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Title: Glories of Spain
Author: Wood, Charles W. (William), 1850-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Books.



GLORIES OF SPAIN

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF ZARAGOZA CATHEDRAL.]



GLORIES OF SPAIN

BY

CHARLES W. WOOD, F.R.G.S.,

AUTHOR OF

"LETTERS FROM MAJORCA," "IN THE VALLEY OF THE RHONE,"
ETC., ETC.

[Illustration]

WITH EIGHTY-FIVE ILLUSTRATIONS.

London

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

1901

LONDON:

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED.

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

AT THE GARE D'ORLÉANS.

On Calais quay--At the Custom-house--A lady of the past--Ungallant
examiner--Better to reign than serve--Paris--Vanity Fair--Sowing and
reaping--Laughing through life--At the Hôtel Chatham--A pleasant
picture--In maiden meditation--M. Pascal is wise in his generation--The
secrets of the Seine--Notre Dame--Ile St. Louis--A mediæval
atmosphere--Victor Hugo--Ghosts of the Hôtel Lambert--H. C. again--His
little comedy--M. the Inspector--Outraged ladies--"En voiture,
messieurs!"--Mystery not cleared--The Orléanais--La Vendée--Garden of
France--A dilemma--Polite Chef de Gare--Crossing the Garonne--Land of
corn and wine                                                          1

CHAPTER II.

A NARBONNE HOSTESS.

Carcassonne--In feudal times--Simon de Montfort--Canal du Midi--L'âge
d'or et le Grand Monarque--A modern Golden Fleece--One of earth's fair
scenes--Choice of evils--M. le Chef yields--Narbonne--A woman of
parts--The course of true love runs smooth--_Diner de contrat_--Honey
_versus the lune de miel_--Madame's philosophy--_L'Allée des
Soupirs_--An unfinished cathedral--At the gloaming hour--Mystery and
devotion--The Hôtel de Ville--A domestic drama--High festival and
champagne--The next morning--H. C. repentant--Madame at her
post--Ambrosial breakfast--"Il faut payer pour ses plaisirs"--Dramatic
exit--Perpignan--Home of the kings of Majorca--Elne--"Adieu, ma chère
France!"--Over the frontier--Gerona--Crowded platform--What H. C.
thought--Unpoetical incident--From the sublime to the ridiculous      12

CHAPTER III.

BLACK COFFEE--AND A CONFESSION.

Continued uproar--H. C. disillusioned--A dark night--Not like another
Cæsar--More crowds--A demon scene--Fair time--Glorious days of the
past--In marble halls and labyrinthine passages--Our excellent host--His
substantial partner--Contented minds--Picturesque court--Songless
nightingales--Conscription--H. C.'s modesty--Our host appreciative but
personal--Bears the torch of genius--A mistake--Below the salt--Host's
fair daughters--Catalonian women--The Silent Enigma--Remarkable
priest--Good intentions--Lecture on black
coffee--Confessions--Benjamin's portions--A gifted nature             27

CHAPTER IV.

A NIGHT VISION.

Wrong turnings--H. C.'s gifts and graces--Out at night--The arcades of
Gerona--At the fair--Ancient outlines--Demons at work--In the dry bed of
the river--Roasting chestnuts--Mediæval outlines--In the
vortex--Clairvoyantes and lion-tamers--Clown's despair--Deserted
streets--Vision of the night--Haunted staircase--Dark and dangerous--A
small grievance--The reeds by the river--Cry of the watchmen--Hare and
hounds--Fair Rosamund--Jacob's ladder--New rendering to old
proverbs--Cathedral by night--H. C. oblivious--Scent fails--Return to
earth--Romantic story--Last of a long line--_El Sereno!_--The witching
hour--H. C. unserenaded--Next morning--Grey skies--A false
prophet--Magic picture--Cathedral by day--Mediæval dreams             41

CHAPTER V.

GERONA THE BEAUTIFUL.

A Gerona señora--Grace and charm--Lord of creation--Morning
greeting--Arcades and ancient houses--Conscription--Gerona a
discovery--Streets of steps--Ancient eaves and rare ironwork--Old-world
corner--Desecrated church--Gothic cloisters--Ghosts of the past--Visions
of to-day--Soldiers interested--"Happy as kings"--Lingerings--Colonel
seeks explanation--No lover of antiquity--More conscription--Dramatic
scene--Pedro to the rescue--Mother and son--Sad story--Strong and
merciful--Pedro grateful--Restricted interests--Colonel becomes
impenetrable again                                                    58

CHAPTER VI.

ANSELMO THE PRIEST.

Beauties of age--Apostles' Doorway--How the old bishops kept out of
temptation--Interior of cathedral--Its vast nave--Days of
Charlemagne--And of the Moors--A giant dwarfed--Rare choir--Surly
priest--And a more kindly--Our showman--Dazzling treasures--Father
Anselmo--Romantic story--Heaven or the world?--Doubts--The gentle
Rosalie decides--Sister Anastasia--Told in the sacristy--A
heart-confession--Anselmo's mysticism--Heresy--Charms of
antiquity--Scene of his triumph--Celestial vision--Church of San
Pedro--Pagan interior--Rare cloisters--Desecrated church--Singular
scene--Chiaroscuro--Miguel the carpenter--His opinions--Daily life a
religion--Anselmo improves his opportunity--"A reflected light"--Ruined
citadel--War of succession--Alvarez and Marshall--Gerona in decadence--A
revelation--Dreamland--Midday vision                                  72

CHAPTER VII.

A DAY OF ENCOUNTERS.

"Can a prophet come out of Galilee?"--The unexpected happens--Under the
probe--Wise reservation--Born to command--Contrasts--Nothing new under
the sun--The señora prepares for the fair--Grievance not very deep
seated--Bewitching appearance--Señora dramatic--Ernesto--Marriage a
lottery--Every cloud its silver lining--Gerona _en fête_--Delormais'
mission--Deceptive appearances--Evils of conscription--Ernesto's
ambition--Les beaux jours de la vie--Rosalie--A fair picture--Strange
similarity--Heavenwards--Anastasia or Rosalie--Her dreams and
visions--Modern Paul and Virginia--Eternal possession--A Gerona
saint--The better part--More heresy--Fénélon--One creed, one
worship--Not peace but a sword--Not dead to the world--Angel of
mercy--H. C. mistaken--Earthly idyll                                  99

CHAPTER VIII.

MOTHER AND SON.

Demons at work--In the crowd--Ernesto and his mother--Roasted
chestnuts--Instrument of torture--New school of anatomy--Rhine-stones or
diamonds?--Happy mother--Honest confession--Danger of edged
tools--Cayenne lozenges for the monkeys--Joseph--Early
compliments--Ernesto pleads in vain--Down by the river--Music of the
reeds--Rich prospect--Faust--Singers of the world--Joseph takes
tickets--Gerona keeps late hours--Its little great world--Between the
acts--Successful evening--In the dark night--On the bridge--Silence and
solitude--Astral bodies--Joseph turns Job's
comforter--Magnetism--Delormais psychological--Alone in the
streets--Saluting the Church militant--Haunted staircase again--Sighs
and rustlings--H. C. retires--"Drink to me only with thine
eyes"--Delormais' challenge--Leads the way--Illumination--Coffee
equipage--"Only the truth is painful"--Lost in reverie               114

CHAPTER IX.

DELORMAIS.

Magnetism--Past life--Impulsive nature--First impressions--Perfumed
airs--A gentle spirit--Haunted groves--Blue waters of the Levant--Great
devotion--A rose-blossom--Back to the angels--Special Providence--Fair
Provence--Charmed days--Excursions--Isles of Greece--Ossa and
Pelion--City of the violet crown--Spinning-jennies have something to
answer for--Olympus--Ægina--Groves of the Sacred Plain--Narrow
escapes--Pleasures of home-coming--Rainbow atmosphere--Orange and lemon
groves--The nightingales--Impressionable childhood--Fresh plans--The
Abbé Rivière--Rare faculty--Domestic chaplain--Debt of
gratitude--Treasure-house of strength Given to hospitality--First great
sorrow--Passing away--Resolve to travel--"I can no more"--The old Adam
dies hard--Chance decides                                            130

CHAPTER X.

DELORMAIS' ROMANCE.

Rome--Count Albert--Happy months--Sweets of
companionship--Egypt--Strange things--Quiet weeks--Sinai--Freedom of the
desert--Crossing the Red Sea--Mount Serbal--Convent of St. Catherine--In
the Valley of the Saint--Tomb of Sheikh Saleh--Pools of
Solomon--Jerusalem the Golden--Bethel--Lebanon--Home again--Fresh
scenes--Algeria--Hanging gardens of the Sahel--Mount Bubor and its
glories--Rash act--At the twilight hour--Earthly paradise--Fair
Eve--Fervent love--Arouya--Nature's revenge--Not to last--Eternal
requiem of the sea--In the backwoods--Hunting wolves--Prairies of
California--Honolulu--Active volcanoes--Lake of fire--Rare birds and
wild-flowers--Worship of Peleus--An eruption--Mighty upheaval--Coast of
Labrador--Shooting bears                                             143

CHAPTER XI.

MONSEIGNEUR.

Great conflict--Returning to Paris--Count Albert married--Marriages
declined--Love buried in the grave of Arouya--Frivolities--Napoleon at
the Tuileries--Illness--Doctors' errors--Days of horror--Vow
registered--Between life and death--Victory--Home again--Abbé's
objections--Resolve strengthened--Death of the Abbé--Taking vows--Life
of energy and action--Rapid sketch--Sympathies--All
ordained--"Monseigneur"--"Mon ami"--Cry of the watchmen--Candles wax dim
and blue--Wandering in dreams--False prophet--H. C. rises with the
lark--Beauty of Gerona--Pathetic scene--Colonel administers
consolation--Widow's heart sings for joy--In the cloisters
again--Good-bye--In the cathedral--Anselmo--Sunshine over
all--Miguel--On the ruined citadel--Anselmo's signal--A glory departs  154

CHAPTER XII.

A MINISTERING SPIRIT.

Sweet illusions--Everything seen and done--True devotion--In the
vortex--Sunshine and blue skies--Less demon-like pit--Lights and
shadows--Arcades lose their gloom--Rosalie--Charm of Anselmo--Romance
not dead--H. C. in ecstasy--Escorting an angel--Cathedral steps--San
Filiu--A lovely spot--Ancient house--Mullions and latticed
windows--Passing away--Rosalie's ministrations--Resignation--Rosalie's
farewell--"Consuelo"--Taken from the evil to come--The door
closed--Ernesto's world topsy-turvy--Ernesto turns business-like--The
catapult again--Up the broad staircase--Not the ghostly hour--Madame in
her bureau--Posting ledger--Balance on right side--Madame
philosophises--Shrieks to the rescue--"My dear daughter"--Our host and
the nightingales--Waiting for next year's leaves--The Señorita
Costello--Delormais on the wing--Another vigil--Promise
given--Departure--Inspector quails--H. C. collapses--The susceptible
age--Lady Maria alters her will--Possession nine-tenths of the law   168

CHAPTER XIII.

A WORLD'S WONDER.

Barcelona--H. C.'s anxiety--Mutual salutes--Old
impressions--Disappointment--Familiar cries and
scenes--Flower-sellers--Perpetual summer--Commercial element--Manchester
of Spain--Surrounding country--Where care comes not--Barcelonita--The
quays--A land of corn and wine--Relaxing air--Lovely ladies--Ancient
element conspicuous by its absence--Historical past--Great in the Middle
Ages--Wise and powerful--Commerce of the world--Wealth and
learning--Waxes voluptuous--Ferdinand and Isabella--Diplomatic but not
grateful--Brave and courageous--Fell before Peterborough--Napoleon's
treachery--Republican people--Prosperous once more--Ecclesiastical
treasures--Matchless cathedral--Inspiration--Influence of the
Moors--Work of Majorcan architect--Dream-world--Imposing scene       184

CHAPTER XIV.

IN THE CLOISTERS OF SAN PABLO.

In the cloisters--Sacred geese--Bishop's palace--House of the
Inquisition--Striking quadrangles--_Ajimez_ windows--A rare
cloister--Desecration--Library--Rare MSS.--Polite librarian--Romantic
atmosphere--Santa Maria del Mar--Cloisters of Santa Anna--Sister of
Mercy--San Pablo del Campo--More dream cloisters--Communing with ghosts
and shadows--Spring and winter--Constant visitor--Centenarian--Chief
architect--Cathedrals of Catalonia--Barbarous town-council--Hard fight
and victory--Failing vision--Emblems of death--Laid aside--Wholesome
lessons--Placing the keystone--_Finis_--_Resurgam_--Charmed
hour--Possessing the soul in patience--City of Refuge                203

CHAPTER XV.

MONTSERRAT.

Early rising--Imp of darkness--Death warrant--The men who fail--Ranges
of Montserrat--Sabadell--Labour and romance--The
Llobregat--Monistrol--Summer resort--Sleeping village--Empty
letter-bags--Ascending--Splendid view--Romantic element--Charms of
antiquity--Human interests--Mons Serratus--A man of letters--_Solitude à
deux_--Fellow-travellers--Substantial
lady-merchant--Resignation--Military policeman--"Nameless here for
evermore"--Round man in square hole--Romantic history--_Cherchez la
femme_--Woman a divinity--Good name the best inheritance--No fighting
against the stars--Fascinations of astrology--Love and fortune--Too good
to last--Taste for pleasure--Ruin--Sad end--Truth reasserts
itself--Fortune smiles again--Ceylon--Philosophical in misfortune--A
windfall--Approaching Montserrat--Paradise of the monks--Romance and
beauty--New order of things--Gipsy encampment                        214

CHAPTER XVI.

A HIDDEN GENIUS.

Monk's face--Superfluous virtue--"Welcome to Montserrat"--Mean
advantage--Exacting but not mercenary--Another Miguel--Missing
keys--Singular monk--Hospederia--Uncertainty--Monk's idea of
luxury--Rare prospect--Haunted by silence--Father Salvador
privileged--Monk sees ghosts--Under Miguel's escort--In the
church--Departed glory--The black image--Gothic and Norman
outlines--Franciscan monk or ghost?--Vision of the past--Days of
persecution--Sensible image--Great community--Harmony of the
spheres--Sad cypresses--Life of a hermit--Monk's story--Loving the
world--Penitence--Plucked from the burning--Talent developed--A world
apart--False interest--Salvador--Temptation and a compromise--Salvador
extemporises--"All the magic of the hour"--Salvador's belief--Waiting
for manifestations.                                                  227

CHAPTER XVII.

SALVADOR THE MONK.

Gipsies--Picturesque scene--Love passages--H. C. invited to festive
board--Saved by Lady Maria's astral visitation--The fortune-teller--H.
C. yields to persuasion--Fate foretold--Warnings--Photograph
solicited--Darkness and mystery--Night scene--Gipsies depart--Weird
experiences--Troubled dreams--Mysterious sounds--Ghost appears--H. C.
sleeps the sleep of the just--Egyptian darkness--In the cold
morning--Salvador keeps his word--Breakfast by candle-light--Romantic
scene--Salvador turns to the world--Agreeable companion--Musician's
nature--Miguel and the mule--Leaving the world behind--Darkness
flies--St. Michael's chapel--Sunrise and glory--Marvellous scene--Magic
atmosphere--Salvador's ecstasy--Consents to take luncheon--Heavenly
strains--"Not farewell"--Departs in solitary sadness--Last of the funny
monk                                                                 249

CHAPTER XVIII.

A STUDY IN GREY.

Manresa--Tropical deluge--Rash judgment--Catalan hills and
valleys--Striking approach--Taking time by the forelock--Primitive
inn--Strange assembly--Unpleasant alternative--Sebastien--Manresa under
a cloud--Wonderful outlines--Disappointing church--Sebastien leads the
way--Old-world streets--Picturesque and pathetic--Popular
character--"What would you, señor?"--Sebastien's Biblical knowledge at
fault--Lesson deferred--A revelation--La Seo--Church cold and
lifeless--Cave of Ignatius Loyola--Hermitage of St. Dismas--Juan
Chanones--Fasting and penance--Visions and revelations--Spiritual
warfare--Eve of the Annunciation--Exchanging dresses--Knight turns
monk--Juan Pascual--Loyola comes to Manresa--Fanaticism--Vale of
Paradise--"Spiritual Exercises"--Founding the Jesuit Order--Dying to
self--The fair Anita--In the convent chapel--Two novices--Vision of
angels--The White Ladies--Agonising moment--Another Romeo and
Juliet--Back to the hotel--Sebastien disconsolate--"To-morrow the sun
will shine"--Building castles in the air--A prophecy fulfilled       263

CHAPTER XIX.

LERIDA.

Picturesque country--Approaching Lerida--Rambling inn--Remarkable
duenna--Toothless and voiceless--Smiles upon H. C.--Nearly
expires--Civilised chef--A procession--Lerida Dragon--City of the
dead--Night study--Charging dead walls--A night encounter--Armed
demon--Wise people--Watchman proves an old friend--No promotion--Locked
out--Rousing the echoes--Night porter appears on the scene--Also El
Sereno--Apologetic and repentant--The charming Rose--Porter
congratulates himself--Cloudless morning--H. C. confronted by the
Dragon--In the hands of the Philistines--A Lerida fine art--Boot-cleaner
in Ordinary--Remarkable character--H. C. hilarious--Steals a march   285

CHAPTER XX.

THE STORY OF A LIFE.

Lerida by daylight--Second city in Catalonia--Past history--Days of the
Goths--And Moors--Becomes a bishopric--Troublous times--Brave
people--Striking cathedral--Splendid outlines--Desecration--The new
cathedral--Senseless tyranny--One of the most interesting of
towns--Crowded market-place--Picturesque arcades and ancient
gateways--Wine-pressers--Good offer refused--Another
revelation--Wonderful streets--Amongst the immortals--Our Boot-cleaner
in Ordinary again--Thereby hangs a tale--His story--Blind wife--Modest
request--Nerissa--Charming room--Little queen in the
arm-chair--Faultless picture--Renouncements but no regrets--"All a new
world"--Time to pass out of life--Back to the quiet streets--H. C.
contemplative--Proposes emigration to Salt Lake City--Lerida glorified
by its idyll                                                         296

CHAPTER XXI.

THE END OF AN IDYLL.

Days of chivalry not over--In the evening light--Night porter
grateful--Dragon in full force--Combative and revengeful--Equal to the
occasion--Gall turns to sweetness when H. C. appears--Last night in
Lerida--Bane of our host's life--Mysterious disappearance--Monastery of
Sigena--Devout ladies--Returning at night--Place empty and
deserted--Birds flown with keys--Quite a commotion--"The señor is
pleased to joke"--Was murder committed?--Mysteries explained--Probably
down the well--Drag for skeletons--Host's horror--"We drink the
water"--A tragedy--Out in the quiet night--Discords--Lerida café--Create
a sensation--Polite captain--Offer declined--Regrets--Final
crash--Paradise or Lerida--Deserted market-place--Trees whisper their
secrets--El Sereno at the witching hour--Hard upon the angels--Not a bed
of roses--Alphonse--End of a long life--Until the dawn--Acolyte and
priest--"We must all come to it, señor"--El Sereno disappears for the
last time--Daybreak--In presence of death--Alone, but
resigned--Surpassing loveliness--Sacred atmosphere                   313

CHAPTER XXII.

A SAD HISTORY.

Broad plains of Aragon--Wonderful tones--Approaching Zaragoza--Celestial
vision--Distance lends enchantment--Commonplace people--The ancient
modernised--Disillusion followed by delight--Almost a small Paris--Cafés
and their merits--Not socially attractive--Friendly equality--Mixture of
classes--Inheritance of the past--Interesting streets--Arcades and
gables--Lively scenes--People in costume--Picture of Old Spain--Ancient
palaces--One especially romantic--The world well lost--Fair Lucia--Where
love might reign for ever--Paradise not for this world--Doomed--The last
dawn--Inconsolable--Seeking death--Found on the battlefield--A day
vision--Few rivals--In the new cathedral--Startling episode--Asking
alms--Young and fair--Uncomfortable moment--Terrible story--Fatal
chains--"And after?"--How minister to a mind diseased?--Sunshine
clouded--Burden of life--Any way of escape?--Suggestions of past
centuries--The mighty fallen                                         329

CHAPTER XXIII.

IN ZARAGOZA.

Bygone days--Sumptuous roosting--Old exchange--Traders of taste--Glory
of Aragon--Cathedral of La Seo--Modernised exterior--Interior charms and
mesmerises--Next to Barcelona--Magnifice effect--Parish church--Moorish
ceiling--Tomb of Bernardo de Aragon--The old priest--Waxes
enthusiastic--Supernatural effect--Statuette of Benedict
XIII.--Mysterious chiaroscuro--One exception--Alonza the
Warrior--Moorish tiles--Bishop's palace--Frugal meal--Trace of old
Zaragoza--Fifteenth century house--Juanita--Streets of the city--Cæsarea
Augusta--Worship of the Virgin--Alonzo the Moor--Determined
resistance--Days of struggle--Falling--Return to prosperity--Fair maid
of Zaragoza--The Aljaferia--Ancient palace of the Moorish kings--Injured
by Suchet--Salon of Santa Isabel--Spanish café--Four generations--Lovely
voice--Lamartine's _Le Lac_--Recognised--Reading between the lines--Out
in the night air--An inspiration--Night vision of El Pilar--In the far
future                                                               343

CHAPTER XXIV.

THE CANON'S HOSPITALITY.

El Pilar by day--In the old cathedral--The canon reproachful--Equal to
the occasion--No pressure needed--_Un diner maigre_--Dream of forty
years--True to time--Juanita--Fruits of long service--Exploring
Juanita's domains--House of magic--"Surely not a fast-day"--Artistic
dreams--Who can legislate after death?--Canon's abstinence--Juanita
withdraws--Our opportunity--Canon earnest and sympathetic--Eugenie de
Colmar--Canon's surprise--An old friend--Truth stranger than
fiction--"You will forget the old priest"--Ingratitude not one of our
sins--Arivederci--Canon's letter--End of Eugenie's story--En route for
Tarragona--Landlord turns up at Lerida--Missing keys--Skeletons floated
out to Panama--Domestic drama--Dragon again to the
front--Tarragona--Matchless coast scene--Civilised inn--Military
element--Haunted house--Mystery unsolved--Distinct elements--Roman and
other remains--Dream of the past--Green pastures and sunny vineyards  357

CHAPTER XXV.

QUASIMODO.

Tarragona by night--Cathedral--Moonlight vision--Dream-fabric--Deserted
streets--Ghostly form approaches--Quilp or Quasimodo?--Redeeming
qualities--Pale spiritual face--Open sesame--Approaching the
apparition--Question and answer--Invitation accepted--Prisoners--The
Shadow--Under the cold moonlight--Enter cathedral--Vast interior--Gloom
and silence--Fantastic effects--Enigma solved--Strange proceeding--No
inspiration--Why Quasimodo turned night into day--Weird moonlight
scene--Soft sweet sounds--Schumann's Träumerei--Spellbound--The
magician--Witching hour--Cathedral ghosts--An eternity of music--Varying
moods--Returning to earth--Quasimodo's rapture--Travelling
moonbeams--Night grows old--Sky full of music--Lost to sight--Dreams
haunted by Quasimodo--New day                                        372

CHAPTER XXVI.

IN THE DAYS OF THE ROMANS.

Charms of Tarragona--Roman traces--Cyclopean remains--Augustus closes
Temple of Janus--Great past--House of Pontius Pilate--View from
ramparts--Feluccas with white sails set--Life a paradise--City
walls--Cathedral outlines--Lively market-place--Remarkable
exterior--Dream-world--West doorways--Internal effect--In the
cloisters--Proud sacristan--Man of taste and learning--Delighted with
our enthusiasm--Great concession--Appealing to the soul--Señor
Ancora--Human or angelic?--In the cloister garden--Sacristan's domestic
troubles--Silent ecclesiastic--Sad history--Church of San
Pablo--Challenge invited--Future genius--Rare picture--Roman aqueduct--A
modern Cæsar--Reminiscences--Rich country--Where the best wines are
made--Aqueduct--El puente del diablo--Giddy heights--Lonely valley--H.
C. sentimental--Rosalie and Fair Costello--Romantic
situation--Quarrelsome Reus--Masters of the world--Our driver turns
umpire--Battle averted--Men of Reus--Whatever is, is wrong--Driver's
philosophy--Dream of the centuries                                   389

CHAPTER XXVII.

LORETTA.

Our ubiquitous host--Curious mixture of nations--Francisco--His
enthusiasm carries the point--French lessons--English
prejudice--Landlord's lament--Days of fair Provence--Francisco
determines to be in time--Presidio--Tomb of the Scipios--Fishing for
sardines--Early visit to cathedral--Still earlier sacristan--Francisco's
delight--Freshness of early morning--Reus--Bark worse than bite--Where
headaches come from--An evil deed--Valley of the Francoli--Moorish
remains--Montblanch--The graceful hills of Spain--Espluga--Francisco
equal to occasion--Beseiged--Donkeys versus carriage--Interesting old
town--Decadence--Singular woman--Loretta's escort--Strange
story--Unconscious charm--What happened one Sunday evening--Caro--"The
right man never came"--Comes now--How she was betrothed--Primitive
conveyance--Making the best of it--Wine-pressers--Loving cup--Nectar of
the gods--Fair exchange--Rough drive--Scene of Loretta's adventures  405

CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE RUINS OF POBLET.

A dream-world--Ruins--Chapel of St. George--Archways and Gothic
windows--Atmosphere of the Middle Ages--Convent doorway--Summons but no
response--Door opens at last--Comfortable looking woman--Ready
invention--Confusion worse confounded--True version--Francisco painfully
direct--Guardian gets worst of it--Picturesque decay--Gothic
cloisters--Visions of beauty--Rare wilderness--King Martin the
Humble--Bacchanalian days--When the monks quaffed Malvoisie--Simple
grandeur of the church--Philip Duke of Wharton--Cistercian
monastery--History of Poblet the monk--Monastery becomes
celebrated--Tombs of the kings of Aragon--Guardian sceptical--Paradise
or wilderness--Monks all-powerful--Escorial of Aragon--The great
traveller--Changing for the worst--Upholding the kingly power--Time
rolls on--Downfall--Attacked and destroyed--Infuriated mob--Fictitious
treasures--Fiendish act--Massacre--Ruined monastery--Blood-red
sunset--Superstition--End of 1835                                    418

CHAPTER XXIX.

LORENZO.

Day visions--All passes away--End of the feast--Francisco gathers up the
fragments--Ghosts of the past--Outside the monastery--Oasis in a
desert--After the vintage--Francisco gleans--Guilty conscience--Custom
of country--Dessert--Primitive watering-place--Off to the fair--Groans
and lamentations--Sagacious animal--Cause of sorrows--Rage and
anger--Donkey listens and understands--A hard life--Washing a
luxury--Charity bestowed--Deserted settlement--Quaint interior--Back to
the monastery--Invidious comparisons--A promise--Good-bye to
Poblet--Troubled sea again--Suffering driver--Atonement for sins--Earns
paradise--Wine-pressers again--Rich stores--Good Samaritans--Quaint old
town--Bygone prosperity--Lorenzo--Marriage made in heaven--House
inspected--On the bridge--At the station--Kindly offer--Glorious
sunset--Loretta's good-bye--"What shall it be?"--Flying moments--As the
train rolls off.                                                     430

CHAPTER XXX.

THE GARDEN OF SPAIN.

Charms of Tarragona--Dream of the past--Quasimodo comes not--Of another
world--Host's offer--Francisco inconsolable--A mixed sorrow--No more
holidays--List of grievances--Fair scene--Luxuriance of the
South--Hospitalet--Pilgrims of the Middle Ages--Amposta--Centre of lost
centuries--Historical past--Here worked St. Paul--Our
fellow-travellers--Undertones--Enter old priest--Draws
conclusions--Love's young dream--Impressions and appearances--Not always
a priest--Fool's paradise--Youth and age--Awaking to realities--Driven
out of paradise--Was it a judgment?--Calmness returns--Judging in
mercy--Nameless grave--"Writ in water"--Withdrawing from the
world--Entering the Church--Busy life--Romances of the Confessional--"To
Eve in Paradise"--Tortosa--Garden of Spain--Vinaroz--Wise mermen--Cradle
of history and romance--Gibraltar of the West--a race
apart--Benicarlo--Flourishing vineyards--"If the English only knew"--Eve
recognises priest--"I am that charming daughter"--Lovely cousin
engaged--Count Pedro de la Torre--Mutual
recognitions--Congratulations--Breaking news to H. C.--Despair--"To Adam
in Hades"--Gallant priest--Saved from temptation                     447

CHAPTER XXXI.

LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM.

First impressions--Devoted to pleasure--Peace-loving--Climate makes gay
and lively--New element--Few traces of the past--Old palaces--Steals
into the affections--City of the Cid--Ecclesiastical
attractions--Archbishopric--University--Homer must nod
sometimes--Comparative repose--De Nevada carries us off--Admirable
host--Conversational--Grave and gay--Mercy, not sacrifice--Library--At
Puzol--Exacting a promise--The hour sounds--Count Pedro
appears--Fragrant coffee--Served by magic--Specially prepared
temptation--Perverting facts--Land flowing with milk and
honey--Inquiring mind--Mighty man of valour--Cid likened to
Cromwell--Retribution--Ibn Jehaf the murderer--Reign of terror--The
faithful Ximena--Cid's death-blow--Priest turns
schoolmaster--"Beware!"--Earthly paradise--Land of consolation--System
of irrigation--Famous council--Poetical Granada--No appeal--Apostles'
Gate-way--Earth's fascinations--Picturesque peasants--Pretty
women--Countess Pedro shakes her head--Leave-taking--Next morning--Quiet
activity--Market-day--Splendours of flower-market--Lonja de
Seda--Vanishing dream--Audiencia--San Salvador--Antiquity yields to
comfort--Convent of San Domingo--Miserere--Impressive ceremony--City of
Flowers--Without the walls--Famous river--Change of scene            458

CHAPTER XXXII.

OLD ACQUAINTANCES.

Port and harbour--Sunday and fresh air--In the market-place--De Nevada
protests--A curse of the country--In the days gone by--On the
breakwater--Invaded tramcar--De Nevada confirmed--Another crusade
needed--Plaza de Toros--In Sunday dress--Domestic interiors--When the
play was o'er--Bull-ring at night--Fitful dreams--Fever--Maître d'hôtel
prescribes--Magic effect--Depart for Saguntum--Before the days of
Rome--Primitive town--Days of the Greeks--Attacked by Hannibal--Rebuilt
by the Romans--Absent guardian--The hunchback--Reappears with
custodian--Doors open--Moorish fortress--Fathomless cisterns--Sad
procession--Weeping mourners--Key of Valencia--Miguella--Time heals all
wounds--Proposes coffee--Proud and pleased--Scenes that remain--In
Barcelona--Drawing to a close--Sorrow and regret--Many experiences--Our
Espluga friends--Loretta's gratitude--In the Calle de Fernando--A last
favour--Glories of Spain--Eastern benediction                        481



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE

INTERIOR OF ZARAGOZA CATHEDRAL            _Frontispiece_

PEDRO                                                23

THE BOULEVARD: GERONA                                31

ARCADES: GERONA                                      42

VIEW OF GERONA FROM THE STONE BRIDGE                 43

BANKS OF THE OÑAR: GERONA                            47

APOSTLES' DOORWAY, CATHEDRAL: GERONA                 51

A FRAGMENT OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF GERONA               59

STREETS IN GERONA                     61, 101, 103, 123

ENTRANCE TO MILITARY CLOISTERS: GERONA               65

MILITARY CLOISTERS: GERONA                           67

WAITING FOR THE VERDICT                              69

CATHEDRAL CLOISTERS: GERONA                     75, 109

INTERIOR OF CATHEDRAL: GERONA                        79

CLOISTERS OF SAN PEDRO: GERONA                   81, 97

APOSTLES' DOORWAY AND BISHOP'S PALACE: GERONA        83

CHURCH OF SAN PEDRO: GERONA                          85

DOORWAY OF SAN PEDRO: GERONA                         89

DESECRATED CHURCH: GERONA                            93

OUTSIDE THE WALLS: GERONA                            95

OLD HOUSES ON THE RIVER: GERONA                119, 173

SAN FILIU, FROM WITHOUT THE WALLS: GERONA           163

A GERONA PATIO                                      169

MARKET PLACE: GERONA                                177

THE RAMBLA: BARCELONA                               187

INTERIOR OF CORO, GERONA CATHEDRAL                  191

PULPIT AND STALLS, BARCELONA CATHEDRAL              195

TWILIGHT IN BARCELONA CATHEDRAL                     199

SMALL CLOISTER OR PATIO: BARCELONA                  205

CLOISTERS OF SANTA ANNA: BARCELONA                  207

CLOISTERS OF SAN PABLO: BARCELONA                   209

MONISTROL                                           217

CHURCH OF MONTSERRAT                           231, 239

CLOISTERS OF MONTSERRAT                             235

SALVADOR THE MONK                                   241

VALLEY OF MONTSERRAT                                251

A FEW OF THE GIPSIES AT MONTSERRAT                  255

MONS SERRATUS IN CLOUDLAND                          259

MANRESA                                             267

MANRESA FROM THE RIVER: MORNING                     269

MANRESA FROM THE HILL-SIDE: EVENING                 273

ARCADES: LERIDA                                     291

LERIDA MULES                                        299

LERIDA                                              301

WINE-PRESSERS: LERIDA                               303

OLD GATEWAYS: LERIDA                                309

ENTRANCE TO POBLET                                  319

OLD CATHEDRAL: LERIDA                               323

FAIR LUCIA'S HOUSE: ZARAGOZA                   333, 337

BRIDGE AND CATHEDRAL OF EL PILAR: ZARAGOZA          339

AN OLD NOOK IN ZARAGOZA                             345

NORTH WALL OF CATHEDRAL: ZARAGOZA                   347

TOWER OF LA SEO: ZARAGOZA                           351

INTERIOR OF CATHEDRAL, SHOWING CORO AND ORGAN:
ZARAGOZA                                            359

SOUTH-WEST EXTERIOR OF CATHEDRAL: TARRAGONA         373

EAST END OF CATHEDRAL, SHOWING NORMAN APSE:
TARRAGONA                                           377

INTERIOR OF CATHEDRAL: TARRAGONA                    381

CLOISTERS: TARRAGONA                           385, 393

SAN PABLO: TARRAGONA                                397

AN OLD NOOK IN TARRAGONA                            399

ROMAN AQUEDUCT, NEAR TARRAGONA                      401

ON OUR WAY TO POBLET                                415

ENTRANCE TO CLOISTERS: POBLET                       421

MONKS' BURIAL GROUND: POBLET                        425

RUINS OF POBLET                                427, 441

CLOISTERS OF POBLET                                 431

POBLET, FROM THE VINEYARD                           435

ANCIENT GATEWAY: VALENCIA                           459

A STREET IN VALENCIA                                461

RENAISSANCE TOWER: VALENCIA                         469

MARKET PLACE, VALENCIA                              473

LONJA DE SEDA: VALENCIA                             475

SALON DE CORTES: AUDIENCIA                          477

RUINS OF SAGUNTUM                                   487

BARCELONA                                           491

COURTYARD OF AUDIENCIA: BARCELONA                   495



    Know ye the land of the cedar and vine,
    Where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine;
    Where the light wings of Zephyr, oppress'd with perfume,
    Wax faint o'er the gardens of Gúl[A] in her bloom;
    Where the citron and olive are fairest of fruit,
    And the voice of the nightingale never is mute;
    Where the tints of the earth, and the hues of the sky,
    In colour though varied, in beauty may vie,
    And the purple of ocean is deepest in dye;
    Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine,
    And all, save the spirit of man, is divine?

    BYRON.



GLORIES OF SPAIN.

CHAPTER I.

AT THE GARE D'ORLÉANS.

     On Calais quay--At the Custom-house--A lady of the past--Ungallant
     examiner--Better to reign than serve--Paris--Vanity Fair--Sowing
     and reaping--Laughing through life--At the Hôtel Chatham--A
     pleasant picture--In maiden meditation--M. Pascal is wise in his
     generation--The secrets of the Seine--Notre Dame--Ile St. Louis--A
     mediæval atmosphere--Victor Hugo--Ghosts of the Hôtel Lambert--H.
     C. again--His little comedy--M. the Inspector--Outraged ladies--"En
     voiture, messieurs!"--Mystery not cleared--The Orléanais--La
     Vendée--Garden of France--A dilemma--Polite Chef de Gare--Crossing
     the Garonne--Land of corn and wine.


The Channel waters were calm and placid as the blue sky above them.
Though late autumn the temperature was that of mid-summer. At Calais
every one landed as jauntily as though they had just gone through the
pleasure of a short yachting trip. As usual there were all sorts and
conditions of men and women, and again the curious, the grotesque, the
impossible predominated. They streamed across the new quay in a
disordered procession, struggling with all that amount of hand-baggage
which gets into everyone's way but their own, as they hurry forward to
secure for themselves the best seats and most comfortable corners.

The Custom-house was over. One ancient lady who stood near us was
politely demanded by the examiner if she had cigars, tobacco or brandy
to declare. Her flaxen wig seemed to stand on end as she asked if they
mistook her for a New Woman: Quaker-like answering one question with
another. The examiner received her query _au pied de la lettre_, and
earnestly looked at the lady, who, in spite of flaxen wig, rouge,
pencilled brows, was of the Past. All his intelligence in his eyes, he
replied: "About the same age as the century, I should say, madame;" then
marked her packages and turned to the next in waiting. Had those two
found themselves alone together, judging from the lady's expression
there would have been terrible paragraphs in the next day's papers. As
it was she entered one of the waiting trains and we saw her no more.
Evidently she had been a beauty in her day, and it is hard to serve
where one has reigned.

So we steamed on to the gay capital, in her day almost to the modern
world what Rome was to the ancient. And if not altogether that now, who
has she to thank but herself? Nations like people must reap as they sow.
Yet, whirling through the broad thoroughfares, we felt she still holds
her own. Nowhere such floods of light, turning night into day, making
one blink like owls in the sunshine. Nowhere shops so resplendent that a
Jew's ransom would not purchase them. Nowhere such a Vanity Fair crowded
with a light-hearted people, who dance through the world to the tune of
_Away with Melancholy!_ Passing from the Gare du Nord, the brilliant
boulevards were full of life and movement.

Our coachman turned into the Rue Daunou and brought up at the Hôtel
Chatham: quiet, comfortable, but like all Parisian hotels terribly in
want of air. The manager received us with as much attention as though we
had arrived for six months instead of a couple of hours, in order to
fortify ourselves for the night journey southwards.

The salle-à-manger opened its hospitable doors, disclosing a number of
small tables, snow-white cloths, sparkling glass and silver; a pleasant
vision. Richly dressed ladies, blazing with jewels, fanned themselves
with lazy grace. In a quiet corner sat two quiet people, evidently
mother and daughter, since the one must have been twenty years ago what
the other was now. They were English, as one saw and heard, for we were
at the next table. No other country could produce that fair specimen of
girlhood; no other country own that lovely face, gentle voice, refined
tones: charms of inheritance, destined one day to translate some happy
swain to fields Elysian, where the sands of life are golden and run
swiftly.

Then came up our cunning _maître-d'hôtel_, portly and commanding,
deigned to glance at the wine card we held, and went in for a little
diplomacy.

"A bottle of your excellent '87 St. Julien, M. Pascal;" knowing the wine
of old.

"Ah, if monsieur only knew, the Château d'Irrac is superior."

"Is it possible?" incredulous but yielding. "Then let it be Château
d'Irrac."

And presently we realised that the '87 St. Julien was growing low in the
cellar, whilst many bins of Château d'Irrac cried out to be consumed. We
sent for the great man and confided our suspicions, adding, "You cannot
compare the two wines." "Monsieur donc knows the St. Julien? Ah," with a
keener glance, "I had not remarked. I ask a thousand pardons of
monsieur. After all, it is a matter of taste. The Château d'Irrac is
much appreciated--especially by the English. Monsieur will allow me to
change the wine?"

_Amende honorable_, but not accepted; and the Château d'Irrac remained.

Presently we entered upon our longer drive to the Gare d'Orléans. Paris
had put up her shutters and toned down her illuminations. Shops were
closed, lights were out, Vanity Fair had disappeared.

The streets grew more and more empty. Our driver found his way to the
river and went down the quays, where on summer evenings lovers of old
books spend hours examining long rows of stalls, on which sooner or
later every known and unknown literary treasure makes its appearance.
Perhaps he was a man who liked the tragic side of life--and where is it
more suggested than on the banks of the Seine? Night after night its
turbid waters close over the heads of the rashly despairing. The ghastly
Morgue is weighted with secrets. Every bridge is surrounded by an
atmosphere of sighs. One last look upon the world, the sky, the quiet
stars, then the fatal plunge into the silent waters, and another soul
has risked the unknown.

Once more in the darkness uprose the outlines of Notre Dame in all the
beauty of Gothic refinement; all the delicate lacework and flying
buttresses subdued and dreamlike under the night sky.

Who can look upon this architectural wonder without thinking of those
historical, twelfth-century days when the first stone was laid, and it
slowly rose to perfection? All the centuries that have since rolled on,
changing and destroying much of its charm? The perils it went through
and did not altogether escape in those terrible days of '93 when,
condemned, it was saved by a miracle? That Age of Reason, which drove
half the excitable Frenchmen of Paris stark staring mad.

How can we haunt these precincts without thinking of their high priest
Victor Hugo, who loved them as Scott and Burns loved their wholesomer
banks and braes? Everywhere uprises a vision of the old grey-headed man
as we remember him, with pale heavy face, grave earnest manner, deep
thoughtful eyes, and on the surface, so little that was light, excitable
and French; for ever pondering upon the mysteries of life, human
suffering and endurance, broken destinies. His face looks at you from
every dark and vacant window in the neighbouring Ile St. Louis. The
shadows of Notre Dame fall upon its mediæval roofs; the dark waters of
the river wash their foundations, and sometimes flood them also. If they
could only whisper their secrets of human sin and suffering, that great
army of martyrs who have died, not in defence of the good but in
consequence of the evil, the world would surely dissolve and disappear.
Many a time has he stood contemplating these problems, planning the
destinies of his characters, from the windows of the Hôtel Lambert. Its
painted ceilings recall the days of Lebrun, and up and down the old
staircases and deserted corridors one hears the cynical laugh of
Voltaire and the tripping footsteps of Madame de Châtet.

We left this delightful and romantic atmosphere behind us as our driver
pursued his way down the right bank of the Seine.

Another world, inhabited by another people. Darkness reigned; lamps were
few and far between; the roar of the great city sounded afar off, and
amidst that roar dwelt all the rank and fashion, wealth and intrigue,
that turn the heaven-sent manna to ashes of the Dead Sea fruit.
Presently he crossed a bridge and there was a flash of lamps upon the
dark waters below. The Seine was pursuing her relentless course,
carrying her burden of sorrows to the far-off sea, burying them in the
ocean of eternity, recording them in the books of heaven.

A few moments more, and at the Gare d'Orléans we dismissed our man with
his _pourboire_. We were in good time, and had the place almost to
ourselves. "Le train n'est pas encore fait, monsieur," said a polite
official. "Ah! there it comes. You will not be over-crowded to-night, I
imagine."

Good hearing, for a night journey in a full train without a reserved
carriage means martyrdom. We marked our seats, then walked up and down
the lighted platform. It was nearly ten o'clock and passengers were
arriving.

Presently, missing H. C., we turned and saw him at the lower end of the
train examining the last carriage. What did it mean? Evidently mischief
of some sort. The hundred-and-one occasions rose up before us in which
we had saved him from ladies with matrimony on the brain, from
intrigues, from his susceptible self. Only a year ago there had been
that narrow escape in the Madrid hotel with the siren who had married
the Russian count. He saw us coming, turned and met us with laughter.
What now?

"Come and see," placing his arm in ours. "But don't interfere with the
liberty of the subject. I will not be controlled. You shall no longer
find me weak and yielding as in other years."

All this went in at one ear and out at the other, as the saying runs.
Silence is the best reply to incipient rebellion.

At the last carriage the mystery was solved. In one compartment sat two
lovely ladies, waiting the departure of the train to draw down the
blinds and settle themselves for the night. H. C. silently pointed to
the label, which said: _Pour Fumeurs._ Fortune seemed to favour his
humour for we had seldom seen the announcement on a French carriage.
Then he went on to the next compartment. Three young men had entered and
were laughing, talking, blowing clouds of smoke. This was labelled _Pour
Dames Seules_. H. C. had quietly changed the iron labels and turned the
world upside down. The inmates were in blissful ignorance of the
frightful thing that had happened.

"We had no time for the theatre to-night, yet I had a mind for a little
comedy," said H. C. "Now we have it on the spot, and without paying. I
had such trouble to ram the plaques into the grooves that they will
never come out again. Here comes the inspector--evidently not to be
trifled with; exactly the man for the occasion. Now for it."

We trembled as the great man approached, each particular hair standing
on end, the pallor of death on our cheek. Appearances would have
condemned us. H. C., on the other hand, looked innocence itself.

Suddenly the inspector gave a start, exactly reproduced in us; on his
part, astonishment and indignation; on ours, nervous terror. Then the
door of the compartment was thrown open and the scene began. The
inspector's powerful bass voice made itself felt and heard.

"Gentlemen," in his deepest diapason, "what is the meaning of this? How
dare you enter a compartment reserved _For Ladies Only_, fill it with
vile smoke, and treat with contempt the rules of our organisation
department? For this, gentlemen," waxing wrath and perhaps overstating
his case, "I could fine and summons you--and believe I should be
justified in handing you over to the _Police Correctionnelle_. Your act
is infamous--and no doubt designed."

Instead of pouring oil upon troubled waters, the young men were
combative and defiant.

"Qu'est-ce que vous nous chantez là?" said one. "Surely, my dear
inspector, your sight is failing--time rolls on, you know; or you cannot
read; or you have dined too well. But if you have your senses about you
and examine the plaque closely, you will see that it states: _For
Smokers._ And we are smokers. My compliments to you, Monsieur the famous
Inspector. Like Dumas, we are here and we remain."

"Very good," said H. C. innocently looking on. "As a scene at the
Vaudeville it would bring down the house and make the fortune of the
piece. You ought to be grateful for this little distraction, but you
don't look it. All was done so easily and develops so naturally."

The inspector listened whilst this fuel was being added to the fire of
his wrath. "We will see about that," he said. "Come out this instant and
read for yourself." He grasped the arm of the young man. As he was
strong and the youth weak, the result was that Dumas' famous saying fell
to the ground and he with it. In a moment he stood upon the platform and
read the fatal notice.

"But it is conjuring, it is a miracle!" he cried. "I can assure you,
Monsieur the Inspector, that before entering I read the label with my
own eyes--we all did. Anatole--de Verriers--I appeal to you for
confirmation. It positively stated _For Smokers_. No, oh no, I am
certain of it--and I have _not_ dined too well," laughing in spite of
himself. "For Ladies only! It is too good a joke. I assure you we want a
quiet night's rest; we don't want to be disturbed by the gentle snoring
of the fair sex. An enemy hath done this. Tenez, Monsieur the
Inspector," going to the next carriage and reading the label: "look at
that. There are the innocent conspirators calmly seated in the
compartment. The ladies themselves have done this. I was wrong in saying
it was an enemy, for are we not all friends of the lovelier sex? But
take my word for it, they are the culprits. Remark how unconscious they
look; one sees it is too natural to be real--it is assumed. Poor ladies!
They are nervous, perhaps, and want a safeguard about them during the
perilous night journey. Or it may be that they even like smoking. After
all, it is an innocent little ruse on their part to attain a very
harmless end."

"Innocent, sir! harmless!" cried the outraged and perplexed inspector.
"We will see!"

He approached the compartment, threw wide the door, addressed the ladies
severely, as became his office, but tempered with respect and
admiration, as became a man.

"How is this, ladies?" to the startled women. "Allow me to inform you
that it is not _convenable_ for members of your sex to deliberately
compose themselves for the night in a compartment labelled _For
Smokers_."

"What!" cried the ladies in a breath. "_For Smokers?_ _Quel horreur!_
Monsieur the Inspector, you must be mad, or you have dined too
well--_l'un ou l'autre_. _For Smokers!_ Why, we are horrified at smoke.
It makes me cough, it makes my companion sneeze, it gets into our hair,
it ruins our complexion. Monsieur the Inspector," shaking out their
ruffled plumage, "this is an infamous accusation. We feel ourselves
insulted. We shall appeal to the Chef de Gare. You had better at once
say that we have done this thing ourselves, whilst the culprits are no
doubt those three young men who are laughing behind your back. You have
attacked our reputation and we will pursue the matter. When we entered
this compartment it was labelled _For Ladies Only_, and if you will
examine the plaque with sober senses you will find it still reads _For
Ladies Only_."

"Mesdames," returned the bewildered inspector, "I will trouble you to
alight and read for yourselves. No one shall accuse me of dining too
well with impunity; and no one, not even such charming women as
yourselves, shall exact an apology for an offence never committed."

Apparently there was nothing else for it. The ladies gracefully
alighted, assisted by the gallant but uncompromising inspector, and the
fatal words stared them in the face.

"But it is conjuring, it is a miracle!" they cried breathlessly, just as
the young men had cried. "An enemy hath done this, Monsieur the
Inspector, and the enemy is represented by those three young men who
doubtless look upon it as a _petite plaisanterie_. But if there is law
in the land they shall suffer for it. It is nothing more or less than an
outrage to our feelings. In the meantime, Monsieur the Inspector, not to
delay the train, have the kindness to change back the labels to their
right positions, and put those three young men under the surveillance of
the guard."

"If it is the last word we ever speak we are guiltless in this matter,"
protested the young men. "Mephistopheles is no doubt on the platform in
disguise"--here we felt a nudge from H. C. and a whispered
"Complimentary!"--"but we beg to say that we are not Fausts, and we have
no reason to suppose these ladies are Marguerites."

The outraged ladies were absolutely speechless with anger; twice they
opened their mouths but no sound would come. And as the train was now
about to start, there was nothing for it but to re-enter their
compartment. The young men did likewise. The doors were closed. The
inspector tried to remove the offending labels. They would not budge. He
brought all his strength to bear upon them, but they were fixed as the
stars in their course. If Mephistopheles had been at work, he had done
his work well. The plaques might have been soldered in their sockets.
The inspector was guilty of language not quite parliamentary. He felt
mystified, baffled; the whole thing was inexplicable.

There came a cry down the platform: "En voiture, messieurs!" Our own
carriage was some way off; we went up and entered, hiring pillows for
the night. Final doors were slammed; the train moved off. And the ladies
were in a compartment labelled _For Smokers_, and the three young men
had to themselves the carriage _Pour Dames Seules_. They must have been
laughing immoderately, for the inspector shook his fist as they slowly
rolled away; and the shake said as plainly as though we had heard the
words: "There go the culprits! Ah, _scélérats!_ If I only had you now in
my grasp!" The young men must have interpreted the action in like
manner, for the window was suddenly put down and three hands waved him a
derisive farewell.

We rolled away in the darkness. The lights of Paris grew faint and
dreamy, then went out. All the old familiar landmarks were invisible,
and when we crossed the Seine not a star was reflected in its deep dark
waters.

As the night went on we passed through the glorious country of the
Orléanais, washed by the waters of the historical and romantic Loire.
Who that has gone down its broad winding course can forget the charms of
its ancient towns? The halo surrounding Orléans, the pure accents of
Tours, the architectural wonders of Loches--home of the
Plantagenets--its towers and churches visible even under the stars; and
beyond Nantes, the gentle splendours of La Vendée. Porters in the
darkness of night shouted "Orléans!" and we felt in the very garden of
France, where nature is so bountiful that the labour of man is hardly
needed to bring forth the fruits of the earth. In these sunny provinces
dwell the happiest, most light-hearted of her sons. The earth abundantly
furnishes their daily bread and wine. It comes without trouble and is
eaten without care.

Night and darkness rolled away. We approached Bordeaux. Last year, at
this same hour, about this same time, we had found it enveloped in mist,
had made the acquaintance of Monsieur le Comte San Salvador de la
Veronnière, and wondered how his small body bore the weight of its
majestic name. But the wind is tempered to the shorn lamb and the back
is fitted to the burden. This time there was no comte and no mist. We
had watched the dawn break and a glorious sunrise turn fleecy clouds
into flaming swords. The earth awoke and the lovely woods and forests,
with their wealth of fern and bracken, were touched with rosy glowing
light as the sun shot above the horizon.

Just before reaching Bordeaux we made a discovery. A secret impulse
urged us to examine our luggage-ticket, and we were electrified at
finding it registered to Irun instead of Portbou. Steaming into the
crazy old station, we found out the station-master, and explained the
difficulty. He was politeness itself, and once more we could not help
contrasting the courtesy of the French officials with the less agreeable
manners of the Spanish.

"This would have been serious," said M. le Chef. "I am glad you found it
out in time. After Bordeaux it would have been too late. You and your
luggage would have gone your separate ways."

Then calling a porter, he handed him the ticket, bade him search the
luggage-vans and bring away the numbers indicated.

"A little against the rules," said the Chef smiling; "but life is full
of inevitable exceptions, and because we stick to too much red tape, and
will not recognise the need of exceptions, half life's worries occur."

Evidently our Chef was a philosopher, and fortunately a man of
common-sense.

Presently up came the porter. His search had been successful. The
luggage was re-registered for Portbou, and we had the satisfaction of
thanking M. le Chef for sparing us an awkward dilemma. "Monsieur," he
replied, with a finished French bow, "it is a pleasure to be of use,
and I am always at your disposition."

The train left the station and crossed the lordly Garonne. Nothing in
the way of river could look more majestic, with all the light of the sky
and all the blue of the heavens reflected on its broad surface. Once
more we were dazzled by the rich splendour of the autumn tints, glories
of colour. In the vineyards the deep purple leaves still lingered upon
the branches. White farmhouses, with their green shutters, red-tiled
roofs, strings of yellow Indian maize, heaps of pumpkins and cantaloupe
melons, stood out in striking contrast with the landscape. Many a
vine-laden porch threw its lights and shades upon walls and pavement.
Many a field was picturesque with ploughing-oxen. A hardy son of the
South guided the furrow, and a woman with red or blue handkerchief tied
round the head, followed, sowing the seed. One only wanted twilight and
the angelus bell to complete the scene's devotion.

All this we had found a year ago. Nothing was altered--it seemed as
yesterday. But now we were changing our direction, and going east
instead of westward. Last year Irun and St. Sebastian; now Gerona and
Barcelona the bright and pleasant, for ever associated with Majorca the
beautiful and beloved.



CHAPTER II.

A NARBONNE HOSTESS.

     Carcassonne--In feudal times--Simon de Montfort--Canal du
     Midi--L'Âge d'or et le Grand Monarque--A modern Golden Fleece--One
     of earth's fair scenes--Choice of evils--M. le Chef
     yields--Narbonne--A woman of parts--The course of true love runs
     smooth--_Diner de contrat_--Honey _versus_ the _lune de
     miel_--Madame's philosophy--_L'Allée des Soupirs_--An unfinished
     cathedral--At the gloaming hour--Mystery and devotion--The Hôtel de
     Ville--A domestic drama--High festival and champagne--The next
     morning--H. C. repentant--Madame at her post--Ambrosial
     breakfast--"Il faut payer pour ses plaisirs"--Dramatic
     exit--Perpignan--Home of the kings of Majorca--Elne--"Adieu, ma
     chère France!"--Over the frontier--Gerona--Crowded platform--What
     H. C. thought--Unpoetical incident--From the sublime to the
     ridiculous.


The hours went on and the sun declined, and we looked upon the wonderful
old city of Carcassonne.

Rising out of the plain the great limestone rock was crowned by this
fortress of the Middle Ages, its walls and round towers clearly outlined
against the blue sky. These enclose a dead world given up to the poor
and struggling. Its steep, narrow streets have no longer the faintest
echo of military glories. The inner walls date back to the Visigothic
kings; the foundations of some of the towers are Roman, but nothing of
the outer walls seems later than the twelfth century. Here in 1210 the
army of crusaders under Simon de Montfort laid siege, the cruel Abbot of
Citeaux most determined of the enemy. The massacre at Béziers had just
taken place, de Montfort foremost in eagerness to shed blood. Some had
escaped to this little City of Refuge, amongst them the brave Vicomte de
Béziers: one of those men of whom the world has seen not a few, saving
lives at the cost of their own. The little fortress unable to hold out
was taken, and again the massacre was terrible, Béziers himself dying in
prison after great suffering.

A hundred and fifty years later it more successfully resisted the Black
Prince, who, after scattering terror right and left in the plains of
Languedoc, found that he had to retire from these walls baffled and
mortified. To-day they still stand, the most perfect mediæval monument
in France.

The new town lies in the plain, quietly industrious as the old is silent
and dead, modern and commonplace as the other is ancient and romantic.
Trees overshadow the boulevards, costly fountains plash through the hot
days and nights of summer, running streams make the air musical and
reflect the sapphire skies.

On one side runs the great Canal du Midi, Canal des deux Mers, as it is
called, uniting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. Two hundred and
fifty years ago it was one of the finest engineering works in the world,
and perhaps would never have been finished but for the encouragement of
le Grand Monarque, prime mover in that _âge d'or_ when the literary
firmament was studded with such stars of the first order as Molière,
Corneille, Lafontaine, Bossuet, Fénélon, Pascal, and last, not least,
Madame de Sevigné. There came a crowd of splendours, a succession of
startling events, into that lengthened reign, our own Marlborough taking
his part in such decisive battles as Blenheim and Malplaquet.

This Canal du Midi, reflecting the outlines of Carcassonne, added much
to the trade of Southern France. If that has declined amidst the world's
chances and changes, its numerous barges plying to and fro with sails
set to the evening breeze and the setting sun, still form one of earth's
most rare and beautiful scenes, full of calm repose. Corn and wine and
oil are their freights; rich Argosies commanded by many a modern Jason,
carrying many a Golden Fleece to the fair and flourishing towns that lie
in its path between the tideless shores of the Levant and the restless
waters of Biscay.

On the other side of the town runs the River Aude, also reflecting the
ancient outlines of Carcassonne in waters less placid than those of the
great Canal. This takes its way through a fertile valley given up to
vines and olives, fig-trees and pomegranates; and here flock crowds of
invalids to the mineral baths and waters, penances due to indiscretions
of the table or sins of their forefathers.

Our train rolled over both these waterways on its journey towards
Narbonne.

By this time we had realised that we had been misinformed as to the hour
we should reach Gerona, our first resting-place, adding one more record
to the chapter of small accidents. At Narbonne we had the good fortune
to find a Chef de Gare civil and obliging as he of Bordeaux, who
declared it impossible to reach Gerona that day as there was no railway
communication. We should have to spend the night at Portbou, the Spanish
frontier, where our quarters would be wretched, and all our sweet turn
to bitter against those who had misled us.

We decided at once. "Better remain where there is a good inn, than go on
to the miseries of Portbou, Monsieur le Chef."

"That is clear," he replied. "Here you will be comfortable--and on
French ground," laughing: "a virtue in my eyes, and I hope in yours
also."

We willingly agreed. "But our luggage? It is registered to Portbou."

He looked grave. "That is unfortunate; it must go on to Portbou. I
cannot give it to you. It is against all rules, and I greatly regret
it."

"Yet we cannot do without it. If you send it on to Portbou, we cannot
remain behind. Have you the heart to consign us to that _chambre de
tortures?_"

He paused a moment, revolving the momentous situation. "No," he laughed
at length, "I cannot do that, and for once will make an exception in
your favour. Advienne que pourra, you shall have your luggage."

Then in the kindest way he personally superintended the matter, delayed
the train until the luggage was found, and carried out sundry forms
necessary for the next day's journey.

We discovered very little in Narbonne to repay our change of plans, but
the hotel was comfortable and the energetic landlady a character worth
studying. Grass never grew under her feet. She seemed gifted with
ubiquity, and startled one by her rapid movements. A capable woman, who
made her little world work with a will, wound them up and set them
going. If the machinery flagged, she at once applied the master-key of
her energy, and the wheels went on again.

To-day she was on her mettle, as she informed us, having a large wedding
dinner on hand. "To-night was the _diner de contrat_, to-morrow the
_diner de noce_. A hundred and fifty people would sit down to it, and
she expected great conviviality."

Nor was she disappointed, if the noise we heard later on was any sign of
festive enjoyment. Loud laughter, applause, healths pledged, good wishes
bestowed--all indicated the state of the assembled guests.

Madame had taken us into the banquet-room to prove that she was capable
of decorating her table very effectively. Glass and silver glittered
under the rays of light; flowers perfumed the air; orange-trees stood in
corners, fruit and flowers mingled their delights. We asked for whom all
this extensive preparation.

"The daughter of an innkeeper, with a magnificent dowry, was marrying
one of the most popular doctors of the place. But it was really a
mariage d'amour, not merely de convenance. Les mariés were both
delightful. One hardly knew which to congratulate the most. In short, it
was one of those rare events in life when the social sky is without a
cloud."

Madame was almost poetical in her enthusiasm. But she was no less
practical, and it was wonderful how everything went smoothly under her
guidance.

"Narbonne, famous for its honey." We seemed to remember this as one of
our geography lines in days gone by. "But where was the honey?" we asked
during the course of our own dinner, which madame was quite equal to in
spite of the greater ceremony on hand.

"You may well ask," placing upon the table a choice bottle of the
vin-du-pays, which she saw unsealed and uncorked by one of her officials
who had just been wound up again and was flying about the room like a
firework. "You may well ask, monsieur. No house so badly supplied with
coals as the charbonnier, and in Narbonne we see little of our own
honey. Like the fish in a seaport, it is all sent away, and you will
find more of it in Paris than here. But I will try to unearth a jar
from my stores."

Apparently the quest was unsuccessful, for no honey appeared. Or it may
be that in contemplating the _lune de miel_ in the garlanded
banqueting-room the more material article was lost sight of. With one
hundred and fifty people on her brain, no wonder if small matters were
forgotten. And yet madame seemed of those who forget nothing, her
faculties embracing both wide organisation and minute detail. A thin,
wiry woman, with a quick walk and a light step, dark eyes that nothing
escaped, yet without tyranny or sharpness of manner. Only once did we
hear her rebuking one of her waiters for the sin of procrastination.

"Leave nothing till to-morrow that can be done to-day," she wound up
with, "or you will soon find the world ahead and you left behind in the
race. Those are the people that come to poverty and have only themselves
to thank for it. That, monsieur," turning to us who waited a direction,
"is the reason we cannot very much help what are called the poor. Some
great failing brings them to that condition--laziness, stupidity or
vice, and your aid will never give them energy, wisdom or virtue."

Then the direction we asked for was bestowed, and the erring waiter
ordered to show us the way to the cathedral.

In the town we found very little that was not ordinary and common-place.
It is ancient, its streets are badly paved and tortuous, and it
possesses scarcely anything in the way of picturesque outlines, nothing
in the way of Roman remains. Yet it flourished as far back as the fifth
century B.C., and in the first century was in the hands of the Romans,
great in theatres, baths, temples, and triumphal arches. Of these not a
vestige has survived.

It was one of the great ports of the Mediterranean, which flowed up to
its foundations, but has gradually receded some eight miles. From one of
the great towers of the Hôtel de Ville you may trace the outlines of the
Cevennes and Pyrenees on the one side, on the other watch the broad blue
waters shimmering in the sunshine, more beautiful than a dream in their
deep sapphire; you may count the white-winged boats sailing lazily to
and fro upon its flashing surface; and on still, dark nights, when the
stars are large and brilliant, watch the lights of fishing fleets
clustered together, and hear upon the shore the gentle plash of this
tideless sea.

On such summer nights the _Allée des Soupirs_ is the favourite walk of
the people. Whence its sad, romantic name? Has it seen many sorrows? Do
ghosts of the past haunt it with long-drawn sighs? Has it had more than
its share of Abelards and Héloïses, Romeos and Juliets? Has some
sorrowful Atala been borne under its branches to a desert grave, some
Dante mourned here his lost Beatrice, some Petrarch his Laura?

We knew not, and turning from it climbed the ill-paved streets towards
the Cathedral--a Cathedral no longer, for Narbonne, once an
Archbishopric, has been shorn of ecclesiastical dignity.

As far as it went, we found it a fine, interesting, but unfinished
Gothic building of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Little
beyond the choir exists--a splendid fragment, but a fragment only. It
might have been one of the world's wonders.

We entered for the second time in the gloaming, when its great height
was lost in shadows. A few lights about the church and on the altar
deepened the mystery. A few kneeling figures motionless at their
devotions added their quiet pathos to the scene. From the end of the
choir it had the effect of a vast church infinitely impressive. An
immense nave with aisles and pillars and vaulted roofs might stretch
behind us. Such was the intention of the architect, but his plans were
not carried out. In reality there was nothing. Within a few feet came
the narrow outer passage and the dead wall of the west front; but in the
darkness all this was not realised. We only saw the splendid choir, vast
height, graceful outlines, groined roof, pointed arches, and slender
pillars, steeped in the mystery and shadow of a dim religious light by
the few candles gleaming here and there like faint stars in the night.
Some of the painted glass was beautiful, as we had seen earlier in the
day, and much of the sixteenth century flamboyant tracery was very good.
There were many fine tombs and statues.

The Gothic Hôtel de Ville close by is partly modern. A portion of it
formed the ancient Archbishop's Palace, and some of this remains, more
especially the old towers. The courtyard has a few interesting outlines,
and the staircase leading to the museum is of broad, massive marble. Up
and down these stairs and corridors was once wont to pass the proud
footstep of a primate, with head erect under the cardinal's red hat,
whilst the rustle of silken robes, white and scarlet, whispered of
greatness and vanity. It now shines by the light of other days. All its
pomp and pride has vanished; dead, silent and deserted, its glory has
been transferred to Toulouse, now the Archbishop's See.

We discovered the ancient dame who keeps the keys of the Museum. She
dwells in almost an underground room of the building, a distant wing in
the garden, where in days gone by the Archbishop paced and meditated in
the seclusion of impenetrable walls. Looking upwards nothing would
arrest the eye but the far-off serene sky and unfinished fragment of the
Cathedral. It is still a grey, venerable pile, this wing, silent and
empty.

But in the quiet little lodge of the custodian hearts still beat to the
tune of life's small dramas. A slight altercation was going on. The dame
was laying down the law to a young man, evidently her son. What the
transgression we could not tell. Possibly debt, and he had come to draw
upon the hard-earned savings in the chimney-corner: a sort of mental and
moral earthquake to the frugal mother-mind. Perhaps he was announcing
his marriage with one who would make him a bad wife. Or he had grown
tired of his narrow world, and pleaded to cross the seas and begin life
on a new soil. Whatever it might be, he departed looking very much as if
he too had his burden to bear. In passing he saluted, and said,
"Bonjour, messieurs," and his looks were comely and his voice was
pleasant. He had the air of a sailor, and possibly was a fisherman from
the little port eight miles off. When he had disappeared beyond the
trees, the old mother, who must also have been comely in her day, took
the keys and led the way up the broad marble staircase to the Museum.
The shades of evening were gathering, and our visit would almost have
been lost labour had there been anything else to do. It was too dark to
judge fairly, but amidst a great amount of rubbish we thought we
discovered a few good old pictures.

Long after the sun had set and the afterglow had faded, we went back to
the hotel and madame's hospitable attentions.

She was determined we should not suffer from the demands of the banquet.
The whole corridor was now lined with orange trees, whose sheeny green
leaves stood out in strong contrast with some strings of red peppers she
had artistically festooned against the walls; so that from the entrance
to the dining-room the procession would walk through an avenue of peace
and plenty. The effect was charming. Nothing could be more beautiful
than the luscious perfumed blossoms, richer than the deep foliage, more
picturesque than the scented golden fruit hanging gracefully from the
branches. As night went on, the sounds of merriment grew louder.
Champagne could not run like water without leading to noisy if not
brilliant wit. A hundred and fifty sons and daughters of sunny Southern
France might be trusted to make the most of their opportunity.

We left them to their rites when by-and-by the clock struck ten, lights
began to burn dim, and we realised that a sleepless night in the train
is more or less trying. Bidding madame _le bonsoir_, who flashed to and
fro like lightning, yet was neither hurried nor flurried, she politely
returned us _la bonne nuit_; adding, with a certain dry humour, that
after all she was glad marriages were not an everyday occurrence--at any
rate from her hotel. If profitable, they were fatiguing.

Next morning we rose before dawn. The man came in, lighted our candles,
and said it was time to rise. We thought we had slept five minutes; the
unconscious hours had passed too quickly. Overnight we had settled to
take an early train, and devote a few hours to Perpignan; hours of
enforced waiting on our way to Gerona. After an amount of rapping and
calling that might have roused the dead, H. C. had risen, lighted his
own candles, and protested by going back to bed and to slumber.
Fortunately the man went up to his room half an hour after, and seeing
the state of affairs upset the fire-irons, knocked down a couple of
chairs, and opened the window with a rattle.

"Are those wedding people still at it?" murmured H. C., in his dreams.
"It must be past midnight." Then consciousness dawned upon him and the
full measure of his iniquity; and presently he came down to a late
breakfast, subdued and repentant.

Early as it was, madame was at her post, brisk and wide-awake as though
yesterday had been nothing but a very ordinary fête-day. It was that
uncomfortable hour when the early morning light creeps in, and candles
and gas-lamps show pale and unearthly. The room looked chilly and
forsaken; that last-night aspect that is always so ghostlike and
unfamiliar. A white mist hung over the outer world.

Then the most comforting thing on earth made its triumphant entry--a
brimming teapot; and with the addition of tea tabloids a fine brew of
the cup which cheers sent our mental barometer to fair weather. We were
even admitted to the internal economy of the establishment. In came the
baker with a basket of steaming rolls giving out a delicious odour of
bread fresh from the oven; and with new-churned butter--the last we
tasted for many a long day--we made an ambrosial breakfast. In a few
minutes, madame cloaked and bonneted, came up to wish us bon voyage,
with a hope that we should again visit Narbonne. Nothing is certain in
this world or we should have told her it was a very forlorn hope.

"I have to go to market," she said, "and the sooner I am there the
better my choice of provisions. To-day, too, I have my _diner de noce_,
and must be back early. _Vraiment, c'est une charge!_ Ah! they amused
themselves last night! What headaches to-day, je parie, in spite of the
excellence of the wines. _Enfin! Il faut payer pour ses plaisirs._"

"But, madame, you are perpetual motion. You go to bed late--if you go to
bed at all, which we begin to doubt--and rise up early. This morning you
look as fresh as a rose. Have you the gift of eternal youth?"

Madame was not above a compliment, and smiled her pleasure. "Quant il y
a de la bonne volonté--" she laughed. "There is the whole secret. And
now, au revoir, messieurs. Bon voyage. Portez vous bien. My best wishes
go with you."

"Au revoir, on one condition, madame. That the next time we come you
present us without fail with a pot of Narbonne honey."

Madame uttered a cry, fell back a pace or two, struck her forehead
reproachfully, and disappeared like a flash into the street. Up rattled
the omnibus, absorbing ourselves and our traps. Narbonne was of the
past.

A short journey landed us at an early hour at Perpignan. We had passed
nothing very interesting on the road, for just here the sunny South
seems to have stayed her bountiful hand. The low bare outlines of the
rocky Corbières were traced, and great stretches of heath where bees
gathered the famous honey we were not permitted to enjoy. Here and there
were immense salt lakes, giving the country a flooded appearance,
bringing fever to the neighbourhood. Once, years ago, passing these
endless lake districts in the night, weird, solemn, mysterious, we
wondered what they could be. One saw nothing but a world under water,
reflecting the stars; occasionally the black outline of some small boat
with the flash of a low-lying lamp streaming over its surface. And
presently, this morning, there was the blue Mediterranean to make up for
all other shortcomings.

Then Perpignan. This time we separated from our old-man-of-the-sea; the
baggage went on to Portbou to await our afternoon arrival.

We felt we ought to know Perpignan, and with affection, for it was once
the residence of the kings of Majorca. But that was seven hundred years
ago, and it has gone through many changes at the hands of many masters.
For centuries it belonged to Spain, and still looks more Spanish than
French. Only in the middle of the seventeenth century was it finally
annexed to France by Richelieu. In summer its narrow streets are covered
with awnings, many of its buildings are moresque, and its houses have
the iron and wooden courts and balconies so common to Spain. Some of its
thoroughfares are picturesque and arcaded, and every now and then you
come upon an assemblage of wonderful roofs with their red tiles,
gorgeous creepers, and enormous vines; but they are the exception. It is
strongly fortified, and some of the old gateways are interesting. In
days gone by these fortifications were needed, for Perpignan was the
great point of defence in the Eastern Pyrenees between Spain and France.
The Cathedral is chiefly famous for the immense span of its vault. In
this it resembles Majorca, but is infinitely less beautiful. Though
larger, Perpignan seemed still more quiet and dead than Narbonne. We
soon exhausted its merits, and the hour for departure found us ready. At
the moment we were in the great courtyard of the inn watching the chef
in white cap and apron at a small table on the opposite side, enjoying
his dessert and hour of repose, to which coffee and cognac formed the
conclusion. For that hour he was a gentleman of leisure and had earned
his ease.

There was no time to visit Elne with its old Romanesque Cathedral and
cloisters worth a king's ransom; and keen was the regret as we passed it
in the train, and noticed its decayed aspect and wonderful outlines
rising above the town like a rare twelfth-century vision. Here Hannibal
encamped on his way to Rome. Here came Constantine and named it Elena in
memory of his mother. Here the Emperor Constantine was assassinated by
order of Maxentius. Here came the Moors in the eighth century, the
Normans in the eleventh, the kings of France in the thirteenth,
fifteenth, and seventeenth centuries; all more or less destructive in
their changes.

And now it remains a small dead town; grass grows in its streets, where
eternal silence reigns. Passing away, we noted how its clear outlines
stood out against the blue sky of the South, whilst beyond it stretched
the sapphire waters of the Levant.

The train hurried on, and at Cerbère we bade farewell to pleasant
France: a language that rings music in our ears; a people for whom we
have a sincere affection. In the space of a few yards we seemed to pass
from one country and people and tongue to another. At Cerbère nothing
but French was heard. A few minutes afterwards, at Portbou, we spoke in
French to one of the officials, who listened to the end, shook his head,
and gruffly said "No entendo." We had entered Spain--land of slow
trains, abrupt officials, many discomforts, but of romance and
beauty. Once more we thought fate was to be against us. As inevitably as
the slippers turned up in the Eastern story, so it seemed that our
luggage was destined to be the _bête noire_ of our wanderings.

[Illustration: PEDRO.]

"You wish to go to Gerona," said the station-master; "but your ticket
only states Barcelona. If you break your journey at Gerona, your luggage
must go on to the farther town."

Again we protested--and again conquered. "For once I yield and make you
an exception," said the chef; "but you will have trouble at Gerona." All
this had taken time, and the train moved off as we entered.

At eight o'clock we reached Gerona, and even in the darkness could see
its wonderful outlines; its countless reflections in the river that
rolled below. The station was in an uproar. Crowds of people, young men
and old, surged to and fro. Deafening shouts arose. What was the matter,
and what could it mean? We gave a shrewd guess. Conscripts were going
off, and all this crowd and noise was a farewell ovation, in which the
conscripts joined uproariously. On the platform we almost fell against
two stalwart old men, who stood conspicuously above the multitude. Each
had evidently come to see a son off. One was especially a typical
Catalonian, with strongly marked features, broad-brimmed hat, and
picturesque costume. His friend called him Pedro. They had probably
grown up and grown old together, and life, youth and the heritage of the
world were being handed on to the boys--who no doubt troubled themselves
very little about the matter.

We made way into the luggage-room. "Ah!" cried the porter, looking at
our tickets. "This is incorrect and cannot be passed." And he turned to
the superintendent.

"Diablo!" cried the latter impatiently. "Do you think I can be troubled
with luggage on such a night as this? Take it where the gentlemen desire
you! Maldicion!"

Saved once more. As we walked outside through the crowd, a deafening
cheer went up.

"What can it mean?" said H. C. "Have they discovered that I am a poet,
and all this is a little delicate attention on their part? If so, I
must say they are appreciative. Perhaps my volume of Lyrics, dedicated
to my aunt, Lady Maria, has been translated into Spanish, and
has--ahem!--found more popularity here than at home. Ah!--Oh!"

The exclamation was caused by a sudden tearing away of the omnibus we
had entered, whereby H. C. found himself sprawling in a most unpoetical
attitude. Picking himself up as carefully as if he had been made of
delicate china suffering from a few compound fractures, he rubbed his
bruised knees sympathetically, and quietly asked if we had brought a
supply of Elliman's embrocation.

So quickly one passes from poetry to prose, from the sublime to the
ridiculous.



CHAPTER III.

BLACK COFFEE--AND A CONFESSION.

     Continued uproar--H. C. disillusioned--A dark night--Not like
     another Cæsar--More crowds--A demon scene--Fair time--Glorious days
     of the past--In marble halls and labyrinthine passages--Our
     excellent host--His substantial partner--Contented
     minds--Picturesque court--Songless nightingales--Conscription--H.
     C.'s modesty--Our host appreciative but personal--Bears the torch
     of genius--A mistake--Below the salt--Host's fair
     daughters--Catalonian women--The Silent Enigma--Remarkable
     priest--Good intentions--Lecture on black
     coffee--Confessions--Benjamin's portions--A gifted nature.


Our omnibus rattled off, with the result described. The crowd still
cheered; a prolonged and mighty strain. As we went on this grew fainter
by degrees, yet did not cease. H. C. collected his thoughts and looked
about him. In the dim glimmer of the omnibus lamp we saw shades of doubt
and disappointment in his face.

"I begin to think this ovation was not for me after all," he said. "They
would hardly go on shouting insanely when we are out of sight and
hearing. The people would have accompanied us; taken the horses out of
the omnibus; drawn us up to the inn, where I should have arrived like
another Cæsar. My volume of Lyrics is worth this recognition if they
have rendered all the fire and spirit of its theme, beauty of language,
charm of rhythm and rhyme. Above all, my dedication to Lady Maria, a
masterpiece of English composition and delicate flattery. I begin to
think there must be some other cause for this demonstration. And if it
is not a poetical reception, I should call it a disgraceful riot."

He paused for breath. We were now going up-hill, and even the horses
found it a tug-of-war. "The people would have had some trouble in
dragging you up here," we remarked, as the animals toiled slowly
onwards.

"Enthusiasm will carry you through anything," said H. C. "If I assisted
at a demonstration I would help to drag a coach up the Matterhorn, and
succeed or perish in the attempt. But these people evidently have some
other object in view--organising a raid on the train, proclaiming a
republic, or something equally barbarous. What a very dark night!"

We looked out. The stars had disappeared. The sky was overcast and
threatening. Our horses struggled on and soon entered the town. Crossing
the bridge over the river we noticed everywhere an unusual crowd of
people, flaring lamps and torches, a sea of upturned faces thrown into
lights and shadows that looked weird and demon-like, an undercurrent of
voices, a perpetual movement.

What could it all mean? We expected to find Gerona, in spite of its
20,000 inhabitants, almost a dead city, full of traces of the past,
oblivious of the present; a city of outlines, echoes and visions of the
Middle Ages. We looked down the tree-lined boulevard and felt the very
word a desecration of the buried centuries. The broad thoroughfare ran
beside the river, and the trees followed each other in quick succession.
Without and within their shadows a long double row of booths held sway,
whose flaming torches turned night into day, paradise into pandemonium.

A great fair possessed the town, thronged with sightseers of all ages
and every stage of emotion. We lamented our fate in visiting Gerona at
such a time, but in the end it interfered very little either with our
comfort or impressions. It had its own quarters and kept to them.

The omnibus passed into narrower thoroughfares, without any trace of
fair, sign or sound of excitement or flaming torches. All was
delightfully dead as the most advanced antiquarian could desire when we
drew up at the _Fondu de los Italianos_.

Most of the hotels in the smaller towns of Spain have little to do with
the ground floor of the building, often nothing but a cold, unlighted,
deserted passage, sometimes leading to a stable yard. No one receives
you, and you have to find your own way upstairs. When there is a choice
of staircases you probably take the wrong one. On this occasion we had
only one course before us--broad white marble stairs that bore witness
to a very different destiny in days gone by, the pomp and splendour of
life, the glory of the world. At the head of this sumptuous staircase
our host met us with a polite bow and welcome; and throughout Spain we
never met landlord more intelligent and well-informed, more agreeable
and anxiously civil. We were puzzled as to his nationality. He did not
look Catalonian, or Spanish of any sort, spoke excellent French, yet was
decidedly not a Frenchman. When the mystery was solved we found him an
Italian. A man ruling very differently from our energetic hostess at
Narbonne, who, full of electricity herself, seemed to have the power of
galvanising every one else into perpetual motion.

Our Gerona host was quiet and passive, as though all day long he had
nothing to do but rest on his oars and take life easily. He never
hastened his walk beyond a certain measure or raised his voice above a
gentle tone. Yet, like well-oiled works, he kept the complicated
machinery in order. There was no friction and no noise, but everything
came up to time. He was last in bed at night, first up in the morning. A
tall, thin, dark man, with an expression of face in which there was no
trace of impatient fretting at life. If wealth had not come to him (we
knew not how that was), evil days had passed him by. He had learned the
secret of contentment, and was a man of peace. Yet he had brought up a
large family of sons and daughters, and could not have escaped care and
responsibility. They now took their part in the _ménage_, but it was
evident that without the father nothing would hold together for an hour.

The youngest son, a tall, presentable young fellow, had been partly
educated at Tours and spoke very good French. His ambition now was to
spend two years in England to perfect himself in the language, which he
was good enough to consider difficult and barbarous. "French," he
plaintively observed, "is pronounced very much as it is spelt; so are
Spanish and Italian; I have them all at my finger-ends. But English has
done its best to confound all foreigners. It is worse than Russian or
Chinese."

This he related the next day as we went about the town, for we had
accepted his polite offer to guide us; and very intelligent and
painstaking he proved himself.

Our host's wife was fat, broad and buxom as the husband was the
opposite. When her homely face beamed upon her guests from behind the
counter of her little bureau, she looked the picture of an amiable Dutch
vrouw. Nothing less than a Frank Hals could have done her justice. Her
lines seemed to have been cast in pleasant places, and her days also had
been without shadow of evil.

It was also evident that our host was cheerfully disposed. His walls
were all painted with landscapes, and if rainbow-colours predominated,
he reasoned that they were more enlivening than grey skies and dark
shadows. Even the walls of his garden-court had not escaped: a court put
to many uses, level with the first floor, bounded on one side by the
kitchen, on the other by the dining-room, at right angles with each
other. A picturesque court with a slightly Italian atmosphere about it,
due perhaps to the sunny landscapes. Orange and small eucalyptus trees
stood about in large tubs. The far end was roofed, and the fine red
tiles slanted downwards. Over these grew a large abundant vine bearing
rich clusters of grapes in due season. Under the eaves were hung cages
with captive nightingales and thrushes that looked anything but unhappy
prisoners.

"In the spring they sing gloriously," said our host, who, evidently full
of tender mercies as of cheerfulness, gazed affectionately at his birds.
"I hang them outside our front windows sometimes, and night and day the
street echoes with the nightingales' song. You may close your eyes and
fancy yourself in the heart of a wood. I have often done so, and dreamed
I was in my Italian home, listening to the birds on the one hand, the
murmur of the Mediterranean on the other. That is one reason why I love
and keep them. They bring back lost echoes, and make me feel young
again."

Pigeons and doves strutted about the yard, and were evidently considered
very nearly as sacred as those of St. Mark's, for they were as fearless
as if the days of the millennium had come at last.

[Illustration: THE BOULEVARD: GERONA.]

But on the first evening of our arrival we had yet to learn the many
virtues of our host. We only saw in broad outlines that we were in good
hands.

"Not having telegraphed, you are fortunate to find accommodation, sirs,"
he said, as he lighted candles and marshalled us to his best rooms.
"Last year at the fair we were full to overflowing--not an available
hole or corner to spare. This year we are comparatively empty, simply
because the town corporation have not organised the usual fêtes, which
bring us visitors from all parts of the country. Nevertheless we may be
full to-morrow."

"It is an annual fair, then?"

"Very much so, and one of the most celebrated in Spain. This is the
first night, to-morrow the first day. That and the next day are
comparatively quiet; the day after comes the horse and cattle fair, and
the whole town is crowded with a rough, noisy set of people. You would
hardly think them agreeable."

"In that case our visit to Gerona must terminate within forty-eight
hours. The train which brought us to-night shall take us on to
Barcelona."

"Where you have it more civilised but will not be more welcome," said
our polite host, still leading the way.

The corridors were paved with stone, the ceilings were lofty. Turning
into a narrower passage to the right, we looked into the yard, where our
famous omnibus reposed; the horses had been taken out and were marching
up to their stable. This passage led to a salon, out of which one of our
bedrooms opened; our host had given us of his best. Placing one of the
candles down and lighting others, he turned to see that everything was
in order. We opened the window and looked out to the main street--long,
narrow, almost in darkness. Electric lamps here and there gave little
light. "Why so?" we asked the landlord.

"Because we get our motive force from the river; and just now the river
is almost dry," he replied. "So they have to work with a machine, and
the machine is not strong enough to light the whole town. That is why I
don't have it in the hotel. One day we should have illumination, the
next total darkness. Better go on in the old way."

"There was quite a riot at the station," we remarked; "we were told it
had to do with conscription. At one time we thought they were going to
storm the omnibus."

"You were well-informed," said the landlord; "it is the conscription.
Fathers, brothers and cousins have assembled to see the poor fellows
depart. Generally speaking they all turn up again after a time, like bad
money; but on this occasion who knows? Raw recruits as they are, many
may get drafted off to Cuba, with small chance of ever seeing their
native land again. Luckily they are more full of excitement at the
change of life and scene than of regret at leaving home. The noise, as
you say, might be that of a riot; without exception, the Spanish are the
noisiest people in the world, but it means nothing. It is the froth of
champagne, and when it subsides there is good wine beneath."

"Are the people of Gerona poetical?" asked H. C., rather anxiously.

"Poetical, sir?" with a puzzled expression. "Do you mean to ask if they
write poetry, like Dante and Shakespeare? You do them too much honour."

"No, one could hardly expect that of them. But do they read and
appreciate the poetry of others? There was a moment when I thought that
crowd at the station was an ovation in honour of----"

H. C. paused and lowered his eyes modestly. Our intelligent landlord at
once divined his meaning. We invariably found that he guessed things by
intuition; two words of explanation with him went as far as twenty with
others.

"Ah, I understand. You, sir, are a poet, and at first thought this
riotous assemblage an ovation in your honour. I fear I must undeceive
you--though you probably have already undeceived yourself. I hope it was
not a bitter awakening. Still, I am enchanted to make the acquaintance
of an English poet. I once saw and spoke to Mr. Browning in Italy. He
did not look to me at all poetical. One pictures a poet with pale face,
dreamy eyes, flowing locks, and abstracted manner. Mr. Browning was the
opposite of all this. Now you, sir, with that beautiful regard and
far-away expression looking into nothingness----"

H. C. bowed his acknowledgments; our host though flattering was growing
a little personal.

"You have lost your poet-laureate," he continued; "and another has not
been appointed. I read the newspapers and know the leading events of
every country; for though I live out of the world, I must know
everything that is going on there. Perhaps, sir, you are to be the new
poet-laureate?"

"Not at present," said H. C., flushing deeply as a vision of future
greatness rose up before him. "I hope to be so in time. At present I am
rather young to bear the weight of the laurel wreath, which seldom
adorns the unwrinkled brow."

"There is rhythm in your prose," said the landlord in quiet
appreciation. "Truth will out. But, sir, though a poet, you are mortal;
at least I conclude so, in spite of your diaphanous form and spiritual
regard; and I bethink me that time flies in talking, and we shall have
dinner ready before we can turn round. In England, being a poet, you
probably feast upon butterflies' wings and the bloom of peaches;
but----"

"On the contrary," cried H. C. hastily; "I have an excellent appetite
and love substantial dishes. Crystallised violets and the bloom of
peaches I leave to my aunt, Lady Maria. Like George III. my favourite
repast is boiled mutton and apple dumplings; and like the king I have
never been able to understand how the apples get inside the pastry. That
does not affect their flavour. So we will, if you please, make ready for
dinner. Do you patronise the French or Spanish cuisine? Oh, I am
indifferent. It is a mere matter of butter versus oil, and both are
good."

Then they went off in a procession of two, the landlord carrying the
flambeau. "We will look upon it as the torch of genius," said the
latter, "and I am proud to bear it. But methinks, sir, it should be in
your hands." After this we heard only receding footsteps.

The scene presently changed to the dining-room. At first we had made for
the wrong room devoted to the humbler folk indoors and out. Here, too,
the landlord and his own people took their meals; and once or twice,
casting a glance in passing, it was a pleasure to see how madame's broad
buxom face and capacious form was doing justice to the good things on
the festive board. Her husband and children did not take after her; they
were all very much after Pharaoh's lean kine: she could have sheltered
them all under her ample wing.

We were rather horrified on entering. A few curious looking people, very
much _sans gêne_, sat at a table in a state of disorder. Even H. C.'s
capacious appetite would have fled at the aspect of things. From a door
beyond opening to the kitchen came sounds of fizzing and frying and
savoury fumes. The chef and his imps were flitting about excitedly.

We were beginning to think that after all our lines had fallen in
strange places, when the landlord appeared at the door, pounced upon us,
and marshalled us off the premises.

"That is not for you, sir," he said. "We are obliged to have two rooms.
A certain number will neither pay fair prices nor heed good manners, and
these we place below the salt, as I have read in some of your English
books. I put up with them because it would not answer me to have three
rooms. And then we have our meals when nobody else has theirs, and
waiting and running to and fro is over for the moment. To keep an hotel
is indeed no sinecure."

Saying this, he led the way to a large and unobjectionable room, its
walls adorned with the sunny landscapes already described. If
perspective and colouring were eccentric, why, we had only to think that
variety was charming, as H. C. observed, and defects became virtues. The
room was well illuminated with gas, whatever might be going on in the
streets; to no tenebrous repast were we invited. The linen was
snow-white. Our host's daughters waited quietly and silently, with a
certain grace of manner: dark-eyed, good-looking young women, with
something both Italian and Spanish about them, whereby we imagined the
buxom lady-mother was probably Catalonian.

Throughout Catalonia we observed that the women after a certain age--by
no means old age--grow inordinately stout. Time after time a little
whipper-snapper, lean, shrivelled and short would enter a dining-room
followed by an enormous spouse, who came crushing down upon him like a
Himalaya mountain upon a sand-hill. They would take their seat at a
table, the lady with a great deal of difficult arranging, and the little
husband would gaze up at the huge wife with adoration in his eyes, as
proudly as if she had been the Venus de Milo come to life with all her
arms and legs about her and a fair proportion of garments. The back is
fitted to the burden, but here the order of things was reversed--the
wife's broad shoulders must needs bear the weight of life.

There were no stout ladies in the dining-room to-night. At different
parts of the long table sat some eight or ten people of various nations.
Opposite us were two Englishmen separated by a Spaniard. They were of
one party, yet never spoke a word from the time they entered to the time
they left. Occasionally they glared at each other on passing a dish or
the wine of the country, which was supplied _ad libitum_. What the
entente cordiale or bone of contention we never discovered; every meal
they kept to their silent programme, until it became almost oppressive.
Once or twice we thought they were perhaps monks of La Trappe in
disguise, but gave up the idea as far-fetched. The Englishmen, at any
rate, judging by expression, were certainly not devoted to fasting and
penance. They were young, and the world held attractions not at all in
harmony with solitary cells and the midnight mass. We never solved the
Silent Enigma, as H. C. called them.

Not far off sat a priest, who no doubt had himself helped to celebrate
many a midnight mass, perhaps both in and out of a monastery. He was the
most interesting character at table, tall, distinguished looking, with
flowing white hair, a singularly handsome face and magnificent head. The
system of serving was different from most hotels. Dishes were not handed
round, but every person or party had placed before them their own dish,
of which each took as much or as little as they pleased. Whether the
priest was father confessor to the ladies of the inn, or whether they
merely had a very proper respect for his cloth, we knew not, but he
invariably came in for a Benjamin's portion, and sent most of it away
untasted.

Also it was evident that he could sit in judgment on others. The next
day at luncheon he took his seat next to us. We were suffering from
headache, which has made life more or less a burden. Severe diseases
require strong remedies. We ate dry bread, and drank sundry cups of
black coffee mixed with brandy; the latter half a century old and almost
as mild as milk, its healing properties sovereign. The priest, we say,
sat next, and we almost resented his not leaving the breathing interval
of a chair between us, where empty chairs were abundant. The Silent
Enigma at the lower end of the table were quite a long way off. At our
second cup, the priest looked anxious; at our third, reproachful; at our
fourth and last, contained himself no longer. Yet the four cups were
only equal to two ordinary black-coffee cups.

Possibly the priest thought age conferred privilege. He was also
probably impulsive, and like all similar people often said and did the
wrong thing. But he was evidently actuated by a pure spirit of
philanthropy, which would set the world to rights if it could accomplish
the impossible. Looking earnestly at us, he spoke, and then we found he
was a Frenchman.

"Monsieur," he said in his own tongue, "that is a most insidious
beverage, fatal to digestion, destructive to the nerves. If I see any
one repeating the dose, at the risk of being thought indiscreet, I
cannot avoid speaking. When I count up to the fourth cup, I feel they
are in jeopardy. And shall I tell you why?--I speak from experience. I
once myself was nearly overcome by the fatal basilisk, only that in my
case it was strong waters without coffee more often than with it. For a
time it was a question which should conquer, the tempter or the better
nature. Then came a period in which I was wretched and miserable,
yielding and fighting alternately. Finally, I made a greater effort, and
vowed that if strength were given me to overcome, I would dedicate my
life to the Church. Soon after that I fell ill; sick almost unto death.
Weeks and months passed and I recovered to find the temptation vanished;
hating the very sight of brandy, with coffee or without. Mindful of my
vow--I was a young man at the time--I took steps to enter the Church;
and here I am. And now, sir, forgive me for saying so much about myself,
and for preaching a little sermon taken from real life, though time and
place are perhaps not quite fitted to the occasion."

We forgave him on the spot. His intentions were excellent, his
sympathies keen; two admirable qualities. We assured him that strong
waters were no temptation, held no charm; yet twice four cups had been
taken if needed.

The good priest shook his head doubtfully.

"A dangerous remedy, monsieur. But, now, I am interested in you. I like
the amiable manner in which you have received my little homily. Many
would take fire and proudly tell me to mind my own business. You arouse
my sympathies and invite my confidence. Let me confess that I placed
myself here to enter into conversation. Mine has been a singular life,
both since I entered the Church and before it: full of lessons. If
before retiring to-night you should have an hour to spare and will give
it me, I will relate to you passages in a very eventful career. You will
say it contains many marvels. However late, it will not be too late for
me. I never retire to bed before three in the morning, and am always
broad awake at seven. Four hours' sleep in the twenty-four is all nature
ever accords me. I have reason to believe that I shall be offered the
next vacant See in the Church: I could place my finger upon the very
spot: and my wakeful nights will enable me to do much work. Let me hope
that wisdom and judgment may be accorded. But what am I doing?" drawing
himself up. "Talking as though I had known you for a lifetime; giving
you my confidence, betraying my secrets! What power are you exercising?
What does it mean? Sir, you must be a hypnotist, and I have fallen into
your meshes. Yet, no; I feel I am not mesmerised, and you are to be
trusted. Yes, I repeat that if you will give me an hour this evening,
though it be the dead of night, I will confide strange experiences to
your ear that until now have been locked within my own bosom. And why
not? My life is my own; I have a right to withhold or disclose what
pleases me."

The words of the priest made us almost uncomfortable. We aspired to no
undue influence over any one, much less a stranger. Confidences are not
always desirable; but then we reflected that confidences need not be
confessions. The experiences even of a simple life must always be of
use, how much more those of an active man of the world--thoughtful,
observing, retentive and philosophical.

There was something unusually attractive about our priest. He possessed
great refinement of face; a profile that reminded us of the fine
outlines of Père Hyacinthe as we had many a time watched him in a Paris
pulpit preaching with so much earnestness, fire and conviction, raising
a crusade against the errors and shams both within and without the
Church. When our present neighbour was a bishop, would he too uphold the
good and condemn the evil?

We looked closely and thought Nature had not been unmindful of her
power. As already stated, his long flowing hair was white; the head was
splendidly developed; there was a ring and richness in the subdued voice
that would reach the farthest corners of Notre Dame. We asked ourselves
the question but could not answer it. The future holds her own secrets
and makes no confidences. But strangely interested in Père Delormais--to
make a slight but sufficient change in his name--we promised him an
hour, two hours if he would, and even found ourselves awaiting the
interview with curiosity and impatience. And this was the result of
black coffee and brandy.

But all this took place on the second day. On the first night of our
arrival we had needed neither one nor the other. The priest sat on the
opposite side of the table, and we noticed nothing about him but his
distinguished appearance and Benjamin's portions. Yet he evidently had
been closely studying us. The Silent Enigma had occupied a little of our
attention and wonder, but this soon passed away. The remainder of the
scattered guests called for no remark whatever.



CHAPTER IV.

A NIGHT VISION.

     Wrong turnings--H. C.'s gifts and graces--Out at night--The arcades
     of Gerona--At the fair--Ancient outlines--Demons at work--In the
     dry bed of the river--Roasting chestnuts--Medieval outlines--In the
     vortex--Clairvoyantes and lion-tamers--Clown's despair--Deserted
     streets--Vision of the night--Haunted staircase--Dark and
     dangerous--A small grievance--The reeds by the river--Cry of the
     watchmen--Hare and hounds--Fair Rosamund--Jacob's ladder--New
     rendering to old proverbs--Cathedral by night--H. C.
     oblivious--Scent fails--Return to earth--Romantic story--Last of a
     long line--_El Sereno!_--The witching hour--H. C. unserenaded--Next
     morning--Grey skies--A false prophet--Magic picture--Cathedral by
     day--Mediæval dreams.


Dinner ended we went to our rooms preparatory to investigating the town.
These rooms were only reached through a labyrinth of passages, and to
the last hour we were always taking wrong turnings. H. C. had the organ
of locality as well as the gift of rhyme, and we often had to summon him
from some distant chamber to the rescue; vainly remarking that it was a
little hard all the talents should have fallen to his share. He would
condescendingly reply that we must be thankful for small mercies; adding
with great modesty that all his talents and graces, far beyond our ken,
were counterbalanced by a feeling of tremendous responsibility.

We left the hotel with all our curiosity awakened. It was very dark. No
stars were shining; a small aneroid indicated rain. Where we came to
openings in the streets, the sky above was lighted with a lurid glare,
reflection of the countless torches in the fair. Our own street was in
comparative darkness.

Sauntering down whither fate would lead us, we came to some splendid
arcades, deep, massive and solemn. Few towns in Spain possess such
arcades as Gerona; so exceedingly picturesque and substantially built
that time may mellow but hardly destroy them. To-night they were not
quite impenetrable; a little of the glare from the sky or the fair--the
latter unseen but near at hand--seemed to faintly light their obscurity
and add mystery to the finely-arched outlines. They were deserted, not a
creature was visible, the shops were closed. There is no time like night
and darkness for solemn outlines and impressions.

[Illustration: ARCADES: GERONA.]

A few steps farther on and we suddenly burst upon the full glory of the
fair. Not the glory of the sun or moon, but of smoking torchlights and
lurid flames carried hither and thither by the wind. We traced them far
as the eye could reach. The houses, with their quaint outlines and iron
balconies shadowed by the waving trees, stood out vividly. A double
stream of people sauntered to and fro, treading upon each other's heels.
At one booth a Dutch auction was going on--great attraction of the
evening.

[Illustration: VIEW OF GERONA FROM THE STONE BRIDGE.]

We stood on the bridge and looked quite far down upon the bed of the
river. As our host had said, the water was very low. The stream had
narrowed and half the bed was dry. Here and there huge fires were
burning and flaming, and men danced round them, looking like demons as
the flames now and then burst forth and lighted up their grim faces.
They were roasting chestnuts, and as each batch was finished it was
carried up to the fair to be quickly devoured by the boys and girls
to-night supreme. Every dog has its day, and it was their turn to reign.
They must make the most of it. To-morrow the garlands would fade. When
the clock struck twelve Cinderella went back to her rags and
chimney-corner. Black Monday always comes. Every stall displayed nothing
but toys, from juvenile knives to slice off finger-ends to
seductive-looking purses that were a mortifying reflection upon empty
pockets.

As we stood on the bridge all this light and glare outlined the
wonderful houses that rise up straight from the river so that its waters
wash their foundations--and at very high tides come in at the
ground-floor windows, a visitor more free than welcome. The occurrence
is rare, but has been known. We could just trace the marvellous
outlines; their strangely picturesque, old-world look: and we waited
with patience for the morning and the splendours it should reveal.

Plunging boldly into the crowd, we were swallowed up in the vortex. It
was rather bewildering. All the people seemed to do was to walk up and
down in an endless stream, eat chestnuts and blow penny trumpets.
To-night, at any rate, the stalls were almost neglected. Possibly they
had not had time to digest the glamour, and to-morrow the harvest would
come.

At the end of the long thoroughfare lights and stalls and crowd were
left behind. We reached a quaint corner which cunningly led to another
bridge. This we crossed and soon found ourselves in the wide market
square and a different scene. Here the shows had taken up their abode,
and every effort was being made to excite an unresponsive crowd. It was
the usual thing. The learned pig, the two-headed lady, the gentleman who
drew portraits with his feet, the clairvoyante who told fortunes and
promised wealth and marriage, the lion-tamer who put his head into the
lion's mouth, the enchanting ballet, where ladies and gentlemen
pirouetted and made love in dumb motions: these attractions were
faithfully described and freely offered to the dazzled multitude. In
vain a clown tried to be facetious, shouted himself hoarse, and blew a
trumpet until his face grew dark. Bells rang and drums beat--the crowd
did not respond.

We left them to it, not tempted by the unseen. Our day for shows and
illusions was over. This was not what we had expected of Gerona the
beautiful and ancient. If we felt a slight grievance, who could wonder?

Presently we found ourselves in the darkness of night at the edge of the
river. There was more water here, no dry bed visible. Away to the left,
as far as one could gather, stretched the open country. Tall trees,
sombre and mysterious, waved and rustled behind us. Evidently this was
one of the public parks or promenades that exist just outside so many
Spanish towns, refuges from the mid-day sun and evening glare; Elysian
fields for those disembodied souls who pace to and fro to the music of
love's young dream; vows of eternal fidelity more or less writ in sand.

The water looked cold and calm and tranquil. Rushes grew by the side and
the wind whispered through them. Pan was playing his pipes. Lights
twinkled from the windows of many a house down by the river. A lurid
glow still hung in the sky, and beneath it, in front of us to the right,
we traced the marvellous outlines of the town. Above all, crowning the
heights, stretching heavenwards like mighty monsters, uprose the towers
of the cathedral and other churches. Almost unearthly was the scene in
its gloom and grandeur of mystery. Far down on the dry bed of the river
the chestnut-roasters danced like demons about their holocausts. No
clown need cry the virtues of their wares; the demand was equal to the
supply, and both were unlimited.

We hardly knew how we found our way here or found it back again.
Instinct guides one on these occasions and seldom fails as it failed in
the midnight streets of Toledo. But a conjuror would be lost in those
narrow wynds, which all resemble each other and are without plan or
sequence.

[Illustration: BANKS OF THE OÑAR: GERONA.]

To-night it was plainer sailing. Afar off we heard the clown bidding
people to his feast of good things. Like the siren in stormy weather it
told us which way to steer, what to avoid. We passed well on the
outskirts of the gaping crowd and found ourselves on the bridge: the
dark bridge, with the river flowing beneath, the houses rising in a
great impenetrable mass, and the distant chestnut-roasters at their
demon work.

The evening was growing old; a neighbouring church clock struck ten.
This served to change the current of one's thoughts, which had simply
drifted with the scene before us.

"Let us go to the cathedral," said H. C. "We shall then have two
impressions instead of one. I always like to see an important building
first at night. Next morning's view is so different that it becomes a
revelation."

This was true enough; but how find our way to the cathedral and back
again to the hotel? We had no desire to repeat that Toledo adventure.
The story of the Babes in the Wood is only amusing to those who listen.

"Evidently a very different town from Toledo," replied H. C. "We have
only to climb the height to reach the cathedral. Let us play Hare and
Hounds. I will drop pieces of paper by way of scent. Or like Hop o' my
Thumb scatter stones on the road."

"Wouldn't a silken thread be more poetical?"

"True; but," with a profound sigh, "there is no Fair Rosamund at the end
of it. Here we can only worship the antique. Rosamund was not antique."

"But this has one great virtue; it can never disappoint or play you
false. And, rare merit, its charms increase with age."

Again he sighed deeply. He had had many disappointments, but then he
deserved them. Butterflies flit from flower to flower, until by-and-by
they alight on a nettle and it stings: a little allegory always lost
upon H. C. The gift of knowing themselves is still denied to mortals.

We left the bridge and found ourselves once more in the quaint octagonal
corner; in front of us a narrow turning; a long flight of steps
apparently without end; a Jacob's Ladder.

"Leading to Paradise," said H. C. "Let us take it."

"Would you be admitted with all those broken vows upon your conscience?"

The Oracle was silent. With a bold plunge we commenced the ascent: a
rugged climb with dead walls about us; twistings and turnings and
crooked ways and rough uneven steps; a veritable pilgrimage.

"Patience," said H. C. "Everything comes to him who climbs. I like to
vary our proverbs; the old forms grow hackneyed."

As he spoke, we came upon a hidden turning to the left; short, straight,
and evidently full of purpose. We took it without doubting and soon
found ourselves in the open square, bound on one side by the cathedral
with the Bishop's palace at right angles.

On this occasion no majestic outlines rewarded us. Only for its interior
is the cathedral famous. All doors were locked and barred. We knocked
for admission. These wonderful buildings should be open at night as well
as by day, and some of their finest effects are lost by this tyrannical
custom. But we knocked in vain; ghostly echoes answered us. Ghosts pass
through doors; we never heard that the most accommodating ghost ever
opened them to mortals. It was the great south doorway at which we
appealed--the Apostles' Doorway--and in the darkness we could just trace
its fine deeply-recessed arch. Above the cathedral rose its one solitary
pagan tower, shadowy and unreal against the night sky.

A broad, magnificent, apparently endless flight of steps such as few
cathedrals possess faced the west front. To-night we could see nothing
beyond of the town and river, the great stretch of country and far-off
Pyrenees we knew must be there. All this must wait for the morning. Nor
should we have to wait long, for night and the moments were flying. The
glare had died out of the sky; shows and booths had put out their
lights; the crowd had gone home. Gerona might now truly be likened to a
dead city.

No sound disturbed the stillness but the cry of the watchmen in
different parts of the town. One proclaimed the time and weather and
another took up the tale; sometimes a discordant duet rose upon the
air. We heard it all distinctly from our citadel above the world.

[Illustration: APOSTLES' DOORWAY, CATHEDRAL: GERONA.]

As we looked, one of them passed in slow contemplation at the foot of
the long flight of steps--steps nearly as broad as the cathedral itself.
His staff struck the ground, his light flashed shadows upon the houses.
The effect was weird. Heavy footsteps echoed right and left through the
narrow streets, in fitting accompaniment to his monotonous chant. We had
long grown familiar with these old watchmen, who come laden with an
atmosphere of the past. They are in harmony with these towns of ancient
outlines, suggesting days when perhaps the faintest glimmer of an oil
lamp only made darkness more hideous; days when their office was no
sinecure as now, but one of danger and responsibility.

The cathedral clock struck eleven, and when the last faint vibration had
died upon the air we turned to go. It seemed a great many hours since we
had risen in the darkness of the Narbonne misty morning, H. C. had been
reawakened with a sort of volcanic eruption, and madame, wishing us bon
voyage over our tea and hot rolls, had disappeared like a flash into the
mist to put the final touches to her _diner de noce_.

"Now for Hare and Hounds, H. C. Lead the way."

"By the beard of Mahomet! I forgot all about it and have put none down."

"So the scent has failed?"

Remorse made him silent for a moment. Then he tried to turn the tables.

"After all, it was your fault. Your saying what you did about the silken
thread and Fair Rosamund, set me thinking what a romantic adventure it
would be if it could only come true. Naturally everything else went out
of my mind."

"We must make the best of it, H. C., and get back to the hotel as we
can. Suppose we vary the route. These steps look inviting; we will take
them. All roads lead to Rome."

We went down the interminable flight, turned and looked back. A vision
of a church in the clouds and a pagan tower that went out of sight. We
had returned to earth, and not far off the old watchman was still
awaking shadows and echoes in the narrow street. We could not do better
than follow, and presently found ourselves in our quaint little
octagonal corner. All was well.

The long thoroughfare, so crowded lately, was now forsaken. Stalls were
shut down, lights were out. It was like a deserted banqueting-hall. The
chestnut sellers had left their pans and baskets, but left them empty.
From the bed of the river the dancing demons had departed, and the smoke
of their incense still ascended from dying embers. Next came the old
arcades, darker, lonelier, more mysterious than ever. These we knew
faced our street, and turning our backs upon them we found ourselves in
a few moments at the hotel.

Only a couple of old watchmen broke the solitude, meeting at their
boundaries. They stood on the pavement in close converse and we wondered
if they were hatching mischief; then they threw their light upon us and
no doubt returned the compliment. We disappeared within the great
doorway and left them to their reflections.

Up the broad staircase, the white marble glistening in the rays of the
one electric lamp that still lighted up the courtyard. We thought of the
sumptuous crowd that had passed up and down in the centuries gone by;
fair dames in rustling silks and gay cavaliers with clanking swords; all
the grandeur and gorgeousness of that once ducal palace. The staircase
seemed haunted with ghosts and shadows, the murmur of voices, echo of
laughter, weeping of tears.

And now, dim and vapoury, a brilliant pair appeared in tender proximity
to each other. His arm encircled her waist, her fair white hand rested
with fond appropriation upon his doublet. The love-look in her eyes was
only equalled by the fervour and constancy of his. Yet sadness
predominated, for it was a farewell interview. She was the last daughter
of the ducal house, last of her race. They were betrothed and the course
of true love had run smooth. But now he was bidden fight for his country
and would depart at daybreak.

He never lived to return, but died on the battlefield. Within his gloved
hand was found a golden tress tightly clasped, and next his heart a
small miniature of his beautiful betrothed. Both were buried with him.
She soon faded and declined, and found him again in a Land where wars
and partings are unknown. House and name became extinct. As we thought
of this, suddenly the staircase seemed full of sighs, lights grew dim.

We passed on and found the hotel empty and deserted. Every one had gone
to bed and left the long gloomy corridors to silence and the ghosts. We
lighted candles and H. C. led the way through the labyrinth to our
rooms. Windows were open and the two old watchmen below were just where
we had left them, apparently still gazing at the doorway through which
we had disappeared.

_"El sereno!"_ cried he. "Call your hours and guard the city. Enemies
lurk in secret corners."

They looked up and wished us good night. We were not marauders after
all. So they separated with easy conscience, and from opposite ends of
the street we heard them announce the time and weather.

It was hardly necessary, for another watchman rang out with iron tongue.
Midnight slowly tolled over the town from all the churches. Impossible
to believe an hour had passed since we stood at the top of that vast
flight of steps overlooking the darkness. How had we sauntered back?
Where had the moments flown? One grows absorbed in these night visions,
dark shadows and outlines, and time passes unconsciously. We counted the
strokes, listened to the vibrations, and then H. C. went off to his own
regions. The watchmen were all very well in their way, but for his part
an open window and a love serenade--such as we had been favoured with in
Toledo--had greater charms. To-night passionate appeals and the melody
of the lute were sought in vain. Every window was closed and dark. We
also said good-night to the sleeping world.

The next morning rose in due course, but not with promise. Heavy rain
had fallen during the night, lowering clouds foretold more. Just now,
however, they had proclaimed a truce.

We went out and felt that the grey sky was in harmony with the grey
tones of the town. Nevertheless Spain essentially needs sunshine to
bring out all its colouring and brilliancy. Under dark clouds it falls
for the most part flat and dead, its finest effects lost.

"The rainy season has begun," said H. C. "We are in for a spell of wet
weather. Generally it comes in September. This year it has obligingly
put it off until November. My usual ill-luck."

"I fear it is so," said José our host's son, who, as we have said,
volunteered to pilot us about the town and show forth its hidden
wonders--delighted to air his French and give us Spanish lessons. "We
have a weather-wise prophet who never was known to go wrong; a great
meteorologist. He has just written to the papers to say we are to have a
month's deluge."

A cheerful beginning. As it proved, they were all mistaken, but at the
moment the skies seemed to confirm the tale. All the same we would not
lose hope, which has brought many a sinking ship into harbour. So we put
on a cheerful countenance, bid them take heart of grace and their
umbrellas.

It would be invidious to enter, at the end of a chapter, upon the
wonders of the town which met us at every step and turning; but we must
record one experience before concluding. Let us close our eyes, take
flight upwards and alight at the head of that vast stone staircase with
our backs to the cathedral.

We see this morning what last night was veiled in darkness. The town
lies chiefly to our left. We overlook a sea of red and grey roofs. To
our right are the old walls with their gateways, round bastions and
irregular outlines. Near to us is a church-tower, graceful, octagonal,
excellent in design; but the upper part of its spire is gone and we can
only imagine its once perfect beauty.

Low down beyond the town lies the river, winding through a picturesque
country. We can even see the reeds and rushes that border its banks, but
cannot hear their murmur as we did last night. If Pan still pipes it is
to the pixies.

In the distance the Pyrenees are sleeping in graceful, long-drawn
undulations. Nothing can be lovelier than their outlines. Some are
snow-capped and stand out pure and white against the grey skies. A magic
picture and we long to see it under sunshine. No wonder if Pan is
silent.

We turn to the cathedral. No need to knock this morning. The great west
doors are unlocked and we enter.

The first thing to strike us is an intense obscurity; a dim religious
light deeper than we remember to have seen in any other sacred building.
But to-day the grey skies have something to answer for in this matter.
As the sight grows accustomed to the gloom, the next thing we notice is
the vastness and splendour of the nave in which we stand: a single span
seventy-three feet broad. No other church in Christendom can boast of
such a nave. Light comes in from windows high up, filled in with rich
stained glass. The tone of the walls and pillars is perfect, never
having been touched with brush or knife; a rich subdued claret
delighting the senses. Those great men of the Middle Ages made no
mistakes. Nothing was admitted to disturb their love of harmony and
proportion. They built wonders for the glory of their country and for
all time: knew and recognised one thing only--the charm of perfection.
Where they failed, their efforts were crippled; they were told to make
bricks without straw.

Without waiting at this moment to examine the church more closely, we
pass through a great doorway on the left and find ourselves in the
cloisters.

Here too is a marvellous vision. Few cloisters in the world compare with
them. The four sides are unequal, but this almost heightens their
attraction. They have been little interfered with and are almost in
their original state. The simple round arches rest on coupled pillars of
marble, slender and graceful. The capitals are extremely rich, elaborate
and delicate in their carving. Here Romanesque art seems to have been
introduced into Spain through France. The cathedrals of Catalonia are of
exceeding beauty and appear to have laid the foundation of mediæval
Spanish art. This also, though they would deny it, is due to French
influence--happily at that time at its best and purest.

In this wonderful cloister we lost ourselves in dreams of the Middle
Ages, days which have glorified the earth, and appear almost as
necessary to us as light and air. In the centre was an ancient well,
without which no cloister seems perfect. Shrubs and trees embowered it,
and the fresh green stood out in contrast with creamy walls and
Romanesque arches.

At the end of the north passage we passed through an open porch to a
view extensive and magnificent. A steep rugged descent led to the town.
Below us was the ancient Benedictine church of San Pedro, with its
Norman doorway and cloisters scarcely less wonderful than those we had
just visited. Near it was a smaller, equally ancient church, now
desecrated and turned into a carpenter's shop. We will pay it a visit
by-and-by and make acquaintance with its sturdy owner, who passes his
days and does his work under the very shadow of sanctity. Beyond all, on
the brow of the hill outside the walls, we trace the ruins of the great
castle and citadel that so nobly stood the siege of Gerona, until the
twin spectres famine and disease stalked in hand in hand and conquered
the brave defenders.

We gazed long upon all these historical landmarks, pointed out and
explained by our guide-companion. Then turning back through the
cloisters again found ourselves lost in visions of the past as we fell
once more under the magic influence of the vast space and dim religious
light of Gerona's splendid cathedral.



CHAPTER V.

GERONA THE BEAUTIFUL.

     A Gerona señora--Grace and charm--Lord of creation--Morning
     greeting--Arcades and ancient houses--Conscription--Gerona a
     discovery--Streets of steps--Ancient eaves and rare
     ironwork--Old-world corner--Desecrated church--Gothic
     cloisters--Ghosts of the past--Visions of to-day--Soldiers
     interested--"Happy as kings"--Lingerings--Colonel seeks
     explanation--No lover of antiquity--More conscription--Dramatic
     scene--Pedro to the rescue--Mother and son--Sad story--Strong and
     merciful--Pedro grateful--Restricted interests--Colonel becomes
     impenetrable again.


Last night we had found much to admire, though in the darkness the
charms were only half seen. This morning on opening our window clouds
hung low and threatening; yet the grey tone over all was in such
singular harmony with the ancient city that we hardly regretted the
gloomy skies.

Immediately opposite our casement was a small draper's shop presided
over by an industrious feminine genius. She was up betimes and worked as
though she had taken to heart all the proverbs of Solomon. A short, dark
woman of the true Spanish type, bright, active, and not above all manner
of work, for she swept her pavement diligently and arranged her wares;
doing all with a certain natural grace that was not without its charm.

We thought her a young widow struggling for existence, but when all the
work was done and everything was comfortably arranged, a husband
appeared upon the scene; evidently a lord of creation who looked upon
women, and especially wives, as born to labour. It was their portion
under the sun. She had no doubt grown used to this state of things and
accepted it as part of life's penances.

"I hope you have slept well," we heard her say with the slightest tinge
of sarcasm--the street was so narrow as to bring them almost within
half-a-dozen yards of us. "I have been up these two hours, whilst you
were serenely unconscious," veiling her head in a graceful mantilla.
"Yet you hardly seem refreshed," as he yawned lazily.

"_Cara mia_, you are an admirable woman and the best of wives. I admit
that without your aid life would go hardly with me. But to you work is a
pleasure, and I would not deprive you of it for the world."

[Illustration: A FRAGMENT OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF GERONA.]

By this time the mantilla was adjusted and the dark little woman swept
good-temperedly out of the shop. The prettiest of small feet tripped on
to the pavement. She looked up, saw us gazing in her direction, and her
smile disclosed the whitest of teeth.

"Ah, señor, you have heard our conjugal Good-morning. It is always the
same. Fate has been hard upon us women. The weaker vessel, we get
terribly imposed upon by our masters. Now I go to church to pray for a
blessing upon my work and reformation to my lord. Not that he is bad or
unkind or tyrannical, as husbands go--only incorrigibly lazy. Oh, you
know it is true, Stefano."

Upon which the little lady--she was quite lady-like in spite of swept
pavement and hard work--made us a court-curtsey, flourished a farewell
to her _caro sposo_, and passed swiftly and gracefully down the street.
It is said that only Spanish women know how to walk, and there is some
truth in the proverb.

Rain had fallen heavily during the night, as the watchmen reported
through the small hours. It had ceased--with a promise of more to come.
Remembering the proverb we took umbrellas. H. C. shouldered his and put
on his military manner. The town indeed, quiet as it was, seemed full of
a military atmosphere, for conscription was still going on and we
presently came upon the official scene.

We had gone out without our amiable guide to wander at will and let
chance take us whither it would. In the light of day the arcades seemed
deeper, more massive, more picturesque even than last night. Standing on
the bridge we looked down upon the dry bed of the river far below. The
altars of the chestnut-roasters were cold and dead; the demons absent.
But even at that moment there came down a small band of them to rake out
fires and prepare for action.

The ancient houses on either side make this view from the bridge one of
the most remarkable in the world. These rose straight from the
river-bed, and where water still ran their outlines were reflected:
houses looking old enough to date from the days of the deluge: a huge
mass once white, now yellow, brown and black with weather and age. All
the windows seemed to have been taken out, resulting in that curious air
of unglazed wreck and ruin so often seen in warm latitudes. Countless
balconies adorned with flowers and coloured draperies hung over the
water. Above all rose the outlines of the cathedral and other churches
in the background with striking effect. The distant view was closed in
by the winding river, where the houses on both sides appeared to join
hands. Just beyond this we had stood last night listening to the
rustling of the reeds, lost in the scene so vividly reflected by the
lurid glare of the torches.

[Illustration: STREET IN GERONA.]

People were gradually waking up and opening their stalls. All down the
long thoroughfare were more ancient and massive arcades, hardly noticed
last night in the restless crowd. In this country _par excellence_ of
arcades we had never seen such as these.

"Gerona is a discovery," said H. C. for the twentieth time. "The view
from this bridge is something to dream about. Yet one longs for sunshine
and lights and shadows. Remarkable as the scene is, it is a study in
grey. We want contrast."

But the town had more wonders in reserve, when presently our host's son
joined us and pointed out the hidden treasures of the narrow tortuous
streets. Houses with gabled ends, tiled roofs and windows ornamented
with magnificent wrought ironwork; the true tone of antiquity over
all--as yet unspoilt. Gerona, in its dying prosperity, has, like
Segovia, escaped the ravages of the restorer. Its substantial mansions
are firm and steadfast as in the far gone Middle Ages.

The irregularities of the place add to its charm. Built on rising
ground, the streets are a pilgrimage of rough, uneven, picturesque
steps. From these, narrow openings lead into many a _cul-de-sac_ crowded
with ancient outlines that are nothing less than artistic dreams.

We soon came to one of these ascending streets with its endless flight.
Far up, it was crowned by a church with a solitary square tower and a
Renaissance west front. Houses on either side had wonderful ironwork
windows; we cannot help reverting to this special feature; and many a
gothic casement was rich in the remains of refined tracery and
ornamented balconies; whilst from the deep overhanging eaves quaint
waterspouts here and there craned their long necks like gargoyles of
some ancient cathedral. Reaching the church and turning to the right
down a narrow passage between high dead walls we found ourselves in an
excited scene: no less than the building given up to the rites of
conscription. The spot and its surroundings was one of the most
picturesque in Gerona. A long, broad flight of steps led up to an
ancient church now desecrated and turned into barracks. Groups of young
soldiers were clustered together and sentinels paced to and fro. To the
left, facing the long flight, low ancient houses wonderful in tone and
construction were decorated with wrought ironwork windows, some of them
almost Moorish in design, the upper floors terminating in round open
arcades and tiled roofs with projecting eaves; one of those old-world
bits only to be seen in these mediæval towns of Spain.

We climbed the steps and braved the sentinel, feeling there must or
ought to be hidden cloisters attached to this old church of which
nothing remained but the west front. But we were not to pass
unchallenged. An inner sentry came up and asked our business. Hearing
that we wished to see the cloisters, he beckoned to a further sentry who
evidently belonged to the colonel or commandant of the regiment.
Permission was soon brought, and pointing out the way, we were left to
our own devices.

Instinct had not failed us. In a few moments we were standing in the
midst of large lovely old cloisters with Gothic arcades resting on
slender coupled marble columns. Above these rose a gallery of round
arcades supported by single pillars with carved capitals, the arches,
wider and more open than the pointed arches beneath them, presenting a
fine contrast. A deep archway reached by some half-dozen steps led
through the palace to the east end of the cathedral and the town walls
beyond. In the square in front of palace and cathedral was an ancient
and beautiful well. Above these again a slanting tiled roof fitly
crowned the scene.

Here in days gone by monks and priests had paced the silent corridors. A
sacred atmosphere in which the world had no part hung over all.
Father-confessors listened to the secret struggles of young novices who
hoped to leave the vanities and temptations of life outside the walls of
their cells, only to find that in this state of probation conflict can
never cease. So confessions were made and penances exacted, and soft
footsteps and pale faces haunted those quiet cloisters. Large dark
eyes--larger and darker for the sunk cheeks--gazed upwards at the sky
that canopied the quadrangle with such divine peace, vainly seeking a
clue to the mysteries of existence.

To-day all was changed. The cloisters were still militant, but in quite
another way. All the ancient serenity and repose had departed and the
beauty of outline alone remained. Soldiers and recruits in every stage
of undress went about in restless activity.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO MILITARY CLOISTERS: GERONA.]

In the upper gallery some were making or mending clothes, others drawing
from the well in what was once the cloister garden. It was still
ornamented with its fine old ironwork. Monks and priests once looked
down and saw pale, cowled faces reflected in the calm water; and perhaps
as they drew it to the surface there came a vision of another well in a
far-off land and a certain woman of Samaria. No such vision troubled the
five or six closely-cropped soldiers, whose reflected images below had
nothing saintly, troubled or questioning about them. These rough
specimens of an undersized, undisciplined army were out of all harmony
with the ancient outlines that nothing could deprive of their beauty and
refinement.

We felt the charm and incongruity of it all. The men crowded within a
few yards of us, delighted at being taken by the small camera,
interested at finding themselves reflected on the object glass, unhappy
that we could not there and then present each with a photograph duly
printed and mounted. Such a machine surely performed miracles.

"You all look very happy," H. C. remarked, for more carelessly contented
faces were never seen--a mixture of types good and bad.

"As happy as kings," they answered. "We eat, drink and sleep well.
Clothes and lodging are found us and we never have any fighting to do.
We should like a little more money for tobacco--but one can't have
everything."

Finally, we stayed so long answering questions, satisfying curiosity,
lingering over the beauty of the cloisters, that the colonel himself
appeared upon the scene in full uniform, sword and all. No lover of
architecture, he could not understand how any one bestowed a second
glance on these old outlines. Were we trying to worm military secrets
out of the men with the intention of starting another Peninsular war?
The worthy colonel who had so freely given us permission to enter was
now anxious for an explanation. Pointing out the charm and merit of the
cloisters--the pity they should have transposed the order of things and
turned pruning-hooks into swords--he declared he could not agree with
us.

"I discover no great beauty in these old corridors," he said, "and would
infinitely rather see them filled with brave soldiers than with a parcel
of effeminate monks and priests."

We argued the fitness of things--a time and place for everything.

"If there were once more a siege of Gerona I would turn our very
churches into barracks," laughed our colonel, clanking his sword and
looking fierce as a fire-eater. "And who knows? As far as I am a prophet
we are not anywhere near the days of the millennium. There are more
signs of universal war than of eternal peace."

We had left the cloisters and were standing almost within touch of the
west front of what had been the church. The colonel caught our "mild
regretful gaze," laughed and clanked his sword again.

[Illustration: MILITARY CLOISTERS: GERONA.]

"What will you?" he said. "After all, I would not have been the one to
do it myself; but finding it done, I use it without prickings of
conscience. See," pointing to the crowd below, "we must have room for
our recruits. Poor Spain is not England. Our resources are limited. Yet
you, sirs, monarchs of the world notwithstanding, had your days of
desecration under Cromwell. Opportunity given, and all evil is possible
as well as all good."

The crowd alluded to was full of dramatic interest. The very walls of
the great grey building seemed pregnant with the chances of fate; the
wide doorway greedy to swallow up the youth of the country. Young men
disappeared within to the human lottery with anxious faces or reckless
humour. Free agents this morning, to-night perhaps bound down to
servitude: a willing bondage to some, to others worse than a death-blow.

Perhaps the chief interest centred in the crowd of elders--parents and
friends waiting for the verdict--many a face full of that patient
endurance so terrible to look upon. Mothers with the sickness of hope
deferred, to whom the very shadow of war was a nightmare; fathers
wondering if the boy who had now become companion and part bread-winner,
was about to be thrown into the whirl of barrack life with its manifold
temptations. They had passed that way in their own youth and knew that
only the strong are firm. Stalwart amongst the crowd we recognised
Pedro, our last night's platform acquaintance.

"Why, Pedro," said the colonel--we were standing just a little above the
people--"what brings you here to-day? Surely you have made your offering
to the country and your boy is now at Tarragona?"

"True, colonel," returned this veteran, firm as an oak tree. "My boy has
left me; I saw him off last night and you might have heard the noise
going on up here; half the town was at the station. I have no fears for
him. He knows good from evil and has strong principles. I gave him my
blessing and please Heaven he will return when the years are over. But
my heart aches for these poor women who are weak when their emotions are
in question. So I thought I would come and console them a bit, and tell
them that military discipline after all is a very fine thing--the best
thing that could happen to them if they only do their duty. You agree,
colonel?"

"Of course I do," returned the colonel sharply. "There is no training
like it. It makes men of boys if they have only an inch of wood in them
that will bear carving."

[Illustration: WAITING FOR THE VERDICT.]

We had noticed one pale woman close to the doorway, drooping and
woe-begone. She seemed superior to those about her, and over her head,
half draping her face, was the graceful mantilla. At that moment a youth
appeared, a handsome, manly image of his mother--the resemblance was at
once evident; his thread-bare clothes proving him scantily endowed with
worldly goods. As he advanced a serious expression and hesitating
manner betrayed his fate. No need to ask the question, and with a cry
that was half sob, wholly despair, the mother threw her arms about her
boy's neck as though life could hold no further ill for her. At such a
moment reticence was thrown to the winds. What to her the lookers-on?
Were they not all fellow-sufferers?

"A sad story," said our colonel, whose eyes glistened. "They were
amongst the most prosperous people in Gerona, when the husband died and
left them almost in poverty. Her eldest son turned scapegrace and this
boy was her last hope. No doubt she feels that fate is hard upon her.
Pedro," to the old man who looked on compassionately, "tell her it will
all come right in the end. Stay; quietly whisper to her to come to my
office to-morrow morning at ten and ask for me. I will promise to keep a
special eye upon that boy of hers. He is of finer mould and deserves a
better fate than many. I will see that he has it."

Pedro looked his gratitude, thought there was only one colonel in the
world, and he stood before him. To be strong and merciful is to win
hearts.

"There is more interest for me in this little crowd than in all your
ecclesiastical outlines," said the colonel. "I never saw a building that
I did not tire of in a week, but my work and my men interest me more
year by year. I feel I have something to live for."

He was small and wiry, this colonel, with piercing dark eyes and a mouth
of which a fierce moustache could not conceal the kindliness. One wished
him a finer body of men than these recruits, too many of whom were of
the lowest type and had not, to use his own metaphor, even the inch of
wood that would bear carving.

"That need not greatly trouble you," he said. "It is surprising how many
are the exceptions. After all, it is a survival of the fittest. But I
see you are interested in humanity just as much as I am," noting how we
followed every movement and expression of this pathetic little crowd.
"So far your resources are wider than mine, for when on the subject of
old buildings you are as absorbed as in front of this little drama. My
interests are more restricted. Well then, if you like to come to my
office to-morrow morning at ten you shall have more food for your
sympathies. We will interview that poor woman together and see how far
we can minister consolation to the widow and fatherless."

This was not one's idea of severe military discipline, but we could not
help admiring a nature that after years of experience and repeated
discouragements--in spite of what he had said--still possessed so warm a
heart, so much of human faith. No doubt he had shown a little of his
true self on the spur of the moment, influenced by the above incidents.
All his kindliness of feeling was kept well out of sight of others. The
next instant he had passed beyond the sentry and was holding forth in
tones hard as the Pyramids, cold as the Sphinx.



CHAPTER VI.

ANSELMO THE PRIEST.

     Beauties of age--Apostles' Doorway--How the old bishops kept out of
     temptation--Interior of cathedral--Its vast nave--Days of
     Charlemagne--And of the Moors--A giant dwarfed--Rare choir--Surly
     priest--And a more kindly--Our showman--Dazzling treasures--Father
     Anselmo--Romantic story--Heaven or the world?--Doubts--The gentle
     Rosalie decides--Sister Anastasia--Told in the sacristy--A
     heart-confession--Anselmo's mysticism--Heresy--Charms of
     antiquity--Scene of his triumph--Celestial vision--Church of San
     Pedro--Pagan interior--Rare cloisters--Desecrated church--Singular
     scene--Chiaroscuro--Miguel the carpenter--His opinions--Daily life
     a religion--Anselmo improves his opportunity--"A reflected
     light"--Ruined citadel--War of Succession--Alvarez and
     Marshall--Gerona in decadence--A revelation--Dreamland--Midday
     vision.


The colonel disappeared, and we went our way through narrow, tortuous,
deserted wynds until we found ourselves in the quaint cathedral square.

Here again we were surrounded by the beauties of antiquity. Before us
was the south front of the cathedral with its deeply-arched Apostles'
Doorway at which we had knocked in vain last night. At right angles, its
grey walls of exactly the same tone as the cathedral, was the Bishop's
Palace, its picturesque windows guarded by ancient ironwork. Why so
carefully secured? Had the mediæval bishops feared a reversal of
things--serenades from fair dames yielding to the charm of forbidden
fruit? Or mistrusting their own strength had wisely put temptation out
of reach? Ancient walls are discreet and disclose nothing.

The outer gloom was intensified when we passed within the cathedral.
After a time pillars and arches and outlines grew more or less visible,
a shadowy distinctness full of mystery, appealing to the senses.

The vast nave is the widest Gothic vault in existence and on entering
strikes one with astonishment. So bold was the architect's design
considered that it created consternation in the minds of Bishop, Dean
and Chapter then ruling. Council after council was summoned and opinions
were taken from the great architects of foreign countries. Finally a
jury of twelve men was appointed who gave their verdict in favour of
Boffy, and the nave was erected.

This was in the year 1416. There had existed a cathedral on this very
spot since the eighth century and the days of Charlemagne. Like so many
of those early cathedrals it was pulled down and rebuilt; and sometimes
it happened that the new was no improvement on the old. This was not the
case with Gerona. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1016, but the nave was
reserved for Boffy and his genius four hundred years later. That early
cathedral was turned into a mosque when the Moors took Gerona, but they
allowed Catholic services to be held in the Church of San Filiu, close
at hand, now shorn of part of its spire. In 1015 the Moors were expelled
and the old cathedral was reinstated.

The nave has the fault of being too short, and Boffy could not fail to
see that it wants in proportion. Either space or funds failed him, and
the giant had to be dwarfed. Still it remains gigantic with a clear
width of seventy-three feet. Toulouse, next in width, has sixty-three
feet; Westminster Abbey only thirty-eight feet. For the effect of
contrast the smaller choir and aisles throw up the proportions of the
vast vault. Over all is its wonderful tone; whilst the obscure light
brings out the pointed arches of choir and chapels and the slender
fluted pillars in softened outlines.

The choir has a magnificent retablo and baldachino of wood and silver: a
rare work of art dating back to the year 1320: so promising that we
wished to see the treasures of the sacristy. It was the duty of a
certain priest to show them. The priests take the office in turn. To-day
he whose turn it was proved unamiable. "He would not show them; had
other things to do; we must come another day," hurriedly buttoning his
heavy black cloak as he spoke; an ill-favoured example of his race,
short, swarthy, unshaven. We explained that our hours were limited.
Without further parley he marched rapidly down the aisle, cloak flying,
hobnailed shoes waking desecrating echoes.

Then another and kindlier priest came up; altogether a different and
more refined specimen of humanity. He would gladly show us the treasures
if we would wait whilst he sought the keys. With these he soon returned
and thought he had been long. "I am sorry to keep you," he said, "but
they were not in their place. Now let me turn showman and do the
honours."

Leading the way into the large sacristy he unlocked a cupboard and took
out a key. With this he opened a drawer and took out another key. The
treasure was well guarded. Finally he swung back great doors and our
eyes were dazzled as he lighted a beautiful old lamp whose rays flashed
upon gemmed and jewelled crooks and crosses, enamelled plates and
chalice, a wealth of gold and silver ornaments, many dating back to the
twelfth century. Some of the crosses were magnificent in design and
execution, some had strange and interesting histories. Then he showed us
rare and wonderful needlework rich in gold thread and coloured silks,
also dating back seven or eight hundred years. He explained everything
in a quaint fashion of his own, then took us through a series of rooms
each having its special attraction. Amongst the pictures were one or two
of rare merit and a very early period.

These rooms and their treasures were well worth the little trouble it
had cost to see them. Moreover we were brought into contact with an
amiable ecclesiastic full of refinement and romance.

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL CLOISTERS: GERONA.]

"It is a pleasure to show them to you," he said, when we thanked him. "I
love all these things amongst which my life has been spent, for I hardly
recall the time when I was not attached to the cathedral. As a child I
was an acolyte, and remember the delight with which I used to turn the
wheel at the altar and listen to its silver chiming. I was never happy
but in church, attending on the priests, filling every office permitted
to a boy. From the age of ten I determined to be a priest myself and
never lost sight of that hope--though I once hesitated. But I was poor,
and don't know whether it would have come to pass unaided by one of our
canons who was rich and good; educated and half adopted me, and dying
four years ago left me a sufficient portion of his wealth. I almost
think of myself as one of those romances which only occasionally happen
in life. But there was a moment"--he smiled almost sadly--"when I was
sorely tempted to abandon religion for the world."

"For what reason?" we asked, for he paused. Evidently he wished the
question, and there was something so interesting about him that we were
willing to linger and listen.

"A very ordinary reason. I daresay you can guess, for it was the old,
old story: nothing less than love. I had not yet taken religious vows
and was free to choose. Should it be earth or heaven? Few perhaps have
been more completely enthralled than I. Walking and sleeping my thoughts
were filled with the gentle Rosalie. She was beautiful and I thought her
perfect. Outward grace witnessed to her inward purity of soul.

"To make my conflict harder, she returned all my affection. It was
perhaps singular that her life too had been destined to the cloister, as
mine to the Church. For one whole year we both struggled, miserable and
unsettled. Every fresh meeting only seemed to strengthen our attachment.
An excellent opening in the world presented itself--might we take this
as an indication that Heaven favoured our desires? It was a sore strait
and perhaps we should not have done wrong to yield. During the daylight
hours it seemed so. But night after night I awoke with one verse ringing
in my ears: 'He that having put his hand to the plough looketh back, is
not fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.' In my excited, almost diseased
imagination, the text seemed to stand out in the darkness in letters of
fire. I tossed and turned upon my troubled bed. Drops of anguish would
break upon my brow. On the one hand bliss that seemed infinite;
surrounded by all the false colouring and attraction of forbidden fruit.
On the other the sure service of Heaven--a higher, nobler destiny
without doubt.

"I grew pale and emaciated under my heart-fever. If left to my own
decision I know not how it would have ended: perhaps in yielding. My
gentle Rosalie proved the stronger vessel.

"One morning--shall I ever forget it?--the sun was shining, the skies
were blue, birds and flowers were at their best and brightest, song and
perfume filled the air, I received a letter in the beloved handwriting.
Before opening it I felt that it held our fate and knew its contents.
The soul is never mistaken in such crises.

"'Anselmo, my beloved,' it said, 'my choice is made and I trust you not
to render my difficult task impossible. Last night in a dream my mother
visited me; so real her presence that I feel we have held communion
together. Her face was full of a divine love and pity, and O so sad and
sympathising. Suddenly she pointed and I saw two roads before me. On
each I recognised myself. On the one broad road you walked with me hand
in hand. We were both bowed and broken and foot-sore. We seemed unhappy,
full of care and sorrow. Romance and sunshine? They had fled with the
long past years. Nothing was left but to lay down our burden and die.

"'On the other road I walked alone, but I was strong, upheld by unseen
support. The way was long, yet my footsteps never wearied. I wore the
dress of a Sister of Mercy. At the far, far end, bathed in divine light,
a glorified being yet yourself, you beckoned and seemed to await me.
Beyond you there was a faint vision of Paradise--I knew you had passed
to the higher life. Then my mother turned and spoke. Her voice still
rings in my ears. "My child, in the world you should have tribulation
such as you are not fitted to bear. Your path lies heavenward." Then she
pointed upwards, seemed gradually to fade away, and I awoke. I felt it
an indication accorded me, and rising, on my knees dedicated afresh my
life to Heaven if it would deign to receive me. Beloved, you will help
me; you will lighten my task. Though never united on earth, none the
less do we belong to each other; none the less shall spend eternity
together.'

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF CATHEDRAL: GERONA.]

"Even now," continued the priest, returning to his own narrative, his
voice somewhat agitated: "even now I cannot always think quite calmly of
that morning. I sat amidst the birds and flowers, spell-bound,
heart-broken. The serene skies and laughing sunshine seemed to mock at
my calamity. Earthly dreams were over. Never for a moment did I
question Rosalie's decision or seek to turn it aside. I prayed for
strength, and it was sent me. She became a Sister of Mercy, I a priest.
So our lives are passing, dedicated to Heaven. Not for us the feverish
joys of earth, but quiet streams undisturbed by worldly cares."

"And Rosalie? She still lives?"

[Illustration: CLOISTER OF SAN PEDRO: GERONA.]

"Yes, and in Gerona. Her new name is Sister Anastasia. We meet sometimes
in the silent streets; sometimes at the bedside of the sick and dying;
occasionally at the house of a friend. I believe that we are as devoted
to each other as in the days of our youth, but it is love purified and
refined, containing a thousand-fold more of real happiness than our
first passionate ecstasy. If we are to believe her vision, I shall be
the first to enter the dark passage and cross to the light beyond. It
may yet be half a lifetime--who knows? I am only thirty-seven, Rosalie
thirty-five--but whenever the summons comes for her, I feel that I shall
be awaiting her on the divine shores."

We were seated in a room beyond the sacristy where silence and solitude
reigned amidst the evidences of the past centuries on walls and crucifix
and ancient Bibles--a delightful room in which to receive such a
confession. A halo of romance surrounded our priestly guide; his pale,
refined face glowed with a light from which, as he said, all earthly
dross was purified. And yet he was evidently very human; sympathies and
affections were not straitened; his interests in Gerona and its people
were keenly alive. It was the kindliness of his nature had caused him to
take compassion upon us when his more surly fellow-labourer in the
vineyard had turned a deaf ear to our request.

But our golden moments were passing; we could not linger for ever in
old-world sacristies listening to heart-confessions. Treasures were
locked up, keys placed in their hiding-places; we went back into the
church and the closing of the great sacristy door echoed through the
silent aisles. More beautiful and impressive seemed the wonderful
interior each time we entered; a vision of arches and rare columns and
exquisite windows wonderfully solemn and sacred. In darkened corners and
gloomy recesses, in shadows lost in the high and vaulted roof, we
fancied guardian angels lurked unseen, bringing rest for the
heavy-laden, pardon for the sinner, strength for those who faint by the
way.

"I have often felt it," said our companion, reading our thoughts by some
secret influence; "and have stood here many and many an hour, utterly
alone, lost in meditation. At times mysticism seems to take me captive.
Visions come to me, unsought, not desired; the church is full of a
shining celestial choir; I hear music inaudible to earthly ears; the
rustle of angels' wings surrounds me. These visions or experiences--call
them what you will--have generally occurred after long fastings, when
the spirit probably is less restrained by mortal bonds. But underlying
all my days and action, an intangible incentive for good, I feel the
influence of Rosalie. You see I am still mortal and the earthly must mix
with the heavenly. Nor would I wish it otherwise as long as I have to
minister to mortals, or how could I sympathise with the sin and sorrow
and suffering around me? Even our Lord had to become human, that being
in all things tempted like as we are, He is able to succour them that
are tempted."

[Illustration: APOSTLES' DOORWAY AND BISHOP'S PALACE: GERONA.]

We were walking down the broad nave. Anselmo had thrown on his long
cloak, which added grace and dignity to his tall slender figure. His
pale face shone out in the surrounding gloom like a saintly influence.
What strange charm was about this man? In the course of a few moments we
felt we had known him for years. He was singularly lovable and
attractive. Underlying all his gentleness was an undercurrent of
strength; an evident self-reliance, yet the reliance of one who leans on
a higher support than his own. Here was one worthy of enduring
friendship had our lines not been thrown far apart. As it was he too
would disappear out of our life and we should see his face no more. But
his memory would remain.

At the west doorway we turned and looked upon the splendid vision: the
magnificent nave with its slender pillars and lofty roof, the distant
choir with aisles and arches visible and invisible in the dim religious
light that threw upon all its sense of mystery. Above all the wonderful
tone.

"For five and twenty years I have looked upon this scene, and its
influence upon me is as strong as ever," said the priest. "Here I have
found that peace which passeth all understanding. How many a time have I
let myself in with my key, and in these solitary aisles withdrawn from
the world to hold communion with the unseen. Here strength has come to
fight life's battles. Here I have composed many a sermon, here silently
confessed my sins to the Almighty and obtained pardon. Breathe not the
heresy, but confession to man brings me no rest. I have to go to the
great Fountain Head, trusting in the one Atonement and one Mediator.
Nothing else gives me consolation."

We crossed to the doorway of the cloisters. Anselmo, unwilling to leave
us, crossed also. We were too glad of his companionship to wish it
otherwise. He added much to the spell of our surroundings; a central
figure from which all interest radiated. It was passing from the gloom
of the interior to the broad light of day subdued by the grey clouds
that hid the sunshine.

The cloisters reposed in all the charm of antiquity. For eight hundred
years Time had rolled over them with all its subtle influence. There
they stood, an irregular quadrangle, the simple, beautiful round arches
resting on coupled shafts, whose carved capitals were so singularly
elaborate and delicate. Seldom had the attraction of Romanesque
architecture been more evident.

[Illustration: CHURCH OF SAN PEDRO: GERONA.]

"I love them," said the priest. "How often have I paced these silent
corridors until the very stones seem worn with my footsteps. And they
witnessed the most painful scene, the last great struggle of my
life--but my triumph also. For here I bade my earthly farewell to
Rosalie; on this very spot on which we stand renounced all human hopes
and claims upon her and gave her into Heaven's keeping. Here I placed
her treasured letter next my heart, where it still reposes; where it
will lie when that heart has ceased to beat and this frame has returned
to the dust from which it was taken."

We passed through the little north doorway to the outer world. Far away
the snow-capped Pyrenees rose heavenwards like a celestial vision. In
the plain the silvery river ran its winding course listening to the
love-songs of the reeds and rushes. Near us was the lovely octagon
tower, shorn of its spire. Without the ancient walls we traced the
remains of the citadel; and within them the yet more ancient churches of
San Pedro and its desecrated companion.

"Let us go down to them," said Anselmo: "examine the wonderful little
cloisters and make the acquaintance of Miguel the carpenter. He seems to
care little that where now is heard the fret of saw and swish of plane,
once rose voices of priests at worship and faint whispers of the
confessional."

It was a rough descent, but a singularly interesting scene. We found
ourselves in narrow streets with ancient houses whose windows were
guarded by splendid ironwork. Last night the watchmen had paced and
cried the hour, awakening the echoes, summoning the silent shadows with
their lanterns. To-day there was no sense of mystery about streets and
houses; daylight loves to disillusion. We had to content ourselves with
quaint gables and old-world outlines. Behind us was one of the ancient
gateways strong and massive, leading directly into the precincts of the
cathedral. Framed through its archway we saw a portion of the vast
flight of steps crowned by the uninteresting west front. It was one of
the very best, most old-world bits of Gerona, and within a small circle
were antiquities and outlines that would have furnished an artist with
work for half his days.

Upon all this we turned our backs as we went towards San Pedro. Here
everything is in opposition to the cathedral; the exterior of this
Benedictine church is its glory. Rounding a corner we are in full view
of the beautiful west Norman doorway with its delicately wrought carving
and fern-leaf capitals. Above the doorway is a very effective cornice
and above that an admirable rose window: altogether a rare example of
the Italian Romanesque. The whole church is very striking, with its fine
octagonal tower and Norman apses built into the old town walls. Just
beyond the tower a gateway leads to the citadel and open country beyond.
A church existed here as early as the tenth century--possibly earlier;
the present church dates from the beginning of the twelfth, when it was
given to the Benedictine Convent of Santa Maria by the Bishop of
Carcassonne.

We passed through the lovely old doorway to the uninteresting interior:
a nave and isles with rude arches and piers plain and square. There was
something cold and pagan about the general effect, exaggerated no doubt
by contrast with the cathedral we had just left. Anselmo was not
insensible to the influence.

"If I were Vicar of San Pedro, half the delight of my days would
vanish," he said. "Instead of living in a refined, almost celestial
atmosphere, existence would be a daily protest against paganism. Let us
pass to the cloisters."

Here indeed the scene changed. Smaller than those of the cathedral, they
were almost as beautiful and effective though more ruined and more
restored.

"Not time but wanton mischief has been at work here," said Anselmo. "The
work of destruction was due to the French in the Peninsular War. Which
of Spain's treasures did they leave untouched?"

Nevertheless a great part of their beauty remained. The passages were
full of collected fragments; old tombs, broken pillars, carved capitals
and ancient crosses: a museum of antiquities: and the Norman arches
resting upon their marble shafts were a wonderful setting to the whole.
Above them, all round the cloisters, a series of small blind Norman
arcades rested upon delicately carved corbels--charming and unusual
detail.

[Illustration: DOORWAY OF SAN PEDRO: GERONA.]

Within a few yards of San Pedro was a still more ancient and interesting
church with a most picturesque interior; yet a church no longer, for it
has been turned into workshops. A low octagonal tower crowns a red-tiled
roof with slightly overhanging eaves. Beneath the eaves repose small
blind arcades, and here and there in the lower hall other arcades are
gradually crumbling away. The wonderful roof is rounded and broken into
sections to suit the plan of the building. Ancient eyelets admit faint
rays of light, and a fine rounded arch points to what was once the
principal doorway.

The interior is domed, vaulted and massive, black with age. Small, it
seems to carry one back to the days when Christians were few and
worshipped in secret. Now fitted as a carpenter's shop, it is full of
the sound of hammer and plane. In one corner, men are melting glue and
heating irons at a huge fireplace. The floor is uneven and below the
level of the road. Light enters with difficulty. An obscure, suggestive
scene worthy of Rembrandt, who would have revelled in this combination
of mysterious gloom and human occupation.

The master, a stalwart Spaniard, bade us enter and gave us welcome. He
was probably a man who did not trouble himself about religion, but his
reverence and admiration, even affection for Father Anselmo were
evident.

"You honour me with your presence and bring back a sacred atmosphere to
this desecrated building," he said to the priest. "Not every day will
you come upon such a scene. Yet there is a certain fitness in it after
all. Was not Joseph a carpenter? and did not our Saviour work in the
carpenter's shop? So that, as it seems to me, it has become noble above
all other callings. And so, if this church must be turned to secular
use, we have chosen for the best. To me there is no sense of
desecration. You have San Pedro and the cathedral for worship, and there
is room and to spare in both."

"I fear you seldom add to the number of worshippers," said Anselmo, with
the mildest of rebukes. "Yet, Miguel, how often have I said there is
good in you--an apprehension of the beauty of a religious life--if only
you would not allow it to run to seed."

"Father," returned Miguel good-humouredly--it was curious to hear an
older man thus address a younger--"all in good time. I conceive that I
am living a fair life, working hard, treating my wife well, looking
after my children. But somehow I can't go to confession--what have I to
confess, in the name of wonder?--and I never feel a bit the better for
Mass, high or low. So I just make a religion of daily life, and
by-and-by, when I am old, I will try to find benefit in your set forms
and ceremonies."

Anselmo shook his head. We knew how closely he sympathised with at least
one part of Miguel's objections, though he could not tell him so. He
only looked a vain remonstrance, which Miguel received with the
good-natured smile that seemed a part of himself.

"Last Sunday," said Anselmo, placing his hand on Miguel's shoulder, "I
took for my text those words which are some of the most solemn, most
hopeless, most full of warning in the whole Bible: _'And the door was
shut.'_ There, Miguel, is a sermon in a nutshell. Bear it in mind and
ponder over it. Your door is still open; so is mine; but who can be sure
of the morrow? Forgive me," turning to us; "I did not come here for
this, but Miguel and I are old friends and understand each other. As
continual dropping will wear away a stone, so I seldom neglect to put in
a word when we meet, though to-day I might for your sake have refrained.
It will tell in the end," nodding to Miguel, "for he has a conscience
and I will not let it rest. And what a building in which to preach a
sermon!" looking upwards and around. "These blackened vaults, those
massive time-defying walls, this earthy, uneven floor--everything
suggests a pagan rather than Christian past. If anything could heighten
the effect it is those weird workers at the fire with faces lighted up
by tongues of flame. All seems a remnant of barbarism. But it is a
wonderful spot, and I come again and again and every time it reads a
fresh lesson to the soul. The whole place seems full of ghostly shadows.
And it is perfect, as you see; transepts, a chancel and apses; nothing
wanting. And so, Miguel, you who so to say dwell in the odour of
sanctity, on ground once consecrated, within walls once devoted to the
service of Heaven, should be influenced by your surroundings and become
a shining light."

"Then I fear it will never be anything but a reflected light," laughed
Miguel, "and that proceeding from your revered and beloved person. I
shall be content if only the shadow of Elijah's mantle touches me in
falling."

We left the wonderful little building so crowded with interest past and
present. Miguel professed to feel honoured by our visit, and placing
himself in attitude outside his door intimated that he should like to be
taken with our instantaneous camera. This was done and the result
promised in due time. We left him standing there--a tall, strong,
magnificent specimen of his race, with hair turning grey and rugged
features full of a certain power.

[Illustration: DESECRATED CHURCH: GERONA.]

"That man has in him the making of a hero," said Anselmo, as we passed
through the gateway in the old wall. "In a different station of life he
would have been a master of the world. But I always feel that the lives
and destinies of such men, missed here, will be carried on to perfection
in another state of existence. Great powers were never meant to be lost.
Here he is the acorn, there he will become the full-grown tree bearing
fruit."

We were climbing towards the ruined citadel and at last found ourselves
within the once formidable fortress. Much remained to show the strength
of what had been, but its immense area was now given up to silence and
weeds.

"It is full of a sad atmosphere and melancholy recollections," said
Anselmo. "One goes back in spirit to the terrible days of the past.
First that War of Succession, when Gerona with two thousand men manfully
but hopelessly resisted Philip V. with an army five times as great.
Again in 1808, with three hundred men, chiefly English, she repulsed
Duhesme with his six thousand warriors. In 1809 the French besieged her
with thirty-five thousand men. Alvarez, who was then Governor--you will
have observed his house in the cathedral square--was terribly
handicapped. He had little food and scarcely any ammunition, but was one
of the bravest and wisest men of Spain. The siege was long and fierce,
the suffering great. We were much helped by the English, but your
gallant Colonel Marshall was killed in the breaches. It is said that
Alvarez wept at his death, declaring he had lost his right hand. In such
straits was the town that even the women enrolled themselves into a
company dedicated to Santa Barbara. The enemy failed to take the city;
never was resistance more manful and determined. Many of the besieging
generals gave up in angry impatience and went off.

"But at last two new enemies arose--famine and disease--inseparable
spectres. Before these Gerona could not stand. Everything depended on
Alvarez, and he fell a prey to fever. A successor was appointed whose
first and last act was to capitulate. The siege had lasted nearly eight
months, and the French lost fifteen thousand men. So," looking around,
"we are on classic ground, sacred to courage, consecrated by human
suffering, watered with streams of human blood. Gerona has never
recovered. She has steadily declined and still declines.

[Illustration: OUTSIDE THE WALLS: GERONA.]

Nevertheless, she is and ever will be Gerona the brave and beautiful."

Anselmo had not exaggerated. Gerona was indeed a revelation. It is not a
Segovia, for there is only one Segovia in the world; but, little known
or visited, it is yet one of Spain's most picturesque and interesting
towns. Nature and art have combined to make it so--the art of the Middle
Ages, not of to-day. A modern element exists, but the new and the old,
the hideous and the beautiful are so well divided by the river, that you
may wander through the ancient streets undisturbed by the nineteenth
century and fancy yourself in dreamland.

[Illustration: CLOISTERS OF SAN PEDRO.]

We had mounted to the highest point of the ruins and seated ourselves on
the embankment. Fragments of the old citadel lay about in all
directions; crumbling walls, desolated chambers, dark entrances leading
to underground vaults. Over all grew tall sad weeds, so suggestive of
vanished hands and departed glory. It was a romantic scene, and as we
sat and pondered, citadel and plains seemed suddenly filled with a vast
army; the ground trembled with the tramp of horsemen, march of troops.
In imagination we saw the dead and dying, the bold resistance to human
foes, the falling away before a foe that was not human. The air was full
of the shout of warriors, flash of swords, roar of cannon. Then the
vision passed away, leaving nothing but the empty deserted scene before
us. The grass on which we sat was covered with flowers, and wild thyme
scented the air with its pungent fragrance. A little below, stretching
far round, were the old town walls, grey and massive.

The ground in front broke into a ravine, disclosing fresh outlines of
towers, walls and ancient houses. San Pedro was conspicuous, and just
beyond it the short octagon of the desecrated church. In its rich
sheltered slope grew a luxuriant garden, with hanging shrubs and weeping
trees and many fruits of the earth. To-day, it was a scene of peace and
plenty; wars and rumours of wars might never have been or be again.
Above all, within the ancient walls rose the outlines of the cathedral
overlooking the whole town and vast surrounding country as though in
perpetual benediction. Beside us sat Father Anselmo, his pale refined
face and clear-cut features full of the beauty of holiness.

Suddenly the great cathedral bell struck out the twelve strokes of
mid-day, and we listened in silence as the last faint vibrations seemed
to die away amidst the distant Pyrenees.

"It is my summons," said the priest. "I would fain linger with you, but
duty calls me elsewhere. I cannot say farewell. Let us again meet
to-morrow."

We promised; then looking steadily at him saw a wave of emotion pass
over his expressive face. Following his intent gaze, our eyes rested
upon a slight, graceful figure in the dress of a _Religieuse_, flitting
silently through the small square beside the desecrated church. Miguel,
who stood at his door, bowed as to a saint.

"Sister Anastasia," said Anselmo, his eyes having already betrayed the
fact. "She is bound on some errand of mercy. May Heaven have her in its
holy keeping!"



CHAPTER VII.

A DAY OF ENCOUNTERS.

     "Can a prophet come out of Galilee?"--The unexpected happens--under
     the probe--Wise reservation--Born to command--Contrasts--Nothing
     new under the sun--The señora prepares for the fair--Grievance not
     very deep seated--Bewitching appearance--Señora
     dramatic--Ernesto--Marriage a lottery--Every cloud its silver
     lining--Gerona _en fête_--Delormais' mission--Deceptive
     appearances--Evils of conscription--Ernesto's ambition--Les beaux
     jours de la vie--Rosalie--A fair picture--Strange
     similarity--Heavenwards--Anastasia or Rosalie--Her dreams and
     visions--Modern Paul and Virginia--Eternal possession--A Gerona
     saint--The better part--More heresy--Fénélon--One creed, one
     worship--Not peace but a sword--Not dead to the world--Angel of
     mercy--H. C. mistaken--Earthly idyll.


That same afternoon the people had recovered from their glamour. The
fair was in full swing, Gerona festive. It was a general holiday and
work was suspended. The shops were open, but no one attempted to make
purchases. Even our industrious little lady with the idle husband gave
up hoping for customers and turned to pleasure. And she took her
pleasure as she did her work, with a great amount of earnestness.

Luncheon had long been over. Black coffee and headache were of the past.
The Silent Enigma had gone their way. Mutely they had risen, taken their
hats, and marched out in a procession of three. Delormais had duly
administered his homily; and after so strangely opening his heart had
gone into the town to prosecute his mission. Whether an inspection of
the numerous convents, a private embassy from the Pope, or some other
weighty matter only to be entrusted to a man of tact and judgment, he
did not say.

Before separating we had asked him if his object in visiting Gerona were
ecclesiastical or domestic, concerned himself or his office.

"Your question is very natural, but on that point I must be silent," he
returned. "My mission--I may tell you so much--is delicate and
momentous. It is secret, but the secret is not mine, and can no more be
disclosed than a secret of the confessional. Just now when I promised to
relate to you a part of my life I was offering you of my own. No one has
a right to stay me. My experiences injure none. I might publish them
to-morrow and disturb no one's slumbers. But at the present moment I may
call myself an ambassador--though not in bondage like St. Paul--and
every act I do and every word I utter need be consecrated by prayer and
reflection."

"Who would have supposed anything so weighty within this little town?"
we remarked. "Before arriving we looked upon it as a deserted village,
the ends of the earth. From the train Gerona appears in the last stage
of misery and destitution."

"Can a prophet come out of Galilee?" quoth the priest. "The unexpected
happens. I have long learned not to judge beforehand; above all not to
be prejudiced by appearances. Rags may conceal the noblest heart, and a
silken doublet cover the bosom of a Judas. Confess," laughing, "that
when I took my seat next to you just now you voted me intrusive; said to
yourself: 'Why does this old man usurp my elbow room, with ten vacant
chairs lower down? He is troublesome. I will chill him with a proud
disdain.' And now all is changed and you ask me to sit next you at
dinner. Is it not so?"

So near the truth, indeed, that one felt as though under the searching
X-rays. "Suffering is misanthropical," we replied. "Not physical but
heart pain brings out the sympathies. So it is dangerous to ask a favour
of a man tortured by gout--or headache."

"All which really means that I knew you better than you know yourself,"
returned Père Delormais, in his rich, round tones. "That is only a
general experience. And now I go my way. If all be well, we meet again
at dinner. Ah! I never speak without that reservation. How many times
have I seen the evening appointment cancelled by death at noon."

[Illustration: STREET IN GERONA.]

He left the room; a tall, stately figure with hair white as snow; a man
full of life and energy, evidently born to command and fill the high
places of earth: a power for good or evil as he should be well or
ill-directed. A very different nature from Anselmo, whom we had left at
mid-day. The one ruling the destinies of men; the other content to
follow in the Divine footsteps of humility and love; satisfied with a
limited horizon; doing good by precept and example but asking no wider
sphere than his little world. Yet in his way capable of influencing
human hearts; of stirring up enthusiasm in a great crusade if only the
torch of ambition inflamed his zeal. Very different the method and
influence of the two men, though each had the same end in view. But in
the many phases of human nature some must be led, others driven. One
will hear the still, small voice, another needs the burning bush; James
was the Son of Thunder, Barnabas of Consolation. As in the days of old,
so now.

We too went our way down the broad marble staircase of the ancient
palace, but with no secret or delicate mission to perform like
Delormais. We had followed rather closely, but up and down the street
not a vestige of him remained. Whether he had gone right or left we knew
not. The place was deserted. Looking upwards nothing was visible but
outlines of the rare old houses. Here and there a gabled roof and dormer
window; many a wrought-iron balcony; many a Gothic casement rich in
tracery and decoration; many a lower window protected by a strong iron
grille, despair of serenaders, consolation of parents, paradise of
artists.

It was now that we saw our industrious and amiable señora preparing for
the fair. Again the mantilla was being gracefully arranged. The
lady--very properly--had evidently no idea of neglecting the good looks
nature had bestowed upon her.

"Ah, señor," as we stopped with a polite greeting, "for a whole week
this fair is the upsetting and devastation of the town. It comes with
all its shows and shoutings; distracts our attention; we may as well
close the shutters for all the business that is done; finally it walks
off with all our spare money. And who is a bit the better for it?"

But madame's grievance was evidently not very deep-seated, for she
laughed as she adjusted the folds of her mantilla more becomingly, and
looking across at a mirror could only confess herself satisfied with her
bewitching appearance.

Near her stood a good-looking boy of some fourteen years, who evidently
just then thought the attractions of the fair far more important than
his mother's adorning. He was impatient to be gone.

"Calm yourself, my treasure," she remonstrated. "The day is yet young.
Chestnuts will not all be roasted, nor brazen trumpets all sold. These
are eternal and inexhaustible, like the snows of the Sierra. Oh! youth,
youth, with all its capacities!" she dramatically added. "Ah, señor,
you will think me very old, when you see me the mother of this great
boy!"

We gallantly protested she was under a delusion: he must be her brother.

"My son, señor, my son. I married at sixteen, when I was almost such a
child as he, and I really do feel more like his sister than his mother.
_Ahimé!_ If I had only waited a few years longer I might have chosen
more wisely; perhaps have found a husband to keep me instead of my
keeping him. Marriage is a lottery."

We suggested that every cloud has its silver lining.

"True, señor. And after all if I did not draw the highest number,
neither did I fall upon the lowest. This dear youth too is a
consolation. He is fond of swords and trumpets, but never shall be a
soldier. I have long had the money put by for a substitute in case he
should be unlucky. For that matter, Heaven has prospered my industry and
in a humble way we are at ease."

This recalled the scene witnessed in the earlier hours of the morning
and the appointment half made with the colonel for the morrow.

"Evidently you do not approve of conscription, madame, which to-day
seems to be running hand-in-hand with the revels of the fair."

"I see that conscription is a necessary evil," returned madame, "for
without it we should not get soldiers; but you will never persuade me
any good can come of it. That my son here, who has been carefully
brought up, should suddenly be thrown under the influence of the worst
and vilest of mankind--no, it is impossible to avoid disaster. So,
Ernesto, never fix your affections on a military life, for it can never
be, never shall be. I would sooner make you a priest, though I haven't
the least ambition that way either."

To do the boy justice, he seemed quite ready to yield, laughed at the
idea of priesthood, and if fond of swords and trumpets, his military
ardour went no further. If one might judge, a civil life would be his
choice, and possibly a successful one, for he seemed to inherit his
mother's energy with her dark eyes and brilliant colouring. But for the
moment the fair and the fair only was the object of his desires. This
was in accordance with the fitness of things. He was at the age which
comes once only, with swift wings, when life has no alloy and happiness
lies in gratifying the moods and fancies of the moment.

"Now I am ready," said the mother, evidently very happy herself. "Ah,
señor, you are too good," as we slipped a substantial coin into the
boy's hand and bade him buy his mother a fairing and himself chestnuts
and ambitions. "But after all, the pleasure of conferring happiness is
the most exquisite in the world. There is nothing like it. So perhaps I
should envy, not chide you."

They went off together, the boy taking his mother's arm with that
confidential affection and good understanding so often seen abroad. To
him the world was still a paradise, and his mother at the head of all
good angels. _Les beaux jours de la vie_--short-lived, but eternally
remembered. So, parents, indulge your children but do not spoil them.
The one is quite possible without the other.

It was to be a day of encounters. We followed our happy pair down the
deserted street, admiring the graceful walk of the mother, the boy's
tall, straight, well-knit form and light footstep. As they disappeared
round the corner leading to the noisy scene of action, a quiet figure
issued from beneath the wonderful arcades and approached in our
direction. She was dressed as a Sister of Mercy and seemed to glide
along with noiseless movements.

"Rosalie," we breathed, turning to H. C. for confirmation.

"Without doubt," he replied. "There could not be two Rosalies in one
town."

"Or in one world."

On the impulse of the moment we went up and, bareheaded, spoke to her;
felt we knew her--had known her long. Anselmo's vivid confession had
taken the place of time and custom.

Yes, it was Rosalie. A more beautiful face was seldom seen, never a more
holy; all the refinement and repose of Anselmo's added to an infinite
feminine grace and softness. They were even strangely alike, as though
the same impulse in their lives, a constant dwelling upon each other,
their fervent, though purified, affection had created a similarity of
feature and expression. Hers was the face of one whose life is turned
steadily heavenwards, to whom occasionally, whether waking or sleeping,
a momentary glimpse of unseen glories is vouchsafed, one whose daily
work on earth is that of a ministering spirit. As far as it is possible
or permitted here, Rosalie bore the evidence of a perfect and unalloyed
life that had never looked back or attempted to serve two masters.
Perhaps she might have become a mystic, but the serious and practical
nature of her work kept her mind in a healthy groove, free from
introspection. She was walking her lonely pilgrimage along the narrow
road of her dream with firm, unflinching steps. The end, far off though
it might yet be for Anselmo and for her, could not be doubted.

"_Ma soeur_, you are Anastasia, devoted to good works; and once were
Rosalie devoted to Anselmo," we said, without waiting to choose our
words. "There could not be another Rosalie in Gerona, as there could not
be another Anastasia."

"Nay," she returned, "I am Rosalie still, and still devoted to Anselmo.
There is no past tense for our affection, señor, which sweetens my days
and makes me brave in life's battles."

She seemed neither surprised nor startled by our sudden address. Calm
self-possession never for a moment forsook her, though in our rashness
we might have been probing a half-healed wound or rousing long dormant
emotions.

But it was far otherwise. Naturally as Anselmo had told us his story she
replied to our greeting. They were a wonderful pair, these two. United,
their careers would have been very different, but never otherwise than
pure and holy. As we spoke to her a slight colour mounted to her pale,
lovely face, a light came into her eyes, a sweet smile parted the lips.
She looked almost childlike in her innocence, utter absence of
self-consciousness.

"Yes, I was Rosalie," she repeated; "and I am Rosalie still, though my
life compels me to adopt a new name. But I ever think of myself as
Rosalie, and in my dreams am Rosalie of the days gone by. Sometimes my
mother visits me in those dreams and calls me Rosalie. If we retain our
names in the next world I shall be Rosalie once more. Señor, you have
been with Anselmo and he has told you our story--or how could you know?"

"It is true. We have been with Anselmo, were with him this morning and
parted at mid-day. As the clock struck twelve we stood on the ruined
citadel and saw you cross the square of San Pedro."

"Ah, señor, I saw you also, for I recognised Anselmo. He is never within
many yards of me but seen or unseen I know it. Some spiritual instinct
never fails to tell me he is near."

"You are both remarkable. Your love and constancy ought to be placed
side by side with the histories of Paul and Virginia, Abelard and
Héloïse. Yet you are distinct and different from these, as you are above
them."

"Señor, if we only knew, there are thousands of histories in the world
similar to our own, but they are never heard of. Shakespeare records a
Juliet, Chateaubriand an Atala, and they become immortal; but what of
the numberless heroines who have had no writer to send them down to
posterity? Depend upon it they are as the sand of the sea. And is it so
much to give up for Heaven? We possess each other still, Anselmo and I;
and the possession is for ever. You think it strange to hear a Sister of
Mercy talking of love in this calm and passionless way," she smiled.
"You imagine me cold and severe. You do not believe that I have feelings
deep as the sea, wide as eternity. It is true that my love for Anselmo
is only the love we should all bear towards each other; but for him it
is supreme and exalted above all words. In my dreams he comes to me as
an angel of light bidding me be of good courage; in my waking hours he
is my best and truest friend, my hero and my king. Is not this better
than all the passionate vows which rarely survive one's early youth, and
too often die under the strain of life's daily work? For me, Anselmo is
still surrounded by all the romance of our first youth. He is a sort of
earthly shekinah, a pillar of fire guiding me onwards."

"And you never regret the choice you have made? the companionship you
have given up? the right of calling Anselmo husband? the sacrifice of
motherhood, which is said to be sweetest of all earthly ties to woman?"

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL CLOISTERS: GERONA.]

"Regret?" she softly murmured. "A hundred times since it happened
conviction has been vouchsafed to me in my dreams, strengthening my
faith, showing the wisdom of my choice. Every day of my life I thank
Heaven for the power it gave me. Had I married Anselmo, he would have
become my religion; my heart's best affection given to him, Heaven would
have come second. I know and feel it. And we know Who has said: 'He that
loveth father and mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me.' Yet that
would have been my case in the earlier years; and in the later--who can
tell?--perhaps what I have described."

"Impossible, for Anselmo is worthy of all love, and could never change.
One rarely meets any one like him. He seems little less than saint."

"He is very saintly," replied Rosalie, with almost a look of ecstasy. "I
frequently meet the priesthood in the sick-room, at the bedside of the
dying. The difference in the ministrations is wonderful. The very
entrance of Anselmo brings consolation, seems to sanctify the chamber.
Sometimes it is almost as though an angel spoke."

If she at all exaggerated, who could wonder? She saw and heard and
judged everything through her own nature; and to the sick and sorrowing
no doubt came herself as a rainbow of hope.

"You have done wisely and chosen the better part," we said. "Your life
in consequence is peaceful and happy."

"It could not be more so," answered Rosalie. "I have my earthly shekinah
to lighten my path. My heart is so much in my work that if I lived for a
century I should never weary of it. What higher mission or greater
privilege could there be? I am constantly at the bedside of the sick,
assisting the last moments of the dying, helping to restore others to
health. The love they give me is unbounded. My existence is made up of
love. I feel I have many in the other world who pray for me, perhaps
watch over my daily life."

"But are they not in purgatory?" For of course Rosalie was a Roman
Catholic.

"I do not believe in purgatory," she murmured in subdued tones. "I have
seen many die who cannot possibly be going to torment. If there be a
transition state, it is one of bliss and holiness, where the soul, in
gratitude to God for His mercies, grows and expands until it becomes fit
for the heaven of heavens."

"But this is perplexing. Here are two devout Romanists who reject the
very first conditions of their faith. Anselmo believes not in
confession, you reject purgatory. Of course we agree with you, but then
we are Protestants."

"Hush!" murmured Rosalie. "The very walls of Gerona have ears. We can
only act up to our convictions, and where they disagree with the Church
keep differences to ourselves. What Anselmo believes, I believe. It is
wonderful how we think alike in all great matters. This morning I had
the privilege of a long conversation with Père Delormais, who is staying
for a week here. There, indeed, is a broad-minded Churchman who ought to
be Pope of Rome. He would favour Protestants as much as Roman
Catholics--and scandalise the narrow-minded community. In that he
reminds me of the Abbé Fénélon, who is so earnest and devout. Do you
know his 'Spiritual Letters,' señor?"

"It is one of our favourite books, Rosalie. Those who read and follow
Fénélon will hardly go wrong. We have always felt he was a Protestant at
heart."

"A follower of Christ at heart," returned Rosalie, "without distinction
of forms and ceremonies. To him if the heart was right, the rest
mattered little. He cared not whether a soul worshipped within or
without the Church of Rome. Would that all errors could be swept away
and we were all Protestants and Catholics, united in one creed and
ritual, even as we worship the one true God and believe in the
all-sufficient Saviour."

"That day is far distant. We must wait the millennium, Rosalie. Until
then it is not to be peace but a sword. The bitterest persecutors are
those who fight for what they call Religion."

"'A man's foes shall be they of his own household,'" quoted Rosalie.
"That applies equally to the 'Household of Faith.' There is the
prophecy. I suppose we must not look for a Church Triumphant until the
Church Militant has ceased. But I must go my way. Señor, I rejoice that
you spoke to me. I am glad to know you. Whether the acquaintance be of
hours or years, you are evidently Anselmo's friends, therefore mine. Do
not think my heart closed to all human interests because I wear a
religious garb and go through life as Sister Anastasia, ministering to
the sick and dying. On the contrary, I take pleasure in all the worldly
concerns of my friends. I like to hear of their being married and given
in marriage. Nothing delights me more than the sight of a happy home and
devoted family. And I like to hear of all the changes, improvements,
inventions that are turning the world upside down and revolutionising
the lives of men. If you are staying in Gerona we shall meet again. I am
constantly flitting to and fro. My life is a great privilege, as I have
said. You will keep a corner in your heart for me and for Anselmo; one
niche for both. Adieu, señor. Adieu."

She glided away rapidly with her quiet graceful motion; an angel of
mercy, we thought, if earth ever held one.

"Never, never should I have had strength to give her up," said H. C.,
following her with all his susceptible nature in his eyes. "This morning
I admired Anselmo, now I feel quite angry with him."

"You do wrong and are mistaken. It was her choosing, not his. He behaved
nobly. They have found their vocation. Both are happy, and we cannot
doubt it is Heaven's ordering. There is no shadow in their lives;
remember how rare that is. You know Mrs. Plarr's lines:

    'There are twin Genii both strong and mighty,
      Under their guidance mankind retain,
    Never divided where one can enter,
      Ever the other doth entrance gain;
    And the name of the lovely one is Pleasure,
      And the name of the loathly one is Pain.'

For them the genii have separated. Their life has no pain. Think of
Rosalie's vision. Had they married it might have been all sorrow and
suffering. No, best as it is. Their story is an idyll too perfect for
this world. They have had their romance, and have kept it."



CHAPTER VIII.

MOTHER AND SON.

     Demons at work--In the crowd--Ernesto and his mother--Roasted
     chestnuts--Instrument of torture--New school of
     anatomy--Rhine-stones or diamonds?--Happy mother--Honest
     confession--Danger of edged tools--Cayenne lozenges for the
     monkeys--Joseph--Early compliments--Ernesto pleads in vain--Down by
     the river--Music of the reeds--Rich prospect--Faust--Singers of the
     world--Joseph takes tickets--Gerona keeps late hours--Its little
     great world--Between the acts--Successful evening--In the dark
     night--On the bridge--Silence and solitude--Astral bodies--Joseph
     turns Job's comforter--Magnetism--Delormais psychological--Alone in
     the streets--Saluting the Church militant--Haunted staircase
     again--Sighs and rustlings--H. C. retires--"Drink to me only with
     thine eyes"--Delormais' challenge--Leads the
     way--Illumination--Coffee equipage--"Only the truth is
     painful"--Lost in reverie.


We were facing the wonderful arcades which still seemed haunted by
Rosalie's shadow, so vivid the impression she left behind her. It was
one of the most striking bits of Gerona the beautiful, with its massive
masonry and deep recesses requiring sunlight to relieve their mysterious
gloom.

In a few moments we stood once more on the bridge, looking upon the
remarkable scene. The demons were in full work down in the dry bed of
the river; their altars threw out tongues of flame as wood, coal and
braise mingled their elements, and the air seemed full of the scent of
roasted chestnuts.

Those marvellous houses stood on either side with their old-world
outlines and weather-beaten stains. Above them rose the towers of
Gerona's churches, sharply cutting the grey sky. To our right, the
boulevard stretched far down, with its waving, rustling trees. All the
shows were in full operation; streams of people went to and fro; the
booths were making a fortune; the Dutch auction was giving away its
wares--if the auctioneer might be relied on.

We joined the crowd and presently felt a tug at our elbow. It was
Ernesto with radiant face, his hands full of chestnuts freely offered
and accepted. We found it easy to persuade ourselves the indigestible
horrors were excellent.

"Ernesto, you are taking liberties," said his mother, as the boy took
our arm to confide his purchases. A Rhine-stone brooch for the mother,
which Mrs. Malaprop would have declared quite an object of bigotry and
virtue; a wonderful knife for himself, full of sharp blades and secret
springs. A purse capable of holding gold, and a pocket-book that would
soon become dropsical with a boy's treasures. Finally, from the
innermost recess of a trousers' pocket, he produced for an instant--a
catapult; to be held a profound secret from the mother.

"It keeps her awake at night," he confided; "and when she does get to
sleep she dreams of smashed windows and murdered cats. Now I never smash
windows, though I do go for the cats when I have a chance. It does them
no harm. If I hit them, you hear a thud like a sound from a drum--the
cats are not over-fed in these parts--but instead of tumbling down dead,
which would be exciting, they rush off like mad."

"Perhaps they die afterwards, Ernesto, of fractured liver or broken
heart."

This was at once negatived.

"Oh no, cats haven't livers and hearts like human beings. Their insides
are nothing but india-rubber. You can't kill a cat. If one fell from the
top of San Filiu, it would get up, shake its paws and run away."

We noted this revelation, intending to bring it before the Faculty on
our return to England, which evidently still gropes in Egyptian
darkness. The catapult was restored to safe depths, and before long no
doubt many a domestic tabby would be missing; there would be widowed
cats and orphaned kittens in many a household.

Then Ernesto, drawing us under an arcade out of the throng of the fair,
insisted upon fastening his mother's mantilla with the new brooch that
we might all admire the flashing stones.

"I believe they have made a mistake, and these are real diamonds," he
cried excitedly, kissing his mother and duly admiring the effect. "And I
haven't spent half my pocket-money yet."

"Thanks to you, señor," said the happy mother. "I was his first thought.
He bought me the brooch before he would look at a knife or chestnut. It
shall be kept amongst my treasures."

She was evidently almost as happy and light-hearted as the boy, her eyes
flashing with proud affection. No great care haunted her life in spite
of her conjugal good-morning.

"Confess that your lot is favoured," we said, "and you would not change
your lazy husband even if you had the chance. Confess you adore him and
are to be envied."

"Well, señor, you are not my father-confessor," she laughed, "but I will
confess to you all the same. I admit I would rather bear the ills I have
than fly to those of which I know nothing," unconsciously quoting
Shakespeare.

"Then the conjugal good-morning must be a little sweetened. It is
dangerous to play with edged tools."

Again she laughed, a laugh free from anxiety.

"We understand each other, señor. If I received him too amiably he would
not appear upon the scene till twelve o'clock. Not that I really mind;
but it is a bad example for Ernesto. The boy, however, takes after me.
Never will grass grow under his feet."

Ernesto was impatient to be off; he must certainly act up to the proverb
to-day.

"Now for the shows," cried the lad. "We are losing too much time here. I
smell roasted chestnuts, but their flavour is better. We must cross the
iron bridge to get to the shows. I want to hear the lions growl, and
administer cayenne lozenges to the monkeys. It is great fun to see them.
You must often have done the same, señor?"

We virtuously disowned the impeachment. But he was full of harmless
mischief, after the manner of boys healthy in mind and body; free and
open in his thoughts and ways.

A few minutes and we found ourselves in the market-place listening to
the clown who had used superhuman exertions last night, still
apparently in excellent health and spirits. Night was the great
harvest-time, but even now his labours were receiving fair success. The
people had got over their first glamour and were responding.

"There is José, your landlord's son, señor, looking to right and left,"
said madame, in the interval between two terrific trumpet blasts.
"Probably searching for you. Ah! he sees us."

The tall, slight young man was making his way through the few remaining
stalls in the market. These sold nothing but fruit and were altogether
neglected. Gerona did not shine in that department.

"I have been looking for you everywhere," said our young host as he came
up, bowing politely after the fashion of his country. "I thought, señor,
you might want me to pilot you about the town; but you are in the hands
of a fairer guide, and I am not needed."

Joseph had evidently not pursued his studies at Tours for nothing, and
was beginning early to turn compliments.

"On the contrary, we shall be glad of your company," we replied.
"Ernesto and his mother are going in to hear the lions roar and
administer delicacies to the monkeys. And having no ambition to shake in
our shoes or be taken up for cruelty to animals, we would rather explore
the antiquities of Gerona under your care. So you appear at the right
moment."

"Ah, señor, do come in," pleaded Ernesto. "I should enjoy it so much
more. And you would shriek with delight when you saw the antics of the
monkeys eating cayenne----"

"Ernesto, you are incorrigible," we interrupted, laughing. "We decline
the risk; and whilst detesting monkeys, we have a conscience. Yours
evidently has still to be awakened. But you may come and tell us your
experiences at the hotel later on--that is if you are still at large."

So the boy, taking his mother's arm, boldly mounted the steps, and with
a final happy nod, and flourishing a small packet of cayenne lozenges,
he disappeared beyond the curtain. How the lions would roar or the
monkeys receive the indignity remained to be seen. Ernesto was not
wanting in purpose and might be trusted to do his best.

We left the shows and the crowd for a moment, went round to the banks
of the river, and listened to the whispering reeds and rushes. What
repose; what a contrast to the glare and glitter and crowding of the
fair. Not a soul visible excepting the ferryman a little way up-stream,
waiting dejectedly in his boat for custom that would not come. The
rustling reeds harmonised musically with the quiet flow of the water as
it rippled and plashed on its way to the sea. To the left the plain
spread far and wide--a rich, productive country with much fair beauty
about it. Where we stood the river was broad and reflected the magic
outlines of the town, faint and subdued under the grey skies. Above the
music of the rushes we could hear the distant hum of the
pleasure-seekers, where everything was life and movement.

Presently passing the theatre, we saw "Faust" announced for that
evening. An operatic company had arrived from Barcelona. Wonders would
never cease. In this dull town, decaying remnant of Spain, there was an
Opera-house, and the tempter was to play off his wiles on beautiful
Margaret. What would the performance resemble?

"Quite a large house," said Joseph, "and a very fine one; the players
are often excellent."

Of course he judged from his own experience, which had never gone beyond
Tours; never dreamed of the great voices of the world. Who indeed could
dream of Titiens, never having heard of her? Or of Ilma di
Murska?--those stars in the world of song: not to mention Grisi and
Malibran the incomparable, of the far-gone days. Still, he spoke with
enthusiasm, and we felt we must hear this Faust and Marguerite.

"Take three tickets for to-night, José, and you shall point out all the
_élite_ of Gerona; the great, the good, the beautiful."

Joseph needed no second bidding. Diving through the doorway to the
office he returned with three excellent stalls. The performance was to
be fashionably late. Everything in the way of entertainment is late in
Spain, and especially in Gerona. At night the streets are soon deserted,
but people do not go to bed. They sit up in their own homes, amusing
themselves.

"It is announced for half-past eight," said Joseph, "but seldom begins
before nine."

[Illustration: OLD HOUSES ON THE RIVER: GERONA.]

Accordingly before eight-thirty we found ourselves in our seats waiting
the lifting of the curtain. The house was nearly empty, though it was
within five minutes of the appointed hour. Not a sign of any orchestra.
We feared a cold reception and a dead failure.

"Not at all," said Joseph. "It is always the same. Before nine o'clock
the house will be full, with hardly an empty seat anywhere."

So it proved. About twenty minutes to nine the orchestra streamed in and
took their places, laughed, talked and made jokes, as if the
audience--now quickly appearing--had been so many cabbage-stalks. In
various parts of the house there were notices forbidding smoking; but
the musicians lighted their abominable pipes and cigars without
ceremony, and soon ruined the atmosphere. We wondered how this would
affect the singers, and when they came on they coughed, sneezed, and
looked reproachful.

It was a large, well-appointed house, of excellent proportions. Half the
town might surely find room here. Curtains and all such elements
disturbing to the voice were conspicuous by their absence. Before nine
o'clock every seat was filled, as Joseph had foretold.

Between the acts we were able to survey the little world of Gerona. Many
clearly thought themselves members of a great world. Humility was not
their leading virtue. From the construction of the house, every one was
very much in evidence, and from our places in the front stalls we saw
and heard perfectly. "Monarchs of all we survey," said H. C. after a
long stare in all directions. "No, I don't quite mean that; it would be
slightly embarrassing. I mean that we survey everything as though we
were monarchs. It comes to the same."

Every species of temperament was represented; the solemn and sober,
excited and flirting, prude and profligate. Extremes met. Some of the
ladies made play with their eyes and fans, were full of small gestures
and rippling laughter. Many were dressed "in shimmer of satin and
pearls," their white arms and necks very décolletés. Thus we had both a
play and an opera. It was quite as amusing to study the audience between
the acts, as to watch the drama upon the stage. Ladies were admitted to
the stalls, and the house looked more civilised in consequence. Many of
the men in this polite Spain sat with their hats on until the curtain
drew up. Altogether the house presented a very lively appearance.

"Who would have thought it!" said H. C. "The place overflows with wealth
and rank. These people might be dukes and duchesses--and look the
character much more than many of our 'Coronets and Norman blood.' Yet as
we passed Gerona in the train it seemed nothing but an encampment for
beggars. Beggars? Let me apologise. Beggars would want something more
recherché. In these days that flourishing profession dines at eight
o'clock and sleeps on down."

In the foyer, between one of the acts, we came into closer contact with
this aristocratic crowd.

It was a very large long room, gorgeously fitted up; great mirrors
giving back full-length reflections. Few ladies honoured it with their
presence, but a crowd of short, dark, handsome Spaniards went to and
fro, smoking cigarettes, wildly gesticulating about Margaret, abusing
the unfortunate Siebel, openly passing their opinions upon the ladies of
the audience. Mixing freely amongst them we heard many an amusing remark
upon people we were able to identify on returning to our seats. At the
end of the third act we began to feel like old habitués. A week in
Gerona and we should be familiar with every one's history.

"A happy thought, coming here to-night," said H. C. "I am now quite at
home amongst these people, and should like to call upon some of them
to-morrow. That exquisite creature, for instance, with the lovely eyes,
perfect features, and complexion of a blush rose. I believe--yes, I am
sure--look--she is gazing at me with a very sweet expression!"

He was growing excited. We grasped his arm with a certain magnetic touch
which recalled him to himself. Keepers have this influence on their
patients.

"Look at the old woman next to her," he went on indignantly. "Can she be
the mother of that lovely girl? She ought to blush for herself. Her
dress-bodice ends at the waist. And behind her fan she is actually
ogling a toothless old wretch who has just sat down near her."

Here, fortunately, the curtain went up, and H. C.'s emotions passed into
another channel.

[Illustration: STREET IN GERONA.]

The performance had equalled our modest expectations. One must not be
too critical. If Faust was contemptible and Siebel impossible, Margaret
and Mephistopheles saved all from failure. She was pretty and refined,
with a certain touching pathos that appealed to her hearers. She sang
with grace, too, but her voice was made for nothing larger than a
drawing-room, and when the orchestra crashed out the dramatic parts, we
had to imagine a great deal.

Siebel was the great stumbling-block and burlesque; her singing and
acting so excruciating that when the audience ought to have melted to
tears they laughed aloud. When Valentine died she clasped her hands, not
in despair but admiration of the fine performance, looked at the
audience as much as to say, "Would you not like him to get up and die
again?" and when his body was carried off, skipped after it, as though
assisting at some May-day frolic.

Faust was beneath criticism, and one felt angry with Margaret for
falling in love with him. In reality she must have hated him.
Mephistopheles, on the contrary, was admirable, and would have done
honour to Her Majesty's in the days of Titiens and Trebelli.

The "Old Men's Chorus" was crowning triumph of the performance. Three
decrepit objects came forward and quavered through their song. When it
was ended the audience insisted upon having it all over again, whilst
they kept up a running accompaniment of laughter, in which the old men
joined as they retreated into the background.

Altogether it was a successful evening. Every one left in good humour,
and many were charmed.

We went out into the night, glad to exchange the atmosphere. It looked
doubly dark after the brilliancy of the house. Every light was out,
every house buried in profound slumber. We turned to the bridge, and
stood there until all the playgoers had streamed homewards, and silence
and solitude reigned. Once more the chestnut-roasters had departed and
their sacrificial altars were cold and dead. Down the boulevard not a
creature was visible. Stalls and booths were closed, torches
extinguished. The leaves of the trees gently rustled and murmured in the
night wind. We almost felt as though we still saw Ernesto and his mother
walking up and down in close companionship. It must have been their
astral bodies. Both no doubt were slumbering, and perhaps the same
vision haunted their dreams; broken windows and four-footed
victims--seen from different points of view.

In the firmament a great change had taken place. The clouds had rolled
away; not a vapour large as a man's hand remained to be seen; stars
shone clear and brilliant; the Great Bear ploughed his untiring way,
and Orion, dipping westward, was closely followed by his faithful
Sirius. All seemed to promise fair weather.

"What do you think of it, Joseph? Is your weatherwise astronomer for
once proving a false prophet?"

"It looks like it," replied Joseph, gazing north and south. "No man is
infallible," philosophically. "But our prophet has never been wrong yet,
and I expect you will find the skies weeping in the morning."

"You are a Job's comforter, and ought to be called Bildad the Shuhite.
Was not he the worst of the three, and would have the last word?"

Joseph shook his head. He was not acquainted with the Book of Job.

"I am jealous for the honour of my prophet," he laughed.

Standing on the bridge, we could see the dark flowing water beneath--a
narrow shallow stream here, which reflected the flashing stars. The
houses were steeped in gloom, all their quaint, old-world aspect hidden
away. The night was growing apace, and it suddenly occurred to us that
we had made a half-engagement with Delormais to hear passages from his
life. Would he hold us to it? Or would reflection have brought a change
of plans and an early pillow?

Surely there is a mental or psychological magnetism about people,
neither realised nor understood, never sufficiently taken into account.
As the thought flashed over us, a tall dark form in long cloak and round
hat, full of dignity and power, turned the corner and approached the
bridge. It was the priest.

"I knew it!" he cried in that sonorous voice which was like a deep and
mellow diapason. "An unseen influence guided me to the bridge. You told
me you were going to the opera. I felt that when it was over you would
come here star-gazing and lose yourselves in this wonderful scene. And
here, had I not sought you out, you would have remained another hour,
forgetting the engagement to which I hold you."

"Nay, at this very moment recollection came to us," we returned. "We
were wondering whether for once you had changed your mind and sought an
early repose."

"My approach influenced you," said Delormais: "work of the magnetic
power constantly passing to and fro between kindred spirits, as real as
it is little estimated. No one believed in it more firmly than Goethe,
who in spite of his contradictory life was in close touch with the
supernatural. And amongst my own people, how many have declared the
reality of this mysterious link between the material and spiritual. Even
sceptical Voltaire admitted some invisible influence he could not
analyse. Sceptical? Will you persuade me a man with so terrible a
death-bed was ever sceptic at heart? It is impossible. But how could you
think I should change my mind and forget my engagement? Uncertainty
plays no part either in your character or mine. Let us to our rooms.
There you will lend me your ears, and I will brew you black coffee to
refresh you after your evening's dissipation. And if you like you shall
bring your century-old flask, and I will not read you a homily. Or was
it only the contents of the flask that was a century old?"

The hotel was at hand. We four alone possessed the street and awoke the
silent echoes. Always excepting the ubiquitous old watchmen, who seemed
to spend half their time in gazing at the great doorway, flashing weird
lights and shadows with their lanterns. These they now turned upon us,
but recognising the ecclesiastical figure, quickly lowered their lights,
turned the spears of their staffs to the ground, and gave a military
salute.

"As a member of the Church Militant such a greeting is perhaps not out
of place," he laughed. "No general on this earth ever fought more
valiantly than I to gain battles--but the weapons are wide as the
issues. They fight for an earthly, I for a heavenly kingdom."

He spoke a few words to the watchmen; bade them be strong and of good
courage; and we fancied--we were not quite certain--that he glided a
small token of good-will into their hands.

Then we crossed the road, entered the courtyard, and passed up the broad
marble staircase.

It was the hour for ghosts and shadows and unearthly sounds. Again we
thought of the rich and rare crowd that had passed up and down in
sacques and swords in the centuries gone by; every one of whom had long
been a ghost and shadow in its turn. Again we saw clearly as in a vision
that last happy pair who had separated--he to find death on the
battlefield, she to rejoin him in the Land o' the Leal. Distinctly we
heard the rustle of the gown, the fervency of their last embrace, the
sighs that came in quick succession. So easily imagination runs away
with us.

We were awakened to realities by José, who, heavy-eyed and dreamy, was
politely wishing us good-night, hardly wakeful enough to reach his room.

"I will follow his example," said H. C. "The air of Gerona conduces to
slumber. I verily believe you never sleep. To-morrow I shall hear that
the good father's confessions terminated with the breakfast hour. Ah! I
shall miss the black coffee--but I have a flask of my own, though its
contents have nothing to do with the centuries."

Then Delormais turned to us, his eyes full of kindly solicitude.

"Are you equal to a vigil? Is it not too bad, after your hard day's
work--pleasure is often labour--to ask you to give an old man an hour or
two from your well-earned slumbers? Do you not also find the air of
Gerona conducive to sleep? I warn you that at the first sign of drooping
eyelid I dismiss the assembly."

"A challenge! Never was sleep less desired. Though the breakfast hour
finds us here, as H. C. foretells, there shall be no want of attention.
But do not forget the black coffee!"

We heard H. C.'s receding echoes through the labyrinthine passages; the
closing of a door; then a voice gently elevated in song, utterly
oblivious of small hours and unconscious neighbours. "Drink to me only
with thine eyes, and I will pledge with mine," it warbled; "leave but a
kiss within the cup, and I'll ne'er ask for wine."

Here recollection seemed to come to the voice; an open window looking on
to a passage was softly closed, and all was silent. H. C. was evidently
thinking of the charming face he had seen at the opera, all the more
lovely and modest contrasted with the shameless old woman at its side.

Delormais led the way through the corridors. His light threw weird
shadows around. A distant clock struck the hour of one. The hush in the
house was ghostly. The very walls seemed pregnant with the secrets of
the past. They had listened to mighty dramas political and domestic;
heard love-vows made only to be broken; absorbed the laughter of joy and
the tears of sorrow. All this they now appeared to be giving out as we
went between them, treading quietly on marble pavement sacred to the
memory of the dead.

We entered Delormais' sitting-room. At once he turned up two lamps, and
lighting some half-dozen candles produced an illumination.

"One of my weaknesses," he said. "I love to take night walks and lose
myself in thought under the dark starlit skies, but that is quite
another thing. In my room I must have brilliancy."

"When you are a bishop you will so indulge this weakness that your
palace will be called a Shining Light, its lord a Beacon of the Church."

A peculiar smile passed over the face of Delormais. We did not
understand it at the moment, but knew its meaning later on.

Then he brought forward the coffee equipage, for which, if truth must be
told, though slumber was never farther from us, we were grateful.

"I had it all prepared by our amiable host, and I have my own
spirit-lamp, without which I never travel," said the priest. "There are
times when I visit the most uncivilised, hope-forgotten places, and if I
had not a few accessories with me, should fare badly."

The water soon boiled, an aromatic fragrance spread through the room;
the clear black coffee was poured into white porcelain cups.

"But where is the supplement? I do not see the century-old flask," said
Delormais.

"That is sacred to headache--or the charm would go; there are other
fixed rules besides the Persian laws."

"I am glad to hear it. Then after all my little homily this morning was
not needed. That is why you took it so amiably. Only the truth is
painful."

He placed for us a comfortably cushioned armchair near the table, and
one for himself. Our coffee equipage was between us, the steaming
incense rising. A shaded lamp threw its rays upon the white china and
crimson cloth, gently illumined the intellectual and refined face of
Delormais. We could note every play of the striking features, every
flash of the large dark eyes.

A sudden stillness came over him; he seemed lost in profound thought,
his eyes took a deep, dreamy, far-away look. They were gazing into the
past, and saw a crowd of events and people who had lived and moved and
had their being, but were now invisible to all but the mental vision.
The hands--firm, white, well-shaped and made for intellectual work--were
spread out and met at the tips of the long slender fingers. The legs
were crossed, bringing into prominence a shapely foot and ankle set off
by a thin well-fitting shoe. In all matters of personal appointment
Delormais was refined and fastidious.

For some minutes he appeared thus absorbed in mental retrospect. The man
of life and energy had suddenly changed to contemplation. Apparently he
had forgotten our presence, and the silence of the room was profound.
One almost heard the rising of the incense from the coffee-cups, as it
curled upwards in fantastic forms and devices, and died out. We were
motionless as himself. Not ours to break the silence, though it grew
strained. We had come to listen, and waited until the spirit moved him.
Nor had we to wait long. He roused himself from his reverie; the dreamy
light passed out of his eyes; his spirit seemed to come back to earth as
he turned to us with a penetrating, kindly gaze.



CHAPTER IX.

DELORMAIS.

     Magnetism--Past life--Impulsive nature--First impressions--Perfumed
     airs--A gentle spirit--Haunted groves--Blue waters of the
     Levant--Great devotion--A rose-blossom--Back to the angels--Special
     providence--Fair Provence--Charmed days--Excursions--Isles of
     Greece--Ossa and Pelion--City of the violet crown--Spinning-jennies
     have something to answer for--Olympus--Ægina--Groves of the Sacred
     Plain--Narrow escapes--Pleasures of home-coming--Rainbow
     atmosphere--Orange and lemon groves--The
     nightingales--Impressionable childhood--Fresh plans--The Abbé
     Rivière--Rare faculty--Domestic chaplain--Debt of
     gratitude--Treasure-house of strength--Given to hospitality--First
     great sorrow--Passing away--Resolve to travel--"I can no more"--The
     old Adam dies hard--Chance decides.


Delormais roused himself to the present as one who awakes from a dream.
Those large dark eyes seemed capable of every expression; could flash
with intellect, melt with fervent love or grow earnest with
condemnation; sparkle with wit, or suffuse with sympathy and pathos. In
Delormais susceptibilities and intellect seemed equally balanced.

"I have been reviewing my life," he began. "And I am asking myself why
we are here seated together as old familiar friends. How it is that to
you, a comparative stranger, I have promised to speak of the past, open
my heart, disclose secrets unknown to the world? It must be that you
deal in magnetism. Or that we were born in the same mystic sphere, or
under the same conjunction of stars; and that for the third time in my
life I discover one who is altogether sympathetic to me; to whom I feel
I can speak as to my other self. Nor is it necessary that this feeling
should be shared by you in an equal degree. Enough that you are not
antagonistic; even approach me with a friendly liking. I, many years
your senior, am the dominant power. You follow where I lead. But a truce
to metaphysics; searchings into spiritual conditions we cannot
altogether fathom; wandering into realms withholden from mortal vision.
Let us leave the unseen and uncertain, and turn altogether to the
present world."

We made no reply. Our sympathy was strongly awakened in this singular
man. Here was a nature rare as it was powerful; distinguished by all the
finest and noblest qualities vouchsafed to mankind. But we wished him to
take his own way, utter his own thoughts, not disturbed by remark or
turned aside by suggestion.

He rose for a moment, replenished the cups, and went on with his
narrative.

"I have not asked you to join me to-night to read you a lesson," he
continued. "In reviewing my past life, I find it full of incident and
action. But it has none of those startling dramas and strange
coincidences, none of those high achievements or fatal mistakes, which
occasionally make biographies a solemn warning to some or a pillar of
fire to others. I have brought you here simply for the pleasure of
spending an evening with you. If I beguiled you at this late hour under
any other impression I am guilty of false pretences. But late though it
be it is still evening to me, to whom all hours are alike. For a whole
week at a time I have slept an hour in the twenty-four in my arm-chair,
and found this sufficient rest. We give too much time to sleep. Like
everything else it is a habit. The day will come soon enough for the
folding of the hands. At any time I can turn night into day, and feel no
sense of fatigue or loss of power. Nature never takes her revenge by
turning day into night. I cannot remember the time when the daylight
hours caught me napping.

"So then, for the pleasure of your company, and that we may become
better acquainted, I have persuaded you to join me; not that I have much
to tell you that can be useful or instructive. And yet it is said that
the record of every life is a lesson. But all this you do not require. I
was presumptuous enough at mid-day to read you a homily of which black
coffee was the text and strong waters were the application. It was done
partly from the impulsiveness of my nature which has carried me into a
thousand-and-one unpremeditated scenes and circumstances; partly that
my heart warmed towards you and I thought it a surer introduction to a
better acquaintance than the usual topic of the weather. Throughout my
life of more than sixty years, from the day I was able to observe and
reflect I have been a student of human nature. You see even my rashness
did not mislead me. I was not rebuked. On the contrary, your heart
immediately responded to the singular and presuming old man."

He called himself old, but in reality, though six decades had rolled
over his head, he was still in full force and vigour of life.

He paused a moment. The deep musical voice echoed through the room in
subdued cadences. There was nothing harsh or loud in its tones.
Delormais was too well-bred, too much a man of the world and student of
human nature, as he had said, not to know the charm and value of
modulation.

He paused, but we the patient listener: Saul sitting at the feet of
Gamaliel: made no reply.

"Nevertheless, if I cannot instruct, I think I can interest you,"
continued Delormais, breaking the momentary silence. "My life has been
singular and eventful. I will rapidly sketch some of its passages: a
mere outline. To go through it circumstantially, in detail, would
prolong the narrative to days and weeks. To write the life chapter by
chapter, incident by incident, would fill many volumes.

"I have a good memory and it carries me back to the earliest scenes of
childhood: scenes full of fairy visions and sweet remembrances.
Orange-groves and lemon-groves, olive-yards and vineyards, orchards
where grew all the luscious fruits of the earth, gardens filled with its
choicest flowers, these are my first impressions. I breathed an air for
ever perfumed.

"These realms were inhabited by beings fitted for paradise. My mother's
lovely and gentle face haunted the groves; my father's voice filled the
house with music and energy. He was a man born to command, but ruled by
charm, not by power: expressed a wish rather than gave an order. Most
lovable of husbands and most indulgent of fathers, we, who were to him
as the breath of his nostrils, worshipped him. I was his constant
companion. Day after day, when just old enough to run by his side, he
would sail about with me in his white-winged boat, on the blue waters
of the Levant. On the terrace in front of the château my mother would
sit and watch us, an open book before her to which only half her
thoughts were given and nothing of her heart. That followed the little
craft skimming to and fro in the sunshine.

"Or in a larger yacht, we would take longer voyages; but if my mother
were not with us these absences were rare, three days their limit. I was
the idol of the sailors, just as my father was their king, who could do
no wrong.

"All my days and surroundings were coloured by this gentle, dark-eyed
mother of exquisite loveliness and delicate refinement, whose only
failing was too great a devotion to her husband and boy. I was an only
surviving child, and for that reason doubly precious to my parents. A
little daughter had first been born to them; a child, I have heard, the
very counterpart of her mother--frail, delicate, and too good for earth;
her soul too pure and her face too fair. At the age of three, when she
was budding into loveliest rose-blossom, she went back to the angels.

"There never was any fear of that sort for me. From the first I was
strong and sturdy, escaping even the ordinary ailments of childhood. So
far I saved my parents all anxiety. Their only care was to check my high
and venturesome spirit, which now would cause me to be fished up from
the bottom of shallow waters; and now would bring me down to earth with
a broken olive-bough that possibly had borne fruit for centuries and
might have done so for ages yet to come. I never came to harm. A special
providence watched over me--I record it with all reverence.

"As the bird flies my home was not so very far from here, though it was
in France, not Spain. We lived in one of the loveliest spots of fair
Provence, where indeed the earth brought forth abundantly all her fruits
and flowers.

"My mother had offended her family by her marriage, yet in no sense of
the word was my father her inferior. But she was of noble birth and he
was not, though a patrician. He was a gentleman in all his thoughts and
deeds, a great landed proprietor, a man of vast intellectual culture and
refinement. The _mésalliance_ her people chose to see in the matter
existed only in their worldly minds and wicked ambitions. For to marry
my father she had refused the Duke of G., an empty-headed _bon vivant_,
with nothing but his title and wealth to recommend him. For fifteen
years my mother's life was happy as life on earth can be. The day came
when her people acknowledged the wisdom of her choice, the hollowness of
theirs. But one circumstance in her father I have always thought
condoned all his obstinacy. He finally yielded to her wishes. Without
this the marriage would have been impossible. When he saw that her very
existence depended upon it, he at length dismissed the duke and gave his
consent--reluctantly, with a bad grace it must be admitted, but it was
done. The duke married elsewhere. Wild, unprincipled, unstable as water,
he entangled himself in all sorts of intrigues, gambled, and finally
fell into embarrassment. Not until then was my father really and truly
received without reservation as a son of the family--a position to which
he was in every possible way entitled.

"Those were charmed and charming days of childhood and youth. It has
been said that when the early years are specially happy, the after-life
is the opposite. I cannot say that this has been my experience, though,
as you will see, the hand of sorrow has sometimes been heavy upon me.

"My father was wealthy. He spent much time in his library, where my
mother might almost always be found, her seat near to him. By stretching
forth his hand he could occasionally clasp hers, as though to assure her
that his heart still beat for her alone. In all my father's intellectual
pursuits she was thoroughly at home--no study was too deep or abstruse
for her comprehension.

"Now and then she would accompany us in our yacht, and it was delightful
to witness the reverence and devotion of the crew on those
occasions--men who remained with us year after year, nor ever thought of
change. I believe that every one of them would have laid down his life
for her. She never liked the sea; the least rising of wind or ruffling
of water alarmed her. When she accompanied us our excursions would be
lengthened. We explored the islands of the Mediterranean, visited
friends in some of the more distant towns on the seaboard. How well I
remember a longer absence than usual, when we made acquaintance with all
the Greek isles, and explored the fair city of the violet crown. Who
that has approached those classic shores can forget the first sight of
Ossa and Pelion--scene of the battle between the gods and Titans--though
Homer reverses possibilities in placing Pelion upon Ossa! Who can forget
his first impression of the rocky gorge and valley between Ossa and
Olympus! All is now in a state of sad but picturesque ruin and poverty,
but in days gone by industries flourished here--a happy and contented
people. The spinning-jennies of England have a little to answer for in
this.

"To my mother's classic mind, all ancient history appealed with a
special charm. The shores of Greece, like our own, were washed by the
blue waters of the Mediterranean. There too the hills, in all their
exquisite form, stood out in a bright clear atmosphere. We journeyed
leisurely from the frontier to the Piræus; visited the islands of the
Peloponnesus, with all their ancient and romantic interest; rested
ourselves at the Monastery of Daphne, and from the summit of the pass
gazed upon that wonderful view of Athens. Together we ascended Mount
Olympus and pictured ourselves amongst the gods of the ancient
mythology. We admired its richly-wooded slopes, where the endless
mulberry trees put forth their spreading foliage, and visited the
Monastery of St. Dionysius, which lies in that wonderful Olympian
amphitheatre--one of the grandest scenes in nature.

"All Athens opened its doors to us. They could not greet too warmly or
_fête_ too highly my mother's beauty and grace, my father's rare gifts
of heart and mind.

"But our happiest hours were spent alone. Together we studied the
wonders of the capital, and grew familiar with the Byzantine churches.
We passed days upon lovely Ægina where blow the purest of Heaven's pure
winds. We stood almost in awe before the wonderful ruins of the Doric
Temple of Zeus, Ægina's glory, whose columns have stood the test of
2,500 years. What can be lovelier than the view from the summit of that
rugged hill crowned by its imperishable monument? I remember as though
it were yesterday my first glimpse of Helicon and Parnassus, as we
sailed through the Gulf of Corinth; the walk through the olive-groves of
the Sacred Plain, where, turn which way you will, the eye rests on
historic ground. In the fair city we thought of Paul as he preached to
the Athenians under the shadow of the Parthenon. We haunted the
Acropolis with its barren rocks and fragments of past glories. From the
charmed heights we gazed upon the sapphire sea ever flashing in
brilliant sunshine. In the distance, faint and hazy and dreamlike, were
ever the sleeping mountains, Ægina and Argolis protecting the magic
ranges. Sometimes we penetrated too far inland, and more than once my
father's adventurous spirit had nearly brought us within the grasp of
the lawless, a condition of things that would have been the death of my
mother, and for which he would never have forgiven himself.

"But all the pleasure of our wanderings never equalled the charm of our
home-coming. There was our life and our delight. There we were truly
happy. Looking back, I see that it was an ideal existence: a condition
Heaven never permits to remain too long unbroken, or we might forget
that this is not our abiding city.

"My father filled his leisure moments by cultivating vineyards, which in
those days were very successful, and in the form of wine returned rich
revenues. We lived in a rainbow atmosphere, and, if you know
Provence--as doubtless you do--you will also know that this is no mere
figure of speech. The airs of heaven were ever balmy. In those days one
never heard of cold and snow and frost on the Riviera. We have since
approached some degrees nearer to the North Pole. Little need for others
to go off in search of it and bring it to us. At that time we lived in
perpetual summer. The sapphire waters of the Mediterranean for ever
flashed and flowed upon the white sands of the shores that belonged to
us. It seems to me now that the skies were always blue and the sun ever
shone. Olive-yards and vineyards, I have said, surrounded us. Orange and
lemon-groves sent forth an exquisite perfume only known to those who
live amongst them. An amphitheatre of hills rose about us; the lovely
Maritime Alps with all their graceful undulations, all their rich
foliage. Birds flashed in the sunshine. In the balmy nights of May the
nightingales never ceased their song.

"I must have been an impressionable child, with all my strong, sturdy
health, inheriting something of my mother's romantic nature. It is
certain that the memory of those early days has never faded, but has
been the background and colouring of all my after life. Even now in
thought I often go back to them. There are times when I am a little
undecided how to act. I ask myself how my father or mother would have
acted under the circumstances, and in their clear, sensible tones seem
to hear the reply.

"Up to the age of seven they were my sole instructors. Then fresh plans
were formed. A precocious child, it was felt that I ought to enter upon
more serious studies than they had leisure to direct.

"A tutor was found; the Abbé Rivière; a man of large mind and solid
attainments; a profound thinker. To this he added the simple nature of a
child. The marvel was that he condescended to become tutor and companion
to a lad of seven. We soon found that his ambition was to have leisure
for the writing of metaphysical works. His present appointment gave him
his heart's desire. He had no parish or people to look after. With less
singleness of purpose and more worldliness, he might have risen to any
position in the church. No better companion for a boy could have been
found, and he possessed the rare faculty of imparting knowledge. His
mind could unbend, and he adapted his conversation to his hearers. No
mere bookworm was he, dry, tedious and incomprehensible. My studies were
a delight. I knew afterwards that one of the joys of his life was to
watch day by day the unfolding of his pupil's mind. Thus he took the
keenest interest in his work, and considered his days doubly blessed. I
have heard him say that the offer of the triple crown could not have
tempted him to change his life.

"He did not live in the château, but in a small house on the estate. It
was supposed that here he would feel himself more his own master, free
to order, to come and go as he would, whilst every comfort was secured
to him. My father was the most generous of men, full of thoughtful
consideration for all in any way dependent upon him. From the highest
to the lowest, none were passed over. He soon discovered the Abbé's true
character; the high purpose that actuated his life; and became devoted
to him. My father's mind was quite equal to the Abbé's, though he had
not spent his life in metaphysical studies. Still, he sympathised with
his pursuits, and read his works in MS. Now he agreed with the writer
and now differed. His clear, correct vision many a time won over the
Abbé to his opinion.

"The Abbé became, so to say, our domestic chaplain. As often as he could
be persuaded, he made a fourth at the dinner-table, and said grace in
his quiet, refined tones. And he needed far less persuasion on these
occasions than when the château was filled with guests. He was always an
acquisition. A man of deep and varied thought, possessing the gift, not
always given to great men, of putting his thoughts into words. An
earnest, fluent talker, who could unstring his bow and throw a charm
even over ordinary topics. This was far more apparent, far more
exercised when we were alone and he was sure of the sympathy of his
hearers, than when others were present. If he only spoke of the passing
clouds, the ripening fruit, or the flashing sea, his rare mind would
clothe his ideas in a form peculiarly his own, and especially
attractive.

"I often think Providence helped my father in his selection. When indeed
does Providence _not_ direct the paths of its children? Without doubt I
owe the Abbé a deep debt of gratitude. He did much to shape and
consolidate my character. I was his pupil in all those important years
when the seeds are being sown to bear fruit in the after life. From the
age of seven to nineteen, I was seldom absent from him. Occasionally he
would join in our yachting excursions. Then, unbending, throwing work to
the winds, he became the most delightful of companions. In spite of his
more than fifty years and his long white hair, he could be almost
child-like in his ways. His was one of those simple and rare natures
that never grow old.

"Rightly or wrongly, my parents elected to keep me at home. I was their
all in life; they would have me under their own roof. And why not? My
future was assured. I should be wealthy. It was not necessary to go out
into the world to learn to fight my way, as it is called. In the matter
of education I certainly did not suffer. Experience of the world came
soon enough.

"So our quiet and charming life went on. Looking back, I would not
change one single circumstance of those early days. They are a
treasure-house on which I still draw for strength and guidance.

"We were by no means isolated. My father was given to hospitality and
delighted in receiving his friends. We mixed freely with the few
families of our own rank in the neighbourhood. Nevertheless these were
exceptional times. He was happiest--we all were--when the house was free
from guests and we were all in all to each other. It was a paradise of
four people; for the Abbé in time became as one of ourselves. If good
influence were wanted, he gave it. He was a deeply religious man in the
wide acceptance of the term; not thinking of saints and fasts and
penances, but of the higher life which looks Above for strength and
consolation. I much fear me he would have passed but a poor examination
before the Consistory of Rome. I doubt if he would have escaped
excommunication. Holy, upright man!" cried Delormais with emotion. "He
was as much above ordinary human nature, with all its petty ways and
narrowing limits, as the stars are above the earth."

Again he paused, and for a moment seemed plunged in profound sadness. He
had evidently reached a painful crisis in his life. A deep sigh escaped
him which seemed weighted with the burden of years. Then with an effort,
still turning upon us that kindly, penetrating eye, he went on with his
narrative.

"At the age of fifteen came my first great sorrow--the greatest sorrow
of my life. I could not have conceived that our cloudless sky would so
suddenly become overcast with the blackness of night.

"My mother died. A man loses his wife, and however much he loved her, he
may get him another. But he can have but one mother in his life, one
father.

"For long she had been gradually failing. Much as I loved her, my
boyish eyes did not perceive the change that was coming. I did not see
that this earthly angel was quietly passing away to heaven. She herself
was conscious of it. There were times--how well I remembered it
afterwards--when I would find her eyes fixed upon me with a yearning
ineffable sadness. Her whole soul and spirit seemed to be speaking to me
without words. She was about to leave me to the temptations and tender
mercies of the world--how would it fare with me in the years to come?
But she never spoke or gave me word or sign of warning.

"My father also saw the change coming, but would not admit it; could not
believe or realise it. The loss would be his death-blow. For him there
could be no second wife, no other companion. When the blow fell, it
crushed him. He was never the same again. I never again heard him laugh,
scarcely saw him smile. His body was still on earth, thought and spirit
seemed to have followed his wife into the unseen world. His affection
for me, the kindly remonstrances of the good Abbé, even these were not
powerful enough to restore his desire for life. He went on quietly,
patiently for four years, then followed the wife without whom it seemed
he could not remain on earth.

"I told you just now their life was too happy to remain long without
interruption. Fifteen years of perfect companionship had passed as a
flash, the dream of a long day, and then vanished.

"I was now nineteen, but mentally and physically more like
five-and-twenty. A restlessness seized me. My home was haunted by the
spirits of my parents; by the remembrance of days whose perfect
happiness made that remembrance for the moment intolerable. I had
passionately, tenderly loved both father and mother. If I went into the
groves, her face seemed ever gazing at me amidst the fruit and foliage.
Her accustomed place in the terrace was filled with her presence. In
every room in the house I heard my father's voice, felt the clasp of his
hand.

"The good Abbé was my frequent companion, but the blow had told upon him
also. He had aged wonderfully. Though he tried to be cheerful for my
sake, it was clearly forced. My life grew impossible. I felt that I
must change the scene if I would recover mental tone and vigour. For a
time I must travel; see the world; wander from place to place, country
to country, until rest and calm returned to my soul. Even the Abbé,
sorry as he was to part from me, commended my resolution.

"I was my own master; wealthy; free to come and go as I would;
everything favoured the idea. At home I would change nothing. The Abbé
should remain in his little house, his days and leisure at his own
disposal. The old servants were retained in the château. Only the
living-rooms should be closed to the ghosts that haunted them. The able
superintendent of all outdoor concerns, a domestic chargé-d'affaires,
who had for years filled the position under my father, remained at the
head of all things. The only change in his routine was that once a week
he should have a morning with the Abbé. All matters were to pass under
the scrutiny of that wise judgment. If any difficulty arose he was to be
appealed to. It was the only service I asked at the hands of my old
tutor in return for the home and stipend it was my privilege to afford
him. He had long been white-haired, and was now venerable beyond his
nearly seventy years. He gave me his solemn benediction at parting, and
for the first time I saw him break down. He wept as he placed his hands
upon my head. 'This third parting is too much for me,' he cried. 'I can
no more.'

"So I turned my back upon my home, my face to the world. I was strong,
energetic, full of life and spirit, though for the moment clouded and
subdued. The Abbé had taken care that my mental powers should be
thoroughly trained. For twelve years I had been his constant care. In
many things he thought me his superior. Mathematics and classics, the
sciences, these by his rare skill he had made my amusement. But my
impulsive nature, quick sometimes to rashness, had not been conquered.
He had only given me a certain amount of judgment and common-sense which
must stand by me in moments of difficulty or danger. Altogether I was
well-fitted to take care of myself, in spite of my love of adventure and
quick temperament. You see that it clings to me still," added Delormais
with a smile. "The old Adam dies hard within us. Who else would have
treated you to a homily on black coffee and strong waters as I did this
morning?

"I departed on my travels with no fixed purpose other than to see the
world. To which point of the compass I turned, chance should decide."

       *       *       *       *       *

Again Delormais paused as though absorbed in past recollections. For a
moment his white, well-shaped hand shielded his eyes. Then returning to
his former attitude, now gazing earnestly at us and now into space, he
continued his narrative.



CHAPTER X.

DELORMAIS' ROMANCE.

     Rome--Count Albert--Happy months--Sweets of
     companionship--Egypt--Strange things--Quiet weeks--Sinai--Freedom
     of the desert--Crossing the Red Sea--Mount Serbal--Convent of St.
     Catherine--In the Valley of the Saint--Tomb of Sheikh Saleh--Pools
     of Solomon--Jerusalem the Golden--Bethel--Lebanon--Home
     again--Fresh scenes--Algeria--Hanging gardens of the Sahel--Mount
     Bubor and its glories--Rash act--At the twilight hour--Earthly
     paradise--Fair Eve--Fervent love--Arouya--Nature's revenge--Not to
     last--Eternal requiem of the sea--In the backwoods--Hunting
     wolves--Prairies of California--Honolulu--Active volcanoes--Lake of
     fire--Rare birds and wild flowers--Worship of Peleus--An
     eruption--Mighty upheaval--Coast of Labrador--Shooting bears.


"The first morning that I wakened up away from home I found myself in
the Eternal City. I had always loved Rome. Here I thought I might lose
myself in ancient history. In imagination I trod the palace of the
Cæsars, and in the Coliseum beheld the martyred Christians. I pictured
the gilded pageantries of the Tiber, the splendours of the pleasure-lost
citizens. I saw the vast Campagna clothed with its armies, listened to
the clash of arms and shouts of warriors ascending heavenwards. I walked
the Appian Way with St. Paul and at the Three Taverns seemed to hear his
voice in sorrowful farewell. At the shrine of Cecilia Metella I lingered
in sympathetic communion; and from the Pincio Hill watched the sunsets
of those matchless skies. Why are the skies of Rome more beautiful than
any other? The Vatican opened its doors to me and the Pope gave me his
most intimate and friendly benediction. I fear that I thought too
lightly of the latter.

"What just then was more to my purpose, in Rome I found a great friend.
He, Count Albert, was the nephew of the duke my mother had refused to
marry. We had been intimate from childhood, but he was five years my
senior. I need not say that he was a very different man from his uncle:
high-minded, earnest, a cultivated citizen of the world. About to visit
Egypt and Palestine, he begged me to join him. His happiness he declared
would then be complete.

"Thus chance, or an over-ruling Providence, decided for me. I willingly
acquiesced, and the many months we spent together remain as some of the
happiest of my life. Though never ceasing to mourn my loss, I quickly
threw off depression in the excitement of ever-changing scenes. Only in
the still darkness of the night hours would the beloved faces and voices
come to me with an ever-recurring sense of loneliness, and, man though I
was, my pillow was frequently wet with tears. But our friendship for
each other was sincere and has remained so. For the Duke of G.--he has
now by the decrees of fate become the head of his family--is still
living, though we have seldom met of late years.

"We travelled together, enjoying those sweet pleasures of companionship
only given us in youth. With Egypt and Palestine we became intimate and
familiar. Cairo delighted us. It was less modern in those days than in
these. We were never tired of visiting the mosques with all their sacred
and historic charm. We made the acquaintance of the sheikhs, saw them
perform impossible magic, heard strange things revealed in a drop of
ink. To me these mysteries have remained unsolved to this day. We spent
hours and days amongst the tombs of the Caliphs, revelling in their
wonderful refinement. We visited all the ancient cities of the Nile:
Thebes with its hills and ruins, Memphis with its palm forests and
Pyramids--those monuments the most ancient in the world. We contemplated
the great Pyramids of Ghizeh by moonlight and felt steeped in mystery.
In the same weird light I have stood before the Sphinx and asked the
reason and origin of its existence, but only profound silence has
answered me. At Dendera, that perfect temple begun by Cleopatra and
finished by Tiberius, I gazed upon the features of the famous queen and
compared them with those of Hermonthis. I found they resembled each
other and confess that I wondered in what consisted the beauty of the
woman who changed the fate of the world--but beautiful she must have
been. We chartered our dahabeah and travelled up to the Second Cataract.
Never shall I forget the soothing repose of those quiet weeks, the
delight of our uninterrupted companionship, the books we read together,
the daily thoughts we exchanged, the ruined cities we explored. It was
an experience that comes only once in a lifetime.

"We both felt strongly the connection between Sacred Geography and
Sacred History: how the one would be better understood if the other were
visited. So together we became acquainted with the Peninsula of Sinai,
its mountains, plains, and sea. The charm and freedom of the desert I
had often dreamed about, but how far greater was the reality! Here we
revelled day after day in the wonderful isolation: sky and sand and
nothing else. A mingling of gorgeous tones: a vast expanse of blue and
yellow; a molten sun burning down upon all by day, at night the infinite
repose of darkness and star-lit skies. How endless were those sandy
wastes, broken only by the wild broom and acacia yielding its gum
arabic, the wild palm and manna-giving tamarisk!

"We traversed the desert in which the Israelites wandered for forty
years, and crossed the Red Sea over the very spot where Pharaoh and his
host were drowned. We ascended Mount Serbal and the cluster of Jebel
Mûsa, and therefore must have trod the very Sinai of Israel. We stayed
for days at the wonderful convent of St. Catherine, a strange building
to exist in the very centre of the desert, with its massive walls,
gorgeous church and galleries, monkish cells and guest chambers, its
wonderful gardens. We spent much time in the Library, examining its
ancient and singularly interesting MSS. We conversed frequently with the
monks, and wondered why they should be Greek and not Arabian; and
whether, so far removed from the world, temptation and sin and sorrow
still assailed them.

"In the Valley of the Saint we visited the tomb of Sheikh Saleh, the
'great unknown,' where the tribes of the Desert assemble once a year and
hold their races and dances and offer up burnt sacrifices. We looked
upon Hebron, that wonderful sepulchre of the Patriarchs, and passed
through the Valley of Eschol, once so abundant in the fruits of the
earth. We visited the three Pools of Solomon on our way to Bethlehem.
Never can I forget the gorgeous splendour of the scene, the wonderful
undulations of those vine-clad hills. In the vast depression lie the
sleeping pools, square and regular, and sky and atmosphere seem full of
flaming colours, and one realises the true meaning of the glories of the
East. Beyond lies Rachel's tomb, and from the top of a neighbouring hill
one looks down upon Jerusalem the Golden. We feel that we are treading
the holiest ground on earth.

"We went up the Passage of Michmash to Bethel; that dreary and barren
spot where Jacob made him a pillar of stones and dreamed his dream. You
remember his words: 'Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it
not.... This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate
of heaven.' The spot is very desolate; no wonder Jacob feared as he
gazed around.

"We visited Lebanon, and in its grove reposed under the few remaining
cedars, listened to the cry of the cicale, and watched the birds of
brilliant plumage flitting from branch to branch. Though in the midst of
the desert there was no silence. A wonderful spot, with its rushing
streams, its vineyards and corn-fields, the magnificent sea flashing in
the sunshine. What a forest life it must have been before Sennacherib
laid it low!

"So we became thoroughly acquainted with Sinai and Palestine. I can
never understand those who leave this magic land with a sense of
disappointment. It is true that we were young, full of life and vigour,
ready to extract all the honey from our sweets; but to me no after
experience ever equalled this first lengthened journey of my manhood.
With what sorrow and regret I brought it to an end and parted from my
friend, you will easily imagine.

"But it had to be. I had been long absent from home. The Abbé wrote to
me regularly; all had gone well and quietly, but I began to feel anxious
to gaze once more upon the beloved groves and familiar shores; to hear
once more the voice of the good old man who I knew hungered and thirsted
for my return.

"One morning when the sun was shining and everything looked bright and
happy, I suddenly appeared before the Abbé. He was absorbed upon a MS.,
putting the finishing touches to a chapter of peculiar merit, when he
looked up and saw the desire of his eyes. For a moment I thought he was
about to lose consciousness. Then the blood rushed to his pale, refined
face, and I found myself clasped in his arms.

"We spent a quiet happy month together. I took up my abode in his house,
not in the château. Everything was pursuing the calm and even tenor of
its way. Every one was happy, and the return of the master made that
happiness complete. They all hoped I had come to remain; but I found
that could not be. I was unable to settle down to a quiet domestic life.
This home-coming had brought back all my loss, the happiness of days
gone for ever. I felt I must seek fresh scenes, and soon departed again
on my wanderings. This time they were not very distant.

"I crossed over to Algeria, and from the bright green slopes of the
Sahel learned to love the white terraces and hanging gardens that
contrasted so well with the matchless blue of the Mediterranean. That
was not all that I learned to love.

"I mixed freely with the Arabs and the French of all classes. Fate took
me to Djidjelly. I wished to ascend Mount Bubor, and from its summit
gaze as it were upon all the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of
them. Here I committed the most rash, most impulsive act of my life. You
will say it was impossible in one brought up as I had been. I have
learned that nothing is impossible. Remember also my youth; that I was
in a sense alone in the world; had never loved, never even thought of
love. I will now tell you a secret hitherto locked within my own breast.
In a word, I married. Djidjelly has been considered almost impregnable,
but no fortress can keep out the arrows of Cupid.

"I had been in the town for about a week, exploring the rocks and
heights, picturing that terrible expedition two centuries ago, when the
Kabyles brought Beaufort and his men to utter defeat. One day I had
walked some ten miles into the interior. I was revelling in the perfume
of one of the lovely groves that abound, when suddenly I came upon a
vision of grace and beauty that absolutely dazzled and astounded me. It
was that witching hour of evening when the sun nears the horizon and
all nature seems sinking to repose. A perfect paradise of orange and
almond trees, olives and pomegranates interspersed with the wild laurel,
surrounded me. Never did paradise boast a fairer Eve. The declining sun
threw deep shadows athwart the paths; branches and foliage traced fairy
pictures of sunlight and shade.

"In this enchanting scene stood a young Kabyle woman, lovelier than
anything I had ever seen before or have ever dreamed of since. She was
about seventeen, but here, as you know, women develop early. Her form
was perfect as her face. If she walked, her step was light and majestic.
If she ran, it was with the grace of the gazelle. Everything about her
was harmonious. Her abundant dark hair crowned a small and shapely head.
Her eyes, large, dark and soft, flashed with sensibility and
intelligence beneath pencilled eyebrows and long drooping eyelashes that
almost swept her cheek. Her expression was one of singular purity and
guilelessness. All the passionate temperament of the East seemed to have
passed her by. Yet how purely, how fervently she could love. Over a
silken robe she wore a haick or burnous of fine gossamer that fell about
her in graceful folds. When her small coral lips parted they revealed
the most exquisite of pearly teeth. Her voice was music. You will say
that I am making her too perfect. This would indeed be impossible. I
have never met any one to approach her either in grace of mind or beauty
of feature.

"But Nature had been cruel. She had bestowed those matchless charms only
to withdraw them too soon. I saw her and from that moment loved her:
loved her for ever. There was no doubt or wavering in my mind. I
approached her. She met me fearlessly, naturally, without thought of
guile. To my delight she spoke perfect French, was evidently refined and
educated. Her father was the proprietor of this little paradise. This
meant that he was probably at ease in the world without being exactly
rich. I quickly got to know him. Wooing in this part of the world is not
a matter of months or years. Within a week of our first meeting, I was
engaged to Arouya. Her father was only too willing to give her to one
who was young, good-looking, above all had wealth at his command.
Almost immediately, without counting the cost or reflecting upon the
mistake of a union with one of another race and religion, we were
married. But all the reflection in the world would have made no
difference. I was borne on by a mighty torrent against which there was
no struggling.

"For six months I lived a charmed, enraptured, secluded life with
Arouya, my wife. We were intensely happy in each other's love: bliss
that is rarely given to mortals. It was not a mere life of the senses;
her mind was wonderfully pure, bright and expansive. From the very first
I laboured to convert her to Christianity, and with singular clearness
she grasped and embraced all its profound yet simple truths: became
deeply, devotedly religious. This only seemed to strengthen her
affection for me.

"But it was not to last. Almost from the day of our marriage I felt the
shadow of the sword. Our happiness was to be as fleeting as it was
perfect. Arouya was already stricken with mortal illness. Consumption
had set its seal upon her. Before we had been married three months she
began to droop; at the end of six months she died. Died in my arms,
blessing the hour in which we had first met. I laid her in her far-off
grave, within sound of the sea, which chants her eternal requiem.

"I will draw a veil over my grief. For the third time in my young life I
was heavily stricken. But I have learned to see the hand of mercy in the
blow, and in time I lived it down. It was an episode in my life so
romantic, so sacred, that I never spoke of it even to the good Abbé. You
are the first to whom I have confided it. The secret is locked in my own
breast--and in yours.

"I left Algeria and sought distraction from my grief by going farther
abroad. I visited America, where I saw Nature on a gigantic scale. There
I went through endless experiences and adventures. In the backwoods of
the North I have spent whole nights watching for wolves, and heard their
howlings on all sides. Often I have been sore beset. Many a tree have I
climbed to save my life; from its branches shot many a tiger whose
glaring eyes and deep growls told me one or other must conquer. But as
in childhood, so in later years I seem to have carried about with me a
charmed life. Many a time has my thirst been assuaged by the monkeys,
who in return for stones pelted me with cocoanuts. In the Indian jungle
I have hunted lions, and once was surprised and sprung upon by a tiger
that at that very moment was providentially shot by my servant.
Otherwise I should not now be here to tell you the tale. It was a narrow
escape.

"In the vast prairies of California I delighted. Here I saw vegetation
as I had never conceived it. Even the cedars of Lebanon paled before
these gigantic monarchs of the forest. Loveliest flowers of gorgeous
hues, wonderful tree-ferns, abounded. There was no limit to their
wealth. Once, whilst here, the desire seized me to visit Hawaii--the
Sandwich Islands as they are called: those wonderful volcanic isles of
the Pacific. Beside them, everything else of a like nature fades into
insignificance. Vesuvius, Ætna, Hecla, these are child's play in
comparison. The eight islands form a rich and productive chain.

"I embarked from San Francisco for Honolulu, and reached it after a run
of sixteen days before the wind. Here I found much to repay me. The
island is full of rocky spurs which form so great a contrast to the
green plains of the interior with their clear flowing streams and
endless forests. Vast craters are ever in a state of eruption: the
largest volcanoes in the world: some extinct, others in a state of
activity. One of these days I believe that a tremendous upheaval will
take place and the islands will disappear. The mountain peaks of Hawaii,
Mauna Kia and Mauna Loa, 14,000 feet high, with their eternal snows,
would alone repay a visit. Perpendicular precipices 3000 feet high
present a bold savage front to the sea, and looking at them you think
that never before have you gazed upon rock scenery. The sandy shores
have the loveliest, most perfect of coral reefs. The waters surrounding
the islands are clear and brilliant with every rainbow colour. Here the
world is a paradise; but its people, though harmless enough, are not
angels.

"Kilanea on Mauna Loa is the largest of the active volcanoes. Its
oval-shaped crater is nine miles in circumference and 6000 feet above
the level of the sea. Within this a lake of fire is for ever burning and
seething, moving and heaving to and fro in liquid waves of molten lava.
Imagine the tremendous, the awful sight. I was there in 1856 when it was
in a very active state and continued so for some years. At night the
spectacle was sublime beyond description. Herds of wild horses roam the
islands. There is a curious bat that flies by day. Many of the trees are
productive. The sugar-cane flourishes; the palm, banana, cocoanut and
_ti_. The natives bake and eat the roots of the latter and thatch their
huts with its leaves. The snow-clad hills are the most distinctive
feature, here and there rising in overpowering masses wreathed in
fantastic vapours. Above these the clear blue sky rises in brilliant
contrast and unbroken serenity. At sundown the white snow-tops flush a
rosy red. Wonderful creepers interlace the trees of the forest, so that
you walk under an endless magic roof of green, through which the sun at
mid-day penetrates only in delicate gleams and patches. Gorgeous
wild-flowers grow everywhere through the pathless woods. Birds of rare
plumage flash from bough to bough, chattering and calling, but soulless
in point of song. Everywhere one meets the pungent odour of wild fruit.
Here too I found orange and lemon-groves that almost rivalled those of
my Mediterranean home. You have heard of those wonderful trees with
their wealth of blossoms that live one day, changing colour three times
in the daylight hours: white in the morning, yellow at noon, red at
sundown--blushing their life away.

"The heat of the days was intense, but at sunset a cool breeze would
spring up, laden with the perfume of orange and lemon-groves. I mixed
freely with the natives, a curious, superstitious race.

"It was here that I first experienced the sensation of earthquakes. They
are common enough in these volcanic islands, and unless violent, excite
little attention. I had been travelling for two days. Suddenly I felt
the ground as it were slipping under my feet. The trees about us swayed,
the leaves rustled as though moved by a strong wind. In the air was a
brooding stillness. We were not far from a tremendous volcano. An
eruption was evidently about to take place. I had two or three native
servants with me, and an acquaintance who was half a Frenchman and had
settled in the island. The former were frightened and superstitious,
given up to the worship of Peleus, goddess of the volcano.

"With difficulty we made our way to the mouth of the crater through the
pathless forests surrounding it. Never can I forget the beauty of the
immense tree-ferns that abounded. It was no doubt a rash proceeding, but
at last we stood at the edge of the crater. We looked upon a vast lake
of liquid fire. The sight was terrific, and made me think of Dante's
most graphic passages.

"All this soon changed. Presently the surface of the lake of fire had
turned black, sure sign of an approaching eruption. Not a breath of air
stirred. All nature was steeped in a profound hush. The very birds
ceased to fly and flutter. Our horses trembled and manifested every
symptom of fear. There was no time to be lost if we wished to save our
lives. After a sharp ride we gained the slopes of a snow mountain. Here
we waited for what soon came; shock after shock of earthquake. Rocks and
stones detached themselves around us and rolled into the valley. Trees
were uprooted. Then came a mighty, rushing, hissing sound, as a sea of
molten lava rolled down in many directions and spread over the plain.
Never shall I forget the grandeur, the awful majesty of the sight. We
knew not how far it would reach or to what extent our lives were in
danger. Dense volumes of smoke rose in the air, obscuring the sky.
Torrents of ashes fell far and wide. I thought of the fate of
Herculaneum and Pompeii, scenes I had visited with my parents only a few
years before. Was such a fate to be ours? We were almost choked with the
smell of sulphur. Vegetation was scorched and burnt up under the
terrible influence. It was a monster devouring all that came within its
path. The poor monkeys in the cocoa-nut trees no longer thought of
pelting us with fruit. They crouched and hid themselves in the branches,
and understood the peril of their lives. I will not weary you with
further description. Suffice it that we escaped, and when I again found
myself in Honolulu, it was to bid the islands a long farewell.

"For a time there was no end to my wanderings. From Honolulu I went off
in an American whaler to the coast of Labrador and shot bears as they
drifted southward on icebergs coming from that mysterious and hitherto
inaccessible North Pole. Once I spent a week with that curious little
people, the Esquimaux, who inhabit the creeks of Labrador and live
chiefly on the excellent fish abounding in those waters: waters so
wonderfully tempered by the Florida stream. In my travels I have
experienced the extremes of refinement on the one hand, of hardship on
the other. But the latter has been my own choice, and this makes all
things bearable. I once had a friend who went out to break stones on the
road; work we give to our convicts; but he did it for pleasure and
thought it delightful."

       *       *       *       *       *

Once more Delormais paused as though in deep reflection. The silence in
the room was only broken by the faint ticking of the clock on the
mantelpiece. Outside not a sound disturbed the sleeping world. Not a
breath stirred in all the corridors of the old palace that had seen
better days. We waited until the spirit should move him again.



CHAPTER XI.

MONSEIGNEUR.

     Great conflict--Returning to Paris--Count Albert married--Marriages
     declined--Love buried in the grave of Arouya--Frivolities--Napoleon
     at the Tuileries--Illness--Doctors' errors--Days of horror--Vow
     registered--Between life and death--Victory--Home again--Abbé's
     objections--Resolve strengthened--Death of the Abbé--Taking
     vows--Life of energy and action--Rapid sketch--Sympathies--All
     ordained--"Monseigneur"--"Mon ami"--Cry of the watchmen--Candles
     wax dim and blue--Wandering in dreams--False prophet--H. C. rises
     with the lark--Beauty of Gerona--Pathetic scene--Colonel
     administers consolation--Widow's heart sings for joy--In the
     cloisters again--Good-bye--In the cathedral--Anselmo--Sunshine over
     all--Miguel--On the ruined citadel--Anselmo's signal--A glory
     departs.


"I have told you of the great romance of my life," he presently
continued. "Now let me tell you of its great conflict.

"After many wanderings I returned to Paris. Here the great world opened
wide its doors to me. In a short time I was _l'enfant de la maison_
amongst all people worth knowing. Count Albert had married one of the
most charming women in the great world. You can picture my welcome. Few
days passed but I spent some portion of my time with them. I was
naturally sought after, my wealth and position rendering that
inevitable. Fathers proposed marriage for their daughters after the
French fashion, offering the bribe of large dowries. But they knew not
my secret. All my love was buried in a quiet Algerian grave, within
sight of the ever-sounding sea. I had never loved before; I should never
love again. I shuddered at the idea of a mere _mariage de convenance_.
Love and love only could make the chains of matrimony bearable. Who
could love again after such a love, such a marriage as mine?

"I soon felt the life of Paris feverish, enervating. There was no rest,
or repose, or freedom about it. A wild series of frivolities succeeded
each other: court ceremonies--Napoleon III. reigned at the
Tuileries--balls, receptions, the life of the clubs. I hated wine, yet
indulged freely in it to help me through the days. I had not been made
for this kind of life; all the better parts of my nature were being
stifled. Still I went on from week to week, partly because I could not
tear myself away from Albert and his charming wife.

"At last I fell ill of a nervous malady which prostrated my strength.
The doctors ordered brandy in large doses. They should rather have
forbidden it. The day came when I saw that brandy was my master. I could
not live without it. Nothing could exceed my horror when I made the
discovery. Then the moral struggle began, and that my nature was strong
only made the conflict more severe. But the evil was more physical than
mental or moral and so far beyond my control.

"At length, almost in despair, sick of this frivolous, aimless life, I
vowed to devote my days to the service of Heaven if I might be permitted
to conquer.

"Again I fell ill, but this time of a malady for which all stimulant was
forbidden. For weeks I kept my bed, part of the time hovering between
life and death. Heaven was merciful. My vow had been heard, my prayer
answered. When I recovered, the victory had been gained for me. I hated
the very sight of all stimulant. From that hour nothing stronger than
tea or coffee has passed my lips.

"I left Paris and returned to my home in Provence. What delight, what
repose, what charm I found there. Paradise had once more opened its
gates. There, with the Abbé, I spent a whole year in calm and quiet
retreat. Health and vigour of mind, strength of body, returned to me.

"But I did not forget my vow. The Abbé treated me to many an argument
and disquisition upon the subject. He showed me the life of an
ecclesiastic in all its lights and shadows; the sacrifice of domestic
happiness it entailed; the constant self-denials if I would do my duty
in the spirit as well as letter. He pointed out how by nature and
position I was eminently fitted to take my part in the world; to marry;
become the ruler of a little kingdom, as it were; the father of sons and
daughters. He was growing old, he declared, and certainly in the last
year had greatly changed. An expression on his face told me he was not
far from heaven. He felt his own end approaching.

"All this only strengthened my resolve. If anything could have made me
more in favour of a religious life, it was the quiet ecstasy with which
he contemplated passing to celestial regions. Nothing could be more
saintly and beatific than his last days. He was in perfect happiness,
and frequently said so. I was permitted to be with him when his eyes
looked their last upon the world. I was the last object they rested on;
my name was on his lips as his soul winged its flight to heaven. For the
fourth time the hand of affliction was laid upon me. My last link with
the world was severed. I stood alone.

"In due time I took upon myself the vows of the Church. Never for a
moment had I contemplated the cloister. Mine must be a life of energy
and activity. Whether it be a weakness or not, I have ever loved to
command; to rule mankind; to have the ordering of things. There I feel
in my element. I have a capacity for organisation which will not lie
dormant. It has been my lot to have it more or less fully exercised.
With all humility, and giving the sole glory to Heaven, I may say that I
have succeeded in every work or mission I ever undertook; advanced every
cause in which I have been concerned. The great moral, the great secret
of my life, is this: I have first of all been convinced of the soundness
of my intentions; I have held decided views; I have never entered upon a
single act of importance without first placing it under the guidance of
Heaven, as Hezekiah went up into the Temple and spread the letter before
the Lord. And then I have gone forward, nothing doubting. Paul may plant
and Apollos may water in vain, if they trust to their own strength. That
has been my rule and conviction through life. I have constantly
endeavoured to have no will of my own; no personal ends and aims and
prejudices; but to obey the great Master, whose I am and Whom I serve."

Here Delormais rapidly sketched his life in the Church. He described
every office he had held in succession; the difficulties he had
contended with; the evils he had suppressed; the reforms he had made;
the manner in which he had once fought with and at length convinced the
Consistory of Rome. Through all he spoke with the utmost humility,
recognising himself an agent, not a principal to whom any credit was
due.

Over this portion of his life we draw a discreet veil. It was disclosed
under secrecy. Partly to prevent identification; partly because other
names were inevitably introduced, some of which were as household words
in the world of the French Church.

The time had passed unconsciously. There was a singular charm and
attraction about Delormais. His fine presence and high breeding, his
animated way of talking and graphic powers of description, all carried
you beyond yourself. Everything was forgotten but the man before you.
For the moment you were lost in the scenes he portrayed so vividly.
Underlying all, running through all like a fine silken warp, his
sympathetic nature was evident. Strong, decided, commanding, loving to
rule, he was yet singularly lovable. When was this ever otherwise where
sympathy was the keynote of the disposition? He was a man to come to for
advice and consolation. Broad-minded above all the small views and
judgments of human nature, if he chastised with the one hand, he took
care to heal with the other. No one need dread his condemnation. We had
been so recently under the influence of both men it was impossible to
help contrasting this strong, admirable nature with the calm, retiring,
almost celestial beauty of Anselmo: each perfect in its way. We
mentioned him to Delormais as a type.

"Ay, I know him well," he replied: "have known him always. The Canon who
was his protector and left him a portion of his wealth, was one of my
few intimate friends. A purer spirit than Anselmo's never breathed. He
might be advanced to high places in the Church, but is better and
happier where he is. In all my wide experiences I have never met his
equal. Of course I know his story, and his love for Rosalie--hers for
him: an idyll almost too perfect for earth. I know her well also, and
all her saintliness. Such love and faith are rare: a consistency worth
all the sermons that ever were preached. How different was my fevered
love from theirs; my rash, unreflecting impulse in that Algerian
paradise. And yet, Heaven be praised, nothing but good came of it. All
is ordained; all is for the best if only our heart's desire is to do
well. All comes right in the end. I have never known it otherwise. If
ever I feel in the slightest degree discouraged, if ever my faith in
human nature is unduly tried, I immediately think of these two saintly
people, and courage revives."

Once more he paused, and seemed lost in thought. Whether it was given to
Anselmo and Rosalie, or whether to retrospection, we could not tell. The
clock ticked its faint warning of the passing of time. All else was
profound silence. But he soon roused himself to the present, and again
turned to us with an expression in which humour was mixed with
kindliness.

"And now," said Delormais, with that peculiar smile that had puzzled us
at the beginning of our interview, "I am going to surprise you. Life is
full of the strangest coincidences and combinations, which would be
laughed to scorn in fiction. It is the unexpected which happens. You
remarked some time ago that my palace would be known as a shining light,
if I ever were made a bishop. I shall never be made a bishop," he
laughed, "and for this reason."

Here he quietly took an official-looking document out of a capacious
side pocket, and placed it in our hands. It was an intimation of his
elevation to the See of X.---- a place we knew by heart, and loved.

"Can this be true?" we asked in perplexity.

"It is indeed," laughed Delormais. "So you see I cannot be made a
bishop, for I am one already; though not duly enthroned. You will have
to be present at that ceremony. I am not surprised. I knew it was
coming, though I could not tell the exact day and hour. It reached me
only this evening. And you are the first to whom I have told it."

"Then," we replied, rising and making him a profound bow, "let us be the
first to greet you by your title, _Monseigneur_. The first to wish you
all honour and success in that high office Heaven has destined you to
fill."

"Nay," he returned; "Monseigneur to others it may be; but to you it
shall be ever _mon ami_. For with your permission I intend our
acquaintance to ripen into friendship. You shall come and visit the old
Bishop in his palace. We will make it a shining light together. The
oftener you come, the longer you stay, the more welcome you will be. You
know that X. is surrounded by antiquities, endless monuments of
interest. Amidst these attractions you will feel at home. Your visits
will not be a mere sacrifice to friendship."

"You are sketching a delightful picture. Will it ever be realised?"

"That only depends upon yourself," laughed Delormais. "The Bishop has
not to be made, nor the palace to be built; the guest-chamber awaits you
with the blue skies and balmy airs of spring. Of all appointments it is
the one I would have chosen. A life of activity, of responsibility and
usefulness; a wide sphere of action; opportunities for doing much good
in public, still more in private. The latter brings the greater
blessing."

"You are a wonderful man," we could not help exclaiming. "Your life
ought to be written. We should love to make it known to the world."

"You shall become my biographer," laughed Delormais, "if you will
undertake it in French. Do what you will with what I have told you
to-night. Only keep to yourself all my ecclesiastical history. That is
sacred and private, at any rate as long as I am living. For the rest,
change names and dates only sufficiently to prevent recognition. Not
that it would matter. My life is my own, as I have said. And not that I
have anything to conceal. My faults, follies and indiscretions have been
those of impulse; of the head, not of the heart, I would fain believe. I
cannot remember the time when I did not at least wish to do well. Of
evil men and deliberate sin I have ever had a wholesome horror. But all
and everything by God's grace, not of my own strength."

At that moment we were startled by a cry in the street: the well-known
call of El sereno.

"Another watchman," cried Delormais. "What is the hour?"

We had not thought of time. A few months earlier and the sun would long
have been up. Want of space prevents our giving more than a mere outline
of Delormais' life. He filled in an infinite number of details
impossible to be recorded here. They would swell to a volume, but a
volume of singular interest. He spoke rapidly and with few pauses. Our
watches marked the hour of five. It was that period of the night when
darkness is greatest before dawn. The watchman's voice cried the hour
and the starry night for the last time.

"For your own sake I must break up the assembly," laughed Delormais.
"Two hours' sleep will refresh us both. Presently we shall meet again.
See! our candles wax dim and blue--or is it fancy? This is a ghostly
house, you know. My great-grandmother was Spanish, and for all I can
tell some of its ancestors and mine may have met here in times long past
and played out their comedies and tragedies together. As we are playing
ours."

We parted. Sleep came to us, but scarcely unconsciousness. In our dreams
we lived over again all the scenes Delormais had so graphically
described, but more highly-coloured, full of impossible adventures. We
wandered through endless groves of paradise peopled with myriads of
Arouyas. Our only difficulty was to choose the fairest. Life was one
long poem; time had passed into eternity. From such celestial regions we
were awakened at eight o'clock by the entrance of our host with morning
coffee and steaming rolls, accompanied by José bearing hot water. The
latter had constituted himself our _criado_ or _valet de chambre_.

"Señor," he said, "it is a cloudless morning. Our astronomer has proved
a false prophet. My heart bleeds for him. I fear his glory has departed.
Heaven send he does not commit suicide. Is it you, señor, who have
influenced the stars against him?"

"Monsieur," said our host, putting down the tray, "your friend the poet
rose with the lark--figuratively speaking, for who knows what time the
lark rises in November? Taking his coffee, he went out with his umbrella
shouldered à la militaire. For a poet, monsieur, your friend can put on
a very defiant air, as if, like Don Quixote, he had a mind to fight with
windmills. He told me he was inflated with inspiration. He was going to
contemplate the Pyrenees from the Citadel, and to write a sonnet to the
eyebrows of a young lady he saw last night at the opera. I confess I
should have thought the eyes a finer theme. Joseph tells me it was the
Señorita Costello. She is considered the great beauty of Gerona; and
even in Madrid, I am told, created a profound sensation. No wonder the
susceptible monsieur's heart beat fast when he beheld her. Now, señor,
we leave you to enjoy your coffee and perform your toilet. His
reverence, Père Delormais, sends you his greeting and hopes you have
slept. I have just taken his coffee also. Contrary to his usual custom,
though wide awake he was still reposing. Ah! what a great character we
have there!"

Upon which the attentive deputation retired and we were left in peace.

It was indeed glorious to see the blue unclouded sky, to find the cold
winds departed, summer reigning once more. How changed the aspect of
Gerona. How all the wonderful colouring came out, the effects of light
and shadow, under the sunshine. H. C. arrived just as we left the hotel,
and together we went to the bridge where we had stood not many hours ago
under the stars.

It almost seemed as though we had gone through years of experience since
then. This morning everything was bright and animated. The river now
flashed and sparkled and reflected brilliant, broken outlines. The old
houses looked older than ever in this youthful atmosphere, but seemed
warmed into life. They now appeared quite habitable, almost cheerful.
The towers standing above and beyond them were pencilled against the
blue sky. The very air seemed full of sun-flashes. In the boulevard the
trees in the sunshine made wonderful play of light and shade upon the
white houses. The arcades lost their gloom. Every one seemed to rejoice
and expand. No people are so responsive to atmosphere as the Spanish.
Warmth and sunshine are more necessary to them than food and sleep. They
are hot-house plants.

Towards ten o'clock we made our way up the street of steps to the
barracks. The scene was much the same as yesterday; conscription was not
yet over. We were evidently expected, and a sentry at once conducted us
to the colonel's office.

"I knew you would come," he cried, with quite an English handshake.
"Your interests are not of the butterfly nature, passing with the
moment. And see; here is our disconsolate widow. Now you have come, we
will talk to her."

We easily recognised the forlorn mother of yesterday's little drama. She
was quietly seated in a chair, her mantilla drawn closely about her, a
pathetic image of grief.

"Oh, señor Colonel, it is useless," she said. "Hope is dead and my heart
broken. Heaven has seen fitting to afflict me at all points. I have lost
my husband, my position; I am poor and in misery; my eldest son turns
out a disgrace; my remaining consolation is torn from me by the cruel
conscription. Nothing is left for me but to die."

"This is quite wrong," returned the colonel, pretending a severity he
did not feel. "Heaven is merciful. Brighter days will dawn for you if
you are patient. You will see that conscription is a blessing, not a
curse. It will make a man of your boy. Discipline is good for all. It is
just what he needed. He will return to you strong and vigorous; able and
willing to make a home for you. I promise to make him my special charge.
He shall be always about me. I will give him all the favour possible,
and will keep a constant eye upon him. Heaven permitting, he shall
return to you, not spoilt or lowered, but mentally and physically
improved. In the meantime--I have been making enquiries--I have found
you a position where you can honourably earn your living; where you will
be comfortable and respected; and if you will only look at the best side
of things, happy also. What do you say to it?"

Here he described the nature of the proposed occupation. The poor lady
burst into tears.

"Heaven reproves me for my ingratitude by showering mercies upon me,"
she cried. "Hope once more kindles within me. This is the one thing for
which I am fitted. Ah, colonel! it is you who have brought back life and
hope to my despairing heart."

"Nay," he returned, "I am merely the humble instrument, as we all are,
carrying out the purposes of Heaven. But I exact one thing of you. Cease
to be sad: let hope and energy return; carry out your daily tasks
heartily; and make up your mind that life still has much in store for
you."

The change was already apparent. A drooping, grief-stricken woman had
entered the office; one with hope and energy and patient waiting revived
left it.

[Illustration: SAN FILIU, FROM WITHOUT THE WALLS: GERONA.]

"Life is full of such sorrows," said the colonel. "Unfortunately we
cannot reach a millionth part of them. In this case help has been made
strangely easy. It is so seldom that the wish to aid and the power go
together. Let us now take a turn in your favourite cloisters."

Reposing under the blue skies, in the strong light and shade thrown by
the sunshine, they were even more beautiful and effective than
yesterday. In presence of their colonel, the men kept at a respectful
distance. They were all occupied in the same way; drawing water from the
well, mending clothes, running to and fro; some diligently doing
nothing. All seemed happy and contented.

"And they are so," said the colonel. "To a large number the change is
infinitely better in every way. They all find their own level. Those of
the better class discover each other, soon fraternise, and form
themselves into cliques. Youth is the age of friendship and enthusiasm.
Even these have their popes and go in for hero-worship. Life has its
charms for them. Yes," looking around, "no doubt these cloisters have a
beauty of their own. They influence me more to-day than ever before. I
think you would convert me in time," he laughed; "widen my interests and
enlarge my sympathies. You see, to me they are mere military barracks.
The men come first, and you will admit that they are not romantic. Plant
these cloisters in the midst of a desert, and no doubt I should be duly
impressed with their refined atmosphere."

We left them and stood at the head of the long flight of steps, admiring
the picturesque scene. To-day everything was radiant with light and
sunshine. The very crowd outside the Conscription-house looked more
hopeful. Even misfortune was less depressing under such blue skies. The
wonderful houses to our right, in their deep lights and shadows, looked
more rare and more artistic than ever. The ancient red roofs of the town
sloping downwards were deep and glowing. Many a gable stood out vividly,
many a dormer window and lattice pane seemed on fire as it reflected in
crimson flashes the rays of the ascending sun.

We reluctantly said good-bye to our colonel. These passing episodes,
possessing all the charm of the unexpected, are one of the delights of
travel. But they leave behind them a regret, for too often there can be
no renewal of the intimacy. Yet we realise that the world holds many
pleasant people, and that life is too short for all its possibilities.

"If you ever visit Gerona again," he said, with a final hand-shake,
"you will come and see me. If I am no longer quartered here, find out
where I am, send me a telegram, and follow quickly. May we meet again!"

Then we took our winding way up to the cathedral.

The fine square was in full sunshine. Deep lights and shadows lay upon
cathedral and palace. The house in which Alvarez once lived looked as
though human tragedy had never touched it. A golden glow lay on the grey
stone, restoring its lost youth. The ancient windows with their
wonderful ironwork, seemed kindled into life, ready to reveal a thousand
secrets of the dead-and-gone centuries. There was no gloom and mystery
to-day. The long, magnificent flight of steps were in full sunshine
also. Sunshine lay upon the town with its clustering roofs; flashed here
and there upon the surface of the winding river; gilded the snow-tops of
the far-off Pyrenees. The skies were blue and laughing; all nature was
radiant.

We passed through the west doorway into the cathedral.

Even here there was a change. The dim religious light might still be
felt; nothing could take that away. A sense of vastness and grandeur
still lay upon the splendid nave; a feeling of mystery still haunted
pillars and aisles and arches, and the deep recesses of the east end.
But to-day shafts of wonderful light flowed in, redeeming all from the
faintest suspicion of gloom. Rainbow-coloured beams from the upper
windows fell athwart the nave in rich prismatic streams. Beautiful as
the interior had been yesterday, it was yet more so this morning. These
shafts of light piercing the semi-darkness created a marvellous effect
of contrast, adding infinitely to the charm of the lovely building.

There was no mistaking the tall slender figure that approached us with
its quiet grace. It was Anselmo, his face lighted up with its rare
smile.

"We meet again," he said, in tones subdued to the sacred spot on which
we stood. "And yesterday I know that you met and conversed with Rosalie.
As we went together this morning to the bedside of a dear maiden whose
days are numbered, she told me of your encounter. I am glad. Now you
know us both and will keep us together in your memory. You must have
seen that she is more angel than woman walking the earth. I often
wonder how all her deep affection, purified and exalted, can be given to
one so unworthy. You smile! You think ours a strange history, we a
singular pair. I suppose it is so. Ours must be almost a unique
experience; and I believe that to few in this world is given the peace
and happiness we enjoy."

Talking, we passed on to the cloisters, lovelier than ever in their
brilliant light and shade. Once more we went through the north doorway
and gazed down upon San Pedro, the desecrated church, the ancient town
walls, and ruined citadel crowning the slopes. Sunshine everywhere; hope
upon all; the gloomy skies of yesterday forgotten; earth seemed many
degrees nearer heaven. We climbed down into the narrow streets and found
Miguel at his door waiting to give us a morning salutation.

"The photograph, señor. Is it a success?"

We told him that still lay in the uncertain future.

Again we found ourselves seated upon the ruined citadel. It was
difficult to realise all the horrors of that long past invasion under
the influence of these glorious skies, the gladness of this laughing
sunshine. The air was scented with wild thyme. The outlines of the
towers stood out wonderfully; the blue of heaven shone through the open
work of San Filiu's lovely steeple. All the sunshine glinted upon the
leaves of the trees in the hollow and traced patterns in the hanging
gardens.

"How beautiful it all is," said Anselmo. "On such days how thin the veil
separating the seen from the unseen. Our vision seems only just
withholden. What an awakening it will be to the higher life!"

With him, also, we had to part; a yet more reluctant farewell than that
lately gone through at the barracks. But we hoped to meet again. This
must not be our only visit to Gerona; and here Anselmo wished to live
and die. He had no ambition for a higher destiny, though even this, it
has lately been whispered to us, may one day come to him without change
of scene.

We parted as friends part, not mere acquaintances of a day. There is, we
have said, a magnetic power that bridges over time and conventionality.
As in dreams we sometimes live a lifetime in a moment, so in friendship
an hour may do the work of years. Again the clock struck twelve;
Anselmo's signal. History repeats itself. To-day he went alone, leaving
us standing amidst the ruins. We watched him as he climbed the rugged
heights of the cathedral, a tall, dark, graceful figure upon the
landscape. At the north doorway he turned, gazed steadily at us for a
few moments, raised his hands as though in benediction, and the next
moment was lost to sight.

A glory appeared to depart; the spot seemed emptier without him; there
was less brightness in the sunshine. We hastened to change the scene,
and in the lively streets of the fair, to disperse the sad current of
our thoughts. For our hours in Gerona the beautiful were numbered.



CHAPTER XII.

A MINISTERING SPIRIT.

     Sweet illusions--Everything seen and done--True devotion--In the
     vortex--Sunshine and blue skies--Less demon-like pit--Lights and
     shadows--Arcades lose their gloom--Rosalie--Charm of
     Anselmo--Romance not dead--H. C. in ecstasy--Escorting an
     angel--Cathedral steps--San Filiu--A lovely spot--Ancient
     house--Mullions and latticed windows--Passing away--Rosalie's
     ministrations--Resignation--Rosalie's farewell--"Consuelo"--Taken
     from the evil to come--The door closed--Ernesto's world
     topsy-turvy--Ernesto turns business-like--The catapult again--Up
     the broad staircase--Not the ghostly hour--Madame in her
     bureau--Posting ledger--Balance on right side--Madame
     philosophises--Shrieks to the rescue--"My dear daughter"--Our host
     and the nightingales--Waiting for next year's leaves--The Señorita
     Costello--Delormais on the wing--Another vigil--Promise
     given--Departure--Inspector quails--H. C. collapses--The
     susceptible age--Lady Maria alters her will--Possession nine-tenths
     of the law.


It was not an unmixed sorrow. At sunrise the next morning preparations
for the cattle fair must commence. By mid-day bipeds and quadrupeds
would rule the town, our beautiful palace find itself desecrated. In its
present half-deserted condition an air of refinement and antiquity hung
over it. One felt, almost saw and heard, the great crowd of cavaliers
and dames, besacked and besworded, that had passed up and down the broad
marble staircase in the picturesque and romantic Middle Ages. All the
ghosts and ghostly sighs and shadows lurking in secret corners, halls
and corridors, would vanish before the vulgar herd. Under this influence
Gerona the beautiful would become intolerable; better leave with
impressions and sweet illusions undisturbed.

And little remained. Everything had been seen, everything done. We had
said farewell to Anselmo, then plunged into the vortex of the fair,
where noise, crowd and confusion fought with each other. Sunshine and
blue skies were having their usual effect upon the Spanish people. Every
one was in high spirits, inclined to patronise booths, monkeys, and
fortune-tellers.

[Illustration: A GERONA PATIO.]

Every hour spent in the ancient town strengthened our devotion. This
old-world atmosphere, these marvellous outlines lost nothing by
familiarity. Standing once more on the bridge we confessed how difficult
it would be to look upon such a scene again. To-day, under the sunshine
the chestnut-roasters appeared less demon-like, the bed of the river
less a bottomless pit. A little of the weird element had departed. The
sense of mystery so strongly felt last night could not live in this
brilliant atmosphere.

By way of compensation the deep lights and shadows appealed to the
imagination quite as strongly as any sense of mystery. They filled the
air with life and motion. The trees rustled and gleamed and glinted and
drew moving pictures upon the white houses. Arcades lost their gloom,
but not their charm, and these apart from all else raise Gerona far
above the rank of any ordinary town. As we left the fair and turned into
the quieter streets, it seemed almost a natural consequence that from
one of the deep round arches there glided the quiet, graceful form of
Rosalie. She had foretold that we should meet again.

"But for the last time, Rosalie," as she greeted us with her rare sweet
smile. "We leave this evening. Time presses, and we would avoid
to-morrow's ceremony."

"They are terrible days," returned Rosalie. "No wonder you escape them.
Until they are over we keep as far as possible out of sight. You have
seen Anselmo to-day, señor?"

"Yes, and wished him farewell. It was a sad moment. He alone has repaid
us for our visit to Gerona. We should like to spend many days here and
know him more intimately."

"Days of profit, if I may venture to say so, señor. The more you saw
Anselmo, the more you would love him. It is every one's experience.
Apart from his saintliness, you cannot tell on a slight acquaintance how
much there is in him. His is not the goodness of a weak but of a strong
nature; intellectually strong; but so refined and unambitious that to an
ordinary observer it may seem passive. He is of a different order from
Père Delormais, who is full of action and energy, and does so much and
does all well. But Delormais was born to great things; they are his of
inheritance. Anselmo had not these privileges."

"The greater merit, Rosalie; but we think you count for very much in his
life. He has kept you before him, and your image has inspired him to
deeper holiness."

"Ah, no, señor. Rather is it the other way. He has been my guide and
king, as I told you yesterday. Anselmo is above all earthly mortals,
all human aid. But you will meet him again and know him better. This
your first visit to Gerona will not be your last. Few people come here,
but those who do always return. I think of it as a place apart,
possessing ideal beauties, a separate atmosphere. And for me," she
smiled, "everything seems imbued with the charm of Anselmo. The bells
ring out his name; I hear it in the song of the birds, the whispering of
the trees. Romance is not dead within me because I am Sister Anastasia."

Here H. C. struck in, unable to contain himself any longer.

"If I were here very long," he cried excitedly, "I should fall madly in
love with you myself, and write reams of poetry to your lovely eyes. I
have never seen such eyes. They have all the light of heaven in them,
and--and--all the beauty of earth."

Rosalie laughed.

"You are very outspoken, señor. I could have told you were a poet from
your look. But you must exercise your genius on a worthier theme. On me
it would be wasted; my life, all I have, all I am, is dedicated to
Heaven. Time is passing. Will you not go with me on my way that I may
show you one of the loveliest spots in Gerona?"

So Rosalie walked through the quiet old-world streets with an escort on
either side. We felt we were attending an angel. H. C. did not attempt
to conceal his rapture. It is a weakness of which he seems unconscious.
Rosalie pointed out many a house in which she had ministered; here
soothing the pillow of the dying, there rescuing one from the grasp of
death. Under her guidance the streets seemed more beautiful than ever; a
holier atmosphere surrounded them.

At length we reached the wonderful steps leading to the cathedral. They
were flooded with sunlight and gave dignity to the ugly west front, so
unworthy of the splendid interior. Passing under the fine old gateway
and turning to the left, we found ourselves close to the old church of
San Filiu. In days gone by, when the Moors captured Gerona and changed
its cathedral into a mosque, the Christians had worshipped here.
Whatever its interior at that time, it is now dark, gloomy and
depressing.

Rosalie entered a quiet street beyond, a short narrow turning of only a
few yards, then halted.

It was, as she had said, one of the loveliest spots in Gerona; so hidden
that few would find it by chance. A small house of great antiquity but
perfectly preserved. An exquisite Gothic archway over which the house
was built led into a small quadrangle. Beside this archway was a
mullioned window with latticed panes. We imagined the quaint old room
within and longed to enter. Above this was another latticed window with
Gothic mullions and ornaments. It was open, and sweet-scented flowers
threw their perfume upon the air. This was crowned by a sloping roof
with red tiles bearing all the tone and beauty of age. At least three
centuries must have rolled over them unmolested. Even H. C. forgot the
charms of Rosalie and became enthusiastic in favour of still life.

"It is my destination," said Rosalie. "I was hastening here yesterday
when you saw me crossing the square of San Pedro. Where those lovely
flowers are scenting the air, a lovelier earthly flower is passing away.
Consumption is doing its work. The only child of a mother who will soon
have no tie left on earth. So Heaven sometimes sees well to draw our
souls upwards. There are those who need this discipline. Trouble, like
everything else, enters into the wise economy of God's purposes. I doubt
if a single unnecessary care or pain is dealt out to us. But here the
hand of affliction is charged with a heavy burden. The invalid is a fair
maiden of seventeen, pure and beautiful. Her resignation is a gift from
heaven, a lesson to us all. But for that I don't know what would become
of the mother."

As she spoke a face appeared at the window above the flowers; the sweet
gentle face of a middle-aged woman, pale and pathetic, to which the
mantilla added grace and charm. There was a look of patient sorrow in
the dark eyes, lightened by a momentary gleam as they caught sight of
Rosalie.

"Sister Anastasia," said the subdued woman, "the sun is not more true to
its course than you to your hour. My child hungers for you. Next to her
mother you are her only consolation."

"I come, I come," replied Sister Anastasia. "Tell Rosita that in my bag
I bring her refreshment for the mind and food for the soul. Ah, señor,
this is indeed farewell, since you tell me your moments in Gerona are
numbered. The sun shines, the skies are blue, let these be an omen of
your life until we meet again. For by the love you bear Anselmo--you
must love him; we all love him--you must return. He will be here and so
shall I. We shall probably see no change until Heaven calls us to the
great change of all. This fair child above will have passed away, and
the mother's heart will be desolate. But Heaven that brings the sorrow
will heal the wound. Adieu señor. Adieu."

[Illustration: OLD HOUSES ON THE RIVER: GERONA.]

She glided through the archway and on the other side gained admittance
to the house. The door opened to receive her, a quiet voice was heard in
greeting. "You are an angel of light," it said. "Your new name should
have been Consuelo. But, oh, Anastasia, my child is worse. I fear me a
few days will see the ending, and I shall be lonely and desolate upon
earth. Why did Heaven take the child and spare the mother?"

"God knows best," returned Anastasia. "Let His will be done. Be sure He
who deals the blow will not forsake you. Your child is spared the
sorrows of earth. You will think of her as in safe keeping; taken from
the evil to come."

We heard no more. The door was closed. Let us leave Rosalie in her true
element, a ministering spirit shedding abroad more happiness and
consolation, more holy influence, than she at all realised; doing all
with that unconscious modesty which was one of her greatest gifts. The
picture of that last interview remains vividly in our memory. A little
mediæval old house that has scarce its equal in Gerona; the flowers
behind the latticed panes and the sad, subdued face appearing above
them; Rosalie's eyes looking up in all their loveliness with an
expression of almost divine sympathy.

We went our way, richer for having known her. It was our last look upon
these cathedral precincts. The afternoon shadows were lengthening as we
went back through the quiet streets to the hotel. All the brilliant
glory of the day had departed. These repeated farewells were depressing,
yet not quite over, for as we approached the Fonda who should be
standing at their own door but Ernesto and his mother. We had not met
them since the previous day when they had disappeared within the lion's
den, and we had gone round to the reeds and the river.

"Ernesto! how is this? Why are you not at school?"

"School, señor!" opening very wide eyes. "Fair week is holiday. We
should have a revolution if they attempted school upon us. For this one
week in the year we change places with our fathers and mothers, pastors
and teachers. They obey and we command."

"We congratulate you on this topsy-turvy state of things. But as you are
strong be merciful. Remember that Black Monday comes. Cinderella went
back to her rags at midnight; you must go back to school and good work.
And the monkeys? You are still at large; we feared the opposite, as you
had not brought us your report."

"Oh! I brought it, señor; but it was rather late, and Señor Lasoli said
you were at the opera. You should have seen the monkeys!" And here he
went off into convulsions at the recollection of the performance. "They
couldn't understand what was inside the lozenges to bite their tongues
so! First they would take a nibble, then rub the lozenge on the arm;
then another nibble; then a whole torrent of monkey-swearing and
lozenge-rubbing because it kept on biting and burning. I quite thought I
should die with laughing."

From the way he laughed now, it seemed doubtful whether all danger was
over.

"But that is not the worst, señor," said the mother, at length making
herself heard. "Will you believe that the boy has a wretched catapult in
his pocket, and there will be any number of broken windows and
assassinated cats in the town. I don't know what will become of us. If
there is one thing I dread more than another, it is a catapult. They are
the implements of the devil."

"There is absolutely no fear," laughed Ernesto. "I never broke a window
in my life--at least, hardly ever. As for cats, they are quite outside
the law of murder. A dead cat is as rare as a dead donkey. Are you
really going to-day, señor? Then I shall have no more pleasure in the
fair, though this year it is better than usual. The lions roared like
thunder, and the monkeys accepted all the lozenges. They were punished
for their greediness. But will you come back to spend a whole month at
Gerona? And if you allowed me, I would take you to some of the
excursions in the neighbourhood. There are any number within twenty
miles; ruined churches and deserted monasteries. I don't care much about
them myself, but I know many who do. It seems to me that a good show and
a handful of chestnuts are worth all the wretched old ruins in the
world."

In spite of this vandalism, we assured Ernesto that when we spent a
month in Gerona he should have the honour of escorting us, provided it
was not school-time. He wished to bind us to a given date, thereby
showing a decided talent for business, but we refused to be committed to
the inevitable. We left mother and son together, a picture of domestic
happiness. As we disappeared under the archway of the hotel, Ernesto
held up his catapult in triumph, successfully parrying his mother's
attempt to obtain possession of the forbidden weapon. She evidently
looked upon it as only one degree below an infernal machine.

Once more up the broad marble staircase. But it was not the ghostly
hour, and sighs and rustlings and shadows were in the land of the
unseen. Madame in her bureau looked the picture of massive contentment.
At this moment she was posting a ledger, and the balance was evidently
on the right side.

[Illustration: MARKET PLACE: GERONA.]

"As it need be, for they worked hard enough for their living," she
assured us. "She couldn't tell how it was; no one would think from her
size that she never relaxed in her exertions. Do what she would, she
could not get thin. As for her husband, she made him eat all the richest
bits at dinner; never allowed him to fast; supplied him with eggs and
butter and beer _ad libitum_. No; he was obstinate. He _would_ keep
thin. The consequence was they were a ridiculous couple. She was the
Duomo at Florence, he was the Campanile. However, they made the best of
it. Life was too short to grieve over inevitable troubles. Clearly she
was an inevitable. When she was a girl, there were five ladies who might
be seen walking out morning, noon, and night, and always together. Go
which way you would you were sure to meet them. They knew every one, and
five perpetual bows were everlastingly see-sawing like a wound-up
machine going through its performance. They were called the Inevitables.
No one ever thought of them by any other name. They were quite aware of
it and rather liked it. It was something to be in constant evidence.
What other five sisters would live together in such harmony? Well, these
five ladies were for ever running in her head. For a long time past she
had felt like all five ladies rolled into one. She was one great
Inevitable. Fate was a little cruel. Her movements might be compared to
those of the elephant. As for her husband, he could still run up and
down stairs like a lamplighter--almost pass through a keyhole--but it
took her five minutes to get up a dozen steps. Soon it would take her
ten. And then she wanted pulling up in front and pushing up behind. It
was quite a ceremony. She had serious thoughts of having a crane and
pulley adjusted to her windows, and of being hoisted up and down, but
the question was whether a hempen rope would bear her weight, or
anything under a cast-iron chain. Was it true that Queen Victoria was
carried wherever she went, because she suffered from rheumatism? Ah! it
was a great thing to be a queen. No ledgers to post up; no anxiety as to
whether the balance would be on the right side at the end of every
month. What a blessing to have a good, solid, comfortable margin at
one's bankers to draw upon for contingencies, which was only another
word for the unexpected. This year it was painting inside, next year
painting outside. If there was no painting, it was chairs, tables or
linen. The extras went on for ever and swallowed up all the profits."

We thought the old lady, like the extras, would also have gone on for
ever, but to our infinite relief a piercing shriek was heard from an
upper region. Madame turned pale and mildly echoed the scream.

"My dear daughter!" she cried. "Something has frightened her, or she is
suddenly taken worse. She is always being taken worse, though worse from
what I cannot possibly imagine. Sometimes I think it is fancy or
hysteria. She is really perfectly well all the time."

At this moment the mysterious daughter appeared upon the scene, running
downstairs at a speed that testified to the soundness of her limbs,
whatever her state of nerves.

"A dreadful mouse," she moaned, throwing herself into her mother's
capacious protection. "It ran right over my feet, across the room, and
went into my little cupboard."

"Perhaps you have some cake there?" said this sensible mamma.

"A mere fragment," acknowledged the daughter.

"Poor little mouse," said the mother soothingly. "It is hungry, perhaps,
and fond of cake. My dear, it will eat cake; it will not eat you."

We caught sight of our industrious host in his garden surveying his
possessions, and escaped. The cook stood in his doorway in white cap and
apron, a satisfactory object in all hotels. Over the slanting tiled roof
grew the fruitful vine, a picture of beauty. Our host, surrounded by
his birds and pigeons, was vainly imploring the nightingales to sing.
They only looked at him with their little black eyes, opened their
beaks, shook their heads, and said as plainly as possible that the song
had left them. It would return with next year's leaves and garlands,
more glorious for the rest.

"I should have liked you to hear them," said their proud owner in quite
a melancholy voice. "You would have thought yourselves in Italy, as I
often do."

"Or on the Rhine, or the Blue Moselle, or the Dauphiné Alps, Señor
Lasoli, where the nightingales assemble in myriads, and sing and rave
night and day through the weeks of spring. We have heard them."

"They are more beautiful near water," said our host. "The song gains
volume and vibration by being carried across. But I have chiefly heard
them in our woods on the Mediterranean shores. France to me is a sealed
book. So, señor, you leave us, and I cannot even wish you to remain.
To-morrow you would not be in your element. Gerona will be out of joint
until we settle down again to our normal condition. I trust you will one
day return, and that your friend will write an epic poem in honour of
our town. It would certainly be translated and might be dedicated to the
Señorita Costello. He would be fêted on his arrival; fireworks,
illuminations, and municipal addresses. The hubbub of conscription would
be nothing to it. At five o'clock, señor, the omnibus will be at your
service."

As we went through the haunted corridors to our rooms, Delormais came up
the marble staircase, apparently somewhat hurried.

"We are both on the wing," he cried, "and so I the less regret your
going. I thought to have stayed until to-morrow, but sudden news compels
me to leave to-night. Summoned to Rome, I must obey. I know that I have
a battle before me, and also know that I shall win. Conquering as a
humble Vicar of Rheims, I shall not do less as Bishop of X. You will see
me dismissed with a Cardinal's hat, an honour I would not cross the road
to obtain, so little do I care for the pomps of the world. With such
models before me as my father and mother and the good old Abbé, one
feels that the only thing worth living for is to do good and cultivate
the graces of the spirit."

We were in his room, scene of last night's vigil, where he had sketched
an outline of his life and the hours had passed unconsciously.

"Another night of vigil, but without companionship," said Delormais. "On
the contrary, time will only place distance between us. You go
southward, I northward into France, reaching my destination about two
o'clock to-morrow afternoon. Would that I might accompany you to
Barcelona and gaze with you upon the wonders of that loveliest of
cathedrals. Again I say that the Catalonian cathedrals are the glories
of Spain. But my own has its charms, and those at least we shall often
see together. I have your promise?"

We gave it unconditionally, in this instance not fearing to commit
ourselves to a given date. Delormais was a man whose friendship was a
privilege and whose sympathy and conversation made all days a delight.
We parted, hoping to meet again.

Not long after this the omnibus rattled out of the courtyard, and our
host intimated that time was up.

The sun had set, darkness had fallen when we clattered through the quiet
streets. Passing the deep, round arcades we looked out for Rosalie, but
no light, graceful figure speeding on its errand of mercy appeared. The
arcades were again mysterious and impenetrable. We turned on to the
bridge and for the last time looked upon the scene as the omnibus
rattled on. All down the boulevard booths were on active service.
Torches flared and still the crowd sauntered to and fro. The river
flowed on its way, and all the outlines of those wonderful old-world
houses were faintly visible. We knew them by heart now, and they were
almost as real to us by night as by day.

The station once more. Only forty-eight hours had passed since we had
struggled across that crowded platform, but we had gone through so many
experiences, heard and seen so much, that many days seem to have flown.
When we thought of Delormais it was impossible to realise we had not
known him for years, visited his early home, joined in his travels. The
father and mother, still the objects of his undying affection, the old
Abbé in whom he delighted, had become personal friends by his vivid
descriptions.

Reflections were suddenly put to flight as the omnibus brought up with a
jerk that almost landed H. C. once more on his knees. The station crowd
was small compared with that previous crowd. Again we had a slight
adventure with our luggage, and began to fear in earnest that we and it
should never reach Barcelona together. They refused to register or have
anything to do with it; luggage was never booked to Gerona by the
express. One other miserably slow train left in the early morning, and
the officials calmly intimated that we might wait for it.

But a worm will turn, and we felt the law must be taken into our own
hands. We bade the omnibus conductor leave at his peril, made him carry
our baggage through the buffet to the platform, and when the train
arrived, the whole, great and small, was put into a carriage. Then we
followed and mounted guard. The inspector came up and demanded an
explanation, upon which H. C. put on his Napoleon air and shouldered his
umbrella. He looked so much in earnest that the inspector quailed,
bowed, withdrew, and gave a hasty signal for departure. Away we steamed,
masters of the situation.

Then H. C.'s military aspect collapsed. He turned paler than usual.
"What is it?" we asked; for his susceptible heart is subject to
spasmodic attacks. The doctors declare they are functional and not
organic, and will pass away with the emotional age. Lady Maria was once
terribly frightened and sent post-haste for Sir William
Broadbent--though he was not Sir William at that time. The report was
encouraging, but Lady Maria had received a shock. "I am sure my dear
nephew will never be fit for hard work in this world," she said; "he
must be made independent of it." And forthwith she sent for her man of
business, and altered the paltry £200 a year she had left him into four
th----. Well, well; Lady Maria is still living, and nothing on earth,
they say, is certain excepting death and quarter-day. "What is it, H.
C.?" we asked. "Will you take a little of the century-old----"

"No, no," he cried despondently. "I am only thinking that that inspector
will be one too many for us. He looked revengeful. At Barcelona we
shall find ourselves under arrest. Instead of a comfortable night at the
Four Nations, we shall occupy a dark cell in the town prison."

A gloomy prospect indeed--too terrible for reality.

"Calm yourself," we replied. "You played your part too well just now.
The inspector was really alarmed and glad to get rid of you at any
price. If he pursued us with vengeance, we might turn up against him,
like the eastern slippers. Depend upon it we have seen the last of him."

We looked round comfortably upon our possessions. With nine points of
the law on our side all must be well.



CHAPTER XIII.

A WORLD'S WONDER.

     Barcelona--H. C.'s anxiety--Mutual salutes--Old
     impressions--Disappointment--Familiar cries and
     scenes--Flower-sellers--Perpetual summer--Commercial
     element--Manchester of Spain--Surrounding country--Where care comes
     not--Barcelonita--The quays--A land of corn and wine--Relaxing
     air--Lovely ladies--Ancient element conspicuous by its
     absence--Historical past--Great in the Middle Ages--Wise and
     powerful--Commerce of the world--Wealth and learning--Waxes
     voluptuous--Ferdinand and Isabella--Diplomatic but not
     grateful--Brave and courageous--Fell before
     Peterborough--Napoleon's treachery--Republican people--Prosperous
     once more--Ecclesiastical treasures--Matchless
     cathedral--Inspiration--Influence of the Moors--Work of Majorcan
     architect--Dream world--Imposing scene.


We made way without further let or hindrance, and about ten o'clock the
train steamed into Barcelona. H. C. gazed out anxiously for a regiment
of soldiers with drawn swords, and was relieved at seeing only the usual
couple of policemen with guns and cocked hats, looking harmless and
amiable. He smiled benignly, saluted, and they returned the compliment.

Our hearts beat quicker as we found ourselves in presence of familiar
haunts. The very name conjured up a thousand scenes and pictures, every
one of them a delightful recollection. From its fair port we had more
than once sailed in days gone by for our beloved Majorca, loveliest of
islands. Here we had spent days of pleasant expectation, waiting for the
island steamer; more than once had returned with a cargo of Majorcan
pigs, and after a tug-of-war seen some of the obstinate animals landed
at last without their tails. Arriving from the sea was a far pleasanter
way of gaining a first impression. The coast views are very fine.
Approaching the harbour, church turrets and towers are outlined against
the transparent sky. Passing between low reaches, the immense fortress
of Montjuich, nearly a thousand feet high, rises like an impregnable
rock defying the world.

Approaching to-night by train was less exciting and romantic. Still it
was Barcelona, and the porters calling out the syllables in their soft
Spanish set our heart beating.

It was a certain disappointment to find our favourite Four Nations--at
that time one of the best hotels in Spain--closed. We had to put up with
the Falcon, not by any means the same thing. It is pleasant to return to
familiar quarters and people who welcome you as old habitués. The
atmosphere of the Falcon was also more commercial and had no repose
about it. Yet it was on the Rambla, and the next morning we awoke to the
well-known cries of Barcelona, the old familiar scene.

A very Spanish scene, with its broad imposing thoroughfare and double
row of well-grown trees rustling in the wind, glinting in the sunshine,
filling the air with music and flashes of light. As the morning went on,
the broad road became more crowded. Stretching far down, under the
trees, were flower-stalls full of lovely blossoms. Roses, violets and
hyacinths scented the air. It was delightful to see such profusion in
November; to find blue skies and balmy airs rivalling the flowers. This
land of perpetual summer is highly favoured. If a cold wind arises,
turning the skies to winter, it is only for a short interval. Though it
be December, summer soon returns, and the sunny clime is all the
lovelier by contrast.

Like the Hôtel Falcon, the element of Barcelona is, we have said,
commercial. It is perhaps the most flourishing and enterprising of all
the towns of Spain. There are immense ship-building yards, and all sorts
of ironwork is made, but the town itself has no sign or sound of
manufacturing. It has been called the Manchester of Spain, yet its skies
are for ever blue, the air is clear and untainted: a peculiar brilliancy
and splendour of atmosphere not often met with even in the sunny South.

The country for many miles around is beautiful and undulating; beyond
the immediate hills it has often a wild and savage grandeur that
sometimes reaches the sublime. Year by year the town grows in extent.
Well-organised tramways carry you to and fro through endless
thoroughfares. The richer merchants have built themselves streets of
palatial residences that stretch away into suburbs. Few cities are so
brilliantly lighted. If Spain is a poor country, Barcelona seems to have
escaped the evil. There is animation about it, perpetual movement, a
quiet activity. For it is quiet with all its business and energy, and so
far has the advantage over Madrid, where the commercial element was less
evident but the noise infinitely greater. There people seemed to like
sound for its own sake. In Barcelona they were intent upon making money,
and as far as one can see, gained their object. Everything prospered. It
was delightful to go down to the fine harbour and watch the vessels
loading and unloading, the flags of all nations vividly contrasting with
the brilliant blue sky as they flashed and fluttered in the wind. The
port is magnificent. Its waters are blue as the heaven above them, and a
myriad sun-gleams light up its surface. Nothing can be more exhilarating
and picturesque. The faintest outline of a ship possesses a nameless
charm; suggests freedom, wide seas, infinite space: speaks of
enterprise, danger, and courage, yet is an emblem of absolute repose;
hours and days and weeks where the world cannot reach you, and its cares
and worries are non-existent.

Nowhere is the element found under more favourable conditions than in
Barcelona. Few harbours are so well placed. Climb the heights for a
bird's-eye view of the port, and the scene is enchanting. Low-lying
shores undulate towards the mouth of the harbour; green pastures,
glittering sandhills, the blue flashing sea stretch beyond. If your
vision could carry so far, you might gaze upon the lovely Island of
Majorca, rising like a faultless gem out of its deep blue setting of the
Levant. Nothing meets the eye but the broad line of the horizon, broken
here and there by a passing vessel.

[Illustration: THE RAMBLA: BARCELONA.]

On the other side the water, beyond the shipping, lies a small new
settlement of houses called Barcelonita. It is not aristocratic and is
the laundry of the mother town, where dwell the ladies who undertake to
rapidly bleach and destroy one's linen with unrighteous chemicals, and
have earned for Barcelona an unenviable reputation. Ship-builders and
fishermen alone dispute the right of way with these women of the
wash-tub. Turning back to the town, the broad thoroughfare running down
a portion of the quays is lined with magnificent palms, giving it an
almost Oriental aspect. At one end rises a monument to Columbus; at the
other an enormous triumphal arch, combining the Oriental with the
classical; the former quite the pleasanter. Everything bears witness to
the well-being of Barcelona. Its quays are lined with bales of goods.
Men keep tally with the monotonous sing-song one knows so well. Boxes of
oranges betray themselves by their exquisite perfume, and the whole year
round brings a succession of fruits. In this lovely climate the earth is
abundantly productive. It is a land of corn and wine; the warm days of
winter more beautiful than those of summer.

Of Barcelona this is especially true. Its climate seemed more relaxing
than that of any other Spanish town. Even Valencia, so much farther
south, appeared less enervating. Long walks were out of the question.
All one could do was to hire one of the open carriages and drive lazily
about: a luxury obtained at a trifling cost. But vehicles and drivers
hardly seemed to share in the general prosperity; both appeared equally
shabby, worn-out and antediluvian. Their horses looked no less forlorn.

In the afternoons the Rambla was crowded with people, strolling to and
fro under the shadow of the trees. All the town seemed to close ledgers,
lock up counting-houses, and turn to the very innocent pleasure of
taking the air.

Ladies appeared with mantillas and fans; the younger women here as in
Madrid using a distinct language of fan and eye. Large, softly flashing
eyes, full of expression for the most part. H. C.'s susceptible heart
had no chance of repose. His dreams were feverish and disturbed by
night; his leisure moments by day devoted to love-sonnets. These lovely
ladies in their first youth are certainly very captivating and poetical;
and a slight touch of the voluptuous, _dolce far niente_ element is a
distinct characteristic of their subtle grace and charm.

In the afternoons, if the Rambla gained a charm it also lost one. The
flower-stalls disappeared with their picturesque and pretty
flower-sellers. Empty spaces remained, looking forlorn and neglected.
Great masses of blossom that delighted the eye and scented the early
morning were no more. Here the red and white camellias flourish in the
open air, but are by no means given away, as they were almost given away
in Valencia. Barcelona has its price for flowers as for everything else.

All this, the reader will say, belongs to the modern element. The
splendid outlines of Gerona; the old-world houses, with their ancient
ironwork and Gothic windows; the Anselmos, Rosalies, Delormais' of
Barcelona--where were they?

Conspicuous by their absence. With the exception of a few narrow
tortuous streets, Barcelona is essentially modern. Even these
picturesque thoroughfares are distinguished by discomfort, a shabby air,
and little beauty of outline. In the Rambla you might almost fancy
yourself on a Paris boulevard. Barcelona has increased so rapidly that
all the new part, including the rich suburb of Gracia--its West-End--is
twice as large as the old. All its great buildings are modern; and
modern, though specially bright and engaging, is the scene of its port
and harbour.

Yet with few vestiges of age, Barcelona has an historical past. In both
a religious and military sense, she has played her part in the annals of
Spain. More than one document in the archives of Samancas holds records
to her honour and glory.

Her days are said to go back to four centuries before Rome, and
tradition credits Hercules with her foundation. Two hundred years later,
under the Romans, it became a city, and about the year 400 A.D. began to
prosper. Tarragona was the capital when the Moors destroyed it, and
Barcelona, wise in its generation, yielded to the conquerors and
succeeded as chief town. In the ninth century it was ruled by a
Christian chief of its own under the title of Count of Barcelona, merged
later on into that of King of Aragon.

But it was in the Middle Ages that Barcelona was great, and these Middle
Ages have left their mark on her ecclesiastical history. Powerful, she
used her power well; rich, she spent wisely.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF CORO, GERONA CATHEDRAL.]

At that time, she divided with Italy the commerce of the East,
practically the commerce of the world. She was the terror of the
Mediterranean. Trade was her sheet-anchor. The Castilians held trade in
contempt, and suffered in consequence; Barcelona, proud of her commerce,
flourished. Her name was great in Europe. The city became famous for
wealth and learning, a rendezvous of kings, the resort of fashion,
voluptuous in its tastes. Ferdinand and Isabella especially loved it,
though self-indulgence played little part in their lives. Here in 1493
they received Columbus after his famous voyage of discovery.

Yet this very connection with Castile led to the decline of Barcelona.
In her policy she has never been consistent, otherwise than consistently
selfish. Now and then, to keep up her prestige, she has claimed the aid
of a foreign power, only to throw it off when her turn was served.
Diplomacy, but not gratitude, has been her strong point--and sometimes
she has overreached herself.

Nevertheless, as we have said, there are passages in her history of
which she may be proud. She behaved bravely, but suffered, at the time
Marlborough was gaining his victories elsewhere, when she had to fight
Spain and France single-handed--for Barcelona, it will be remembered,
formed part of an independent kingdom. Louis XIV. sent Berwick with
40,000 men to the rescue of Philip V., and an English fleet under
Wishart blockaded them. Against this formidable array, Barcelona acted
with courage, but the foe was strong. She fell; was sacked, burnt, and
lost her privileges. In the War of Succession, in 1795, her almost
impregnable fort was taken by Lord Peterborough--one of the great
captures of modern times. But she arose again and kept her prosperity
until Napoleon obtained possession of her by treachery in 1808, when
Duhesme, entering with 11,000 men as a pretended ally, took the Citadel.
Napoleon looked upon Barcelona as the key of Spain, and considered it
practically impregnable.

Of the beauty of her site there can be only one opinion, but she is, and
always has been, very Republican. That her people are noisy, turbulent,
riotous, they have clearly shown of late years. In any revolt she would
be ready to take the lead. Should the kingly power ever fall in Spain,
Barcelona will be amongst the first to hoist the red flag. Though no
longer the terror of the Mediterranean, she seems to have regained more
than her former prosperity, and on a safer basis than of old. In 1868
one of the last vestiges of antiquity--the town walls--disappeared to
make way for the modern element.

But if the streets of Barcelona are modern, and to some extent
uninteresting, the same cannot be said of her churches. She is rich in
ecclesiastical treasures. Catalonia has a style of architecture as
marked as it is pre-eminently her own. If her churches are less
magnificent and extensive than those of other countries, in some points
they are more beautiful.

We have referred to one of these points--the extreme width of the
interiors. This, however, is not a feature in Barcelona, though in both
height and breadth it is splendidly proportioned. In effect, tone and
feeling, we place this cathedral before all others whether in Spain or
elsewhere. Beauty and refinement, the repose of a dim religious light,
softness and perfection of colouring, these merits cannot be surpassed.
Crowded with detail, it is so admirably designed that perfect harmony
exists. Every succeeding hour spent within its walls seems to bring to
light some new and unexpected feature. Day after day admiration
increases, and wonder and surprise; and many visits are needed before
its infinite beauties can be appreciated.

From the moment of entering you are charmed beyond all words. Here is a
building no human mind could plan or human hands have raised. Never
other building suggested this. However great the admiration--from St.
Peter's at Rome, largest in the world, to Westminster Abbey, one of the
most exquisite--nothing seems beyond man's power to accomplish.
Barcelona alone strikes one as a dream-vision enchanted into shape and
substance, possessing something of the supernatural, and is full of a
sense of mystery. A faint light softens all outlines; half-concealed
recesses meet the eye on every hand; mysterious depths lurk in the
galleries over the side chapels. Sight gradually penetrates the darkness
only to discover some new and beautiful work. Not very large, it is so
perfectly proportioned that the effect is of infinitely greater space.
Not a detail would one alter or single outline modify.

[Illustration: PULPIT AND STALLS, BARCELONA CATHEDRAL.]

Some of its coloured windows are amongst the loveliest and richest in
the world. Rainbow shafts fall across pillars and arches. We are in Eden
and this is its sacred fane. The whole building is an inspiration.

It is cruciform, and stands on the site of an ancient Pagan temple.
This, in 1058, gave place to the first Christian church, very little of
which now remains. Converted into a mosque, it ceased to be Christian
during the reign of that wonderful people, the Moors--wonderful
throughout their long career, and falling at last, like Rome, by a fatal
luxury. The more one sees their traces and remains, the more their
strength is confirmed. Their influence upon Spain was inestimable. In
all they did a certain religious element is apparent, not an element of
barbaric worship, but of cultivation and reverence. Strange they should
have hated the Christians, failing to realise an influence that was
gradually changing the face of the earth.

In Spain their history runs side by side with that of the Christians,
yet they were so divided that nothing done by the one was right in the
sight of the other. So each kept its school jealously separate, to our
endless gain. The very name of Moorish architecture quickens the pulse,
conjuring visions that appeal to all one's imagination and sense of
beauty. Intellectually they were more advanced. The rough and warlike
Christians had not the nervous development of the Moors, who were
learned in the arts and sciences; possessed the traditions of centuries;
had ruled the fortunes of the world. Christianity had to triumph in the
end; but for long the Moors were powerful and supreme.

Barcelona Cathedral was commenced at the end of the thirteenth century,
in the year 1298, and carried on through a great part of the fourteenth.
It seems to have been the work of Jayme Fabre, who was summoned over
from Palma de Mallorca by the King of Aragon and the reigning bishop,
and designed and for many years superintended the work. To him is due
the chief credit of this world's wonder, to Mallorca the honour of
producing him.

Nearly the whole merit lies in the interior, and the exterior is of
little value. Its poor and modern west front opens to a square, but the
remainder is so surrounded by buildings and houses that it is difficult
to see any part of it. The octagonal steeples are plain below the
belfry; but the upper stages, pierced and beautiful, are finished off by
pierced parapets. Some of the windows are richly moulded. The small
flying buttresses are not effective. The east end is the best part, with
its Gothic windows and fine tracery, though otherwise severely simple.
Here the upper part of the buttresses have been destroyed, and the walls
ending without roof or parapet give it a half-ruinous appearance.

The interior has an aisle and chapels around the apse, following the
French rather than the Spanish school. The details, however, are
entirely Catalonian. The arches are narrow, but extremely beautiful. The
capitals of the fluted pillars are small, delicate, and refined, and the
groining of the roof is carried up in exquisite lines. Beyond the main
arches is a small arcaded triforium, and above this a circular window to
each bay.

The dark stone is rich, solemn and magnificent in effect. Owing to the
clever placing of the windows and the prevalence of stained glass, a
semi-obscurity for ever reigns: not so great as that of Gerona, but so
far dim and religious that only when the sun is full on the south
windows can many of the details be seen.

The Coro, forming part of the plan of the building, is less aggressive
than in many of the Spanish cathedrals. The stalls are of great delicacy
and refinement; the Bishop's throne, which has been compared to that of
Winchester, is large and magnificent, taking its proper position at the
east end of the choir. The pulpit at the north corner, and the staircase
leading to it, are marvels of exquisite wood-carving and rare old
ironwork. The canopies are delicately wrought, and the _misereres_
ornamented with fine foliage. Upwards, the eye is arrested by the beauty
of the surrounding fluted pillars, on which rest the main arches of the
nave. These cut and intersect the pointed arches of the deep galleries
beyond, placed above the side chapels, of which there are an immense
number. Turn which way you will, it is nothing but a long view of
receding aisles, arches, and columns free or partly hidden by some
lovely pillar; windows of the deepest, richest colours ever seen;
mysterious recesses where daylight never penetrates; a subdued tone of
infinite refinement; a solemn repose and sense of unbroken harmony.

[Illustration: TWILIGHT IN BARCELONA CATHEDRAL]

A little to the right the eye rests on the great organ, filling up one
of the deep dark galleries. Its immense swinging shutters are open,
exposing silvery pipes. The organist is at his post, but only for
recreation, for it is not the hour of service. Soft, sweet music
breathes and vibrates through the aisles, dies away in dim recesses,
floats out of existence in the high vaulting of the roof; but the sense
of repose is never disturbed. Sitting in a quiet corner of the stalls,
amidst all this beauty of tone and outline, one feels in Paradise.

But the charm of charms lies in the octagonal lantern at the west end,
and here Barcelona stands unrivalled.

This crowning glory is of extreme richness yet delicacy of detail.
Looking upwards and catching all the infinite combinations of arches and
angles--the bold piers resting on square outlines--the marvellous
cuttings and intersectings--the purity yet simplicity of design--the dim
religious light in which all is so mysteriously veiled--the few beams of
light cunningly admitted at the extreme summit--observing this, one is
lost in silent wonder. It seems almost as difficult to penetrate into
the beauty and mystery of this lantern as into heaven itself. And we ask
ourselves again and again if the world contains a more exquisite
dream-building than this.

Well do we remember the first time we saw this lantern and its imposing
accompaniment.

A state council was being held in the church. Immediately beneath it sat
the clergy; Bishop, Dean, and Canons in gorgeous vestments. One carried
a Cardinal's hat, whose thin inscrutable face reminded us a little of
Antonelli, that man of influence and mystery, whom none understood, and
whose greatest schemes and ambitions were not destined to succeed. Many
were dressed in purple and fine linen; not a few looked as though they
fared sumptuously. Their actions were grave and solemn. Something
weighty and momentous as the election of a new pope or the founding of a
new religion, might have been under discussion. In reality, it was the
choice of a new canon. One or two possessed refined, intellectual
faces, but the greater number were not born to be leaders of men. The
gravity of the occasion, perfect outlines of the building, splendour of
the vestments, all the pomp and ceremony with which, at last, they broke
up the assembly; the veneration paid to the old Bishop and he of the
crimson hat; the solemn procession filing down the aisle and through the
cloisters to the Bishop's palace--this remains in the memory as an
impressively splendid picture. Fifteen years have gone by since that
day, but we see it as vividly before us as though it had been but
yesterday.



CHAPTER XIV.

IN THE CLOISTERS OF SAN PABLO.

     In the cloisters--Sacred geese--Bishop's palace--House of the
     Inquisition--Striking quadrangles--_Ajimez_ windows--A rare
     cloister--Desecration--Library--Rare MSS.--Polite
     librarian--Romantic atmosphere--Santa Maria del Mar--Cloisters of
     Santa Anna--Sister of Mercy--San Pablo del Campo--More dream
     cloisters--Communing with ghosts and shadows--Spring and
     winter--Constant visitor--Centenarian--Chief architect--Cathedrals
     of Catalonia--Barbarous town-council--Hard fight and
     victory--Failing vision--Emblems of death--Laid aside--Wholesome
     lessons--Placing the keystone--Finis--_Resurgam_--Charmed
     hour--Possessing the soul in patience--City of Refuge.


Every succeeding visit to Barcelona has confirmed our love and reverence
for its cathedral. Toledo, Burgos and all the greater cathedrals pale
before the charm of its rare beauty and refined splendour.

It could only be that such a cathedral had corresponding cloisters, and
passing through the south doorway, we accordingly found ourselves in
another old-world dream; but with the blue sky for canopy, and with no
mysterious recesses or hidden depths.

Exception has been taken to the detail of the cloisters, but as a whole
they are amongst the most effective in existence. Gothic arches, large
and beautiful, rested upon fluted pillars whose capitals very much
resemble those of the interior; an enchanted land and an architectural
revelation. The garden was full of orange trees and flowers not too
carefully tended, so that a certain wild beauty, all the contrast of the
green with the ancient stone and wonderful outlines, charmed the vision.
Plashing fountains caught the sunbeams and threw rainbow drops into the
air.

In a corner of the enclosure behind the iron railings some sacred geese
intruded upon the sanctity of the precincts. The piety of these ungainly
birds had to be taken for granted. They were aggressive, and hissed if
only one ventured to look at them. Nothing could be more strangely out
of place in a scene so beautiful and full of repose, and for which with
all their sacredness they evidently had no veneration. Life passed
lazily; they grew monstrously fat, and we wondered if at a certain age
they disappeared for the benefit of the Bishop's table: other geese
taking their place in the cloistered garden. No one could tell us
anything about them, but the people seemed to think them indispensable
to the welfare of the town.

Here we found the best view of the exterior. Through lovely and graceful
arches which framed in the picture, one caught the pointed windows of
the nave with their rich tracery, above which rose the decorated
belfries with pierced parapets.

But the immediate surroundings were also exceptionally interesting.
South of the cloister is the Bishop's palace, with a quadrangle
ornamented with some fine Romanesque arcading and moulding. North, is an
immense fifteenth-century barrack built for a palace, and given over to
the Secret Inquisition by the Catholic monarchs. The Casa Consistorial
and Casa de la Disputacion, though much altered, retain splendid traces
of fourteenth-century work. The quadrangles are striking, though one has
been much spoilt; and the _ajimez_ windows with their slender columns,
capitals and arches are full of grace.

Seeing an open doorway close to the cathedral, we had the curiosity to
enter, and found ourselves in a wonderful little cloister, half sacred,
half secular, its ancient walls grey and lichen-stained. In the centre
grew a tall palm-tree whose graceful fronds seemed to caress and curve
and blend with the Gothic outlines that charmed one back to the days of
the Middle Ages. A crumbling staircase, old and beautiful, led to the
upper gallery, where open windows with rare Gothic mouldings and
ornamentation invited one to enter into silent, empty, but strangely
quaint rooms. As we looked, two women approached the wonderful old
fountain in the centre with its splendid carvings, and filled their
picturesque pitchers. The cloisters were in the hands of workmen. We
asked a reason, and found that a new tenant, objecting to the refined
atmosphere of time's lovely ravages, was scouring, cleaning, and
polishing up the general effect. One shed tears at the desecration.

[Illustration: SMALL CLOISTER OR PATIO: BARCELONA.]

Still nearer the cathedral is the Library, with its ancient picturesque
_patio_, and the most striking roof and staircase in Barcelona. The
library is rich in volumes and MSS., containing amongst much that is
interesting all the archives of the kingdom of Aragon. Amidst other
records will be found those of Catherine, who was bold enough to place
her hand--and head--at the disposal of Henry of England. The chief
librarian conducted us over the whole building, and most kindly and
patiently showed everything worthy of note, dwelling humorously upon
passages in records that in any way referred to Great Britain.

[Illustration: CLOISTERS OF SANTA ANNA: BARCELONA.]

In such an atmosphere we lost sight of the Barcelona of to-day. It
became ancient, ecclesiastical, historical, learned and romantic. Here
we returned to scenes and influences of the Middle Ages. And here,
within a narrow circle, this "Manchester of Spain" is one of the most
absorbing towns in the world.

But the ecclesiastical merit of Barcelona is not confined to the
cathedral. Though some of her best and most ancient churches have
disappeared, others remain. Amongst the foremost is Santa Maria del Mar,
taking rank after the mother church. A vast building, simple to a fault;
cold, formal and severe, though architecturally correct; the interior
hard and repelling, without sense of mystery or feeling of devotion. Yet
it has been much praised; even to comparison with the Cathedral of
Palma, and is said to be the work of the same architect; but Palma with
all its simplicity is full of dignity and grandeur. The west front of
Santa Maria is its best feature. The central doorway is fine, but the
rose window above is hard and German in tracery, therefore has little
beauty, and is of later date than the church.

Not far from here, in the narrowest of narrow streets, beyond an obscure
archway we found the small church of Santa Anna, interesting by reason
of its cloisters with their pointed arches springing from delicately
carved capitals that rested upon slender, graceful shafts; a vision of
refined beauty. In the centre grew a wild and lovely garden. Spain is
undoubtedly the land of cloisters, loveliest in existence; and Barcelona
is especially rich in them. As we looked, a Sister of Mercy passed
through on some errand of charity. We thought of Rosalie, only to be
more certain than ever that there was but one Rosalie in the world.

Yet more marvellous was a still smaller church of extreme interest and
antiquity; San Pablo del Campo, formerly a Benedictine convent of some
renown, said to have been founded in the tenth century by Wilfred II.,
Count of Barcelona. In the twelfth century it was incorporated with the
convent of San Cucufate del Vallés, a few miles from Barcelona, of which
the interesting church and cloister still exist.

This remarkable San Pablo is extremely small, and cruciform, with three
apses, a short nave and an octagonal vault over the crossing. It is
solidly and roughly built, and until recently possessed every aspect of
antiquity. All this will probably now disappear, for it has been given
over to the workmen to be restored and ruined, and the work will be done
to perfection.

[Illustration: CLOISTERS OF SAN PABLO: BARCELONA.]

So with the west front. With the exception of the circular window over
the striking Romanesque doorway, one feels in presence of the remote
ages; but the window rather spoils an otherwise admirable effect. By
this time it has no doubt shared the fate of the interior; when we were
there it was still a glorious dream of the past.

Yet more dreamlike were the small cloisters. In point of tone and
atmosphere we might have almost been in the early ages of the world. No
one had thought it worth while to interfere with this little old-world
building, buried in solitude by surrounding houses. The obscurity
reigning even at mid-day was never designed by its architect. No one
would dream that in this little corner, unknown, unvisited, exists a gem
of the first water and great antiquity; dating probably from the
eleventh century.

It was a very small cloister, having only four arches on each side
divided by a buttress in the centre. The arches were trefoil-headed,
separated by double shafts and the capitals were richly carved. In the
north wall a fine fourteenth-century doorway admitted into the church,
and in the east wall of the cloister an equally fine doorway led to the
fourteenth-century chapter-house. Everything was complete on a small
scale.

It was solemn and imposing to the last degree; an effect of age and
decay so perfect that we seemed to meet face to face with the dead past.
To enter these little cloisters was to commune with ghosts and shadows.
If ever they lurked anywhere on earth, here they must be found. We were
infinitely charmed with their tone. In spite of surrounding
houses--where dead walls were seen--a tomb-like silence reigned. We
looked at the small neglected enclosure, where the hand and foot of man
might not have intruded for ages, and almost expected to see rising from
their graves the dead who had possibly lain there for eight centuries.
The stones were stained with damp and the lapse of time; wild unsightly
weeds grew amongst them; but nothing stirred.

As we looked, lost in the past, we became aware that we were not alone.

Entering the small cloister was an aged man with long white hair and a
long grey beard, half-led by a small child of some eight or nine
summers. He might have been one of the patriarchs come back to earth,
and seemed venerable as the cloister themselves. More fitting subject
for such surroundings could not exist. His movements were slow and
deliberate, as though for him time's hour-glass had ceased to run. The
child seemed to have learned to restrain its youthful ardour; gazed up
into the old man's face with fearless affection, and appeared to watch
his will and pleasure. A lovely child, with blue eyes and fair hair, who
might belong to Andalusia, or possibly a northern province of Europe.

"Spring and winter," said H. C., looking at this strange advancing pair.

"Or life and death; for surely they are fitting emblems? Who can they
be, and what do they want in this forsaken spot?"

The child said something to the aged man and motioned towards us. He
paused a moment as though in doubt, then approached yet nearer.

"I am your humble servant, gentlemen," he said, with something of
courtliness in his manner. "It is seldom any one shares with me the
solitude of these cloisters."

"You are then in the habit of coming here?" returning his salutation.

"For many years I have paid them an almost daily visit," was the reply.
"I live not very far off, and they speak to me of the past. A long past,
sirs, for I am old. I have no need to tell you that. You see it in my
face, hear it in my voice. In three years I shall be a centenarian, if
Heaven spares me as long. I do not desire it. A man of ninety-seven has
almost ceased to live. He is a burden to himself, a trouble to others. I
was once chief architect of this city, and many of the more modern
buildings that your eyes have rested upon are due to me. In my younger
days I had a boundless love for the work of the ancients. Gothic and
Norman delighted me. Half my leisure moments were spent in our wonderful
cathedral, absorbing its influence. Ah, sirs, the cathedrals of
Catalonia are the glories of Spain. I dreamt of reproducing such
buildings; but we are in the hands of town committees who are vandals in
these matters. Fifty years ago--half a century this very month--the
destruction of this church and these cloisters was taken into
consideration. They wanted to pull down one of the glories of Barcelona
and build up a modern church and school. I was to be the architect of
this barbarous proceeding. It happened that this was one of my most
loved haunts. Here I would frequently pace the solitary cloisters,
thinking over my plans and designs, trying to draw wholesome inspiration
from these matchless outlines. I was horrified at the sacrilege, though
it was to be to my profit. I fought valiantly and long; would not yield
an inch; pleaded earnestly; and at last persuaded. The idea was
abandoned. That you are able to stand and gaze to-day upon this marvel
is due to me. Ever since then I have looked upon it as my own peculiar
possession. Day after day I pay them a visit. My failing sight now only
discerns vague and shadowy outlines. It is enough. Shadowy as they are,
their beauty is ever present. What I fail to see, memory, those eyes of
the brain, supplies. Rarely in my daily visits do I find any one here.
Few people seem to understand or appreciate the beauty of these
cloisters. They are like a hermit in the desert, living apart from the
world. But here it is a desert of houses that surrounds them. Like
myself, they are an emblem of death in life."

We started at this echo of our own words. Could his sense of hearing be
unduly awakened? Or was the emblem so fitting as to be self-evident?

"You have long ceased to labour?" we observed, for want of a better
reply to his too obvious comparison.

"For five-and-twenty years my life has been one of leisure and repose,"
he answered. "It has gone against the grain. I was not made for
idleness. But when I was seventy-two years old, cataract overtook me. A
successful operation restored my sight, but the doctors warned me that
if I would keep it, all work must be abandoned. Since then I have more
or less cumbered the ground. But for many friends who are good to me,
life would be intolerable. Heaven blessed my labours, and gave me a
frugal wife; I have all the comforts I need and more blessings than I
deserve. This child is my favourite little great-granddaughter, and is
often my charming companion to these cloisters. A dreary scene,
gentlemen, for a child of tender years, but they read a solemn and
wholesome lesson. Unconsciously she imbibes their influence. They tell
her, as I do, that life is not all pleasure; that as these ancient
architects left beautiful traces and outlines behind them, so we must
build up our lives stage by stage, taking care that the outlines shall
be true and straight, the imperishable record pure and beautiful. For
every one of us comes the placing of the keystone, with its momentous
_Finis_. But, blessed be Heaven, as surely beneath it appears the
promised _Resurgam_."

We walked round the cloisters together, and for a full hour this
patriarch, with the support of our arm, charmed us with reminiscences of
Barcelona, descriptions of the lovely monuments of Spain he had visited
in the course of his long life. In spite of his years, his memory still
seemed keen and vivid, his mind clear. He had not passed into that
saddest of conditions a mental wreck.

"And I pray Heaven to call me hence ere such a fate overtake me," he
said, in answer to our remark upon his admirable recollection. "Whilst
memory lasts and friends are kind, life may be endured. I possess my
soul in patience."

We parted and went our several ways, leaving the little cloisters to
solitude and the ghosts that haunted them. The streets of Barcelona
grated upon us after our late encounter. It was returning to very
ordinary life after the refined and delightful atmosphere of the past
ages. We crossed the Rambla, and entering a side street quickly reached
the cathedral, which became more and more a world's wonder and glory as
we grew familiar with it, an unspeakable delight. In this little City of
Refuge we again for a time lost ourselves in celestial visions. In this
inspired atmosphere all earthly influences and considerations fell away;
sorrow and sighing were non-existent: a millennium of happiness reigned,
where all was piety and all was peace.



CHAPTER XV.

MONTSERRAT.

     Early rising--Imp of darkness--Death warrant--The men who
     fail--Ranges of Montserrat--Sabadell--Labour and romance--The
     Llobregat--Monistrol--Summer resort--Sleeping village--Empty
     letter-bags--Ascending--Splendid view--Romantic element--Charms of
     antiquity--Human interests--Mons Serratus--A man of
     letters--_Solitude à deux_--Fellow travellers--Substantial
     lady-merchant--Resignation--Military policeman--"Nameless here for
     evermore"--Round man in square hole--Romantic history--_Cherchez la
     femme_--Woman a divinity--Good name the best inheritance--No
     fighting against the stars--Fascinations of astrology--Love and
     fortune--Too good to last--Taste for pleasure--Ruin--Sad end--Truth
     reasserts itself--Fortune smiles again--Ceylon--Philosophical in
     misfortune--A windfall--Approaching Montserrat--Paradise of the
     monks--Romance and beauty--New order of things--Gipsy encampment.


We rose early one morning for the purpose of visiting Montserrat the
sublime, the magnificent, and the romantic.

Early as it was, Barcelona was by no means in a state of repose. Many of
its people never seemed to go to bed at all, and some of its shops never
closed. If we looked out upon the world at midnight, at three in the
morning, or at five, Bodegas selling wine and bread were open to
customers. The Rambla was never quite deserted. Before daylight trams
began to run to and fro; the street cries soon swelled to a chorus.

Early rising is not always agreeable when wandering about the world in
search of the picturesque. Perhaps you have gone to bed late overnight,
tired out with running to and fro. Energy is only half-restored when an
imp of darkness enters, lights your candles, and pronounces a
death-warrant. "It is five o'clock, señor. Those who wish to catch the
train must get up."

You think it only five minutes since you fell asleep. "Two o'clock, not
five," cries a drowsy voice. "You have waked me too soon."

"As you please, señor. Not for me to contradict you."

The imp retires. If, like Mrs. Major O'Dowd, you carry a _repater_, you
strike it. Five o'clock, sure enough, and ten minutes towards six.
Nothing for it but to yield. Not as a certain friend who once bribed
another imp of darkness with half-a-crown to wake him at five o'clock.
The half-crown was duly earned. "Another half-crown if you let me sleep
on until eight," cried the sluggard. The imp disappeared like a flash,
and a gold mine was lost through an appointment. Of such are the men who
fail.

We came down and found the hotel in the usual state of early-morning
discomfort--doors and windows all open, a general sweeping and
uprooting, sleepy servants, a feeling that you are in every one's way
and every one is in yours. Breakfast was out of the question, but tea
was forthcoming. The omnibus rattled up.

"Take your great-coats," said the landlord, who set others the example
of rising early. "You will find it cold in the mountains of Montserrat,
especially if you remain all night to see the sun rise."

He forgot that we were not chilly Spaniards. Our imp of darkness,
however, who stood by, disappeared in a twinkling and returned with the
coats. The landlord--a very different and less interesting man than our
host of Gerona--wished us a pleasant journey, closed the door, and away
we went under the influence of a glorious morning. The sun shone
brilliantly, everything favoured us.

After some ten miles of rail the wonderful ranges of Montserrat began to
show up faint and indistinct, with their sharp outlines and mighty
peaks. In the wide plains below cultivated fields and flowing
undulations abounded. Sabadell, the midway station, proved a true
Catalonian manufacturing town, but very different from an English town
of the same nature. No smoke, no blackness of darkness, no pallid
sorrowful faces. Under these blue skies and brilliant sunshine the
abundant signs of work and animation almost added a charm to the scene.
To those who delight in labour, life here is a combination of romance
and reality--a state of things wholesome and to be desired.

We looked down upon many a valley well-wooded with small oaks, pines and
olive trees, many a hill-slope covered with vines. Approaching the
mountains of Montserrat, their savage and appalling grandeur became more
evident. The monastery was seen high up, reposing on a gigantic plateau
with its small settlement of dependencies. Villages were scattered over
the plain, through which the river Llobregat took its winding way.

The train drew up at Monistrol. Here we left the main line for the small
railway which winds up into the mountains. Not being a crowded time of
year, the train consisted of two carriages only, with an engine pushing
up behind. The outer carriage was open, and here we took seats, the
better to survey nature.

We were high above the plains; the train had to descend into the valley,
then re-ascend into the mountains. Far down was the little town of
Monistrol, with its white houses. The river rushed and frothed over its
weir, spanned by a picturesque stone bridge of many arches. As the train
twisted and turned like a serpent, it seemed that we must every moment
topple over into the seething foam, but nothing happened. Down, down we
went, until we rolled over the bridge, felt the cool wind of the water
upon our faces, and drew up at the little station amongst the white
houses of the settlement.

Here people from the hot towns spend the months of summer, exchanging in
this hill-enclosed valley one species of confinement for another. It was
the perfection of quiet life, no sound disturbing the air but the
falling water. Not a soul was visible; the lifeless village, like Rip
Van Winkle, seemed enjoying a long sleep. We might have been a phantom
train in a phantom world. Though the train stopped at the little
station, no one got in or out--no one but the postman, who silently
exchanged attenuated letter-bags. Evidently the correspondence of this
enchanted place was not extensive. Not here were wars planned or
treaties signed.

[Illustration: MONISTROL.]

Away we went again and now began to ascend. Every moment widened our
view and added to its splendour. Until recently all this had to be
done by coach, a journey of many hours of courageous struggling. Now the
whole thing is over in three-quarters of an hour, and it is good to feel
that all the hard work is done mechanically. We had once gone through
something similar in the Hex River Valley of South Africa, but in the
Montserrat journey there was a more romantic element; the charm and
glamour surrounding antiquity, the keen human interest attached to a
religious institution dating from past ages. We easily traced the old
zigzag carriage road up which horses had once toiled and struggled.
Almost as zigzag was our present road, winding about like forked flashes
of lightning.

The scene was almost appalling. Before us the ponderous Mons Serratus,
with all its cracks and fissures, ready to fall and reduce the earth to
powder. Its sharp, fantastic peaks against the clear sky looked like the
ruins of some mighty castle. The mountain rises four thousand feet high
and is twenty-four miles in circumference--a grey, barren mass of
tertiary conglomerate, an overwhelming amount of rock upon rock
seemingly thrown and piled against each other. In all directions are
enormous cañons and gorges with precipitous ravines; one rent dividing
the range having occurred, it is said, at the hour of the Crucifixion.
No eye has ever penetrated the depths below.

Far up the mountain reposes the monastery, with its dependencies and
cultivated gardens. Every new zigzag took us a little nearer than the
last. Very high up we stopped at another small station. No doubt some
sequestered nook held an unseen village, for again the old postman
silently exchanged letter-bags.

He was a fine specimen of humanity, this "man of letters," whose grey
hairs and rugged features witnessed to a long and possibly active life.
The head was cast in a splendid mould, to which the face corresponded.
Such a man ought to have made his mark in the world. That he should end
his days in playing postman to the monks of Montserrat seemed a sorry
conclusion. The times must have got out of joint with him. As a leader
in parliament or head of some great financial house, his appearance
would have assured success. There must be a story behind this exterior,
a mystery to unravel. But physiognomy seldom errs, and the expression
of the face spoke in favour of honest purpose.

He was a notable man, a man to be observed passing him on life's
highway. For a time we watched him closely. There was a certain
unconscious dignity about him. His remarks to the conductor were above
the chatter of ordinary people. Our carriage was a third class, though
we had lavishly taken first; but in those small, closed compartments
nothing could be seen. This carriage was large, open, airy; we breathed,
and were in touch with our surroundings; our fellow-travellers were also
more interesting than the turtle-doves who occupied the luxurious
compartment in a blissful _solitude à deux_.

They were few and characteristic. First the conductor, who varied the
monotony of his going by paying visits to the engine-driver and leaving
the train to look after itself. Next, our postman, the study of whom
would have been lost in any other compartment. Then a stout lady, who
wore a hat that was quite a flower-garden, and substantial seven-leagued
boots; a large basket laden with small nick-nacks was very much in
evidence, to which she clung affectionately, and one felt it was all her
living.

This modest pedlar was on her way to Montserrat to dispose of her
stock-in-trade--not to the monks, who could have no interest in
housewifes and pocket-mirrors, but amongst the visitors. A humble
peasant, with an honest, upright look in her dark eyes; a certain
patient resignation in their expression which often comes to those who
live from day to day, uncertain whether the morrow will bring fast or
feasting. She sat at the end of the large square carriage, under the
short bit of roofing. Here the magnificent surroundings were less seen,
but what mattered? She was of those to whom the realities of life mean
much more than the beauties of nature.

Next came a military policeman duly accompanied by his gun and cocked
hat, on his way to a three months' duty at Montserrat.

Thus the carriage contained a poet, who could be on occasion a Napoleon;
a man of letters, though apparently of letters limited; an armed
Government official of more or less exalted rank; a lady-merchant
representing the great world of commerce; and a humble individual who,
like Lost Lenore, shall be "nameless here for evermore;" all personally
conducted by a paid menial who neglected his duty and jeopardised the
lives of his passengers. No merit to him that the journey passed without
accident, but a great escape for ourselves.

Of this small group of Catalonians, our postman alone was of the higher
type and by far the most interesting.

"I see you are not of our country, señor," he remarked after exchanging
letter-bags at the last station. "Your interest in the journey proves
you unfamiliar with it. You may well marvel at this stupendous miracle
of nature."

"We marvel at everything. The whole scene is overpowering. And, if we
may venture to say so, you are yourself an enigma. In England we have a
proverb which speaks of a round man in a square hole; might it not
almost be applied to you?"

"In other words, you pay me the compliment of saying that I magnify my
office," quickly returned the postman. "Well, it is true that I was not
born to this, but it is not every one who has the wit to find it out. My
father was an officer in the Spanish navy, and in the navy my first
years of labour were spent. And now I am playing at postman--to such
base uses do we come. Yet is my calling honourable.

"You would ask how I fell from my high estate, and politeness withholds
the question. In reply I can only quote the old saying, _cherchez la
femme_. They say that a woman is at the bottom of all mischief, and I
believe it. On the other hand, there is no doubt that at her best she is
a divinity. No, sir; I perceive what you would say; but I have nothing
questionable to disclose; no intrigues or complications, or anything of
that sort.

"My father died when I was twenty. He had been made admiral, and lived
to enjoy his rank just four months. Unfortunately, all Admiral Alvarez
had to bequeath to his son was his good name. Of fortune he had none.
You will say that a good name is the greatest of all inheritance, and so
it is; and a young man with health, strength, and a noble profession
before him should be independent of fortune. I quite agree with you. But
there are exceptions, and the exceptions are those who are born under a
conjunction of stars against which there is no fighting. If I had lived
in the days of the Egyptians I should have been an astrologer, for I
believe there is something in the science. Right or wrong, it possesses
a mysterious fascination.

"At twenty-one I married, apparently with discretion. The lady I chose
was young, handsome, and owned a fortune. Without the latter matrimony
for me would have been a dream. My lieutenant's pay, which hardly
sufficed for one, would have reduced two to the necessity of living upon
love, air, or any other ethereal ingredient that may be had for nothing.

"For a time all went merrily. We were both well-favoured by
Nature--perhaps I may be allowed to speak thus of myself when life is
closing in--and fortune seemed to have been equally considerate. It was,
however, too good to last. As I have said, I was not born under a lucky
star. All through life I have just missed great opportunities. Even as a
child I can remember that the ripe apples never fell to my share. If we
drew lots for anything I was always next the winning number and might as
well have drawn the lowest. My father, who really ought to have left me
something in the way of patrimony, left me only his blessing.

"Well, señor, my wife, I repeat, was young and handsome. She was fond of
gaiety, and having the _entrée_ to a very fine society, her taste for
pleasure was easily gratified. She became extravagant, and gradually
fell into a state of nervous excitement which required constant
dissipation. I was often away from home with my vessel, but not for long
absences. They were, however, sufficiently frequent to render me
careless and unsuspicious as to the true state of our finances. When I
really learned this, it was too late. We were ruined. And not only
ruined, but overwhelmed in debt.

"In the first moment of horror I bitterly upbraided my wife. She, poor
thing, took her misfortunes and my anger so much to heart that she fell
into a consumption, and died in less than a year. I was so affected by
my troubles--more, I believe, for the loss of my wife, whom I really
loved, than for the loss of my income--that I fell for a time into a
despondent frame of mind. I had felt compelled to retire from my
profession--a man in a state of debt and bankruptcy had no right to be
holding a royal commission--and my enforced idleness did not help to
mend matters. At length life, health, and youth--I was not yet
thirty--asserted themselves. Melancholy flew away; energy, a wish to be
up and doing something, returned.

"I looked around me. The prospect was a sad one. There was nothing to be
done. No one wanted me.

"At length fortune, tired of frowning upon me, smiled awhile. I fell in
with an old friend of my father's, a wealthy coffee-planter in Ceylon.
He had come over for a holiday to his native country. For the father's
sake, for the sake of old times and the days of his youth, he was kind
to the son. He sympathised with my sorrows, which were not of my own
making. About to return to Ceylon, he offered me a certain partnership
in his business, promising greater things if I remained.

"How thankfully I turned my back upon Spain, the land of all my
misfortunes, I could never say. I began a new and prosperous life in a
new country. In course of time my old friend died, and I became senior
partner in a flourishing concern. For twenty-five years I remained out
in Ceylon. I had made a considerable fortune, and you will think that I
had probably married again. No, señor. I gave up my life to work, and
would not a second time tempt fate.

"At last, after an absence of a quarter of a century, a feeling crept
over me that had every symptom of _mal du pays_. As this increased, I
realised my possessions and returned to my own country, a rich man. But,
alas! youth had fled. Wealth did not now mean for me what it had meant
at five-and-twenty. The first thing I did was to pay up all my debts
with interest, and to stand a free, honourable and honoured man. What
surprised me most was the comparative smallness of the sum which in the
hour of our misfortunes I had thought so formidable.

"And now, señor, do you think that I could let well alone: or, rather,
that fortune could still turn to me a smiling face? It seemed as though
the land of my birth--my mother country--was to bring me nothing but
sorrow. In searching to place my capital, and remembering that you
should not have all your eggs in one basket, I invested some of it in
certain bank shares. It was a flourishing concern, paying a steady nine
per cent. That it should be unlimited was a matter of no importance. So
prosperous a company could never fail. Yet, señor, in less than a year,
fail it did for an amount which swept away every penny of my fortune,
and left me stranded high and dry on the shores of adversity.

"This time my ruin was more complete than before, for I was getting old
and could not begin life afresh. Yet--perhaps for that very reason--I
felt it less, and bore it philosophically. I had brought no one down in
my reverses. There was no one to upbraid me, and more than ever I felt
thankful that I had never married again. I obtained a situation in the
Post Office of a light description, which would just enable me to live.
Three years ago, a small windfall came to me: a sum of money that,
safely invested, assures me comfortable bread and cheese for the
remainder of my days. No more flourishing banks with unlimited
liabilities. And now here I am, in daily charge of the mail-bags between
Monistrol and Montserrat. A humble office you will say, but not ignoble.
After the free life of Ceylon, with all its magnificent scenery, I felt
it impossible to live shut up in a town, and especially requested this
post might be given me. In the midst of this wild grandeur, which really
somehow reminds me of parts of Ceylon, I am happy and contented. Bricks
and mortar are my abomination; they weigh upon one's soul and crush out
one's vital power. I love to breathe the morning air with the lark. At
best I can live but a few years more, and I will not spend them in
regretting the past. On the whole, I consider that I am rather to be
envied than pitied. That I am no longer obliged to work for my bread
gives an additional zest to my occupation.--We are approaching
Montserrat. Is it not a sublime scene?"

It was indeed nothing less. We rose above the vast magnificent valley,
until at last it looked dream-like and intangible. We seemed to overhang
bottomless precipices. On a plateau of the great mountain reposed the
monastery and its dependencies. Luxuriant gardens flourished, paradise
of the monks--a strange contrast of barren rocks and rich verdure. Here
dwelt a wonderful little world of its own, never deserted even in
winter, and in summer crowded with people who spend hours, days, weeks
breathing the mountain air, living a life of absolute freedom from all
restraint.

No monastery can be more romantically placed; perhaps none ever equalled
it; yet of late years some of its romance and beauty has disappeared.
The lovely old buildings that were a dream of Gothic and Norman
refinement, of architectural perfection, have given place to new and
hideous outlines. Nothing remains to show the glory of what has been but
one side of a cloister through whose pointed arches you gaze upon a
perfect Norman doorway--a dream-vision. A railway has brought Montserrat
into touch with the world, and to accommodate the crowd of visitors, a
new Hospederia has been built containing a thousand rooms, resembling an
immense and very hideous prison. The passages are long, dark, narrow and
cold. Rooms open on each side--single rooms and sets of rooms. The
latter are furnished with a kitchen; so that a family or party of
friends may come here with bag and baggage, pots, pans and all kitchen
equipage, servants included, and encamp for as long or as short a time
as may please them.

Our train stopped at the little station under the very shadow of the
mountain. This was the more crowded part of the settlement, and on the
left we noticed what looked like a party of gipsies encamped, enjoying
an open air feast with much laughter and merriment. The monastery
buildings were at the other end of the plateau.

We left the station under the pilotage of our friend the postman,
carrying his mail-bag. Before us, raised on a terrace, was a long row of
buildings old and new, of every shape and size. These were the
dependencies, and helped to form the little world of Montserrat.
Towering behind, up into the skies, were the precipitous sides, peaks
and pinnacles of the great mountain.

"There lies the Post Office," said our man of letters, "and that is my
destination. If you have any intention of remaining the night, you
should first pay a visit to the little house on the right. The funny
little monk who attends to visitors will receive you, conduct you to the
Hospederia and give you rooms. In summer every room is often occupied to
overflowing, but now you will have the place to yourselves--you and the
ghosts--for I maintain that it is haunted. I will not say farewell,
señor; we shall frequently meet during the day. There is small choice of
ways in this little settlement; but for all that you will find that
Montserrat is one of the glories of Spain."

He went his way, and we wondered what news from the outer world could
now have any interest for the monks who were as dead to that world as
though they reposed under their nameless graves in the little cemetery.



CHAPTER XVI.

A HIDDEN GENIUS.

     Monk's face--Superfluous virtue--"Welcome to Montserrat"--Mean
     advantage--Exacting but not mercenary--Another Miguel--Missing
     keys--Singular monk--Hospederia--Uncertainty--Monk's idea of
     luxury--Rare prospect--Haunted by silence--Father Salvador
     privileged--Monk sees ghosts--Under Miguel's escort--In the
     church--Departed glory--The black image--Gothic and Norman
     outlines--Franciscan monk or ghost?--Vision of the past--Days of
     persecution--Sensible image--Great community--Harmony of the
     spheres--Sad cypresses--Life of a hermit--Monk's story--Loving the
     world--Penitence--Plucked from the burning--Talent developed--A
     world apart--False interest--Salvador--Temptation and a
     compromise--Salvador extemporises--"All the magic of the
     hour"--Salvador's belief--Waiting for manifestations.


We turned to the right, and entering the building indicated, passed into
a bare, unfurnished room. Through a square hole in the wall, not unlike
a buttery-hatch, a monk's face peered at us with large coal-black eyes,
startling in their effect; a small, spare monk, with unshaven face,
round head and black hair, habited in the ugly dress of the Jesuit
order. It struck us rather unpleasantly that everything about him was
black, not the eyes and hair only. He evidently belonged to a sect who
thought washing superfluous, if not sinful.

"Ah!" he exclaimed in quite friendly tones. "Welcome to Montserrat! I am
very happy to see you."

"We might be chums of a lifetime," said H. C., shuddering, as the
well-disposed ecclesiastic advanced a dusky hand; for we saw it coming
and meanly put him in the foreground. In spite of his Napoleon manner,
he had to shake it. The little monk was not to be frowned down.

"I am very happy to see you," he repeated. "You are welcome. Our
visitors are few at this time of the year. Every visitor adds his quota
to our common fund. However small, it is acceptable. Do not think me
mercenary. The fathers and brothers must live, and they do a great deal
of good. Even up here, out of the world, you have no idea how much may
be done. And we have many branches. But the beauty of Montserrat is
supreme, and you know that it is world-wide. Now you want rooms,"
continued the eloquent little monk. "I will go across with you to the
Hospederia. But first you must record your names in this book. Miguel,"
to a young man in attendance, "where are the keys? They are not here.
Why are they not here? How often am I to report you to the
Father-Superior for carelessness?"

The keys were guiltily produced by Miguel.

"I thought so," cried the monk. "Suppose, now, you had gone down to
Monistrol with the keys in your pocket! We must have got through a
window like thieves and vagabonds. A very undignified proceeding. The
Reverend Father would have stopped your butter for a month. As it is, I
must overlook it, I suppose; you are so very fond of butter. Now,
gentlemen---- Dear me, what beautiful writing you English always have!"
scanning the book, in which, with the aid of a very bad pen, we had
hieroglyphically scratched our names. "Now, gentlemen, I am at your
service. We will take our little pilgrimage. You have a choice of rooms.
There is not a soul in the Hospederia--a thousand rooms, every one
empty. Miguel, attend us; you will have to make up beds for these
gentlemen."

The pilgrimage was certainly a short one. We gave the little monk as
wide a berth as politeness and the way permitted. To keep step with him
was impossible. He had a curious motion which resembled more the
trotting of a young colt than the walk of a human being. As he skipped
across the road, a small, animated mass of quicksilver, full of peculiar
life and energy, it was difficult to keep becomingly grave. The great
Hospederia was in front of us, huge, modern, unsightly, depressing. The
monk jingled the great keys as though they made pleasant music in his
ear. Then he applied one of them to the huge lock and the heavy door
rolled back on its hinges.

If the exterior had looked depressing, it was cheerfulness itself to the
interior. A chilling, silent, uninhabited, ghostly atmosphere met us at
the very threshold. Our postman might well say it was haunted. Voices
and footsteps echoed in the long, bare, gloomy corridors. A monk's cell
could scarcely have been more guiltless of comfort. We had hardly made
up our minds whether to stay the night or not, and our proposed lodging
kept us still more undecided. As far as sunrise was concerned, at this
time of the year the effects were doubtful. More often than not a thick
mist enshrouded the whole visible world like a white sea. We might
remain, have our trouble and discomfort for our pains, and nothing more.

"Here," said the monk, throwing open the door of a small room, and
pointing to a bed hard as pavement, "you may sleep in comfort, even
luxury. And," opening the window, "what a prospect!"

True enough as regarded the outlook. Such an assemblage of vale,
mountain and river could hardly be surpassed. The luxury of the bed, on
the other hand, was a distinct effort of the imagination. We would not,
however, disturb the sensitiveness of the little monk by arguing the
matter, and indeed, it would have been difficult to lower his
self-complacency. Two rooms belonging to a suite were duly apportioned
to us. The bare kitchen between them looked cold and lifeless. These
rooms would be prepared, and any one remaining here for the night might
reasonably consider it a penance for his sins. It would be rather a
gruesome experience to find ourselves in sole possession of this vast
building of a thousand rooms. An army of ghosts--the ghosts of
dead-and-gone monks--would certainly come down upon us, and H. C.'s most
Napoleon manner would have no effect whatever. Like the little monk,
ghosts are not to be frowned down.

"A pity to disturb this Hospederia, which may be considered closed for
the season," we remarked. "My poet friend is very much afraid of ghosts,
and this place might very well be haunted. It is certainly haunted by
silence. Why not give us cells in the monastery, where, in presence of
the Father-Superior, ghosts would hardly venture to intrude?"

"An excellent idea," said H. C., looking blue and shivery. "This place
is more gloomy than the grave."

"In the darkness one place is very much the same as another," said the
monk. "No one is allowed even within the walls of the monastery without
an order from the Holy Father at Rome, the Archbishop of Toledo, or some
equally great authority. Father Salvador is the only one who can prevail
with our Superior. As for ghosts, I have seen them with my own eyes on
All Souls' Eve, at midnight, in the monastery graveyard, and oh! how
frightened I was! How I shivered in my sandals! They were the ghosts of
two monks who had committed suicide within a year of each other in their
cells. Of course, they were quite mad, and they left a letter behind
them--both of them--to say they could bear their solitude no longer. In
the dead of night they heard groans, and saw shapes like immense bats
flying about. Each bat had four wings, two tails, fiery eyes and forked
tongues. They were quite insane. But there are no ghosts here, sirs. For
the matter of that, the building is far too modern. Ghosts have
excellent taste and cultivate the antique. There, that is settled.
Everything is at your disposal--the whole building. Now, Miguel, show
the gentlemen where they can dine. I have heard that the fare in the
restaurant is equal to anything in Madrid. I am your most humble servant
and delighted to see you. Welcome to Montserrat."

Upon which the little monk skipped once more across the road with the
same acrobatic motion, and disappeared within his sanctum.

Under Miguel's escort--who had had so narrow an escape from losing his
butter, and doing a month's fasting out of Lent--we found the
dining-room. Several dining-rooms indeed, of great size, one above
another, apparently quite prepared to entertain the Hospederia with its
full complement of guests. The manager informed us that we could have
any meal we liked at any appointed hour; he was equal to the largest
dinners at the shortest notice; and having settled this part of the
programme to H. C.'s satisfaction, we dismissed Miguel and took to
exploring.

As Don Alvarez had said, we could not go very far wrong. One road led to
the summit of Mons Serratus, another down into the world; a third round
the mountain into another part of the world. This was still traversed by
a coach and four, and presently we had the pleasure of seeing it start
with great preparation and ceremony. For the moment we contented
ourselves with the immediate precincts.

[Illustration: CHURCH OF MONTSERRAT.]

The convent buildings stood on a plateau at the far end of the
settlement. Almost buried under the side of the mountain was the immense
church or chapel in which the monks attend mass. One may see them at
stated hours in the choir behind the great iron _grille_ that separates
them from the outer worshippers. There are now only about twenty
fathers, for the monastery was suppressed some sixty years ago, only a
few being allowed to remain. It is of very ancient origin, and rose from
small to great things, and again has fallen from its high estate. The
foundation is due to a black image of the Virgin; a small figure in
black wood supposed to have been specially carved by St. Luke, and
specially brought to Spain by St. Peter. If in St. Luke's best style, he
was certainly not a Michel Angelo. The image, however, is highly prized
by the religious order, as having worked countless miracles and brought
them fame and wealth.

In crossing towards the chapel we met our funny little monk. "Ah, you
are going into the church?" he cried. "You will find the fathers at
prayer--it is nearly the hour for the refectory. And you will see the
black Virgin--the beautiful black image--carved by St. Luke--carried by
St. Peter--blessed by twelve popes! No wonder she performs miracles.
Withered arms and legs come to life again. I have seen old people turn
young. Once when I looked at her she blinked with both eyes. It is true
I am short-sighted, but I am certain of the fact: as certain as that I
saw ghosts in the graveyard on All Souls' Eve. Señor, that wonderful
black image is the one great thing to see at Montserrat. The cleverness
of the railway, the beauty of the landscape, the grandeur of the
mountain, the splendour of the church--all this is very well in its way;
but it is as nothing compared with the black image. Go and study it, and
if you look long enough perhaps she will blink her eyes at you too, or
bow her head. It is quite possible."

Then he skipped through the quadrangle back to his den.

This quadrangle was very interesting; large, quiet, and solidly built:
an outer court to the holy of holies, which was the church itself. Under
the mountain-side, its covered passages ever seemed in deep gloom and
shadow; a death-in-life atmosphere hung about it. In days gone by it was
one of the loveliest nooks in the world, for the ancient buildings were
beautiful and refined. Gothic cloisters and Norman doorways mingled
their outlines in close companionship without rivalry, and the beholder
was charmed at finding himself in an element where nothing jarred.

All has disappeared to make way for the modern traveller, whose name is
legion. Nothing remains but the one little Gothic fragment, with its
pointed windows and slender shafts. A lady in a mantilla graced them as
we stood looking at the Norman archway beyond: the more interesting of
the turtle-doves who had travelled with us from Monistrol. Her mate was
attending to the vulgar side of life, arranging a select repast with the
restaurant manager at the farther end of the settlement. We saw him come
out and advance towards her with that degree of fervour which generally
marks the _lune de miel_. She, too, went to meet him half-way--and they
disappeared out of our lives.

As we looked at the Norman doorway it was suddenly filled with the
figure of a monk. Nothing could have been more appropriately romantic
and picturesque. He was clothed not as a Jesuit, but in the far more
becoming dress of a Franciscan. His cowl was thrown back, revealing a
pale, refined face and well-formed head, on which the hair seemed to be
arranged almost like a circlet of leaves--the crown of the poet. He
stood still and motionless as though carved in stone. In his hand he
held a breviary. A girdle was round his waist confining the long brown
robe. As far as we could see, he appeared unmindful of his surroundings,
lost in a dreamy gaze which penetrated beyond the skies. It was the
attitude and expression of a visionary or mystic.

What was this monk in the strange garb? Who was he? What brought him
apparently at home amidst the Jesuits, he who evidently belonged to
another order? Had he thrown in his lot amongst them? Or did he live, a
solitary being, in one of the surrounding hermitages?

Whilst we looked he slowly turned, and, with bent head and lingering
steps, as though in deep contemplation, passed out of sight. Nothing
remained but the empty doorway with a vision of arches beyond; a few
ruined walls stained with the marks of centuries, to which patches of
moss and drooping creepers and hardy ferns added grace and charm. We
were alone, surrounded by intense quiet and repose. Sunshine was over
all, casting deep shadows. No sound disturbed the stillness, not even
the echo of the monk's receding footsteps. So silent and motionless had
been his coming and going, we asked ourselves whether he was in truth
flesh and blood or a mid-day visitor from the land of shadows. How
remote, how out of the world it all was!

Suddenly, as we looked upwards, an eagle took majestic flight from one
of the mountain peaks, and, hovering in the blue ether, seemed seeking
for prey. But it was not the time of the lambs, and with a long,
sweeping wing, it passed across the valley to an opposite range of
hills.

The great church was before us with its dome, of Roman design and
sufficiently common-place. But, after all, what mattered? Its effects
and those of the hideous Hospederia were lost in their wonderful
surroundings, just as a drop of water is lost in the ocean.

On entering the church this comparison disappeared. There was an expanse
about its aisles, largeness and breadth in the high-domed roof, that
produced a certain dignity, yet without grace and refinement. No magic
and mystery surrounded them, and the dim religious light was the result,
not of rich stained glass admitting prismatic streams, but of an
obscurity cast by the shadows of Mons Serratus. For great effects one
had to go back in imagination to the days when the monks were many and
assembled at night for service. It is easy to picture the impressive
scene. Beyond the ever-closed screen, within the great choir, a thousand
kneeling, penitential figures chanting the midnight mass, their voices
swelling upward in mighty volume; the church just sufficiently lighted
to lend the utmost mystery to the occasion; a ghostly hour and a ghostly
assemblage of men whose lives have become mere shadows. On great days
countless candles lighted up the aisles and faintly outlined the more
distant recesses. The fine-toned organ pealed forth its harmony, shaking
the building with its diapasons and awakening wonderful echoes in the
far-off dome.

[Illustration: CLOISTERS OF MONTSERRAT.]

All this may still be seen and heard now and then, but with the number
of monks sadly curtailed. It is said that they now never exceed twenty.
When their day of persecution came they escaped to their mountain
fastness, climbing higher and ever higher like hunted deer, hiding in
the cracks and crevices of the rocks; fear giving them strength to reach
parts never yet trodden by the foot of man, whilst many a less active
monk slipped and fell into the bottomless abyss, his last resting place,
like that of Moses, remaining for ever unknown. The troops of Suchet
followed the refugees, found them out, and put an end to many a life
that, if useless, was also harmless. Not a few of the survivors became
hermits, and on many a crag may be found the ruins of a hermitage, once,
perhaps, inhabited by a modern St. Jerome, though the St. Jeromes of the
world have been few and far between.

Some sort of religious institution existed here in the early centuries,
long ages before Ignatius Loyola founded the order of the Jesuits. In
the eighth century the famous black image was hidden away in a cave
under a hill to save it from the Moors. Here it miraculously disclosed
itself a hundred years later to some simple shepherds. These hastened to
the good Bishop, who took mules, crook and mitre, and came down with all
the lights of the church and all the pomp of office to remove the
treasure to Manresa.

Apparently the image preferred the fresh mountain air to the close,
torrent-washed town with its turbid waters, for having reached a certain
lovely spot overlooking the vast plain, it refused to go any farther. As
it could not speak--being a wooden image--it made itself so heavy that
mortal power could not lift it. This was the first of a long succession
of miracles. On the spot where the image rested, the Bishop with crook
and mitre, and bell and book, and Dean and Chapter, held solemn conclave
and there and then went through a service of Consecration. A chapel was
built, and the image became the object of devoted pilgrimages.

All traces of the chapel have disappeared long since. Nothing now marks
the spot but an iron cross which may be seen far and near. Approaching,
you may read the inscription: _Aqui sè hizo inmovil la Santa Imagen_.
After this a nunnery was founded, which in the tenth century became a
Benedictine convent.

Ages rolled on, and it grew famous. When destroyed by the French it held
as many as 900 monks: a great religious community, wealthy and
powerful. But the mighty are fallen. The few remaining monks, more
exclusive in their retirement than the great body of their predecessors,
have a school attached to the monastery in which much time is given to
the study of music. It is going far out of the world for instruction,
but Nature herself should come to their aid. Amidst these lonely
solitudes the Harmony of the Spheres might well be heard.

Passing through the great quadrangle, we entered a narrow passage
between the church and hill-side, reminding one a little of some of the
narrow streets of Jerusalem. Here, too, we found some arches and
buttresses framing in the sky, arch beyond arch. At the end of all we
came out once more upon the open world, and what a scene was disclosed!

In front of us was a small chapel attached to a little hermitage. Beside
it ran a long avenue of sad and solemn cypresses. It might have been the
cemetery of the dead-and-gone monks, but no small mounds or wooden
crosses marked where the dead reposed. This mournful avenue extended to
the brow of the hill, where we overlooked vast wild precipices. Cañons
and gorges opened beneath us and above us in appalling magnitude. The
stupendous valley stretched right and left in the distance. Far on the
other side reposed a chain of snow-clad hills. Villages lay about the
plain and hill-sides. In the far-off hollow slept the little town of
Monistrol, its blue smoke mingling with the clearer atmosphere. Through
all the valley the river ran its winding, silvery course on its way to
the sea.

The plateau on which we stood held the monastery buildings. Near us
stretched the gardens of the monks in cultivated terraces, and above
them, winding round the mountain was the white road leading out into the
world lying to the south of Montserrat. Again, as we looked, another
eagle soared from one of the peaks and took its slow majestic flight
across the valley, no doubt on the track of its mate, perhaps to find
out why he tarried so long. A string of boys in caps and black cloaks
left the convent and wound round the white road, conducted by a few of
the monks whose duty it was to keep watch and ward over the students.
These passed out of sight, and once more we seemed alone with nature.

But on turning back down the cypress avenue, sitting against the little
chapel we saw the Franciscan monk who had lately filled the Norman
archway. Though his breviary was open, he was not reading. His
eyes--large, dark, dreamy eyes that ought to belong to a genius--were
looking out on the mountain and the far-off sky, lost in profound
contemplation.

[Illustration: CHURCH OF MONTSERRAT.]

Of what nature were his thoughts? Introspective or retrospective? Was he
thinking of days that were past, or of the life to come? Were regret and
remorse his portion, or resignation to his present surroundings? Was he
dwelling upon some terrible Might-have-been? He looked inexpressibly
lonely, as though he and the world had parted company for ever, but
there was something singularly interesting about him. It seemed
difficult to intrude upon his solitude, as impossible to pass without
speaking.

Some influence compelled us to stop. His face was pale and refined. He
was so thin as to be almost cadaverous; not an ounce of flesh had he to
spare on his bones; there was a certain look of hunger in his large
magnificent eyes; not a hungering after the flesh-pots of Egypt, but, as
it seemed, for peace of mind and repose of soul. Grazing at the skies,
he appeared to be asking questions of the Infinite Beyond. Where was the
kingdom of Heaven and what was it like? When there came for him the
great apocalypse of the soul how would it find its way to the realms of
paradise?

We stopped in front of him, and he started as though he had only that
moment became aware of our presence. He did not seem to resent the
intrusion, but looked up with a searching inquiring glance, which
presently changed to a smile beautiful and almost childlike in its
confidence: sad, beseeching, as though it were in our power to interpret
to him the hidden mysteries of the unseen; the perplexing problems of
life; the doubts and difficulties with which his questioning heart
contended.

"You have indeed found a quiet corner for contemplation," we remarked
after he had greeted us with a subdued: "May Heaven have you in its holy
keeping."

[Illustration: SALVADOR THE MONK.]

"It is all my want and all my desire," he replied, in a voice that was
full of melody. "I live the life of a hermit. Near at hand I have my
small hermitage, and I also have my cell in the monastery, occupying the
one or the other as inclination prompts me. For you see by my dress that
though this is my home, where I shall live and die, I do not belong to
the Jesuits. I am really a Franciscan, but have obtained a dispensation,
and I live here. I love to contemplate these splendours of nature; to
read my breviary under the blue sky and the shadow of our great
mountain. Here I feel in touch with Heaven. The things unseen become
real and tangible, doubts and difficulties vanish. My soul gathers
strength. I return to my cell, and its walls crush all life and hope out
of me; weigh upon me with an oppression greater and deeper than that of
yonder giant height. I feel as though I should die, or fall away from
grace. There have been times when they have come to my cell and found me
unconscious. I have only revived when they have brought me out to the
fresh air, this freedom and expanse. The good Father-Superior recognises
my infirmity and has given me the hermit's cave. I will show it to you
if you like. It is quite habitable and not what you might imagine, for
it is a built-up room with light and air, not a cavern dark and earthy.
I love solitude and am never solitary. Once I loved the world too much;
I lived in the fever of life and dissipation. Heaven had mercy upon me,
and you behold a brand plucked from the burning. When my heart was dead
and seared, and love and all things beautiful had taken wing, I left the
world. The profligate became a penitent. I took vows upon me and joined
the Franciscan Order. But I should have died if I had not come up here,
where I have found pardon and peace. That was twenty years ago. Yet I am
not fifty years old, and am still in the full vigour of manhood. It may
be long before a small wooden cross marks my resting-place in the
cemetery. When the last hour comes I shall pray them to bring me here,
that amidst these splendours of nature my soul may wing its flight to
the greater splendours of paradise. I feel that I could not die in my
cell."

"How is it you are allowed so much freedom?" we asked. "We thought that
here you were all more or less cloistered. It was our wish to see the
interior of the monastery, but the lay monk who receives visitors said
it was not permitted."

"A strict rule," returned the monk; "but if you are staying here a
couple of days, I could take you in. To-morrow is a great fast; to enter
would be impossible; the day after it might be done."

"Unhappily we cannot remain. To-morrow at latest we return to Barcelona.
But, if we may ask it again without indiscretion, whence have you this
indulgence and power?"

"The secret lies in the fact that I possess a talent," smiled the monk.
"I was always passionately fond of music, and as a pastime studied it
closely and earnestly. Here I have turned it to account. Whether it was
the necessity for an occupation, or that it was always in me, I
developed a strange faculty for imparting knowledge to others. I fire
them with enthusiasm, and they make vast progress. My name, I am told,
has become a proverb in our large towns. It has been of use to the
monastery: has enlarged the school, added to the revenues. In return I
have obtained certain privileges; a greater freedom of action. Otherwise
my power would leave me. This is why I can promise to open doors to you
that are usually closed to the world. Yet in what would you be the
better? Curiosity would hardly be satisfied in viewing the bare cells
and long gloomy passages, the cold and empty refectory, where perchance
you might see spread out a banquet of bread and water, a little dried
fish or a few sweet herbs."

"There is always something that appeals to one, strangely attractive, in
the interior of a monastery," we returned.

"I know it," replied the monk, whose new name he told us was Salvador.
"It is a world apart and savours of the mysterious. It possesses also a
certain mystic element. Thus the atmosphere surrounding it is romantic
and picturesque, appealing strongly to the imagination. Sympathy goes
out to the little band of men who have bound themselves together by a
vow, forsaken the world and given up all for religion. But if you were
called upon to share that life only for a month, all its supposed
mystery and charm would disappear. It only exists in the sentiment of
the thing, not in the reality. It lies in the beauty of the solitary
mountains in which the monasteries are often placed; or the splendid
architecture they occasionally preserve. In the dull monotony of a daily
round never varied, you would learn to dread the lonely cell--even as I
once dreaded it more than death itself. Hence my freedom. It will soon
be our refectory hour," looking at a small silver watch he carried
beneath his robe. "I must return or fast."

Then there came to us a bright idea. "Why leave us?" we said. "Or if you
must do so now, why not return? Would you not be allowed to dine with us
this evening? You would tell us of your past life before you became a
monk, and of your life since then. It must contain much that is
interesting. In the evening shadows you would guide us about the
mountain paths, tell us of the evil days that fell upon the monks and
their flight into the hills."

Salvador the monk smiled. "You tempt me sorely," he replied. "I should
like it much. Such a proposal has never been made to me since I put on
cloak and cowl. It would be like a short return to the world--a backward
glance into the life that is dead and buried. Then imagine the contrast
between your sumptuous repast and the bread and sweet herbs with which
we keep our bodies alive. I fear it would not be wise to awaken
memories. No, I must not think of it. But to-night I shall dream that I
have been to a banquet and walked with you in quiet paths, taking sweet
counsel. Oh, I am tempted. What a break in my life to spend a whole day
with you, and become once more, as it were, a citizen of the world! But
I will make a compromise. If you go up the mountain to-morrow morning to
see the sun rise, I will accompany you. Though a fast day, I can do
this; and I may take a modest breakfast with you."

This decided us, and we agreed to remain: it would have been cruel to
deny him. He folded his camp-stool and prepared to depart.

"You will accompany me to my door," he said, somewhat wistfully, "though
to-day I may not ask you to pass beyond."

So we wended back through the arches in the narrow passage between the
hill and monastery, and the mountain shadows fell upon us. We reached
the great quadrangle, lonely and deserted.

"Let us enter by way of the church," said the monk; "I will show you our
little private door."

The great building was silent and empty. Our footsteps woke weird echoes
in the distant aisles. Salvador by some secret touch unfastened the door
of the screen, which rolled back on its hinges, and we passed into the
choir.

"Here we attend mass," said our guide; "a small community of monks,
though I am more often at the organ. In days gone by, when they numbered
nearly a thousand, it was a splendid and powerful institution--a
magnificent sight and sound. No need then to add to the funds by
teaching. All the glory has departed, but perhaps, in return, we are
more useful. Nothing, however, can take from our scenery, though its
repose is no longer unbroken. With a railroad at our very doors, who
can say that we are now out of the world? Ah!" as a man crossed the
choir towards the sacristy; "there is my organ-blower. Would you like me
to give you some music?"

"It would be enchanting. But your repast--would you not lose it?"

"I have twenty minutes to spare, and should then still be in time for
the end." He beckoned to the man, who approached. "Hugo, have you
dined?"

"Si, Padre Salvador."

"Then come and blow for me a little."

He bade us seat ourselves in the stalls, where the organ was best heard.
We listened to their receding footsteps ascending the winding staircase
leading to the organ loft. In a few minutes we had lost all sense of
outward things. The loveliest, softest, most entrancing music went
stealing through the great building. Salvador was evidently
extemporising. All his soul was passing into melody. Divine harmonies
succeeded each other in one continued flow. It was music full of
inspiration, such as few mortals could produce; fugitive thoughts more
beautiful by reason of their spontaneity than any matured composition
ever given to the world. Here indeed was a genius.

Never but once before had we heard such playing. Many years had gone by
since one evening on the Hardanger Fjord, we glided through the water
under the moonlight and listened to such strains as Beethoven himself
could not have equalled. Many a hand oft-clasped in those days lies cold
and dead; life has brought its disillusions; the world has changed; but
even as we write the glamour of that moonlit night surrounds us, those
matchless strains still ring in our ears, lifting us once more to
paradise.

This monk's music brought back all those past impressions; "all the
sorrow and the sighing, all the magic of the hour." We listened
spell-bound, enraptured; and again we were in paradise. No wonder he
inspired his pupils to accomplish the impossible. It lasted only a
quarter of an hour, but during that time we never stirred hand or foot,
scarcely breathed. Ordinary life was suspended; we were conscious only
of soul and spirit. When this divine influence ceased we were hardly
aware of the silence that succeeded. The monk had thrown us into a
trance from which it was difficult to awaken. Only when his cloaked and
cowled figure once more entered the choir and quietly approached us did
we rouse to a sense of outward things.

"I see my music has pleased you," he said. "I do not affect to
depreciate its power, since it influences me no less than others. For
the time being I am lost to myself. All my soul seems expressing
thoughts that words could never utter. No credit is due to me for a
power outside and beyond me. The moment I sit down to the organ, Saint
Cecilia takes possession of me, and I merely follow whither she leads.
Of all arts, it is the most divine. Now before we separate let me take
you into the Chapel of the Virgin. The image, you know, is considered
the great treasure of the monastery."

In his voice there seemed almost an inflection of doubt or amusement.
"And you also look upon it in this light?" we asked. "You believe in all
the miracles, legends and traditions time has gathered round the image?"

"I must not talk heresy," smiled the monk; "but I believe more in my
music."

We had entered the small chapel, where a light was burning before the
celebrated image, black and polished as ebony; an image less than two
feet high, seated in a chair, with an infant in its arms. The
workmanship was rough and rude, the face ugly and African. There was
nothing about it to raise the slightest emotion, for it was not even
artistic.

"On this very spot," said the monk, "Ignatius Loyola is said to have
waited for hours in rapture watching the image and receiving
manifestations, after which he founded the Order of the Jesuits. He laid
his sword upon the altar, declaring that he had done with it for ever,
and henceforth his life should be devoted to paths of peace. In like
manner I have stood here for hours, waiting for inspiration, for some
manifestation, some token, though it should be only borne in upon the
mind with no outward and visible sign. And I have waited in vain.
Nothing has ever come to me. But I seat myself at the organ and seem
wafted at once into realms immortal; my soul awakens and expands; I
feel heaven within me. It is my one happiness and consolation; that and
being alone with nature."

He conducted us back to the screen.

"Then we cannot prevail upon you to be with us this evening?" we said in
a final effort. "You will not give us all the experiences of your past
life, spiritual and otherwise?--all you went through in your transition
state?"

"Tempt me not," returned the monk. "Your voice would persuade me against
my reason. I must not return to the sweets of the world even for an
evening. Think of the going back afterwards. But to-morrow morning
before dawn breaks in the east I will be with you."

He bade us farewell and closed the gate. We watched the solitary figure
glide down the choir until it disappeared. The quiet footsteps ceased to
echo, and we stood alone in the church. The silence was painful and the
building had no power to charm. We passed out to the great quadrangle
and soon found ourselves in a very different scene.



CHAPTER XVII.

SALVADOR THE MONK.

     Gipsies--Picturesque scene--Love passages--H. C. invited to festive
     board--Saved by Lady Maria's astral visitation--The
     fortune-teller--H. C. yields to persuasion--Fate
     foretold--Warnings--Photograph solicited--Darkness and
     mystery--Night scene--Gipsies depart--Weird experiences--Troubled
     dreams--Mysterious sounds--Ghost appears--H. C. sleeps the sleep of
     the just--Egyptian darkness--In the cold morning--Salvador keeps
     his word--Breakfast by candlelight--Romantic scene--Salvador turns
     to the world--Agreeable companion--Musician's nature--Miguel and
     the mule--Leaving the world behind--Darkness flies--St. Michael's
     chapel--Sunrise and glory--Marvellous scene--Magic
     atmosphere--Salvador's ecstasy--Consents to take luncheon--Heavenly
     strains--"Not farewell"--Departs in solitary sadness--Last of the
     funny monk.


It was the other end of the settlement. All the houses were behind us;
the railway station was in a depression at our left. The plateau
expanded, forming a small mountain refuge, sheltered and surrounded by
great boulders that were a part of Mons Serratus towering beyond them.
Grass and trees grew in soft luxuriance. Under their shadow a picnic
party had encamped; noisy Spaniards who looked very much like gipsies;
an incongruous element in these solemn solitudes, yet a very human
scene. They were scattered about in groups, and the bright handkerchiefs
of the women formed a strikingly picturesque bit of colouring. Baskets
of rough provisions were abundant. A kettle hung on a tripod and a fire
burnt beneath it, from which the blue smoke curled into the air and lost
itself in the branches of the trees. The people were enjoying themselves
to their hearts' content. Here and there a couple had hoisted a red or
green umbrella, which afforded friendly opportunities for tender love
passages. Some were drinking curiously out of jars with long spouts
shaped like a tea-kettle. These they held up at arm's length and
cleverly let the beverage pour into their mouths. Practice made perfect
and nothing was wasted. Chatter and laughter never ceased. They were of
humble rank, which ignores ceremony, and when H. C. approached rather
nearly, he was at once invited to join their festive board and make one
of themselves.

One handsome, dark-eyed maiden looked at him reproachfully as he
declined the honour--the astral body of Lady Maria in her severest
aspect having luckily presented itself to his startled vision. The siren
had a wonderfully impressive language of the eyes, and it was evident
that her hand and heart were at the disposal of this preux chevalier.

"Señor," she said, "I am a teller of fortunes. Show me your hand and I
will prophecy yours."

H. C. obligingly held it out. She studied it intently for about half a
minute, then raised her eyes--large languishing eyes--and seemed to
search into the very depths of his.

"Señor, you are a great poet. Your line of imagination is strongly
influenced by the line of music, so that your thoughts flow in rhyme.
But the line of the head communicates with the line of the heart, and
this runs up strongly into the mount of Venus. You have made many love
vows and broken many hearts. You will do so again. You cannot help it.
You are sincere for the moment, but your affections are like champagne.
They fizz and froth and blaze up like a rocket, then pass away. You will
not marry for many years. Then it will be a lady with a large fortune.
She will not be beautiful. She will squint, and be a little lame, and
have a slight hump--you cannot have everything--but she will be amiable
and intellectual. I see here a rich relative, who is inclined in your
favour. It is in her power to leave you wealth. Beware how you play your
cards. I see by your hand that you just escape many good things by this
fickle nature. I warn you against it, but might as well tell the wind
not to blow. There is one thing, however, may save you--the stars were
in happy conjunction at your birth. The influence of the house of Saturn
does not affect you. I see little more at present. Much of your future
depends on yourself. To you is given, more than to many, the controlling
of your fate. You may make or mar your fortune. No, señor," as H. C.
laughed and tried to glide a substantial coin into her hand, "I do
not tell fortunes for money to-day. It is a _festa_ with our tribe,
almost a sacred day, the anniversary of a great historical event. To-day
we do all for love; but I should much like your photograph."

[Illustration: VALLEY OF MONTSERRAT.]

H. C. chanced to have one in his pocket-book, which he had once put
aside for the Madrid houri who married the Russian nobleman. This he
presented with much grace to the enraptured Sibyl. Their heads were very
close together at the moment; there seemed a clinking sound in the air.
We happened to be consulting the time, and on looking up, the Sibyl's
face seemed flushed and conscious, and H. C.'s poetically pale
complexion had put on a delicate pink. This was a little too
suspicious--even to our unsuspecting mind--and with a hasty bow to the
interesting assembly, and wishing them all good appetites and fair
fortunes, we went on our way. Looking back once, the charming Sibyl was
still gazing towards us with a very sentimental expression, whilst H. C.
for the next ten minutes fell into silence.

The day wore on to evening. We watched the shades of night gathering
over the vast valley and distant hills. Everything grew hazy and
indistinct, and finally gave place to a world of darkness and mystery.
The outlines of Mons Serratus loomed upwards against the night sky. The
stars came out flashing and brilliant as they travelled along in their
awful and majestic silence. The great constellations were strongly
marked. Here and there lights twinkled in the monastery, and in the
various houses of the settlement. Where the gipsy party had encamped,
silence and solitude now reigned. A black mark told where the tripod had
held the kettle and betrayed what had been. The whole encampment had
returned to the lower world by the evening train. We had watched them
enter a special carriage, which they filled to overflowing. Their
spirits had not failed. As the train moved off they sent up a shout
which echoed and re-echoed in many a gorge and cleft. Presently, when
the stars had travelled onwards, we felt it was time to disappear from
the world for a season. We were taking a last look at the Gothic arches,
through which the sky and the stars shone with serene repose. The night
was solemn and impressive; a strange hush lay upon all. It might have
been a dead universe, only peopled by the spirits of the dead-and-gone
monks and hermits roaming the mountain ranges. Throughout the little
settlement not a soul crossed our path; doors and windows were closed;
here and there a light still glimmered. We caught sight of another
wandering light far up a mountain path, held by some one well acquainted
with his ground--perhaps a last surviving hermit taking his walks
abroad, or a monk contemplating death and eternity in this overwhelming
darkness. We wondered whether it was Salvador, our musical monk, seeking
fresh inspiration as he climbed nearer heaven.

As we passed out of the arches we came upon our funny little monk, who,
having ended all his duties, was going to his night's rest. He caught
sight of us and gave a brisk skip.

"Welcome to Montserrat," he cried once more. "I am delighted to see
you." From long habit he evidently used the form unconsciously--it was
his peculiar salutation. "You are about to retire, señor. Let me conduct
you to your rooms. I should like to see you comfortably settled for the
night."

From his tone and manner he might have been taking us to fairyland; beds
of rose-leaves; a palace fitted up with gold and silver, where jewels
threw out magic rays upon a perfumed atmosphere. He swung back the great
gates of the Hospederia. We passed into an atmosphere dark, chilling,
and certainly not perfumed. Mysterious echoes died away in distant
passages. The little monk lighted a lantern that stood ready in the
corridor, and weird shadows immediately danced about. One's flesh began
to creep, hair stood on end. In this huge building of a thousand rooms
we were to spend a solitary night. It was appalling. As the monk led the
way passages and staircases seemed endless: a labyrinth of bricks and
mortar. Should we survive it: or, surviving, find a way out again?

[Illustration: A FEW OF THE GIPSIES AT MONTSERRAT.]

At last our rooms. Small candles were lighted that made darkness
visible. We should manage to see the outline of the ghosts that appeared
and no more. The little monk skipped away, wishing us pleasant dreams.
Pleasant dreams! Never but once before--and that in the fair island of
Majorca--did we spend such a night of weird experiences. If we fell
asleep for a moment our dreams were troubled. We awoke with a start,
feeling the very thinnest veil separated us from the unseen. The
corridors were full of mysterious sounds: our own particular room was
full of sighs. Ghostly hands seemed to pass within an inch of our face,
freezing us with an icy cold wind that never came from Arctic regions.
Once we were persuaded an unearthly form stood near us; to this day we
think it. We were wide awake, and when we sat up it was still there. The
form of a monk in cloak and cowl. A strange phosphoric light seemed to
emanate from it, making it distinctly visible. The face was pale, sad
and hopeless. Large dark eyes were full of an agony of sorrow and
disappointment. It was evidently the ghost of a monk who had repented
his vows and learned too late that even a convent cell cannot bring
peace to the soul. A strange thrill passed through us as we gazed, yet
of fear or terrors we felt nothing. The sadness and beauty of the face
held us spell-bound. We found courage to address it. "Spirit of the dead
and gone, wherefore art thou here? Why wander in this unrest? Can we do
aught to ease thee of thy burden? Will our earthly prayers and sympathy
avail thee in thy land of shadows?"

No doubt there was a slight suspicion of rhythm in the words that would
have become H. C. rather than our more sober temperament; but they came
of their own accord, and we did not wait to turn them into better prose.
We listened and longed for a reply, but none came. Nothing but a
deep-drawn sigh more expressive of sorrow than all the words that ever
were coined. The singular part of it was that whilst the apparition was
visible, all the mysterious sounds and echoes in the passages ceased,
and began again when it disappeared.

As disappear it did. No word was spoken; no sign was made. For one
instant a mad thought had passed through our brain that perhaps it was
about to conduct us to some buried treasure: some Aladdin's lamp, whose
possession should make us richer than Solomon, more powerful than the
kings of the earth. But the strange light grew faint, the outlines
shadowy, until all faded into thin air. The room was once more empty;
and we held no treasure. It was a long and troubled night. Rest we had
none. Yet next morning H. C.--whose poetical temperament should have
made him susceptible to all these influences--informed us that he had
slept the dreamless sleep of the just. He had heard and seen nothing.
This seemed unfair, and was not an equal division of labour.

Before daylight we were up and ready for our pilgrimage. It required
some courage to turn out, for the world was still wrapped in Egyptian
darkness. In the east as yet there was not the faintest glimmer of dawn.
In the house itself a ghostly silence still reigned. Apparently
throughout the little settlement not a soul stirred. Nevertheless it was
the end of the night, and before we were ready to sally forth there were
evidences of a waking world. We went down through the dark passages
carrying a light, which flickered and flared and threw weird shadows
around.

We opened the door and passed out into the clear, cold morning. The
stars still shone in the dark blue sky. Through the gloom, passing out
of the quadrangle, we discerned a mysterious figure approaching: a
cowled monk with silent footstep. It was Salvador, true to his word.

"We are both punctual," he said, joining us. "I think the morning will
be all we could desire."

It had been arranged that breakfast should be ready at the restaurant.
Salvador had refused to dine with us, he did not refuse breakfast. The
meal was taken by candle-light, and he added much to the romance of the
scene as he threw back his cowl, his well-formed head and pale, refined
face gaining softness and beauty in the subdued artificial light.
Salvador had the square forehead of the musician, but eyes and mouth
showed a certain weakness of purpose, betraying a man easily influenced
by those he cared for, or by a stronger will than his own. Perhaps,
after all, he had done wisely to withdraw from temptation.

This morning his monkish reticence fell from him; he came out of his
shell, and proved an agreeable companion with a great power to charm.
Once more for a short time he seemed to become a man of the world.

"You make me feel as though I had returned to life," he said. "It is
wonderful how our nature clings to us. I thought myself a monk, dead to
all past thoughts and influences; I looked upon my old life as a dream:
and here at the first touch I feel as though I could throw aside vows
and breviary and cowl and follow you into the world. Well for me perhaps
that I have not the choice given me. Why did you not leave me yesterday
to my solitude and devotions, and pass on, as others have done? You are
the first who ever stopped and spoke. To-day I feel almost as though I
were longing once more for the pleasures of the world."

[Illustration: MONS SERRATUS IN CLOUDLAND.]

We knew it was only a momentary reaction. He had the musician's highly
nervous and sensitive organisation. Our meeting had awakened long
dormant chords, memories of the past; but the effect would soon cease,
and he would go back to his monkish life and world of melody, all the
better and stronger for the momentary break in the monotony of his daily
round.

We did not linger over breakfast. At the door a mule stood ready
saddled. This also went with us in case of need. H. C. and the monk
were capable of all physical endurance. Like Don Quixote they would have
fought with windmills or slain their Goliaths. Nature had been less
kindly to us, and the mule was necessary.

It would be difficult to describe that glorious morning. When we first
started, the path was still shrouded in darkness. We carried lighted
lanterns, and Miguel, following behind with the mule, looked a weird,
picturesque object as he threw his gleams and shadows around. Our path
wound round the mountain, ever ascending. One by one the stars were
going out; in the far east the faintest glimmer was creeping above the
horizon. This gradually spread until darkness fled away and light broke.
We were high up, approaching St. Michael's chapel, when the sun rose and
the sky suddenly seemed filled with glory.

It was a scene beyond imagination. The vast world below us was shrouded
in white mist. Under the influence of the sun this gradually rolled
away, curling about the mountain in every fantastic shape and form, and
finally disappeared like a great sea sweeping itself from the earth. The
whole vast plain lay before us. Towns and villages unveiled themselves
by magic. Across the plains the Pyrenees rose in flowing undulations,
their snow-caps standing out against the blue sky. The winding river
might be traced in its course by the thin line of vapour that hung over
it like a white shroud. The whole Catalonian world, all the sea coast
from Gerona to Tarragona, came into view, with the blue waters of the
Mediterranean sleeping in the sunshine. In the far distance we thought
we discerned our lovely and beloved Majorca, and were afterwards told
this was possible.

All about us were deep, shuddering crevices, into which one scarcely
gazed for horror. Immense boulders jutted out on every hand; some of
them seeming ready to fall and shake the earth to its centre. Wild and
barren rocks gave foothold to trees and undergrowth more beautiful than
the most cultivated garden; nothing lovelier than the ferns and
wildflowers that abounded.

As the sun rose higher, warmth and brilliancy increased until the air
was full of light. We breathed a magic atmosphere.

"This is what I delight and revel in," cried Salvador the monk. "This
lifts me out of myself. It is one of the glories of Spain, and makes me
feel a new being with one foot on earth and one in heaven. Can you
wonder that I should like to inhabit yonder cave? Day by day I should
watch the sun rise and the sun set, all the hours between given to
happiness and contemplation. As I look on at these effects of nature my
soul seems to go out in a great apocalypse of melody. The air is filled
with celestial music. Yet no doubt our Principal is right, and in the
end the influence would not be good for me. I am a strange
contradiction. There are moments when I feel that I could go back to the
world and take my place and play my part in all its rush and excitement;
other moments when I could welcome the solitude of the desert, the
repose of the grave."

It was almost impossible to turn away from the scene, undoubtedly one of
the great panoramas of the world. Here, indeed, we seemed to gaze upon
all its kingdoms and glories. Without the least desire to become
hermits, we would willingly have spent days upon the mountain. As that
could not be we presently commenced our long descent, winding about the
mountain paths, gathering specimens of rare wildflowers, and gazing upon
the world below. We made many a halt, rested in many a friendly and
verdant nook, and took in many an impression never to be forgotten. On
returning to the settlement we felt we had been to a new world where
angels walked unseen. It was difficult to come back to the lower levels
of life. We had quite an affection for our patient mule, that looked at
us out of its gentle eyes as though it knew quite well the service
rendered was as valued as it was freely given.

Salvador joined us at luncheon: we would not be denied.

"It is a fast-day," he said; "how can I turn it into a feast?"

"You are a traveller, and as such are permitted an indulgence."

He smiled. "It is true," he returned. "I perceive that you know
something of our rules." Nevertheless he was abstemious almost to
fasting. "And yet it has been indeed a feast compared with my daily
food," he said when it was over. "Now would you like to go into the
church and have some music? My soul is full of the melody I heard on the
mountain."

So it happened that presently we were listening to such strains as we
never shall hear again. Once more we were lifted to paradise with melody
that was more heavenly than earthly. Again his very soul seemed passing
out in music. Had he gone on for hours we should never have moved. But
it came to an end, and silence fell, and presently we had to say
farewell.

"I cannot say it," he cried in a voice slightly tremulous. "It has been
a day of days to me, never to be repeated. Another glimpse of the world,
and a final leave-taking thereof. I will never again repeat this
experience--unless you return and once more ask me to guide you up Mons
Serratus."

This was very improbable, and he knew it. He grasped our hand in
silence, essayed to speak, but the farewell words died unuttered. Then
he silently turned, drew up his cowl and left us for ever. We watched
him disappear within the shadows of the church, heard a distant door
closed, and knew that in a moment he would have regained the solitude of
his cell.

We went back to the world. As we crossed the quadrangle the little lay
brother who had first received us caught sight of and skipped towards
us.

"Welcome to Montserrat. I am most happy to see you," he cried. "So you
have been to the top of the mountain to see the sun rise. And our good
Salvador has been your guide. He is lucky to get so many indulgences,
but he deserves them. What would the school do without him?--lose half
its pupils. And what would the convent do without the school?--starve.
Did you sleep comfortably in your beautiful rooms?"

We thought it hardly worth while to relate our ghostly visitations, and
left him with the impression that, like H. C., we had slept the sleep of
the just.

"And now you are going back to Barcelona," he said. "Well, there is
nothing more to be seen. After looking upon the beautiful black Virgin
and sunrise from St. Michael's chapel, you may depart in peace."

And in peace we departed when the time came, wondering whether we should
ever again look upon this little world and listen to the divine
harmonies of Salvador of Montserrat.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A STUDY IN GREY.

     Manresa--Tropical deluge--Rash judgment--Catalan hills and
     valleys--Striking approach--Taking time by the forelock--Primitive
     inn--Strange assembly--Unpleasant alternative--Sebastien--Manresa
     under a cloud--Wonderful outlines--Disappointing church--Sebastien
     leads the way--Old-world streets--Picturesque and pathetic--Popular
     character--"What would you, señor?"--Sebastien's Biblical knowledge
     at fault--Lesson deferred--A revelation--La Seo--Church cold and
     lifeless--Cave of Ignatius Loyola--Hermitage of St. Dismas--Juan
     Chanones--Fasting and penance--Visions and revelations--Spiritual
     warfare--Eve of the Annunciation--Exchanging dresses--Knight turns
     monk--Juan Pascual--Loyola comes to Manresa--Fanaticism--Vale of
     Paradise--"Spiritual Exercises"--Founding the Jesuit Order--Dying
     to self--The fair Anita--In the convent chapel--Two novices--Vision
     of angels--The White Ladies--Agonising moment--Another Romeo and
     Juliet--Back to the hotel--Sebastien disconsolate--"To-morrow the
     sun will shine"--Building castles in the air--A prophecy fulfilled.


Only a few miles from Montserrat and within sight of some of its
mountain peaks, you find the wonderful old town of Manresa. Thither we
wended our way one gloomy morning.

From the skies came a constant downpour of almost tropical rain. We were
well sheltered and comfortably housed in Barcelona, but H. C. declared
Joseph's friend was a true prophet after all, the rainy season had set
in, and if we waited for the weather, we might wait for ever.

Acting upon this rash judgment we departed under lowering skies. Water
ran down the streets like small rivers, and the omnibus waded to the
station.

"Such days have their beauty," said H. C. in his best artistic style.
"The effect of atmosphere is very fine. And after all we are not made of
sugar."

"We need be to bear this infliction calmly," was the reply; a sarcasm
lost upon H. C. who was diligently studying the clouds.

The very train seemed to struggle against the elements as it made way
through the Catalan hills and valleys, and we certainly acknowledged a
peculiar charm as we saw them half veiled through the mist and the rain
that yet was distinctly depressing. On nearing Manresa, it lightened a
little: the clouds lifted and the rain ceased, but only for a short
respite.

Nothing could be more striking than the approach to the old town.
Perched on a hill, outlined against the grey sky was the famous old
cathedral, rising upwards like a vision. Far down at the foot of the
hill ran the rapid river, winding through the country between deep
banks. A splendid old bridge added much to the impressive scene, about
which there was a wildness that seemed very much in harmony with the
grey and gloomy skies.

As we crossed the bridge outside the railway station, a young man, well
built, handsome, with a fresh colour and honest face, came up and
offered to bring us a carriage or personally conduct us to the hotel.
Few people visit Manresa; omnibuses are unknown, and carriages only come
out when ordered. We chose to walk, in spite of the rain, which was
coming down again with vengeance. The services of the guide were
accepted, and we soon found that he filled the important office of
general factotum to the hotel.

"Ah, señor," taking us into his confidence in the first five minutes,
"if you would only petition the padrone in my favour and get him to
promote me to the dining-room! As it is, I fetch and carry all day long
and scarcely earn money enough to pay for the boots I wear out."

We certainly thought no time was being lost in enlisting our sympathies,
and mildly suggested the padrone might not thank us for meddling with
his own affairs.

The streets were very steep, stony and winding. Water streamed from the
houses and ran down the hills, and the place altogether looked very
hope-forsaken, for it especially needed sunshine. Yet in spite of all we
found it very interesting, and its situation is so striking that it
could never be otherwise. We waded on and thought the rain would never
cease or the walk ever end.

At last the inn, which would hardly have been found without our guide.
He pointed to it with pride, but we could not rise to the sentiment.
The entrance was small, and we soon found ourselves mounting a narrow
wooden staircase which had neither the fashion of Barcelona nor the
dignity of Gerona. The first landing opened to a long low room of many
windows, looking old enough to have seen the birth and death of many a
century. This was given over to the servants of the house, and the
humbler folk whose rank entitled them to a place below the salt. They
were seated at round tables--but certainly were not knights--in
detachments of eight or ten, and their boisterous manners and loud
voices kept us at a respectful distance, without any desire for a nearer
approach. For ourselves, we had to go a stage higher in the world,
represented by the second floor. Here we found the quality at
breakfast--the substantial mid-day meal: a worthy crew hardly a degree
better than those we had just interviewed. They proved, indeed, the
roughest specimens we had yet met in Catalonia: an assemblage of small
farmers, pedlars and horse-dealers. Had the landlord added
house-breakers to his list, one or two might have answered to the
description.

But as travelling, like adversity, makes us acquainted with strange
companions, and we cannot always choose our types, we sat down to table
with a good grace. The only alternative was to fast, a penance in which
H. C. had no faith whatever. To-day this motley assemblage seemed
peculiarly objectionable, without any of the redeeming points such
people often have: honest, straightforward speech, directness of purpose
and modesty of manner which are a certain substitute for cultivation,
and atone for the want of breeding. Nothing of this was perceptible
to-day.

The room like the one beneath was long and low, but lighted only by one
window at the end, so that we were in a semi-obscurity still further
increased by the weeping skies. A redeeming feature was the civility of
the inn people, a fault their slowness. To make matters worse, the food
was coarse and ill-served, and we had to pass almost everything. Long
before déjeuner came to an end we left them to it and went forth to
explore. We had very little time to spare, having arranged not to spend
the night in Manresa: a lucky arrangement on our part, for picturesque
and striking as the place really is, its resources are soon exhausted. A
wet evening in such an inn would have landed one in the profoundest
depths of melancholy.

On leaving the table we found that for the moment the rain had ceased.
Our guide evidently thought it his duty to look after us, and no sooner
caught sight of us as we passed downwards than he sprang up, leaving
upon his plate a delicious piece of _black-pudding_. In vain we offered
to wait whilst he finished his bonne-bouche. "You are very good, señor,
but it is not necessary," he replied. "I am very fond of black-pudding,
but this was my third helping, and really I have had enough."

This seemed probable. "Apparently the supply equals the demand," we
said. "You must have a liberal master in the landlord of the inn."

"Yes, that is true," returned Sebastien--for such he soon told us was
his name. "But we only have black-pudding once a week, and we ought to
have it twice. We are agitating for it now, and as the padrone knows the
value of a good servant I expect we shall get it."

Sebastien would not leave us again and became our shadow, sublimely
indifferent to the rain which every now and then came down in
waterspouts. To this day we feel that we saw Manresa under a cloud. It
was a study in grey; and if we paid it another visit in sunshine we
should probably not know it again. For this H. C. was responsible in
preaching up his rainy season: the true fact being that the next day and
for ever after we had blue skies and cloudless sunshine.

Manresa is rich in outlines. Its church towers stand out conspicuously
on the summit of the rock on whose slopes much of the town is built. On
leaving the inn we saw before us one of the old churches standing in
solemn repose, grey and silent above the houses. The interior proved
uninteresting in spite of the nave, wide after the manner of the Catalan
churches. Sebastien thought every moment spent here waste of time. "It
is cold and ugly," he declared, constituting himself a judge--and
perhaps not far wrong. "It makes me shiver. But when the altar is
lighted up on a Sunday evening, and the place is full of people, and the
organ plays, and the priest gives the Benediction, then it is passable."

We felt inclined to agree with him, and wished we could see the effect
of a Benediction service, but as this was not possible we left the
church to its silent gloom and shadows, Sebastien cheerfully leading the
way.

[Illustration: MANRESA.]

The streets, decayed and old-world looking, had a wonderfully
picturesque and pathetic element about them, and on a bright day would
have been full of charm. A canal ran through one of them, spanned by a
picturesque single-arch stone bridge. On each side the houses rose out
of the water, reminding one of Gerona or a Venetian street; handsome,
palatial, full of interesting detail; a multitude of balconies, many of
rich wrought ironwork; many a Gothic window with deep mullions; many an
overhanging casement, from which you might have dropped into the running
stream. Waterspouts stood out like gargoyles, and slanting tiled roofs
were full of colouring. Towering above these rose a lovely church
tower, splendid with Gothic windows, rich ornamentation and an openwork
parapet, with a small round turret at one corner.

We stood long on the bridge, gazing at the wonderful scene, all its
infinite detail and harmony of effect; the deep shadows reflected in the
dark water which needed so much the blue sky and laughing sunshine. It
was evident that Sebastien could not understand what kept us
spell-bound. He stood by in patience, now looking intently as though
trying to learn what was passing in our minds, now directing his
attention to the water and the houses, as though to guess the secret of
their fascination. Apparently he was hail-fellow-well-met with every one
in the town--that dangerous element, a popular character; for not a
creature passed us, man or woman, youth or maiden, but he had something
to say to them.

"You seem to know every one, Sebastien," we remarked, as we took our
kodak out of the case he had slung over his shoulder, in the wish to
carry away with us some of these splendid outlines.

"What would you, señor? The town is not large, the inhabitants do not
change, and I was born and bred here. I am fond of company, and make
friends with them all. I wanted to be a soldier and go out and see the
world, but they said my sight was not strong enough, and they would not
have me; so I turned to and took service in the hotel. I am comfortable
enough, and just earn my living, without a trifle over for the old
mother, but I don't see much prospect of rising unless I am promoted to
the dining-room."

"Your eyes look quite strong," we said; large blue eyes, bright and
clear, without a sign of weakness about them.

[Illustration: MANRESA FROM THE RIVER: MORNING.]

"They are as strong as yours, señor--if I may say so without offence. I
never could make out what they meant. Sometimes I have thought my old
mother was at the bottom of it, and because I was her only child, went
to the authorities and begged them to spare me. I don't _know_ that she
did, but I have my suspicions. One day I taxed her with it point-blank.
She was very confused for a moment, and then told me not to be
foolish--the authorities wouldn't pay attention to such as her, even if
she had gone to them. I'm not so sure of that. It is well known the old
mother has seen better days, and when she goes out dressed in her
best, with her black lace mantilla over her head, which she has had ever
since she was a young woman, why, she commands respect, and I can quite
believe the authorities would listen to her."

"Why not try again with those eyes of yours?" we suggested. "You cannot
be more than nineteen."

"Not more than nineteen!" returned Sebastien, opening the said eyes very
wide. "Why, señor, I am twenty-three, going on for twenty-four. I know I
look young, and do what I will I can't help it, and can't make myself
look any older. I have tried hard to grow a moustache, but it is only
just beginning to sprout."

He laughed, and we laughed with him, for the down upon his upper lip was
of the most elementary description. He looked youthful in every way, but
we cheered him with the reflection that it was a fault time would
inevitably rectify.

"I have one consolation," he said. "At the fonda I get as much
black-pudding as I want--once a week; in the army they don't give
black-pudding at all. So if I have lost something, I have gained
something too."

"Sebastien, we are ashamed of you! Would you sacrifice your birthright
for a mess of pottage?"

"What does the señor mean?" asked Sebastien, looking puzzled.

"Have you never heard of Esau?"

"Never, señor. Was he a Spaniard or an Englishman? And was he, too, fond
of black-pudding?"

It was impossible to help laughing; but we passed over the question,
feeling that a course of Bible history begun on the bridge would come to
an untimely end. So we left him to his ignorance and his preference for
black-pudding, passed away from the canal, the old bridge and ancient
outlines, and climbed about the steep decayed streets. The rain poured
through the water-spouts, and every now and then we came in for an
unwelcome shower-bath. This highly amused Sebastien, who never enjoyed
the fun more than when he himself was victim.

Suddenly we found ourselves confronted by one of those views which come
upon one as a revelation of what nature sometimes accomplishes. We had
seen nothing equal to it, nothing to resemble it since the days of
Segovia. In sunshine the likeness might have been still more striking.

We had passed by a steep descent into the lower part of the town and
stood upon the hill side. To our right rose the great collegiate church
of La Seo, crowning a massive and majestic rock. Houses stretched far
down the slopes, and the church rose above them in magnificent outlines.
It was built of yellow greystone that harmonised wonderfully with the
grey skies. For the time being these had ceased to weep, and everything
was bathed in a thin mist, which rolled and curled about and threw a
wonderful romance and glamour over the scene, especially refining and
beautifying.

Still below us, on the left, ran the broad river, with its dark, almost
blood-red waters flowing swiftly under the high, picturesque bridge. We
traced its winding course between deep banks far out into the country;
just as we had traced it from the heights of Montserrat, not far off as
the eagle flew. Here too everything was veiled in a thin mist.

The rock on which the church stood consisted of a series of hollows,
where grew lovely hanging gardens and flowering trees. The church with
its striking outlines looked massive enough to defy the ages. It was of
the true fourteenth century Catalan type, and took the place of a church
that had existed here in the tenth century. Its buttresses are
especially large and prominent. The lofty tower stands over the north
aisle. Four arched stone ribs crown the steeple, within which a bell is
suspended. A fine Romanesque doorway leads into the modern uninteresting
cloister. Other fine doorways lead into the interior of the church. Its
great size, high and wide, is impressive, but the details are trivial.
The capitals of the enormous octagonal columns are poor, and the arches
they support, thin and almost contemptible, take immensely from the
general effect.

Here also, there was no need to remain long. With the charms of
Barcelona cathedral lingering in the mind as a dream and a world's
wonder, the collegiate church of Manresa, with all its loftiness and
expanse, was cold and lifeless, without sense of beauty or devotion. In
its striking situation lies the chief merit of the town.

[Illustration: MANRESA FROM THE HILL-SIDE: EVENING.]

We went down the banks, stood on the shallows and watched the deep red
waters rushing through the bridge. Beyond it was a slight fall over
which the waters poured in a crimson stream. Near the bridge stood a
large, ancient crucifix. On the farther bank of the river rose the
outlines of the Cave of Ignatius Loyola. Above the cave has now been
built a great church, and the cave itself, reached by a short passage in
its north-east corner, has been turned into a votive chapel, to which
pilgrims flock at stated times.

Manresa is of course for ever associated with the name of Loyola. He had
been staying some time at the Monastery of Montserrat, preparing his
mind for the great change he intended to make in his life. As he
wandered about the mountain in his cavalier's dress, he must have looked
far more fitted to lead an army than to become a member of the Church
militant.

One of his most frequent visits was to the Hermitage of St. Dismas, high
up amongst the rocks. Here dwelt a saintly priest, Juan Chanones, who
gave Loyola much holy counsel. It must needs be that Loyola earnestly
weighed the cost of what he contemplated; impossible but there were
moments when the tempter placed before him in the strongest colours
imaginable the allurements of the life he was renouncing. When the final
die was cast there must be no turning back, no lingering regrets. Loyola
was one of the last men to be vacillating or lukewarm; with him it was
ever one thing or the other; and so in the quiet monastery, far out of
the world, he considered well his decision.

Chanones was the very man for such a crisis. The hermit was one who
imposed upon himself every possible penance. He fasted, wore a hair
shirt, and spent many hours of the twenty-four in long prayers and
devotions. Loyola had begun by confessing to him the whole of his past
life, and confiding his hopes and aspirations for the future: how he
wished to become a monk and devote his days to religion. He was already
a mystic, full of ecstasies, seeing visions and dreaming dreams.
Chanones strengthened his resolutions and fired him yet more with the
spirit of mysticism.

Under his influence, the night before leaving the monastery he hung up
his sword and dagger beside the image of the Virgin as a sort of votive
offering, declaring that henceforth he had done with the world and with
wars. His only warfare should be spiritual: fighting against the powers
of darkness and the influence of evil. He spent the whole night in
prayer before the altar; where according to his mystic moods, visions
and revelations had been vouchsafed to him.

But earlier in the evening a slight event had happened.

It was the eve of the Annunciation, in the year 1522. Loyola had come
down from the hermit's cave dressed in the rich garb of a cavalier which
as yet he had not thrown off. In the Hospederia of the monastery were
many poor pilgrims; beggars dressed in rags. Meeting one of these,
Loyola persuaded him to exchange his rags for his own splendid dress.
Disguised in his sackcloth gown and girdle, few would have recognised
the once magnificent knight. His head, accustomed to a helmet, was now
bare. His left foot was unshod, on his right he wore a sandal of grass.
He was lame from that wound in his leg which had been the turning-point
of his career. Never perfectly healed, of late it had become inflamed
and painful. In this garb he spent his last night at Montserrat.

Next morning he went forth at daybreak with a few companions, one of
whom was Juan Pascual. They had not proceeded many miles before they
were overtaken by a hasty messenger who asked Loyola if it was he who
had presented a beggar with the rich dress of a cavalier. The story had
been doubted and the man put into confinement. Loyola declared that it
was true, lamented the trouble he had brought upon the beggar, and
prayed he might be liberated; adding that he had made the exchange from
motives of penance and religion, as well as disguise. The messenger
returned to the convent, and the little band of pilgrims continued on
their way.

They journeyed slowly, but the distance was not great. At noon they were
overtaken by the mother of Pascual, who in company with others, was
returning from celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation at Montserrat.
This lady, Inez, directed him to the hospital of Santa Lucia, where he
would obtain relief for his leg, which threatened to become troublesome
if not dangerous. Inez quickly discovered that Loyola was no ordinary
pilgrim, and supplied him with food from her own table during the five
days he remained in the hospital.

The day after his arrival he went up to the great church of La Seo, and
remained in prayer for five hours, seeking direction for his movements.
At the end of five days he left the hospital for a room found him by
Inez. Here he at once adopted that spirit of fasting and penance which
knew no moderation and with him became fanaticism. The food sent by Inez
he gave away, and lived upon black bread and water. He constantly went
bare-headed and bare-footed, wore a hair shirt like Chanones, and
occasionally added to his sufferings by putting on a girdle made of the
leaves of the prickly gladiole. He neglected himself in every way, never
cutting his nails or combing his hair and beard; so that he who had once
been the most fastidious of cavaliers now became a byword to those who
met him and gazed in contempt and derision. He spent much time at the
hospital nursing the sick, devoting himself to the most forbidding
cases.

This life continued for four months, and then he withdrew to the cave
which he declared had been miraculously revealed to him. It overlooked a
valley called by the people the Vale of Paradise, and its existence was
known to few.

The cave was dark and small and belonged to a friend of Loyola's who
lived to be a century old. Here he existed in great seclusion, spending
seven hours of every day in prayer, and often remaining on his knees all
night. It was here that he chiefly composed his "Spiritual Exercises,"
which contain so much beauty and devotion. Here also came to him the
first idea of the Order of Jesus, which he afterwards founded. But it
must be remarked that the Jesuit Society as framed by Ignatius Loyola
was a more simple and unworldy institution than it afterwards became.
His own rules seem to have been very pure and without guile or worldly
ambition; his mind embraced only heaven and the things which concerned
heaven. If Loyola were to return to earth, he would be the first to
condemn many of its principles and practices and to say: "These are none
of mine."

That he became spiritual as perhaps has been given to few cannot be
doubted by any one who had read his writings and studied his life. We
of another creed cannot be in touch with him on many points, but all
must profoundly admire his absolute death to self, the perfect
resignation of all his thoughts and wishes to the Divine guidance.

In Manresa, we have said that his penances amounted to fanaticism. His
prayers and fastings so weakened the body, that frequently for hours and
sometimes for days he would lose consciousness, and fall into death-like
swoons. He retired to his cave and was tormented by a morbid
recollection of his past sins. For many months he was filled with horror
and knew nothing of peace of mind or spiritual consolation. He was
haunted by terrible voices and visions; and it was only after body and
soul had, as it were, been torn asunder, and he had gone through all the
agonies of a living spiritual death, that at last peace and light, the
certainty of pardon and the Divine favour, came to him.

After that his past life seems to have been placed behind him and knew
him no more. He became a teacher of men; a great spiritual healer in
whom the heavy-laden found comfort and encouragement; a profound reader
of the human heart, to which he never ministered in vain. Perhaps one of
his greatest weapons was humility, by which he placed himself on a level
with all who came to him, and which enabled him to apply in the right
way all the deep and earnest sympathy that was in him.

His visions, the voices he heard, the so-called miracles he witnessed,
were no doubt delusions due to the highly wrought imagination and
ecstatic state of the mystic; but with Loyola they did not end here.
They bore fruit. He was practical as well as theoretical: and dead as he
became to self, a little of the sensible, matter-of-fact discipline of
his early training must have clung to him to the last. His after life
was full of activity and action. It would be difficult to say where he
did not go, what countries he did not visit with practical issues, in
days when men could not easily run to and fro on the earth as they do
now.

Loyola died as he had lived, full of faith and hope. He had caught the
malarial fever in Rome, and was not strong enough to fight against it.
In August, 1556, the end came, when he was sixty-five years old; but in
everything except years he might have gone through a century of time.
His physical powers were worn out with hard work and abstinence; and
perhaps the greatest miracle in connection with Ignatius Loyola was the
fact that he lived long after the vital forces should have ceased to
hold together. After his death the doctors found it impossible to
discover what power had kept him alive during his later years, but
agreed that it was nothing less than supernatural.

Thus Manresa is for ever connected with the name and fame of Ignatius
Loyola the saint.

       *       *       *       *       *

Crossing the bridge and winding through a very ancient and dilapidated
part of the town, we presently reached the church, which struck us as
being new and gaudy, with very little to recommend it. But we had come
to see what had once been the cave, and wished we could have found it in
its original state. Certainly the saint himself would never recognise it
as the old earthy cavern, nine feet by six, whose mouth was concealed by
brier bushes, and where he was wont to pass long days and nights in
prayer and penance. The walls are now lined with marble; a light burns
before the altar; some poor sculpture represents Loyola writing his book
and performing his first miracle.

The view from his cave must have been magnificent even in his day. There
in front of him ran the famous river, and there stood the old bridge.
Beyond it rose the rock with its hollows and gardens; and towering above
were the splendid outlines of the collegiate church. Beyond all in the
distance rose the chain of the Pyrenees, undulating and snow-capped;
whilst in one distant spot, standing alone, cleaving the sky with their
sharp outlines, appeared the peaks and pinnacles of Mons Serratus; the
monastery resting half way down on its plateau, far more beautiful and
perfect than it is to-day. Upon this the hermit Loyola--as he might at
that time be called--would fix his eyes for hours day after day, seeking
inspiration for his "Exercises," perhaps occasionally dreaming of the
days when he still wore his cavalier's dress, and had not yet renounced
all the pomps and vanities of the world. But as we have said, he was not
a man of two minds; having put his hand to the plough, as far as we
know he never turned back even with the faintest regret or longing for
the pleasures deliberately placed from him.

Sebastien our guide was evidently a good Catholic, having a great
reverence for Loyola, with whom he was more familiar than with Esau. He
watched us narrowly as we entered the chapel, and was evidently
disappointed at the little impression made upon us: expecting a
drop-down-deadness of manner, when we stood before the effigy of the
saint, which unfortunately only excited a feeling of irritation at the
badness of its workmanship.

So we were not sorry to find ourselves once more under the skies, dark
and lowering though they were. Here indeed the magnificent view, the
splendid outlines of Manresa, all slightly veiled in that charming mist,
might well appeal to all one's sense of the beautiful and the sublime,
and raise emotions the poor votive chapel could never inspire.

As we went back into the town, for the moment it seemed very much
haunted by the presence of Loyola. Passing a picturesque little house in
the centre of a small garden, Sebastien suddenly stopped in front of it
and gave a peculiar call, whilst a flush of expectation rose to his
face. Surprised at the movement we waited for the sequel. This quickly
followed in the opening of a casement, at which appeared the charming
head of a young woman.

"Sebastien!" she cried, clasping her hands in ecstasy. "Have you come to
see me?"

"Yes, since I see you now," returned Sebastien. "But I cannot come in,
Anita. I am guiding these gentlemen through the town, and have to show
them everything; they would be lost without me. We have just been to the
chapel of the saint, where I said a short prayer for our speedy
marriage. Ah! when will it be?"

"Patience, patience!" cried the fair Anita. "I am getting on well, and
you must make el padrone advance you to the dining-room. Oh, it will all
come right. Then we are both young and can afford to wait."

We thought it a pity so interesting a conversation should be carried on
in a public thoroughfare, and at a tantalising distance, and offered
Sebastien five minutes' interval if he liked to go in and pay his
respects to his ladye-love. But he declined, and wafting a warm salute
to the fair vision of the casement, intimated he was again at our
service.

"She is the sweetest girl in Manresa," said Sebastien quite openly, "and
I am a lucky fellow to have won her. Unfortunately we are both poor. But
Anita is with a dressmaker, and will soon be able to start on her own
account: we shall not have much difficulty in getting on, if the padrone
will only advance me--as indeed I deserve."

We congratulated Sebastien upon his good fortune and wished him
promotion and success: and looking at his straight-forward open face, so
singularly free from guile, we thought the fair Anita was by no means to
be condoled with, however humble their prospects.

Then we made way into the upper part of the town, and presently
Sebastien turned into a chapel attached to a convent.

It was a small building of no pretension, but with a marvellous repose
and quietness about it. A screen divided the body of the church from the
altar, and immediately before the altar, separated from us by the
screen, was a strange and striking vision.

Two young girls who might have been some eighteen years old, knelt side
by side at the foot of the steps, motionless as carven images and
dressed in white. Their veils were thrown back, but their faces, turned
towards the altar, were invisible. Their posture was full of grace, and
their dress, whether by accident or design, was becomingly arranged and
fell in artistic folds. All the time we looked they moved neither hand
nor foot, and might have been, as we have said, carved in stone. We
almost felt as though gazing upon a vision of angels, so wonderfully did
the light fall upon them as they knelt: whilst in the body of the church
we were in semi-obscurity.

Presently a bell tinkled, a side door opened, and two other young girls
very much of the same age and dressed in exactly the same way, entered.
The two at the altar rose, made deep, graceful curtsies, and veiling
their faces, passed out of the chapel. Those who entered at once threw
back their veils. In the obscurity we were not observed. We had full
view of their charming faces, far too charming to become the nuns for
which Sebastien said they were qualifying.

"They are White Ladies," he whispered, "and very soon will be cloistered
and never see the world again. It is enough to break one's heart."

"You don't approve, Sebastien?"

"Ah, señor, I shudder at the thought. It occurs to me what a terrible
thing it would be if Anita were to turn nun instead of becoming my happy
wife--at least I shall do all I can to make her happy. But these poor
girls--think for a moment of the humdrum life they are taking up;
nothing to look forward to; no change, no pleasure of any sort. They
might as well be buried alive at once and put out of their misery."

As the door opened to admit the two novices--if novices they were--we
had caught sight of others in the passage; some eight or ten, as we
fancied. An elderly nun, equally dressed in white, was going amongst
them, almost, as it seemed, in the act of benediction. She was evidently
counselling, encouraging, fortifying those to whom she ministered. One
might have thought that passing through that doorway was renouncing an
old life and taking up a new one; an irrevocable step and choice from
which there was no recall and no turning back.

H. C. was taken with a lump in his throat as the young fair women
unveiled and moved towards the altar. One of them was certainly very
beautiful. Large wistful blue eyes stood out in contrast with the ivory
pallor of her oval face, than which the spotless veil was not more pure
and chaste.

It was too much for H. C.'s equanimity. He coughed and betrayed himself.

She turned hurriedly; and seeing a face that corresponded to her own in
pallor, and eyes that were quite as wistful, gave him an appealing,
imploring glance which seemed to say that she would be saved from her
present fate.

For an instant we trembled. The case was so hopeless. There was the
dividing screen. There was the nun on guard beyond the closed door.
There was the drenching rain outside. An escape in a deluge would not
have been romantic--and where could they escape to? It was one of those
agonising moments of helplessness that sometimes drive men insane.

H. C. grasped the screen. There was an instant when we thought he would
have torn it down come what might. He looked reckless and desperate and
miserable. Then we placed our hand on his arm as we had done that night
at the opera in Gerona, and he calmed down.

We turned to leave the chapel. As we did so, a louder bell rang out, the
door opened, and in walked the Mother-Superior at the head of her little
army of novices.

They quickly grouped themselves round the altar, moved in utter silence
like phantoms and subsided into graceful attitudes, apparently absorbed
in devotion. The sight was as charming as it was painful: for who could
say how many of these young girls were voluntarily renouncing the world,
or in the least realised what they were doing?

Before passing out we gave a last look at this angelic vision. Quiet as
we were we did not move exactly like phantoms. The meaning of our slight
stir penetrated beyond the screen. It was too great a temptation for the
fair young novice we have described. She felt that her last hope was
dissolving, and she turned towards H. C. with a gaze that would have
moved a stone.

Fortunately his eyes were buried in his handkerchief, or it is certain
that we should never have left the chapel in the state in which we found
it. The screen would have gone; the Mother-Superior defied, there would
have been rout and consternation, the alarm bell rung, and perhaps--who
knows?--a priest would have appeared upon the scene and married this
romantic Romeo and Juliet. The novices would have turned into
bridesmaids, and the Mother-Superior have given away her spiritual
daughter. A lovely transformation scene indeed! Slighter currents have
before now changed the course of nations.

The door closed upon us without tragic event or catastrophe. Through the
deluge we waded to the hotel.

The long dining-room was now empty. The waiter brought us coffee and
cognac, ordered to restore H. C.'s nervous system; we paid our bill,
which was by no means as modest as the pretensions of the inn; and under
the faithful and unfailing pilotage of Sebastien, departed for the
railway station. The poor fellow looked melancholy.

"Oh, señor, I wish you were going to stay a week," he cried. "I did hope
you would be here for at least four days."

"The fates forbid!"--horrified at the bare thought. "A week here in such
weather would make one desperate, Sebastien. Remember that we have no
fair Anita to turn all our thistles to roses, dull streets into a
paradise."

Sebastien sighed. "To-morrow the sun will shine, señor. You would not
know Manresa again under a blue sky."

"But our poet friend declares the rainy season has begun. This deluge is
to last many days, if not weeks, Sebastien."

"It is a mistake," said Sebastien. "We have no rainy season. You will
see that to-morrow there will be no rain, no clouds. Then if you had
stayed, I am sure you would have spoken to the padrone for me, and got
him to promote me to the dining-room. And then we could have been
married."

Sebastien, like everyone else, was building his castles and dreaming his
dreams; and it certainly caused us a slight regret that we could not
help to lay them on a solid foundation. All we could do was to give him
our best wishes, and tell him that if sufficiently earnest and
persevering he would certainly gain the desire of his heart. It only
depended on himself.

This prophecy seemed to inspire him with hope and courage; and our last
reminiscence of Manresa was that of a young man, strong, handsome, fresh
coloured, standing hat in hand on the platform, and begging us "with
tears in his voice" to stay at least two days in Manresa the next time
we passed that way and formally petition the landlord in a deputation of
one for his promotion.[B]



CHAPTER XIX.

LERIDA.

     Picturesque country--Approaching Lerida--Rambling inn--Remarkable
     duenna--Toothless and voiceless--Smiles upon H. C.--Nearly
     expires--Civilised chef--A procession--Lerida Dragon--City of the
     dead--Night study--Charging dead walls--A night encounter--Armed
     demon--Wise people--Watchman proves an old friend--No
     promotion--Locked out--Rousing the echoes--Night porter appears on
     the scene--Also El Sereno--Apologetic and repentant--The charming
     Rose--Porter congratulates himself--Cloudless morning--H. C.
     confronted by the Dragon--In the hands of the Philistines--A Lerida
     fine art--Boot-cleaner in Ordinary--Remarkable character--H. C.
     hilarious--Steals a march.


No sooner had we left Manresa than the rain ceased, and though the sky
remained grey, the clouds lifted.

As far as Cervera the country we passed through was evidently
picturesque, and only wanted the contrast of sun and shade to make it
charming. Conspicuous amidst the landscape for many and many a long mile
was the wonderful mountain of Montserrat with its peaks and pinnacles,
about which the white mists still rolled and wrapped themselves. The
scenery was diversified by many a wide ravine, where tangled bushes grew
over the hard rock; many a fertile vale rich in fruit trees, pines,
olives, oak and cork trees, intermixed their various shades of green.
Beyond Cervera, the country was cold and barren and abounded in
rock-strewn plains, to which the grey skies gave a still more sad and
sombre tone. We approached Lerida when the shades of night were falling,
and could just discern its grand outlines rising out of the great plain.
These seemed to yield in interest only to Manresa, whilst the town
itself proved far more attractive.

We found the place sufficiently civilised to possess an omnibus, which
transported us bag and baggage to the hotel. The long straight
thoroughfare in which we found ourselves looked in the darkening night
like the fag end of a village, unfinished and unpaved; almost like the
street of some far away colonial settlement. It was wide and lined with
trees, and beyond the trees on one side, a row of large houses; amongst
them our inn; a rambling, cheerless sort of building, too new to be
peopled with ghosts or distinguished by artistic outlines. Anything more
opposite to the ghostly element could not be imagined. Still, in spite
of frightful drawbacks it was some degrees better than Manresa.

We were conducted by a curious but amiable duenna to a large lofty
sitting room with a bedroom opening on each side: evidently the state
apartments. The place looked empty and neglected, and our candles hardly
lighted the obscurity. The electric bells were all broken, and we soon
found that if we rang till doomsday no one appeared.

Our duenna was toothless and apparently voiceless, for when she opened
her capacious mouth and began to talk, no sound came forth. The mouth
worked up and down in absolute silence, and the effect was creepy and
peculiar. It almost felt as though a mummy had been galvanised into life
minus the voice. Her costume had nothing redeeming about it. An
impromptu turban placed over a shock head of hair, petticoats of the
shortest, revealing feet and ankles that would have supported a
substantial Dutch vrouw. We afterwards found she was the laundress of
the establishment, and this was the costume in which she presided at the
wash-tub. She smiled sweetly upon H. C. and her face looked like a huge,
amiable cavern. With an imagination full of the lovely face of that
young novice in Manresa, he shuddered, dropped into the furthest chair,
and begged us to complete the arrangements without him.

There was nothing to arrange, and the Dragon soon withdrew with her
cavernous smiles and voiceless words. Then from a distant corner we
heard an anxious murmur: "What about dinner?" H. C.. had not expired;
the Dragon had evidently not frightened away all earthly desires.

Fortunately dinner was forthcoming, though when we had finally settled
down and removed the stains of travel, and H. C. had recovered his
nerves, the night was growing apace. We plunged into wide passages, and
after half a dozen wrong turnings at length found ourselves in the
dining-room, large, lofty and well lighted. The chef sent up a civilised
bill of fare, and the landlord himself waited upon us; whilst under the
influence of fortifying dishes and refined wines the charms of the
Manresa novice faded into the background, and H. C. felt almost equal to
challenging the Lerida Dragon to single combat as a libel upon her sex.
We were conducted back to our rooms by quite a procession, including the
thin landlord and imposing landlady, headed by the Dragon bearing a
flambeau.

Once on our balcony, we found the night had changed for the better.
Clouds had disappeared, stars shone, the trees before us were rustling
gently in the wind, calmness and repose had fallen upon the world. It
was past ten o'clock; the place seemed still and deserted as a city of
the dead; not a sound broke the silence as we went forth for a
night-study of Lerida.

It was intensely dark. Here and there an oil lamp glimmered, making
darkness visible. Presently we found ourselves on the bridge, looking
down upon the waters of the river that runs so closely to the town as to
reflect its outlines. To-night it was too dark to reflect anything,
excepting here and there a faint track of light thrown by a distant
star. The surface was not disturbed by any sort of craft.

To the right rose the houses of the town, and above them faint and
shadowy against the night sky, the outlines of the wonderful old
cathedral, perched on its rock 300 feet above the town itself.

We tried to reach it, climbing and stumbling up the narrow ill-paved
thoroughfares, that seemed to wind and twist about like the contortions
of a snake. The darkness might be felt. There was not a solitary light
to guide our feet, and every now and then we found ourselves charging a
dead wall as Don Quixote charged the windmills.

Once H. C. plunged against the door of a low cottage, and before he
could turn round there rushed out a demon in light attire with a torrent
of hard words and a blunderbuss-sort of weapon. Fortunately for H. C. a
dog also rushed out at the moment between the man's legs, bringing him
to the ground, where he and his blunderbuss lay motionless. All the
dogs in the neighbourhood set up a howl and a bark, and the place was
fast turning to pandemonium.

We were evidently on dangerous ground, where strangers were not expected
and made welcome; doors opened above us and voices inquired who passed
that way so late. Our lives were in jeopardy amongst these wild
Catalonians, howbeit they have not the sword-and-dagger temperament of
the more impulsive Spaniards. We had fallen amongst thieves. Discretion
being the better part of valour, we glided back like phantoms, passing
safely through the ranks of the enemy, and found ourselves on the great
square which is the market-place, and where we breathed freely.

No one followed in pursuit. It seemed as though, their own territories
abandoned, they cared nothing what became of intruders. Presently the
dogs ceased to bark, silence once more fell upon the night. We hoped our
friend of the blunderbuss had not been seriously wounded, but under the
circumstances it was impossible to make anxious inquiries.

It was difficult to get even a faint impression of the town. Here and
there we caught a vision of promising arcades, and apparently ancient
outlines of houses and gabled roofs, but everything was in tenebrous
gloom. Hardly a single window reflected the faintest ray; the streets
were deserted. Only from a solitary café came forth, as we passed, a
small band of some half dozen men, who quietly went up a side street and
disappeared. It was only a little past eleven, but the people of Lerida
are wise and know nothing of midnight oil, wasting energies, and burning
the candle at both ends.

"We are doing no good," said H. C. whose head had been rather damaged by
coming in contact with doors and walls in the narrow lane. "I think it
would be as well to follow the example of these people and retire,
reserving our energies for to-morrow. In this darkness we might charge
another cottage door without a friendly dog to deliver us from a
murderous blunderbuss."

So we turned back in the long narrow street of which Lerida seemed
chiefly composed, and presently found ourselves in the broad hotel
avenue.

In the very centre of it was an old watchman with his staff and
lantern. He threw his light upon us as we approached, then gave a
"Buenas noches" and turned down the spear of his staff in friendly
token.

We thought we recognised both face and voice. Where had we met?

"You are late, gentlemen. It grows towards midnight. In a few minutes I
must call the hour and the weather. The people of Lerida are even
earlier than those of Burgos, where I was watchman until six months
ago."

Then the mystery was solved. This was the very old watchman who had
piloted us to the hotel the night we had lost ourselves in that most
uncomfortable of Spanish towns, with the worst of Spanish inns.

"Have you forgotten us?" we asked. "Do you not remember taking two
strangers through the streets of Burgos more than a year ago, and seeing
them safely to their door?"

The watchman put down his lantern deliberately and struck the ground
with his spear. "Is it possible, señor! Santa Maria! A plague upon
memory and eyesight! But the night is dark, and my lantern burns dim.
Indeed I remember it well. Can I ever forget your largesse on that
occasion? I have often wondered how you fared in Spain and whither you
wandered. Often wished I might meet you again."

"But what brings you here? Surely Burgos is more important than Lerida,
and you have progressed backwards. This hardly looks like promotion."

"Oh, señor, there is no promotion for us poor watchmen. One town is much
as another. I earn as much in Lerida as I did in Burgos, and the saints
know either pays little enough."

"Were you, then, sent here for any special reason?"

"A reason of my own, señor. My wife's old parents live here and she
wanted to be near them; so I petitioned to come here and it was granted.
On the whole I am better off than in Burgos."

After some further conversations, and with a substantial remembrance for
auld lang syne, we left the old watchman and turned for our hotel.

We soon felt almost as lost as in that past time at Burgos. The houses
were all exactly alike. Every light was out, every door closed. There
was no especial lamp to indicate which was the inn, and we could
discover neither sign nor name. At last in the darkness we managed to
trace on a lamp, in small characters, the words _Fonda de España_. The
great door beneath was shut, like every other door; but there was a
ponderous knocker, to which we directed our energies.

It was all in vain, for no one responded. Knock after knock brought
forth no result. The echoes we roused in the avenue were enough to wake
the dead. Our watchman had gone to the far end, and by the gleam of his
lamp we saw him turn and hasten. The habitable part of the inn was
upstairs, a league of passages separated it from the outer door. If
everyone was in bed and asleep, we might knock away until daybreak.

We were growing concerned, when just as our old friend the watchman
arrived upon the scene, up rushed another functionary in breathless
agitation: the night porter of the hotel, and he carried great keys in
his hand.

"A thousand pardons, gentlemen," he began, as far as want of breath
would allow him. "I did not know any one was out and went for a short
walk just to breathe the midnight air and contemplate the stars. I heard
you knocking when quite a mile away. You have indeed the strength of
Hercules. And there is also something peculiar in this knocker. You may
hear it all over the town, but cannot hear it in the hotel unless you
are in the porter's lodge. It has been said the house is bewitched, and
I think it; for once, when the Bishop breakfasted here, as soon as he
entered the doors a loud report was heard and the place trembled, just
as if some evil spirit were frightened and had departed in a flash of
lightning. If you only knew how I ran when I heard the knocker, you
would pity me."

"I guessed what was up," said our watchman, "but waited, thinking you
would be sure to arrive. Contemplating the stars with you, Juan, means
taking an extra glass or two at your favourite bodega. You are too fond
of leaving your post, and one of these days your post will leave you."

[Illustration: ARCADES: LERIDA]

This we thought highly probable, but the porter merely shrugged his
shoulders, intimating that if he lost one place another would turn
up. He applied one of the great keys to the lock, and the great door
rolled open.

We passed into a dark vaulted passage which rather reminded us of the
gloomy entrance to the Hospederia at Montserrat. Upstairs every one had
gone to bed, and they had not even left us a light. But for the night
porter we might have sat all night upon chairs. When the candles threw
out a faint illumination, H. C. looked round shudderingly as though he
expected to see the Dragon lurking in some corner.

We had found out that this extraordinary creature rejoiced in the
charming name of _Rose_, and mentioned the name aloud.

"Rose," said the night porter, "that is my wife. She is not a beauty,
señor, but she can't scold--she has no voice. When I see other
good-looking wives rating their husbands I say to myself, 'Ah ha, my
fine fellow! after all beauty is only skin-deep. I wouldn't exchange my
peace of mind for all your handsome wives put together.' I married her
because she had no voice and also earns good wages. But though she is
voiceless by day, she snores by night, and really becomes quite musical.
It is a singular contradiction, but nature is freaky."

He marshalled us to our rooms, a candle in each hand, striding along
with great dignity and evidently thinking that he was the life and soul
of the establishment. Putting the candles on the sitting-room table, he
backed towards the door, made a low bow, once more apologised for being
absent without leave and keeping us beating a midnight tattoo, and
begged as a favour that we would not mention the circumstance to the
landlord.

This we readily promised, and as it was utterly impossible to maintain
any sort of gravity on the occasion, the night porter, wishing us
refreshing slumbers, departed in great peace of mind--probably to resume
his devotions at the untimely bodega. We heard his receding footsteps,
and the house sank into repose.

The next morning there was not a cloud in the sky. Our study in grey had
given place to more positive tones. H. C.'s rainy season had been a pure
effort of the imagination. Sebastien was right after all, and in sheer
gratitude we sat down and wrote an epistle to his master that would have
moved a heart of stone. We represented in glowing colours the happiness
of the young pair that a word from him could make or mar; enlarged upon
the moral question of conferring pleasure where it was possible, and
wound up with a rash assertion, almost an undertaking, that Sebastien
would prove a tower of strength to the well-being of the hotel. The
result has been recorded.

We rose early. With that glorious sun shining, who could waste moments
in sleep? Presently we heard a sort of alarmed shout from H. C., and on
going into the sitting-room, and asking how he had slept, found him
pale, agitated, and confronted by the Dragon.

She looked if anything more terrible than last night. Her cavernous
mouth was wide open, but no sound came forth, though her capacious jaws
moved up and down and her eyes rolled in a fine frenzy. Her sleeves were
tucked up above the elbow, revealing a muscular arm that would not have
disgraced a prize-fighter. She was evidently primed for another field
day at the wash-tub. When we went in she was smiling sweetly upon H. C.

"What does it all mean?" we asked. "Surely you have not been offering to
elope with the Dragon?"

"I simply want my boots," said H. C. unromantically. "I rang away at the
bell just as we knocked at the door last night, and with the same
result. The place _must_ be bewitched. Then I opened the door and
clapped my hands, and the Dragon suddenly sprang out upon me from a dark
cupboard close by, right into my very arms. I nearly had a fit of
convulsions. And now when I ask for my boots all she does is to mouth
and shake her head. What's to be done? Is it a plot to keep us here?
Have we fallen into the hands of the Philistines?"

Being in a more advanced stage of toilet than H. C., we marched forth in
search of the landlord on what we hoped would not prove a bootless
errand. He was in his counting-house counting out his money--and
arranging his dinners. On making anxious inquiries we discovered that in
Lerida boot-cleaning was considered one of the fine arts. There was a
Boot-cleaner in Ordinary to the town, who took the inns in turn and was
paid according to his work. People had to wait his pleasure. That
morning he had not yet arrived; we had risen early.

Fortunately he appeared at the moment: an old, grey-bearded man with a
fine presence, who looked almost past boot-cleaning or any other
occupation. We found him quite above his humble employment. He was a
Frenchman by birth, but had lived in Spain for nearly seventy years--was
now verging on ninety, and his old wife, he told us, was eighty-seven,
and two years ago had gone blind. He had not forgotten his native
language, which he still spoke very purely. In his last days he was
supporting himself and his old wife by cleaning boots. It was the custom
of the town. The hotels would do anything for you but clean boots. As
far as he was concerned he just managed to keep the wolf from the door,
and that after all was all they wanted.

He went off to his task, and returning to H. C. we found a change had
come over the spirit of his dream. He sat hilarious and comforted before
an empty tray of rolls and coffee, our own share as well as his having
disappeared, whilst the Dragon had departed to adorn other realms.

In due time the old man arrived with his boots, was duly paid for his
work, and we presently found ourselves under the blue skies of Lerida.



CHAPTER XX.

THE STORY OF A LIFE.

     Lerida by daylight--Second city in Catalonia--Past history--Days of
     the Goths--And Moors--Becomes a bishopric--Troublous times--Brave
     people--Striking cathedral--Splendid outlines--Desecration--The new
     cathedral--Senseless tyranny--One of the most interesting of
     towns--Crowded market-place--Picturesque arcades and ancient
     gateways--Wine-pressers--Good offer refused--Another
     revelation--Wonderful streets--Amongst the immortals--Our
     Boot-cleaner in Ordinary again--Thereby hangs a tale--His
     story--Blind wife--Modest request--Nerissa--Charming room--Little
     queen in the arm-chair--Faultless picture--Renouncements but no
     regrets--"All a new world"--Time to pass out of life--Back to the
     quiet streets--H. C. contemplative--Proposes emigration to Salt
     Lake City--Lerida glorified by its idyll.


A greater contrast than Lerida in the morning and Lerida at midnight
could not be imagined. Last night had by no means prepared us for the
charms of to-day.

Little as one hears of it, it is the second city in Catalonia, with an
historical and eventful past that has submitted to constant wars and
sieges. In the far-off days it was occupied by the Romans, and the
present bridge is built on Roman foundations. It was held by Pompey in
the first century B.C. and these were unsettled times for Ilerda, as it
was then called. In very early days it became a university town, but so
little esteemed that the students of Rome were sent here when
rusticated. As the centuries rolled on it grew in favour, though the
trail of the rusticated Romans must have remained upon it, for two of
its most famous students were Vicenti Ferrer the inquisitor and Calixtus
III. the wicked pope.

The Goths had much to do with Lerida, and in 546 it became a Bishopric.
It fell under the influence of the Moors, but was destroyed by the
French at the end of the eighth century.

For the next 400 years little is heard of Lerida; but in 1150 it was
restored by Ramon Berenguer, and quickly became popular and important.
In the seventeenth century during the great Catalonian revolt, Lerida
chose Louis XIII. for king; upon which Philip IV. came down upon them
and defeated La Mothe, causing him to raise the siege. Four years
afterwards, in 1644, the French again tried to take it but were again
defeated. The Grand Condé opened another siege, and caused a number of
violins to play before the town to encourage his soldiers. But this also
had the effect of encouraging brave Gregorio Brito, the Portuguese
Governor, who sallied forth with his army, silenced the fiddlers and put
the French to the rout.

In the War of Succession Lerida was again besieged by the French, who
behaved with great treachery and cruelly sacked the town after
capitulation. Retaliation came in 1710, when Stanhope routed Philip V.
at Almenara. The French fled before the English bayonets, and Philip
himself, in these early days of his long reign, nearly lost his life. He
would have been spared many troubles.

A little later on, in 1810, during the Peninsular War, it was taken by
Suchet, and the inhabitants men, women and children were so cruelly
treated that the governor, unable to bear the sight of so much
suffering, capitulated. Since then Lerida has enjoyed more or less
tranquil days. She would now hardly be thought worth taking.

It was during some of these troublous times, in 1707, that her beautiful
cathedral was desecrated, and remains to this day a prominent
illustration of the barbarities of war. It towers 300 feet above the
town, a magnificent outline against the clear blue sky. The first church
existed here as far back as the sixth century. This in time gave place
to the present church, of which the first stone was laid by Pedro II. in
1203. It is one of the finest specimens in Europe of the early-pointed
style and its desecration was a world's regret. Nevertheless, its style
is a little contradictory, for the windows are for the most part
round-headed.

Perched on the summit of an almost perpendicular rock, it looks even
higher and larger than it really is. Its fine octagonal steeple stands
out a bold and conspicuous object over many a mile of plain and
country. As the sun declines, its shadow falls upon the houses of the
town sleeping below, and creeps over the surface of the river. Near it
is a building now used as a powder magazine, but in the Middle Ages was
a palace given up to the rude scenes of splendour of which those days
were typical, and before that it had been a Moorish castle and a
Christian temple. Its walls have defied the centuries, but nothing is
left of its Moorish beauty and refinement.

In 1707 the French turned the great church into a fortress, and it was
never restored to its sacred uses. Peace fell upon Lerida, but the fat
old canons had learned to shirk the steep climbing of the rocks in all
seasons and all weathers. They agitated for a new cathedral within the
town, and had their wish. A hideous Corinthian building arose, and the
magnificent church upon the hill after five hundred years of faithful
service was shorn of its glory.

Yet its outlines are as fine and as striking as ever, and the columns,
stonework and tracery that remain, still bear witness to its ancient
splendour. It is, however, with the greatest difficulty that admission
is obtained, a senseless piece of tyranny. The interior is to the last
degree interesting to the lover of ancient architecture, and there are
no military or other secrets to be carried away. But say what one will,
courtesy is not one of the virtues of the Spanish, and in this matter
the Catalonians perhaps take the lead. They are abrupt and uncivil, and
unwilling to stir hand or foot to oblige you unless something is to be
gained by it.

Sallying forth this morning, we had these magnificent outlines in full
view. We have said that the tenebrous darkness of last night had not
prepared us for the charms of to-day. Lerida proved one of the most
interesting of Spanish towns. This morning it was full of life and
movement. The market-place was crowded with buyers and sellers; men and
women still wearing a certain amount of picturesque costume. The air
seemed full of sound. Fruit and flower-stalls were splendid, and large
quantities of each could be bought for a very small sum.

As we had discovered last night, the town consisted of one long street
running parallel with the river. It was narrow and straggling, full of
lights and shadows. Now and then you came upon short arcades that were
singularly picturesque, whilst every here and there a fine old gateway
led to the river-side. These gateways form part of the fortifications of
the town, for Lerida is strongly protected.

Making way through this long street, we presently came upon a
wine-pressing machine in the very middle of the road, worked by strong,
stalwart men; a very southern and picturesque scene. We watched them
pile up the grapes, that had already once been pressed, until the
machine was full. Then adjusting it by means of long poles, they turned
the press and the rich red grape-juice poured itself into a vat placed
for the purpose. The air was full of the scent of muscatel. The men
looked as though the red juice ran in their veins and inspired them with
energy.

[Illustration: LERIDA MULES.]

As the vat filled, it was emptied with a great ladle into a larger
barrel that stood inside the archway of the adjoining house. The sight
was novel, and the men seemed amused at our interest. They offered us
of the juice in a small vessel, declaring it excellent; but there was a
suspicious want of cleanliness about the whole thing--it might have been
fancy--and we civilly declined the attention; upon which, possibly to
set us a good example, they emptied the vessel themselves, smacked their
lips and pronounced it very good.

Narrow streets led upwards from the main street to the old cathedral, a
steep, rough climb. It was a place to revel in, full of wonderful
perspectives and artistic groupings, as much the result of accident as
of purpose. The eye was arrested by a bewildering accumulation of
wrought-iron balconies, casements and sunblinds, all sparkling in
sunshine and shadow, whilst above one could trace a long succession of
ancient gabled roofs, clear-cut against the blue sky, the projecting
water-spout of every house looking like a grinning gargoyle and adding
much to the quaint antiquity of the place. Through the old gates we
watched the mules passing in their rich and curious trappings.

Very distinctly we felt that Lerida was a revelation and a discovery; a
town by no means to be passed over when searching out the glories of
Spain.

We found the narrow thoroughfare in which last night we had almost come
to grief; so tortuous and ill-paved, we wondered how we had escaped
destruction. Here and there small houses of the meanest description
broke the continuity of dead grey walls. At the door of the cottage H.
C. had charged sat an evil-looking dog that growled and showed its teeth
as we passed and evidently connected us with the midnight raid. Whether
the owner of the blunderbuss had killed himself with his own weapon or
was only absent on business remained uncertain; he did not appear.

Continuing upwards we presently came out upon the open space surrounding
the old cathedral.

The precincts were certainly not ecclesiastical. We seemed to have
reached the poorest part of the town, and the houses were quite
picturesque in their shabbiness. A splendid doorway admitted to the
interior of the semi-religious fortress, before which a sentinel with
gun and bayonet kept watch and ward. No one passed him without a special
permission from the churlish old commandant of the town, who, after
tracing your pedigree back to Adam, bestowed the simple favour as
though conferring upon you the dignity of Spain's high order of the
Saint Esprit.

[Illustration: LERIDA.]

Strangers and especially Englishmen, evidently visit Lerida at long
intervals, and wherever we went we found ourselves attracting an amount
of attention that might have confused more bashful minds. As in most
other places, the people were especially interested in our little
kodak, and seemed to think the honour of being taken equal to
canonisation. In the market-place men and women threw themselves into
groups and attitudes, set out their stalls to the best advantage, and
begged the favour of being made immortal.

But as the day wore on the crowd dispersed and disappeared, the
market-place grew empty, arcades lost their loungers; the afternoon
shadows lengthened; there were not so many sun-flashes in the air;
outlines mellowed as the sky behind them grew less dazzling; the river
lost some of its jewels.

We were gazing at the latter, at the wonderful outlines of the town
rising gradually upon its rock, crowned by that magnificent fortress
with its imposing and impressive tower, when a voice suddenly said
beside us: "We hope, señor, you have spent a happy day in Lerida and
seen the interior of the old cathedral--now nothing but a useless
barrack. The commandant suffers from dyspepsia and is capricious. No one
ever knows beforehand whether he will grant or withhold permission. It
entirely depends upon his digestion."

We turned and saw our Boot-cleaner in Ordinary standing meekly and
humbly beside us. Noting his fine face--it was really dignified in spite
of his office--his white hair, his nearly ninety years, we thought
humility should have been on our side.

"How is it that you, a Frenchman, come to be living on Spanish ground?"
we asked.

[Illustration: WINE-PRESSERS: LERIDA.]

"Ah, señor, thereby hangs a tale. If I am to give you my reason, I must
go back seventy years in my life, for it dates from that time. And that,
you see, will take us very nearly to the days of Waterloo. All my people
were respectable and well-to-do, some even distinguished: there was a
prosperous life before me. I was in the French army, serving my time. I
had been unfortunate and drawn a low number in conscription; besides
which, soldiers were wanted and few escaped. Napoleon in devastating
other countries had not spared his own. It was then I committed the one
great folly of my life, which has ever since been one of repentance. I
fell in love with a beautiful Norman girl of gentle blood and breeding;
so madly, so desperately, that I think for the time being I lost the
balance of my mind. Every consideration faded before the strength of
my passion. This beautiful girl seemed equally in love with me. I was
young, they told me I was good-looking, and in my uniform I dare say I
was not unattractive. Then came my error. I obtained a week's leave of
absence, and deserted. We fled together to Spain, and of course I was
outlawed. I sacrificed home, country and honour; I ruined all my worldly
prospects; and for what? For a pair of bewitching eyes. Nay, she had
more than that; she was a good woman and has made me a good wife; but
had she been twice favoured, my folly would have been equally vast. For
years and years I was possessed of a fever--that of mal du pays: all I
had deliberately thrown away gained a hundred-fold in charm, haunted my
mind by day, coloured my dreams. But there was no place for repentance.
Now it has all passed away. Señor, my great-nephew is a French count,
rich and well spoken of, one of the high ones of the land. He does not
even know of my existence. Life has only one thing left me--death! But I
pray I may live to close the sightless eyes of my wife, and then follow
her speedily, that we may rest in one grave."

"Has your wife long been blind?" we asked in sympathy.

"Only two years, señor. You would not know it to look at her. In spite
of her eighty-seven years, her eyes are still soft and bright, though
closed to the world. I have now not only to earn the daily bread, but to
buy it and manage the household. We have many good neighbours who help
the old couple, and look in upon the wife when I am at work. Ah, señor,
it is delightful to find one to whom I can talk in my own tongue. Surely
the señor is French too?"

"Land of our birth," we confessed; "nevertheless we are English, and
would have it so."

The old man hesitated; we saw there was something upon his mind; it came
out at last.

"Would the señor deign to come and see the wife, and talk to her a
little of France and the French? She still speaks it perfectly, and she
too has often longed for the country and privileges that for her sake I
threw away. Such a visit would colour the remaining of her days. It is
but a few steps."

Who could resist such an appeal? We turned and accompanied the
patriarch, who in spite of his nearly ninety years, still walked with a
certain amount of vigour. The few steps grew into a good many, as the
old man passed under the gateway and turned to the left down the long
narrow street.

Soon we reached the spot where we had watched the grape-pressing. The
men were giving up work and clearing away, leaving nothing behind them
but the stains of the fruit and the scent of the muscatel. They nodded
in friendly recognition, and we knew the laugh they gave meant to say
that the cup we had refused they had found very cheering. The narrow
street was growing dim, and in the arched room, half cellar, half wine
vault, they had lighted candles. The semi-obscurity was weird and
picturesque in the extreme, almost Rembrandt-like in effect. The men's
faces were thrown up against the dark background as the light fell upon
them; and as one of them sitting astride a barrel raised a cup to his
lips, he looked a true disciple of Bacchus.

Our guide passed on and turning up a narrow street halted before the
door of a quaint old house. The street was quiet and respectable; the
house clean and well cared for, in spite of its age.

"We have lived here for a quarter of a century and more--twenty-seven
years," said the old man, "and the house does not look a day older than
it looked then. Ah, señor," with a sigh, "we cannot say the same of
ourselves. Twenty-seven years in a lifetime make all the difference
between youth and age. But let us mount. My wife does not expect you,
but you will find her ready to receive the young king himself if he paid
her a visit."

We passed up a broad old staircase of solid oak, that would almost have
adorned a palace. In days gone by, this house, fallen to a low estate,
must have had a greater destiny. The walls were panelled. There was a
refined, imposing air about the place. We would have given worlds for
the power to transport the staircase over the seas.

The old man mounted to the topmost floor, and knocked at a large oak
door which well matched its surroundings. A voice responded, he lifted
the latch and we walked in.

"I bring you visitors, Nerissa," said the old man. "A gentleman from
France, who will talk to you in our beautiful language, and tell you of
scenes and places you have not looked upon for nearly seventy years. You
were only eighteen, I only twenty when we turned our backs for ever upon
la belle Normandie."

It was a sight worth seeing. The room was large and airy, quaint and old
as the rest of the house. Light came in through large casements with
latticed panes that bore the unmistakable seal of time. The room itself
was in perfect and spotless order. In a large alcove stood the bed,
neatly draped and curtained. What furniture the room contained matched
its surroundings. There was an utter absence of any commonplace element
about it.

But it was not all this that distinguished it so singularly. It was the
figure of a little old woman seated near the latticed panes in an
arm-chair. The evening light, still strong in the west, fell upon her.
As we entered she did not move, but turned her sightless eyes towards
us, with the intent, listening look that is so pathetic. She was very
small, and looked almost like a fairy-queen. Her hair was white as snow,
but still abundant and faultlessly arranged. The face was small and
refined, and possessed all the beauty of age, just as in years gone by
it must have possessed in a very marked manner all the beauty of youth.
It had the placid look the blind so often wear, was delicately flushed,
and without line or wrinkle. This was very strange in one who must have
had, to some extent at least, a hard and laborious life, with many
anxieties. Her dress was neatness itself; an old dark silk probably
given to her by a rich visitor whose turn it had served; and it was worn
with the air that seemed to betoken one who had been a lady. But her
whole appearance and bearing was gentle. It was a perfect and faultless
picture, charming to look upon.

We turned to the old man in wonder. His eyes were fixed upon his wife
with an intensity of admiration and reverence almost startling. It was
evident that the love of youth had survived every trial, all life's
rough lessons. So far he could have nothing to regret. The folly of
which he had been guilty--and it was an undoubted folly and mistake--had
been condoned and excused by the after life.

"We no longer marvel that you deserted the ranks of the army for those
of a sweeter service," we said, looking from one to the other and
feeling that we gazed upon a wonderful idyll.

"Was she not worth it--even all I renounced!" he cried. "Nerissa, I have
told these gentlemen all my boyish folly and indiscretion--all you made
me give up for your bewitching eyes."

Almost a youthful flush passed over the old lady's face as she smiled
rather sadly in response.

"It was indeed much to renounce for me," she said, in a very sweet
voice. "I was not worth it; no woman could be worth it. I ought never
have permitted it, and the thought has been one of the lasting sorrows
of my life. But we act first and think after. Though after all, what I
renounced was also great."

"We are quite sure you would do it all over again. You do not in the
least regret it, and your life has been a very happy one."

Again the youthful flush passed over the old lady's face. She put out
her hand--a small, delicate hand--as though searching for her husband's.
He had soon clasped it.

"Nerissa, you do not regret anything," he said. "You know quite well you
would do it all over again if we could go back to the beginning of
life."

Her sightless but still wonderfully expressive eyes looked up into his
face.

"With you to tempt me, Alphonse, how could I resist? Alas, human nature
is weak where the heart is concerned."

"Have you any children?" we asked.

"We have four, señor," replied the old lady. "And grand-children also.
Our children are all out in the world, and not one of them lives in
Lerida. As far as I was able I brought them up well, and tried to give
them a little bearing and refinement. But we have always been poor, and
poverty means limitation. They are all prospering, but in fairly humble
life. At rare intervals one or other pays us a visit; but time flies
quickly and they are soon gone again."

[Illustration: OLD GATEWAYS: LERIDA.]

Then we talked about France and the French. We happened to know many
places in common, and describing what they are to-day, enabled her to
realise the vast changes seventy years had worked. The old lady gave
many a sigh.

"Alphonse, it is all a new world," she said over and over again. "If we
went back to it we should be lost and strange. It is time we passed out
of life. But, señor, your visit has brought back a breath of that old
life to me. Those who come to us now are humble, and know nothing of our
past world. You almost make me feel young again; bring back lost
realities, when I was a lady, and had not thrown up all for love, and
dreamed not of a humble life of poverty. But, oh, I would renounce it
all again a second time for my husband's sake."

Who would have supposed such an idyll in the quiet town of Lerida? When
our Boot-cleaner in Ordinary had come to us that morning and received
his humble dole for the work done, who could have imagined that such a
romance, a poem in real life, was concealed in his history?

When we went back into the quiet streets the gloom had deepened;
twilight reigned; a soft glow was in the evening sky; one or two stars
were faintly shining. We could not lose the impression of the visit we
had just paid; the wonderful little fairy-queen in the arm-chair, who
was still ladylike and beautiful and refined in spite of a hard and
humble life, and the fine and venerable old man, who for seventy years
had remained true and faithful to his first love. No Knight of the Round
Table could ever have proved more noble and devoted; worthier King
Arthur's friendship. The very streets of the town seemed to have gained
a charm as we passed through them on our way to the fonda.

H. C. was singularly quiet and grave. "Of what are you thinking?" we
asked.

He started, as if suddenly aroused from sleep. "I am thinking of the
faithfulness of that beautiful old couple," he replied. "No, if I tried
for a hundred years I never could be as constant as that. In fact I
begin to think my only chance of happiness is to emigrate to Salt Lake
City and become a Mormon."

"Wait until you are in love," we returned. "You were never that yet.
Your fancy has been touched often enough, but your heart never. That
comes only once in a lifetime."

H. C. only shook his head and murmured something about having a heart
large enough to embrace a whole Agapemone of beauty. We did not argue
the point, feeling there are opinions and delusions time alone can
correct.

But we went back to the bridge and looked down upon the quiet stream,
and beyond the houses of the town to the wonderful outlines of the old
cathedral, darkly and distinctly visible against the evening sky.
Everything seemed glorified by the story we had just learned, the
romance we had witnessed. It was an experience we would not have lost;
and henceforth to us the word Lerida would be weighted with a hidden
charm of which the interpretation meant everything that was true and
chivalrous, everything that was brave and constant, lovely and of good
report.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE END OF AN IDYLL.

     Days of chivalry not over--In the evening light--Night porter
     grateful--Dragon in full force--Combative and revengeful--Equal to
     the occasion--Gall turns to sweetness when H. C. appears--Last
     night in Lerida--Bane of our host's life--Mysterious
     disappearance--Monastery of Sigena--Devout ladies--Returning at
     night--Place empty and deserted--Birds flown with keys--Quite a
     commotion--"The señor is pleased to joke"--Was murder
     committed?--Mysteries explained--Probably down the well--Drag for
     skeletons--Host's horror--"We drink the water"--A tragedy--Out in
     the quiet night--Discords--Lerida café--Create a sensation--Polite
     captain--Offer declined--Regrets--Final crash--Paradise or
     Lerida--Deserted market-place--Trees whisper their secrets--El
     Sereno at the witching hour--Hard upon the angels--Not a bed of
     roses--Alphonse--End of a long life--Until the dawn--Acolyte and
     priest--"We must all come to it, señor"--El Sereno disappears for
     the last time--Daybreak--In presence of death--Alone, but
     resigned--Surpassing loveliness--Sacred atmosphere.


So the days of chivalry and devotion were not over: could never be over
as long as there are Alphonses and Nerissas in the world. As we went
back to the hotel in the evening light, the whole town seemed full of
romance. One by one the outlines faded and died out, and when we entered
the fonda the stars were beginning to shine.

The night porter was standing in the doorway, though his reign had not
yet begun. He made us a low bow.

"Señor, allow me to thank you for not complaining of me this morning to
the padrone. I am still full of remorse for having locked you out last
night, but it is seldom any of our visitors trouble the dark streets of
Lerida at midnight. Most of our guests are commercial travellers, who
have no eye for the ancient and picturesque, and are generally glad to
get early to bed."

Again assuring the worthy man of our good will, we passed up the shabby
old staircase. At the top we came into contact with the Dragon striding
along with bare arms and flourishing a rolling-pin. She looked the
picture of fiery indignation and we wondered what had gone wrong.

After some difficulty we managed to gather that the waiter, in spite of
her want of beauty, in spite of her being an appropriated blessing, had
offered her a chaste salute. In return for the affront, the
rolling-pin--it was a _washing_ pin, by the way--had come into sharp
contact with his skull, which, fortunately for him was a hard one. Since
then the Dragon had been marching up and down with threatening weapon
and flashing eyes, brandishing her rolling-pin like another Communist,
mouthing voiceless words.

As soon as she caught sight of H. C., however, her gall turned to
sweetness; she marshalled him to our rooms, threw wide the door, and
beamed on him one of her most cavernous smiles. That a chaste salute
from him would have been very differently received was evident.

It was our last night in Lerida. The landlord still attended us at
dinner, for the waiter was nursing his wounds in the kitchen. A violent
headache had come on, and he was vowing vengeance against the Dragon,
declaring she had imagined the whole thing.

"But for the servants, my life would be happy," said our host. "If they
keep the peace with me, they are disputing amongst themselves. The last
waiter and chambermaid I had, after quarrelling like cat and dog for six
months, suddenly went off one day together, and we never heard of them
again. It was a Sunday, and madame and I had gone off with some friends
by train to Sariñena--a long day's excursion, for we were going to the
Monastery of Sigena, near Villanueva. Has the señor visited the famous
monastery?"

We had never done so.

"It is to be regretted," returned the landlord, as he busily changed the
plates and poured out the wine. "The monastery is the most interesting
in our neighbourhood; and people come from far and wide to see it. In
situation it is most romantic, standing near a lovely stream full of
fine fish. The nuns, however, don't fish; the very thought would be
sacrilege. They are devout ladies, some of them very handsome; a pity so
much beauty should be wasted. They are of the order of St. John of
Jerusalem, which I have heard dates as far back as the twelfth century,
but I am not learned in those matters. I have seen the nuns at mass in
their chapel, and they looked like a vision of angels. But I was saying.
We had left the hotel in charge of the waiter and chambermaid. As it
happened, there were no guests staying here. When we came home at night,
we found the place locked and empty. Both servants had flown, and to add
insult to injury had taken the keys with them. Fortunately the glass
doors in this very dining-room had been left open, and by means of a
ladder, and climbing over walls at the risk of one's life, I managed to
get in, took the duplicate keys out of my desk, and admitted madame. It
caused quite a commotion."

"And had the enterprising pair taken nothing but the keys?" we asked.
"Was your gold plate safe, and madame's diamonds?"

"The señor is pleased to joke," laughed the landlord. "My gold plate is
pewter, and madame's jewelry is false, excepting her wedding-ring and
the few things she happened to have on that never-to-be-forgotten day.
No; they had taken nothing. But they had made a first-rate meal, and had
tapped and emptied three bottles of my very best Chambertin 1868
vintage, and consumed half a bottle of Chartreuse."

"But you have no proof that they went off together," we suggested. "It
may be that murder was committed. The dead body of the chambermaid all
this time may be crumbling to dust and ashes in some hole or corner of
your cellar. Have you a cellar, or any other place in which a murdered
body might be concealed?"

"Santa Maria!" cried our host, turning pale. "The idea never occurred to
me, but I shouldn't wonder if you are right. It would explain a good
deal that has remained a mystery. We have a deep well out in the yard;
so deep that we do not know the bottom, which is supposed to communicate
with the river. The man might easily have murdered the woman and thrown
her down. And we drink the water!"

"That is hardly the solution that suggests itself. After drinking your
three bottles of Chambertin and your half-bottle of Chartreuse, depend
upon it their heads began to go round; they felt the world coming to an
end, and determined to be beforehand with it. It is clear as daylight:
they both threw themselves down the well, and there you will find the
skeletons. You had better have it dragged and give them decent burial,
or you will certainly be seeing ghosts in the house."

By this time the landlord was trembling with horror; his eyes, grown
large and round, would almost have matched the Dragon's. He was no
longer in a fit state to pour out wine or change plates.

"And we drink the water," he murmured half a dozen times over. "We drink
the water. This accounts for my queer symptoms. But, after all, the
bodies cannot be there. They must have communicated with the river, and
so floated out to sea. I dare say they will some day turn up in the
Panama Canal or on the shores of New Zealand. Señor, I am quite certain
this is the true state of the case. I never could understand why those
two should go off together. They were always quarrelling, and seemed to
hate each other like poison, and I dare say they even disputed as to
which should go first down the well. But when all's said and done, it is
three years ago, and they will never come back to trouble me."

"Not even as ghosts?"

He shivered.

"I never saw a ghost, señor, but I suppose there are such things. I
shouldn't care to see one. Nevertheless, I will have the well
dragged--quietly, not to raise a scandal. I can pretend to have dropped
in a diamond ring belonging to a client. If the skeletons turn up we
must hush up the matter as well as we can, and so dispose of the ghosts.
They would never walk after decent burial. Ah, señor, what a tragedy you
have opened up! And all the time I was accusing the wretched pair of I
know not what!"

Fortunately for us this conversation took place towards the end of
dinner, or we should have fared badly. We left the landlord in his
dining-room. He had dropped into a chair and was gazing on vacancy,
evidently in deep thought as to how he could have the well dragged
without creating a scandal to the detriment of his hotel.

We went out into the quiet night, making sure the night porter was on
duty and would keep there. The streets were as dark, quiet and
ill-lighted as ever, and we took care to avoid Pandemonium. The
market-place, so full and lively this morning, was now empty and silent.
From the café already alluded to streams of light and strains of music
were flowing. We turned in out of curiosity. Half a dozen musicians at
the further end were making unearthly discords: shrieking and wailing
instruments set one's teeth on edge and went down one's back like cold
water. The room was fairly full, the atmosphere heavy with smoke; such
smoke as only the Catalonians know how to produce.

Our entrance created quite a sensation. We were recognised as English,
and the English who visit Lerida are few and far between. Was our visit
friendly or the opposite? Their glances plainly asked the question. Then
one in military uniform came up, and, with a military salute ventured to
sit down near us. We thought it a singular proceeding, but decided to
take it in good part. He proved to be a captain of the regiment
stationed at Lerida, and a really friendly and polite man.

"I perceive, sirs, that you are strangers," he said. "Can I be of any
service to you in a place where I am very much at home?"

To which we replied that our stay was drawing to a close, and we had
probably seen the best of the town. "There is nothing you can do for us,
though we are grateful for your good intentions. But if you would induce
those in authority to grant their passes into the fortress with less
restriction, you would confer a favour upon any who may come after us."

"A senseless restriction indeed," replied our new friend, "and we all
feel it so; but until some disappointed visitor of consequence appeals
to the Queen or the Madrid Government, the thing will go on. There is
absolutely no reason why all the world should not be admitted."

At this moment the musicians finished up with a crash. The sound was
horrible. H. C. made an excruciating grimace and our captain shook with
laughter.

"Do you call that music?" we asked.

"_I_ do not," he returned, "because I have spent much time in Paris,
where barbaric music would not be tolerated. But these frantic discords
just please the people of Lerida, who have not been educated to anything
better. It is over for the night, and now everyone will depart. They
have drunk their coffee or wine or spirit, sat a whole evening in a
clouded, heated atmosphere, listening enraptured to the strains which
have set you quivering, and are going home feeling that if this or
paradise were offered to them they would not hesitate to reject
paradise. Such is their life."

We got up to depart also.

"I am sorry that I can be of no use to you," said our polite captain;
"but if you are leaving Lerida to-morrow, time certainly runs short. I
can, however, give you my card, and place myself and all I have at your
disposal. If ever you visit Lerida again, and I am quartered here, I
hope you will find me out. I will at least promise you a pass into the
fortress; and there are a few things you would not be likely to see
without the open sesame of one of ourselves."

Upon which he shook hands, gave us a military salute, "wrapped his
martial cloak about him," and passed out into the night.

We listened to his quick receding footsteps and then turned away. The
silence was only broken by the distant cry of a watchman proclaiming the
hour and the weather. "El Sereno," as we called the old guardians of the
darkness in Majorca, where many a time we wandered with them in the dead
of night amidst the old palaces and watched them light up the wonderful
old Moorish remains with their swinging lanterns.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO POBLET.]

It was a very dark night, though the stars flashed overhead. We found
ourselves on the empty market-place, where trees whispered together. In
the morning, when fruit and flowers and a hundred stalls and a crowd of
noisy people called for all one's attention, the whispering trees were
neglected. Now it was their hour, and they told each other their mighty
secrets, and one felt that they were wiser and greater than mankind
in its little brief authority. We stood and listened, but they talked in
an unknown tongue. Almost as mysterious and full of meaning seemed the
outlines of the gabled houses on the hill slopes crowned by that
splendid semi-religious fortress, the tall tower cleaving the sky.

From this in days gone by the bells had rung the people to church, and
hastened the steps and shortened the breath of many a fat old canon who,
purple and panting, crept into his place before the altar after service
had begun. But those days are over. For nearly two hundred years the
bells have been silent. The sober cassock of the priest no longer haunts
the precincts. Sentries with gun and bayonet now rule, and signs and
symbols of warfare fill up the ancient aisles and desecrate the sacred
pavement.

Gazing upon the faint outlines in the darkness of night, the gleam of a
distant lantern coming up a narrow side street caught our eye. It was a
watchman, and instinct told us he was none other than our Burgos
_Sereno_.

He waved his lantern more energetically than usual, as though expecting
to find the inhabitants of Pandemonium lurking in secret corners. As he
walked, his staff struck the ground "in measured moments," keeping time
with his footsteps. "It is twelve of the night," he cried, "and the
night is fair. _El sereno._" We gradually approached him, knowing well
we were in his mind. The rays suddenly flashed upon us, and the lantern
had peace.

"Señor, instinct told me you were still in Lerida. Midnight seems your
hour for walking. In truth it is far better than midday, for the world
is sleeping and we have the stars in the sky. I hope that wily porter
does not mean to play you the same trick to-night. To-day fifty people
have asked me if the town had been bombarded, declaring they expected to
see the place in ruins. Have you seen his wife, señor? She is not the
angel she looks----"

"Are you not rather hard upon the angels, _Sereno_?"

"I don't think I quite meant to put it that way," he returned, with a
laugh that seemed to come from great depths. "No, she does not look an
angel--and she is not one either. It is said that when her husband
misbehaves, she beats him with her washing-pin; and it is also said
that more than once she has held it over the landlord himself. It may be
a fable, but when a woman has no voice she is bound to find some other
way of venting her spleen. I don't think the porter sleeps on a bed of
roses, though his wife is named Rose, and he tries to make the best of
his bargain."

"How did you leave Burgos?" we asked, feeling speculations on the
porter's domestic relations unprofitable.

"Just the same as ever, señor. There was no change anywhere. The
everlasting bells chime out the hours and the quarters, and the voices
of a half a dozen watchmen take up the tale. The hotel grows rather
worse and more unpopular, if that be possible, and for want of a good
inn the town is neglected. No one ever goes there a second time. In that
respect one is better off in Lerida."

We were standing near the new cathedral in the market-place, when
suddenly we saw a quiet figure hurrying towards us. Even afar off we
knew it well. It was our Boot-cleaner in Ordinary.

At once we felt something was wrong; the figure, in spite of quick
footsteps, was tragic in its bearing. We went up to him. He grasped our
hand and his face told its own tale.

"Oh, señor! the end has come, the end of a long life. Who would have
thought it would be so sudden? My poor Nerissa! My life's partner, and
my life's blessing! Two hours ago the heart suddenly failed. The doctor
gives her until the dawn. But she is quite ready and quite resigned.
'Think what it will be, Alphonse,' she said to me just now. 'To-morrow
morning I shall see once more.' Señor, I am broken-hearted. And now that
she is being taken from me, I feel that I have not prized her half
enough."

"You have been her joy and happiness on earth, and have an eternity of
happiness to look forward to. For you and for her life is only
beginning. The end of a long and happy life is a matter for rejoicing,
not for sorrow."

We had no need to ask a reason for his presence there. He passed on to
fulfil his mission.

[Illustration: OLD CATHEDRAL: LERIDA.]

Presently a small door was opened and there issued forth in the
stillness of the night an acolyte bearing a lighted lantern, followed
by a priest carrying the Host. Alphonse had gone before, and we felt
that the greatest kindness was to let him return alone, unhindered. The
small silent procession was full of mysterious pathos and solemnity. It
told of a soul about to take its solitary and awful journey to the
unknown and the unseen. Seldom, we felt, would extreme unction have been
administered to a soul so pure as that of our little fairy-queen. El
Sereno went down on one knee as it passed, and bared and bowed his head.
With arm outstretched resting on his staff of office, he looked quite
solemn and picturesque.

"We must all come to it, señor. But I often ask myself what consolation
even extreme unction can bring to a badly spent life."

We watched the little procession cross the great square, their footsteps
scarcely echoing. The sacred hush and atmosphere that surrounds the
dying seemed to go with them as they walked. Fitful gleams and shadows
were thrown out by the lantern--they might have been shades of departed
spirits. In the dark night, under the silent stars, and in that solemn
moment, we seemed brought into touch with the unseen world. We felt
deeply for Alphonse, who was passing through the great sorrow of his
life. His own silver cord would now loosen, and no doubt he too would
quickly follow into the unseen. His wife would take with her all his
hold upon life.

After this solemn incident we could only make our way back to the fonda.
El Sereno accompanied us to its threshold. We walked down the avenue
between the trees, that were still whispering their mighty secrets to
each other. Now they seemed laden with immortal mysteries: their burden
was of souls winging their flight to realms where no torment touches
them. They were in communion with the stars overhead shining down with a
serene benediction.

Our portal to-night was open and the night porter was at his post,
watching for his tardy visitors! wondering why they tarried. What to him
was that tragedy that was passing at the other end of the town?

We inquired for Rose. She had put up her washing-pin, and forgiven the
erring waiter; the sun had not gone down upon her wrath. Had her spouse
also forgiven the gay Lothario, or had they arranged for coffee and
pistols?

The señor was joking. Such manner of dealing was for gentlefolk. For his
part, if he owed any one a mortal grudge he would avenge himself by the
short Corsican way: a stab in the dark. A short reckoning and a long
rest. But he had never quarrelled in his life; never owed any man a
grudge. Life was too short; he was too lazy. He thought it a good plan
to let things take their course. If any one cared to embrace his wife,
they were welcome to do so. He had no jealousy in his composition. She
was now sleeping the sleep of the just: and for all he knew and for all
he cared, her dreams were of gay Lotharios whom she was chastening with
her washing-pin.

We said farewell to El Sereno, who lamented our departure on the morrow,
and feared he might see us no more.

This was probable. Lerida, for all its quaint streets, old-world nooks
and splendid outlines, was hardly a place to come to a second time. He
moved away rather sadly, for he had his duty to perform, and the moments
would not stand still.

We watched him receding in the dark night; a stalwart figure; an honest
man, with much that was good in him, though his lines were not cast in
grooves where influences for good are strong. At the end of the avenue
he called the hour and the night; then passed up out of sight into the
market-place once more. There in due time would return that quiet,
solemn procession of two; the acolyte bearing the lantern, the priest
with his bent back and the weight of years upon him bearing the Host:
their mission accomplished: the last rites administered: the pure soul
perhaps already far on its long journey.

The night passed on to dawn and daybreak and sunrise: a new day, a new
world. Was Nerissa still lingering here, or, as she had said, had her
sightless eyes opened to the world beyond? It was impossible to leave
Lerida without ascertaining how it fared with this couple that we had
found so interesting and exceptional. Though it delayed us some hours,
it must be done, the visit paid.

We breakfasted, attended by the erring waiter, who looked pale and
brooding and revengeful, as though he meditated drowning the Dragon in
her own soapsuds. Then, in the clear early morning, we went forth.

The way was familiar by this time. We knew its every aspect: all the
outlines were old friends. We passed up the avenue and through the
crowded market-place, where people laughed and talked and bought and
sold, as if life were one long joke and would last for ever, and there
was no such thing as death and decay. Down the long narrow street where
we again saw the men pressing the grapes, and noted the stain of the
rich red juice, and smelt the luscious perfume of the muscatel--for they
have red grapes here with the muscatel scent and flavour. Onwards into a
quiet side street and the quaint old house that now had upon it the dark
grey shadow.

We mounted the fine broad staircase with its carved oak balusters and
panelled walls. There was not a sound to be heard. At such moments
sympathy is quick to respond, and the awful messenger makes the weight
of his errand known.

The door was slightly ajar. We pushed it gently open and entered,
feeling ourselves in the presence of death. Peace had fallen upon the
house.

There in the quiet room was the vacant chair near the latticed window,
where so recently we had seen that wonderful embodiment of beauty in
age. It would never be seen again. Near the bed Alphonse was seated,
holding the hand of his dead wife, his other hand up to his face. He
looked the picture of sad despair. The aged form, so recently still
endowed with life and vigour, was now bent and bowed under the weight of
sorrow.

As we entered he glanced up, and stronger than all the evident grief we
were surprised to see an unmistakable look of resignation. Quietly
placing the cold hand that never would move or clasp his own again, he
rose and came towards us.

"Oh, señor, this is kind. You come to me in my loneliness. It is all
over. The sightless eyes are closed, the beautiful voice is still. I
have often prayed that I might be the last to be taken. Heaven is
merciful, and has answered me. As the dawn broke in the east her spirit
went. Raising her hand as though pointing to some unseen vision:
'Alphonse,' she said, 'I am called. You will soon join me, beloved.'
Then a glory seemed to pass over her face, and she was gone. Señor, come
near and look upon that beautiful face once more."

He approached the bed and with reverent hand drew down the sheet.

We were almost startled by the beauty disclosed. The face seemed to have
gone back to the days of its youth; it might have been that of a young
woman of surpassing loveliness. The rapt expression the old man had
spoken of was still there. It was impossible but that some divine vision
had been seen at the last by those eyes closed to mortal things. It
spoke of intense happiness, of a joy that was to be eternal.

"Alphonse, how can you look upon that face, which has the divine image
upon it and the divine glory, and be sad?"

"Señor, I have lost my all. I am very lonely. Yesterday I was rich; I
knew not how rich; to-day I am poor and stricken. Yet I am resigned; and
I am happy in the thought that in a few days--I verily believe in a few
days--my body will rest with hers in one grave, and our spirits will be
united in Paradise. I am not sad; only intensely lonely. Señor, you gave
her almost her very last pleasure. After you had left, she said that for
years our little room had not seemed so bright. You brought her a breath
from her old world and she declared that she felt her youth renewed. Was
it not the spirit telling her in advance how soon her youth should
indeed return to her? Oh, Nerissa, my life's joy, my best beloved, in
what realms is your pure spirit now wandering? Surely you need me to
perfect your happiness?"

We stayed awhile with him, and before leaving found the forlorn
attitude, the despairing droop had departed. As we said good-bye we
quietly placed money in his hand.

"To buy flowers," we explained. "Place them gently in her coffin. The
fairest flowers you can find. They will still be less fair than she."

"Ah, señor," he returned, "it is a long farewell. I shall look upon your
face no more. But when I meet her again we will talk of you. And do not
think that you leave me to utter solitude. I have many friends about me,
and though humble they are good. For my few remaining days I need have
no thought, and I have no fear."

We departed. The little episode was over. But it would be ever
associated in our mind with Lerida, enshrouding the town in a peculiarly
sacred atmosphere.



CHAPTER XXII.

A SAD HISTORY.

     Broad plains of Aragon--Wonderful tones--Approaching
     Zaragoza--Celestial vision--Distance lends enchantment--Commonplace
     people--The ancient modernised--Disillusion followed by
     delight--Almost a small Paris--Cafés and their merits--Not socially
     attractive--Friendly equality--Mixture of classes--Inheritance of
     the past--Interesting streets--Arcades and gables--Lively
     scenes--People in costume--Picture of Old Spain--Ancient
     palaces--One especially romantic--The world well lost--Fair
     Lucia--Where love might reign for ever--Paradise not for this
     world--Doomed--The last dawn--Inconsolable--Seeking death--Found on
     the battlefield--A day vision--Few rivals--In the new
     cathedral--Startling episode--Asking alms--Young and
     fair--Uncomfortable moment--Terrible story--Fatal chains--"And
     after?"--How minister to a mind diseased?--Sunshine clouded--Burden
     of life--Any way of escape?--Suggestions of past centuries--The
     mighty fallen.


The sun was still high in the heavens when our train steamed out of the
station towards Zaragoza and the ancient kingdom of Aragon. Much of the
journey lay through broad plains that had no specially redeeming feature
about them. Even fertility seemed denied, for they were often destitute
of trees and vegetation. Yet were they sometimes covered with a lovely
heather possessing a wonderful tone and beauty of its own.

Most to be remembered in the journey was the sunset. Towards evening as
we approached Zaragoza, the sun dipped across the vast plains and went
down in a blood-red ball. Immediately the sky was flushed with the most
gorgeous colours, which melted into an after-glow that remained far into
the night.

In the midst of this splendid effect of sky we saw across the plains the
wonderful towers and turrets and domes of Zaragoza rising like a
celestial vision. As we neared, we thought it a dream-city: not perched
on a gigantic rock like Segovia, but on a gentle height of some 500 feet
above the sea-level.

The approach to the town is very striking. There is an abundant promise
of good things, not, we are bound to confess, eventually carried out.
Apparently, it is of all cities the most picturesque, with its splendid
river running rapidly through the plain, spanned by its world-famed
bridge, above which rise the beautiful, refined, eastern-looking
outlines; but once inside the town the charm in part disappears. It is
to be worshipped at a distance.

Our first impression told us this, as we rumbled through the streets in
the old omnibus and marked their modern aspect, the busy, common-place
bearing of the people.

We had expected a great deal of Zaragoza; hoped to find a city of great
antiquity, with nothing but gabled houses and ancient outlines worthy
the fair capital of the fair kingdom of Aragon. These we found the
exception. Its antiquity is undoubted, but too much of the town has been
modernised and rebuilt. Still, the exceptions are so striking that when
one's first disillusion is over, it is followed by something very like
delight and amazement.

The hotel was a large rambling building which might have existed for
centuries; and as comfortable as most of the Spanish provincial inns. A
perfect maze of passages; and when the hotel guide piloted us to a
far-off room to see a collection of antiquities of very modest merit we
felt it might have taken hours to get back alone to our starting point.

Zaragoza is large and flourishing; its prosperity is evident; its new
streets are handsome and common-place. Some of them are wide boulevards
lined with trees, lighted with electric lamps, possessing "every new and
modern improvement." As you go through them you almost think of a small
Paris. At night its cafés are brilliantly lighted, and rank as the
finest in Spain. They are always crowded, and fond and foolish parents
bring their children and keep them in the glare and glitter until
towards midnight, when they fall off their perches. Music of some sort
is always going on; sometimes the harsh, barbarous discords and howlings
the Spanish delight in, at others civilised harmonies and trained
voices that are really beautiful but less popular.

Those who frequent these cafés are not socially of an attractive class.
Many are rough country people who are evidently in Zaragoza as birds of
passage. The roughest specimens of apparently unwashed waifs and strays
will take possession of a table, and at the very next table, almost
touching elbows with them, will be a fashionable couple, dressed smartly
enough for a wedding. The one in no way disconcerts the other, and all
treat each other on the basis of a friendly species of equality. The
lowest of the people who have a few sous to spare in their pocket devote
them to this, their earthly paradise. They love the glare and glamour
and warmth--it is the one green oasis in the desert of their every-day
lives; all the working hours are gilded by the thought of the evening's
amusement. Many of them have dull, dark homes, in which they feel
cribbed and cabined. Of the quiet pleasures of domestic life they know
little, but they are all perfectly happy. One of the strongest
characteristics of human nature is its adaptability to circumstances;
the back fits itself to the burden. People seldom die of a broken heart.

In Zaragoza, more than anywhere else, we saw this strange mixture of
classes; wondered that some of them were admitted. But they behaved like
ladies and gentlemen, drinking coffee and helping themselves to
detestable spirit with an air and a grace only they know how to put on.
Yet it is not put on; it is born with them; an inheritance from the
past.

It was not in all this, however, that the charm of Zaragoza consisted.
These everyday common-place sights and experiences have few attractions
for those who seek to link themselves with the past in its ancient
outlines and glorious buildings. The cafés were all very well as studies
of human nature, but one very soon had enough of them.

There was one long street especially old and interesting. On each side
were deep, massive arcades of a very early period, above which the
houses rose in quaint, gabled outlines, many of the windows still
possessing latticed panes, which added so much to their charm. To make
the street more interesting, the market was held here. On both sides
the road, in front of the arcades was a long succession of stalls, where
everything relating to domestic life was sold. Fruit and flower and
vegetable stalls were the most picturesque, full of fragrance and
colouring. Luscious grapes and pomegranates were heaped side by side
with a wealth of roses and orange blossoms and the still sweeter
verbena. Many of the stall-holders wore costumes which harmonised
admirably with the arcades and gabled roofs. The street was crowded with
buyers and sellers and loungers, though few seemed alive to the
picturesque element, in which we were absorbed. Many of the men,
stalwart, strong and vigorous, were dressed in the costume of the
country; knee-breeches and broad-brimmed hat; whilst broad blue and red
silken sashes were tied round the waist: a hardy, active race, made for
endurance. This scene had by far the most human interest of any we found
in Zaragoza. As a picture of Old Spain, it would have made the fortune
of an artist as we saw it that day in all the effect of sunlight and
shadow, all the life and movement that seemed to rouse the arcades of
the past into touch with the present.

Near to this a wonderful leaning-tower stood until recently; a
magnificent Moorish-looking clock-tower built about the year 1500. This
was one of the glories of Zaragoza; but the inhabitants after
subscribing a sum of money to prop it up, grew alarmed and subscribed
another sum to pull it down. In reality it was perfectly safe and might
have stood for centuries.

But when all is said and done, it is in its side streets, narrow,
tortuous and gloomy, that the interest of Zaragoza chiefly lies.

Many of the houses are ancient and enormous palaces, once inhabited by
the old aristocracy of Aragon. They are so solidly built that they not
only defy time, but almost the destructive hand of man. Some of them
have wonderfully interesting facades: roofs with overhanging eaves and
Gothic windows guarded by wrought ironwork; features that can never
tire.

Magnificent and imposing gateways lead into yet more imposing
courtyards. One of these was especially beautiful: and its history was
romantic.

[Illustration: FAIR LUCIA'S HOUSE: ZARAGOZA.]

It once belonged to the son of a reigning duke who renounced all for
love, and thought the world well lost. He offended his family by his
marriage, and they treated him as one dead.

The lady of his choice, fair Lucia, was beautiful and charming, but
beneath him. Tradition says that she was an actress, and that he fell
hopelessly in love with her as she played in a drama where all ended
tragically. It might have been a warning to them, but when was love ever
warned? He espoused her and they took up their abode in this wonderful
old palace, fitting home of romance.

As we gazed upon the matchless courtyard: the overhanging eaves, the
rounded arches of the balcony with their graceful and refined pillars,
the exquisitely-carved ceilings and staircase of rich black oak: the
latter wide enough to drive up a coach and four: we felt that here love
might reign for ever. And probably it would have lasted long; for the
lady, as history says, had all graces of the spirit as well as all the
charm of exquisite form and feature: whilst her knight was true as the
needle to the pole, constant as death.

They were happy in each other; life was a paradise; and when did such a
perfect condition of things ever last? Paradise is not for this world.

Five summers and winters passed and found them still devoted to each
other. Every day was a dream. Then a cruel visitation came to their
town: an epidemic, sparing not high or low. It attacked the fair Lucia:
and though her husband nursed her night and day, and all the leeches of
the town combined their skill and judgment to save her, a stronger power
than theirs was against them.

The last day dawned; instinct told her that another sun for her could
never rise. Her husband bent over her in an agony of grief. She clasped
her fair, frail arms around his neck.

"My love, my love, we have been very happy: all in all to each other,"
she murmured. "These five years, an eternity of bliss, have yet flown
swiftly as a day. You have been good--so good; dear--so dear. Perhaps it
is well to die thus and now, with all our youth, and all our dreams, and
all our illusions undispelled. Eternity will restore us to each other. I
leave you with not one mark on the delicate bloom of our great love."

She died and he was not to be consoled. His people offered to be
reunited to him but he would none of them.

It was the time of the War of Succession. Into this he madly plunged,
seeking death and finding it. As a rule death is said to avoid those who
court him; but here it was not so. The knight, faithful to the end, was
found upon the battlefield, his eyes wide open, looking upon the
heavens; where perhaps he saw the vision of his lovely wife, whilst her
miniature lay next his heart.

The house still stands much as it stood in those days, but two centuries
older. It is the most beautiful in Zaragoza, perhaps has few equals in
all Spain. A special atmosphere surrounds it: and as we look a vision
rises.

Standing in the courtyard and gazing upon that wide staircase, we see
that youthful pair, so favoured by nature, passing to and fro; we see
them looking into each other's eyes, hear their love vows. Their arms
entwine, their love-locks mingle. A mist blurs the scene, and when it
passes all has changed. A sad cortége is descending. A coffin bearing
the remains of what was once so fair and full of life. A knight armed
cap-à-pied follows, with clanking sword and spur; but his face is pale
and his eyes are red with weeping, though they weep not now. They will
never weep again. The fountain of his tears is dried.

Again the mist blurs the scene, and when it clears nothing is visible
but the solitary knight ascending to his lonely room, love flown, hope
dead, his life gone from him.

Presently the palace is closed; no one ascends or descends the
staircase; voices are never heard, footsteps never echo. Surely ghosts
haunt the sad corridors, look out from the vacant arcades upon the
silent courtyard. For the knight has long lain dead upon the battlefield
and no one comes to claim the palace and once more throw wide its
portals to life, and laughter and sunshine.

We paid it more than one visit during our sojourn in Zaragoza, and each
time there passed before us in vivid colours the love-poem of two
hundred years ago.

In the bright sunshine, the morning after our arrival we had gone forth
to acquaint ourselves with the city. No view was more striking than that
beyond the river looking upon the town.

[Illustration: FAIR LUCIA'S HOUSE: ZARAGOZA.]

We stood on the farther bank. The stream flowed rapidly at our feet.
Before us the wonderful bridge spanned the water with its seven arches:
a massive, time-edifying structure. Above this in magic outlines rose
the towers, turrets and domes of the new cathedral of El Pilar, as
splendid from this point of view as it is really worthless both
outwardly and inwardly on a closer inspection. It is certainly one of
the most remarkable scenes in all Spain: and from this point Zaragoza
possesses few rivals.

The new cathedral of El Pilar: so called because it possesses the pillar
on which the Virgin is said to have descended from heaven. It is a very
large building, and the domes from a distance are very effective, but
the interior is in the worst and most debased style.

As we stood within the vast space that morning, wondering so much wealth
had been wasted on this poor fabric, a female, apparently a lady,
dressed in sable garments, her face veiled by the graceful mantilla,
glided up to us and solicited alms.

At the first moment we thought we had mistaken her meaning, but on
looking at her in doubt, she repeated her demand more imploringly.

"Señor, for the love of heaven, give me charity." The building was
large, the worshippers were few, it was easy to converse.

"But what do you mean?" we said. "You look too respectable to be asking
alms. Surely you cannot be in want?"

"In want? I am starving."

And throwing back her mantilla she disclosed a face still young, still
fair to excess, but pale, pinched and careworn.

We felt terribly uncomfortable. She walked and spoke as a lady. There
was a refinement in her voice and movement that could only have come
from gentle breeding. How had she fallen so low? Eyes must have asked
the question tongue could not.

[Illustration: BRIDGE AND CATHEDRAL OF EL PILAR: ZARAGOZA.]

"Listen, señor," she said, as though in reply. "Listen and pity me. I
was tenderly and delicately brought up, possessed a comfortable home,
indulgent parents. We lived in Madrid, where my father held an office
under Government. I was an only child and indulged. Pale, quiet and
subdued as you see me now, I was passionate, headstrong and wilful. I
fell under the influence of one outwardly an angel, inwardly a demon. He
was a singer at the opera, and his voice charmed me even more than his
splendid presence. He was beneath me, but we met clandestinely again and
again, until at last he persuaded me to fly with him. I was infatuated
to madness. All my past life, all past influence, teaching, thought of
home, love of parents--all was thrown to the winds for this wild
passion. We were secretly married before we fled, for mad as I was I had
not lost all sense of honour. Almost from the very first day retribution
set in. My father had long suffered from disease of the heart though I
knew it not, and the shock of my flight killed him. The home was broken
up, my mother was left almost destitute, and in a frenzy of despair, a
moment of insanity, took poison. I was an orphan, and then discovered
that my husband had thought I should be rich. On learning the truth, he
began to ill-treat me. His fancy had been caught for a moment by my fair
face. Of this he soon tired and, base villain that he was, transferred
his worthless affections elsewhere. Things went from bad to worse. There
were times when he even beat me--and I could not retaliate. I had come
to my senses; I recognised the hand of retribution, and accepted my
punishment. But what wonder that in my misery I learned to seek oblivion
in the wine cup? Perhaps my worthless husband first gave me the idea of
this temptation, for he was seldom sober. It was in one of those
terrible moments that he fell from a height and so injured himself that
after five days of intense agony he died. I was free but penniless; knew
not where to go, which way to turn. I had not a friend in the world--all
had forsaken me. There was but one thing I could do. I had a voice and
could sing. I sang in cafés, at small concerts, wherever I could get an
engagement and earn a trifle. Now I am in Zaragoza. Most nights I sing
in the great café, but my small earnings all go in the same way--to
satisfy my craving for wine. Wine, wine, wine; it is my one sin, but oh!
I feel that it is fatal. I know that it is surely drawing my feet to the
grave. And after that?"

She shuddered; then pointed to a tawdry image of the Virgin, before
which we stood.

"There, before that altar, I have knelt day after day and prayed to be
delivered; but I have prayed in vain; no answer comes, and the chains
are binding about me. Señor, I saw you enter; recognised that you were a
stranger. Something told me I might address you and you would at least
listen; would not spurn me or turn away in hateful contempt. But what
can you do? I have asked for alms. I have told you I am starving--and
so I am; but it is the soul that is starving more than the body. You
will bestow your charity upon me--I know you will--and it will not go in
food but in wine. Ah, if you could cure me, or give me an antidote that
would send me into a sleep from which I should never waken, that indeed
would be the greatest and truest charity."

Then we realised that the pale face and pinched look were not due to
want of food. The cause was deeper and more hopeless. It was one of the
saddest stories we had ever listened to; and it came upon us so abruptly
that we felt helpless and bewildered: sick at heart at the very thought
of our want of power to minister to this mind diseased.

"Give us your name and address," we said, after trying to think out the
situation. "Let us see if there is any way of escape for you. Your sad
story has clouded the sunshine."

She drew a card from her pocket in a quiet, ladylike way and placed it
in our hands with a pathetic, appealing look that haunts us still.

We watched her turn away and noted the quiet, graceful movement with
which she glided down the aisle and disappeared through a distant door;
and our keenest sympathy went out to the poor, fair, frail creature
whose burden of life was greater than she could bear. Could by any
possibility a way of escape be found for her?

We passed out of the church, which now seemed laden with an atmosphere
of human sorrow and suffering, glad to escape to the free air and pure
skies of heaven. From the Cathedral Square we turned into the narrow
streets with their great grey palaces and enormous courtyards all full
of suggestions of the past centuries. But the mighty have fallen: Aragon
has not escaped decline any more than the rest of Spain.



CHAPTER XXIII.

IN ZARAGOZA.

     Bygone days--Sumptuous roosting--Old exchange--Traders of
     taste--Glory of Aragon--Cathedral of La Seo--Modernised
     exterior--Interior charms and mesmerises--Next to
     Barcelona--Magnificent effect--Parish church--Moorish ceiling--Tomb
     of Bernardo de Aragon--The old priest--Waxes
     enthusiastic--Supernatural effect--Statuette of Benedict
     XIII.--Mysterious chiaroscuro--One exception--Alonza the
     Warrior--Moorish tiles--Bishop's palace--Frugal meal--Trace of old
     Zaragoza--Fifteenth century house--Juanita--Streets of the
     city--Cæsarea Augusta--Worship of the Virgin--Alonzo the
     Moor--Determined resistance--Days of struggle--Falling--Return to
     prosperity--Fair maid of Zaragoza--The Aljaferia--Ancient palace of
     the Moorish kings--Injured by Suchet--Salon of Santa
     Isabel--Spanish café--Four generations--Lovely voice--Lamartine's
     _Le Lac_--Recognised--Reading between the lines--Out in the night
     air--An inspiration--Night vision of El Pilar--In the far future.


The prosperity of Zaragoza to-day is entirely commercial, but on a small
scale. It is not a great financial or manufacturing town. The rooms that
once echoed with the voices of dames and cavaliers, flashed with the
blaze of jewels and the gleam of scabbards, have now in many cases been
turned into stables. The courtyards, once crowded with mailed horsemen
setting out for the wars, are now given over to the fowls of the air,
that roost in the eaves and have little idea how sumptuously and
artistically they are lodged.

Going on to the old Cathedral Square, we faced the ancient Exchange with
its splendid cornice and decorations of medallion heads of the bygone
kings and warriors of Aragon. The Gothic interior is very interesting,
with low, vaulted passages leading to the one great room with its high
roof and fine pointed windows, where once the merchants of the town
carried on their operations. It would seem that in those past days the
sale of stocks and shares, the great questions of finance, did not
imply a contempt for the charms of outline and refinement. They loved to
surround themselves with the splendours of architecture; and in more
than one Spanish town the last and best remnant of the Gothic age is to
be found in the Exchange.

The whole square was striking. In the centre was a splendid fountain, at
which a group of women for ever stood with their artistic pitchers,
filling them in turn. Fun and laughter seemed the order of the day. The
square echoed with merriment, to which the many-mouthed plashing
fountain added its music.

On the further side of the square is the great glory, not of Zaragoza
alone, but of the whole kingdom of Aragon--the old cathedral of La Seo.

The exterior has been much modernised, and perhaps was never specially
striking. It is curious only at the N.E. angle, where the wall is inlaid
with coloured tiles of the fourteenth century; of all shapes, sizes,
patterns and colours. The whole has a rich Moorish effect almost
dazzling when the sun shines upon them. Above this rises an octagonal
tower decorated with Corinthian pillars.

From all this glare and sound, hurry and bustle of life, you pass into
the interior and at once are charmed, mesmerised. Calmness and repose
fall upon the spirit; in a moment you have suddenly been removed from
the world. At once it takes its place in the mind as ranking next to
Barcelona. If some of its details are not to be too closely examined,
the general effect is magnificent in the extreme.

In form it is peculiar and unlike any other cathedral, for it is almost
a perfect square, but this is not observed at the first moment; the Coro
occupies the centre, and a multitude of splendid columns support and
separate the double aisles. The nave and aisles are all roofed to the
same level, giving a very lofty appearance to the whole interior. The
vaulting springs from the capitals of the main columns with an effect of
beauty and grace seldom equalled. To look upwards is like gazing at a
palm-forest with spreading fronds.

Like many of the Spanish churches, the light is cunningly arranged, and
the shadow-effect is very telling. A solemn obscurity for ever reigns,
excepting when sunbeams fall upon the windows. Towards evening the gloom
deepens, and all looks weird and mysterious. The outlines of the lofty
roof and spreading capitals are almost lost. We seem to be in a vast
building of measureless dimensions: a dream-structure. The grey, subdued
colour of the stone is perfect. Immense buttresses support the side
walls, and between these are the chapels.

[Illustration: AN OLD NOOK IN ZARAGOZA.]

The first chapel on the left on entering is used as a parish church.
Its Moorish ceiling is magnificent, though difficult to make out in the
dim religious light that too often reigns. The chapel also contains a
very remarkable alabaster tomb of Bernardo de Aragon, brother of King
Alfonso. When we entered, it was almost at the end of a service, and for
congregation the old priest had no one but the verger. He seemed
relieved when it was over, waddled down the steps and disrobed. Then in
a very kindly way he turned to us, bowed as gracefully as his rotund
personage permitted, and bade us note the beauty of ceiling and tomb.

"Light a few more candles," he said to the verger, "and let us try to
get at a few of the exquisitely carved details. It is considered one of
the finest Moorish ceilings in Spain," he continued; "and in my opinion
it is so. You will mark the depth of the sections, beauty of the
workmanship, rich and gorgeous effect of the whole composition. There
never was a people like those wonderful Moors--never will be again as
long as the world lasts. How these candles add a charm to the scanty
daylight, giving out almost a supernatural effect! Has it ever struck
you in the same way, this strange mingling of natural and artificial
light? It is especially refining. Then look at this tomb, and admire its
beauty--though it is of a very different character from the ceiling.
Here we have nothing Moorish. That overwhelming wealth and gorgeousness
of imagination is absent from the cold marble. But how pure and perfect!
Note that exquisite statuette of Benedict XIII.: the figures of the
knights that surround him with their military orders; the drooping
figures of the mourners in the niches. But after all, what is all this
compared with the splendours of the cathedral itself," cried the old
priest, without pausing to take breath. "Put out the lights, Mateo,"
turning to the verger; and then without further ceremony led the way
into the larger building.

He had a large, red, amiable face, this old priest; some day we felt
sure that he would die of apoplexy; but he was evidently a lover of the
beautiful, and as evidently one who loved his fellow-men.

[Illustration: NORTH WALL OF CATHEDRAL: ZARAGOZA.]

"Look!" he said, throwing up his hands as we stood entranced at the
scene. "What can be more perfect? Whichever way you gaze you are met by
a forest of pillars--a true forest, full of life and breath, for are not
those growing like spreading palms? And where will you find pillars so
lofty and massive? Where will you discover such a feeling of devotion,
so mysterious a chiaroscuro? Apart from their beauty, we must not
disdain these influences. They are aids to devotion, and poor, frail,
erring human nature needs all the help it can receive both from without
and within, from below and Above. I always tell our organist to play
soft voluntaries and pull out his sweetest stops, so that he may make
music which will creep into the spirit and rouse all its capacities for
worship. That should be the true aim of all harmony. Look at the
richness of the coro--the splendour of the carving. It all forms an
effect which makes this the most wonderful and perfect cathedral in the
whole of Spain."

"With one exception," we ventured modestly to observe.

"Which is that?" cried the old priest, evidently sharpening his weapon
of warfare--the tongue that did him such good suit and service.

"Your cathedral is a gem of the very first water," we said. "It throws
one into a dream from which one might almost wish not to awaken; but it
is not equal to Barcelona."

The old priest put his hand to his forehead and looked depressed.

"You are right," he said; "I cannot contradict you. But then Barcelona
is beyond comparison." Here he brightened again. "Let me tell you the
difference. Barcelona was never built by men; it was the work of angels.
It is a dream-building that came down from the skies, and some day it
will disappear into the skies again. And then here we shall reign
supreme. With all its beauty and splendour and charm, there is nothing
here to suggest angel master-builders; it is a dream-fabric if you will,
but essentially the work of man: firm and strong and substantial,
lasting through the ages. In the days of the Goths there was another
building on this very spot. The Moors came and it was turned into a
mosque; and when Alonza the Warrior re-took the city the church was
reconstructed. This was early in the twelfth century. Here the kings of
Aragon were crowned with pomp and ceremony, and here our most important
councils have been held. Now come and look at our Moorish tiles."

And again, without pause in his talk, and without ceremony, he led the
way. We could only willingly follow through the lovely forest of
pillars, crossing one aisle after another, sharing his enthusiasm. We
had the whole church to ourselves. The people of Zaragoza seemed too
busy to trouble themselves about dreams of architecture.

"Look again," said the old priest, as we stood outside in front of the
north wall. "These tiles are very beautiful and remarkable. They are
undoubtedly Moorish; the work of Moorish craftsmen. Do you observe the
fineness of the colours, the rich deep blue that contrasts so well with
the emerald green? You would think the effect of so much colour would be
garish, but on the contrary it is quiet and subdued, with great dignity
about it. This is quite the oldest part of the exterior. One can only
regret that the whole was not tiled, for then we should have possessed a
unique building with which to challenge the world. You see there are
still evidences of an earlier church than this," and he pointed to
certain remains which were unmistakably Romanesque: in the lower part of
the apse, the buttresses and in one of the windows.

"And there," said the old priest, pointing to an immense building, "is
the Bishop's palace, which was sacked and ruined by the French in that
terrible war. Since that day much that was interesting in Zaragoza has
disappeared; but heaven be praised, we have still our cathedral, and as
long as we have that, the rest matters little. And now I must wish you
good-morning. It is my hour for breakfast--a very frugal meal with me,
consisting chiefly of eggs and sweet herbs. Ah, señor," with a round
gurgling laugh, "I see what you are thinking--that eggs and sweet herbs
never developed this rotundity of person. You are wrong. I fast twice in
the week; I never touch anything stronger than coffee; I have only two
simple meals a day; and yet you see how prodigal nature is in her
dealings with me. You doubt me? Come with me. I live at a stone's throw.
You shall see my abode and interrogate my old housekeeper, and you will
hear how she corroborates my tale."

He led the way, this singular old priest, whom we found not only
appreciating the beautiful, but brimming over with humour: one of those
delightfully simple, self-unconscious men, who are all sympathy and
amiability. We could but follow: down a small narrow street into a
quaint sort of _cul-de-sac_, where we came upon an exquisite trace of
Old Zaragoza.

A small fifteenth-century house, with a quaint Gothic doorway, and a
window guarded by magnificent iron-work. Touching a hidden spring, this
door opened and admitted us into a panelled passage that apparently had
not been touched for centuries. Then he turned into a wonderful old
room, black with panelled oak, some of which was vigorously and
splendidly carved.

"This is my living room," he said, "and here I am happy. I live in the
past; the fine old fifteenth-century days when men knew how to produce
the beautiful and were great in all their ideas. Here I live, and here I
hope to die."

He went to the door.

"Juanita!" he called. A distant voice answered, and in a moment a quaint
old woman dressed in black appeared upon the scene.

"Juanita, is my breakfast ready?" asked the old priest.

"Si, el canon."

"What have you prepared?"

"Two fried eggs, canonigo, flavoured with sweet herbs; bread, butter and
coffee at discretion--as usual."

"You see," laughed the priest. "There is no collusion here! Would that I
could ask you to share my frugal meal; but it is emphatically only
enough for one--and that an abstemious old canon. Now if you will come
and see me this evening or to-morrow, I shall be delighted to receive
you. I would even ask you to come and dine with me, but my dinner is as
frugal as my déjeuner. Well, for the moment we part; but you will come
again."

As we said good-bye, Juanita appeared with her fried eggs, and steaming
coffee served in a chaste silver pot that must have been at least a
hundred and fifty years old; and the old priest accompanying us to the
door, speeded us on our way with true courtesy and an old-fashioned
blessing.

[Illustration: TOWER OF LA SEO: ZARAGOZA.]

We passed from this delightful atmosphere into the modern streets of the
city, thinking how little remained of its former traces. For it goes far
back in history, even to the days of the Romans, when it was called
Cæsarea Augusta; a name that in course of ages was transformed to
Zaragoza. Early in the first century it was prosperous; a free city
possessing its own charters, seat of the Assizes, owning a mint. But of
the old Roman city all traces have disappeared. It was one of the first
cities to renounce Paganism. Aurelios Prudentius the first Christian
poet was born here in the year 348. Christianity was then the keynote
of its life, and martyrs died for the faith. Now it is given up to the
worship of the Virgin almost more than any town in Spain. In the eighth
century it fell under the dominion of the Moors, who kept it until the
twelfth century. Then came Alonso the Warrior, who captured it after a
desperate siege of five years, when the people had most of them
perished from hunger: one of the most determined resistances in the
history of the world.

It passed through many vicissitudes as the centuries rolled on. Then in
1808 came the French, who without taking the town managed to leave it
almost in ruins. Then came the attack under Napoleon's four generals,
and Zaragoza resisted them single-handed for sixty-two days of terrible
struggle, combined with plague and famine. All Spain looked on and did
nothing to relieve it. It fell in 1809. Since that time it has had a
peaceful return to prosperity.

Many of the ancient outlines and splendours of the city had disappeared
in the "heap of ruins" left by the French. A new element arose, and as
we walked towards our rambling old inn, with its thousand-and-one
passages, we thought them painfully evident. At the inn we took up our
guide, who escorted us through many streets and turnings to the Plaza
del Portillo, where stood the ancient west gate of the city.

It was on this very spot that occurred the romantic episode of Augustina
the Fair Maid of Zaragoza; a Spanish Joan of Arc on a small scale.

In the terrible siege to which the city was to succumb, Augustina was
fighting on the walls side by side with her devoted lover. She watched
him fall, death-stricken, then took the match from his loosening hand
and worked the gun herself. Determined to avenge her lover, it is said
that she fought long and desperately and with more fatal execution than
any two artillerymen. But we all know the story by heart; and how,
though courting death, she escaped all dangers.

Not to see this romantic spot were we here, but the Aljaferia, just
beyond the gate, in some measure by far the most interesting secular
building in Zaragoza. This was the ancient palace of the Moorish kings,
and still possesses some exquisite Moorish traces and outlines, though
chiefly by way of restoration. It was built by a Sheikh of Zaragoza as a
royal fortress, with almost impregnable walls. Ferdinand the Catholic
gave it over to the Inquisition party to add to the power of this
wretched tribunal, partly because in these strong walls the hated judges
found a safe refuge after the murder of the popular and ill-fated
Arbues.

In the French war it was much injured by Suchet, who turned it into a
barrack, then degraded this ancient palace of the Moorish kings and the
kings of Aragon to the rank of a prison. Alphonso XII. restored the
palace, and had it redecorated as far as possible to imitate its ancient
splendour. The staircase is very fine, and the ceilings of some of the
rooms are magnificent. One of the rooms is called the Salon of Santa
Isabel, because here that future queen of Hungary, so famous for her
goodness, was born in 1271. It is richly decorated in blue and gold.
There is a small octagonal mosque of great beauty, which has been left
just as it was in the days of the Moors; and some of the horseshoe
doorways, in outline at least, have not changed. The visit was full of
interest, and in spite of all alteration, carried us back to the days
when that wonderful people reigned in Zaragoza. In the upper part was a
magnificent armoury, kept in good order by the soldiers--for this fine
old building has again been turned into a barrack, and devoted to
military use.

The day passed on to night, and there came an hour when we found
ourselves sitting for a time in the café that is said to be the largest
in Spain, studying human nature, listening to the music--for once an
interesting and civilised performance. The room was gorgeously fitted up
with gilding and mirrors that seemed to reflect a million lights. The
atmosphere was fast growing to that state of blue haze which the
Spaniards delight in, many of whom are said to carry on their smoke in
their sleep by some process of conjuring only to be acquired after long
practice.

We happened to be looking away from the orchestra, in deep study of a
curious group to our right--a group which seemed to comprise four
generations. One was one of the oddest little old women we had ever
seen, with a wonderfully wrinkled face, and small restless eyes sharp as
an eagle's, and withered hands that looked like a bird's claws. This was
the little great-grandmother. She had by no means passed into her
dotage, the nonentity of old age, and was possibly not more than seventy
or seventy-five, though she looked a hundred. Then came her son and
daughter-in-law--unmistakably her son from the likeness to her on a
larger and somewhat pleasanter scale. Then a still younger generation:
a young man and woman, evidently husband and wife; she as evidently the
man's daughter. These were better dressed and looked as though they had
climbed a few rungs up the social ladder; they were prosperous in their
small way; and the young man was distinctly of a better grade than his
father-in-law. On his knee sat a lovely boy some five years old, fast
asleep, his head pillowed against the father's shoulder. Here was the
fourth generation.

But what most attracted us was the singular beauty of the young man's
wife, with her delicate flushed cheeks, her white teeth, clear hazel
eyes, and abundant hair perfectly arranged. He seemed to follow her
looks and hang upon her words and worship the ground she trod upon, and
we did not wonder.

We were absorbed in this domestic picture, when suddenly we were
arrested by the spell of a lovely voice, and well-remembered words fell
upon our ear. It was that touching song of Lamartine's, _Le Lac_, so
pathetic in words and music. We turned and felt thrilled and startled as
we recognised the face and form that had accosted us in El Pilar and
poured out her sad story.

But the face was changed. In place of the hungry pallor there was now a
crimson flush; the eyes sparkled with light. Was it all due to inward
fever, to the wine-cup, or to artificial aid? Not the latter, we
thought. There was a beauty upon the face nothing artificial ever yet
possessed. She was quietly dressed in black. It might have been the very
robe she had worn in the morning, differently arranged.

We must have moved or slightly started, for at that moment she evidently
recognised us. For an instant her face changed colour, her voice
trembled; then she recovered herself, and apparently did not again
notice us.

The very first words of the introduction had caught our ear with all the
charm and familiarity of an old friend. All its dramatic power was well
rendered by the singer.

    "Ainsi toujours poussés vers de nouveaux rivages,
      Dans la nuit éternelle emportés sans retour,
    Ne pourrons-nous jamais sur l'océan des âges
      Jeter l'ancre un seul jour?"

So it went on, to the end of the declamation. Then, after a slight
pause, whilst the accompanist went through the short refrain, the soft
sweet melody, the graceful, mournful words rose upon the air:

    "Un soir, t'en souvient-il, nous voguions en silence,
      On n'entendait au loin sur l'onde et sous les cieux,
    Que le bruit des rameurs qui frappaient en cadence
      Tes flôts harmonieux!

    "O Lac! Rochers muets, grottes, forêt obscure,
      Vous que le temps épargne, ou qu'il peut rajeunir,
    Gardez de cette nuit, gardez, belle nature,
      Au moins le souvenir!

    "Que le vent qui gémit, le roseau qui soupire,
      Que les parfums légers de ton air embaumé,
    Que tout ce qu'on entend, l'on voit, ou l'on respire,
      Tout dise: ils ont aimé!"

Not a word was lost. Every syllable rang out softly, distinctly, clear
as a bell. We had never heard the song more beautifully sung, or greater
justice done to its pathos. Every shade of sadness in its cadences was
perfectly given. It was only too evident that trouble had helped the
exquisite voice to its sorrowful ring. To us, who were to some extent
behind the scenes of the singer's life, it was difficult to listen
without emotion. We could read between the lines and knew the source of
her inspiration; the deep suffering and misery that lay behind it all.

When the song was over, with its applause that grated, and the singer
had retired, we felt the room had become stifling and unbearable, and
went out into the night air. The streets seemed to have grown small and
contracted. Something must be done for that sad life that would
otherwise soon be lost in every sense of the word; yet apparently we
were powerless to move in the matter. Suddenly, as though by an
inspiration, we thought of the old canon, so full of sympathy and human
kindness. If there could be any possible way of escape, he was the one
to suggest it; and we determined to lay the whole case before him.

Thus thinking, we unconsciously found ourselves on the banks of the
river. The night was clear and calm; the stars hung in the sky: the
moon, brilliant and silvery, was rising behind El Pilar, showing up in
magic outlines all the grace of its domes and towers. The old bridge
spanned the stream, whose dark waters flowed rapidly through its seven
arches.

It was a perfect night, a witching scene. Everywhere intense quiet
reigned, absolute stillness and repose. The world might have been a
sleeping paradise, knowing nothing of human suffering. But we had
learned that day by sad experience that the time for sorrow and sighing
to flee away lay still in the far-off future.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE CANON'S HOSPITALITY.

     El Pilar by day--In the old cathedral--The canon reproachful--Equal
     to the occasion--No pressure needed--_Un diner maigre_--Dream of
     forty years--True to time--Juanita--Fruits of long
     service--Exploring Juanita's domains--House of magic--"Surely not a
     fast-day"--Artistic dreams--Who can legislate after death?--Canon's
     abstinence--Juanita withdraws--Our opportunity--Canon earnest and
     sympathetic--Eugenie de Colmar--Canon's surprise--An old
     friend--Truth stranger than fiction--"You will forget the old
     priest"--Ingratitude not one of our sins--A _rivederci_--Canon's
     letter--End of Eugenie's story--En route for Tarragona--Landlord
     turns up at Lerida--Missing keys--Skeletons floated out to
     Panama--Domestic drama--Dragon again to the
     front--Tarragona--Matchless coast scene--Civilised inn--Military
     element--Haunted house--Mystery unsolved--Distinct elements--Roman
     and other remains--Dream of the past--Green pastures and sunny
     vineyards.


It was the next day. We had again been standing on the farther bank of
the river watching the flowing waters. They were dark and deep, a mighty
stream that swept through the seven arches of the wonderful bridge
reflecting its outlines. We had contemplated for the twentieth time the
marvellous effect of the domes and towers of El Pilar rising like an
eastern vision against the clear sky, had asked ourselves over and over
again where we should find a fairer and a more striking view, and found
the question difficult to answer. We had strolled over that same bridge
back into the town, where the charm of outline and ancient atmosphere so
strangely disappeared; had passed the fine old Exchange, crossed the
square with its plashing fountain and ever-changing group of chattering
women filling their artistic pitchers.

Finally we had found ourselves within the cathedral, also, for the
twentieth time, lost in this architectural splendour; this wonder of a
bygone age, where all the fret of every-day life had no room for
existence.

As we looked, we noticed a portly figure hurriedly crossing the aisles
in our direction. At the first moment he did not see us. An expression
of intense amiability and benevolence "was upon the large round face,
that would otherwise have been so ugly, and by its aid was made so
beautiful. He raised his eyes and came down upon us as an eagle to its
prey.

"You are here!" he cried. "I have been wondering all the morning why I
did not come across you, in what ancient nook you had buried yourselves.
I was now on my way to your hotel to ask whether you had departed to
other fields, and to find out why you did not come to me last night.
To-night I shall make sure of you. You shall dine with me--I will take
no refusal. For once the old priest's frugal fare must suffice you. It
shall be a fast-day. Abstinence from flesh-meat occasionally is good,
even for travellers. Tell me you will come. Do not pain me by refusing,
or make me guilty of pressing you too much. Juanita, my old housekeeper,
tells me she is quite equal to preparing you _un diner maigre_."

Pressure was not needed; we were too glad to accept the good priest's
invitation. He was given to hospitality in the best sense of the word,
and we readily promised to dine with him. For us, the diner maigre had
no terrors.

"That is good," he replied, in his rich round voice. "I shall expect you
at seven o'clock, though we shall not dine until eight. So you are still
lost in amazement at this architectural dream. The oftener you see it,
the more beautiful it becomes. With few interruptions I have looked upon
it daily for forty years, and every morning its charm seems new and
strange to me. Well, since I have seen you I shall not go to your hotel.
I have sundry visits to pay to poor sick folk. Until the infirmities of
old age become too strong for me I will not give them up. And before
that happens I trust a merciful Creator will remove me to scenes where
there is neither age nor infirmity nor sick poor in need of
consolation."

He hurried away, leaving us to the marvellous interior. We were glad to
go to the old canon's, and felt it would be our opportunity for laying
before him that interesting but unhappy case.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF CATHEDRAL, SHOWING CORO AND ORGAN: ZARAGOZA.]

As the clock struck seven we rang the bell. The drooping handle was
in itself an object of art: a wonderful specimen of iron work cunningly
wrought. We were not privileged to use the hidden spring, which moreover
we could not discover. The bell was immediately answered by Juanita in
grey hair, placid face and black silk gown; a picture of high
respectability. She greeted us with a serene smile and assured us that
we were welcome: tones and manner a reflection of her master's: the
fruits of long and faithful service. Hers was a face to be taken on
trust.

As we entered, the canon came out of his dining-room.

"I like this punctuality," he cried, "and you are doubly welcome. As our
frugal dinner is not ready, I will take you through my little house
whilst a glimmer of daylight lasts. Let us first lay siege to Juanita's
regions--my good old housekeeper who has been with me or mine for fifty
years--ever since she was a maiden of ten. We will explore the mysteries
of her preparations for our benefit. I always feel like a child when
gazing upon her handiwork."

A long passage panelled in old dark oak led from the dining-room to the
kitchen. Here, indeed, we found ourselves in fairyland. The room was far
larger than the dining-room. Latticed windows looked out upon a small
courtyard, half conservatory, where bloomed a profusion of
sweet-smelling flowers. The kitchen itself was a picture; walls were
panelled, the ceiling was of oak; everything bore the unmistakable tone
of age. Facing the windows were hooks and shelves bearing the brightest
of brass pots and pans. The latticed windows, the flowers beyond all,
here found their reflections multiplied. Every brass implement was of
the most artistic description. At right angles with this, other shelves
bore a small but special dinner-service of old Spanish ware, the only
example of its kind we had ever seen. Below this was an old dresser on
which the silver used by the canon was displayed, with here and there an
artistic water-pot and cooler.

In the centre of the spacious kitchen was a large, solid, substantial
oak table. At one end lay some work at which Juanita had evidently
lately been busy. At the other end was a small pile of the curious
Spanish-ware plates, evidently on their way to the dining-room.

Under one of the latticed windows was Juanita's help-mate: a young woman
busily engaged in preparing a dish of olives. One could have lived in
this room with the greatest pleasure, and never asked for anything more
artistic or luxurious. A savoury smell, as of frying of eggs with sweet
herbs, was in the air; yet were there no signs of stove or cooking. A
huge chimney-place there was, in which half a dozen people might have
comfortably found seats; but nothing was to be seen excepting a couple
of old-fashioned dogs on which some lighted wood and peat sparkled and
crackled, whilst the blue smoke went curling up the wide opening.

"Wonderful!" we cried, taking in the incomparable effect of the whole
room. "This is a house of magic."

"Very simple magic," laughed the old canon. "I fear that in sleight of
hand Juanita and I would be failures. Her magic lies in preparing simple
dishes."

"But where are they prepared?" we said. "There is neither sign nor sound
of cooking here."

"Come and see," laughed the canon; and crossing the kitchen, he led the
way through a further door down a short passage into a small,
whitewashed room beyond. Here on a large stove Juanita and her
hand-maiden conducted their mysteries. A dozen brass pans stood upon the
stove, and every one of them seemed in use.

"Surely these are not for dinner!" we cried. "It was to be a fast-day."

"A fast-day as far as flesh is concerned," laughed the canon. "That does
not absolutely mean that you are to starve. I know no more than you what
Juanita has prepared. If I intruded upon her province with the faintest
suggestion, she might retaliate by sending us empty dishes. I fear our
faces would lengthen before them--that is if anything could lengthen
mine," he gurgled, turning his large, round, delightful countenance full
upon us. "I see signs of approaching readiness in those steaming
saucepans. Let us continue our inspection. Daylight dies; nothing
remains but the afterglow."

We passed again through the charming old kitchen, where the logs on the
great hearth blazed and crackled.

"Summer and winter, Juanita will have a fire," said the old canon,
pointing to the crackling logs. "She declares that she is growing old
and shivery, and the bright flames chase the vapours from her mind."

We passed up the old oak staircase. Everywhere we came upon the same
signs of age; the same artistic old panelling; bedrooms with ancient oak
furniture, oak ceilings finely carved. A perfect house of its kind, and
much larger than it appeared from the outside. One room was the canon's
own sanctum, fitted up with book-shelves, where reposed many a precious
volume. Amongst his treasures he produced some ancient illuminated
manuscripts of rare value. The desk at which he sat and worked was
placed near a latticed window in a corner of the room, through which one
just caught sight of the tower of La Seo.

Again we exclaimed that so perfect a house should be found in Zaragoza.

"Mine by inheritance," said the canon. "Early in the sixteenth century
it belonged to a far-away ancestor, who was Bishop of Zaragoza. Dying,
he left it to his brother and his children, of whom I am a direct
descendant. The singular thing is that between the bishop and myself
there has not been a single ecclesiastic in the family. When I die, the
direct line of nearly four centuries will be broken. The house will pass
to my nephew, who is mixed up with Court life, and has married a Court
beauty. He is already nearly middle-aged, with sons and daughters
growing up. As far as possible I have ordained that the house shall
never be altered. But who can legislate for what shall happen after
death?"

We returned to the dining-room, where we soon found that our fast was to
be in reality a light, refined and delicate feast. Fish of more kinds
than one, dressed to perfection; eggs and sweet herbs in many forms and
disguises; choice fruits. And from his cellar the canon brought forth
exquisite wines--priceless Johannisberg and Chambertin; whilst with our
coffee he gave us Chartreuse fifty years old. Yet he himself passed over
all delicacies, limiting his dinner to eggs and sweet herbs, with which
he drank coffee.

"You censure others by the dignity of excelling," we said. "Though
crowding upon us these indulgences, you abstain from all."

"I believe in St. James, who said, 'Use hospitality one to another
without grudging,'" returned the canon. "I delight in doing this. Heaven
has blessed me with means; how can they be better employed than in
ministering to others, whether rich or poor? As for myself, do not think
I am exercising self-denial. Habit is second nature. Did I not tell you
that the pleasures of the table had nothing to do with my physical
rotundity. But heaven be praised, I can still manage to roll over the
ground without trouble."

Juanita waited upon us with unruffled ease, her comely face looking the
delight she evidently felt in dispensing luxuries. Her hands were
clothed in black silk mittens; her black silk gown rustled with a gentle
dignity as she quietly moved about, taking plates and dishes from her
hand-maiden, who stood outside the door. Some wonderful old silver
adorned the table and everything from first to last showed the ruling
hand and head of one born and bred in an atmosphere of refinement.

We had not sat down to table until eight o'clock, and when coffee was
served the old clock on the oak mantelpiece had chimed nine, and its
last vibrations had long died upon the air. Yet the time had passed with
lightning rapidity, for the canon in giving us some of the experiences
of his long life, and in telling us many legends of Zaragoza, had
engaged our whole interest and attention.

When Juanita had handed us coffee, and left the charming old silver
coffee-pot steaming upon the table dispensing its aromatic fumes, she
made us collectively a court-curtsey at the door and withdrew.

Then came our opportunity, and we related to the canon our previous
day's adventure, with all its sadness and its apparently hopeless
element. He listened with earnest attention and sympathy.

"The world is full of these instances," he cried with a profound sigh,
when we had ended. "Do you wonder at my frugal living when I hear of
these wrecked lives? I have seen so much of this terrible vice. I know
how hard it is to conquer, how seldom the victory is gained. It requires
daily care on the part of one stronger than the tempted, and too often
even that fails. But who is this frail creature? She must and shall be
rescued if human aid, under divine help, can avail. For heaven will not
always save us in spite of ourselves. 'My Spirit shall not always strive
with men.'"

Her name and domestic history had been withheld to the last. We now
explained who she was, who her father had been, his position under
Government, his sudden death from grief. and we gave him her card, which
bore both her married and her maiden name--the latter written in pencil:
Eugenie de Colmar.

The canon quite started as we spoke it, and threw himself back in his
chair.

"Is it possible!" he cried. "Is it possible! But life is full of these
coincidences. Verily the Divine hand holds the threads of the world's
human actions; and what we call coincidences are the silent drawing
together of these threads for ordained purposes. De Colmar was my
intimate friend, though many years my junior. He would come and spend a
week at a time with me here, but his visits were not frequent. I knew
little of his wife, still less of his child, whom I saw but once when
she was about ten years old. I was told of his death; had heard of a
tragedy; but the full details I now learn for the first time. It is one
of the saddest stories I ever listened to. For the sake of the father I
must make every effort to save the child. It will be a hard task, but
only needing the more courage. To-morrow I will seek her out. She must
be taken from this unwholesome life and excitement. I will tell her that
she owes it to the memory of her father, in atonement for the wrong she
did him, to place herself in my hands; to give up her will to mine. She
shall come into this house and take up her abode with us for a time. Her
reform shall be my daily care. Juanita, for all her placid face, has
plenty of good sense and decision; she is quite equal to being her
companion and to watching over her. It shall be done. I have seldom
failed in what I earnestly took in hand, and I must not fail now."

This was good news. A load was taken from our mind. Surely all this
would bear fruit. There seemed every hope that this poor creature would
be rescued and restored. When we got up to leave, it was with a light
heart. The time had passed quickly and the hands on the old clock
pointed to eleven.

"Alas, you are going away. When shall we meet again?" said the canon,
in tones as melancholy as we felt sure ever fell from his lips. Not his
to look on the sad side of life. He passed his days shedding light and
warmth around him like a substantial sunbeam, distributing favours with
both hands.

"When shall we meet again?" he repeated. "Perhaps never! Even the
splendours of La Seo may fail to draw from you a second visit; whilst
the welcome awaiting you from the old priest will be altogether
forgotten."

We assured him that ingratitude was not one of our sins. The delightful
evening he had given us would be remembered for ever; we truly declared
it a privilege and a pleasure to know him; a sorrow to say farewell.

"It is a word I never utter," quickly returned the canon. "With me it is
ever _au revoir_; if not in this world then in the next. And we have now
a bond of sympathy between us in this poor creature whom I am going to
save and rescue whether she will or no. She is our joint protégée; I
shall write and keep you posted up in her welfare. Be sure that if any
power can possibly reclaim her, she is saved. _Au revoir_--let us leave
it at this. Heaven be with you--and peace."

Full of peace indeed was the night as we passed out into the darkness.
The stars seemed to shine down upon the world with a serene benediction.
Much of the pain we had felt last night was removed. Surely no chance
hand had guided us. The work begun to-night was destined to succeed.[C]


Before turning in, we went once more round to our favourite spot. It was
our last look by starlight upon the deep, dark flowing river, the
wonderful old bridge, the faint outlines of El Pilar rising beyond.
To-night all was shadowy and indistinct; a dream vision; and the only
sound to be heard was the swirling of the waters through the seven
arches of St. Peter's bridge.

The next morning we left Zaragoza by an early train for Tarragona: a
long roundabout journey. Again we had to pass through Lerida, where we
had twenty minutes to wait. As chance would have it, our landlord was on
the platform, speeding parting guests. We went up to him and drew him
apart.

"Tell us," we said; "what about the dragging of the well? Has it been
done?"

Our late host threw up his hands. "Oh, señor, I shiver and shake at the
very thought of it. I had it done the very day after you left. And what
do you think came up?"

"Two skeletons?"

"The keys, señor: the missing keys and a pair of slippers--very much
down at heel."

"And the skeletons?"

"Not a vestige, señor; not a single bone. I told you the well
communicated with the river, and the river with the sea. They must have
floated out, and probably are now reposing in the Panama Canal."

"But why the Panama Canal?"

"Everything bad must drift there, señor. I lost a large sum in the
wretched affair."

"And have you seen no ghost since we left?"

"No ghost, señor, and no mysterious sounds. All the same we have had a
domestic drama."

"The Dragon?"

"Exactly, señor. Your penetration is wonderful. As she was leaning over
her wash-tub, the waiter came behind and ducked her head in the
soapsuds. Her mouth--you know her mouth--was wide open, and she
swallowed a great gulp of soapy water; upon which, presto! quick as
lightning, she up with her washing-pin and hit him on the head. Such a
crash! Down went the waiter, and the Dragon was stooping over him with
wet locks like a dripping mermaid, gloating and mouthing upon the
ruin."

"And the waiter?"

"In the hospital, señor, with a broken head. That is why I am here. I
have to come to the station myself, and be my own porter, and see my
guests off. Servants are the bane of one's life. Like the flies, they
were invented for our torment. But, señor, these troubles are nothing
compared with the relief of finding that the skeletons had cleared out
to sea."

Our train came up and we went our way, leaving Lerida behind us with its
fine outlines, and the landlord to the difficult task of managing his
womenkind.

So far we had travelled on the line before, but now branched off towards
Tarragona. We did not again see Manresa, but even a comparative approach
to its neighbourhood brought all the splendid and imposing outlines, the
blood-red river, vividly before us. Once more we saw Mons Serratus with
its jagged, fantastic peaks: lived through our haunted night in the
Hospederia; again Salvador the monk and his wonderful music took
possession of our spirit and Serratus itself appeared enveloped in
harmony and romance. We were glad not to pass through the station, where
possibly Sebastien would have been on the watch for passengers; and we
should have left a heart-broken expression behind us at the very thought
of our not staying a couple of days to see Manresa under sunshine.

The day was wearing on to evening as we approached Tarragona with its
matchless coast scene. The blue waters of the Mediterranean stretched
far and wide, and the harbour reposed upon them like a sleeping
crescent. As the sun dipped in the west, the waters flashed out its
declining rays, reflected the gorgeous colouring of the sky. The train
landed us in the lower town. We had to reach the upper town, and the
rickety old omnibus rolled and struggled up the steep streets, finally
depositing us at the Fonda de Paris.

We found the inn quite civilised. The landlord was half Italian and
spoke several languages. On the first night of our arrival the cook must
have been in a very amiable mood, for he sent up an excellent dinner.
But to H. C.'s sorrow and surprise the after dinners were a lamentable
falling-off. The cook had been crossed in love, received notice to quit,
or his art failed him: everything was below par. On the evening of our
arrival, the evil had not fallen.

The hotel, like many of the Spanish inns was large and rambling. Our
landlord conducted us to excellent rooms facing the road, and from the
balcony the scene was enchanting. Before us was an old Roman tower. To
our right, far down, 700 feet below our present level, we caught sight
of the sleeping Mediterranean.

It was not quite so pleasant to find ourselves surrounded by the
military element; barracks to right and left of us; sentries in slippers
patrolling up and down; raw recruits, looking as little like soldiers as
anything to be conceived; constant snatches of bugle-calling, which
seemed to end at midnight and begin again at four in the morning. So
far, all was unrest. But we soon found that the charms of Tarragona
soared far above all small and secondary considerations.

Down the long passage behind our rooms we came to the garden of the
hotel. It was after dinner and pale twilight reigned. In the centre of
the garden a splendid spreading palm outlined itself against the evening
sky, in which shone a large, liquid, solitary star. The garden was
surrounded by a white wall, and the scene was quite eastern. Far down
was the wonderful coast-line and crescent harbour. Of late we had had
only rivers, and this broad expanse of sea brought new life to the
spirit.

Returning indoors, we found the inn haunted, but not by spirits of the
dead.

The ghost was unmistakably flesh and blood. The first time we caught
sight of him--it was a masculine ghost, therefore doubly
uninteresting--he was cautiously putting his head into our rooms and
taking a look round. The said rooms were raised above the rest on that
floor by steps that led to our own quarters only. Thus the ghost was
clearly trespassing. He neither looked confused nor apologised as he
took his slow departure. All his time seemed spent in prowling about the
passages in a spirit of curiosity or unrest. Often we found him on our
premises on suddenly coming in, and once or twice, when quietly writing,
on looking up were startled by an evil-looking countenance intruding
itself at the open door, and as quickly withdrawing on finding the room
occupied.

We never discovered the mystery. Whether the ghost was a little out of
its mind, whether it was its peculiar way of taking exercise, or whether
it suffered from kleptomania and had a passion for collecting sticks and
umbrellas, nothing of this was ever learned. We only knew that the ghost
looked like a broken-down dissenting parson, that it dressed in sable
garments, and went about with a pale face and large black eyes that
seemed to glow with hidden fire suggestive of madness, and long,
straight, black hair plastered down each side of its face; a curiously
unpleasant object to encounter at every trick and turn of the gloomy
corridors.

Tarragona possesses two distinct elements, both in an eminent degree.
The town, especially the lower town, is mean and common-place. Ascending
beyond a certain point, you come upon everything refined and beautiful.
It stands on a hill which gradually rises to some seven or eight hundred
feet above the sea-level. At the highest point of all is its mediæval
cathedral, surpassing most of the cathedrals of Spain or elsewhere--one
of those wonders of architecture that visit us in our dreams, but are
seldom actually found. It does not, however, stand out far and wide in
magnificent outlines, like Manresa or Lerida. Only a close inspection
reveals its charms.

The upper town is surrounded by walls ancient and imposing. Within their
boundaries are many Roman and Christian remains, such as few places
still possess, making of Tarragona a dream of the past crowded with
interest. Outside the walls the views are splendid and extensive.
Looking towards the ever-changing sea, the coast-line is magnificent.
Point after point juts out; hill after hill rises towards the East. Far
down at one's feet lies the little harbour, encircling all the craft
that seek its shelter: steamers from Barcelona with their daily
freights, steamers from Norway and Sweden laden with scented pinewood, a
whole fleet of picturesque fishing boats. Inland, the country is a
succession of rich green pastures and sunny vineyards, whilst on the
sloping hills afar off reposes many a town and village.



CHAPTER XXV.

QUASIMODO.

     Tarragona by night--Cathedral--Moonlight
     vision--Dream-fabric--Deserted streets--Ghostly form
     approaches--Quilp or Quasimodo?--Redeeming qualities--Pale
     spiritual face--Open sesame--Approaching the apparition--Question
     and answer--Invitation accepted--Prisoners--The Shadow--Under the
     cold moonlight--Enter cathedral--Vast interior--Gloom and
     silence--Fantastic effects--Enigma solved--Strange proceeding--No
     inspiration--Why Quasimodo turned night into day--Weird moonlight
     scene--Soft sweet sounds--Schumann's Träumerei--Spellbound--The
     magician--Witching hour--Cathedral ghosts--An eternity of
     music--Varying moods--Returning to earth--Quasimodo's
     rapture--Travelling moonbeams--Night grows old--Sky full of
     music--Lost to sight--Dreams haunted by Quasimodo--New day.


That first night we went out into the darkness, when details were lost
in outlines. We passed the barracks where bugling seemed to be in full
play. A narrow street to the right led to a short flight of steps, above
which rose the west front of the cathedral. As far as we could see, the
porches were deep and beautiful. But it was the south and east sides
that presented the most marvellous outlines. Even the darkness could not
hide their beauty. And presently, when the moon rose and her pale
silvery light shone full upon the grey walls and gleamed upon the Gothic
windows and ancient tower, it turned to a dream-fabric.

The night was intensely still, not a sound could be heard, not a soul
was visible. Our footsteps alone woke the echoes as we walked to and fro
before that moonlight vision, and felt unable to leave it.

[Illustration: SOUTH-WEST EXTERIOR OF CATHEDRAL: TARRAGONA.]

The cathedral clock struck eleven. As the last stroke vibrated upon the
air, we saw a shadowy form approaching. It was not yet the ghostly hour,
therefore it must be flesh and blood, to be boldly challenged. Was
the mysterious being that haunted our corridors prowling these precincts
in search of relics? No; as the form approached we saw that it was short
and slender; almost diaphanous, almost deformed. The head seemed
enormous in comparison with the body; legs and arms were unusually long.
Yet even in the moonlight we noticed that something pale and spiritual
about the face redeemed its ugliness. We thought of Quilp, of Quasimodo,
all the grotesques we had ever heard of, but he only resembled these at
a distance; we soon found that he was far better than they.

This apparition was followed by a lean, lanky youth who seemed to be
shod in india-rubber, so silent his footsteps. He towered above
Quasimodo, whom he followed as a shadow follows its substance. We
happened to be standing near a small gate in the south railings, and up
to this gate came Quasimodo, inserted a magic key into the lock and
swung it open. What did it mean? Were they, this moonlight night, going
into the interior? What a weird experience; what an opportunity not to
be lost! The apparition must be won over.

"Are you entering the cathedral?" we asked as they passed in and half
closed the gate. To our relief a very earthly voice responded in
matter-of-fact tones.

"Yes," it replied. "Do you want to enter also?"

It needed no further invitation. We passed through, and the gate was
closed and locked. As we heard the sharp click and Quasimodo pocketed
the key, we felt ourselves prisoners. All the possible and impossible
stories we had ever heard of midnight murders and mysterious
disappearances flashed through the brain. But the die was cast and we
must follow. The enigma which even at the instant puzzled us was the
motive for this midnight visit. We could think of none.

We stood for a moment in the space between the railings and the
building. Repairs were going on; it had been turned into a stonemason's
yard. The cold moonlight fell upon heavy blocks of marble lying about.
There was an erection that looked for all the world like a gibbet, and
we almost expected to see a ghostly skeleton dangling from its
cross-beam.

Quasimodo moved on and opened a small south door. He entered and we
waited whilst he took a lantern from the hands of the Shadow. It was
lighted in a moment, and we found it to be a powerful electric lamp.
Then we too passed in, and the door closed upon us. If we were to be
murdered, it would not be in utter darkness. The lantern was brilliant,
and threw around its ghostly lights and shadows. We are compelled to
repeat the adjective, for everything was ghostly and weird.

The vast interior was lost in profoundest silence and gloom. No single
light could reach the depths and spaces, but round about us the lantern
lighted up the outlines of aisles and arches and pillars.

The effect was inexpressibly solemn. There seemed no limit to the space.
We paced the aisles and thought them endless. Our footsteps awoke
ghostly echoes. As far as could be discerned, we were surrounded by the
loveliest, most refined outlines. Gothic aisles and arches were dimly
visible. And still the Shadow followed Quasimodo, and still his
footsteps made no sound.

Quasimodo walked in silence for a time, evidently enjoying our own
silent delight and experience. His long arms and legs, his large head,
his long-drawn, backward shadow, all suggested gnome-land. He swung the
lantern about as though charmed and allured by all the fantastic effects
it produced.

At last we felt we must break the silence.

"Why are you here?" we said. "May we ask? It seems so strange to be
walking with you in this midnight space and darkness."

"Can you not guess?" he returned. "What object could I have in coming
here at this dark hour? Look."

Then we noticed for the first time that the Shadow carried a music-book.
The enigma was solved. Quasimodo had come to practise.

"But what a strange hour!" we exclaimed. "You turn night into day. Is it
that these ghostly shadows inspire you as nothing else can?"

[Illustration: EAST END OF CATHEDRAL, SHOWING NORMAN APSE: TARRAGONA.]

"No," replied Quasimodo; "I have no inspiration. I possess the souls of
others, I have no soul of my own. It is given to me to interpret the
thoughts of all musicians with a wonderful interpretation, but not a
single thought of my own do I possess. Not a single line can I
extemporise. I am like a man to whom has been given all the feelings,
all the aspirations, all the fire of the poet, and from whom is withheld
the gift of language. But I am content. All the thoughts of the great
masters are mine, my very own, and I am grateful for the power. It is a
gift. As a rule I need no music. All is stamped on my brain in undying
characters. You shall hear. This is a book of Bach's Fugues that I
scarcely need; and this quiet and devoted creature is my organ-blower.
He is deaf and dumb, which explains his silence."

"But you have not told us your reason for turning night into day," we
remarked. "Everything about you is so weird and unusual that we cannot
help our curiosity. You must not think it impertinence."

"True," replied Quasimodo. "It must indeed seem strange to you that I
come here now, yet the reason is simple enough. I teach all day long,
for I have to work for my living. Yet I cannot live without occasionally
pouring out my soul in music; and as I have no time but the night, I
come here now rather than not at all. I was not here last night or the
night before; I shall not be here again any night this week. I have to
work not only for my own living, but for a wife and two lovely children.
You start. You wonder that any woman could have married this grotesque
creature--much more a beautiful woman. You do not wonder more than I do.
I tell my wife that she married me for my music, not for myself. The
music charmed and bewitched her; threw a glamour over her eyes and
judgment and taste. She laughs in reply. We have been married twelve
years now, and she still seems the happiest of women, most devoted of
wives. Heaven be praised, there is nothing grotesque in our lovely
children. They might have come from paradise. But now I will go and
play, and you shall listen. You have chosen to enter here, and here you
must remain until I let you out again. I will leave you my lantern and
you may wander where you will."

With that he placed his lamp in our hand, and lighting a small wax
candle which he produced from his pocket, departed down the long, dark,
solemn, solitary aisle, followed by his silent Shadow. We soon lost
them in the gloom, and nothing but the distant sound of Quasimodo's
footsteps told us we were not alone. Even this sound ceased, and for a
time absolute silence reigned.

Presently a far-off glimmer showed where the organ-loft was placed.
Quasimodo had lighted the candles and taken his seat. We turned off the
light of our lantern. The moonlight was playing upon the windows, and
the pale rays streamed across the aisles upon pillars and arches. Never
was a more weird, more telling and effective scene.

We sat down on the steps of one of the chapels. The whole ghostly
building, shrouded in gloom and mystery and moonbeams, stood before us
in all its solidity, all its grandeur and magnificence. Intense silence
reigned. We could hear the beating of our hearts, feel the quickening of
our pulses.

Then through the silence there stole the softest, sweetest sounds.
Quasimodo was interpreting the thoughts of others. He had chosen that
soothing, flowing, exquisite Träumerei of Schumann's, and rendered it as
never rendered before. The whole melody was hushed and subdued. Nothing
seemed to rise above a whisper. All the aisles and arches were full of
exquisite vibrations. Quasimodo appeared to linger upon every note as
though he loved it and could not part with it. One note melted into
another. The sense of rhythm was perfect.

We listened spellbound to the end. Never had the simple, beautiful
melody so held all our senses captive. It ceased, and again for a moment
the whole vast interior was steeped in profound silence; the moonbeams
streaming their pale light through the windows possessed the building.

Then a different spirit held Quasimodo. Our dream changed. Louder stops
were pulled out, and he plunged into a vigorous fugue of Bach's. Again
we had never heard it so played. Every note fell clear and distinct. The
music seemed gifted with words suggesting wild thoughts and emotions.
What Quasimodo had said was true. The souls of the dead-and-gone masters
possessed him. He was their true interpreter. The fugue came to an end.
Again a moment's silence and again a change in our dream.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF CATHEDRAL: TARRAGONA.]

This time it was Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. More fitting time and
place could never have existed. The pulses thrilled as we listened.
Never had music seemed so perfect. Beethoven himself would have declared
the rendering beyond his own conception. Quasimodo was a magician. His
body might be grotesque, his mind was angelic. Be his wife never so
beautiful, he never so grotesque, she could not fail to love that soul
and spirit. He was worthy, and she was wise.

Again the soft sweet strains went trolling through aisles and arches,
all their exquisite melancholy cadence fully rendered. And presently it
changed to the louder, more passionate strains, suggestive more of storm
and tempest than serene moonlight. It ceased; and one thing gave place
to another; Quasimodo's moods seemed as wild and eccentric as they were
uncertain but ever charming. For two whole hours he kept us spell-bound.
We never thought of the night; of the passing of time; of the necessity
for rest. We were in a new world. The moonbeams travelled onwards and
downwards.

Midnight struck. Twelve slow strokes fell upon the air. The ghosts came
out to listen; it was their hour. We were persuaded that the aisles and
arches were full of them. We saw faint shadows thrown upon the
moonbeams, as they passed to and fro. It is useless to say ghosts do not
throw shadows: that night we distinctly saw them. The wonderful moonlit
building seemed full of sighs and subdued sobbings. H. C. declared it
was nothing but the vibrations of the organ: we knew better. The ghosts
were sighing and sobbing at the wonderful music. There could not be a
more ghostly time or place; and they would not often have such harmonies
to listen to.

The moments passed. One o'clock struck; solitary, melancholy sound; more
suggestive of ghosts and death and the long journey we must all take
before we become ghosts ourselves, than the twelve drawn-out strokes of
midnight which bear each other company.

Into those two hours Quasimodo seemed to have crowded an eternity of
music. Every vein, from the mournful to the triumphant, from the
faintest whisper to a crashing torrent, possessed him. He passed into
Wagner, and the sweetest strains from Lohengrin, the most impassioned
from Tannhäuser, thrilled the darkness. He slided into Handel's airs,
and with the aid of a wonderful voix céleste, that loveliest of
melodies, _I know that my Redeemer liveth_, stole through the moonlit
aisles with such pathos that our eyes wept involuntary tears, and the
Divine drama of nearly two thousand years ago passed in detail before
our mental vision.

Quasimodo seemed to have power to raise emotion, to play upon every
nerve, and he appeared to delight in using that power.

He went on in all his varying moods, until again there came a pause, and
once more Schumann's Träumerei in soft, sweet strains went stealing
through the aisles. With this he had begun, with this he would end: as
one who had taken a long journey, and would bring us safely back to
haven.

A journey indeed; a flight into fairyland; spiritual realms where
nothing earthly can enter.

It came to an end: and we had to return to earth. Quasimodo had poured
out his soul and was satisfied. No wonder he could not live without it.
Such a gift must find expression, or the spirit would die. The lights
went out in the distant organ-loft, and by the help of his taper
Quasimodo groped his way down the winding stair, followed by his silent
Shadow. We turned on the lamp, and its light guided him to us. He sat
down beside us on the steps.

"Well," he said, "have you enjoyed my music? Have they kept you
spell-bound, all the thoughts of the great masters of the past? Did you
think there was so much in them? Have I given you new ideas, revealed
unsuspected beauties? Have the hours passed as moments? Oh, the divine
gift of melody to man, which brings us nearest to heaven! How could we
live without it?"

He had played himself into rapture. He was intoxicated with the
influence of all the melody to which he had given such amazing
expression. It was a language more powerful than words, more beautiful
than poetry, more soul-satisfying than love itself. What a strange
contradiction had nature here been guilty of--this grotesque, almost
deformed exterior united to such loveliness of mind and spirit.

[Illustration: CLOISTERS: TARRAGONA.]

But time was passing. We could not indulge for ever in these dreams,
perfect though they were. The change in the moonbeams warned us that the
night was growing old. The ghosts would soon depart to the land of
shadows. Yet the building was so weird and mysterious, the outlines were
so marvellous, that it was difficult to break the spell. It had to be
done. The grey dawn must not find us here. All our romance, all our
charm of music would evaporate before the cold creeping upwards of
daybreak.

So we rose from the steps, and Quasimodo rose too, and his Shadow took
up its customary position.

We still held the lamp. As we went down the long aisles we flashed it to
and fro. Lights and shadows mingled with the moonbeams, and all the
fantastic forms we awoke were only reflections from ghostland. At the
south doorway Quasimodo inserted the key; the door opened and we passed
out into the night.

The moon and the stars had travelled far; the sky itself seemed full of
all the music and melody we had listened to. Quasimodo locked the door
and joined us, followed by his Shadow. But once outside the iron gate
the Shadow bade him good-night by a silent gesture in which we were
included, and rapidly and silently, like the shadow he was, glided away
and was soon lost to sight.

We stood looking at the cathedral, all its wonderful outlines showing up
clearly in the pale pure moonlight. Silence and solitude now reigned
within and without. Then we turned away, and Quasimodo accompanied us as
far as the bottom of the steps. There he bade us farewell and we never
met him again.

The incident passed almost as a dream. We sometimes ask ourselves
whether Quasimodo was really flesh and blood, or an angel that for a
short time had visited the earth in the form of man. But he was no
spirit. We watched his quaint shape as he went down the narrow street,
flashing his light. Towards the end he looked back and turned the lamp
full upon us, as though by way of final benediction. Another turn and he
had passed out of sight.

The street had not the glimmer of a light or the ghost of a sound. Our
own broad thoroughfare was in darkness. The Roman tower seemed wrapped
in the silence and mystery of the centuries. From the end of the road we
looked over the cliff at the sea sleeping in all its expanse, bathed in
moonlight. In the harbour one caught the outlines of the vessels, and
from one of them came the bark of a dog baying at the moon. It was one
of those perfect nights, still, clear and calm, only to be found in
these latitudes.

The cathedral clock had long struck two, when we finally turned towards
the hotel. What if the night-porter failed us, as he had failed in
Lerida? But he was more cunning. He was not there, indeed, but he had
left the door ajar, and the gas slightly turned on at the foot of the
staircase.

We made all fast and sought our rooms. With open windows, even from here
we could hear the faint plash and beating of the ripples upon the
shore--the slight ebb-and-flow movement of this tideless sea. Our dreams
that night were haunted by Quasimodo. We had left the world for realms
where no limit was, and divine harmonies for ever filled the air. Some
hours later this harmony suddenly resolved itself into a bugle call, and
we woke to a new day.



CHAPTER XXVI.

IN THE DAYS OF THE ROMANS.

     Charms of Tarragona--Roman traces--Cyclopean remains--Augustus
     closes Temple of Janus--Great past--House of Pontius Pilate--Views
     from ramparts--Feluccas with white sails set--Life a paradise--City
     walls--Cathedral outlines--Lively market-place--Remarkable
     exterior--Dream-world--West doorways--Internal effect--In the
     cloisters--Proud sacristan--Man of taste and learning--Delighted
     with our enthusiasm--Great concession--Appealing to the soul--Señor
     Ancora--Human or angelic?--In the cloister garden--Sacristan's
     domestic troubles--Silent ecclesiastic--Sad history--Church of San
     Pablo--Challenge invited--Future genius--Rare picture--Roman
     aqueduct--A modern Cæsar--Reminiscences--Rich country--Where the
     best wines are made--Aqueduct--El puente del diablo--Giddy
     heights--Lonely valley--H. C. sentimental--Rosalie and fair
     Costello--Romantic situation--Quarrelsome Reus--Masters of the
     world--Our driver turns umpire--Battle averted--Men of
     Reus--Whatever is, is wrong--Driver's philosophy--Dream of the
     centuries.


Only the broad daylight could discover all the charms of Tarragona: the
beauty of its situation, the extent of its ancient remains. The very
perfect walls, fine in tone, bore distinct Roman traces. Below them, on
a level with the shore, were other traces of a Roman amphitheatre. There
were also Cyclopean remains, dating from prehistoric times. Tarragona
was a great Roman station when the brothers Publius and Cneidos Scipio
occupied it. Augustus raised it to the dignity of a capital: and
twenty-six years B.C., after his Cantabrian campaign, he here issued his
decree closing the Temple of Janus--open until then for seven hundred
years.

Tarragona was already a large and flourishing city with over a million
of inhabitants. It was rich and highly favoured, and its chief people
considered themselves lords of the world. Many temples were erected, one
of them to the honour of Augustus, making him a god whilst still living.
There are fragments in the cloister museum said to have belonged to
this temple, which was repaired by Adrian.

On our upward way near the Roman tower we passed the still wonderful
house of Pontius Pilate, who was claimed by the Tarragonese as a
fellow-townsman. It is said to have been also the palace of Augustus,
and the lower portion bears traces of an existence before the Romans.
To-day it is a prison, and as some of its walls are twenty feet thick
the prisoners have small chances of escape. Few spots in Spain are more
interesting, or so completely carry you back to the early centuries. On
its south wall is an entrance to a short passage leading to the
Cyclopean doorway, communicating by a subterranean passage with the
comparatively modern Puerta del Rosario. To the east of this gateway we
soon reach the ramparts, just above a ruined fort, and near the modern
battery of San Fernando. From these ramparts you have the finest view of
Tarragona and its surroundings.

On one side stretch far and wide the blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Lateen-rigged feluccas, with white sails set, are wafted to and fro by
the gentle breeze. Life on board seems a paradise of luxurious ease and
indolence. Nothing marks the passing hours but the slow progress of the
sun. The sky is as intensely blue as the sea, and the air seems full of
light. You are dazzled by so much brilliance. Distant objects stand out
in clear detail. The wide undulating plain stretches far away to the
left, broken by towns and villages, the famous castle of Altafulla in
the distance. Below the town lies the aqueduct, one of the most perfect
Roman remains in Spain.

At our feet are the city walls, enclosing all the wonderful antiquities,
and above the picturesque roofs of the houses rise the matchless
outlines of the cathedral.

To this same cathedral we made our way this morning, passing through the
market-place lively with stalls, buyers and sellers; Spanish men and
women picturesque in their national costumes: a modern human picture
side by side with outlines of the highest antiquity.

Passing through an archway we found ourselves in the Cathedral Square,
dazzled by the splendour of the vision. Here the market had overflowed,
and the market-women, full of life and colouring and animation, sat in
front of their fruit and flower-stalls. One and all tempted us to buy,
and rare were the wares they sold. Again the new and the ancient blended
together; for beyond the women rose those marvellous outlines, sharply
pencilled against the brilliant blue sky: magnificent contrast of
colouring, wherein everything was in strong light and shadow.

Our strange experience of last night was still full upon us. We had
hardly recovered from the dream state into which the marvellous music of
Quasimodo had plunged us with strange mesmeric influence.

The beauty of the night, the pure pale moonlight effect, had not
prepared us for the splendours of to-day: so effective, lovely and
diversified a cathedral: the most remarkable exterior we had yet found
in Spain. The whole square with its surrounding houses is a dream. The
church dates from the eleventh century. Above the round apse of the
choir at the east end--probably the oldest part of the building--rose
outline upon outline, all bearing the refining mark of age. Much of it
appeared never to have been touched or restored. On the south side was a
tower, of which the lower part was Romanesque, the remainder fourteenth
century and octagonal. Apart from the east end most of the church is
transitional. The roofs are covered with pantiles, but they are not the
original covering, and are not quite in harmony with the rest of the
work.

The west doorways are very fine. Those that open to the aisles are of
the earliest date; the central and more important is fourteenth century,
deeply recessed, with a massive buttress on each side. This doorway
rises to a triangle, above which are many statues of the apostles in
Gothic niches. Above the Romanesque side doors are rose windows with
rare and delicate tracery, and the south door has a finely carved relief
of the Entry into Jerusalem.

The internal effect was most impressive. Few cathedrals are more solidly
built, yet few display greater ornamentation. The columns are splendid,
their richly-carved capitals redeeming the somewhat stern severity of
the pure transition work. The piers are very massive, and the eye is at
once arrested by the early-pointed clerestory and unusually large bays.
The view of the interior of the transept, above which rises the
octagonal lantern with its narrow pointed lights is especially striking.
A little of the coloured glass is very brilliant and sixteenth century,
but the greater part is modern. The chancel is pure Romanesque, the
chapels are chiefly fourteenth century. In the baptistery the font is a
Roman sarcophagus found in the palace of Augustus.

But the cloisters are the gem of the cathedral. Here again was an
architectural dream, grand in design, of noblest proportions: six
splendid bays on each side, each bay enclosing three round arches. These
are divided by coupled shafts of white marble, decorated with dog-tooth
mouldings. Above them two large circles are pierced in the wall, some
retaining the original interlacing work of extreme beauty and delicacy,
and of Moorish origin.

Many of the capitals are quaintly carved, with humorous subjects: one of
them, for instance, representing a procession of rats carrying a cat to
her burial. The cat shams death, and the too-confident rats omit to bind
her. Presently the tables turn: the cat comes to life, springs upon the
rats and devours them.

The verger or sacristan was very proud of these capitals, and of the
whole cathedral: full of energy and enthusiasm: understood every detail,
delighted to linger at every turn. He seemed intelligent and educated,
and declared he was only happy when gazing upon his beloved aisles and
arches. He begged us to give him an English lesson in architectural
terms, which he soon accomplished. Dressed in his purple gown, he looked
as imposing as any of the priests in their vestments, and more
intelligent than many.

Enchanted to find our enthusiasm equal to his own, he left the cloister
doorway unlocked, so that we might enter at any moment. This was a great
concession, for in Spain they keep their cloisters under constant lock
and key, partly for the sake of the fee usually given: a mercenary
consideration quite beneath our sacristan. He talked and exhibited out
of pure love for his work.

"The cathedral is my hobby and happiness," he said, "and I would rather
die than leave it. I know the history of every stone and pillar by
heart, could sketch every minute detail from memory. In those glorious
aisles, these matchless cloisters, I feel in paradise. I love to come
here when the church is closed and sit and study and contemplate. Born
in a better sphere, I should have become an architect. All these
outlines appeal to my soul, just as music appeals to Señor Ancora."

[Illustration: CLOISTERS: TARRAGONA.]

"Is he your wonderful midnight player?"

"Si, señor. Do you mean to say you have heard him?"

"We were with him last night, and spent more than two hours in the
cathedral listening to his wonderful music."

"It is hard to believe. Never will he admit any one to his midnight
vagaries, as I call them. I do not know how you won him over to let you
in; but he seems to guess things by intuition. Something must have told
him that you had a soul for music, and he could not find it in his heart
to refuse you."

"A curious, grotesque man, who almost gives one the impression of being
supernatural," we observed.

"We all think he is bordering upon it," returned the sacristan; "half
man, half angel. Curious and almost deformed as he looks, he is the envy
and admiration of the whole town, has the most beautiful wife and
loveliest children. He came here twenty years ago, a pale, slight,
ethereal youth of eighteen, looking as though he had dropped from the
stars, or some far-off paradise. People still wonder whether he did so
or not.--Look señor," pointing upwards. "Did you ever see such outlines,
such a vision of beauty? Is it not the very spot for such a soul as
Señor Ancora's?"

We were standing in the cloister garden, where orange trees and graceful
shrubs grew in wild profusion and exquisite contrast. In the centre of
the garden a fountain threw up its spray and plashed with cool musical
sound. Surrounding us were the wonderful cloister bays with their round
arches resting on the white marble columns, all enclosed in an outer
pointed arch. Above them rose the cathedral against the deep blue sky.
Outline above outline; Romanesque and Gothic; the lantern crowning the
whole. The shadows of the marble columns upon the ancient cloister
pavement were sharply defined.

"No wonder you love it," we said to the sacristan. "Rather we wonder you
do not apply for permission to live in the chapter-house, and take up
your abode here altogether."

"Ah, señor, like Ancora, I also have my domestic ties: a wife and
children to think about. But, alas, my wife has no soul, and cannot even
understand my love for the cathedral. That indeed ought to have been my
wife, and I should never have married commonplace flesh and blood. Here
I have been day after day for thirty years, in constant attendance, and
I grow to love it more and more, and daily discover fresh beauties.
There are no cloisters in the world like these. There is no vision on
earth to be compared with this, as we stand here and look upwards and
around. None."

As we stood listening to the sacristan's enthusiasm, a pale, refined,
grave-looking ecclesiastic passed out of the beautiful doorway leading
from the church, and with silent footstep walked through the cloister to
the chapter-house. He was dressed in a violet silk robe or cassock, over
which was a white lace alb. As he went by he bowed to us with great
gravity, but said not a word. There was a sorrowful, subdued look upon
the clear-cut features, the large grey eyes.

"That is one of our canons," said the sacristan, after he had
disappeared into the chapter-house; "the one I like best. He too loves
this wonderful building."

"He is sad-looking. One could almost imagine he had mistaken his
vocation, or gone through some great sorrow in life."

"You are right, señor: right in both instances. He was a man of noble
family, never intended for the church. Engaged to a lovely lady to whom
he was devoted, she died the very day before they were to have been
married. He remained inconsolable, and at last took orders. At one time
he had an idea of becoming a monk; but he is very clever, and was
persuaded to take up a more active life in the church. As you saw him
now, so he always is; grave, subdued, gentle and kindly. No one goes to
him for help in vain. Here he is venerated."

We felt drawn towards this refined ecclesiastic and wished to know him,
but no opportunity presented itself. The cloisters seemed to gain an
added charm by his presence. His dress and appearance exactly suited
them, giving them an additional touch of picturesque romance and human
interest. The whole scene inspired us with a strange affection for
Tarragona, and there are few places in Spain we would sooner revisit.

A little later, when we were going round the precincts, they seemed
suddenly to swarm with a small army of boys. These were turning out of
the new seminary, a mongrel building designed on old lines, therefore
neither one thing nor the other. We entered, and turning to the left,
found ourselves in modern cloisters echoing with the shouts of boys at
play: cloisters attractive only from the fact that they enclosed a
small, very ancient church--the church of San Pablo--a rare gem in its
way; with a square-headed doorway and Romanesque capitals, and a small
turret holding the bell, above which was a thin iron cross. It was a
lovely building, and lost in admiration we stood gazing. The boys who
came round us without the least shyness could not understand it.

"What do you see in it?" asked one of them. "We should like to knock the
old barrack down. It takes up our play-room. A wretched old building,
neither use nor ornament. But we can't get rid of it. It won't burn; it
is so solid that we can't demolish it; and we daren't use dynamite. We
have to put up with it."

"And you would rather put up with the grapes and the oranges in the
market-place?" we suggested.

"We should like to put them _down_, señor. Only try us."

Having invited the challenge, it had to be accepted: and the whole troop
tore off with one consent to drive bargains with the fruit-women. One
boy, however, remained behind; a fair, thoughtful lad of about fifteen,
with large, dreamy, beautiful brown eyes.

"Why don't you join them, and take your share of the spoil?" we asked
him.

"Señor, I would rather study this old chapel than eat all the grapes in
Catalonia," he replied. "My father is the sacristan of the cathedral. He
loves old buildings too, but not as I do, I think. I have made up my
mind to be an architect, and when I can do as I like I will build great
churches on such models as these, like the mighty men of old."

So the father's love had descended to the son, and in the latter may
possibly some day bear good fruit. The boy looked a genius. We turned
away, and he turned with us.

"What is your name?" we asked him.

"Hugo Morales, señor. Will you let me show you my favourite spot,
señor," he said; and forthwith led us to a short street of steps,
something like the streets of Gerona, ending in a lovely old arched
passage, through which one caught a glimpse of ancient houses beyond.
Above the archway rose a wonderful old house with an ajimez window of
rare beauty, and other Gothic windows with latticed panes and deep
mouldings. Then came the overhanging roof covered with pantiles. The
tone was perfect. Next to this was a small church with a Norman doorway,
crowned by a graceful belfry in which a solitary bell was hung. If not
the most ancient, it was certainly the most picturesque bit in all
Tarragona.

"And you really love it?" we asked this singular boy.

"With all my heart," he answered. "I often come here with my books and
do my lessons sitting on that old staircase that you see on the left.
The house is empty and no one interferes with me. But I must be off
home. A Dios, señor."

[Illustration: SAN PABLO: TARRAGONA].

"Good-bye, Hugo. Keep to your ideals and aspirations."

"No fear, señor. I mean to do so."

And away he went, none the less happy for sundry coins that rattled
musically in his pocket and would probably be spent in something more
lasting than fruit and flowers; whilst we went back to our beloved
precincts and studied the outlines of the Middle Ages.

       *       *       *       *       *

One sunny afternoon we hired a conveyance and started for the Roman
Aqueduct. It was the only conveyance of the kind to be found in
Tarragona. The owner, who drove us himself, called it a victoria, and
seemed proud of it. Large and heavy, it might have dated from the days
of the Cæsars. Its proper place undoubtedly was the Museum of Roman
Antiquities to which we had just paid a visit; and so perhaps there was
something à propos in the idea of its conveying us to a Roman aqueduct.
Our driver was dressed in a smock frock, and in the high seat in front
of us looked perched up like a lighthouse upon a rock--or a modern Cæsar
in a triumphal progress.

We rattled through the streets, and soon found ourselves on the broad
white road that in time, if we persevered, would take us to Lerida the
chivalrous and true. Not the least intention had we of paying that
interesting old town a second visit, but the very fact of knowing that
our faces were set that way, brought our late experiences vividly before
us.

We wondered how it fared with our much-tried landlord; whether the
waiter was yet out of hospital, and he and the Dragon had made up their
differences or agreed to differ. Though the well had been dragged, it
was possible that the skeletons were still there; perhaps had risen to
the surface to refute the old saying that dead men tell no tales. We
thought of our polite captain, and almost wished we might come across
him in Tarragona. He would be sure to know our silent but interesting
old canon of the violet robe, and would open many doors to us. Above all
we wondered how Alphonse fared. By this time his wife would be resting
in her grave; and he, poor lonely wayfarer, would haunt the sad
precincts of the cemetery, and dream of his early days and of walking
through the world with the wife of his youth. No doubt he was right and
would soon follow her to the Land o' the Leal, hailing the hour of his
release.

But all this had nothing to do with our present journey. On each side of
the road we found a rich undulating country. We were in the
neighbourhood of vineyards, and the wine, when pure, is some of the best
that Spain produces. Here and there stood a picturesque farm-house, with
whitewashed walls and green venetians, and heaps of yellow pumpkins,
cantaloupe melons and strings of red peppers dangling from the
balconies: the usual thing in Spain and Italy and the countries of the
South. On a hillside, an occasional village slept in the sunshine; a
quiet little place, apparently without inhabitants or any reason for
existence.

[Illustration: AN OLD NOOK IN TARRAGONA.]

Presently we caught sight of the wonderful aqueduct built by the Romans
so many centuries ago, yet still almost perfect. In the days of the
ancients it brought the water to the city for a distance of twenty
miles. Those were the days when the Tarragonese called themselves lords
of the earth; when Augustus reigned in his palace and the amphitheatre
was the scene of wild sports, and temples existed to the heathen gods.
The portion of the aqueduct visible from the road was as it were a
gigantic bridge with two tiers of arches. It had all the tone of the
centuries, all the solidity which had kept it standing firm as a rock.
Nearly one hundred feet high and eight hundred feet long, it spanned a
green and lonely valley or ravine covered with heather. The people call
it el puente del diablo, and may be forgiven for thinking that more than
human hands helped to perfect the work.

We went to the topmost height and walked over the giddy stoneway to the
very centre. There we sat down and felt ourselves masters of the world.
Wild flowers grew in the cracks and crevices, and ferns and fronds, and
H. C. stretched over the yawning gulf for one almost out of reach, until
we gave him up for lost and began to compose his epitaph. But he plucked
his flower, and after looking at it with a sort of tender reverence,
placed it carefully in his pocket-book.

"Who is that for?" we asked, for there was no mistaking his soft
expression.

"The fair Costello. That exquisite vision that we saw in the opera-house
at Gerona. The landlord gave me her full name and address before we
left. I am thinking of proposing to her. Her presence haunts me still."

We knew how much this was worth; how long it would last.

"You would bestow it more worthily on Rosalie. There are many fair
Costellos in the world--there can be only one Rosalie."

"Do you think so?" replied this whirligig heart. "Certainly Rosalie's
eyes were matchless; I tremble when I think of them. And then we got to
know her, which is an advantage. After all it shall go to Rosalie. The
fair Costello might have a temper--there's no knowing."

[Illustration: ROMAN AQUEDUCT, NEAR TARRAGONA.]

We were undoubtedly in a situation favourable to romance. The scene was
magnificent. Surrounding us was a wide stretch of undulating country.
The land was rich and cultivated; towns and villages reposed on the
hill-sides. Far off to the right the smoke of busy Valls ascended,
and through the gentle haze we traced the outlines of its fine old
church. Following the long white road before us, the eye at length
rested on the blue smoke of quarrelsome, disaffected Reus, which
prospers in spite of its Republican tendencies. Here more distinctly we
traced the fine tower of the old church of San Pedro, in which Fortuny
the painter lies buried. Distant hills bounded the horizon, shutting out
the world beyond.

But there was no more interesting monument than the aqueduct on which we
stood. Its rich tone contrasted wonderfully with the subdued green of
the ravine, the deep shades of the heather, so full of charm and repose
to the eye tired with wandering over the glaring country and straining
after distant outlines. We stayed long, enjoying our breezy elevation;
going back in imagination to the early centuries of mighty deeds--those
Romans who were in truth masters of the world. At last, feeling that our
driver's patience was probably exhausted, and treading carefully over
the granite passage of the viaduct, we made our way to the prosy level
of mankind.

The driver had drawn under the shade of some trees, and was holding a
levée. Half a dozen other drivers were grouped round him, and the
bullock-carts with their patient animals were waiting their pleasure,
one behind another. They were all laying down the law with any amount of
gesture and loud tones; all more or less angry, each convinced that he
was in the right.

Our coachman, as owner of a superior conveyance and a man of substance,
was evidently acting as a sort of judge or umpire, and just as we came
up was delivering his weighty opinion. But it appeared to be the case of
the old fable again, and in trying to propitiate all he pleased none. A
pitched battle seemed averted by our arrival, which put an end to the
discussion. As strangers and foreigners were objects of interest, we had
to run the gauntlet of their scrutiny. But they were civil; and
curiosity satisfied, mounted their heavy waggons and set off down the
road towards Reus at break-neck speed, raising more dust and noise than
a hundred pieces of artillery.

Fortunately we were going the other way. As the driver mounted his box
he shrugged his shoulders.

"It is always the same," he observed. "These men of Reus are the most
revolutionary, most disaffected in all Catalonia. They always have a
grievance. Whatever is, is wrong. If it isn't political, it's social. If
it's not taxes, it's the price of wheat. Their life is one perpetual
contention, and every now and then they break out into open revolt. Only
the other day an old man of Kens, a distant connection, on his death-bed
declared to me that he had made all his miseries, and if he had his time
to come over again, would make the best of the world and look on the
bright side of things. Just what every one ought to do. Enjoy the
sunshine, and let the shadows look after themselves."

So our driver was a philosopher after all, and had more in him than we
had imagined. With Cæsar's opportunities he might have proved another
Cæsar. Whipping up his horses, he began his return journey up the long
white road.

Making way, the outlines of Tarragona came into view, bathed in the glow
of the declining sun. The effect was gorgeous; and we fell into a dream
of the centuries gone by, when the Romans marched up that very same road
with their conquering armies, overlooked the very same sea that now
stretched to right and left, blue and flashing, and made themselves
aqueducts. In this vision of the past we saw them building their mighty
monuments, looking about for fresh worlds to conquer; and we heard the
famous decree of Augustus closing the Temple of Janus as a sign that
quiet reigned upon the earth and the Star of Bethlehem was rising in the
East--divine signal and fitting moment for the coming of the PRINCE OF
PEACE.



CHAPTER XXVII.

LORETTA.

     Our ubiquitous host--Curious mixture of nations--Francisco--His
     enthusiasm carries the point--French lessons--English
     prejudice--Landlord's lament--Days of fair Provence--Francisco
     determines to be in time--Presidio--Tomb of the Scipios--Fishing
     for sardines--Early visit to cathedral--Still earlier
     sacristan--Francisco's delight--Freshness of early
     morning--Reus--Bark worse than bite--Where headaches come from--An
     evil deed--Valley of the Francoli--Moorish remains--Montblanch--The
     graceful hills of Spain--Espluga--Francisco equal to
     occasion--Beseiged--Donkeys versus carriage--Interesting old
     town--Decadence--Singular woman--Loretta's escort--Strange
     story--Unconscious charm--What happened one Sunday
     evening--Caro--"The right man never came"--Comes now--How she was
     betrothed--Primitive conveyance--Making the best of
     it--Wine-pressers--Loving cup--Nectar of the gods--Fair
     exchange--Rough drive--Scene of Loretta's adventures.


Our landlord was a curious mixture of three nations: French, Spanish and
Italian. He was small, dark and wiry, and seemed to possess the power of
being in half a dozen places at once, yet was never in a hurry. One
moment you would hear his voice in the bureau, the next in the kitchen,
and two moments afterwards you might behold his head stretched out of a
second-floor window watching the omnibus as it turned the corner on its
way from the station: watching and wondering how many passengers it
brought him. If he did not succeed, it should not be for want of effort;
but he had been there long, and apparently did succeed, flourish and
prosper. He was a very attentive host, anxious that we should see and
appreciate all the marvels of Tarragona. Having lost his wife, the hotel
had to be managed single-handed. One son, a boy of fifteen, was being
trained to succeed him. He also spoke French, Spanish and Italian
admirably, and his ambition now was to go to England to learn English.
So far he resembled our Gerona guide José, but the one had grown to
manhood, the other was a stripling, though a bright and interesting lad.

"You have not been to Poblet," our host remarked one morning, as he
waited upon us at our early breakfast in the salle à manger. A great
condescension on his part; everyone else was left to the tender mercies
of the waiter who was more or less a barbarian.

"No," we replied; "but we were even now debating the possibility of
going there this morning."

"It is quite possible, señor. You could not have a better day. The
weather is perfect. The train starts in an hour, and the omnibus shall
take you down. I will pack you a substantial luncheon, for you can get
nothing there. My son shall accompany you to carry the basket."

The boy, who happened to be standing near his father, grew elated.

"Oh, señor, say yes," he cried. "A day at Poblet will be splendid. I
shall have a whole holiday, besides getting off my French lesson this
afternoon."

"You shall talk French to us, Francisco, which will be better than a
lesson. We decide to go. Pack an excellent luncheon for three, not
forgetting a bottle of H. C.'s favourite Laffitte."

"Of which I have an excellent vintage," replied our host, who seemed
equal to any emergency. "Frisco, take care that you are ready."

"No fear about that," replied the boy, whose eyes sparkled with
anticipation. And he went off to put on his best Sunday suit. The
landlord on his part bustled off to the kitchen, where we heard him
giving orders to the uncertain chef. Presently he returned.

"You will allow me to put the smallest suspicion of garlic in your
sandwiches," he suggested insinuatingly. "It is the greatest
improvement. The English have an objection to it, but it is mere
prejudice."

A prejudice we unfortunately shared, and our host went back lamenting
our want of taste.

The little incident brought back vividly days when we sojourned in fair
Provence, and from the cottage doors, mingling with the pure air of
heaven wafted across the Mediterranean, there came the everlasting
perfume of garlic. Hotels, houses, cottages, all seemed full of the
terrible odour. The worthy people of Provence, with their dark skins and
slow movements, were indefatigable in trying to win us over to their
side. It was almost impossible to enter a public conveyance without
putting one's head out of window: and stronger than all the impressions
made upon us by the charms of Provence, its ripening vineyards, its
wines, all the beauties of sea and sky, mountain and valley, were our
garlic reminiscences. In Catalonia we had it to a less extent, but it
was an evil to be avoided. So our landlord went back depressed to his
kitchen to conclude the packing of the hamper.

Francisco appeared in his Sunday's best long before the omnibus. At
least half a dozen times he came up to our rooms to remind us that it
would only rush round at the last moment and would not wait. Going off
for a month's holiday could not have excited him more. With an agony of
apprehension he saw us walk to the end of the road and look down upon
the blue sea that stretched around in all its beauty and repose. Already
there were white-winged feluccas gliding upon its surface, their lateen
sails spread out, enjoying the cool of the morning.

The cliff was almost perpendicular. To our left a sentry paced to and
fro, to overlook the Presidio, a large convict establishment below us on
a level with the sea. If any convict had attempted to escape--a very
improbable event--he would quickly have been marked by the lynx-eyed
sentry, who was relieved every two hours.

Side by side with the Presidio were the remains of the old Roman
amphitheatre, dating back to the days of the city walls, the house of
Pontius Pilate, and all the vestiges of the past. Close to us rose the
old Roman Tower, from which very possibly Augustus had looked many a
time upon the undulating hills and far-stretching sea, feeling himself
monarch of all he surveyed.

But long years before, the Phoenicians--that enterprising people of
Tyre and Sidon, of whom so little is known, yet who seem to have
possessed the earth--had made a maritime station of Tarragona. What it
actually was in those days can never be told; no archives contain their
record; but in beauty and favour of situation the centuries have brought
no change.

The scene on which we looked that morning linked us to the past. Four
miles to the east, under the shadow of the hills, and within sight of
the quiet bays, reposed the Roman tomb of the Scipios, who, in
conjunction with Augustus, had so much to do with the making of
Tarragona. It is a square monument thirty feet high, built of stone,
guarded by two sculptured figures, with an inscription blotted out long
ages ago. A lovely spot for the long sleep that comes to all. The hills
are pine-clad, the bays sheltered; the blue sea sleeps in the sunshine;
no sound disturbs but the plashing of the water that does not rise and
fall as other seas that have their tides. Fishermen live in the
neighbourhood, and you may see them setting their nets or fishing from
the shore for sardines; with this exception the little place shows no
sign of life and is rarely trodden by the foot of strangers.

We felt its influence as we waited for the omnibus. There, at least, to
our right was something neither Augustus nor the Scipios had ever
seen--the small harbour with its friendly arms outstretched, embracing
all the shipping that comes to Tarragona. The east pier was partly built
with the stones of the old Roman amphitheatre, a certain desecration
that took place about the year 1500. A crowd of fishing vessels is
almost always at rest in the harbour, and larger vessels trading in wine
and oil.

We were not allowed to look upon all this unmolested. Francisco
constantly came to and fro to remind us that time was passing. At last
we turned at the sound of rumbling wheels; the omnibus came up. Our host
had neatly packed a luncheon-basket, and away rolled the machine through
the prosy streets. We had turned our back upon all the wonders of
Tarragona.

It required no slight courage to abandon our beloved cathedral for one
whole day. True, before breakfast we had gone up and looked upon the
magic outlines: that marvellous mixture of Romanesque and Gothic that
here blend together in strange harmony. Early as it was we had found the
sacristan, and he, in full measure of delight, had taken us through the
quiet aisles and arches, twice beautiful and impressive in their
solitude, and thrown wide the door of the matchless cloisters. They
were lovelier than ever in the repose that accompanies the early morning
light. But neither light nor darkness, morning nor evening, could abate
the enthusiasm of the sacristan.

All this was left behind as we rattled down the steep streets. The
station was on a level with the sea, and in front of it stretched the
harbour with all its shipping. The train was in waiting, and to
Francisco's evident pride and enjoyment we were soon whirling away in a
first-class compartment. He had never travelled in anything beyond a
second.

The freshness of early morning was still upon everything, and our
interesting journey lay through scenery rich and varied. Before reaching
Reus, the train crossed the river, then came to an anchor. We found the
station crowded with country people going to a neighbouring fair. The
town rose in modern outlines, above which towered the hexagonal steeple
of San Pedro. It was evidently a bustling, prosperous town with
manufacturing signs about it. Everything seemed in direct opposition to
Tarragona. The one ancient and stately, with its historic and cathedral
atmosphere in strong evidence; the other given over to manual work. The
one quiet and conservative, the other quarrelsome and republican. It was
from Reus that our carters with a grievance had come the day we visited
the aqueduct: and back to Reus they had all gone to continue their
warfare.

We recognised two of them on the platform, on their way to the fairs.
They also recognised us and touched their large round hats with a broad
smile plainly meant to intimate that their bark was worse than their
bite.

It is in Reus that many of the French imitation wines are made and sent
over the world, passing for Mâcon, Chablis and Sauterne. Much imitation
champagne and many headaches come from here. Enormous wine-cellars, in
point of size worthy of Madrid or Barcelona, groan with their
manufactured stores. Reus has many branches of industry and might be a
happy community if it would subdue its revolutionary discontent. It has
yet to redeem its terrible murder of the monks of Poblet in 1835.

To-day, however, the crowd in the station were bent on pleasure or
business and the warring element was put aside to a more convenient
season. They scrambled into the train, and away we went up the lovely
Valley of the Francoli as far as Alcober: a favourite settlement of the
Moors, where many Moorish remains are still visible. The fine Romanesque
church was once a mosque, so that it is full of the traditions of the
past. Onwards through lonely, somewhat barren country to Montblanch;
another old town apparently falling into ruin, with picturesque walls,
towers and gates. Onwards again under the very shadow of the Sierra de
Prades, rising in clear undulating outlines against the blue sky; a
stately, magnificent chain of hills. Where indeed do we find such
beautiful and graceful hills as in Spain?

Finally Espluga, the station for Poblet. Here Francisco alighted at
express speed, basket in hand. We followed more leisurely, trembling for
the Laffitte, but the boy was equal to the occasion. In spite of
enthusiasm, he had an old head upon his young shoulders, and even now
would have been almost equal to managing the hotel single-handed.

No sooner out than we were besieged by a man and a woman; the latter
begging us to take her donkeys, the former praising his comfortable
carriage. Discretion and the carriage won the day. A long donkey-ride
over a rough country did not sound enticing. As it turned out we chose
badly.

Poblet was some miles from Espluga, and we had to pass through the town
on our way to the said carriage. It had been taken on trust, neither
carriage nor donkeys being at the station.

The town lies at the foot of a towering hill. From the station you cross
over a picturesque stone bridge dark with age, spanning the rushing
river. Standing on the bridge you look down upon a romantic ravine and
valley, through which the river winds its course. On the further side
you enter the town: a primitive out-of-the-world spot, as though it had
made no progress in the last hundred years. The people correspond with
their surroundings. The streets were narrow and irregular, and the
virtue of cleanliness was nowhere conspicuous. Our landlord had well
said that if we did not take our luncheon with us, we should take it
with Duke Humphrey.

Nevertheless, there was that in Espluga which redeemed some of its
disadvantages. Groups of houses with picturesque roofs and latticed
windows: houses built without any attempt at beauty, yet beautiful
because they belonged to a long-past age when men knew nothing of
ugliness and bad taste. No one had thought it worth while to pull down
these old nooks and remains and rebuild greater, or even adorn them with
fresh paint. Consequently we saw them arrayed in all their early charm.
It seemed a very sleepy town, with little life and energy. People plied
their quiet trades. Everything was apparently dying of inanition.

Our donkey-woman was an exception: comely and wonderfully good-tempered,
with a surprising amount of energy. Not having succeeded in hiring her
donkeys, she was not to be altogether outdone by the carriage-man, and
insisted upon accompanying us through the town, to carry the basket and
show us the way. The man had disappeared to make ready.

"You have made a mistake, señor, in not taking my donkeys. They are
beautiful creatures; six grey animals, as gentle as sheep. As for the
carriage he praises, I pity you. The road is fearfully rough. When you
reach Poblet, you will have no breath left in your body. All your bones
will be broken."

This sounded alarming; but we discounted something for disappointed
ambition.

"Are these donkeys all your living?" we asked, already feeling a certain
regret that we had employed the man and not the woman.

"Not quite, señor. And then, you know, we live upon very little. You
would be surprised if I told you how few sous a day have sufficed me.
Hitherto I have lived at home with my mother and sisters, who do
washing. We have had that to fall back upon when my donkeys are not
hired. It is lucky for me, since few people come at this time of the
year: very few at any time compared with what you would imagine. The
world doesn't know the beauties of Poblet. It languishes in solitude.
You will see when you get there. My beautiful donkeys!" she continued.
"I love them, and they love me. I have some strange power over all
animals. They seem to know that I wish them well. The very birds perch
upon my shoulders as I go along, if I stop and call to them."

"Where have you learned your charm?" we asked, much interested in the
woman. The loud voice of the station had disappeared, and she now talked
in gentle tones.

"Charm, señor? I never thought of it in that light. If it is a charm, it
was born with me. It is nothing I have learned or tried to cultivate,
for it comes naturally."

"Can you transfer the power to others?" asked H. C. "Really," he added
in an aside, "if this woman were in a higher station of life I could
quite fall in love with her. She must be made up of sympathy and
mesmerism. What a mistake it was to hire that wretched scarecrow of a
driver. Don't you think we might take the woman as a conductor and so
combine the two?"

We ignored the question.

"No, señor," replied the woman of strange gifts; "I cannot give my power
to anyone. But why do you call it a power? It is merely an instinct on
the part of the animals, who know I wish them well and would take them
all to my heart, poor dumb, patient, much-tried creatures. Shall I tell
you how I came to keep donkeys? It was not my own idea. I did not go to
them: they came to me. It is ten years ago now, when I was eighteen. I
went out one Sunday evening in August all by myself. We had had a
quarrel at home. My mother wanted me to marry a man I hated, because he
was well-to-do. I said I would never marry him if there was not another
man in the world. My sisters were all angry, and said that with one well
married they would soon all get husbands. I was the youngest. At last I
burst into tears, and told them they might all have him, but I never
would. And with that, between rage and crying, I went off by myself out
into the quiet country. I took the road to Poblet, and wandered on
without thinking.

"At last I came in sight of Poblet, and felt it was time to turn back. I
had recovered my calmness, for I reflected as I went along that they
could not make me marry the man, and that their vexation was perhaps
natural. We were poor and struggling: he was rich compared with us.
Well, señor, just as I turned I saw a beautiful grey donkey with a black
cross on its back coming towards me across the plain. I thought it
singular, for it was all alone, and I had never seen a donkey alone
there before. There was something strange-looking about it. Evidently it
has strayed, I thought, and must just stray back again. But with my love
for animals I could not help stopping and watching. It came straight up
to me, and put its nose into my hand, just as if it knew me. 'Where have
you come from?' I said, patting its head. 'Your owner will be anxious.
You must go straight home.' But there it stood, and there I stood; and
for at least five minutes we never moved.

"Then I felt it was ridiculous, and set off home. Will you believe,
señor, that the animal followed me like a dog. I could not get rid of
it. When I arrived home the donkey arrived with me. What could I do?
There was an empty stable next door, and I put it in there, thinking it
would be claimed and perhaps I should get a small reward. The animal
went in just as if the stable had been always its home. As I was
leaving, it turned and looked at me, and said as plainly as possible, 'I
hope you are not going to let me starve.' I went in and told them what
had happened. 'It must be your lover who has taken the form of a
donkey,' laughed my eldest sister. 'He knows you are fond of animals,
Loretta, and has arranged this plan with the devil to make you like
him.' 'I should soon prove the greater donkey of the two, if I allowed
myself to marry him,' I retorted."

"Was the donkey never claimed, Loretta?"

"Señor, you shall hear. To sum up the story, the donkey never was
claimed. We made every inquiry; we did all we could to find the owner;
it was in vain; he never turned up, and to this day the donkey remains
mine. People said he was a supernatural donkey, but of course I know
better. The next thing was, how to make him earn his living, for I was
determined never to part with him. Then the idea came to me to convey
people to Poblet. The story got known, and sometimes at the station
there would be quite a fight for Caro, as I called him. There is still.
It gave me a start, and now in that very stable I have six beautiful
donkeys that could not be equalled. And they all love me, and answer to
their names, and come when I call them. Whichever I call comes; the
others don't stir."

It was a singular but by no means impossible story. As H. C. had said,
there was a certain mesmeric influence about the woman to which the
sensitive animal world might very probably respond.

"And your lover? You did not take compassion upon him?"

"No, señor," laughed the woman, with a decided shake of the head; "but
one of my sisters did; the eldest, who had been the most angry with me.
And for the first six years they led a regular cat-and-dog life. Then he
tumbled over the bridge into the river and was nearly drowned. He was
saved, but his leg was broken and had to be taken off, and after that
somehow his temper improved. My sister laughs and says she loves him
better with his one leg than ever she did when he had two. She is
welcome to him."

"But you," we observed, feeling the question a delicate one, "why have
you never married? By your own confession you are twenty-eight."

The woman laughed and blushed. "The right man never came, señor, and I
was in no hurry. I was quite happy as I was. Five men in this town asked
me to marry them. I did not care for any of them. 'Will you love my
donkeys?' I said to each. Not one of them said Yes; so I said No to all
But now I have said Yes at last. And there he goes," she added.

A tall strong man with a plain but amiable and honest face crossed the
road, and catching sight of the donkey-woman sent her a beaming nod and
went on his way.

"You have chosen well, Loretta. He will make you a good husband."

"I think so," returned the woman, and evidently her heart was in the
matter. "When I asked Lorenzo if he would love my donkeys, he said: Yes,
a dozen if I had them. So I took him to the stables, and called Caro,
and it came and put its nose into his hand just as it had done to me
that very first evening at Poblet. 'You're the man for me,' I said: and
that was our betrothal."

"And suppose Caro had turned his back upon him?" we inquired. Loretta
blushed.

"Señor, I should have been angry with Caro: and I should have had
compassion upon Lorenzo. But Caro had too much sense, and knew Lorenzo
was to be its master. He is a carpenter, señor, and has a good trade.
There is your carriage already waiting."

[Illustration: ON OUR WAY TO POBLET.]

"Ah, Loretta, you should have told us this story before. We should not
have refused your donkeys. It would be an honour to ride the wise and
gentle Caro."

"Another time, señor. You will be coming again, then you shall have
Caro, though twenty others fought for him. No one comes to Poblet once
without coming a second time. You will see."

As Loretta had said, the carriage was waiting. The carriage, save the
mark! If we had regretted the donkeys before seeing it, what did we do
now? It was nothing but a country cart covered with a white tarpaulin,
and a door behind about a foot square, through which we had to scramble
to find ourselves buried in the interior. The whole concern was only fit
for a museum of antiquities, like the Tarragona victoria. But the thing
was done, and we had to make the best of it.

Passing through the streets, we came upon more men pressing out the
grapes. It was a much larger affair than that of Lerida, and the juice
poured out in a rich red stream. Four strong men were at work.

We stopped the cart, struggled out of what Francisco called the
cat-hole, and watched the process. It was a case of mutual interest. The
men had their heads bound round with handkerchiefs. The thoroughfare was
the end of the town, wide and cleanly. Altogether this was an
improvement upon the Lerida wine-press, and when these men offered us of
the juice in a clean goblet, we did not refuse them. This attention to
strangers was evidently a peace-offering; a token of goodwill; and the
loving-cup was cool, refreshing and delicious. Such must have been the
true nectar of the gods.

"Almost equal to Laffitte," said H. C. "I don't know that I ever tasted
anything more poet-inspiring. Let us drink to the health and happiness
of the fair Loretta. Lorenzo is a lucky man."

With some genuine tobacco and a few cigars such as they had never seen
or heard of, the men thought they had made an excellent exchange. We
left them as happy as the gods on Olympus.

Soon after this we found ourselves in the open country. The roads were
of the roughest: hard and dry, now all stones, now all ruts: some of the
ruts a foot deep, into which the cart would sink to an angle of
forty-five degrees. There were no springs to the cart; never had been
any. It was stiff and unyielding, and evidently dated from the stone
age. We did not even attempt to keep our seats, but flew about like
ninepins.

"The Laffitte will be churned into butter," groaned H. C. spasmodically,
feeling a general internal dislocation. "Butter-wine. I wonder what it
will be like. A new discovery, perhaps."

But the luncheon-basket was in comparative repose. How Francisco managed
we never knew; habit is second nature; he neither lost his seat nor let
go the basket. Never in roughest seas had we been so tossed about. The
next day we were black and blue, and for a week after felt as though we
had been beaten with rods.

At last after what seemed an interminable drive, but was really only
some three miles, we turned from the main road and the common--evidently
the scene of Loretta's donkey adventure--into a narrow, shabby avenue of
trees. At the end appeared the outer gateway of the monastery, where we
were too thankful to dispense with the cart and its driver.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE RUINS OF POBLET.

     A dream-world--Ruins--Chapel of St. George--Archways and Gothic
     windows--Atmosphere of the Middle Ages--Convent doorway--Summons
     but no response--Door opens at last--Comfortable looking
     woman--Ready invention--Confusion worse confounded--True
     version--Francisco painfully direct--Guardian gets worst of
     it--Picturesque decay--Gothic cloisters--Visions of beauty--Rare
     wilderness--King Martin the Humble--Bacchanalian days--When the
     monks quaffed Malvoisie--Simple grandeur of the church--Philip Duke
     of Wharton--Cistercian monastery--History of Poblet the
     monk--Monastery becomes celebrated--Tombs of the kings of
     Aragon--Guardian sceptical--Paradise or wilderness--Monks
     all-powerful--Escorial of Aragon--The great traveller--Changing for
     the worse--Upholding the kingly power--Time rolls
     on--Downfall--Attacked and destroyed--Infuriated mob--Fictitious
     treasures--Fiendish act--Massacre--Ruined monastery--Blood-red
     sunset--Superstition--End of 1835.


Once within the gateway we were in a dream-world; a world of the past; a
world of ruins, but ruins rich and rare.

From the outer gateway a long avenue of trees and buildings led to the
monastery. Far down you looked upon a second gateway with a wonderful
view of receding arches and outlines. Between the two gateways on the
left were the workshops of the artisans of the days gone by, now closed
and desolate. Just before reaching the second gateway, on the right, we
found the small fifteenth-century chapel of St. George, with the
original stone altar and groined and vaulted roof. On the left within
the gateway was an ancient hospital and chapel, both crumbling into
picturesque decay: and on higher ground, the palace of the bishops,
where they lived and ruled in the days of their glory.

Exquisite outlines of crumbling archways and Gothic windows surrounded
us. Over all was a wonderful tone of age, soft and mellow. Towers and
steeples rose in clear outlines against the sky, outlines still perfect
and substantial. But the outer buildings, which had been palatial
dwellings, were mere empty shells overgrown with weeds, given over to
the bats and the owls. A wonderful bit of moulding or fragment of an
archway, Roman or Gothic as might happen, showed the beauty and
magnificence of what had once been, and would still exist but for the
barbarities of man. Some of the outer walls might have defied a
millennium of years. It was a dead world of surpassing beauty and
refinement: a series of crumbling arches and moss-grown fragments of
gigantic walls. We had it all to ourselves; the perfect repose was
unbroken; no restless forms and loud voices intruded; no jarring element
broke the spell of the centuries. We were in the very atmosphere of the
Middle Ages. In days gone by the monastery must have been of regal
splendour, as it was unlimited in power.

At last we reached the convent doorway and a bell went echoing through
the silence. No one responded, and we began to fear that perhaps the
custodian had gone off like our night porter in Lerida, taking the keys
with him. A second summons produced echoing footsteps, and the door was
opened by a comfortable looking woman, who was neither a ruin nor a
fragment nor specially antique.

"Excuse me for keeping you waiting," she said. "I am not the guardian,
only his humble wife. In fact he calls me his chattel. I object to the
term. We did not expect any one here to-day, and he has just gone out to
do a little commission."

But we discovered that this was a stretch of the imagination. In reality
the old man, seized with a fit of laziness, was only then dressing. He
appeared on the scene almost at once, somewhat to his spouse's
confusion. But she made the best of it, and patting her capacious apron
and stiffening her neck, walked off with a proud step and a jaunty air
to her special quarters.

"We have had no one here for a fortnight," said the guardian. "I began
to think we might advertise ourselves as closed for the winter season,
like the seaside casinos. Quite worn out with doing nothing, I thought I
might as well spend the morning in bed for a change. Of course just as
an umbrella brings sunshine, so my staying in bed brought visitors."

"But your wife said that you had gone out to do a commission," cried
Francisco, with all a boy's direct statement of the truth.

"Did she indeed now," replied the old guardian calmly. "That was
over-zeal on her part; done with a good motive, but still wrong. I shall
have to chastise her."

"How shall you do it?" asked Francisco. "Beat her?"

"We don't beat women, young señor," replied the guardian severely. "My
chastisement takes the form of admonition."

"When I wanted punishing, my father used to beat me with a cane,"
returned Francisco. "I don't think admonition would have done me any
good at all. I don't suppose it will do your wife any good. On the very
next occasion she'll tell another white lie. Much better give her a
caning and have done with it."

"Did your father ever cane his wife?" asked the old man drily.

"She would have been much more likely to cane him," returned Francisco
emphatically. "Does your wife beat you?"

The old man felt he was getting the worst of it; was being driven into a
corner by this enfant terrible; and took refuge in silence.

This interesting conversation took place just inside the doorway, where
we found ourselves lost in the beauty of the scene. A court with round
arches on either side resting on pillars with small capitals. Above them
the walls were in their rough, rude state, full of picturesque decay,
but here as in many parts of the interior much had been restored.
Nevertheless, so much of the original remains that the restoration does
not offend. It has been well done. Before us, at the end of the short
entrance-court was a large and splendid archway, and beyond we had a
distant view of the Gothic cloisters.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO CLOISTERS: POBLET.]

The interior was so immense, the passages were so intricate, we could
never have found our way without the custodian. Nothing could be
lovelier than the half-ruined cloisters. The large exquisite windows
were of rich pointed work, seven bays on each side, pillars and tracery
either almost all gone, or partly restored. In one corner of the
quadrangle was a hexagon glorieta enclosing the fountain that in days
gone by supplied monks and bishops with water. Weeds and shrubs and
stunted trees grew about it; a rare wilderness. Above rose the outlines
of battlemented walls; of ruined pointed windows, lovely in decay; of
crumbling stairways, rich mouldings and pointed roofs. The cloister
passages opened to enormous rooms. On the east side was the
chapter-house, supported by four exquisite pillars, from which sprang
the groining of the roof; the doors and windows were specially graceful
and refined; the floor was paved with monumental stones of the
dead-and-gone abbots, many of the inscriptions effaced by time.

Near this was the large refectory with pillars and pointed vault. Up the
staircase, which still remains, we passed to the palace del Rey Martin;
King Martin the Humble as he was called; and large and baronial in days
gone by the palace must have been, its very aspect transporting one to
feudal times. Below the palace were enormous vaults where the wine was
once stored: great vats and channels, and a whole series of processes to
which the wine was subjected. Those must have been bacchanalian days,
and supplies never failed. All the rooms--the Chocolateria, where the
abbots took their chocolate, the Novitiate, of enormous dimensions, the
Library, the room of the Archives, the room that contained the rich
monastery treasure, another that had nothing but rare MSS., some of
which are scattered but many more destroyed--all these rooms seemed
countless, and each had its special charm and atmosphere.

It was impossible to enter the refectory with its vaulted roof lost in
the semi-obscurity which reigned, without conjuring up a vision of monks
and abbots who in past centuries feasted here and quaffed each other in
draughts of rich Malvoisie. In the palace del Rey Martin, we imagined
all the regal pomp and splendour in which the king delighted. In the
wine vaults we beheld the wine running in deep red streams, traced it to
the refectory table, and noticed the rapidity with which it disappeared
before the worthy abbots. In the vaults it passed through every stage,
from the crushing of the grape to the final storing in barrels.

On one side of the cloisters was the partly restored church, high and
wide, with a magnificent nave of seven fine bays, so slightly pointed as
to be almost Romanesque. We were lost in wonder at the size of the
building, its simple grandeur, even as a partial ruin. Open to it from
the north side is the great sacristy, saddest room of all. For here we
find a solitary tombstone on which is inscribed the name of Philip Duke
of Wharton, who came over to the monastery, a lonely exile, and died at
the age of thirty-two, without friend or servant to soothe his last
moments, knowing little or nothing of the language of the monks who
surrounded him. Most melancholy of stories.

In the church, on each side of the high altar were remains of once
splendid tombs. They are now defaced, and the effigies have altogether
disappeared. Here was once the tomb of Jayme el Conquistador, which we
had looked upon that very morning with our amiable sacristan on the left
of the Coro in Tarragona cathedral. Its ancient resting-place in the
great monastery church is now an empty space.

The aisle behind the high altar contains five chapels, and behind these
outside the church lies the cemetery of the monks, a beautiful and ideal
spot with long rows of round arches one beyond another, so that you seem
to be looking into vistas of countless pillars. Above the arches and
pillars are walls of amazing thickness, with windows and projections,
all ending in moss-grown, crumbling outlines. Below, small mounds and
tombstones mark the resting-place of the dead. Here they sleep
forgotten; no sign or sound penetrates from the outer world, and those
who visit them are comparatively few.

The whole monastery is nothing but an accumulation of crumbling walls
still strong and majestic, of church and cloister, of palace and
palatial courts, of refined Gothic windows with broken tracery, of
ancient stairways and flying arches. Over all was the exquisite tone of
age.

It was originally a Cistercian monastery, dating from the middle of the
twelfth century. Its abbots were bishops, who lived in great pomp and
almost unlimited wealth and power. "Which they used according to their
lights," said our custodian; "sometimes wisely, sometimes wastefully. I
should like to have been cellarman to the old abbots in the days when
the vaults were full of wine and a few quarts a day more or less were
never missed."

"Is there any legend connected with its origin?"

"Indeed, yes, señor. When was there ever an old institution in Spain
without its legend? As the señor knows and sees, the monastery dates
back to the year 1150. But long before that, in the days of the Moors, a
hermit named Poblet took refuge here that he might pray in peace. An
emir found him one day, captured him and put him into prison. Angels
came three times over and broke his chains. The emir grew frightened,
repented, set the hermit at liberty, and gave him all the surrounding
territory in this fertile valley of La Conca de Barbera. In 1140 the
body of Poblet was miraculously discovered. It was nothing but a heap of
bones, and so I suppose they were labelled, or how could they have
identified them--but I don't know about that. The bones of course became
sacred and had to be duly honoured. So Ramon Berenguer IV. built the
convent of El Santo; the bones were interred under the high altar, and
the king gave enormous grants to the clergy. The place grew celebrated
above all others in Catalonia; it become a sort of Escorial, and here
the kings of Aragon for a long time were buried."

"And the bones of the hermit--where are they?"

"Nobody knows," replied the guardian, shaking his head wisely. "They may
pretend, but nobody knows. Is it likely? And what does it matter for a
few human bones? Just as if they could work miracles or do any good. A
poor old hermit, with all our weaknesses upon him!"

"Then you don't believe the legend?"

"Not I, señor. I believe much more in the jovial times the old abbots
indulged in. At least we have a capacious refectory and inexhaustible
wine vaults to prove what fine banquets they had in the Middle Ages. We
have come down to poor times, in my opinion. The world in general seems
very much what this monastery is--a patched-up ruin."

"If the world were only half as beautiful," said H. C., "we should spend
our years in a dream."

"It would not be my sort of dream, señor," returned the old guardian
drily. "I have been here for twenty years, and confess I would give all
the ruins in the world for a good and gay back street in Madrid or
Barcelona. To you, señor, who probably come from the great cities of the
world and mix with gay crowds--well, I dare say you think this paradise.
To me it is a dreary wilderness."

It was not to be expected that the old custodian would appreciate all
the beauty and refinement, all the ecclesiastical, regal and historical
atmosphere that surrounded it with a special halo. And perhaps twenty
years' contemplation of the outlines would have made many a better man
long for a change of scene. Custom stales and familiarity breeds
contempt. But not twice twenty years could have made us unmindful of the
singular beauty of Poblet.

[Illustration: MONKS' BURIAL GROUND: POBLET.]

We had got round to the lovely cloisters again, and Francisco declared
it was time to display the luncheon-basket. So there, in the silent
cloisters, surrounded by all the tone and atmosphere and outlines of the
early centuries, we spread our feast.

The old guardian was equal to the occasion and produced table and
chairs. Those he placed in the quadrangle, under the blue skies. The
lovely glorieta was on one side of us; on the other, by looking through
the broken tracery down the silent passage, we caught the outlines of
the great church; a wonderful view and vision.

Our host, better than his orders, had packed up two bottles of wine, and
H. C. in the largeness of his heart presented the guardian with a
brimming bumper of choice Laffitte, that nearly half emptied one of the
bottles. Like a true courtier, he bowed and drank to our health and
happiness, and when the wine had disappeared, patted his fine rotundity
with affectionate appreciation.

"Señor," he cried, "this is better than anything I ever tasted. A bottle
of this a day would reconcile me even to the solitude of Poblet. Surely
the old abbots never had anything equal to this--even when they drank
Malvoisie. It has set the blood coursing through my veins as I have not
felt it for twenty years. For such as this some people would sell their
souls."

The excellent fumes must have penetrated even to the guardian's private
rooms, for at this moment, with an air of great innocence, the wife
appeared upon the scene. Francisco declared she had heard the cork drawn
and arrived for a share of good things. With true gallantry, but a
sinking at the heart for the diminishing Laffitte, H. C. poured out
another bumper and offered it to the lady, whose proportions matched her
husband's. It was accepted with a reverence, and if appreciation were a
reward for the empty bottle, H. C. had his to the full. Then the
comfortable pair retired to the cloister passage, where the guardian had
his own table and chairs and display of photographs, and there they sat
down and contemplated life under Laffitte influence. Judging by their
expressions they were in the enjoyment of infinite beatitudes.

[Illustration: RUINS OF POBLET.]

It was a calm, quiet, delicious hour, far removed from the world. For
the moment we were back in the centuries, picturing scenes of the past.
Days when Poblet rose from small things to great; when its abbots became
mitred; when they could ask nothing of the kings of Aragon that was not
immediately granted. The kings delighted to honour them. Wealth flowed
into the treasury; power multiplied. At last they ruled as despots. The
kings built them a palace within the hallowed precincts. Side by side
dwelt humble monk and crowned head. Humble? Where the regal will
clashed with the monkish, the king went on his knees and gave way. It
became the Escorial of Aragon, a thousand times more beautiful and
perfect than that other Escorial reposing on the hill-slopes of Castile.
Here it pleased the kings to be buried, and close to the monks' cemetery
reposed the dead who had held the sceptre. No special tomb or carved
sarcophagus marked their rank. In death all should be equal. Or if there
were tombs decorated with gold and enriched with sculpture, they were
placed in the great church. What more indeed could they want than these
wonderful arcades reposing under the pure skies of heaven.

But the monks grew stiff-necked and proud; waxed rich and powerful,
grasping and avaricious. Since kings bowed down to them, they were the
excellent of the earth. Humility fled away. They were paving the road to
their own downfall. At last they would only admit those of highest rank
into their community. Of course they upheld the kingly power whilst
trying to make it subservient to themselves. The throne was their
stronghold: Republicanism meant confiscation. The revolutions of the
world have attacked the religious orders before all else with hatred and
violence.

Time rolled on. Ferdinand VII. died, and in the War of Succession they
became politically unpopular. Socially they had long been disliked for
their oppression of the peasantry; but strong and rich, the feeling had
to be cherished in silence. The monks were Carlists to the backbone.

At length, in the year, 1835, Poblet was attacked by the peasantry, who
came down like a furious avalanche upon the building that for its beauty
should have been held twice sacred.

By this time, too, a change for the better had come over the monks. Much
wealth and influence had gone from them; they were quietly doing good.
But the traditions of the past are slow in dying. The mob believed the
monastery was a vast treasure-house; untold riches lay buried in
fictitious graves, hidden in tombs and hollow pillars. It was now that
the men of Reus proved capable of fiendish acts of excitement. The monks
were driven from their refuge and many were cruelly massacred. The
pent-up fury of ages was let loose like a torrent. No power could stay
the thirst for so-called revenge. It was their hour; a short-lived hour;
but how much was accomplished! The monastery was ruined. The mob,
infuriated at finding no heaps of gold, no hidden treasures, tore down
pillars, defaced monuments, desecrated the church, left the beautiful
traceried windows in ruins, and then set fire to the building.

The sun had risen on as fair and peaceful a scene as earth could show;
it set on the saddest of devastations. Yet, thanks to the solid masonry,
much escaped. For the monks it was lamentation and mourning and woe. It
has been recorded that the sun went down in a deep-red ball, reflection
of the blood of the martyred monks. But the people are superstitious. We
have seen it ourselves sink over the Spanish plains also a fiery-red
ball, intense and glowing, when the world was at peace. Yet, it must
have been a special sunset on that memorable day of 1835, for it is
recorded that long after the sun disappeared clouds shot to and fro in
the sky like swords of flame. But this, too, we have gazed upon in days
of peace and quietness.



CHAPTER XXIX.

LORENZO.

     Day visions--All passes away--End of the feast--Francisco gathers
     up the fragments--Ghosts of the past--Outside the monastery--Oasis
     in a desert--After the vintage--Francisco gleans--Guilty
     conscience--Custom of country--Dessert--Primitive
     watering-place--Off to the fair--Groans and lamentations--Sagacious
     animal--Cause of sorrows--Rage and anger--Donkey listens and
     understands--A hard life--Washing a luxury--Charity
     bestowed--Deserted settlement--Quaint interior--Back to the
     monastery--Invidious comparisons--A promise--Good-bye to
     Poblet--Troubled sea again--Suffering driver--Atonement for
     sins--Earns paradise--Wine-pressers again--Rich stores--Good
     samaritans--Quaint old town--Bygone prosperity--Lorenzo--Marriage
     made in heaven--House inspected--On the bridge--At the
     station--Kindly offer--Glorious sunset--Loretta's good-bye--"What
     shall it be?"--Flying moments--As the train rolls off.


All this passed before us as a vision whilst we sat in those wonderful
cloisters. We imagined the scene in all its ancient glory. We saw monks
pacing to and fro in their picturesque Benedictine dress. The proud step
of a mitred abbot echoed as it passed onwards in pomp and ceremony and
disappeared up the staircase to the palace of King Martin the Humble:
far more humble and conciliating than the uncrowned kings of Poblet. We
heard the monotone of the Miserere ascending through the dim aisles of
the great church, the monks bowing their heads in mock humility. We saw
Martin the Humble take the throne-seat to the right of the altar as
though he felt himself least of all the assembled. And we saw that
solitary death-bed of Wharton the self-banished whilst yet in his youth,
and marvelled what silent, secret sorrow had bid him flee the world.
Everything had passed away; kings and monks, wealth and power, and
to-day the silence of death reigns in Poblet.

[Illustration: CLOISTERS OF POBLET.]

When our modest feast was over, and H. C. had tried for the third
time to extract a final drop of Laffitte from the second empty bottle,
we left Francisco to gather up the fragments, and without the
custodian--who was now taking a refreshing sleep after his appreciated
bumper--wandered about the ruins as we would, realising all their beauty
and influence, all the true spirit of the past that overshadowed them.
Every room and court was filled with a crowd of cowled monks and mitred
abbots. Up crumbling and picturesque' stairways we saw a shadowy
procession ascending; the ghostly face of Martin the Humble looked down
upon us from the exquisite windows of his palace, shorn of nearly all
their tracery.

It was difficult to leave it all, but we wanted to see a little of the
outer world. Francisco committed his basket to the guardian--now wide
awake--and in a few moments we found ourselves outside the great
entrance, facing the crumbling dependencies. Beyond the gateway we
turned to the left and passed up the valley. It was broad and
far-reaching, and the monastery looked in the centre of a great
undulating plain. From the slopes of a vineyard on which we sat awhile,
it rose like an oasis in a desert, its picturesque outlines clearly
marked against the blue sky. An irregular, half-ruined wall enclosed the
vast precincts. In the far distance were chains of hills. There was no
trace anywhere of a monks' garden, but in their despotic days they
probably had all their wants supplied in the shape of tithes. The
landscape was bare of trees, yet the rich soil yields abundantly the
fruits of the earth. In the vineyard nearly all the grapes had been
plucked; but Francisco wandering to and fro found a few bunches and
plucked them. Warmed by the sunshine they were luscious and full of
sweet flavour. We felt almost guilty of eating stolen fruit.

"Are we not very much like boys robbing an orchard, Francisco?"

"No," laughed the boy, "though I'm afraid if we were that would not stop
me. What we are doing is quite allowed. It is the custom of the country.
Anyone may take the overlooked bunches in a vineyard just as they may
glean in a corn-field. If I had not picked these, they would have
withered. The owner, if he came in at this moment, would wish us good
appetite and digestion and probably hunt for another bunch or two to
present to us. Not a bad dessert after luncheon."

Higher up the road we found a settlement, where in summer people flock
to the hotels to drink the waters and enjoy the country. To-day all was
closed for the approaching winter. A few years ago the place had no
existence beyond a few scattered farm cottages with latticed windows and
thatched roofs, surrounded by small orchards. These still exist. The
place looked light and primitive, as though life might here pass very
pleasantly. It was too far from the monastery to intrude upon its
solitude, and the whole settlement seemed deserted. Not a creature
crossed our path until on the down-hill road on the other side we came
upon an old woman struggling with an obstinate donkey. Approaching, we
heard groans and lamentations: now the animal was threatened, now
implored. He was equally indifferent to both appeals. Looking very
sagacious, his ears working to and fro and his feet well planted upon
the ground, as wide apart as possible, he would not budge an inch.

The old woman would certainly never see eighty again. She was wrinkled
and shrivelled and looked a black object; her old face so tanned by the
sun that she might almost pass for a woman of colour. Her black hair was
wiry and untidy, and a rusty black gown hung about her in scanty folds.
We stopped to inquire the cause of her sorrows.

"Ah, señor, this wretched animal will one day be the death of me. But
no, you wretched brute," suddenly turning to rage and anger, "I will be
the death of you. I know that one of these days I shall take a knife to
its throat, and there will be an end of it. And there will be an end of
me, for I have no other living. All I can do is to go about gathering
sticks and begging halfpence from charity. But this miserable donkey is
worse than a pig. A pig will go the wrong way, but my donkey won't go at
all. Sometimes for an hour together he doesn't move an inch. I have
known him keep me a whole afternoon within ten yards of the same spot. I
have beaten him till I'm black and blue"--the old woman had evidently
got mixed here--"until my arm has ached for a week and I hadn't a breath
left in my body; and all he does is to kick up his hind legs and bray in
mockery."

[Illustration: POBLET, FROM THE VINEYARD.]

All this time the donkey was switching its tail as though it understood
every word that was said and thoroughly appreciated its bad character.
And apparently to emphasise the matter, at this moment it suddenly gave
a bray so loud, long and à propos that we were convulsed with laughter,
in which the old woman joined. The donkey looked round with a
ridiculously comical expression upon its face that was evidently put on.

"Ah, señor, it is all very well to laugh, but I am a poor wretched old
woman," said this sable donkey-owner. "I never know one day whether I
shall not starve the next. My husband died forty years ago. I have one
daughter, but she left me. For twenty years I have not heard of her.
Mine has been a hard life."

"How often do you wash?" we could not help asking out of curiosity.

"Wash, señor?" opening very wide eyes. "I am too poor to buy soap, and
water is scarce. And I am so thin that if I washed, my bones would come
through the skin. Señor, if you will bestow your charity upon me I
promise not to waste it upon soap."

We were near the river. The clear, sparkling water flowed on its way to
the sea. Near the bank were whispering reeds and rushes. We felt sorely
tempted to lift the old woman with our stick--she could not have weighed
more than a good fat turkey--drop her into the stream, and for once make
her acquainted with the luxury of a cold bath. But we reflected that she
probably had no change of things, and her death might lie at our door.
So we bestowed upon her the charity she asked for and left her. Prayers
for our happiness went on until we were out of sight, and up to that
point the perverse animal had not moved.

We now turned back on our road, and appeared to have the whole
country-side to ourselves. As we passed the thatched cottages every one
of them was closed and silent. No blue curling smoke ascended from any
of the chimneys.

"Is it always so quiet and deserted?" we asked Francisco, who had
knocked at three or four cottages without success. He was anxious to
show us the interiors, which he said were curious: great chimney-corners
with the chain hanging down to hold the pot-au-feu that was always
going: peat fires that threw their incense upon the air: enormous
Spanish settles on which half a dozen people could sit easily and keep
warm on winter evenings: wonderful old clocks that ticked in the corner.
We saw all this in the fifth cottage. Its inmates had flown, but
forgotten to lock the door. The fire was out, and the great iron pot
swinging from the chain was cold.

"No, señor. I have often been here and never found everybody away like
this. One might fancy them all dead and buried, but they are at the
fair, I suppose. The harvest is all in, fruits are all gathered; there
is nothing left on the trees"--with a melancholy glance at the
orchards--"and for the moment they have nothing to do. So they have gone
in a body to amuse themselves and spend their money."

We got back in time to the monastery, and again the woman opened to us.

"This time he really has gone off for a commission," she laughed, as the
colour mounted to her face at the remembrance of her late transgression.
"I really had to make an excuse before," she added. "It might have been
one of the directors, and I should not like them to think the old man
was getting past his work."

The guardian came up behind us at the moment, a bottle of wine in his
hand for their evening meal.

"Ah, señor," shaking his head mournfully, "it is not equal to yours.
Until the flavour and recollection of yours have passed away, I shall
find this but poor stuff. I must make believe very hard, and fancy
myself living in the days of the old monks, drinking Malvoisie."

We promised to send him a bottle of Laffitte the very next time any one
came over from the hotel, and he declared the anticipation would add
five years to his life. We took a last look at the lovely cloisters, and
then with a heavy heart turned our backs upon Poblet. Seldom had any
visit so charmed us. Never had we seen such ruins; such marvellous
outlines and perspectives; never felt more in a world of the past; never
so completely realised the bygone life of the monks: all their splendour
and power, wealth and luxury, to which the kingly presence gave
additional lustre. They were days of pomp and ceremony and despotism;
but the surrounding atmosphere of refinement and beauty must have had a
softening and religious effect that perhaps kept them from excesses of
tyranny and self-indulgence: vices that might have made their name a
byword to succeeding ages.

Our primitive conveyance was in waiting. Once more we found ourselves
tossed upon a troubled sea where no waters were. We passed through the
plains in which the magic donkey had appeared to Loretta, now empty and
gathering tone and depth as the day declined.

Our driver was not communicative. Apparently all his energy had spent
itself at the station in claiming our patronage. He now even seemed
unhappy, and in spite of the abominable drive he was giving us, we
ventured to ask him if the world went well with him.

"I can't complain of the world, señor," he returned, in melancholy
tones. "I have food enough to eat, but alas cannot eat it. I suffer from
frightful toothache. At the last fair I mounted the dentist's waggon;
boom went the drum, crash went the trumpets--I thought my head was off.
He had pulled out the only sound tooth I possessed. 'Let me try again,'
said he. 'No, thank you,' I answered. 'You have given me enough for one
day, and if you expect any other payment than my sound tooth you will be
disappointed.' Unfortunately, señor, he _had_ more than the tooth, for
he had carried away a bit of my jaw with it. Since then I have no
comfort in life. The next time the fair comes round I suppose he will
have to try again. The priests tell us a good deal about the torments of
purgatory, but they can be nothing compared with this toothache. After
this I shall expect to go straight to paradise when I die--priest or no
priest."

The silence of the unhappy driver was more than accounted for, and we
gave him our sympathy.

"Thank you, señor," he answered. "It is very good of you. But,"
comically, "my tooth still aches."

We had reached the outskirts of the little town and dismissed the
conveyance, of which we had had more than enough. It rattled through the
streets and we followed at leisure. The men at the wine-press were just
giving up work. Inside, in large rooms, they showed us wide tubs full
of rich red juice, waiting to be made into wine.

"You have enough here for the whole neighbourhood," we remarked.

"It is all ordered, señor, and as much again if we can get it. We are
famed for our wine. May we offer you a really good specimen bottle, just
to show you its excellence? It would be a most friendly act on your
part--and a little return for your splendid tobacco and cigars."

"By all means," cried H. C., before we had time to accept or decline.
"We are all as thirsty as fishes--and as hungry as hunters."

"It is last year's wine," said our cellarman, returning with a bottle
and drawing the cork. Then he hospitably filled tumblers and with a
broad smile upon his face waited our approval. We gave it without
reserve. It was excellent.

"And as pure as when it was still in the grape," said the man. "Take my
word for it, señor, you won't get such stuff as this in Madrid or
Barcelona. It goes through your veins and exhilarates you, and if you
drank three bottles of it you might feel lively, but you would have no
headache."

We owed the wine-presser a debt of gratitude. His invigorating draught
was doubly welcome after our late experience, and we went our way
feeling there are many good Samaritans in the world.

We had some time to wait in the little town, and made closer
acquaintance with its curious old streets: the overhanging eaves and
waterspouts that stretched out like grinning gargoyles; the massive
walls of many of the houses, and casements with rich mouldings that
suggested a bygone day of wealth and prosperity.

In our wandering we came upon the man Loretta had pointed out as her
future husband. He was almost in the very same spot we had last seen
him, and his head was now adorned with a white cap. We stopped him.

"So, Lorenzo, you are going to espouse Loretta."

"With your permission, señor. I hope you are not going to forbid the
marriage?"

[Illustration: RUINS OF POBLET.]

"Quite the contrary. We offer you our congratulations, and think you
a very lucky man, Loretta a fortunate woman."

"Thank you, señor," replied Lorenzo, laughing--he seemed made up of
good-humour. "I think it promises well. You see we are neither of us
children, but old enough to know our own mind. Loretta is twenty-eight,
I am thirty-two, and as far as I can make out, we have neither of us
cared for anybody before. Our marriage was evidently made in heaven. And
then Mr. Caro settled the matter by accepting me as his master."

"And you love the donkeys, we hear?"

"I love all animals in general," returned Lorenzo, "and of course
Loretta's donkeys in particular. If she could have an additional
attraction in my eyes, it is her power over the dumb birds and beasts,
which proves the goodness of her soul. I cannot approach her in that
respect."

"And when are you going to be married?"

"Has Loretta not told you that?" said Lorenzo, the colour flushing to
his face. "We are to be married to-morrow morning. Everything is ready.
Loretta has her wedding-gown, and our rooms have been furnished some
time. They are over my workshop, so that I shall be able to hear her
singing whilst I am planing and sawing below. Here it is, señor; will
you not come in and look at it? I think," a bright light in his eyes,
"we shall be very happy. After we are married to-morrow we go to
Barcelona for a few days, where I have a prosperous brother who will
take us in. Then we come back and settle down to our life. Yes, I think
we shall be as happy as the day's long, señor."

We had no doubt about it. Happiness in this world is for such as these.
Excellent natures, saved from the great cares and responsibilities of
those in a higher walk; working for their daily bread, which is
abundantly supplied; contented with their lot; knowing nothing of
impossible wants and wishes; loving and shedding abroad their love. It
is such natures as Loretta's and Lorenzo's that are the truly happy.
Their very names harmonized. But they are rare amongst their own class;
one might almost say rare in any class; the exception, not the rule. It
was good to come upon two such people, and to find that a kindly fate
had reserved them for each other.

We left Lorenzo in his workshop, a strong, manly fellow, using his plane
with a skilful hand, and went our way.

Right and left Loretta was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she was arranging
things at home for the last time. The last evening in the old nest. She
might be contemplating her wedding-gown, lost in thoughts of the past or
dreams of the future. But she was not one to look on the sad side of
life, or to spend time in melancholy introspection.

From the picturesque old bridge beneath which the river ran its swift
course, the scene was wild, picturesque and lonely. With all our
loitering we had an hour to wait for the train. At the station we found
Loretta, apparently anything but low-spirited. She was accompanied by a
well-dressed woman who looked as if the world went well with her.
Loretta saw us and came forward.

"Señor, you are back from Poblet. Tell me, did I exaggerate its beauty?
Will you not come again, if only to ride the gentle Caro?"

"Poblet far surpasses anything we expected from it, Loretta. But why did
you not tell us that to-morrow was your wedding-day?"

"I did not like to," she returned, laughing. "And yet I am too old to be
silly about it. How did you find out, señor? Surely the old guardian at
Poblet knows nothing? I have not been near him for three weeks."

"We met Lorenzo, and he told us. Loretta, you are a happy couple. He
will make a famous husband, and you a model wife."

"Ah, señor, I shall try my best; but sometimes I think I am not good
enough for him. He is such a brave man, my Lorenzo."

"Why are you here, Loretta?"

"To escort Lorenzo's cousin, señor, who came over to see me to-day for
the last time before my wedding. She lives in Tarragona. We have been
great friends, and she has long hoped Lorenzo and I would marry."

She carried in her hand, this cousin of Lorenzo's, a glass water-bottle
of rare and exquisite shape. We could not help admiring it in strong
terms.

"It is not to be bought anywhere," she said. "It is old and they do not
make them now. Señor, it would give me real pleasure if you would accept
it. I do not mean in Spanish fashion, but truly and sincerely."

This was very evident, but the gift had to be refused, however kindly
offered.

We walked up and down the platform in face of one of the loveliest
sunsets ever seen. In spite of its gorgeous colouring there was a great
calmness and repose about it. Wonderful tones from crimson to pale opal
spread half over the sky. Every moment they changed from beauty to
beauty, and lighted up the outlines of the town into something rare and
ethereal. We have already said there is no country like Spain for the
splendour of its sunsets, and especially in their afterglow. They are
truly amongst her glories.

At last the train came up and shut out the heavenly vision. Loretta
approached and said good-bye.

"You will come again, señor, and ride Caro. I shall be married then, and
both Lorenzo and I will escort you to Poblet. It will delight us to
serve you. We will make it a holiday. But do not tarry. Caro is not as
young as he was, though I believe donkeys live for ever."

"Now, Loretta," we said, whilst the train waited, "it is our ambition to
send you a wedding-gift. What shall it be?"

"Señor, you are too good. What have I done? I could never----"

"Loretta, the train may start at any moment."

"Señor, I have all I could wish for, excepting----" She hesitated.

"Loretta, the moments are flying."

"Señor, it is too great an object. I have not the courage----"

"Loretta, the guard signals. Another moment and you are lost."

"Well, then, señor, I long for a clock for our mantelpiece. We had made
up our minds to wait, and----"

"Loretta, the clock is yours. It shall be pure white. A golden Cupid
shall strike the bells. In his other hand he shall hold a glass which
turns with the hours, running golden sands. Fare you well, Loretta."

The engine whistled. The carriage moved. Our last look was a vision of a
comely woman standing on the platform, a tall erect figure gazing after
the train, the reflection of the afterglow lighting up her face to
something beyond mere earthly beauty.



CHAPTER XXX.

THE GARDEN OF SPAIN.

     Charms of Tarragona--Dream of the past--Quasimodo comes not--Of
     another world--Host's offer--Francisco inconsolable--A mixed
     sorrow--No more holidays--List of grievances--Fair
     scene--Luxuriance of the South--Hospitalet--Pilgrims of the Middle
     Ages--Amposta--Centre of lost centuries--Historical past--Here
     worked St. Paul--Our fellow-travellers--Undertones--Enter old
     priest--Draws conclusions--Love's young dream--Impressions and
     appearances--Not always a priest--Fool's paradise--Youth and
     age--Awaking to realities--Driven out of paradise--Was it a
     judgment?--Calmness returns--Judging in mercy--Nameless
     grave--"Writ in water"--Withdrawing from the world--Entering the
     church--Busy life--Romances of the Confessional--"To Eve in
     Paradise"--Tortosa--Garden of Spain--Vinaroz--Wise mermen--Cradle
     of history and romance--Gibraltar of the West--A race
     apart--Benicarlo--Flourishing vineyards--"If the English only
     knew"--Eve recognises priest--"I am that charming daughter"--Lovely
     cousin engaged--Count Pedro de la Torre--Mutual
     recognitions--Congratulations--Breaking news to H. C.--Despair--"To
     Adam in Hades"--Gallant priest--Saved from temptation.


With sorrowful hearts we turned our backs one morning upon Tarragona.

Though bound for Valencia, Tarragona the delightful possessed charms
Valencia could never rival. Not again should we meet with such a
cathedral, such cloisters, or even so original and enthusiastic a
sacristan. We were leaving all that wonderful historical atmosphere that
made this exceptional place a Dream of the Past, and great was our
regret.

We had stood near the tomb of the Scipios and fancied ourselves back in
the days when our own era was dawning. Before us the ever-changing yet
changeless sea looked just as it must have looked when they, loving it,
decided to sleep within sound of its waters. In a last moonlight visit
to the cathedral we had waited and listened in hope of hearing
Quasimodo's footsteps, seeing his quaint and curious form approaching.

He never came. No unseen talisman whispered to him our desire. Perhaps
it was as well. A second experience is never the same as the first. The
subtle charm of the new and the strange, the unexpected, the unprepared,
is no longer there. Quasimodo now dwelt in our minds as a being
spiritual, intangible, of another world. That he belonged to the highest
order in this, is certain. The influence of his music haunted us, haunts
us still. In waking and sleeping dreams we live over and over again the
weird charm and experience of that wonderful night; see the moonbeams
falling in shafts of clear-cut light across pillars and aisles and
arches; hear and feel the touch, as of a passing breath, of the ghostly
visitants from Shadow-land. All the marvellous music steals into our
soul. There can be but one Quasimodo in the world. We doubt if there was
ever another at any time endowed with his marvellous faculty. It was
pain and grief to feel that we should see and hear him no more.

Our very host added slightly to our reluctant leaving by declaring that
if we would only stay another week he would charge us half-price for
everything: nay, we should settle our own terms. Francisco was
inconsolable, but perhaps a little selfishness was mixed with his
sorrow.

"No more holidays," he cried. "No more excursions to Poblet; no escape
from French lessons. And yet, señor, there are other places besides
Poblet, and every one of them would have delighted you. Think of all the
lost luncheons; all the first-class compartments that will now be empty.
There are lovely excursions, too, by sea." The boy's catalogue of
grievances was as long as Don Giovanni's list of transgressions.

But time the inexorable refused to stand still, and when the final hour
struck, the relentless omnibus carried us away.

Francisco accompanied us to the station, having an idea that without his
help we should inevitably go wrong. He was a witness to the abominably
rude station-master, who in this respect has not his equal in Spain,
according to our experience. Finally we moved off.

At the moment we felt a distinct mental wrench. Tarragona was indeed
over. To our right was the harbour with its little crowd of
fishing-boats; out on the sea lovely white-winged feluccas glided to and
fro. The whole journey was one of extreme beauty. Very soon we had the
sea on our left, and often the train skirted the very waves as they
rolled over their golden sands. The coast was broken and diversified,
now rising to hills and cliffs, now falling to a level with the shore.
Where we passed inland the country was rich and fruitful, showing more
and more the luxuriance of the South.

Many of the towns had historical interests or remains to make them
remarkable. At Hospitalet we found ourselves on the site of a House of
Refuge for pilgrims from Zaragoza who in the Middle Ages were wont to
cross the mountains in caravans after visiting the scene of some
miraculous pillar or image. Near this we skirted a fishing village,
where the train was almost washed by the sea that, blue and flashing,
stretched far and wide. The little fleet was moving out of the small
harbour as we passed, each followed by its shadow upon the water.
Picturesque Amposta was the centre and atmosphere of the lost centuries.
It existed long before the Romans, who, on taking it, made it one of
their chief stations. Here came Hercules, and after him St. Paul, who
did much work and ordained a bishop to carry on his labours. Later came
the Moors, when it reached the height of its glory. In 809 Louis le
Débonnaire, son of Charlemagne, besieged it, was repulsed, returned in
811 and conquered. The Moors quickly retook it, but the disorganised
inhabitants had become nothing better than pirates. So in 1143 the
Templars came down upon them, and inspired by the late victory at
Almeria, aided by the Italians, conquered in their turn: only to be
turned out again the following year by the inevitable Moors.

Everywhere the eye rested upon a lovely scene of river, sea and land,
intensely blue sky and brilliant sunshine. In our carriage we had a very
interesting bride and bridegroom. She seemed to worship the very ground
he trod upon, and both were evidently in paradise. At the same time he
accepted the worship rather too much as his due--gracefully and
graciously, but still distinctly his right. They were in the mood to
admire lovely scenery, and undertones of delight were frequent.

Presently an old priest entered the carriage, sat himself down beside
us, and they quickly fell under his eye. He looked on with a smile of
amusement at the silent unmistakable worship. We thought he drew his
conclusions as one who observes a scene in which he has no part or lot.

"Love's young dream," he said to us under cover of the rattle of the
train. "My experience tells me it is only a dream, varying in length
according to the constancy of the dreamers. You think I have no right to
give an opinion? Then, señor, I should tell you that, like the world in
general, you judge by appearances and judge too hastily. That is the
difference between impressions and appearances. Of first appearances
beware; of first impressions be assured. They have never failed me."

We agreed with the old priest, but made no remark.

"You think I have no business to judge of these matters?" he continued
with a smile; "and you are mistaken. I was not always a priest clad in
black robe and beaver hat, separated from the world by the barrier of
the Church. In early life I took up law, pleaded, and generally won my
cause. Then I pleaded my own cause with a beautiful woman, won her and
married her. I, too, dwelt in my fool's paradise; thought the world all
sunshine, the hours all golden. I was young and in those days handsome.
Never can I reconcile the ugly, grey-headed man one becomes in age, with
the charm and elegance of one's youth. But time has no mercy. However,
the fact remains that in those days I was young and handsome."

The old priest was handsome still; but again we were silent.

"Then one fine morning I awoke to realities," he went on. "The angel
with the flaming sword had come and driven me out of my paradise. Yet I
had not transgressed. It was the woman, whom I fondly hoped heaven had
given me as a life-long companion. She was beautiful; there was an
indescribable charm about her; but she was frivolous and inconstant. She
left me one day with one whom I had thought my friend. He was rich and
free to roam. I heard of them in other countries: wandering to and fro
like spirits ill at ease.

"Finally they went to Rome. Was it a judgment upon the wife who had
proved faithless to her husband, the man who had betrayed his friend?
Both took the fever at the same time and died within a week of each
other. They were buried side by side in a small cemetery near to the
Eternal City. Some years after I went to Rome. I had lived down my
life's tragedy and could gaze upon their graves with calmness. As I did
so, and realised the certainty of retribution, I prayed that I might
judge in mercy. They had blighted my life, but looking on those nameless
graves I felt for the first time that I could forgive. Yes, the graves
were nameless, for no stone had been placed over them. This I did. By
way of inscription I merely recorded the initials on each: and the text
'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.'

"That very same day I was wandering about the English cemetery in Rome,
and came upon the text 'Here lies one whose name was writ in water;'
doubtless the expression of one whose life had been a failure or
disappointment. 'My friend,' I thought, 'you are not to be pitied half
so much as those whose names are writ in Sin.'

"It was about this time that I determined to enter the Church. Since
that terrible blow I had grown to hate the world, withdrew more and more
from society. I had no near ties on earth. Again and again I thanked
heaven that no child had been born to me. As soon as I had made the
resolution I put it in force, and cannot say that I ever regretted it.
Gradually all morbidness left me. I lead a busy life; I delight in
society; people consider me a very jovial old priest. But I never lift a
finger to promote a marriage; I never solemnise one without a sigh and a
wonder as to what will be the end of it. And let me tell you a secret. I
never hear in the confessional that love is on the wane between husband
and wife, without pouring out upon them the sternest vials of my wrath,
threatening them with all the terrors of purgatory if so much as a
breath of inconstancy of mind or thought is whispered. Oh, if I were not
pledged to silence, what Romances of the Confessional could I not tell
you!"

We had listened without interruption. Sitting side by side it was easy
to talk without being overheard. The train clattered and beat and
throbbed on its way. The happy pair were at the other end of the
carriage. H. C., who sat opposite to us, instead of giving his
undivided attention to the scenery, was composing a sonnet to the fair
lady, which he headed, "To Eve in Paradise"--a questionable compliment.
Tortosa, with its narrow streets and gloomy palaces, its strong walls,
ancient castle and bridge of boats, all visible from the train, had
passed away. One lovely view gave place to another.

"It is indeed a rich country through which we are travelling," said the
priest, "the very Garden of Spain, which appears to me to find its
culminating point round about Valencia. Our whole progress is marked by
historical footsteps. I never visit Tortosa without thinking of St.
Paul, and a little of his amazing energy seems to fall upon me. He
becomes a real presence to me. An influence he must and will be in all
places and in all ages. Then comes Vinaroz with its crumbling walls--one
of the loveliest spots in the whole province. I always think its people
are like mermen, neither one thing nor the other. They fish the sea and
plough the land by turns. Both occupations yield them good fruit, so
perhaps they are wise. The fish are abundant, the lampreys excellent. It
was here the Duc de Vendôme died from a surfeit of fish, of which he was
passionately fond. But for this, Philip V. would probably never have
entered upon his long and eventful reign. Look at those white-winged
boats gliding upon the blue waters! Where is there another sea like the
Mediterranean? It is the very cradle of history and romance; scene of
half the mighty events of the world. Were I an idle man I would spend my
life upon its surface."

"What is that distant object?" indicating an enormous perpendicular rock
some five miles away, that stood a picturesque, castle-crowned islet,
round which the sea was breaking in faint white lines.

"We call it Gibraltar of the West," replied the priest. "An interesting
place to visit, and larger than you would imagine, with its 3000
inhabitants. They are curious people: in some things almost a race
apart. It is neither an island nor yet part of the mainland. You cannot
gain entrance by water, though surrounded by the sea. The only passage
to it is a narrow strip of sand reaching to the shore. It was here that
Pope Benedict XIII. took refuge after the Council of Constance had
pronounced against him. And here comes Benicarlo with its old walls," he
continued, as the train drew up at the small station. "The ancient town
is worth a visit. Its people, poor and wretched, might be flourishing
and well-to-do, for the neighbourhood is wonderfully productive. The
vineyards are amongst the best in Spain; the luscious wines are sent to
Bordeaux to mix with inferior clarets, which find their way to the
English market. Ah! the English little know what adulterated articles
are sold in England that the French would never look at."

At this moment our fair Eve, who for the last few minutes had come out
of paradise, looked attentively at the priest, hesitated a moment, then
spoke.

"From the singular likeness," she said, "I think you must be related to
the Duke de Nevada in Madrid? Forgive me if I am mistaken."

"Señora," replied the old priest with a polite bow, "Juan de Nevada is
my elder and much-loved brother, though we seldom meet--for Madrid is
the one place I never visit. I am gratified that you see in me the least
resemblance to that truly noble and great man."

"Have you never heard him speak of the Señor de Costello?" continued the
lady.

"Without doubt," returned the priest. "They are neighbours in Madrid. I
have heard him mention a very charming daughter, and also very charming
cousin who lives in Gerona."

"I am that charming daughter," laughed the fair Eve; "but the term
applies much more correctly to my lovely cousin. Her beauty has created
a furore in Madrid. We are great friends, and she stays with us part of
every year. She has just become engaged to your brother's eldest son,
and therefore some day will be Duchess de Nevada--though I trust the day
is far distant. You have doubtless heard of the engagement?"

"Indeed, yes," returned the priest. "Only last week I wrote my nephew a
long letter congratulating him upon his good fortune. But how comes it,
madame, if I may be so indiscreet, that my fair travelling companion
should not herself eventually have become Madame de Nevada?"

"For the excellent reason that sits opposite to me," quickly replied
this lovely Eve, laughing and blushing in the most bewitching manner.
Upon which she introduced her husband to the priest as Count Pedro de la
Torre.

The name explained what had puzzled us for some time. We were haunted by
a feeling of having met this young man in a previous state of existence,
but now discovered that we had really met him in Toledo. He was amongst
the group who had sat that first night of our arrival at the other end
of the table, smoking and drinking wine and coffee. He it was who had
come forward to speak to the man in the sheepskin, and then handed him a
bumper of wine. He had left the very next day, and we had seen less of
him than of the others.

We recalled the circumstance to his memory.

"I recognised you at once," he said, "but thought you had forgotten me.
That man in the sheepskin was my father's head huntsman, a privileged
being who was born and brought up on the estate, gave us our first
lessons in sport and looks upon us as his own children. My father's
place--my own, I fear, before long--is near Toledo. If you ever visit it
again we should be delighted to show you hospitality. We live with my
father when not in Madrid. He is old, in failing health, and could not
bear the idea of my leaving home. On my part I was too glad to remain in
the dear old nest."

"And we see that we have to offer you our congratulations," bowing as in
duty bound to his lovely partner.

De la Torre laughed. "You make me your debtor," he replied. "But however
profound your congratulations, they can never equal those I offer to
myself. I am indeed far more blest than I merit."

"Wait until I show you my true character," laughed madame, "take the
reins of government into my own hands, and leave you with no will of
your own--a henpecked husband. At present I tender you a velvet hand;
presently it may turn into----"

"If it changed into a cloven foot," he interrupted gallantly, "I should
still say it was perfect."

"Ah, you are in paradise," cried the old priest with a sigh; "in
paradise. Try to remain there. Do not summon the angel with the flaming
sword. Be ever true and tender to each other. Talk not of cloven feet.
Let it ever be the velvet hand, the glance of love, the gentle accents
of forbearance. You have every good gift that heaven and earth can give
you. Be worthy of your fate."

We interpreted as gently as possible to H. C. the sad news of the
engagement of the beauty of Gerona, the lovely Señorita de Costello. It
was a great shock. He turned deathly pale and remained for a time
staring at vacancy. Then with a profound sigh he tore up his
half-finished sonnet, "To Eve in Paradise," and began another
self-dedicated, "To Adam in Hades." He keeps it in a sacred drawer,
enshrined in lavender and pot-pourri.

"All this rencontre is very à propos," said the old priest. "Again the
world is smaller than it seems. And we are getting on. Here is Castellon
de la Plana already, with its fine fruit and flower gardens and
picturesque peasants. Alas, we see less costume everywhere than of old.
The taste of the world is not improving."

Very pleasantly passed the remainder of the journey, through a country
beautiful and fertile. Everywhere we saw traces of vineyards and
cultivated lands. Here and there oxen were ploughing. Often we saw them
thrashing out the rice. Many an old and picturesque well stood out
surrounded by trellis-work covered with vine-leaves. But the vines were
not festooned after the picturesque manner of North Italy, where you
walk under the trellis and pluck the grapes that hang in rich clusters.
Here the vines are trained on sticks or grow like currant bushes, and as
in Germany, lose their beauty.

A single field will produce at the same time fruit-trees, almond or
olive, corn and grapes, all mingling their beauty and perfume. We passed
a multitude of orange and lemon groves with all their deep, rich, sheeny
verdure. Nuts and olives, almonds and carobs abounded. Many a palm-tree
added its Oriental grace to the landscape. The whole country seemed to
revel in sunshine and blue skies. At Saguntum, that town of the
ancients, the heights were crowned by walls, fortresses and castles,
imperishable outlines grey with the lapse of centuries.

As it chanced we were all bound for Valencia. Our interesting bride and
bridegroom were staying there one night and continuing their journey the
next day. The priest was to spend a week there.

"I have a proposal to make," said de la Torre, as we neared the capital.
"We telegraphed for rooms and ordered dinner in our sitting-room. You
three gentlemen must join us. It will only be adding three covers--an
effort the chef will be equal to."

"Let me add my persuasions," added Countess de la Torre graciously and
gracefully. "Remember we have been united a whole week and are quite an
old married couple. You would give us great pleasure."

But this, strongly supported by de Nevada the priest, we felt bound to
decline. It would have been cruel to intrude so long upon a tête-à-tête
which just now must form the delight of their existence.

"I must be obdurate," said the priest. "In the first place your delicate
paradise food--which no doubt consists of crystallised fruits and
butterflies' wings--would be wasted upon three hungry travellers
dwelling without the enchanted gates. But let us compromise. We are all
staying at the same hotel. We three unappropriated blessings will dine
together, and after that we will come and take our coffee and Chartreuse
with you, remaining exactly one hour by the clock: not a moment more."

So it was settled.

Soon after this all the church towers and steeples of Valencia came into
view. Across a stretch of country, we saw the blue sea sparkling in the
evening sunshine. In the air, above the rush of the train, there was a
sound of ringing bells.

"It must be a gala day," said Madame de la Torre, listening for a moment
to the swelling clamour.

"It is for your arrival, madame," returned the priest gallantly. "They
wish to do you honour."

Our fair Eve laughed. "Monsieur de Nevada," she cried, "you were never
intended for a priest. It was a mistaken vocation. You ought to have
married, and your wife would have been your idol."

Under the circumstances it was a somewhat unfortunate speech. The drama
in de Nevada's life had taken place long before her birth. She evidently
knew nothing of the story. But the priest had outlived his sorrow, and
was of an age to sit loosely to the things of earth. A momentary shadow
passed over his face, gone as soon as seen.

"Madame," he laughed in clear tones, "if I were forty years younger and
Mademoiselle de Costello were not Madame de la Torre, she would almost
induce me to forget my vows. As it is, all is well. I am saved from
temptation. Valencia at last! Never did journey pass so quickly and
pleasantly."

A well-appointed omnibus was in waiting. We filled it comfortably, and
in a few moments found ourselves at the Hotel España. The manager
settled us in admirable quarters, and having some time to spare before
dinner we went out to survey the fair city by evening light.



CHAPTER XXXI.

LOVE'S YOUNG DREAM.

     First impressions--Devoted to pleasure--Peace-loving--Climate makes
     gay and lively--New element--Few traces of the past--Old
     palaces--Steals into the affections--City of the
     Cid--Ecclesiastical attractions--Archbishopric--University--Homer
     must nod sometimes--Comparative repose--De Nevada carries us
     off--Admirable host--Conversational--Grave and gay--Mercy, not
     sacrifice--Library--At Puzol--Exacting a promise--The hour
     sounds--Count Pedro appears--Fragrant coffee--Served by
     magic--Specially prepared temptation--Perverting facts--Land
     flowing with milk and honey--Inquiring mind--Mighty man of
     valour--Cid likened to Cromwell--Retribution--Ibn Jehaf the
     murderer--Reign of terror--The faithful Ximena--Cid's
     death-blow--Priest turns schoolmaster--"Beware!"--Earthly
     paradise--Land of consolation--System of irrigation--Famous
     council--Poetical Granada--No appeal--Apostles' Gateway--Earth's
     fascinations--Picturesque peasants--Pretty women--Countess Pedro
     shakes her head--Leave-taking--Next morning--Quiet activity--Market
     day--Splendours of flower-market--Lonja de Seda--Vanishing
     dream--Audiencia--San Salvador--Antiquity yields to
     comfort--Convent of San Domingo--Miserere--Impressive
     ceremony--City of Flowers--Without the walls--Famous river--Change
     of scene.


Valencia proved more modern and bustling than we had imagined. After the
quiet streets of Tarragona it appeared to us the most crowded place we
had ever been in; tramcars ran to and fro; there was much noise and
excitement. Half the crowd was composed of the student class. All seemed
in an uproar, but it was only their natural tone and manner. The
Valencians, especially the lower classes, are devoted to pleasure; the
work of the day over, they live for enjoyment.

[Illustration: ANCIENT GATEWAY: VALENCIA.]

Involuntarily we were reminded of our old days in the Quartier Latin;
but there, excitement often meant revolutionary mischief. The Valencians
are peace-loving, and their climate forces them to be gay and lively.
Though passionate and hasty, like a violent tornado the rage soon
passes. This evening, in spite of much movement, a constant buzzing of
voices, an excitement that filled the air, everything was in order.
Laughter and chatter abounded, far more so than we had found in most
Spanish towns. Until now the character of the Spaniard on ordinary
occasions had seemed rather given to silence: in Valencia we came upon a
new element, approaching the French or Italian.

The city has lost much of its ancient interest. As late as 1871, the
wonderful old walls, massive and battlemented, were pulled down to find
work for the poor. Twelve gates admitted to the interior: and what the
walls were may be judged by the few gates that remain.

Within the city the air is close and relaxing, the skies are brilliant,
the sun intensely hot, the streets narrow and densely packed with
houses. This was designed to keep out the heat, but also keeps out air
and light. The houses in the side-streets are tall, massive and
sombre-looking, and here some of the wonderful old palaces remain. The
principal thoroughfares are commonplace; one has, as it were, to seek
out the beauties. It is in its exceptional features that Valencia
shines, and gradually steals into your affections. Not, however, as
Tarragona the favoured. The pure air, stately repose and dignified charm
of that Dream of the Past is very opposed to the noisy unrest and
crowded thoroughfares, constant going to and fro, and confined
atmosphere of this ancient city of the Cid.

Nevertheless it has its ecclesiastical attractions in the way of
churches: some with interesting towers, though few with fine interiors.
It is an archbishopric, therefore has a cathedral. It possesses a
university, and most of the crowd we saw evidently thought that the bow
cannot always be strung and Homer must sometimes nod. They fill the
cafés and theatres, go mad with excitement in the bull-ring when the
Sunday performance is given, and occasionally have a free fight amongst
themselves; when some of them get locked up by way of warning to the
many rather than as a punishment to the few. After such an outbreak,
never very desperate, peace reigns for a time: peace that is never
seriously broken.

[Illustration: A STREET IN VALENCIA.]

It was a relief that first evening to return to the comparative repose
of the hotel. When the hour for dinner had struck, de Nevada in clerical
garments came to our rooms and carried us off to his own sitting-room
where dinner was served. We seemed fated to fall in with the clerical
element in Spain, and as yet had certainly not regretted it. De Nevada
was evidently well known and highly considered by the hotel people,
who exerted their best efforts in his favour, which also fell to our
portion. His conversation was a mixture of grave and gay, with much wit
and humour. He had outlived his sorrows, it may be, yet their influence
remained. Every now and then a chance word or allusion seemed to vibrate
some long-silent chord in heart or memory. A momentary shadow would pass
over his face as a small cloud passing over the sun for an instant
overshadows the earth. It was over in a flash, and he would at once be
his genial, jovial self, full of strong spirits toned down by excellent
breeding and the thought of what was due to his cloth. Probably we saw
more of his inner character than if we had dined with the de la Torres.
We had him to ourselves, his undivided attention, and amongst various
topics he gave us a great insight into many of the by-ways of the
Spanish Church. "It is a subject in which I am deeply interested," he
said. "I am writing a book thereon, and devoting considerable space to
the vexed argument of the Inquisition. It has never been properly
handled, and I am not afraid to say that it was a serious blot, if not
on the characters, at least on the judgment of Ferdinand and Isabella.
Souls were never yet gained nor religions established by cruelty and
torture. It is partly for that reason that I am here. The Archbishop has
a magnificent library, and I want a week of reference amongst the books.
We are as brothers, and I should take up my quarters in the palace, only
that I like to be independent. To-day he is at Puzol, where he has a
country house. When here I generally dine with him; was to have done so
to-morrow night; but it is an informal engagement, and if you will
promise to meet me again at the same hour, we will dine here together.
And now the hour sounds for the de la Torres. Let us be punctual, as we
must be so in leaving. Did you ever see so charming, so devoted a
couple? Who would not dwell in such a fools' paradise?"

He sent our maître-d'hotel to inquire if it would be agreeable to them
to receive us, and in response Count Pedro appeared upon the scene. All
our rooms adjoined.

"We are more than ready," he cried. "I am quite sure," laughing, "that
you think we spend all our time sitting hand-in-hand and looking into
each other's eyes. My dear Nevada, we are quite a sober couple, with a
great deal of matter-of-fact sense about us."

"Which only proves how difficult it is for people to know themselves,"
laughed the priest. "But now for the sunshine of madame's presence."

In their sitting-room all banqueting signs had been removed. On the
table steamed fragrant coffee, with a decanter of Chartreuse, side by
side with cigars and cigarettes. The most fastidious woman in Spain will
never object to smoking in her presence. Countess de la Torre had
exchanged her becoming travelling-dress for a still more becoming
evening costume. She looked dazzlingly beautiful, her pure white neck
and arms decorated with jewels. As she rose and received us with a
high-bred, bewitching grace, we thought we had seldom seen a fairer
vision.

"Ah!" cried de Nevada, glancing at the table. "Your feast of orange
blossoms and butterflies' wings was served by magic. In fact I am not
aware that we are told Adam and Eve in Paradise ate anything. Life was
eternal and needed no renewing."

"You forget," laughed Madame de la Torre. "They ate fruit, or how could
Eve have tempted Adam with an apple?"

"I have always held that as a specially prepared temptation," said the
priest. "They had never eaten anything until then, and the danger lay in
the new experience."

"Monsieur de Nevada, you must go to school again," laughed Countess
Pedro. "Or you are wilfully perverting facts to suit your purpose. I
shall have to inform against you to the Archbishop. We are going to see
him to-morrow morning. Are you not in his jurisdiction?"

"No, madame," replied the priest. "I hold no preferment in the province
of Valencia. This Garden of Spain blooms not for my pleasure. Yet, how
can I say so, for who enjoys it more when fate brings me here?"

"It is indeed the Garden of Spain," said de la Torre. "I often wished we
were as favoured in the neighbourhood of Toledo--though we have little
to complain of."

"Valencia is a land flowing with milk and honey," said de Nevada. "You
must not hope for two Canaans so near each other."

"Tell me," said Madame de la Torre, as she poured out coffee with a
graceful hand, "why this town is called Valencia del Cid. I thought the
Cid had only to do with Burgos. I fear I am exposing my ignorance."

"It would be difficult to know what the Cid had not to do with and where
he did not go," returned de Nevada. "He was a mighty man of valour,
according to his lights: also a great barbarian. In those days we might
all have been the same. In my own mind, I have always likened him to the
English Cromwell; and if Cromwell was in any way better than he, it is
that he lived six centuries later. They were equally determined and
unscrupulous. What a wonderful passage is that in the history of
England! But the Cid had much to do with Valencia. He came here in 1094,
and after a siege of twenty months took the town. It is remarkable how
retribution follows a man, as surely as shadow follows the substance.
'Be sure your sin will find you out.' Never was truer proverb What says
Shakespeare?" continued the priest, turning to us:

    "'Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
    The fateful shadows that hang by us still.'

"I don't know that I quote correctly, and my English is barbarous," he
laughed. "Never could I master that fine language; perhaps for the
reason that I never dwelt long enough in your country. Few and short
have my visits been. It was in 1095 that the Cid took Valencia. Ibn
Jehaf the murderer was on the throne, having killed Yahya, whom Alonso
VI. had placed there. This act brought the Cid down upon them. The first
thing he did was to burn Jehaf alive on the great square that you will
see to-morrow when you go to the Archbishop: act worthy of the tyrant.
He ruled here for five years. His will was law; it was a small reign of
terror. Then he died, and his faithful wife Ximena endeavoured to hold
the reins. Those were not times when a woman could rule easily, and in
1101 the Moors brought hers to an end and banished her from the
province. It is said that when the Cid captured Valencia he took his
wife and daughter to a height to show them the richness of the country;
and promised his favourite daughter that if she pleased him in her
marriage that fair prospect from the boundaries of the Saguntum Hills on
the north to the confines of the sea on the east should be her dowry: a
promise never to be fulfilled. Within three years the daughter died
unwedded; a death so violent that it is said to have struck a death-blow
to the Cid, and to have brought home to him many of his perfidious acts.
Certain it is that he was never the same man afterwards. Another two
years brought his own life to a close. But, madame, you are beguiling me
into a history, and turning the old priest into a schoolmaster."

Our fair hostess laughed.

"You make me your debtor," she replied. "I shall take greater interest
in what I see to-morrow, and look at everything through the eyes of the
past. Has the Archbishop any relics of the Cid?"

"Not only of the Cid, but of many other historical persons and events,"
said de Nevada. "You must especially notice the library with its fine
collection of books. I may be there at the moment, and if so will
promote myself to the honour of Librarian-in-chief to Countess Pedro de
la Torre."

"Beware!" laughed madame. "Countess Pedro has a thirst for knowledge.
Your office will be no sinecure."

"My labour of love will at least equal madame's diligence, though the
climate is hardly favourable to very hard work," smiled the priest.
"Even Nature conspires to indolence in the people. The ground brings
forth abundantly, and almost unaided. The Moors thought it an earthly
paradise--as it is. I am not sure but they considered it the scene of
the first paradise. Heaven, they said, was suspended immediately above,
and a portion of heaven had fallen to earth and formed Valencia. To the
sick and sorrowing it is a land of consolation. In its balmy airs--far
more healing than those of Italy--the former recover strength; in the
brilliance of its sunshine, the blueness of its skies, the splendour of
its flowers and vegetation, the troubled mind finds peace and repose."

"Its system of irrigation--to descend to the commonplace," laughed de la
Torre--"is perfect. Does the council still sit in the Apostles'
Gateway?"

"Indeed it does," replied the priest. "And far from being commonplace,
the idea to me, surrounded by its halo of the past, is full of
picturesque romance."

"What is that?" asked madame. "It is dangerous to make these remarks
before an inquiring mind."

"The matter is simple," said de Nevada. "Valencia is the most perfectly
irrigated province in Spain, not excepting Granada. Especially is that
the case in the surrounding neighbourhood. You must have noticed narrow
channels running through the fields as you passed in the train. The
system presents infinite difficulties. Not one of the least is that all
shall share alike in the fertilizing streams. In Granada a good deal is
done by signals, and occasionally in the night-silence you may hear the
silver bell sounding upon the air and carried from field to field: token
that the dams are opened and the water flows. In Valencia they have
nothing so poetical. The tribunal was instituted centuries ago by the
Moors. It has been handed down from generation to generation and still
continues. Being perfect, the system works well. Every Thursday morning
seven judges sit in the great doorway of the cathedral, and hear all
complaints relating to irrigation. These judges choose each other from
the yeomen and irrigators of the neighbourhood. They pronounce sentence,
and against that sentence there is no appeal. The judges are integrity
itself. It is their motto, and it seems as impossible for them to go
wrong as for a Freemason to betray the secrets of his craft. I think the
system might with advantage be adopted by other tribunals."

"I should like to see and converse with these judges," said madame, "and
decorate them with the order of the Golden Fleece. Surely they deserve
it?"

"That order, I fear, is reserved for those of higher rank," replied the
priest. "Yet I have often myself thought they should wear an order of
Distinguished Merit: a sort of Cross of the Legion of Honour--after the
French idea--open to all ranks and classes. But as you proceed on your
journey to-morrow evening, you will not be here on a Thursday. The
judges are indeed to be condoled with."

"I have slightly changed our plans," said Count Pedro, "and we leave the
day after to-morrow by the early train. It will be less fatiguing for
Isabel. We shall also see more of the country. I never tire of gazing
upon the beauties of nature, and fortunately my wife is in sympathy with
me. Seas, mountains, forests, vast territories, cultivated plains or
sandy deserts, all alike fill me with a delight and rapture nothing else
can equal. I hope to spend some of the first years of our married life
in becoming intimate with the best points of many lands."

"You will find few more charming spots than Valencia," returned the
priest. "Its rich plains never fail. No sooner has one harvest been
gathered than another appears. Did you notice the peasants in the fields
as we came along, sitting at work with their knees up to their ears? How
picturesque they look walking down a road in their short white linen
trousers and jackets and scarlet mantles, coloured handkerchiefs wound
round the head like a turban, and blue scarves tied round the waist. I
have watched them many a time. You will see nothing of this in the town
itself."

"I don't quite like the type of face," objected de la Torre. "It is too
African. The sun has grilled them to a colour that is almost mahogany.
And they are superstitious and revengeful."

"But their imagination is lively and keeps them in almost constant good
humour," returned the priest, "so they seldom think of revenge. How well
they sing their _fiera_, how jovially they dance the _rondella_. It is
quite a pleasure to look at this abandonment of happiness, this
existence utterly free from care. Believe me, they have their virtues.
And how pretty the women are! Few women in Spain equal those of
Valencia. They are singularly graceful and their walk is perfect. Notice
a congregation of women in church. You will hardly find elsewhere an
assemblage so conspicuous for beauty of face and grace and nobility of
form."

Countess Pedro shook her head. "Oh!" she cried, raising her clasped
hands. "I shall have more and more to tell to the Archbishop. Monsieur
de Nevada, you are not supposed to know that female beauty exists, and
here you are describing it with an eloquence which comes from the
heart."

[Illustration: RENAISSANCE TOWER: VALENCIA.]

"With humble deference to your opinion, madame, I disagree with you,"
laughed the priest. "All things beautiful are to be appreciated;
above everything else a beautiful woman, the noblest work of God. We
worship the stars in the heavens, though we can never attain to them. Do
you imagine that I could be in this room and remain insensible to such
charms as few women possess?"

Our fair hostess blushed with pleasure. No woman is insensible to a
compliment of which she can easily judge the sincerity. Every woman also
likes to be praised before the husband to whom she is devoted. The age
of de Nevada permitted him to be candid in expressing his admiration,
whilst the in some sort family connection that would take place at the
marriage referred to, had paved the way to an immediate and friendly
intimacy.

In spite of the priest's emphatic determination to leave punctually, the
hour had long struck when we reluctantly took our departure. Both de la
Torre and his fair wife were charming, refined and intellectual, and the
moments had passed all too quickly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning the crowded streets had thinned. Most of the people had
disappeared, reserving themselves for the evening. Yet there was a
constant, quiet activity going on, which gave the city a lively and
prosperous air. It was market-day; the most picturesque market we had
yet seen in Spain; thronged with buyers and sellers, piled up with all
the fruits and vegetables of the South. Figs, grapes and pomegranates
abounded at very small prices. The market-place was full of colouring,
in part due to the bright handkerchiefs and scarves worn by men and
women.

All was as nothing compared with the splendour and perfume of the
covered flower-market. For a few halfpence one carried away sufficient
to decorate a palace. For ninepence one woman offered us a bouquet more
than a yard round. We had never seen anything like it and wondered if it
was meant to grace some foreign Lord Mayor's banquet. This sum was asked
with some hesitation, seeing that we were strangers: she was prepared to
take half the amount. The roses were far lovelier than those that grow
in the gardens of Italy and find their way across the Channel. We gave a
few halfpence for a large handful of tuberoses and pinks, and the woman
was so charmed at the liberal payment that she presented us with a great
bunch of sweet verbena. We possess some of the leaves now, and the
scent--rare above all other scents--hangs round them still. Each morning
we renewed our purchase. The flowers were always there. For them it was
market-day all the year round.

The market-place was a charming three-cornered square; on one side a
Renaissance church that for its style was really picturesque and formed
an admirable background to the women and stalls. The interior, all gilt
and glitter, set one's teeth on edge, but that did not alter the outward
effect.

Opposite was a far lovelier building--the Lonja de Seda, or ancient Silk
hall--of exquisitely beautiful and refined fifteenth-century Gothic.

The immense rooms were ornamented with fluted columns without capitals,
that spread out like the leaves of a palm-tree and lost themselves in
the roof. Behind it was an old garden, with wonderful architectural
surroundings. A long stone staircase ended in a Gothic doorway of
graceful outlines and deep rich mouldings. Windows filled with
half-ruined tracery looked on to the garden with its trees and flowers.
The upper part was an open Gothic arcade with rich ornamentations and
medallions, above which rose a massive square tower with a round Norman
turret.

This dream-building was vanishing under the hands of the restorer. The
court was filled with workmen, and the exquisite tone of age, the
rounded, crumbling outlines were beginning to disappear. We were just in
time to see it at its best.

[Illustration: MARKET PLACE, VALENCIA.]

From this we made our way to the cathedral, of which little need be
said. After the architectural dreams of Catalonia, it was terribly
unsatisfactory. The interior gave out no sense of grandeur, repose or
devotion. On Sunday, during service, it gained a certain solemn
impressiveness from the kneeling crowd, but that was all. Begun in the
thirteenth century, and originally Gothic, few traces of the first
building remain. Certain portions of the exterior are beautiful and
striking; especially the magnificent north doorway--the Apostles'
Gateway; deep and richly ornamented, though many of its statues have
disappeared. It is here that the Tribunal of the Waters sits in
judgment, to which we have heard de Nevada allude.

[Illustration: LONJA DE SEDA: VALENCIA.]

Near the cathedral was the Audiencia, or Court of Justice, one of the
most perfect buildings in Europe. Though the ground-floor has been
divided into public offices, the elaborately carved and gilt ceilings
remain, decorated with splendid honey-comb pendentives of the Moorish
School. The first floor is given up to the matchless Salon de Cortes,
where justice is administered; its walls covered with curious frescoes
of the sixteenth century, chiefly portraits of the members of the
Cortes assembled in session. The rich carving of the room is in native
pine, and was finished in the sixteenth century, when art was still at
its best. A narrow gallery runs round the room supported by slender
columns. Below this are coats-of-arms and busts of the kings of Aragon,
with appropriate historical incidents. The ceiling is also elaborately
carved in lozenges encased in square panels. Not the smallest fragment
of the room has been left undecorated, and its refined, subdued tone is
lovely in the extreme. Here we found the sword and banner of Jayme el
Conquistador, which the Valencians place amongst their chief treasures.

The churches are numerous, but not specially interesting. San Salvador
possesses a rude expressive sculpture of the thirteenth century, a
curious image, supposed to have been carved by Nicodemus, and said to
have miraculously found its solitary way from Syria across the seas.

Not far from this is the Church, given to the Templars by James I. in
1238, when already a building of some antiquity. Here was the remarkable
tower of Alibufat, on which the Cross was first displayed. But like the
people of Zaragoza, who pulled down their leaning tower, so the
Valencians demolished the tower of Alibufat to widen a street. We have
seen that even their ancient walls were not spared. They have no respect
for antiquity; no love for the past. A modern spirit possesses them; a
love of pleasure and comfort; a desire to get money for the sake of
indulgence. Gay, lively, full of excitement and impulse, everything
yields to the passing moment.

Next we come to the once vast and splendid Convent of San Domingo, in
the days of its glory one of the richest and most powerful convents in
Spain, but now shorn of all its ecclesiastical element. Outlines alone
remain: the chapter-house and cloisters of late Gothic still beautiful
and refined. In a small chapel supported by four slender pillars San
Vincente Ferrer took upon him the vows of a monk.

[Illustration: SALON DE CORTES: AUDIENCIA.]

Of the religious ceremonies the most imposing is the Miserere which
takes place every Friday in the church of the Colegio del Patriarca.
High Mass is first given at nine o'clock. The music both at this and the
Miserere is magnificent. Many of the rank and fashion of Valencia are
constant in their attendance. Ladies assemble in a great crowd, each
wearing a black mantilla. As they kneel in penitential attitude the
scene is full of devotional grace and charm.

The space above the high altar is covered with a purple pall which looks
black and funereal. Chanting commences: slow and solemn and in the minor
key.

Suddenly, in the midst of the sad cadences, the picture above the altar
descends by machinery, and in its place is seen a lilac veil. There is a
slight movement, a half-raising of the head, amidst the congregation; an
attitude of expectation. The mournful but exquisite music does not
cease. It is soft and subdued, appealing to the senses. Presently the
veil is withdrawn and gives place to a grey veil. This in turn passes
away and a black veil appears, representing the veil of the Temple. It
is torn asunder, and an image of the Saviour on the Cross is disclosed.

The upturned heads gaze for a moment; on many a countenance appears the
emotion actually felt. Imagination is stirred by the dramatic
representation. A murmur escapes the kneeling multitude; the music
swells to a louder strain, the voices gain a deeper pathos. Then voices
and organ gradually die away to a whisper and cease.

Silence reigns. For a moment there is no sound or stir. Then all is
over; the Miserere is at an end. Quietly the fair penitents rise from
their knees and stream out into the streets, which gain an additional
charm as they pass onwards with their perfect forms and graceful walk.

In spite of the somewhat claptrap element, the Miserere is impressive
from the beautiful and refined music, the kneeling crowd, the deep
obscurity that gives it mystery. It is even worth a day or two's delay
in this fair City of Flowers and other delights.

For in our mind we always associate Valencia with the perfume of
flowers. Roses for ever bloom, and like silver in the days of Solomon,
are accounted as little worth. But if they were plentiful as to the
Greeks of old they would only seem the lovelier.

Some of the streets are very picturesque, with long narrowing vistas of
houses and balconies, casements and quaint outlines, all in the strong
light and shadow of sunshine, with perhaps a church tower and spire
rising above all at the end, sharply outlined against the intensely
brilliant blue of the sky.

Making way, we reach the gates of the city, which are still its glory,
though so few remain of the twelve that once admitted to the interior.
Some still retain their towers and machicolations. Outside these runs
the famous river with its ancient bridges. Crossing one of them, and
proceeding a distance of three miles down a straight, not very
interesting road, you reach the famous port of Valencia: one of the
finest ports in Spain, one of the largest harbours. After the close
atmosphere of the town, the scene is agreeable and exhilarating.



CHAPTER XXXII.

OLD ACQUAINTANCES.

     Port and harbour--Sunday and fresh air--In the market-place--De
     Nevada protests--A curse of the country--In the days gone by--On
     the breakwater--Invaded tramcar--De Nevada confirmed--Another
     crusade needed--Plaza de Toros--In Sunday dress--Domestic
     interiors--When the play was o'er--Bull-ring at night--Fitful
     dreams--Fever--Maître d'hôtel prescribes--Magic effect--Depart for
     Saguntum--Before the days of Rome--Primitive town--Days of the
     Greeks--Attacked by Hannibal--Rebuilt by the Romans--Absent
     guardian--The hunchback--Reappears with custodian--Doors
     open--Moorish fortress--Fathomless cisterns--Sad
     procession--Weeping mourners--Key of Valencia--Miguella--Time heals
     all wounds--Proposes coffee--Proud and pleased--Scenes that
     remain--In Barcelona--Drawing to a close--Sorrow and regret--Many
     experiences--Our Espluga friends--Loretta's gratitude--In the Calle
     de Fernando--A last favour--Glories of Spain--Eastern benediction.


Our first visit to the port and harbour was on a Sunday. Labour was
suspended, and vessels of all countries were flying their flags. From
the end of the long breakwater we breathed freely. Before us stretched
the wide shimmering sea, blue as the sky above. A very few white-sailed
boats were gliding about--only in summer are they found in large
numbers. On such a day as this, hot, glowing, glorious to us of the
North, the soft-climed Valencians would not venture upon the water. An
occasional fishing-boat strayed in and out, but all else was at peace.
The whole place was deserted. There was a strange calm and quiet upon
everything; almost an English "Sabbath stillness" in the air.

We wondered, but soon discovered the cause. This might have dawned upon
us had we called to mind yesterday's experience.

We were walking through the market-place with de Nevada the priest,
when a large placard caught our eye, announcing a bull-fight for the
next day, Sunday: the last of the season.

"I have never seen one," said H. C. "We must go to it."

"Surely you would not visit the barbarous exhibition?" said de Nevada.
"In this matter I have nothing of the Spaniard in me. I hold bull-fights
as a curse of the country; training up children to cruelty and laying
the foundation of a host of evils."

But his words had no weight with H. C.

"I think everyone should see a bull-fight at least once in their lives.
If I know nothing of its horrors, how can I join in a crusade against
them? Once seen, I will write a scathing poem on the entertainment which
shall be translated into Spanish. All my graphic power of description
shall be exerted, and it may go far to put down the evil. I might also
appeal to the people's superstition, which seems almost the strongest
element in their nature. You will come?" turning to us.

But we had had our experience once for all years before, in the
bull-ring at Granada, accompanied by eight naval officers whose nerves
were in excellent order. When the play was half over, and men shouted
and women shrieked and waved, and there was universal applause and
uproar, sick of the horrors, we left the building: to the surprise and
no doubt contempt of the assembly.

Thus H. C.'s appeal fell upon deaf ears.

And when it came to the point he also would not go. So it fell out that
we were both sitting on the breakwater, gazing upon the shimmering sea,
revelling in the serene stillness of the atmosphere.

The scene changed. We had to return, and seeing an empty tramcar, found
ourselves enjoying the world from a solitary elevation: a short-lived
pleasure. From a side-street there suddenly poured forth a crowd of men,
who swarmed in and out and up the sides: and stillness and solitude were
over.

They were mad with excitement, and being already late, feverishly
anxious to make way. One might have thought them intoxicated, but it was
excitement only. They raved and shouted; their eyes flashed and
glistened; they anticipated the horrors of the bull-ring; speculated as
to how many bulls would be killed, whether the toreador would escape.
For the moment they were as wild animals, and de Nevada's protest in the
market-place wanted no better confirmation.

H. C. shuddered. His poetical mind had received a shock in coming into
contact with this coarse and savage element.

"I am glad I decided not to go," he said. "De Nevada is right.
Bull-fighting should be put down, even though the people rose up in
revolt. It needs a Crusade as much as ever the cause for which the
Templars went eastward."

The Plaza de Toros was thronged with a crowd of men, women and children,
who could not pay the fee or were too late for admission. If unable to
enter, it was something to look upon the outer walls, whilst the
thunders of applause helped them to realise the scene.

The tramcar waited some twenty minutes, and we remained studying the
crowd of eager faces that surged to and fro. From the bull-ring--one of
the largest and finest in Spain--arose that constant roar and tempest of
voices.

We were almost prisoners, wondering how we should escape, when a city
tramcar came up, stood side by side with ours, and we made the exchange.
This slowly moved through the crowd and turned into a quieter
thoroughfare, and the raving followed us far down the road.

The car travelled slowly round the town, through the Cathedral Square,
in and out of ancient gateways. Street after street, comparatively
deserted, wore its Sunday dress. Flowers abounded. We were on a level
with first-floor windows, and from many an open casement came a glimpse
of domestic interiors: the scent of roses; fair ladies dressed in
rustling silks and sheeny satin; ripples of laughter and conversation;
occasional streams of melody from a fair performer. Absorbed, we did not
observe the car gradually getting round to its starting-point, until we
once more found ourselves in the centre of the crowd outside the
bull-ring.

They had not moved an inch. The spectacle was just over, the great doors
were thrown open, and a cortége passed out: cart after cart with dead
horses and bulls, the latter decorated as if for a prize show. A
deafening roar, louder than ever, went up from the people. Finally came
the vehicle with the toreadors and matadors dressed in all their fine
colours, flushed with their performance, calmly taking the hurrahs. The
very horses seemed maddened as they tore out of sight. Then the crowd
began to disperse. Strolling out after dinner, we found ourselves once
more in front of the bull-ring, looking in the darkness like a second
Roman Coliseum. The square was deserted, its crowds having gone home to
live the horrors over again in their dreams. Silence reigned. But the
time would come round for fresh spectacles and more horrors.

And so it goes on from one generation to another.

That night our own dreams were fitful and broken. We had watched the
sunset from the tramcar, full of splendour and colouring. As the sun
went down, a chilliness had risen upon the air, and suddenly we
shivered. Then it passed away, but there was no rest on retiring. Fever
came on, and in semi-delirium we imagined that we were taking part in a
bull-fight; warring with infuriated animals. There was no repose and no
escape. Deafening shouts rang in our ears, but still the combat went on;
seemed to have gone on for years, and must go on for ever.

The agony was terrible. Molten lead coursed through our veins. We tried
to rise, but chains bound us down. The night passed. In the early
morning the fever abated, and presently we awoke from a short,
unrefreshing slumber; rose as one who has gone through a long illness.
When H. C. appeared and said it was time for the flower-market and the
Lonja, he went alone.

Our maître-d'hôtel, who felt he could not be sufficiently attentive to
friends of de Nevada and the de la Torres, brought us strong tea; and on
hearing an account of our night, suddenly departed, to reappear with a
white powder procured at a chemist's.

"A touch of the fever, señor, caught last night at sundown," he
remarked. "It is taken in a moment, but seldom shaken off so quickly.
This powder will go far to put you right."

We took it in faith, and found it chiefly quinine. The effect was
excellent. Though still weak, we were capable of an effort, and when H.
C. returned with hands full of roses, carnations, orange-blossoms, sweet
verbena--for which he had extravagantly paid threepence and made the
flower-woman's heart sing for joy--we were able to carry out our
programme and start for Saguntum.

A short railway journey landed us amidst the ruins of this ancient city,
where we were in the very atmosphere not only of Rome, but of days and
people long before.

The small, primitive town at the foot of the height was full of quaint
outlines. Large circular doorways led to wonderful interiors; immense
living-rooms in semi-obscurity; rich dark walls whose colour and tone
were due to smoke and age. Here women were working and spinning and
sometimes bending over a huge fire, deep in the mysteries of cooking.
Beyond these dark rooms one caught sight of open courts or gardens,
where orange and other trees flourished. Some of the women were busy
making cheese, which here is quite an article of commerce and goes to
many parts of the country. We had the place to ourselves. The women
stopped their cheese-making and spinning to assemble in groups of twos
and threes and stare after us. Human nature is curious and inquisitive
all the world over.

But the charm and attraction of the place are the ruins that crown the
heights; walls and towers now crumbling and desolate, witnessing to the
strength and power of Saguntum in ages gone by. It was founded nearly
1400 years before the Christian era by the Greeks of Zante, when the
Phoenicians were still monarchs of the land. Why they permitted the
Greeks to erect this stronghold does not appear. When a wealthy frontier
town allied to Rome, it was attacked by Hannibal. The defence was brave,
determined and prolonged; but Rome would not come to the rescue, and the
town perished amidst frightful horrors. This chiefly led to the Second
Punic War, by which Saguntum was revenged and Hannibal and his armies
were routed out of Spain: reverses they never recovered. In time it was
rebuilt by the Romans, and in the course of centuries fell under the
dominion of the Goths and the Moors.

Saguntum--Murviedro, as it is often called--is now a magnificent ruin.
The climb to the castle is long, steep and rugged, and on reaching the
gates we found them closed. There was no guardian to admit us; the ruins
were uninhabited. After our feverish night, a return to the town for
the keys and a second long climb seemed too much of a penance. Yet the
interior must be seen.

Fortune favoured us. We found a man near the gates cutting away the rank
grass and weeds: a strange uncanny creature; terribly hump-backed; with
a pale long-drawn face from which a couple of dark eyes looked out upon
you with a strange inward fire that seemed consuming him. He was almost
a skeleton, as though he and starvation were close companions.

We made known our trouble, offering a substantial bribe if he would go
down and bring up the keys. The man's eyes sparkled. Without hesitation
he laid down his great shears and put on the coat he had placed under
the walls.

"If the keys are to be had by mortal power, señor, I will not return
without them," he said; his voice was shrill with the sharpness of
habitual suffering.

"Go, then, and success attend you. We await you here."

We sat down between the great gates and the ruins of the Roman theatre,
and watched our messenger's long thin legs rapidly flying over the
ground. Then he disappeared behind the houses.

We waited and wondered. Presently he reappeared followed by an old woman
dangling great keys. His eloquence had prevailed. Perhaps he had
promised to share the bribe, or hoped it might be doubled. Panting and
breathless, they reached us.

"Ah, señor, this is unheard-of," said the old woman. "No one enters
without permission from the commandant. If he knew, it would be as much
as my place is worth--not that it is worth much. But he is away to-day;
gone to Valencia to the marriage of a friend. So I have some excuse; and
he will never know. I will admit you. The times I have opened these
gates! I am sixty-five, señor, and have been up and down, through summer
and winter, through storm and tempest, ever since I was fifteen. Pretty
near the end now."

Inserting the great key into the rough, rusty old lock, the rude doors
opened and admitted us.

[Illustration: RUINS OF SAGUNTUM.]

We found the fortress distinctly Moorish and very interesting. The
old woman, well up in her work, knew the history of every portion.
Amidst the ruins of the castle were some Moorish cisterns she declared
to be bottomless, where blind fish for ever swam. Below what was once
the governor's garden, she led us to gloomy dungeons where heavily
chained prisoners were confined for life, and she described many a
horror that had taken place in the past. Everything testified to the
strength of Saguntum of old.

From the walls the views are magnificent. Stretching across the wide
plain, one caught faint traces of Valencia and the shimmering sea; at
our feet was the little town, and beyond it the hills rose in gentle
outlines.

As we looked we observed a procession set forth upon the long white
road. Harsh, discordant music from brass instruments rose upon the air.
Then we saw that it was a funeral. The coffin was being slowly borne on
men's shoulders to the cemetery. The latter was near the town, enclosed
in high walls, above which appeared the dark pointed tops of the
melancholy cypress. A group of mourners followed the coffin; women bowed
and weeping, men subdued: quite a long stream of them. Near us stood our
curious messenger.

"Who is it?" we asked.

"A sad story, señor. A youth of seventeen, who caught the fever and
died. A week ago he was as well as you or I: full of energy and
enterprise: talking of what he wanted and what he would do in the
future. His ambition was to emigrate, and for long he had been trying to
get his parents' consent. But he was their only child, and they were
loath to part with him. Ah! he has taken a longer journey now; emigrated
to a more distant country. And there will be no coming back to
Murviedro."

"And the parents?"

"Poor things! They are heartbroken. There goes his mother, supported by
two women friends. One can almost hear her weeping. Oh that horrible
music! It goes through my spine as if it would tear it asunder. When I
am buried I hope they will have no music. I think I should turn in my
coffin. Is it not a splendid view, señor? This fortress may well be
called the key of Valencia. The key of the province, you understand,
not of the town. We command the best of the country. You should see it
in summer, when every tree is in full leaf and every flower in bloom,
and the branches droop with the weight of their fruit. A land of
abundance, is it not, Miguella?" turning to the old woman, who stood
looking at the sad cortége with weeping eyes.

"Ay, Juan, it is so," she returned with tearful voice. "Abundance of
everything. But fate is cruel, and strong youth must die, and old people
like you and I who half starve, for all the abundance, must still cumber
the earth."

"Speak for yourself, Madre Miguella," returned the man sharply.
"Whatever you may be, I am not yet old and I don't see that I take the
place of a better man. I shall be forty-one next New Year's Day. A hard
life I have of it; few pleasures and little food. I am not formed as
other men; no woman looking at me would take me for her husband. For all
that, I am not tired of life, and have no desire to be in the place of
that poor lad. It will come soon enough, Madre Miguella, without wishing
oneself there before the time."

"Santa Maria! what a clucking about nothing!" retorted Miguella. "If I
called you an old man it was only a form of speech. I had in my mind's
eye the strong lusty youth who has gone to his burial. Compared with him
I should call you old and of little worth. After all, I was only
thinking of the uncertainty of human life. You won't deny that, friend
Juan."

"I suppose I can't," replied the contrite hunchback. "Poor lad! I could
almost have found it in my heart to die for him. He was always good to
me; never mocked at me; gave me many a centimo from his little hoard;
often shared his dinner if I met him on the road. I have lost a friend
in him."

Miguella was shedding tears afresh at the recital of the lad's virtues.

"Poor boy!" she cried. "But he's better off. He hadn't time to grow hard
and wicked. The angels make no mistake when they come for such as him. I
wish his poor mother could see it in that light."

"Give her time, give her time," returned the hunchback. "If you lost
your leg, you would not all at once grow reconciled to a wooden one.
Nature doesn't work in spasms, Miguella.

[Illustration: BARCELONA.]

By-and-by, the poor mother will come to see mercy in the blow, but she
can't do that whilst the sound of her boy's voice rings in her ears, and
she still feels the clasp of his arms round her neck. She wouldn't be a
mother if she did."

Time was on the wing. The sun was declining, the shadows were
lengthening when we turned from the ruins and once more stood outside
the walls. Miguella locked the doors with a firm hand and possessed
herself of the keys. We took care the bribe should not be halved. It was
a gala day for them, poor creatures. Juan's face lighted up with
infinite contentment.

"Lucky for me that I came up weeding, señor. For a whole week I need
feel no hunger, and may give my poor body a little repose."

"But life is not quite such hard lines with you, Miguella?"

"Not quite, señor, though hard enough. Yet I have many mercies. I earn a
little money by making cheeses; and in summer, when visitors now and
then come to Murviedro, I take a trifle and put by a peseta for a rainy
day. Heaven be praised I have never been in actual want; and Juan knows
that he has never in vain asked me to lend him a centimo. Though I find
his accounts very long reckonings," she quaintly added with a smile.

"Miguella, you have been as good as a mother to me," returned Juan. "I
never knew any other mother; have ever been a waif on the earth, without
kith and kin either to bless or ban."

We all went down the rugged steep together. At the bottom, Juan bade us
farewell and turned to the left towards his humble cottage. Miguella
escorted us up the quaint, quiet street. We passed through a picturesque
gateway, and just beyond this was her small house.

"Señor, if you would allow me to make you some coffee to refresh you for
your journey, I should be happy," she said. "I am famous both for my
cheese and my coffee."

To refuse would give her pain; the train was not due for an hour and a
half; a cup of Miguella's coffee was not to be despised. She turned with
a glad smile, opened her door, and invited us to enter.

It was a surprise to find her cottage the perfection of order, for the
Spaniards are not famous for the virtue. She placed chairs, and bustled
about her preparations. In a few moments a peat fire with sticks was
blazing on the hearth, water was put on to boil, and a brown earthenware
coffee-pot was placed on the embers to warm. In her own domain Miguella
became a handy, comely old woman, who moved about without noise and must
have been a good helpmeet to the husband she had lost a quarter of a
century ago. Whilst the water was boiling, she took us into an inner
room and showed us her arrangements for making cheese. It was an
interesting sight, and the old woman went up still further in our
estimation. Everything was spotlessly pure and clean. A grey cat
followed her about like a dog and seemed devoted to her.

"She is getting old like me," said poor Miguella, "but she is a faithful
animal, and never by any chance puts her nose into a pan of milk. I
might leave it all open; nothing would be touched. It is only ewes'
milk, señor. Would you like some in your coffee?"

We thought black coffee more stimulating.

She placed it on the table, hot and fragrant. Miguella had not
overpraised the cunning of her hand. With a slight diffidence meant for
an apology, she took out one of her fresh little cheeses, and with
home-made bread, placed it also on the table. The coffee she served in
white cups of coarse porcelain, which we duly admired, and she brought
forward plates of the same material.

So Miguella, in largeness of heart gave us hospitality, and our simple
collation was so perfect that a king need have wished no better. She had
put on a white apron to serve us becomingly, and from her
chimney-corner, where she added fuel to her fire, surveyed the
appreciation of her labours with pride and pleasure. To us, the
incident--not an every-day one--had borne a certain interest and charm.
We had gone back for a moment to primitive days, "when Adam delved and
Eve span." The best of Miguella's nature had come out simply because we
had been a little kind to her: and we wisely reflected that too often
the greatest enemy to mankind is man.

Our last glimpse of Miguella was of a comely old woman standing in her
doorway to watch us depart. The glow of the setting sun was upon her
face, which was softened and refined by her abundant neat grey hair.
She looked pleased and happy. No doubt she would return to her
chimney-corner and cheese-making, and ponder over the day's small
adventure. Juan would be no loser. Many a centimo would find its way
from her pocket to his, and he would think her more motherly than ever.

[Illustration: COURTYARD OF AUDIENCIA: BARCELONA.]

On our way to the station we saw the sad funeral procession approaching.
Most had dispersed, but some six or eight women were returning with the
poor mother, who still looked bowed and broken. As Juan had wisely said,
time would lessen the blow, but for the present no silver lining was
visible in the heavy cloud overshadowing the life.

We watched them disappear through one of the large round doorways into
the home now desolate for ever. Then we went on, and presently the train
came up, and Saguntum passed out of our lives, though not out of memory.
Miguella and Juan, the ancient ruins and outlines crowning the heights,
the quaint streets with their picturesque interiors, the sad procession
winding slowly down the long white road, the bowed mourners and the
weeping mother: nothing could ever be forgotten.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some days after this we were walking in the streets of Barcelona. We had
said good-bye to Valencia and our present sojourn in Spain was drawing
to a close. With sorrow and sighing we remembered the motto of the wise
king: THIS ALSO SHALL PASS AWAY. Oft quoted before, it is ever present
with us and we quote it once more. We had gone through many experiences,
made many acquaintances who had become friends. In imagination a small
crowd of companions surrounded us, every one of them with a special
niche in our heart and memory. Sauntering through the now long familiar
streets, we had wandered instinctively into the neighbourhood of the
cathedral. As we stood in the courtyard of the Audiencia, admiring for
the fiftieth time its pointed arches, clustered columns and fine old
staircase, two people entered, breaking upon our solitude. Their faces
were radiant with happiness. At the first moment we hardly recognised
them; the next we saw that it was Loretta and Lorenzo.

"Still in Barcelona! How is this, Loretta?"

"Señor, we have prolonged our stay. There was no special reason why we
should not do so. Work is provided for, and the donkeys are in good
keeping. We shall never again have such a holiday. It comes only once in
our lives."

"It is quite unnecessary to remark that you are happy, both of you."

"Señor, I ask what I have done that heaven should have bestowed such
favour upon me," returned Loretta, her face glowing with fervour. "I
feel as though I could take the whole creation under my wing and love it
for the sake of the love that is mine. I tell myself that I have not
half cared for my dumb animals, though harsh word to them never passed
my lips."

"Loretta, we have found your clock," passing from the sublime to the
commonplace. "Come both of you and see it."

It was in the adjoining Calle de Fernando, not many yards from where we
stood. We were just in time: the clockmaker was about to pack up and
despatch it. Its design might have been made to order. A clock of white
alabaster, pure as the heart of Loretta. Cupid with bow and arrows slung
behind him struck the hours on a silver bell. The hour-glass was
missing, it is true, but the sands of Loretta and Lorenzo were none the
less golden. So the clock instead of being forwarded to Espluga, was
sent to their address in Barcelona.

"My happiness is now complete," cried Loretta. "Yet one thing is still
wanting. I would that you, señor, should come as speedily as possible
and ride Caro to Poblet, and that Lorenzo and I should wait upon you.
Ah, do not delay."

       *       *       *       *       *

"One of the most romantic episodes I ever heard of," cried H. C., as
Loretta and Lorenzo walked away arm in arm in their great happiness, and
we turned to contemplate once more the magic interior of the cathedral
that has no rival.

"It is indeed. And if these dream-churches and ancient towns are her
glories, does Spain not possess yet other glories in the exalted lives
of Rosalie and Anselmo, the simple hearts and annals of yonder couple,
and all who resemble them? May their shadows never grow less and their
faces never be pale!"

"Amen," answered H. C., as the happy pair in question turned a corner
and "passed in music out of sight."

LONDON:
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED.
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.


FOOTNOTES:

[A] The rose.

[B] If the reader feels any interest in Sebastien, he will be glad to
hear that a petition sent to the landlord in the form of a letter proved
as effective as the proposed deputation. He was promoted to the dignity
(and fees) of second waiter in the dining-room: and on the first of last
May was united to his beloved Anita. The sun shone and the skies were
blue; the world smiled upon the young couple. The bride in her white
veil and pale silk dress (the gift of her late employer, Madame la
Modiste) must have appeared ravishing; and few bridegrooms in Manresa
could have looked handsomer or more manly than Sebastien. We imagine how
his face beamed, his eyes sparkled, his heart overflowed. His
master--not to be outdone by Madame la Modiste--gave them a wedding
breakfast, and the walls rang with the shouts that went up when the
health of the happy pair was drunk. One can only wish them the serene
bliss and success they deserve.

[C] The following letter from the old canon, one of many, may be
transcribed for the benefit of the reader:

"You will be anxious to hear how our patient has been progressing since
I last wrote to you. Better and better. There is nothing but good news
to send you. I think I may almost affirm that Eugenie is now 'clothed
and in her right mind.' The cure is effected. For many months she has
not looked upon the wine cup, and declares that all desire for it has
left her. I believe it has. As you know, the very day after our first
and last evening together I sought her out, told her I was her father's
friend, explained to her the atonement that was in her power. The poor
creature, overcome with misery, sorrow and remorse, burst into such
tears as I have never seen shed, and yielded without a murmur to my
wish. I would give her no time for reconsideration, and that very day
she took up her abode in my house. She never leaves it except in company
with Juanita or myself. There has been no trouble from the beginning. It
almost seemed as though the calm and peaceful atmosphere of our little
household at once exorcised the evil spirit within her. Her better
nature has triumphed, and I am persuaded that she will not fall away
again. I do not intend that she shall. As long as I live this is to be
her home. She asks nothing better; declares that for the first time in
her life she has found peace and happiness. Her gratitude to you is
unbounded. If I only mention your name, tears spring to her eyes. I
believe she would lay down her life for you. She begs that you will one
day come again to see, not the old Eugenie who accosted you in the
church; she is dead and buried; but the new Eugenie who lives and has
taken her place. She wonders what influence gave her courage to speak,
and declares it was some unseen spirit or power which compelled her to
go forward whether she would or no. The moment she saw you this spirit
took possession of her and she was passive in its hands. Never before
had such a thing happened to her. I put it down to other and higher
influence. These things do not happen by chance. Heaven may spare my
life for some years. During that time Eugenie's home is assured. She is
now as a daughter to me; shares my modest repasts; occupies herself in
the affairs of the house; spends much of her time with Juanita. She
reads much, and is studying science with me. Her intelligence is of a
high order, and she has a wide grasp of mind. By-and-by she may outrun
me. Truly it is a pearl of price we have rescued from the fire. And I
too have my reward. The house is brighter since she came to it. Even
Juanita, who once only smiled, now laughs on occasion. She has taken a
great affection for Eugenie, and when I am no longer here will transfer
her services to our protégée. Heaven be praised, I am able to leave them
independent of the world. And I have enlisted my nephew's sympathy in
the matter. Eugenie is to be much with them when I go hence, but this is
to be her home; hers for her life. Yet who can tell? She is young. If
you thought her beautiful then, what would you say now to that calm,
radiant face, those clear, steadfast eyes? One day she will probably
marry again; and in a second and more worthy choice find all the
happiness and protection that she missed in her first terrible and
headstrong mistake.

"And now, the old question. When are you coming? Juanita bids me say
that all the resources of her simple art are waiting to be put forth in
your favour. She declares she never was happier than that evening when
she waited upon us and dispensed her simple luxuries. Eugenie says she
shall never be at perfect rest until you have witnessed her
transformation. For myself, I have a new work on Natural Philosophy to
show you. I long once more to pace together the aisles of our beloved
cathedral. At my age I live from day to day, grateful to heaven for each
new day in this bright world. But it behoves me to sit loosely to all
things. The end may come at any hour, it cannot be very far off now. The
old man longs to welcome you yet once again. Deny him not."





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