FAMILIAR SPANISH TRAVELS
By W. D. Howells
ILLUSTRATED HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON MCMXIII COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY HARPER & BROTHERS PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PUBLISHED OCTOBER. 1913
TO M. H.
I. AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL APPROACHES
II. SAN SEBASTIAN AND BEAUTIFUL BISCAY
III. BURGOS AND THE BITTER COLD OF BURGOS
IV. THE VARIETY OF VALLADOLID
V. PHASES OF MADRID
VI. A NIGHT AND DAY IN TOLEDO
VII. THE GREAT GRIDIRON OF ST. LAWRENCE
VIII. CORDOVA AND THE WAY THERE
IX. FIRST DAYS IN SEVILLE
X. SEVILLIAN ASPECTS AND INCIDENTS
XI. TO AND IN GRANADA
XII. THE SURPRISES OF RONDA
XIII. ALGECIRAS AND TARIFA
FAMILIAR SPANISH TRAVELS
I. AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL APPROACHES
As the train took its time and ours in mounting the uplands toward Granada on the soft, but not too soft, evening of November 6, 1911, the air that came to me through the open window breathed as if from an autumnal night of the middle eighteen-fifties in a little village of northeastern Ohio. I was now going to see, for the first time, the city where so great a part of my life was then passed, and in this magical air the two epochs were blent in reciprocal association. The question of my present identity was a thing indifferent and apart; it did not matter who or where or when I was. Youth and age were at one with each other: the boy abiding in the old man, and the old man pensively willing to dwell for the enchanted moment in any vantage of the past which would give him shelter.
In that dignified and deliberate Spanish train I was a man of seventy-four crossing the last barrier of hills that helped keep Granada from her conquerors, and at the same time I was a boy of seventeen in the little room under the stairs in a house now practically remoter than the Alhambra, finding my unguided way through some Spanish story of the vanished kingdom of the Moors. The little room which had structurally ceased fifty years before from the house that ceased to be home even longer ago had returned to the world with me in it, and fitted perfectly into the first-class railway compartment which my luxury had provided for it. From its window I saw through the car window the olive groves and white cottages of the Spanish peasants, and the American apple orchards and meadows stretching to the primeval woods that walled the drowsing village round. Then, as the night deepened with me at my book, the train slipped slowly from the hills, and the moon, leaving the Ohio village wholly in the dark, shone over the roofs and gardens of Granada, and I was no longer a boy of seventeen, but altogether a man of seventy-four.
I do not say the experience was so explicit as all this; no experience so mystical could be so explicit; and perhaps what was intimated to me in it was only that if I sometime meant to ask some gentle reader's company in a retrospect of my Spanish travels, I had better be honest with him and own at the beginning that passion for Spanish things which was the ruling passion of my boyhood; I had better confess that, however unrequited, it held me in the eager bondage of a lover still, so that I never wished to escape from it, but must try to hide the fact whenever the real Spain fell below the ideal, however I might reason with my infatuation or try to scoff it away. It had once been so inextinguishable a part of me that the record of my journey must be more or less autobiographical; and though I should decently endeavor to keep my past out of it, perhaps I should not try very hard and should not always succeed.
Just when this passion began in me I should not be able to say; but probably it was with my first reading of Don Quixote in the later eighteen-forties. I would then have been ten or twelve years old; and, of course, I read that incomparable romance, not only greatest, but sole of its kind, in English. The purpose of some time reading it in Spanish and then the purpose of some time writing the author's life grew in me with my growing years so strongly that, though I have never yet done either and probably never shall, I should not despair of doing both if I lived to be a hundred. In the mean time my wandering steps had early chanced upon a Spanish grammar, and I had begun those inquiries in it which were based upon a total ignorance of English accidence. I do not remember how I felt my way from it to such reading of the language as has endeared Spanish literature to me. It embraced something of everything: literary and political history, drama, poetry, fiction; but it never condescended to the exigencies of common parlance. These exigencies did not exist for me in my dreams of seeing Spain which were not really expectations. It was not until half a century later, when my longing became a hope and then a purpose, that I foreboded the need of practicable Spanish. Then I invoked the help of a young professor, who came to me for an hour each day of a week in London and let me try to talk with him; but even then I accumulated so little practicable Spanish that my first hour, almost my first moment in Spain, exhausted my store. My professor was from Barcelona, but he beautifully lisped his c's and z's like any old Castilian, when he might have hissed them in the accent of his native Catalan; and there is no telling how much I might have profited by his instruction if he had not been such a charming intelligence that I liked to talk with him of literature and philosophy and politics rather than the weather, or the cost of things, or the question of how long the train stopped and when it would start, or the dishes at table, or clothes at the tailor's, or the forms of greeting and parting. If he did not equip me with the useful colloquial phrases, the fault was mine; and the misfortune was doubly mine when from my old acquaintance with Italian (glib half-sister of the statelier Spanish) the Italian phrases would thrust forward as the equivalent of the English words I could not always think of. The truth is, then, that I was not perfect in my Spanish after quite six weeks in Spain; and if in the course of his travels with me the reader finds me flourishing Spanish idioms in his face he may safely attribute them less to my speaking than my reading knowledge: probably I never employed them in conversation. That reading was itself without order or system, and I am not sure but it had better been less than more. Yet who knows? The days, or the nights of the days, in the eighteen-fifties went quickly, as quickly as the years go now, and it would have all come to the present pass whether that blind devotion to an alien literature had cloistered my youth or not.
I do not know how, with the merciful make I am of, I should then have cared so little, or else ignored so largely the cruelties I certainly knew that the Spaniards had practised in the conquests of Mexico and Peru. I knew of these things, and my heart was with the Incas and the Aztecs, and yet somehow I could not punish the Spaniards for their atrocious destruction of the only American civilizations. As nearly as I can now say, I was of both sides, and wistful to reconcile them, though I do not see now how it could have been done; and in my later hopes for the softening of the human conditions I have found it hard to forgive Pizarro for the overthrow of the most perfectly socialized state known to history. I scarcely realized the base ingratitude of the Spanish sovereigns to Columbus, and there were vast regions of history that I had not penetrated till long afterward in pursuit of Spanish perfidy and inhumanity, as in their monstrous misrule of Holland. When it came in those earlier days to a question of sides between the Spaniards and the Moors, as Washington Irving invited my boyhood to take it in his chronicle of the conquest of Granada, I experienced on a larger scale my difficulty in the case of the Mexicans and Peruvians. The case of these had been reported to me in the school-readers, but here, now, was an affair submitted to the mature judgment of a boy of twelve, and yet I felt as helpless as I was at ten. Will it be credited that at seventy-four I am still often in doubt which side I should have had win, though I used to fight on both? Since the matter was settled more than four hundred years ago, I will not give the reasons for my divided allegiance. They would hardly avail now to reverse the tragic fate of the Moors, and if I try I cannot altogether wish to reverse it. Whatever Spanish misrule has been since Islam was overthrown in Granada, it has been the error of law, and the rule of Islam at the best had always been the effect of personal will, the caprice of despots high and low, the unstatuted sufferance of slaves, high and low. The gloomiest and cruelest error of Inquisitional Spain was nobler, with its adoration of ideal womanhood, than the Mohammedan state with its sensual dreams of Paradise. I will not pretend (as I very well might, and as I perhaps ought) that I thought of these things, all or any, as our train began to slope rather more rapidly toward Granada, and to find its way under the rising moon over the storied Vega. I will as little pretend that my attitude toward Spain was ever that of the impartial observer after I crossed the border of that enchanted realm where we all have our castles. I have thought it best to be open with the reader here at the beginning, and I would not, if I could, deny him the pleasure of doubting my word or disabling my judgment at any point he likes. In return I shall only ask his patience when I strike too persistently the chord of autobiography. That chord is part of the harmony between the boy and the old man who made my Spanish journey together, and were always accusing themselves, the first of dreaming and the last of doddering: perhaps with equal justice. Is there really much difference between the two?
It was fully a month before that first night in Granada that I arrived in Spain after some sixty years' delay. During this period I had seen almost every other interesting country in Europe. I had lived five or six years in Italy; I had been several months in Germany; and a fortnight in Holland; I had sojourned often in Paris; I had come and gone a dozen times in England and lingered long each time; and yet I had never once visited the land of my devotion. I had often wondered at this, it was so wholly involuntary, and I had sometimes suffered from the surprise of those who knew of my passion for Spain, and kept finding out my dereliction, alleging the Sud-Express to Madrid as something that left me without excuse. The very summer before last I got so far on the way in London as to buy a Spanish phrase-book full of those inopportune conversations with landlords, tailors, ticket-sellers, and casual acquaintance or agreeable strangers. Yet I returned once more to America with my desire, which was turning into a duty, unfulfilled; and when once more I sailed for Europe in 1911 it was more with foreboding of another failure than a prescience of fruition in my inveterate longing. Even after that boldly decisive week of the professor in London I had my doubts and my self-doubts. There were delays at London, delays at Paris, delays at Tours; and when at last we crossed the Pyrenees and I found myself in Spain, it was with an incredulity which followed me throughout and lingered with me to the end. "Is this truly Spain, and am I actually there?" the thing kept asking itself; and it asks itself still, in terms that fit the accomplished fact.
II. SAN SEBASTIAN AND BEAUTIFUL BISCAY
Even at Irun, where we arrived in Spain from Bayonne, there began at once to be temperamental differences which ought to have wrought against my weird misgivings of my whereabouts. Only in Spain could a customs inspector have felt of one tray in our trunks and then passed them all with an air of such jaded aversion from an employ uncongenial to a gentleman. Perhaps he was also loath to attempt any inquiry in that Desperanto of French, English, and Spanish which raged around us; but the porter to whom we had fallen, while I hesitated at our carriage door whether I should summon him as Mozo or Usted, was master of that lingua franca and recovered us from the customs without question on our part, and understood everything we could not, say. I like to think he was a Basque, because I like the Basques so much for no reason that I can think of. Their being always Carlists would certainly be no reason with me, for I was never a Carlist; and perhaps my liking is only a prejudice in their favor from the air of thrift and work which pervades their beautiful province, or is an effect of their language as I first saw it inscribed on the front of the Credit Lyonnais at Bayonne. It looked so beautifully regular, so scholarly, so Latin, so sister to both Spanish and Italian, so richly and musically voweled, and yet remained so impenetrable to the most daring surmise, that I conceived at once a profound admiration for the race which could keep such a language to itself. When I remembered how blond, how red-blond our sinewy young porter was, I could not well help breveting him of that race, and honoring him because he could have read those words with the eyes that were so blue amid the general Spanish blackness of eyes. He imparted a quiet from his own calm to our nervousness, and if we had appealed to him on the point I am sure he would have saved us from the error of breakfasting in the station restaurant at the deceitful table d'hote, though where else we should have breakfasted I do not know.
One train left for San Sebastian while I was still lost in amaze that what I had taken into my mouth for fried egg should be inwardly fish and full of bones; but he quelled my anxiety with the assurance, which I somehow understood, that there would be another train soon. In the mean time there were most acceptable Spanish families all about, affably conversing together, and freely admitting to their conversation the children, who so publicly abound in Spain, and the nurses who do nothing to prevent their publicity. There were already the typical fat Spanish mothers and lean fathers, with the slender daughters, who, in the tradition of Spanish good-breeding, kept their black eyes to themselves, or only lent them to the spectators in furtive glances. Both older and younger ladies wore the scanty Egyptian skirt of Occidental civilization, lurking or perking in deep-drooping or high-raking hats, though already here and there was the mantilla, which would more and more prevail as we went southward; older and younger, they were all painted and powdered to the favor that Spanish women everywhere corne to.
When the bad breakfast was over, and the waiters were laying the table for another as bad, our Basque porter came in and led us to the train for San Sebastian which he had promised us. It was now raining outside, and we were glad to climb into our apartment without at all seeing what Irun was or was not like. But we thought well of the place because we first experienced there the ample ease of a Spanish car. In Spain the railroad gauge is five feet six inches; and this car of ours was not only very spacious, but very clean, while the French cars that had brought us from Bordeaux to Bayonne and from Bayonne to Irun were neither. I do not say all French cars are dirty, or all Spanish cars are as clean as they are spacious. The cars of both countries are hard to get into, by steep narrow footholds worse even than our flights of steps; in fact, the English cars are the only ones I know which are easy of access. But these have not the ample racks for hand-bags which the Spanish companies provide for travelers willing to take advantage of their trust by transferring much of their heavy stuff to them. Without owning that we were such travelers, I find this the place to say that, with the allowance of a hundred and thirty-two pounds free, our excess baggage in two large steamer-trunks did not cost us three dollars in a month's travel, with many detours, from Irun in the extreme north to Algeciras in the extreme south of Spain.
But in this sordid detail I am keeping the reader from the scenery. It had been growing more and more striking ever since we began climbing into the Pyrenees from Bayonne; but upon the whole it was not so sublime as it was beautiful. There were some steep, sharp peaks, but mostly there were grassy valleys with white cattle grazing in them, and many fields of Indian corn, endearingly homelike. This at least is mainly the trace that the scenery as far as Irun has left among my notes; and after Irun there is record of more and more corn. There was, in fact, more corn than anything else, though there were many orchards, also endearingly homelike, with apples yellow and red showing among the leaves still green on the trees; if there had been something more wasteful in the farming it would have been still more homelike, but a traveler cannot have everything. The hillsides were often terraced, as in Italy, and the culture apparently close and conscientious. The farmhouses looked friendly and comfortable; at places the landscape was molested by some sort of manufactories which could not conceal their tall chimneys, though they kept the secret of their industry. They were never, really, very bad, and I would have been willing to let them pass for fulling-mills, such as I was so familiar with in Don Quixote, if I had thought of these in time. But one ought to be honest at any cost, and I must own that the Spain I was now for the first time seeing with every-day eyes was so little like the Spain of my boyish vision that I never once recurred to it. That was a Spain of cork-trees, of groves by the green margins of mountain brooks, of habitable hills, where shepherds might feed their flocks and mad lovers and maids forlorn might wander and maunder; and here were fields of corn and apple orchards and vineyards reddening and yellowing up to the doors of those comfortable farmhouses, with nowhere the sign of a Christian cavalier or a turbaned infidel. As a man I could not help liking what I saw, but I could also grieve for the boy who would have been so disappointed if he had come to the Basque provinces of Spain when he was from ten to fifteen years old, instead of seventy-four.
It took our train nearly an hour to get by twenty miles of those pleasant farms and the pretty hamlets which they now and then clustered into. But that was fast for a Spanish way-train, which does not run, but, as it were, walks with dignity and makes long stops at stations, to rest and let the locomotive roll itself a cigarette. By the time we reached San Sebastian our rain had thickened to a heavy downpour, and by the time we mounted to our rooms, three pair up in the hotel, it was storming in a fine fury over the bay under them, and sweeping the curving quays and tossing the feathery foliage of the tamarisk-shaded promenade. The distinct advantage of our lofty perch was the splendid sight of the tempest, held from doing its worst by the mighty headlands standing out to sea on the right and left. But our rooms were cold with the stony cold of the south when it is cooling off from its summer, and we shivered in the splendid sight.
The inhabitants of San Sebastian will not hesitate to say that it is the prettiest town in Spain, and I do not know that they could be hopefully contradicted. It is very modern in its more obvious aspects, with a noble thoroughfare called the Avenida de Libertad for its principal street, shaded with a double row of those feathery tamarisks, and with handsome shops glittering on both sides of it. Very easily it is first of the fashionable watering-places of Spain; the King has his villa there, and the court comes every summer. But they had gone by the time we got there, and the town wore the dejected look of out-of-season summer resorts; though there was the apparatus of gaiety, the fine casino at one end of the beach, and the villas of the rich and noble all along it to the other end. On the sand were still many bathing-machines, but many others had begun to climb for greater safety during the winter to the street above. We saw one hardy bather dripping up from the surf and seeking shelter among those that remained, but they were mostly tenanted by their owners, who looked shoreward through their open doors, and made no secret of their cozy domesticity, where they sat and sewed or knitted and gossiped with their neighbors. Good wives and mothers they doubtless were, but no doubt glad to be resting from the summer pleasure of others. They had their beautiful names written up over their doors, and were for the service of the lady visitors only; there were other machines for gentlemen, and no doubt it was their owners whom we saw gathering the fat seaweed thrown up by the storm into the carts drawn by oxen over the sand. The oxen wore no yokes, but pulled by a band drawn over their foreheads under their horns, and they had the air of not liking the arrangement; though, for the matter of that, I have never seen oxen that seemed to like being yoked.
When we came down to dinner we found the tables fairly full of belated visitors, who presently proved tourists flying south like ourselves. The dinner was good, as it is in nearly all Spanish hotels, where for an average of three dollars a day you have an inclusive rate which you must double for as good accommodation in our States. Let no one, I say, fear the rank cookery so much imagined of the Peninsula, the oil, the pepper, the kid and the like strange meats; as in all other countries of Europe, even England itself, there is a local version, a general convention of the French cuisine, quite as good in Spain as elsewhere, and oftener superabundant than subabundant. The plain water is generally good, With an American edge of freshness; but if you will not trust it (we had to learn to trust it) there are agreeable Spanish mineral waters, as well as the Apollinaris, the St. Galmier, and the Perrier of other civilizations, to be had for the asking, at rather greater cost than the good native wines, often included in the inclusive rate.
Besides this convention of the French cuisine there is almost everywhere a convention of the English language in some one of the waiters. You must not stray far from the beaten path of your immediate wants, but in this you are safe. At San Sebastian we had even a wider range with the English of the little intellectual-looking, pale Spanish waiter, with a fine Napoleonic head, who came to my help when I began to flounder in the language which I had read so much and spoken so little or none. He had been a year in London, he said, and he took us for English, though, now he came to notice it, he perceived we were Americans because we spoke "quicklier" than the English. We did not protest; it was the mildest criticism of our national accent which we were destined to get from English-speaking Spaniards before they found we were not the English we did not wish to be taken for. After dinner we asked for a fire in one of our grates, but the maid declared there was no fuel; and, though the hostess denied this and promised us a fire the next night, she forgot it till nine o'clock, and then we would not have it. The cold abode with us indoors to the last at San Sebastian, but the storm (which had hummed and whistled theatrically at our windows) broke during the first night, and the day followed with several intervals of sunshine, which bathed us in a glowing-expectation of overtaking the fugitive summer farther south.
In the mean time we hired a beautiful Basque cabman with a red Basque cap and high-hooked Basque nose to drive us about at something above the legal rate and let us not leave any worthy thing in San Sebastian unseen. He took us, naturally, to several churches, old and new, with their Gothic and rococo interiors, which I still find glooming and glinting among my evermore thickening impressions of like things. We got from them the sense of that architectural and sculptural richness which the interior of no Spanish church ever failed measurably to give; but what their historical associations were I will not offer to say. The associations of San Sebastian with the past are in all things vague, at least for me. She was indeed taken from the French by the English under Wellington during the Peninsular War, but of older, if not unhappier farther-off days and battles longer ago her history as I know it seems to know little. It knows of savage and merciless battles between the partisans of Don Carlos and those of Queen Isabella so few decades since as not to be the stuff of mere pathos yet, and I am not able to blink the fact that my beloved Basques fought on the wrong side, when they need not have fought at all. Why they were Carlists they could perhaps no more say than I could. The monumental historic fact is that the Basques have been where they are immeasurably beyond the memories of other men; what the scope of their own memories is one could perhaps confidently say only in Basque if one could say anything. Of course, in the nature of things, the Phoenicians must have been there and the Greeks, doubtless, if they ever got outside of the Pillars of Hercules; the Romans, of course, must have settled and civilized and then Christianized the province. It is next neighbor to that province of Asturias in which alone the Arabs failed to conquer the Goths, and from which Spain was to live and grow again and recover all her losses from the Moors; but what the share of San Sebastian was in this heroic fate, again I must leave the Basques to say. They would doubtless say it with sufficient self-respect, for wherever we came in contact that day with the Basque nature we could not help imagining in it a sense of racial merit equaling that of the Welsh themselves, who are indeed another branch of the same immemorial Iberian stock, if the Basques are Iberians. Like the Welsh, they have the devout tradition that they never were conquered, but yielded to circumstances when these became too strong for them.
Among the ancient Spanish liberties which were restricted by the consolidating monarchy from age to age, the Basque fueros, or rights, were the oldest; they lasted quite to our own day; and although it is known to more ignorant men that these privileges (including immunity from conscription) have now been abrogated, the custodian of the House of Provincial Deputies, whom our driver took us to visit, was such a glowing Basque patriot that he treated them as in full force. His pride in the seat of the local government spared us no detail of the whole electric-lighting system, or even the hose-bibs for guarding the edifice against fire, let alone every picture and photograph on the wall of every chamber of greater or less dignity, with every notable table and chair. He certainly earned the peseta I gave him, but he would have done far more for it if we had suffered him to take us up another flight of stairs; and he followed us in our descent with bows and adieux that ought to have left no doubt in our minds of the persistence of the Basque fueros.
It was to such a powerful embodiment of the local patriotism that our driver had brought us from another civic palace overlooking the Plaza de la Constitution, chiefly notable now for having been the old theater of the bull-fights. The windows in the houses round still bear the numbers by which they were sold to spectators as boxes; but now the municipality has built a beautiful brand-new bull-ring in San Sebastian; and I do not know just why we were required to inspect the interior of the edifice overlooking this square. I only know that at sight of our bewilderment a workman doing something to the staircase clapped his hands orientally, and the custodian was quickly upon us in response to a form of summons which we were to find so often used in Spain. He was not so crushingly upon us as that other custodian; he was apologetically proud, rather than boastfully; at times he waved his hands in deprecation, and would have made us observe that the place was little, very little; he deplored it like a host who wishes his possessions praised. Among the artistic treasures of the place from which he did not excuse us there were some pen-drawings, such as writing-masters execute without lifting the pen from the paper, by a native of South America, probably of Basque descent, since the Basques have done so much to people that continent. We not only admired these, but we would not consent to any of the custodian's deprecations, especially when it came to question of the pretty salon in which Queen Victoria was received on her first visit to San Sebastian. We supposed then, and in fact I had supposed till this moment, that it was Queen Victoria of Great Britain who was meant; but now I realize that it must have been the queen consort of Spain, who seems already to have made herself so liked there.
She, of course, comes every summer to San Sebastian, and presently our driver took us to see the royal villa by the shore, withdrawn, perhaps from a sense of its extreme plainness, not to say ugliness, among its trees and vines behind its gates and walls. Our driver excused himself for not being able to show us through it; he gladly made us free of an unrestricted view of the royal bathing-pavilion, much more frankly splendid in its gilding, beside the beach. Other villas ranked themselves along the hillside, testifying to the gaiety of the social life in summers past and summers to come. In the summer just past the gaiety may have been interrupted by the strikes taking in the newspapers the revolutionary complexion which it was now said they did not wear. At least, when the King had lately come to fetch the royal household away nothing whatever happened, and the "constitutional guarantees," suspended amidst the ministerial anxieties, were restored during the month, with the ironical applause of the liberal press, which pretended that there had never been any need of their suspension.
All pleasures, mixed or unmixed, must end, and the qualified joy of our drive through San Sebastian came to a close on our return to our hotel well within the second hour, almost within its first half. When I proposed paying our driver for the exact time, he drooped upon his box and, remembering my remorse in former years for standing upon my just rights in such matters, I increased the fare, peseta by peseta, till his sinking spirits rose, and he smiled gratefully upon me and touched his brave red cap as he drove away. He had earned his money, if racking his invention for objects of interest in San Sebastian was a merit. At the end we were satisfied that it was a well-built town with regular blocks in the modern quarter, and not without the charm of picturesqueness which comes of narrow and crooked lanes in the older parts. Prescient of the incalculable riches before us, we did not ask much of it, and we got all we asked. I should be grateful to San Sebastian, if for nothing else than the two very Spanish experiences I had there. One concerned a letter for me which had been refused by the bankers named in my letter of credit, from a want of faith, I suppose, in my coming. When I did come I was told that I would find it at the post-office. That would be well enough when I found the post-office, which ought to have been easy enough, but which presented certain difficulties in the driving rain of our first afternoon. At last in a fine square I asked a fellow-man in my best conversational Spanish where the post-office was, and after a moment's apparent suffering he returned, "Do you speak English?" "Yes." I said, "and I am so glad you do." "Not at all. I don't speak anything else. Great pleasure. There is the post-office," and it seemed that I had hardly escaped collision with it. But this was the beginning, not the end, of my troubles. When I showed my card to the poste restante clerk, he went carefully through the letters bearing the initial of my name and denied that there was any for me. We entered into reciprocally bewildering explanations, and parted altogether baffled. Then, at the hotel, I consulted with a capable young office-lady, who tardily developed a knowledge of English, and we agreed that it would be well to send the chico to the post-office for it. The chico, corresponding in a Spanish hotel to a piccolo in Germany or a page in England, or our own now evanescing bell-boy, was to get a peseta for bringing me the letter. He got the peseta, though he only brought me word that the authorities would send the letter to the hotel by the postman that night. The authorities did not send it that night, and the next morning I recurred to my bankers. There, on my entreaty for some one who could meet my Spanish at least half-way in English, a manager of the bank came out of his office and reassured me concerning the letter which I had now begun to imagine the most important I had ever missed. Even while we talked the postman came in and owned having taken the letter back to the office. He voluntarily promised to bring it to the bank at one o'clock, when I hastened to meet him. At that hour every one was out at lunch; I came again at four, when everybody had returned, but the letter was not delivered; at five, just before the bank closed, the letter, which had now grown from a carta to a cartela, was still on its way. I left San Sebastian without it; and will it be credited that when it was forwarded to me a week later at Madrid it proved the most fatuous missive imaginable, wholly concerning the writer's own affairs and none of mine?
I cannot guess yet why it was withheld from me, but since the incident brought me that experience of Spanish politeness, I cannot grieve for it. The young banker who left his region of high finance to come out and condole with me, in apologizing for the original refusal of my letter, would not be contented with so little. Nothing would satisfy him but going with me, on my hinted purpose, and inquiring with me at the railroad office into the whole business of circular tickets, and even those kilometric tickets which the Spanish railroads issue to such passengers as will have their photographs affixed to them for the prevention of transference. As it seemed advisable not to go to this extreme till I got to Madrid, my kind young banker put himself at my disposal for any other service I could imagine from him; but I searched myself in vain for any desire, much less necessity, and I parted from him at the door of his bank with the best possible opinion of the Basques. I suppose he was a Basque; at any rate, he was blond, which the Spaniards are mostly not, and the Basques often are. Now I am sorry, since he was so kind, that I did not get him to read me the Basque inscription on the front of his bank, which looked exactly like that on the bank at Bayonne; I should not have understood it, but I should have known what it sounded like, if it sounded like anything but Basque.
Everybody in San Sebastian seemed resolved to outdo every other in kindness. In a shop where we endeavored to explain that we wanted to get a flat cap which should be both Basque and red, a lady who was buying herself a hat asked in English if she could help us. When we gladly answered that she could, she was silent, almost to tears, and it appeared that in this generous offer of aid she had exhausted her whole stock of English. Her mortification, her painful surprise, at the strange catastrophe, was really pitiable, and we hastened to escape from it to a shop across the street. There instantly a small boy rushed enterprisingly out and brought back with him a very pretty girl who spoke most of the little French which has made its way in San Sebastian against the combined Basque and Spanish, and a cap of the right flatness and redness was brought. I must not forget, among the pleasures done us by the place, the pastry cook's shop which advertised in English "Tea at all Hours," and which at that hour of our afternoon we now found so opportune, that it seemed almost personally attentive to us as the only Anglo-Saxon visitors in town. The tea might have been better, but it was as good as it knew how; and the small boy who came in with his mother (the Spanish mother seldom fails of the company of a small boy) in her moments of distraction succeeded in touching with his finger all the pieces of pastry except those we were eating.
The high aquiline nose which is characteristic of the autochthonic race abounds in San Sebastian, but we saw no signs of the high temper which is said to go with it. This, indeed, was known to me chiefly from my first reading in Don Quixote, of the terrific combat between the squire of the Biscayan ladies whose carriage the knight of La Mancha stopped after his engagement with the windmills. In their exchange of insults incident to the knight's desire that the ladies should go to Toboso and thank Dulcinea for his delivery of them from the necromancers he had put to flight in the persons of two Benedictine monks, "'Get gone,' the squire called, in bad Spanish and worse Biscayan, 'Get gone, thou knight, and Devil go with thou; or by He Who me create... me kill thee now so sure as me be Biscayan,'" and when the knight called him an "inconsiderable mortal," and said that if he were a gentleman he would chastise him: "'What! me no gentleman?' replied the Biscayan. 'I swear thou be liar as me be Christian.... Me will show thee me be Biscayan, and gentleman by land, gentleman by sea, gentleman in spite of Devil; and thou lie if thou say the contrary.'"
It is a scene which will have lived in the memory of every reader, and I recurred to it hopefully but vainly in San Sebastian, where this fiery threefold gentleman might have lived in his time. It would be interesting to know how far the Basques speak broken Spanish in a fashion of their own, which Cervantes tried to represent in the talk of his Biscayan. Like the Welsh again they strenuously keep their immemorial language against the inroads of the neighboring speech. How much they fix it in a modern literature it would be easier to ask than to say. I suppose there must be Basque newspapers; perhaps there are Basque novelists, there are notoriously Basque bards who recite their verses to the peasants, and doubtless there are poets who print their rhymes: and I blame myself for not inquiring further concerning them of that kindly Basque banker who wished so much to do something for me in compensation for the loss of my worthless letter. I knew, too cheaply, that the Basques have their poetical contests, as the Welsh have their musical competitions in the Eisteddfod, and they are once more like the Welsh, their brothers in antiquity, in calling themselves by a national name of their own. They call themselves Euskaldunac, which is as different from the name of Basque given them by the alien races as Cymru is from Welsh.
All this lore I have easily accumulated from the guide-books since leaving San Sebastian, but I was carelessly ignorant of it in driving from the hotel to the station when we came away, and was much concerned in the overtures made us in a mixed Spanish, English, and French by a charming family from Chili, through the brother to one of the ladies and luisband to the other. When he perceived from my Spanish that we were not English, he rejoiced that we were Americans of the north, and as joyfully proclaimed that they were Americans of the south. We were at once sensible of a community of spirit in our difference from our different ancestral races. They were Spanish, but with a New World blitheness which we nowhere afterward found in the native Spaniards; and we were English, with a willingness to laugh and to joke which they had not perhaps noted in our ancestral contemporaries. Again and again we met them in the different cities where we feared we had lost them, until we feared no more and counted confidently on seeing them wherever we went. They were always radiantly smiling; and upon this narrow ground I am going to base the conjecture that the most distinctive difference of the Western Hemisphere from the Eastern is its habit of seeing the fun of things. With those dear Chilians we saw the fun of many little hardships of travel which might have been insupportable without the vision. Sometimes we surprised one another in the same hotel; sometimes it was in the street that we encountered, usually to exchange amusing misfortunes. If we could have been constantly with these fellow-hemispherists our progress through Spain would have been an unbroken holiday.
There is a superstition of travelers in Spain, much fostered by innkeepers and porters, that you cannot get seats in the fast trains without buying your tickets the day before, and then perhaps not, and we abandoned ourselves to this fear at San Sebastian so far as to get places some hours in advance. But once established in the ten-foot-wide interior of the first-class compartment which we had to ourselves, every anxiety fell from us; and I do not know a more flattering emotion than that which you experience in sinking into your luxurious seat, and, after a glance at your hand-bags in the racks where they have been put with no strain on your own muscles, giving your eyes altogether to the joy of the novel landscape.
The train was what they call a Rapido in Spain; and though we were supposed to be devouring space with indiscriminate gluttony, I do not think that in our mad rush of twenty-five miles an hour we failed to taste any essential detail of the scenery..But I wish now that I had known the Basques were all nobles, and that the peasants owned many of the little farms we saw declaring the general thrift. In the first two hours of the six to Burgos we ran through lovely valleys held in the embrace of gentle hills, where the fields of Indian corn were varied by groves of chestnut trees, where we could see the burrs gaping on their stems. The blades and tassels of the corn had been stripped away, leaving the ripe ears a-tilt at the top of the stalks, which looked like cranes standing on one leg with their heads slanted in pensive contemplation. There were no vineyards, but orchards aplenty near the farmhouses, and all about there were other trees pollarded to the quick and tufted with mistletoe, not only the stout oaks, but the slim poplars trimmed up into tall plumes like the poplars in southern France. The houses, when they did not stand apart like our own farmhouses, gathered into gray-brown villages around some high-shouldered church with a bell-tower in front or at one corner of the fagade. In most of the larger houses an economy of the sun's heat, the only heat recognized in the winter of southern countries, was practised by glassing in the balconies that stretched quite across their fronts and kept the cold from at least one story. It gave them a very cheery look, and must have made them livable at least in the daytime. Now and then the tall chimney of one of those manufactories we had seen on the way from Irun invited belief in the march of industrial prosperity; but whether the Basque who took work in a mill or a foundry forfeited his nobility remained a part of the universal Basque secret. From time to time a mountain stream brawled from under a world-old bridge, and then spread a quiet tide for the women to kneel beside and wash the clothes which they spread to dry on every bush and grassy slope of the banks.
The whole scene changed after we ran out of the Basque country and into the austere landscape of old Castile. The hills retreated and swelled into mountains that were not less than terrible in their savage nakedness. The fields of corn and the orchards ceased, and the green of the pastures changed to the tawny gray of the measureless wheat-lands into which the valleys flattened and widened. There were no longer any factory chimneys; the villages seemed to turn from stone to mud; the human poverty showed itself in the few patched and tattered figures that followed the oxen in the interminable furrows shallowly scraping the surface of the lonely levels. The haggard mountain ranges were of stone that seemed blanched with geologic superannuation, and at one place we ran by a wall of hoary rock that drew its line a mile long against the sky, and then broke and fell, and then staggered up again in a succession of titanic bulks. But stupendous as these mountain masses were, they were not so wonderful as those wheat-lands which in harvest-time must wash their shores like a sea of gold. Where these now rose and sank with the long ground-swell of the plains in our own West, a thin gray stubble covered them from the feeble culture which leaves Spain, for all their extent in both the Castiles, in Estremadura, in Andalusia, still without bread enough to feed herself, and obliges her to import alien wheat. At the lunch which we had so good in the dining-car we kept our talk to the wonder of the scenery, and well away from the interesting Spanish pair at our table. It is never safe in Latin Europe to count upon ignorance of English in educated people, or people who look so; and with these we had the reward of our prudence when the husband asked after dessert if we minded his smoking. His English seemed meant to open the way for talk, and we were willing he should do the talking. He spoke without a trace of accent, and we at once imagined circles in which it was now as chic for Spaniards to speak English as it once was to speak French. They are said never to speak French quite well; but nobody could have spoken English better than this gentleman, not even we who were, as he said he supposed, English. Truth and patriotism both obliged us to deny his conjecture; and when He intimated that he would not have known us for Americans because we did not speak with the dreadful American accent, I hazarded my belief that this dreadfulness was personal rather than national. But he would not have it. Boston people, yes; they spoke very well, and he allowed other exceptions to the general rule of our nasal twang, which his wife summoned English enough to say was very ugly. They had suffered from it too universally in the Americans they had met during the summer in Germany to believe it was merely personal; and I suppose one may own to strictly American readers that our speech is dreadful, that it is very ugly. These amiable Spaniards had no reason and no wish to wound; and they could never know what sweet and noble natures had been producing their voices through their noses there in Germany. I for my part could not insist; who, indeed, can defend the American accent, which is not so much an accent as a whiffle, a snuffle, a twang? It was mortifying, all the same, to have it openly abhorred by a foreigner, and I willingly got away from the question to that of the weather. We agreed admirably about the heat in England where this gentleman went every summer, and had never found it so hot before. It was hot even in Denmark; but he warned me not to expect any warmth in Spain now that the autumn rains had begun.
If this couple represented a cosmopolitan and modern Spain, it was interesting to escape to something entirely native in the three young girls who got in at the next station and shared our compartment with us as far as we went. They were tenderly kissed by their father in putting them on board, and held in lingering farewells at the window till the train started. The eldest of the three then helped in arranging their baskets in the rack, but the middle sister took motherly charge of the youngest, whom she at once explained to us as enferma. She was the prettiest girl of the conventional Spanish type we Lad yet seen: dark-eyed and dark-haired, regular, but a little overfull of the chin which she would presently have double. She was very, very pale of face, with a pallor in which she had assisted nature with powder, as all Spanish women, old and young, seem to do. But there was no red underglow in the pallor, such as gives many lovely faces among them the complexion of whitewash over pink on a stucco surface. She wrapped up the youngest sister, who would by and by be beautiful, and now being sick had only the flush of fever in her cheeks, and propped her in the coziest corner of the car, where she tried to make her keep still, but could not make her keep silent. In fact, they all babbled together, over the basket of luncheon which the middle sister opened after springing up the little table-leaf of the window, and spread with a substantial variety including fowl and sausage and fruit, such as might tempt any sick appetite, or a well one, even. As she brought out each of these victuals, together with a bottle of wine and a large bottle of milk, she first offered it to us, and when it was duly refused with thanks, she made the invalid eat and drink, especially the milk which she made a wry face at. When she had finished they all began to question whether her fever was rising for the day; the good sister felt the girl's pulse, and got out a thermometer, which together they arranged under her arm, and then duly inspected. It seemed that the fever was rising, as it might very well be, but the middle sister was not moved from her notable calm, and the eldest did not fear. At a place where a class of young men was to be seen before an ecclesiastical college the girls looked out together, and joyfully decided that the brother (or possibly a cousin) whom they expected to see, was really there among them. When we reached Burgos we felt that we had assisted at a drama of family medicine and affection which was so sweet that if the fever was not very wisely it was very winningly treated. It was not perhaps a very serious case, and it meant a good deal of pleasant excitement for all concerned.
III. BURGOS AND THE BITTER COLD OF BURGOS
It appears to be the use in most minor cities of Spain for the best hotel to send the worst omnibus to the station, as who should say, "Good wine needs no bush." At Burgos we were almost alarmed by the shabbiness of the omnibus for the hotel we had chosen through a consensus of praise in the guide-books, and thought we must have got the wrong one. It was indeed the wrong one, but because there is no right hotel in Burgos when you arrive there on an afternoon of early October, and feel the prophetic chill of that nine months of winter which is said to contrast there with three months of hell.
The air of Burgos when it is not the breath of a furnace is so heavy and clammy through the testimony of all comers that Burgos herself no longer attempts to deny it from her high perch on the uplands of Old Castile. Just when she ceased to deny it, I do not know, but probably when she ceased to be the sole capital and metropolis of Christian Spain and shared her primacy with Toledo sometime in the fourteenth century. Now, in the twentieth, we asked nothing of her but two rooms in which we could have fire, but the best hotel in Burgos openly declared that it had not a fireplace in its whole extent, though there must have been one in the kitchen. The landlord pointed out that it was completely equipped with steam-heating apparatus, but when I made him observe that there was no steam in the shining radiators, he owned with a shrug that there was truth in what I said. He showed us large, pleasant rooms to the south which would have been warm from the sun if the sun which we left playing in San Sebastian had been working that day at Burgos; he showed us his beautiful new dining-room, cold, with the same sunny exposure. I rashly declared that all would not do, and that I would look elsewhere for rooms with fireplaces. I had first to find a cab in order to find the other hotels, but I found instead that in a city of thirty-eight thousand inhabitants there was not one cab standing for hire in the streets. I tried to enlist the sympathies of some private carriages, but they remained indifferent, and I went back foiled, but not crushed, to our hotel. There it seemed that the only vehicle to be had was the omnibus which had brought us from the station. The landlord calmly (I did not then perceive the irony of his calm) had the horses put to and our baggage put on, and we drove away. But first we met our dear Chilians coming to our hotel from the hotel they had chosen, and from a search for hearthstones in others; and we drove to the only hotel they had left unvisited. There at our demand for fires the landlord all but laughed us to scorn; he laid his hand on the cold radiator in the hotel as if to ask what better we could wish than that. We drove back, humbled, to our own hotel, where the landlord met us with the Castilian cairn he had kept at our departure. Then there was nothing for me but to declare myself the Prodigal Son returned to take the rooms he had offered us. We were so perfectly in his power that he could magnanimously afford to offer us other rooms equally cold, but we did not care to move. The Chilians had retired baffled to their own hotel, and there was nothing for us but to accept the long evening of gelid torpor which we foresaw must follow the effort of the soup and wine to warm us at dinner. That night we heard through our closed doors agonized voices which we knew to be the voices of despairing American women wailing through the freezing corridors, "Can't she understand that I want boiling water?" and, "Can't' we go down-stairs to a fire somewhere?" We knew the one meant the chambermaid and the other the kitchen, but apparently neither prayer was answered.
As soon as we had accepted our fate, while as yet the sun had not set behind the clouds which had kept it out of our rooms all day, we hurried out not only to escape the rigors of our hotel, but to see as soon as we could, as much as we could of the famous city. We had got an excellent cup of tea in the glass-roofed pavilion of our beautiful cold dining-room, and now our spirits rose level with the opportunities of the entrancing walk we took along the course of the Arlanson. I say course, because that is the right word to use of a river, but really there was no course in the Arlanzon. Between the fine, wide Embankments and under the noble bridges there were smooth expanses of water (naturally with women washing at them), which reflected like an afterglow of the evening sky the splendid masses of yarn hung red from the dyer's vats on the bank. The expanses of water were bordered by wider spaces of grass which had grown during the rainless summer, but which were no doubt soon to be submerged under the autumnal torrent the river would become. The street which shaped itself to the stream was a rather modern avenue, leading to a beautiful public garden, with the statues and fountains proper to a public garden, and densely shaded against the three infernal months of the Burgos year. But the houses were glazed all along their fronts with the sun-traps which we had noted in the Basque country, and which do not wait for a certain date in the almanac to do the work of steam-heating. They gave a tempting effect to the house-fronts, but they could not distract our admiration from the successive crowds of small boys playing at bull-fighting in the streets below, and in the walks of the public garden. The population of Burgos is above thirty-seven thousand and of the inhabitants at least thirty-six thousand are small boys, as I was convinced by the computation of the husband and brother of the Chilian ladies which agreed perfectly with my own hasty conjecture; the rest are small girls. In fact large families, and large families chiefly of boys, are the rule in Spain everywhere; and they everywhere know how to play bull-fighting, to flap any-colored old shawl, or breadth of cloth in the face of the bull, to avoid his furious charges, and doubtless to deal him his death-wound, though to this climax I could not bear to follow.
One or two of the bull-fighters offered to leave the national sport and show us the House of Miranda, but it was the cathedral which was dominating our desire, as it everywhere dominates the vision, in Burgos and out of Burgos as far as the city can be seen. The iron-gray bulk, all flattered or fretted by Gothic art, rears itself from the clustering brown walls and roofs of the city, which it seems to gather into its mass below while it towers so far above them. We needed no pointing of the way to it; rather we should have needed instruction for shunning it; but we chose the way which led through the gate of Santa Maria where in an arch once part of the city wall, the great Cid, hero above every other hero of Burgos, sits with half a dozen more or less fabled or storied worthies of the renowned city. Then with a minute's walk up a stony sloping little street we were in the beautiful and reverend presence of one of the most august temples of the Christian faith. The avenue where the old Castilian nobles once dwelt in their now empty palaces climbs along the hillside above the cathedral, which on its lower side seems to elbow off the homes of meaner men, and in front to push them away beyond a plaza not large enough for it. Even this the cathedral had not cleared of the horde of small boys who followed us unbidden to its doors and almost expropriated those authorized blind beggars who own the church doors in Spain. When we declined the further company of these boys they left us with expressions which I am afraid accused our judgment and our personal appearance; but in another moment we were safe from their censure, and hidden as it were in the thick smell of immemorial incense.
It was not the moment for doing the cathedral in the wonted tiresome and vulgar way; that was reserved for the next day; now we simply wandered in the vast twilight spaces; and craned our necks to breaking in trying to pierce the gathered gloom in the vaulting overhead. It was a precious moment, but perhaps too weird, and we were glad to find a sacristan with businesslike activity setting red candlesticks about a bier in the area before the choir, which here, as in the other Spanish cathedrals, is planted frankly in the middle of the edifice, a church by itself, as if to emphasize the incomparable grandeur of the cathedral. The sacristan willingly paused in his task and explained that he was preparing the bier for the funeral of a church dignitary (as we learned later, the dean) which was to take place the next day at noon; and if we would come at that hour we should hear some beautiful music. We knew that he was establishing a claim on our future custom, but we thanked him and provisionally feed him, and left him at his work, at which we might have all but fancied him whistling, so cheerfully and briskly he went about it.
Outside we lingered a moment to give ourselves the solemn joy of the Chapel of the Constable which forms the apse of the cathedral and is its chief glory. It mounted to the hard, gray sky, from which a keen wind was sweeping the narrow street leading to it, and blustering round the corner of the cathedral, so that the marble men holding up the Constable's coat-of-arms in the rear of his chapel might well have ached from the cold which searched the marrow of flesh-and-blood men below. These hurried by in flat caps and corduroy coats and trousers, with sashes at their waists and comforters round their necks; and they were picturesque quite in the measure of their misery. Some whose tatters were the most conspicuous feature of their costume, I am sure would have charmed me if I had been a painter; as a mere word-painter I find myself wishing I could give the color of their wretchedness to my page.
In the absence of any specific record in my notebook I do not know just how it was between this first glimpse of the cathedral and dinner, but it must have been on our return to our hotel, that the little interpreter who had met us at the station, and had been intermittently constituting himself our protector ever since, convinced us that we ought to visit the City Hall, and see the outside of the marble tomb containing the bones of the Cid and his wife. Such as the bones were we found they were not to be seen themselves, and I do not know that I should have been the happier for their inspection. In fact, I have no great opinion of the Cid as an historical character or a poetic fiction. His epic, or his long ballad, formed no part of my young study in Spanish, and when four or five years ago a friend gave me a copy of it, beautifully printed in black letter, with the prayer that I should read it sometime within the twelvemonth, I found the time far too short. As a matter of fact I have never read the poem to this day, though. I have often tried, and I doubt if its author ever intended it to be read. He intended it rather to be recited in stirring episodes, with spaces for refreshing slumber in the connecting narrative. As for the Cid in real life under his proper name of Rodrigo de Vivas, though he made his king publicly swear that he had had no part in the murder of his royal brother, and though he was the stoutest and bravest knight in Castile, I cannot find it altogether admirable in him that when his king banished him he should resolve to fight thereafter for any master who paid him best. That appears to me the part of a road-agent rather than a reformer, and it seems to me no amend for his service under Moorish princes that he should make war against them on his personal behalf or afterward under his own ungrateful king. He is friends now with the Arabian King of Saragossa, and now he defeats the Aragonese under the Castilian sovereign, and again he sends an insulting message by the Moslems to the Christian Count of Barcelona, whom he takes prisoner with his followers, but releases without ransom after a contemptuous audience. Is it well, I ask, that he helps one Moor against another, always for what there is in it, and when he takes Valencia from the infidels, keeps none of his promises to them, but having tortured the governor to make him give up his treasure, buries him to his waist and then burns him alive? After that, to be sure, he enjoys his declining years by making forays in the neighboring country, and dies "satisfied with having done his duty toward his God."
Our interpreter, who would not let us rest till he had shown us the box holding the Cid's bones, had himself had a varied career. If you believed him he was born in Madrid and had passed, when three years old, to New York, where he grew up to become a citizen and be the driver of a delivery wagon for a large department-store. He duly married an American woman who could speak not only French, German, and Italian, but also Chinese, and was now living with him in Burgos. His own English had somewhat fallen by the way, but what was left he used with great courage; and he was one of those government interpreters whom you find at every large station throughout Spain in the number of the principal hotels of the place. They pay the government a certain tax for their license, though it was our friend's expressed belief that the government, on the contrary, paid him a salary of two dollars a day; but perhaps this was no better founded than his belief in a German princess who, when he went as her courier, paid him ten dollars a day and all his expenses. She wished him to come and live near her in Germany, so as to be ready to go with her to South America, but he had not yet made up his mind to leave Burgos, though his poor eyes watered with such a cold as only Burgos can give a man in the early autumn; when I urged him to look to the bad cough he had, he pleaded that it was a very old cough. He had a fascination of his own, which probably came from his imaginative habit of mind, so that I could have wished more adoptive fellow-citizens were like him. He sympathized strongly with us in our grief with the cold of the hotel, and when we said that a small oil-heater would take the chill off a large room, he said that he had advised that very thing, but that our host had replied, with proud finality, "I am the landlord." Whether this really happened or not, I cannot say, but I have no doubt that our little guide had some faith in it as a real incident. He apparently had faith in the landlord's boast that he was going to have a stately marble staircase to the public entrance to his hotel, which was presently of common stone, rather tipsy in its treads, and much in need of scrubbing.
There is as little question in my mind that he believed the carriage we had engaged to take us next morning to the Cartuja de Miraflores would be ready at a quarter before nine, and that he may have been disappointed when it was not ready until a quarter after. But it was worth waiting for if to have a team composed of a brown mule on the right hand and a gray horse on the left was to be desired. These animals which nature had so differenced were equalized by art through the lavish provision of sleigh-bells, without some strands of which no team in Spain is properly equipped. Besides, as to his size the mule was quite as large as the horse, and as to his tail he was much more decorative. About two inches after this member left his body it was closely shaved for some six inches or more, and for that space it presented the effect of a rather large size of garden-hose; below, it swept his thighs in a lordly switch. If anything could have added distinction to our turnout it would have been the stiff side-whiskers of our driver: the only pair I saw in real life after seeing them so long in pictures on boxes of raisins and cigars. There they were associated with the look and dress of a torrero, and our coachman, though an old Castilian of the austerest and most taciturn pattern, may have been in his gay youth an Andalusian bull-fighter.
Our pride in our equipage soon gave way to our interest in the market for sheep, cattle, horses, and donkeys which we passed through just outside the city. The market folk were feeling the morning's cold; shepherds folded in their heavy shawls leaned motionless on their long staves, as if hating to stir; one ingenious boy wore a live lamb round his neck which he held close by the legs for the greater comfort of it; under the trees by the roadside some of the peasants were cooking their breakfasts and warming themselves at the fires. The sun was on duty in a cloudless sky; but all along the road to the Cartuja we drove between rows of trees so thickly planted against his summer rage that no ray of his friendly heat could now reach us. At times it seemed as if from this remorselessly shaded avenue we should escape into the open; the trees gave way and we caught glimpses of wide plains and distant hills; then they closed upon us again, and in their chill shadow it was no comfort to know that in summer, when the townspeople got through their work, they came out to these groves, men, women, and children, and had supper under their hospitable boughs.
One comes to almost any Cartuja at last, and we found ours on a sunny top just when the cold had pinched us almost beyond endurance, and joined a sparse group before the closed gate of the convent. The group was composed of poor people who had come for the dole of food daily distributed from the convent, and better-to-do country-folk who had brought things to sell to the monks, or were there on affairs not openly declared. But it seemed that it was a saint's day; the monks were having service in the church solely for their own edification, and they had shut us sinners out not only by locking the gate, but by taking away the wire for ringing the bell, and leaving nothing but a knocker of feeble note with which different members of our indignation meeting vainly hammered. Our guide assumed the virtue of the greatest indignation, though he ought to have known that we could not get in on that saint's day; but it did not avail, and the little group dispersed, led off by the brown peasant who was willing to share my pleasure in our excursion as a good joke on us, and smiled with a show of teeth as white as the eggs in his basket. After all, it was not wholly a hardship; we could walk about in the sunny if somewhat muddy open, and warm ourselves against the icily shaded drive back to town; besides, there was a little girl crouching at the foot of a tree, and playing at a phase of the housekeeping which is the game of little girls the world over. Her sad, still-faced mother standing near, with an interest in her apparently renewed by my own, said that she was four years old, and joined me in watching her as she built a pile of little sticks and boiled an imaginary little kettle over them. I was so glad even of a make-believe fire that I dropped a copper coin beside it, and the mother smiled pensively as if grateful but not very hopeful from this beneficence, though after reflection I had made my gift a "big dog" instead of a "small dog," as the Spanish call a ten and a five centimo piece. The child bent her pretty head shyly on one side, and went on putting more sticks under her supposititious pot.
I found the little spectacle reward enough in itself and in a sort compensation for our failure to see the exquisite alabaster tomb of Juan II. and his wife Isabel which makes the Cartuja Church so famous. There are a great many beautiful tombs in Burgos, but none so beautiful there (or in the whole world if the books say true) as this; though we made what we could of some in the museum, where we saw for the first time in the recumbent effigies of a husband and wife, with features worn away by time and incapable of expressing the disappointment, the surprise they may have felt in the vain effort to warm their feet on the backs of the little marble angels put there to support them. We made what we could, too, of the noted Casa de Miranda, the most famous of the palaces in which the Castilian nobles have long ceased to live at Burgos. There we satisfied our longing to see a patio, that roofless colonnaded court which is the most distinctive feature of Spanish domestic architecture, and more and more distinctively so the farther south you go, till at Seville you see it in constant prevalence. At Burgos it could never have been a great comfort, but in this House of Miranda it must have been a great glory. The spaces between many of the columns have long been bricked in, but there is fine carving on the front and the vaulting of the staircase that climbs up from it in neglected grandeur. So many feet have trodden its steps that they are worn hollow in the middle, and to keep from falling you must go up next the wall. The object in going up at all is to join in the gallery an old melancholy custodian in looking down into the patio, with his cat making her toilet beside him, and to give them a fee which they receive with equal calm. Then, when you have come down the age-worn steps without breaking your neck, you have done the House of Miranda, and may lend yourself with what emotion you choose to the fact that this ancient seat of hidalgos has now fallen to the low industry of preparing pigskins to be wine-skins.
I do not think that a company of hidalgos in complete medieval armor could have moved me more strongly than that first sight of these wine-skins, distended with wine, which we had caught in approaching the House of Miranda. We had to stop in the narrow street, and let them pass piled high on a vintner's wagon, and looking like a load of pork: they are trimmed and left to keep the shape of the living pig, which they emulate at its bulkiest, less the head and feet, and seem to roll in fatness. It was joy to realize what they were, to feel how Spanish, how literary, how picturesque, how romantic. There they were such as the wine-skins are that hang from the trees of pleasant groves in many a merry tale, and invite all swains and shepherds and wandering cavaliers to tap their bulk and drain its rich plethora. There they were such as Don Quixote, waking from his dream at the inn, saw them malignant giants and fell enchanters, and slashed them with his sword till he had spilled the room half full of their blood. For me this first sight of them was magic. It brought back my boyhood as nothing else had yet, and I never afterward saw them without a return to those days of my delight in all Spanish things.
Literature and its associations, no matter from how lowly suggestion, must always be first for me, and I still thought of those wine-skins in yielding to the claims of the cathedral on my wonder and reverence when now for the second time we came to it. The funeral ceremony of the dean was still in course, and after listening for a moment to the mighty orchestral music of it—the deep bass of the priests swelling up with the organ notes, and suddenly shot with the shrill, sharp trebles of the choir-boys and pierced with the keen strains of the violins—we left the cathedral to the solemn old ecclesiastics who sat confronting the bier, and once more deferred our more detailed and intimate wonder. We went, in this suspense of emotion, to the famous Convent of Las Huelgas, which invites noble ladies to its cloistered repose a little beyond the town. We entered to the convent church through a sort of slovenly court where a little girl begged severely, almost censoriously, of us, and presently a cold-faced young priest came and opened the church door. Then we found the interior of that rank Spanish baroque which escapes somehow the effeminate effusiveness of the Italian; it does not affect you as decadent, but as something vigorously perfect in its sort, somberly authentic, and ripe from a root and not a graft. In its sort, the high altar, a gigantic triune, with massive twisted columns and swagger statues of saints and heroes in painted wood, is a prodigy of inventive piety, and compositely has a noble exaltation in its powerful lift to the roof.
The nuns came beautifully dressed to hear mass at the grilles giving into the chapel adjoining the church; the tourist may have his glimpse of them there on Sundays, and on week-days he may have his guess of their cloistered life and his wonder how much it continues the tradition of repose which the name of the old garden grounds implies. These lady nuns must be of patrician lineage and of fortune enough to defray their expense in the convent, which is of the courtliest origin, for it was founded eight hundred years ago by Alfonso VIII. "to expiate his sins and to gratify his queen," who probably knew of them. I wish now I had known, while I was there, that the abbess of Las Huelgas had once had the power of life and death in the neighborhood, and could hang people if she liked; I cannot think just what good it would have done me, but one likes to realize such things on the spot. She is still one of the greatest ladies of Spain, though perhaps not still "lady of ax and gibbet," and her nuns are of like dignity. In their chapel are the tombs of Alfonso and his queen, whose figures are among those on the high altar of the church. She was Eleanor Plantagenet, the daughter of our Henry II., and was very fond of Las Huelgas, as if it were truly a rest for her in the far-off land of Spain; I say our Henry II., for in the eleventh century we Americans were still English, under the heel of the Normans, as not the fiercest republican of us now need shame to own.
In a sense of this historical unity, at Las Huelgas we felt as much at home as if we had been English tourists, and we had our feudal pride in the palaces where the Gastilian nobles used to live in Burgos as we returned to the town. Their deserted seats are mostly to be seen after you pass through the Moorish gate overarching the stony, dusty, weedy road hard by the place where the house of the Cid is said to have stood. The arch, so gracefully Saracenic, was the first monument of the Moslem obsession of the country which has left its signs so abundantly in the south; here in the far north the thing seemed almost prehistoric, almost preglacially old, the witness of a world utterly outdated. But perhaps it was not more utterly outdated than the residences of the nobles who had once made the ancient Castilian capital splendid, but were now as irrevocably merged in Madrid as the Arabs in Africa.
Some of the palaces looked down from the narrow street along the hillside above the cathedral, but only one of them was kept up in the state of other days; and I could not be sure at what point this street had ceased to be the street where our guide said every one kept cows, and the ladies took big pitchers of milk away to sell every morning. But I am sure those ladies could have been of noble descent only in the farthest possible remove, and I do not suppose their cows were even remotely related to the haughty ox-team which blocked the way in front of the palaces and obliged xis to dismount while our carriage was lifted round the cart. Our driver was coldly disgusted, but the driver of the ox-team preserved a calm as perfect as if he had been an hidalgo interested by the incident before his gate. It delayed us till the psychological moment when the funeral of the dean was over, and we could join the formidable party following the sacristan from chapel to chapel in the cathedral.
We came to an agonized consciousness of the misery of this progress in the Chapel of the Constable, where it threatened to be finally stayed by the indecision of certain ladies of our nation in choosing among the postal cards for sale there. By this time we had suffered much from the wonders of the cathedral. The sacristan had not spared us a jewel or a silvered or gilded sacerdotal garment or any precious vessel of ceremonial, so that our jaded wonder was inadequate to the demand of the beautiful tombs of the Constable and his lady upon it. The coffer of the Cid, fastened against the cathedral wall for a monument of his shrewdness in doing the Jews of Burgos, who, with the characteristic simplicity of their race, received it back full of sand and gravel in payment of the gold they had lent him in it, could as little move us. Perhaps if we could have believed that he finally did return the value received, we might have marveled a little at it, but from what we knew of the Cid this was not credible. We did what we could with the painted wood carving of the cloister doors; the life-size head of a man with its open mouth for a key-hole in another portal; a fearful silver-plated chariot given by a rich blind woman for bearing the Host in the procession of Corpus Christi; but it was very little, and I am not going to share my failure with the reader by the vain rehearsal of its details. No literary art has ever reported a sense of picture or architecture or sculpture to me: the despised postal card is better for that; and probably throughout these "trivial fond records" I shall be found shirking as much as I may the details of such sights, seen or unseen, as embitter the heart of travel with unavailing regret for the impossibility of remembering them. I must leave for some visit of the reader's own the large and little facts of the many chapels in the cathedral at Burgos, and I will try to overwhelm him with my sense of the whole mighty interior, the rich gloom, the Gothic exaltation, which I made such shift as I could to feel in the company of those picture-postal amateurs. It was like, say, a somber afternoon, verging to the twilight of a cloudy sunset, so that when I came out of it into the open noon it was like emerging into a clear morrow. Perhaps because I could there shed the harassing human environment the outside of the cathedral seemed to me the best of it, and we lingered there for a moment in glad relief.
One house in some forgotten square commemorates the state in which the Castilian nobles used to live in Burgos before Toledo, and then Valladolid, contested the primacy of the grim old capital of the northern uplands. We stayed for a moment to glance from our carriage through the open portal into its leafy patio shivering in the cold, and then we bade our guide hurry back with us to the hot luncheon which would be the only heat in our hotel. But to reach this we had to pass through another square, which we found full of peasants' ox-carts and mule-teams; and there our guide instantly jumped down and entered into a livelier quarrel with those peaceable men and women than I could afterward have believed possible in Spain. I bade him get back to his seat beside the driver, who was abetting him with an occasional guttural and whom I bade turn round and go another way. I said that I had hired this turnout, and I was master, and I would be obeyed; but it seemed that I was wrong. My proud hirelings never left off their dispute till somehow the ox-carts and mule-teams were jammed together, and a thoroughfare found for us. Then it was explained that those peasants were always blocking that square in that way and that I had, however unwillingly, been discharging the duty of a public-spirited citizen in compelling them to give way. I did not care for that; I prized far more the quiet with which they had taken the whole affair. It was the first exhibition of the national repose of manner which we were to see so often again, south as well as north, and which I find it so beautiful to have seen. In a Europe abounding in volcanic Italians, nervous Germans, and exasperated Frenchmen, it was comforting, it was edifying to see those Castilian peasants so self-respectfully self-possessed in the wrong.
From time to time in the opener spaces we had got into the sun from the chill shadow of the narrow streets, but now it began to be cloudy, and when we re-entered our hotel it was almost as warm indoors as out. We thought our landlord might have so far repented as to put on the steam; but he had sternly adhered to his principle that the radiators were enough of themselves; and after luncheon we had nothing for it but to go away from Burgos, and take with us such scraps of impression as we could. We decided that there was no street of gayer shops than those gloomy ones we had chanced into here and there; I do not remember now anything like a bookseller's or a milliner's or a draper's window. There was no sign of fashion among the ladies of Burgos, so far as we could distinguish them; there was not a glowering or perking hat, and I do not believe there was a hobble-skirt in all the austere old capital except such as some tourist wore; the black lace mantillas and the flowing garments of other periods flitted by through the chill alleys and into the dim doorways. The only cheerfulness in the local color was to be noted in the caparison of the donkeys, which we were to find more and more brilliant southward. Do I say the only cheerfulness? I ought to except also the involuntary hilarity of a certain poor man's suit which was so patched together of myriad scraps that it looked as if cut from the fabric of a crazy-quilt. I owe him this notice the rather because he almost alone did not beg of us in a city which swarmed with beggars in a forecast of that pest of beggary which infests Spain everywhere. I do not say that the thing is without picturesqueness, without real pathos; the little girl who kissed the copper I gave her in the cathedral remains endeared to me by that perhaps conventional touch of poetry.
There was compensation for the want of presence among the ladies of Burgos, in the leading lady of the theatrical company who dined, the night before, at our hotel with the chief actors of her support, before giving a last performance in our ancient city. It happened another time in our Spanish progress that we had the society of strolling players at our hotel, and it was both times told us that the given company was the best dramatic company in Spain; but at Burgos we did not yet know that we were so singularly honored. The leading lady there had luminous black eyes, large like the head-lamps of a motor-car, and a wide crimson mouth which she employed as at a stage banquet throughout the dinner, while she talked and laughed with her fellow-actors, beautiful as bull-fighters, cleanshaven, serious of face and shapely of limb. They were unaffectedly professional, and the lady made no pretense of not being a leading lady. One could see that she was the kindest creature in the world, and that she took a genuine pleasure in her huge, practicable eyes. At the other end of the room a Spanish family—father, mother, and small children, down to some in arms—were dining and the children wailing as Spanish children will, regardless of time and place; and when the nurse brought one of the disconsolate infants to be kissed by the leading lady one's heart went out to her for the amiability and abundance of her caresses. The mere sight of their warmth did something to supply the defect of steam in the steam-heating apparatus, but when one got beyond their radius there was nothing for the shivering traveler except to wrap himself in the down quilt of his bed and spread his steamer-rug over his knees till it was time to creep under both of them between the glacial sheets.