What a hoot, what a delight. The book is full of gems like this:
When I reached the cave everyone had assembled for breakfast. A place had been kept for me. Another was laid for the stranger and no one asked who he was. Such are the laws of hospitality which are rarely broken in Spain. The stranger took the chocolate beverage like a man in need of refreshment. The gypsy chief asked me whether my companion had been wounded by thieves.
‘Not at all,’ I replied. ‘I found this gentleman unconscious under the gallows of Los Hermanos. As soon as he came round, he ran off into the countryside. Fearing that he might lose his way in the heath land, I ran after him. The more I tried to catch up with him, the faster he ran to escape me. Which is why he did himself such an injury.’
At this, the stranger set down his spoon and, turning to me, said gravely,
‘Señor, you express yourself badly. I suspect that you have not been inculcated with the right principles.’
You can well imagine what sort of effect these words had on me. But I kept my temper and replied,
‘Señor caballero, whom I don’t know, I venture to assure you that I have been brought up in the best possible way and that my education has been all the more essential to me in that I have the honour to be a captain in the Walloon Guards.’
‘Señor,’ replied the stranger, ‘I spoke of the principles, about which you may have been taught, which govern the acceleration of heavy bodies when this occurs on an inclined plane. Actually, since you wanted to talk about my fall and give an account of its cause, you might have observed that, as the gallows was placed on top of a hill, I was running down an inclined plane, and from that you should have considered my path to be the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle with its base parallel to the horizon, and its right angle formed by that same base and the perpendicular which met the point of the right angle, that is to say, the foot of the gallows. You might then have said that my acceleration along the inclined plane was to the acceleration I would have had by falling down the perpendicular as that same perpendicular was to the hypotenuse. It was an acceleration calculated in this way which led me to fall over so hard, not the fact that my speed increased because I was trying to escape from you. But all that doesn’t prevent you being a captain in the Walloon Guards.’