There are in Spain an infinite number of such sort of beggars, who are men of sense and letters, and so au fait in the art, that they will not be denied. The grand secret of the art of begging is in perseverance; and all the well-bred part of beggars do not despair, though they have ten refusals. But the worst sort of beggars in Spain, are the troops of male and female gipsies: these are the genuine breed, and differ widely from all other human beings. In Spain I often met troops of these people; and when that interview happens in roads very distant from towns or dwellings, the interview is not very pleasing; for they ask as if they knew they were not to be refused; and, I dare say, often commit murders, when they can do it by surprize. Whenever I saw any of these people at a distance, I walked with a gun in my hand, and near to the side of my chaise, where there were pistols visible; and by shewing them I was not afraid, or, at least, making them believe so, they became afraid of us. They are extremely swarthy, with hair as black as jet; and form a very picturesque scene under the shade of those rocks and trees, where they spend their evenings; and live in a manner by no means disagreeable, in a climate so suitable to that style, where bread, water, and idleness is certainly preferable to better fare and hard labour. It is owing to this universal idleness that the roads, the inns, and every thing, but what is absolutely necessary, is neglected; yet, bad as the roads are, they are better than the posada, or inns. El salir de la posada, es la mejor jornada,—“the best part of the journey, say the Spaniards, is the getting out of the posada.” For as neither king nor people are at much expence to make or mend the high ways, except just about the capital cities, they are dry or wet, rough or smooth, steep or rugged, just as the weather or the soil happens to favour or befoul them.—Now, here is a riddle for your son; I know he is an adept, and will soon overtake me.
I’m rough, I’m
smooth, I’m wet, I’m dry;
My station’s low, my title’s high;
The King my lawful master is;
I’m us’d by all, though only his:
My common freedom’s so well known,
I am for that a proverb grown.
The roads in Spain are, like those in Ireland, very narrow, and the leagues very long. When I complained to an Irish soldier of the length of the miles, between Kinsale and Cork, he acknowledged the truth of my observation; but archly added, that though they were long, they were but narrow.—Three Spanish leagues make nearly twelve English miles; and, consequently, seventeen Spanish leagues make nearly one degree. The bad roads, steep mountains, rapid rivers, &c. occasion most of the goods and merchandize, which are carried from one part of the kingdom to the other, to be conveyed on mule-back, and each mule has generally a driver; and as these drivers have