covetous and hard-hearted man gave as much as the generous poor man, who gives his good wishes and desires, when he has nothing else to bestow. After walking some time we stopped at the house of the master of a company of players, who, to the best of my remembrance, was called Angulo: There was a numerous audience assembled to hear my master’s comedy; but in the middle of the first act, they went out one by one, and two by two, till at last the master and I made up his whole audience. As for the comedy, it was such a one, that although I was but an ass, in respect of these poetical matters, yet I myself thought that Satan himself had composed it, for the total ruin and perdition of the poet, who already begun to swallow his spittle, beholding the solitude in which the audience had left him; and perhaps his fore-boding soul presaged the dire disgrace, which already threatened him; which was, that all the actors, who were above twelve in number, came in together, and without saying a word, laid hold of my poet, and if it had not been that the master interposed, and pacified them a little by his authority, joined with prayers and intreaties, they would, without doubt, have tossed him in a blanket. I remained quite thunder-struck with this event; the master out of humour, the players merry, and the poet in a pet, who with a great deal of patience, although the serenity of his countenance seemed to be a little ruffled, took up his comedy, and putting it in his bosom, muttered between his teeth; It is not good to throw pearls before swine; and with this he walked out with much gravity and calmness. For my part, I was quite out of countenance, and I neither could, nor would follow him; and I hit the right nail on the head; for the master of the players caressed me so much, that it obliged me to stay with him, and in less than a month, I became a principal actor, and a great favourite of the town, in the interludes and pantomime entertainments. They muzzelled me, and taught me to attack on the stage any one they had a mind; so that, as the interludes are commonly concluded with cudgels, in our company they were concluded, by setting me on, and I threw down, and trampled under foot, all that came in my way, with which I made fools laugh, and brought much gain to my master. O Scipio! how many things could I relate to you, which I saw and remarked in this, and two other companies of comedians, whom I lived with some time? but it being impossible to reduce it to a succinct and concise narration, I must leave it for another day, if we should be so happy as to have another day’s conference together. You see how long my discourse has been; you have seen likewise, how many and different adventures I have run through; my long travels, and the many masters I have had; but all you have heard, is nothing in comparison to what I could relate to you, concerning what I remarked among this set of people, viz. their method of proceeding, their way of life, their customs, their employments, their labour, their idleness, their ignorance, and their wit; with an infinite number of other things I could tell of; those whose business is to prompt, and those who get among the audience to receive what is acted, with shouts of applause, and the tricks they make use of to deceive their audience; the greatest part of whom are extremely fond of strange appearances, and wonderful metamorphoses.

SCIPIO: I very well conceive, Bergansa, what a large field lies open to you for discourse; and I am of opinion, that you should leave this for a particular discourse by itself, and for an opportunity when we shall be in no fear of being disturbed.

BERGANSA: Let it be so, and give attention. I came with a company of actors to this city of Valladolid, where they gave me a wound in an interlude, which had like to have cost me my life. I could not revenge myself then, because I was muzzelled, and afterwards in cold blood I would not, for a deliberate revenge argues cruelty, cowardice, and a wicked heart. But I grew tired of this employment, not because there was much trouble or labour in it, but because I saw a great many things in it, which required both correction and amendment; and as I could only see, but not remedy them, I thought it best to get out of the sight of them, and so I became very religious all of a sudden, as those do who forsake their vices, when they can no longer follow them; which makes good the old proverb, It is better late than never. I say then, that seeing you one night carrying a lantern before the good Mahudes, I looked upon you as one contented with your condition, and justly and holily employed; and stirred up by a commendable emulation, I determined to follow your steps; and with this laudable intention, I ran before Mahudes, who immediately chose me for your companion, and brought me to this hospital. What has happened to me since I have been here, is not so inconsiderable, but it will take some time to relate, especially the discourse I heard between four sick men, whom their hard fate, and wretched poverty, had brought into this hospital, who lay all in one room. Permit me to relate it, for it will not take up much time, and comes in very a propos.

SCIPIO: I give you leave; but be as concise as you can, for I believe the day is not far off.

BERGANSA: In the four beds at the end of this infirmary, were a poet, an alchymist, a mathematician, and one of those people whom they call projectors.

SCIPIO: I remember to have seen these good people.

BERGANSA: I say then, that in one of the hottest days of last summer, the windows being shut close, I was almost stifled, and lay under one of the beds, sucking in greedily what little air there was. The poet began to bewail bitterly his hard fortune; and the mathematician asking him what he complained of, he made answer, of his cruel and niggardly fortune. And have I not sufficient reason to complain, added he, since having observed the rule which Horace lays down in his Art of Poetry, that no work should come to the light, till ten years after its first composing: And I have one which I have employed twenty years on, and it is twelve since I finished it, a work great in the subject, admirable and new in the invention, lofty in the verse, entertaining in the episodes, marvellous in the division, for the beginning answers to the middle and end, so that they compose a sublime, sonorous, heroic, and delightful poem; and yet notwithstanding all this, I cannot find a prince, or any great man to dedicate it to; I mean a prince, who is wise and learned, liberal and magnanimous: So miserable are the times, and such a depraved age is this of our’s! Of what does the poem treat? asked the alchymist. It treats, answered the poet, of what archbishop Turpin omitted, in *001 his history of king Arthur of England, together with a supplement, containing the life of St. Brial, and all this in heroics, part in rhime, and part blank, but all in short metre; I say, in short metre, composed of noun substantives, without admitting any one verb. For my part, answered the alchymist, I understand but little of poetry, and therefore cannot sufficiently judge of the hard fate you complain of; but though it was much greater than it is, it would not be equal to mine; which is, that it was for want of some great man to support me, and give me the necessary materials which the science of alchymy requires, that I am not now rolling in gold, and richer than either Midas or Craesus. Have you experienced, senor Alchymist, said the mathematician, the possibility of extracting silver from other metals? I have not as yet, answered the alchymist, extracted any, but I verily know it may be done; and in less than two months, I shall have perfected the philosopher’s stone, with which you may turn into gold and silver, the very stones themselves. You have both of you highly exaggerated your misfortunes, said the mathematician; and yet one has composed an excellent poem, and only wants a great man to dedicate it to; and the other wants but little of finding out the philosopher’s stone: But what shall I say of mine, which so far exceeds your’s, that I have not any thing to support myself with? Two and twenty years I have been employed in finding out the longitude, and here I take it, and there I leave it, and imagining oftentimes, that I have found it, and that it cannot possibly escape me, when I do not in the least suspect it, I find myself as far to seek as ever, which fills me with surprize and astonishment; it is the same with the square of the circle, which I have come so nigh finding out, that I know not, nor can imagine why I have it not at this time in my pocket; and so my pain is like that of Tantalus, who is near the fruit, and dies with hunger, and in the water, and yet perishes with thirst. Sometimes I think I have hit upon the truth, and at other times find myself go far from it, that I am forced to climb up again the mountain, which I have just come down, with the rock of my labours upon my back, like another Sisyphus.

The projector had kept silence till now, and here he broke it, with these words; For my part, I renounce from henceforth all those employments, which neither maintain, nor even give the possessors of them bread to eat. I, gentlemen, am a projector, and have, at different times, laid before his majesty several different schemes, all which would, if put in execution, be very much to his advantage, without any prejudice to his kingdom; and I have just now drawn up a petition, wherein I humbly beseech him to appoint some proper persons, to whom I may communicate a new scheme, that I have drawn up, which is such a one, that it will pay all the debts of the state, and replenish his coffers. But by the success I have had with my other petitions, makes me judge that this likewise will be rejected: But that you may not think me a madman, gentlemen, although my scheme by this means may become public, yet I will communicate it to you; it is, to petition the assembly of the states, to enact a law, that all his majesty’s subjects, from the age of fourteen to seventy, be obliged once a month, to confine themselves to bread and water, and this to be on a certain appointed day; and that all the money which would have been expended that day in fruit, flesh, fish, wine, eggs, pulse, etc. be given to his majesty, without defrauding him of a farthing, of which every one should take his oath; and by this means, in twenty years time, all the debts of the nation would be paid: For if I have computed a-right, there are in Spain, more than three millions of people within the limits of the above-mentioned age, besides infirm old people who are above, or those that are under it, and no one of these three millions can spend less than a ryal and a half a day, and this at a very moderate computation; but will say only one ryal, for it cannot well be less; and do you think, gentlemen, it would be a small matter, for the king, to have three millions of ryals, every month, winnowed, as it were, from all incumbrances? And this would be rather an advantage, than a loss to the fasters, since by fasting they would please heaven, as well as serve the king; and there might be some too, to whom fasting might be convenient for their health’s sake. This is a project quite free from dust and straw, and might be collected by the curates of the parishes, without the charge of officers, who are the ruin of the state. They all laughed at the project and the projector, and he, in the same manner, laughed at their follies; and for my part, I was filled with admiration, at what I heard them say, and to see that such men most commonly die in an hospital.

SCIPIO: You are in the right, Bergansa; have you any thing further to say?

BERGANSA: Only two things more, with which I shall conclude. My master going one night to ask alms in the house of the corregidor of this city, we found him alone, and I thought it a good opportunity to acquaint him with what I had heard an old man, who is a patient in this hospital say, concerning the means to prevent the sad ruin which idle young girls come to, who by not getting into service, fall into divers ills, and at last are obliged to go into the hospitals: I say then, that being willing tell him, I raised my voice, thinking that I had the gift of speech; but instead of pronouncing articulate sounds, I barked in so loud a note, that the corregidor being disgusted at it, called out to his servants to drive me out of the hall with a good cudgel; and a lacquey, who came running at the call of his master, (it would have been better for me had he been a little deaf just at that time) laid hold of a piece of wood, which was the first thing that came to his hand, and so basted my ribs with it, that I carry the marks of those blows upon me, even at this day.

SCIPIO: And do you complain of this, Bergansa?

BERGANSA: Have I not reason to complain, when I feel the smart of them yet, as I have already said, and that I think my good intention did not deserve such a reward?

SCIPIO: Why look you, Bergansa, no one must intermeddle where he is not called upon, nor concern himself in what does not belong to him. Besides, you must consider, that the advice of the poor is never taken, although it be never so good; nor must the poor man have the presumption to counsel the great, and those who think they know every thing: Wisdom and knowledge in the poor man is obscured, for poverty and wretchedness are shadows and clouds which darken it; and if by chance it discovers itself, it is looked upon as foolishness, and is treated with contempt.

BERGANSA: You are in the right, and I shall for the future take warning by what I have already suffered, and follow your advice. In the same manner I went the other night, into the house of a lady of distinction, who had in her arms a little diminutive lap-dog, so small, that she might have hid him in her bosom, who, as soon he saw me, leaped out of the arms of his lady, run at me, barking furiously, and so great was his insolence, as to bite me by the leg. I beheld him with anger, but restrained it out of respect to his lady, and said within myself, Thou little base animal, if I should catch thee in the street, I would either take no notice of thee, or else I would tear thee in pieces: I reflected upon this, that even cowards and dastards are bold and insolent, when they are in favour with great men, and are the most forward to insult those that are in every respect better men than themselves.

SCIPIO: We see a plain proof of the truth of what you say, in some little pitiful fellows, who under the shadow of their masters, dare to be insolent. But if by chance, death, or any other accident deprives them of their support, by throwing down the tree on which they propped themselves, then it is plainly seen how little courage they have; for, in fine, all their good qualifications are no more than what they borrow from their masters and protectors; but true virtue and a good understanding, are always the same, naked, or cloathed, alone, or in company: It is true, that it may suffer sometimes in the esteem of people, but its true and real value is never lessened. And here let us end this discourse, for the light which comes through these chinks, shews that the day is far advanced, and at night, if we are not deprived of this great benefit of speech, it will be my turn to relate to you my adventures.

BERGANSA: Agreed, and be sure to keep our appointment.



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Miguel de Cervantes

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Chicago: Miguel de Cervantes, "A Dialogue Between Scipio and Bergansa," Dialogue Between Scipio and Bergensa Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PZEZDN5HRJUSMW4.

MLA: de Cervantes, Miguel. "A Dialogue Between Scipio and Bergansa." Dialogue Between Scipio and Bergensa, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PZEZDN5HRJUSMW4.

Harvard: de Cervantes, M, 'A Dialogue Between Scipio and Bergansa' in Dialogue Between Scipio and Bergensa. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PZEZDN5HRJUSMW4.