The Adventure of the Missing Fortnight


THIS is the story of a little adventure in the Spanish archives. It was an adventure, not so much in the writing of history proper, as in the humbler field of making tools for the historian’s use; and the tool in this case was an Itinerary of the Emperor Charles V.

Itineraries, or time-tables, showing where important personages were at any given time, have proved their value again and again. They are especially useful in checking documents whose date or whose genuineness may be challenged. A really careful itinerary is an instrument of precision, like any other gauge, and it means much arduous laboring over facts in themselves as unimportant as any scratch upon a vernier scale.

The Emperor Charles V very nearly broke the record for royal travel. He was the heir of all four grandparents, some of whom did more than twofold balls and treble sceptres carry. To this was added the Holy Empire and the whole New World plus ultra. Small wonder that he moved from capital to capital, and that, even with the help of his secretary’s journal and his own memoirs, it is hard to follow him exactly.

To make a complete and scientific itinerary of Charles V, from his cradle in Ghent to his coffin in San Yuste, — and indeed the book has finally exceeded a little at each extreme, — giving his whereabouts on every day of more than fifty-eight years, with reference to the ultimate authority for every statement, was the task set for himself by a modern Spanish scholar. Don Manuel Foronda — now Marquis of that ilk and member of the Royal Academy of History, but then merely a well-born young Spanish lawyer and counselor of embassy — began in youth the accumulation of facts which he has recently published at the age of seventy-five. He published many small works on the way to the larger one, — Charles V in this place and Charles V in that place, Charles V considered as doing this, that, and the other, — and also a skeleton itinerary which we wish he would republish corrected for use by workers. His magnum opus is a magnificent thing; but ten pounds avoirdupois and three pounds sterling are a disheartening combination for ready reference.

Of course, three quarters of such compiling is straightforward drudgery with steady advance. Then come the disputed or ignored dates which require investigation, and the archives begin to yield their more uninteresting secrets. Finally, there remain some outposts of ignorance, some days when all that can be said is that we have no reason to suppose that the protagonist has gone anywhere or done anything. We have to leave him in statu quo — but with the mark of interrogation required by the modern scientific conscience.

Years rolled by, as the melodramas sum it up. Years rolled, and D. Manuel Foronda toiled, and at last the life was complete but for one single interval of about a fortnight. One little group of hypocritic days refused to look straight and be classified. Under their solemn fillets they looked scorn at the historian.

See what is the conscience of the modern maker of ‘scientific’ history! For fifteen years Foronda held that book back — for fifteen years — and he, the author, was over sixty when at last it was ready except for the abhorred vacuum of that fortnight. In those fifteen years he became known as el bou de los archiveros — the bogy lying in wait for young archivists. I have heard it whispered that his later appeals met with little except courtesy — at least, not with solid work. ‘Can we by searching find out what is not there? Pray try, señora; it is all open to you. But I, have I not tried? In years gone by, when Foronda wanted other dates, I found them for him. I tried long for that fortnight and now — I try no more.’

The days wanted wore in 1538. On July 26, 1538, Charles leaves Barcelona for Valladolid. In early August he arrives — at least, in the latter part of that month he has been there for some time, and Foronda suggested the 9th for his arrival. The Secretary, Vandenesse, tells us he went to Valladolid, traveling par ses journées, to join the Empress. This contented the old-fashioned compilers; but a careful modern worker by the day notices at once, both that the number of days in the interval is too great, and that we know nothing of the route followed.

Many other times Charles crosses the Spains between those two places, and his progress is always traceable. So, when nothing can be found in 1538, one naturally looks for some unusual route. But when letters to the archives, whether of church or town, in every littlest hamlet that suggested itself had yielded nothing, and reiterated search in the large deposits of state papers seemed to make it certain that Charles had transacted no business that required his signature, then the perturbed biographer began to ask himself strange questions. If other intervals had not been filled up at last, it would have been less disconcerting. But that over fiftyeight years should be traceable day by day, in peace and war, in rain and shine, in better and worse fortune, and yet one consecutive fortnight be baffling; that half a dozen transferences between the same two places should be readable long after, because of addresses by the loyal, largesses by the monarch, household accounts, letters, state papers, diaries, pardons; and yet that another journey should leave no trace at all — all this was certainly queer. On the negative evidence D. Manuel ventured only two opinions: that Charles had not passed through Lerida, nor yet through Saragossa. But there was growing in his mind a suspicion that more than met the eye might be shadowed here. Monarchs have wanted to disappear before now.

It was a suggestive time for a mystery, for Charles had just returned from a very important conference. There had been an attempt at a triple meeting of Pope and Emperor and French King; but although the Pope came to Nice and talked with Charles and talked with Francis, he never could inveigle his two sons-in-Christ into his presence at the same time. At last, he fairly gave it up and went home, escorted for some distance by the Emperor, who, having thus astutely got rid of the third party, turned back and overtook Francis at Aigues-Mortes. A dramatic moment of pause — and then the royal brothers-in-law seek each other’s arms, and ‘register’ complete confidence and affection, so straitly embraced that Eleanor the Queen puts her arms about the two at once. Chroniclers dwell with affectionate detail upon the precious vessels, the crystal and the napery of the splendid banquet that followed, at which Eleanor and her stepdaughter, the French princess Marguerite, brought water to wash the imperial hands after eating, and offered the damask napkins. But Charles would accept no personal service from such noble ladies. With graceful courtesy, he elected to wipe his mouth on the tablecloth instead.

A treaty for a ten years’ peace is drawn up; the monarchs embrace and part; and Charles sails across to the Spanish coast, landing at Barcelona. The Empress, his Regent, is at Valladolid, and for Valladolid he is to start on July 26. The rest is silence.

Now there are certainly possibilities in this situation. No reader of melodrama but guesses at once that Charles has crossed the Pyrenees and is secretly seeing Francis again — in an interview unknown to history. If not — why then one begins to think of that little affair of Hernani. Is there another Doña Sol in 1538? Where is Charles, and what is he doing? Apparently it is something that he preferred should not be known, and to the modern scientific historian that seems reason enough for trying to know it.

So for fifteen long years Foronda’s book lay waiting, and D. Manuel himself wrote and searched and wondered. Then it seems to have been a chance comment by a friend that brought him to the sticking-place. Many friends had urged publication, and been told, ‘Not yet.’ But some well-intentioned person said to Foronda, — apropos of his being seventy-five years old, — ‘ Don Manuel, what a pity it would be if anything should happen to prevent your ever publishing at all!’

‘He put it politely — but I knew perfectly well what the man meant.’

And the result of this crystallizing feather touch was the final publication of Foronda’s weighty tome, with an appeal in the preface to all and sundry, and in the hope, as D. Manuel said, that the very fact of owning to ignorance of those few days would guarantee his trustworthiness about all other days.


When I first saw Foronda’s book, I was studying the discovery of America in one of the larger Spanish archives; and I was somewhat disheartened by the lack of answer to the broader questions I was putting to the dusty bundles. Was it that no answer could be given? or that I personally could not handle an archive? I wanted to test myself on something neatly asked. Spanish policies, streams of tendency, motives of legislators — all these are slippery matters; but ‘Where was the Emperor on August 1, 1538?’ — this is so definite and safe and clear an inquiry. Either you know the answer, or you don’t.

Moreover, I was distinctly intrigued by the appeal in Foronda’s introduction, and by the story of his unavailing persistence. Other people’s affairs are so interesting. Of course, the real reason for their charm is that one sheds all responsibility when one strays into bypaths, and any primroses pulled by the path are pure gain. From the beginning, I think that I meant to try for those missing days, though I was half ashamed to confess it to myself, even with the excuse that a new eye on a problem is an advantage. I have often witnessed what the language of the moment would call the ‘mobilization of ignorance,’ which sends ignoramuses rushing in where scholars fear to tread. Sometimes they come out with surprisingly valuable results, just because of the naïve unexpectedness of their points of view. I was at least free from all prejudice about Charles’s doings in 1538.

It occurred to me at once that the uncertain date of arrival in Valladolid could be checked by the Empress’s signatures as Regent. When did she stop signing? Most routine papers were executed by the Council, but certain things, mostly appointments and commissions, carry the royal Yo el rey. I sought the bundles where such papers were on file, and started a tabulation of signatures, and an hour or two gave me what I wanted.

Charles himself seemed to have signed none of the routine papers until quite late in the month; evidently he took things easily for some time after his arrival. As to the Empress Isabel — since I write without any of my own notes at hand, I cannot give exact numbers; but, speaking loosely, it was rare to find a day with no signature at all from her, and there were usually two or three daily, until August 11, when she suddenly took to signing more than a score of papers, and then she never signed again!

Evidently Foronda had put Charles’s arrival too early, when he guessed it to be on the 9th, for the Regent would never have signed in Valladolid with the Emperor already present. Moreover, if human nature in the sixteenth century was my human nature today, that woman expected her lord on August 12. The score of signatures on the 11th meant that the Empress was cleaning up her desk.

This was not enough to send to Foronda, and it made the time Charles spent on the journey even longer than before. So, after struggling for some hours among the state papers of 1538, to the great amusement of an archivist who had already spent many a weary day among those bundles, I dropped the matter, with an inward vow that I would try again in Barcelona.

I was going to Barcelona for some weeks of early spring, partly on pleasure bent and partly to visit the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon. Besides more serious matters, I wanted to look there for a little freak of a fact reported fifty years ago by Bergenroth, who says that Ferdinand gave to the Venetian ambassador an island found by Columbus, together with the title in perpetuity of Count of the Cannibal Isle. This is pleasant enough, and an alternative name for the island, ‘Of Cannibals or of Roses,’ really adds another touch. The whole affair seemed to me deliciously improbable, and Bergenroth gives no reference; but the context showed in what papers he had been grubbing, and I wanted to grub a little on my own account. Let me in passing beg pardon of Bergenroth’s most scholarly ghost, for I found the grant exactly as he says. It is a long paper in mediæval Latin, and the only doubt that remains to me is whether ‘roses’ should not be translated with reference to a man’s name and not to a rose-bush, though one hates not to leave such a choice as that between cannibals and roses to the taste and fancy of the speller.

But all this is beside the mark. I was bound for the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, and I was trying to keep it a secret from myself that, wherever I went, I meant to append to my own legitimate work a somewhat shamefaced inquiry after the year 1538.


The Aragonese archive is beautifully arranged and excellently administered. But papers may be in Latin, Catalan, or Spanish, to say nothing of other languages. Secular and religious matters are kept apart, and the different kingdoms — Aragon, Sicily, Navarre, and so on — are all separately filed. Moreover, when one gets down to the ultimate divisions and the papers themselves, one finds that they have been bound into an order roughly chronological, but not always exact within the limits of any given month. I saw at once that it was no quick and easy thing to say surely whether any signature of a given date existed. To get out all the proper bundles, to find the place on the page where each document was dated, and then to see whether it was signed by council or by king, would mean a deal of drudgery, of fussy, nervously irritating, meticulous, what the Scotch call ‘fikey’ little labors, petty and persistent. To plod one’s weary way through twenty or thirty pages in each of twenty or thirty books, would be so disagreeable that, if any of Foronda’s searching had been done by copyists who search for a price, it was likely enough not to have been done thoroughly. With a certain furtiveness, telling myself that it was merely for amusement, I began to search a book or two a day, in odds and ends of time.

There followed the reward that sometimes falls to one through sheer luck. One morning, as I was languidly turning over successive documents without even trying to read more than the endings, I suddenly sat up electrified. I was staring at an ending plainly written, as plain as if it had been in print — De Lerida, último de Julio de 1538. Yo el Rey.

Lerida! Directly on the road to Saragossa, and just the reasonable time after leaving Barcelona! The document itself was perfectly uninteresting — a letter about the affairs of some obscure person who had appealed to Cæsar; but I dropped the search for the Count of the Cannibals, whose Latin title had not yet gladdened my eyes; I dropped Columbus and all his companions; I came forward more than forty years, to 1538, and attacked the thing in earnest. A few days’ livelier work yielded five signatures and three stoppingplaces, taking Charles as far as Saragossa on August 4. Here the trail was lost again. There was one straight road to Valladolid; but, if he arrived on the 12th, he was still taking too many days for the journey. Had he lingered in Saragossa? Was the key to the affair in that city?

The head of the archives, to whom I carried my trove, was very sympathetic and very much amused. From his professional point of view, the really funny thing was the emotion that would be felt by those who had assured Foronda that all the books had been thoroughly searched. He gave me the names of certain excellent investigators who had committed themselves to the nonexistence of any such dates. One such person —of national reputation — was even then downstairs. ‘Señora, he is not likely to think it as amusing as we think it!’

There was another person downstairs, a man who would take photostat prints, both good and cheap. This was luck, indeed, for such prints are not always to be had; and I promptly secured reproductions of all five documents.

Now for my own good reasons, connected with violets and blossoming groves of orange, with roses and the blue Mediterranean, I meant to go by Tarragona to Valencia, before turning north again. Valencia was much in my thoughts, and I instinctively noticed it whenever it came to the fore in my miscellaneous reading. I noticed for instance that just at this time, in July and August of 1538, the viceroy in Valencia was sore vexed by pirates off the coast making descents on little towns near by. It was not the famous pirate Barbarossa, whom Charles had himself chastised three years before; but just because of this recent fight with Barbarossa, Charles was likely to take much interest in the havoc wrought, and Saragossa was the point nearest Valencia, if one stopped on the direct road from Barcelona to Valladolid. Could it be that the Emperor had paused to send couriers to the south? If so, there would be letters in the Archivo Regional of Valencia. I meant to look in there at any rate, because I wanted some things about the Santangel family, whose persistent repetitions of a few Christian names (after christening began in that family) has confused many a good writer about Columbus’s money affairs.

And in that archive I promptly found two other letters signed by Charles, both dated in Saragossa on August 4, with plenty of evidence of the anxiety of the Viceroy, the Duke of Calabria, who kept writing about those pirates both to Charles and to the Empress. Though the hearts of kings are bad guessing, I decided to adopt the theory that here we had at least one motive for a short delay in Saragossa, which would account for a lapse of days, and might be followed by travel at the ordinary speed.

Again my luck held. I received a call from a professor of history in the University of Valencia, who had run across my tracks so often that I had become a joke. ‘La mís’ had always just preceded him. No Spanish peasant could pronounce my name, but ‘la mís,’ as who should say, the señorita, or the fräulein, was identification enough; and my tastes, whether in re manuscripts or meringues, amateur bull-fights or library hours, were continually brought out for comparison with his own. Indeed it is not from him alone that I know how the village confectioner in a certain upland village still urges the local azucarillo and a particular kind of cake as favorites with ‘ la mís,’ therefore proper for all and any of these queer pilgrims of history who arrive from distant parts.

My caller had a keen sense of humor, as so many Spaniards have, and he invited me to consider my own existence dispassionately. I imagine he may have modified a first belief that there warn’t no sich a person into an attempt to prove that ‘la mís’ was a sun-myth, or perhaps some modern incarnation of the visiting moon. And when finally he heard (I don’t know how) that ‘la mís ’ was actually in his own city, walking about his own library and university, it was too much for him. He presented himself at the desk of an archivist friend, and requested an immediate introduction to the mís-errant, who could even then be seen near the window, wrestling with the ramifications of the Santangel family.

When two writers-errant meet, they compare adventures. We were soon offering mutual sympathy on the way in which one finds all sorts of interesting things one does n’t want, while the longed-for things elude all capture. I was pursuing Christopher Columbus; the professor’s subject just then was the Marquis of Brandenburg, second husband of Germaine de Foix. As far as I could gather, he had been selected because nobody knew anything about him. He was therefore what in my student days was called a good subject for a Ph.D. His own biographer assured me that he never did anything worth mention, except marry Germaine and attend a chapter of the Golden Fleece, both these things in Barcelona, in 1519. Germaine de Foix, let me remind the reader, is the young princess whom Ferdinand married after Isabella’s death; she was, incidentally, his own greathalf-niece, — or half-great-niece, if that sounds any better, — and naturally she outlived him. The marquis was a cadet of the electoral house of Brandenburg; and Charles may have turned an eye on the two Brandenburg votes of 1519, when he bestowed the hand of his stepgrandmother and second-half-cousin on this one of his own young companions.

The marquis died early, and the Queen’s third venture was a man of more importance, that very Duke of Calabria who was anxious about pirates in 1538. His tomb is one of the things to see in Valencia, though it is not the Queen, but a later duchess, who lies beside him. For my own satisfaction, I tried to formulate the connection between this last Duchess of Calabria and Isabella the Catholic. Spanish enables one to express neatly things like a brother’s brother-in-law, or the other godfather of one’s own godson, but Spanish saves me nothing if I want to say that one woman was the second wife of the third husband of the second wife of the only husband of the other. I might make the chain even longer, since the duchess too had been married before.

The professor had amassed a surprising amount of information about this so-frankly-uninteresting Brandenburg, husband ad interim of Queen Germaine; but queerly enough his marriage lines are not to be found, and even the exact day of the wedding is doubtful. We chatted on about this missing marriage record, and the many missing things I wanted, and the horrid probability that a little fact for which we toil and moil in vain may even then be lying, an unappreciated jewel, before some other scratcher-up of the heap. Bitterest of all, the little fact gets buried again, as if it had never come to the surface.

For my own part, I keep a collection of what I call staccato notes. For instance, is there anyone reading this who wishes to know that Isabella the Catholic bought an alarm-clock in 1496? Clocks are not in my line, but the books which I rather timidly consulted would seem to place the invention of portable alarm-clocks distinctly later than that. If anybody wants this fact, let me present it. The exact date and price have escaped my memory, but I have them in my notes the other side of the ocean.

My new friend and I felt alike on the moral obligation of keeping tab on what other folk are doing, in order that labor may not be wasted. Upon this hint I spoke of my latest adventure. ‘For instance,’ said I, not expecting to throw a thunderbolt, but merely illustrating the conversation, — ‘for instance, I have found documents signed by Charles in that interval for which Foronda has looked so long. Is it not whimsical in Fate to send them to me instead of to him?’

Tableau! My new-found professor was a personal friend of Foronda. I fancy he had himself pursued the hunt for those days in the same half-shamefaced way in which I had begun. At any rate, the effect upon him of this somewhat off-hand announcement was such as startled me.

‘Señora!’ he gasped after a speechless moment, ‘am I to under stand that you know where Charles was during those days ?’

I indicated that, simple as I sat there, at the service of God and of himself, I had my own opinion concerning Charles’s whereabouts. ‘I have photographs of the documents,’ I added, becoming almost frightened by the man’s expression.

‘Señora! have you communicated with Foronda?’

‘Not yet — I wanted to try a little longer — the record was not complete.’

‘Señora! for the love of God! Do you not know that Foronda takes his seat in the Academy of History within three weeks; that his inaugural discourse upon that itinerary must be printed beforehand! that he would rather have this information now, this week, than ever again — now, NOW!’

Truly I should have known it, and I could only plead that I had regarded Charles as a luxury, while Columbus and his companions were necessary business. The professor was polite, but he looked at me as I should look at a child whom I found playing with priceless first editions. ‘La mís,’ indeed! He went away, after bidding me lose no time in writing to Madrid, and offering to come and correct any Spanish letter for me at the hotel — this in answer to a feeble excuse which I proffered for doing things so slowly.

Accordingly I arranged my photographic reproductions, pasted the loose leaves together, and sketched my letter to Foronda, which was nearly ready when, on my return from another morning in the archives, I found the Professor of History with a minor archivist holding up the door of the hotel like a pair of caryatides. He had been told that I was not at home, but to avoid any possible chance of missing me, he had taken the liberty of posting himself in the entrance, instead of going to the drawing-room and calling on the other ladies in my party. He had a letter from Foronda!

Whether he had telegraphed, or merely written, I do not know. At any rate, he was taking no chances, and if one compares the Yankee and the Spaniard concerned in this matter, the national characteristics have got themselves rather mixed. Foronda’s letter breathed amazement. For the love of God and his Holy Mother! is the classic exclamation — if he did not use those words, he meant them. If it were true that a person, an amateur, a foreigner, a Yanquí — and a woman! — was wandering about Spain, with his long-sought dates in her pocket! then for the love of heaven, while this lady was within reach, let his friend find out where she got them, how she knew! and where Charles was. Also, let him assure the lady that, if she would but share her knowledge, all glory and credit should be given her: he, Foronda, would — then followed, numbered (1), (2), (3), and so on, the things Foronda would do! He would announce it in print, he would proclaim it to the Academy; the name of that lady should, and so forth, and so forth.

The lady found herself inclined to laughter. Who was she, to be an accomplice, so long after the fact, in Charles’s celebrated disappearance? But the solemnity of the occasion overwhelmed all temptation to be flippant. She assured the waiting historian that her constant intention had been to put that minute bit of information where it would do the most good. Certainly it would do no good to her or to Christopher Columbus, and she was deeply grateful for having been saved from further delay, even though the material was still so incomplete

We had begun the business in the portal, to the great edification of the concierge, but we adjourned to a more fitting spot, and I went to fetch the evidence. I brought the photographs of the Barcelona documents, I produced the numbers of the Valencia documents. But might he take these photographs and see if he could get them off certificados in this evening’s mail for Madrid? He might. He did. He returned to inspect and correct my own letter, and he declared — such was his agitation that it shook his judgment —that it was in faultless Spanish.


I suppose I kept my rough draft of that letter, and I certainly have kept and treasured the answer to it, the first of many letters from my dear and honored friend the Marquis of Foronda.

But both are on the other side of the Atlantic now, and I can reproduce only from memory. I developed with painful accuracy the case of Aladdin’s window. When Aladdin wished to give the greatest possible pleasure to his fatherin-law— so I began; but a foreign language made my would-be gracefulness rather elephantine — ‘on me,’ as the Irish would say, with their excellent feeling for the ethical dative. I remember explaining, ‘You, sir, must be Aladdin, and the public is in this case the father-in-law, and I’ — here I found myself getting very much mixed as I proffered these few little inclosed gems to the detail of a jeweled pattern which even yet must be unfinished. I do not now remember how I managed to include myself in the compound father-inlaw, but I do remember that I had no dictionary with me. I was traveling light, and I was supposed no longer to need a dictionary. At any rate, I know I ended with the reflection that, when the baffled sultan gave up the window, he had at least learned to appreciate the labor represented by the rest of the palace.

But where I flounder out of my depth in courtly tropes, a Spaniard glides serenely into port. The return letter addressed me by a combination of every title, French, English, and Spanish. ‘Señora of my utmost admiration and respect. The Spanish language is universally acknowledged to be the richest since the Tower of Babel. Nevertheless, señora, it does not contain sufficient words to express my gratitude. What an honor for my poor book, — nay, what an honor for history, for Charles, and for Spain herself, — that ladies traveling in her borders should be moved to occupy themselves with such matters!’ There followed a kind and cordial invitation to come to Madrid at the time when he was to enter the Academy of History.

I did not go to the Academy meeting. I think I was alarmed at the prospect of the honor-giving hand, monstrante digito, under circumstances which would make it impossible for me to protest that I knew the size of a grain of sand, and knew the difference between productive erudition and sheer good luck. But I forthwith decided again to make the audacious attempt to find something in the great Archives of Simancas where so many had looked before me; and on the way there, to travel for myself from village to village, over the road from Saragossa to Valladolid, and see for myself whether anything remained in church or town records. This I did, in the company of two thrilled Spanish companions. The three white elephants, we used to call ourselves, as we noted the surprise we left in our wake. And it profited us nothing at all. Never a trace remained, so far as I could see, of the passage of the Emperor Charles; although perhaps four centuries hence someone may come upon traces of the passage of the three elephants.

We had a very good time, and were very courteously entreated, except by a single snappy old blind priest, who informed us that no one short of a grande de España ought to be interested in the doings of Charles the Emperor. But the results for history were just exactly nothing at all — nothing externally, that is. Internally, I was revolving the question as never before, with the hope of taking it from some new angle.

And a new idea did come to me. The household accounts — expenses de casa y boca — have been a source of copious information, and if such royal accounts for 1538 had been extant, I believe that Foronda would not have experienced any difficulty. They are not to be found; but it occurred to me that there was a similar class of papers which had not been tried.

Some time before, when studying that very bundle in which I found the alarm-clock, I had noticed that couriers used to be paid by distance ridden, not by the time it took them to ride it. The bills used to state that they were sent from such a place to such a place, a distance of so many leagues, and they were then paid by the league. If this was true in 1538, and if Charles wrote to anybody about anything while on that journey; if, indeed, any of the secretaries accompanying him wrote any letters of importance, then, even though the letters themselves may have perished long ago, there is always the chance that the posting-bills are on file. Now I knew just where to call for such courier’s accounts, although, indeed, anyone who has ventured on the vasty deep of archived papers feels like a Glendower calling for documents. Will they come? Would the postman’s bills have gone where household bills go?

Reader, they had not gone! Perhaps because they were so totally uninteresting to anybody, there they were in duplicate, perfectly in order, absolutely easy to read. Heaven knows how long it was since anybody had opened that bundle, or ‘book’ as the inventories call it. A ‘book’ is distinguished by the simple and primitive binding process, which consists in punching a hole, putting a piece of string through it, and tying a looped knot. If you expect to be bound, you leave a little round blank spot in the upper left quarter of the page. If you fail to do this, a crescent cut is made, and the flap of each page is turned back. In years the round trapdoor of course tears out, and little round bits of manuscript litter the shelves of every archive. Moreover, as the bundle is lifted by that string, of course it cuts through the paper in time. But so little had the couriers’ books been touched that they were as if new.

And there — oh, triumph and delight!— I found exactly what I wanted. Charles’s two principal secretaries, Los Cobos and Granvelle, were also crossing Spain, but farther to the north and slightly behind him, and from their three lines of route the couriers wove back and forth like shuttles, and then shot away for the courts of Hungary and Bohemia. Above all, Charles was sending forward to the Empress at Valladolid, to tell her of his progress, and the Empress was sending couriers to greet him on his way, and it was always a payment for bearing our royal letters from such a place to such a place, on such a date. The whole route was perfectly clear; nay, heaven vouchsafed me one final reward, for I actually found a paper at Simancas which had been overlooked. It was a secretary’s rough draft of a letter, — what would be replaced to-day by a press copy or typewritten duplicate, — and because it was full of corrections and was a mere rough unsigned copy, and had, moreover, its date tucked into a corner, no one had bothered to read it through. But it was another letter to the Duke of Calabria, who was still troubled about those pirates; it was sent from Aranda de Duero, the last stage before Valladolid, and it mentioned that they had been making forced marches in order to make up for the time lost, and that (if it were God’s will) they would enter Valladolid to-morrow, August 12. It was written on the 11th — the very day when I had felt so sure that the Empress was clearing her desk. Truly, it was like the answer that proves the sum. Aladdin’s tower was finished, and his window framed and glazed.

And will the reader please notice that the point of this story lies in its utter pointlessness? Charles was not doing anything at all. There was no mystery. It was the merest chance that had made those days recalcitrant; and if Foronda had published when he was only sixty, instead of waiting till he was seventy-five, his book would have served just as well for all historical purposes, but I should have missed one amusing episode of my life in Spain, and should have missed the friendship of the very most charming Spaniard whom I have known.

But what is the moral? Is it, ‘Do your work thoroughly’? or is it, ‘Scant your work sometimes’? Perhaps it is, ‘Trust the public, and appeal to “Notes and Queries.”’ ‘The thing that concerns you not, meddle not with’ — this is an excellent maxim, but it does n’t seem to work out. ‘Mind your own business’ (ma non troppo), would be a good motto for my collection of staccato notes.

Y así se escribe la historia — thus is history written. The Spaniard uses this little catchword with a shrug, but in its literal sense it indicates whole romances of modern adventure, when Pentapolin del arremangado brazo — he of the rolled up sleeves — prepares to dig the dust enclosed in archive cupboards.