And therefore nothing of this sort should be destroyed or thrown away unless it is utterly detestable, but on the contrary such things should be brought to the knowledge of everyone, especially if they are utterly harmless and even likely to bear some fruit.
If it were otherwise, there are very few who would write for just one reader, because it is hard work, and those who undertake it hope to be rewarded, not in money, but in having the efforts seen and read and, when possible, praised. That is why Cicero says: “Honor is the nurse of the arts.”
I was very small at the time but I was struck by what my little brother had said, and I thought, “How many there must be in the world who run away from others because they do not see themselves!”
It seemed to me that at that moment I awoke out of the simplicity in which I had remained like a sleeping child. And I said to myself, “He’s right. I’d better keep my eyes open and my wits about me, for I’m on my own, and I’ll have to figure out how to manage for myself.”
It is a joy to me to recount these childish matters to Your Excellency, to show how much virtue there can be in those who are born to low estate and drag themselves up, and how much vice in the great who let themselves be dragged down.
He put wine on the places where he’d cut my face with the broken jug, and he smiled and said, “What do you think of that, Lazaro? The same thing that got you hurt heals you afterwards and gets you back into shape.”
“Oh wicked object, the fruit of worse behavior! How many there are who would like to see you on their neighbors’ heads, and yet how few want to have you for themselves, or even want to hear you mentioned in connection with them! … It’s a bad dinner and supper I’ve got in my hand here, but I’ll give it to you one of these days… What I’ve said is true. You’ll see, if you live long enough.”
“Honestly, I waste more wine washing this boy in one year than I drink myself in two. Lazaro, to put it at its very least you owe more to wine than you do to your own father. He only gave you your being once, whereas wine has brought you to life a thousand times. … I’ll tell you, if there’s anyone in this world to whom wine will be a blessing, it will be you.”
All I can say is that my new master had collected all the stinginess in the world and was hoarding it. Whether he had been born with that character or had put it on with his priest’s cassock I don’t know.
“I’ve had two masters. The first one nearly starved me to death and when I left him I took up with this one who’s virtually brought me to the edge of the grave. If I quit this one now and land myself with another one who’s even worse, there’s only one thing that can happen to me: I’ll die.”
So it went on, and we kept it up at a great rate, fulfilling the old saying that “Where one door shuts another opens.”
“Stuffing is a pursuit for pigs, and men who have any self-respect should eat moderately.”
“Oh, I know what you mean alright!” I said to myself. “And to hell with all the medicinal qualities and other virtues which every master I take up with manages to find in my hunger.”
“Oh Lord, how many of this sort must there be scattered through the world, suffering things for the moldy misery they call honor which they would never suffer for thee!”
“He’s poor,” I said to myself, “and nobody can give what he hasn’t got. Whereas that miserly blind man and that niggardly skin-flint of a priest had both done alright for themselves in the name of God, the one with his hand-kissing and the other with his line of patter, and they starved me half to death. So it’s perfectly fair to be down on them and to take pity on this one.”
“Sinner that I am,” I said, “that’s why God doesn’t put Himself out to keep you, because you won’t let anybody ask Him to!”
When they tried this out the first time, I must admit to my shame that I was frightened by it like most of the others, and thought it was just what it appeared to be. But afterwards, when I saw how my master and the constable laughed over the affair and made fun of it, I realized that it had all been worked out by my industrious and inventive master.
I did so well at this trade that at the end of the four years which I spent at it, by carefully putting aside my money I’d saved up enough to outfit myself decently in a suit of second-hand clothes…. Once I was respectably dressed I told my master to take back his donkey because I didn’t want to follow that trade any more.
“I’ll swear by the consecrated host that she’s as virtuous as any woman living within the gates of Toledo, and if any man says otherwise, I’m his enemy to the death.”