I think it is good that such remarkable things as these, which
may never have been heard of or seen before, should come to the
attention of many people instead of being buried away in the tomb
of oblivion. Because it might turn out that someone who reads
about them will like what he reads, and even people who only
glance lightly through this book may be entertained.
Pliny says along these lines that there is no book--no matter how
bad it is--that doesn't have something good in it. And this is
all the more true since all tastes are not the same: what one man
won't even touch, another will be dying to get. And so there are
things that some people don't care for, while others do. The
point is that nothing should be destroyed or thrown away unless
it is really detestable; instead, it should be shown to
everybody, especially if it won't do any harm and they might get
some good out of it.
If this weren't so, there would be very few people who would
write for only one reader, because writing is hardly a simple
thing to do. But since writers go ahead with it, they want to be
rewarded, not with money but with people seeing and reading their
works, and if there is something worthwhile in them, they would
like some praise. Along these lines too, Cicero says: "Honor
promotes the arts."
Does anyone think that the first soldier to stand up and charge
the enemy hates life? Of course not; a craving for glory is what
makes him expose himself to danger. And the same is true in arts
and letters. The young preacher gives a very good sermon and is
really interested in the improvement of people's souls, but ask
his grace if he minds when they tell him, "Oh, what an excellent
sermon you gave today, Reverend!" And So-and-so was terrible in
jousting today, but when some rascal praised him for the way he
had handled his weapons, he gave him his armor. What would he
have done if it had really been true?
And so everything goes: I confess that I'm no more saintly than
my neighbors, but I would not mind it at all if those people who
find some pleasure in this little trifle of mine (written in my
crude style) would get wrapped up in it and be entertained by
it, and if they could see that a man who has had so much bad luck
and so many misfortunes and troubles does exist.
Please take this poor effort from a person who would have liked
to make it richer if only his ability had been as great as his
desire. And since you told me that you wanted me to write down
all the details of the matter, I have decided not to start out
in the middle but at the beginning. That way you will have a
complete picture of me, and at the same time those people who
received a large inheritance will see how little they had to do
with it, since fortune favored them, and they will also see how
much more those people accomplished whose luck was going against
them, since they rowed hard and well and brought their ship
safely into port.
I. Lazaro Tells about His Life and His Parents
You should know first of all that I'm called Lazaro of Tormes,
and that I'm the son of Tome Gonzales and Antona Perez, who were
born in Tejares, a village near Salamanca. I was actually born
in the Tormes River, and that's how I got my name. It happened
this way: My father (God rest his soul) was in charge of a mill
on the bank of that river, and he was the miller there for more
than fifteen years. Well, one night while my mother was in the
mill, carrying me around in her belly, she went into labor and
gave birth to me right there. So I can really say I was born in
Then when I was eight years old, they accused my father of
gutting the sacks that people were bringing to the mill. They
took him to jail, and without a word of protest he went ahead and
confessed everything, and he suffered persecution for
righteousness' sake. But I trust God that he's in heaven because
the Bible calls that kind of man blessed. At that time they were
getting together an expedition to go fight the Moors, and my
father went with them. They had exiled him because of the bad
luck that I've already told about, so he went along as a muleteer
for one of the men, and like a loyal servant, he ended his life
with his master.
My widowed mother, finding herself without a husband or anyone to
take care of her, decided to lie at the side--I mean, stay on the
side--of good men and be like them. So she came to the city to live.
She rented a little house and began to cook for some students.
She washed clothes for some stableboys who served the Commander
of La Magdalena, too, so a lot of the time she was around the stables.
She and a dark man--one of those men who took care of the animals--
got to know each other. Sometimes he would come to our house and
wouldn't leave till the next morning; and other times he would come
to our door in the daytime pretending that he wanted to buy eggs,
and then he would come inside.
When he first began to come I didn't like him, he scared me
because of the color of his skin and the way he looked. But when
I saw that with him around there the food got better, I began to
like him quite a lot. He always brought bread and pieces of meat,
and in the winter he brought in firewood so we could keep warm.
So with his visits and the relationship going right along, it
happened that my mother gave me a pretty little black baby, and I
used to bounce it on my knee and help keep it warm.
I remember one time when my black stepfather was playing with the
little fellow, the child noticed that my mother and I were white
but that my stepfather wasn't and he got scared. He ran to my
mother and pointed his finger at him and said, "Mama, it's the
bogeyman!" And my stepfather laughed: "You little son-of-a-bitch!"
Even though I was still a young boy, I thought about the word my
little brother had used, and I said to myself: How many people
there must be in the world who run away from others when they
don't see themselves.
As luck would have it, talk about Zaide (that was my stepfather's
name) reached the ears of the foreman, and when a search was made
they found out that he'd been stealing about half of the barley
that was supposed to be given to the animals. He'd pretended
that the bran, wool, currycombs, aprons, and the horse covers and
blankets had been lost; and when there was nothing else left to
steal, he took the shoes right off the horses' hooves. And he
was using all this to buy things for my mother so that she could
bring up my little brother.
Why should we be surprised at priests when they steal from the
poor or at friars when they take things from their monasteries to
give to their lady followers, or for other things, when we see
how love can make a poor slave do what he did?
And they found him guilty of everything I've said and more
because they asked me questions and threatened me too, and I
answered them like a child. I was so frightened that I told them
everything I knew--even about some horseshoes my mother
had made me sell to a blacksmith.
They beat and tarred my poor stepfather, and they gave my mother
a stiff sentence besides the usual hundred lashes: they said that
she couldn't go into the house of the Commander (the one I mentioned)
and that she couldn't take poor Zaide into her own house.
So that matters wouldn't get any worse, the poor woman went ahead
and carried out the sentence. And to avoid any danger and get
away from wagging tongues, she went to work as a servant for the
people who were living at the Solano Inn then. And there, while
putting up with all kinds of indignities, she managed to raise my
little brother until he knew how to walk. And she even raised me
to be a good little boy who would take wine and candles to the
guests and do whatever else they told me.
About this time a blind man came by and stayed at the inn. He
thought I would be a good guide for him, so he asked my mother if
I could serve him, and she said I could. She told him what a
good man my father had been and how he'd died in the battle of
Gelves for the holy faith. She said she trusted God that I
wouldn't turn out any worse a man than my father, and she begged
him to be good to me and look after me, since I would be an
orphan now. He told her he would and said that I wouldn't be a
servant to him, but a son. And so I began to serve and guide my
new old master.
After he had been in Salamanca a few days, my master wasn't happy
with the amount of money he was taking in, and he decided to go
somewhere else. So when we were ready to leave, I went to see my
mother. And with both of us crying she gave me her blessing and
said, "Son, I know that I'll never see you again. Try to be
good, and may God be your guide. I've raised you and given you
to a good master; take good care of yourself."
And then I went back out to my master who was waiting for me.
We left Salamanca and we came to a bridge; and at the edge of
this bridge there's a stone statue of an animal that looks
something like a bull. The blind man told me to go up next to
the animal, and when I was there he said, "Lazaro, put your ear
up next to this bull and you'll hear a great sound inside of it."
I put my ear next to it very simply, thinking he was telling the
truth. And when he felt my head near the statue, he doubled up
his fist and knocked my head into that devil of a bull so hard
that I felt the pain from its horns for three days. And he said
to me, "You fool, now learn that a blind man's servant has to be
one step ahead of the devil." And he laughed out loud at his joke.
It seemed to me that at that very instant I woke up from my
childlike simplicity and I said to myself, "He's right. I've got
to open my eyes and be on my guard. I'm alone now, and I've got
to think about taking care of myself."
We started on our way again, and in just a few days he taught me
the slang thieves use. When he saw what a quick mind I had he
was really happy, and he said, "I can't give you any gold or
silver, but I can give you plenty of hints on how to stay
alive." And that's exactly what he did; after God, it was this
fellow who gave me life and who, although he was blind,
enlightened me and showed me how to live.
I like to tell you these silly things to show what virtue there
is in men being able to raise themselves up from the depths, and
what a vice it is for them to let themselves slip down from
Well, getting back to my dear blind man and telling about his
ways, you should know that from the time God created the world
there's no one He made smarter or sharper than that man. At his
job he was sly as a fox. He knew over a hundred prayers by
heart. He would use a low tone, calm and very sonorous, that
would make the church where he was praying echo. And whenever he
prayed, he would put on a humble and pious expression--something
he did very well. And he wouldn't make faces or grimaces with
his mouth or eyes the way others do.
Besides this he had thousands of other ways of getting money. He
told everyone that he knew prayers for lots of different things:
for women who couldn't have children or who were in labor; for
those women who weren't happy in their marriage--so that their
husbands would love them more. He would give predictions to
expectant mothers about whether they would have a boy or a girl.
And as far as medicine was concerned, he said that Galen never
knew the half of what he did about toothaches, fainting spells,
and female illnesses. In fact, there was no one who would tell
him they were sick that he couldn't immediately say to them: "Do
this, and then is; take this herb, or take that root."
And so everyone came to him--especially women--and they believed
everything he told them. He got a lot out of them with these ways
I've been telling about; in fact, he earned more in a month than
a hundred ordinary blind men earn in a year.
But I want you to know, too, that even with all he got and all
that he had, I've never seen a more greedy, miserly man. He was
starving me to death. He didn't even give me enough to keep me
alive! I'm telling the truth: If I hadn't known how to help
myself with my wily ways and some pretty clever tricks, I would
have died of hunger lots of times. But with all his know-how and
carefulness I outwitted him, so that I always--or usually--really
got the better of him. The way I did this was I played some
devilish tricks on him, and I'll tell about some of them, even
though I didn't come out on top every time.
He carried the bread and all the other things in a cloth bag, and
he kept the neck of it closed with an iron ring that had a
padlock and key. And when he put things in or took them out, he
did it so carefully and counted everything so well that no one
in the world could have gotten a crumb from him. So I'd take
what little he gave me, and in less than two mouthfuls it would
After he had closed the lock and forgotten about it, thinking
that I was busy with other things, I would begin to bleed the
miserly bag dry. There was a little seam on the side of the bag
that I'd rip open and sew up again. And I would take out bread--
not little crumbs, either, but big hunks--and I'd get bacon and
sausage too. And so I was always looking for the right time to
score, not on a ball field, but on the food in that blasted bag
that the tyrant of a blind man kept away from me.
And then, every time I had a chance I'd steal half copper coins.
And when someone gave him a copper to say a prayer for them--and
since he couldn't see--they'd no sooner have offered it than I
would pop it into my mouth and have a half-copper ready. And as
soon as he stuck out his hand, there was my coin reduced to half
price. Then the old blind man would start growling at me. As
soon as he felt it and realized that it wasn't a whole copper
he'd say, "How the devil is it that now that you're with me they
never give me anything but half coppers, when they almost always
used to give me a copper or a two-copper piece? I'd swear that
this is all your fault."
He used to cut his prayers short, too; he wouldn't even get
halfway through them. He told me to pull on the end of his cloak
whenever the person who asked for the prayer had gone. So that's
what I did. Then he'd begin to call out again with his cry, "Who
would like to have me say a prayer for him?" in his usual way.
And he always put a little jug of wine next to him when we ate.
I would grab it quickly and give it a couple of quiet kisses
before I put it back in its place. But that didn't go on for
very long: he could tell by the number of nips he took that some
was missing. So to keep his wine safe he never let the jug out
of reach; he'd always hold on to the handle. But not even a
magnet could attract the way I could with a long rye straw that I
had made for that very purpose. And I'd stick it in the mouth of
the jug and suck until--good-bye, wine! But the old traitor was
so wary that I think he must have sensed me, because from then on
he stopped that and put the jug between his legs. And even then
he kept his hand over the top to make sure.
But I got so used to drinking wine that I was dying for it. And
when I saw that my straw trick wouldn't work, I decided to make a
spout by carving a little hole in the bottom of the jug and then
sealing it off neatly with a little thin strip of wax. When it
was mealtime, I'd pretend I was cold and get in between the legs
of the miserable blind man to warm up by the little fire we had.
And the heat of it would melt the wax, since it was such a tiny
piece. Then the wine would begin to trickle from the spout into
my mouth, and I got into a position so that I wouldn't miss a
blasted drop. When the poor fellow went to drink he wouldn't
find a thing. He'd draw back, astonished, then he'd curse and
damn the jar and the wine, not knowing what could have happened.
"You can't say that I drank it, Sir," I said, "since you never
let it out of your hand."
But he kept turning the jug around and feeling it, until he
finally discovered the hole and saw through my trick. But he
pretended that he hadn't found out.
Then one day I was tippling on my jug as usual, without realizing
what was in store for me or even that the blind man had found me
out. I was sitting the same as always, taking in those sweet
sips, my face turned toward the sky and my eyes slightly closed
so I could really savor the delicious liquor. The dirty blind
man saw that now was the time to take out his revenge on me, and
he raised that sweet and bitter jug with both his hands and
smashed it down on my mouth with all his might. As I say, he
used all his strength, and poor Lazaro hadn't been expecting
anything like this; in fact, I was drowsy and happy as always.
So it seemed like the sky and everything in it had really fallen
down on top of me. The little tap sent me reeling and knocked me
unconscious, and that enormous jug was so huge that pieces of it
stuck in my face, cutting me in several places and knocking out
my teeth, so that I don't have them to this very day.
From that minute I began to hate that old blind man.
Because, even though he took care of me and treated me all right
and fixed me up, I saw that he had really enjoyed his dirty
trick. He used wine to wash the places where the pieces of the
jug had cut me, and he smiled and said, "How about that, Lazaro?
The very thing that hurt you is helping to cure you." And he
made other witty remarks that I didn't particularly care for.
When I had about recovered from the beating and the black and
blue marks were nearly gone, I realized that with a few more
blows like that the blind man would have gotten rid of me. So I
decided to be rid of him. But I didn't run away right then; I
waited until I could do it in a safer and better way. And
although I wanted to be kind and forgive the blind man for
hitting me with the jug, I couldn't because of the harsh
treatment he gave me from then on. Without any reason he would
hit me on the head and yank on my hair. And if anyone asked him
why he beat me so much, he would tell them about the incident
with the jug: "Do you think this boy of mine is just some
innocent little fellow? Well, listen and see if you think the
devil himself would try anything like this."
After they'd heard about it, they would cross themselves and say,
"Well--who would ever think that such a little boy would do
anything like that!"
Then they'd laugh at the prank and tell him, "Go on, beat him.
God will give you your reward."
And this advice he followed to the letter.
So, for revenge, I'd lead him down all the worst roads on purpose
to see if he wouldn't get hurt somehow. If there were rocks, I'd
take him right over them; if there was mud, I'd lead him through
the deepest part. Because even though I didn't keep dry myself,
I would have given an eye if I could have hurt two eyes of that
man who didn't even have one. Because of this, he was always
beating me with the end of his cane so that my head was full of
bumps, and with him always pulling on my hair a lot of it was
gone. I told him I wasn't doing it on purpose and that I just
couldn't find any better roads, but that didn't do any good. The
old traitor saw through everything and was so wary that he
wouldn't believe me any more.
So that you can see how smart this shrewd blind man was, I'll
tell you about one of the many times when I was with him that he
really seemed to show a lot of perception. When we left Salamanca,
his plan was to go to Toledo because the people were supposed to be
richer there, although not very free with their money. But he pinned
his hopes on this saying: "You'll get more water from a narrow
flowing stream than you will from a deep dry well." And we'd pass
through the best places as we went along. Where we were welcomed
and were able to get something, we stayed; where this didn't happen,
we'd move on after a few days.
And it happened that as we were coming to a place called Almorox
when they were gathering the grapes, a grape picker gave him a
bunch as alms. And since the baskets are usually handled pretty
roughly and the grapes were very ripe at the time, the bunch
started to fall apart in his hand. If we had thrown it in the
sack, it and everything it touched would have spoiled. He
decided that we'd have a picnic so that it wouldn't go to waste--
and he did it to please me, too, since he'd kicked and beat me
quite a bit that day. So we sat down on a low wall, and he said:
"Now I want to be generous with you: we'll share this bunch of
grapes, and you can eat as many as I do. We'll divide it like
this: you take one, then I'll take one. But you have to promise
me that you won't take more than one at a time. I'll do the same
until we finish, and that way there won't be any cheating."
The agreement was made, and we began. But on his second turn,
the traitor changed his mind and began to take two at a time,
evidently thinking that I was doing the same. But when I saw
that he had broken our agreement, I wasn't satisfied with going
at his rate of speed. Instead, I went even further: I took two
at a time, or three at a time--in fact, I ate them as fast as I
could. And when there weren't any grapes left, he just sat there
for a while with the stem in his hand, and then he shook his head
and said, "Lazaro, you tricked me. I'll swear to God that you
ate these grapes three at a time."
"No, I didn't," I said. "But why do you think so?"
That wise old blind man answered, "Do you know how I see that you
ate them three at a time? Because I was eating them two at a
time, and you didn't say a word."
I laughed to myself, and even though I was only a boy, I was very
much aware of the sharpness of that blind man.
But, so that I won't talk too much, I won't tell about a lot of
humorous and interesting things that happened to me with my first
master. I just want to tell about how we separated, and be done
We were in Escalona, a town owned by the duke of that name, at an
inn, and the blind man gave me a piece of sausage to roast for
him. When the sausage had been basted and he had sopped up and
eaten the drippings with a piece of bread, he took a coin out of
his purse and told me to go get him some wine from the tavern.
Then the devil put an idea in my head, just like they say he does
to thieves. It so happened that near the fire there was a little
turnip, kind of long and beat up; it had probably been thrown
there because it wasn't good enough for stew.
At that moment he and I were there all alone, and when I whiffed
the delicious odor of the sausage, I suddenly got a huge appetite--
and I knew that all I would get of it would be the smell. But the
thought of eating that sausage made me lose all my fear: I didn't
think for a minute what would happen to me. So while the blind man
was getting the money out of his purse, I took the sausage off the
spit and quickly put the turnip on. Then the blind man gave me the
money for the wine and took hold of the spit, turning it over the fire,
trying to cook the very thing that hadn't been cooked before because
it was so bad.
I went for the wine, and on the way I downed the sausage. When I
came back I found that sinner of a blind man holding the turnip
between two slices of bread. He didn't know what it was yet,
because he hadn't felt of it. But when he took the bread and
bit into it, thinking he would get part of the sausage too, he
was suddenly stopped cold by the taste of the cold turnip. He
got mad then, and said, "What is this, Lazarillo?"
"You mean, 'Lacerated,'" I said. "Are you trying to pin
something on me? Didn't I just come back from getting the wine?
Someone must have been here and played a joke on you."
"Oh, no," he said. "I haven't let the spit out of my hand. No
one could have done that."
I kept swearing that I hadn't done any switching around. But it
didn't do me any good--I couldn't hide anything from the
sharpness of that miserable blind man. He got up and grabbed me
by the head and got close so he could smell me. And he must
have smelled my breath like a good hound. Really being anxious
to find out if he was right, he held on tight and opened my mouth
wider than he should have. Then, not very wisely, he stuck in
his nose. And it was long and sharp. And his anger had made it
swell a bit, so that the point of it hit me in the throat. So
with all this and my being really frightened, along with the fact
that the black sausage hadn't had time to settle in my stomach,
and especially with the sudden poking in of his very large nose,
half choking me--all these things went together and made the
crime and the snack show themselves, and the owner got back what
belonged to him. What happened was that before the blind man
could take his beak out of my mouth, my stomach got so upset that
it hit his nose with what I had stolen. So his nose and the
black, half-chewed sausage both left my mouth at the same time.
Oh, Almighty God! I was wishing I'd been buried at that very
moment, because I was already dead. The perverse blind man was
so mad that if people hadn't come at the noise, I think he would
have killed me. They pulled me out of his hands, and he was left
with what few hairs had still been in my head. My face was all
scratched up, and my neck and throat were clawed. But my throat
really deserved its rough treatment because it was only on
account of what it had done that I'd been beaten. Then that
rotten blind man told everyone there about the things I'd done,
and he told them over and over about the jug and the grapes and
this last incident.
They laughed so hard that all the people who were going by in the
street came in to see the fun. But the blind man told them about
my tricks with such wit and cleverness that, even though I was
hurt and crying, I felt that it would have been wrong for me not
to laugh too.
And while this was going on I suddenly remembered that I'd been
negligent and cowardly, and I began to swear at myself: I should
have bitten off his nose. I'd had the opportunity to do it; in
fact, half of the work had already been done for me. If only I'd
clamped down with my teeth, I'd have had it trapped. Even though
it belonged to that skunk, my stomach would probably have held it
better than it held the sausage; and since there wouldn't have
been any evidence, I could have denied the crime. I wish to God
I'd have done it. It wouldn't have been a bad idea at all!
The lady running the inn and the others there made us stop our
fighting, and they washed my face and throat with the wine I'd
brought for him to drink. Then the dirty blind man made up jokes
about it, saying things like: "The truth of the matter is I use
more wine washing this boy in one year than I drink in two."
And: "At least, Lazaro, you owe more to wine than you do to your
father--he only gave you life once, but wine has brought you to
life a thousand times."
Then he told about all the times he'd beaten me and scratched my
face and then doctored me up with wine.
"I tell you," he said, "if there's one man in the world who will
be blessed by wine, it's you."
And the people who were washing me laughed out loud, while I was
But the blind man's prophecy wasn't wrong, and since then I've
often thought about that man who must have had a gift for telling
the future. And I feel sorry about the bad things I did to him,
although I really paid him back, since what he told me that day
happened just like he said it would, as you'll see later on.
Because of this and the dirty tricks the blind man played on me,
I decided to leave him for good. And since I had thought about
it and really had my mind set on it, this last trick of his only
made me more determined. So the next day we went into town to
beg. It had rained quite a bit the night before, and since it
was still raining that day, he went around praying under the
arcades in the town so we wouldn't get wet. But with night
coming on and there still being no let up, the blind man said to
me, "Lazaro, this rain isn't going to stop, and the later it gets
the harder it's coming down. Let's go inside the inn before
there's a real downpour."
To get there we had to cross over a ditch that was full of water
from the rain. And I said to him; "Sir, the water's too wide to
cross here, but if you'd like, I see an easier place to get
across, and we won't get wet either. It's very narrow there, and
if we jump we'll keep our feet dry."
That seemed like a good idea to him, and he said, "You're pretty
clever. That's why I like you so much. Take me to the place
where the ditch is narrow. It's winter now, and I don't care for
water any time, and especially not when I get my feet wet."
Seeing that the time was ripe, I led him under the arcades, to a
spot right in front of a sort of pillar or stone post that was in
the plaza--one of those that hold up the overhanging arches of
the houses. And I said to him, "Sir, this is the narrowest
place along the whole ditch."
It was really raining hard and the poor man was getting wet.
This, along with the fact that we were in a hurry to get out of
the water that was pouring down on us--and especially because
God clouded his mind so I could get revenge--made him believe me,
and he said, "Point me in the right direction, and you jump over
I put him right in front of the pillar. Then I jumped and got
behind the post like someone waiting for a bull to charge, and I
said to him, "Come on, jump as far as you can so you'll miss the
As soon as I'd said that, the poor blind man charged like an old
goat. First he took one step back to get a running start, and
then he hurled himself forward with all his might. His head hit
the post with a hollow sound like a pumpkin. Then he fell over
backward, half dead, with his head split open.
"What? You mean to say you smelled the sausage but not the post?
Smell it, smell it!" I said, and I left him in the hands of all
the people who had run to help him.
I reached the village gate on the run, and before night fell I
made it to Torrijos. I didn't know what God had done with him,
and I never made any attempt to find out.
II. How Lazaro Took up with a Priest and the Things That
Happened to Him with That Man
I didn't feel very safe in that town, so the next day I went to a
place named Maqueda. There I met up with a priest (it must have
been because of all my sins). I started to beg from him, and he
asked me if I knew how to assist at mass. I told him I did, and
it was the truth: even though that sinner of a blind man beat me,
he'd taught me all kinds of good things, too, and this was one of
them. So the priest took me in, and I was out of the frying pan
and into the fire. Because even though the blind man was the
very picture of greed, as I've said, he was an Alexander the
Great compared to this fellow. I won't say any more, except that
all the miserliness in the world was in this man. I don't know
if he'd been born that way, or if it came along with his priest's
He had an old chest that he kept locked, and he kept the key tied
to his cassock with a leather cord. When the holy bread was
brought from church, he'd throw it in the chest and lock it up
again. And there wasn't a thing to eat in the whole place, the
way there is in most houses: a bit of bacon hanging from the
chimney, some cheese lying on the table or in the cupboard, a
basket with some slices of bread left over from dinner. It
seemed to me that even if I hadn't eaten any of it, I would have
felt a lot better just being able to look at it.
The only thing around was a string of onions, and that was kept
locked in a room upstairs. I was rationed out one onion every
four days. And if anyone else was around when I asked him for
the key to get it, he'd reach into his breast pocket and untie
the key with great airs, and he'd hand it to me and say, "Here.
Take it, but bring it back as soon as you're through, and don't
stuff yourself." And this as if all the oranges in Valencia were
up there, while there really wasn't a damned thing, as I said,
besides the onions hanging from a nail. And he had those counted
so well that if I (being the sinner that I am) had taken even one
extra onion, I would really have been in for it.
So there I was, dying of hunger. But if he wasn't very
charitable to me, he was to himself. A good five coppers' worth
of meat was his usual fare for supper. I have to admit that he
did give me some of the soup, but as for the meat--I didn't even
get a whiff of it. All I got was a little bread: that blasted
man wouldn't give me half of what I really needed! And on
Saturdays everyone around here eats head of mutton, and he sent
me for one that cost six coppers. He cooked it and ate the eyes,
the tongue, the neck, the brains and the meat in the jaws. Then
he gave me the chewed-over bones; he put them on a plate and
said, "Here, eat this and be happy. It's a meal fit for a king.
In fact, you're living better than the Pope."
"May God grant you this kind of life," I said under my breath.
After I had been with him for three weeks, I got so skinny that
my legs wouldn't hold me up out of sheer hunger. I saw that I
was heading right straight for the grave if God and my wits
didn't come to my rescue. But there was no way I could trick him
because there wasn't a thing I could steal. And even if there
had been something, I couldn't blind him the way I did the other
one (may he rest in peace if that blow on the head finished him
off). Because even though the other fellow was smart, without
that valuable fifth sense he couldn't tell what I was doing. But
this new guy--there isn't anyone whose sight was as good as
When we were passing around the offering plate, not a penny fell
into the basket that he didn't have it spotted. He kept one eye
on the people and the other on my hands. His eyes danced in
their sockets like quicksilver. Every cent that was put in was
ticked off in his mind. And as soon as the offering was over, he
would take the plate away from me and put it on the altar.
I wasn't able to get a penny away from him all the time I lived
with him--or, to be more precise, all the time I died with him.
He never sent me to the tavern for even a drop of wine: what little
he brought back from the offering and put in the chest he rationed
out so that it lasted him a whole week. And to cover up his terrible
stinginess, he would say to me, "Look, son, we priests have to be
very moderate in our eating and drinking, and that's why I don't
indulge the way other people do." But that old miser was really
lying, because when we prayed at meetings or at funerals and
other people were paying for the food, he ate like a wolf and
drank more than any old, thirsty quack doctor.
Speaking of funerals, God forgive me but I was never an enemy of
mankind except during them. This was because we really ate well
and I was able to gorge myself. I used to hope and pray that God
would kill off someone every day. We'd give the sacraments to
the sick people, and the priest would ask everyone there to pray.
And I was certainly not the last to begin--especially at extreme
unction. With all my heart and soul I prayed to God--not that
His will be done, as they say, but that He take the person from
And when one of them escaped (God forgive me), I damned him to
hell a thousand times. But when one died, I blessed him just as
much. Because in all the time that I was there--which must have
been nearly six months--only twenty people died. And
I really think that I killed them; I mean, they died at my
request. Because I think that the Lord must have seen my own
endless and awful dying, and He was glad to kill them so that I
could live. But at that time I couldn't find any relief for my
misery. If I came to life on the days that we buried someone, I
really felt the pangs of hunger when there wasn't any funeral.
Because I would get used to filling myself up, and then I would
have to go back to my usual hunger again. So I couldn't think
of any way out except to die: I wanted death for myself sometimes
just as much as for the others. But I never saw it, even though
it was always inside of me.
Lots of times I thought about running away from that penny-
pinching master, but I didn't for two reasons. First, I didn't
trust my legs: lack of food had made them so skinny that I was
afraid they wouldn't hold me up. Second, I thought a while, and
I said: "I've had two masters: the first one nearly starved me to
death, and when I left him I met up with this one; and he gives
me so little to eat that I've already got one foot in the grave.
Well, if I leave this one and find a master who is one step
lower, how could it possibly end except with my death?" So I
didn't dare to move an inch. I really thought that each step
would just get worse. And if I were to go down one more step,
Lazaro wouldn't make another peep and no one would ever hear of
So there I was, in a terrible state (and God help any true
Christian who finds himself in those circumstances), not knowing
what to do and seeing that I was going from bad to worse. Then
one day when that miserable, tightfisted master of mine had gone
out, a tinker came to my door. I think he must have been an
angel in disguise, sent down by the hand of God. He asked me if
there was anything I wanted fixed. "You could fix me up, and you
wouldn't be doing half bad," I said softly but not so he could
hear me. But there wasn't enough time so I could waste it on
witty sayings and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, I said to him,
"Sir, I've lost the key to this chest, and I'm afraid my master
will beat me. Please look and see if one of those keys you have
will fit. I'll pay you for it."
The angelic tinker began to try out the keys on his chain, one
after the other, and I was helping him with my feeble prayers.
Then, when I least expected it, I saw the face of God, as they
say, formed by the loaves of bread inside that chest. When it
was all the way open I said to him, "I don't have any money to
give you for the key, but take your payment from what's in
He took the loaf of bread that looked best to him, and he gave me
the key and went away happy, leaving me even happier. But I
didn't touch a thing right then so that the loss wouldn't be
noticeable. And, too, when I saw that I was the Lord of all
that, I didn't think my hunger would dare come near me. Then my
miserly old master came back, and--thank God--he didn't notice
the missing loaf of bread that the angel had carried off.
The next day, when he left the house, I opened my breadly
paradise and sank my hands and teeth into a loaf, and in a flash
I made it invisible. And, of course, I didn't forget to lock up
the chest again. Then I began to sweep the house very happily,
thinking that from now on my sad life would change. And so that
day and the next I was happy. But it wasn't meant for that peace
to last very long because on the third day real tertian fever struck.
It happened that I suddenly saw that man who was starving me to
death standing over our chest, moving the loaves of bread from
one side to the other, counting and recounting them. I pretended
not to notice, and silently I was praying, hoping, and begging,
"Saint John, blind him!" After he had stood there quite a while,
counting the days and the loaves on his fingers, he said, "If I
weren't so careful about keeping this chest closed, I'd swear
that someone had taken some of the loaves of bread. But from now
on, just to close the door on all suspicion, I'm going to keep
close track of them. There are nine and a half in there now."
"May God send you nine pieces of bad news, too," I said under my
breath. It seemed to me that what he said went into my heart
like a hunter's arrow, and my stomach began to rumble when it saw
that it would be going back to its old diet. Then he left the
house. To console myself I opened the chest, and when I saw the
bread I began to worship it--but I was afraid to "take any in
remembrance of Him." Then I counted the loaves to see if the old
miser had made a mistake, but he had counted them much better
than I'd have liked. The best I could do was to kiss them over
and over, and as delicately as I could, I peeled a little off the
half-loaf on the side where it was already cut. And so I got
through that day but not as happily as the one before.
But my hunger kept growing, mainly because my stomach had gotten
used to more bread during those previous two or three days. I
was dying a slow death, and finally I got to the point that when
I was alone the only thing I did was open and close the chest and
look at the face of God inside (or at least that's how children
put it). But God Himself--who aids the afflicted--seeing me in
such straits, put a little thought into my head that would help
me. Thinking to myself, I said: This chest is big and old, and
it's got some holes in it, although they're small. But he might
be led to believe that mice are getting into it and are eating
the bread. It wouldn't do to take out a whole loaf: he'd notice
that it was missing right away, since he hardly gives me any food
at all to live on. But he'll believe this all right.
And I began to break off crumbs over some cheap tablecloths he
had there. I would pick up one loaf and put another one down, so
that I broke a few little pieces off of three or four of them.
Then I ate those up just as if they were bonbons, and I felt a
little better. But when he came home to eat and opened the
chest, he saw the mess. And he really thought that mice had done
the damage because I'd done my job to perfection, and it looked
just like the work of mice. He looked the chest over from top to
bottom, and he saw the holes where he suspected they'd gotten in.
Then he called me over and said, "Lazaro, look! Look at what a
terrible thing happened to our bread this evening!"
And I put on a very astonished face and asked him what it could
"What else," he said, "but mice? They get into everything."
We began to eat, and--thank God--I came out all right in this,
too. I got more bread than the miserable little bit he usually
gave me because he sliced off the parts he thought the mice had
chewed on, and said, "Eat this. The mouse is a very clean
So that day, with the extra that I got by the work of my hands--or
of my fingernails, to be exact--we finished our meal, although I
never really got started.
And then I got another shock: I saw him walking around carefully,
pulling nails out of the walls and looking for little pieces of
wood. And he used these to board up all the holes in the old
"Oh, Lord!" I said then. "What a life full of misery, trials,
and bad luck we're born into! How short the pleasures of this
hard life of ours are! Here I was, thinking that this pitiful
little cure of mine would get me through this miserable
situation, and I was happy, thinking I was doing pretty well.
Then along came my bad luck and woke up this miser of a master of
mine and made him even more careful than usual (and misers are
hardly ever not careful). Now, by closing up the holes in the
chest, he's closing the door to my happiness, too, and opening
the one to my troubles."
That's what I kept sighing while my conscientious carpenter
finished up his job with nails and little boards, and said, "Now,
my dear treacherous mice, you'd better think about changing your
ways. You won't get anywhere in this house."
As soon as he left, I went to see his work. And I found that he
didn't leave a hole where even a mosquito could get into the
sorry old chest. I opened it up with my useless key, without a
hope of getting anything. And there I saw the two or three
loaves that I'd started to eat and that my master thought the
mice had chewed on, and I still got a little bit off of them by
touching them very lightly like an expert swordsman.
Since necessity is the father of invention and I always had so
much of it, day and night I kept thinking about how I was going
to keep myself alive. And I think that hunger lit up my path to
these black solutions: they say that hunger sharpens your wits
and that stuffing yourself dulls them, and that's just the way it
worked with me.
Well, while I was lying awake one night thinking about this--how
I could manage to start using the chest again--I saw that my
master was asleep: it was obvious from the
snoring and loud wheezing he always made while he slept. I got
up very, very quietly, and since during the day I had planned out
what I would do and had left an old knife lying where I'd find
it, I went over to the sorry-looking chest, and in the place
where it looked most defenseless, I attacked it with the knife,
using it like a boring tool.
It was really an old chest, and it had been around for so many
years that it didn't have any strength or backbone left. It was
so soft and worm-eaten that it gave in to me right away and let
me put a good-sized hole in its side so I could relieve my own
suffering. When I finished this, I opened the slashed-up chest
very quietly, and feeling around and finding the cut-up loaf, I
did the usual thing--what you've seen before.
Feeling a little better after that, I closed it up again and went
back to my straw mat. I rested there and even slept a while.
But I didn't sleep very well, and I thought it was because I
hadn't eaten enough. And that's what it must have been because
at that time all the troubles of the King of France wouldn't have
been able to keep me awake. The next day my master saw the
damage that had been done to the bread along with the hole I'd
made, and he began to swear at the mice and say, "How can this
be? I've never even seen a mouse in this house until now!"
And I really think he must have been telling the truth. If there
was one house in the whole country that by rights should have
been free of mice, it was that one, because they don't usually
stay where there's nothing to eat. He began to look around on
the walls of the house again for nails and pieces of wood to keep
them out. Then when night came and he was asleep, there I was on
my feet with my knife in hand, and all the holes he plugged up
during the day I unplugged at night.
That's how things went, me following him so quickly that this
must be where the saying comes from: "Where one door is closed,
another opens." Well, we seemed to be doing Penelope's work on
the cloth because whatever he wove during the day I took apart at
night. And after just a few days and nights we had the poor
pantry box in such a shape that, if you really wanted to call it
by its proper name, you'd have to call it an old piece of armor
instead of a chest because of all the nails and tacks in it.
When he saw that his efforts weren't doing any good, he said,
"This chest is so beat up and the wood in it is so old and thin
that it wouldn't be able to stand up against any mouse. And it's
getting in such bad shape that if we put up with it any longer
it won't keep anything secure. The worst part of it is that even
though it doesn't keep things very safe, if I got rid of it I
really wouldn't be able to get along without it, and I'd just end
up having to pay three or four pieces of silver to get another
one. The best thing that I can think of, since what I've tried
so far hasn't done any good, is to set a trap inside the chest
for those blasted mice."
Then he asked someone to lend him a mousetrap, and with the
cheese rinds that he begged from the neighbors, the trap was kept
set and ready inside the chest. And that really turned out to be
a help to me. Even though I didn't require any frills for
eating, I was still glad to get the cheese rinds that I took out
of the mousetrap, and even at that I didn't stop the mouse from
raiding the bread.
When he found that mice had been into the bread and eaten the
cheese, but that not one of them had been caught, he swore a blue
streak and asked his neighbors, "How could a mouse take cheese
out of a trap, eat it, leave the trap sprung, and still not get
caught?" The neighbors agreed that it couldn't be a mouse that
was causing the trouble because it would have had to have gotten
caught sooner or later. So one neighbor said to him, "I remember
that there used to be a snake around your house--that must be who
the culprit is. It only stands to reason: it's so long it can
get the food, and even though the trap is sprung on it, it's not
completely inside, so it can get out again."
Everyone agreed with what he'd said, and that really upset my
master. From then on he didn't sleep so soundly. Whenever he
heard even a worm moving around in the wood at night, he thought
it was the snake gnawing on the chest. Then he would be up on
his feet, and he'd grab a club that he kept by the head of the
bed ever since they'd mentioned a snake to him, and he would
really lay into that poor old chest, hoping to scare the snake
away. He woke up the neighbors with all the noise he made, and
he wouldn't let me sleep at all. He came up to my straw mat and
turned it over and me with it, thinking that the snake had headed
for me and gotten into the straw or inside my coat. Because they
told him that at night these creatures look for some place that's
warm and even get into babies' cribs and bite them. Most of the
time I pretended to be asleep, and in the morning he would ask
me, "Didn't you feel anything last night, son? I was right
behind the snake, and I think it got into your bed: they're very
cold-blooded creatures, and they try to find a place that's
"I hope to God it doesn't bite me," I said. "I'm really scared
He went around all excited and not able to sleep, so that--on my
word of honor--the snake (a male one, of course) didn't dare go
out chewing at night, or even go near the chest. But in the
daytime, while he was at church or in town, I did my looting.
And when he saw the damage and that he wasn't able to do anything
about it, he wandered around at night--as I've said--like a
I was afraid that in his wanderings he might stumble onto my key
that I kept under the straw. So it seemed to me that the safest
thing was to put it in my mouth at night. Because since I'd been
with the blind man my mouth had gotten round like a purse, and I
could hold twenty or thirty coppers in it--all in half-copper
coins--and eat at the same time. If I hadn't been able to do that
I couldn't have gotten hold of even a copper that the blasted
blind man wouldn't have found: he was always searching every
patch and seam on my clothes. Well, as I say, I put the key in
my mouth every night, and I went to sleep without being afraid
that the zombie master of mine would stumble onto it. But when
trouble is going to strike, you can't do a thing to stop it.
The fates--or to be more exact, my sins--had it in store for me
that one night while I was sleeping my mouth must have been open,
and the key shifted so that the air I breathed out while I was
asleep went through the hollow part of the key. It was tubular,
and (unfortunately for me) it whistled so loud that my master
heard it and got excited. He must have thought it was the snake
hissing, and I guess it really sounded like one.
He got up very quietly with his club in hand, and by feeling his
way toward the sound he came up to me very softly so the snake
wouldn't hear him. And when he found himself so close, he
thought that it had come over to where I was lying, looking for a
warm place, and had slipped into the straw. So, lifting the club
up high, and thinking that he had the snake trapped down there
and that he would hit it so hard that he'd kill it, he swung down
on me with such a mighty blow that he knocked me unconscious and
left my head bashed in.
Then he saw that he'd hit me (I must have really cried out when
the blow leveled me), and--as he later told me--he reached over
and shouted at me, calling my name and trying to revive me. But
when his hands touched me and he felt all the blood, he realized
what he'd done, and he went off to get a light right away. When
he came back with it he found me moaning with the key still in my
mouth: I had never let loose of it, and it was still sticking half
out--just like it must have been when I was whistling through it.
The snake killer was terrified, wondering what it could be. He
took it all the way out of my mouth and looked at it. Then he
realized what it was because its ridges matched his key exactly.
He went to try it out, and he solved the crime. Then that cruel
hunter must have said: "I've found the mouse and the snake that
were fighting me and eating me out of house and home."
I can't say for sure what happened during the next three days
because I spent them inside the belly of the whale. But what
I've just told I heard about from my master when I came to; he
was telling what had happened in detail to everyone who came by.
At the end of three days, when I was back in my senses, I found myself
stretched out on my straw bed with my head all bandaged up and full
of oils and salves. And I got scared and said, "What is this?"
The cruel priest answered, "It seems that I caught the mice and
snakes that were ruining me."
I looked myself over, and when I saw how badly beaten up I was, I
guessed what had happened.
Then an old lady who was a healer came in, along with the
neighbors. And they began to take the wrappings off my head and
treat the wound. When they saw that I was conscious again, they
were very happy, and they said, 'Well, he's got his senses back.
God willing, it won't be too serious."
Then they began to talk again about what had happened to me and
to laugh. While I--sinner that I am--I was crying. Anyway, they
fed me, and I was famished, but they really didn't give me
enough. Yet, little by little, I recovered, and two weeks later
I was able to get up, out of any danger (but not out of my state
of hunger) and nearly cured.
The next day when I'd gotten up, my master took me by the hand
and led me out the door, and when I was in the street he said to
me: "Lazaro, from now on you're on your own--I don't want you.
Go get yourself another master, and God be with you. I don't
want such a diligent servant here with me. You could only have
become this way from being a blind man's guide."
Then he crossed himself as if I had the devil in me and went back
into his house and closed the door.
III. How Lazaro Took up with a Squire and What Happened to Him Then
So I had to push on ahead, as weak as I was. And little by
little, with the help of some good people, I ended up in this
great city of Toledo. And here, by the grace of God, my wounds
healed in about two weeks. People were always giving me things
while I was hurt, but when I was well again, they told me, "You--
you're nothing but a lazy, no-good sponger. Go on--go find
yourself a good master you can work for."
"And where will I meet up with one of those," I said to myself,
"unless God makes him from scratch, the way he created the world?"
While I was going along begging from door to door (without much
success, since charity seemed to have gone up to heaven), God had
me run into a squire who was walking down the street. He was
well dressed, his hair was combed, and he walked and looked like
a real gentleman. I looked at him, and he looked at me, and he
said, "Boy, are you looking for a master?"
And I said, "Yes, sir."
"Well, come with me," he said. "God has been good to you, making
you run into me. You must have been doing some good praying
So I went with him. And I thanked God that he asked me to go
along because--with his nice-looking clothes and the way he
looked--I thought he was just what I needed.
It was morning when I found my third master. And I followed him
through most of the city. We went through squares where they
were selling bread and different things. And I was hoping and
praying that he would load me up with some of the food they were
selling because it was just the right time for shopping. But
very quickly, without stopping, we went right past those places.
Maybe he doesn't like what he sees here, I thought, and he wants
to buy his groceries somewhere else.
So we kept on walking until it was eleven o'clock. Then he went
into the cathedral, and I was right behind him. I saw him listen
to mass and go through the other holy ceremonies very devoutly,
until it was over and the people had gone. Then we came out of
We began to go down a street at a good clip. And I was the
happiest fellow in the world, since we hadn't stopped to buy any
food. I really thought my new master was one of those people who
do all their shopping at once, and that our meal would be there,
ready and waiting for us, just the way I wanted--and, in fact, the
way I needed.
At that minute the clock struck one--an hour past noon--and we came
to a house where my master stopped, and so did I. And pulling
his cape to the left, he took a key out of his sleeve and opened
the door, and we both went into the house. The entrance was dark
and gloomy: it looked like it would make anyone who went in
afraid. But inside there was a little patio and some fairly nice
Once we were in, he took off his cape: he asked me if my hands
were clean, and then we shook it out and folded it. And blowing
the dust very carefully off a stone bench that was there, he put
the cape down on top of it. And when that was done, he sat down
next to it and asked me a lot of questions about where I was from
and how I'd happened to come to that city.
I talked about myself longer than I wanted to because I thought
it was more a time to have the table set and the stew dished up
than to tell him about all that. Still, I satisfied him about
myself, lying as well as I could. I told him all my good points
but kept quiet about the rest, since I didn't think that was the
time for them. When that was over, he just sat there for a
while. I began to realize that that was a bad sign, since it was
almost two o'clock and I hadn't seen him show any more desire to
eat than a dead man.
Then I began to think about his keeping the door locked, and the
fact that I hadn't heard any other sign of life in the whole
house. The only thing I'd seen were walls: not a chair, not a
meat-cutting board, a stool, a table, or even a chest like the
one I'd had before. And I began to wonder if that house was
under a spell. While I was thinking about this, he said to me,
"Boy, have you eaten?"
"No, sir," I said. "It wasn't even eight o'clock when I met you."
"Well, even though it was still morning, I'd already had
breakfast. And when I eat like that, I want you to know that I'm
satisfied until nighttime. So you'll just have to get along as
well as you can: we'll have supper later."
You can see how, when I heard this, I nearly dropped in my
tracks--not so much from hunger but because fate seemed to be
going completely against me. Then all my troubles passed before
my eyes again, and I began to cry over my hardships once more. I
remembered my reasoning when I was thinking about leaving the
priest: I figured that even though he was mean and stingy, it
might turn out that I would meet up with someone worse. So there
I was, moping over the hard life I'd had and over my death that
was getting nearer and nearer.
And yet, keeping back my emotions as well as I could, I said to
him, "Sir, I am only a boy, and thank God I'm not too concerned
about eating. I can tell you that I was the lightest eater of
all my friends, and all the masters I've ever had have praised
that about me right up to now."
"That really is a virtue," he said, "and it makes me appreciate
you even more. Because only pigs stuff themselves: gentlemen eat
I get the picture! I thought to myself. Well, damn all the
health and virtue that these masters I run into find in staying
I went over next to the door and took out of my shirt some pieces
of bread that I still had from begging. When he saw this, he
said to me, "Come here, boy. What are you eating?"
I went over to him and showed him the bread. There were three
pieces, and he took one--the biggest and best one. Then he said,
"Well, well, this does look like good bread."
"It is!" I said. "But tell me, sir, do you really think so now?"
"Yes, I do," he said. "Where did you get it? I wonder if the
baker had clean hands?"
"I can't tell you that," I said, but it certainly doesn't taste bad."
"Let's see if you're right," said my poor master.
And he put it in his mouth and began to gobble it down as
ferociously as I was doing with mine.
"Bless me, this bread is absolutely delicious," he said.
When I saw what tree he was barking up, I began to eat faster.
Because I realized that if he finished before I did, he would be
nice enough to help me with what was left. So we finished almost
at the same time. And he began to brush off a few crumbs--very
tiny ones--that were left on his shirt. Then he went into a
little room nearby and brought out a chipped-up jug--not a very
new one--and after he had drunk, he offered it to me. But, so I
would look like a teetotaler, I said, "Sir, I don't drink wine."
"It's water," he said. "You can drink that."
Then I took the jug, and I drank. But not much, because being
thirsty wasn't exactly my trouble. So that's how we spent the
day until nighttime: him asking me questions and me answering as
best I could. Then he took me to the room where the jug that
we'd drunk from was, and he said to me, "Boy, get over there, and
I'll show you how this bed is made up so that you'll be able to
do it from now on."
I went down to one end, and he went over to the other, and we
made up the blasted bed. There really wasn't much to do: it just
had a bamboo frame sitting on some benches, and on top of that
there was a filthy mattress with the bedclothes stretched over
it. And since it hadn't been washed very often, it really didn't
look much like a mattress. But that's what it was used for,
though there was a lot less stuffing than it needed. We
stretched it out and tried to soften it up. But that was
impossible because you can't make a really hard object soft. And
that blessed packsaddle had hardly a damned thing inside of it.
When it was put on the frame, every strut showed through,
and it looked just like the rib cage of a real skinny pig.
And on top of that starving pad he put a cover of the same stamp:
I never could decide what color it was. With the bed made and
night on us, he said to me, "Lazaro, it's late now, and it's a
long way from here to the square. And besides, there are a lot
of thieves who go around stealing at night in this city. Let's
get along as well as we can, and tomorrow, when it's daytime, God
will be good to us. I've been living alone, and so I haven't
stocked up any groceries: instead, I've been eating out. But
from now on we'll do things differently."
"Sir," I said, "don't worry about me. I can spend one night--or
more, if I have to--without eating."
"You'll live longer and you'll be healthier too," he answered.
"Because as we were saying today, there's nothing in the world
like eating moderately to live a long life."
If that's the way things are, I thought to myself, I never will
die. Because I've always been forced to keep that rule, and with
my luck I'll probably keep it all my life.
And he lay down on the bed, using his pants and jacket as a
pillow. He told me to stretch out at his feet, so I did. But I
didn't get a damned bit of sleep! The frame struts and my
protruding bones didn't stop squabbling and fighting all night
long. With all the pains, hunger, and trouble I'd been through,
I don't think there was a pound of flesh left on my body. And
since I'd hardly had a bite to eat that day, I was groveling in
hunger--and hunger and sleep don't exactly make good bedfellows.
So I cursed myself (God forgive me!) and my bad luck over and
over, nearly all night long. And what was worse, I didn't dare
to turn over because I might wake him up. So I just kept asking
God for death.
When morning came we got up, and he began to shake out and clean
his pants and jacket and his coat and cape (while I stood around
like an idle servant!). And he took his own good time about
getting dressed. I brought some water for him to wash his hands,
and then he combed his hair and put his sword in the belt, and
while he was doing that, he said: "If you only knew what a prize
this is, boy! I wouldn't sell it for any amount of money in the
world. And I'll have you know that of all the swords the famous
Toledan swordmaker Antonio made, there isn't one that he put as
sharp an edge on as this one has."
And he pulled it out of the sheath and felt it with his fingers
and said, "Look here. I'll bet I could slice a ball of wool with
it." And I thought to myself: And with my teeth--even though
they're not made of steel--I could slice a four-pound loaf of bread.
He put it back in the sheath and strapped it on, and then he hung
a string of large beads from the sword belt. And he walked
slowly, holding his body straight and swaying gracefully as he
walked. And every so often he would put the tail of the cape
over his shoulder or under his arm. And with his right hand on
his side, he went out the door, saying, "Lazaro, while I go to
mass, you watch the house. Make the bed and fill the pitcher up
with water from the river just down below us. Be sure to lock
the door so that nothing will get stolen, and put the key on the
hinge here so that if I come back while you're gone I can get in."
Then he went up the street with such a stately expression and
manner that anyone who didn't know him would think he was a close
relative to the Count of Arcos, or at least his valet.
I stood there, thinking: "Bless You, Lord--You give us sickness
and You cure us too! My master looks so content that anyone who
saw him would think he'd eaten a huge supper last night and slept
in a nice bed. And even though it's early in the morning, they'd
think he'd had a good breakfast. Your ways are mighty
mysterious, Lord, and people don't understand them! With that
refined way he acts and that nice-looking cape and coat he'd fool
anyone. And who would believe that that gracious man got by all
day yesterday on a piece of bread that his servant Lazaro had
carried all day and night inside his shirt for safekeeping--not
really the most sanitary place in the world--and that today when
he washed his hands and face, he dried them on his shirttail
because we didn't have any towels? Nobody would suspect it, of
course. Oh Lord, how many of these people do You have scattered
around the world who suffer for the filth that they call honor
what they would never suffer for You!"
So I stood at the door, thinking about these things and looking
until my master had disappeared down the long, narrow street.
Then I went back into the house, and in a second I walked through
the whole place, both upstairs and down, without stopping or
finding anything to stop for. I made up that blasted hard bed
and took the jug down to the river. And I saw my master in a
garden, trying hard to coax two veiled women--they looked like
the kind that are always hanging around that place. In fact, a
lot of them go there in the summer to take the early morning air.
And they go down to those cool riverbanks to eat breakfast--
without even bringing any food along; they're sure someone will
give them some, since the men around there have got them in the
habit of doing that.
As I say, there he was with them just like the troubador Macias,
telling them more sweet words than Ovid ever wrote. And when
they saw that he was pretty well softened up, they weren't ashamed
to ask him for some breakfast, promising the usual payment.
But his pocketbook was as cold as his stomach was warm, and he
began to have such hot chills that the color drained from his
face, and he started to trip over his tongue and make up some
They must have been pretty experienced women because they caught
on to his illness right away and left him there for what he was.
I'd been eating some cabbage stalks, and that was my breakfast.
And since I was a new servant, I went back home very diligently
without my master seeing me. I decided I'd sweep out a little
there, since that's what the place really needed, but I couldn't
find anything to sweep with. Then I began to think about what I
should do, and I decided to wait until noon for my master because
if he came he might bring something to eat; but that turned out
to be a waste of time.
When I saw that it was getting to be two o'clock and he still
hadn't come, I began to be attacked by hunger. So I locked the
door and put the key where he told me to, and then I went back to
my old trade. With a low, sickly voice, my hands crossed over my
chest, and with my eyes looking up to heaven and God's name on my
tongue, I began to beg for bread at the doors of the biggest
houses I saw. But I'd been doing this almost from the cradle--I
mean I learned it from that great teacher, the blind man, and I
turned out to be a pretty good student--so even though this town
had never been very charitable, and it had been a pretty lean
year besides, I handled myself so well that before the clock
struck four I had that many pounds of bread stored away in my
stomach and at least two more in my sleeves and inside my shirt.
I went back to the house, and on my way through the meat market I
begged from one of the women there, and she gave me a piece of
cow's hoof along with some cooked tripe.
When I got home my good master was there, his cape folded and
lying on the stone bench, and he was walking around in the patio.
I went inside, and he came over to me. I thought he was going to
scold me for being late, but God had something better in store.
He asked me where I'd been, and I told him, "Sir, I was here
until two o'clock, and when I saw that you weren't coming, I went
to the city and put myself in the hands of the good people there,
and they gave me what you see here."
I showed him the bread and the tripe that I was carrying in my
shirttail, and his face lit up, and he said: 'Well, I held up
dinner for you, but when I saw that you weren't going to come, I
went ahead and ate. But what you've done there is all right
because it's better to beg in God's name than it is to steal.
That's my opinion, so help me. The only thing I ask is that you
don't tell anyone that you're living with me because it will hurt
my honor. But I think it would stay a secret anyway, since
hardly anyone in this town knows me. I wish I'd never come
"Don't worry about that, sir," I said. "No one would give a damn
about asking me that, and I wouldn't tell them even if they did."
"Well then, eat, you poor sinner. If it's God's will, we'll soon
see ourselves out of these straits. But I want you to know that
ever since I came to this house nothing has gone right for me.
There must be an evil spell on it. You know there are some
unlucky houses that are cursed, and the bad luck rubs off on the
people who live in them. I don't doubt for a minute that this is
one of them, but I tell you that after this month is over, I
wouldn't live here even if they gave the place to me."
I sat down at the end of the stone bench, and I kept quiet about
my snack so that he wouldn't take me for a glutton. So, for
supper I began to eat my tripe and bread, while I was watching my
poor master out of the corner of my eye. And he kept staring at
my shirttail that I was using for a plate. I hope God takes as
much pity on me as I felt for him. I knew just what he was
feeling, since the same thing had happened to me lots of times--
and, in fact, it was still happening to me. I thought about
asking him to join me, but since he told me that he'd already
eaten I was afraid he wouldn't accept the invitation. The fact
is, I was hoping that the sinner would help himself to the food I
had gone to the trouble of getting and that he'd eat the way he
did the day before so he could get out of his own troubles. This
was really a better time for it, since there was more food and I
wasn't as hungry.
God decided to grant my wish--and his, too, I guess. Because he
was still walking around, but when I began to eat, he came over
to me and said, "I tell you, Lazaro, I've never seen anyone eat
with as much gusto as you put into it. Anyone watching you would
get hungry on the spot, even if he hadn't been before."
The marvelous appetite you have, I thought to myself, makes you
think mine is beautiful.
Still, I decided to help him, since he had opened up a way for me
himself. So I said to him, "Sir, a man can do a good job if he
has good tools. This bread is absolutely delicious, and the
cow's hoof is so well cooked and seasoned that no one could
possibly resist its taste."
"Is it cow's hoof?"
"I tell you, there's no better dish in the world. I don't even
like pheasant as much."
"Well, dig in, sir, and you'll see how good it really is."
I put the cow's hooves into his, along with three or four of the
whiter pieces of bread. And he sat down beside me and began to
eat like a man who was really hungry. He chewed the meat off of
every little bone better than any hound of his would have done.
"With garlic sauce," he said, "this is an exceptional dish."
"You don't need any sauce with your appetite," I said under my breath.
"By God, that tasted so good you'd think I hadn't had a bite to
eat all day."
That's true as sure as I was born, I said to myself.
He asked me for the water jug, and when I gave it to him it was
as full as when I'd first brought it in. Since there was no
water gone from it, there was a sure sign that my master hadn't
been overeating that day. We drank and went to sleep, very
content, like we'd done the night before.
Well, to make a long story short, that's the way we spent the
next nine or ten days: that sinner would go out in the morning
with his satisfied, leisurely pace, to dawdle around the streets
while I was out hoofing it for him.
I used to think lots of times about my catastrophe: having
escaped from those terrible masters I'd had and looking for
someone better, I ran into a man who not only couldn't support me
but who I had to support. Still, I really liked him because I
saw that he didn't have anything and he couldn't do more than he
was already doing. I felt more sorry for him than angry. And
lots of times, just so I could bring back something for him to
eat, I didn't eat anything myself.
I did this because one morning the pitiful fellow got up in his
shirt and went to the top floor of the house to take care of a
certain necessity. And to satisfy my curiosity I unfolded the
jacket and pants he'd left at the head of the bed. And I found
an old, crumpled-up little purse of satiny velvet that didn't
have a damned cent in it, and there wasn't any sign that it had
had one for a long time.
"This man," I said, "is poor. And no one can give what he
doesn't have. But both the stingy blind man and that blasted
miser of a priest did all right in God's name--one of them with a
quick tongue and the other one with his hand-kissing. And
they were starving me to death. So it's only right that I should
hate them and feel sorry for this man."
As God is my witness, even today when I run into someone like
him, with that pompous way of walking of his, I feel sorry for
them because I think that they may be suffering what I saw this
one go through. But even with all his poverty, I'd still be glad
to serve him more than the others because of the things I've just
mentioned. There was only one little thing that I didn't like
about him: I wished that he wouldn't act so superior; if only
he'd let his vanity come down a little to be in line with his
growing necessity. But it seems to me that that's a rule his
kind always keeps: even if they don't have a red cent to their
name, they have to keep up the masquerade. God help them or
that's the way they'll go to their graves.
Well, while I was there, getting along the way I said, my bad
luck (which never got tired of haunting me) decided that that
hard, foul way of life shouldn't last. The way it happened was
that, since there had been a crop failure there that year, the
town council decided to make all the beggars who came from other
towns get out of the city. And they announced that from then on
if they found one of them there, he'd be whipped. So the law
went into effect, and four days after the announcement was given
I saw a procession of beggars being led through the streets and
whipped. And I got so scared that I didn't dare go out begging
It's not hard to imagine the dieting that went on in my house and
the sadness and silence of the people living there. It was so
bad that for two or three days at a time we wouldn't have a bite
to eat or even say one word to each other. I knew some ladies
who lived next door to us; they spun cotton and made hats, and
they kept me alive. From what little they brought in they always
gave me something, and I just about managed to get by.
But I didn't feel as sorry for myself as I did for my poor
master: he didn't have a damned bite to eat in a week. At least,
we didn't have anything to eat at the house. When he went out I
don't know how he got along, where he went or what he ate. And
if you could only have seen him coming down the street at noon,
holding himself straight, and skinnier than a full-blooded
greyhound! And because of his damn what-do-you-call it--honor--
he would take a toothpick (and there weren't very many of those
in the house either) and go out the door, picking at what didn't
have anything between them and still grumbling about the cursed
place. He'd say, "Look how bad things are. And it's this
blasted house that's causing it all. Look how gloomy and dark
and dismal it is. As long as we stay here, we're going to
suffer. I wish the month were over so we could get out of here."
Well, while we were in this terrible, hungry state, one day--I
don't know by what stroke of luck or good fortune--a silver piece
found its way into the poor hands of my master. And he brought it
home with him, looking as proud as if he had all the money in Venice,
and smiling very happily, he gave it to me and said: "Take this, Lazaro.
God is beginning to be good to us. Go down to the square and buy bread
and wine and meat. Let's shoot the works! And also--this should make
you happy--I want you to know that I've rented another house, so we'll
only stay in this unlucky place until the end of the month. Damn the
place and damn the person who put the first tile on its roof--
I should never have rented it. I swear to God that as long as
I've lived here I haven't had a drop of wine or a bite of meat,
and I haven't gotten any rest. And it's all because of the way
this place looks--so dark and gloomy! Go on now, and come back
as quick as you can: we'll eat like kings today."
I took my silver coin and my jug, and hurrying along, I went up
the street, heading for the square, very content and happy. But
what's the use if my bad luck has it planned for me that I can't
enjoy anything without trouble coming along with it? And that's
the way this thing went. I was going up the street, thinking
about how I would spend the money in the best way possible and
get the most out of it. And I was thanking God with all my heart
for letting my master have some money, when suddenly I came upon
a corpse that a bunch of clergy and other people were carrying
down the street on a litter.
I squeezed up next to the wall to let them by, and after the body
had gone past there came right behind the litter a woman who must
have been the dead man's wife, all dressed up in mourning (and a
lot of other women with her). And she came along, crying loudly
and saying, "My husband and lord, where are they taking you?
It's to that poor, unhappy house, that dark and gloomy house,
that house where they never eat or drink!"
And when I heard that, I felt like I had fallen through the
ground, and I said, "Oh--no! They're taking this dead man to my
I turned around and squeezed through the crowd and ran back down
the street as fast as I could toward my house. And when I got
inside I closed the door right behind me and called out for my
master to come and help me. And I grabbed hold of him and begged
him to help me block the door. He was a little stunned, thinking
it might be something else, and he asked me, "What is it, boy?
Why are you shouting? What's the matter? Why did you slam the
door so hard?"
"Oh, sir," I said, "help me! They're bringing a dead man here."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"I stumbled into him just up the way from here, and his wife was
coming along saying, 'My husband and lord, where are they taking
you? To the dark and gloomy house, the poor, unhappy house, the
house where they never eat or drink!' Oh, sir, they're bringing
And I tell you that when my master heard that, even though he
didn't have any reason for being very cheerful, he laughed so
hard that for a long time he couldn't even talk. In the meantime
I had the bolt snapped shut on the door and my shoulder against
it to hold them all back. The people passed by with their
corpse, and I was still afraid that they were going to stick him
in our house. And when he'd had his bellyful of laughter (more
than of food) my good master said to me: "It's true, Lazaro, that
taking the words of the widow at face value, you had every reason
to think what you did. But since it was God's will to do
something else and they've gone by, go on and open the door and
go get us something to eat."
"Sir, wait until they've gone down the street," I said.
Finally my master came up to the door that led to the street and
opened it, reassuring me--and I really needed that because I was
so upset and afraid. So I started up the street again.
But even though we ate well that day, I didn't enjoy it a damn
bit. In fact, I didn't get my color back for three days. And my
master would grin every time he thought about what I'd done.
So that's what happened to me during those days with my third
poor master, this squire, and all the time I was wishing I knew
how he'd come to this place and why he was staying here. Because
from the very first day that I started serving him, I realized he
was a stranger here: he hardly knew anyone, and he didn't
associate with very many of the people around here.
Finally my wish came true, and I found out what I wanted to know.
One day after we'd eaten fairly well and he was pretty content,
he told me about himself. He said he was from Old Castile. And
he said the only reason he'd left there was because he didn't
want to take his hat off to a neighbor of his who was a high-
"Sir," I said, "if he was the kind of man you say he was and his
status was higher than yours, it was only right for you to take
your hat off first--after all, you say that
he took off his hat, too."
"That is the kind of man he was: his status was higher and he did
take his hat off to me. But considering all the time I took mine
off first, it wouldn't have been asking too much for him to be
civil and make the first move once in a while."
"It seems to me, sir," I told him, "that I wouldn't even think
about that--especially with people who are my superiors and are
better off than I am."
"You're just a boy," he answered, "and you don't understand
honor. That is the most important thing to any self-respecting
gentleman these days. Well, I want you to know that I'm a
squire--as you can see. But I swear to God that if I meet a
count on the street and he doesn't take his hat all the way off
his head for me, the next time I see him coming, I'll duck right
into a house and pretend that I have some business or other to do
there. Or I'll go up another street, if there is one, before he
gets up to me--just so I won't have to take off my hat to him.
Because a gentleman doesn't owe anything to anyone except
God or the King. And it isn't right, if he's a man of honor,
for him to let his self-respect fall even for a minute.
"I remember one day when I put a craftsman from my town in his
place, and I felt like strangling him, too, because every time I
ran into him he would say, 'God keep you, friend.' 'You little
peasant,' I said to him, 'How dare you address me with "God keep
you" as if I were just anybody? Where were you brought up?' And
from that day on, whenever he saw me, he took off his hat and
spoke to me the way he was supposed to."
"But isn't that a good way for one man to greet another: to say
'God keep you'?"
"Damn it!" he said. "That's what they say to the lower classes.
But to people who are higher up, like me, they're only supposed
to say, 'I hope you are well today, sir.' Or, at least, 'I hope
you feel well today' if the person talking to me is a gentleman.
So I didn't want to put up with that man from my town who was
filling me up to here with his 'God keep you.' And I wouldn't put
up with him either. In fact, I won't stand for anyone--including
the King himself--to say to me 'God keep you, friend.'"
"Well, I'll be. . . ," I said. "That's why God doesn't help
you out. You won't let anyone ask Him to."
"Especially," he said, "because I'm not so poor. In fact, where
I'm from I have a huge estate (it's fifty miles from where I was
born, right along Costanilla, the main street of Valladolid).
And if the houses on it were still standing and kept up, it
would be worth more than six thousand pieces of silver--just to
give you an idea of how big and grand it would be. And I have a
pigeon house that would produce more than two hundred pigeons a
year if it hadn't fallen down. And there are some other things I
won't mention, but I left them all because of my honor.
"And I came to this city, thinking I'd find a good position. But
it hasn't turned out the way I thought it would. I meet lots of
canons and other officials of the church, but those people are so
tight with their money that no one could possibly get them to
change their ways. Lesser men want me, too, but working for them
is a lot of trouble. They want you to change from a man into a
jack-of-all-trades, and if you won't, they give you the sack.
And, generally, the paydays are few and far between; most of the
time your only sure way of being paid is when they feed you.
And when they want to have a clear conscience and really pay you
for the sweat of your brow, your payoff comes from their clothes
closet with a sweaty old jacket or a ragged cape or coat. And
even when a man has a position with someone of the nobility, he
still has his troubles.
"I ask you: aren't I clever enough to serve one of them and make
him happy? Lord, if I ran into one, I really think I'd be his
favorite--and I could do lots of things for him. Why, I could
lie to him just as well as anyone else could. And I could
flatter him like nothing he'd ever seen before. And I'd laugh at
his stories and jokes even if they weren't exactly the funniest
things in the world. I'd never tell him anything disturbing even
if he would be better off knowing it. I would be very
conscientious in everything about him, both in word and in deed.
And I wouldn't kill myself to do things he wouldn't see.
Whenever he was around to hear me, I would always scold the
servants so he'd think I was very concerned about him. And if he
were scolding one of his servants, I'd step in with some pointed
remarks about the culprit that would make the nobleman even
madder, while I was appearing to take the servant's side. I
would praise the things he liked, but I'd mock and slander the
people of the house and even the ones who didn't live there. I
would go prying and try to find out about other people's lives so
I could tell him about them.
"And I'd do all sorts of other things like this that go on in
palaces these days and that people in that sort of a position
like. They don't want to see good men in their homes. In fact,
they think they're useless, and actually, they hate them. They
say they're stupid people you can't deal with and that a nobleman
can't confide in them. And smart people these days act with the
nobility, as I say, just the way I would. But with my bad luck,
I haven't met one of them."
And so my master complained about his unhappy life, too, telling
me how admirable he was.
Well, about this time, a man and an old woman came in the door.
The man wanted the rent money for the house, and the old lady had
rented him the bed and wanted the money for that. They figured
up the amount, and for two months' rent they wanted what he
couldn't have made in a year. I think it was about twelve or
thirteen pieces of silver. And he answered them very courteously:
he said that he would go out to the square to change a doubloon
and that they should come back that afternoon. But when he left,
he never came back.
So they returned in the afternoon, but it was too late. I told
them that he still hadn't come back. And when night came and he
didn't, I was afraid to stay in the house alone. So I went to
the women next door and told them what had happened, and I slept
at their place.
The next morning, the creditors returned. But no one was home,
so they came to the door of the place I was staying at now and
asked about their neighbor. And the women told them, "Here is
his servant and the door key."
Then they asked me about him, and I told them I didn't know where
he was and that he hadn't come back home after going to get the
change. And I said that I thought he'd given both them and me
When they heard that, they went to get a constable and a notary.
And then they came back with them and took the key and called me
and some witnesses over. And they opened the door and went
inside to take my master's property until he paid what he owed
them. They walked through the entire house and found it empty,
just as I've said. And they asked me, "What's become of your
master's things--his chests and drapes and furniture?"
"I don't know anything about that," I answered.
"It's obvious," they said, "that last night they must have had it
all taken out and carted somewhere else. Constable, arrest this
boy. He knows where it is."
Then the constable came over and grabbed me by the collar of my
jacket, and he said, "Boy, you're under arrest unless you tell us
what's happened to your master's things."
I'd never seen myself in such a fix (I had, of course, been held
by the collar lots of times before, but that was done gently so
that I could guide that man who couldn't see down the road), and
so I was really scared. And while crying, I promised to answer
"All right," they said. "Then tell us what you know. Don't be afraid."
The notary sat down on a stone bench so he could write out the
inventory, and he asked me what things my master had.
"Sir," I said, "according to what my master told me, he has a
nice estate with houses on it and a pigeon house that isn't
standing any more."
"All right," they said. "Even though it probably isn't worth
much, it will be enough to pay off his bill. And what part of
the city is it located in?" they asked me.
"In his town," I answered.
"For God's sake, we're really getting far," they said. "And just
where is his town?"
"He told me that he came from Old Castile," I replied.
And the constable and notary laughed out loud, and said, "This
sort of information would be good enough to pay off your debt
even if it was bigger."
The neighbor ladies were there, and they said: "Gentlemen, this
is just an innocent boy, and he's only been with that squire a
few days. He doesn't know any more about him than you do.
Besides, the poor little fellow has been coming to our house,
and we've given him what we could to eat out of charity, and at
night he's gone to his master's place to sleep."
When they saw that I was innocent, they let me loose and said I
was free to go. And the constable and notary wanted the man and
the woman to pay them for their services. And there was a lot of
shouting and arguing about that. They said they weren't
obligated to pay: there was no reason for them to, since nothing
had been attached. But the men said that they had missed out on
some other more profitable business just so they could come here.
Finally, after a lot of shouting, they loaded the old lady's old
mattress onto a deputy--even though it wasn't very much of a
load. And all five of them went off, shouting at each other. I
don't know how it all turned out. I think that sinner of a
mattress must have paid everyone's expenses. And that was a good
use for it because the time it should have spent relaxing and
resting from its past strain, it had still been going around
being rented out.
So, as I've said, my poor third master left me, and I saw the
hand of my bad luck in this, too. It showed how much it was
going against me, because it arranged my affairs so backward that
instead of me leaving my master--which is what normally happens--
my master left and ran away from me.
IV. How Lazaro Went to Work for a Friar of the Order of Mercy
and What Happened to Him
I had to get a fourth master, and this one turned out to be a
friar of the Order of Mercy. The women I've mentioned
recommended me to him. They said he was a relative. He didn't
think much of choir duties or eating in the monastery; he was
always running around on the outside; and he was really devoted
to secular business and visiting. In fact, he was so dedicated
to this that I think he wore out more shoes than the whole
monastery put together. He gave me the first pair of shoes I
ever wore, but they didn't last me a week. And I wouldn't have
lasted much longer myself trying to keep up with him. So because
of this and some other little things that I don't want to
mention, I left him.
V. How Lazaro Went to Work for a Pardoner and the Things That
Happened to Him Then
As luck would have it, the fifth one I ran into was a seller of
papal indulgences. He was arrogant, without principles, the
biggest hawker of indulgences that I've ever seen in my life or
ever hope to see--and probably the biggest one of all time. He
had all sorts of ruses and underhanded tricks, and he was always
thinking up new ones.
When he'd come to a place where he was going to sell these
pardons, first he'd give the priests and the other clergy some
presents--just little things that really weren't worth much: some
lettuce from Murcia; a couple limes or oranges if they were in
season; maybe a peach; some pears--the kind that stay green even
after they're ripe. That way he tried to win them over so they'd
look kindly on his business and call out their congregation to buy
up the indulgences.
When they thanked him, he'd find out how well educated they were.
If they said they understood Latin, he wouldn't speak a word of
it so they couldn't trip him up; instead he'd use some refined,
polished-sounding words and flowery phrases. And if he saw that
these clerics were "appointed reverends"--I mean that they bought
their way into the priesthood instead of by going through school-
-he turned into a Saint Thomas, and for two hours he'd speak
Latin. Or, at least, something that sounded like Latin even if
When they wouldn't take his pardons willingly, he'd try to find
some underhanded way to get them to take them. To do that, he'd
sometimes make a nuisance of himself, and other times he'd use
his bag of tricks. It would take too long to talk about all the
things I saw him do, so I'll just tell about one that was really
sly and clever, and I think that will show how good he was at it.
In a place called Sagra, in the province of Toledo, he'd been
preaching for two or three days, trying his usual gimmicks, and
not one person had bought an indulgence, and I couldn't see that
they had any intention of buying any. He swore up and down, and
trying to think of what to do, he decided to call the town together
the next morning so he could try to sell all the pardons.
And that night, after supper, he and the constable began to
gamble to see who would pay for the meal. They got to quarreling
over the game, and there were heated words. He called the
constable a thief, and the constable called him a swindler. At
that point my master, the pardoner, picked up a spear that was
lying against the door of the room where they were playing. The
constable reached for his sword, that he kept at his side.
The guests and neighbors came running at the noise and shouting
we all began to make, and they got in between the two of them to
break it up. Both men were really mad, and they tried to get
away from the people who were holding them back so they could
kill each other. But since those people had come swarming in at
all the noise, the house was full of them, and when the two men
saw that they couldn't use their weapons they began to call each
other names. And at one point the constable said my master was a
swindler and that all the pardons he was selling were
Finally, the townspeople saw that they couldn't make them stop,
so they decided to get the constable out of the inn and take him
somewhere else. And that made my master even madder. But after
the guests and neighbors pleaded with him to forget about it and
go home to bed he left, and then so did everyone else.
The next morning my master went to the church and told them to
ring for mass so he could preach and sell the indulgences. And
the townspeople came, muttering about the pardons, saying that
they were forgeries and that the constable himself had let it out
while they were quarreling. So, if they hadn't wanted to take
any pardons before, they were dead set against it now.
The pardoner went up to the pulpit and began his sermon, trying
to stir up the people, telling them that they shouldn't be
without the blessings and the forgiveness that would come to them
by buying the indulgences.
When he was into the sermon in full swing, the constable came in
the church door, and after praying he got up, and with a loud and
steady voice he began to speak very solemnly: "My fellow men, let
me say a word; afterward, you can listen to whoever you like. I
came here with this swindler who's preaching. But he tricked
me: he said that if I helped him in his business, we'd split the
profits. And now, seeing how it would hurt my conscience and
your pocketbooks, I've repented of what I've done. And I want to
tell you openly that the indulgences he's selling are forgeries.
Don't believe him and don't buy them. I'm not involved with them
any longer--either in an open or a hidden way--and from now on
I'm giving up my staff, the symbol of my office, and I throw it
on the ground so that you'll see I mean it. And if sometime in
the future this man is punished for his cheating, I want you to
be my witnesses that I'm not in with him and I'm not helping him,
but that I told you the truth--that he's a double-dealing liar."
And he finished his speech.
When he'd started, some of the respectable men there wanted to
get up and throw the constable out of church so there wouldn't be
any scandal. But my master stopped them and told them all not to
bother him under penalty of excommunication. He told them to let
him say anything he wanted to. So while the constable was saying
all that, my master kept quiet, too.
When he stopped speaking, my master told him if he wanted to say
anything more he should go ahead. And the constable said, "I
could say plenty more about you and your dirty tricks, but I've
said enough for now."
Then the pardoner knelt down in the pulpit, and with his hands
folded, and looking up toward heaven, he said: "Lord God, to Whom
nothing is hidden and everything is manifest, for Whom nothing is
impossible and everything is possible, Thou knowest the truth of
how unjustly I have been accused. In so far as I am concerned, I
forgive him so that Thou, Oh Lord, may forgive me. Pay no
attention to this man who knows not what he says or does. But
the harm that has been done to Thee, I beg and beseech Thee in
the name of righteousness that Thou wilt not disregard it.
"Because someone here may have been thinking of taking this holy
indulgence, and now, believing that the false words of that man
are true, they will not take it. And since that would be so
harmful to our fellow men, I beg Thee, Lord, do not disregard
it; instead, grant us a miracle here. Let it happen in this way:
if what that man says is true--that I am full of malice and
falseness--let this pulpit collapse with me in it and plunge
one hundred feet into the ground, where neither it nor I shall
ever be seen again. But if what I say is true--and he, won over
by the devil to distrain and deprive those who are here present
from such a great blessing--if he is saying false things,
let him be punished and let his malice be known to all."
My reverent master had hardly finished his prayer when the
crooked constable fell flat on his face, hitting the floor so
hard that it made the whole church echo. Then he began to roar
and froth at the mouth and to twist it and his whole face, too,
kicking and hitting and rolling around all over the floor.
The people's shouts and cries were so loud that no one could hear
anyone else. Some were really terrified. Other people were
saying, "God help him." And others said, "He got what was coming
to him. Anyone who lies like he did deserves it."
Finally, some of the people there (even though I think they were
really afraid) went up to him and grabbed hold of his arms, while
he was swinging wildly at everyone around him. Other people
grabbed his legs, and they really had to hold him tight because
he was kicking harder than a mule. They held him down for quite
a while. There were more than fifteen men on top of him, and he
was still trying to hit them; and if they weren't careful he
would punch them in the nose.
All the time that master of mine was on his knees up in the
pulpit with his hands and eyes fixed on heaven, caught up by the
Holy Spirit. And all the noise in the church--the crying and
shouting--couldn't bring him out of that mystical trance.
Those good men went up to him, and by shouting they aroused him
and begged him to help that poor man who was dying. They told
him to forget about the things that had happened before and the
other man's awful words because he had been paid back for them.
But if he could somehow do something that would take that man out
of his misery and suffering, to do it--for God's sake--because it
was obvious that the other man was guilty and that the pardoner
was innocent and had been telling the truth, since the Lord had
shown His punishment right there when he'd asked for revenge.
The pardoner, as if waking from a sweet dream, looked at them and
looked at the guilty man and all the people there, and very
slowly he said to them: "Good men, you do not need to pray for a
man in whom God has given such a clear sign of Himself. But
since He commands us not to return evil for evil and to forgive
those who harm us, we may confidently ask Him to do what He
commands us to do. We may ask His Majesty to forgive this man
who offended Him by putting such an obstacle in the way of the
holy faith. Let us all pray to Him."
And so he got down from the pulpit and urged them to pray very
devoutly to Our Lord, asking Him to forgive that sinner and bring
back his health and sanity and to cast the devil out of him if,
because of his great sins, His Majesty had permitted one to go in.
They all got down on their knees in front of the altar, and with
the clergy there they began to softly chant a litany. My master
brought the cross and the holy water, and after he had chanted
over him, he held his hands up to heaven and tilted his eyes
upward so that the only thing you could see was a little of their
whites. Then he began a prayer that was as long as it was pious.
And it made all the people cry (just like the sermons at Holy
Week, when the preacher and the audience are both fervent). And
he prayed to God, saying that it was not the Lord's will to give
that sinner death but to bring him back to life and make him
repent. And since the man had been led astray by the devil but
was now filled with the thought of death and his sins, he prayed
to God to forgive him and give him back his life and his health
so he could repent and confess his sins.
And when this was finished, he told them to bring over the
indulgence, and he put it on the man's head. And right away that
sinner of a constable got better, and little by little he began
to come to. And when he was completely back in his senses, he
threw himself down at the pardoner's feet and asked his
forgiveness. He confessed that the devil had commanded him to
say what he did and had put the very words in his mouth. First,
to hurt him and get revenge. Secondly--and mainly--because the
devil himself would really be hurt by all the good that could be
done here if the pardons were bought up.
My master forgave him, and they shook hands. And there was such
a rush to buy up the pardons that there was hardly a soul in the
whole place that didn't get one: husbands and wives, sons and
daughters, boys and girls.
The news of what had happened spread around to the neighboring
towns, and when we got to them, he didn't have to give a sermon
or even go to the church. People came right up to the inn to get
them as if they were going out of style. So in the ten or twelve
places we went to around there, my master sold a good thousand
indulgences in each place without even preaching a sermon.
While the "miracle" was happening, I have to admit that I was
astonished, too, and I got taken in just like the others. But
when I saw the way my master and the constable laughed and joked
about the business later, I realized that it had all been cooked
up by my sharp and clever master.
And even though I was only a boy, it really amused me, and I said
to myself: I'll bet these shysters do this all the time to
Well, to be brief, I stayed with my fifth master about four
months, and I had some hard times with him, too.
VI. How Lazaro Went to Work for a Chaplain and What Happened to Him Then
After this I took up with a man who painted tambourines. He wanted me
to grind the colors for him, and I had my trials with him, too.
By now I was pretty well grown up. And one day when I went into
the cathedral, a chaplain there gave me a job. He put me in
charge of a donkey, four jugs, and a whip, and I began to sell
water around the city. This was the first step I took up the
ladder to success: my dreams were finally coming true. On
weekdays I gave my master sixty coppers out of what I earned,
while I was able to keep everything I got above that. And on
Saturdays I got to keep everything I made.
I did so well at the job that after four years of it, watching my
earnings very carefully, I saved enough to buy myself a good
secondhand suit of clothes. I bought a jacket made out of old
cotton, a frayed coat with braid on the sleeves and an open
collar, a cape that had once been velvety, and an old sword--one
of the first ones ever made in Cuellar. When I saw how good I
looked in my gentleman's clothes, I told my master to take back
his donkey: I wasn't about to do that kind of work any more.
VII. How Lazaro Went to Work for a Constable and Then What
Happened to Him
After I left the chaplain I was taken on as bailiff by a
constable. But I didn't stay with him very long: the job as too
dangerous for me. That's what I decided after some escaped
criminals chased me and my master with clubs and rocks. My
master stood there and faced them, and they beat him up, but they
never did catch me. So I quit that job.
And while I was trying to think of what sort of a life I could
lead so that I could have a little peace and quiet and save up
something for my old age, God lit up my path and put me on the
road to success. With the help of some friends and other people,
all the trials and troubles I'd gone through up till then were
finally compensated for, seeing as how I got what I wanted: a
government job. And no one ever gets ahead without a job like
And that's what I've been doing right up to now: I work in God's
service--and yours, too. What I do is announce the wines
that are being sold around the city. Then, too, I call out
at auctions and whenever anything lost. And I go along with
the people who are suffering for righteousness' sake and call
out their crimes: I'm a town crier, to put it plainly.
It's been a good job, and I've done so well at it that almost all
of this sort of work comes to me. In fact, it's gotten to the
point where if someone in the city has wine or anything else to
put up for sale, they know it won't come to anything unless
Lazarillo of Tormes is in on it.
About this time that gentleman, the Archpriest of San Salvador
(your friend and servant), began to notice my abilities and how I
was making a good living. He knew who I was because I'd been
announcing his wines, and he said he wanted me to marry a maid of
his. And I saw that only good, profitable things could come from
a man like him, so I agreed to go along with it.
So I married her, and I've never regretted it. Because besides
the fact that she's a good woman and she's hardworking and
helpful, through my lord, the archpriest, I have all the help and
favors I need. During the year he always gives her a few good-
sized sacks of wheat, meat on the holidays, a couple loaves of
bread sometimes, and his socks after he's through with them. He
had us rent a little house right next to his, and on Sundays and
almost every holiday we eat at his place.
But there have always been scandalmongers, and I guess there
always will be, and they won't leave us in peace. They talk
about I don't know what all--they say that they've seen my wife
go and make up his bed and do his cooking for him. And God
bless them, but they're a bunch of liars.
Because, besides the fact that she's the kind of woman who's
hardly happy about these gibes, my master made me a promise, and
I think he'll keep it. One day he talked to me for a long time
in front of her, and he said to me: "Lazaro of Tormes, anyone who
pays attention to what gossips say will never get ahead. I'm
telling you this because I wouldn't be at all surprised if
someone did see your wife going in and out of my house. In fact,
the reason she goes in is very much to your honor and to hers:
and that's the truth. So forget what people say. Just think of
how it concerns you--I mean, how it benefits you."
"Sir," I said, "I've decided to be on the side of good men. It
is true that some of my friends have told me something of that.
The truth is, they've sworn for a fact that my wife had three
children before she married me, speaking with reverence to your
grace since she's here with us."
Then my wife began to scream and carry on so much that I thought
the house with us in it was going to fall in. Then she took to
crying, and she cursed the man who had married us. It got so bad
that I'd rather I'd died than have let those words of mine slip
out. But with me on one side and my master on the other, we
talked to her and begged her so much that she finally quit her
crying. And I swore to her that as long as I lived I'd never
mention another word about the business. And I told her I
thought it was perfectly all right--in fact, that it made me
happy--for her to go in and out of his house both day and night
because I was so sure of her virtue. And so we were all three in
So, right up to today we've never said another word about the
affair. In fact, when I see that someone wants to even start
talking about it, I cut him short, and I tell him: "Look, if
you're my friend, don't tell me something that will make me mad
because anyone who does that isn't my friend at all. Especially
if they're trying to cause trouble between me and my wife.
There's nothing and nobody in the world that I love more than
her. And because of her, God gives me all sorts of favors--many
more than I deserve. So I'll swear to God that she's as good a
woman as any here in Toledo, and if anyone tells me otherwise,
I'm his enemy until I die."
So no one ever says anything to me, and I keep peace in my house.
That was the same year that our victorious emperor came to this
illustrious city of Toledo and held his court here, and there
were all sorts of celebrations and festivities, as you must have
Well, at this time I was prosperous and at the height of all good
END OF PART ONE
(The following is the first chapter of an anonymous sequel to
Lazarillo of Tormes, published in 1555. This chapter became
attached to the original work in later editions, but is not to be
considered part of the first Lazarillo. It is presented here
because it serves as a bridge between the first Lazarillo of
Tormes and the second part by Juan de Luna--R.S.R.)
VIII. In Which Lazaro Tells of the Friendship He Struck up in
Toledo with Some Germans and What Happened to Them
At this time I was prosperous and at the height of all good
fortune. And because I always carried a good-sized pan full of
some of the good fruit that is raised in this land as a sign of
what I was announcing, I gathered so many friends and benefactors
around me, both natives and foreigners, that wherever I went no
door was closed to me. The people were so kind to me that I
believe if I had killed a man then, or had found myself in
difficult straits, everyone would have come to my side, and those
benefactors would have given me every sort of aid and assistance.
But I never left them with their mouths dry because I took them
to the places where they could find the best of what I spread
throughout the city. And there we lived the good life and had
fine times together: we would often walk into a place on our own
two feet and go out on the feet of other people. And the best
part of it was that all this time Lazaro of Tormes didn't spend a
damned cent, and his friends wouldn't let him spend anything. If
I ever started to open my purse, pretending that I wanted to pay,
they were offended, and they would look at me angrily and say,
"Nite, nite, Asticot, lanz." They were scolding me, saying that
when they were there no one would have to pay a cent.
I was, frankly, in love with those people. And not only because
of that, but because whenever we got together they were always
filling my pockets and my shirt full of ham and legs of mutton--
cooked in those good wines--along with many spices and huge
amounts of beef and bread. So in my house my wife and I always
had enough for an entire week. With all this, I remembered the
past times when I was hungry, and I praised God and gave thanks
that things and times like those pass away. But, as the saying
goes, all good things must come to an end. And that's how this
turned out. Because they moved the great court, as they do now
and then, and when they were leaving, those good friends of mine
urged me to go with them, and they said they would give me their
help. But I remembered the proverb: Better certain evil than
So I thanked my friends for their good wishes, and with a great
deal of clapping on the shoulders and sadness, I said goodbye to
them. And I know that if I hadn't been married I would never
have left their company because they were the salt of the earth
and the kind of people that were really to my liking. The life
they lead is a pleasant one. They aren't conceited or
presumptuous; they have no hesitation or dislike for going into
any wine cellar, with their hats off if the wine deserves it.
They are simple, honest people, and they always have so much that
I hope God gives me no less when I'm really thirsty.
But the love I had for my wife and my land ("The land you are
born in, . . ." as they say) held me back. So I stayed in this
city, and although I was well known by the people who lived here,
I missed the pleasure of my friends and the court. Still, I was
happy, and even happier when my family line was extended by the
birth of a beautiful little girl that my wife had then. And
although I was a little suspicious, she swore to me that the
child was mine. But then fortune thought it had forgotten me
long enough, and it decided to show me its cruel, angry, harsh
face once more and disturb these few years of good, peaceful
living by bringing others of affliction and bitterness. Oh,
almighty God! Who could write about such a terrible misfortune
and such a disastrous fall without letting the inkwell rest and
wiping his eyes with the quill?
THE SECOND PART OF THE LIFE OF LAZARILLO OF TORMES
Juan de Luna
Drawn Out Of The
By J. DE LUNA, Castilian
and Interpreter of the
Dedicated to the Most Illustrious
HENRIETTE DE ROHAN
In the House of ROLET BOUTONNE,
in the Palace, in the Gallery of the Prisoners;
Near the Chancery
M. DC. XX.
By Grant of the King
LETTER OF DEDICATION
HENRIETTE DE ROHAN
MOST ILLUSTRIOUS AND EXCELLENT PRINCESS.
It is common among all writers to dedicate their works to someone
who may shelter those works with their authority and defend them
with their power. Having decided to bring to light the Second
Part of the life of the great Lazaro of Tormes, a mirror and
standard of Spanish sobriety, I have dedicated and do dedicate it
to Your Excellency, whose authority and power may shelter this
poor work (poor, since it treats of Lazaro) and to prevent its
being torn apart and abused by biting, gossiping tongues which
with their infernal wrath attempt to wound and stain the most
sincere and simple wills. I confess my boldness in dedicating
such a small work to such a great princess; but its sparseness
brings its own excuse--which is the necessity for greater and
more effective shelter--and the kindness of Your Excellency, the
pardon. So I humbly beseech Your Excellency to take this small
service, putting your eyes on the desire of him who offers it,
which is and will be to use my life and strength in your service.
Of whom I am a very humble servant,
J. DE LUNA
TO THE READER
The reason, dear reader, that the Second Part of Lazarillo of
Tormes is going into print is that a little book has come into my
hands that touches on his life but has not one word of truth in
it. Most of it tells how Lazaro fell into the sea, where he
changed into a fish called a tuna. He lived in the sea for many
years and married another tuna, and they had children who were
fishes like their father and mother. It also tells about the
wars of the tuna, in which Lazaro was the captain, and about
other foolishness both ridiculous and erroneous, stupid and with
no basis in truth. The person who wrote it undoubtedly wanted to
relate a foolish dream or a dreamed-up foolishness.
This book, I repeat, was the prime motivation for my bringing to
light this Second Part, exactly as I saw it written in some
notebooks in the rogues' archives in Toledo, without adding or
subtracting anything. And it is in conformity with what I heard
my grandmother and my aunts tell, and on which I was weaned, by
the fireside on cold winter nights. And as further evidence,
they and the other neighbors would often argue over how Lazaro
could have stayed under water so long (as my Second Part relates)
without drowning. Some said he could have done it, others said
he could not: those who said he could cited Lazaro himself, who
says the water could not go into him because his stomach was full
all the way up to his mouth. One good old man who knew how to
swim, and who wanted to prove that it was feasible, interposed
his authority and said he had seen a man who went swimming in the
Tagus, and who dived and went into some caverns where he stayed
from the time the sun went down until it came up again, and he
found his way out by the sun's glow; and when all his friends and
relatives had grown tired of weeping over him and looking for his
body to give him a burial, he came out safe and sound.
The other difficulty they saw about his life was that nobody
recognized that Lazaro was a man, and everyone who saw him took
him for a fish. A good canon (who, since he was a very old man,
spent all day in the sun with the weavers) answered that this
was even more possible basing his statement on the opinion of
many ancient and modern writers, including Pliny, Phaedo,
Aristotle, and Albertus Magnus, who testify that in the sea there
are some fish of which the males are called Tritons, and the
females Nereids, and they are all called mermen: from the waist
up they look exactly like men, and from the waist down they are
like fish. And I say that even if this opinion were not held by
such well-qualified writers, the license that the fishermen had
from the Inquisitors would be a sufficient excuse for the
ignorance of the Spanish people, because it would be a matter for
the Inquisition if they doubted something that their lordships
had consented to be shown as such.
About this point (even though it lies outside of what I am
dealing with now) I will tell of something that occurred to a
farmer from my region. It happened that an Inquisitor sent for
him, to ask for some of his pears, which he had been told were
absolutely delicious. The poor country fellow didn't know what
his lordship wanted of him, and it weighed so heavily on him that
he fell ill until a friend of his told him what was wanted. He
jumped out of bed, ran to his garden, pulled up the tree by the
roots, and sent it along with the fruit, saying that he didn't
want anything at his house that would make his lordship send for
him again. People are so afraid of them--and not only laborers
and the lower classes, but lords and grandees--that they
all tremble more than leaves on trees when a soft, gentle breeze
is blowing, when they hear these names: Inquisitor, Inquisition.
This is what I have wanted to inform the reader about so that he
can answer when such questions are aired in his presence, and
also I beg him to think of me as the chronicler and not the
author of this work, which he can spend an hour of his time with.
If he enjoys it, let him wait for the Third Part about the death
and testament of Lazarillo, which is the best of all. And if
not, I have nevertheless done my best. Vale.
I. Where Lazaro Tells about How He Left Toledo to Go to the War
"A prosperous man who acts unwisely should not be angry when
misfortune comes." I'm writing this epigram for a reason: I
never had the mentality or the ability to keep myself in a good
position when fortune had put me there. Change was a fundamental
part of my life that remained with me both in good, prosperous
times and in bad, disastrous ones. As it was, I was living as
good a life as any patriarch ever had, eating more than a friar
who has been invited out to dinner, drinking more than a thirsty
quack doctor, better dressed than a priest, and in my pocket were
two dozen pieces of silver--more reliable than a beggar in Madrid.
My house was as well stocked as a beehive filled with honey,
my daughter was born with the odor of saintliness about her,
and I had a job that even a pew opener in the church at Toledo
would have envied.
Then I heard about the fleet making ready to sail for Algiers.
The news intrigued me, and like a good son I decided to follow in
the footsteps of my good father Tome Gonzalez (may he rest in
peace). I wanted to be an example--a model--for posterity.
I didn't want to be remembered for leading that crafty blind man,
or for nibbling on the bread of the stingy priest, or for serving
that penniless squire, or even for calling out other people's
crimes. The kind of example I wanted to be was one who would
show those blind Moors the error of their ways, tear open and
sink those arrogant pirate ships, serve under a valiant captain
who belonged to the Order of Saint John (and I did enlist with a
man like that as his valet, with the condition that everything I
took from the Moors I would be able to keep, and it turned out
that way). Finally, what I wanted to do was to be a model for
shouting at and rousing the troops with our war cry: "Saint James
be with us.... Attack, Spaniards!"
I said good-by to my adoring wife and my dear daughter. My
daughter begged me not to forget to bring her back a nice Moorish
boy, and my wife told me to be sure to send, by the first
messenger, a slave girl to wait on her and some Barbary gold to
console her while I was gone. I asked my lord the archpriest's
permission, and I put my wife and daughter in his charge so he
would take care of them and provide for them. He promised me he
would treat them as his very own.
I left Toledo happy, proud, and content, full of high hopes--the
way men are when they go to war. With me were a great number of
friends and neighbors who were going on the same expedition,
hoping to better their fortunes. We arrived at Murcia with the
intention of going to Cartagena to embark. And there something
happened me that I had no desire for. I saw that fortune had put
me at the top of its whimsical wheel and with its usual swiftness
had pushed me to the heights of worldly prosperity, and now it
was beginning to throw me down to the very bottom.
It happened that when I went to an inn, I saw a half-man who,
with all the loose and knotted threads hanging from his clothes,
had more the appearance of an old goat than a man. His hat was
pulled down so far you couldn't see his face, his cheek was
resting on his hand, and one leg was lying on his sword, which
was in a half scabbard made of strips of cloth. He had his hat
cocked jauntily over one ear (there was no crown on it, so all
the hot air coming out of his head could evaporate). His jacket
was cut in the French style--so slashed there wasn't a piece big
enough to wrap a mustard seed in. His shirt was skin: you could
see it through the lattice work of his clothes. His pants were
the same material. As for his stockings, one was green and the
other red, and they barely covered his ankles. His shoes were
in the barefoot style: worn both up and down. By a feather sewn
in his hat, the way soldiers dressed, I suspected that he was, in
fact, a soldier.
With this thought in mind, I asked him where he was from and
where he was going. He raised his eyes to see who was asking,
and we both recognized each other: it was the squire I had served
under at Toledo. I was astonished to see him in that suit.
When the squire saw my look of amazement, he said: "I'm not
surprised to see how startled you are to see me this way, but you
won't be when I tell you what happened to me from that day I left
you in Toledo until today. As I was going back to the house with
the change from the doubloon to pay my creditors, I came across a
veiled woman who pulled at my cloak and, sighing and sobbing,
pleaded with me to help her out of the plight she was in. I
begged her to tell me her troubles, saying that it would take her
longer to tell them than for me to take care of them. Still
crying, and with a maidenly blush, she told me that the favor I
could do for her (and she prayed that I would do it) was to go
with her to Madrid where, according to what people had told her,
the man was staying who had not only dishonored her but had taken
all her jewelry without fulfilling his promise to marry her. She
said that if I would do this for her, she would do for me what a
grateful woman should. I consoled her as best I could, raising
her hopes by telling her that if her enemy were to be found
anywhere in this world, she would be avenged.
"Well, to make a long story short, we went straight to the
capital, and I paid her expenses all the way. The lady knew
exactly where she was going, and she led me to a regiment of
soldiers who gave her an enthusiastic welcome and took her to the
captain, and there she signed up as a 'nurse' for the men. Then
she turned to me, and with a brazen look said, 'All right,
fathead. Now push off!' When I saw that she had tricked me, I
flew into a rage, and I told her that if she were a man instead
of a woman I would tear her heart out by the roots. One of the
soldiers standing there came up and thumbed his nose at me, but
he didn't dare to strike me because if he had they would have had
to bury him on the spot.
'When I saw how badly that business was turning out, I left
without saying another word, but I walked out a little faster
than usual to see if any brawny soldier was going to follow me so
that I could kill him. Because if I had fought that first little
soldier boy and killed him (which I would have done, without any
doubt), what honor or glory would there have been in it for me?
But if the captain or some bully had come out, I would have
sliced more holes in them than there are grains of sand in the
sea. When I saw that none of them dared to follow me, I left,
very pleased with myself. I looked around for work, and since I
couldn't find any good enough for a man of my station, here I am
like this. It is true that I could have been a valet or an
escort to five or six seamstresses, but I would starve to death
before I'd take a job like that."
My good master finished by telling me that, since he hadn't been
able to find any merchants from his home town to lend him money,
he was penniless, and he didn't know where he was going to spend
the night. I caught his hint and offered to let him share my bed
and my supper. He called my hand. When we were ready to go to
sleep, I told him to take his clothes off the bed because it was
too small for so many varmints. The next morning, wanting to get
up without making any noise, I reached for my clothes--in vain.
The traitor had taken them and vanished. I lay in bed, thinking
I was going to die from pure misery. And it might have been
better if I had died because I could have avoided all those times
I was in agony later.
I started shouting, "Thief! Thief!" The people in the house
came up and found me naked as a jaybird, looking in every corner
of the room for something to cover myself with. They all laughed
like fools, while I was swearing like a mule driver. I damned to
hell that thieving bragger who had kept me up half the night
telling about all the splendor of himself and his ancestors. The
remedy that I took (since no one was giving me any) was to see if
I could use that hot-air merchant's clothes until God furnished
me with some others. But they were a labyrinth, with no
beginning or end to them. There was no difference between the
pants and the jacket. I put my legs in the sleeves and used the
pants as a coat, and I didn't forget the stockings: they looked
more like a court clerk's sleeves--loose enough to put his
bribes in. The shoes were like fetters around my ankles: they
didn't have any soles. I pulled the hat down over my head,
putting the bottom side up so it wouldn't be so grimy. I won't
say a word about the insects running all over me--either the
crawling infantry or the galloping cavalry.
In this shape I went to see my master, since he had sent for me.
He was astonished to see the scarecrow that walked in, and he
laughed so hard his rear tether let loose, and--royal flush. Out
of respect for him, I think we should pass over that in silence.
After a thousand unsuccessful attempts to talk, he asked me why I
was wearing a disguise. I told him, and the result was that
instead of pitying me, he swore at me and threw me out of his
house. He said that just as I had let that man come in and
sleep in my bed, one day I would let someone else in, and they
would rob him.
II. How Lazaro Embarked at Cartagena
By nature I didn't last very long with my masters. And it was
that way with this one, too, although I wasn't to blame. So
there I was, miserable, all alone, and in despair; and with the
clothes I was wearing everyone scoffed and made fun of me. Some
people said to me, "That's not a bad little hat you have, with
its back door. It looks like an old Dutch lady's bonnet."
Others said, "Your rags are certainly stylish. They look like a
pigsty: so many other fat little ones are in there with you that
you could kill and salt them and send them home to your wife."
One of the soldiers--a packhandler--said to me, "Mr. Lazarillo,
I'll swear to God your stockings really show off your legs.
And your sandals look like the kind the barefoot friars wear."
A constable replied, 'That's because this gentleman is going to
preach to the Moors."
They kept teasing and taunting me so much that I was nearly ready
to go back home. But I didn't because I thought it would be a poor
war if I couldn't get more than I would lose. What hurt me most was
that everyone avoided me like the plague. We embarked at Cartagena:
the ship was large and well stocked. They unfurled the sails,
and a wind caught them and sent the ship skimming along at a good
clip. The land disappeared from sight, and a cross wind lashed
the sea and sent waves hurling up to the clouds. As the storm
increased, we began losing hope; the captain and crew gave us up
for lost. Everyone was weeping and wailing so much I thought we
were at a sermon during Holy Week. With all the clamor no one
could hear any of the orders that were given. Some people were
running to one place, others to another: it was as noisy and
chaotic as a blacksmith's shop. Everyone was saying confession
to whoever they could. There was even one man who confessed to a
prostitute, and she absolved him so well you would have thought
she had been doing it for a hundred years.
Churning water makes good fishing, they say. So when I saw how
busy everyone was, I said to myself: If I die, let it be with my
belly full. I wandered down to the bottom of the ship, and there
I found huge quantities of bread, wine, meat pies, and
preserves, with no one paying any attention to them. I began to
eat everything and to fill my stomach so it would be stocked up
to last me till judgment day. A soldier came up and asked me to
give him confession. He was astonished to see how cheerful I was
and what a good appetite I had, and he asked how I could eat when
death was so near. I told him I was doing it so that all the sea
water I would drink when I drowned wouldn't make me sick. My
simplicity made him shake with laughter from head to foot. I
confessed a number of people who didn't utter a word with the
agony they were in, and I didn't listen to them because I was too
The officers and people of high rank escaped safely in a skiff,
along with two priests who were on board. But my clothes were so
bad that I couldn't fit inside. When I had my fill of eating, I
went over to a cask full of good wine and transferred as much as
I could hold into my stomach. I forgot all about the storm,
myself, and everything. The ship started to sink and the water
came pouring in as though it had found its home. A corporal
grabbed my hands and as he was dying he asked me to listen to a
sin he wanted to confess. He said he hadn't carried out a
penance he had been given, which was to make a pilgrimage to Our
Lady of Loreto, even though he had had many opportunities to do
it. And now that he wanted to, he couldn't. I told him that
with the authority vested in me, I would commute his penance, and
that instead of going to Our Lady of Loreto, he could go to
"Oh, sir," he said. "I would like to carry out that penance, but
the water is starting to come into my mouth, and I can't."
"If that's the way it is," I said, "the penance I give you is to
drink all the water in the sea."
But he didn't carry that out either because there were many men
there who drank as much as he did. When it came up to my mouth I
said to it: Try some other door, this one is not opening. And
even if it had opened, the water couldn't have gotten in, because
my body was so full of wine it looked like a stuffed pig. As the
ship broke apart a huge swarm of fish came in. It was as though
they were being given aid from the bodies on board. They ate the
flesh of those miserable people who had been overcome by a drop
in the ocean, as if they were grazing in the county pasture.
They wanted to try me out, but I drew my trustworthy sword and
without stopping to chat with such a low-class mob, I laid into
them like a donkey in a new field of rye.
They hissed at me: "We're not trying to hurt you. We only want
to see if you taste good."
I worked so hard that in less than half-a-quarter of an hour I
killed more than five hundred tuna, and they were the ones that
wanted to make a feast out of the flesh of this sinner. The live
fish began to feed on the dead ones, and they left Lazaro's
company when they saw it wasn't a very profitable place to be. I
found myself lord of the sea, with no one to oppose me. I ran
around from one place to another, and I saw things that were
unbelievable: huge piles of skeletons and bodies. And I found a
large number of trunks full of jewels and gold, great heaps of
weapons, silks, linens, and spices. I was longing for it all and
sighing because it wasn't back at home, safe, so that, as the
buffoon says, I could eat my bread dipped in sardines.
I did what I could, but that was nothing. I opened a huge chest
and filled it full of coins and precious jewels. I took some
ropes from the piles of them there and tied up the chest, and
then I knotted other ropes together until I had one I thought was
long enough to reach to the surface of the water. If I can get
all this treasure out of here, I thought to myself, there won't
be a tavernkeeper in the world better off than I'll be. I'll
build up my estate, live off my investments, and buy a summer
house in Toledo. They'll call my wife "Madam," and me they'll
call "Sir." I'll marry my daughter to the richest pastrycook in
town. Everyone will come to congratulate me, and I'll tell them
that I worked hard for it, and that I didn't take it out of the
bowels of the earth but from the heart of the sea. That I didn't
get damp with sweat but drenched as a dried herring. I have
never been as happy in my life as I was then, and I wasn't even
thinking about the fact that if I opened my mouth I would stay
down there with my treasure, buried till hell froze over.
III. How Lazaro Escaped from the Sea
I saw how near I was to death, and I was horrified; how near I
was to being rich, and I was overjoyed. Death frightened me, and
the treasure delighted me. I wanted to run away from the first
and enjoy the second. I tore off the rags that my master, the
squire, had left me for the services I had done him. Then I tied
the rope to my foot and began to swim (I didn't know how to do
that very well, but necessity put wings on my feet and oars on my
hands). The fish there gathered around to nip at me, and their
prodding was like spurs that goaded me on. So with them nipping
and me galloping, we came up to the surface of the water, where
something happened that was the cause of all my troubles. The
fish and I were caught up in some nets that some fishermen had
thrown out, and when they felt the fish in the nets they pulled
so mightily, and water began to flow into me just as mightily, so
that I couldn't hold out, and I started to drown. And I would
have drowned if the sailors had not pulled the booty on board
with their usual speed. What a God-awful taste! I have never
drunk anything that bad in my entire life. It tasted like the
archpriest's piss my wife made me drink once, telling me it was
good Ocana wine.
With the fish on board and myself as well, the fishermen began to
pull on the line and discovered the spool (as the saying goes).
They found me tangled up in the rope and were astonished, and
they said, "What sort of fish is this? Its face looks like a
man's. Is it the devil or a ghost? Let's pull on that rope and
see what he has fastened to his foot."
The fishermen pulled so hard that their ship started to sink.
When they saw the trouble they were in, they cut the rope, and at
the same time they cut off Lazaro's hopes of ever becoming one of
the landed gentry. They turned me upside down so I would empty
out the water I had drunk and the wine, too. They saw that I
wasn't dead (which was by no means the worst that could have
happened to me), so they gave me a little wine, and I came back
to life like a lamp with kerosene poured in. They asked me all
kinds of questions, but I didn't answer a word until they gave me
something to eat. When I got my breath back, the first thing I
asked them about was the shackles that were tied to my foot.
They told me that they had cut them to get out of the danger they
had been in. Troy was lost and so were all of Lazaro's great
desires: and right then his troubles, cares, and hardships began.
There is nothing in the world worse than to have fancied yourself
rich, on top of the world, and then to suddenly find yourself
poor and at the bottom of the ladder.
I had built my castles on the water, and it had sunk them all. I
told the fishermen what both of us lost when they had cut off my
shackles. They were so angry that one of them nearly went mad.
The shrewdest one said they should throw me back into the sea and
wait for me there until I came up again. They all agreed with
him, and even though I objected strongly, their minds were made
up: they said that since I knew the way, it would be easy for me
(as if I would be going to the pastry shop or the tavern!).
They were so blinded by their greed that they would have thrown
me out if my fortune (or misfortune) had not arranged for a ship
to come up to us to help carry back the fish. They all kept
quiet so that the others wouldn't find out about the treasure
they had discovered. But they had to leave off their evil plan
for the moment. They brought their boats to shore, and they
threw me back with the fish to hide me, intending to hunt for me
again when they could. Later, two of them picked me up and
carried me to a little hut nearby. One man who didn't know the
secret asked them what I was. They said I was a monster that had
been caught with the tuna. When they had me inside that
miserable pigsty, I begged them to give me some rags to cover my
naked body so I could be presentable.
You can do that," they said, "after you've settled your account
with the hostess."
At the time I didn't understand their gibberish. The fame of the
monster spread through the countryside, and many people came to
the hut to see me. But the fishermen didn't want to show me;
they said they were waiting for permission from the bishops and
the Inquisition and that, until then, it was entirely out of the
question. I was stupified. I didn't know what they were
planning, and so I didn't know what to say or do. The same thing
happened to me that happens to the cuckold: he is the last to
find out. Those devils cooked up a scheme that Satan himself
wouldn't have thought of. But that requires a new chapter and a
IV. How They Took Lazaro through Spain
Opportunity makes the thief. And when the fishermen realized
they had such a good opportunity, they grabbed it lock, stock,
and barrel. When they saw that so many people were gathering
around the new fish, they decided to win back what they had lost
when they cut the rope from my foot. So they sent word to the
ministers of the Inquisition, asking permission to show a fish
with a man's face through all of Spain. And when they offered
those gentlemen a present of the best fish they had caught, they
were given that permission immediately. Meanwhile, our friend
Lazaro was thanking God for having taken him out of the belly of
the whale. (And that was a great miracle since my ability and
knowledge were not very good, and I swam like a lead brick.)
Four of the fishermen grabbed hold of me, and they seemed more
like executioners--the kind that crucified Christ--than men.
They tied up my hands, and then they put a mossy wig and beard
on me, and they didn't forget the mustache: I looked like a
garden statue. They wrapped my feet in seaweed, and I saw that
they had dressed me up like a stuffed and trussed trout.
Then I began to groan and moan over my troubles, complaining
to fate or fortune: Why are you always pursuing me? I have
never seen or touched you, but if a man can tell the cause
by the effects, I know from my experience with you that
there is no siren, basilisk, viper, or lioness with her young
more cruel than you are. By flattery and caresses you lift
men up to the height of your riches and pleasures and then
hurtle them into the abyss of all their misery and calamities,
and their depths are as low as your favors were high.
One of those cutthroats heard my soliloquy, and with a rasping
voice he said to me, "If you say another word, Mr. Tunafish,
we'll salt you along with your friends, or we'll burn you as a
monster. The Inquisition," he continued, "has told us to take
you through the village and towns in Spain and to show you off to
everyone as a wonder and monster of nature."
I swore to them that I was no tuna, monster, or anything out of
the ordinary. I said that I was a man just like everyone else,
and that if I had come out of the ocean it was because I had
fallen into it along with the men who drowned while going to make
war on Algiers. But they were deaf men, and even worse, because
they didn't want to hear. When I saw that my begging was as
useless as the soap they use to wash an ass's head, I became
patient and waited for time--which cures everything--to cure my
trouble, knowing it all came from suffering through that damned
They put me in a barrel cut in half, made to look like a
brigantine. Then they filled it with water that came up to my
lips as I sat in it. I couldn't stand up because they had my
feet tied with a rope, and one end of it came out between the
mesh of that hairy mess of mine so that if I made so much as a
peep, they would make me hop and sink like a frog and drink more
water than a person with dropsy. I would keep my mouth closed
until I felt whoever was pulling on the rope let it go slack.
Then I would stick my head out like a turtle, and I learned by
what happened to my own.
They showed me like this to everyone, and so many people came to
see me (each one paying twenty coppers) that they made two
hundred pieces of silver in one day. The more money they made
the more they wanted, and they began to be very concerned about
my health so they could prolong it. They held a summit
conference and discussed whether or not they should take me out
of the water at night: they were afraid that with all the wet and
cold it might cut my life short, and they loved mine more than
their own (because of all the profit they were getting from
mine). They decided to keep me in the water all the time because
they thought the force of habit would change my nature. So poor
Lazaro was like a string of wet rice or the binding on a raft.
I leave to the dear reader's imagination what I went through in
this situation: here I was, a captive in this free land, in
chains because of the wickedness of those greedy puppeteers. The
worst part about it, and what tormented me most, was that I had
to pretend to be mute when I really wasn't. I wasn't even able
to open my mouth because the instant I did my guard was so alert
that without anyone being able to see him, he would fill me up
with water, afraid that I would talk.
My meals were dunked bread that the people who came to see me
threw in so they could watch me eat. So for the six months I
spent in that cooler I didn't get another damned thing to eat: I
was dying of hunger. I drank tub water, and since it wasn't
very clean it was all the more nourishing--especially because its
coldness gave me attacks of diarrhea that lasted me as long as
that watery purgatory did.
V. How They Took Lazaro to the Capital
Those torturers took me from city to town, from town to village,
from village to farm, happier than a lark with their earnings.
They made fun of poor Lazaro, and they would sing: "Hooray,
hooray for the fish. He earns our keep while we loaf."
My "coffin" was placed on a cart, and three men went along with
me: the mule driver, the man who pulled on the rope whenever I
tried to say anything, and the one who told all about me. This
last one would make a speech about the strange way they caught
me, telling more lies than a tailor at Eastertime. When we were
traveling and no one else was around, they let me talk, and that
was the only courtesy they showed me. I asked them who the devil
had put it in their heads to take me around like that, in a fish
bowl. They answered that if they didn't do it I would die on the
spot because, since I was a fish, I couldn't live out of water.
When I saw how their minds were set on the idea, I decided to be
a fish, and I finally convinced myself that I was one: after all,
everyone else thought that's what I was, and that the seawater
had changed me into one, and they say that the voice of the
people is the voice of God. So from then on I was as silent as a
man at mass. They took me to the capital, and there they really
made a lot of money. Because the people there, being idlers,
Among all the people who came to see me there were two students.
They studied the features of my face very carefully, and then, in
a low tone, they said that they would swear on the Bible I was a
man and not a fish. And they said if they were the authorities
they would get at the naked truth by taking a leather strap to
our naked shoulders. I was praying to God with all my heart and
soul that they would do it, as long as they could get me out of
there. I tried to help them by shouting, 'You scholars are
right." But I hardly had my mouth open when my guard pulled me
under the water. Everyone's shouting when I ducked (or, rather,
when they dunked me) stopped those good scholars from going on
with their talk.
They threw bread to me, and I would bolt it down almost before it
had a chance to get wet. They didn't give me half of what I
could eat. I remembered the feasts I had in Toledo, how well I
ate with my German friends, and that good wine I used to
announce in the streets. I prayed to God to repeat the miracle
of Cana of Galilee and not let me die at the hands of water--my
worst enemy. I thought about what those students had said, which
no one heard because of the noise. I realized that I was a man,
and I never thought otherwise from then on, although my wife had
told me many times that I was a beast, and the boys at Toledo
used to say, "Mr. Lazaro, pull your hat down a little--we can
see your horns."
All this, along with the sauce I was in, had made me doubt
whether or not I really was a man. But after I heard those
blessed earthly diviners, I had no more doubts about it, and I
tried to escape from the hands of those Chaldeans.
Once, in the dead of night, I saw that my guards were fast
asleep, and I tried to get loose. But the ropes around me were
wet, and I couldn't. I thought about shouting, but I decided
that that wouldn't work, since the first one who heard me would
seal my mouth with a half-gallon of water. When I saw that way
out cut off, I began to twist around impatiently in the slough,
and I struggled and pushed so much that the cask turned over, and
me along with it. All the water spilled out, and when I found
myself freed I shouted for help.
The fishermen were terrified when they realized what I'd done,
and they quickly hit on a solution: they stopped up my mouth by
stuffing it full of seaweed. And to muddle my shouts, they began
to shout themselves, even louder, calling out, "Help, help, call
the law!" And as they were doing all this, they filled the cask
back up with water from a nearby well, with unbelievable speed.
The innkeeper came running out with a battle-ax, and everyone
else at the inn came out armed with iron pokers and sticks. All
the neighbors came in, along with a constable and six deputies
who happened to be passing by. The innkeeper asked the sailors
what had happened, and they answered that thieves had tried to
steal their fish. And like a madman he began shouting, "Get the
thieves, get the thieves!" Some went to see if they had gotten
out the door; others went to find out if they were escaping
across the rooftops. And as for me, my custodians had put me
back in my vat.
It happened that the water that spilled out all ran through a
hole in the floor, onto the bed of a room downstairs where the
daughter of the house was sleeping. Now this girl had been so
moved to charity that she had brought a young priest in with her
to spend the night in contemplation. They became so frightened
when the deluge fell on the bed and all the people began shouting
that they crawled out through a window as naked as Adam and Eve,
without even a fig leaf to cover their private parts. There was
a full moon, and its brightness was so great that it could have
competed with the sun. When the people saw them they shouted,
"Get the thieves, catch the thieves!" The deputies and the
constable ran after the girl and the priest and quickly caught up
with them because they were barefoot and the stones on the
ground made it difficult for them to run. And in one swoop they
led them off to jail. Early next morning the fishermen left
Madrid to go to Toledo, and they never did find out what God had
done with that simple little maiden and the devout priest.
VI. How They Took Lazaro to Toledo
Man's efforts are vain, his knowledge is nil, and he has no
ability when God does not strengthen, teach, and guide him. All
my efforts only served to make my guards more wary and careful.
The outburst of the night before made them very angry, and they
beat me so much along the road that they nearly left me for dead.
They said, You damned fish--you were trying to get away. If we
weren't so kindhearted, we would kill you. You're like an oak
tree that won't give up its acorns unless it's beaten."
The fishermen took me into Toledo, pounded, cursed, and dying of
hunger. They found a place to stay, near the square of
Zocodover, at the house of a lady whose wines I used to announce.
They put me in a room downstairs, and many people came to see me.
One of them was my Elvira, leading my daughter by the hand. When
I saw them I couldn't hold back two Nile Rivers of tears that
flowed from my eyes. I sighed and wept--but to myself so the
fishermen wouldn't deprive me of what I loved so much and what I
wanted to feast my eyes on. Although it might have been better
if those men who took away my voice had taken away my sight, too,
because when I looked at my wife carefully I saw--I don't know if
I should say it--she looked like she was about to go into labor.
I sat there absolutely amazed, although I shouldn't have been if
I had thought about it because my lord the archdeacon told me
when I left that city to go to war that he would treat her as if
she were his very own. What really bothered me was that I
couldn't convince myself that she was pregnant by me because I
had been gone for more than a year.
When we were living together she used to say to me, "Lazaro,
don't think I'm cheating on you, because if you do you're very
wrong." And I was so satisfied that I avoided thinking anything
bad about her the way the devil avoids holy water. I spent my
life happy and content and not at all jealous (which is a
madman's sickness). Time and again I have thought to myself that
this business of children is all a matter of belief. Because how
many men are there who love children they think are their own
when the only thing they have in common is their name? And
there are others who hate their children because they get the
notion that their wives have put horns on their heads.
I began to count the days and months, and I found the road to my
consolation closed off. Then I began to think that my wife might
have dropsy. I didn't go on with this pious meditation very long
because as soon as she left, two old women began to talk to each
other: "What do you think of that archpriestess? She certainly
doesn't need her husband around." "Who is the father?" asked the
other. 'Who?" answered the first, 'Why, the archpriest. And
he's such a good man that, to avoid the scandal that would spread
if she gave birth in his house without a husband, he's going to
marry her to that foreigner, Pierre, next Sunday, and that fellow
will be just as understanding as my friend, Lazaro."
This was the last straw--the _non plus ultra_--of my understanding.
My heart began to break out in a sweat in the water, and without
being able to lift a hand I fainted in that hogsty. The water began
to pour into me through every door and window, without any resistance.
I looked like I was dead (although it was completely against my
will, because I wanted to live as long as I could and as long as
God would let me, in spite of those damned fishermen and my bad luck).
The fishermen were very upset, and they made every one leave.
Then they very quickly lifted my head out of the water. When
they saw that I had no pulse and that I'd stopped breathing, they
did, too. They started to moan over what they had lost (which
was no small amount for them), and they took me out of the cask.
Then they tried to make me vomit up all I had drunk, but that was
useless because death had come in and closed the door behind.
When they saw all their dreams gone up in smoke, they turned as
ashen as lilies on the Sunday after Easter. They couldn't think
of any way to abet or abate their trials and troubles. The
Council of Three finally decreed that the following night they
would take me to the river and throw me in with a stone tied
around my neck so that what had caused my death would also be my
VII. What Happened to Lazaro on the Way to the Tagus River
Never lose hope no matter how miserable you are, because when you
least expect it God will open the doors and windows of His mercy
and will show that nothing is impossible for Him, and that He has
the knowledge, the ability, and the desire to change the plans of
the wicked into healthful, beneficial remedies for those who
trust in Him. Those brutal executioners decided that Death
wasn't joking (it seldom does), so they put me in a sack, threw
me across the back of a donkey like a wineskin--or rather a
waterskin, since I was full of water up to my mouth--and started
out along the road of Cuesta de Carmen. And they were more
sorrowful than if they were going to bury the father who gave
them life and the mother who bore them.
It was my good fortune that when they put me on the mule, I was
belly side down. Since my head was hanging downward, I began to
spew out water as if they had lifted the floodgates on a dam, or
as if I were a drop hammer. I came to, and when I caught my
breath I realized that I was out of the water and out of that
blasted hairy mess. I didn't know where I was or where they were
taking me. I only heard them saying, "For our own safety we'll
have to find a very deep well so they won't discover him so
soon." Then I saw the handwriting on the wall and guessed what
was happening. I knew that their bark could be no worse than
their bite, and when I heard people approaching I called, "Help,
help, for God's sake!"
The people I had noticed were the night watch, and they ran up
when they heard my cries, their swords out and ready. They
searched the sack, and they found poor Lazaro--a drenched
haddock. Body and soul, they took us all off to jail on the
spot: the fishermen were crying to see themselves imprisoned, and
I was laughing to find myself free.
They put them in a cell and me in a bed. The next morning they
took our statements. The fishermen confessed that they had
carried me all over Spain, but they said that they had done it
thinking I was a fish and that they had asked for the
Inquisition's permission to do it. I told them the truth of the
matter: how those fiends had tied me up so that I couldn't make a
peep. They had the archpriest and my good Bridget come to
testify as to whether or not I really was the Lazaro of Tormes I
said I was. My wife came in first, and she looked me over very
carefully, and then said it was true that I did look something
like her good husband, but she didn't think I was him because
even though I had been an animal, I was more like a drone than a
fish, and more like a bullock than a tuna. After saying this she
made a deep bow and left.
The attorney for those hangmen said I should be burned because I
was undoubtedly a monster, and he was going to prove it.
I thought to myself: What if there really is an enchanter
following me and changing me into anything he likes?
The judges told him to be quiet. Then the archpriest came in.
He saw me looking as pale and wrinkled as an old lady's belly,
and he said he didn't recognize my face or my figure. I
refreshed his memory about some past things (many of them secret)
that had happened between us; I especially told him to think back
on the night he came to my bed naked and said that he was afraid
of a ghost in his bedroom, and then crawled into bed between my
wife and me. So that I wouldn't go on with these reminders, he
confessed that I really was his good friend and servant, Lazaro.
The trial ended with the testimony of the captain who had taken
me with him from Toledo. He was one of those who escaped the
storm in a skiff, and he confessed that I was, in fact, his
servant Lazaro. The time and place the fishermen said they had
fished me out supported that. The judges sentenced them to two
hundred whippings apiece and the confiscation of their
belongings: a third of it would be given to the King, a third to
the prisoners, and a third to Lazaro. They found them with two
thousand pieces of silver, two mules, and a cart, and after the
costs and expenditures were paid I got two hundred pieces of
silver. The sailors were plucked and skinned, and I was rich and
happy because I had never in my life been the owner of so much
money at one time.
I went to the house of a friend of mine, and after I had downed a
few pitchers of wine to get rid of the bad taste of the water and
was feeling mellow, I began to strut around like a count and to
eat like a king; I was esteemed by my friends, feared by my
enemies, and wooed by everyone. My past troubles seemed like a
dream to me, my present luck was like a port of leisure, and my
future hopes a paradise of delights. Hardships humiliate,
prosperity makes a man haughty. For the time those two hundred
silver pieces lasted, if the King had called me his cousin I
would have taken it as an insult.
When we Spaniards get a silver coin, we're princes, and even if
we don't have one we still have the vanity that goes with it. If
you ask some shabby beggar who he is, he'll tell you at the very
least that he is of noble blood and that his bad luck has him
backed into a corner, and that's how this mad world is: it raises
those who are on the bottom and lowers those who are on top. But
even though it is that way, he won't give in to anyone, he puts
only the highest value on himself, and he will die of hunger
before he'll work. And if Spaniards do take a job or learn
something, they have such contempt for it that either they won't
work or, if they do, their work is so bad that you can hardly
find a good craftsman anywhere in Spain.
I remember there was a cobbler in Salamanca, and whenever anyone
brought him something to fix, he would deliver a soliloquy,
complaining that fate had put him in such straits that he had to
work in this lowly position when the good name of his family was
so well known all over Spain. One day I asked one of his
neighbors who that bragger's parents were. They told me his
father was a grape stomper, and in winter a hogkiller, and that
his mother was a belly washer (I mean the maid for a tripe
I bought a worn-out velvet suit and a ragged cast-off cape from
Segovia. The sword I wore was so enormous that its tip would
unpave the streets as I walked. I didn't want to go and see my
wife when I got out of jail so that she would want to see me
even more, and also to take revenge for the disdain for me that
she was carrying around inside herself. I really thought that
when she saw me so well-dressed she would repent and greet me
with open arms. But obstinate she was, and obstinate she
remained. I found her with a new baby and a new husband. When
she saw me she shouted, "Get that damn drenched fish--that
plucked goose--out of my sight because, if you don't, I swear on
my father's grave that I'll get up and poke his eyes out!"
And I answered very coolly, "Not so fast, Mrs. Streetwalker. If
you won't admit I'm your husband, then you're not my wife either.
Give me my daughter, and we'll still be friends. I have enough
of a fortune now," I went on, "to marry her to a very honorable
I thought those two hundred pieces of silver would turn out to be
like the fifty silver coins of little Blessed John who, every
time he spent them, would find fifty more in his purse. But
since I was little Bedeviled Lazaro, it didn't turn out that way
with me, as you will see in the next chapter.
The archpriest contested my demand. He said she wasn't mine, and
to prove it he showed me the baptismal book, and when it was
compared to the marriage records, it was evident that the child
had been born four months after I knew my wife. Up to then I had
felt as spirited as a stallion, but I suddenly realized they had
made an ass of me: my daughter wasn't mine at all. I shook the
dust off my feet and washed my hands to show my innocence and
that I was leaving for good. I turned my back on them, feeling
as content as if I had never known them. I went looking for my
friends and told them what had happened; they consoled me--which
wasn't hard for them to do.
I didn't want to go back to my job as a town crier because my new
velvet clothes had changed my self-esteem. While I was taking a
walk to the Visagra gate I met an old woman, a friend of mine, at
the gate of the convent of San Juan de los Reyes. After she
greeted me she told me that my wife had softened when she'd found
out about all the money I had, especially now that that Frenchman
had chastened her.
I begged her to tell me what had happened. She said the
archpriest and my wife had talked one day about whether it would
be a good idea to take me back in and throw Frenchy out; and they
discussed the pros and cons of it. But their discussion was not
so secret that the bridegroom didn't hear it. He pretended he
hadn't heard a thing, and the next morning he went to work at the
olive grove. At noon, when his wife and mine brought his lunch
out to him, he pulled off all her clothes, tied her to the trunk
of a tree, and gave her more than a hundred lashes. And still
not satisfied, he made all her clothes into a bundle, took off
her jewelry, and walked away with it all, leaving her tied up,
naked and bleeding. She would undoubtedly have died there if the
archpriest hadn't sent someone looking for her.
The lady also told me she was absolutely sure that if I arranged
for somebody to ask her, she would welcome me back, because she
had heard my Elvira say, "Poor me, why didn't I take back my good
Lazaro? He was as good as could be. He was never critical or
particular, and I could do whatever I wanted."
This was the touch that turned me, and I was thinking of taking
the good old woman's advice, but first I wanted to talk it over
with my friends.
VIII. How Lazaro Brought a Lawsuit against His Wife
We men are like barnyard hens: if we want to do something good we
shout it out and cackle about it; but if it's something bad, we
don't want anybody to find out so they won't stop us from doing
what we shouldn't. I went to see one of my friends, and I found
three of them there together; because after I had come into
money, they multiplied like flies. I told them what I wanted to
do--go back to my wife and get away from wagging tongues because
"Better certain evil than doubtful good." They painted a black
picture to me and said I was spineless and that I didn't have a
brain in my body because the woman I wanted to live with was a
whore, a hussy, a trollop, a slut, and, finally, a devil's mule.
(That's what they call a priest's mistress in Toledo.)
My friends said so many things to me and gave me so many
arguments that I decided not to beg or even ask my wife. When my
good friends (damned friends, anyway) saw that their arguments
and advice had done their work, they went even further. They
said they were advising me, because I was such a good friend, to
remove the spots and the stains on my honor and to defend it,
since it had fallen into such bad times, by suing the archpriest
and my wife. They said it wouldn't cost so much as a penny since
they were lawyers.
One of them was an attorney for lost causes, and he offered me a
thousand pieces of silver from the profits. The other one was
more knowledgeable because he was a prostitutes' lawyer, and he
told me that if he were in my shoes he wouldn't take less than
two thousand. The third one assured me (and since he was a
bumbailiff, he knew what he was talking about) that he had seen
other lawsuits that were less clear, that had brought the people
who began them an enormous amount of money. Furthermore, he
thought that at the first confrontation that Domine Baccalaureus
would fill my hands and anoint the lawyers' to make us withdraw
the lawsuit, and that he would beg me to go back to my wife. So
I would get more honor and profit from it than if I went back to
her on my own.
My friends commended this business to me highly, luring me on
with high hopes. I was taken in right then. I didn't know what
to say to their sophist arguments, although it really seemed to
me that it would be better to forgive and forget than to go to
extremes, and that I should carry out the most difficult of God's
commandments (the fourth one), which is to love your enemies--
especially since my wife had never acted like an enemy to me. In
fact, it was because of her that I had begun to rise in the world
and become known by many people who would point at me and say,
"There goes that nice fellow, Lazaro."
Because of my wife I was somebody. If the daughter that the
archdeacon said wasn't mine, was or wasn't, only God, who looks
into men's hearts, knows. It could be that he was fooled just
the way I was. And it could happen that some of the people who
are reading and laughing over my simpleness so hard they slobber
on their beards might be raising the children of some ignorant
priest. They might be working, sweating, and striving to leave
the very ones rich who will impoverish their honor, and all the
time they are so sure that if there is any woman in the world who
is faithful, it's their wife. And even your name, dear reader--
Lord Whitehall--might really come from Wittol.
But I don't want to destroy anyone's illusions. All these
reflections still weren't enough, so I took out a lawsuit against
the archpriest and my wife. Since there was ready money, they
had them in jail inside of twenty-four hours: him in the
archbishop's prison and her in the public one. The lawyers told
me not to worry about the money that that business could cost me
since it would all come out of that priest's hide. So, to make
it even worse for the priest and to raise the costs, I gave
whatever they asked me. They were walking around diligent,
solicitous, and energetic. When they smelled my cash, they were
like flies on honey: they didn't take a step in vain.
In less than a week the lawsuit had moved far ahead, and my
pocketbook had lost as much ground. The evidence was gathered
easily because the constables who arrested my wife and the
archpriest caught them in the act and had taken them off to jail
in their nightshirts, the way they found them. There were many
witnesses who told the truth. My good lawyers and counselors and
the court clerk saw how thin and weak my pocketbook was getting,
and they began to falter. It reached the point where I had to
spur them harder than a hired mule to get them to make a move.
The slowdown was so great that when the archpriest and his group
heard about it, they started crowing and anointing the hands and
feet of my representatives. They seemed like the weights on a
clock that were going up just as fast as mine were coming down.
They managed it so well that in two weeks the archpriest and my
wife were out of jail on bond, and in less than one week more
they condemned Lazaro with false witnesses so that he had to
apologize, pay the court costs, and be banished from Toledo
I apologized the way I should have, since with only two hundred
silver pieces I had taken a lawsuit out against a man who had
that much money to burn. I gave them the shirt off my back to
help pay the court costs, and I left the city in the raw.
There I was, rich for an instant, suing a dignitary of the Holy
Church of Toledo, an undertaking fit only for a prince. I had
been respected by my friends, feared by my enemies, in the
position of a gentleman who wouldn't put up with a whisper of
aspersion. And just as suddenly I found myself thrown out--not
from any earthly paradise with figleaves to cover my private
parts, but from the place I loved most and where I had gotten so
much comfort and pleasure, using some rags I found in a rubbish
heap to cover my nakedness.
I took refuge in the common consolation of all unfortunates. I
thought that since I was at the bottom of the wheel of fortune I
would be certain to go back up. I recall now what I once heard
my master, the blind man (who was like a fox whenever he started
to preach), say: Every man in the world rose and fell on the
wheel of fortune; some followed the movement of the wheel, and
others went against it. And there was this difference between
them: those who followed the wheel's movement fell as quickly as
they rose; and those who went against it, once they reached the
top--even if they had to work hard at it--they stayed there
longer than the others. According to this, I was going right
with the grain--and so quickly that I was barely on top when I
found myself in the abyss of misery.
I found myself a picaro--and a real one, since I had only been
pretending up to then. And I could really say: Naked was I born,
naked am I now, nothing lost and nothing gained.
I started off toward Madrid, begging along the way since that was
something I knew how to do very well. So there I was again, back
at my trade. I told everyone about my troubles: some felt sorry,
others laughed, and some gave me alms. Since I had no wife or
children to support, with what they gave me I had more than
enough to eat, and to drink, too. That year people had harvested
so many grapes for wine that at nearly every door I went to they
asked if I wanted anything to drink, because they didn't have any
bread to give me. I never refused, and so sometimes I would down
a good two gallons of wine before eating anything, and I'd be
happier than a girl on the eve of a party.
Let me tell you what I really think: the picaresque life is the
only life. There is nothing in the world like it. If rich men
tried it, they would give up their estates for it, just the way
the ancient philosophers gave up all they possessed to go over
to that life. I say "go over" because the life of a philosopher
and the life of a picaro is the same. The only difference is
that philosophers gave up all they had for their love of that
kind of life, and picaros find it without giving up anything.
Philosophers abandoned their estates to contemplate natural and
divine things, the movements of the heavens, with less
distraction; picaros do it to sow all their wild oats.
Philosophers threw their goods into the sea; picaros throw them
in their stomachs. Philosophers despised those things as vain
and transitory; while picaros don't care for them because they
bring along cares and work--something that goes against their
profession. So the picaresque life is more leisurely than the
life of kings, emperors, and popes. I decided to travel this
road because it was freer, less dangerous, and never sad.
IX. How Lazaro Became a Baggage Carrier
There is no position, no science or art a man does not have to
apply all his intelligence to if he wants to perfect his
knowledge of it. Suppose a cobbler has been working at his job
for thirty years. Tell him to make you a pair of shoes that are
wide at the toe, high at the instep, with laces.
Will he make them? Before you get a pair the way you asked him,
your feet will be shriveled. Ask a philosopher why a fly's stool
comes out black when it's on a white object and white when it's
on something black. He'll turn as red as a maiden who is caught
doing it by candlelight, and he won't know what to answer. Or if
he does answer this question, he won't be able to answer a
hundred other tomfooleries.
Near the town of Illescas, I ran into a fellow who I knew was an
archpicaro by the way he looked. I went up to him the way I
would to an oracle to ask him how I should act in this new life
of mine so I wouldn't be arrested. He said that if I wanted to
keep free of the law I should combine Mary's idleness with
Martha's work. In other words, if I was going to be a picaro I
should also be a kitchenhelper, a brothel servant, a
slaughterhouse boy, or a baggage carrier, which was a way of
covering up for the picaresque life. Furthermore, he said that
because he hadn't done this, even after the twenty years he'd
been following his profession, they had just yesterday whipped
him up one side and down the other for being a tramp.
I thanked him for the warning and took his advice. When I got to
Madrid I bought a porter's strap and stood in the middle of the
square, happier than a cat with gibblets. As luck would have it,
the first person to put me to work was a maiden (God forgive my
lie) about eighteen years old, but more primped up than a novice
in a convent. She told me to follow her. She took me down so
many streets that I thought she was getting paid for walking or
was playing a trick on me. After a while we came to a house that
I recognized as one of ill repute when I saw the side door, the
patio, and the beastly old maids dancing there.
We went into her cell, and she asked me if I wanted her to pay me
for my work before we left. I told her I would wait until we got
to the place where I was taking the bundle. I loaded it on my
back and started down the road to the Guadalajara gate. She told
me to put it in a carriage to go to the Nagera fair. The load
was light since it was mainly made up of mortars, cosmetics, and
perfume bottles. On the way I found out that she had been in
that profession for eight years.
"The first one to prick me," she said, "was the Father Rector at
Seville, where I'm from, and he did it with such devotion that
from that day to this I'm very devoted to them. He put me in the
charge of a holy woman, and she provided me with everything I
needed for more than six months. Then a captain took me from
there. And since that time I've been led from pillar to post
until here I am, like this. I wish to God I had never left that
good father who treated me like a daughter and loved me like his
sister. Anyway, I've had to work just to be able to eat."
At this time we came up to a carriage that was about to leave. I
put the things I was carrying in it and asked her to pay me for
my work. The chatterbox said she would be glad to, and she
hauled off and hit me so hard she knocked me to the ground.
Then she said, "Are you so stupid that you ask someone of my
profession for money? Didn't I tell you before we left the brothel
that I would give you satisfaction there for your work if you wanted?"
She jumped into the carriage like a nag and spurred the horses
away, leaving me feeling the sting. So there I sat, like a
jackass, not sure what had happened to me. I thought that if
that job finished as well as it was starting out, I would be rich
by the end of the year.
I hadn't even left there when another carriage arrived from
Alcala de Henares. The people inside jumped down: they were all
whores, students, and friars. One of them belonged to the
Franciscan order, and he asked me if I would like to carry his
bundle to his monastery. I told him I would be glad to because I
saw that he certainly wouldn't trick me the way the whore had
done. I loaded it onto my back, and it was so heavy I could
barely carry it, but I thought of the payment I would get, and
that gave me strength. When we reached the monastery I was very
tired because it had been so far. The friar took his bundle and
said, "May heaven reward you," and then he closed the door behind
I waited for him to come back out and pay me, but when I saw how
long he was taking, I knocked on the door. The gatekeeper came
out and asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted to be paid
for carrying the bundle I'd brought. He told me to go away, that
they didn't pay anything there. As he closed the door he told
me not to knock again because it was the hour for meditations,
and if I did he would whip me thoroughly. I stood there,
stupified. A poor man--one of those who were standing inside the
vestibule--said to me, "Brother, you might as well go away.
These fathers never have any money. They live on what other
people give them."
"They can live on whatever they want to, but they'll pay me or
I'm not Lazaro of Tormes."
I began to knock again very angrily. The lay brother came out
even angrier, and without saying so much as, how do you do? he
knocked me to the ground like a ripe pear, and holding me down,
he kicked me a good half-dozen times, then pounded me just as
much, and left me flattened out as if the clocktower of Saragossa
had fallen on top of me.
I lay there, stretched out, for more than a half-hour without
being able to get up. I thought about my bad luck and that the
strength of that irregular clergyman had been used so badly. He
would have been better off serving under His Highness, the King,
than living from alms for the poor--although they aren't even
good for that since they're so lazy. The Emperor, Charles V,
pointed this out when the General of the Franciscans offered him
twenty-two-thousand friars, who wouldn't be over forty or under
twenty-two years old, to fight in the war. The invincible
Emperor answered that he didn't want them because he would have
needed twenty-two-thousand pots stew every day to keep them
alive, implying that they were more fit for eating than working.
God forgive me, but from that day to this I've hated those
clergymen so much that whenever I see them they look to me like
lazy drones or sieves that lift the meat out of the stew and
leave the broth. I wanted to leave that work, but first I waited
there that night, stretched out like a corpse waiting for his
X. What Happened to Lazaro with an Old Bawd
Feeling faint and dying from hunger, I went up the street very
slowly, and as I passed by the Plaza of Cebada I ran into an old
devout woman with fangs longer than a wild boar. She came up to
me and asked if I wanted to carry a trunk to the house of a
friend of hers, saying that it wasn't far away and that she would
give me forty coppers. When I heard that, I praised God to hear
such sweet words coming from such a foul-smelling mouth as hers:
she would give me forty coppers! I told her I would, with
pleasure--but my real pleasure was being able to grab onto those
forty coppers rather than to carry anything, since I was more in
a condition to be carried than to carry. I loaded the trunk on
my back, but it was so big and heavy I could barely lift it. The
good old woman told me to handle it carefully because inside were
some perfume bottles that she prized highly. I told her not to
worry because I would walk very slowly. (And even if I had
wanted to I couldn't have done anything else: I was so hungry I
could barely waddle.)
We reached the house we were taking the chest to. They were very
happy to get it, especially a young maiden, plump and dimpled (I
was wishing that after I'd eaten a good meal and was in bed, the
lice there looked like her): she smiled happily and said she
wanted the trunk in her dressing room. I took it there: the old
lady gave her the key and told her to keep it until she got back
from Segovia. She said she was going there to visit a relative
of hers, and she thought she would be back in four days. She
gave the girl a hug before she left and whispered a few words in
her ear that turned the maiden as red as a rose. And although I
thought that was nice, I would have thought it was nicer if I had
had plenty to eat. She said good-by to everyone in the house,
and asked the girl's father and mother to forgive her for being
so bold. They told her she was welcome there anytime. She gave
me forty coppers and whispered in my ear to come back to her
house the next morning and I would earn forty more.
I went away, happier than a bride in June. I spent thirty
coppers on supper, and kept ten to pay for a room. I thought
about the power of money. As soon as that old woman gave me the
forty coppers I found myself lighter than the wind, more valiant
than Roland, and stronger than Hercules. Oh, money, it is not
without reason that most men consider you their God. You are the
cause of all good, and the root of all evil. You are the
inventor of the arts and the one who keeps them excellent.
Because of you some maidens remain pure and other maidens give up
their purity. Finally, there is no difficulty in the world
difficult for you, no hidden place that you do not penetrate, no
mountain you do not level, no humble hill you do not raise up.
The next morning I went to the old lady's house the way she asked
me. She told me to go back with her and pick up the trunk she
had left the day before. She told the people at the house that
she had come back for it because when she was about a mile from
Madrid, on the way to Segovia, she had met her relative who had
had the same idea she did and was coming to visit her, and that
she had to have it now because there were clean linens in it that
she needed for her relative's room. The plumpish girl gave her
back the key, kissing and hugging her more eagerly than the first
time; and after she had whispered to her again, they helped me
load the trunk on my back, and it seemed to me lighter than the
day before because my belly was fuller.
As I went down the stairs I stumbled over something that the
Devil must have put there. I tripped and fell with the baggage,
and as I rolled down to the bottom of the stairs where the
parents of the innocent girl were waiting, I broke both my nose
and my ribs. With the knocks that damned chest got, it opened
up, and inside there appeared a dashing young man with sword and
dagger at his side. He was dressed in traveling clothes, without
a cloak. His trousers and jacket were of green satin, and in his
hat he wore a feather of the same color. He had on red garters
with pearl-white stockings and white sandals. He stood up very
elegantly, and making a deep bow he walked right out the door.
Everyone stood there agape at the sudden vision, and they looked
at each other like wooden puppets.
When they came out of their trance, they quickly called two of
their sons and told them what had happened. With a great outcry
the sons grabbed their swords, and shouted, "Kill him, kill him!"
They ran out looking for that dandy, but since he had left in a
hurry, they weren't able to catch up with him.
The parents had stayed behind in the house, and they closed the
door and went to take revenge on the bawd. But she had heard the
noise and knew what the cause of it was, and she went out a back
door with the eternal bride-to-be right behind her. So the
parents found themselves totally taken in. They came back down
to take their revenge out on me, and I was all crippled up,
unable to move. If it hadn't been for that, I would have been
right behind that fellow who had caused all my damage. The
brothers came in sweating and panting, vowing and swearing that
since they hadn't caught that wretch, they would kill their
sister and the go-between. But when they were told they had
gotten away by the back door, there was swearing and cursing
One of them said, "If only the Devil himself were here right now
with all his hellish throng: I would polish them off like flies.
Come on, you devils, come on! But what am I calling you for? I
know that where you are, you're so afraid of my temper you
wouldn't dare show yourselves here. If I'd seen that coward, I
would only have had to breathe hard on him, and he would have
blown so far away you'd never hear of him again."
The other one said, "If I had caught up with him, I wouldn't have
left a piece of him bigger than his ear. But if he's to be found
anywhere in this world--or even if he's not--he won't escape my
hands. I'll get him even if he hides in the center of the
They kept on with these boasts and other empty threats, and poor
Lazaro was expecting all those heavy clouds to unload on him.
But he was more afraid of the ten or twelve little boys there
than of those braggers. Everyone, old and young, attacked me in
a fury: some kicked me, others hit me with their fists; some
pulled my hair, others boxed my ears. My fear hadn't been in
vain because the girls stuck long penny needles into me, and that
made me cry out at the top of my lungs. The family slaves
pinched me until I saw stars.
Some of them said, "Let's kill him."
Others said, "Better yet, let's throw him in the privy."
The clamor was so great it sounded like they were pulverizing
chaff, or that they were hammers in a fulling mill that weren't
letting up. When they saw that I was out of breath, they stopped
beating me, but they didn't stop threatening me. Since the
father was more mature, or more rotten, he told them to leave me
alone, and he said that if I would tell the truth about who had
robbed him of his honor, they wouldn't hurt me any more. I
couldn't do what he asked because I didn't know who the fellow
was: I had never even seen him before he'd come out of the
casket. Since I didn't say anything, they started in again. And
there I was groaning, crying over my bad luck, sighing, and
cursing my misfortune since it was always finding new ways to
persecute me. I was finally able to tell them to stop and I
would tell them the facts of the matter. They did, and I told
them to the letter what had happened, but they wouldn't believe
Seeing that the storm wasn't letting up, I decided to outwit them
if I could, and so I promised to show them the villain. They
stopped hammering on me and offered me wonders. They asked me
what his name was and where he lived. I told them I didn't know
his name, much less that of the street he lived on, but if they
wanted to carry me (it was impossible for me to go on foot
because of the way they had beaten me), I would show them his
house. They were delighted, and they gave me a little wine, so
that I recovered my spirits a bit. Then they gathered all their
weapons, and two of them picked me up under the arms like a
French lady and carried me through the streets of Madrid.
The people who saw me said, "They're taking that man to jail."
And others said, "No, it's to the hospital."
And none of them were right. I was confused and stunned. I
didn't know what to do or what to say. Because if I cried for
help, they would complain about me to the law, and I was more
afraid of that than death. It was impossible for me to run away,
not only because of the beating they had given me, but because I
was surrounded by the father, sons, and relatives--eight or nine
of them had gotten together for the enterprise. They were
walking along, like Saint George, armed to the teeth.
We crossed streets and passed by alleys without my knowing where
I was or where I was taking them. We reached the Sol Gate, and I
saw a gallant young fellow coming up one of the streets that led
to it, prancing on tiptoe, his cape under his arm, with a huge
glove in one hand and a carnation in the other, swinging his arms
like he was the first cousin of the Duke of Infantado. He was
moving his hands and swaying back and forth. I recognized him
immediately: it was my master, the squire, who had stolen my
clothes in Murcia. I don't doubt for a minute but that some
saint put him there for me (because there wasn't one left in the
litany that I hadn't called on). When I saw opportunity
knocking, I grabbed it by the head and decided to kill two birds
with one stone--taking vengeance on that bragger and freeing
myself from those hangmen.
So I said to them, "Look! That libertine who stole your honor is
coming this way, and he's changed his clothes."
They were blind with rage, and without further ado they asked me
which one he was. I pointed him out. They fell on him, and
grabbing him by the collar, they threw him to the ground and
kicked, trampled, and clouted him. One of the boys, a brother of
the girl, wanted to run him through with his sword, but his
father stopped him and called the law officers over, and they put
shackles on the squire. When I saw all the turmoil and everyone
busy, I made myself scarce and hid as well as I could.
My good squire had recognized me, and thinking that those were
relatives of mine demanding my clothes back, he said, "Let me go,
let me go! I'll pay you enough for two suits of clothes!"
But they stopped up his mouth with their fists. Bleeding, his
head pounded in, and beaten to a pulp, they took him off to jail
while I left Madrid, damning my job and whoever had invented it.
XI. How Lazaro Left for His Homeland and What Happened to Him on
I wanted to be on my way, but my strength wasn't equal to my
intentions, and so I stayed in Madrid for a few days. I didn't
get along badly there because I used a pair of crutches--since I
couldn't walk without them--and I begged from door to door and
from convent to convent until I had enough strength to set out.
I was quick to do it because of what I heard a beggar tell who
was sitting in the sun with some others, picking off fleas.
It was the story of the trunk I've just told about, but the
beggar added that the man they put in jail, thinking he was the
one who had been inside the chest, had proved it wasn't him.
Because at the time it had all happened he was in his room; and
none of his neighbors had ever seen him wearing any other clothes
than the ones he had on when they arrested him. But even at
that, they had still paraded him through the streets for being a
vagabond, and had banished him from Madrid. The beggar also told
how that man and the maiden's relatives were looking for a
baggage carrier, who had contrived the whole business, and they
swore that the first one who found him would run him through
until he looked like a sieve.
When I heard that, I was all eyes, and I put a patch over one of
them. Then I shaved off my beard like a mock priest, and the way
I looked then, I was sure that not even the mother who bore me
would have recognized me. I left Madrid, intending to go to
Tejares to see whether fortune would disown me if I went back to
the mold. I passed by the Escorial, a building that reflects the
greatness of the monarch who was having it built (it wasn't
finished yet) and so much so that it can be counted among the
wonders of the world, although you can't say it is a very
pleasant place to have it built at, since the land is barren and
mountainous. But the summer air is so nice that all you have to
do is sit in the shade and you won't be bothered by the heat or
the cold, and the air is very healthy.
Less than three miles from there I met a band of gypsies who had
set up camp in an old country house. When they saw me from a
distance they thought I was one of them because my clothes seemed
to promise no less; but when I got close they saw they were
mistaken. They shunned me a little because, as I saw, they were
holding a conference or debate on thievery. They told me that
wasn't the road to Salamanca but to Valladolid. Since my
business didn't force me to go to one place instead of any
other, I told them that if that's the way it was, I wanted to see
that city before I went back to my own town.
One of the oldest men there asked me where I was from, and when I
told him Tejares, he invited me to eat with them because we were
almost neighbors: he was from Salamanca. I accepted, and
afterwards they asked me to tell about myself and my life. I did
(they didn't have to ask me twice), with the fewest and shortest
words that such great things allowed. When I came to the part
about the barrel and what happened to me at the innkeeper's place
in Madrid, they burst into laughter, especially a man and woman
gypsy who nearly split their sides. I began to feel ashamed, and
my face turned red.
The gypsy who was my neighbor saw me blushing, and he said,
"Don't be ashamed, brother. These people aren't laughing at you;
your life is more deserving of admiration than laughter. And
since you have told us so much about yourself, it is only right
that we should repay you the same way. We will put our trust in
you just as you have trusted us. And if the people here will
allow me, I will tell you the reason for their laughter."
Everyone told him to go ahead because they knew he was discreet
and experienced enough not to let things go too far.
"For your information, then," he continued, "those people who are
laughing over there are the maiden and the priest who jumped _in
puribus_ when the deluge from your barrel nearly flooded them.
If they want to they can tell you how the turns of fortune have
brought them to their present state."
The brand new gypsy girl asked them to let her do it, capturing
the benevolence of the illustrious audience, and so, with a
sonorous, peaceful, and grave voice, she told her story.
"The day I left, or leaped (to be more accurate), from my
father's house and they took me off to prison, they put me in a
room that was darker than it was clean and that reeked more than
it was decorated. Father Urbez, who is here and won't let me
lie, was put in jail until he told them he was a priest. Then
they immediately gave him over to the bishop, who scolded him
severely for having let himself be overcome by a drop in the
ocean and for having caused such a scandal. But when he promised
to be more careful and watch himself so that not even the ground
would know of his comings and goings, they let him loose and told
him not to say mass for a month.
"I stayed in the warden's charge, and since he was a young,
handsome fellow and I was not a bad-looking girl, he took special
care of me. For me, jail was a palace--a garden of pleasures.
My parents were indignant at my looseness but did what they
could so I could get loose. But it was useless: the warden
arranged things so I wouldn't escape his hands. Meanwhile the
priest, who is here with us, was walking around the prison like
an Irish setter, trying to get to talk to me. He was able to do
it by means of a third party who was first in the bawdry
business. She dressed him up like one of her maids, in a skirt
and blouse, then she put a muffler over his beard, as if he had a
toothache. At this interview my escape was planned.
"The next night there was a party at the house of Count Miranda,
and some gypsies were going to dance at the end of it. Canil
(that's the name of Reverend Urbez now) arranged for them to help
him with his plans. The gypsies did everything so well that,
because of their cleverness, we got the liberty we wanted and
their company, too--the best on earth. The afternoon before the
party I smiled at the warden more than a cat at a tripe stand,
and I made more promises than a sailor in a storm. Feeling
favored by them, he answered with just as many and begged me to
ask him for anything and he would give it, as long as it wasn't
to lose sight of me. I thanked him very much and told him that
if I lost sight of him that would be the worst thing that could
happen to me. Seeing that I had struck home, I begged him--since
he could do it--to take me to the party that night. He thought
it would be difficult, but not to go back on his promise and
because the little blind archer had wounded him with an arrow, he
gave his word.
"The chief constable was in love with me, too, and he had ordered
all the guards, and even the warden, to take care of me and not
to move me anywhere. To keep it secret, the warden dressed me up
like a page in a damask green suit, trimmed in gold. The cloak
was velvet of the same color, lined with yellow satin; the
brimmed cap had feathers and a little diamond band. The neck was
scalloped lace, the stockings were straw-colored with large,
embroidered garters, the shoes were white with a perforated
design, and there was a gilded sword and dagger like those made
"We came to the hall where there were large numbers of ladies and
gentlemen: the men were gallant and jovial, the ladies were
elegant and beautiful, and many kept their faces covered with
shawls and capes. Canil was dressed like a braggadocio, and when
he saw me he came up to my side, so that I was standing between
him and the warden.
"The festivities began, and I saw things I won't tell about since
they're beside the point. The gypsies came out to dance and do
tumbling tricks. Two of them began to have words about their
tumbling; one word led to another, and the first one called the
other a liar. The one who had been called a liar brought his
knife down on the other one's head, and so much blood began
pouring out you would have thought they had killed an ox. The
people there, who thought it was a joke until then, began to run
around, shouting, 'Help, help!' Some law officers ran over, and
everyone reached for his sword. I pulled out my own, and when I
saw it in my hand I trembled at the sight of it. They grabbed
the guilty man, and a man who had been put there for that purpose
by the gypsies said the warden was there and would take care of
him. The chief constable called the warden over to put the
murderer in his hands. The warden wanted to take me with him,
but he was afraid I might be recognized, and he told me to go
over to a corner he pointed out and not to move from there until
he came back. When I saw that that crab louse had let go of me I
took hold of Father Canil's hand. He was still by my side, and
we were in the street like a shot. There we found one of these
gentlemen who took us to his camp.
"When the wounded man (whom everyone believed was dead) thought
we must have escaped, he got to his feet and said, 'Gentlemen,
the joke is over. I'm not hurt, and we did this to brighten up
"He took off his cap, and inside was an ox bladder on top of a
good steel helmet. It had been filled with blood and had burst
open when the knife struck it. Everyone began to laugh at the
joke except the warden, who didn't like it at all. He went back
to the place where he had told me to wait, and when he didn't
find me there he started looking for me. He asked an old gypsy
woman if she had seen a page of such and such a description, and
since she was in on our game she told him she had and that she
had heard him say as he was leaving, holding a man's hand, 'Let's
go hide in the convent of San Felipe.'
"He quickly went after me, but it did no good because he went
east and we were running to the west.
"Before we left Madrid we exchanged my clothes for these, and
they gave me two hundred pieces of silver besides. I sold the
diamond band for four hundred gold pieces. And when we got here
I gave these gentlemen two hundred, as Canil had promised them.
That's the story of how I was set free, and if Mr. Lazaro wants
anything else, let him ask. We will do for him whatever the
I thanked her for the courtesy, and as best I could I took my
leave of them all. The good old man walked with me for a few
miles. As we were walking along I asked him if those people were
all gypsies born in Egypt. He told me there wasn't a damned one
from Egypt in Spain: all of them there were really priests,
friars, nuns, or thieves who had escaped from jail or from their
convents. But the biggest scoundrels of all were the ones who
had left their monasteries, exchanging the contemplative life for
the active one. The old man went back to his camp, while I rode
to Valladolid on the shank's mare.
XII. What Happened to Lazaro in an Inn Three Miles outside of Valladolid
What thoughts I had all along the road about my good gypsies:
their way of life, their customs, the way they behaved. It
really amazed me that the law let such thieves go around so
freely, since everyone knows that their life involves nothing
but stealing. Theirs is an asylum--a shelter for thieves, a
congregation of apostates, and a school for evil. I was especially
astonished that friars would leave a life of rumination to follow
the one of ruination and fatigue of the gypsies. I wouldn't have
believed what the gypsy told me if he hadn't shown me a gypsy man
and woman a mile from the camp, behind the walls of a shelter:
he was broad-shouldered, and she was plump. He wasn't sunburned,
and she wasn't tanned by harsh weather. One of them was singing
a verse from the psalms of David, and the other was answering with
another verse. The good old man told me that they were a friar
and a nun who had come to his congregation not more than a week ago,
wanting to profess a more austere life.
I came to an inn three miles from Valladolid, and I saw the old
lady from Madrid, along with the young maiden of yore, sitting in
the doorway. A gallant young fellow came out to call them in to
eat. They didn't recognize me because of my good disguise: my
patch still over one eye and my clothes worn in the roguish
style. But I knew I was the Lazaro who had come out of the tomb
that had been so harsh on me. I went up to them to see if they
would give me anything. But they couldn't because they didn't
have anything for themselves. The young man who served as their
steward was so generous that, for himself, his sweetheart, and
the old bawd, he'd had a tiny bit of pork liver prepared with a
sauce. I could have shoveled down everything on the plate in
less than two mouthfuls. The bread was as black as the
tablecloth, and that looked like a penitent's tunic or a rag for
"Eat, my dove," the gentleman said. "This meal is fit for a
The go-between ate without a word so as not to lose any time and
because she saw there wasn't enough for all of them. They began
to clean up the plate with such gusto that they removed the
finish. When the poor, sad meal was over--and it had made them
more hungry than full--the gentle lover made excuses by saying
the inn didn't have much food.
When I saw they didn't have anything for me, I asked the
innkeeper what there was to eat. He told me, "It depends how
much you want to pay." He wanted to give me a few chitterlings.
I asked him if he had anything else. He offered me a quarter of
kid that the lover hadn't wanted because it was too expensive. I
wanted to impress them, so I told him to give it to me. I sat
down with it at the end of the table, and their stares were a
sight to behold. With each mouthful I swallowed six eyes,
because those of the lover, the girl, and the bawd were fastened
on what I was eating.
"What's going on?" asked the maiden. "That poor man is eating a
quarter of kid, and there was nothing for us but a poor piece of
The young fellow answered that he had asked the innkeeper for
some partridges, capons or hens, and that he had told him he
didn't have anything else to offer. I knew the truth of the
matter--that he had put them on that diet because he didn't want
to pay or couldn't, but I decided to eat and keep quiet. The kid
was like a magnet. Without warning, I found all three of them
hovering over my plate.
The brazen-faced little bitch picked up a piece and said, "With
your permission, brother." But before she had it, she had the
piece in her mouth.
The old woman said, "Don't steal his meal from this poor sinner."
"I'm not stealing it," she answered. "I intend to pay him for it
And in the same breath she began to eat so fast and furiously
that it looked like she hadn't eaten in six days. The old woman
took a bite to see how it tasted.
"Is it really that good?" said the young man. And he filled his
mouth with an enormous piece. When I saw that they were going
too far, I picked up everything on the plate and stuck it in my
mouth. It was so big that it couldn't go down or up.