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The Sage and the Atheist
LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW
PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA
TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING
Published by Urban Romantics
First published in 2016
Copyright © 2016 Urban Romantics
All Rights Reserved.
You request me, sir, to give you some account of our worthy friend, and his singular son. The leisure that the retirement of Lord Peterborough now affords me, places it in my power to oblige you. You will be as astonished as I was, and perhaps adopt my opinion on the subject.
You scarcely knew the young and unfortunate Johnny, Freind’s only son, whom his father took with him to Spain when he received the appointment of chaplain to our armies, in 1705. You started for Aleppo, before my lord besieged Barcelona; yet you were right when you said, John’s countenance was amiable and interesting, and that he gave proofs of intelligence and courage. It was quite true. Every one who knew him, loved him. At first he was intended for the church; but, as he manifested much aversion for that profession, which, indeed, requires great skill, management, and finesse, his prudent father considered it a folly and a crime to oppose his inclination.
John was not twenty years old when he assisted, as a volunteer, at the attack on Mont-Joui, which was captured, and where the Prince of Hesse lost his life. Our poor Johnny was wounded, taken prisoner, and carried into the town. The following is an account of his adventures from the attack of Mont-Joui till the taking of Barcelona. It is as told by a Catalonian lady, a little too free and too simple. Such stories do not find a way to the hearts of your wise men. I received it from her when I entered Barcelona in the suite of Lord Peterborough. You must read it without offence, as a true description of the manners of the country.
ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY, A YOUNG ENGLISHMAN. WRITTEN BY DONNA LAS NALGAS.
When we were informed that the same savages who came through the air to seize on Gibraltar, were come to besiege our beautiful Barcelona, we began to offer prayers at Notre Dame de Manreze—assuredly the best mode of defence.
These people, who come from so far, are called by a name very hard to pronounce, that is, English. Our reverend father inquisitor, Don Jeronimo Bueno Caracucarador, preached against these brigands. He anathematized them in Notre Dame d’Elpino. He assured us that the English had monkey-tails, bears’ paws, and parrot-heads; that they sometimes spoke like men, but invariably made a great hissing; that they were moreover notorious heretics; that though the Blessed Virgin was often indulgent to poor sinners, she never forgave heretics, and that consequently they would all be infallibly exterminated, especially if they presumed to appear before Mont-Joui. He had scarcely finished his sermon when he heard that Mont-Joui was taken by storm.
The same evening we learned that a young Englishman, who had been wounded in the assault, was our prisoner. Throughout the town arose cries of victory! victory! And the illuminations were very general.
Donna Boca Vermeja, who had the honor to be the reverend inquisitor’s favorite, was very desirous to see what the English animal and heretic was like. She was my intimate friend. I shared her curiosity. We were oblished to wait till his wound was cured; and this did not take very long.
Don Jeronimo Bueno Caracucarador. Don Jeronimo Bueno Caracucarador.
Soon after, we learned that he was in the habit of visiting daily at the residence of Elbob, my cousin german, who, as every one knows, is the best surgeon in the town. My friend Boca Vermeja’s impatience to see this singular monster increased two-fold. We had no rest ourselves, and gave none to our cousin, the surgeon, till he allowed us to conceal ourselves in a small closet, which we entered on tiptoe without saying a word and scarcely venturing to breathe, just as the Englishman arrived. His face was not turned toward us. He took off a small cap which enclosed his light hair, which then fell in thick curls down the finest neck I ever beheld. His form presented a plumpness, a finish, an elegance, approaching, in my opinion, the Apollo Belvidere at Rome—a copy of which my uncle the sculptor possesses.
Donna Boca Vermeja was transported with surprise, and delighted. I shared her ecstacy, and could not forbear exclaiming: “O che hermoso Muchacho!”
These words made the young man turn round. We then saw the face of an Adonis on the body of a young Hercules. Donna Boca Vermeja nearly fell backwards at the sight:
“St. James!” she exclaimed, “Holy Virgin! is it possible heretics are such fine men? How we have been deceived about them.”
Donna Boca was soon violently in love with the heretical monster. She is handsomer than I am, I must confess; and I must also confess that I became doubly jealous of her on that account. I took care to show her that to forsake the reverend father inquisitor, Don Jeronimo Bueno Caracucarador, for an Englishman, would be a crime falling nothing short of damnation.
“Ah! my dear Las Nalgas,” she said, (Las Nalgas is my name) “I would forsake Melchizedek himself for so fine a young man.”
One of the inquisitors who attended four masses daily, to obtain from Our Lady of Manreze the destruction of the English, heard of our admiration. The Reverend Father Don Caracucarador whipped us both, and had our dear Englishman arrested by twenty-four Alguazils of St. Hermandad. Johnny killed four; and was at length captured by the remaining twenty. He was confined in a very damp cellar, and sentenced to be burnt the following Sunday, in full ceremony, clothed in a San-bénito, wearing a sugar-loaf cap, in honor of our Savior and the Virgin Mary, his mother. Don Caracucarador prepared a fine sermon, but had no occasion for it, as the town was taken at four o’clock on the Sunday morning.
Here Donna Las Nalgas’s tale terminates. This lady was not without a description of wit, which in Spain we call agudéza.
CONTINUATION OF THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN, THE YOUNG ENGLISHMAN; ALSO THOSE OF HIS WORTHY FATHER, D.D., M.P., AND F.R.S.
You know the skillful conduct of the Earl of Peterborough after he took Barcelona, how successfully he prevented pillage, restored order, and rescued the Duchess of Popoli from the hands of some drunken Germans, who robbed and abused her. Conceive the surprise, grief, rage, and tears, of our friend Freind, on learning that John was confined in the dungeons of the holy inquisition, and condemned to the stake. You know that cold temperaments are frequently most energetic when great events call them into action. You should have seen this distracted father, whom you were accustomed to think imperturbable, fly to the dungeon of his son more rapidly than the horses at Newmarket hasten to the goal. The fifty soldiers who went with him were soon out of breath, and always a hundred paces behind. At length he reached the cell and entered it. What a scene! what tears! what joy! Twenty victims, devoted to the same ceremony, are delivered. All the prisoners take arms and fight with our soldiers. The buildings of the holy office are destroyed in ten minutes, and they breakfasted beside the ruins, on the wine and ham of the inquisitors.
Condemned by the Inquisition Condemned by the Inquisition.—He was confined to a very damp cellar, and sentenced to be burnt the following Sunday, in full ceremony, clothed in a San-bénito, wearing a sugar-loaf cap, in honor of our Savior and the Virgin Mary, his mother.
In the midst of the roar of cannon, the sound of trumpets and drums, announcing our victory to Catalonia, our friend Freind recovered his accustomed tranquillity of manner. He was as calm as the sky after a day of storm. He was raising to God a heart as serene as his countenance, when he perceived a black spectral figure, clad in a surplice, issue from a vault, and fall at his feet, crying for mercy.
“Who are you?” said our friend. “Do you come from Hades?”
“Almost,” rejoined the other. “I am Don Jeronimo Bueno Caracucarador, inquisitor. I solicit most humbly your forgiveness for wishing to roast your son in public. I took him for a Jew.”
“Supposing that to be the case,” said our friend with his customary sang froid, “does it become you, Señor Caracucarador, to roast people alive because they are descended from a sect that formerly inhabited a rocky canton near the Syrian desert? What does it matter to you whether a man is circumcised or not? that he observe Easter at the full of the moon, or on the following Sunday? It is very bad reasoning to say, ‘That man is a Jew; therefore I must have him burnt, and take his property.’ The Royal Society of London do not reason in that way.
“Do you know, Señor Caracucarador, that Jesus Christ was a Jew—that he was born, lived, and died a Jew? that he observed the passover like a Jew, at the full of the moon? that all his apostles were Jews? that they went to the temple after his death, as we are expressly told? that the first fifteen secret bishops of Jerusalem were Jews? But my son is no Jew; he belongs to the established church. How came it into your head to burn him alive?”
The inquisitor, overawed by the learning of Monsieur Freind, and still prostrate at his feet, replied:
“Alas! sir, we know nothing about this at the University of Salamanca. Forgive me, once more. The true reason is, your son took from me my favorite, Donna Boca Vermeja.”
“Ah! if he took your favorite, that’s another thing. We should never take ‘our neighbor’s goods.’ That is not, however, a sufficient reason for burning a young man to death. As Leibnitz says, ‘The punishment should be in proportion to the crime.’ You Christians on the other side of the British Channel, especially toward the South, make no more of roasting each other, be it the Counsellor Dubourg, M. Servetus, or those who were burned in the reign of Philippe II., surnamed El Discreto, than we do of roasting a joint of beef in London. But bring Miss Boca Vermeja before me, that I may learn the truth from her own mouth.”