FROM 1836 to 1838, there was civil war in Spain between the Isabelinos, or Royalists, and the Carlists. Where the Carranza and Soba valleys join, the local belligerents were: in Carranza, a detachment of Carlist custom-house officers, commanded by a native named Joseph; and, in Soba, the villagers and peasants of the vicinity, were under the command of a man nicknamed “Geringa,” or “The Quibbler.”
Joseph was a robust, sprightly young man, and skilful in guerilla stratagems, whilst Geringa was as thin as a threadpaper, moody, and stubborn as a mule, so much so, indeed, that his wife’s chief fear was, that one day he might take it into his head that he was in danger of death, because then all the doctors in the world could not cure him.
At a certain festival which was celebrated in Carranza, a large number of people came from all the adjoining villages, including several from Soba. Among the crowd were Joseph and the Geringa. In a large circle the Geringa might be seen admiring a charlatan, who pretended that he had a little dog so clever that, he had only to say to it, “Chuchumeco, find out for me the only man in Carranza who is able to assassinate without the law interfering with him,” and it would go and put its paws upon the village doctor! And when he added, “Chuchumeco, who is the most foolish person here?” went straight as an arrow to a poor wretch who was just married for the third time, after having led a miserable life with the two former wives.
Joseph, seeing the Geringa open-mouthed with admiration at the existence of such wonders, said to him, “What! are you surprised at what that man does with his little dog?”
“Yes; it is marvellous!”
“Those who have the power of will can do that, and much more, if they choose.”
“What! could you do that?”
“What I can do is much more than make a dog, which is a clever animal, obey me. I can compel an ass, which is the most stupid creature, do what I wish. Those who have the power of will can accomplish anything with it.”
“And you have this power?”
“I have it, as you shall see.”
“By doing a much more difficult thing than this man does with his dog. The dog only obeys by a sign which, unseen by the public, its master gives it; but that which I am going to do admits of no deception; it is pure power of will. You shall see that when I say to that ass, loud enough for the whole crowd to hear, “die,” it will obey me instantly, because the power of my will is irresistible.”
The Geringa, and all who heard Joseph, began to laugh; but Joseph went up to the charlatan’s ass, and, taking hold of it by the one ear, put his mouth close to the other, and in a voice that stunned the animal, shouted:—“Die!”
On hearing that terrible shout, the ass fell to the ground as if struck by a thunderbolt, and lay as if dead.
All the people, and Geringa more than anyone, uttered a shout of surprise.
The charlatan, hearing what had happened, and seeing his donkey immovable, began to swear, thinking Joseph had killed it.
“Don’t worry yourself, my good fellow,” said Joseph, “and the donkey shall quite as quickly have as much consciousness as you have, because, although with the power of my will I have, as you see, killed it, with the same power I can resuscitate it”
Joseph stood for a moment with his eye fixed on the ass, and then went up to its head, and cried: “Ho! get up, and walk about to show that you are alive!”
The ass began to move, got up, began to run about, and after distributing a few kicks, made for an adjacent grove of trees.
When Geringa returned to Soba, he did not fail to recount to everybody the prodigious power of will exercised by Joseph; and as no one was able to persuade him that the animal had been stunned by the shout of the voice in its ear, he remained fully convinced that the man’s power of will had worked miracles.
As has already been stated, Joseph was the chief of the Carlist rebels, and Geringa was the chief of the royalist villagers.
Joseph wore as uniform a little jacket with scarlet cuffs, collar, and trimming. One day he was standing in his shirt sleeves, at the door of his lodgings in Sangrielo, hoping that his landlady, who was sitting at the same door, would offer to mend certain portions of his jacket, which had begun to gape at the seams, as if Entreating to be sent to the infirmary.
“You are getting rather shabby,” said the landlady, “and cannot compare with the Soba townsfolk, especially with Geringa, who has had a new coat made that looks as grand as a general’s.”
“Indeed!” said Joseph, somewhat annoyed at these words, “you will see that I shall soon have a coat as good as Geringa’s.”
“Oh, that is your talk, and is nothing but words!”
“I tell you,” exclaimed Joseph, in a tone of vexation, “that I will have a coat as fine as Geringa’s, and that by to-morrow.”
The following morning, before daybreak, Joseph and his subordinates took their way towards Soba, and concealed themselves in some brushwood near to the roadside, in the expectation that some of the townsfolk would come forth to drive off the Carlist collectors of toll.
After a little while some few townspeople, commanded by Geringa, appeared, and were surprised by the Carlists, who took Geringa prisoner. Geringa was astounded when he beheld Joseph, who now began to see, for the first time, a chance of a new official coat.
Geringa, although surprised, was no coward. Ashamed, and repenting of the sudden fright through which he had been captured, he began to upbraid Joseph, telling him that he had been made prisoner through a cowardly trick.
“Get rid of that idea, Geringa,” said Joseph with much coolness; “there was no trick whatever about it; it was brought about by my power of will, which is irresistible.”
Geringa did not know what to reply to that, because he, indeed, believed that the power of Joseph’s will was very great
The first thing Joseph made him do was to get out of his smart coat, whilst he divested himself of his shabby jacket, which he proposed from that moment to relieve from active service. Geringa obeyed reluctantly; and Joseph, beside himself with joy, began to put on the coat. By tremendous exertions he succeeded in getting it on; but it was so tight, that he was nearly stifled, and the garment began to burst at the back and shoulders, opening as if it had been made of paper. Joseph divested himself of it; and in his rage at seeing that he should not be able to fulfil his promise to his landlady, tore the coat into rags, and once more resumed his slighted jacket.
A few days later an exchange of prisoners was effected, and Geringa was one of those set at liberty.
“Be careful,” said Joseph to him, “when you have another coat made, that it is made larger; because when I take you next time, if the coat is not wide enough for me, I will give you one hundred blows.”
“Don’t flatter yourself about that!” answered Geringa, laughing at the injunction.
The landlady, who was present, and was in the secret of the whole affair, said to him:—
“Don’t treat it as a jest, Geringa; for whenever that Joseph gets an idea into his head, he always carries it out. On the very day that he says he will capture you, he will capture you, and take the coat from you as certain as if he had done so already.”
“With the power of my will I can accomplish anything,” added Joseph.
And Geringa was silent, and took his way towards Soba very pensively.
“Is it not folly for a man as I am,” said Geringa to himself, “to believe that another man, merely by the power of his will, should be able to gain whatever he wish for? But the truth is, that Joseph is able to do this; for it is not merely what has been told me, but what I saw in Carranza with my own eyes.” Some days passed in such reflections as these; and as he said it was necessary to have a new coat, and he did not want his arms pinched by the tailor, he charged him to make it very wide and large, so that he might be able to wear plenty of underclothing with it when the cold, which in Soba _comes early and goes late, was prevalent; and one knows that winter lasts a long time there, as the snow is almost always to be seen on the tops of the neighbouring mountains.
Scarcely had Geringa worn his new coat half a dozen times, when Joseph penetrated into the neighbourhood, attacked, the folks under the command of Geringa, and made their leader prisoner.
Geringa was indignant with himself, that despite his valour, which was real, and that of his subordinates, he should have again fallen into the hands of Joseph, and should have stood as if confounded and horror-stricken at seeing^ him, being thoroughly convinced that the man’s power of will had great influence upon him.
At a glance Joseph saw that the new coat of Geringa was more roomy than the former, and hastened to put it on, with all the more pleasure that his jacket, which he still wore, now laughed at every seam. He got into this second coat more readily than he had, been able to into the first; but even this one was so tight for him that it began to crack as he put it on. On seeing this, Joseph pulled it off quickly and gave it to his lieutenant, who was not quite so stout as he, and said to Geringa: “'Geringa, you have accomplished half of what I charged you to do, and so I am now going to give half of what I promised you.”
Upon saying this he ordered his men to give Geringa fifty strokes with a stick, being half of the hundred he had threatened him with.
A little while after this there was a fresh exchange of prisoners, and Geringa was amongst those set free.
“Geringa,” said Joseph to him, “within a short time you will again fall into my hands, because the power of my will will cause you to. If you have a third coat made, have it made so that it will fit me, because if it do not, I shall have you shot without any chance of escape. Understand me well, because it will be useless to plead ignorance. The coat will have to suit as if it had been made for me.” With a sheepish smile Geringa answered:—
“Then I had better send the tailor to take your measure.”
“It would save you much trouble, because you know already that I perform what I promise, and that the power of my will is irresistible.”
This was in Carranza, and Joseph's landlady, who was present, and had goodwill towards Geringa, advised him not to treat Joseph’s words as a joke, as he seemed by his strong will to be in league with the Evil One.
Geringa returned to Soba more thoughtful than ever, and considering the manufacture of the third coat as an indispensable thing, as it was the chief sign of his position among the townsfolk, his vexation increased. The longer he considered the matter, the more he recognised the power of Joseph’s will as irresistible, and he also came to the conclusion that he would lose his life if he fell into Joseph’s hands without the third coat
“But I will consent to be shot,” he said to himself, “before I will undergo the humiliation of sending the tailor to take his measure; perhaps, however, some method of avoiding this disgrace may be found, and yet the coat may be made to fit”
Geringa discovered, in effect, the means he sought, which consisted in getting Joseph’s landlady to take his measure secretly, whilst he was asleep.
For the third time Joseph made Geringa prisoner. The coat which he was wearing hung about him like a sack; and at the first glance Joseph saw, that at last he should be able to present himself to his landlady without being told that he looked shabby.
He hastened to despoil Geringa of his coat; all the more readily that his own jacket was falling to pieces, and with indescribable delight, he found upon getting on the new garment that it fitted him to perfection.
Full of joy, he embraced Geringa, and set him at liberty without any exchange or ransom; and not contented with that, his generosity extended to the extremity of giving him his own old jacket, so that he should not have to return to Soba in his shirt sleeves.