The chief house of the village was become an inn. Two long tables stood in the patio where no fountain now flowed nor orange trees grew nor birds sang in corners nor fine awning kept away the glare. Twenty of these wild and base fighting men crowded one table, eating and drinking, clamorous and spouting oaths. At the other table sat together at an end three men whom by a number of tokens might be robbers of the mountains. They sat quiet, indifferent to the noise, talking low among themselves in a tongue of their own, kin enough to the soldiery not to fear them. The opposite end of the long table was given to a group to which I now joined myself. Here sat two Franciscan friars, and a man who seemed a lawyer; and one who had the air of the sea and turned out to be master of a Levantine; and a brisk, talkative, important person, a Catalan, and as it presently appeared alcalde once of a so-so village; and a young, unhealthy-looking man in black with an open book beside him; and a strange fellow whose Spanish was imperfect.
I sat down near the friars, crossed myself, and cut a piece of bread from the loaf before me. The innkeeper and his wife, a gaunt, extraordinarily tall woman, served, running from table to table. The place was all heat and noise. Presently the soldiers, ending their meal, got up with clamor and surged from the court to their waiting horses. After them ran the innkeeper, appealing for pay. Denials, expostulation, anger and beseeching reached the ears of the patio, then the sound of horses going down stony ways. “O God of the poor!” cried the gaunt woman. “How are we robbed!”
“Why are they not before Granada?” demanded the lawyer and alertly provided the answer to his own question. “Take locusts and give them leave to eat, being careful to say, `This fellow’s fields only!’ But the locusts have wings and their nature is to eat!”
The mountain robbers, if robbers they were, dined quietly, the gaunt woman promptly and painstakingly serving them. They were going to pay, I was sure, though it might not be this noon.
The two friars seemed, quiet, simple men, dining as dumbly as if they sat in Saint Francis’s refectory. The sometime alcalde and the shipmaster were the talkers, the student sitting as though he were in the desert, eating bread and cheese and onions and looking on his book. The lawyer watched all, talked to make them talk, then came in and settled matters. The alcalde was the politician, knowing the affairs of the world and speaking familiarly of the King and the Queen and the Marquis of Cadiz.
The shipmaster said, “This time last year I was in London, and I saw their King. His name is Henry. King Henry the Seventh, and a good carrier of his kingship!”
“That for him!” said the alcalde. “Let him stay in his foggy island! But Spain is too small for King Ferdinand.” “All kings find their lands too small,” said the lawyer.
The shipmaster spoke again. “The King of Portugal’s ship sails ahead of ours in that matter. He’s stuck his banner in the new islands, Maderia and the Hawk Islands and where not! I was talking in Cadiz with one who was with Bartholomew Diaz when he turned Africa and named it Good Hope. Which is to say, King John has Good Hope of seeing Portugal swell. Portugal! Well, I say, `Why not Spain’?”