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Letters Of George Borrow by George Borrow

To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Aug.14th, 1838)
No.16 CALLE SANTIAGO, MADRID,
August 3, 1838.

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- Since writing to you last I have been at some distance from Madrid. Indeed my affairs at the time were in such a condition and so much depended upon my personal superintendence, that I was obliged to depart almost immediately after dispatching my answers to your two last. I am now returned principally on account of a rather unfortunate accident which occurred on the frontier of La Mancha, the particulars of which I shall give you presently. I shall, however, only tarry sufficient time to rest the horses and again go forth, for I am but too well aware that no time must now be lost, my enemies being numerous and watchful.

On leaving Madrid I proceeded in the direction of Aranjuez, selling from twenty to forty copies in every village that lay in the way or near it; my intention was to penetrate deep into La Mancha, and in that view I had forwarded a large supply of books to Aranjuez. Having arrived there I made a sojourn of three days, during which time, myself, [my] servant and Juan Lopez, of whom I have previously spoken to you, visited every house in the town. We found a vast deal of poverty and ignorance amongst the inhabitants, and experienced some opposition; nevertheless it pleased the Almighty to permit us to dispose of about eighty Testaments, which were purchased entirely by the very poor people, those in easier circumstances paying no attention to the Word of God, but rather turning it to scoff and ridicule. One circumstance was very gratifying and cheering to me, namely, the ocular proof which I possessed that the books which I disposed of were read, and with attention, by those to whom I disposed of them, and that many others participated in their benefit. In the streets of Aranjuez and beneath the mighty cedars and gigantic elms and plantains which compose its noble woods, I have frequently seen groups assembled, listening to individuals who, with the New Testament in their hands, were reading aloud the comfortable words of salvation.

It is probable that had I remained a longer period in Aranjuez I might have sold many more of our divine books, but I was eager to gain La Mancha and its sandy plains, and to conceal myself for a season amongst its solitary villages; for I was apprehensive that a storm was gathering around me. But when once through Ocana, the frontier town, I knew well that I should have nothing to fear from the Spanish authorities as their power ceased there, the rest of La Mancha being almost entirely in the hands of the Carlists, and overrun by small parties of banditti, from whom however I trusted that the Lord would preserve me. I therefore departed for Ocana, situate about three leagues from Aranjuez.

I started with my servant about six in the evening, having early in the morning sent forward Lopez with between two and three hundred Testaments. We left the high road and proceeded by a shorter way, through wild hills and over very broken and precipitous ground. Being well-mounted we found ourselves just after sunset opposite Ocana, which stands on a steep hill. A deep valley lay between us and the town; we descended and came to a small bridge which traverses a rivulet at the bottom of the valley, at a very small distance from a kind of suburb; we crossed the bridge, and were passing by a deserted house on our left hand when a man appeared from under the porch.

What I am about to state will seem incomprehensible to you, but a singular history and a singular people are connected with it. The man placed himself before my horse so as to bar the way, and said Schophon, which in the Hebrew tongue signifies a rabbit. I knew this word to be one of the Jewish countersigns, and asked the man if he had anything to communicate. He said: 'You must not enter the town, for a net is prepared for you. The Corregidor of Toledo, on whom may all evil light, in order to give pleasure to the priests of Maria, in whose face I spit, has ordered all the Alcaldes of these parts and the Escribanos and the Corchetes to lay hands on you wherever they may find you, and to send you and your books and all that pertains to you to Toledo. Your servant was seized this morning in the town above as he was selling the writings in the streets, and they are now awaiting your arrival in the posada; but I knew you from the accounts of my brethren, and have been waiting here four hours to give you warning, in order that your horse may turn his tail to your enemies and neigh in derision of them. Fear nothing for your servant, for he is known to the Alcalde and will be set at liberty, but do you flee, and may God attend you.' Having said this, he hurried towards the town.

I hesitated not a moment to take his advice, knowing full well that, as my books had been taken possession of, I could do no more in that direction. We turned back, in the direction of Aranjuez, the horses notwithstanding the nature of the ground galloping at full speed, and like the true Moorish breed bearing their tails erect and stiff; but our adventures were not over. About mid-way, and about half a league from the small village of Antigola, we saw close to us on our left hand three men on a low bank. As far as the darkness would permit us to distinguish they were naked, but each bore in his hand a long gun; these were rateros, or the common assassins and robbers of the roads. We halted, and cried out 'Who goes there?' They, replied, 'What's that to you? Pass by.' Their drift was to fire at us from a position from which it would be impossible to miss. We shouted: 'If you do not instantly pass to the right side of the road, we will tread you down beneath the horses' hoofs.' They hesitated, and then obeyed, for all Spanish assassins are dastards, and the least show of resolution daunts them. As we galloped past, one cried with an obscene oath, 'Tiraremos' ('fire') but another said, 'No! hay peligro' ['there's danger']. We reached Aranjuez, where early next morning Lopez rejoined us, and we returned to Madrid.

I am sorry to state that two hundred Testaments were seized at Ocana, where they were sealed and despatched to Toledo. Lopez informed me that in two hours he could have sold them all, the demand was so great; as it was, twenty-seven were sold in less than ten minutes. He is just departed on another expedition, and I am about to follow, for with God's leave I will fight it out to the last.

I enclose you a list of all the towns and villages hitherto visited. I have nothing more to say for the present, but that you may make what use you please of this letter.

Such is my life in Spain.

(UNSIGNED.)

Pueblos.
Villa Seca. Azana.
Mocejon. Ylleicas.
Magan. Forrejon.
Oliar. Parla.
Vargas. Pinto.
Villaluenga. Baldemoro.
Yuncler. Zetafe.
Alameda. Leganez.
Anober. Aranjuez.
Cobena. Ocana.
To the Rev. A. Brandram

(Endorsed: recd. Sept.12, 1838)
[LABAJOS, PROVINCE OF SEGOVIA,
Aug. 23rd, 1838.]

REVD. AND DEAR SIR, -- Lord William Hervey was perfectly satisfied with my conduct in the affair stated on the other side, and so was Count Ofalia, who expressed his regret that circumstances had compelled her Majesty's Government to take those steps against the circulation of the Scriptures with which you are already acquainted.

G. B.

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