Pablo de Segovia, the Spanish Sharper
Francisco de Quevedo
Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook, or read online
Pages (PDF): 120
Publication Date: This translation, 1892
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Pablo de Segovia, the Spanish Sharper, chronicles the adventures of Don Pablos, who is driven in life to become a swindler and a rogue because his previous efforts to 'rise above his station' in life and become a gentlemen - fail miserably. A satire on Spanish life, this is the only novel published by Francisco de Quevedo.
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I SIR, was born at Segovia, my father’s name was Clemente Pablo, a native of the same town; may God keep him in heaven. I need not speak of his virtues, for those are unknown, but by trade he was a barber, though so high minded, that he took it for an affront to be called by any name but that of a cheek-shearer and beard-tailor. They say he came of a good stock, and his actions showed it. He was married to Aldonza Saturno de Rebollo, daughter to Octavio de Rebollo Codillo, and grandchild to Lepido Ziuraconte. The town foully suspected that she was no old Christian, though she strongly urged the names of her progenitors, to prove herself descended from those great men that formed the Triumvirate at Rome. She was very handsome, and so famous, that all the ballad rhymers of her time made verses of her, which were sung about the streets. She ran through many troubles, when first married, and long after, for there were scandalous tongues in the neighbourhood that did not stick to say my father was willing to wear the horns, provided they were tipped with gold. It was proved upon him, that whilst he was lathering the beards of those he was to trim, a small brother of mine, about seven years of age, rifled their pockets. The little angel died of a whipping he had in the gaol; and my father was much concerned at the loss, because he won the hearts of them all. He was himself a while in prison for some small trifles of this nature; but I am told he came off so honourably, that at his first walking abroad from gaol two hundred cardinals went behind him, of whom ne’er a one was monsignor, and the ladies stood at their windows to see him pass by; for my father always made a good figure, either a-foot or a-horseback. I do not speak it out of vanity, for everybody knows that to be foreign to me.
My mother, good woman, had no share of troubles. An old woman that bred me, commending her one day, said, she was of such a taking behaviour, that she bewitched all she had to do with; but they say, she talked something concerning her intercourse with a great he-goat, which had like to have brought her to the stake, to try whether she had anything of the nature of the salamander, and could live in fire. It was reported that she had an excellent hand at soldering cracked maidens, and disguising of grey hairs. Some gave her the name of a pleasure-broker, others of a reconciler; but the ruder sort, in coarse language, called her downright bawd, and universal money-catcher. It would make anybody in love with her to see with what a pleasant countenance she took this from all persons. I shall not spend much time in relating what a penitential life she led; but she had a room into which nobody went besides herself, and sometimes I was admitted on account of my tender years; it was all beset with dead men’s skulls, which she said were to put her in mind of mortality, though others in spite to her pretended they were to put tricks upon the living. Her bed was corded with halters malefactors had been hanged in; and she used to say to me: “D’ye see these things? I show them as remembrances to those I have a kindness for, that they may take heed how they live, and avoid coming to such an end.”
My parents had much bickering about me, each of them contending to have me brought up to his or her trade; but I, who from my infancy had more gentleman like thoughts, applied myself to neither. My father used to say to me: “My child, this trade of stealing is no mechanic trade, but a liberal art.” Then pausing and fetching a sigh, he went on: “There is no living in this world without stealing. Why do you think the constables and other officers hate us as they do? Why do they sometimes banish, sometimes whip us at the cart’s tail, and at last hang us up like flitches of bacon without waiting for All Saints’ Day to come?” (I cannot refrain from tears when I think of it, for the good old man wept like a child, remembering how often they had flogged him.) “The reason is, because they would have no other thieves among them but themselves and their gang; but a sharp wit brings us out of all dangers. In my younger days I plied altogether in the churches, not out of pure religious zeal, and had been long ago carted, but that I never told tales, though they put me to the rack; for I never confessed but when our holy mother the Church commands us. With this business and my trade, I have made a shift to maintain your mother as decently as I could.” “You maintain me!” answered my mother, in a great rage (for she was vexed I would not apply me to the sorcery), “it was I that maintained you; I brought you out of prison by my art, and kept you there with my money. You may thank the potions I gave you for not confessing, and not your own courage. My good pots did the feat; and were it not for fear I should be heard in the streets, I would tell all the story, how I got in at the chimney, and brought you out at the top of the house.” Her passion was so high, that she would not have given over here, had not the string of a pair of beads broke, which were all dead men’s teeth she kept for private uses. I told them very resolutely I would apply myself to virtue, and go on in the good way I had proposed, and therefore desired them to put me to school, for nothing was to be done without reading and writing.
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