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The Bible in Spain by George Borrow

Part 12 out of 12

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the blood of the Moors of Garnata, as then you will no longer
refuse to take me for a husband, you and your maid Johar, and to
become Moors. What a glory to you, after having been married to a
Genoui, and given birth to Genouillos, to receive for a husband a
Moor like me, and to bear him children of the blood of Garnata.
What a glory too for Johar, how much better than to marry a vile
Jew, even like Hayim Ben Atar, or your cook Sabia, both of whom I
could strangle with two fingers, for am I not Hammin Widdir Moro de
Garnata, el hombre mas valido be Tanger?" He then shouldered his
barrel and departed.

"Is that Mulatto really what he pretends to be?" said I to Joanna;
"is he a descendant of the Moors of Granada?"

"He always talks about the Moors of Granada when he is mad with
majoon or aguardiente," interrupted, in bad French, the old man
whom I have before described, and in the same croaking voice which
I had heard chanting in the morning. "Nevertheless it may be true,
and if he had not heard something of the kind from his parents, he
would never have imagined such a thing, for he is too stupid. As I
said before, it is by no means impossible: many of the families of
Granada settled down here when their town was taken by the
Christians, but the greater part went to Tunis. When I was there,
I lodged in the house of a Moor who called himself Zegri, and was
always talking of Granada and the things which his forefathers had
done there. He would moreover sit for hours singing romances of
which I understood not one word, praised be the mother of God, but
which he said all related to his family; there were hundreds of
that name in Tunis, therefore why should not this Hammin, this
drunken water-carrier, be a Moor of Granada also? He is ugly
enough to be emperor of all the Moors. O the accursed canaille, I
have lived amongst them for my sins these eight years, at Oran and
here. Monsieur, do you not consider it to be a hard case for an
old man like myself, who am a Christian, to live amongst a race who
know not God, nor Christ, nor anything holy?"

"What do you mean," said I, "by asserting that the Moors know not
God? There is no people in the world who entertain sublimer
notions of the uncreated eternal God than the Moors, and no people
have ever shown themselves more zealous for his honour and glory;
their very zeal for the glory of God has been and is the chief
obstacle to their becoming Christians. They are afraid of
compromising his dignity by supposing that he ever condescended to
become man. And with respect to Christ, their ideas even of him
are much more just than those of the Papists, they say he is a
mighty prophet, whilst, according to the others, he is either a
piece of bread or a helpless infant. In many points of religion
the Moors are wrong, dreadfully wrong, but are the Papists less so?
And one of their practices sets them immeasurably below the Moors
in the eyes of any unprejudiced person: they bow down to idols,
Christian idols if you like, but idols still, things graven of wood
and stone and brass, and from these things, which can neither hear,
nor speak, nor feel, they ask and expect to obtain favours."

"Vive la France, Vive la Guadeloupe," said the black, with a good
French accent. "In France and in Guadeloupe there is no
superstition, and they pay as much regard to the Bible as to the
Koran; I am now learning to read in order that I may understand the
writings of Voltaire, who, as I am told, has proved that both the
one and the other were written with the sole intention of deceiving
mankind. O vive la France! where will you find such an enlightened
country as France; and where will you find such a plentiful country
as France? Only one in the world, and that is Guadeloupe. Is it
not so, Monsieur Pascual? Were you ever at Marseilles? Ah quel
bon pays est celui-la pour les vivres, pour les petits poulets,
pour les poulardes, pour les perdrix, pour les perdreaux, pour les
alouettes, pour les becasses, pour les becassines, enfin, pour

"Pray, sir, are you a cook?" demanded I.

"Monsieur, je le suis pour vous rendre service, mon nom c'est
Gerard, et j'ai l'honneur d'etre chef de cuisine chez monsieur le
consul Hollandois. A present je prie permission de vous saluer; il
faut que j'aille a la maison pour faire le diner de mon maitre."

At four I went to dine with the British consul. Two other English
gentlemen were present, who had arrived at Tangier from Gibraltar
about ten days previously for a short excursion, and were now
detained longer than they wished by the Levant wind. They had
already visited the principal towns in Spain, and proposed spending
the winter either at Cadiz or Seville. One of them, Mr. -, struck
me as being one of the most remarkable men I had ever conversed
with; he travelled not for diversion nor instigated by curiosity,
but merely with the hope of doing spiritual good, chiefly by
conversation. The consul soon asked me what I thought of the Moors
and their country. I told him that what I had hitherto seen of
both highly pleased me. He said that were I to live amongst them
ten years, as he had done, he believed I should entertain a very
different opinion; that no people in the world were more false and
cruel; that their government was one of the vilest description,
with which it was next to an impossibility for any foreign power to
hold amicable relations, as it invariably acted with bad faith, and
set at nought the most solemn treaties. That British property and
interests were every day subjected to ruin and spoliation, and
British subjects exposed to unheard-of vexations, without the
slightest hope of redress being afforded, save recourse was had to
force, the only argument to which the Moors were accessible. He
added, that towards the end of the preceding year an atrocious
murder had been perpetrated in Tangier: a Genoese family of three
individuals had perished, all of whom were British subjects, and
entitled to the protection of the British flag. The murderers were
known, and the principal one was even now in prison for the fact,
yet all attempts to bring him to condign punishment had hitherto
proved abortive, as he was a Moor, and his victims Christians.
Finally he cautioned me, not to take walks beyond the wall
unaccompanied by a soldier, whom he offered to provide for me
should I desire it, as otherwise I incurred great risk of being
ill-treated by the Moors of the interior whom I might meet, or
perhaps murdered, and he instanced the case of a British officer
who not long since had been murdered on the beach for no other
reason than being a Nazarene, and appearing in a Nazarene dress.
He at length introduced the subject of the Gospel, and I was
pleased to learn that, during his residence in Tangier, he had
distributed a considerable quantity of Bibles amongst the natives
in the Arabic language, and that many of the learned men, or
Talibs, had read the holy volume with great interest, and that by
this distribution, which, it is true, was effected with much
caution, no angry or unpleasant feeling had been excited. He
finally asked whether I had come with the intention of circulating
the Scripture amongst the Moors.

I replied that I had no opportunity of doing so, as I had not one
single copy either in the Arable language or character. That the
few Testaments which were in my possession were in the Spanish
language, and were intended for circulation amongst the Christians
of Tangier, to whom they might be serviceable, as they all
understood the language.

It was night, and I was seated in the wustuddur of Joanna Correa,
in company with Pascual Fava the Genoese. The old man's favourite
subject of discourse appeared to be religion, and he professed
unbounded love for the Saviour, and the deepest sense of gratitude
for his miraculous atonement for the sins of mankind. I should
have listened to him with pleasure had he not smelt very strongly
of liquor, and by certain incoherence of language and wildness of
manner given indications of being in some degree the worse for it.
Suddenly two figures appeared beneath the doorway; one was that of
a bare-headed and bare-legged Moorish boy of about ten years of
age, dressed in a gelaba; he guided by the hand an old man, whom I
at once recognised as one of the Algerines, the good Moslems of
whom the old Mahasni had spoken in terms of praise in the morning
whilst we ascended the street of the Siarrin. He was very short of
stature and dirty in his dress; the lower part of his face was
covered with a stubbly white beard; before his eyes he wore a large
pair of spectacles, from which he evidently received but little
benefit, as he required the assistance of the guide at every step.
The two advanced a little way into the wustuddur and there stopped.
Pascual Fava no sooner beheld them, than assuming a jovial air he
started nimbly up, and leaning on his stick, for he had a bent leg,
limped to a cupboard, out of which he took a bottle and poured out
a glass of wine, singing in the broken kind of Spanish used by the
Moors of the coast:

Moro fino,
No beber vino,
Ni comer tocino."

Moor so keen,
No drink wine,
No taste swine.)

He then handed the wine to the old Moor, who drank it off, and
then, led by the boy, made for the door without saying a word.

"Hade mushe halal," (that is not lawful,) said I to him with a loud

"Cul shee halal," (everything is lawful,) said the old Moor,
turning his sightless and spectacled eyes in the direction from
which my voice reached him. "Of everything which God has given, it
is lawful for the children of God to partake."

"Who is that old man?" said I to Pascual Fava, after the blind and
the leader of the blind had departed. "Who is he!" said Pascual;
"who is he! He is a merchant now, and keeps a shop in the Siarrin,
but there was a time when no bloodier pirate sailed out of Algier.
That old blind wretch has cut more throats than he has hairs in his
beard. Before the French took the place he was the rais or captain
of a frigate, and many was the poor Sardinian vessel which fell
into his hands. After that affair he fled to Tangier, and it is
said that he brought with him a great part of the booty which he
had amassed in former times. Many other Algerines came hither
also, or to Tetuan, but he is the strangest guest of them all. He
keeps occasionally very extraordinary company for a Moor, and is
rather over intimate with the Jews. Well, that's no business of
mine; only let him look to himself. If the Moors should once
suspect him, it were all over with him. Moors and Jews, Jews and
Moors! Oh my poor sins, my poor sins, that brought me to live
amongst them! -

"'Ave Maris stella,
Dei Mater alma,
Atque semper virgo,
Felix coeli porta!'"

He was proceeding in this manner when I was startled by the sound
of a musket.

"That is the retreat," said Pascual Fava. "It is fired every night
in the soc at half-past eight, and it is the signal for suspending
all business, and shutting up. I am now going to close the doors,
and whosoever knocks, I shall not admit them till I know their
voice. Since the murder of the poor Genoese last year, we have all
been particularly cautious."

Thus had passed Friday, the sacred day of the Moslems, and the
first which I had spent in Tangier. I observed that the Moors
followed their occupations as if the day had nothing particular in
it. Between twelve and one, the hour of prayer in the mosque, the
gates of the town were closed, and no one permitted either to enter
or go out. There is a tradition, current amongst them, that on
this day, and at this hour, their eternal enemies, the Nazarenes,
will arrive to take possession of their country; on which account
they hold themselves prepared against a surprisal.


{0} "Om Frands Gonzales, og Rodrik Cid.
End siunges i Sierra Murene!"
Kronike Riim. By Severin Grundtvig. Copenhagen, 1829.

{1} Doing business, doing business--he has much business to do.

{2} The Gypsy word for Antonio.

{3} Devil.

{4} "Say nothing to him, my lad, he is a hog of an alguazil."

{5} El Serrador, a Carlist partisan, who about this period was
much talked of in Spain.

{6} At the last attack on Warsaw, when the loss of the Russians
amounted to upwards of twenty thousand men, the soldiery mounted
the breach, repeating in measured chant, one of their popular
songs: "Come, let us cut the cabbage," &c.

{7} Twelve ounces of bread, small pound, as given in the prison.

{8} Witch. Ger. Hexe.

{9} A compound of the modern Greek [Greek text], and the Sanskrit
kara, the literal meaning being Lord of the horse-shoe (i.e.
maker); it is one of the private cognominations of "The Smiths," an
English Gypsy clan.

{10} Of these lines the following translation, in the style of the
old English ballad, will, perhaps, not be unacceptable:-

{11} "The king arrived, the king arrived, and disembarked at
Belem."--Miguelite song.

{12} "How should I know?"

{13} Qu. The Epistle to the Romans.

{14} This was possibly the period when Admiral Duckworth attempted
to force the passage of the Dardanelles.

{15} "See the crossing! see what devilish crossing!"

{16} The ancient Lethe.

{17} Inha, when affixed to words, serves as a diminutive. It is
much in use amongst the Gallegans.

{18} Perhaps Waterloo.

{19} About thirty pounds.

{20} [Greek text], as Antonio said.

{21} Nothing at all.

{22} A Rabbinical book, very difficult to be understood, though
written avowedly for the purpose of elucidating many points
connected with the religious ceremonies of the Hebrews.

Book of the day: