History of Literature

Alain-René Lesage

"Gil Blas"


Alain-René Lesage


Alain-René Lesage

born May 6, 1668, Sarzeau, France
died Nov. 17, 1747, Boulogne

prolific French satirical dramatist and author of the classic picaresque novel Gil Blas, which was influential in making the picaresque form a European literary fashion.

Although he was orphaned at age 14 and was always quite poor, Lesage was well educated at a Jesuit college in Brittany and studied law in Paris. He was well liked in the literary salons but chose a family life over a worldly one, marrying Marie-Elisabeth Huyard in 1694. He abandoned his legal clerkship to dedicate himself to literature and received a pension from the Abbot of Lyonne, who also taught him Spanish and interested him in the Spanish theatre.

Lesage’s early plays were adaptations of Spanish models and included the highly successful adapted comedy Crispin, rival de son maître (Crispin, Rival of His Master), performed in 1707 by the Théâtre Français. His prose work Le Diable boiteux (1707; The Devil upon Two Sticks) is of Spanish inspiration, but its satire is aimed at Parisian society. The more popular Théâtre de la Foire gave Lesage greater freedom as an author, and he composed for that company more than 100 comédies-vaudevilles, for which he is considered successor to Molière.

Lesage’s Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane (1715–1735; The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane) is one of the earliest realistic novels. It concerns the education and adventures of an adaptable young valet as he progresses from one master to the next. In the service of the quack Dr. Sangrado, Gil Blas practices on the poorer patients and soon achieves a record equal to his master’s, i.e., 100 percent fatalities. In service to Don Mathias, a notorious seducer, he also learns to equal and surpass his master. The sunnier spirit of Gil Blas had a civilizing effect on the picaresque tradition. Unlike most novels of the genre, it ends happily, as Gil Blas retires to marriage and a quiet country life.












THERE are some people in the world so mischievous as not to read
a work without applying the vicious or ridiculous characters it
may happen to contain to eminent or popular individuals. I
protest publicly against the pretended discovery of any such
likenesses. My purpose was to represent human life historically
as it exists: God forbid I should holdmyself out as a portrait-painter.
Let not the reader then take to himself public property; for if he
does, he may chance to throw an unlucky light on his own character:
as Phaedrus expresses it, Stulte nudabit animi conscientiam.

Certain physicians of Castille, as well as of France, are
sometimes a little too fond of trying the bleeding and lowering
system on their patients. Vices, their patrons, and their dupes,
are of every day's occurrence, To be sure, I have not always
adopted Spanish manners with scrupulous exactness; and in the
instance of the players at Madrid, those who know their
disorderly modes of living may reproach me with softening down
their coarser traits: but this I have been induced to do from a
sense of delicacy, and in conformity with the manners of my own


READER! hark you, my friend! Do not begin the story of my life
till I have told you a short tale.
Two students travelled together from Penafiel to Salamanca.
Finding themselves tired and thirsty, they stopped by the side of
a spring on the road. While they were resting there, after having
quenched their thirst, by chance they espied on a stone near
them, even with the ground, part of an inscription, in some
degree effaced by time, and by the tread of flocks in the habit
of watering at that spring. Having washed the stone, they were
able to trace these words in the dialect of Castille; Aqui esta
encerrada el alma del licenciado Pedro Garcias. "Here lies
interred the soul of the licentiate Peter Garcias."

Hey-day! roars out the younger, a lively, heedless fellow, who
could not get on with his deciphering for laughter: This is a
good joke indeed: "Here lies interred the soul." . . . . A soul
interred! . . . . I should like to know the whimsical author of
this ludicrous epitaph. With this sneer he got up to go away. His
companion, who had more sense, said within himself: Underneath
this stone lies some mystery; I will stay, and see the end of it.
Accordingly, he let his comrade depart, and without loss of time
began digging round about the stone with his knife till he got it
up. Under it he found a purse of leather, containing an hundred
ducats with a card on which was written these words in Latin:
"Whoever thou art who hast wit enough to discover the meaning of
the inscription, I appoint thee my heir, in the hope thou wilt
make a better use of my fortune than I have done!" The student,
out of his wits at the discovery, replaced the stone in its
former position, and set out again on the Salamanca road with the
soul of the licentiate in his pocket.

Now, my good friend and reader, no matter who you are, you must
be like one or the other of these two students. If you cast your
eye over my adventures without fixing it on the moral concealed
under them, you will derive very little benefit from the perusal:
but if you read with attention you will find that mixture of the
useful with the agreeable, so successfully prescribed by Horace.


WALTER SCOTT, who craved the beatitude -- the word is his own --
that would attend the perusal of another book as entrancing as
Gil Blas, was on the side of the untutored public which knows
nothing of technical classifications or of M. Brunetiиre's theory
of the "evolution des genres." Lesage's great book, though
scarcely answering to the exact technical definition of a
picaresque novel -- the biography of a picaro or rogue --
belongs, nevertheless, by its external form, to the picaresque
type of fiction; and Scott would certainly have admitted that its
picaresqueness was very good of its kind; that it was in fact as
picaresque as could be expected of a Frenchman who was
conspicuously an "honnкte homme" and who signed himself
"bourgeois de Paris." But In all likelihood he would have
instantly added that it was not the "picaresqueness" of Gil Blas
which has given that production its fame; and that, if Lesage's
masterpiece has lived so long, and if it lives to-day with such a
fresh and abundant life, this constant appeal has been made in
spite of its resemblance to the Spanish picaresque prototype.
The application of the scientific method to literary criticism
during the last generation has steadily tended to define works of
art as "documents" of their epoch, and at the same time to
classify them according to their structural variations rather
than to accept them wholly as sources of human pleasure. The
novel of Lesage for the purposes of classification, may be viewed
as a picaresque novel, and it is interesting and legitimate to
note that it is no doubt the best of its kind; yet there is
equally little doubt that thousands of readers who do not know
what the word "picaresque" means have for several generations
regarded Gil Blas as simply the best of all novels, and that
their reasons have been based on qualities quite independent of
the mould into which it happened to be run. This is, in fact, the
truth which these brief remarks are meant to set forth. In order
to become a classic, and in order to hold its own among the books
of the world, Gil Blas has had to live down its picaresqueness.
The book has survived, and become one of the great books,
notwithstanding the characteristics which seemed destined to
confine it to the museum of antique literary forms.


Walter Scott's recognition of the supreme delightfulness of Gil
Blas has not been general among the critics; indeed, the sense of
its intrinsic value as a definition of life must rather be placed
to the credit of the uncritical public. Voltaire, referring to
Lesage in his "Siиcle de Louis XIV," limits his praise to the
remark : "His novel Gil Blas has survived because of the
naturalness of the style." The curtness and inadequacy of this
remark are probably due rather to the fact that Voltaire did not
see beyond the superficial traits of this novel, its general
picaresque atmosphere, than, as has so often been asserted, to
any malicious intent to decry a book in which he supposed himself
to have been held up to ridicule. [The traditional view is,
however, plausible enough, as Mr. James Fitzmaurice-Kelly has
shown in his introduction to the edition of Gil Blas published in
the "World's Classics." There can be no doubt as to Lesage having
ridiculed Voltaire in two of his plays.] Joubert, whose delicacy
was a hothouse fruit grown in the thin subsoil and the
devitalised air in which he was compelled to live, corroborates
Voltaire, while revealing his own prejudices --after all, is not
the main interest of criticism the light it throws upon the
critic? -- in a characteristic utterance : "Lesage's novels would
appear to have been written in a cafй by a domino-player, after
spending the evening at the play." Evidently this is a long way
from the "beatitude" of Walter Scott, but it is nearer the point
of view of Mr. Warner Allen, who, while he notes in his
remarkable General Introduction to his edition of Celestine in
the Picaresque Section of the "Library of Early Novelists," to
which this volume belongs, that Gil Blas "has a conscience," is
ingeniously effective in arguing that the spirit of Gil Blas is
essentially picaresque -- by which he means that realism and
materialism are so predominantly its note that it must be classed
well below "Don Quixote," where the heterogeneous picaresque
material is beautifully fused by the 1magination of an idealist.
"It is just because Lesage ignores the idealistic side of man,"
Mr. Allen says, "that Gil Blas misses being a great creation." On
the other hand, La Harpe, who had read many books, but was no
doubt the very opposite of a scientific critic of literature,
praises Gil Blas not merely, as did Scott, for its entertainment,
its agrйment, but also for its moral inspiration; utile dulci, he
insists, ought to be the device of this excellent book,
forgetting that Lesage has himself written the precept of Horace
on its title-page. "C'est l'йcole du monde que Gil Blas," La
Harpe continues; and he remarks with singular felicity that
Lesage in Gil Blas "has not fallen into that gratuitous profusion
of minute detail which is nowadays taken to be truth." This
comment suggests the probability that the reproach addressed to
Lesage as to his lack of idealism is one that La Harpe would be
disinclined to accept; and that they who make it have other
standards for judging a work of art than those of the public to
whom it is addressed, or indeed than those of the artist himself,
especially such an artist as Lesage, who in his "Declaration" to
the reader says expressly: "My sole aim has been to represent
life as it is" : "Je ne me suis proposй que de reprйsenter la vie
des hommes telle qu'elle est."

Certain of Lesage's predecessors had already declared it to be
their aim to write books which should be a wholesome reaction
against the romanticism of the tales of chivalry that had so long
delighted the taste of Europe. The sub-title of Alemбn's famous
novel, Guzmбn de Alfarache, was Atalaya de la Vida which
Chapelain translated by "Image" or "Miroir de la Vie Humaine."
And long before Lesage, the author of L'Histoire Comique de
Francion used almost the identical terms of Alemбn and Lesage in
announcing his tale "Nous avons dessein de voir une image de la
vie humaine, de sorte qu'il nous en faut montrer ici diverses
piиces." Francion, less picaresque than the hero of Alemбn, was
undoubtedly what he has been called by one of Lesage's
biographers, M. Lintilhac, a direct precursor of Gil Blas; and
there can be no question as to the importance of the influence
exercised upon Lesage by Charles Sorel's admirable performance.
But, however easily even a little erudition can discover possible
prototypes of Gil Blas in the late sixteenth and early
seventeenth century literature of both France and Spain --
however picaresque, in a word, Gil Blas may be, and whatever else
it may be -- its picaresqueness was obviously, for Lesage, not an
end in itself, but merely a device for carrying out his main
project, which was "the representation of life"; and the meaning
he put into those words was incomparably richer than was their
connotation on the lips of an Alemбn or even a Sorel. Lesage
found ready to his hand one of the most convenient literary forms
tint the novel ever assumed for the achievement of the end he had
in view. That end was to hold a mirror up to Nature, and to the
whole of Nature.

This ambitious project has haunted most observers who have
essayed the novel form. It was obviously the end and aim of the
author of Anna Karenina. But such is the complexity of human
relations, such the variety of the kinds of human plights, such
the swift passage of events, such are the endless differences and
the fleeting character of the situations presented to the
artistic consciousness at any moment of time, that only the most
self-confident craftsman would be tempted, in his sane mind, to
undertake their complete representation. The mirror in which a
writer would seek to converge and to foreshorten the vast
spectacle of things must needs be an all-but unmanageable
revolving mirror of gigantic dimensions, unless some way he found
of dispensing with such machinery altogether. Tolstoi made no
attempt to achieve an artistic synthesis of life as a whole. He
was content to map life out on a sort of Mercator's projection.
Balzac despaired altogether of success, and confined himself to
"doing" the multitudinous phases of human activity piecemeal.
Lesage, on the other hand, hit on the happy idea of using the
picaro type, the picaresque tradition in the novel, to facilitate
his project. And what device, in fact, could be neater and more
rapid? Certainly not the invention of Zola. The author of the
series of the Rougon-Macquart set himself the task of describing
the whole of French society at the end of the last century. He
believed himself to have improved on Balzac's method by
conceiving of a family-tree, with branches sufficiently wide-
spreading to illustrate every kind of activity of which French
men or French women were capable in his time. The unity of his
result was to be secured by postulating a family, the sum of the
several lives of whose members should be coterminous with the
Conscious existence of all their essential French fellow-types at
a certain historical period. The plan was ingenious but
artificially ingenuous.

Lesage, writing at the opening of the eighteenth century, had, it
is true, the luck to be free to employ -- or, in fact, to have
thrust upon him by the literary taste of his time -- a simpler
trick for the representation of life, The literary air was full
of picaresque odours. But, while Lesage came after Sorel and
Alemбn, and a score of other same story-tellers eager to temper
the bombast of the hour by the saving salt of realism, the living
models that surrounded him were quite as suggestive as any he
might have been led to imitate in the books of his predecessors.
Lintilhac, Cherbuliez, Brunetiиre, have dwelt in detail on this
fact. What need had Lesage of a Guzmбn or a Francion, when before
his very eyes were such conspicuous models for the study of the
valet parvenu as the Cardinals Dubois and Alberoni? And why go
farther afield than the memoirs of the famous Gourville, which
appeared in 1673, if one really feels impelled at all costs to
account for the origin of Gil Blas, and to answer the futile
question, "Where did Lesage get his idea?" That kind of inquiry
explains everything except the essential. Homer and Shakespeare,
Walter Scott and Corneille, have been put to the same torture as
Lesage; and in the folds of their royal robes whole colonies of
industrious parasitic moths are still furiously and often
enviously at work. There is a "Lesage question" as there is an
"Homeric question." But of this the public recks little. It
sanely holds the view of M. de Maurepas, who wittily defined an
author as "un homme qui prend aux livres tout ce qui lui passe
par la tкte." The public rightly judges the work of art by the
criterion of pleasure which it is capable of giving. By that
standard Gil Blas was long ago classed among the delightful books
of the world. How many of its beauties are plagiarisms, or
whether any of them are, are inquiries which the wise are content
to leave to the mandarins of literature. [While the oft-reported
story of the pillage by Lesage of a lost Spanish manuscript is a
myth, it is incontestable that in the last books of Gil Blas he
embodied long passages from a French translation of two Italian
pamphlets on The Disgrace of Count Olivares, and from a book
published in 1683 at Cologne entitled, Le Ministre Parfait ou le
Comte-Duc. It is easy to prove also that Lesage had read
Lazarilla de Tormes and a great many Spanish tales and plays;
but, as M. Lintilhac says, so had Corneille, yet the Cid remains
the Cid.]


The representation of life, then, is the avowed object of Lesage.
Gil Blas is a microcosm. One might apply to Lesage the words of
Balzac in allusion to the Comedie Humaine : "J'aurai portй une
sociйtй toute entiиre dans ma tкte." Gil Blas is a picture,
singularly vivid and comprehensive, of the society of France at
the close of the reign of Louis XIV and at the beginning of the
Regency. Lesage, like St. Simon, sought to reflect the life of
his time; but he is greater than St. Simon because of the larger
general interest and significance of his literary form. Lesage
was a gentleman, serenely, gaily taking notes on the world that
surrounded him; but, as it pleased him to publish all his notes
in his own lifetime, he adopted the novel form and the device of
a Spanish atmosphere. Happily the society that surrounded Lesage
in the Paris of the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of
the eighteenth centuries was sufficiently complex and
representative for an exhaustive picture of that world to assume
a typical value.

Gil Blas is an encyclopadia of human types. No other single book
contains so rich a collection of specimens of the genus homo. The
success with which Lesage has introduced into Gil Blas virtually
every form of human character, all sorts and conditions of men,
is one of the miracles of literary art. The purely traditional
picaro types, the vagabond and the beggar, the unscrupulous
highwayman and the cut-throat, have, after all, comparatively
small importance in the great comedy of life which Lesage
depicts. These picaro types move in and out of the vast throng
peopling his pages much as their counterparts in the flesh, the
Apaches of the Marais quarter, jostled on the Pont Neuf the
honest workman, the country bumpkin, the banker Turcaret, the
bourgeois merchant, the strutting soldier, the barefoot monk, the
daintily stepping petits maоtres, the authors and the actors, the
ministers and the high officials, the servants and the
adventurers, the priests, and the prйcieuses peering from their
vinaigrettes. From the brigand cave that sheltered the jail-bird
to the drawing-room of the Marquise de Chaves, from the boudoir
of the enticing Laure to the cabinet of the Duke of Olivares, we
visit every haunt of human activity and every social condition,
conversing on the way with comedians, doctors, poets, lawyers,
statesmen, valets, judges of the Inquisition, shopkeepers,
courtesans, archbishops, and countless other actors of the Human
Comedy. The final impression is that we have been in contact with
the whole of life and with life as a whole. In this connexion it
is pertinent to quote the verdict of Nodier in the "Notice"
prefixed to the famous and now rare edition of Gil Blas
containing the woodcuts of Jean Gigoux (Paris 1835) : "Comme il
avait embrassй tout ce qui appartient а l'homme dans sa
composition, il osa se prescrire d'embrasser toute la langue dans
son travail." In other words, the grammarian and the
lexicographer have in Gil Blas what Nodier is justified in
calling "un monument de la langue."

We have witnessed the amusing spectacle arm-in-arm with Gil Blas
de Santillane, a puppet of circumstance, but the most good-
natured of companions. No youth of sprightlier wit, of keener
observation, or of more unfailing good humour was ever born of
mortal man or immortal writer. Gil Blas is too agreeable a fellow
for us to dream of parting company with him merely because of his
escapades. Moreover, no one was ever long in his company without
discovering that the firstfruit of his innate gift of observation
is a habit of reflection gradually conducting him to the point of
view of the great American pragmatist. For Gil Blas, as for
Franklin, whatever else honesty may be, it is at all events the
best policy. His ambition "to get on," to succeed, is not the
ambition of a Julien Sorel. He is not ready and willing to
succeed at any price. He would not say cynically with Marie-
Caroline of Naples :"je vois trop que la force seule compte et
que la bonne foi ne sert qu'a кtre dupe." (Letter to the Marquis
de Gallo, July 2, 1800.) In the case of Gil Blas, the habit of
reflection has engendered a conscience. As he grows older in
experience, the practical promptings of that conscience tend to
arrest many an impulse to indulge his petty vices and to
reinforce the virtues which he is prudent enough to regard as
useful. His efforts to better his lot, while they bring to the
fore his harmless vanity, and often indeed a certain less
agreeable snobbishness, are after all to his credit. He is the
first to laugh at his own mistakes, as he is the first to learn
the lesson of his blunders. Here is a characteristic utterance of

"I let myself go with the current for three weeks. I gave myself
up to every form of voluptuous pleasure. But I will say at the
same time that in the midst of it all a sense of remorse often
mingled bitterness with my delight. Debauch did not stifle this
remorse; my remorse increased, on the contrary, in proportion as
I became more and more of a debauchee; and, as a result of my
fortunately honest nature, the disorder of the theatrical life
began to strike me with horror. Ah, wretch that you are, I said
to myself, is it thus that you are fulfilling the expectations of
your family? Is it impossible, merely because you are a servant,
to be an honest man? Do you really find it worth while to live
with such a vicious crew? Envy, anger and avarice dominate some
of them; modesty is unknown to others. Some have given themselves
up to intemperance and idleness, while in others pride has become
insolence. Enough of this! I will dwell no longer with the seven
deadly sins."

From all that we know of Lesage himself, as well as from a
comparison of Gil Blas with the author's other Works, it seems
legitimate to conclude that the good humour of his most famous
hero is merely the expression of his own philosophic gaiety, at
all events of his own disabused placidity, his bourgeois
moderation and practical sense, his bias toward taking things
easily. Life, when viewed at the angle adopted by Lesage, is an
endless series of comic situations of a highly diverting and
edifying character. Many of its conventions, which are nurtured
on hypocrisy and snobbery, form a constant object of his good-
humoured raillery, just as they form the subject-matter of the
comic verve of his great master, Moliиre. Both have the most
refreshing sense of values and an unimpeachable intellectual

The most comic incidents of the tale are the series of rebuffs
experienced by Lesage's naive hero before he finally reaches the
point where discretion becomes second nature. With what touching
and respectful candour does Gil Blas fall a prey to the
pretensions and foibles of the great! Note the art with which
Lesage, juxtaposing his hero with, for instance, an Archbishop of
Granada, shows the vain prelate so enamoured of his own
productions as to suffer no honest criticism from even the most
disinterested of his acolytes. First cajoled by flattery, then
infuriated by the naive frankness of Gil Blas, whose opinion he
had solicited, he shows the rash youth the door; and Gil Blas
returns once again to his life of adventure. It is his rich fund
of good sense that saves him here as throughout his career, and
that keeps his judgment sane and his heart true amid all the
eccentricities and affectations and passing passions, and even
the temptations, which surround and beset him during his
checkered years. This jolly easy-going boon companion is a long
time learning to be canny, but he is never really a fool. He
comes out ultimately the poorer for the loss of a good many
illusions, but profoundly convinced that straightforwardness in
human relations is as desirable a good as simplicity in art.
Watch him with his friend Fabrice, turned writer а la mode, after
having been the astute lackey who early in life defined with such
cold-blooded cynicism the ideals of a servant:

"le mйtier de laquais est impossible, je l'avoue, pour un
imbecile; mais il a des charmes pour un garзon d'esprit. Un gйnie
supйrieur qui se met en condition ne fait pas son service
matйriellement comme un nigaud. Il entre dans une maison
pour commander plutфt que pour servir. Il commence par йtudier
son maоtre, il se prкte а ses dйfauts, gagne sa confiance et le
mиne ensuite par le nez."

Fabrice, seized by "la rage d'йcrire," as Gil Blas calls it, and
convinced that he has in him the stuff of a great writer, ignores
the sage advice of his employer who has warned him that poetry is
not all beer and skittles, and comes up to Madrid, the centre of
"les beaux esprits," "in order to form his taste." He falls under
the influence of one of the leaders in a log-rolling literary
set, and so adroitly imitates the fashion of the hour that he is
regarded as one of the cleverest writers of the younger
generation. He and Gil Blas meet, after many years, over a bottle
of wine; and Fabrice reads to his friend a sonnet which Gil Blas
finds absurdly obscure. "A poet capable of producing such rubbish
as that," he says, "can deceive only his time"; and he adds,
"your sonnet is merely pompous nonsense." The tortured, involved,
affected style disgusts Gil Blas as such a style always disgusted
Lesage, whose one ambition was to be an "йcrivain naturel qui
parle comme le commun des hommes," and who detested "le langage
prйcieux" which the great ladies and certain wits of his time
took to be the mark of genius and a password for immortality.
Fabrice becomes angry. "Tu n'es qu'une bкte avec ton style
naturel," he exclaims; and he maliciously reminds Gil Blas of
what befell him with the Archbishop of Granada. The allusion
makes the two old friends laugh, and they finish the evening over
a third bottle.

Yes, Gil Blas, who is a kind of joyous jack-of-all trades,
capable, as Fabrice on another occasion puts it, of fulfilling
all kinds of employment, since he possesses "l'outil universel,"
is interesting and sympathetic quite as much because of his sound
sense and ready wit as because of his amusing adventures. But
this good sense and this wit, it should be remembered, are the
fruits of his experience. Gil Blas's character is slowly formed
by life under the reader's eye. Successively the dupe of the
habits and the manners, the prejudices and the ideals of each
social condition which he traverses in his advance towards the
stable equilibrium of middle age, he is too intelligent ever to
remain dazzled by his surroundings for more than a brief period.
You constantly hear him, after each fresh round with Fate, saying
in his natural French way: "зa n'est pas зa; there must be some
thing better than that in store for me!" Even the seduction of
life at Court ceases eventually to charm him; and one of his most
poignant regrets is the fact that he had forgotten under that
corrupting influence his father and mother and the old canon, his
uncle. He does his best later on to make amends for this neglect.
On his way to his country place at Lirias he is suddenly filled
with remorse, and he turns aside towards Oviedo, where his
parents live. His own dream now is to watch over their last
years; and he looks forward, on arriving home, to inscribing in
gold letters on the door of his father's house the Latin verses:

"Inveni portum. Spes et Fortuna, valete!
Sat me lusistis; ludite nunc alios!"

Alas! it is almost too late, for he arrives just in time to bury
his father. He had previously entered the country inn, where he
had been recognised by the inn keeper with lively joy. "By Saint
Anthony of Padua," his host had exclaimed, "here is the son of
the good Blas de Santillane"; and his wife had chimed in with,
"Why, yes, so it is. Oh, I recognise him. He is hardly changed.
It's that wide-awake little Gil Blas who had more intelligence
than inches. I can still see him dropping in here for a bottle of
wine for his uncle's supper." Gil Blas has changed, nevertheless.
Fabrice is too keen not to perceive it some time afterwards when
Gil Blas visits him at the hospital. Fabrice remarks upon his
modest bearing and observes: "You haven't the vain and insolent
air that prosperity is wont to give." Gil Blas explains the
reason why: "Les disgraces ont purifiй ma virtu; et j'ai appris a
l'йcole de l'adversitй а jouir des richesses sans m'en laisser
possйder." He is now and then to be a backslider still, but we
know that he has learned the essential lesson of life. Really, as
the Italians say, "il tempo и galantuomo."


The rapidity of the narrative enhances the effect of optimism
which is so inspiriting throughout the whole book. The
transitions from the episodes of bad luck to those of good
fortune take place, as Smollett has already pointed out, so
suddenly that the reader positively has no time to pity Gil Blas.
He is speedily inspired with a firm confidence in Lesage's
ingenuity, which somehow manages to extricate his hero from every
possible embarrassment. Lesage's point of view, as an observer of
life, is thus quickly revealed to be a lively sense of life's
chronic succession of ups and downs, and of the merely relative
importance of its plights. When Gil Blas loses his place with
Count Galiano, he remarks:

"I began to lose courage when I found myself back again in so
miserable a case. I had grown accustomed to the conveniences of
existence, and I could no longer, as before, regard indigence
with cynicism. Yet I will confess I was wrong to indulge in
sadness after having so many times discovered that no sooner had
Fortune upset me than it put me on my feet again."

Lesage accepts the stoical ideal of patience in adversity, but he
does not accept it in the stoical way. His philosophy is the
Christian belief in a Providence upon whom sane mortals may
serenely rely. Providence, he knows, can be counted upon to hold
the balance true on that Day of Judgment, when all human things
will be set right, and when there will be a startling reversal of
human verdicts. Convinced, like Bishop Butler, that things will
be as they will be, his experience of life has taught him that
the best philosophy is to bide one's me, all one's antennae out
For Lesage the logical result of having been frequently a fool is
to cease being dupe.

It would be possible and amusing to draw a parallel in this
connection between the philosophy of Lesage and that of an even
more successful French playwright of the present day, M. Alfred
Capus -- who has not yet, however, written a Gil Blas -- and to
contrast the manner of the two with that of Beyle in his
characterisation of Julien Sorel, Gil Blas is too often, if you
like, a genial rascal, as are so many of M. Capus's heroes, but
he is never an odiously cynical one like his servant Scipion, and
like Julien. While Lesage could say with Philinte, discreetly
blaming the vices of mankind:

"Je prends tout doucement les hommes comme ils sont,
J'accoutume mon вme а soufirir ce qu'ils font . . .
Oui, je vois ces dйfauts dont votre вme murmure
Comme vices unis а l'humaine nature,
Et mon esprit enfin n'est pas plus offensй
De voir un homme fourbe, injuste, intйressй,
Que de voir des vautours affamйs de carnage,
Des singes malfaisants et des loups pleins de rage,"

Beyle did not confine himself to "accustoming his soul to suffer"
the enormities that men commit, but positively created in Julien
Sorel an unscrupulous professor of energy whom he would appear to
have regarded as an excellent model. Lesage, on the other hand,
must be looked upon as a moralist; a moralist indulgent, no doubt
-- such indulgence was the finest flower of his inexhaustible
knowledge of life --yet a moralist in the same sense in which
Shakespeare and Moliиre are moralists. Moreover, Lesage has no
cynical Blas forcing him to confine the subject-matter of his
novel to such naturalistic notations as were the stock-in-trade
of the Goncourts and, to a large extent, of Zola.
He had notably no such bias, either "cynical" or "moral," as has
wittingly altered the reports of so many British observers of
life, who have regarded the pursuit of literature as a mission,
to be accepted with a high and strenuous purpose, for the
improvement of their fellows. Thus, even a Thackeray wrote first
and foremost for edification. In a recently published letter to
his friend Robert Hall, Thackeray refers as follows to Vanity

"I want to leave everybody dissatisfied and unhappy at the end of
the story -- we ought all to be with our own and all other
stories. Good God! don't I see (in that maybe cracked and warped
looking-glass in which I am always looking) my own weaknesses,
wickednesses, lusts, follies, shortcomings? in company, let us
hope, with better qualities about which we will pretermit
discourse. We must lift up our voices about these and howl to a
congregation of fools: so much, at least, has been my endeavour."
(The Times, July 17, 1911.)

The idea of "howling to a congregation of fools" would have
struck Lesage as a counsel of impertinent illbreeding, or, at all
events, as a grotesque attitude for a self-respecting novelist.
Of course, Thackeray was in the tradition of a literature which
counts among its chief masterpieces the Pilgrim's Progress; but
if the Puritan point of view is good sociology and good
Tolstoism, it is not necessarily for that reason good art; and it
would even seem to make "good art" a more difficult achievement.
In the great book just mentioned there is no laugh of Tom Jones
to clear the air. Thackeray would have seemed, indeed, in Vanity
Fair to have been more of an artist than his pamphleteering
preoccupations appeared likely to allow him to become. He himself
states his object in that book to have been to indicate in
cheerful terms that we are for the most part an abominably
foolish and selfish people. Incorrigible misanthropist, he sets
out to draw up a savage indictment of the society of his time. He
is cheerful, as cheerful as he knows how to be; but, as he has
resolved to give no one in his book a chance, his cheerfulness
fails to produce all its intended effect. Finally, one and all,
even Amelia, are branded because foredoomed. But what is the
result? Gibbeted for an example, they inspire more pity than
horror; and not only does all our sympathy go out to them against
the despotic heartlessness of the author, who so unfairly nailed
them to the cross, but we fail even to draw the whole of the
useful general moral which Thackeray holds to be essential. Thus
Thackeray upsets even his own ends; anxious, by the confessed
clarion-toned morality of his appeal, to produce the effect aimed
at by a prophet in Israel, he nevertheless inspires in his reader
a quick and sane recoil before the arbitrary injustice, or, at
all events, the incredibility of the author's misanthropy. In
literary art, in fact, the only way to convey the illusion of
reality is to tell the average truth about the average man.
Lesage, like the Tolstoi of the good period, had the tact and
good sense to perceive this. He does not make the unscientific
and inartistic blunder of humiliating his heroes. Like a Balzac
or a Tolstoi or a Henry James, he gives them their full value,
takes them for all they are worth. The pretension that
naturalism, because superficially true to a certain aspect of
life, is realism in the complete sense of the word, is a view
which Lesage in Gil Blas triumphantly repudiates; and he differs
from many playwrights of contemporary France, who appear to be so
enamoured of caddishness as to regard its manifestations as pre-
eminently worthy of presentation in the novel or on the stage.
One of the ablest of Lesage's commentators has called him the
Homer of naturalism; no neater phrase could be found to define
his importance and his manner.

Nor is it the fault of Lesage if his immediate influence upon the
literature of his time was perhaps not wholly what he would
himself have wished it to be. It is a commonplace to note that
Lesage helped to prepare in France that eighteenth century with
which he was in so many respects out of sympathy. There was a
whole side of Lesage that was out of touch with the modern world
surrounding him. M. Faguet seems to me absolutely right as to
this point. The spirit, the attitude of Lesage are seventeenth-
century -- for, after all, the seventeenth century was realist
while so eminently moralist; he believes in the superiority of
the clear old form of expression; he abominates an affected
style; he prefers natural utterance that everybody can understand
to individual experiments in ingenious phraseology. Moreover,
while not at all the conscious moralist, he is a moralist all the
same; he has a certain generalising habit, the liking for large
vistas, harmonious inclusive ranges of thought; his thought-
scapes have the perfection and the proportions of a garden by Le
Nфtre. But it is nevertheless certain that the immense success of
Lesage as a realist, the fact that he made realism look so easy,
constituted a terrible incentive to imitation; and that, as a
matter of fact, his example was just one of those which no writer
could afford to follow who had not his marvellous good sense and
his mental and moral poise. Without such moral balance and such
good sense the would-be realist is almost certain to become
addicted to the grosser forms of naturalism, to exercise, that
is, his faculty of clear vision on special salient and
picturesque, even salacious and perverse cases, rather than upon
the types of the average world with which average men are
familiar. Thus there can be no doubt that Lesage's unconcern for
positive edification, his indifference to matters of conscience,
was a trait of the eighteenth century, and a trait for which he
may to a certain extent be held responsible. It was inevitable
that he should find imitators, and that, in this sense, he may be
said to open the way to a Crйbillon fils and a Laclos, even to a
Louvet, for whom he would have refused to be responsible, and to
prepare an eighteenth century with which there is every reason to
suppose he would have become utterly out of sympathy, not merely
as a man, but as an artist in letters.


It remains to consider Gil Blas as a work of literary art. In
style it is one of the most perfect examples of narrative prose
in the world, comparable for limpidity, ease, and precision, with
that of Cervantes in Don Quixote. With regard to its composition,
it is noticeable that the novel begins at the same pitch of calm
lucidity which is to characterise it to the end. The reader feels
that the promise of the author in his "Declaration," "I have
merely undertaken to represent life as it is," is likely to be
kept. Lesage speaks with authority. The artists who inspire
confidence with their very first stroke are not numerous. They
belong to the aristocracy of the masters. What do such certainty
and distinction imply? They mean that the product is the fruit of
a mature intelligence; that the artist, be he sculptor, writer,
or painter, has not undertaken to express until his mind is, as
we say, thoroughly made up as to the nature of its content, nor
until he is serenely master of the means at his disposal; that,
in a word, he knows his business. In the case of Lesage it is
peculiarly significant that, when he published the first part of
Gil Blas in 1715, he was already forty-seven years of age; that
the second part did not appear until 1724, nine years later; and
that he was already an old gentleman with a family of boys, one
of whom had entered the Church, when he ended his lifework, by
the publication of the third part, in 1735. Gil Blas, in short,
is the product of the maturity of one of the keenest observers
that ever looked out upon the spectacle of things. The broad
good-humoured gaiety of the earlier book, which vibrates with a
picaresque lilt, is shaded gradually down, in the second volume,
into a finer, serener, more intellectual irony. This change
betrays the natural evolution in the author's interests and
curiosities during the period reaching from his forty-seventh to
his sixty-seventh year. The gaiety of the six books of the first
part is to be contrasted with the soberer, more reflective spirit
of the tale as it proceeds. We seem to be suiting our pace to the
increasingly graver temper of a man whose knowledge of life has
become richer, his insight keener, his heart more tolerant and
generous. With the steady elimination of the picaresque element
the novel becomes more and more an inclusive criticism of life.
The author seems to be brooding over his pages with a tenderer
care, as if he were more and more conscious of the significance,
the magnificence even, of his task.

It is one of the results of this long gestation that Gil Blas has
become a book of world-wide popularity. In the history of letters
it has been an inexhaustible source of energy. It inspired the
realistic novel. From Smollett and Marivaux to Dickens and Zola,
and even to an Anatole France and to a Pio Baroja, Lesage has
been the avowed or unavowed model of those writers who have been
passionately enamoured of life, and irrepressibly compelled to
express it. The influence of Lesage on the author, for instance,
of Le Rouge et le Noir and of La Chartreuse de Parme -- perhaps
particularly on the Stendhal of the Chartreuse de Parme -- seems
incontestable. In August 1804, Beyle, writing to his sister
Pauline, recommends her to read Gil Blas in order to learn to
know the world, and cites the famous anecdote of the Archbishop
of Granada's sermons. In April 1805, he promises to bring her the
book. In another undated letter to his sister, Beyle writes: "the
most accurate picture of human nature as it is, in the France of
the eighteenth century, is still the book of Lesage, Gil Blas.
Meditate well this excellent work." And finally, in his Journal,
under the date of "10 Florйal, an xiii, 1805," Beyle notes his
intention to cure himself of romanticism, and to learn to judge
men as they are, by re-reading a certain number of books, among
which he mentions Beaumarchais, the tales and La Pucelle of
Voltaire, Chamfort, and Gil Blas. That is to say, at the most
impressionable period of his intellectual life Beyle read and re-
read Gil Blas; a fact which a discerning critic might easily
guess, as to the truth of which, indeed, such a critic would feel
an absolute conviction, and which the documents cited appear to
leave beyond a doubt It would perhaps be an exaggeration to
pretend that but for Gil Blas, Beyle would not have been
Stendhal; but I may be permitted to quote the following passage
from a private letter of M. Paul Arbelet, the editor of
Stendhal's Journal d'Italie.

"Votre hypothиse me parait trиs sйduisante. Il y a sans aucun
doute quelque parentй intellectuelle entre Lesage et Stendhal,
tous deux curieux d'observation morale, tous deux juges sans
illusions des faiblesses humaines, mais point misanthropes, car
ils s'indignent peu des vices ou des ridicules, qui les amusent
plutфt ou les intйressent. D'ailleurs l'un et l'autre manquent
d'imagination et de poйsie. Je comprends donc trиs bien que vous
ayez eu l'idйe d'une influence de Lesage sur Stendhal."

Furthermore, while Lesage is all this, the fountain-head of a
great literary current, he is at the same time, as a moralist, in
the sanest Latin and French tradition, that which is marked, in
successive epochs, by the serene temper of a Horace, by the gay
science, the pantagruelism of a Rabelais, by the irony of a
Beaumarchais, who "se hвta de rire de tout, de peur d'кtre obligй
d'en pleurer," and finally by the tranquil mansuetude of a Renan:
observers, one and all, who, after having told the towers of all
the citadels of science, became amusedly aware that the only
really absolute truth in the world is that all things are



CH. I. -- The birth and education of Gil Blas.

MY father, Blas of Santillane, after having borne arms for a long
time in the Spanish service, retired to his native place. There
he married a chamber-maid who was not exactly in her teens, and I
made my debut on this stage ten months after marriage. They
afterwards went to live at Oviedo, where my mother got into
service, and my father obtained a situation equally adapted to
his capacities as a squire. As their wages were their fortune, I
might have got my education as I could, had it not been for an
uncle of mine in the town, a canon, by name Gil Perez. He was my
mother's eldest brother, and my god-father. Figure to yourself a
little fellow, three feet and a half high, as fat as you can
conceive, with a head sunk deep between his shoulders, and you
have my uncle to the life. For the rest of his qualities, he was
an ecclesiastic, and of course thought of nothing but good
living, I mean in the flesh as well as in the spirit, with the
means of which good living his stall, no lean one, provided him.

He took me home to his own house from my infancy, and ran the
risk of my bringing up. I struck him as so brisk a lad, that he
resolved to cultivate my talents. He bought me a primer, and
undertook my tuition as far as reading went: which was not amiss
for himself as well as for me; since by teaching me my letters he
brushed up his own learning, which had not been pursued in a very
scholastic manner; and, by dint of application, he got at last to
read his breviary out of hand, which he had never been able to do
before. He would have been very glad to have taught me Latin, to
save expense, but, alas! poor Gil Perez! he had never skimmed the
first principles of it in the whole course of his life. I should
not wonder if he was the most ignorant member of the chapter,
though on a subject involving as many possibilities as there were
canons, I presume not to pledge myself for anything like
certainty. To be sure, I have heard it suggested, that he did not
gain his preferment altogether by his learning: but that he owed
it exclusively to the gratitude of some good nuns whose discreet
factor he had been, and who had credit enough to procure him the
order of priesthood without the troublesome ceremony of an

He was obliged therefore to place me under the correction of a
master, so that I was sent to Doctor Godinez, who had the
reputation of being the most accomplished pedant of Oviedo. I
profited so well under his instructions, that by the end of five
or six years I could read a Greek author or two, and had no very
inadequate conception of the Latin poets. Besides my classical
studies, I applied to logic, which enabled me to become an expert
arguer. I now fell in love with discussions of all kinds to such
an excess, that I stopped his Majesty's subjects on the high
road, acquaintance or strangers, no matter! and proposed some
knotty point of controversy. Sometimes I fell in with a clan of
Irish, and an altercation never comes amiss to them! That was
your time, if you are fond of a battle. Such gestures! such
grimaces! such contortions! Our eyes sparkling, and our mouths
foaming! Those who did not take us for what we affected to be,
philosophers, must have set us down for madmen.

But let that be as it will, I gained the reputation of no small
learning in the town. My uncle was delighted, because he
prudently considered that I should so much the sooner cease to be
chargeable to him. Come here, Gil Blas, quoth he one day, you are
got to be a fine fellow. You are past seventeen, and. a clever
lad; you must bestir yourself, and get forward in the world. I
think of sending you to the university of Salamanca: with your
wit you will easily get a good post. I will give you a few ducats
for your journey, and my mule, which will fetch ten or twelve
pistoles at Salamanca, and with such a sum at setting out, you
will be enabled to hold up your head till you get a situation.

He could not have proposed to me anything more agreeable: for I
was dying to see a little of life. At the same time, I was not
such a fool as to betray my satisfaction; and when it came to the
hour of parting, by the sensibility I discovered at taking leave
of my dear uncle, to whom I was so much obliged, and by calling
in the stage effect of grief, I so softened the good soul, that
he put his hand deeper into his pocket than he would have done,
could he have pried into all that was passing in the interior of
my hypocritical little heart. Before my departure I took a last
leave of my papa and mamma, who loaded me with an ample
inheritance of good advice. They enjoined me to pray to God for
my uncle, to go honestly through the world, not to engage in any
ill, and above all, not to lay my hands on other people's
property. After they had lectured me for a good while, they made
me a present of their blessing which was all my patrimony and all
my expectation. As soon as I had received it, I mounted my mule,
and saw the outside of the town.

CH. II -- Gil Blas' alarm on his road to Pegnaflor; his
adventures on his arrival in that town; and the character of the
men with whom he supped.

HERE I am, then, on the other side of Oviedo, in the road to
Pegnaflor, with the world before me, as yet my own master, as
well master of a bad mule and forty good ducats, without
reckoning on a little supplementary cash purloined from my much-
honoured uncle. The first thing I did was to let my mule go as
the beast liked, that is to say, very lazily. I dropped the rein,
and taking out my ducats, began to count them backwards and
forwards in my hat. I was out of my wits for joy, never having
seen such a sum of money before, and could not help looking at it
and sifting it through my fingers. I had counted it over about
the twentieth time, when all at once my mule, with head raised,
and ears pricked up, stood stock still in the middle of the high
road. I thought, to be sure, something was the matter; looked
about for a cause, and perceiving a hat upon the ground, with a
rosary of large beads, at the same time heard a lugubrious voice
pronounce these words: Pray, honoured master, have pity on a poor
maimed soldier! Please to throw a few small pieces into this hat;
you shall be rewarded for it in the other world. I looked
immediately on the side whence the voice proceeded, and saw, just
by a thicket, twenty or thirty paces from me, a sort of a
soldier, who had mounted the barrel of a confounded long carbine
on two cross sticks, and seemed to be taking aim at me. At a
sight which made me tremble for the patrimony of the Church
committed to my care, I stopped short, made sure of my ducats,
and taking out a little small change, as I rode by the hat,
placed to receive the charity of those quiet subjects who had not
the courage to refuse it, dropped in my contribution in detail,
to convince the soldier how nobly I dealt by him. He was
satisfied with my liberality, and gave me a blessing for every
kick I gave my mule in my impatience to get out of his way; but
the infernal beast, without partaking in the slightest degree of
my impatience, went at the old steady pace. A long custom of
jogging on fair and softly under my uncle's weight had
obliterated every idea of that motion called a gallop.

The prospect of my journey was not much improved by this
adventure as a specimen. I considered within myself that I had
yet some distance to Salamanca, and might, not improbably, meet
with something worse. My uncle seemed to have been very imprudent
not to have consigned me to the care of a muleteer. That, to be
sure, was what he ought to have done; but his notion was, that by
giving me his mule, my journey would be cheaper; and that entered
more into his calculation than the dangers in which I might be
involved on the road. To retrieve his error, therefore, I
resolved, if I had the good luck to arrive safe at Pegnaflor, to
offer my mule for sale, and take the opportunity of a muleteer
going to Astorga, whence I might get to Salamanca by a similar
conveyance. Though I had never been out of Oviedo I was
acquainted with the names of the towns through which I was to
pass; a species of information I took care to procure before my
setting out.

I got safe and sound to Pegnaflor, and stopped at the door of a
very decent looking inn. My foot was scarcely out of the stirrup
before the landlord was at my side, overwhelming me with public-
house civility. He untied my cloakbag with his own hands, swung
it across his shoulders, and ushered my Honour into a room, while
one of his men led my mule to the stable. This landlord, the most
busy prattler of the Asturias, ready to bother you impertinently
about his own concerns, and, at the same time, with a sufficient
portion of curiosity to worm himself into the knowledge of yours,
was not long in telling me that his name was Andrew Corcuelo;
that he had seen some service as a sergeant in the army, which he
had quitted fifteen months ago, and married a girl of Castropol,
who, though a little tawny or so, knew how to make both ends meet
as well as the best of them. He told me a thousand things besides
which he might just as well have kept private. Thinking himself
entitled, after this voluntary confidence, to an equal share of
mine, he asked me in a breath, and without further preface,
whence I came, whither I was going, and who I was. To all this I
felt myself bound to answer, article by article, because, though
rather abrupt in asking them, he accompanied each question with
so apologetic a bow, beseeching me with so submissive a grimace
not to be offended at his curiosity, that I was drawn in to
gratify it whether I would or no. Thus by degrees did we get into
a long conversation, in the course of which I took occasion to
hint that I had some reasons for wishing to get rid of my mule,
and travel under convoy of a muleteer. He seemed on the whole to
approve of my plan, though he could not prevail with himself to
tell me so briefly; for he introduced his remarks by descanting
on all the possible and probable mischances to which travellers
are liable on the road, not omitting an awkward story now and
then. I thought the fellow would never have done. But the
conclusion of the argument was, that if I wanted to sell my mule,
he knew an honest jockey who would take it off my hands. I begged
he would do me the favour to fetch him, which was no sooner said
than done.

On his return he introduced the purchaser, with a high encomium
on his integrity. We all three went into the yard, and the mule
was brought out to show paces before the jockey, who set himself
to examine the beast from head to foot. His report was bad
enough. To be sure, it would not have been easy to make a good
one; but if it had been the pope's mule, and this fellow was to
cheapen the bargain, it would have been just the same: nay, to
speak with all due reverence, if he had been asked to give an
opinion of the pope's great toe, from that disparaging habit of
his, he would have pronounced it no better than the toe of any
ordinary man. He laid it down, therefore, as a principle, that
the mule had all the defects a mule could have: appealing to the
landlord for a confirmation of his judgment, who, doubtless, had
reasons of his own for not controverting his friend's assertion.
Well! says the jockey, with an air of in difference, What price
have you the conscience to ask for this devil of an animal? After
such a panegyric, and master Corcuelo's certificate, whom I was
fool enough to take for a fair-dealing man and a good judge of
horse-flesh, they might have had the mule for nothing. I
therefore told the dealer that I threw myself on his mercy: he
must fix his own sum, and I should expect no more. On this he
began to affect the gentleman, and answered that I had found out
his weak side when I left it to his honour. He was right enough
in that! his honour was his weak side! for instead of bidding up
to my uncle's estimate of ten or twelve pistoles, the rascal had
the impudence to offer three ducats, which I accepted with as
light a heart as if I had got the best of the bargain.

Having disencumbered myself of my mule in so tradesmanlike a
manner, I went with my landlord to a carrier who was to set out
early the next morning for Astorga, and engaged to call me up in
time. When we had settled the hire of the mule, as well as the
expenses on the road, I turned back towards the inn with
Corcuelo, who, as we went along, got into the private history of
this muleteer. When I had been pestered with all the tittle-
tattle of the town about this fellow, the changes were just
beginning to ring on some new subject; but, by good luck, a
pretty-looking sort of a man very civilly interrupted my
loquacious friend. I left them together, and sauntered on without
the slightest suspicion of being at all concerned in their

I ordered supper as soon as I got to the inn. It was a fish day:
but I thought eggs were better suited to my finances. While they
were getting ready I joined in conversation with the landlady,
whom I had not seen before. She seemed a pretty piece of goods
enough, and such a stirring body, that I should have concluded,
if her husband had not told me so, her tavern must have plenty of
custom. The moment the omelet was served up I sat down to table
by myself, and had scarcely got the relish of it, when my
landlord walked in, followed by the man who had stopped him in
the street. This pleasant gentleman wore a long rapier, and
might, perhaps, be about thirty years of age. He came up to me in
the most friendly manner possible. Mr Professor, says he, I have
just now heard that you are the renowned Gil Blas of Santillane,
that ornament of Oviedo and luminary of philosophy. And do my
eyes behold that very greatest of all great scholars and wits,
whose reputation has run hither so fast before him? Little do you
think, continues he, directing his discourse to the landlord and
landlady, little do you imagine, I say, what good luck has
befallen you. Why, you have got hold of a treasure. In this young
gentleman you behold the eighth wonder of the world. Then running
up and throwing his arms about my neck, Excuse me, added he; but
worlds would not bribe me to suppress the rapturous emotions your
honoured presence has excited.

I could not answer him so glibly as I wished, not so much for
want of words as of breath; for he hugged me so tight that I
began to be alarmed for my wind pipe. As soon, however, as I had
got my head out of durance, I replied, Signor cavalier, I had not
the least conception that my name was known at Pegnaflor. Known?
resumed he in the same pompous style; we keep a register of all
great persons within a circuit of twenty leagues round us. You
have the character of a prodigy here; and I have not a shadow of
doubt, but one day or other Spain will be as proud of numbering
you among her rare productions, as Greece of having given birth
to her seven wise men. This fine speech was followed as before;
and I really began to think that with all my classical honours I
should at last be doomed to share the fate of Antaeus. If I had
been master of ever so little experience, I should not have been
the dupe of his rhodomontade. I must have discovered him by his
outrageous compliments, to be one of those parasites who swarm in
every town, and get into a stranger's company on his arrival, to
appease the wolf in their stomachs at his expense; but my youth
and vanity tempted me to draw a quite opposite conclusion. My
admirer was very clever in my eyes, and I asked him to supper on
the strength of it. Oh! most willingly, cried be: with all my
heart and soul. My fortunate star predominates, now that I have
the honour of being in company with the illustrious Gil Blas of
Santillane, and I shall certainly make the most of my good
fortune as long as it lasts. My appetite is rather delicate, but
I will just sit down with you by way of being sociable, and if I
can swallow a bit! only just not to look sulky; for we
philosophers are careless of the body.

These words were no sooner out of his mouth, than my panegyrist
took his seat opposite to me. A cover was laid for him in due
form and order. First he fell on the omelet with as much
perseverance as if he had not tasted food for three whole days.
By the complacency with which he eyed it I was morally certain
the poor pancake was at death's door. I therefore ordered its
heir apparent to succeed; and the business was despatched with
such speed, that the second made its appearance on the table,
just as we; -- no: -- I beg pardon; -- just as he had taken the
last lick of its predecessor. He pressed forward the main
business, however, with a diligence and activity proportioned to
the importance of the object he had in view: so that he contrived
to load me with panegyric on panegyric, without losing a single
stroke in the progress of mastication. Now all this gave me no
slender conceit of my pretty little self. When a man eats, he
must drink. The first toast of course was my health. The second,
in common civility, was my father and mother, whose happiness in
having such an angel of a son, he could not sufficiently envy or
admire. All this while he kept filling my glass, and challenging
me to keep pace with him. It was impossible to be backward in
doing justice to such excellent toasts and sentiments: the
compliments with which they were seasoned did not come amiss; so
that I got into such a convivial mood, at observing our second
omelet to disappear not insensibly, as just to ask the landlord
if he could not find us a little bit of fish. Master Corcuelo,
who to all appearance played booty with the parasite, told me he
had an excellent trout; but those who eat him must pay for him. I
am afraid he is meat for your masters. Meat for our masters!
exclaims my very humble servant in an angry tone of voice: that
is more than you know, my friend. Are you yet to learn that the
best of your larder is not too good for the renowned Gil Blas of
Santillane? Go where he will, he is fit to table with princes.

I was very glad that he took up the landlord's last expression;
because if he had not, I should. I felt myself a little hurt at
it, and said to Corcuelo with some degree of hauteur: Produce
this trout of yours, and I will take the consequences. The
landlord, who had got just what he wanted, set himself to work,
and served it up in high order. At the first glance of this third
course I saw such pleasure sparkling in the parasite's eyes, as
proved him to be of a very complying temper; just as ready to do
a kindness by the fish, as by those said eggs of which he had
given so good an account. But at last he was obliged to lay down
his arms for fear of accidents; as his magazine was crammed to
the very throat. Having eat and drank his fill, he bethought him
of putting a finishing hand to the farce. Master Gil Blas, said
he, as he rose from the table, I am too well pleased with my
princely entertainment to leave you without a word of advice, of
which you seem to stand in much need. From this time forward be
on your guard against extravagant praise. Do not trust men till
you know them. You may meet with many another man, who, like me,
may amuse himself at your expense, and perhaps carry the joke a
little further. But do not you be taken in a second time, to
believe yourself; on the word of such fellows, the eighth wonder
of the world. With this sting in the tail of his farewell speech
he very coolly took his leave.

I was as much alive to so ridiculous a circumstance, as I have
ever been in after-life to the most severe mortifications. I did
not know how to reconcile myself to the idea of having been so
egregiously taken in, or, in fact, to lowering of my pride. So,
so! quoth I, this rascal has been putting his tricks upon
travellers, has he? Then he only wanted to pump my landlord! or
more likely they were both in a story. Ah! my poor Gil Blas, thou
hadst better hide thy silly head! To have suffered such knaves as
these to turn thee into ridicule! A pretty story they will make
of this! It is sure to travel back to Oviedo; and will give our
friends a hopeful prospect of thy success in life. The family
will be quite delighted to think what a blessed harvest all their
pious advice has produced. There was no occasion to preach up
morals to thee; for verily thou hast more of the dupe than the
sharper in thy composition. Ready to tear my eyes out or bite my
fingers off from spite and vexation, I locked myself up in my
chamber and went to bed, but not to sleep; of which I had not got
a wink when the muleteer came to tell me, that he only waited for
me to set out on his journey. I got up as expeditiously as I
could; and while I was dressing Corcuelo put in his appearance,
with a little bill in his hand; -- a slight memorandum of the
trout! -- But paying through the nose was not the worst of it;
for I had the vexation to perceive, that while I was counting
over the cost, this hang-dog was chuckling at the recollection of
the night before. Having been fleeced most shamefully for a
supper, which stuck in my stomach though I had scarcely come in
for a morsel of it, I joined the muleteer with my baggage, giving
to as many devils as there are saints in the calendar, the
parasite, the landlord, and the inn.

CH. III. -- The muleteer's temptation on the road; its
consequences, and the situation of Gil Blas between Scylla and

I WAS not the only passenger. There were two young gentlemen of
Pegnaflor; a little chorister of Mondognedo, who was travelling
about the country, and a young tradesman of Astorga, returning
home from Verco with his new-married wife. We soon got
acquainted, and exchanged the usual confidence of travellers,
telling one another whence we came and whither we were going. The
bride was young enough; but so dark-complexioned, with so little
of what a man likes to look at in a woman, that I did not think
her worth the trouble. But she had youth and a good crummy person
on her side, and the muleteer, being rather less nice in his
taste, was resolved to try if he could not get into her good
graces. This pretty project occupied his ingenuity during the
whole day; but he deferred the execution till we should get to
Cacabelos, the last place where we were to stop on the road. We
alighted at an inn in the out skirts of the town, a quiet
convenient place, with a landlord who never troubled himself
about other people's concerns. We were ushered into a private
room, and got our supper snugly: but just as the cloth was taken
away in comes our carrier in a furious passion: -- Death and the
devil! I have been robbed. Here had I a hundred pistoles in my
purse! But I will have them back again. I am going for a
magistrate; and those gentry will not take a joke upon such
serious subjects. You will all be put to the rack, unless you
confess, and give back the money. The fellow played his part very
naturally, and burst out of the room, leaving us in a terrible

We had none of us the least suspicion of the trick, and being all
strangers, were afraid of one another. I looked askance at the
little chorister, and he, perhaps, had no better opinion of me.
Besides, we were all a pack of greenhorns, and were quite
unacquainted with the routine of business on these occasions. We
were fools enough to believe that the torture would be the very
first stage of our examination. With this dread upon our spirits,
we all made for the door. Some effected their escape into the
street, others into the garden: but the whole party preferred the
discretion of running away to the valour of standing their
ground. The young tradesman of Astorga had as great an objection
to bone-twisting as the rest of us: so he did as Eneas, and many
another good husband has done before him; -- ran away and left
his wife behind. At that critical moment the muleteer, as I was
told afterwards, who had not half so much sense of decency as his
own mules, delighted at the success of his stratagem, began
moving his motives to the citizen's wife: but this Lucrece of the
Asturias, borrowing the chastity of a saint from the ugliness of
the devil who tempted her, defended her sweet person tooth and
nail; and showed she was in earnest about it by the noise she
made. The patrol, who happened to be passing by the inn at the
time, and knew that the neighbourhood required a little looking
after, took the liberty of just asking the cause of the
disturbance. The landlord, who was trying if he could not sing in
the kitchen louder than she could scream in the parlour, and
swore he heard no music but his own, was at last obliged to
introduce the myrmidons of the police to the distressed lady,
just in time to rescue her from the necessity of a surrender at
discretion. The head officer, a coarse fellow, without an atom of
feeling for the tender passion, no sooner saw the game that was
playing, than he gave the amorous muleteer five or six blows with
the butt end of his halberd, representing to him the indecency of
his conduct in terms quite as offensive to modesty as the naughty
propensity which had called forth his virtuous indignation.
Neither did he stop here; but laid hold of the culprit, and
carried plaintiff and defendant before the magistrate. The
former, with her charms all heightened by the discomposure of her
dress, went eagerly to try their effect in obtaining justice for
the outrage they had sustained. His Worship heard at least one
party; and after solemn deliberation pronounced the offence to be
of a most heinous nature. He ordered him to be stripped, and to
receive a competent number of lashes in his presence. The
conclusion of the sentence was, that if the Endymion of our
Asturian Diana was not forthcoming the next day, a couple of
guards should escort the disconsolate goddess to the town of
Astorga, at the expense of this mule-driving Acteon.

For my part, being probably more terrified than the rest of the
party, I got into the fields, scampering over hedge and ditch,
through enclosures and across commons, till I found myself hard
by a forest. I was just going for concealment to ensconce myself
in the very heart of the thicket, when two men on horseback rode
across me, crying, Who goes there? As my alarm prevented me from
giving them an immediate answer, they came to close quarters, and
holding each of them a pistol to my throat, required me to give
an account of myself; who I was, whence I came, what business I
had in that forest, and above all, not to tell a lie about it.
Their rough interrogatives were, according to my notion, little
better than the rack with which our friend the muleteer had
offered to treat us. I represented myself however as a young man
on my way from Oviedo to Salamanca; told the story of our late
fright, and faithfully attributed my running away in such a hurry
to the dread of a worse exercise under the torture. They burst
into an immoderate fit of laughter at my simplicity; and one of
them said: Take heart, my little friend; come along with us, and
do not be afraid; we will put you in a place where the devil
shall not find you. At these words, he took me up behind him, and
we darted into the forest.

I did not know what to think of this odd meeting; yet on the
whole I could not well be worse off than before. If these gentry,
thought I to myself, had been thieves, they would have robbed,
and perhaps murdered me. Depend on it, they are a couple of good
honest country gentlemen in this neighbourhood, who, seeing me
frightened, have taken compassion on me, and mean to carry me
home with them and make me comfortable. But these visions did not
last long. After turning and winding backward and forward in deep
silence, we found ourselves at the foot of a hill, where we
dismounted. This is our abode, said one of these sequestered
gentlemen. I looked about in all directions, but the deuce a bit
of either house or cottage: not a vestige of human habitation!
The two men in the mean time raised a great wooden trap, covered
with earth and briars, to conceal the entrance of a long shelving
passage under-ground, to which from habits the poor beasts took
very kindly of their own accord. Their masters kept tight hold of
me, and let the trap down after them. Thus was the worthy nephew
of my uncle Perez caught, just for all the world as you would
catch a rat.

CH. IV. -- Description of the subterraneous dwelling and its

I NOW knew into what company I had fallen; and I leave it to any
one to judge whether the discovery must not have rid me of my
former fear. A dread more mighty and more just now seized my
faculties. Money and life, all given up for lost! With the air of
a victim on his passage to the altar did I walk, more dead than
alive, between my two conductors, who finding that I trembled,
frightened me so much the more by telling me not to be afraid.
When we had gone two hundred paces, winding down a declivity all
the way, we got into a stable lighted by two large iron lamps
suspended from the vault above. There was a good store of straw,
and several casks of hay and corn with room enough for twenty
horses: but at that time there were only the two which came with
us. An old Negro, who seemed for his years in pretty good case,
was tying them to the rack where they were to feed.

We went out of the stable. By the melancholy light of some other
lamps, which only served to dress up horror in its native
colours, we arrived at a kitchen where an old harridan was
broiling some steaks on the coals, and getting supper ready. The
kitchen furniture was better than might be expected, and the
pantry provided in a very plentiful manner. The lady of the
larder's picture is worth drawing. Considerably on the wrong side
of sixty! -- In her youth her hair had been of a fiery red;
though she would have called it auburn. Time had indeed given it
the fairer tint of grey; but a lock of more youthful hue,
interspersed at intervals, produced all the variegated effect of
the admired autumnal shades. To say nothing of an olive
complexion, she had an enormous chin turning up, an immense nose
turning down, with a mouth in the middle, modestly retiring
inwards, to make room for its encroaching neighbours. Red eyes
are no beauty in any animal but a ferret; -- hers were purple.

Here, dame Leonard, said one of the horsemen as he presented me
to this angelic imp of darkness, we have brought you a young lad.
Then looking round, and observing me to be miserably pale, Pluck
up your spirits, my friend; you shall come to no harm. We want a
scullion, and have met with you. You are a lucky dog! We had a
boy who died about a fortnight ago: you shall succeed to the
preferment. He was rather too delicate for his place. You seem a
good stout fellow, and may live a week or two longer. We find you
in bed and board, coal and candle; but as for day-light, you will
never see that again. Your leisure hours will pass off very
agreeably with Leonard, who is really a very good creature, and
tolerably tender-hearted; you will have all your little comforts
about you. I flatter myself you have not got among beggars. At
this moment the thief seized a flambeau; and as I feared, "with
zeal to destroy;" for he ordered me to follow him.

He took me into a cellar, where I saw a great number of bottles
and earthen pots full of excellent wine. He then made me cross
several rooms. In some were pieces of cloth piled up; in others,
stuffs and silks. As we passed through I could not help casting a
sheep's eye at the gold and silver plate peeping out of the
different cupboards. After that, I followed him into a great hall
illuminated by three copper lustres, and serving as a gallery
between the other rooms. Here he put fresh questions to me;
asking my name; -- why I left Oviedo; -- and when I had
satisfied his curiosity: Well, Gil Blas, said he, since your only
motive for quitting your native place was to get into something
snug and eligible, to be sure you must have been born to good
luck, or you would not have fallen into our hands. I tell you
once for all, you will live here on the fat of the land, and may
souse over head and ears in ready money. Besides, you are in a
place of perfect safety. The officers of the holy brotherhood
might pass through the forest a hundred times without discovering
our subterraneous abode. The entrance is only known to myself and
my comrades. You may perhaps ask how it came to be contrived,
without being perceived by the inhabitants in the neighbourhood.
But you are to understand, my friend, that it was made long ago,
and is no work of ours. After the Moors had made themselves
masters of Granada, of Arragon, and nearly the whole of Spain,
the Christians, rather than submit to the tyranny of infidels,
betook themselves to flight, and lay concealed in this country,
in Biscay, and in the Asturias, whither the brave Don Pelagio had
withdrawn himself. They lived in a state of exile, on the
mountains, or in the woods, dispersed in little knots. Some took
up their residences in natural caves, others in artificial
dwellings under-ground, like this we are in. In process of time,
when by the blessing of Providence they had driven their enemies
out of Spain, they returned to the towns. From that time forth
their retreats have served as a rendezvous for the gentlemen of
our profession. It is true that several of them have been
discovered and destroyed by the holy brotherhood: but there are
some yet remaining; and, by great good luck, I have tenanted this
without paying any rent for it almost these fifteen years:
Captain Rolando, at your service! I am the leader of the band;
and the man you saw with me is one of my troopers.

CH. V. -- The arrival of the banditti in the subterraneous
retreat, with an account of their pleasant conversation.

JUST as Captain Rolando had finished his speech six new faces
made their appearance in the hall; the lieutenant and five
privates returning home with their booty. They were hauling in
two great baskets full of sugar, cinnamon, pepper, figs, almonds,
and raisins. The lieutenant gave an account of their proceedings
to the captain, and told him they had taken these articles, as
well as the sumpter-mule, from a grocer of Benavento. An official
report having thus been made to the prime-minister, the grocer's
contribution was carried to account; and the next step was to
regale after their labours. A large table was set out in the
hall. They sent me back to the kitchen, where dame Leonarda told
me what I had to do. I made the best of a bad bargain, finding
the luck ran against me; and, swallowing my grievances, set
myself to wait on my noble masters.

I cleaned my plate, set out my sideboard, and brought up my wine.
As soon as I announced dinner to be on table, consisting of two
good black peppery ragouts for the first course, this high and
mighty company took their seats. They fell too most voraciously.
My place was to wait; and I handed about the glasses with so
butler-like an air, as to be not a little complimented on my
dexterity. The chief entertained them with a short sketch of my
story, and praised my parts. But I had recovered from my mania by
this time, and could listen to my own panegyric with the humility
of an anchorite or the contempt of a philosopher. They all seemed
to take a liking to me, and to think I had dropped from the
clouds on purpose to be their cup-bearer. My predecessor was a
fool to me. Since his death, the illustrious Leonarda had the
honour of presenting nectar to these gods of the lower regions.
But she was now degraded, and I had the felicity of being
installed in her office. Thus, old Hebe being a little the worse
for wear, young Ganymede tripped up her heels.
A substantial joint of meat after the ragouts at length blunted
the edge of their appetites. Eating and drinking went together:
so that they soon got into a merry pin, and made a roaring noise.
Well done, my lads! All talkers and no listeners. One begins a
long story, another cuts a joke; here a fellow bawls, there a
fellow sings; and they all seem to be at cross purposes. At last
Rolando, tired of a concert in which he could hardly hear the
sound of his own voice, let them know that he was maestro di
capella, and brought them into better tune. Gentlemen, said he, I
have a question to put. Instead of stunning one another with this
infernal din, had we not better enjoy a little rational
conversation? A thought is just come into my head. Since the
happy day that united us we have never had the curiosity to
inquire into each other's pedigrees, or by what chain of
circumstances we were each of us led to embrace our present way
of life. There would be no harm in knowing who and who are
together. Let us exchange confidence: we may find some amusement
in it. The lieutenant and the rest, like true heroes of romance,
accepted the challenge with the utmost courtesy, and the captain
told the first story to the following effect: -- Gentlemen, you
are to know that I am the only son of a rich citizen in Madrid.
The day of my birth was celebrated in the family by rejoicings
without end. My father, no chicken, thought it a considerable
feat to have got an heir, and my mother was kind enough to suckle
me herself. My maternal grandfather was still living: a good old
man, who did not trouble himself about other people's concerns,
but said his prayers, and fought his campaigns over and over
again; for he had been in the army. Of course I was idolized by
these three persons; never out of their arms. My early years were
passed in the most childish amusements, for fear of hurting my
health by application. It will not do, said my father, to hammer
much learning into children till time has ripened their
understanding. While he waited for this ripening, the season went
by. I could neither read nor write: but I made up for that in
other ways. My father taught me a thousand different games. I
became perfectly acquainted with cards, was no stranger to dice,
and my grandfather set me the example of drawing the long bow,
while he entertained me with his military exploits. He sung the
same songs repeatedly one after another every day; so that when,
after saying ten or twelve lines after him for three months
together, I got to boggle through them without missing, the whole
family were in raptures at my memory. Neither was my wit thought
to be at all less extraordinary; for I was suffered to talk at
random, and took care to put in my oar in the most impertinent
manner possible. O the pretty little dear! exclaimed my father,
as if he had been fascinated. My mother made it up with kisses,
and my grandfather's old eyes overflowed. I played all sorts of
dirty and indecent tricks before them with impunity; everything
was excusable in so fine a boy: an angel could not do wrong.
Going on in this manner, I was already in my twelfth year without
ever having a master. It was high time; but then he was to teach
me by fair means: he might threaten, but must not flog me. This
arrangement did me but little good; for sometimes I laughed when
my tutor scolded: at others, I ran with tears in my eyes to my
mother or my grandfather, and complained that he had used me ill.
The poor devil got nothing by denying it. My word was always
taken before his, and he came off with the character of a cruel
rascal. One day I scratched myself with my own nails, and set up
a howl as if I had been flogged. My mother ran, and turned the
master out of doors, though he vowed and protested he had never
lifted a finger against me.

Thus did I get rid of all my tutors, till at last I met with one
to my mind. He was a bachelor of Alcala. This was the master for
a young man of fashion. Women, wine, and gaming, were his
principal amusements. It was impossible to be in better hands. He
hit the right nail on the head: for he let me do what I pleased,
and thus got into the good graces of the family, who abandoned me
to his conduct. They had no reason to repent. He perfected me
betimes in the knowledge of the world. By dint of taking me about
to all his haunts, he gave such a finish to my education, that
barring literature and science, I be came an universal scholar.
As soon as he saw that I could go alone in the high road to ruin
he went to qualify others for the same journey.
During my childhood I had lived at home just as I liked, and did
not sufficiently consider, that now I was beginning to be
responsible for my own actions. My father and mother were a
standing jest. Yet they were themselves thrown into convulsions
at my sallies; and the more ridiculous they were made by them,
the more waggish they thought me. In the mean time I got into all
manner of scrapes with some young fellows of my own kidney; and,
as our relations kept us rather too short of cash for the
exigencies of so loose a life, we each of us made free with
whatever we could lay our hands on in our own families. Finding
this would not raise the supplies, we began to pick pockets in
the streets at night. As ill luck would have it, our exploits
came to the knowledge of the police. A warrant was out against
us; but some good-natured friend, thinking it a pity we should be
nipped in the bud, gave us a caution. We took to our heels, and
rose in our vocation to the rank of highwaymen. From that time
forth, gentlemen, with a blessing on my endeavours, I have gone
on till I am almost the father of the profession, in spite of the
dangers to which it is exposed.

Here the captain ended, and it came to the turn of the
lieutenant. Gentle men, extremes are said to meet; -- and so it
will appear from a comparison of our commander's education and
mine. My father was a butcher at Toledo. He passed, with reason,
for the greatest brute in the town, and my mother's sweet
disposition was not mended by the example. In my childhood, they
whipped me in emulation of one another; I came in for a thousand
lashes of a day! The slightest fault was followed up by the
severest punishment. In vain did I beg for mercy with tears in my
eyes, and protest that I was sorry for what I had done. They
never excused me, and nine times out of ten flogged me for
nothing. When I was under my father's lash, my mother, not
thinking his arm stout enough, lent her assistance, instead of
begging me off. The favours I received at their hands gave me
such a disgust, that I quitted their house before I had completed
my fourteenth year, took the Arragon road, and begged my way to
Saragossa. There I associated with vagrants, who led a merry life
enough. They taught me to counterfeit blindness and lameness, to
dress up an artificial wound in each of my legs, and to adopt
many other methods of imposing on the credulity of the charitable
and humane. In the morning, like actors at rehearsal, we cast our
characters, and settled the business of the comedy. We had each
our exits and our entrances; till in the evening the curtain
dropped, and we regaled at the expense of the dupes we had
deluded in the day. Wearied, however, with the company of these
wretches, and wishing to live in more worshipful society, I
entered into partnership with a gang of sharpers. These fellows
taught me some good tricks: but Saragossa soon became too hot to
hold us, after we had fallen out with a limb of the law, who had
hitherto taken us under his protection. We each of us provided
for ourselves, and left the devil to take the hindmost. For my
part, I enlisted in a brave and veteran regiment, which had seen
abundance of service on the king's highway: and I found myself so
comfortable in their quarters, that I had no desire to change my
birth. So that you see, gentlemen, I was very much obliged to my
relations for their bad behaviour; for if they had treated me a
little more kindly, I might have been a blackguard butcher at
this moment, instead of having the honour to be your lieutenant.
Gentlemen, -- interrupted a hopeful young freebooter who sat
between the captain and the lieutenant, -- the stories we have
just heard are neither so complicated nor so curious as mine. I
peeped into existence by means of a country woman in the
neighbourhood of Seville. Three weeks after she had set me down
in this system, a nurse child was offered her. You are to
understand she was yet in her prime, comely in her person, and
had a good breast of milk. The young suckling had noble blood in
him, and was an only son. My mother accepted the proposal with
all her heart, and went to fetch the child. It was entrusted to
her care. She had no sooner brought it home, than, fancying a
resemblance, she conceived the idea of substituting me for the
brat of high birth, in the hope of drawing a handsome commission
at some future time for this motherly office in behalf of her
infant. My father, whose morals were on a level with those of
clodhoppers in general, lent himself very willingly to the cheat:
so that with only a change of clouts the son of Don Rodrigo de
Herrera was packed off in my name to another nurse, and my mother
suckled her own and her master's child at once in my little

They may say what they will of instinct and the force of blood!
The little gentleman's parents were very easily taken in. They
had not the slightest suspicion of the trick; and were eternally
dandling me till I was seven years old. As it was their intention
to make me a finished gentleman, they gave me masters of all
kinds; but I had very little taste for their lessons, and above
all, I detested the sciences. I had at any time rather play with
the servants or the stable boys, and was a complete kitchen
genius. But tossing up for heads or tails was not my ruling
passion. Before seventeen I had an itch for getting drunk. I
played the devil among the chamber-maids; but my prime favourite
was a kitchen girl, who had infinite merit in my eyes. She was a
great bloated horse-god-mother, whose good case and easy morals
suited me exactly. I boarded her with so little circumspection
that Don Rodrigo took notice of it. He took me to task pretty
sharply; twitted me with my low taste; and, for fear the presence
of my charmer should counteract his sage counsels, showed the
goddess of my devotions the outside of the door.

This proceeding was rather offensive; and I determined to be even
with him. I stole his wife's jewels; and ravishing my Helen from
a laundress of her acquaintance, went off with her in open day,
that the transaction might lose nothing in point of notoriety.
But this was not all. I carried her among her relations, where I
married her according to the rites of the church, as much from
the personal motive of mortifying Herrera, as from the patriotic
enthusiasm of encouraging our young nobility to mend the breed.
Three months after marriage, I heard that Don Rodrigo had gone
the way of all flesh. The intelligence was not lost upon me. I
was at Seville in a twinkling, to administer in due form and
order to his effects; but the tables were turned. My mother had
paid the debt of nature, and in her last agonies had been so much
off her guard as to confess the whole affair to the curate of the
village and other competent witnesses. Don Rodrigo's son had
already taken my place, or rather his own, and his popularity was
increased by the deficiency of mine; so that as the trumps were
all out in that hand, and I had no particular wish for the
present my wife was likely to make me, I joined issue with some
desperate blades, with whom I began my trading ventures.

The young cut-purse having finished his story, another told us
that he was the son of a merchant at Burgos; that, in his youth,
prompted more by piety than wit, he had taken the religious habit
and professed in a very strict order, and that a few years
afterwards he had apostatized. In short, the eight robbers told
their tale one after another, and when I had heard them all, I
did not wonder that the destinies had brought them together. The
conversation now took a different turn. They brought several
schemes upon the carpet for the next campaign; and after having
laid down their plan of operations, rose from table and went to
bed. They lighted their night candles, and withdrew to their
apartments. I attended Captain Rolando to his. While I was
fiddling about him as he undressed: Well! Gil Blas, said he, you
see how we live! We are always merry; hatred and envy have no
footing here; we have not the least difference, but hang together
just like monks. You are sure, my good lad, to lead a pleasant
life here; for I do not think you are fool enough to make any
bones about consorting with gentlemen of the road. In what does
ours differ from many a more reputable trade? Depend on it, my
friend, all men love two hands in their neighbour's purse, though
only one in their own. Men's principles are all alike; the only
difference lies in the mode of carrying them into effect.
Conquerors, for instance, make free with the territories of their
neighbours. People of fashion borrow and do not pay. Bankers,
treasurers, brokers, clerks, and traders of all kinds, wholesale
and retail, give ample liberty to their wants to overdraw on
their consciences. I shall not mention the hangers-on of the law;
we all know how it goes with them. At the same time it must be
allowed that they have more humanity than we have; for as it is
often our vocation to take away the life of the innocent for
plunder, it is sometimes theirs for fee and reward to save the

CH. VI. -- The attempt of Gil Blas to escape, and its success.

AFTER the captain of the banditti had thus apologized for
adopting such a line of life, he went to bed. For my part, I
returned to the hall, where I cleared the table, and set
everything to rights. Then I went to the kitchen, where Domingo,
the old negro, and dame Leonarda had been expecting me at supper.
Though entirely without appetite, I had the good manners to sit
down with them. Not a morsel could I eat; and, as I scarcely felt
more miserable than I looked, this pair so justly formed to meet
by nature, undertook to give me a little comfort. Why do you take
on so, my good lad? said the old dowager: you ought rather to
bless your stars for your good luck. You are young, and seem a
little soft; you would have a fine kettle of fish of it in the
busy world. You might have fallen into bad hands, and then your
morals would have been corrupted; whereas here your innocence is
insured to its full value. Dame Leonarda is in the right, put in
the old negro gravely, the world is but a troublesome place. Be
thankful, my friend, for being so early relieved from the
dangers, the difficulties, and the afflictions of this miserable

I bore this prosing very quietly, because I should have got no
good by putting myself in a passion about it. At length Domingo,
after playing a good knife and fork, and getting gloriously
muddled, took himself off to the stable. Leonarda, by the
glimmering of a lamp, showed me the way to a vault which served
as a last home to those of the corps who died a natural death.
Here I stumbled upon something more like a grave than a bed. This
is your room, said she. Your predecessor lay here as long as he
was among us, and here he lies to this day. He suffered himself
to be hurried out of life in his prime: do not you be so foolish
as to follow his example. With this kind advice, she left me with
the lamp for my companion and returned to the kitchen. I threw
myself on the little bed, not so much for rest as meditation. O
heaven! exclaimed I, was there ever a fate so dreadful as mine?
it is determined then I am to take my leave of daylight! Beside
this, as if it were not enough to be buried alive at eighteen, my
misery is to be aggravated by being in the service of a banditti;
by passing the day with highwaymen, and the night in a
charnelhouse. These reflections, which seemed to me very dismal,
and were indeed no better than they seemed, set me crying most
bitterly. I could not conceive what cursed maggot my uncle had
got in his head to send me to Salamanca; repented running away
from Cacabelos, and would have compounded for the torture. But,
considering how vain it was to shut the door when the steed was
stolen, I determined, instead of lamenting the past, to hit upon
some expedient for making my escape. What! thought I, is it
impossible to get off? The cut-throats are asleep; cooky and the
black will be snoring ere long. Why cannot I, by the help of this
lamp, find the passage by which I descended into these infernal
regions? I am afraid, indeed, my strength is not equal to lifting
the trap at the entrance. However, let us see. Faint heart never
won fair lady. Despair will lend me new force, and who knows but
I may succeed?

Thus was the train laid for a grand attempt. I got up as soon as
Leonarda and Domingo were likely to be asleep. With the lamp in
my hand, I stole out of the vault, putting up my prayers to all
the spirits in paradise, and ten miles round. It was with no
small difficulty that I threaded all the windings of this new
labyrinth. At length I found myself at the stable door, and
perceived the passage which was the object of my search. Pushing
on I made my way towards the trap with a light pair of heels and
a beating heart: but, alas! in the middle of my career I ran
against a cursed iron grate locked fast, with bars so close as
not to admit a hand between them. I looked rather foolish at the
occurrence of this new difficulty, which I had not been aware of
at my entrance, because the grate was then open. However, I tried
what I could do by fumbling at the bars. Then for a peep at the
lock; or whether it could not be forced! When all at once my poor
shoulders were saluted with five or six good strokes of a bull's
pizzle. I set up such a shrill alarum, that the den of Cacus rang
with it; when looking round, who should it be but the old negro
in his shirt, holding a dark lanthorn in one hand, and the
instrument of my punishment in the other. Oh, ho! quoth he, my
merry little fellow, you will run away, will you? No, no! you
must not think to set your wits against mine. I heard you all the
while. You thought you should find the grate open, did not you?
You may take it for granted, my friend, that henceforth it will
always be shut. When we keep any one here against his will, he
must be a cleverer fellow than you to make his escape.

In the mean time, at the howl I had set up two or three of the
robbers waked suddenly; and not knowing but the holy brotherhood
might be falling upon them, they got up and called their
comrades. Without the loss of a moment all were on the alert.
Swords and carabines were put in requisition, and the whole posse
advanced forward almost in a state of nature to the place where I
was parleying with Domingo. But as soon as they learned the cause
of the uproar, their alarm resolved itself into a peal of
laughter. How now, Gil Blas, said the apostate son of the church,
you have not been a good six hours with us, and are you tired of
our company already? You must have a great objection to
retirement. Why, what would you do if you were a Carthusian
friar? Get along with you, and go to bed. This time you shall get
off with Domingo's discipline; but if you are ever caught in a
second attempt of the same kind, by Saint Bartholomew! we will
flay you alive. With this hint he retired, and the rest of the
party went back to their rooms. The old negro, taking credit to
himself for his vigilance, returned to his stable; and I found my
way back to my charnel-house, where I passed the remainder of the
night in weeping and wailing.

CH. VII. -- Gil Blas, not being able to do what he likes, does
what he can.

FOR the first few days I thought I should have given up the ghost
for very spite and vexation. The lingering life I led was nearly
akin to death itself; but in the end my good genius whispered me
to play the hypocrite, I aimed at looking a little more cheerful;
began to laugh and sing, though it was some times on the wrong
side of my mouth; in a word, I put so good a face on the matter,
that Leonarda and Domingo were completely taken in. They thought
the bird was reconciled to his cage. The robbers entertained the
same notion. I looked as brisk as the beverage I poured out, and
put in my oar whenever I thought I could say a good thing. My
freedom, far from offending, was taken in good part. Gil Blas,
quoth the captain one evening, while I was playing the buffoon,
you have done well, my friend, to banish melancholy. I am
delighted with your wit and humour. Some people wear a mask at
first acquaintance; I had no notion what a jovial fellow you

My praises now seemed to run from mouth to mouth. They were all
so partial to me, that, not to miss my opportunity; -- Gentlemen,
quoth I, allow me to tell you a piece of my mind. Since I have
been your guest, a new light breaks in upon me. I have bid adieu
to vulgar prejudices, and caught a ray at the fountain of your
illumination. I feel that I was born to be your knight companion.
I languish to make one among you, and will stand my chance of a
halter with the best. All the company cried Hear! -- I was
considered as a promising member of the senate. It was then
determined unanimously to give me a trial in some inferior
department; afterwards to bespeak me a good desperate encounter
in which I might show my prowess; and if I answered expectation
to give me a high and responsible employment in the commonwealth.

It was necessary therefore to go on exhibiting a copy of my
countenance, and doing my best in my office of cup-bearer. I was
impatient beyond measure; for I only aspired after the honours of
the sitting, to obtain the liberty of going abroad with the rest;
and I was in hopes that by running the risk of getting my neck
into one noose I might get it out of another. This was my only
chance. The time nevertheless seemed long to wait, and I kept my
eye on Domingo, with the hope of outwitting him: but the thing
was not feasible; he was always on the watch. Orpheus as leader
of the band, with a complete orchestra of performers as good as
himself, could not have soothed the savage breast of this
Cerberus. The truth is, by the by, that for fear of exciting his
suspicion, I did not set my wits against him so much as I might
have done. He was on the look-out, and I was obliged to play the
prude, or my virtue might have come into disgrace. I therefore
stopped proceedings till the time of my probation should expire,
to which I looked forward with impatience, just as if I was
waiting for a place under government.

Heaven be praised, in about six months I gained my end. The
commandant Rolando addressing his regiment, said: Comrades, we
must stand upon honour with Gil Blas. I have no bad opinion of
our young candidate; we shall make something of him. If you will
take my advice, let him go and reap his first harvest with us to-
morrow on the king's highway. We will lead him on in the path of
honour. The robbers applauded the sentiments of the captain with
a thunder of acclamation; and to show me how much I was
considered as one of the gang, from that moment they dispensed
with my attendance at the side board. Dame Leonarda was
reinstated in the office from which she had been discharged to
make room for me. They made me change my dress, which consisted
in a plain short cassock a good deal the worse for wear, and
tricked me out in the spoils of a gentleman lately robbed. After
this inauguration, I made my arrangements for my first campaign.

CH. VIII. -- Gil Blas goes out with the gang, and performs an
exploit on the highway.

IT was past midnight in the month of September, when I issued
from the subterraneous abode as one of the fraternity. I was
armed, like them, with a carabine, two pistols, a sword, and a
bayonet, and was mounted on a very good horse, the property of
the gentleman in whose costume I appeared. I had lived so long
like a mole under-ground, that the daybreak could not fail of
dazzling me: but my eyes got reconciled to it by degrees.

We passed close by Pontferrada, and were determined to lie in
ambush behind a small wood skirting the road to Leon. There we
were waiting for whatever fortune might please to throw in our
way, when we espied a Dominican friar, mounted, contrary to the
rubric of those pious fathers, on a shabby mule. God be praised,
exclaimed the captain with a sneer, this is a noble beginning for
Gil Blas. Let him go and trounce that monk: we will bear witness
to his qualifications. The connoisseurs were all of opinion that
this commission suited my talents to a hair, and exhorted me to
do my best Gentlemen, quoth I, you shall have no reason to
complain. I will strip this holy father to his birth-day suit,
and give you complete right and title to his mule. No, no, said
Rolando, the beast would not be worth its fodder: only bring us
our reverend pastor's purse; that is all we require. Hereupon I
issued from the wood and pushed up to the man of God, doing
penance all the time in my own breast for the sin I was
committing. I could have liked to have turned my back upon my
fellows at that moment; but most of them had the advantage of
better horses than mine: had they seen me making off they would
have been at my heels, and would soon have caught me, or perhaps
would have fired a volley, for which I was not sufficiently case-
hardened. I could not therefore venture on so perilous an
alternative; so that claiming acquaintance with the reverend
father, I asked to look at his purse, and just put out the end of
a pistol. He stopped short to gaze upon me; and, without seeming
much frightened, said, My child, you are very young; this is an
early apprenticeship to a bad trade. Father, replied I, bad as it
is, I wish I had begun it sooner. What! my son, rejoined the good
friar, who did not understand the real meaning of what I said,
how say you? What blindness! give me leave to place before your
eyes the unhappy condition. Come, come, father! interrupted I,
with impatience, a truce to your morality, if you please. My
business on the high road is not to hear sermons. Money makes my
mare to go. Money said he, with a look of surprise; you have a
poor opinion of Spanish charity, if you think that people of my
stamp have any occasion for such trash upon their travels. Let me
undeceive you. We are made welcome wherever we go, and pay for
our board and lodgings by our prayers. In short, we carry no cash
with us on the road; but draw drafts upon Providence. That is all
very well, replied I; yet for fear your drafts should be
dishonoured, you take care to keep about you a little supply for
present need. But come, father, let us make an end: my comrades
in the wood are in a hurry; so your money or your life. At these
words, which I pronounced with a determined air, the friar began
to think the business grew serious. Since needs must, said he,
there is wherewithal to satisfy your craving. A word and a blow
is the only rhetoric with you gentlemen. As he said this, be drew
a large leathern purse from under his gown, and threw it on the
ground. I then told him he might make the best of his way: and he
did not wait for a second bidding, but stuck his heels into the
mule, which, giving the lie to my opinion, for I thought it on a
par with my uncle's, set off at a good round pace. While he was
riding for his life, I dismounted. The purse was none of the
lightest. I mounted again, and got back to the wood, where those
nice. observers were waiting with impatience to congratulate me
on my success. I could hardly get my foot out of the stirrup, so
eager were they to shake hands with me. Courage, Gil Blas, said
Rolando; you have done wonders. I have had my eyes on you during
your whole performance, and have watched your countenance. I have
no hesitation in predicting that you will become in time a very
accomplished highwayman. The lieutenant and the rest chimed in
with the prophecy, and assured me that I could not fail of
fulfilling it hereafter. I thanked them for the elevated idea
they had formed of my talents, and promised to do all in my power
not to discredit their penetration.

After they had lavished praises, the effect rather of their
candour than of my merit, they took it into their heads to
examine the booty I had brought under my convoy. Let us see, said
they, let us see how a friar's purse is lined. It should be fat
and flourishing, continued one of them, for these good fathers do
not mortify the flesh when they travel. The captain untied the
purse, opened it, and took out two or three handfuls of little
copper coins, an Agnus-Dei here and there, and some scapularies.
At sight of so novel a prize, all the privates burst into an
immoderate fit of laughter. God be praised! cried the lieutenant,
we are very much obliged to Gil Blas: his first attack has
produced a supply, very seasonable to our fraternity. One joke
brought on another. These rascals, especially the fellow who had
retired from the church to our subterraneous hermitage, began to
make themselves merry on the subject. They said a thousand good
things, such as showed at once the sharpness of their wits and
the profligacy of their morals. They were all on the broad grin
except myself. It was impossible to be butt and marksman too.
They each of them shot their bolt at me, and the captain said:
Faith, Gil Blas, I would advise you as a friend not to set your
wit a second time against the church: the biter may be bit; for
you must live some time longer among us, before you are a match
for them.

CH. IX. -- A more serious incident.

WE lounged about the wood for the greater part of the day,
without lighting on any traveller to pay toll for the friar. At
length we were beginning to wear our homeward way, as if
confining the feats of the day to this laughable adventure, which
furnished a plentiful fund of conversation, when we got
intelligence of a carriage on the road drawn by four mules. They
were coming at a hard gallop, with three outriders, who seemed to
be well armed. Rolando ordered the troop to halt, and hold a
council, the result of whose deliberations was to attack the
enemy. We were regularly drawn up in battle-array, and marched to
meet the caravan. In spite of the applause I had gained in the
wood, I felt an oozing sort of tremour come over me, with a chill
in my veins and a chattering in my teeth that seemed to bode me
no good. As it never rains but it pours, I was in the front of
the battle, hemmed in between the captain and the lieutenant, who
had given me that post of honour, that I might lose no time in
learning to stand fire. Rolando, observing the low ebb of my
animal spirits, looked askew at me, and muttered in a tone more
resolute than courtly: Hark ye! Gil Blas, look sharp about you! I
give you fair notice, that if you play the recreant, I shall
lodge a couple of bullets in your brain. I believed him as firmly
as my catechism, and thought it high time not to neglect the
hint; so that I was obliged to lay an embargo on the expression
of my fears, and to think only of recommending my soul to God in

While all this was going on, the carriage and horsemen drew near.
They suspected what sort of gentry we were; and guessing our
trade by our badge, stopped within gun-shot. They had carabines
and pistols as well as ourselves. While they were preparing to
give us a brisk reception, there jumped out of the coach a well-
looking gentleman richly dressed. He mounted a led horse, and put
himself at the head of his party. Though they were but four
against nine, for the coachman kept his seat on the box, they
advanced towards us with a confidence calculated to redouble my
terror. Yet I did not forget, though trembling in every joint, to
hold myself in readiness for a shot: but, to give a candid
relation of the affair, I blinked and looked the other way in
letting off my piece; so that from the harmlessness of my fire, I
was sure not to have murder to answer for in another world.

I shall not give the particulars of the engagement; though
present, I was no eye-witness; and my fear, while it laid hold of
my imagination, drew a veil over the anticipated horror of the
sight. All I know about the matter is, that after a grand
discharge of musquetry, I heard my companions hallooing Victory!
Victory! as if their lungs were made of leather. At this shout
the terror which had made a forcible entry on my senses was
ejected, and I beheld the four horse men stretched lifeless on
the field of battle. On our side, we had only one man killed.
This was the renegade parson, who had now filled the measure of
his apostasy, and paid for jesting with scapularies and such
sacred things. The lieutenant received a slight wound in the arm;
but the bullet did little more than graze the skin.

Master Rolando was the first at the coach-door. Within was a lady
of from four to five-and-twenty, beautiful as an angel in his
eyes, in spite of her sad condition. She had fainted during the
conflict, and her swoon still continued. While he was fixed like
a statue on her charms, the rest of were in profound meditation
on the plunder. We began by securing the horses of the defunct;
for these animals, frightened at the report of our pieces, had
got to a little distance, after the loss of their riders. For the
mules, they had not wagged a hair, though the coachman had jumped
from his box during the engagement to make his escape. We
dismounted for the purpose of unharnessing and loading them with
some trunks tied before and behind the carriage. This settled,
the captain ordered the lady, who had not yet recovered her
faculties, to be set on horseback before the best mounted of the
robbers; then, leaving the carriage and the uncased carcases by
the road-side, we carried off with us the lady, the mules, and
the horses.

CH. X. -- The lady's treatment from the robbers. The event of the
great design, conceived by Gil Blas.

THE night had another hour to run when we arrived at our
subterraneous mansion. The first thing we did was to lead our
cavalry to the stable, where we were obliged to groom them
ourselves, as the old negro had been confined to his bed for
three days, with a violent fit of the gout, and an universal
rheumatism. He had no member supple but his tongue; and that he
employed in testifying his indignation by the most horrible
impieties. Leaving this wretch to curse and swear by himself, we
went to the kitchen to look after the lady. So successful were
our attentions, that we succeeded in recovering her from her fit.
But when she had once more the use of her senses, and saw herself
encompassed by strangers, she knew the extent of her misfortune,
and shuddered at the thought. All that grief and despair together
could present, of images the most distressing, appeared depicted
in her eyes, which she lifted up to heaven, as if in reproach for
the indignities she was threatened with. Then, giving way at once
to these dreadful apprehensions, she fell again into a swoon, her
eyelids closed once more, and the robbers thought that death was
going to snatch from them their prey. The captain, therefore,
judging it more to the purpose to leave her to herself than to
torment her with any more of their assistance, ordered her to be
laid on Leonarda's bed, and at all events to let nature take its

We went into the hall, where one of the robbers, who had been
bred a surgeon, looked at the lieutenant's arm and put a plaister
to it. After this scientific operation, it was thought expedient
to examine the baggage. Some of the trunks were filled with laces
and linen, others with various articles of wearing apparel: but
the last contained some bags of coin; a circumstance highly
approved by the receivers-general of the estate. After this
investigation, the cook set out the side-board, laid the cloth,
and served up supper. Our conversation ran first on the great
victory we had achieved. On this subject said Rolando, directing
himself to me, Confess the truth, Gil Blas: you cannot deny that
you were devilishly frightened. I candidly admitted the fact; but
promised to fight like a crusader after my second or third
campaign. Hereupon all the company took my part, alleging the
sharpness of the action in my excuse, and that it was very well
for a novice, not yet accustomed to the smell of powder.

We next talked of the mules and horses just added to our
subterraneous stud. It was determined to set off the next morning
before day-break, and sell them at Mansilla, before there was any
chance of our expedition having got wind. This resolution taken,
we finished our supper, and returned to the kitchen to pay our
respects to the lady. We found her in the same condition.
Nevertheless, though the dregs of life seemed almost exhausted,
some of these poachers could not help casting a wicked leer at
her, and giving visible signs of a motion within them, which
would have broken out into overt act, had not Rolando put a spoke
in their wheel by representing that they ought at least to wait
till the lady had got rid of her terrors and squeamishness, and
could come in for her share of the amusement. Their respect for
the captain operated as a check to the incontinence of their
passions. Nothing else could have saved the lady; nor would death
itself probably have secured her from violation.

Again therefore did we leave this unhappy female to her
melancholy fate. Rolando contented himself with charging Leonarda
to take care of her, and we all separated for the night. For my
part, when I went to bed, instead of courting sleep, my thoughts
were wholly taken up with the lady's misfortunes. I had no doubt
of her being a woman of quality, and thought her lot on that
account so much the more piteous. I could not paint to myself,
without shuddering, the horrors which awaited her; and felt
myself as sensibly affected by them, as if united to her by the
ties of blood or friendship. At length, after having sufficiently
bewailed her destiny, I mused on the means of preserving her
honour from its present danger, and myself from a longer abode in
this dungeon. I considered that the old negro could not stir, and
recollected that since his illness the cook had the key of the
grate. That thought warmed my fancy, and gave birth to a project
not to be hazarded lightly: the stages of its execution were the

I pretended to have the colic. A lad in the colic cannot help
whining and groaning; but I went further, and cried out lustily,
as loud as my lungs would let me. This roused my gentle friends,
and brought them about me to know what the deuce was the matter.
I informed them that I had a swinging fit of the gripes, and to
humour the idea, gnashed my teeth, made all manner of wry faces
till I looked like a bedlamite, and twisted my limbs as if I had
been going to be delivered of a heathen oracle. Then I became
calm all at once, as if my pains had abated. The next minute I
flounced up and down upon my bed, and threw my arms about at
random. In a word, I played my part so well that these more
experienced performers, knowing as they were, suffered themselves
to be thrown off their guard, and to believe that my malady was
real. All at once did they busy themselves for my relief. One
brought me a bottle of brandy, and forced me to gulp down half of
it; another, in spite of my remonstrances, applied oil of sweet
almonds in a very offensive manner: a third went and made a
napkin burning hot, to be clapped upon my stomach. In vain did I
cry mercy; they attributed my noise to the violence of my
disorder, and went on inflicting positive evil by way of remedy
for that which was artificial. At last, able to bear it no
longer, I was obliged to swear that I was better, and entreat
them to give me quarter. They left off killing me with kindness,
and I took care not to complain any more, for fear of
experiencing their tender attentions a second time.

This scene lasted nearly three hours. After which the robbers,
calculating it to be near day-break, prepared for their journey
to Mansilla. I was for getting up, as if I had set my heart on
being of the party; but that they would not allow. No, no, Gil
Blas, said Signor Rolando, stay here, my lad; your colic may
return. You shall go with us another time; to-day you are not in
travelling condition. I did not think it prudent to urge my
attendance too much, for fear of being taken at my word; but only
affected great disappointment with so natural an air, that they
all went off without the slightest misgiving of my design. After
their departure, for which I had prayed most fervently, I said to
myself: Now is your time, Gil Blas, to be firm and resolved. Arm
yourself with courage to go through with an enterprise so
propitiously begun. Domingo is tied by the leg, and Leonarda may
show her teeth, but she cannot bite. Pounce down upon opportunity
while it offers; you may wait long enough for another. Thus did I
spirit myself up in soliloquy. Having got out of bed, I laid hold
of my sword and pistols; and away I went to the kitchen. But
before I made my appearance I stopped to hear what Leonarda was
talking about to the fair incognita, who was come to her senses,
and, on a view of her misfortune in its extremity, took on most
desperately. That is right, my girl, said the old hag, cry your
eyes out, sob away plentifully, you know the good effect of
woman's tears. The sudden shock was too much for you; but the
danger is over now the engines can play. Your grief will abate by
little and little, and you wilt get reconciled to living with our
gentlemen, who are very good sort of people. You will be better
off than a princess. You do not know how fond they will be of
you. Not a day will pass without your being obliged to some of
them. Many a woman would give one of her eyes to be in your

I did not allow Leonarda time to go on any longer with this
babbling. In I went, and putting a pistol to her breast, insisted
with a menacing air on her delivering up the key of the grate.
She did not know what to make of my behaviour; and, though almost
in the last stage of life, had such a propensity to linger on the
road as not to venture on a refusal. With the key in my hand I
directed the following speech to the distressed object of my
compassion: Madam, Heaven sends you a deliverer in me; follow,
and I will see you safe whithersoever you wish to be conducted.
The lady was not deaf to my proposal, which made such an
impression on her grateful heart that she jumped up with all the
strength she had left, threw herself at my feet, and conjured me
to save her honour. I raised her from the ground, and assured her
she might rely on me. I then took some ropes which were
opportunely in the kitchen, and with her assistance tied Leonarda
to the legs of a large table, protesting that I would kill her if
she only breathed a murmur. After that, lighting a candle, I went
with the incognita to the treasury, where I filled my pockets
with pistoles, single and double, as full as they could hold. To
encourage the lady not to be scrupulous, I begged she would think
herself at home, and make free with her own. With our finances
thus recruited, we went towards the stable, where I marched in
with my pistols cocked. I was of opinion that the old blackamoor,
for all his gout and rheumatism, would not let me saddle and
bridle my horse peaceably, and my resolution was to put a
finishing hand to all his ailments if he took it into his head to
play the churl: but, by good luck, he was at that moment in such
pain that I stole the steed without his perceiving that the door
was open. The lady in the mean time was waiting for me. We were
not long in threading the passage leading to the outlet; but
reached the grate, opened it, and at last got to the trap. Much
ado there was to lift it, which we could not have done, but for
the new strength we borrowed from the hopes of our escape.

Day was beginning to dawn when we emerged from that abyss. Our
first object was to get as far from it as possible. I jumped into
the saddle: the lady got up behind me, and taking the first path
that offered, we soon gal loped out of the forest. Coming to some
cross-roads we took our chance. I trembled for fear of its
leading to Mansilla, and our encountering Rolando and his
comrades. Luckily my apprehensions were unfounded. We got to
Astorga by two o'clock in the afternoon. The people looked at us
as if they had never seen such a sight before as a woman riding
behind a man. We alighted at the first inn. I immediately ordered
a partridge and a young rabbit to the spit. While my orders were
in a train of execution, the lady was shown to a room, where we
began to scrape acquaintance with one another; which we had not
done on the road, on account of the speed we made. She expressed
a high sense of my services, and told me that after so
gentlemanly a conduct, she could not allow herself to think me
one of the gang from whom I had rescued her. I told her my story
to confirm her good opinion. By these means I entitled myself to
her confidence, and to the knowledge of her misfortunes, which
she recounted to the following effect.

CH. XI -- The history of Donna Mencia de Mosquera.

I WAS born at Valladolid, and am called Donna Mencia de Mosquera.
My father, Don Martin, after spending most of his family estate
in the service, was killed in Portugal at the head of his
regiment. He left me so little property, that I was a bad match,
though an only daughter. I was not, however, without my admirers,
notwithstanding the mediocrity of my fortune. Several of the most
considerable cavaliers in Spain sought me in marriage. My
favourite was Don Alvar de Mello. It is true he had a prettier
person than his rivals; but more solid qualities determined me in
his favour. He had wit, discretion, valour, probity; and in
addition to all these, an air of fashion. Was an entertainment to
be given? His taste was sure to be displayed. If he appeared in
the lists, he always fixed the eyes of the beholders on his
strength and dexterity. I singled him out from among all the
rest, and married him.

A few days after our nuptials, he met Don Andrew de Baлsa, who
had been his rival, in a private place. They attacked one another
sword in hand, and Don Andrew fell. As he was nephew to the
corregidor of Valladolid, a turbulent man, violently incensed
against the house of Mello, Don Alvar thought he could not soon
enough make his escape. He returned home speedily, and told me
what had happened while his horse was getting ready. My dear
Mencia, said he at length, we must part. You know the corregidor:
let us not flatter ourselves; he will hunt me even to death. You
are unacquainted with his influence; this empire will be too hot
to hold me. He was so penetrated by his own grief and mine as not
to be able to articulate further. I made him take some cash and
jewels: then he folded me in his arms, and we did nothing but
mingle our sighs and tears for a quarter of an hour. In a short
time the horse was at the door. He tore himself from me, and left
me in a condition not easily to be expressed. It had been well if
the excess of my affliction had destroyed me! How much pain and
trouble might I have escaped by death! Some hours after Don Alvar
was gone, the corregidor became acquainted with his flight. He
set up a hue and cry after him, sparing no pains to get him into
his power. My husband, however, eluded his pursuit, and got into
safe quarters; so that the judge, finding himself reduced to
confine his vengeance to the poor satisfaction of confiscating,
where he meant to execute, laboured to good purpose in his
vocation. Don Alvar's little property all went to the hammer.

I remained in a very comfortless situation, with scarcely the
means of subsistence. A retired life was best suited to my
circumstances, with a single female servant. I passed my hours in
lamenting, not an indigence, which I bore patiently, but the
absence of a beloved husband, of whom I received no accounts. He
had indeed pledged himself, in the melancholy moments of our
parting, to be punctual in acquainting me with his destiny, to
whatever part of the world his evil star might conduct him. And
yet seven years roiled on without my hearing of him. My suspense
respecting his fate afflicted me most deeply. At last I heard of
his falling in battle, under the Portuguese banner, in the
kingdom of Fez. A man newly returned from Africa brought me the
account, with the assurance that he had been well acquainted with
Don Alvar de Mello; had served with him in the army, and had seen
him drop in the action. To this narrative of facts he added
several collateral circumstances, which left me no room to doubt
of my husband's premature death.

About this time Don Ambrosio Mesia Carillo, Marquis de la
Guardia, arrived at Valladolid. He was one of those elderly
noblemen who, with that good breeding acquired by long experience
in courts, throw their years into the background, and retain the
faculty of making themselves agreeable to our sex. One day he
happened by accident to hear the story of Don Alvar; and, from
the part I bore in it and the description of my person, there
arose a desire of being better acquainted. To satisfy his
curiosity, he made interest with one of my relations to invite me
to her house. The gentleman was one of the party. This first
interview made not the less impression on his heart for the
traces of sorrow which were too obvious on my countenance. He was
touched by its melancholy and languishing expression, which gave
him a favourable forecast of my constancy. Respect, rather than
any warmer sentiment, might perhaps be the inspirer of his
wishes. For he told me more than once what a miracle of good
faith he considered me, and my husband's fate as enviable in this
respect, however lamentable in others. In a word, he was struck
with me at first sight, and did not wait for a review of my
pretensions, but at once took the resolution of making me his

The intervention of my kinswoman was adopted as the means of
inducing me to accept his proposal. She paid me a visit; and in
the course of conversation, pleaded, that as my husband had
submitted to the decree of Providence in the kingdom of Fez,
according to very credible accounts, it was no longer rational to
coop up my charms. I had shed tears enough over a man to whom I
had been united but for a few moments as it were, and I ought to
avail myself of the present offer, and had nothing to do but to
step into happiness at once. In furtherance of these arguments,
she set forth the old marquis's pedigree, his wealth, and high
character: but in vain did her eloquence expatiate on his
endowments, for I was not to be moved. Not that my mind misgave
me respecting Don Alvar's death; nor that the apprehension of his
sudden and unwelcome appearance hereafter, checked my
inclinations. My little liking, or rather my extreme repugnance,
to a second marriage, after the sad issue of the first, was the
sole obstacle opposed to my relation's urgency. Neither was she
disheartened: on the contrary, her zeal for Don Ambrosio resorted
to endless stratagems. All my family were pressed into the old
lord's service. So beneficial a match was not to be trifled with!
They were eternally besetting, dunning, and tormenting me. In
fact, my despondency, which increased from day to day,
contributed not a little to my yielding.

As there was no getting rid of him, I gave way to their eager
suit, and was wedded to the Marquis de la Guardia. The day after
the nuptials, we went to a very fine castle of his near Burgos,
between Grajal and Rodillas. He conceived a violent love for me:
the desire of pleasing was visible in all his actions: the
anticipation of my slenderest wishes was his earliest and his
latest study. No husband ever regarded his wife more tenderly, no
lover could pour forth more devotion to his mistress. Nor would
it have been possible for me to steel my heart against a return
of passion, though our ages were so disproportioned, had not
every soft sentiment been buried in Don Alvar's grave. But the
avenues of a constant heart are barred against a second inmate.
The memory of my first husband threw a damp on all the kind
efforts of the second. Mere gratitude was a cold retribution for
such tenderness; but it was all I had to give.

Such was my temper of mind, when, taking the air one day at a
window in my apartment, I perceived a peasant-looking man in the
garden, viewing me with fixed attention. He appeared to be a
common labourer. The circumstance soon passed out of my thoughts;
but the next day, having again taken my station at the window, I
saw him on the self-same spot, and again found myself the object
of his eager gaze. This seemed strange! I looked at him in my
turn; and, after an attentive scrutiny, thought I could trace the
features of the unhappy Don Alvar. This seeming visit from the
tombs roused all the dormant agony of my soul, and extorted from
me a piercing scream. Happily, I was then alone with Inиs, who of
all my women engaged the largest share of my confidence. I told
her what surmise had so agitated my spirits. She only laughed at
the idea, and took it for granted that a slight resemblance had
imposed on my fancy. Take courage, madam, said she, and do not be
afraid of seeing your first husband. What likelihood is there of
his being here in the disguise of a peasant? Is it even within
the reach of credibility that he is yet alive? However, I will go
down into the garden, and talk with this rustic. I will answer
for finding out who be is, and will return in all possible haste
with my intelligence. Inиs ran on her errand like a lapwing; but
soon returned to my apartment with a face of mingled astonishment
and emotion. Madam, exclaimed she, your conjecture is but too
well grounded; it is indeed Don Alvar whom you have seen; he made
himself known at once, and pleads for a private interview.

As I had the means of admitting Don Alvar instantaneously, by the
absence of the Marquis at Burgos, I commissioned my waiting-maid
to introduce him into my closet by a private staircase. Well may
you imagine the hurry and agitation of my spirits. How could I
support the presence of a man, who was entitled to overwhelm me
with reproaches? I fainted at his very foot-fall as he entered.
They were about me in a moment -- he as well as Inиs; and when
they had recovered me from my swoon, Don Alvar said -- Madam,
for heaven's sake, compose yourself. My presence shall never be
the cause of pain to you; nor would I for the world expose you to
the slightest anxiety. I am no savage husband, come to account
with you for a sacred pledge; nor do I impute to criminal motives
the second contract you have formed. I am well aware that it was
owing to the importunity of your friends; your persecutions from
that quarter are not unknown to me. Besides, the report of my
death was current in Valladolid; and you had so much the more
reason to give it credit, as no letter from me gave you any
assurance to the contrary. In short, I am no stranger to your
habits of life since our cruel separation; and know that
necessity, not lightness of heart, has thrown you into the arms
Ah! sir, interrupted I with sobs, why will you make excuses for
your unworthy wife? She is guilty, since you survive. Why am I
not still in the forlorn state in which I languished before my
marriage with Don Ambrosio? Fatal nuptials! -- alas! but for
these, I should at least have had the consolation in my
wretchedness of seeing the object of my first vows again without
a blush.

My dear Mencia, replied Don Alvar, with a look which marked how
deeply he was penetrated by my contrition, I make no complaint of
you; and far from upbraiding you with your present prosperity, as
heaven is my witness, I return it thanks for the favours it has
showered on you. Since the sad day of my departure from
Valladolid, my own fate has ever been adverse. My life has been
but a tissue of misfortune; and, as a surcharge of evil destiny,
I had no means of letting you hear from me. Too secure in your
affection, I could neither think nor dream but of the condition
to which my fatal love might have reduced you. Donna Mencia in
tears was the lovely, but killing spectre that haunted me; of all
my miseries, your dear idea was the most acute. Some times, I
own, I felt remorse for the transporting crime of having pleased
you. I wished you had lent an ear to the suit of some happier
rival, since the preference with which you had honoured me was to
fall so cruelly on your own head. To cut short my melancholy tale
-- after seven years of suffering, more enamoured than ever, I
determined to see you once again. The impulse was not to be
resisted; and the expiration of a long slavery having furnished
me with the power of giving way to it, I have been at Valladolid
under this disguise at the hazard of a discovery. There, I
learned the whole story. I then came to this castle, and found
the means of admission into the gardener's service, who has
engaged me as a labourer. Such was my stratagem to obtain this
private interview. But do not suppose me capable of blasting, by
my continuance here, the happiness of your future days. I love
you better than my own life; I have no consideration but for your
repose; and it is my purpose, after thus unburdening my heart, to
finish in exile the sacrifice of an existence which has lost its
value since no longer to be devoted to your service.

No, Don Alvar, no, exclaimed I at these words; you shall never
quit me a second time. I will be the companion of your
wanderings; and death only shall divide us from this hour. Take
my advice, replied he, live with Don Ambrosio; unite not yourself
with my miseries, but leave me to stand under their undivided
weight. These and other such entreaties he used; but the more
willing he seemed to sacrifice himself to my welfare, the less
did I feel disposed to take advantage of his generosity. When he
saw me resolute in my determination to follow him, he all at once
changed his tone; and assuming an aspect of more satisfaction,
Madam, said he, since you still love Don Alvar well enough to
prefer adversity with him before your present ease and affluence,
let us then take up our abode at Betancos, in the interior of
Galicia. There I have a safe retreat. Though my misfortunes may
have stripped me of all my effects, they have not alienated all
my friends; some are yet faithful, and have furnished me with the
means of carrying you off. With their help I have hired a
carriage at Zamora; have bought mules and horses, and am
accompanied by perhaps the three boldest of the Galicians. They
are armed with carabines and pistols, waiting my orders at the
village of Rodillas. Let us avail ourselves of Don Ambrosio's
absence. I will send the carriage to the castle gate, and we will
set out without loss of time. I consented. Don Alvar flew towards
Rodillas, and shortly returned with his escort. My women, from
the midst of whom I was carried off, not knowing what to think of
this violent proceeding, made their escape in great terror. Inиs
only was in the secret; but she would not link her fate with
mine, on account of a love affair with Don Ambrosio's favourite

I got into the carriage, therefore, with Don Alvar, taking
nothing with me but my clothes and some jewels of my own before
my second marriage; for I could not think of appropriating any
presents of the Marquis. We travelled in the direction of
Galicia, without knowing if we should be lucky enough to reach
it. We had reason to fear Don Ambrosio's pursuit on his return,
and that we should be overtaken by superior numbers. We went
forward for two days without any alarm, and in the hope of being
equally fortunate the third, had got into a very quiet
conversation. Don Alvar was relating the melancholy adventure
which had occasioned the rumour of his death, and how he
recovered his freedom, after five years of slavery, when
yesterday we met upon the Leon road the banditti you were with.
He it was whom they killed with all his attendants, and it is for
him the tears flow, which you see me shedding at this moment.

CH. XII. -- A disagreeable interruption.

DONNA MENCIA melted into tears as she finished this recital. I
allowed her to give a free passage to her sighs; I even wept
myself for company, so natural is it to be interested for the
afflicted, and especially for a lovely female in distress. I was
just going to ask her what she meant to do in the present
conjuncture, and possibly she was going to consult me on the same
subject if our conversation had not been interrupted; but we
heard a great noise in the inn, which drew our attention whether
we would or no. It was no less than the arrival of the
corregidor, attended by two alguazils and their marshalmen. They
came into the room where we were. A young gentleman in their
train came first up to me, and began taking to pieces the
different articles of my dress. He had no occasion to examine
them long. By Saint James, exclaimed he, this is my identical
doublet! It is the very thing, and as safely to be challenged as
my horse. You may commit this spark on my recognizance; he is one
of the gang who have an undiscovered retreat in this country.

At this discourse, which gave me to understand my accuser to be
the gentleman robbed, whose spoils to my confusion were
exclusively my own, I was without a word to say for myself,
looking one way and the other, and not knowing where to fix my
eyes. The corregidor, whose office was suspicion, set me down for
the culprit; and, presuming on the lady for an accomplice,
ordered us into separate custody. This magistrate was none of
your stem gallows-preaching fellows, he had a jocular
epigrammatic sort of countenance. God knows if his heart lay in
the right place for all that! As soon as I was committed, in came
he with his pack. They knew their trade, and began by searching
me. What a forfeit to these lords of the manor! At every handful
of pistoles, what little eyes did I see them make! The corregidor
was absolutely out of his wits! It was the best stroke within the
memory of justice! My pretty lad, said his Worship with a
softened tone, we only do our duty, but do not you tremble for
your bones before the time: you will not be broken on the wheel
if you do not deserve it. These blood-suckers were emptying my
pockets all the time with their cursed palaver, and took from me
what their betters of the shades below had the decency to leave -
- my uncle's forty ducats. They stuck at nothing! Their staunch
fingers, with slow but certain scent, routed me out from top to
toe; they whisked me round and round, and stripped me even to the
shame of modesty, for fear some sneaking portrait of the king
should slink between my shirt and skin. When they could sift me
no further, the corregidor thought it time to begin his
examination. I told a plain tale. My deposition was taken down;
and the sequel was, that he carried in his train his bloodhounds,
and my little property, leaving me to toss without a rag upon a
beggarly wisp of straw.

Oh the miseries of human life! groaned I, when I found myself in
this merciless and solitary condition. Our adventures here are
whimsical, and out of all time and tune. From my first outset
from Oviedo, I had got into a pleasant round of difficulties;
hardly had I worked myself out of one danger, before I soused
into another. Coming into town here, how could I expect the
honour of the corregidor's acquaintance? While thus communing
with my own thoughts, I got once more into the cursed doublet and
the rest of the paraphernalia which had got me into such a
scrape; then plucking up a little courage, never mind, Gil Blas,
thought I, do not be chicken-hearted. What is a prison above-
ground, after so brimstone a snuffle as thou hast had of the
regions below? But, alas! I hallo before I am out of the wood! I
am in more experienced hands than those of Leonarda and Domingo.
My key will not open this grate! I might well say so, for a
prisoner without money is like a bird with its wings clipt; one
must be in full feather to flutter out of distance from these

But we left a partridge and a young rabbit on the spit! How they
got off I know not; but my supper was a bit of sallow-
complexioned bread, with a pitcher of water to render it amenable
to mastication! and thus was I destined to bite the bridle in my
dungeon. A fortnight was pretty well without seeing a soul but my
keeper, who had orders that I should want for nothing in the
bread and water way! Whenever he made his appearance I was
inclined to be sociable, and to parley a little to get rid of the
blue devils; but this majestic minister was above reply, he was
mum! he scarcely trusted his eyes but to see that I did not slip
by him. On the sixteenth day, the corregidor strutted in to this
tune -- You are a lucky fellow! I have news for you. The lady is
packed off for Burgos. She came under my examination before her
departure, and her answers went to your exculpation. You will be
at large this very day if your carrier from Pegnaflor to
Cacabelos agrees in the same tale. He is now in Astorga. I have
sent for him, and expect him here; if he confirms the story of
the torture, you are your own master.

At these words I was ready to jump out of my skin for joy. The
business was settled! I thanked the magistrate for the abridgment
of justice with which he had deigned to favour me, and was
getting to the fag end of my compliment, when the muleteer
arrived, with an attendant before and behind. I knew the fellow's
face; but he, having as a matter of course sold my cloak-bag with
the contents, from a deep-rooted affection to the money which the
sale had brought, swore lustily that he had no acquaintance with
me, and had never seen me in the whole course of his life. Oh!
you villain, exclaimed I, go down on your knees and own that you
have sold my clothes. Prythee, have some regard to truth! Look in
my face; am not I one of those shallow young fellows whom you had
the wit to threaten with the rack in the corporate town of
Cacabelos? The muleteer turned upon his toe, and protested he had
not the honour of my acquaintance. As he persisted in his
disavowal, I was recommitted for further examination. Patience
once more! It was only reducing feasts and fasts to the level of
bread and water, and regaling the only sense I had the means of
using with the sight of my tongue-tied warden. But when I
reflected how little innocence would avail to extricate me from
the clutches of the law, the thought was death; I panted for my
subterraneous paradise. Take it for all in all, said I, there
were fewer grievances than in this dungeon. I was hail fellow
well met with the banditti! I bandied about my jokes with the
best of them, and lived on the sweet hope of an escape; whereas
my innocence here will only be a passport to the galleys.

CH. XIII. -- The lucky means by which Gil Blas escaped from
prison, and his travels afterwards.

WHILE I passed the hours in tickling my fancy with my own gay
thoughts, my adventures, word for word, as I had set my hand to
them, were current about the town. The people wanted to make a
show of me! One after another, there they came, peeping in at a
little window of my prison, not too capacious of daylight; and
when they had looked about them, off they went! This raree show
was a novelty. Since my commitment, there had not been a living
creature at that window, which looked into a court where silence
and horror kept guard. This gave me to understand that I was
become the town-talk, and I knew not whether to divine good or
evil from the omen.

One of my first visitors was the little chorister of Mondognedo,
who had a fellow-feeling with me for the rack, and an equally
light pair of heels. I knew him at once, and he had no qualms
about acknowledging me as an acquaintance. We exchanged a kind
greeting, then compared notes since our separation. I was obliged
to relate my adventures in due form and order. The chorister, on
his part, told me what had happened in the inn at Cacabelos,
between the muleteer and the bride, after we had taken to our
heels in a panic. Then with a friendly assurance at parting, he
promised to leave no stone unturned for my release. His
companions of mere curiosity testified their pity for my
misfortune; assuring me that they would lend a helping hand to
the little chorister, and do their utmost to procure my freedom.

They were no worse than their word. The corregidor was applied to
in my favour, who, no longer doubtful of my innocence, above all
when he had heard the chorister's story, came three weeks
afterwards into my cell. Gil Blas, said he, I never stand shilly-
shally: begone, you are free; you may take yourself off whenever
you please. But, tell me, if you were carried to the forest,
could you not discover the subterraneous retreat? No, sir,
replied I: as I only entered in the night, and made my escape
before day-break, it would be impossible to fix upon the spot.
Thereupon the magistrate withdrew, assuring me that the gaoler
should be ordered to give me free egress. In fact, the very next
moment the turnkey came into my dungeon, followed by one of his
outriding establishment with a bundle of clothes under his arm.
They both of them stripped me with the utmost solemnity, and
without uttering a single syllable, of my doublet and breeches,
which had the honour to be made of a bettermost cloth almost new;
then, having rigged me in an old frock, they shoved me out of
their hospitable mansion by the shoulders.

The taking I was in to see myself so ill equipped, acted as a
cooler to the usual transport of prisoners at recovering their
liberty. I was tempted to escape from the town without delay,
that I might withdraw from the gaze of the people, whose prying
eyes I could not encounter but with pain. My gratitude, however,
got the better of my diffidence. I went to thank the little
chorister, to whom I was so much obliged. He could not help
chuckling when he saw me. That is your trim, is it? said he. As
far as I see, you cannot complain that your case has not been
sifted to the bottom. I have nothing to say against the laws of
my country, replied I; they are as just as need be. I only wish
their officers would take after them! They might have spared me
my suit of clothes: I have paid for them over and over again. I
am quite of your mind, rejoined he; but they would tell you that
these are little formalities of old standing, which cannot be
dispensed with. What! you are foolish enough to suppose, for
instance, that your horse has been restored to its right owner?
Not a word of it, if you please: the beast is at this present in
the stables of the register, where it has been impounded as a
witness to be brought into court: if the poor gentleman comes off
with the crupper, he will be so much in pocket. But let us change
the subject. What is your plan? What do you mean to do with
yourself? I have an inclination, said I, to take the road for
Burgos. I may light on my rescued lady; she will give me a little
ready cash: I shall then buy a new short cassock, and betake
myself to Salamanca, where I shall see what I can make of my
Latin. All my trouble is, how to get to Burgos: one must live on
the road. I understand you, replied he. Take my purse: it is
rather thinly lined, to be sure; but you know a chorister's
dividends are not like a bishop's. At the same time he drew it
from his pouch, and inserted it between my hands with so good a
grace, that I could not do otherwise than accept it, for want of
a better. I thanked him as though he had made me a present of a
gold mine, and tendered him a thousand promises of recompense, to
be duly honoured and punctually paid at doom's-day. With this I
left him, and skulked out of the town, not paying my respects to
my other benefactors; but giving them a thousand blessings from
my heart.

The little chorister had reason for speaking modestly of his
purse, it was not orthodox. By good luck, I had been used for
these two months to a very slender diet, and had still a little
small change left when I reached Ponte de Mula, not far from
Burgos. I halted there to inquire after Donna Mencia. The hostess
of the inn I put up at was a little withered, spiteful, emaciated
bit of mortality. I saw at a glance, by the mouths she made at me
aside, that my frock did not hit her fancy; and I thought it a
proof of her taste. So I sat myself down at a table; ate bread
and cheese, and drank a few glasses of execrable wine, such as
innkeepers technically call cassecoquin. During this meal, which
was of a piece with the outward appearance of the guest, I did my
utmost to come to closer quarters with my landlady. Did she know
the Marquis de la Guardia? Was his castle far out of town? Above
all, what was become of my lady marchioness? You ask many
questions in a breath, replied she, bridling with disdain. But I
got out of her, though by hard pumping, that Don Ambrosio's
castle was but a short league from Ponte de Mula.

After I had done eating and drinking, as it was night, I thought
it natural to go to bed, and asked for my room. A room for you!
shrieked my landlady, darting at me a glance of contempt and
pride; I have no rooms for fellows who make their supper on a bit
of cheese. All my beds are bespoke. There are people of fashion
expected, and our accommodations are all kept for them.
But I will not be unchristian: you may lie in my barn: I suppose
your soft skin will not be incommoded by the feel of straw. She
spoke truth without knowing it. I took it all in silence, and
slunk to my roosting-place, where I fell asleep like a man, the
excess of whose labours are his ready passport to the blessings
of repose.

CH XIV. -- Donna Mencia's reception of him at Burgos.

I WAS no sluggard, but got up the next morning betimes. I paid my
bill to the landlady, who was already stirring, and seemed a
little less lofty and in better humour than the evening before; a
circumstance I attributed to the endeavours of three kind
guardsmen belonging to the holy brotherhood. These gentlemen had
slept in the inn: they were evidently on a very intimate footing
with the hostess: and doubtless it was for guests of such note
that all the beds were bespoke.

I inquired in the town my way to the castle where I wanted to
present my. self. By accident I made up to a man not unlike my
landlord at Pegnaflor. He was not satisfied with answering my
question to the point; but informed me that Don Ambrosio had been
dead three weeks, and the marchioness his lady had taken the
resolution of retiring to a convent at Burgos, which he named. I
proceeded immediately towards that town, instead of taking the
road to the castle, as I had first meant to do, and flew at once
to the place of Donna Mencia's retreat. I besought the attendant
at the turning-box to tell that lady that a young man just
discharged from prison at Astorga wanted to speak with her. The
nun went on the message immediately. On her return, she showed me
into a parlour, where I did not wait long before Don Ambrosio's
widow appeared at the grate in deep mourning.

You are welcome, said the lady. Four days ago I wrote to a person
at Astorga, to pay you a visit as from me, and to tell you to
come and see me the moment you were released from prison. I had
no doubt of your being discharged shortly: what I told the
corregidor in your exculpation was enough for that. An answer was
brought that you had been set at liberty, but that no one knew
what was become of you. I was afraid of not seeing you any more,
and losing the pleasure of expressing my gratitude. Never mind,
added she, observing my confusion at making my appearance in so
wretched a garb; your dress is of very little consequence. After
the important services you have rendered me, I should be the most
ungrateful of my sex, if I were to do nothing for you in return.
I undertake, therefore, to better your condition: it is my duty,
and the means are in my power. My fortune is large enough to pay
my debt of obligation to you, without putting myself to

You know, continued she, my story up to the time when we both
were committed to prison. I will now tell you what has happened
to me since. When the corregidor at Astorga had sent me to
Burgos, after having heard from my own lips a faithful recital of
my adventures, I presented myself at the castle of Ambrosio. My
return thither excited extreme surprise: but they told me that it
was too late; the marquis, as if he had been thunderstruck at my
flight, fell sick; and the physicians despaired of his recovery.
Here was a new incident in the melancholy tragedy of my fate. Yet
I ordered my arrival to be announced. The next moment I ran into
his chamber, and threw myself on my knees by his bedside, with a
face running down with tears and a heart oppressed with the most
lively sorrow. Who sent for you hither? said he as soon as he saw
me; are you come to contemplate your own contrivance? Was it not
enough to have deprived me of life? But was it necessary to
satisfy your heart's desire, to be an eye-witness of my death? My
lord, replied I, Inиs must have told you that I fled with my
first husband; and, had it not been for the sad accident which
has taken him from me for ever, you never would have seen me
more. At the same time, I acquainted him that Don Alvar had been
killed by banditti, whose captive I had consequently been in a
subterraneous dungeon. After relating the particulars of my story
to the end, Don Ambrosio held out to me his hand. It is enough,
said he affectionately, I will make no more complaints. Alas!
Have I in fact any right to reproach you? You were thrown once
more in the way of a beloved husband; and gave me up to follow
his fortunes: can I blame such an instance of your affection? No,
madam, it would have been vain to resist the will of fate. For
that reason I gave orders not to pursue you. In my rival himself
I could not but respect the sacred rights with which he was
invested, and even the impulse of your flight seemed to have been
communicated by some superior power. To close all with an act of
justice, and in the spirit of reconciliation, your return hither
has re-established you completely in my affection. Yes, my dear
Mencia, your presence fills me with joy: but, alas! I shall not
long be sensible to it. I feel my last hour to be at hand. No
sooner are you restored to me, than I must bid you an eternal
farewell. At these touching expressions, my tears flowed in
torrents. I felt and expressed as much affliction as the human
heart is capable of containing. I question whether Don Alvar's
death, doting on him as I did, had cost me more bitter
lamentations. Don Ambrosio had given way to no mistaken presage
of his death, which happened on the following day; and I remained
mistress of a considerable jointure, settled on me at our
marriage. But I shall take care to make no unworthy use of it.
The world shall not see me, young as I still am, wantoning in the
arms of a third husband. Besides that such levity seems
irreconcilable with the feelings of any but the profligate of our
sex, I will frankly own the relish of life to be extinct in me;
so that I mean to end my days in this convent, and to become a
benefactress to it.

Such was Donna Mencia's discourse about her future plans. She
then drew a purse from beneath her robe, and put it into my
hands, with this address: Here are a hundred ducats simply to
furnish out your wardrobe. That done, come and see me again. I
mean not to confine my gratitude within such narrow bounds. I
returned her a thousand thanks, and promised solemnly not to quit
Burgos, without taking leave of her. Having given this pledge,
which I had every inclination to redeem, I went to look out for
some house of entertainment. Entering the first I met with, I
asked for a room. To parry the ill opinion my frock might convey
of my finances, I told the landlord that, however appearances
might be against me, I could pay for my night's lodging as well
as a better dressed gentleman. At this speech, the landlord,
whose name was Majuelo, a great banterer in a coarse way, running
over me with his eyes from top to toe, answered with a cool,
sarcastic grin, that there was no need of any such assurance; it
was evident I should pay my way liberally, for he discovered
something of nobility through my disguise, and had no doubt but I
was a gentle man in very easy circumstances. I saw plainly that
the rascal was laughing at me; and, to stop his humour before it
became too convulsive, gave him a little insight into the state
of my purse. I went so far as to count over my ducats on a table
before him, and perceived my coin to have inclined him to a more
respectful judgment. I begged the favour of him to send for a
tailor. A broker would be better, said he; he will bring all
sorts of apparel, and you will be dressed up out of hand. I
approved of this advice, and determined to follow it; but, as the
day was on the point of closing, I put off my purchase till the
morrow, and thought only of getting a good supper, to make amends
for the miserable fare I had taken up with since my escape from
the forest.

CH. XV. -- Gil Blas dresses himself to more advantage, and
receives a second present from the lady. His equipage on setting
out from Burgos.

THEY served me up a plentiful fricassee of sheep's trotters,
almost the whole of which I demolished. My drinking kept pace
with my eating: and when I could stuff no longer, I went to bed.
I lay comfortably enough, and was in hopes that a sound sleep
would have the kindness without delay to commit a friendly
invasion on my senses. But I could not close an eye for
ruminating on the dress I should choose. What shall I do, thought
I? Shall I follow my first plan? Shall I buy a short cassock, and
go to Salamanca to set up for a tutor? Why should I adopt the
costume of a licentiate? For the purpose of going into orders? Do
I feel an inward call? No? If I have any call, it is quite the
contrary way. I had rather wear a sword than an apron: and push
my fortune in this world, before I think of the next.

I made up my mind to take on myself the appearance of a
gentleman. Waiting for the day with the greatest impatience, its
first dawn no sooner greeted my eyes, than I got up. I made such
an uproar in the inn, as to wake the most inveterate sleeper, and
called the servants out of bed, who returned my salute with a
volley of curses. But they found themselves under a necessity of
stirring, and I let them have no rest till they had sent for a
broker. The gentleman soon made his appearance, followed by two
lads, each lugging in a great bundle of green cloth. He accosted
me very civilly, to the following effect: Honoured sir, you are a
happy man to have been recommended to me rather than any one
else. I do not mean to give my brethren an ill word: God forbid I
should offer the slightest injury to their reputation! They have
none to spare. But, between ourselves, there is not one of them
that has any bowels; they are more extortionate than the
Israelites. There is not a broker but myself that has any moral
sense. I keep within the bounds of a reasonable profit. I am
satisfied with a pound in the penny; -- no, no! -- that is
wrong: -- with a penny in the pound. Thanks to heaven, I get
forward fair and softly in the world.

The broker, after this preface, which I, like a fool, took for
chapter and verse, told his journeymen to undo their bundles.
They showed me suits of every colour in the rainbow, and exposed
to sale a great choice of plain cloths. These I threw aside with
contempt, as thinking them too undrest; but they made me try on
one which fitted me as well as if I had been measured for it, and
just hit my fancy, though it was a little the worse for wear. It
was a doublet with slashed sleeves, with breeches and a cloak,
the whole of blue velvet with a gold embroidery. I felt a little
hankering after this particular article, and attempted to beat
down the price. The broker, who saw my inclination, told me I had
a very correct taste. By all that is sacred! exclaimed he, it is
plain you are no younker. Take this with you! That dress was made
for one of the first nobility in the kingdom, and has not been on
his back three times. Look at the velvet; feel it: nothing can be
richer or of a better colour; and for the embroidery, come now!
tell truth: did you ever see better workmanship? What is the
price of it? said I. Only sixty ducats, replied he. I have
refused the money, or else I am a liar. The alternative could not
fail in one proposition or the other. I bid five and forty: two
or three and twenty would have been nearer the mark. My worthy
master, said the broker coolly, I never ask too much. I have but
one price. But here, added he, holding up the suits I had thrown
aside; take these: I can afford to sell them a better bargain.
All this only inflamed my eagerness to buy what I was cheapening;
and as I had no idea that he would have made any abatement, I
paid him down sixty ducats. When he saw how easily a fool and his
money were parted, I verily believe that in spite of the moral
sense, he heartily repented not having taken a hint from the
extortionate Israelite. But reconciling himself as well as he
could to the small profit, to which he professed to confine
himself, of a pound upon a penny, he retreated with his
journeymen. I was not suffered to forget that they must have
something for their trouble.

I had now a cloak, a doublet, and a very decent pair of breeches.
The rest of my wardrobe was to be thought of: and this took up
the whole morning. I bought some linen, a hat, silk stockings,
shoes, and a sword; and concluded by putting on my purchases.
What pleasure was it to see myself so well accoutred! My eyes
were never cloyed, as it were, with the richness of my attire.
Never did peacock look at his own plumage with less philosophy.
On that very day, I paid a second visit to Donna Mencia, who
received me with her usual affability. She thanked me over again
for the service I had rendered her. On that subject, rapid was
the interchange of compliments. Then, wishing every kind of
success, she bade me farewell, and withdrew, without giving me
anything but a ring worth thirty pistoles, which she begged me to
keep as a remembrance.

I looked very foolish with my ring! I had reckoned on a much more
considerable present. Thus, little satisfied with the lady's
bounty, I measured back my steps in a very musing attitude: but
as I entered the inn door, a man over took me, and throwing off
his wrapping cloak, discovered a large bag under his arm. At the
vision of the bag, apparently full of current coin, I stood
gaping as did most of the company present. The voice of angel or
archangel could not have been sweeter, than when this messenger
of earthly dross, laying the bag upon the table, said: Signor Gil
Blas, the lady marchioness desires her compliments. I bowed the
bearer out, with an accumulation of fine speeches; and, as soon
as his back was turned, pounced upon the bag, like a hawk upon
its quarry, and bore it between my talons to my chamber. I untied
it without loss of time, and the contents were; -- a thousand
ducats! The landlord who had overheard the bearer, came in just
as I had done counting them, to know what was in the bag. The
sight of my riches displayed upon a table, struck him in a very
forcible manner. What the devil! here is a sum of money! So, so!
you are the man! pursued he with a waggish sort of leer, you know
how to -- tickle the -- fancies of the ladies! Four and twenty
hours only have you been in Burgos, and marchionesses, I warrant
you, have surrendered at the first summons!

This discourse was not so much amiss. I was half inclined to
leave Majuelo in his error; for it flattered my vanity. I do not
wonder young fellows are fond of passing for men of gallantry.
But as yet the purity of my morals was proof against the
suggestions of my pride. I undeceived my landlord, by telling him
Donna Mencia's story, to which he listened very attentively.
Afterwards I let him into the state of my affairs; and, as he
seemed to take an interest in them, besought him to assist me
with his advice. He ruminated for some time; then said with a
serious air: Master Gil Blas, I have taken a liking to you; and
since you are candid enough to open your heart to me, I will tell
you sincerely what I think would suit you best. You were
evidently born for a court life: I recommend you to go thither,
and to get about the person of some considerable nobleman. But
make a point either of getting at his secrets, or administering
to his pleasures; unless you do that, it will be all lost time in
his family. I know the great: they reckon nothing upon the zeal
and attachment of a real friend; but only care for pimping
sycophants. You have, besides, another string to your bow. You
are young, with an attractive person: parts out of the question,
for they are not at all times necessary, it is hard if you cannot
turn the head of some rich widow, or handsome wife with a
broomstick for her husband. Love may ruin men of fortune; but it
makes amends by feathering the nests of those who have none. My
vote, therefore, is for Madrid: but you must not make your
appearance there without an establishment. There, as elsewhere,
people judge by the outside; and you will only be respected
according to the figure you make. I will find you a servant, a
tried domestic, a prudent lad; in a word, a fellow of my own
creation. Buy a couple of mules; one for yourself, the other for
him: and set off as fast as you can.

This counsel was too palatable to be refused. On the day
following I purchased two fine mules, and bargained with my new
servant. He was a young man of thirty, of a very simple and godly
appearance. He told me he was a native of Galicia, by name
Ambrose de Lamela. Other servants are selfish, and think they
never can have wages enough. This fellow assured me he was a man
of few wants, and should be contented with whatever I had the
goodness to give him. I bought a pair of boots, with a
portmanteau to lock up my linen and my money. Having settled with
my landlord, I set out from Burgos the next morning before sun-
rise, on my way to Madrid.

CH. XVI. -- Showing that prosperity will slip through a man's

WE slept at Duengnas the first night, and reached Valladolid on
the following day, about four o'clock in the afternoon. We
alighted at the inn of the most respectable appearance in the
town. I left the care of the mules to my fellow, and went up to a
room whither I ordered my portmanteau to be carried by a waiter.
As I felt a little weary, I threw myself on a couch in my boots,
and fell asleep involuntarily. It was almost night when I awoke.
I called for Ambrose. He was not to be found in the house; but
made his appearance in a short time. I asked him where he had
been: he answered in his godly way, that he was just come from
church, whither he went for the purpose of thanksgiving, by
reason that we had been graciously preserved from all perils and
dangers between Burgos and Valladolid. I commended his piety; and
ordered a chicken to be roasted for supper.

At the moment when I was giving this order, my landlord came into
my room with a light in his hand. That cursed candle served to
introduce a lady, handsome, but not young, and very richly
attired. She leant upon an usher, none of the youngest, and a
little blackamoor was her train-bearer. I was under no small
surprise when this fair incognita, with a profound obeisance,
begged to know if my name might happen to be Signor Gil Blas of
Santillane? I had no sooner blundered out yes, than she released
her sweet hand from the custody of the usher, and embraced me
with a transport of joy, of which I knew less and less what to
make. Heaven be praised, cried she, for all its mercies! You are
he, noble sir, the very man of whom I was in quest. By this
introduction I was reminded of my friend the parasite at
Pegnaflor, and was on the point of suspecting the lady to be no
better than an honest woman should be: but her finale gave me a
much higher opinion of her. I am, continued she, first cousin to
Donna Mencia de Mosquera, whom you have so greatly befriended. It
was but this morning I received a letter from her. She writes me
word that having learnt your intention of going to Madrid, she
wished me to receive you hospitably on your journey, if you went
this way. For these two hours have I been parading the town. From
inn to inn have I gone to inform myself what strangers were in
the house; and I gathered from the landlord's description that
you were most likely to have been my cousin's deliverer. Since
then I have found you out, you shall know by experience my
gratitude to the friends of my family, and especially to my dear
cousin's hero. You will take up your abode, if you please, at my
house. Your accommodations will be better. I wished to excuse
myself; and told the lady that I could not be so troublesome: but
her importunities were more than a match for my modesty. A
carriage was waiting at the door of the inn to convey us. She saw
my portmanteau taken care of with her own eyes, because, as she
justly observed, there were a great many light-fingered gentry
about Valladolid -- to be sure there were a great many light-
fingered gentry about Valladolid, as she justly observed! In
short, I got into the carriage with her and the old usher, and
suffered myself to be carried off bodily from the inn, to the
great annoyance of the landlord, who saw himself thus weaned from
all the little perquisites he had reckoned on from my abode under
his roof.

Our carriage, having rolled on some distance, stopped. We
alighted at the door of a handsome house, and went up-stairs into
a well-furnished apartment, illuminated by twenty or thirty wax
candles. Several servants were in waiting, of whom the lady
inquired whether Don Raphael was come. They answered, No. She
then addressed herself to me: Signor Gil Blas, I am waiting for
my brother's return from a country seat of ours, about two
leagues distant. What an agreeable surprise will it be to him to
find a man under his roof to whom our family is so much indebted!
At the very moment she had finished this pretty speech we heard a
noise, and were informed at the same time that it was occasioned
by the arrival of Don Raphael. This spark soon made his
appearance. He was a young man of portly figure and genteel
manners. I am in ecstacy to see you back again, brother, said the
lady; you will assist me in doing the honours to Signor Gil Blas
of Santillane. We can never do enough to show our sense of his
kindness to our kinswoman, Donna Mencia. Here, read this letter I
have just received. Don Raphael opened the envelope, and read
aloud as follows:

My dear Camilla, Signor Gil Blas of Santillane, the saviour of my
honour and my life, has just set out for court. He will of course
pass through Valladolid. I conjure you by our family connection,
and still more by our indissoluble friendship, to give him an
hospitable reception, and to detain him for some time as your
guest. I flatter myself that you will so far oblige me, and that
my deliverer will receive every kind of polite attention from
yourself, and my cousin, Don Raphael. Your affectionate cousin,



What! cried Don Raphael, casting his eyes again over the letter,
is it to this gentleman my kinswoman owes her honour and her
life? Then heaven be praised for this happy meeting. With this
sort of language, he advanced to wards me; and squeezing me
tightly in his arms: What joy to me is it, added he, to have the
honour of seeing Signor Gil Blas of Santillane! My cousin the
marchioness had no need to press the hospitality. Had she only
told us simply that you were passing through Valladolid, that
would have been enough. My sister Camilla and I shall be at no
loss how to conduct ourselves towards a young gentleman who has
conferred an obligation, not to be repaid, on her of all our
family most tenderly beloved by us. I made the best answer I
could to these speeches, which were followed by many others of
the same kind, and interlarded with a thousand bows and scrapes.
But Lord bless me, he has his boots on! The servants were ordered
in, to take them ofF.

We next went into another room, where the cloth was lain. Down we
sat at table, the brother, sister, and myself. They paid me a
hundred compliments during supper. Not a word escaped me, but
they magnified it into an admirable hit! It was impossible not to
observe the assiduity with which they both helped me out of every
dish. Don Raphael often pledged me to Donna Mencia's health. I
could not refuse the challenge; and it looked a little as if
Camilla, who was a very good companion, ogled at me with no
questionable meaning. I even thought I could perceive that she
watched her opportunity, as if she was afraid of being detected
by her brother. An oracle could not have convinced me more firmly
that the lady was caught; and I looked forward to a little
delicate amusement from the discovery, during the short time I
was to stay at Valladolid. That hope was my tempter to comply
with the request they made me, of condescending to pass a few
days with them. They thanked me kindly for indulging them with my
company; and Camilla's restrained, but visible transport,
confirmed me in the opinion that I was not altogether
disagreeable in her eyes.

Don Raphael, finding I had made up my mind to be his guest for a
few days, proposed to take me to his country house. The
description of it was magnificent, and the round of amusements he
meditated for me was not to be described. At one time, said he,
we will take the diversion of the chase, at another that of
fishing; and whenever you have a mind for a saunter, we have
charming woods and gardens. In addition, we shall have agreeable
society. I flatter myself you will not find the time hang heavy
on your hands. I accepted the invitation, and it was agreed that
we should go to this fine country house the following day. We
rose from the table with this pleasant scheme in our mouths. Don
Raphael seemed in ecstacy. Signor Gil Blas, said he, embracing
me, I leave you with my sister. I am going presently to give the
necessary orders, and send invitations round to the families I
wish to be of the party. With these words he sallied forth from
the room where we were sitting. I went on chatting with the lady,
whose topics of discourse did not bely the glances of her
expressive eyes. She took me by the hand, and playing with my
ring, You have a mighty pretty brilliant there, said she, but it
is small. Are you a judge of jewellery? I answered, no! I am
sorry for that, resumed she, because I was in hopes you could
have told me what this is worth. As she uttered these words, she
showed me a large ruby on her finger; and, while I was looking at
it, said -- An uncle of mine, who was governor of the Spanish
settlements in the Philippine isles, gave me this ruby. The
jewellers at Valladolid value it at three hundred pistoles. It
cannot be worth less, said I, for it is evidently a very fine
stone. Why, then, since you have taken a fancy to it, replied
she, an exchange is no robbery. In a twinkling she whisked off my
ring, and placed her own on my little finger. After this
exchange, a genteel way enough of making a present, Camilla
pressed my hand and gazed at me with expressive tenderness; then,
all at once breaking off the conversation, wished me good night,
and re tired to hide her blushes, as if she had been ready to
sink at the indiscreet avowal of her sentiments.

No one hitherto had trod less in the paths of gallantry than
myself! Yet I could not shut my eyes to the vista vision opened
to me by this precipitate retreat. Under these circumstances, a
country excursion might have its charms. Full of this flattering
idea, and intoxicated with the prosperous condition of my
affairs, I locked myself into my bed-room, after having told my
servant to call me betimes in the morning. Instead of going to
sleep, I gave myself up to the agreeable reflections which my
portmanteau, snug upon the table, and my ruby excited in my
breast. Heaven be praised, thought I, though misfortunes have
been my lot, I am unfortunate no longer. A thousand ducats here,
a ring of three hundred pistoles' value there! I am in cash for a
considerable time. In deed Majuelo was no flatterer, I see
clearly. The ladies of Madrid will take fire like touchwood,
since the green sticks of Valladolid are so inflammable. Then the
kind regards of the generous Camilla arrayed themselves in all
their charms, and I tasted by anticipation the amusements Don
Raphael was preparing for me at his villa. In the mean while,
amid so many images of pleasure, sleep was on the watch to strew
his poppies on my couch. As soon as I felt myself drowsy, I
undressed and went to bed.

The next morning, when I awoke, I found it rather late. It was
odd enough that my servant did not make his appearance, after
such particular orders. Ambrose, thought I to myself, my devout
Ambrose is either at church, or abominably lazy this morning. But
I soon let go this opinion of him to take up a worse; for getting
out of bed, and seeing no portmanteau, I suspected him to have
stolen it during the night. To clear up my suspicions, I opened
my chamber door, and called the religious rascal over and over
again. An old man answered, saying -- What is your pleasure,
sir? All your folks left my house before day-break. Your house!
How now! exclaimed I; am I not under Don Raphael's roof? I do not
know the gentleman, said he. You are in a ready-furnished
lodging, and I am the landlord. Yesterday evening, an hour before
your arrival, the lady who supped with you came hither, and
engaged this suite of apartments for a nobleman of high rank,
travelling incognito, as she called it. She paid me beforehand. I
was now in the secret. It was plain enough what sort of people
Camilla and Don Raphael were; and I conjectured that my servant,
having wormed himself into a complete knowledge of my concerns,
had betrayed me to these impostors. Instead of blaming myself for
this sad accident, and considering that it could never have
happened but for my indiscretion in so unnecessarily betraying my
confidence to Majuelo, I gave bad language to the poor harmless
dame fortune, and cursed my ill star in a hundred different
formularies. The master of the ready-furnished lodging, to whom I
related the adventure, which perhaps was as much his as mine,
showed some little outward sensibility to my affliction. He
lamented over me, and protested he was deeply mortified that such
a play should have been acted in his house; but I verily believe,
not withstanding his fine words, that he had an equal share in
the cheat with mine host at Burgos, to whom I have never denied
the merit of so ingenious an invention.

CH. XVII. -- The measures Gil Blas took after the adventure of
the ready-furnished lodging.

AFTER the first transports of my grief were over, I began to
consider, that instead of giving way to remorse, I ought rather
to bear up against my ill fate. I summoned back my resolution,
and, by way of comfort, said to myself as I was dressing -- I am
still in luck that the knaves have not carried off my clothes and
what little money I had in my pocket. I gave them some credit for
being so considerate. They had even been generous enough to leave
me my boots, which I parted with to the landlord for a third of
their cost. At last I sallied out of the ready-furnished lodging,
unencumbered, heaven be praised, with baggage or attendance. The
first thing I did was to go and see if my mules were still at the
inn where we alighted the evening before. It was not to be
supposed that Ambrose would have neglected a due attention to
them; and it would have been well for me if I had always taken
such exact measure of his character. I learned that he had not
waited for the morning, but had been careful to fetch them by
over-night. Under the circumstances, satisfied I should never see
them again, any more than my portmanteau, I walked sulkily along
the streets, musing on the future plans I should adopt. I was
tempted to go back to Burgos, and once more have recourse to
Donna Mencia; but, regarding this as an abuse of that lady's
goodness, and being aware, moreover, what a fool I should look
like, I thought it best to forego that idea. I made a vow too for
the future to be on my guard against women. I could have sent the
chaste Susanna to the house of correction. From time to time my
ring caught my eye, it was a present from Camilla! and I was
ready to burst with anguish. Alas! thought I, I am no judge of
jewellery, but I shall be, by experience of these hucksters who
exchange without a robbery. I need not go to a jeweller to be
told I am an ass! I can see my own face in my ruby.

Yet I did not neglect to know the truth respecting the value of
my ring, and showed it to a lapidary, who rated it at three
ducats. At such an estimate, though as much as I expected, I made
a formal surrender to the devil, of the Philippine isles, the
governor and his niece; or rather, I only restored his own
subjects to their lawful sovereign. As I was going out of the
lapidary's shop a young fellow brushed by me, and on looking
round, made a full stop. I could not recollect his name at first,
though his features were perfectly familiar to me. How now, Gil
Blas, said he, are you ashamed of an old acquaintance? or have
two years so altered the son of Nunez the barber, that you do not
know him? Do not you recollect Fabricio, your townsman and
schoolfellow? How often have we kept, before Doctor Godinez, upon
universals and metaphysics!

These words did not flow so fast as my recollection, and we
embraced with mutual good will. Well, my friend, resumed he, I am
overjoyed to meet with you. Words fall short -- But how is this?
Why, you look like -- as heaven is my judge, you are dressed
like a grandee! A gentleman's sword, silk stockings, a velvet
doublet and cloak, embroidered with silver! Plague take it! this
is getting on in the world with a vengeance. I will lay a wager
you are in with some old monied harridan. You reckon without your
host, said I, my affairs are not so prosperous as you imagine.
That will not do for me, replied he, I know better things; but
you have a mind to be close. And that fine ruby on your finger,
master Gil Blas, whence comes that, if I may be so bold? It
comes, quoth I, from an infernal jade. Fabricio, my dear
Fabricio, far from being point, quint, and quatorze with the
ladies of Valladolid, you are to know, my friend, that I am their
complete bubble.

I uttered these last words so ruefully, that Fabricio saw plainly
that some trick had been played upon me. He was anxious to learn
why I was out of humour with the lovely sex. I had no difficulty
in satisfying his curiosity; but as the story was a long one, and
besides we had no mind to part in a hurry, we went into a coffee-
house to be a little more at ease. There I recounted to him,
during breakfast, all that had happened to me since my departure
from Oviedo. My adventures he thought whimsical enough; and
testifying his sympathy in my present uneasy circumstances, added
-- We must make the best, my good lad, of all our misfortunes in
this life. Is a man of parts in distress? he waits patiently for
better luck. Such an one, as Cicero truly observes, never suffers
himself to be humbled so low, as to forget that he is a man. For
my own part, that is just my character; in or out of favour there
is no sinking me; I always float on the surface of ill-luck. For
example, I was in love with a girl of some family at Oviedo, and
was beloved by her in return. I asked her of her father in
marriage, he refused. Many a young fellow would have died of
grief; but no! mark my spirit, I carried off the little baggage.
She was lively, heedless, and coquettish: pleasure consequently
was always uppermost to the prejudice of duty. I took her with me
for six months backwards and forwards about Galicia; thence,
adopting my taste for travelling, she had a mind to go to
Portugal, but in other company -- more food for despair. Yet I
did not give in under the weight of this new affliction; but,
improving on Menelaus, thought myself much obliged to the Paris
who had whispered in the ear of my Helen, for ridding me of a bad
bargain; I therefore determined to keep the peace. After that,
not finding it convenient to return to the Asturias and balance
accounts with justice, I went forward into the kingdom of Leon,
spending between one town and another all the loose cash
remaining from the rape of my Indian princess; for we had both of
us birdlimed our fingers at our departure from Oviedo. I got to
Palencia with a solitary ducat, out of which I was obliged to buy
a pair of shoes. The remainder would not go far. My situation
became rather perplexing. I began already to be reduced to short
allowance; something must be done. I resolved to go out to
service. My first place was with a woollen-draper in a large way,
whose son was a lad of wit and fashion; here was a complete
antidote to fasting, but then there was a little awkwardness. The
father ordered me to dog the son, the son begged my assistance in
imposing on the father; it was necessary to take one side or
other. Entreaties sound more musical than commands, and my taste
for music got me turned out of doors. The next service I entered
into was with an old painter, who undertook, as a matter of
favour, to teach me the principles of his art; but he was so busy
in feeding me with knowledge, that he forgot to give me any meat.
This neglect of substance for shadow disgusted me with my abode
at Palencia. I came to Valladolid, where, by the greatest good
luck in the world, I was hired by a governor of the hospital; I
am with him still, and delighted with my quarters. My master,
Signor Manuel Ordonnez, is a man of profound piety. He always
walks with his eyes cast downwards, and a large rosary in his
hand. They say that from his early youth, having been a close
inspector of the poor, he has interested himself in their affairs
with unwearied zeal. Charity draws down a blessing on the
charitable, everything has prospered with him. What a favourite
of heaven! The more he does for the poor, the richer he grows.

As Fabricio was going on in this manner, I interrupted him. It is
well you are satisfied with your lot; but, between ourselves,
surely you might play your part better in the world. Do not you
believe it, Gil Blas, replied he; be assured that for a man of my
temper a more agreeable situation could not possibly have been
devised. The trade of a lacquey is toilsome, to be sure, for a
poor creature; but for a lad of spirit it is all enchantment. A
superior genius, when he gets a service, does not go about it
like a lumpish simpleton. He enters into a family as viceroy over
the master, not as an inferior minister. He begins by measuring
the length of his employer's foot; by lending himself to his
weaknesses, he gains his confidence, and ends with leading him by
the nose. Such has been my plan of operation at the governor's. I
knew the pilgrim at once by his staff; his wish was for an
earthly canonization. I pretended to believe him to be the saint
he wished to be taken for, hypocrisy costs nothing. Nay, I went
further, for I took pattern by him; and playing the same part
before him which he played before others, I out-cozened the
cozener, and by degrees got to be major-domo. I am in hopes some
day or other, under his wing, to have the fingering of the poor-
box. It may bring a blessing upon me as well as another; for I
have caught the flame from him, and already feel deeply for the
interests of charity.

These are fine hopes, my dear Fabricio, replied I; and I
congratulate you upon them. For my part, I am determined on my
first plan. I shall straightway convert my embroidered suit into
a cassock, repair to Salamanca, and there, enlisting under the
banner of the university, fulfil the sacred duties of a tutor. A
fine scheme! exclaimed Fabricio, a pleasant conceit! What
madness, at your age, to turn pedant! Are you aware, you stupid
fellow, what you take upon yourself by that choice? As soon as
you are settled, all the house will be upon the watch, your most
trivial actions will be minutely sifted. You will lead a life of
incessant constraint; you must set yourself off with a
counterfeit outside, and affect to entertain a double set of the
cardinal virtues in your bosom. You will not have a moment to
bestow on pleasure. The everlasting censor of your pupil, your
days will pass in teaching grammar and administering saintly
reprehension, when he shall say or do anything against decorum.
After so much labour and confinement, what will be your reward?
If the little gentleman is a pickle, they will lay all the blame
on your bad management; and you will be kicked out of the family,
it may be without your stipend. Do not tell me then of a tutor's
employment; it is worse than a cure of souls. But talk as much as
you will about a lacquey's occupation, that is a sinecure, and
pledges you to nothing. Suppose one's master not to be
immaculate? A servant of superior genius will flatter his vices,
and not unfrequently turn them to account. A footman lives at his
ease in a good family. After having ate and drank his fill, he
goes to bed peaceably, without troubling himself who pays the

I should never have done, my dear fellow, pursued he, were I to
enumerate all the advantages of service. Trust me, Gil Blas,
discard for ever your foolish wish of being a tutor, and follow
my example. So be it: but, Fabricio, replied I, governors like
yours are not to be met with every day; and if resolved to go to
service, I should like at least to get a good situation. Oh! you
are in the right, said he, and that shall be my concern. I will
get you a comfortable place, if it were only to snatch a fine
fellow from the jaws of the university.

The near approach of poverty with which I was threatened, and
Fabricio's apparent good case, having more weight with me than
his arguments, I determined to wear a livery. On which we sallied
forth from the tavern, and my townsman said: I am going to
introduce you to a man, to whom most of the servants resort when
they are on the ramble; he has eaves-droppers about him to pick
up all that passes in families. He knows at once where the
servants are going away, and keeps a correct register, not only
of vacant places, but of vacant masters, with their good and bad
properties. The fellow has been a friar in some convent or other.
In short, he it was who got me my place.

While we were conversing about so singular an office of
intelligence, the son of Nunez the barber took me into a street
which had no thoroughfare. We went into a mean house, where we
found a man about fifty writing at a table. We wished him good
day, with quite as much humility as became us: but, whether it
was from natural pride, or that, from a habit of seeing none but
lacqueys and coachmen, he had got a trick of receiving his
company with an easy freedom, without rising from his seat, he
just gave a slight nod. He seemed surprised that a young man in
embroidered velvet should want a place; he had rather expected me
to have wanted a servant. However, he was not kept long in doubt,
since Fabricio said at once: Signor Arias de Londona, give me
leave to introduce one of my best friends. He is a youth of good
connections, whom adverse circumstances have reduced to the
necessity of going to service. Have the goodness to provide for
him handsomely, and you may trust to his gratitude. Gentlemen,
replied Arias coolly, this is the way with you all; before you
are settled, you make the finest promises in the world: but
afterwards, Lord help us! your memories are very short. The
deuce! replied Fabricio, why you do not complain of me? Have not
I done the thing genteelly? You ought to have done it much
better, rejoined Arias: your place is better than a clerk in a
public office, and you paid me as if I had quartered you upon a
poor author. Here I interfered, and told Master Arias, that to
convince him I was not a shabby fellow, I would make my
acknowledgments beforehand; at the same time taking out two
ducats, with an assurance of not stopping there if he got me into
a good berth.

He seemed to like my mode of dealing. There are, said he, some
very good places vacant. I will give you a list of them, and you
shall take your choice. With these words, he put on his
spectacles, opened a register on the table, turned over a few of
the leaves, and began reading to this effect: Captain Torbellino
wants a footman; a hasty, hair-brained, humoursome chap; scolds
incessantly, swears, kicks his servants, and very often cripples
them. Go on to the next, cried I, at this picture; such a captain
will never do for me. My sprightliness made Arias smile, and he
went on with his catalogue thus: Donna Manuela de Sandoval, a
superannuated dowager, peevish and fantastical, is in want at
this very time; she keeps but one, and him never for four-and-
twenty hours. There has been a livery in the house for these ten
years, which fits every new-corner, whether tall or short. They
only just try it on; so that it is as good as new though it has
had two thousand owners. Doctor Alvar Fanez wants a journeyman;
an eminent member of the faculty! He boards his family very
handsomely, has everything comfortable about him, and gives very
high wages; but he is a little too fond of experiments. When he
gets a parcel of bad drugs, which happens very often, there is a
pretty quick succession of new servants.

Oh! I do not in the least doubt it, interrupted Fabricio with a
horse-laugh. Upon my word, you give me a fine character of your
customers. Patience, said Arias de Londona; we have not yet got
to the end: there is variety enough. Thereupon he continued to
read on: Donna Alfonsa de Solis, an old devotee, who lives two-
thirds of her time at church, and always keeps her servant at her
apron string, has been in want for these three weeks. The
Licentiate Sйdillo, an old prebendary of the chapter here, turned
away his servant yesterday evening Halt there, Signor Arias
de Londona, cried Fabricio at that passage; we will stick to the
church. The Licentiate Sйdillo is one of my master's friends, and
I am very well acquainted with him. I know he has for his
housekeeper an old hypocrite, called Dame Jacintha, who is
complete mistress of the family. It is one of the best houses in
Valladolid. A very idle life, and plenty of excellent meat and
drink. Besides, his reverence is an old, gouty, infirm man,
likely soon to make his will: there is a legacy to be looked
after. That is a delightful prospect for one of our cloth! Gil
Blas, added he, turning round to me, let us lose no time, my
friend, but go immediately to the licentiate's house. I will
introduce you myself, and give you a character. At these words,
for fear of missing such an opportunity, we took a hasty leave of
Signor Arias, who assured me, for my money, that if I failed
here, he would do something as good for me elsewhere.


CH. I. -- Fabricio introduces Gil Blas to the Licentiate Sйdillo,
and procures him a reception. The domestic economy of that
clergyman. Picture of his housekeeper.

WE were so dreadfully afraid of offending against the regular
hours of the old licentiate, that we made but a hop, skip, and
jump, from the street with one outlet, to the prebendal
residence. The gates were barred: but we ventured to announce our
arrival. A girl of ten years old, the housekeeper's professed
niece, and slander could not gainsay the relationship, opened the
door to us. As we asked to speak with his reverence, Dame
Jacintha made her appearance. She was a lady of ripe person and
parts, but by no means past her prime; and I was particularly
attracted by the clearness of her complexion. She wore a long
woollen gown of the most ordinary quality, with a large leathern
girdle, whence hung suspended a bunch of keys on one side, and on
the other a tremendous string of beads. As soon as we got a
glimpse of her, we made our obeisances with all possible
reverence. She returned our salutation with similar good
breeding, but with an air of modesty, and eyes communing with the

I have been told, said my fellow servant, that the reverend the
Licentiate Sйdillo wants an honest lad, and I have one at his
service with whom he will be well satisfied. The superintendent
of the household turned up her eyes at these words with a
significant side glance at me; and, finding it difficult to
reconcile my laced jacket with Fabricio's exordium, asked if it
was this fine gentleman who was come after the place. Yes, said
the son of Nunez, it is this interesting and engaging youth. Just
as you see him, the ups and downs of this transitory life have
compelled him to wear an epaulette: but fate will have made him
ample amends, added he with an affected languish, if he is so
happy as to be an inmate here, and to profit by the society of
the virtuous Jacintha. The patriarch of the Indies might have
sighed for the virtuous Jacintha at the head of his
establishment. At these words, this withered branch of piety
withdrew her penetrating regards from me, to contemplate this
courteous spokesman. Struck with certain lines which were not new
to her, in his face, I have some floating idea of having seen you
before, said she; but my memory wants a lift. Holy Jacintha,
replied Fabricio, it is enough for me to have been blessed with
your pious notice. Twice have I been under this venerable roof
with my master, Signor Manuel Ordonnez, governor of the hospital.
Ah! just so, answered the lady chamberlain, I recollect! You are
an old acquaintance. Well-a-day now! Your very belonging to
Signor Ordonnez is enough to prove you a youth of merit and
strict propriety. A servant is known by his place, and this lad
could not have had a better sponsor. Come along with me; I will
introduce you to Signor Sйdillo. I am sure he will be glad to
engage a lad at your recommendation.

We followed Dame Jacintha. The canon lived in the lower part of
the house, in a comfortable suite of wainscotted apartments. She
begged us to wait a moment in the anti-chamber, while she went
into the licentiate's room. After some private parley with him,
merely that he might know what he was about, she came to tell us
we might walk in. We kenned the old cripple, immersed in an elbow
chair, with a pillow under his head, cushions under his arms, and
his legs supported on a large stool, stuffed with down. We were
no niggards of our bows as we advanced; and Fabricio, still
taking the lead, not only repeated over again what he had said to
the housekeeper, but set about extolling my merit, and expatiated
in an especial manner on the honours I had gained in the schools
under Doctor Godinez on all metaphysical questions: as if it was
necessary for a prebendary's footman to be as learned as his
master. However that might be, it served as a tub to the whale.
Besides, Dame Jacintha did not look forbidding, and my surety
received the following answer: Friend, I receive into my service
the lad you recommend. I like him well enough; and as for his
morals, they cannot be much amiss, since he presents himself
under the wing of a domestic belonging to Signor Ordonnez.

As soon as Fabricio saw me safe landed, he made a low bow to the
prebendary, a still lower to the lady, and withdrew in high good
humour, whispering in my ear that we should meet again, and that
I had only to make good my footing. As soon as he had left the
room, the licentiate inquired my name, why I had left my native
place; and drew me on by his questions to relate my adventures
before Dame Jacintha. They were both highly amused, above all by
my last rencounter. Camilla and Don Raphael gave such play to
their risible muscles, that I thought old chalkstone would have
burst: for, as he laughed with all his might, so violent a cough
laid hold of him, as went very near to have carried him off. His
will was not made. What an alarm for the housekeeper! Trembling,
distracted, off she flew to the good man's succour, and just like
a nurse with a puking child, paddled about his forehead and
tapped him on the back. Luckily it was a false alarm; the old
gentleman left off coughing, and the housekeeper tormenting him.
When it was over, I was for going on with my narrative; but Dame
Jacintha, in awe of a second fit, set herself against it. She
therefore took me with her out of the room to a ward robe, where,
among several suits, was that of my predecessor. This I was to
take, and leave my own in its room, which I was not sorry to see
laid up safe, in the hope it might be of further use. After this,
we went together to get dinner ready.

I knew what I was about in the art of dressing meat. Dame
Leonarda, with whom I had served my time, might have passed for a
very decent plain cook; but a mere turnspit to dame Jacintha. The
latter might almost have borne away the bell from the archbishop
of Toledo's man. She was mistress of everything; gravy soups, of
the most delicious texture and relish; and, for made dishes, she
could season them up or soften them down to the most delicate or
voluptuous palate. At dinner-time we returned to his reverence's
apartment. While I was arranging the grand concern close by his
arm-chair, the lady of all work crammed a napkin under the old
boy's chin, and pinned it behind his back. Without losing a
moment, in marched I with a stew, fit to be set before the first
gourmand in Madrid, and two courses, to have tickled the gills of
a viceroy, only that Dame Jacintha had touched the spice-box with
discretion, for fear of exasperating the gout. At the first
glimpse of this goodly mess, my old master, whom I conceived to
have lost the use of his limbs, made me to understand that his
arms were exempted from the interdict He availed himself of their
assistance, to get clear of his pillow and cushions, and
proceeded gaily to the attack. His hand shook, to be sure; but
somehow or other it contrived to do its duty. He sent it
backwards and forwards fast enough; though it brought but half
its cargo to the landing-place at a lading: the table cloth and
napkin took toll. I carried off the soup when he had done, and
brought in a partridge flanked by two roast quails, which Dame
Jacintha cut up for him. She took care to make him take a good
draught of wine, a little lowered at proper intervals, out of a
large, deep, silver cup, which she held to his mouth, as if he
had been an infant. He winged the partridge, and came down slap-
dash upon all the rest of the dishes. When he had done cramming,
that saint of the saucepan unpinned his napkin, reinstated his
pillow and cushions; then, leaving him composed in his arm-chair
to the enjoyment of his usual nap after dinner, we took away, and
demolished the remainder with appetites worthy of our master.

The dinner of to-day was the ordinary bill of fare. Our canon
played the best knife and fork in the chapter. But the supper was
a mere bauble; seldom more than a chicken and a little
confectionery. I larded my inside in this house, and led a good
easy life. There was but one awkward circumstance; and that was
sitting up with my master, to save the expense of a nurse.
Besides a strangury, which kept him on the fidget ten times in an
hour, he was very much given to perspire; and in that event, I
shifted him. Gil Blas, said he, on the second night, you are an
active, clever fellow; I foresee that we shall jog on very well
together. I only just give you a hint to keep in with Dame
Jacintha; the girl has been about me for these fifteen years, and
manages all my little matters; she comforts my outward man, and I
cannot do too much for her. For that reason, you are to know,
that she is more to me than all my family. There is my nephew, my
own sister's son; why, I have turned him out of doors, only to
please her. He had no regard for the poor lass: and so far from
giving her credit for all her little assiduities, the saucy
rascal swore she did not care a farthing for me! But now-a-days,
young people think virtue and gratitude all a farce. Heaven be
praised, I am rid of the varlet. What claim has blood, in
comparison with unquestionable attachment? I am influenced by a
give-and-take principle in my connections. You are right, sir,
replied I; gratitude ought to be the first thing, and natural
affection the last. Ay! resumed he; and my will shall be a
comment on that text. My housekeeper shall be residuary legatee;
and you shall have a corner in a codicil, if you go on as well as
you have begun. The footman I turned off yesterday has lost a
good legacy, by not knowing where to hit the right nail on the
head. If the blockhead had not obliged me, by his ill behaviour,
to send him packing, I would have made a man of him: but the
beggar on horseback gave himself airs to Dame Jacintha! Then
master lazy-bones did not like sitting up! I might pass the night
as I could, provided he had no trouble with me. Oh! the unfeeling
scoundrel! exclaimed I, in the true spirit of Fabricio, he was
not a man to be about so good a master. The lad for your money
should be a humble, but confidential friend; he should not make a
toil of what ought to be a pleasure, but think nothing of going
through fire and water for your ease.

These professions were not lost upon the licentiate. Neither were
my assurances of due submission to Dame Jacintha's authority less
acceptable. Puffing myself off for a servant, who was not afraid
of work, I got through my business as cheerfully as I could. I
never complained of my nursery. Though to be sure it was irksome
enough; and if the legacy had not settled my stomach, I should
have sickened at the nature of my employment. It is true I got
some hours' rest during the day. The housekeeper, to do her
justice, was kind enough to me; owing to the insinuating manner
in which I wormed myself into her good graces. Suppose me at
table, with her and her niece Inйsilla! I changed their plates,
filled their glasses, never thought of my own dinner before they
had everything they wanted. This was the way to thrive in their
esteem. One day when Dame Jacintha was gone to market, finding
myself alone with Inйsilla, I began to make myself agreeable.
Were her father and mother alive? Oh! no, answered she; they have
been dead this long, long time; for my good aunt says they have,
and I have never seen them. I religiously believed the little
innocent, though her answer was not of the clearest; and she got
into such an humour of talking, as to tell me more than I wanted
to know. She informed me, or rather I inferred it from her
artless simplicity, that her good aunt had a good friend, who
lived likewise with an old canon. The temporalities of the church
were under his administration; and these lucky domestics reckoned
upon entwining the spoils of their masters round the pillars of
the hymeneal temple, into whose sanctuary they had penetrated by
anticipation. Dame Jacintha, as I have said before, though a
little stricken in years, had still some bloom. To be sure, she
spared no pains to cherish it: besides daily evacuations, she
took plentiful doses of all-powerful jelly. She got her sleep in
the night too, while I sat up with my master. But what perhaps
contributed most to the freshness of this everlasting flower, was
an issue in each leg, of which I should never have known, but for
that blab Inйsilla.

CH. II. -- The canon's illness; his treatment; the consequence;
the legacy to Gil Blas.

I STAID three months with the Licentiate Sйdillo, without
complaining of bad nights. At the end of that time he fell sick.
The distemper was a fever; and it inflamed the gout For the first
time in his life, which had been long, he called in a physician.
Doctor Sangrado was sent for; the Hippocrates of Valladolid. Dame
Jacintha was for sending for the lawyer first, and touched that
string; but the patient thought it was time enough, and had a
little will of his own upon some points. Away I went therefore
for Doctor Sangrado; and brought him with me. A tall, withered,
wan executioner of the sisters three, who had done all their
justice for at least these forty years! This learned forerunner
of the undertaker had an aspect suited to his office: his words
were weighed to a scruple; and his jargon sounded grand in the
ears of the uninitiated. His arguments were mathematical
demonstrations: and his opinions had the merit of originality.

After studying my master's symptoms, he began with medical
solemnity: The question here is, to remedy an obstructed
perspiration. Ordinary practitioners, in this case, would follow
the old routine of salines, diuretics, volatile salts, sulphur
and mercury; but purges and sudorifics are a deadly practice!
Chemical preparations are edged tools in the hands of the
ignorant. My methods are more simple, and more efficacious. What
is your usual diet? I live pretty much upon soups, replied the
canon, and eat my meat with a good deal of gravy. Soups and
gravy! exclaimed the petrified doctor. Upon my word, it is no
wonder you are ill. High living is a poisoned bait; a trap set by
sensuality, to cut short the days of wretched man. We must have
done with pampering our appetites: the more insipid, the more
wholesome. The human blood is not a gravy! Why then you must give
it such a nourishment as will assimilate with the particles of
which it is composed. You drink wine, I warrant you? Yes, said
the licentiate, but diluted. Oh! finely diluted, I dare say,
rejoined the physician. This is licentiousness with a vengeance!
A frightful course of feeding! Why, you ought to have died years
ago. How old are you? I am in my sixty-ninth year, replied the
canon. So I thought, quoth the practitioner, a premature old age
is always the consequence of in temperance. If you had only drank
clear water all your life, and had been contented with plain
food, boiled apples for instance, you would not have been a
martyr to the gout, and your limbs would have performed their
functions with lubricity. But I do not despair of setting you on
your legs again, provided you give yourself up to my management.
The licentiate promised to be upon his good behaviour.

Sangrado then sent me for a surgeon of his own choosing, and took
from him six good porringers of blood, by way of a beginning, to
remedy this obstinate obstruction. He then said to the surgeon;
Master Martin Onez, you will take as much more three hours hence,
and to-morrow you will repeat the operation. It is a mere vulgar
error, that the blood is of any use in the system; the faster you
draw it off the better. A patient has nothing to do but to keep
himself quiet; with him, to live is merely not to die; he has no
more occasion for blood than a man in a trance; in both cases,
life consists exclusively in pulsation and respiration. When the
doctor had ordered these frequent and copious bleedings, he added
a drench of warm water at very short intervals, maintaining that
water in sufficient quantities was the grand secret in the
materia medica. He then took his leave, telling Dame Jacintha and
me, with an air of confidence, that he would answer for the
patient's life, if his system was fairly pursued. The
housekeeper, though protesting secretly against this new
practice, bowed to his superior authority. In fact, we set on the
kettles in a hurry; and, as the physician had desired us above
all things to give him enough, we began with pouring down two or
three pints at as many gulps. An hour after we beset him again;
then, returning to the attack time after time, we fairly poured a
deluge into his poor stomach The surgeon, on the other hand,
taking out the blood as we put in the water, we reduced the old
canon to death's door in less than two days.

This venerable ecclesiastic, able to hold it out no longer, as I
pledged him in a large glass of his new cordial, said to me in a
faint voice -- Hold, Gil Blas, do not give me any more, my
friend. It is plain death will come when he will come, in spite
of water; and, though I have hardly a drop of blood in my veins,
I am no better for getting rid of the enemy. The ablest physician
in the world can do nothing for us, when our time is expired.
Fetch a notary; I will make my will. At these last words,
pleasing enough to my fancy, I affected to appear unhappy; and
concealing my impatience to be gone: Sir, said I, you are not
reduced so low, thank God, but you may yet recover. No, no,
interrupted he, my good fellow, it is all over. I feel the gout
shifting, and the hand of death is upon me. Make haste, and go
where I told you. I saw, sure enough, that he changed every
moment: and the case was so urgent, that I ran as fast as I
could, leaving him in Dame Jacintha's care, who was more afraid
than myself of his dying without a will. I laid hold of the first
notary I could find; Sir, said I, the Licentiate Sйdillo, my
master, is drawing near his end; he wants to settle his affairs;
there is not a moment to be lost. The notary was a dapper little
fellow, who loved his joke; and inquired who was our physician.
At the name of Doctor Sangrado, hurrying on his cloak and hat:
For mercy's sake! cried he, let us set off with all possible
speed; for this doctor dispatches business so fast, that our
fraternity cannot keep pace with him. That fellow spoils half my

With this sarcasm, he set forward in good earnest, and, as we
pushed on, to get the start of the grim tyrant, I said to him:
Sir, you are aware that a dying testator's memory is sometimes a
little short; should my master chance to for get me, be so good
as to put in a word in my favour. That I will, my lad, replied
the little proctor; you may rely on it. I will urge something
handsome, if I have an opportunity. The licentiate, on our
arrival, had still all his faculties about him. Dame Jacintha was
by his bedside, laying in her tears by wholesale. She had played
her game, and bespoken a handsome remembrance. We left the notary
alone with my master, and went together into the anti-chamber,
where we met the surgeon, sent by the physician for another and a
last experiment. We laid hold of him. Stop, Master Martin, said
the housekeeper, you cannot go into Signor Sйdillo's room just
now. He is giving his last orders; but you may bleed away when
the will is made.

We were terribly afraid, this pious gentlewoman and I, lest the
licentiate should go off with his will half finished; but by good
luck, the important deed was executed. We saw the proctor come
out, who, finding me on the watch, slapped me on the shoulder,
and said with a simper: Gil Blas is not forgotten. At these
words, I felt the must lively joy; and was so well pleased with
my master for his kind notice, that I promised myself the
pleasure of praying for his soul after death, which event
happened anon; for the surgeon having bled him once more, the
poor old man, quite exhausted, gave up the ghost under the
lancet. Just as he was breathing his last, the physician made his
appearance, and looked a little foolish, notwithstanding the
universality of his death-bed experience. Yet far from imputing
the accident to the new practice, he walked off, affirming with
intrepidity, that it was owing to their having been too lenient
with the lancet, and too chary of their warm water. The medical
executioner, I mean the surgeon, seeing that his functions also
were at an end, followed Doctor Sangrado.

As soon as we saw the breath out of our patron's body, Dame
Jacintha, Inйsilla, and myself, joined in a decent chorus of
funeral lamentation, loud enough to produce a proper effect in
the neighbourhood. The emblem of a life to come, though she had
more reason than any of us to rejoice, took the soprano part, and
screamed out her afflictions in a most pathetic manner. The room
in an instant was crowded with people, attracted less by
compassion than curiosity. The relations of the deceased no
sooner got wind of his departure than they pounced down upon the
premises, and sealed up everything. From the housekeeper's
distreess they thought there was no will; but they soon found
their mistake, and that there was one without a flaw. When it was
opened, and they learned the disposition of the testator's
principal property, in favour of Dame Jacintha and the little
girl, they pronounced his funeral oration in terms not a little
disparaging to his memory. They gave a broad apostrophe at the
same time to the godly legatee, and a few blessings to me in my
turn. It must be owned I had earned them. The licentiate, heaven
reward him for it, to secure my remembrances through life,
expressed himself thus in a paragraph of his will -- Item, as
Gil Blas has already some little smattering of literature, to
encourage his studious habits, I give and bequeath to him my
library, all my books and my manuscripts, without any drawback or

I could not conceive where this said library might be; I had
never seen any. I only knew of some papers, with five or six
bound books, on two little deal shelves in my master's closet;
and that was my legacy. The books too could be of no great use to
me; the title of one was, The complete Man Cook; another, A
Treatise on Indigestion, with the Methods of Cure; the rest were
the four parts of the breviary, half eaten up by the worms. In
the article of manuscripts, the most curious consisted of
documents relating to a lawsuit in which the prebendary was once
engaged for his stall. After having examined my legacy with more
minuteness than it deserved, I made over my right and title to
these invidious relations. I even renounced my livery, and took
back my own suit, claiming my wages as my only reward. I then
went to look out for another place. As for Dame Jacintha, besides
her residue under the will, she had some snug little articles,
which, by the help of her good friend, she had appropriated to
her own use during the last illness of the licentiate.

CH. III. -- Gil Blas enters into Doctor Sangrado's service, and
becomes a famous practitioner.

I DETERMINED to throw myself in the way of Signor Arias de
Londona, and to look out for a new berth in his register; but as
I was on my way to No Thoroughfare, who should come across me but
Doctor Sangrado, whom I had not seen since the day of my master's
death. I took the liberty of touching my hat. He kenned me in a
twinkling, though I had changed my dress; and with as much warmth
as his temperament would allow him; Hey day! said he, the very
lad I wanted to see; you have never been out of my thought. I
have occasion for a clever fellow about me, and pitched upon you
as the very thing, if you can read and write. Sir, replied I, if
that is all you require, I am your man. In that case, rejoined
he, we need look no further. Come home with me; it will be all
comfort: I shall behave to you like a brother. You will have no
wages, but everything will be found you. You shall eat and drink
according to the true faith, and be taught to cure all diseases.
In a word, you shall rather be my young Sangrado than my footman.

I closed in with the doctor's proposal, in the hope of becoming
an Esculapius under so inspired a master. He carried me home on
the spur of the occasion, to instal me in my honourable
employment; which honourable employment consisted in writing down
the name and residence of the patients who sent for him in his
absence. There had indeed been a register for this purpose, kept
by an old domestic; but she had not the gift of spelling
accurately, and wrote a most perplexing hand. This account I was
to keep. It might truly be called a bill of mortality; for my
members all went from bad to worse during the short time they
continued in this system. I was a sort of book-keeper for the
other world, to take places in the stage, and to see that the
first come were the first served. My pen was always in my hand,
for Doctor Sangrado had more practice than any physician of his
time in Valladolid. He had got into reputation with the public by
a certain professional slang, humoured by a medical face, and
some extraordinary cases, more honoured by implicit faith than
scrupulous investigation.

He was in no want of patients, nor consequently of property. He
did not keep the best house in the world; we lived with some
little attention to economy. The usual bill of fare consisted of
peas, beans, boiled apples or cheese. He considered this food as
best suited to the human stomach, that is to say, as most
amenable to the grinders, whence it was to encounter the process
of digestion. Nevertheless, easy as was their passage, he was not
for stopping the way with too much of them: and, to be sure, he
was in the right. But though he cautioned the maid and me against
repletion in respect of solids, it was made up by free permission
to drink as much water as we liked. Far from prescribing us any
limits there, he would tell us sometimes -- Drink, my children;
health consists in the pliability and moisture of the parts.
Drink water by pails full, it is a universal dissolvent; water
liquefies all the salts. Is the course of the blood a little
sluggish? this grand principle sets it forward: too rapid? its
career is checked. Our doctor was so orthodox on this head, that
he drank nothing himself but water, though advanced in years. He
defined old age to be a natural consumption which dries us up and
wastes us away: on this principle, he deplored the ignorance of
those who call wine old men's milk. He maintained that wine wears
them out and corrodes them, and pleaded with all the force of
eloquence against that liquor, fatal in common both to the young
and old, that friend with a serpent in its bosom, that pleasure
with a dagger under its girdle.

In spite of these fine arguments, at the end of a week a
looseness ensued, with some twinges, which I was blasphemous
enough to saddle on the universal dissolvent, and the new-
fashioned diet. I stated my symptoms to my master, in the hope he
would relax the rigour of his regimen, and qualify my meals with
a little wine, but his hostility to that liquor was inflexible.
If you have not philosophy enough, said he, for pure water, there
are innocent infusions to strengthen the stomach against the
nausea of aqueous quaffings. Sage, for example, has a very pretty
flavour: and if you wish to heighten it into a debauch, it is
only mixing rosemary, wild poppy, and other simples, but no

In vain did he crack off his water, and teach me the secret of
composing delicious messes. I was so abstemious, that, remarking
my moderation, he said -- In good sooth, Gil Blas, I marvel not
that you are no better than you are; you do not drink enough, my
friend. Water taken in a small quantity serves only to separate
the particles of bile and set them in action; but our practice is
to drown them in a copious drench, Fear not, my good lad, lest a
superabundance of liquid should either weaken or chill your
stomach; far from thy better judgment be that silly fear of
unadulterated drink. I will ensure you against all consequences;
and if my authority will not serve your turn, read Celsus. That
oracle of the ancients makes an admirable panegyric on water; in
short, he says in plain terms that those who plead an inconstant
stomach in favour of wine, publish a libel on their own bowels,
and make their organization a pretence for their sensuality.

As it would have been ungenteel in me to have run riot on my
entrance into the career of practice, I affected thorough
conviction; indeed, I thought there was something in it. I
therefore went on drinking water on the authority of Celsus, or,
to speak in scientific terms, I began to drown the bile in
copious drenches of that unadulterated liquor; and though I felt
myself more out of order from day to day, prejudice won the cause
against experience. It is evident, therefore, that I was in the
right road to the practice of physic. Yet I could not always be
insensible to the qualms which increased in my frame, to that
degree, as to determine me on quitting Doctor Sangrado. But he
invested me with a new office which changed my tone. Hark you, my
child, said he to me one day, I am not one of those hard and
ungrateful masters, who leave their household to grow grey in
service without a suitable reward. I am well pleased with you, I
have a regard for you, and without waiting till you have served
your time, I will make your fortune. Without more ado, I will
initiate you in the healing art, of which I have for so many
years been at the head. Other physicians make the science to
consist of various unintelligible branches; but I will shorten
the road for you, and dispense with the drudgery of studying
natural philosophy, pharmacy, botany, and anatomy. Remember, my
friend, that bleeding and drinking warm water are the two grand
principles; the true secret of curing all the distempers incident
to humanity. Yes, this marvellous secret which I reveal to you,
and which nature, beyond the reach of my colleagues, has failed
in rescuing from my pen, is comprehended in these two articles --
namely, bleeding and drenching. Here you have the sum total of my
philosophy; you are thoroughly bottomed in medicine, and may
raise yourself to the summit of fame on the shoulders of my long
experience. You may enter into partnership at once, by keeping
the books in the morning, and going out to visit patients in the
afternoon. While I dose the nobility and clergy, you shall labour
in your vocation among the lower orders; and when you have felt
your ground a little, I will get you admitted into our body. You
are a philosopher, Gil Blas, though you have never graduated; the
common herd of them, though they have graduated in due form and
order, are likely to run out the length of their tether without
knowing their right hand from their left.

I thanked the doctor for having so speedily enabled me to serve
as his deputy; and, by way of acknowledging his goodness,
promised to follow his system to the end of my career, with a
magnanimous indifference about the aphorisms of Hippocrates. But
that engagement was not to be taken to the letter. This tender
attachment to water went against the grain, and I had a scheme
for drinking wine every day snugly among the patients. I left off
wearing my own suit a second time, to take up one of my master's,
and look like an inveterate practitioner. After which I brought
my medical theories into play, leaving them to look to the event
whom it might concern. I began on an alguazil in a pleurisy; he
was condemned to be bled with the utmost rigour of the law, at
the same time that the system was to be replenished copiously
with water. Next I made a lodgment in the veins of a gouty
pastry-cook, who roared like a lion by reason of gouty spasms. I
stood on no more ceremony with his blood than with that of the
alguazil, and laid no restriction on his taste for simple
liquids. My prescriptions brought me in twelve rials; an incident
so auspicious in my professional career, that I only wished for
the plagues of Egypt on all the hale subjects of Valladolid. As I
was coming out of the pastry-cook's whom should I meet but
Fabricio, a total stranger since the death of the licentiate
Sйdillo! He looked at me with astonishment for some seconds; then
set up a laugh with all his might, and held his sides. He had no
reason to be grave, for I had a cloak trailing on the ground,
with a doublet and breeches of four times my natural dimensions.
I was certainly a complete original. I suffered him to make merry
as long as he liked, and could scarcely help joining in the
ridicule; but I kept a guard on my muscles to preserve a becoming
dignity in public, and the better to enact the physician, whose
part in society is not that of a buffoon. If the absurdity of my
appearance excited Fabricio's merriment, my affected gravity
added zest to it; and when he had nearly exhausted his lungs --
By all the powers, Gil Blas, quoth he, thou art in complete
masquerade. Who the devil has dressed you up in this manner? Fair
and softly, my friend, replied I, fair and softly, be a little on
your good behaviour with a modern Hippocrates. Understand me to
be the substitute of Doctor Sangrado, the most eminent physician
in Valladolid. I have lived with him these three weeks. He has
bottomed me thoroughly in medicine; and, as he cannot perform the
obsequies of all the patients who send for him, I visit a part of
them to take the burden off his conscience. He does execution in
great families, I among the vulgar. Vastly well, replied
Fabricio; that is to say, he grants you a lease on the blood of
the commonalty, but keeps to himself the fee-simple of the
fashionable world. I wish you joy of your lot; it is a pleasanter
line of practice among the populace than among great folk. Long
live a snug connection in the suburbs! a man's mistakes are
easily buried, and his murders elude all but God's revenge. Yes,
my brave boy, your destiny is truly enviable; in the language of
Alexander, were I not Fabricio, I could wish to be Gil Blas.

To show the son of Nunez, the barber, that he was not much out in
his reckoning on my present happiness, I chinked the fees of the
alguazil and the pastry-cook; and this was followed by an
adjournment to a tavern, to drink to their perfect recovery. The
wine was very fair, and my impatience for the well-known smack
made me think it better than it was. I took some good long
draughts, and without gainsaying the Latin oracle, in proportion
as I poured it into its natural reservoir, I felt my
accommodating entrails to owe me no grudge for the hard service
into which I pressed them. As for Fabricio and myself, we sat
some time in the tavern, making merry at the expense of our
masters, as servants are too much accustomed to do. At last,
seeing the night approach, we parted, after engaging to meet at
the same place on the following day after dinner.

CH. IV. -- Gil Blas goes on practising physic with equal success
and ability. Adventure of the recovered ring.

I WAS no sooner at home than Doctor Sangrado came in. I talked to
him about the patients I had seen, and paid into his hands eight
remaining rials of the twelve I had received for my
prescriptions. Eight rials! said he, as he counted them, mighty
little for two visits! But we must take things as we find them.
In the spirit of taking things as he found them, he laid violent
hands on six, giving me the other two -- Here, Gil Blas,
continued he, see what a foundation to build upon. I make over to
you the fourth of all you may bring me. You will soon feather
your nest, my friend; for, by the blessing of Providence, there
will be a great deal of ill health this year.

I had reason to be content with my dividend; since, having
determined to keep back the third part of what I received in my
rounds, and afterwards touching another fourth of the remainder,
half of the whole, if arithmetic is anything more than a
deception, would become my perquisite. This inspired me with new
zeal for my profession. The next day, as soon as I had dined, I
resumed my medical paraphernalia, and took the field once more. I
visited several patients on the list, and treated their several
complaints in one invariable routine. Hitherto things went on
under the rose, and no individual, thank heaven, had risen up in
rebellion against my prescriptions. But let a physician's cures
be as

extraordinary as they will, some quack or other is always ready
to rip up his reputation. I was called in to a grocer's son in a
dropsy. Whom should I find there before me but a little black-
looking physician, by name Doctor Cuchillo, introduced by a
relation of the family. I bowed round most profoundly, but dipped
lowest to the personage whom I took to have been invited to a
consultation with me. He returned my compliment with a distant
air; then, having stared me in the face for a few seconds --
Signor Doctor, said he, I beg pardon for being inquisitive, I
thought I had been acquainted with all my brethren in Valladolid,
but I confess your physiognomy is altogether new. You must have
been settled but a short time in town. I avowed myself a young
practitioner, acting as yet under the direction of Doctor
Sangrado. I wish you joy, replied he politely, you are studying
under a great man. You must doubtless have seen a vast deal of
sound practice, young as you appear to be, He spoke this with so
easy an assurance, that I was at a loss whether he meant it
seriously, or was laughing at me. While I was conning over my
reply, the grocer, seizing on the opportunity, said --
Gentlemen, I am persuaded of your both being perfectly competent
in your art; have the goodness without ado to take the case in
hand, and devise some effectual means for the restoration of my
son's health.

Thereupon the little pulse-counter set himself about reviewing
the patient's situation; and after having dilated to me on all
the symptoms, asked me what I thought the fittest method of
treatment. I am of opinion, replied I, that he should be bled
once a day, and drink as much warm water as he can swallow. At
these words, our diminutive doctor said to me with a malicious
simper -- And so you think such a course will save the patient?
Never doubt it, exclaimed I in a confident tone; it must produce
that effect, because it is a certain method of cure for all
distempers. Ask Signor Sangrado. At that rate, retorted he,
Celsus is altogether in the wrong; for he contends that the
readiest way to cure a dropsical subject is to let him almost die
of hunger and thirst. Oh! as for Celsus, interrupted I, he is no
oracle of mine, as fallible as the meanest of us; I often have
occasion to bless myself for going contrary to his dogmas. I
discover by your language, said Cuchillo, the safe and sure
method of practice Doctor Sangrado instils into his pupils.
Bleeding and drenching are the extent of his resources. No wonder
so many worthy people are cut off under his direction . . . . No
defamation! interrupted I with some acrimony; a member of the
faculty had better not begin throwing stones. Come, come, my
learned doctor, patients can get to the other world without
bleeding and warm water; and I question whether the most deadly
of us has ever signed more passports than yourself. If you have
any crow to pluck with Signor Sangrado, write against him, he
will answer you, and we shall soon see who will have the best of
the battle. By all the saints in the calendar! swore he, in a
transport of passion, you little know whom you are talking to. I
have a tongue and a fist, my friend; and am not afraid of
Sangrado, who, with all his arrogance and affectation, is but a
ninny. The size of the little death-dealer made me hold his anger
cheap. I gave him a sharp retort; he sent back as good as I
brought, till at last we came to cuffs. We had pulled a few
handfuls of hair from each other's heads before the grocer and
his kinsman could part us. When they had brought this about, they
feed me for my attendance, and retained my antagonist, whom they
thought the more skilful of the two.

Another adventure succeeded close on the heels of this. I went to
see a huge chanter in a fever. As soon as he heard me talk of
warm water, he showed himself so averse to this specific, as to
fall into a fit of swearing. He abused me in all possible shapes,
and threatened to throw me out at window. I was in a greater
hurry to get out of his house than to get in. I did not choose to
see any more patients that day, and repaired to the inn where I
had agreed to meet Fabricio. He was there first. As we found
ourselves in a tippling humour, we drank hard, and returned to
our employers in a pretty pickle, that is to say, so-so in the
upper story. Signor Sangrado was not aware of my being drunk,
because he took the lively gestures which accompanied the
relation of my quarrel with the little doctor, for an effect of
the agitation not yet subsided after the battle. Besides, he came
in for his share in my report; and feeling himself nettled by
Cuchillo -- You have done well, Gil Blas, said he, to defend the
character of our practice against this little abortion of the
faculty. So he takes upon him to set his face against watery
drenches in dropsical cases? An ignorant fellow! I maintain, I
do, in my own person, that the use of them may be reconciled to
the best theories. Yes, water is a cure for all sorts of
dropsies, just as it is good for rheumatisms and the green
sickness. It is excellent, too, in those fevers where the effect
is at once to parch and to chill, and even miraculous in those
disorders ascribed to cold, thin, phlegmatic, and pituitous
humours. This opinion may seem strange to young practitioners
like Cuchillo; but it is right orthodox in the best and soundest
systems: so that if persons of that description were capable of
taking a philosophical view, instead of crying me down, they
would become my most zealous advocates.

In his rage, he never suspected me of drinking: for, to
exasperate him still more against the little doctor, I had thrown
into my recital some circumstances of my own addition. Yet,
engrossed as he was by what I had told him, he could not help
taking notice that I drank more water than usual that evening.

In fact, the wine had made me very thirsty. Any one but Sangrado
would have distrusted my being so very dry, as to swallow down
glass after glass: but as for him, he took it for granted, in the
simplicity of his heart, that I began to acquire a relish for
aqueous potations. Apparently, Gil Blas, said he with a gracious
smile, you have no longer such a dislike to water. As heaven is
my judge! you quaff it off like nectar. It is no wonder, my
friend, I was certain you would take a liking to that liquor.
Sir, replied I, there is a tide in the affairs of men: with my
present lights, I would give all the wine in Valladolid for a
pint of water. This answer delighted the doctor, who would not
lose so fine an opportunity of expatiating on the excellence of
water. He undertook to ring the changes once more in its praise,
not like a hireling pleader, but as an enthusiast in the cause. A
thousand times, exclaimed he, a thousand and a thousand times of
greater value, as being more innocent than our modern taverns,
were those baths of ages past, whither the people went not
shamefully to squander their fortunes and expose their lives, by
swilling themselves with wine, but assembled there for the decent
and economical amusement of drinking warm water. It is difficult
enough to admire the patriotic forecast of those ancient
politicians, who established places of public resort, where water
was dealt out gratis to all comers, and who confined wine to the
shops of the apothecaries, that its use might be prohibited but
under the direction of physicians. What a stroke of wisdom! It is
doubtless to preserve the seeds of that antique frugality,
emblematic of the golden age, that persons are found to this day,
like you and me, who drink nothing but water, and are persuaded
they possess a prevention or a cure for every ailment, provided
our warm water has never boiled; for I have observed that water,
when it has boiled, is heavier, and sits less easily on the

While he was holding forth thus eloquently, I was in danger more
than once of splitting my sides with laughing. But I contrived to
keep my countenance: nay, more; to chime in with the doctor's
theory. I found fault with the use of wine, and pitied mankind
for having contracted an untoward relish to so pernicious a
beverage. Then, finding my thirst not sufficiently allayed, I
filled a large goblet with water, and after having swilled it
like a horse: Come, sir, said I to my master, let us drink
plentifully of this beneficial liquor. Let us make those early
establishments of dilution you so much regret, to live again in
your house. He clapped his hands in ecstacy at these words, and
preached to me for a whole hour about suffering no liquid but
water to pass my lips. To confirm the habit, I promised to drink
a large quantity every evening; and, to keep my word with less
violence to my private inclinations, I went to bed with a
determined purpose of going to the tavern every day.

The trouble I had got into at the grocer's did not discourage me
from phlebotomizing and prescribing warm water in the usual
course. Coming out of a house where I had been visiting a poet in
a phrenzy, I was accosted in the street by an old woman who came
up and asked me if I was a physician. I said yes. As that is the
case, replied she, I entreat you with all humility to go along
with me. My niece has been ill since yesterday, and I cannot
conceive what is the matter with her. I followed the old lady to
her house, where I was shown into a very decent room, occupied by
a female who kept her bed. I went near, to consider her case. Her
features struck me from the first; and I discovered beyond the
possibility of a mistake, after having looked at her some little
time, the she-adventurer who had played the part of Camilla so
adroitly. For her part, she did not seem to recollect me at all,
whether from the oppression of her disorder, or from my dress as
a physician rendering me not easy to be known again. I took her
by the hand, to feel her pulse; and saw my ring upon her finger.
I was all in a twitter at the discovery of a valuable, on which I
had a claim both in law and equity. Great was my longing to make
a snatch at it; but considering that these fair ones would set up
a great scream, and that Don Raphael or some other defender of
injured innocence might rush in to their rescue, I laid an
embargo on my privateering. I thought it best to come by my own
in an honest way, and to consult Fabricio about the means. To
this last course I stuck. In the mean time the old woman urged me
to inform her with what disease her niece was troubled. I was not
fool enough to own my ignorance; on the contrary, I took upon
myself as a man of science, and after my master's example,
pronounced solemnly that the disorder accrued to the patient from
the defect of natural perspiration; that consequently she must
lose blood as soon as possible, because if we could not open one
pore, we always open another: and I finished my prescription with
warm water, to do the thing methodically.

I shortened my visit as much as possible, and ran to the son of
Nunez, whom I met just as he was going out on an errand for his
master. I told him my new adventure, and asked his advice about
laying an information against Camilla. Pooh! Nonsense! replied
he; that would not be the way to get your ring again. Those
gentry think restitution double trouble. Call to mind your
imprisonment at Astorga; your horse, your money, your very
clothes, did not they all centre in the hands of justice? We must
rather set our wits to work for the recovery of your diamond. I
take on myself the charge of inventing some stratagem for that
purpose. I will deliberate it in my way to the hospital, where I
have to say but two words from my master to the purveyor. Do you
wait for me at our house of call, and do not be on the fret: I
will be with you shortly.

I had waited, however, more than three hours at the appointed
place, when he arrived. I did not know him again at first.
Besides that he had changed his dress and platted his hair, a
pair of false whiskers covered half his face. He wore an immense
sword with a hilt of at least three feet in circumference, and
marched at the head of five men of as swaggering an air as
himself, with bushy whiskers and long rapiers. Good day to you,
Signor Gil Blas, said he by way of salutation; behold an alguazil
upon a new construction, and marshalmen of like materials in
these brave fellows my companions. We have only to be shown where
the woman lodges who purloined the diamond, and we will obtain
restitution, take my word for it. I hugged Fabricio at this
discourse, which let me into the plot, and testified loudly my
approval of the expedient. I paid my respects also to the
masquerading marshalmen. They were three servants and two
journeymen barbers of his acquaintance, whom he had engaged to
act this farce. I ordered wine to be served round to the
detachment, and we all went together at night-fall to Camilla's
residence. The door was shut, and we knocked. The old woman,
taking my companions to be on the scent of justice, and knowing
they would not come into that neighbourhood for nothing, was
terribly frightened. Cheer up again, good mother, said Fabricio;
we are only come here upon a little business which will be soon
settled. At these words we made our entry, and found our way to
the sick chamber, under the guidance of the old dowager who
walked before us, and by favour of a wax taper which she carried
in a silver candlestick. I took the light, went to the bed-side,
and, making Camilla take particular notice of my features,
Traitress, said I, call to mind the too credulous Gil Blas whom
you have deceived Ah! thou wickedness personified, at last I have
caught thee. The corregidor has taken down my deposition, and
ordered this alguazil to arrest you. Come, officer, said I to
Fabricio, do your duty. There is no need, replied he, swelling
his voice, to inflame my severity. The face of that wretch is not
new to me: she has long been marked with red letters in my
pocket-book. Get up, my princess, dress your royal person with
all possible dispatch. I will be your squire, and lodge you in
durance vile, if you have no objection.

At these words, Camilla, ill as she was, observing two marshalmen
with large whiskers ready to drag her out of bed by main force,
sat up of herself, clasped her hands in an attitude of
supplication; and looking at me ruefully, said, Signor Gil Blas,
have compassion on me: I call as a witness to my entreaties the
chaste mother whose virtues you inherit. Guilty as I am, my
misfortunes are greater than my crimes. I will give you back your
diamond, so do not be my ruin. Speaking to this effect, she drew
my ring from her finger, and gave it me back. But I told her my
diamond was not enough, and that she must refund the thousand
ducats they had embezzled in the ready-furnished lodging. Oh! as
for your ducats, replied she, ask me not about them. That false-
hearted deceiver, Don Raphael, whom I have not seen from that
time to this, carried them off the very same night. O ho! my
little darling, said Fabricio in his turn, that will not do, you
had a hand in the robbery, whether you went snacks in the profit
or no. You will not come off so cheaply. Your having been
accessory to Don Raphael's manoeuvres is enough to render you
liable to an examination. Your past life is very equivocal; and
you must have a good deal upon your conscience. You will have the
goodness, if you please, just to step into the town jail, and
there unburden yourself by a general confession. This good old
lady shall keep you company; it is hard if she cannot tell a
world of curious stories, such as Mr Corregidor will be delighted
to hear.

The two women, at these words, brought every engine of pity into
play to soften us. They filled the air with cries, complaints,
and lamentations. While the old woman on her knees, sometimes to
the alguazil and sometimes to his attendants, endeavoured. to
melt their stubborn hearts, Camilla implored me, in the most
touching terms, to save her from the hands of justice. I
pretended to relent. Officer, said I to the son of Nunez, since I
have got my diamond, I do not much care about anything else. It
would be no pleasure to me to be the means of pain to that poor
woman; I want not the death of a sinner. Out upon you, answered
he, you set up for humanity! you would make a bad tipstaff. I
must do my errand. My positive orders are to arrest these virgins
of the sun; his honour the corregidor means to make an example of
them. Nay! for mercy's sake, replied I, pay some little deference
to my wishes, and slacken a little of your severity, on the
ground of the present these ladies are on the point of offering
to your acceptance. Oh! that is another matter, rejoined he; that
is what you may call a figure of rhetoric suited to all
capacities and all occasions. Well, then, let us see, what have
they to give me? I have a pearl necklace, said Camilla, and drop
ear-rings of considerable value. Yes; but, interrupted he
roughly, if these articles are the produce of the Philippine
Isles, I will have none of them. You may take them in perfect
safety, replied she: I warrant them real. At the same time she
made the old woman bring a little box, whence she took out the
necklace and ear-rings, which she put within the grasp of this
incorruptible minister. Though he was much such a judge of
jewellery as myself, he had no doubt of the drops being real, as
well as the pearls. These trinkets, said he, after having looked
at them minutely, seem to be of good quality and fashion: and if
the silver candlestick is thrown into the bargain, I would not
answer for my own honesty. You had better not, said I in my turn
to Camilla, for a trifle, reject so moderate and fair a
composition. While uttering these words, I returned the taper to
the old woman, and handed the candlestick over to Fabricio, who,
stopping there because perhaps he espied nothing else that was
portable in the room, said to the two women: Farewell, my dainty
misses, set your hearts at rest, I will report you to his worship
the corregidor, as purer than unsmutched snow. We can turn him
round our finger; and never tell him the truth, but when we are
not paid for our lies.

CH. V. -- Sequel of the foregoing adventure. Gil Blas retires
from practice, and from the neighbourhood of Valladolid.

AFTER having thus carried Fabricio's plan into effect, we took
our leave of Camilla's lodging, hugging ourselves on a success
beyond our expectation; for we had only reckoned on the ring. We
carried off without ceremony all we could get besides. Far from
making it a point of conscience not to steal from a description
of ladies whose names are commonly associated with rogues, we
thought to cover some scores of other sins by so meritorious an
action. Gentle men, said Fabricio, when we were in the street, my
counsel is for returning to our tavern, and devoting the night to
a regale. To-morrow we will sell the candlestick, the necklace,
the drop ear-rings, and then share the prize money like brother
adventurers, after which every man shall tramp home again, and
make the best excuse he can to his master. His worship the
alguazil's idea seemed equally bright and judicious. We returned
rank and file to the tavern, some in the pious hope of finding a
plausible excuse for having slept abroad, others in a desperate
indifference about being turned out of doors without a character.

We ordered a good supper to be got ready, and sat down to table
with our physical and mental powers in full vigour. The relish
was heightened by a thousand pleasant anecdotes. Fabricio, of all
men in the world, having the happy knack of a chairman in a
company of jovial spirits, kept the table in a roar. There
escaped from him I know not how many charges of true Castilian
wit, worth more either in the schools of philosophy or the
exchange of commerce than the drug of Attic salt. While we were
in a full peal of laughter, we were made to laugh on the other
side of our mouths by an unforeseen occurrence. There appeared at
table a man of no contemptible prowess, followed by two other as
ill-looking dogs as ever existed. After this specimen we had
three others, and reckoned up to a dozen, marching in by
triplets. They were armed with carbines, swords, and bayonets. We
could not mistake their office, and were at no loss to guess
their business. At first we had a mind to be refractory; but they
beset us in an instant, and kept us under, as much by their
numbers as by their weapons. Gentlemen, said the captain
commandant in a jeering strain, I have been informed by what
ingenious artifice you have recovered a ring from the custody of
a lady no better than she should be. Undoubtedly, the device was
admirable, and well deserves a civic crown; the patriotism of our
police will not be found wanting. Justice, with her lodgings to
let for gentry of your description, will not be deficient in her
acknowledgments for so brilliant a display of genius. The company
to whom this introductory address was directed, looked a little
sheepish on the occasion. Our countenances fell; and Camilla had
her full revenge. Fabricio, however, though pale and puzzled,
made an attempt at a defence. Sir, said he, we did it in the
innocence of our hearts, and. of course we shall be forgiven this
not immoral fraud? What the devil, replied the commandant in a
rage, do you call this a not immoral fraud? Moral or immoral, it
may bring you to the gallows. Besides that the power of
restitution is too sacred to be assumed by the individual, you
have made away with a candlestick, a necklace, and a pair of drop
ear-rings: and what is worse, you have committed your rascalities
in the livery of the law. Scoundrels dressing them selves up like
the pillars of morality to undermine its very foundation! I shall
wish you much joy if you are condemned to nothing worse than
mowing the salt marsh. When he had impressed it on our
convictions that the affair was even more serious than our first
fears, we threw ourselves on his mercy, and implored him to have
pity on our tender years, but his stubborn heart was relentless.
He rejected moreover the proposal of relinquishing the necklace,
ear-rings, and candlestick; nay, he was deaf to the rhetoric of
my ring: perhaps because I offered it before too many witnesses:
in short, he was the most obdurate dog of his kennel. He ordered
my companions to be handcuffed, and sent us in a body to the
public prison. As we were on our way, one of the marshalmen
acquainted me that Camilla's old vixen, suspecting us not to be
licensed scouts of justice, had dogged us to the tavern; and
having satisfied her doubts, in revenge informed against us to
the patrole.

We were searched in the first instance. Away went the necklace,
the ear rings, and the candlestick. They picked my pocket of my
ring, and my ruby of the Philippine Isles; without even sparing
the few fees I had received in the forenoon for my prescriptions:
so that it was plain trade was carried on by the same firm at
Valladolid as at Astorga, and that all these reformers held the
same creed. While they rifled me of my trinkets and money, the
lord in waiting of the patrole made known our adventure to the
inferior agents of legal rapine. The trespass appeared so
audacious that the majority voted it capital. A few kind souls
were of opinion that we might come off for two hundred lashes a
piece, with a few years on board the galleys. Waiting his
worship's sentence, we were locked up in a cell, where we lay
upon straw, spread over our stable like a litter for horses.
There might we have foddered for an age, and at last have been
turned out to grass in the galleys, if on the morrow Signor
Manuel Ordonnez had not got wind of our affair, and determined to
release Fabricio; which he could not do without making a general
gaol delivery. He was a man of the first credit in the town: his
interest was exerted for us, and partly by his own influence, and
partly by that of his friends, he obtained our enlargement at the
end of three days. But the period of delivery is always moulting
time with gaol birds; the candlestick, the necklace, the ear-
rings, my ring, and the ruby, all was left behind. One could not
help repeating those excellent lines of Virgil, beginning with
Sic vos non vobis.

As soon as we were at liberty we returned to our masters. Doctor
Sangrado received me kindly; My poor Gil Blas, said he, it was
but this morning I was acquainted with thy misfortune. I was just
setting about an active canvass for thee. We must derive comfort
from adversity, my friend, and attach ourselves more than ever to
the practice of physic. I affirmed that to be my intention; and
in truth I laid about me. Far from wanting employment, it
happened by a kind providence, as my master had foretold, to be a
very sickly season. The smallpox and a malignant fever took
alternate possession of the town and the suburbs. All the
physicians in Valladolid had their share of business, and we not
the least. We saw eight or ten patients a day; so that the kettle
was kept on the simmer, and the blood in the action of
transpiring. But things will happen cross; they died to a man,
either by our fault or their own. If their case was hopeless, we
were not to blame; and if it was not hopeless, they were. Three
visits to a patient was the length of our tether. About the
second, we sometimes ran foul of the undertaker; or when we had
been more fortunate than usual, the patient had got no further
than the point of death. As I was but a young physician, not yet
hardened to the trade of an assassin, I grieved over the
melancholy issue of my own theory and practice. Sir, said I, one
evening to Doctor Sangrado, I call heaven to witness on the spot
that I have never strayed from your infallible method; and yet I
have never saved a patient: one would think they died out of
spite, and were on the other side of the great medical question.
This very day I came across two of them, going into the country
to be buried. My good lad, replied he, my experience nearly comes
to the same point. It is but seldom I have the pleasure of curing
my kind and partial friends. If I had less confidence in my
principles, I should think my prescriptions had set their faces
against the work they were intended to perform. If you will take
a hint, sir, replied I, we had better vary our system. Let us
give, by way of experiment, chemical preparations to our
patients; the worst they can do is to tread in the steps of our
pure dilutions and our phlebotomizing evacuations. I would
willingly give it a trial, rejoined he, if it were a matter of
indifference, but I have published on the practice of bleeding
and the use of drenches: would you have me cut the throat of my
own fame as an author! Oh! you are in the right, resumed I; our
enemies must not gain this triumph over us; they would say that
you were out of conceit with your own systems, and would ruin
your reputation for consistency. Perish the people, perish rather
our nobility and clergy! But let us go on in the old path. After
all, our brethren of the faculty, with all their tenderness about
bleeding, have no patent for longevity any more than ourselves;
and we may set off their drugs against our specifics.

We went on working double tides, and did so much execution, that
in less than six weeks we made as many widows and orphans as the
siege of Troy. The plague must have got into Valladolid by the
number of funerals. Day after day came some father or other to
know what was become of his son, who was last seen in our hands;
or else a stupid fellow of an uncle, who had a foolish hankering
after a deceased nephew. With respect to the nephews and sons, on
whose uncles and fathers we had equalized our system of
destruction, they thought that least said was soonest mended.
Husbands were altogether on their good behaviour, they would not
split a hair about the loss of a wife or two. The real sufferers
to whose reproaches we were exposed, were sometimes quite savage
in their grief; without being mealy-mouthed in their expressions,
they called us blockheads and assassins. I was concerned at their
bad language; but my master, who was up to every circumstance,
listened to their abuse with the utmost indifference. Yet I might
have grown as callous as himself to popular reproach, if heaven,
interposing its shield between the invalids of Valladolid and one
of their scourges, had not providentially raised up an incident
to disgust me with medicine, which from the outset had been
disgusted with me.

The idle fellows about town assembled every day in our
neighbourhood for a game at tennis. Among the number was one of
those professed bullies who set up for great Dons, and are the
complete cocks of the tennis-court. He was a Biscayan, and
assumed the title of Don Roderic de Mondragon. His age might be
about thirty. His size was somewhat above the common, but he was
lean and bony. Besides two sparkling little eyes rolling about in
his head, and throwing out defiance against all bystanders, a
very broad nose came in between a pair of red whiskers, which
turned up like a hook as high as the temples. His phraseology was
so rough and uncouth that the very sound of his voice would throw
a quiet man into an ague. This tyrant over both the rackets and
the game was lord paramount in all disputes between the players;
and there was no appeal from his decisions, but at the risk of
receiving a challenge the next day. Precisely as I have drawn
Signor Don Roderic, whom the Don in the foreground of his titles
could never make a gentleman, Signor Don Roderic was sweet upon
the mistress of the tennis-court. She was a woman of forty, in
good circumstances, as charming as forty can well be, just
entering on the second year of her widowhood. I know not how he
made himself agreeable; certainly not by his exterior
recommendations, but probably by that within which passeth show.
However that might be, she took a fancy to him, and began to turn
her thoughts towards the holy state of matrimony; but while that
great event was in agitation, for the punishment of her sins she
was taken with a malignant fever, and with me for a physician.
Had the disorder been ever so slight, my practice would have made
a serious job of it. At the expiration of four days there was not
a dry eye in the tennis-court. The mistress joined the outward-
bound colony of my patients, and her family administered to her
effects. Don Roderic, distracted at the loss of his mistress, or
rather disappointed of a good establishment, was not satisfied
with fretting and fuming at me, but swore he would run me through
the body, or even frown me into a nonentity. A good-natured
neighbour apprised me of this vow, with a caution to keep at
home, for fear of coming across this devil of a fellow. This
warning, though taken in good part, was a source of anxiety and
apprehension. I was eternally fancying the enraged Biscayan
laying siege to the outworks of my citadel. There was no getting
a moment's respite from alarm. This circumstance weaned me from
the practice of medicine, and I thought of nothing but
deliverance from my horrors. On went my embroidered suit once
more. Taking leave of my master, who did all he could to detain
me, I got out of town with the dawn, not heedless of that
terrible Don Roderic, who might waylay me on the road.

CH. VI. -- His route from Valladolid, with a description of his

I TRUDGED on at a great rate, and looked behind from time to
time, to see if that dreadful Biscayan was not following me. My
imagination was so engrossed by the fellow, that he haunted me in
every tree and bush; my heart was in my mouth for fear at every
foot-fall. But I took courage again at the distance of about a
league, and went on more gently towards Madrid, whither I
proposed directing my steps. I had no attachment to Valladolid.
All my regret was at tearing myself from Fabricio, my dear
Pylades, of whom I had not so much as taken my leave. It was no
grievance to give up physic; on the contrary, I prayed heaven to
forgive me for having tampered with it. Yet I did not count over
the contents of my purse with less pleasure, because they were
the wages of murder. In this I took after those ladies who retire
with a fortune to lead pious lives, and think it hard if they may
not fatten religiously on the hard earnings of their libertine
profession. I had, in rials, somewhere about the value of five
ducats, and this was the sum total of my property. With these I
designed repairing to Madrid, where I had no doubt of finding a
good service. Besides, I wished above all things to be in that
magnificent city, the boasted epitome of the world and all its

While I was recollecting what I had heard of it, and enjoying
beforehand the pleasures it affords, I heard the voice of a man
coming after me, and singing till he had scraped his throat. He
had a wallet on his back, a guitar suspended from his neck, and a
long sword by his side. He got on at such a rate, as soon to
overtake me. Who should it be but one of the two journeymen
barbers with whom I had been in gaol for the adventure of the
ring. We knew one another at once, though we had shifted our
dresses, and were in a thousand marvels at meeting so
unexpectedly on the highway. If I testified my delight at having
such a fellow-traveller, he seemed on his side to feel an excess
of rapture at the renewal of our acquaintance. I told him why I
had left Valladolid, and he trusted his own secret to me in
return, by stating himself to have had a little brush with his
master, on which they had taken an everlasting leave of one
another. Had it been my pleasure, continued he, to have taken up
my abode longer in Valladolid, ten shops would take me in for one
that would have turned me out; since, vanity apart, I may safely
say there is not a barber in all Spain better qualified to shave
all sorts of beards, with the grain or against the grain, and to
curl a pair of whiskers. But I could no longer fight against a
hankering after my native place, whence I departed full ten years
since. I wish to inhale a little of my own country air, and to
learn the present situation of my family. I shall be among them
the day after to-morrow, at a place called Olmйdo, a populous
village on this side of Segovia.

I resolved on accompanying this barber home, and going to Segovia
for the chance of a cast to Madrid. We began entertaining one
another with indifferent subjects as we went along. The young
fellow was perfectly good-humoured, with a ready wit. After an
hour's conversation, he asked me if I was hungry. I referred him
to the first house of call for my answer. To stop dilapidations
till we get there, said he, we may renew our term by a little
breakfast from my wallet. When I am on a journey I am always my
own caterer. None of your woollen drapery, nor linen drapery, nor
any of your frippery or trumpery. I hate ostentation. My wallet
contains nothing but a little exercise for my grinders, my
razors, and a wash-ball. I extolled his discretion, and agreed
with all my heart to the bargain he proposed. My appetite was
keen and sharp set for a comfortable meal; after what he had
said, I could expect no less. We drew aside a little from the
high road, and sat down upon the grass. There my little
journeyman barber laid out his provisions, consisting of five or
six onions, with some scraps of bread and cheese; but the best
lot in the auction was a little leathern bottle, full, as he
said, of choice, delicate wine. Though the solids were not very
relishing, the calls of hunger did not allow either of us to be
dainty; and we emptied the bottle too, containing about two pints
of a wine one could not recommend without some remorse of
conscience. We then rose from table and set out again on the
tramp in high glee. The barber, who had heard some little
snatches of my story from Fabricio, entreated me to furnish him
with the whole from the best authority. It was impossible to
refuse so munificent a host; I therefore gave him the
satisfaction he required. In my turn I called on him, as an
acknowledgement of my frankness, to communicate the leading
circumstances of his terrestrial peregrinations. Oh! as for my
adventures, exclaimed he, they are scarcely worth re cording, a
mere catalogue of common occurrences. Nevertheless, since we have
nothing else to do, I will run over the narrative, such as it is.
At the same time he entered on the recital nearly in the
following terms.

CH. VII. -- The journeyman barber's story.

I TAKE up my tale from the origin of things. My grandfather,
Ferdinand Perez de la Fuenta, barber-general to the village of
Olmйdo for fifty years, died, leaving four sons. The eldest,
Nicholas, succeeded to the shop, and lathered himself into the
good graces of the customers. Bertrand, the next, having taken a
fancy to trade, set up for a mercer; and Thomas, who was the
third, turned schoolmaster. As for the fourth, by name Pedro,
feeling within himself the high destinies of learning, he sold a
dirty acre or two which fell to his share, and went to settle at
Madrid, where he hoped one day to distinguish himself by his
genius and erudition. The other three brothers would not part;
they fixed their quarters at Olmйdo, marrying peasants'
daughters, who brought their husbands very little dowry, except
an annual present of a chopping young rustic. They had a most
public-spirited emulation in child-bearing. My mother, the
barber's wife, favoured the world with a contribution of six
within the first five years of her marriage. I was among the
number. My father initiated me betimes in the mysteries of
shaving; and when he saw me grown up to the age of fifteen, laid
this wallet across my shoulders, presented me with a long sword,
and said -- Go, Diego, you are now qualified to gain your own
livelihood; go and travel about. You want a little acquaintance
with the world to give you a polish, and improve you in your art.
Off with you! and do not return to Olmйdo till you have made the
tour of Spain, nor let me hear of you till that is accomplished.
Finishing with this injunction, he embraced me with fatherly
affection, and shoved me out of doors by the shoulders.

Such were the parting benedictions of my sire. As for my mother,
who had more the touch of nature in her manners, she seemed to
feel somewhat at my departure. She dropped a few tears, and even
slipped a ducat by stealth into my hand.. Thus was I sent from
Olmйdo into the wide world, and took the road of Segovia. I did
not go two hundred yards without stopping to examine my bag. I
had a mind to view its contents, and to know the precise amount
of my possessions. There I found a case with two razors, which
must have travelled post over the chins of ten generations, by
the evidence of their wear and tear, with a strap to set them,
and a bit of soap. In addition to this, a coarse shirt quite new,
a pair of my father's shoes quite old, and what rejoiced me more
than all the rest, a rouleau of twenty rials in a linen bag.
Behold the sum total of my personals. You may conclude master
Nicholas, the barber, to have reckoned a good deal on my
ingenuity, by his turning me adrift with so slender a provision.
Yet a ducat and twenty rials, by way of fortune, was enough to
turn the head of a young man unaccustomed to money concerns. I
fancied my stock of cash inexhaustible; and pursued my journey in
the sun shine of brilliant anticipation, looking from time to
time at the hilt of my rapier, while the blade was striking
against the calf of my leg at every step, or tripping up my

In the evening I reached the village of Ataquinйs with a very
catholic stomach. I put up at the inn; and, as if I meant to
spend freely, asked, in a lofty tone, what there was for supper.
The landlord examined my pretensions with his eye, and finding
according to what cloth my coat was cut, said with true
publican's civility -- Yes, yes, my worthy master, you shall have
no reason to complain; we will treat you like a lord. With this
assurance, he showed me into a little room, whither he brought
me, a quarter of an hour afterwards, a ragout made of a great he
cat, on which I feasted with as famous an appetite as if it had
been hare or rabbit. This excellent dish was washed down by so
choice a wine, that the king had no better in his cellars. I
found out, however, that it was pricked; but that was no
hindrance to my doing it as much honour as the he cat. The last
article in this entertainment for a lord was a bed better adapted
to drive sleep away than to invite it. Figure it to yourself
about the width of a coffin, and so short that I could not
stretch my legs, though none of the longest. Besides, there was
neither mattress nor feather bed, but merely a little straw sewed
up in a sheet folded double, which was laid down clean for every
hundredth traveller, and served the other ninety-nine, one after
another, without washing. Nevertheless, in such a bed, with a
stomach distended to a surfeit by fricasseed cat, and then raked
by sour wine, thanks to youth and a good constitution, I slept
soundly, and passed the night without being disturbed.

On the following day when I had breakfasted, and paid the
reckoning as I had been treated, like a lord, I made but one
stage to Segovia. On my arrival, I had the good fortune to find a
shop, where they took me in for my board and lodging; but I staid
there only six months; a journeyman barber, with whom I got
acquainted, was going to Madrid, and drew me in to set off with
him. I had no difficulty in procuring a situation on the same
footing as at Segovia. I got into a shop of the very best custom.
It is true, it was near the church of the Holy Cross, and that
the neighbourhood of the Prince's Theatre brought a great deal of
business. My master, two stirring fellows, and myself, could
scarcely lather the chins of the people who came to be shaved.
They were of all trades and conditions; among the rest, players
and authors. One day, two persons of the last description
happened to meet. They began conversing about the poets and
pieces in vogue, when one of them mentioned my uncle's name: a
circumstance which drew my attention more particularly to their
discourse. Don Juan de Zavaleta, said one, will never do any good
as an author. A man of a cold genius, without a spark of fancy!
he has written himself down at a terrible rate by his last
publication. And Louis Velez de Guevara, said the other, what has
he done? A fine work to bring before the public! Was there ever
anything so wretched? They mentioned I know not how many poets
besides, whose names I have forgotten: I only recollect that they
said no good of them. As for my uncle, they made a more
honourable mention of him, agreeing that he was a personage of
merit, Yes, said one, Don Pedro de la Fuenta is an excellent
author; there is a sly humour in his compositions, blended with
solid sense, which communicates an attic poignancy to their
general effect. I am not surprised at his popularity both in
court and city, nor at the pensions settled on him by the great.
For many years past, said the other, he has enjoyed a very large
income. He lives at the Duke de Medina Coeli's table, and has an
apartment in his house, so that he is at no expense: he must be
very well in the world.

I lost not a syllable of what these poets were saying about my
uncle. We had learnt in the family, that he made a noise in
Madrid by his works; some travellers, passing through Olmйdo, had
told us so; but as he took no notice of us, and seemed to have
weaned himself from all natural ties, we on our side lived in a
state of perfect indifference about him. Yet nature will prevail:
as soon as I had heard that he was in a fair way, and had learned
where he lived, I was tempted to go and call upon him. One thing
staggered me a little; the literati had styled him Don Pedro.
This don was an awkward circumstance: I had my doubts whether he
might not be some other poet of the name, and not my uncle. Yet
that apprehension did not damp my ardour. I thought he might have
been ennobled for his wit, and determined to pay him a visit. For
this purpose, with my master's leave, I tricked myself out one
morning as well as I could, and sallied from our shop, a little
proud of being nephew to a man who had gained so high a character
by his genius. Barbers are not the most diffident people in the
world. I began to conceive no mean opinion of myself; and riding
the high horse with all the arrogance of greatness, inquired my
way to the Duke de Medina Coeli's palace. I rang at the gate, and
said, I wanted to speak with Signor Don Pedro de la Fuenta. The
porter pointed with his finger to a narrow staircase at the fag
end of the court, and answered -- Go up there, then knock at the
first door on your right. I did as he directed me; and knocked at
a door. It was opened by a young man, whom I asked if those were
the apartments of Signor Don Pedro de la Fuenta. Yes, answered
he, but you cannot speak to him at present. I should be very
glad, said I, just to say, How are you? I bring him news of his
family. An you brought him news of the pope, replied he, I could
not introduce you just now. He is writing, and while his wits are
at work, he must not be disturbed. He will not be able to receive
company till noon; take a turn, and come back about that time.

I departed, and walked about town all the morning, incessantly
meditating on the reception my uncle would give me. I think, said
I within myself; he will be overjoyed to see me. I measured his
feelings by my own, and prepared myself for a very affecting
discovery. I returned punctually to the appointed hour. You are
just in time, said the servant: my master was going out. Wait
here a moment: I will announce you. With these words, he left me
in the ante-chamber. He returned almost immediately, and showed
me into his master's room. The face struck me all at once as a
family likeness. To be sure he was the very image of my uncle
Thomas; they might have been taken for twins. I bowed down to the
ground, and introduced myself as the son of Master Nicholas de la
Fuenta, the barber of Olmйdo. I likewise informed him, that I had
been working at my father's trade in Madrid, for these three
weeks, as a journeyman, and intended making the tour of Spain to
complete my education. While I was speaking, my uncle was
evidently in a brown study. He seemed to doubt whether he should
disown me at once, or get rid of me with some little sacrifice to
decency. The latter course he adopted. Affecting the affable:
Well, my good kinsman, how are your father and your uncles? Do
they get on in the world? I began thereupon by laying before him
the family knack at propagation. All the children, male and
female, called over by their names, with their godfathers and
godmothers included in the list! He took no extravagant interest
in the particulars of my tale; but leading to his own purposes,
Diego, replied he, I am quite of your mind. You should go from
place to place, and see a variety of practice. I would not have
you tarry longer at Madrid: it is a very dangerous residence for
youth; you may get into bad habits, my sweet fellow. Other towns
will suit you better; the state of society in the provinces is
more patriarchal and philosophical. Determine on emigration; and
when your departure is fixed, come and take your leave. I will
contribute a pistole to the tour of Spain. With this kind
assurance, he handed me out of the room, and sent me packing.

I had not worldly wisdom enough to find out that he wanted to get
quit of me. I went back to our shop, and gave my master an
account of the visit I had paid. He looked no deeper than myself
into Signor Don Pedro's motives, and observed: I cannot help
differing from your worthy uncle, so far from advising you to
travel the provinces, the real thing would be, in my opinion, to
give you a comfortable settlement in this city. He is hand in
glove with the first people; it is an easy matter for him to
establish you in a great family; and that is a for tune at once.
Struck with this lucky discovery, which seemed to settle the
point without difficulty, I called on my uncle again two days
afterwards, and made a proposal to him for a situation about
some leading character at court. But the hint was not taken
kindly. A proud man, living at free quarters among the great, and
dining with them in a family party, did not exactly wish that,
while he was sitting at my lord's table, his nephew should be a
guest in the servants' hall. Little Diego might bring a scandal
on Signor Don Pedro. He had no hesitation, therefore, in fairly
turning me out of doors, and that with a flea in my ear. What,
you little rascal, said he in a fit of extravagance, do you mean
to relinquish your calling? Begone, I consign you to the reptile
whose pernicious counsels will be your ruin. Take your leave of
these premises, and never set your foot on them again, or you
shall have the reception you deserve! I was absolutely stunned at
this language, and still more at the peremptory tone my uncle
assumed. With tears in my eyes I withdrew, quite overcome by his
severity. Yet, as I had always been lively and confident in my
temper, I soon wiped away my tears. My grief was even turned into
resentment, and I determined to take no further notice of this
unnatural relative, whose kind offices I had hitherto been
contented to want.

My attention was henceforth directed to the cultivation of my
professional talent; I was quite a plodding fellow at my trade. I
scraped away all day; and in the evening, by way of relief to my
scraping, I twanged the guitar. My master on that instrument was
an old Senor Escudero whom I shaved. He taught me music in
return; and he was an adept. To be sure he had formerly been a
chorister in a cathedral. His name was Marcos de Obregon. He was
a man of the world, with good natural parts and acquired
knowledge, which jointly induced him to fix on me as an adopted
son. He was engaged as an attendant on a physician's lady,
resident within thirty yards of our house. I went to him in the
evening, when shop was shut, and we two, sitting on the threshold
of the door, made up a little concert not displeasing to the
neighbourhood. It was not that our voices were very fine; but in
thrumming on the catgut, we made a pretty regular accompaniment
to our duet, and filled up the harmony sufficiently for the
gratification of our hearers. Our music was particularly
agreeable to Donna Mergelina, the physician's wife; she came into
the passage to hear us, and sometimes encored us in her favourite
airs. Her husband did not interfere with her amusement. Though a
Spaniard and in years, he was not possessed with jealousy;
besides, his profession took up all his time; and as he came home
in the evening, worn out with his numerous visits, he went to bed
at an early hour, without troubling himself about his wife or our
concerts. Possibly, if he thought about them at all, he might
consider them as little likely to produce dangerous consequences.
He had an additional security in his wife. Mergelina was young
and handsome with a witness; but of so fierce a modesty, that she
started at the very shadow of a man. How could he take umbrage at
an amusement of so harmless and decorous a nature? He gave us
leave to sing our hearts out.

One evening, as I came to the physician's door, intending to take
my usual recreation, I found the old squire waiting for me. He
took me by the hand: saying that he wished to take a little walk
with me before we struck up our little concert. At the same time
he drew me aside into a by-street, where, finding an opportunity
of opening his mind: Diego, my good lad, said he with a
melancholy air, I want to give you a hint in private. I much
fear, my good and amiable youth, that we shall both have reason
to repent of beguiling our evenings with little musical parties
at my master's door. Rely on my sincere friendship: I do not
grudge your lessons in singing and on the guitar; but if I could
have foreseen the storm now brewing, in the name of charity! I
would have selected some other spot to communicate my
instructions. This address alarmed me. I entreated the gentle
squire to be more explicit, and to tell me what we had to fear;
for I was no Hector, and the tour of Spain was not yet finished.
I will relate to you, replied he, what it concerns you to know,
that you may take proper measure of our present danger.

When I got into the service of the physician, about a year ago,
he said one morning, after having introduced me to his wife:
There, Marcos, you see your mistress; that is the lady you are to
accompany in all her peregrinations. I was smitten with Donna
Mergelina: she was lovely in the extreme, a model for an artist,
and her principal attraction was the pleasantness of her
deportment. Honoured sir, replied I to the physician, it is too
great a happiness to be in the train of so charming a lady. My
answer was taken amiss by Mergelina, who said rather crustily, A
pleasant gentleman this! He is perfectly free and easy. Believe
me! His fine speeches may go a begging for me. These words,
dropped from such lovely lips, seemed rather inconsistent; the
manners and ideas of bumpkins and dairy-maids coupled with all
the graces of the most lovely woman in the world! As for her
husband, he was used to her ways; and, hugging himself on the
unrivalled character of his rib, Marcos, said he, my wife is a
miracle of chastity. Then, observing her put on her veil, and
make herself ready to go to mass, he told me to attend on her at
church. We were no sooner in the street than we met, and it was
no wonder, blades who, struck with Donna Mergelina's genteel
carriage, told her a thousand flattering tales as they passed by.
She was not backward in her answers; but silly and ill-timed,
beyond what you can conceive. They were all in amaze, and could
not imagine how a woman should take it amiss to be complimented.
Why really! madam, said I to her at first, you had better be
silent, or shut your ears to their addresses, than reply with
asperity. No, no, replied she: I will teach these coxcombs that I
am not a woman to put up with impertinence. In short, her
absurdity went so far, that I could not help telling her my mind,
at the hazard of her displeasure. I gave her to understand, yet
with the greatest possible caution, that she was unjust to
nature, whose handiwork she marred by her preposterous ferocity;
that a woman of mild and polished manners might inspire love
without the aid of beauty; whereas the loveliest of the sex,
divested of female softness, was in danger of becoming the public
scorn. To this ratiocination, I added collateral arguments,
always directed to the amendment of her manners. After having
moralized to no purpose, I was afraid my freedom might exasperate
my mistress, and draw upon me some taunting repartee.
Nevertheless she did not mutiny against my advice; but silently
rendered it of no avail, and thus we went on from day to day.

I was weary of pointing out her errors to no purpose, and gave
her up to the ferocious temperament of her nature. Yet, could you
think it? the savage humour of that proud woman is entirely
changed within these two months. She has a kind word for all the
world, and manners the most accommodating. It is no longer the
same Mergelina who gave such homely answers to the compliments of
her swains: she is become assailable by flattery; loves to be
told she is handsome, that a man cannot look at her without
paying for it: her ears itch for fine speeches, and she is become
a very woman. Such a change is almost inconceivable: and the best
of the joke is, that you are the worker of this unparalleled
miracle. Yes, my dear Diego, it is you who have transformed Donna
Mergelina; you have softened down the tigress into a domestic
animal; in a word, you have made her feel. I have observed it
more than once; and never trust my knowledge of the sex, if she
is not desperately in love with you. Such, my dear boy, is the
melancholy news I have to communicate, the awkward predicament in
which we stand.

I do not see, said I in my turn to the old man, that there is
anything so melancholy in this accident, or any peculiar
awkwardness in being the object of a pretty woman's partiality.
Ah! Diego, replied he, you argue like a young man: you only see
the bait, without guarding against the hook: pleasure is your
lure; while my thoughts are directed to the unpleasant
circumstances attending it. Murder will out. If you go on singing
at our door, you will provoke Mergelina's passion; and she
probably, losing all command over herself; will betray her
weakness to her husband, Doctor Oloroso. That wretched husband,
so complying now that he thinks there is no ground for jealousy,
will run wild, take signal vengeance upon her, and perhaps play
some dog's trick or other to you and me. Well, then! rejoined I,
your reasons shall be conclusive with me, and your sage counsels
my rule. Lay down the line of conduct I am to adopt for the
prevention of any left-handed catastrophe. We will have no more
concerts, was his peremptory decree. Do not show yourself any
more to my mistress: when the sight of you does not inflame her,
she will recover her composure. Stay within doors: I will call in
upon you, and we will torture the guitar with impunity. With all
my heart, said I, and I will never set my foot again in your
premises. In good truth, I was determined to serenade no longer
before the physician's door, but henceforth to keep within the
precincts of my shop, since my attractions as a man were so

In the mean time good Squire Marcos, with all his prudence,
experienced in the course of a few days that the plan he had
devised to quench Donna Mergelina's flame produced a directly
opposite effect. The lady on the second night not hearing me
sing, asked why we had discontinued our concerts, and the reason
of my absence. He told her I was so busy as not to have a moment
to spare for relaxation. She seemed satisfied with that excuse,
and for three days longer bore the disappointment of all her
hopes like a heroine; but at the end of that period, my martyr to
the tender passion lost all patience, and said to her conductor -
- You are playing false with me, Marcos; Diego has not
discontinued his visits without a cause. This mystery must be
unravelled. Speak, I command you; conceal nothing from me. Madam,
answered he, making use of another subterfuge, since the truth
must be told, it has often happened to him to find the cloth
taken away at home after the concert; he cannot run the risk any
longer of going to bed without his supper. What, without his
supper! exclaimed she in an agony, why did not you tell me so
sooner? Go to bed without his supper! Oh! the poor little
sufferer! Go to him this instant, and let him come again this
evening; he shall not go home starving any more, there shall
always be a luncheon for him.

What do I hear? said the squire, affecting astonishment at this
language; oh heaven, what a reverse! Is this you, madam, and are
these your sentiments? Well-a-day! Since when are you so
compassionate and tender-hearted? Since, replied she
significantly, since you have lived in this house, or rather
since you disapproved my disdainful manners, and have laboured to
soften the acrimony of my temper. But, alas! added she, in a
melting mood, I have gone from one extreme to the other. Proud
and insensible as I was, I am become too susceptible, too tender.
I am enamoured of your young friend Diego, and I can not help
myself; his absence, far from allaying my ardour, only adds fuel
to the fire. Is it possible, resumed the old man, that a young
fellow with neither face nor person should have inspired so
strong a passion? I could make allowance for your feelings, if
they had been set afloat by some nobleman of distinguished merit
-- Ah! Marcos, interrupted Mergelina, I am not like the rest of
my sex; or rather, spite of your long experience, your
penetration is but shallow if you fancy merit to have much share
in our choice. Judging by myself, we all leap before we look.
Love is a mental derangement, forcibly drawing all our views and
attachments into one vortex; a species of hydrophobia. Have done
then with your hints that Diego is not worthy of my tenderness;
that he has it is enough, to invest him with a thousand
perfections too aetherial for your gross sight, and perhaps too
unsubstantial for any but a lover's perception. In vain you
disparage his features or his stature; in my eyes he was created
to undo, and encircled by the hand of nature with the glories of
the opening day. Nay, more, there is a thrilling sweetness in his
voice; his touch on the guitar has the taste of an amateur, and
the execution of a professor. But, madam, subjoined Marcos, do
you consider who Diego is? The meanness of his station -- My own
is very little better, interrupted she again; though were I of
noble birth, it would make no difference in my sensations.

The result of that conference was that the squire, concluding he
should make no impression on the mind of his mistress, gave over
struggling with her obstinacy, as a skilful pilot runs before the
storm, though it carries him out to sea from his intended port.
He did more: to satisfy his patroness he paid me a visit, took me
aside, and after having related what had passed between them
-- You see, Diego, said he, that we cannot dispense with the
performance of our concerts at Mergelina's door. Absolutely, my
friend, that lady must see you again; otherwise she may commit
some act of desperation fatal to her good name. I was not
inexorable, but answered Marcos that I would attend with my
guitar early in the evening; and dispatched him to his mistress
with the happy tidings. He executed his office, and the
impassioned dame was out of her wits with joy, in the delicious
prospect of hearing and seeing me in a few hours.

A most disagreeable circumstance, however, was very near
disappointing her in that hope. I could not leave home before
night, and for my sins, it was dark as pitch. I went groping
along the street, and had got, may be, half way, when down from a
window came upon my head the contents of a perfuming pan, which
did not tickle my olfactory nerves very pleasantly. I may say
that not a whiff was wasted, so exactly had the giver taken
measure of the receiver. In this situation I was at a loss on
what to resolve: to go back by the way I came, what an exhibition
before my comrades! It was surrendering myself to all their nasty
witticisms. Then again, go to Mergelina in such a glorious trim,
that hurt my feelings on the other side. I determined, at length,
to get on towards the physician's. The old usher was waiting for
me at the door. He said that Doctor Oloroso was gone to bed, and
we might amuse ourselves as we liked. I answered that the first
thing was to purify my drapery, at the same time relating my
misfortune. He seemed to feel for me, and showed me into a hall
where his mistress was sitting. As soon as the lady got wind of
my adventure, and had confirmed the testimony of her nose by the
evidence of her eyes, she mourned over me as grievously as if my
miseries had been mortal; then, apostrophising the absent cause
of my foul array, she uttered a thousand imprecations. Well, but
madam! said Marcos, do moderate this ecstacy of grief; consider
that such casualties will happen, there is no occasion to take on
so bitterly. Why, exclaimed she with vehemence, why would you
debar me from the privilege of weeping over the injuries of this
tender lamb, this dove without gall, who does not so much as
murmur at the affront he has sustained? Alas! why am I not a man
at this moment to avenge him!

She uttered numberless soothing expressions besides, to mark
distinctly the excess of her devotion, and her actions
corresponded with her words; for while Marcos was employed in
wiping me down with a towel, she ran into her chamber and brought
out a box furnished with every variety of perfumes. She burned
sweet-smelling drugs, and perfumed my clothes with them, after
which she drenched me in a deluge of essences. The fumigation and
aspersion ended, this bountiful lady went herself and fetched
from the kitchen bread, wine, and some good slices of roast
mutton, set by on purpose for me. She forced me to eat, and
taking a pleasure in waiting on me, sometimes carved for me, and
some times filled my glass, in spite of all that Marcos and
myself could do to anticipate her condescension. When I had done
supper, the gentlemen of the orchestra struck the key note, and
tuned their sweet voices to the pitch of their guitars. We played
and sung to the heart's delight of Mergelina. To be sure we took
care to carol none but amorous ditties; and as we sung, I every
now and then leered at her with such a roguish meaning, as to
throw oil upon the fire, for the game began to be interesting.
The concert, though the acts were long, was not tedious. As for
the lady, to whom hours seemed to fly like seconds, she could
have been content to exhaust the night in listening, if the old
squire, with whom the seconds seemed to lag like hours, had not
hinted how late it was. She gave him the trouble of enforcing his
moral on the lapse of time by at least ten repetitions. But she
was in the hands of a man not to be turned aside from his
purpose, he let her have no rest till I was gone. Sensible and
provident as he was, seeing his mistress given up to a mad
passion, he dreaded lest our harmony should be resolved by some
discord. His fears were ominous: the physician, whether his mind
misgave him of foul play, or the spirit of jealousy, hitherto on
its good behaviour, had a mind to harass him gratuitously,
bethought himself of quarrelling with our concerts. He did more,
he put a broad negative upon them; and, without assigning his
reasons for acting in this violent way, declared that he would
suffer no more strangers to come about his premises.

Marcos acquainted me with this mortifying declaration,
particularly levelled against my rising hopes. I had begun
bobbing at this dainty cherry, and did not like to lose my game.
Nevertheless, to act the part of a faithful reporter and true
historian, I must own my impatience did not affect my health or
spirits. Not so with Mergelina, her feelings were more alive than
ever. My dear Marcos, said she to her usher, it is only from you
that I look for succour. Contrive, I beseech you, that I may see
Diego in private. What do you require? asked the old man with a
reproachful accent. I have been but too indulgent to you. I am
not a person to crown your wanton wishes at the expense of my
master's honour, your good fame, and my own eternal infamy; the
infamy of a man whose past life has been one continued series of
faithful service and exemplary conduct. I had rather leave the
family than stay in it on such scandalous conditions. Alas!
Marcos, interrupted the lady, frightened out of her wits at these
last words, you wring my heart by talking in this manner.
Obdurate man! Can you bear the thought of sacrificing her who
lays all her present agony to your account? Give me back my
former pride, and that savage soul you have taken from me. Why am
I no longer happy in my very imperfections? I might now have been
at peace, but your rash counsels have robbed me of the repose I
then enjoyed. You, the corrector of my manners, have tampered
with my morals -- But why do I rave, unhappy wretch as I am? why
upbraid you thus wrongfully? No, my guardian angel, you are not
the fatal source of my miseries; my evil destiny had decreed
these tortures to await me. Lay not to heart, I conjure you on my
knees, these transports of a disordered imagination. Oh mercy! my
passion drives me mad, have compassion on my weakness; you are my
sole support and stay: if then my life is not indifferent to you,
deny me not your aid.

At these words her tears flowed in fresh torrents, and stifled
her lugubrious accents. She took out her handkerchief, and
throwing it over her face, fell into a chair, like a person
overcome by her affliction. Old Marcos, who was perhaps one of
the most tractable go-betweens in the world, could no longer
steel his heart against so touching a spectacle. Pierced to the
quick, he even mingled his tears with those of his mistress, and
spoke to her in a softened tone -- Ah! madam, why are you thus
bewitching! I cannot hold out against your sorrowful complaints,
my virtue yields under the pressure of my pity. I promise you all
the relief in my power. No longer do I marvel at the oblivious
influence of passion over duty, since mere sympathy can mislead
my footsteps from its thorny paths. Thus did this pander, whose
past life had been one continued series of faithful service and
exemplary conduct, sell himself to the devil to feed Mergelina's
illicit flame. One morning he came and talked over the whole
business with me, saying at his departure, that he had a scheme
in his head, to bring about a private interview between us. At
the thought my hopes were all re-kindled, but they glimmered
tremblingly in the socket at a piece of news I heard two hours
afterwards. A journeyman apothecary in the neighbourhood, one of
our customers, came in to be shaved. While I was making ready to
trim his bushy honours, he said -- Master Diego, do you know
anything about your friend, the old usher, Marcos de Obregon? Is
he not going to leave Doctor Oloroso? I said, No. But he is
though, replied he; he will get his dismission this very day. His
master and mine were talking about it just now in my hearing, and
their conversation was to the following effect: -- Signor
Apuntador, said the physician, I have a favour to beg of you. I
am not easy about an old usher of mine, and should like to place
my wife under the eye of a trusty, strict, and vigilant duenna. I
understand you, interrupted my master. You want Dame Melancia, my
wife's directress, and indeed mine for the last six weeks, since
I have been a widower. Though she would be very useful to me in
housewifery, I give her up to you, from a paramount regard to
your honour. You may rely upon her for the security of your brow;
she is the phoenix of the duenna tribe -- a spring-gun and a man-
trap set in the purlieus of female chastity. During twelve whole
years that she was about my wife, whose youth and beauty, you
know, were not without their attractions, I never saw the least
semblance of manhood within my doors. No, no! by all the powers!
That game was not so easily played. And yet I must let you know
that the departed saint, heaven rest her soul! had in the outset
a great hankering after the delights of the flesh; but Dame
Melancia cast her in a new mould, and regenerated her to virtue
and self-denial. In short, such a guardian of the weaker sex is a
treasure, and you will never have done thanking me for my
precious gift. Hereupon the doctor expressed his rapture at the
issue of the conference; and they agreed, Signor Apuntador and
he, on the duenna's succeeding the old usher on this very day.

This news, which I thought probable, and turned out to be true,
disturbed the pleasurable ideas, just beginning to flow afresh,
and renovate my soul. After dinner, Marcos completed the
convulsion, by confirming the young drugpounder's story: My dear
Diego, said the good squire, I am heartily glad that Doctor
Oloroso has turned me off; it spares me a world of trouble.
Besides that it hurt my feelings to be invested with the office
of a spy, endless must have been the shifts and subterfuges to
bring you and Mergelina together in private. We should have been
rarely gravelled! Thanks to heaven, I am set free from all such
perplexing cares, to say nothing of their attendant danger. On
your part, my dear boy, you ought to be comforted for the loss of
a few soft moments, which must have been dogged at the heels by a
thousand fears and vexations. I relished Marcos' sermon well
enough, because my hopes were at an end, the game was lost. I was
not, it must be confessed, among the number of those stubborn
lovers who bear up against every impediment; but though I had
been so, Dame Melancia would have made me let go my hold. The
established character of that duenna would have daunted the
adventurous spirit of a knight-errant. Yet, in whatever colours
this phoenix of the duenna tribe might have been painted, I had
reason to know, two or three days after wards, that the
physician's lady had unset the man-trap and spring-gun, and given
a stop to this watch-dog of lubricity. As I was going out to
shave one of our neighbours, a civil old gentlewoman stopped me
in the street, and asked if my name was Diego de la Fuenta. I
said, Yes. That being the case, replied she, I have a little
business with you. Place yourself this evening at Donna
Mergelina's door; and when you are there, give a signal, and you
shall be let in. Vastly well! said I, what must the signal be? I
can take off a cat to the life: suppose I was to mew a certain
number of times? The very thing, replied this Iris of intrigue; I
will carry back your answer. Your most obedient, Signor Diego!
Heaven protect the sweet youth! Ah! you are a pretty one! By St
Agnes, I wish I was but sweet fifteen, I would not go to market
for other folks! With this hint, the old procuress waddled out of

You may be sure this message put me in no small flutter. Where
now was the morality of Marcos? I waited for night with
impatience, and, calculating the time of Dr Oloroso's going to
bed, took my station at his door. There I set up my caterwauling,
till you might hear me ever so far off, to the eternal honour of
the master who instructed me in that imitative art. A moment
after Mergelina opened the door softly with her own dear hands,
and shut it again with me on the inside. We went into the hall,
where our last concert had been performed. It was dimly lighted
by a small lamp, which twinkled in the chimney. We sat down side
by side, and began our tender parley, each of us overcome by our
emotions, but with this difference; that hers were all inspired
by pleasure, while mine were somewhat tainted by fear. In vain
did the divinity of my adorations assure me that we had nothing
to fear from her husband. I felt the access of an ague, which
unmanned my vigour. Madam, said I, how have you eluded the
vigilance of your directress? After what I have heard of Dame
Melancia, I could not have conceived it possible for you to
contrive the means of sending me any intelligence, much less of
seeing me in private. Donna Mergelina smiled at this remark, and
answered: You will no longer be surprised at our being together
to-night, when I tell you what has passed between my duenna and
me. As soon as she came to her place, my husband paid her a
thousand compliments, and said to me: Mergelina, I consign you to
the guidance of this wary lady, herself an abstract of all the
virtues: in this glass you may look without a blush, and array
yourself in habits of wisdom. This extraordinary personage has
for these twelve years been a light to the ways of an
apothecary's wife of my acquaintance; but how has she been a
light to them? -- why, as ways never were enlightened before: she
turned a very slippery piece of mortal flesh into a downright

This panegyric, not belied by the austere mien of Dame Melancia,
cost me a flood of tears, and reduced me to despair. I fancied
the din of eternal lectures from morning till night, and daily
rebukes too harsh to be endured. In short, I laid my account in a
life of wretchedness, beyond the patience of a woman. Keeping no
measures in the expectation of such cruel sufferings, I said
bluntly to the duenna, the moment I was alone with her: You mean,
no doubt, to exercise your tyranny most wantonly on my poor
person; but I cannot bear much severity, I warn you before-hand.
I give you, moreover, fair notice, that I shall be as savage as
you can be. My heart cherishes a passion, which not all your
remonstrances shall tear from it: so you may act accordingly.
Watch me as closely as you please; it is hard if I cannot outwit
such an old thing as you. At these taunting words, I thought this
saracen in petticoats was going to give me a specimen of her
discipline. But so far from it, she smoothed her brow, relaxed
her surly features, and primming up her mouth into a smile,
promulgated this comfortable doctrine: Your temper charms me, and
your frankness calls for a return. We must have been made for one
another. Ah! lovely Mergelina, little do you fathom my character,
to be deceived by the fine compliments of your husband the
Doctor, or by my Tartar contour. There never was a creature more
fortified against moral prejudices! My inducement for getting
into the service of jealous husbands is to lend myself to the
enjoyments of their pretty wives. Long have I trodden the stage
of life in masquerade; and I may call myself doubly happy, in the
spiritual rewards of virtue, and the temporal indulgences of the
opposite side. Between ourselves, mine is the system of all
mankind in the long run. Real virtue is a very expensive article;
plated goods look just as well, and are within the reach of all

Put yourself under my direction. We will make Doctor Oloroso pay
the piper to our dancing, or I am no duenna. By my troth, he
shall go the way of Signor Apuntador and all mankind. There is no
reason why the forehead of a physician should be smoother than
the brow of an apothecary. Poor dear Apuntador! What fun have we
had with him, his wife and I! A charming woman, that wife of his!
A dear little creature, open to all mankind, and prejudiced by
none! Well! she is at peace, and has not left her fellow behind
her! Take my word, short as her time was, she made the most of
it. Let me see how many rampant chaps have been brought to their
bearings in that house, without the dear deluded husband being
waked out of his evening's nap! Now, madam, you may see me in my
true light; and assure yourself, whatever might be the abilities
of your old usher, you will not fare the worse for going further.
If he was a benefit to you, I shall be a blessing.

You may judge for yourself, Diego, continued Mergelina, how well
I took it of the duenna, that she laid herself open so frankly. I
had taken her virtue to be of the impenetrable cast. Look you
now, how much women are liable to be scandalized. But her
character of plain dealing won my heart at once. I threw my arms
about her neck in a rapture, which bespoke my warm and tender
feelings at the thoughts of such a mother abbess. I gave her
carte blanche of all my private thoughts, and put in for a speedy
tкte-а-tкte with your own dear self. She met me on my own ground.
This very morning she engaged the old woman who spoke to you, to
take the field: she is an old stager, a veteran in the service of
the apothecary's wife. But the best of the joke in this comedy,
added she in a paroxysm of laughter, is that Melancia, on my
assurance that my husband's habit is to pass the night without
stirring, is gone to bed by his side, and drones out my useless
office at this moment. So much the worse, madam, said I then to
Mergelina; your device is more plausible than profitable. Your
husband is very likely to wake, and discover the fraud. He will
not discover anything about it, replied she with no little
urgency; set your heart at rest about that, and let not an empty
fear poison the fountains of a pleasure, which ought to drown
every vulgar and earthly consideration in the arms of a young
lady who is yours for ever and ever.

The old doctor's help-mate, finding that her assurances had
little effect upon my courage, left no stone unturned to put me
in heart again; and she had so many encouraging ways with her,
that a very coward must have plucked up a little. My thoughts
were all with Jupiter and Alcmena; but at the very moment that
the urchin Cupid, with his train of smiles and antics, was
weaving a garland to compliment the crisis of our endeavours, we
were stopped in our career by an importunate knocking at the
street door. In a moment, away flew love and all his covey, like
game at the report of a fowling-piece. Mergelina popped me like
an article of household furniture under the hall table, blew out
the lamp, and, by previous agreement with her governess, in the
event of so unlucky an accident, placed herself at the door of
her husband's bedchamber. In the mean time, the knocking
continued with reiterated violence, till the whole house
resounded. The physician awoke suddenly, and called Melancia. The
duenna flung herself out of bed, though the doctor, taking her
for his wife, begged of her not to disturb herself. She ran to
her mistress, who, catching hold of her in the dark, began
calling Melancia! and told her to go and see who was at the door.
Madam, answered the directress, here I am at your service, go to
bed again if you please; you shall soon know who it is. During
this parley, Mergelina having undressed, got into bed to the
doctor, who had not the least suspicion of the farce that was
playing. To be sure the stage was darkened, and the actresses had
very little occasion for a prompter; one of them was familiar
with the boards, and the other wanted only a rehearsal or two to
be perfect in her part.

The duenna, in her night-gown, made her appearance soon after,
with a candle in her hand -- Good doctor, said she to her master,
have the goodness to get up. Our neighbour Fernandez de Buendia,
the bookseller, is in an apoplectic fit: you are sent for; time
presses. The physician got on his clothes as fast as he could,
and went out. His wife, in her bed-gown, came into the hall with
the duenna. They dragged me from under the table more dead than
alive. You have nothing to fear, Diego, said Mergelina, put
yourself in proper order. At the same time she told me how things
were in two words. She had half a mind to renew our amorous
intercourse; but the directress knew better. Madam, said she,
your husband may possibly be too late to help the bookseller to
the other world, and then he will return immediately. Besides,
added she, observing me benumbed with fright, it would be all
lost labour upon this poor youth! He is not in a condition to
answer your demands. You had better send him home, and defer the
debate till to-morrow evening. Donna Mergelina was sorry for the
delay, as well knowing that a bird in hand is worth two in the
bush; and I flatter myself she was disappointed at not putting a
cuckold's night-cap on the doctor's head.

As for me, less grieved at having drawn a blank in the lottery of
love, than rejoiced at getting my neck out of an halter, I
returned to my master's, where I passed the remainder of the
night in moralizing on the scene I had left. For some time, I was
in doubt whether to keep my appointment on the following evening.
I thought it was a foolish business from first to last; but the
devil, who is always lurking for his prey, or rather taking
possession of us as his lawful property, whispered in my ear that
I should be a great fool to pack up my alls when the prize was
falling into my hands. Mergelina too with opening and
unfathomable charms! The exquisite pleasures that awaited me! I
determined to stick to my text; and promising myself a larger
share of self-possession, took my station the next evening at the
doctor's door, between eleven and twelve, in a most spirit-
stirring humour. The heavens were completely darkened, not a star
to prate of my whereabout. I mewed twice or thrice to give
warning of my being in the street; and, as no one answered my
signal, I was not satisfied with going over the old ground, but
ran up and down the cat's gamut from bass to treble, and from
treble to bass, just as I used to sol-fa with a shepherd of
Olmйdo. I tuned my fundamental bass so musically, that a
neighbour, on his return home, taking me for one of those animals
whose mewings I counterfeited, picked up an unlucky flint lying
at his feet, and threw it at me with all his force, saying --
The devil fetch that tom cat! I received the blow on my head, and
was so stunned for the moment, that I was very near falling
backwards. I found the skin was broken. This was enough in all
conscience to give me a surfeit of gallantry; so that, my passion
oozing out with my blood, I made the best of my way homewards,
where I rendered night hideous by my howling, and knocked all the
family up. My master probed my wound, and played the true surgeon
on it; he pronounced the consequences to be uncertain. He did all
he could to make them certain; but flesh will heal in spite of
the faculty; and there was not a scar remaining in three weeks.
During all this time, I heard not a word from Mergelina. The
probability is that Dame Melancia, to wean her impure thoughts
from me, engaged her in some better sport. However, I did not
concern myself about the matter; but left Madrid to continue my
tour of Spain, as soon as I found myself perfectly recovered.





CH. VIII. -- The meeting of Gil Blas and his companion with a man
soaking crusts of bread at a spring, and the particulars of their

SIGNOR Diego de la Fuenta related some other adventures which had
since happened to him; but they were so little worthy of
preservation, that I shall pass them by in silence. Yet there was
no getting rid of the recital, which was tedious enough: it
lasted as far as Ponte de Duero. We halted in that town the
remainder of the day. Our commons at the inn consisted of a
vegetable soup and a roast hare, whose genus and species we took
especial pains to verify. At daybreak on the following morning we
resumed our journey, after having replenished our flask with some
very tolerable wine, and our wallet with some pieces of bread,
and half the hare we had left at supper.

When we had gone about two leagues we waxed hungry; and, espying
at about two hundred yards from the high road some spreading
trees, which threw an agreeable shade over the plain, we made up
to the spot, and rested on our arms. There we met with a man from
seven to eight and twenty, who was dipping crusts of bread into a
spring. He had a long sword lying by him on the grass, with a
soldier's knapsack, of which he had eased his shoulders. We
thought his air and person better than his attire. We accosted
him with civility; and he returned our salutation. He then
offered us his crusts, and asked with a smile if we would take
potluck with him. We answered in the affirmative, provided he had
no objection to our clubbing our own breakfast, by way of making
the meal more substantial. He agreed to it with the utmost
readiness, and we immediately produced our provisions; which were
not unacceptable to the stranger. What is all this, gentlemen,
exclaimed he in a transport of joy, here is ammunition for an
army! By your forecast, you must be commissaries or
quartermasters. I do not travel with so much contrivance, for my
part; but depend a good deal on the chances of the road. At the
same time, though appearances may be against me, I can say,
without vanity, that I sometimes make a very brilliant figure in
the world. Would you believe that princely honours are commonly
bestowed on me, and that I have guards in attendance? I
comprehend you, said Diego; you mean to tell us, you are a
player. You guess right, replied the other; I have been an actor
for these fifteen years at least. From my very infancy, I was
sent on the boards in children's parts. To deal freely, rejoined
the barber, shaking his head, I do not believe a word of it. I
know the players; those gentry do not travel on foot, like you,
nor do they mess with St Anthony. I doubt whether you are
anything better than a candle-snuffer. You may, quoth the son of
Thespis, think of me as you please; but my parts, for all that,
are in the first line; I play the lovers. If that be the case,
said my companion, I wish you much joy, and am delighted that
Signor Gil Blas and myself have the honour of breakfasting with
so eminent a character.

We then began to pick up our crumbs, and to gnaw the precious
relics of the hare, bestowing such hearty smacks upon the bottle,
as to empty it very shortly. We were all three so deeply engaged
in the great affair of eating, that we said very little till we
had finished, when we resumed our conversation. I wonder, said
the barber to the player, that you should be so much out at
elbows. For a theatrical hero, you have but a needy exterior! I
beg pardon if I speak rather freely. Rather freely! exclaimed the
actor; Ah! by my troth, you are not yet acquainted with Melchior
Zapata. Heaven be praised, I have no mind to see things in a
wrong light. You do me a pleasure by speaking so confidently: for
I love to unbosom myself without reserve. I honestly own I am not
rich. Here, pursued he, showing us his doublet lined with
playbills, this is the common stuff which serves me for linings;
and if you are curious to see my wardrobe, you shall not be
disappointed. At the same time he took out of his knapsack a
dress, laced with tarnished frippery, a shabby head-dress for an
hero, with an old plume of feathers; silk stockings full of
holes, and red morocco shoes a great deal the worse for wear. You
see, said he again, that I am very little better than a beggar.
That is astonishing, replied Diego: then you have neither wife
nor daughter? I have a very handsome young wife, rejoined Zapata,
and yet I might just as well be without her. Look with awe on the
lowering aspect of my horoscope. I married a personable actress,
in the hope that she would not let me die of hunger; and, to my
cost, she is cursed with incorruptible chastity. Who the devil
would not have been taken in as well as myself? There was but one
virtuous princess in a whole strolling company, and she, plague
take her! fell into my hands. It was throwing with bad luck most
undoubtedly, said the barber. But then, why did not you look out
for an actress in the regular theatre at Madrid? You would have
been sure of your mark. You are perfectly in the right, replied
the stroller; but the mischief is, we underlings dare not raise
our thoughts to those illustrious heroines. It is as much as an
actor of the prince's company can venture on; nay, some of them
are obliged to match with citizens' daughters. Happily for our
fraternity, citizens' daughters now-a-days contract theatrical
notions; and you may often meet with characters among them, to
the full as eccentric as any bona roba of the green-room.

Well! but have you never thought, said my fellow-traveller, of
getting an engagement in that company? Is it necessary to be a
Roscius for that purpose? That is very well of you! replied
Melchior, you are a wag, with your Roscius! There are twenty
performers. Ask the town what it thinks of them, and you will
hear a pretty character of their acting. More than half of them
deserve to carry a porter's knot. Yet for all that, it is no easy
matter to get upon the boards. Bribery or interest must make up
for the defect of talent. I ought to know what I say since my
debut at Madrid, where I was hissed and cat-called as if the
devil had got among the grimalkins, though I ought to have been
received with thunders of applause; for I whined, ranted, and
offered all sorts of violence to nature's modesty: nay, I went so
far as to clench my list at the heroine of the piece; in a word,
I adopted the conceptions of all the great performers; and yet
that same audience condemned by bell, book, and candle in me,
what was thought to be the first style of playing in them. Such
is the force of prejudice! So that, being no favourite with the
pit, and not having wherewithal to insinuate myself into the good
graces of the manager, I am on my return to Zamora. There we
shall all huddle together again, my wife and my fellow-comedians,
who are making but little of the business. I wish we may not be
obliged to beg our way out of town; a catastrophe of too frequent

At these words, up rose the stage-struck hero, slung across him
his knapsack and his sword, and made his exit with due theatric
pomp: Farewell, gentlemen; may all the gods shower all their
bounties on your heads! And you, answered Diego with
corresponding emphasis, may you find your wife at Zamora,
softened down in her relentless virtue, and in comfortable
keeping. No sooner had Signor Zapata turned upon his heel, than
he began gesticulating and spouting as he went along. The barber
and myself immediately began hissing, to remind him of his first
appearance at Madrid. The goose grated harsh upon his tympanum;
he took it for a repetition of signals from his old friends. But
looking behind him, and seeing that we were diverting ourselves
at his expense, far from taking offence at this merry conceit of
ours, he joined with good humour in the joke, and went his way
laughing as hard as he could. On our part, we returned the
compliment in kind. After this, we got again into the high road,
and pursued our journey.

CH. IX. -- The meeting of Diego with his family; their
circumstances in life; great rejoicings on the occasion; the
parting scene between him and Gil Blas.

WE stopped for the night at a little village between Moyados and
Valpuesta; I have forgotten the name: and the next morning, about
eleven, we reached the plain of Olmйdo. Signor Gil Blas, said my
companion, behold my native place. So natural are these local
attachments, that I can hardly contain myself at the sight of it.
Signor Diego, answered I, a man of so patriotic a soul as you
profess to be, might, methinks, have been a little more florid in
his descriptions. Olmйdo looks like a city at this distance, and
you called it a village; it cannot be anything less than a
corporate town. I beg its township's pardon, replied the barber;
but you are to know that after Madrid, Toledo, Saragossa, and all
the other large cities I have passed through in my tour of Spain,
these little ones are mere villages to me. As we got further on
the plain, there appeared to be a great concourse of people about
Olmйdo: so that, when we were near enough to distinguish objects,
we were in no want of food for speculation.

There were three tents pitched at some distance from each other;
and hard by, a bevy of cooks and scullions preparing an
entertainment. Here a party was laying covers on long tables set
out under the tents; there a detachment was crowning the pitchers
of Tellus with the gifts of Bacchus. The right wing was making
the pots boil, the left was turning the spits and basting the
meat. But what caught my attention more than all the rest, was a
temporary stage of respectable dimensions. It was furnished with
pasteboard scenes, painted in a tawdry style, and the proscenium
was decorated with Greek and Latin mottoes. No sooner did the
barber spy out these inscriptions, than he said to me -- All
these Greek words smell strongly of my uncle Thomas's lamp. I
would lay a wager he has a hand in them, for between ourselves,
he is a man of parts and learning. He knows all the classics by
heart. If he would keep them to himself it would be very well,
but he is always quoting them in company, and that people do not
like. But then to be sure he has a right, because this uncle of
mine has translated ever so many of the Latin poets and hard
Greek authors with his own hand and pen. He has got all antiquity
at his fingers' ends, as you may know by his ingenious and
profound criticisms. If it had not been for him, we might never
have learned that the Athenian school boys cried when they were
flogged; we owe that fact in the history of education to his
fundamental knowledge of the subject.

After my fellow-traveller and myself had looked about us, we had
a mind to inquire what these preparations were for. Going about
on the hunt, Diego recognized in the manager Signor Thomas de la
Fuenta, to whom we made up with great eagerness. The schoolmaster
did not recollect the young barber at first, such a difference
had ten years made. But when convinced of his being his own flesh
and blood, he gave him a cordial embrace, and said with much
appearance of kindness -- Ah! here you are, Diego, my dear
nephew, here you are, restored after your wanderings to your
native land. You come to revisit your household gods, your
Penates, and heaven delivers you back safe and sound into the
bosom of your family. Oh happy day, happy in all the proportions
of arithmetic! A day worthy to be marked with a white stone and
inserted among the Fasti! We have annals in abundance for you, my
friend; your uncle Pedro, the poetaster, has fallen a sacrifice
at the shrine of Pluto: to speak to the comprehension of the
vulgar, he has been dead these three months. That miser, in his
lifetime, was afraid of wanting necessaries -- Argenti pallebat
amore. Though the great were heaping wealth upon his head, his
annual expenditure did not amount to ten pistoles. He had but one
miserable attendant, and him he starved. This crazy fellow, more
wrong-headed than the Grecian Aristippus, who ordered his slaves
to leave all their costly baggage in the heart of Lybia, as an
incumbrance on their march, heaped up all the gold and silver he
could scrape together. And to what end? for those very heirs whom
he refused to acknowledge. He died worth thirty thousand ducats,
shared between your father, your uncle Bertrand, and myself. We
shall be able to do very well for our children. My brother
Nicholas has already married off your sister Theresa to the son
of a magistrate in this place -- Connubio junxit stabili
propriamque dica vit. These very hymeneals, greeted auspiciously
by all the nuptial powers, have we been celebrating for these two
days with all this pomp and luxury. These tents in the plain are
of our pitching. Pedro's three heirs have each a booth of his
own, and we defray the expenses of the day alternately. I wish
you had come sooner, you might have seen the whole progress of
our festivities. The day before yesterday, the wedding-day, your
father gave his treat. It was a superb entertainment, succeeded
by running at the ring. Your uncle, the mercer, regaled us
yesterday with a fкte champкtre, and paid the piper handsomely.
There were ten of the best grown boys, and ten young girls,
dressed out in pastoral weeds; all the frippery in his shop was
brought out to prank them up. This assemblage of Ganymedes and
Houris ran through all the mazes of the dance, and warbled forth
a thousand tender and spirit-stirring lays. And yet, though
nothing was ever more genteel, the effect was not thought
striking; but that must be owing to the bad taste of the
spectators, the simplicity of pastoral is lost upon the present

To-day, the wheels are greased by your humble servant, and I mean
to pre sent the burgesses of Olmйdo with a pageant of my own
invention -- Finis coronabit opus. I have got a stage erected,
on which, God willing, shall be represented by my scholars a
piece of my own composing, entitled and called -- The Amusements
of Muley Bugentuf, King of Morocco. It will be played to
perfection, for my pupils declaim like the players of Madrid.
They are lads of family at Penafiel and Segovia, boarders with
me. They know how to touch the passions! To be sure they have
rehearsed under my tuition; their emphasis will seem as if struck
in the mint of their master -- ut ita dicam. With respect to the
piece I shall not say a word about it, you shall be taken by
surprise. I shall simply state that it must produce a deep
impression on the audience. It is one of those tragic subjects
which harrow up the soul, by images of death presented to the
senses in all their fearful forms. I am of Aristotle's mind,
terror is a principal engine. Oh! if I had written for the stage,
I would have introduced none but bloody tyrants, and death-
dispensing heroes. Not all the perfumes of Arabia should have
sweetened this blood-polluted hand, I would have been up to my
elbows in gore. There would have been tragedy with a vengeance;
principal characters! ay, guards and attendants, should all have
been sprawling together. I would have butchered every man of
them, and the prompter into the bargain. In a word, I refine upon
Aristotle, and border on the horrible, that is my taste. These
plays to tear a cat in, are the only things for popularity; the
actors live merrily on their own dying speeches, and the authors
roll in luxury on the devastation of mankind.

Just as this harangue was over, we saw a great crowd of both
sexes coming out of town into the plain. Who should it be but the
new-married couple, attended by their families and friends, with
ten or twelve musicians in the van, producing a most obstreperous
din of harmony. We went up to them, and Diego introduced himself.
Peals of congratulation were immediately rung through the
assembly, and every one was eager to shake him by the hand. He
had enough upon his shoulders to receive all their fraternal
embraces. Relations and strangers all were for having a pull at
him. At length his father said -- You are welcome, Diego. You
find your kinsmen living upon the fat of the land, my friend. I
shall say no more at present, a nod is as good as a wink.
Meanwhile the company went forward upon the plain, took their
stations under the tents, and sat down to table. I kept close to
my companion, and we both dined with the happy couple, who
appeared to be suitably matched. The meal was not soon over, for
the schoolmaster had the vanity to give three courses, for the
purpose of cutting out his brothers, who had not been so
magnificent in their hospitalities.

After the banquet, all the guests expressed their longing to see
Signor Thomas's play, not doubting but the performance of so
extraordinary a genius would deserve all their ears. We came in
front of the stage; the musicians had taken possession of the
orchestra, for the overture and act-tunes. While every one was
waiting in profound silence for the rising of the curtain, the
actors appeared on the boards; and the author, with the piece in
his hand, sat down at the wing, in the prompter's place. Well
might he call it a tragedy, for in the first act the King of
Morocco, by way of diversion, shot an hundred Moorish slaves with
arrows; in the second he beheaded thirty Portuguese officers,
taken prisoners by one of his captains: and in the third and
last, this monarch, surfeited with long-indulged libertinism, set
fire with his own hands to the seraglio where his wives were
confined, and reduced it to ashes with its inhabitants. The
Moorish slaves, as well as the Portuguese officers, were puppets
on a very curious construction; and the palace, built of
pasteboard, looked very naturally in flames by means of an
artificial firework. This conflagration, accompanied by a
thousand piercing cries, issuing from the ruins, concluded the
piece, and the curtain dropped upon this amiable entertainment.
The whole plain resounded with the applause of this fine tragedy;
which spoke for the good taste of the poet, and proved that he
knew where to look out for a subject.

I did not suppose there was anything more to be seen after The
Amusements of Muley Bugentuf, but I was mistaken. Kettle-drums
and trumpets announced a new exhibition -- the distribution of
prizes -- for Thomas de la Fuenta, to give additional solemnity
to his olympics, had made all his boys, as well dayscholars as
boarders, write exercises; and on this occasion he was to give to
those who had succeeded best, books bought at Segovia out of his
own pocket. All at once were brought upon the stage two long
forms out of the school, with a press full of old worm-eaten
books in fine new bindings. At this signal all the actors
returned upon the stage, and took their places round Signor
Thomas, who looked as big as the head of a college. He had a
sheet of paper in his band, with the names of the successful
candidates. This he gave to the King of Morocco, who began
calling over the list with an authoritative voice. Each scholar,
answering to his name, went humbly to receive a book from the
hands of the bum-jerker; after this he was crowned with laurel,
and seated on one of the two benches to be exposed to the gaze of
the admiring company. Yet, desirous as the schoolmaster might be
to send the spectators away in good humour, he brought his eggs
to a bad market; for, having distributed almost all the prizes to
the boarders, according to the usual etiquette of pedagogues,
that those who pay most must necessarily be the cleverest
fellows, the mammas of certain day-scholars caught fire at this
instance of partiality, and fell foul of the disciplinarian
thereupon: so that the festival, hitherto so much to the glory of
the donor, seemed likely to have ended to the same tune as the
carousal of the Lapithae.



CH. I. -- The arrival of Gil Blas at Madrid. His first place

I MADE some stay with the young barber. At my departure, I met
with a traveller of Segovia passing through Olmйdo. He was
returning with four mules from a trading expedition to
Valladolid, and took me by way of back carriage. We got
acquainted on the road, and he took such a fancy to me that
nothing would serve him but I must be his guest at Segovia. He
gave me free quarters for two days, and when he found me
determined to leave him for Madrid under convoy of a muleteer, he
troubled me with a letter, begging me to deliver it in person
according to the superscription, without hinting that it was a
letter of recommendation. I was punctual in calling on Signor
Matheo Melendez. He was a woollen-draper, living at the gate of
the Sun, at the corner of Trunkmaker street. No sooner had he
broken the cover and read the contents, than he said with an air
of complacency -- Signor Gil Blas, my correspondent, Pedro
Palacio, has written to me so pressingly in your favour, that I
cannot do otherwise than offer you a bed at my house; moreover,
he desires me to find you a good master, and I undertake the
commission with pleasure. I have no doubt of suiting you to a

I embraced the offer of Melendez the more gratefully because my
funds were getting much below par; but I was not long a burden on
his hospitality. At the week's end, he told me that he had
mentioned my name to a gentleman of his acquaintance, who wanted
a valet-de-chambre, and, according to present appearances, the
place would not be long vacant. In fact, this gentleman happened
to make his appearance in the very nick -- Sir, said Melendez,
pushing me forward, you see before you the young man as by former
advice. He is a pupil of honour and integrity. I can answer for
him as if he was one of my own family. The gentleman looked at me
with attention, said that my face was in my favour, and hired me
at once. He has nothing to do but to follow me, added he, I will
put him into the routine of his employment. At these words he
wished the tradesman good morning, and took me into the High-
street, directly over against St Philip's church. We went into a
very handsome house, of which he occupied one wing; then going up
five or six steps, he took me into a room secured by strong
double doors, with an iron grate between. From this room we went
into another, with a bed and other furniture, rather neat than

If my new master had examined me closely, I had all my wits about
me as well as he. He was a man on the wrong side of fifty, with a
saturnine and serious air. His temper seemed to be even, and I
thought no harm of him. He asked me several questions about my
family; and liking my answers -- Gil Blas, said he, I take you
to be a very sensible lad, and am well pleased to have you in my
service. On your part, you shall have no reason to complain. I
will give you six rials a day board wages, besides vails. Then I
require no great attendance, for I keep no table, but always dine
out. You will only have to brush my clothes, and be your own
master for the rest of the day. Only take care to be at home
early in the evening, and to be in waiting at the door, that is
your chief duty. After this lecture, he took six rials out of his
purse, and gave them to me as earnest. We then went out, he
locked the doors after him, and taking care of the keys -- My
friend, said he, you need not go with me, follow the devices of
your own heart; but on my return this evening, let me find you on
that staircase. With this injunction he left me to dispose of
myself as seemed best in my own eyes.

In good sooth, Gil Blas, said I in a soliloquy, you have got a
jewel of a master. What! fall in with an employer to give you six
rials a day for wiping off the dust from his clothes, and putting
his room to rights in the morning, with the liberty of walking
about and taking your pleasure like a schoolboy in the holidays!
By my troth! it is a place of ten thousand. No wonder I was in a
hurry to get to Madrid, it was doubtless some mysterious boding
of good fortune prepared for me. I spent the day in the streets,
diverting myself with gaping at novelties -- a busy occupation.
In the evening, after supping at an ordinary not far from our
house, I squatted myself down in the corner pointed out by my
master. He came three quarters of an hour after me, and seemed
pleased with my punctuality. Very well, said he, this is right, I
like attentive servants. At these words, he opened the doors of
his apartment, and closed them upon us again as soon as we had
got in. As we had no candle, he took his tinder-box and struck a
light. I then helped him to undress. When he was in bed, I
lighted, by his order, a lamp in his chimney, and carried the
wax-light into the antechamber, where I lay in a press-bed
without curtains. He got up the next day between nine and ten
o'clock; I brushed his clothes. He paid me my six rials, and sent
me packing till the evening. My mysterious master went out
himself too, not without great caution in fastening the doors,
and we parted for the remainder of the day.

Such was our course of life, very agreeable to me. The best of
the joke was, that I did not know my master's name. Melendez did
not know it himself. The gentleman came to his shop now and then,
and bought a piece of cloth. My neighbours were as much at a loss
as myself; they all assured me that my master was a perfect
stranger, though he had lived two years in the ward. He visited
no soul in the neighbourhood, and some of them, a little given to
scandal, concluded him to be no better than he should be.
Suspicions got to be more rife; he was suspected of being a spy
of Portugal, and it was thought but fair play to give a hint for
my own good. This intimation troubled me. Thought I to myself,
should this turn out to be a fact, I stand a chance for seeing
the inside of a prison at Madrid. My innocence will be no
security; my past ill-usage makes me look on justice with
antipathy. Twice have I experienced that if the innocent are not
condemned in a lump with the guilty, at least the rights of
hospitality are too little regarded in their persons to make it
pleasant to pass a summer in the purlieus of the law.

I consulted Melendez in so delicate a conjuncture. He was at a
loss how to advise me. Though he could not bring himself to
believe that my master was a spy, he had no reason to be
confident on the other side of the question. I determined to
watch my employer, and to leave him if he turned out to be an
enemy of the state; but then prudence and personal comfort
required me to be certain of my fact. I began, therefore, to pry
into his actions; and to sound him, Sir, said I one evening while
he was undressing, I do not know how one ought to live so as to
be secure from reflections. The world is very scurrilous! We,
among others, have neighbours not worth a curse. Sad dogs! You
have no notion how they talk of us. Do they indeed, Gil Blas?
quoth he. Be it so! but what can they say of us, my friend? Ah!
truly, replied I, evil tongues never want a whet. Virtue herself
furnishes weapons for her own martyrdom. Our neighbours say that
we are dangerous people, that we ought to be looked after by
government; in a word, you are taken for a spy of Portugal. In
throwing out this hint, I looked hard at my master, just as
Alexander squinted at his physician, and pursed up all my
penetration to remark upon the effect of my intelligence. There
seemed to be a hitch in the muscles of my mysterious lord,
altogether in unison with the suspicions of the neighbourhood;
and he fell into a brown study, which bore no very auspicious
interpretation. However, he put a better face on the matter, and
said with sufficient composure: Gil Blas, leave our neighbours to
discourse as they please, but let not our repose depend on their
judgments. Never mind what they think of us, provided our own
consciences do not wince.

Hereupon he went to bed, and I did the like, without knowing what
course to take. The next day, just as we were on the point of
going out in the morning, we heard a violent knocking at the
outer door on the staircase. My master opened the inner, and
looked through the grate. A well-dressed man said to him: Please
your honour, I am an alguazil, come to inform you that Mr
Corregidor wishes to speak a word with you. What does he want?
answered my pattern of secrecy. That is more than I know, sir,
replied the alguazil; but you have only to go and wait on him;
you will soon be informed. I am his most obedient, quoth my
master; I have no business with him. At the tail of this speech,
he banged the inner door; then, after walking up and down a
little while, like one who pondered on the discourse of the
alguazil, he put my six rials into my hand, and said: Gil Blas,
you may go out, my friend; for my part, I shall stay at home a
little longer, but have no occasion for you. He made an
impression on my mind, by these words, that he was afraid of
being taken up, and was therefore obliged to remain in his
apartments. I left him there; and, to see how far my suspicions
were founded, hid myself in a place whence I could see if he went
out. I should have had patience to have staid there all the
morning, if he had not saved me the trouble. But an hour after, I
saw him walk the street with an ease and confidence which dumb-
founded my sagacity. Yet far from yielding to these appearances,
I mistrusted them; for my verdict went to condemnation. I
considered his easy carriage as put on; and his staying at home
as a finesse to secure his gold and jewels, when probably he was
going to consult his safety by speedy flight. I had no idea of
seeing him again, and doubted whether I should attend at his door
in the evening; so persuaded was I, that the day would see him on
the outside of the city, as his only refuge from impending
danger. Yet I kept my appointment; when, to my extreme surprise,
my master returned as usual. He went to bed without betraying the
least uneasiness, and got up the next morning with the same

Just as he had finished dressing, another knock at the door! My
master looked through the grate His friend the alguazil was there
again, and he asked him what he wanted. Open the door, answered
the alguazil; here is Mr Corregidor. At this dreadful name, my
blood froze in my veins. I had a devilish loathing of those
gentry since I had passed through their hands, and could have
wished myself at that moment an hundred leagues from Madrid. As
for my employer, less startled than myself; he opened the door,
and received the magistrate respectfully. You see, said the
corregidor, that I do not break in upon you with a whole posse:
my maxim is to do business in a quiet way. In spite of the ugly
reports circulated about you in the city, I think you deserve
some little attention. What is your name, and business at Madrid?
Sir, answered my master, I am from New Castile, and my title is
Don Bernard de Castil Blazo. With respect to my way of life, I
lounge about, frequent public places, and take my daily pleasure
in a select circle of polite company. Of course you have a
handsome fortune! replied the judge. No, sir, interrupted my
Mecaenas, I have neither annuities, nor lands, nor houses. How do
you live then? rejoined the corregidor. I will show you, replied
Don Bernard. At the same time he lifted up a part of the
hangings, before a door I had not observed, opened that and one
beyond, then took the magistrate into a closet containing a large
chest chuck full of gold.

Sir, said he again, you know that the Spaniards are proverbially
indolent; yet, whatever may be their general dislike to labour, I
may compliment myself on bettering the example. I have a stock of
laziness, which disqualifies me for all exertion. If I had a mind
to puff my vices into virtues, I might call this sloth of mine a
philosophical indifference, the work of a mind weaned from all
that worldlings court with so much ardour; but I will frankly own
myself constitutionally lazy, and so lazy, that rather than work
for my subsistence, I would lay myself down and starve.
Therefore, to lead a life befitting my fancy, not to have the
trouble of looking after my affairs, and above all to do without
a steward, I have converted all my patrimony, consisting of
several considerable estates, into ready money. In this chest
there are fifty thousand ducats; more than enough for the
remainder of my days, should I live to be an hundred! For I do
not spend a thousand a year, and am already more than fifty years
old. I have no fears, therefore, for futurity, since I am not
addicted, heaven be praised, to any one of the three things which
usually ruin men. I care little for the pleasures of the table; I
only play for my amusement; and I have given up women. There is
no chance of my being reckoned, in my old age, among those
libidinous grey-beards to whom jilts sell their favours by troy

You are a happy man! said the corregidor. They are in the wrong
to suspect you of being a spy: that office is quite out of
character for a man like you. Take your own course, Don Bernard:
continue to live as you like. Far from disturbing your peace, I
declare myself your protector; I request your friendship, and
pledge my own. Ah! sir, exclaimed my master, thrilled with these
kind expressions, I accept with equal joy and gratitude your
precious offer. In giving me your friendship you augment my
wealth, and carry my happiness to its height. After this
conversation, which the alguazil and myself heard; from the
closet door, the corregidor took his leave of Don Bernard, who
could not do enough to express his sense of the obligation. On my
part, mimicking thy master in doing the honours of the house, I
overburdened the alguazil with civilities. I made him a thousand
low bows, though I felt for him in my sleeve the contempt and
hatred which every honest man naturally entertains for an

CH. II. -- The astonishment of Gil Blas at meeting Captain
Rolando in Madrid, and that robber's curious narrative.

DON Bernard de Castil Blazo, having attended the corregidor to
the street, returned in a hurry to fasten his strong box, and all
the doors which secured it. We then went out, both of us well
satisfied, he at having acquired a friend in power, and myself at
finding my six rials a day secured to me. The desire of relating
this adventure to Melendez made me bend my steps towards his
house; but, near my journey's end, whom should I meet but Captain
Rolando! My surprise was extreme, and I could not help quaking at
the sight of him. He recollected me at once, accosted me gravely,
and, still keeping up his tone of superiority, ordered me to
follow him. I tremblingly obeyed, saying inwardly: Alas! he
means, doubtless, to make me pay my debts! Whither will he lead
me? There may, perhaps, be some subterraneous retreat in this
city. Plague take it! If I thought so, I would soon show him I
have not got the gout. I walked, therefore, behind him carefully
looking out where he might stop, with the pious design of putting
my best leg foremost, if there was anything in the shape of a

Rolando soon dispersed my alarms. He went into a well-frequented
tavern; I followed him. He called for the best wine, and ordered
dinner. While it was getting ready, we went into a private room,
where the captain addressed me as follows: You may well be
astonished, Gil Blas, to renew your acquaintance with your old
commander; and you will be still more so, when you have heard my
tale. The day I left you in the cave, and went with my troop to
Mansilla, for the purpose of selling the mules and horses we had
taken the evening before, we met the son of the corregidor of
Leon, attended by four men on horseback well armed, following his
carriage. Two of his people we made to bite the dust, and the
other two ran away. On this the coachman, alarmed for his master,
cried out to us in a tone of supplication -- Alas! my dear
gentlemen, in God's name, do not kill the only son of his worship
the corregidor of Leon. These words were far from softening my
comrades; on the contrary, their fury knew no bounds. Good folks,
said one of them, let not the son of a mortal enemy to men like
us escape our vengeance. How many ornaments of our profession has
his father cut off in their prime! Let us repay his cruelty with
interest, and sacrifice this victim to their offended ghosts. The
whole troop applauded the fineness of this feeling, and my
lieutenant himself was preparing to act as high priest at this
unhallowed altar, when I interdicted the rites. Stop, said I; why
shed blood without occasion? Let us rest contented with the
youth's purse. As he makes no resistance, it would be against the
laws of war to cut his throat. Besides, he is not answerable for
his father's misdeeds; nay, his father only does his duty in
condemning us to death, as we do ours in rifling travellers.

Thus did I plead for the corregidor's son, and my intercession
was not unavailing. We only took every farthing of his money, and
carried off with us the horses of the two men whom we had slain.
These we sold with the rest at Mansilla. Thence we returned to
the cavern, where we arrived the following morning a little
before daybreak. We were not a little surprised to find the trap
open, and still more so, when we found Leonarda handcuffed in the
kitchen. She unravelled the mystery in two words. We wondered how
you could have overreached us; no one could have thought you
capable of serving us such a trick, and we forgave the effect for
the merit of the invention. As soon as we had released our
kitchen wench, I gave orders for a good luncheon. In the mean
time we went to look after our horses in the stable, where the
old negro, who had been left to himself for four-and-twenty
hours, was at the last gasp. We did all we could for his relief,
but he was too far gone; indeed so much reduced, that, in spite
of our endeavours, we left the poor devil on the threshold of
another world. It was very sad; but it did not spoil our
appetites, and, after an abundant breakfast, we retired to our
chambers, and slept away the whole day. On our awaking, Leonarda
apprized us that Domingo had paid the debt of nature. We carried
him to the charnel-house where you may recollect to have lodged,
and there performed his obsequies, just as if he had been one of
our own order.

Five or six days afterwards, it fell out that one morning, on a
sally, we encountered three companies of the Holy Brotherhood, on
the outskirts of the wood. They seemed waiting to attack us. We
perceived but one troop at first. These we despised, though
superior in number to our party, and rushed forward to the onset.
But while we were at loggerheads with the first, the two others
in ambuscade came thundering down upon us; so that our valour was
of no use. There was no withstanding such a host of enemies. Our
lieutenant and two of our gang gave up the ghost on this
occasion. As for the two others and myself, we were so closely
pressed and hemmed in, as to be taken prisoners: and, while two
detachments convoyed us to Leon, the third went to destroy our
retreat. How it was discovered, I will briefly tell you. A
peasant of Luceno, crossing the forest on his way home, by chance
espied the trap-door of our subterraneous residence, which a
certain young runaway had not shut down after him, for it was
precisely the day when you took yourself off with the lady. He
had a violent suspicion of its being our abode, without having
the courage to go in. It was enough to mark the adjacent parts,
by lightly peeling with his knife bark from the nearest trees,
and so on, from distance to distance, till he was quite out of
the wood. He then betook himself to Leon, with this grand
discovery for the corregidor, who was so much the better pleased,
as his son had been robbed by our gang. This magistrate collected
together three companies to lay hold of us, and the peasant
showed them the way.

My arrival in the town of Leon was as good as that of a wild
beast to the inhabitants. Even though I had been a Portuguese
general made prisoner of war, the people could not have been more
anxious to see me. There he goes, was the cry; that is he, the
famous captain, the terror of these parts. It would serve him
right to tear him piecemeal with pincers, and make his comrades
join in the chorus. To the corregidor, was the universal cry; and
his worship began insulting me. So, so! said he, scoundrel as you
are, the powers of justice, worn to a thread with your past
irregularities, hand over the task of punishment to me as their
delegate. Sir, answered I, great as my crimes may have been, at
least the death of your only son is not to be laid at my door.
His life was saved by me; you owe me some acknowledgment on that
score. Oh! wretch, exclaimed he, there are no measures to be kept
with people of your description. And though it were my wish to
save you, my sacred office would not allow me to indulge my
feelings. Having spoken to this effect, he committed us to a
dungeon, where my companions had no time to lament their hard
fate. They got out of confinement, at the end of three days, to
expatiate with tragic energy at the place of execution. For my
part, I took up my quarters in limbo for three complete weeks. My
punishment seemingly was deferred only to render it more
terrible; and I was looking out for some refinement on the
ordinary course of criminal justice, when the corregidor, having
summoned me before him, said: Give ear to your sentence. You are
free. Had it not been for you, my only son would have been
assassinated on the highway. As a father, my gratitude was due
for this service; but not being competent to acquit you in my
capacity of a magistrate, I have written up to court in your
favour; have solicited your pardon, and have obtained it. Go,
then, whithersoever it may seem good to you. But take my advice;
profit by this lucky escape. Look to your paths, and give up the
trade of a highwayman for good and all.

I was deeply impressed by this advice, and took my departure for
Madrid, in the firm determination of mending my ways, and living
quietly in that city. There I found my father and mother dead,
and what they left behind them in the hands of an old kinsman,
who administered duly and truly, as all trustees of course do. I
saved three thousand ducats out of the fire; scarcely a quarter
of what I was entitled to. But where was the remedy? There was no
standing to the quirks and evasions of the law. Just to be doing
something, I have purchased an alguazil's place. My colleagues
would have set their faces against my admission, for the honour
of the cloth, had they known my history. Luckily they did not, or
at least affected not to know it, which was just as good as the
reality; for, in that illustrious body, it is the bounden duty
and interest of every member to wear a mask. The pot cannot call
the kettle hard names, thank heaven. The devil would have no
great catch in the best of us. And yet, my friend, I could
willingly unbosom myself to you without disguise. My present
occupation is much against the grain; it requires too circumspect
and too mysterious a conduct; there is nothing to be done but by
underhand dealings, gravity, and cunning. Oh! for my first trade!
The new one is safer, to be sure; but there is more fun in the
other, and liberty is my motto. I feel disposed to get rid of my
office, and to set out some sunshiny morning for the mountains at
the source of the Tagus. I know of a retreat thereabouts,
inhabited by a numerous gang, composed chiefly of Catalonians;
when I have said that, I need say no more. If you will go along
with me, we will swell the number of those heroes. I shall be
second in command. To make your footing respectable at once, I
will swear that you have fought ten times by my side. Your valour
shall mount to the very skies. I will tell more good of you than
a commander-in-chief of a favourite officer. I will not say a
word about the run-away trick, that would render you suspected of
turning nose, therefore mum is the word. What say you to it? Are
you ready to set off? I am impatient to know your mind.

Every one to his own fancy, said I then to Rolando, you were born
for bold exploits, and your friend for a serene and quiet life. I
understand you, interrupted he; the lady whom love induced you to
carry off still preserves her influence over your heart, and you
doubtless lead with her that serene life of which you are
enamoured. Own the truth, master Gil Blas, she is become a thing
of your own, and you are both living on the pistoles carried off
from the subterraneous retreat. I told him he was mistaken; and,
to set him right, related the lady's adventures and my own while
we sat at dinner. When our meal was finished he led back to the
subject of the Catalonians, and attempted once more to engage me
in his project. But finding me inflexible, he looked at me with a
terrific frown, and said seriously -- Since you are dastard
enough to prefer your servile condition to the honour of
enlisting in a troop of brave fellows, I turn you adrift to your
own grovelling inclinations. But mark me well, a lapse may be
fatal. Forget our meeting of to-day, and never prate about me to
any living soul; for if I catch you bandying about my name in
your idle talk . . . . you know my ways, I need say no more. With
these words he called for the landlord, paid the reckoning, and
we rose from table to go away.

CH. III -- Gil Blas is dismissed by Don Bernard de Castil Blazo,
and enters into the service of a beau.

As we were coming out of the tavern, and taking our leave, my
master was passing along the street. He saw me, and I observed
him look more than once at the captain. I had no doubt but he was
surprised at meeting me in such company. It is certain that
Rolando's physiognomy and air were not much in favour of moral
qualities. He was a gigantic fellow, with a long face, a parrot's
beak, and a very rascally contour, without being absolutely ugly.

I was not mistaken in my guess. In the evening I found Don
Bernard harping on the captain's figure, and charmingly disposed
to believe all the fine things I could have said of him, if my
tongue had not been tied. Gil Blas, said he, who is that great
shark I saw with you awhile ago? I told him it was an alguazil,
and thought to have got off with that answer, but he returned to
the charge; and observing my confusion, from the remembrance of
the threats used by Rolando, broke off the conversation abruptly
and went to bed. The next morning, when I had performed my
ordinary duties, he counted me over six ducats instead of six
rials, and said -- Here, my friend, this is what I give you for
your services up to this day. Go and look out for another place.
A servant keeping such high company is too much for me. I
bethought myself of saying, in my own defence, that I had known
that alguazil, by having prescribed for him at Valladolid, while
I was practising medicine. Very good, replied my master, the
shift is ingenious enough; you might have thought of it last
night, and not have looked so foolish. Sir, rejoined I, in good
truth prudence kept me silent, and gave to my reserve the aspect
of guilt. Undoubtedly, resumed he, tapping me softly on the
shoulder, it was carrying prudence very far, even to the confines
of cunning. Go, lad, I have no further occasion for your

I went immediately to acquaint Melendez with the bad news, who
told me, for my comfort, that he would engage to procure me a
better berth. Indeed, some days after, he said -- Gil Blas, my
friend, you have no notion of the good luck in store for you. You
will have the most agreeable post in the world. I am going to
settle you with Don Matthias de Silva. He is a man of the first
fashion, one of those young noblemen commonly distinguished by
the appellation of beaus. I have the honour of his custom. He
takes up goods of me, on tick, indeed, but these great men are
good pay in the long run, they often marry rich heiresses, and
then old scores are wiped off; or, should that fail, a tradesman
who understands his business puts such a price upon his articles,
that if three-fourths of his debts are bad, he is no loser. Don
Matthias's steward is my intimate friend. Let us go and look for
him. It will be for him to present you to his master, and you may
rely upon it, that for my sake he will treat you with high

As we were on our way to Don Matthias's house, this honest
shopkeeper said -- It is fit, methinks, that you should be let
into the steward's character. His name is Gregorio Rodriguez.
Between ourselves, he is a man of low birth, with a talent for
intrigue, in which vocation he has laboured till a stewardship in
two distressed families completed their ruin, and made his
fortune. I give you notice, that his vanity is excessive; he
loves to see the under-servants creeping and crawling at his
feet. It is with him they must make interest if they have any
favour to beg of their master, for should they happen to obtain
it without his interference, he has always some shift or other at
hand to get the boon revoked, or at least render it of no avail.
Regulate your conduct on this hint, Gil Blas; pay court to Signor
Rodriguez in preference to your master himself, and leave no
stone unturned to get into his good graces. His friendship will
be of material service to you. He will pay your wages to the day;
and, if you have management enough to worm yourself into his
confidence, you may chance to pick up some of the fragments which
fall from his table. There are enough for an hungrier dog than
you! Don Matthias is a young nobleman, with no thought to throw
away but on his pleasures, nor the slightest suspicion how his
own affairs are going on. What a house for a steward who knows
how to be a steward!

When we got to our journey's end, we asked to speak with Signor
Rodriguez. We were told that we should find him in his own
apartment. There he was, sure enough, and with him a clownish
sort of fellow holding a blue bag, full of money. The steward,
looking more wan and yellow than a girl in a hurry for a husband,
ran up to Melendez with open arms; the draper was not behindhand
with him, and they each hugged the other with a shew of
friendship, at least as much indebted to art as nature for its
plausible effect. After this, the next question was about me.
Rodriguez examined me from top to toe; saying very civilly at the
same time that I was just such an one as Don Matthias wanted, and
that he would with pleasure take upon himself to present me to
that nobleman. Thereupon Melendez gave him to understand how
deeply he was interested in my behalf; he begged the steward to
take me under his protection, and leaving me with him, after
plenty of compliments, withdrew. As soon as he was gone out,
Rodriguez said, I will introduce you to my master the moment I
have dispatched this honest husbandman. He called the country man
to him forthwith, and taking his bag, Talego, said he, let us see
if the five hundred pistoles are all right. He counted over the
money himself. As the sum was found to be exact, the countryman
took a receipt and went away. The cash was put back again into
the bag. It was my turn next to be attended to. We may now, said
my new patron, go to my master's levee. He usually gets up about
noon, it is now near one o'clock, and must be daylight in his

Don Matthias had indeed just risen. He was still in his morning
gown, kicking his heels in a great chair, with a leg tossed over
one of the elbows, swinging backwards and forwards, and
manufacturing his own snuff. His conversation was addressed to a
footman in waiting, who officiated as a temporary valet-de-
chambre. My lord, said the steward, here is a young man whom I
take the liberty of presenting to your lordship in the place of
him you discharged the day before yesterday. Your draper,
Melendez, has given him a character; he undertakes for his
qualifications, and I believe you will be very well pleased with
him. That is enough, answered the young nobleman, since he has
your recommendation, I adopt him blindfold into my retinue. He is
my valet-de-chambre at once; that business is settled. Let us
talk of other matters, Rodriguez, you are come just in time, I
was going to send for you. I have a budget of bad news, my dear
Rodriguez. I played with ill luck last night, an hundred pistoles
in my pocket lost, and two hundred more on credit. You know how
indispensable it is for persons of high rank to pay their debts
of honour. As for any other, it is no matter when they are paid.
Punctuality is all very well between one tradesman and another,
but they cannot expect it from one of us. These two hundred
pistoles must be raised forthwith and sent to the Countess de
Pedrosa. Sir, quoth the steward, that is sooner said than done.
Where, prythee, am I to get such a sum? Threaten as I will, I
never touch a maravedi from your tenants. And yet your
establishment is to be kept up in style, and I am wearing myself
to a thread in furnishing the ways and means. It is true that
hitherto, heaven be praised, we have rubbed on, but what witch to
conjure for a wind, now, I know not, the case is desperate. All
this prosing is extremely impertinent, interrupted Don Matthias;
this countinghouse talk makes me hideously nervous. So then,
Rodriguez, you really think to undertake my reform, and
metamorphose me into a plodding manager of my own estates? A very
elegant sort of pastime for a man in my station of life; a man of
rank and fashion! Grant me patience, replied the steward; at the
rate we are driving now, it is easily calculated how soon you
will be released from all those cares. You are a very great bore,
resumed the young nobleman rather peevishly, this brutal
importunity is downright murder to one's feelings. I hate loud
music, be so good as to let me be ruined pianissimo. I tell you I
want two hundred pistoles, and I must have them. Why, then, said
Rodriguez, we must have recourse to the old rascal who has lent
you so much already on usurious terms. Have recourse to the
devil, if he will do you any good, answered Don Matthias; only
let me have two hundred pistoles, and it is the same thing to me
how you manage to get them.

While he was uttering these words in a hasty and fretful tone,
the steward went out; and Don Antonio Centellйs, a young man of
quality, came in. What is the matter, my friend? said this last
to my master: your atmosphere is overcast; I trace passion in the
lines of your countenance. Who can have ruffled that sweet
temper? I would lay a wager, it was that booby just gone out.
Yes, answered Don Matthias, he is my steward. Every time he comes
to speak to me, I am in an agony for a quarter of an hour or
twenty minutes. He rings the changes on the state of my affairs;
and tells me that I am spending principal and interest A beast!
He will say next, that I have ruined him into the bargain! My
dear fellow, replied Don Antonio, I am exactly in the same
situation. My man of business is just such another scarecrow as
your steward. When the sneaking scoundrel, after repeated
demands, brings me some niggardly supply, it is just as if he was
lending me his own. He expostulates most barbarously. Sir, says
he, you are going to rack and ruin; there is an execution out
against you. I am obliged to cut him short, and beg him to
remonstrate in epitome. The worst of it is, said Don Matthias,
that there is no doing without these fellows; they are the
penance attached to our elegant indiscretions. Just so, replied
Centellйs. But listen, pursued he, bursting into a fit of
laughter; a pleasant idea has just struck me. Nothing was ever
more farcically fancied. We may introduce a buffo caricato into
our serious opera, and relieve the knell of our departed goods
and chattels with an humorous divertissement. The plot is thus:
let me try to borrow from your steward whatever you want. You
shall do the same with my man of business. Then let them both
preach as they please; we shall hearken with the utmost
composure. Your steward will come and open his case to me; my man
of business will plead the poverty of the land to you. I shall
hear of nothing but your extravagance; and you will see your own
in mine as in a glass. It will be vastly entertaining.

A thousand brilliant conceits followed this flight of genius, and
put the young patricians into high spirits, so that they kept up
the ball with vivacity, if not with wit. Their conversation was
interrupted by Gregorio Rodriguez, who brought back with him a
little old man with a bald head. Don Antonio was for moving off.
Farewell, Don Matthias, said he, we shall meet again anon. I
leave you with these gentlemen; you have, doubtless, some state
affairs to discuss in council. Oh! no, no, answered my master,
you had better stop; you will not interrupt us. This warm old
gentleman has the moderation to lend me money at twenty per cent.
What! at twenty per cent! exclaimed Centellйs in a tone of
astonishment. In good truth! I wish you joy on being in such
hands. I do not come off so cheaply, for my part: I pay through
the nose for every farthing I get. My loans are generally raised
at double that per cent. There is usury! said the father of the
usurious tribe; unconscionable dogs! Where do they expect to go
when they die? I do not wonder there is so strong a prejudice
against money-lenders. It is the exorbitant profit which some of
them derive from their discounts, that brings reproach and ill-
will upon us all. If all my brethren of the blue balls were like
me, we should not be treated so scurvily; for my part, I only
lend to do my duty towards my neighbour. Ah! if times were as
good now as in my early days, my purse should be at your service
as a friend; and even now, in the present distress of the money-
market, it goes against the grain to take a poor twenty per cent.
But one would think the money was all gone back to the mines
whence it came: there is no such thing to be had, and the
scarcity compels me to depart a little from the disinterested
severity of my benevolence. How much do you want? pursued he,
addressing my master. Two hundred pistoles, answered Don
Matthias. I have four hundred here in a bag, replied the usurer;
it is only to give you half of them. At the same time he drew
from underneath his cloak a blue bag, looking just like that in
which farmer Talego had left five hundred pistoles with
Rodriguez. I was not long in forming my judgment of the matter,
and saw plainly that Melendez had not bragged without reason of
the steward's aptness in the ways of the world. The old man
emptied the bag, displayed the cash on a table, and set about
counting it. The sight set all my master's extravagant passions
in a flame; the sum total proved very striking to his
comprehension. Signor Descomulgado, said he to the usurer, I have
just made a very sensible reflection: I am a great fool. I only
borrow enough to redeem my credit, without thinking of my empty
pockets. I should be obliged to give you the trouble of coming
again to-morrow. I think, therefore, it will be best to spare
your age and infirmities, and ease you of the four hundred at
once. My lord, answered the old man, I had destined half of this
money to a good licentiate, who lays out the income of his large
preferments in those pious and charitable uses for which they
were originally given to the clergy, as stewards of the poor, and
guides to the young and unwary. In pursuance of this end, it is
his great delight to wean young girls from the seductions of a
wicked world, and place them in a snug well-furnished little box
of his own, where they may be obnoxious to his ghostly
admonitions by day and by night. But, since you have occasion for
the whole sum, it is at your disposal. Some thing by way of
security . . . . Oh! as for security, interrupted Rodriguez,
taking a paper out of his pocket, you shall have as good as the
bank. Here is a note which Signor Don Matthias has only just to
sign. He makes over five hundred pistoles, due from one of his
tenants, Talego, a wealthy yeoman of Mondejar. That is enough,
replied the usurer, I never split hairs, but deal upon the
square. The steward insinuated a pen between his master's
fingers, who signed his name at the bottom of the note, without
reading it; and whistled as he signed, for want of thought.

That business settled, the old man took his leave of my noble
employer, who shook him cordially by the hand, saying: Till I
have. the pleasure of seeing you again, good master pounds,
shillings, and pence, I am your most devoted humble servant. I do
not know why you should all be lumped together for a set of
blood-suckers; you seem to me a necessary link in the chain of
well-ordered society. You are as good as a physician to us
pecuniary invalids of quality, and keep us alive by artificial
restoratives in the last stage of a consumptive purse. You are in
the right, exclaimed Centellйs. Usurers are a very gentlemanly
order in society, and I must not be denied the privilege of
paying my compliments to this illustrious specimen, for the sake
of his twenty per cent. With this banter, he came up and threw
his arms about the old man's neck: and these two overgrown
children, for their amusement, began sending him backward. and
forward between them like a shuttlecock. After they had tossed
him about from pillar to post, they suffered him to depart with
the steward, who ought to have come in for his share of the game,
and for something a little more serious.

When Rodriguez and his stalking-horse had left the room, Don
Matthias sent, by the lacquey in waiting, half his pistoles to
the Countess de Pedrosa, and deposited the other half in a long
purse worked with gold and silk, which he usually wore in his
pocket. Very well pleased to find himself in cash, he said to Don
Antonio, with an air of gaiety: What shall we do with ourselves
to-day? Let us call a council. That is talking like a statesman,
answered Centellйs: I am your man: let us ponder gravely. While
they were collecting their deliberative wisdom on the course they
were to pursue for the day, two other noblemen came in; Don Alexo
Segiar and Don Ferdinand de Gamboa; both nearly about my master's
age, that is, from eight and twenty to thirty. These four jolly
blades began with such hearty salutations, as if they had not met
for these ten years. After that, Don Ferdinand, a professed
bacchanalian, made his proposals to Don Matthias and Don Antonio:
Gentlemen, said he, where do you dine to-day? If you are not
engaged, I will take you to a tavern, where you shall quaff
celestial liquor. I supped there last night, and did not come
away till between five and six this morning. Would to heaven,
exclaimed my master, I had done the same! I should not have lost
my money.

For my part, said Centellйs, I treated myself yesterday evening
with a new amusement; for variety has always its charms for me.
Nothing but a change of pleasures can make the dull round of
human life supportable. One of my friends introduced me neck and
heels to one of those gentry ycleped tax-gatherers, who do the
government business and their own at the same time. There was no
want of magnificence, good taste, or a well-designed set out
table! but I found in the family itself an highly seasoned relish
of absurdity. The farmer of the revenues, though the most meanly
extracted of the whole party, must set up for a great man; and
his wife, though hideously ugly, was a goddess in her own
estimation, and made a thousand silly speeches, the zest of which
was heightened by a Biscayan accent. Add to this, that there were
four or five children with their tutor at table. Judge if it must
not have been an amusing family party.

As for me, gentlemen, said Don Alexo Segiar, I supped with
Arsenia the actress. We were six at table: Arsenia, Florimonde, a
coquette of her acquaintance, the Marquis de Zenette, Don Juan de
Moncade, and your humble servant. We passed the night in drinking
and talking bawdy. What a flow of soul! To be sure, Arsenia and
Florimonde are not strong in their upper works; but then they
have a facility in their vocation which is more than all the wit
in the world. They are the dearest madcaps, gay, romping, and
rampant: they are an hundred times better than your modest women
of sense and discretion.

CH. IV. -- Gil Blas gets into company with his fellows; they shew
him a ready road to the reputation of wit, and impose on him a
singular oath.

THOSE noblemen pursued this strain of conversation, till Don
Matthias, about whose person I was fiddling all the while, was
ready to go out. He then told me to follow him; and this bevy of
fashionables set sail together for the tavern, whither Don
Ferdinand de Gamboa proposed to conduct them. I began my march in
the rear rank with three other valets; for each of the gentlemen
had his own. I remarked with astonishment that these three
servants copied their masters, and assumed the same follies. I
introduced myself as a new comer. They returned my salute in
form; and one of them, after having taken measure of me very
accurately, said -- Brother, I perceive, by your gait, that you
have never yet lived with a young nobleman. Alas! no, answered I,
neither have I been long in Madrid. So it appears, replied he,
you smell strong of the country. You seem timid and embarrassed;
there is an hitch in your deportment. But no matter, we will soon
wear off all stiffness, take my word for it. Perhaps you think
better of me than I deserve, said I. No, resumed he, no; there is
no such cub as we cannot lick into shape; assure yourself of

This specimen was enough to convince me that I had hearty fellows
for my comrades, and that I could not be in better hands to
initiate me into high life below-stairs. On our arrival at the
tavern, we found an entertainment ready which Signor Don
Ferdinand had been so provident as to order in the morning. Our
masters sat down to table, and we arranged ourselves behind their
chairs. The conversation was spirited and lively. My ears tingled
to hear them. Their humour, their way of thinking, their mode of
expression diverted me. What fire! what sallies of imagination!
They appeared like a new order of beings. With the dessert, we
set before them a great choice of the best wines in Spain, and
left the room, to go to dinner in a little parlour, where our
cloth was laid.

I was not long in discovering that the combatants in our lists
had more to recommend them than appeared at first sight. They
were not satisfied with aping the manners of their masters, but
even copied their phrases; and these varlets gave such a
facsimile, that bating a little vulgarity, they might have passed
themselves off very well. I admired their free and easy carriage;
still more was I charmed with their wit, but despaired of ever
coming up to them in my own person. Don Ferdinand's servant, on
the score of his master treating ours, did the honours; and,
determined to do the thing genteelly, he called the landlord, and
said to him -- Master tapster, give us ten bottles of your very
best wine; and, as you have an happy knack of doing, make the
gentlemen up stairs believe that they have drank them. With all
my heart, answered the landlord; but, Master Gaspard, you know
that Signor Don Ferdinand owes me for a good many dinners
already. If through your kind intervention I could get some
little matter on account . . . . Oh! interrupted the valet, do
not be at all uneasy about your debt: I will take it upon myself;
put it down to me. It is true that some unmannerly creditors have
preferred legal measures to a reliance on our honour; but we
shall take the first opportunity of obtaining a replevy, and will
pay you without looking at your bill. To have my master on your
books is like so many ingots of gold. The landlord brought us the
wine, in spite of unmannerly creditors; and we drank to a speedy
replevy. It was as good as a comedy to see us drinking each
other's health every minute, under our masters' titles. Don
Antonio's servant called Don Ferdinand's plain Gamboa, and Don
Ferdinand's servant called Don Antonio's Centellйs: they dubbed
me Silva; and we kept pace in drunkenness, under these borrowed
names, with the noblemen to whom they properly belonged.

Though my wit was less conspicuous than that of the other guests,
they lost no opportunity of testifying their pleasure in my
acquaintance. Silva, said one of our merriest soakers, we shall
make something of you, my friend. I perceive that you have wit at
will, if you did but know how to draw upon it. The fear of
talking absurdly prevents you from throwing out at all; and yet
it is only by a bold push that a thousand people now-a-days set
themselves up for good companions. Do you wish to be bright? You
have only to give the reins to your loquacity, and to venture
indiscriminately on whatever comes uppermost: your blunders will
pass for the eccentricities of genius. Though you should utter an
hundred extravagances, let but a single good joke be packed up in
the bundle, the nonsense shall be all forgotten, the witticism
bandied about, and your talent be puffed into high repute. This
is the happy method our masters have devised, and it ought to be
adopted by all new candidates. Besides that I had but too strong
a wish to pass for a clever fellow, the trick they taught me
appeared so easy in the performance, that it ought not to be
buried in obscurity. I tried it at once, and the fumes of the
wine contributed to my success; that is to say, I talked at
random, and had the good luck to strike out of much absurdity
some flashes of merriment, very acceptable to my audience. This
first essay inspired me with confidence. I redoubled my
sprightliness, to sparkle in repartee; and chance gave a
successful issue to my endeavours.

Well done! said my fellow-servant who had addressed me in the
street, do not you begin to shake off your rustic manners? You
have not been two hours in our company, and you are quite another
creature: your improvement will be visible every day. This it is
to wait on people of quality. It causes an elevation, which the
mind can never attain under a plebeian roof. Doubtless, answered
I -- and for that reason I shall henceforth dedicate my little
talents to the nobility. That is bravely said, roared out Don
Ferdinand's servant, half seas over, commoners are not entitled
to possess such a fund of superior genius as exists in us. Come,
gentlemen, let us make a vow never to colleague with any such
beggarly fellows; let us swear to that by Styx. We laughed
heartily at Gaspard's conceit: the proposal was received with
applause: and we took this mock oath with our glasses in our

Thus sat we at table till our masters were pleased to get up from
it. This was at midnight; an outrageous instance of sobriety, in
the opinion of my colleagues. To be sure, these noble lords left
the tavern so early only to visit a celebrated wanton, lodging in
the purlieus of the court, and keeping open house night and day
for the votaries of pleasure. She was a woman from five and
thirty to forty, still in the height of her charms, entertaining
in her discourse, and so perfect a mistress in the art of
pleasure, that she sold the waste and refuse of her beauty at a
higher price than the first sample of the unadulterated article.
She had always two or three other pieces of damaged goods in the
house, who contributed not a little to the great concourse of
nobility resorting thither. The afternoon was spent in play; then
supper, and the night passed in drinking and making merry. Our
masters staid till morning, and so did we, without thinking the
time long; for, while they were toying with the mistresses, we
attacked the maids. At length, we all parted when daylight peeped
in on our festivities, and went to bed each of us at our separate

My master getting up at his usual time, about noon, dressed
himself. He went out. I followed him, and we paid a visit to Don
Antonio Centellйs, with whom we found one Don Alvaro de Acuna. He
was an old gentleman, who gave lectures on the science of
debauchery. The rising generation, if they wanted to qualify
themselves for fine gentlemen, put themselves under his tuition.
He moulded their ductile habits to pleasure, taught them to make
a distinguished figure in the world, and to squander their
substance: he had no qualms as to running out his own, for the
deed was done. After these three blades had exchanged the
compliments of the morning, Centellйs said to my master -- In
good faith, Don Matthias, you could not have come at a more lucky
time. Don Alvar is come to take me with him to a dinner, given by
a citizen to the Marquis de Zenette and Don Juan de Moncade; and
you shall be of the party. And what is the citizen's name? said
Don Matthias. Gregorio de Noriega, said Don Alvar, and I will
describe the young man in two words. His father, a rich jeweller,
is gone abroad, to attend the foreign markets, and left his son,
at his departure, in the enjoyment of a large income. Gregorio is
a blockhead, with a turn for every sort of extravagance, and an
awkward hankering after the reputation of wit and fashion, in
despite of nature. He has begged of me to give him a few
instructions. I manage him completely; and can assure you,
gentlemen, that I lead him a rare dance. His estate is rather
deeply dipped already. I do not doubt it, exclaimed Centellйs; I
see the vulgar dog in an almshouse. Come, Don Matthias: let us
honour the fellow with our acquaintance, and be in at the death
of him. Willingly, answered my master, for I delight in seeing
the fortune of these plebeian upstarts kicked over, when they
affect to mix among us. Nothing, for instance, ever entertained
me so much as the downfall of the toll-gatherer's son, whom play,
and the vanity of figuring among the great, have stripped, till
he has not a house over his head. Oh! as for that, replied Don
Alvar, he deserves no pity, he is as great a coxcomb in his
poverty as he was in his prosperity.

Centellйs and my master accompanied Don Alvar to Gregorio de
Noriega's party. We went there also, that is, Mogicon and myself;
both in ecstasy at having an opportunity of spunging on a
citizen, and pleasing ourselves with the thought of being in at
the death of him. At our entrance, we observed several men
employed in preparing dinner; and there issued from the ragouts
they were taking up, a vapour which conciliated the palate
through the medium of the nostrils. The Marquis de Zenette and
Don Juan de Moncade were just come. The founder of the feast
seemed a great simpleton. He aped the man of fashion with a most
clumsy grace; a wretched copy of admirable originals, or, more
properly, an idiot in the chair of wisdom and taste. Figure to
yourself a man of this character in the centre of five bantering
fellows, all intent on making a jest of him, and drawing him into
ridiculous expenses. Gentlemen, said Don Alvar, after the first
interchange of civilities, give me leave to introduce you to
Signor Gregorio de Noriega, a most brilliant star in the
hemisphere of fashion. He owns a thousand amiable qualities. Do
you know that he has an highly cultivated understanding? Choose
your own subject, he is equally at home in every branch, from the
subtilty and closeness of logic, to the elementary science of the
criss-cross-row. Oh! this is really too flattering, interrupted
the scot and lot gentleman with a very uncouth laugh. I might,
Signor Alvaro, put you to the blush as you have put me; for you
may truly be termed a reservoir as it were, a common sewer of
erudition. I had no intention, replied Don Alvaro, to draw upon
myself so savoury an encomium; but truly, gentlemen, Signor
Gregorio cannot fail of establishing a name in the world. As for
me, said Don Antonio, what is so delightful in my eyes, far above
the honours of logic or the criss-cross row, is the tasteful
selection of his company. Instead of demeaning himself to the
level of tradesmen, he associates only with the young nobility,
and sets the expense at nought. There is an elevation of
sentiment in this conduct which enchants me: and this is what you
may truly call disbursing with taste and judgment.

These ironical speeches were only the preludes to a continual
strain of banter. Poor Gregorio was attacked on all hands. The
wits shot their bolts by turns, but they made no impression on
the fool; on the contrary, he took all they said literally, and
seemed highly pleased with his guests, as if they did him a
favour by making him their laughing-stock. In short, he served
them for a butt while they sat at table, which they did not quit
during the afternoon, nor till late at night. We, as well as our
masters, drank as we liked, so that the servants'-hall and the
dining-room were in equally high order when we took our leave of
the young jeweller.

CH. V. -- Gil Blas becomes the darling of the fair sex, and
makes an interesting acquaintance.

AFTER some hours' sleep I got up in fine spirits; and calling the
advice of Melendez to mind, went, till my master was stirring, to
pay my court to our steward, whose vanity was rather flattered by
this attention. He received me with a gracious air, and inquired
how I was reconciled to the habits and manners of the young
nobility. I answered, that they were strange to me as yet, but
that use and good example might work wonders in the end.

Use and good example did work wonders, and that right soon. My
temper and conduct were quite altered. From a discreet, sober
lad, I got to be a lively, heedless merry-andrew. Don Antonio's
servant paid me a compliment on my transformation, and told me
that there wanted nothing but a tender interest in the lovely
part of the creation to shine like a new star dropped from the
heavens. He pointed out to me that it was an indispensable
requisite in the character of a pretty fellow, that all our set
were well with some fine woman or other; and that he himself; to
his own share, engrossed the favours of two beauties in high
life. I was of opinion that the rascal lied. Master Mogicon, said
I, you are doubtless a very dapper, lively little fellow, with a
modest assurance; but still I do not comprehend how women of
quality, not having your sweet person on their own private
establishments, should run the risk of being detected in an
intrigue with a footman out of doors. Oh! as for that, answered
he, they do not know my condition. To my master's wardrobe, and
even to his name, am I indebted for these conquests. I will tell
you how it is. I dress myself up as a young nobleman, and assume
the manners of one. I go to public places, and tip the wink first
to one woman and then to another, till I meet with one who
returns the signal. Her I follow, and find means to speak with
her. I take the name of Don Antonio Centellйs. I plead for an
assignation, the lady is squeamish about it; I am pressing, she
is kind, et caetera. Thus it is, my fine fellow, that I contrive
to carry on my intrigues, and I would have you profit by the

I was too ambitious of shining like a new star dropped from the
heavens, to turn a deaf ear to such counsel; besides, there was
about me no aversion to an amour. I therefore laid a plan to
disguise myself as a young nobleman, and look out for adventures
of gallantry. There was a risk in assuming my masquerade dress at
home, lest it might be observed. I took a complete suit from my
master's wardrobe, and made it up into a bundle, which I carried
to a barber's, where I thought I could dress and undress
conveniently. There I tricked myself out to the best advantage.
The barber too lent a helping hand to my attire. When we thought
it adjusted to a nicety, I sauntered towards Saint Jerome's
meadow, whence I felt morally certain that I should not return
without making an impression. But I could not even get thither,
without a proof of my own attractions.

As I was crossing a bye-street, a lady of genteel figure,
elegantly dressed, came out of a small house, and got into an
hired carriage standing at the door. I stopped short to look at
her, and bowed significantly, so as to convey an intimation that
my heart was not insensible. On her part, to show me that her
face was not less lovely than her person, she lifted up her veil
for a moment. In the mean time the coach set off, and I stood
stock still in the street, not a little stiffened at this vision.
A vastly pretty woman! said I to myself, bless us! this is just
what is wanting to make me perfectly accomplished. If the two
ladies who share Mogicon between them are equally handsome, the
scoundrel is in luck! I should be delighted with her for a
mistress. Ruminating on these things, I looked by chance towards
the house whence that lovely creature had glided, and saw at a
window on the ground floor an old woman beckoning me to come in.

I flew like lightning into the house, and found, in a very neat
parlour, this venerable and wary matron, who, taking me for a
marquis at least, dropped a low curtsey, and said -- I doubt not,
my lord, but you must have a bad opinion of a woman who, without
the slightest acquaintance, beckons you out of the street; but
you will perhaps judge more favourably of me when you shall know
that I do not pay that compliment promiscuously. You look like a
man of fashion! You are perfectly in the right, my old girl,
interrupted I, stretching out my right leg, and throwing the
weight of my body on my left hip; mine is, vanity apart, one of
the best families in Spain. It must be so by your looks, replied
she, and I will fairly own that I delight in doing a kindness to
people of quality, that is my weak side. I watched you through my
window. You looked very earnestly at a lady who has just left me.
Perhaps you may have taken a fancy to her? tell me so plainly. By
the honour of my house, answered I, she has shot me through the
heart. I never saw anything so tempting; a most divine creature!
Do bring us acquainted, my dear, and rely on my gratitude. It is
worth while to do these little offices for us of the beau monde;
they are better paid than our bills.

I have told you once for all, replied the old woman, I am
entirely devoted to people of condition; it is my passion to be
useful to them: I receive here, for example, a certain class of
ladies, whom appearances prevent from seeing their favourites at
home. I lend them my house, and thus the warmth of their
constitutions is indulged, without risk to their characters.
Vastly well, quoth I, and you have just done that kindness to the
lady in question? No, answered she, this is a young widow of
quality, in want of an admirer; but so difficult in her choice,
that I do not know whether you will do for her, however great
your requisites may be. I have already introduced to her three
well-furnished gallants, but she turned up her nose at them. Oh!
egad, my life, exclaimed I confidently, you have only to stick me
in her skirts, I will give you a good account of her, take my
word for it. I long to have a grapple with a beauty of such
peremptory demands, they have not yet fallen in my way. Well,
then, said the old woman, you have only to come hither to-morrow
at the same hour, your curiosity shall be satisfied. I will not
fail, rejoined I; we shall see whether a young nobleman can miss
a conquest.

I returned to the little barber's without looking for other
adventures, but deeply interested in the event of this.
Therefore, on the following day, I went, in splendid attire, to
the old woman's an hour sooner than the time. My lord, said she,
you are punctual, and I take it kindly. To be sure the game is
worth the chase. I have seen our young widow, and we have had a
good deal of talk about you. Not a word was to be said; but I
have taken such a liking to you that I cannot hold my tongue. You
have made yourself agreeable, and will soon be a happy man.
Between ourselves, the lady is a relishing morsel, her husband
did not live long with her; he glided away like a shadow: she has
all the merit of an absolute girl. The good old lady, no doubt,
meant one of those clever girls, who contrive not to live single,
though they live unmarried.

The heroine of the assignation came soon in an hired carriage, as
on the day before, dressed very magnificently. As soon as she
came into the room, I led off with five or six coxcombical bows,
accompanied by the most fashionable grimaces. After this, I went
up to her with a very familiar air, and said -- My adored angel,
you behold a gentleman of no mean rank, whom your charms have
undone. Your image, since yesterday, has taken complete
possession of my fancy; you have turned a duchess neck and heels
out of my heart, who was beginning to establish a footing there.
The triumph is too glorious for me, answered she, throwing off
her veil, but still my transports are not without alloy. Young
men of fashion love variety, and their hearts are, they say,
bandied about from one to the other like a piece of base money.
Ah! my sovereign mistress, replied I, let us leave the future to
shift for itself; and think only of the present. You are lovely,
I am in love. If my passion is not hateful to you, let it take
its course at random. We will embark like true sailors, set the
storms and shipwreck of a long voyage at defiance, and only take
the fair weather of the time present into the account.

In finishing this speech, I threw myself in raptures at the feet
of my nymph; and the better to hit off my assumed character,
pressed her with some little peevishness not to delay my bliss.
She seemed a little touched by my remonstrances, but thought it
too soon to yield, and giving me a gentle rebuff -- Hold, said
she, you are too importunate, this is like a rake. I fear you are
but a loose young fellow. For shame, madam, exclaimed I; can you
set your face against what women of the first taste and condition
encourage? A prejudice against what is vulgarly called vice may
be all very well for citizens' wives. That is decisive, replied
she, there is no resisting so forcible a plea. I see plainly that
with men of your order dissimulation is to no purpose; a woman
must meet you half way. Learn then your victory, added she with
an appearance of disorder, as if her modesty suffered by the
avowal; you have inspired me with sentiments such as are new to
my heart, and I only wait to know who you are, that I may take
you for my acknowledged lover. I believe you a young lord and a
gentleman, yet there is no trusting to appearances; and however
prepossessed I may be in your favour, I would not give away my
affections to a stranger.
I recollected at the moment how Don Antonio's servant had got out
of a similar perplexity; and determining, after his example, to
pass for my master -- Madam, said I to my dainty widow, I will
not excuse myself from telling you my name, it is one that will
not disparage its owner. Have you ever heard of Don Matthias de
Silva? Yes, replied she; indeed I have seen him with a lady of my
acquaintance. Though considerably improved in impudence, I was a
little troubled by this discovery. Yet I rallied my forces in an
instant, and extricated myself with a happy presence of mind.
Well then, my fair one, retorted I, the lady of your acquaintance
. . . . knows a lord . . . . of my acquaintance . . . . and I am
of his acquaintance; of his own family, since you must know it.
His grandfather married the sister-in-law of my father's uncle.
You see we are very near relations. My name is Don Caesar. I am
the only son of the great Don Ferdinand de Ribera, slain fifteen
years ago, in a battle on the frontiers of Portugal. I could give
you all the particulars of the action; it was a devilish sharp
one . . . . but to fight it over again would be losing the
precious moments of mutual love.

After this discourse I got to be importunate and impassioned, but
without bringing matters at all forwarder. The favours which my
goddess winked at my snatching, tended only to make me languish
for what she was more chary of. The tyrant got back to her coach,
which was waiting at the door. Nevertheless, I withdrew, well
enough pleased with my success, though it still fell short of the
only perfect issue. If said I to myself, I have obtained
indulgences but by halves, it is because this lady, forsooth, is
a high-born dame, and thinks it beneath her quality to play the
very woman at the first interview. The pride of pedigree stands
in the way of my advancement just now, but in a few days we shall
be better acquainted. To be sure, it did not once come into my
head. that she might be one of those cunning gipsies always on
the catch. Yet I liked better to look at things on the right side
than on the wrong, and thus maintained a favourable opinion of my
widow. We had agreed at parting to meet again on the day after
the morrow; and the hope of arriving at the summit of my wishes
gave me a foretaste of the pleasures with which I tickled my

With my brain full of joyous traces, I returned to my barber.
Having changed my dress, I went to attend my master at the
tennis-court. I found him at play, and saw that he won; for he
was not one of those impenetrable gamesters who make or mar a
fortune without moving a muscle. In prosperity he was flippant
and overbearing, but quite peevish on the losing side. He left
the tennis-court in high spirits, and went for the Prince's
Theatre. I followed him to the boxdoor, then putting a ducat into
my hand-- Here, Gil Blas, said he, as I have been a winner to-
day, you shall not be the worse for it; go, divert yourself with
your friends, and come to me about midnight at Arsenia's, where I
am to sup with Don Alexo Segiar. He then went in, and I stood
debating with whom I should disburse my ducat, according to the
pious will of the founder. I did not muse long. Clarin, Don
Alexo's servant, just then came in my way. I took him to the next
tavern, and we amused ourselves there till midnight. Thence we
repaired to Arsenia's house, where Clarin had orders to attend. A
little footboy opened the door, and showed us into a room down-
stairs, where Arsenia's waiting-woman, and the lady who held the
same office about Florimonde, were laughing ready to split their
sides, while their mistresses were above-stairs with our masters.

The addition of two jolly fellows just come from a good supper,
could not be unwelcome to abigails, and to the abigails of
actresses too; but what was my astonishment when in one of these
lowly ladies I discovered my widow, my adorable widow, whom I
took for a countess or a marchioness! She appeared equally amazed
to see her dear Don Caesar de Ribera metamorphosed into the valet
of a beau. However, we looked at one another without being out of
countenance; indeed, such a tingling sensation of laughter came
over us both, as we could not help indulging in. After which
Laura, for that was her name, drawing me aside while Clarin was
speaking to her fellow-servant, held out her hand to me very
kindly, and said in a low voice -- Accept this pledge, Signor Don
Caesar; mutual congratulations are more to the purpose than
mutual reproaches, my friend. You topped your part to perfection,
and I was not quite contemptible in mine. What say you? confess
now, did not you take me for one of those precious peeresses who
are fond of a little smuggled amusement? It is even so, answered
I, but whoever you are, my empress, I have not changed my
sentiments with my paraphernalia. Accept my services in good
part, and let the valet-de-chambre of Don Matthias consummate
what Don Caesar has so happily begun. Get you gone, replied she,
I like you ten times better in your natural than in your
artificial character. You are as a man what I am as a woman, and
that is the greatest compliment I can pay you. You are admitted
into the number of my adorers. We have no longer any need of the
old woman as a blind, you may come and see me whenever you like.
We theatrical ladies are no slaves to form, but live higgledy-
piggledy with the men. I allow that the effects are sometimes
visible, but the public wink hard at our irregularities; the
drama's patrons, as you well know, give the drama's laws, and
absolve us from all others.

We went no further, because there were bystanders. The
conversation be came general, lively, jovial, inclining to loose
jokes, not very carefully wrapped up. We all of us bore a bob.
Arsenia's attendant above all, my amiable Laura, was very
conspicuous; but her wit was so extremely nimble, that her virtue
could never overtake it. Our masters and the actresses on the
floor above, raised incessant peals of laughter, which reached us
in the regions below; and probably the entertainment was much
alike with the celestials and the infernals. If all the knowing
remarks had been written down, which escaped from the
philosophers that night assembled at Arsenia's, I really think it
would have been a manual for the rising generation. Yet we could
not arrest the chaste moon in her progress; the rising of that
blab, the sun, parted us. Clarin followed the heels of Don Alexo,
and I went home with Don Matthias.

CH. VI. -- The Prince's company of comedians.

My master getting up the next day, received a note from Don Alexo
Segiar, desiring his company immediately. We went, and found
there the Marquis de Zenette, and another young nobleman of
prepossessing manners, whom I had never seen. Don Matthias, said
Segiar to my protector, introducing the stranger, give me leave
to present Don Pompeyo de Castro, a relation of mine. He has been
at the court of Portugal almost from his childhood. He reached
Madrid last night, and returns to Lisbon to-morrow. He can allow
me only one day. I wish to make the most of the precious moments,
and thought of asking you and the Marquis de Zenette to make out
the time agreeably. Thereupon my master and Don Alexo's relation
embraced heartily, and complimented one an other in the most
extravagant manner. I was much pleased with Don Pompeyo's
conversation, it showed both acuteness and solidity.

They dined with Segiar; and the gentlemen, after the dessert,
amused themselves at play till the theatre opened. Then they went
all together to the Prince's House, to see a new tragedy, called
The Queen of Carthage. At the end of the piece they returned to
supper, and their conversation ran first on the composition, then
upon the actors. As for the work, cried Don Matthias, I think
very lightly of it. Eneas is a more pious blockhead there than in
the Eneid. But it must be owned that the piece was played
divinely. What does Signor Don Pompeyo think of it? He does not
seem to agree with me. Gentlemen, said the illustrious stranger
with a smile, you are so enraptured with your actors, and still
more with your actresses, that I scarcely dare avow my dissent.
That is very prudent, interrupted Don Alexo with a sneer, your
criticisms would be ill received. You should be tender of our
actresses before the trumpeters of their fame. We carouse with
them every day, we warrant them sound in their conceptions: we
would give vouchers for the justness of their expression if it
were necessary. No doubt of it, answered his kinsman, you would
do the same kind office by their lives and their manners, from
the same motives of companionable feeling.

Your ladies of the sock and buskin at Lisbon, said the Marquis de
Zenette, laughing, are doubtless far superior? They certainly
are, replied Don Pompeyo. They are some of them at least perfect
in their cast. And these, resumed the Marquis, would be warranted
by you in their conceptions and expressions? I have no personal
acquaintance with them, rejoined Don Pompeyo. I am not of their
revels, and can judge of their merit without partiality. Do you,
in good earnest, think your company first-rate? No, really, said
the Marquis, I think no such thing, and only plead the cause of a
few individuals. I give up all the rest. Will you not allow
extraordinary powers to the actress who played Dido? Did she not
personate that queen with the dignity, and at the same time with
all the bewitching charms, calculated to realize our idea of the
character? Could you help admiring the skill with which she
seizes on the passions of the spectator, and harmonizes their
tone to the vibrations she purposes to produce? She may be called
perfect in the exquisite art of declaiming. I agree with you,
said Don Pompeyo, that she can touch the string either of terror
or of pity: never did any actress come closer to the heart, and
the performance is altogether fine; but still she is not without
her defects. Two or three things disgusted me in her playing.
Would she denote surprise? she glances her eyes to and fro in a
most extravagant manner, altogether unbecoming her supposed
majesty as a princess. Add to this, that in swelling her voice,
which is of itself sound and mellifluous, she goes out of her
natural key, and assumes a harsh ranting tone. Besides, it would
seem as if she might be suspected in more than one passage, of
not very clearly comprehending her author. Yet I would in candour
rather suppose her wanting in diligence than capacity.

As far as I see, said Don Matthias to the critic, you will never
write complimentary odes to our actresses! Pardon me, answered
Don Pompeyo. I can discover high talent through all their
imperfections. I must say that I was enchanted with the
chambermaid in the interlude. What fine natural parts! With what
grace she treads the stage! Has she anything pointed to deliver?
she heightens it by an arch smile, with a keen glance and
sarcastic emphasis, which convey more to the understanding than
the words to the ear. It might be objected that she sometimes
gives too much scope to her animal spirits, and exceeds the
limits of allowable freedom, but that would be hypercritical.
There is one bad habit I should strongly advise her to correct.
Sometimes in the very crisis of the action, and in an affecting
passage, she bursts in all at once upon the interest with some
misplaced jest, to curry favour with the mob of barren
spectators. The pit, you will say, is caught by her artifice;
that may be well for her popularity, but not for their taste.

And what do you think of the men? interrupted the Marquis; you
must give them no quarter, since you have handled the women so
roughly. Not so, said Don Pompeyo. There are some promising young
actors, and I am particularly well pleased with that corpulent
performer who played the part of Dido's prime minister. His
recitation is unaffected, and he declaims just as they do in
Portugal. If you can bear such a fellow as that, said Segiar, you
must be charmed with the representative of Eneas. Did not you
think him a great, an original performer? Very original, indeed,
answered the critic; his inflections are quite his own, they are
as shrill as an hautboy. Almost always out of nature, he rattles
the impressive words of the sentence off his tongue, while he
labours and lingers on the expletives; the poor conjunctions are
frightened at their own report as they go off. He entertained me
excessively, and especially when he was expressing in confidence
his distress at abandoning the princess; never was grief more
ludicrously depicted. Fair and softly, cousin, replied Don Alexo;
you will make us believe at last that good taste is not greatly
cultivated at the court of Portugal. Do you know that the actor
of whom we are speaking is esteemed a phenomenon? Did you not
observe what thunders of applause he called down? He cannot
therefore be contemptible. That therefore does not prove the
proposition, replied Don Pompeyo. But, gentlemen, let us lay
aside, I beseech you, the injudicious suffrages of the pit; they
are often given to performers very unseasonably. Indeed, their
boisterous tokens of approbation are more frequently bestowed on
paltry copies than on original merit, as Phedrus teaches us by an
ingenious fable. Allow me to repeat it as follows: -- The whole
population of a city was assembled in a large square to see a
pantomime played. Among the performers there was one whose feats
were applauded every instant. This buffoon, at the end of the
entertainment, wished to close the scene with a new device. He
came alone upon the stage, stooping clown, covering his head with
his mantle, and began counterfeiting the squeak of a pig. He
acquitted himself so naturally as to be suspected of having the
animal itself concealed within the folds of his drapery. He
stripped, but there was no pig. The assembly rang with more
furious applause than ever. A peasant, among the spectators, was
disgusted at this misplaced admiration. Gentlemen, exclaimed he,
you are in the wrong to be so delighted with this buffoon, he is
not so good a mimic as you take him for. I can enact the pig
better; if you doubt it, only attend here this time to-morrow.
The people, prejudiced in the cause of their favourite, collected
in greater numbers on the next day, rather to hiss the countryman
than to see what he could do. The rivals appeared on the stage.
The buffoon began, and was more applauded than the day before.
Then the farmer stooping down in his turn, with his head wrapped
up in his cloak, pulled the ear of a real pig under his arm, and
made it squeal most horribly. Yet this enlightened audience
persisted in giving the preference to their favourite, and hooted
the countryman off the boards; who producing the pig before he
went, said -- Gentlemen, you are not hissing me, but the original
pig. So much for your judgment.

Cousin, said Don Alexo, your fable is rather satirical.
Nevertheless, in spite of your pig, we will not bate an inch of
our opinion. But let us change the subject, this is grown
threadbare. Then you set off to-morrow, do what we can to keep
you with us longer? I should like, answered his kinsman, to
protract my stay with you, but it is not in my power. I have told
you already that I am come to the court of Spain on an affair of
state. Yesterday, on my arrival, I had a conference with the
prime minister; I am to see him to-morrow morning, and shall set
out immediately afterwards on my return to Lisbon. You are become
quite a Portuguese, observed Segiar, and, to all appearance, we
shall lose you entirely from Madrid. I think otherwise, replied
Don Pompeyo, I have the honour to stand well with the King of
Portugal, and have many motives of attachment to that court; yet
with all the kindness that sovereign has testified towards me,
would you believe that I have been on the point of quitting his
dominions for ever. Indeed! by what strange accident? said the
Marquis. Give us the history, I beseech you. Very readily,
answered Don Pompeyo, and at the same time my own, for it is
closely interwoven with the recital for which you have called.

CH. VII. -- History of Don Pompeyo de Castro.

DON ALEXO knows, that from my boyish days, my passion was for a
military life. Our own country being at peace, I went into
Portugal; thence to Africa with the Duke of Braganza, who gave me
a commission. I was a younger brother, with as slender a
provision as most in Spain; so that my only chance was in
attracting the notice of the commander-in-chief by my bravery. I
was so far from deficient in my duty, that the Duke promoted me,
step by step, to one of the most honourable posts in the service.
After a long war, of which you all know the issue, I devoted
myself to the court; and the King, on strong testimonials from
the general officers, rewarded me with a considerable pension.
Alive to that sovereign's generosity, I lost no opportunity of
proving my gratitude by my diligence. I was in attendance as
often as etiquette would allow me to offer myself to his notice.
By this conduct I gained insensibly the love of that prince, and
received new favours from his hands.

One day, when I distinguished myself in running at the ring, and
in a bull fight preceding it, all the court extolled my strength
and dexterity. On my return home, with my honours thick upon me,
I found there a note, informing me that a lady, my conquest over
whom ought to flatter me more than all the glory I had gained
that day, wished to have the pleasure of my company; and that I
had only to attend in the evening, at a place marked out in the
letter. This was more than all my public triumphs, and I
concluded the writer to be a woman of the first quality. You may
guess that I did not loiter by the way. An old woman in waiting,
as my guide, conducted me by a little garden-gate into a large
house, and left me in an elegant closet, saying -- Stay here, I
will acquaint my mistress with your arrival. I observed a great
many articles of value in the closet, which was magnificently
illuminated; but this splendour only caught my attention as
confirming me in my previous opinion of the lady's high rank. If
appearances strengthened that conjecture, her noble and majestic
air on her entrance left no doubt on my mind. Yet I was a little
out in my calculation.

Noble sir, said she, after the step I have taken in your favour
it were impertinent to disown my partiality. Your brilliant
actions of to-day, in presence of the court, were not the
inspirers of my sentiments, they only urge forward this avowal. I
have seen you more than once, have inquired into your character,
and the result has determined me to follow the impulse of my
heart. But do not suppose that you are well with a Duchess. I am
but the widow of a captain in the King's Guards; yet there is
something to throw a radiance round your victory . . . . the
preference you have gained over one of the first noblemen in the
kingdom. The Duke d'Almeyda loves me, and presses his suit with
ardour, yet without success. My vanity only induces me to bear
his importunities.

Though I saw plainly, by this address, that I had got in with a
coquet, my presiding star was not a whit out of my good graces
for involving me in this adventure. Donna Hortensia, for that was
the lady's name, was just in the ripeness and luxuriance of youth
and dazzling beauty. Nay, more, she had refused the possession of
her heart to the earnest entreaties of a duke, and offered it
unsolicited to me. What a feather in the cap of a Spanish
cavalier! I prostrated myself at Hortensia's feet, to thank her
for her favours. I talked just as a man of gallantry always does
talk, and she had reason to be satisfied with the extravagance of
my acknowledgments. Thus we parted the best friends in the world,
on the terms of meeting every evening when the Duke d'Almeyda was
prevented from coming; and. she promised to give me due notice of
his absence. The bargain was exactly fulfilled, and I was turned
into the Adonis of this new Venus.

But the pleasures of this life are transitory. With all the
lady's precautions to conceal our private treaty of commerce from
my rival, he found means of gaining a knowledge, of which it
concerned us greatly to keep him ignorant: a disloyal chamber-
maid divulged the state secret. This nobleman, naturally
generous, but proud, self-sufficient, and violent, was
exasperated at my presumption. Anger and jealousy set him beside
himself. Taking counsel only with his rage, he resolved on an
infamous revenge. One night when I was with Hortensia, he waylaid
me at the little garden-gate, with all his servants provided with
cudgels. As soon as I came out, he ordered me to be seized, and
beat to death by these wretches. Lay on, said he, let the rash
intruder give up the ghost under your chastisement; thus shall
his insolence be punished. No sooner had he finished these words,
than his myrmidons assaulted me in a body, and gave me such a
beating, as to stretch me senseless on the ground: after which
they hurried off with their master, to whom this butchery had
been a delicious pastime. I lay the remainder of the night, just
as they had left me. At daybreak some people passed by, who,
finding that life was still in me, had the humanity to carry me
to a surgeon. Fortunately my wounds were not mortal; and, falling
into skilful hands, I was perfectly cured in two months. At the
end of that period I made my appearance again at court, and
resumed my former way of life, except that I steered clear of
Hortensia, who on her part made no further attempt to renew the
acquaintance, because the Duke, on that condition, had pardoned
her infidelity.

As my adventure was the town talk, and I was known to be no
coward, people were astonished to see me as quiet as if I had
received no affront; for I kept my thoughts to myself; and seemed
to have no quarrel with any man living. No one knew what to think
of my counterfeited insensibility. Some imagined that, in spite
of my courage, the rank of the aggressor overawed me, and
occasioned my tacit submission. Others, with more reason,
mistrusted my silence, and considered my inoffensive demeanour as
a cover to my revenge. The King was of opinion with these last,
that I was not a man to put up with an insult, and that I should
not be wanting to myself at a convenient opportunity. To discover
my real intentions, he sent for me one day into his closet, where
he said: Don Pompeyo, I know what accident has befallen you, and
am surprised, I own, at your forbearance. You are certainly
acting a part. Sire, answered I, how can I know whom to
challenge? I was attacked in the night by persons unknown: it is
a misfortune of which I must make the best. No, no, replied the
King, I am not to be duped by these evasive answers. The whole
story has reached my ears. The Duke d'Almeyda has touched your
honour to the quick. You are nobly born, and a Castilian: I know
what that double character requires. You cherish hostile designs.
Admit me a party to your purposes; it must be so. Never fear the
consequences of making me your confidant.

Since your majesty commands it, resumed I, my sentiments shall be
laid open without reserve. Yes, sir, I meditate a severe
retribution. Every man, wearing such a name as mine, must account
for its untarnished lustre with his family. You know the unworthy
treatment I have experienced; and I purpose assassinating the
Duke d'Almeyda, as a mode of revenge correspondent to the injury.
I shall plunge a dagger in his bosom, or shoot him through the
head, and escape, if I can, into Spain. This is my design.

It is violent, said the King: and yet I have little to say
against it, after the provocation which the Duke d'Almeyda has
given you. He is worthy of the punishment you destine for him.
But do not be in a hurry with your project. Leave me to devise a
method of bringing you together again as friends. Oh! sir,
exclaimed I with vexation, why did you extort my secret from me?
What expedient can . . . . If mine is not to your satisfaction,
interrupted he, you may execute your first intention. I do not
mean to abuse your confidence. I shall not implicate your honour;
so rest contented on that head.

I was greatly puzzled to guess by what means the King designed to
terminate this affair amicably: but thus it was. He sent to speak
with the Duke d'Almeyda in private. Duke, said he, you have
insulted Don Pompeyo de Castro. You are not ignorant that he is a
man of noble birth, a soldier who has served with credit, and
stands high in my favour. You owe him reparation. I am not of a
temper to refuse it, answered the Duke. If he complains of my
outrageous behaviour, I am ready to justify it by the law of
arms. Some thing very different must be done, replied the King: a
Spanish gentleman understands the point of honour too well to
fight on equal terms with a cowardly assassin. I can use no
milder term; and you can only atone for the heinousness of your
conduct, by presenting a cane in person to your antagonist, and
offering to submit yourself to its discipline. Oh heaven!
exclaimed the Duke: what! sir, would you have a man of my rank
degrade, debase himself before a simple gentleman, and submit to
be caned! No, replied the monarch, I will oblige Don Pompeyo to
promise not to touch you. Only offer him the cane, and ask his
pardon: that is all I require from you. And that is too much,
sir, interrupted the Duke d'Almeyda warmly; I had rather remain
exposed to all the secret machinations of his resentment. Your
life is dear to me, said the king; and I should wish this affair
to have no bad consequences. To terminate it with less disgust to
yourself, I will be the only witness of the satisfaction which I
order you to offer to the Spaniard.

The King was obliged to stretch his influence over the Duke to
the utmost, before he could induce him to so mortifying a step.
However, the peremptory monarch effected his purpose, and then
sent for me. He related the particulars of his conversation with
my enemy, and inquired if I should be content with the stipulated
reparation. I answered, yes: and gave my word that, far from
striking the offender, I would not even accept the cane, when he
presented it. With this understanding, the Duke and myself at a
certain hour attended the King, who took us into his closet.
Come, said he to the Duke, acknowledge your fault, and deserve to
be forgiven by the humility of your contrition. Then my
antagonist made his apology, and offered me the cane in his hand.
Don Pompeyo, said the monarch unexpectedly, take the cane, and
let not my presence prevent you from doing justice to your
outraged honour. I release you from your promise not to strike
the Duke. No, sir, answered I, it is enough that he has submitted
to the indignity of the offer: an offended Spaniard asks no more.
Well, then! replied the King, since you are content with this
satisfaction, you may both of you at once assume the privilege of
a gentlemanly quarrel. Measure your swords, and discuss the
question honourably. It is what I most ardently desire, exclaimed
the Duke d'Almeyda in a menacing tone; for that only is competent
to make me amends for the disgraceful step I have taken.

With these words, he went away full of rage and shame; and sent
to tell me, two hours after, that he was waiting for me, in a
retired place. I kept the appointment, and found this nobleman
ready to fight lustily. He was not five and forty; deficient
neither in courage nor in skill: so that the match was fair and
equal. Come on, Don Pompeyo, said he, let us terminate our
difference here. Our hostility ought to be reciprocally mortal;
yours, for my aggression, and mine, for having asked your pardon.
These words were no sooner out of his mouth, than he drew upon me
so suddenly, that I had no time to reply. He pressed very closely
upon me at first, but I had the good fortune to put by all his
thrusts. I acted on the offensive in my turn: the encounter was
evidently with a man equally skilled in defence or in attack;
and. there is no knowing what might have been the issue, if he
had not made a false step in retiring, and fallen backwards. I
stood still immediately, and said to the duke, Recover yourself.
Why give me any quarter? he answered. Your forbearance only
aggravates my disgrace. I will not take advantage of an accident,
replied I; it would only tarnish my glory. Once more recover
yourself, and let us fight it out.

Don Pompeyo, said he rising, after this act of generosity, honour
allows me not to renew the attack upon you. What would the world
say of me, were I to wound you mortally? I should be branded as a
coward for having murdered a man, at whose mercy I had just
before lain prostrate. I cannot therefore again lift my arm
against your life, and I feel my resentful passions subsiding
into the sweet emotions of gratitude. Don Pompeyo, let us
mutually lay aside our hatred. Let us go still further; let us be
friends. Ah! my lord, exclaimed I, so flattering a proposal I
joyfully accept. I proffer you my sincere friendship; and, as an
earnest, promise never more to approach Donna Hortensia, though
she herself should invite me. It is my duty, said he, to yield
that lady to you. Justice requires me to give her up, since her
affections are yours already. No, no, interrupted I; you love
her. Her partiality in my favour would give you uneasiness; I
sacrifice my own pleasures to your peace. Ah! too generous
Castilian, replied the Duke, embracing me, your sentiments are
truly noble. With what remorse do they strike me! Grieved and
ashamed, I look back on the outrage you have sustained. The
reparation in the King's chamber seems now too trifling. A better
recompense awaits you. To obliterate all remembrance of your
shame, take one of my nieces whose hand is at my disposal. She is
a rich heiress, not fifteen, with beauty beyond the attractions
of mere youth.

I made my acknowledgments to the Duke in terms such as the high
honour of his alliance might suggest, and married his niece a few
days afterwards. All the court complimented this nobleman on
having made such generous amends to an insulted rival; and my
friends took part in my joy at the happy issue of an adventure
which might have led to the most melancholy consequences. From
this time, gentlemen, I have lived happily at Lisbon. I am the
idol of my wife, and have not sunk the lover in the husband. The
Duke d'Almeyda gives me new proofs of friendship every day; and I
may venture to boast of standing high in the King of Portugal's
good graces. The importance of my errand hither sufficiently
assures me of his confidence.

CH. VIII. -- An accident, in consequence of which Gil Blas was
obliged to look out for another place.

SUCH was Don Pompeyo's story, which Don Alexo's servant and
myself over heard, though we were prudently sent away before he
began his recital. Instead of withdrawing, we skulked behind the
door, which we had left half open, and from that station we did
not miss a word. After this, the company went on drinking; but
they did not prolong their carousals till the morning, because
Don Pompeyo, who was to speak with the prime minister, wished for
a little rest beforehand. The Marquis de Zenette and my master
took a cordial leave of the stranger, and left him with his

We went to bed for once before daybreak; and Don Matthias, when
he awoke, invested me with a new office. Gil Blas, said he, take
pen, ink, and paper, and write two or three letters as I shall
dictate: you shall henceforth be my secretary. Well and good!
said I to myself, a plurality of functions. As footman, I follow
my master's heels; as valet-de-chambre, I help him to dress; and
write for him as his secretary. Heaven be praised for my
apotheosis! Like the triple Hecate of the Pantheon, I am to enact
three different characters at the same time. Can you guess my
intention? continued he. Thus it is: but take care what you are
about; your life may depend on it. As I am continually meeting
with fellows who boast of their success among the women, I mean,
by way of getting the upper hand, to fill my pockets with
fictitious love-letters, and read them in company. It will be
amusing enough. Happier than my competitors, who make conquests
only for the pleasure of the boast, I shall take the credit of
intrigue, and spare myself the labour. But vary your writing, so
that the manufacture may not be detected by the sameness of the

I then sat down to comply with the commands of Don Matthias, who
first dictated a tender epistle to this tune -- You did not keep
your promise to-night. Ah! Don Matthias, how will you exculpate
yourself? My error was a cruel one! But you punish me deservedly
for my vanity, in fancying that business and amusement were all
to give way before the pleasure of seeing Donna Clara de Mendoza!
After this pretty note, he made me write another, as if from a
lady who sacrificed a prince to him; and then a third, whose fair
writer offered, if she could rely on his discretion, to embark
with him for the shores of Cytherean enchantment. It was not
enough to dictate these love-sick strains; he forced me to
subscribe them with the most high-flying names in Madrid. I could
not forbear hinting at some little hazard in all this, but he
begged me to keep my sage counsels till they were called for. I
was obliged to hold my tongue, and dispatch his orders out of
hand. That done, he got up, and dressed with my assistance. The
letters were put into his pocket, and out he went. I followed him
to dinner with Don Juan de Moncade, who entertained five or six
gentlemen of his acquaintance that day.

There was a grand set-out, and mirth, the best relish, was not
wanting to the banquet. All the guests contributed to enliven the
conversation, some by wit and humour, others by anecdotes of
which the relaters were the heroes. My master would not lose so
fine an opportunity of bringing our joint performances to bear.
He read them audibly, and with so much assurance, that probably
the whole party, with the exception of his secretary, was taken
in by the device. Among the company, before whom this trick was
so impudently played off, there was one person, by name Don Lope
de Velasco. This person, a very grave don, instead of making
himself merry like the rest with the fictitious triumphs of the
reader, asked him coolly if the conquest of Donna Clara had been
achieved with any great difficulty? Less than the least, answered
Don Matthias; the advances were all on her side. She saw me in
public, and took a fancy to my person. A scout was commissioned
to follow me, and thus she got at my name and condition. She
wrote to me, and gave me an appointment at an hour of the night
when the house was sure to be quiet. I was true as the needle to
the pole; her bedchamber was the place . . . . But prudence and
delicacy forbid my describing what passed there.

At this instance of tender regard for the lady's character,
Signor de Velasco betrayed some very passionate workings in his
countenance. It was easy to see the interest he took in the
subject. All these letters, said he to my master, looking at him
with an eye of indignation and contempt, are infamous forgeries,
and above all that which you boast of having received from Donna
Clara de Mendoza. There is not in all Spain a more modest young
creature than her. self. For these two years, a gentleman, at
least your equal in birth and personal merit, has been trying
every method of insinuating himself into her heart. Scarcely have
his assiduities extorted the slightest encouragement: but yet he
may flatter himself that, if anything beyond common civility had
been granted at all, it would have been to him only. Well! Who
says to the contrary? interrupted Don Matthias in a bantering
way. I agree with you, that the lady is a very pretty behaved
young lady. On my part, I am a very pretty behaved young
gentleman. Ergo, you may rest assured that nothing took place
between us but what was pretty and well behaved. Indeed! This is
too much, interrupted Don Lope in his turn; let us lay aside this
unseasonable jesting. You are an impostor. Donna Clara never gave
you an appointment by night. Her reputation shall not be
blackened by your ribaldry. But prudence and delicacy forbid my
describing what must pass between you and me. With this retort on
his lips, he looked contemptuously round, and withdrew with a
menacing aspect, which anticipated serious consequences to my
judgment. My master, whose courage was better than his cause,
held the threats of Don Lope in derision. A blockhead! exclaimed
he, bursting into a loud fit of laughter. Our knights-errant used
to tilt for the beauty of their mistresses, this fellow would
engage in the lists for the forlorn hope of virtue in his; he is
more ridiculous than his prototypes.

Velasco's retiring, in vain opposed by Moncade, occasioned no
interruption to the merriment. The party, without thinking
further about it, kept the ball up briskly, and did not part till
they had made free with the next day. We went to bed, that is, my
master and myself, about five o'clock in the morning. Sleep sat
heavy on my eyelids, and, as I thought, was taking permanent
possession thereof; but I reckoned without my host, or rather
without our porter, who came and waked me in an hour, to say that
there was a lad inquiring for me at the door. Oh! thou infernal
porter, muttered I indistinctly, through the interstices of a
long yawn, do you consider that I have but now got to bed? Tell
the little rascal that I am just asleep; he must come again by-
and-by. He insists, replied Cerberus, on speaking with you
instantly; his business cannot wait. As that was the case I got
up, put on nothing but my breeches and doublet, and went down-
stairs, swearing and gaping. My friend, said I, be so good as to
let me know what urgent affair procures me the honour of seeing
you so early? I have a letter, answered he, to deliver personally
into the hands of Signor Don Matthias, to be read by him without
loss of time; it is of the last consequence to him -- pray show
me into his room. As I thought the matter looked serious, I took
the liberty of disturbing my master. Excuse me, said I, for
waking you, but the pressing nature . . . . What do you want?
interrupted he, just in my style with the porter. Sir, said the
lad who was at my elbow, here is a letter from Don Lope de
Velasco. Don Matthias looked at the cover, broke it, and after
reading the contents, said to the messenger of Don Lope -- My
good fellow, I never get up before noon, let the party be ever so
agreeable; judge whether I can be expected to be stirring by six
in the morning for a small-sword recreation. You may tell your
master, that if he chooses to kick his heels at the spot till
half-past twelve, we will come and see how he looks there --
carry him that answer. With this flippant speech he plunged down
snugly under the bed clothes and fell fast asleep again as if
nothing had happened.

Between eleven and twelve he got up and dressed himself with the
utmost composure, and went out, telling me that there was no
occasion for my attendance: but I was too much on the tenterhooks
about the result to mind his orders. I sneaked after him to Saint
Jerome's meadow, where I saw Don Lope de Velasco waiting for him.
I took my station to watch them; and was an eye-witness to all
the circumstances of their rencounter. They saluted, and began
their fierce debate without delay. The engagement lasted long.
They exchanged thrusts alternately, with equal skill and mettle.
The victory, how ever, was on the side of Don Lope: he ran my
master through, laid him helpless on the ground, and made his
escape, with apparent satisfaction at the severe reprisal. I ran
up to the unfortunate Don Matthias, and found him in a most
desperate situation. The sight melted me. I could not help
weeping at a catastrophe to which I had been an involuntary
contributor. Nevertheless, with all sympathy, I had still my
little wits about me. Home went I in a hurry, without saying a
word. I made up a bundle of my own goods and chattels,
inadvertently slipping in some odd articles belonging to my
master: and when I had deposited this with the barber, where my
dress as a fine gentleman was still lodged, I published the news
of the fatal accident. Any gaper might have it for the trouble of
listening; and above all, I took care to make Rodriguez
acquainted with it. He would have been extremely afflicted, but
that his own proceedings in this delicate case required all his
attention. He called the servants together, ordered them to
follow him, and we went all together to Saint Jerome's meadow.
Don Matthias was taken up alive, but he died three hours after he
was brought home. Thus ended the life of Signor Don Matthias de
Silva, only for having taken a fancy to reading supposititious
love-letters unseasonably.

CH. IX. -- A new service, after the death of Don Matthias de

Some days after the funeral, the establishment was paid up and
discharged. I fixed my head-quarters with the little barber, in a
very close connection with whom I began to live. It seemed to
promise more pleasure than with Melendez. As I was in no want of
money, it was time enough to think of another place: besides, I
had got to be rather nice on that head. I would not go into
service any more, but in families above the vulgar. In short, I
was determined to inquire very strictly into the character of a
new place. The best would not be too good; such high pretensions
did the late valet of a young nobleman think himself entitled to
assume above the common herd of servants.

Waiting till fortune should throw a situation in my way, worthy
to be honoured by my acceptance, I thought I could not do better
than to devote my leisure to my charming Laura, whom I had not
seen since the pleasant occurrence of our double discovery. I
could not venture on dressing as Don Caesar de Ribera; it would
have been an act of madness to have assumed that style but as a
disguise. Besides that my own suit was not much out of condition,
all smaller articles had propagated miraculously in the aforesaid
bundle. I made myself up, therefore, with the barber's aid, as a
sort of middle man between Don Caesar and Gil Blas. In this demi-
character, I knocked at Arsenia's door. Laura was alone in the
parlour where we had met last. Ah! is it you? cried she, as soon
as she saw me; I thought you were lost. You have had leave to
come and see me for this week: but it seems you are modest, and
do not presume too much on your license.

I made my apology on the score of my master's death, with my own
engagements consequent thereupon; and I added, in the spirit of
gallantry, that in my greatest perplexities, my lovely Laura had
always been foremost in my thoughts. That being so, said she, I
have no more reproaches to make; and I will frankly own that I
have thought of you. As soon as I was acquainted with the
untimely end of Don Matthias, a plan occurred to me, probably not
quite displeasing to you. I have heard my mistress say some time
ago, that she wanted a sort of man of business; a good
arithmetician, to keep an exact account of our outgoings. I fixed
my affections on your lordship; you seem exactly calculated for
such an office. I feel myself, answered I, a steward by
inspiration. I have read all that Aristotle has written on
finance; and as for reducing it to the modern system of book-
keeping . . . . But, my dear girl, there is one impediment in the
way. What impediment? said Laura. I have sworn, replied I, never
again to live with a commoner: I have sworn by Styx, or something
else as binding. If Jupiter could not burst the links of such an
oath, judge whether a poor servant ought not to be bound by it.
What do you mean by a commoner? re joined the impetuous abigail:
for what do you take us actresses? Do you take us for the ribs of
the limbs of the law? for attorneys' wives? I would have you to
know, my friend, that actresses rank with the first nobility;
being only common to the uncommon, and therefore, though common,
uncommonly illustrious.

On that footing, my uncommon commoner, said I, the post you have
destined for me is mine: I shall not lower my dignity by
accepting it. No, to be sure, said she: backwards and forwards
between a puppy of fashion and a she-wolf of the stage; why, it
is exactly preserving an equilibrium of rank in the creation. We
are sympathetic animals, just on a level with the people of
quality. We have our equipages in the same style; we give our
little suppers on the same scale; and on the broad ground we are
just of as much use in civil society. In fact, to draw a parallel
between a marquis and a player through the space of four and
twenty hours, they are just on a par. The marquis, for three-
fourths of the time, ranks above the player by political courtesy
and sufferance: the player, during his hour on the stage,
overtops the marquis in the part of an emperor or a king, which
he better knows how to enact. Thus there seems to be a balance
between natural and political nobility, which places us at least
on a level with the live lumber of the court. Yes, truly, replied
I, you are a match for one another, there is no gainsaying it.
Bless their dear hearts! the players are not men of straw, as I
foolishly believed, and you have made my mouth water to serve
such a worshipful fraternity. Well, then! resumed she, you have
only to come back again in two days. That time will be sufficient
to incline my mistress in your favour; I will speak up for you.
She is a little under my influence; I do not fear bringing you
under this roof.

I thanked Laura for her good dispositions. My gratitude took the
readiest way to prove itself to her comprehension; and my tender
thrillings expressed more than words. We had a pretty long
conversation together, and it might have lasted till this time,
if a little skipping fellow had not come to tell my nymph of the
side scenes that Arsenia was inquiring for her. We parted. I left
the house, in the sweet hope of soon living there scot-free; and
my face was shown up again at the door in two days. I was looking
out for you, said my accomplished scout, to assure you that you
are a messmate at this house. Come, follow me; I will introduce
you to my mistress. At these words, she led me into a suite of
five or six rooms on a floor, in a regular gradation of costly
furniture and tasteful equipment.

What luxury! What magnificence! I thought myself in presence of a
vicequeen, or, to mend the poverty of the comparison, in a fairy
palace, where all the riches of the earth were collected. In
fact, there were the productions of many people and of many
countries, so that one might describe this residence as the
temple of a goddess, whither every traveller brought some rare
product of his native land, as a votive offering. The divinity
was reclining on a voluptuous satin sofa: she was lovely in my
eyes, and pampered with the fumes of daily sacrifices. She was in
a tempting dishabille, and her polished hands were elegantly busy
about a new head-dress for her appearance that evening. Madam,
said the abigail, here is that said steward; take my word for it,
you will never get one more to your liking. Arsenia looked at me
very inquisitively, and did not find me disagreeable. Why, this
is something, Laura, cried she; a very smart youth truly: I
foresee that we shall do very well together. Then directing her
discourse to me, Young man, added she, you suit me to a hair, and
I have only one observation to make: you will be pleased with me,
if I am so with you. I answered that I should do my utmost to
serve her to her heart's content. As I found that the bargain was
struck, I went immediately to fetch in my own little
accommodations, and returned to take formal possession.

CH. X. -- Much such another as the foregoing.

IT was near the time of the doors opening. My mistress told me to
attend her to the theatre with Laura. We went into her dressing-
room, where she threw off her ordinary attire, and assumed a more
splendid costume for the stage. When the performance began, Laura
shewed me the way, and seated herself by my side where I could
see and hear the actors to advantage. They disgusted me for the
most part, doubtless because Don Pompeyo had prejudiced me
against them. Several of them were loudly applauded, but the
fable of the pig would now and then come across my mind.

Laura told me the names of the actors and actresses as they made
their entrances. Nor did she stop there, for the hussy gave some
highly seasoned anecdotes into the bargain. Her characters were,
crack-brain for this, impertinent fellow for that. That delicate
sample of sin, who depends on her wantonness for her attractions,
goes by the name of Rosarda: a bad speculation for the company!
She ought to be sent with the next cargo to New Spain, she may
answer the purpose of the viceroy. Take particular notice of that
brilliant star now coming forward; that magnificent setting sun,
increasing in bulk as its fires become less vivid. That is
Casilda. If from that distant day when she first laid herself
open to her lovers, she had required from each of them a brick to
build a pyramid, like an ancient Egyptian princess, the edifice
by this time would have mounted to the third heaven. In short,
Laura tore all character to pieces by her scandal. Heaven forgive
her wicked tongue! She blasphemed her own mistress.

And yet I must own my weakness. I was in love with the wench,
though her morals were not strictly pure. She scandalized with so
winning a malignity that one liked her the better for it. Off
went the jill-flirt between the acts, to see if Arsenia wanted
her; but instead of coming straight back to her place, she amused
herself behind the scenes, in laying herself out for the little
flatteries of all the wheedling fellows. I dogged her once, and
found that she had a very large acquaintance. No less than three
players did I reckon up, who stopped to chat with her one after
the other, and they seemed to be on a very improvable footing.
This was not quite so well; and for the first time in my life I
felt what jealousy was. I returned to my seat so absent and out
of spirits, that Laura remarked it as soon as she came back to
me. What is the matter, Gil Blas, said she with astonishment;
what blue devil has perched upon your shoulder in my absence? You
look gloomy and out of temper. My fairy queen, answered I, it is
not without reason, you have an ugly kick in your gallop. I have
observed you with the players . . . . So, so! An admirable
subject for a long face, interrupted she with a laugh. What! That
is your trouble, is it? Why really! You are a very silly swain;
but you will get better notions among us. You will fall by
degrees into our easy manners. No jealousy, my dear creature, you
will be completely laughed out of it in the theatrical world. The
passion is scarcely known there. Fathers, husbands, brothers,
uncles, and cousins, are all upon a liberal plan of community,
and often make a strange jumble of relationships.

After having warned me to take no umbrage, but to look at
everything like a philosophical spectator, she vowed that I was
the happy mortal who had found the way to her heart. She then
declared that she should love me always, and only me. On this
assurance, which a man might have doubted without criminal
scepticism, I promised her not to be alarmed any more, and kept
my word. I saw her, on that very evening, whisper and giggle with
more men than one. At the end of the play we returned home with
our mistress, whither Florimonde came soon after to supper, with
three old noblemen and a player. Besides Laura and myself, the
establishment consisted of a cook-maid, a coachman, and a little
footboy. We all laboured in our respective vocations. The lady of
the frying-pan, no less an adept than Dame Jacintha, was assisted
in her cookery by the coachman. The waiting-woman and the little
footboy laid the cloth, and I set out the sideboard,
magnificently furnished with plate, offered up at the shrine of
our green-room goddess. There was every variety of wines, and I
played the cup-bearer, to show my mistress the versatility of my
talents. I sweated at the impudence of the actresses during
supper; they gave themselves quality airs, and affected the tone
of high life. Far from giving their guests all their style and
titles, they did not even vouchsafe a simple "Your lordship," but
called them familiarly by their proper names. To be sure, the old
fools encouraged their vanity by forgetting their own distance.
The player, for his part, in the habits of the heroic cast, lived
on equal terms with them; he challenged them to drink, and in
every respect took the upper hand. In good truth, said I to
myself, while Laura was demonstrating the equality of the Marquis
and the comedian during the day, she might have drawn a still
stronger inference for the night, since they pass it so merrily
in drinking together.

Arsenia and Florimonde were naturally frolicsome. A thousand
broad hints escaped them, intermingled with small favours, and
then a coquettish revolt at their own freedom, which were all
seasoned exactly to the taste of these old sinners. While my
mistress was entertaining one of them with a little harmless
toying, her friend, between the other elders, had not taken the
cue of Susanna. While I was contemplating this picture, which had
but too many attractions for a knowing youth like me, the dessert
was brought in. Then I set the bottles and glasses on the table,
and made my escape to sup with Laura, who was waiting for me. How
now! Gil Blas, said she, what do you think of those noblemen
above-stairs? Doubtless, answered I, they are deeply smitten with
Arsenia and Florimonde. No, replied she, they are old
sensualists, who hang about our sex without any particular
attachment. All they ask is some little frivolous compliance, and
they are generous enough to pay well for the least trifle of
amorous endearment. Heaven be praised, Florimonde and my mistress
are at present without any serious engagements; I mean that they
have no husband-like lovers, who expect to engross all the
pleasures of a house, because they stand to the expenses. For my
part, I am very glad of it: and maintain that a sensible woman of
the world ought to refuse all such monopolies. Why take a master?
It is better to support an establishment by retail trade, than to
confine one's self to chamber practice on such terms.

When Laura's tongue was wound up, and it was seldom down, words
seemed to cost her nothing. What a glorious volubility! She told
a thousand stories of the actresses belonging to the prince's
company; and I gathered from her whole drift that I could not be
better situated to take a scientific view of the cardinal vices.
Unfortunately I was at an age when they inspire but little
horror; and this abigail had the art of colouring her corruptions
so lusciously as to hide their deformities and heighten their
meretricious lure. She had not time to open the tenth part of her
theatrical budget, for she did not talk more than three hours.
The senators and the player went away with Florimonde, whom they
saw safe home.

When they were gone, my mistress said to me -- Here, Gil Blas,
are ten pistoles to go to market to-morrow. Five or six of our
gentlemen and ladies are to dine here, take care that we are well
served. Madam, answered I, with this sum there shall be a banquet
for the whole troop. My friend, replied Arsenia, correct your
phraseology; you must say company, not troop. A troop of robbers,
a troop of beggars, a troop of authors; but a company of
comedians, especially when you have to mention the actors of
Madrid. I begged my mistress's pardon for having used so
disrespectful a term, and entreated her to excuse my ignorance. I
protested that henceforward, when I spoke collectively of so
august a body, I would always say the company.

CH. XI. -- A theatrical life and an author's life

I TOOK the field the next morning, to open my campaign as
steward. It was a fish day; for which reason I bought some good
fat chickens, rabbits, partridges, and every variety of game. As
the gentlemen of the sock and buskin are not on the best possible
terms with the church, they are not over-scrupulous in their
observance of the rubric. I brought home provisions more than
enough for a dozen portly gentlemen to have fasted on during a
whole Lent. The cook had a good morning's work. While she was
getting dinner ready, Arsenia got up and spent the early part of
the day at her toilet. At noon came two of the players, Signor
Rosimiro and Signor Ricardo. Afterwards two actresses, Constance
and Celinaura; then entered Florimonde, attended by a man who had
all the appearance of a most spruce cavalier. He had his hair
dressed in the most elegant manner, his hat set off with a
fashionable plume, very tight breeches, and a shirt with a laced
frill. His gloves and his handkerchief were in the hilt of his
sword, and he wore his cloak with a grace altogether peculiar to

With a prepossessing physiognomy and a good person, there was
something extraordinary in the first blush of him. This
gentleman, said I to myself, must be an original. I was not
mistaken; his singularities were striking. On his entrance, he
ran with open arms and embraced the company, male and female, one
after another. His grimaces were more extravagant than any I had
yet seen in this region of foppery. My prediction was not
falsified by his discourse. He dwelt with fondness on every
syllable he uttered, and pronounced his words in an emphatic
tone, with gestures and glances artfully adapted to the subject.
I had the curiosity to ask Laura who this strange figure might
be. I forgive you, said she, this instance of an inquisitive
disposition. It is impossible to see and to hear Signor Carlos
Alonso de la Ventoleria for the first time, without having such a
natural longing. I will paint him to the life. In the first
place, he was originally a player. He left the stage through
caprice, and has since repented in sober sadness of the step. Did
you notice his dark hair? Every thread of it is pencilled, as
well as his eyebrows and his whiskers. He was born in the reign
of Saturn's father, in the age before the golden; but as there
were no parish registers at that time, he avails himself of the
primitive barbarism, and dates at least twenty centuries below
the true epoch. Moreover, his self-sufficiency keeps pace with
his antiquity. He passed the olympiads of his youth in the
grossest ignorance; but taking a fancy to become learned about
the Christian era, he engaged a private tutor, who taught him to
spell in Greek and Latin. Nay, more, he knows by heart an
infinite number of good stories, which he has given so often as
genuine, that he actually begins to believe them himself. They
are eternally pressed into the service, and it may truly be said
that his wit shines at the expense of his memory. He is thought
to be a great actor. I am willing to believe it implicitly, but I
must own he is not to my taste. He declaims here sometimes; and I
have observed, among other defects, an affectation in his
delivery, with a tremulousness of voice bordering on the
antiquated and ridiculous.

Such was the portrait drawn by my abigail of this honorary
spouter; and never was mortal of a more stately carriage. He
prided himself too on being an agreeable companion. He never was
at a loss for a commodity of trite remarks, which he delivered
with an air of authority. On the other hand, the Thespian
fraternity were not much addicted to silence. They began
canvassing their absent colleagues in a manner little consistent
with charity, it must be owned; but this is a failing pardonable
in players as well as in authors. The fire grew brisk and the
satire personal. You have not heard, ladies, said Rosimiro, a new
stroke of our dear brother Cesarino. This very morning he bought
silk stockings, ribbons, and laces, and sent them to rehearsal by
a little page, as a present from a countess. What a knavish
trick! said Signor de la Ventoleria, with a smile made up of
fatuity and conceit. In my time there was more honesty, we never
thought of descending to such impositions. To be sure, women of
fashion were tender of our inventive faculties, nor did they
leave such purchases to be made out of our own pockets; it was
their whim. By the honour of our house, said Ricardo, in the same
strain, that whim of theirs is lasting, and if it were allowable
to kiss and tell . . . . But one must be secret on these
occasions, above all when persons of a certain rank are

Gentlemen, interrupted Florimonde, a truce, if you please, with
your conquests and successes, they are known over the whole
earth. Apropos of Ismene. It is said that the nobleman who has
fooled away so much money upon her, has at length recovered his
senses. Yes, indeed, exclaimed Constance; and I can tell you
besides that she has lost, by the same stroke, a snug little hero
of the counting-house, whose ruin would otherwise have been
signed and sealed. I have the thing from the first hand. Her
Mercury made an unfortunate mistake, for he carried a tender
invitation to each, and delivered them wrong. These were great
losses, my darling, quoth Florimonde. Oh! as for that of the
lord, replied Constance, it is a very trifling matter. The man of
blood had almost run through his estate, but the little fellow
with the pen behind his ear was but just coming into play. He had
never been fleeced before, it is a pity he should have escaped so

Such was the tenor of the conversation before dinner, and it was
not much mended in its morality at table. As I should never have
done with the recital of all their ribaldry and nonsense, the
reader will excuse the omission, and pass on to the entrance of a
poor devil, yclept an author, who called just before the cloth
was taken away.

Our little footboy came and said to my mistress in an audible
voice -- Madam, a man in a dirty shirt, splashed up to his
middle, with very much the look of a poet, saving your presence,
wants to speak to you. Let him walk up, answered Arsenia. Keep
your seats, gentlemen, it is only an author. To be sure so it
was, one whose tragedy had been accepted, and he was bringing my
mistress her part. His name was Pedro de Moya. On coming into the
room he made five or six low bows to the company, who neither
rose nor took the least notice of him. Arsenia just returned his
superabundant civilities with a slight inclination of the head.
He came forward with tremor and embarrassment. He dropped his
gloves and let his hat fall. He ventured to pick them up again,
then advanced towards my mistress, and presenting to her a paper
with more ceremony than a defendant an affidavit to the judge of
the court -- Madam, said he, have the goodness to receive under
your protection the part I take the liberty of offering you. She
stretched out her hand for it with cold and contemptuous
indifference; nor did she condescend even to notice the
compliment by a look.

But our author was not disheartened. Seizing this opportunity to
distribute the cast, he gave one character to Rosimiro and
another to Florimonde, who treated him just as genteelly as
Arsenia had done. On the contrary, the low comedian, a very
pleasant fellow, as those gentlemen for the most part affect to
be, insulted him with the most cutting sarcasms. Pedro de Moya
was not made of stone. Yet he dared not take up the aggressor,
lest his piece should suffer for it. He withdrew without saying a
word, but stung to the quick, as it seemed to me, by his
reception. He could not fail, in the transports of his anger,
mentally to apostrophize the players as they deserved: and the
players, when he was gone, began to talk of authors in return
with infinite deference and kindness. It should seem, said
Florimonde, as if Signor de Moya did not go away very well

Well! madam, cried Rosimiro, and why should you trouble yourself
about that? Are we to study the feelings of authors? If we were
to admit them upon equal terms, it would only be the way to spoil
them. I know that contemptible squad; I know them of old: they
would soon forget their distance. There is no dealing with them
but as slaves; and as for tiring their patience, never fear that.
Though they may take themselves off in a pet sometimes, the itch
of writing brings them back again; and they are raised to the
third heaven, if we will but condescend to support their pieces.
You are right, said Arsenia; we never lose an author till we have
made his fortune. When that is done, as soon as we have provided
for the ungrateful devils, they get to be in good case, and then
they run restive. Luckily the manager does not break his heart
after them, and one is just as good as another to the public.

These liberal and sagacious remarks met with their full share of
approbation. It was carried unanimously that authors, though
treated rather too scurvily be hind the scenes, were on the whole
the obliged persons. These fretters of an hour upon the stage
ranked the inhabitant of Parnassus below themselves; and malice
could not degrade him lower.

CH. XII. -- Gil Blas acquires a relish for the theatre, and
takes a full swing of its pleasures, but soon becomes disgusted.

THE party sat at table till it was time to go to the theatre. I
went after them, and saw the play again that evening. I took such
delight in it, that I was for attending every day. I never
missed, and by degrees got accustomed to the actors. Such is the
force of habit. I was particularly delighted with those who were
most artificial and unnatural; nor was I singular in my taste.

The beauties of composition affected me much on the same
principle as the excellence of representation. There were some
pieces with which I was enraptured. I liked, among others, those
which brought all the cardinals or the twelve peers of France
upon the stage. I got hold of striking passages in these
incomparable performances. I recollect that in two days I learnt
by heart a whole play, called, The Queen of Flowers. The Rose,
who was the queen, had the Violet for her maid of honour, and the
Jessamin for her prime minister. I could conceive nothing more
elegant or refined: such productions seemed to be the triumph of
our Spanish wit and invention.

I was not content to store my memory and discipline my mind with
the choicest selections from these dramatic masterpieces: but I
was bent on polishing my taste to the highest perfection. To
secure this grand object, I listened with greedy ears to every
word which fell from the lips of the players. If they commended a
piece, I was ravished by it: but suppose they pronounced it bad?
why, then I maintained that it was infernal stuff. I conceived
that they must determine the merits of a play, as a jeweller the
water of a diamond. And yet the tragedy by Pedro de Moya was
eminently successful, though they had predicted its entire
miscarriage. This, however, was no disparagement of their
critical skill in my estimation; and I had rather believe the
audience to be divested of common sense, than doubt the
infallibility of the company. But they assured me, on all hands,
that their judgments were usually confirmed by the rule of
contraries. It seemed to be a maxim with them, to set their faces
point blank against the taste of the public; and as a proof of
this, there were a thousand cases in point of unexpected
successes and failures. All these testimonies were scarcely
sufficient to undeceive me.

I shall never forget what happened one day at the first
representation of a new comedy. The performers had pronounced it
uninteresting and tedious; they had even prophesied that it would
not be heard to the end. Under this impression, they got through
the first act, which was loudly applauded. This was very
astonishing! They played the second act; the audience liked it
still better than the first. The actors were confounded. What the
devil, said Rosimiro, this comedy succeeds! At last they went on
in the third act, which rose as a third act ought to rise. I am
quite thrown upon my back, said Ricardo; we thought this piece
would not be relished; and all the world are mad after it.
Gentlemen, said one of the players archly, it is because we
happened accidentally to overlook all the wit.

From this time I held my opinion no longer of the players as
competent judges, and began to appreciate their merit more truly
than they had estimated that of the authors. All the lampoons
which were current about them were fully justified. The actors
and actresses ran riot on the applauses of the town, and stood so
high in their own conceit, as to think that they conferred a
favour by appearing on the boards. I was shocked at their public
misconduct; but unfortunately reconciled myself too easily to
their private manners, and plunged into debauchery. How could I
do otherwise? Every word they uttered was poison in the ears of
youth, and every scene that was presented, an alluring picture of
corruption. Had I been a stranger to what passed with Casilda,
with Constance, and with the other actresses, Arsenia's house
alone would have been sufficient for my ruin. Besides the old
noblemen of whom I have spoken, there came thither young
debauchees of fashion, who forestalled their inheritances by the
disinterested mediation of money-lenders: and sometimes we had
officers under government, who were so far from receiving fees,
as at their public boards, that they paid most exorbitant ones
for the privilege of mixing with such worshipful society.

Florimonde, who lived at next door, dined and supped with Arsenia
every day. Their long intimacy surprised every one. Coquets were
not thought usually to maintain so good an understanding with
each other. It was concluded that they would quarrel, sooner or
late; about some paramour; but such reasoners could not see into
the hearts of these exemplary friends. They were united in the
bonds of indissoluble love. Instead of harbouring jealousy, like
other women, they had everything in common. They had rather
divide the plunder of mankind, than childishly fall out, and
contend for trumpery, as hearts and affections.

Laura, after the example of these two illustrious partners,
turned the fresh season of youth to the best advantage. She had
told me that I should see strange doings. And yet I did not take
up the jealous part. I had promised to adopt the principles of
the company on that score. For some days I kept my thoughts to
myself. I only just took the liberty of asking her the names of
the men whom she favoured with her private ear. She always told
me that they were uncles or cousins. From what a prolific family
was she sprung! King Priam had no luck in propagation, compared
with her ancestors. Nor did this precious abigail confine herself
to her uncles and cousins: she went now and then to lay a trap
for unwary aliens, and personate the widow of quality under the
auspices of the discreet old dowager above mentioned. In short
Laura, to hit off her character exactly, was just as young, just
as pretty, and just as loose as her mistress, who had no other
advantage over her than that of figuring in a more public

I was borne down by the torrent for three weeks, and ran the
career of dissipation in my turn. But I must at the same time say
for myself, that in the midst of pleasure I frequently felt the
still small voice of conscience, arising from the impression of a
serious education, which mixed gall in the Circean cup. Riot
could not altogether get the better of remorse: on the contrary,
the pangs of the last grew keener with the more shameful
indulgence of the first; and, by a happy effect of my
temperament, the disorders of a theatrical life began to make me
shudder. Ah! wretch, said I to myself, is it thus that you make
good the hopes of your family? Is it not enough to have thwarted
their pious intentions, by not following your destined course of
life as an instructor of youth? Need your condition of a servant
hinder you from living decently and soberly? Are such monsters of
iniquity fit companions for you? Envy, hatred, and avarice are
predominant here; intemperance and idleness have purchased the
fee-simple there: the pride of some is aggravated into the most
barefaced impudence, and modesty is turned out of doors, by the
common consent of all. The business is settled: I will not live
any longer with the seven deadly sins.




Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy