John Bessac’s commitment of one year in the service of the Spanish Royal Guard had been completed. He accepted his mustering-out pay and purchased a few new clothes.
Since the episode of the knife fight John had received two letters from his old friend Barte and one from his brother Baptiste. Barte’s letters were letters of friendship, as were Baptiste’s. However, Baptiste’s letters were also about business. He informed John that he had made contacts in Philadelphia and would be travelling there that summer. John’s hopes of joining him were high.
Without looking back, except for his lost love, he departed Madrid without so much as one regret.
A clumsy and tumble-down coach took him to Valladolid.
He had two other passengers to contend with. One was so silent that John kept checking to see if he had passed on from this earth. The other was quite opposite. Before the trip was completed John knew about the talkative passenger’s family, his business acumen, his inheritance and a few of his mistresses. It finally dawned on John why the other passenger was so silent; he had heard it all before.
The ninety mile coach trip from Madrid to Valladolid was not without constant chatter. The silent and almost dead passenger came to life. It was from him that John heard about a treaty between the United States and France which was signed in Paris. The Bay of Biscay, where he was headed for in order to meet his brother Baptiste, was overrun with British vessels. The British were taking prizes; the contents of all American and French ships that they fell their way.
John knew that he would have to take the shortest route from Valladolid to the Bay of Biscay. There was no carriage road on that route. John decided take carts from Valladolid to Burgos and finally to San Juan. After that it was over the mountains to St. Andero; also called Santander.
The Cantabrian Mountains were scenic but only offered transportation by mule. John was offered a mule and an armed guide. Feeling confident John declined the service and departed on foot.
With his leather sack, the one that originally held a bible and a few silver coins from his mother, he departed San Juan. The path was used by mules and pedestrians. John was able to ford several small streams but eventually came to a very deep one with a bridge crossing. He was about half way across when he met a burly man on a mule coming from the other direction. John was about to pass when the man turned his mule sideways so as not to let John pass. After a few impertinent remarks by the man John had quite enough. John grabbed the mule by the reins in order to make enough room to get by. The mule lost his footing and both the beast and the man ended up in the stream. John watched for a few seconds to ensure that both were uninjured and then went on his way toward St. Andero.
John was fatigued when he reached St. Andero. All he had eaten since leaving San Juan were a few figs. He found a place to eat and rest.
His next task was to find a ship on which he could take passage to Bordeaux.