Rinconete and Cortadillo

(From the Exemplary Novels)

On the confines of Alcudia, between the provinces of Castile and Andalusia, might be seen a notable house of entertainment for travelers, called the Little Windmill. On one of the hottest days of summer, two boys were seen loitering about this place; one was about fourteen years of age, and the other might perhaps have attained his seventeenth year. They were both good looking, though in a sadly destitute condition; coats they had none; their trousers were of coarse linen, and, for want of better stockings, they were obliged to be contented with their bare skin.

It is true that their feet were covered, those of one being carefully bound in straw or rushes, while the shoes of the other were of so peculiar a formation, that it would seem the utmost ingenuity of the wearer had been displayed, in rendering them more than usually accessible to the elements of air and water. The head of one was partly covered by a scanty cap; the other wore a hat, though without seeming to trouble himself about its deficiency of crown and brim. The scanty remains of a shirt of the color of chamois leather partly adorned the neck and shoulders of the younger; while his companion had remedied the inconvenience of such a deficiency by the waistband of an old pair of trousers, covered with grease and completely in tatters, which hung suspended from his neck on his breast, and appeared to conceal a small bundle. In this repository of valuables was concealed a pack of cards of a different shape to those generally used; for by reason of their long service, the corners were so much worn, that they began to assume a circular shape, which had been rendered still more distinct by the application of the scissors, it being found that the circular form was the most durable. Both the youths were much sunburnt; their nails were begrimed with dirt, and their skin could hardly be called clean. One was armed with a broken sword, and the other with a yellow-handled knife, which completed their costume.

They sallied from the inn and seated themselves opposite each other, under a sort of covering which serves for a veranda in houses of that description; and the elder, bowing very politely to the other addressed him with all the air of a man of ton. “If I might take the liberty of addressing a gentleman of your distinguished appearance without the ceremony of introduction, I should inquire what part of the country has the honor of claiming you as a resident, and whither you intend to travel?”

“Señor Caballero,” returned the other, with equal ceremony and politeness, “with respect to your first question, I am sorry that I am unable to satisfy your curiosity, being utterly ignorant of it myself; and, as to the second, I lament that I can afford you as little information, for I really don’t know.”

“Why, truly, sir,” said he without the shirt, “if I might give an opinion, you certainly don’t look as though you had dropped from heaven; and if you had, I should not think you would choose this place for your descent—consequently you must be going somewhere.”

“That is very just,” replied the one with the hat; “and yet I have told you the truth, for my country is no longer mine, my father having turned me out: and as to the future, I must trust to chance, which I dare say will put something in my way by which I may get an honest livelihood.”

“And pray, may I ask whether you belong to any profession?” said the original querist.

“No other,” replied the other, or younger, “than running like a hare, leaping like a deer, or using a pair of scissors very delicately, will fit me for.”

“That is all very good and useful,” said his companion, “for on next Holy Thursday you will find good employment in cutting paper ornaments for the church.” “Ah, but my abilities in cutting do not lie that way,” said the younger gentleman. “My father, by the blessing of Providence, is a tailor and shoemaker, and he taught me to cut out antiparas, which, as I dare say you know, are buskins, used by men in harvest—I obtained such a proficiency in the art, that I might have passed examination as a master, had not my bad fortune deprived me of my employment.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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