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Title: Northern Spain
Author: Wigram, Edgar T. A.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Northern Spain" ***

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corrected; a list follows the text. Some illustrations have been moved
from mid-paragraph for ease of reading. (etext transcriber's note)


                        _PAINTED AND DESCRIBED_


                           EDGAR T. A. WIGRAM

                        [Illustration: colophon]


                          ADAM & CHARLES BLACK


     "There is, Sir, a good deal of Spain which has not been
     perambulated. I would have you go thither."


     "And so you travel on foot?" said Leon. "How romantic! How

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Yes," returned the undergraduate, "it's rather nice than
     otherwise, when once you're used to it; only it's devilish
     difficult to get washed. I like the fresh air and these stars and

     "Aha!" said Leon, "Monsieur is an artist."

     "Oh, nonsense!" cried the Englishman. "A fellow may admire the
     stars and be anything he likes."


[Illustration: SEGÓVIA

The Aqueduct.]


W. A. W.



It is ill gleaning for a necessitous author when Ford and Borrow have
been before him in the field, and I may not attempt to justify the
appearance of these pages by the pretence that I have any fresh story to
tell. Yet, if my theme be old, it is at least still unhackneyed. The
pioneers have done their work with unapproachable thoroughness, but the
rank and file of the travelling public are following but slackly in
their train.

Year after year our horde of pleasure-seekers are marshalled by
companies for the invasion of Europe: yet it would seem that there are
but few in the total who have any real inkling of how to play the game.
Some seem to migrate by instinct, and to make themselves miserable in
the process. These ought to be restrained by their families, or
compelled to hire substitutes in their stead. Others can indeed relish a
flitting; but cannot find it in their hearts to divorce themselves from
their dinner-table and their toilet-battery, their newspaper, their
small-talk and their golf. To them all petty annoyances and
inconveniences assume disproportionate dimensions, and they are well
advised in checking their _razzias_ at San Sebástien, Pau, or Biarritz.
But, to the elect, the very root of the pleasure of travel lies in the
fact that their ordinary habits may be frankly laid aside. It is a mild
method of "going _Fanti_" which rejoices their primitive instincts: and
they will find both the land and the people just temperately primitive
in Spain.

Many of us have felt the fascination of Italy. But those who have "heard
the East a-calling" tell us that her call is stronger still;--and Spain
is the echo of the East. "Lofty and sour to them that love her not, but
to those men that seek her sweet as summer." Even Italy, with all its
charm, tastes flat to a Spanish enthusiast. He craves no other nor no
better land.

       *       *       *       *       *

It has been said of Spain, that none who have not been there are
particularly desirous of going, and none who have been there once can
refrain from going again. The author has not found himself exempt from
this common fatality; and his notes and sketches, as embodied in this
volume, are the fruit of four successive bicycle tours, undertaken
sometimes alone, and sometimes in company with a kindred spirit. Of
their shortcomings he believes that no one can be so conscious as
himself. But in the hope that they may prove of interest to sympathisers
he ventures to expose them to the public gaze.


ALL Spanish names ending in vowels are pronounced with the stress on the
penultimate; and those ending in consonants with the stress on the final
syllable. Any exception is indicated by an accent.




THE NORTH COAST OF CASTILE                                             1


COVADONGA AND EASTERN ASTÚRIAS                                        24


ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS TO LEON                                          43


THE PILGRIM ROAD                                                      64


THE CIRCUIT OF GALÍCIA                                                89


WESTERN ASTÚRIAS                                                     113


BENAVENTE, ZAMORA, AND TORO                                          132


SALAMANCA                                                            152


BÉJAR, ÁVILA, AND ESCORIAL                                           171


TOLEDO                                                               192


A RAID INTO ESTREMADURA                                              215


SEGÓVIA                                                              237


BÚRGOS                                                               256


ACROSS NAVARRE                                                       278

INDEX                                                                301


1. Segóvia. The Aqueduct                                   _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

2. Castro Urdiáles. The Bilbao Coastline                               6

3. Castro Urdiáles. The Harbour                                       10

4. Santoña                                                            12

5. San Vicente de la Barquera                                         20

6. The Deva Gorge. La Hérmida                                         22

7. The Deva Gorge. Urdon                                              26

8. Cángas de Onís. The Bridge over the Sella                          32

9. The Sella Valley. Below Arrióndas                                  38

10. Pasana. An Asturian Mountain Village                              40

11. Llánes. The Harbour                                               42

12. Leon. An Old Palace Doorway                                       50

13. Leon. From the Pajáres Road                                       58

14. Leon. Church of San Isidoro                                       60

15. Leon. The Market Place, and Casa del Ayuntamiento                 62

16. Astorga. From the South-east                                      68

17. The Vierzo. From Ponferrada, looking towards
    the Pass of Piedrafita                                            72

18. Lugo. The Santiago Gate                                           78

19. Lugo. Fuente de San Vicente                                       80

20. Santiago de Compostela. From the Lugo Road                        82

21. Santiago de Compostela. The Cathedral from the North-east         86

22. Orense. The Bridge over the Miño                                  92

23. Tuy and Valencia. The Frontier Towns on the Miño                  96

24. Vigo Bay. The Inner Harbour, looking out towards the Sea         100

25. Nuestra Señora de la Esclavitud                                  104

26. Betánzos. A Colonnaded Calle                                     108

27. The Masma Valley. Near Mondoñedo                                 110

28. Rivadeo. An Approach to the Harbour                              114

29. The Návia Valley                                                 116

30. Cudillero. The Harbour                                           120

31. Oviedo. A Street near the Cathedral                              124

32. In the Pass of Pajáres. Near Pola de Gordon                      130

33. Benavente. From above the Bridge of Castro Gonzalo               134

34. Zamora. From the banks of the Duero                              140

35. Zamora. Church of Sta Maria de la Horta                          144

36. A Spanish Patio                                                  148

37. Toro. From the banks of the Duero                                150

38. Salamanca. Arcades in the Plaza de la Verdura                    156

39. Salamanca. Church of San Martin                                  160

40. Salamanca. From the left bank of the Tormes                      164

41. Salamanca. The Puerta del Rio, with the Cathedral Tower          168

42. Béjar. An Approach to the Town                                   174

43. Béjar. A Corner in the Market-place                              176

44. Ávila. From the North-west                                       180

45. Ávila. A Posada Patio                                            184

46. Escorial. From the East                                          188

47. Toledo. Bridge of Alcántara, from the Illescas Road              194

48. Toledo. The Bridge of Alcántara                                  198

49. Toledo. Puerta del Sol                                           200

50. Toledo. Calle del Comércio, with the Cathedral Tower             204

51. Toledo. The Gorge of the Tagus                                   208

52. Talavera de la Reina. From the banks of the Tagus                212

53. Plaséncia. Puente San Lazaro                                     216

54. Plaséncia. The Town Walls and Cathedral                          218

55. Cáceres. Within the old Town Walls                               222

56. Cáceres. Calle de la Cuesta de Aldana                            226

57. Mérida. "Los Milagros," the ruins of the Great Aqueduct          228

58. Alcántara                                                        232

59. Segóvia. Church of San Miguel                                    238

60. Segóvia. Arco San Estéban                                        244

61. Segóvia. The Alcázar                                             248

62. Segóvia. Arco Santiago                                           252

63. Segóvia. Church of San Estéban                                   254

64. Búrgos. Arco San Martin                                          260

65. Dueñas                                                           264

66. Búrgos. Hospital del Rey                                         266

67. Búrgos. Arco Sta Maria                                           268

68. Búrgos. Patio of the Casa de Miranda                             272

69. Búrgos. From the East                                            276

70. The Gorge of Pancorvo                                            282

71. La Rioja Alavesa. Looking Northwards across the Ebro             284

72. Miranda del Ebro. A Corner in the Town                           288

73. Pamplona. From the Road to the Frontier                          290

74. Olite. The Castle                                                292

75. Pamplona. A Patio near the Cathedral                             296

_Map at end of Volume._

     _The design of the Cover is adapted from the façade of the Casa de
     las Conchas (House of the Shells) at Salamanca._

     _The device on the Title Page is taken from a wrought-iron knocker
     of the Cathedral at Toledo._

_The illustrations in this volume have been engraved and printed
in England by Messrs Carl Hentschel, Ltd._




DEAR E.,--Can you manage to get off some time in May and go bicycling
with me in Norway? Blank's have offered me a passage to Bergen.

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR W.,--I can manage your date, but don't quite feel drawn to your
country. Norway is all mountains, and I want a little archæology. I had
been thinking of Provence.

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR E.,--No objection to Provence. Blank's will give us a passage in
one of their colliers to Bilbao, and we can ride in across the Pyrenees.
You must allow me some mountains.

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR W.,--It's awfully good of Blank's. But once at Bilbao, why not
stick to Spain? Toledo is no further than Toulouse, and Cantabria as
mountainous as the Pyrenees.

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR E.,--Very good! Spain first; and Provence second string if
necessary. There's a boat sailing about May 20th.

       *       *       *       *       *

The casting vote was indisputably the collier's; but our plans were not
quite so inconsequent as this conclusion might lead one to infer. Some
nebulous notion of a Spanish expedition had been miraging itself before
our eyes for several seasons previously; and it is the nature of such
nebulous notions to materialise accidentally at the last. Hitherto we
had been awed by the drawbacks; for Spain had been pictured to us as
positively alive with bugbears. Travelling was difficult--nay, even
dangerous; the people were Anglophobists, the country a desert, and the
cities dens of pestilence. The roads were unridable, and the heat
unbearable. We should be eaten of fleas, and choked with garlic; and to
crown all our other tribulations, we should have to learn a new and
unknown tongue. The knight who plunged into the lake of pitch had hardly
a more inviting prospect; and the fairy palaces beneath it did not
yield him an ampler reward. Provence still waits unvisited; neither have
we now any immediate intention of going there. We still keep going to

       *       *       *       *       *

The owners said she would sail on Thursday; but Wednesday brought down
the captain in a highly energetic condition, and confident of catching
the midnight tide. We had to make a bolt for the docks by the last train
of the evening, and groped our way to the _Amadeo_ through a haze of
coal dust, only to be met by the intelligence that the captain had gone
home to bed! There was nothing for it but to camp in the cabin, where
night was made constantly hideous by the coal roaring into the
after-hold: and next morning found us out in the middle of the dock,
sitting on our tail with our bows pointing to heaven. The coal for the
fore-hold had failed us, and a luckier rival had ousted us from our
berth at the staithes. The morning was occupied in resolving a general
tangle; for every ship in the basin seemed to fall foul of all the
others in turn. Soon a second tide was lost. And when we regained the
staithes there came another break in our procession of coal trucks.
"Oh! the little cargo boats that clear with _every_ tide!"

We flung ashore in despair. But a more hopeful sight saluted us when we
returned. The _Amadeo_ lay out by the dock gates, long and low, with her
main deck but eighteen inches above the water. At last she was fully
laden; and we sailed on the Friday morn.

So long as we remained in Tyne Dock we had not judged ourselves
conspicuously dirty; but we showed as a crying scandal when out in the
clean blue sea. The mate even bewailed the calm weather. If we "took it
green" once we should be clean immediately. But such heroic methods of
labour-saving we very contentedly excused. Meanwhile we made leisurely
progress, for the _Amadeo_ was no greyhound. "She never yet caught
anything with steam in her" according to her despondent engineer.
Saturday's sun set behind Dover--the great cliffs looming darkly over
us, and the town lights showing like pin-holes pricked through the
blackness to the glowing sky beyond. Sunday showed us the grim teeth of
the Caskets; and the weird natural dolmens of Ushant were passed the
following day. But Providence still continued to temper the wind to that
very shorn lamb the _Amadeo_, and the dreaded Bay was as smooth as a
sheet of rippled glass.

About Wednesday evening the captain began to wax very bitter concerning
Spanish lighthouses, and we went below better satisfied that deep water
should last us till dawn! But the first rays of light showed us a long
line of blue peaks high on the horizon to the southward, and within an
hour our voyage was over. "In we came--and time enough--'cross Bilbao

It was from the sea that I had my first view of Genoa and the Italian
Riviera, and the seaward approach to Bilbao deserves no meaner
comparison than this. The romantic hills reared themselves from the
water's edge, unwinding their veils at the touch of the early sunshine;
and the sparkling villages clinging to the cliffs round the shell-shaped
harbour of Portugalete made a picture which might have been borrowed
from Lugano or Lucerne. A tumult of tossing peaks was piled in disorder
to the eastward, above the smoke of the iron furnaces in the winding
valley of the Nervion; and far away to the westward, ridge upon ridge
fell sloping down into the blue waters of the Atlantic; sometimes
breaking off so sheer at the finish that the ore ships could actually
moor alongside to load. The beauty of the Spanish coast is a favourite
theme of visitors to San Sebástien, but they know not a tithe of the
truth which they are so eager to proclaim. The whole Atlantic littoral
from the Bidassoa to the Miño is teeming with equal attractions, and the
immediate vicinity of Bilbao is a stretch which is second to none.

Neither were our first impressions of the people less favourable than
those of the country. And that though they were formed in the Custom
House, which is scarcely a promising beat. These hospitable officials
were if anything over-considerate; for we were only anxious to pay and
have done with it, while they were all intent on excusing us, if they
could find any justification under the code. At last, however, we were
allowed to purchase our freedom; fled to our machines amid a haze of
reciprocal compliments; and a few minutes later were drifting along the
road to the westward, with no more care for the morrow than flotsam on
uncharted seas.

[Illustration: CASTRO URDIÁLES

The Bilbao Coastline.]

The busy industries of Bilbao have unfortunately gone some way towards
marring its lovely situation. Its valley is choked with smoky factories;
and its mountains are one vast red scar from base to summit, the
entire face having been flayed away for ironstone, and ladled out into
the ore ships along the aërial railways to feed the blast furnaces of
Sheffield and Middlesborough. Our uglier trades seem to take malicious
delight in ruining the prettiest landscapes. But their dominion is but
for a season, and the land will enjoy its Sabbaths in the end. We only
scratch Nature skin-deep, and her wealds will devour our black
countries. "After a thousand years," say the Spaniards, "the river
returns to his bed."

Beyond the blight of the quarries, the scenery is of the type of our own
Welsh highlands--steep, rocky ridges and gullies, thickly clothed with
bracken and scrub oak. Even the railway has a most charming ramble,
hunting its own tail up and down the long, steep, corkscrew gradients of
the inland valleys. But the road clambers along the deeply fissured
coast line, and no free agent will elect to follow the rail. Our first
stage, however, was but a short one, for it was evening when we quitted
Bilbao. Castro Urdiales gaped for us with its cavernous little _calle_,
and we dived in to seek quarters for the night.

Surely a town so close to Bilbao might have been expected to be inured
to visitors! Yet our modest progress through the streets of Castro
created as great a sensation as though we had been "Corsica" Boswell in
his costume of scarlet and gold. The children formed up in procession
behind us. Their elders turned out to take stock of us from the
balconies. And a voluble old pilot (whose knowledge of English was about
equal to our Spanish) came bustling out of a café to conduct us to the
primitive little inn.

It is a fortunate thing that a traveller's needs can be guessed without
much vocabulary; for our first task was to order our supper, and
mistakes may be serious when you have to eat the result. The enterprise,
however, is not so hazardous as one imagines. Like Sancho Panza, you may
ask for what you will;--but what you get is "the pair of cow heels
dressed with chick peas, onions and bacon which are just now done to a
turn." After all, we did not fare badly; mine hostess was a damsel of
resources, and our old pilot prompted us vigorously from the rear. It
was he who suggested the "lamp-post"--a threat at which we jibbed
somewhat visibly. But the girl plunged promptly into the kitchen behind
her and returned displaying the "lamp-post"--which was a lobster. As to
the three weird courses which followed him, our conclusions were not
equally positive. They appeared in cryptic disguises;--_carne_, "meat"
which defied identification. There is no declaration of origin in most
of the dishes of Spain. Yet the traveller need not be nervous. He can
generally trust Maritornes. Let him eat what is set before him, asking
no questions for conscience sake.

One might travel a long way along any coast line before finding a
prettier haven than Castro Urdiales. The nucleus of the town, with the
church and castle, is perched upon a rocky promontory, whose cliffs drop
sheer into the deep water, and whose outlying pinnacles have been linked
up to the mainland by irregular arches so as to form natural wharves. A
little harbour for fishing-craft nestles under the cliff to the
eastward; looking back along the coast to Bilbao, and the bold conical
hill with the watch-tower (reminiscent of Barbary pirates), which guards
the entrance to the harbour of Portugalete. Yet all this fair exterior
hides a hideous secret, and at last we surprised it unaware.

We were well acquainted with sardines in England, and it had not escaped
our cognisance that sardines were commonly bereft of heads. Had it ever
occurred to us that all those heads were somewhere? Well, the dreadful
truth must be acknowledged; they were here. Yes, here at Castro
Urdiales--a mountain of gibbous eyes and a smell to poison the
heavens--awaiting the kindly wave which would eventually garner them in
from the ledge upon which they were stewing, and deliver them over to
the "lamp-posts" in the crevices of the rock below.

Castro Urdiales is a city of ambitions. It is keeping pace with the era,
and in 1901 its most antiquated alley had been already dignified by the
title of "Twentieth Century Street." Since then it has developed a
ponderous steel bridge in the harbour, and thrown out a massive concrete
break-water from the end of the modest jetty. But its progress is not to
be deprecated where it does not interfere with its beauty; and now a
comfortable _Fonda_ has supplanted the humble _Venta_ which was our
first lodging on Spanish soil.

[Illustration: CASTRO URDIÁLES

The Harbour.]

Our road next day still followed the mountainous coast line, and we
descended at noon upon the roofs of Laredo, a delightful little town,
climbing up the steep hillside above its tiny anchorage, and facing the
great mass of Santoña, the "Gibraltar of the North." This imposing
fortress lies across the mouth of an immense land-locked lagoon,
and in size, shape, and situation is almost a replica of the famous
Rock. It has no such strategical value, but is probably equally
impregnable; for it was the only northern city where the French flag was
still waving at the close of that "War of Liberation" which we style the
Peninsular War.

At Laredo we dined, and as Spanish meals are the subject of much
needless apprehension, perhaps we may pause to say a word in their
defence before proceeding further upon our way. We begin with _Desayuno_
or _petit déjeuner_, and here, in a genuinely Spanish _ménage_,
chocolate will generally take the place of the Frenchman's _café au
lait_. It is served in tiny cups, very hot and very thick. It is really
a substitute for butter, and you eat it by dipping your bread in it,
washing it down with a glass of cold water, which you are expected to
"sugar to taste." The peasants, however, eschew this fashion as
new-fangled, and content themselves with a draught of wine or a
thimbleful of "the craythur." This is not recommended by the faculty,
but travellers have sometimes to be content.

[Illustration: SANTONA]

Dinner, or _Comida_, is served about mid-day; the nominal time varies,
but it is always half an hour late. In many districts, however, this
title is transferred to the supper, and then the luncheon is known as
_Almuerzo_--_Déjeuner_. It is a very substantial banquet of some
half-dozen courses, inaugurated (in strictly classical fashion) by an
egg. Next comes a dish of haricot beans, or chick peas, or rice
garnished with _pimientos_, closely pursued by another containing boiled
meat, bacon, and sausages, all which you may tackle separately or
simultaneously, according to your greatness of soul. Then comes a
stew--the celebrated _Olla Podrida_; and then (to the great astonishment
of the stranger) the belated fish. Fish seems to have methods of
penetrating to all spots which are accessible by railway. Hake is the
general stand-by, but in the mountains you get most excellent little
trout. The solid portion of the meal is concluded by a "biftek" and
salad, but there is still an appendix in case you are not satisfied yet.
On Sundays, in superior _Fondas_ you will get caramel pudding, and
always and everywhere cheese, accompanied by a sort of quince jelly
known as _membrillo_, a very excellent institution indeed. Finally
(again classically) comes the fruit; but this is usually rather
inferior, considering how very cheap and excellent it is in the markets
outside. Wine is, of course, supplied _ad lib._ to every diner, and
water in porous earthenware bottles which evaporation keeps deliciously
cool. Olives are eaten steadily at all intervals; and if you have long
to wait between courses, you fill up the intervals with cigarettes! The
evening meal--_cena_--is generally very similar to the mid-day, except
that soup takes the place of the egg.

The cooking is by no means deserving of all the strictures that have
been showered upon it; for most nations know how to cook their own
dishes, and only come seriously to grief when they try to imitate
French. The dreaded garlic is used but sparingly; oil is a much more
dominating feature. But then oil has a double debt to pay, because
Spaniards make no butter. At all events the food is plentiful, and "St
Bernard's sauce" will cover a multitude of deficiencies; for appetite is
a blessing that is seldom lacking to the traveller in Spain!

After dinner, the Café. And a Spanish café is a most noteworthy
assemblage. It is comparatively empty in the evenings, for the
Spaniard's homing instincts are much more strongly developed than the
Frenchman's, and he seldom quits his house and his family circle after
dark. But in the early afternoon it is thronged to repletion with all
sorts and conditions of customers, from the general in command of the
garrison to the ragged vine-dresser and muleteer. Here they sit through
the long, sultry hours of siesta-tide in a roomful of shuttered
twilight, chattering like a mill-wheel in flood-time, sipping their
coffee and aniseed brandy,[1] and steadily consuming cigarettes. It
often seems mild dissipation for such very truculent-looking
desperadoes. Fancy an English navvy regaling his carnal appetites on
black coffee and dominoes! Not but that dominoes (as played in a Spanish
café) is an exciting, even an athletic, pastime. It entails alarming
vociferation; and every piece that you play must be slammed down on the
marble table top with all the force at your command. The domino volleys
echo through the café like musketry on a field-day on Salisbury Plain,
and if you feel at all dubious as to your direction when you chance to
be seeking that edifice, you may readily succeed in locating it by
listening in the street for the din.

But the heat of the day is now passing, and the traveller must answer
the call. His road is at least more level than hitherto; for the coast
hills westward of Laredo are gradually losing their mountainous
character, and over their heads to the southward we begin to catch
glimpses of the great rock walls of the Cantabrian Sierras, which grow
ever higher and grander as we near the Asturian march. The environs of
Santander are again disfigured by quarrying; and the soil, where
disturbed, is of a deep red ferruginous hue. Truly "a land whose stones
are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass"; though "rivers
and fountains of water" are not quite so common as we might desire.
Santander itself, however, we will avoid altogether. Like Bilbao, it is
quite a modern city; and the direct road through the mountain glens
behind it brings us down to the sea again at Torrelavega by a very much
pleasanter line.

Meanwhile we pursued our career to an intermittent orchestral
accompaniment--a tune in two keys, like M'Alpin's drone and small pipes,
but far more powerful and piercing than the most brazen-lunged piper
could blow. Occasionally we met the musician. He is only an ordinary
ox-cart--a pair of wheels, a pole, and a plank or two, actuated by a
pair of sleepy kine.

In Galicia the yoke is fastened round the necks of the oxen; but more
generally it is bound with thongs to their horns and finished off with a
bonnet of goat-skin, or in Asturias with a fleecy busby of most imposing
size. The wheels have often only a single spoke, or sometimes three
arranged in the form of the letter H. Altogether it is probably the
simplest, slowest, and most vociferous affair on wheels.

For the amount of lamentation that can be extracted from one dry axle is
a thing that is scarcely credible even when it is heard. The natives
encourage it. They have one theory that it pleases the oxen, and another
(far more probable) that it scares the Fiend. But at any rate it has no
apparent effect upon the Spanish teamster, who lounges along in front
waving his goad like a drum-major's baton; or sleeps--yes, sleeps--on
the summit of his yelling load. Verily the man who first invented sleep
must have been a waggoner! This evening, as we were crossing the ridge
between two parallel valleys, our ears were saluted by the unmistakable
long-drawn scream of an impatient locomotive. Our map showed no railway,
however; and we were just beginning to plume ourselves on an important
geographical discovery, when we caught sight of a single ox-cart--200
feet below and half a mile away! The hill sloped away straight and
smooth before us, and we fled! We felt no shame at the time; yet perhaps
it was rather faint-hearted to shirk the chance of a personal interview
with the most musical axle in the world.

But the bicyclist has one grievance in Spain which is not so easily
avoided as ox-carts, and it is about the end of the second day that the
iron of it begins to enter his soul. Thenceforward for ever he cherishes
a deadly and undying rancour against the Spanish dogs. We had been
partly prepared for the infliction beforehand. The captain had mentioned
them, and had talked of ammonia pistols; but we spurned the suggestion
with humane horror. We knew quite well that all foreign dogs were
brutes, but we were confident in our own benignity and scornful of
"methods of barbarism." And in these noble sentiments we persisted--for
about a day and a half. Next morning we were awakened out of our beauty
sleep by the yellings of some miserable cur in the _Fonda
patio_;--"Hurrah! there's a dog getting hurt," was our simultaneous
comment; and ere we recrossed the frontier we had registered a grim
resolve that next time we would bring revolvers, and strew our path
with carcases from Fuenterrabia to Cadiz. So much for the deterioration
of moral fibre under the strain of Spanish dog.

Well, we are not the first (nor the last) whose amiability has been
ruined by "dogs barking at us as we pass by"; and when every brute in
the countryside, from the toy mongrel to the wolf-hound as big as an
ass-colt, dances yelling and snapping at your heels for half a mile
together, it is not entirely surprising that patience should wear thin.
Of course there are stones. The Guadarrama district in particular
produces a beautiful white quartzose,--hard and heavy, with many sharp
angles,--an excellent article to throw at a dog. But what is a pocketful
among so many? Besides, you often miss them, and never hurt them enough.
Truly I could feel no sure confidence in anything short of a loaded
revolver. But only a very even-tempered man could trust himself with
that _ultima ratio_ within reach of his fingers; and I cherish a rooted
objection to "going heeled" in a civilised land. Perhaps a lion-tamer's
whip with a loaded butt and a bullet at the end of the lash may prove
effective enough to compromise upon.

Meanwhile there is some silver lining to the cloud. There are already
some convertites among the dogs of Spain. The majority pour themselves
upon the cyclist, clamorous and open-mouthed, like the demons in
Malebolge; but a remnant clap their tails between their legs and make a
bee-line for the horizon. We humbly hope that our own modest assiduity
will have effected a small but perceptible increase in the latter class.

Beyond Torrelavega there is again a parting of roadways. One passes
along the coast by Santillana, the birthplace of Gil Blas; and the other
through Cabezon, threading the mountain glens. They reunite at San
Vicente de la Barquera, another minor seaport of Cantabria, less
progressive than Castro, but quite as attractive after its style. The
town lies at the extremity of a tongue of land between two wide
estuaries. It is the meeting-place of the two long bridges which cross
them, and its precipitous acropolis and arcaded market-place afford
endless studies to the lover of the picturesque.

San Vicente had got a hideous secret of its own as well as Castro, only
at San Vicente it was hardly a secret--in fact, they were rather booming
it as a show. An old sunken coasting vessel had recently been recovered
and beached in the estuary, and its hold was positively teeming with
lobsters, like Sir Thomas Ingoldsby's pockets with eels. Truly it was a
gruesome sight; and a novelist in search of an appropriate ending for a
really desperate villain could hardly do better than have him pincered
to death in that crawly inferno by the black clanking monsters which
inhabited it!

The Cantabrian Sierras, already sufficiently majestic, now reach their
culmination in the acknowledged monarchs of the range--the Picos de
Europa, the landmark of all the old navigators who once steered their
Mexican argosies into Gijon or Santander. This vast mass of snow-crowned
peaks forms a most imposing spectacle. They are great "cloud
compellers," and are seldom entirely clear. But they are sometimes seen
unveiled in the calm of the early morning, an apparently impassable
barrier filling half the horizon towards the south.


Yet the road which we have taken to guide us aims right at the very
heart of them, and at the little village of Unquera it bears up square
to the left. A copious sea-green river (officially known as the Tina
Mayor, but invariably styled the Deva by the inhabitants) comes hurrying
down at this point from the mountains, and charges the great ridge of
limestone which edges the coast-line like a natural sea-wall. We look in
vain for the outlet: the barrier seems absolutely unbroken. But a
stream that has pierced the Picos recks little of minor obstacles, and
the waves are booming to welcome it but half a mile beyond.

Turning our backs on the sea, we enter a noble valley, walled in by
crags of Alpine grandeur, and populated by families of Imperial eagles
swinging to and fro their eyries, high amid the cornices of rock; but
the pastures at the foot of the steeps are everywhere level and placid,
and from Unquera up to Abándames can scarcely be called an ascent.

There is a waters-meet just above Abándames, and the traveller as he
approaches it begins to experience considerable misgivings concerning
the future of his road. If it will but condescend to follow the valley,
there seems just a chance that it may emerge as a staircase; but when it
bears resolutely to the left to knock its head against the precipices of
the Picos, he resignedly concludes that now there's nothing for it but a
lift. A deep notch in the crags lets out the river, and here the road
slips in. There seems every prospect that it will be promptly confronted
by a precipice and a waterfall; but beyond the first notch is a second,
and beyond the second a third. At every turn the passage grows narrower
and deeper, and the way is never clear before us for more than a few
score yards. Yet the unhoped-for outlet is invariably forthcoming, and
at last we cease to marvel at the unfailing surprise. It is the great
cañon of the Deva, one of the finest passes in the world.

It is but a few miles since we quitted sea level, and we have risen but
little on the way. Yet the cliffs that edge the roadway make but one
leap of it to the clouds, and their tops are streaked with snow. Here
rises a staircase of gigantic terraces; here a fringe of crooked
fingers, black and jagged against the sky; here a range of sheer bluff
bastions, like the _cubos_[2] of a titanic wall; and from time to time
the glittering crest of some remoter peak peers over their shoulders
into the depths of the gulf below. The mountain limestone is as hard as
granite, and has shed but few screes or boulders to obstruct the passage
of the stream, and the road squeezes itself along whichever bank happens
to be widest at the moment, crossing and recrossing as occasion
requires. At one point a magnificent osprey, looking twice as large as
life, came sailing slowly down the chasm, and passed but a few feet
above our heads, regally indifferent to the presence of trespassers in
his domain. But apart from him the passage was practically
solitary--mile after mile of the same stupendous scenery, till our necks
ached from craning up the precipices, and our minds seemed oppressed
with a sort of hopelessness of escape.

[Illustration: THE DEVA GORGE

La Hérmida.]

At the hamlet of la Hermida the valley makes a momentary attempt to
widen; but this little ebullition is promptly squashed in the grip of
the mountains, and the great beetling cliffs once more shoulder in upon
the defile. The effects seemed finer than ever, for the clouds of a
gathering tempest were tearing themselves to ribbons among the jagged
_aiguilles_, and their streamers were pierced and illuminated by the
level rays of the setting sun. Not till we had burrowed our way for some
fifteen miles through the roots of the mountains did we escape at last
into the upland vale of Liebana; and looking back on the snow-wreathed
fangs behind us, wondered (like Ali Baba before his cavern) what had
become of the crevice from which we had just emerged.



Far be it from me to disparage Vizcaya or Galicia, but the prize "for
the fairest" must be awarded to Asturias. No other province in
Spain--few even in Italy--can show such wealth of natural beauty; and it
is the district around the Picos de Europa that is the crowning glory of
the whole.

The stranger pays his homage to its scenery, but for the Spaniard it has
a more sentimental appeal. This great mountain citadel is his Isle of
Athelney, the last refuge of the little band of stalwarts who never
bowed the knee to the dominion of Mahound. Here the first gleam of
victory broke the long darkness of disaster; and seven years after the
downfall of Roderic, Pelayo began the redemption of Spain. It still
remains a place of pilgrimage; for Our Lady herself fought from Heaven
against the infidel upon that momentous day. Her miraculous image, in
its extravagant tinsel nimbus and stiff brocaded gown, holds its state
over the High Altar in the _Colegiata_,[3] and its picture adorns the
walls of half the cottages in Asturias. Decidedly no tour would be
complete without a visit to Covadonga.

I had lingered sketching in the rocky labyrinth of the Deva till the
failing light would no longer serve my turn. Darkness would be upon me
ere I could emerge from its recesses; but I had not been caught unaware,
for the gully can boast an occasional _venta_, and I had resolved to
trust the resources of the little inn at Urdon.

Urdon consists of a single house, and that, to be strictly accurate, is
only half a house, for it abuts straight upon the vertical face of the
precipice, and the naked rock is its inner wall. If anything disturbed
that rock (quoth mine hostess airily, as she handed me my candlestick),
Urdon would become an omelet. And perhaps that fate is in store for it
eventually, for the rocks do drop an occasional sugar-plum into the
valley at their feet.

Urdon looks up a bend of the river, and faces southerly; yet for six
months in the year no ray of direct sunshine falls upon that little red
roof. It is only from near the zenith that the sun can peer into so
deep a well. The traveller plumps upon it suddenly round an abrupt
corner, and "here," thinks he, "is the most secluded nook in all the
habitable globe." Yet Urdon is the hub of the universe to Tresviso--its
inn, its post-office, its commercial emporium, the one link that unites
it with the balance of mankind. The pathway to Tresviso struggles up the
tiny gully which debouches upon the main gorge at Urdon; but Tresviso
itself lies high above the cloud wreaths, a good hard three-hours climb.
The Tresvisans aver that there is another village, Sontres, some hours
above them. Perhaps there is something above Sontres;--but this
imagination boggles at.

The little shop was thronged with a company of Tresvisan women. They had
been to the market at Potes to sell their cheeses,--a sort of
gorgonzola, and excellent feeding for a zoophagist,--and had paused at
the stair-foot of their Nephelococcygia to wipe something off the slate
before returning home. Sturdy active figures, clad in patched and
weather-stained garments which had once been bright-coloured, they
formed a striking group which would have attracted attention anywhere.
Their features were hard yet not ill-favoured, and their skins as
brown as mahogany; but there was not a grey hair nor a wrinkle among
them all. Perhaps they were younger than they looked, but they are a
long-lived race in the mountains; and even their octogenarians are
capable of running errands to Urdon.

[Illustration: THE DEVA GORGE


"'Try not the path,' the old man said." And the path in question was
steep and narrow and stony, wriggling up along the brink of the torrent
and the brow of the precipice; the little party had done some nine
hours' journeying already, and the shades of night had fallen. Yet for
them and their beasts it was but the fag end of their regular Monday
tramp, and they made naught of it. Evidently when the "blue-eyed youth"
flourishes off with his banner a-climbing the Picos, the maiden of
Tresviso is not likely to be vastly impressed. She takes that walk with
her grandfather on Sunday afternoons.

The inn at Urdon may be small, but at least it is commendably early.
They sped their parting guest with the twilight, and I was well clear of
the gorge before I caught my first glimpse of the sun. The mists had not
yet bestirred themselves to gather on the sides of the mountains; and
the whole line of peaks stood out sharp and clear as I crossed the
bridge at Abándames and headed westward up the left bank of the Cares,
which joins the Deva at the waters-meet below the gorge.

Just beyond the gash that marks the exit of the Deva, a prominent peak,
like a small cousin of the Matterhorn, stands out boldly into the centre
of the valley. The river circles round from behind it, and the road once
more plunges in among the roots of the hills.

But that the Deva cliffs still towered overwhelmingly in the memory, one
would have declared it impossible for any ravine to be finer than this.
Indeed, in many respects the Cares is complementary of its rival. Its
rocks may be less terrific, but its slopes are more generously wooded,
and its pale sea-green waters seem of ampler volume than the
sister-stream. The river boils along beside the road in a deep, rocky
trench--a series of rapids and pot-holes--a dangerous river for a swim;
and every turn that it takes opens some new and wonderful vista--huge
buttresses of precipitous limestone, and shaggy floods of pinewood
pouring out of the gaps between.

The Cares gorge is hardly so long as the Deva's; but it ekes out its
interest in an appendix which is not much inferior to the text. The road
begins to heave itself slowly upward along the face of the mountain
towards the saddle at the head of the valley; and every foot that it
rises seems to magnify the grandeur of the opposing heights. Now at last
the upper slopes of the Picos surge into sight above their terraced
pedestal; and far away into the distance behind us ridge after ridge in
endless series radiates out from the great central chaos which towers
close and high across the vale. This final view from the culminating
point of the roadway is one of the most striking of all.

In Spain it seems never permissible to travel entirely for pleasure. The
gossips provide you a business if you have none ready to hand. In the
Rioja district you are branded as a wine-bibber. In the Asturias you are
promptly consigned to the mines. Such was my fate at Carreño, the little
hamlet which sits astride the watershed. An aged crone was squatting on
the hearth in the _Venta_, performing the functions of a meat-jack over
the smouldering embers of the fire. She unhesitatingly diagnosed my
profession, and at once began to reel off the local directory--Don
Jorge, and Don Juan, and Don Jaime and his wife and family--all English
mining engineers in the various villages around. Everybody seems to know
everybody else in Asturias and to speak of them familiarly by their
Christian names. But this latter custom is practically universal in the
Peninsula; and I have surprised myself figuring as Don Edgar on the
strength of a second day's stay.

However, rather to "mine aunt's" bewilderment, I did not linger at
Carreño. The descent to Cángas lay before me, and I was soon speeding on
the way. This valley is of a less daring type of beauty than that which
debouches at Abándames. It is wider, shallower, and shadier, and moulded
in gentler curves. The Picos are still upon the left, but they are now
growing more distant; and the most prominent feature is the parallel
range upon the right, between them and the sea; a fine bold line of
hills some four thousand feet high known as the Sierra de Cuera.

Presently I became conscious of an ox-cart. It was grinding along the
road in front of me. I overhauled it rapidly, and was close up when it
arrived at the turn. But when the road straightened, behold! it was
entirely empty; and a second glance showed the cart-wheels peeping over
the margin, and the driver gathering himself together out of the bushes
beyond. The oxen, maddened by flies, had made a dash for a pool at the
roadside, and the whole equipage had incontinently turned turtle.

The accident was entirely the fault of the beasts, and one would not
have been surprised if the man had been angry. But this rough-looking
fellow took his mishap with admirable equanimity, and thanked me most
impressively for my help in righting his cart. "_Gracias a Dios_ that I
was thrown clear!" said he, crossing himself, as I approached him. And
he even spared some sympathy for his oxen, "Ah! but they annoy them
greatly--the flies." The Spanish peasant is not usually of a surly
temper, and even a double back somersault may leave his manners in
working trim. Once before it had been my lot to witness a similar
accident in England, where the driver, just extricated from beneath his
vehicle, was indignantly demanding his hat. The incident was not without
humour, and was gratifying to a student of Dickens; but it struck me
that "_Gracias a Dios_" was distinctly a happier phrase.

Cángas de Onis, the little town which was the goal of my day's journey,
boasts that it was once the capital of Spain. And so it was--in the
sense that Caerleon was of England--for here Pelayo first established
his modest court when all the rest of the Peninsula was Mahommedan. The
days of its greatness, however, are too remote to have left much trace.
It still retains its lovely situation; but a few rude monastic fragments
are the only relics left by its early kings. It boasts, however, one
striking monument (more modern than Pelayo), in the grand old mediæval
bridge; one of those lofty gable-shaped structures that are so typical
of Southern countries, and perhaps, next to Orense, the finest example
of its kind in Spain. Like most of its class, it is now little used, for
the modern bridge is but a few yards distant. And, indeed, none of them
could ever have accommodated wheel traffic, for they are steep and
narrow, and frequently innocent of parapets. Bar archery, one can well
believe that Diego Garcia de Paredes with his two-handed sword might
have held such a pass against a host; though (in justice to that doughty
warrior's modesty, so highly commended by the curate) I believe his
autobiography never states that he actually did.

[Illustration: CÁNGAS DE ONIS

The Bridge over the Sella.]

A most attractive-looking road leads up the Sella valley, inviting the
traveller to adventure himself for Sahagun; and the view frames itself
delightfully into the great arch of the bridge. It was obviously
impossible to do it justice on a sketching block, and exceedingly
probable that one would get sunstroke in the attempt; but there was no
deferring to the promptings of prudence, and the clouds charitably came
to my rescue before I was quite melted away. The natives at first
watched me in horror from a distance; but they crowded in around me as
soon as the sun retired, and began to volunteer information concerning
the annals of the dale. "One morning in '85," said an old peasant,
tapping the roadway impressively with his cudgel, "the water was over
here!" _Car-r-ramba_, my brother! But that must have been an anxious day
for Cángas de Onis! A twenty-five-foot spate must have wrought pretty
havoc in the valley! It was no mere vaulting ambition that induced the
old architects to build their bridge so high!

Covadonga itself lies at the head of a little lateral valley some seven
miles above Cángas de Onis. The spot is a veritable _cul-de-sac_. The
steep wooded slopes are battlemented with a fringe of _aiguilles_, and
over their tops one catches an occasional glimpse of the pathless Pikes
beyond, their steel-grey summits streaked with wreaths of snow. A huge
semi-detached rock stands out boldly in the centre of this natural
auditorium, and the valley curling around its foot finishes in a hook
against the isthmus which connects it to the hillside. Upon its summit
is the Church of Our Lady of Covadonga, with its attendant buildings,
and behind it, at the end of the hook, is a broad beetling precipice,
coving itself out over its own base--the famous "Cave," sacred for ever
in the legendary annals of Spain.

Here it was that Pelayo and his dauntless 300 made their stand against
the 300,000 who had been sent against them by the Moor; and sallying out
smote them with very great slaughter, in so much that 126,000 were left
dead upon the field and about half as many more killed in the course of
the pursuit! Truly we deal with gorgeous round figures in these early
battles against the infidel! But why should the Spanish chroniclers have
modestly stopped short at 188,000? A full quarter of a million is their
standard casualty list.

It is a pity that the legend should have got so fantastically attired in
buckram, for the facts upon which it is founded are indubitably
historical, and, stripped of extravagances, they reveal a gallant
episode enough.

The Moorish invasion of the Peninsula seemed at the moment invincible,
and the first rush of conquest had carried them even to Gijon. But the
northern provinces were as yet rather overrun than subjugated; and many
bands of broken men had taken refuge in the mountains, where they were
carrying on a _guerilla_ warfare according to the immemorial habit of
Spain. One of the most formidable of these bands was captained by
Pelayo, whose stronghold was the rock of Covadonga, an ideal natural
citadel for a bandit chief. Him it was resolved to suppress; and a
"punitive column"--shall we say ten thousand strong?--was despatched
from Gijon under command of Alxaman for that purpose. What force Pelayo
had at his disposal it is impossible to guess; certainly more than three
hundred, yet far too few to admit of encountering his foe in the open
field. Cornered at last with his back to the wall at the head of the
Covadonga valley, he drew his followers together into his rocky eyrie
and prepared to fight to the death. The nucleus of his force would no
doubt have been posted upon the rock itself and the neck by which it is
approached; others would be scattered along the hillside, lest the foe
should endeavour to crown the heights and deliver the attack from above.
This last, indeed, was the only move to be dreaded. Against a _coup de
main_ the position was practically impregnable. Yet the attempt was
made. Some of the Moors would perhaps have pushed straight ahead to
storm the neck from the valley; but the main column circled around the
base of the rock to take the position in reverse. It was upon these that
the great destruction fell. Their ranks were disordered by the steep and
broken ground, their flanks exposed to the great rock batteries which
the Asturians had prepared upon the slopes above, and a well-timed sally
by the party in ambush in the cave completed their discomfiture. From
such a rout there was no possibility of rally. The whole army, deeply
committed in the intricate recesses of the mountains, was overwhelmed in
irremediable disaster; and on the little _Campo del Rey_ at the foot of
the crag, all cumbered with the bodies of the infidels, the enthusiastic
victors saluted their chieftain with the title of King.

The victory was indeed even more decisive than its magnitude appeared to
warrant. The destruction of Alxaman rendered it impossible for Munuza to
maintain himself at Gijon, and the forces of Pelayo, rapidly increasing
with the prestige of success, overwhelmed his army also in the Pass of
Pajáres as he was attempting to regain Leon. The Moors made no further
attempt to establish themselves beyond the mountains. Their Emirs were
intent upon the invasion of Aquitania; and the civil wars which
succeeded their great defeat at Tours allowed ample time for the
consolidation of the infant kingdom of Asturias, until it finally grew
strong enough to cope with them upon equal terms.

Covadonga has always been sacred to Asturians, but of late some attempt
has been made to excite a more national cult. The new memorial church is
one symptom of this ambition, but it is to be hoped the design will
never develop sufficiently to mar the quiet retirement of this solitary
glen. The church itself is a graceful little building enough, but
contains nothing of antiquarian interest except the miraculous image
before alluded to; and I regret to say that the feature which sticks
most resolutely in my memory is an engraved bronze plate over the
western door, of which the following is a literal translation:--"Out of
respect for the House of God, and the Principles of Hygiene, you are
requested not to enter in wooden shoes, nor to expectorate in this
Sacred Edifice."

At Arriondas, a little below Cángas de Onis, the Sella receives a strong
reinforcement from the Pilona; and thence to the sea it is a fine
copious river--broad swift shallows alternating with deep calm pools in
the very best salmon-stream style. It has the repute of being an
excellent fishing river, as, indeed, its appearance would warrant. Yet I
fear it gets but scurvily treated; for the local piscatorial methods
cannot strictly be classified as "Sport." Once upon a time, saith
tradition, there came a "little Englishman" to Arriondas, and sallied
forth to inveigle the _truchas_ with fragments of feather and wool. "And
he caught some! Yes, he actually did! He even tried to induce us to do
likewise. But we of Arriondas know better. We go angling with shot-guns
and bombs."

It seems characteristic of Asturian rivers that they should keep
persistently running into mountains instead of away from them, and the
Sella below Arriondas is no exception to the rule. The stormy hills of
the Sierra de Cuera throng tumultuously across its pathway and appear to
prohibit all egress. But the river slips like an eel through the tangle,
and its agile windings map out a passage for the road. No one looking
downstream at the view which I sketched from the banks of it would
imagine that the sea was within six miles of him and the river tidal up
to his feet. But at least those six miles through the glens are
picturesque enough for a dozen; and they reach no unworthy conclusion
when they finish at Rivadesella on the little hill-girt harbour where
the Sella meets the sea.

[Illustration: THE SELLA VALLEY

Below Arrióndas.]

All roads are charming in Cantabria: but where there are two to select
from, it is generally best to bear inland in preference to following the
coast. This is rather a cruel observation in connection with so pretty a
ride as that from Rivadesella to Unquera; but nothing short of the
Corniche road should pit itself against the route from Cángas to

If the coast-line could be adequately seen, there might be more doubt
about the verdict: for the bold black limestone cliffs which front the
Biscay rollers would supply as fine a spectacle as anyone need desire.
But it is only here and there that the road allows us a peep at some
sandy beach ensconced between its jagged breakwaters, or some more
distant prospect of cliff and headland where the coast trends forward
beyond the general line. For the greater part of the way the view is
entirely one-sided--the high, steep slopes of the Sierra de Cuera, and
the idyllic villages nestling in the meadows at their feet. How
Goldsmith would have rejoiced in this series of sweet Auburns, with
their rustic shrines and _Pergolas_, their skittle-alleys, and their
little _Alamedas_![4] How he would have loved to haunt the road at
eventide where the village athletes scatter the ninepins with their
great wooden discus, and the maidens dance together under the shadow of
the trees! The Corydon and Phyllis of the Eclogues still survive in
these odd corners of the globe.

The little town of Llanes cannot boast nearly so good a harbour as that
of Rivadesella. It is but a creek in the coast-line through which a
mountain burn makes its exit to the sea. The town is, however, larger
and busier, and full of quaint balconied houses overhanging the harbour
and the stream. Half a dozen fishing boats were unloading their catch
upon the quay in the evening. Some rigged with short masts and long
cross yards carrying square sails; others with two tall spars carrying
lateen sails. The latter are the larger in size and more picturesque in
appearance, but both types are common along the whole Atlantic coast.
They carry large crews, and beside their sails they have sweeps for use
in calm weather. When these are being worked the spars are lowered
into a crutch above the heads of the crew.

[Illustration: PASANA

An Asturian Mountain Village.]

Their catch consisted principally of the ubiquitous hake which forms
such a persistent feature in Spanish bills of fare; but there were also
a few squid, which at first I regarded as wastage, but which proved to
have practical value in the _Fonda_ at _Comida_ time. They were served
up complete, beak and all, with their tentacles drawn up inside
themselves, and looking exactly like boiled parsnips. I tackled one on
principle, having a well-broken palate, and being ambitious to do in
Rome as the Romans: but it tasted of nothing in particular so far as I
was able to make out. They are better stewed, however; and in this guise
a gastronomical companion has pronounced them rather a delicacy; so
perhaps they are yet destined to obtain recognition at Prince's and the
_Maison Chevet_.

There is a mail-coach which works the road between Llanes and San
Vicente de la Barquera--one of those miraculous rattle-traps wherein no
sane person would dream of risking his neck if he were at home. They ply
in all districts whither the railway has not yet penetrated; but an
extensive nodding acquaintance among the tribe has introduced me to few
crazier specimens than this. The fact that its hind wheels are
considerably larger than the front gives a vague resemblance to a
kangaroo; and as it whoops along bounding and lurching behind its five
disjointed mules, it always seems just on the point of resolving into
its ultimate sparables like the deacon's one-horse shay. At our first
meeting I watched it out of sight with some anxiety; but it was still
holding together three years later, and so, no doubt, it is doing still.
Nevertheless its days are numbered. A light railway is being constructed
along the coast to link up the two dead ends at Cabezon and Arriondas,
and soon the visitor to the Picos will be able to reach Unquera by

This last stage has completed our circle and brought us again to the
Deva. Our late-travelled road to Abándames turns off from the end of the
wooden bridge, and again guides us through the gorges into the secluded
vale of Liebana, sheltering behind its Alpine shield. At nightfall we
crept into Potes like a couple of mice from the mountains, and baited at
the little balconied _Fonda_, the first stage on the road to the

[Illustration: LLÁNES

The Harbour.]



We had penetrated the loftiest mountains in Cantabria without any ascent
worth mentioning. Consequently it was somewhat disconcerting to discover
that the Pass was still to win.

This preliminary canter had merely admitted us into a great cup, the bed
of an ancient lake. We had entered it through the outlet, but must leave
it over the lip. Within its mountain pale the whole internal area of
Castile and Leon consists of a lofty tableland, two thousand feet and
upwards above the coast-line. It is vain to sue entry on the level:
there can be no dispensation from the climb.

Potes itself lies just above the mouth of the great Gorge, and the
precipices of the Picos dominate it as the Wetterhorn dominates
Grindelwald. The deep, narrow vale of Liebana comes winding down upon it
from the southward, its slopes gay with mountain flowers, and shaggy
with beech and chestnut, and dotted here and there with quaint little
red-roofed villages overhanging the brawling stream. But ever across the
exit the great rock wall frowns gloomy and impassive, its base in the
warm green valley and its battlements in the snow.

We in our sanguine ignorance had fancied ourselves upon the watershed,
and thought that some two hours' collar-work would have earned us a
spell of downhill. But the mountains were still thronging round us at
the village of Valdeprado; and an old neat-herd, driving his cows to the
pastures, unfeelingly assured us that the pass was two leagues[5]
further on. We tried to hope that he was mistaken; but the Castilian
peasant knows his roads well, and is annoyingly accurate in his
estimates of distance. It is seldom indeed that he errs on the merciful
side. Now the road began to ascend in real earnest, climbing coil on
coil up the shoulders of the mountain, and marking its course far ahead
at yet loftier altitudes by faint zigzags traced among the trees. A
couple of easy-going ox-waggons had lost heart at the very first corner.
Their drivers and cattle were all placidly slumbering, and the whole
caravan had stuck fast in the middle of the road. It seemed a pity to
disturb so much unanimity; and quite an hour later, looking down from
the loftier terraces, we could still distinguish their figures in the
same position as before. At last we emerged upon a bare and rocky
saddle, just brushed by the drifting clouds--a pass by courtesy, for it
was almost as high as the peaks, and the snow-wreaths lay unmelted in
the shady spots by the road. A great craggy postern shot us out from the
ridge into the head of an upland valley; and beneath hotter skies,
through a more sunburnt country, we sped towards the plateau of Castile.

The descent on the southern side of the _Puerto_ is nothing like so
formidable as upon the northern; and the mountains, shorn of half their
elevation by the altitude to which we have risen, look much less
imposing than on the seaward side. They eventually come to an end with
startling suddenness a mile or so beyond the village of Cervera; and
from their feet to the southward the great treeless level sweeps away
unbroken--an almost uncanny contrast to the tossing wilderness behind.

We had counted upon finding a road of some kind towards Leon from
Cervera, but the inhabitants evidently needed none and declined to
encourage the idea. A railroad, yes;--the train would start at one
o'clock to-morrow. But the only road went southward. If we followed that
we might possibly find a way round. At all events it was a good road,
sagging steadily down over the moors and marshes, shaded here and there
by rustling poplar avenues, and musical with philharmonic frogs. It
delivered us safely at nightfall in the little village of Buenavista, a
collection of forlorn mud cabins, dumped disconsolately in the tawny

The _Fondas_ in the larger towns are generally very tolerable, and even
the humbler hostels in Cantabria are presentable after their kind. But
the little _Posadas_ and _Paradors_ of the villages in the interior are
much more primitive institutions, and these are the lot of the traveller
who ventures to take to the road. I should imagine that they have not
changed one tittle since the day when Don Quixote, and the Curate, and
the Barber, and the beautiful Dorothea, and the tattered Cardenio,
foregathered with Don Ferdinand and Dona Lucinda at the _Venta de
Cárdenas_ in the Sierra Morena; and one wonders much how the whole of
that illustrious company were able to find accommodation under its roof.
Externally it suggests an abandoned cowshed, and the wayfarer
introduced to one for the first time will apply for quarters with
something bordering on despair. The gateway admits us into a barn-like
entrance-hall, disordered and unpaved. One of the four rooms opening out
of it is the stable, and the mules stroll sociably through the family
circle in the course of their passage to and fro. Another is the
kitchen, with the hearth in the middle of the floor,[6] and the ceiling
funnelled to an aperture in the apex, through which the log-reek escapes
as best it can. A third (the smallest) is the guestroom, and the fourth
one would call a lumberroom, if any of the others could be called
anything else. The bedrooms are mere attics, reached by a crazy
staircase, and the chinks in the floor communicate freely with the rooms
(or stables) below. The furniture is of the scantiest, and the food of
Spartan simplicity; and the family poultry cackle about between our legs
picking up the crumbs which fall from the table. But at least the dishes
are clean and the sheets obviously washed this very evening; and a
wayworn philosopher can brook a good number of hardships so long as he
is not compelled to wear them next his skin.

The villagers were dancing before the door at the moment of our arrival,
but the ball was at once interrupted to interview such extraordinary
guests. "They came round about us like bees," wrote poor Sir E. Verney
in 1623, "touching one thing and handling another, and did not leave us
till we were abed!" Of course they did! But Sir Edmund was a little
particular; and we suspect old James Howell had some reason for his
strictures anent the stand-offishness of the members of Prince Charles'
suite. Our catechising was conducted by the hostess and her daughter:
What were our names? Whence were we? Whither did we go? They surveyed
the bicycles with gasps of "_Madre mia!_" and I am sure their fingers
itched to explore the inside of our packs. Were we married? No? The
English married very little! And this depressing reflection cost them a
sad little shake of the head. It grew rather wearying at last, but
discourtesy was nowise intended. A stranger in these forgotten villages
is as rare as a blue moon.

Spain is socially the most democratic of countries; but it is an
aristocratic democracy; and we must not forget that fact because our
interlocutor happens to be wearing rags. He and his may have been as
poor as church mice for generations;--that is his misfortune. But he is
as good a gentleman as the king, and, as like as not, fully entitled to
all the proud quarterings that are graven up over his door. "I'm an old
Christian," quoth that powerful thinker, the Governor designate of
Barataria, "a high and dry old Christian, and that's good enough for a
lord." The Castilian peasant regards you as an equal, and expects to be
so treated in return: and I have no doubt that a modern Sancho, if he
found himself in the society of a duchess, would be fully as
unembarrassed as the great original himself. In many points--even in
physiognomical features--he has much in common with that other "foinest
pisantry" the Irish; and it is worth noting that the original Milesians
are traditionally reputed to have come from Spain.

Individually he is "a very fine fellow." The verdict is the Duke of
Wellington's. And probably no one in history knew their failings better
than he. Spain is no "dying nationality," though her day be still rather
"_Mañana_." It is idle to deny a future to so robust and prolific a

The traveller need not look to fare sumptuously in a _Posada_. If he
does not carry his own food with him he must take what comes. Mine host
does not profess to find accommodation for man, only for beast; and
anything he does for the beast's owner is regarded as a work of
supererogation. We cannot lodge with the peasantry without sharing some
few of their holiday hardships; and there can be no doubt that in many
districts they are miserably poor. "There is no milk in the place," said
mine hostess to me on one occasion, in answer to a request for that
commonest of luxuries:--"this village is in _la ultima miseria_!" Yet
even there they seemed cheerful and contented; and the common taunt of
idleness certainly did not apply to them. Spanish townsfolk are by no
means early risers: but the villages are stirring at cock-crow and the
labourers out in the fields with the first rays of the sun.

[Illustration: LEON

An Old Palace Doorway.]

This last is no inconsiderable advantage in a country which gets hot by
eight o'clock in the morning; and the great red disk was but half clear
of the horizon when we bade farewell to Buenavista, and began our long
ride to Leon. Washing arrangements had no share in our _Posada's_
economy, so this mysterious British ritual was celebrated at
Saldaña, on the banks of the Carrion; and being here favoured with a
branch road which made a cast to the westward, we resumed our journey
across the level in the direction of Sahagun.

Strictly speaking this is one of those levels which slope upwards and
downwards a good deal; for the streams coming down from the mountains
have cut themselves good deep valleys, though they seldom supply any
water except on special occasions during the autumn rains. In the dips
are trees and greenery, but the general impression is that of a bleak
red ploughland interspersed with wide stretches of heath. Here and
there, marooned at haphazard, are the casual villages, with their
umber-coloured mud walls and red-tiled roofs, rich blotches of colour
against the blue of the distant hills. And the desolate aspect of the
country is enhanced by the dearth of inhabitants. There is scarcely a
labourer in the fallows, scarcely a traveller on the road.

No! the little squared stones that we keep passing so regularly do not
record the kilometres--only the ordinary roadside murders incidental to
an ancient highway. Upon each is graven the simple fact of the
tragedy:--_Aqui murió_,[7] with the name and date,--no more. They are
generally said to have been erected as a trespass offering by the
remorseful murderer: and their persistent recurrence cannot be said to
make for gaiety;--a large group is even depressing at a specially
desolate spot.

Of course we endeavour to solace ourselves with the reflection that
there is at least one similar monument in England; and we note with
gratification that very few are of recent date. But then that does not
prove that the murders are now less frequent, only that the murderers
have less remorse. Yet, after all, the traveller may take courage; his
position is not quite desperate, however unpromising it may look. Many
of these untimely deaths were the result of ordinary accidents--storm or
sunstroke, falls from horses ("a grave that is always open"), or
drowning in the flooded streams. Sometimes a private vendetta may have
reached its _dénouement_ in a chance roadside meeting; but genuine
highway murders form a very small proportion of the whole. The roads in
Spain are as safe as those in England. And though I have been warned
that "there are men in this village who would not hesitate to cut your
throat for a dollar," yet the country folk generally (as one of
themselves bore me witness) are _gente muy regular_, "a very law-abiding
folk." The only really reliable method of getting murdered upon a
Spanish highway nowadays is to quarrel with the Arm of the Law!

See,--out of one of the dips in the road before us rise the figures of
two horsemen;--big men, well mounted, in white puggarees and smart blue
uniforms, with sabre at saddle and carbine on thigh;--the Civil Guard of
Spain. _Vayan Vs con Dios, Caballeros!_ Spain owes you a debt that is
not to be readily computed. Those who have delivered her from her long
tyranny of lawlessness deserve a niche beside the old knightly orders of
Calatrava and Alcántara, who kept the border in the days of raiding

Don Bernardo de Castel Blazo distrusted those who kept company with
_Alguazils_; but it is a highly desirable privilege to be friends with
the Civil Guard. _En passant_ it may be mentioned that it is imprudent
to be otherwise, for they are authorised to shoot at sight, and are
reputed seldom to miss. But this vexatious habit is one which they
seldom indulge in, and so long as you keep the right side of them they
are very good fellows indeed. Should our misguided rulers ever signalise
their ineptitude by the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary, we
shall lose the one body in Europe which is altogether comparable to the
_Guardia Civil_.

Readers of Borrow may perhaps recall his description of a forlorn and
melancholy township halfway between Paléncia and Leon, a hotbed of
Carlism, which he discreetly alludes to as ----. But it seems somewhat
superfluous reticence to throw such a very thin veil of anonymity over a
name which is obviously Sahagun. Once the great Romanesque Monastery,
whose massive square tower forms such an imposing landmark, was first in
wealth and dignity in all the kingdom of Leon. But now it is but the
wreck of its former greatness; and the crazy mud hovels and hummocky
streets which surround it form an abomination of dilapidation that it
would not be easy to match even in Spain. What a fit scene for
disillusion it must have presented to Moore and his army as they here
turned their backs upon victory and commenced their disastrous retreat!
The soldiers were all spoiling for a battle, and the 15th Hussars had
brilliantly opened the scoring. But just as they savoured their
appetiser they were dragged off, disappointed and morose. No wonder they
sulked! How were they to know the true cause of their retirement? They
were thinking only of Soult at Saldaña; it was their General who had
been watching for the rush of Napoleon from Madrid.

There is still a Carlist at Sahagun, because we saw him. The
inhabitants, recognising us as strangers, naturally assumed that we
should be interested in seeing their Carlist, and he was accordingly
fetched and paraded, much as a man who had been "out" in the '45 might
have been shown to Dr Johnson in the Hebrides. He was a white-haired and
mild-mannered old gentleman,--a greatly sobered edition of the dashing
young _guerillero_ who had ranged the mountains of Biscay in 1875. And
though he evidently enjoyed his repute as a fire-eater, I doubt whether
he really considered that the game had been quite worth the candle after

The Carlists of to-day seem much in the same position as the Jacobites
of the reign of George III. They may defiantly show you "King Carlos'"
portrait upon their parlour wall, or even exhibit it for sale in their
shop windows. But all this enthusiasm is rather sentimental than active;
and in their heart of hearts they must feel with Redgauntlet that a
cause so much tolerated is lost.

Meanwhile the road to Leon did not seem nearer realisation at Sahagun
than at Cervera. There was only a "dead road," they told us, and this we
should scarcely have recognised had we not been introduced. The "dead
road" proved a sort of consensus of cart tracks, straying vaguely across
the moorland with a general trend towards the west. It had died in a
most dissipated fashion all asprawl among the boulders and heather: and
as each of us soon grew fully absorbed in negotiating his own wheel rut,
we frequently found ourselves drifting poles asunder, and had to regain
connection by cross-country sprints. The water-courses were ineffably
stony, and, of course, there were no bridges. We had good cause to
congratulate ourselves on the absence of rain in the mountains, for had
the streams been in spate we should have had no resource but to follow
the example of the expectant rustic, and wait for them to run down. The
occasional walled sheepfolds, and the spiked collars of the dogs which
guarded them, hinted broadly at the inroads of wolves in winter-time;
and our only way-fellows, a party of gypsies, savage-looking and
half-naked, with tangled elf locks and skins of negro blackness, formed
a group that to outward appearance seemed scarcely more amenable than
the wolves. Fortunately, however, there was small chance of missing our
direction. We could not stray many miles to our right without coming
upon the railway, nor to the left without striking the high-road from
Mayorga. The one thing needed was to keep our right shoulders to the
mountains; and eventually we emerged sure enough at Mansilla de las
Mulas, where, after twenty miles cross-country, our wilderness came to
an end.

Mansilla lies upon the banks of the Esla, and the mules were grazing
under the ancient ramparts along the margin of the stream. A pretty
picture it made as we crossed the old bridge in the twilight and entered
the long colonnade of poplars that leads towards the city of Leon. The
poplar pollen carpeted the road before us as thick and white as
newly-fallen snow, and the whirl of our wheels flung it up on either
side in little wavelets, as the foam is flung up by the bows of a racing
eight. The effect was quite poetical, but we could not linger to
rhapsodise, for the causeway had been broken by floods in several
places, and unless we made use of the daylight we should be breaking our
necks in the pits. It does not seem to occur to the authorities that
there is any risk in delaying repairs for a year or so. And perhaps we
have no right to grumble, for at least we got safe to our goal.

Leon is a city for which I have acquired a growing affection with each
successive visit, a grave old Gothic capital, all filled with memories
of the past. It was founded originally by the Romans to control the
Cantabrian passes; and the massive walls which surround it still bear
witness to the solidity of their work. Unfortunately they are much
masked by the surrounding houses; but they are of most imposing
dimensions, about twenty feet in thickness, and strengthened by huge
_Cubos_ or solid semicircular bastions, spaced at very frequent
intervals, some two and a half diameters apart.

The city is best viewed from the Pajares road to the northward, but as
it is situated on the level it does not show very conspicuously from
without. Its most prominent object is the delightfully elegant
cathedral; obviously French by inspiration, and of extraordinary
lightness of construction, more like a lantern of stained glass than a
monument of stone. It is step-sister to Beauvais and Amiens; and, on the
whole, it need not fear comparison. But the Spanish builders were not
quite at home in dealing with the unfamiliar style. One problem
evidently routed them, and they have left it still crying for an answer.
How on earth was it possible to reconcile the steep French gables with
the low-pitched Spanish roof?

[Illustration: LEON

From the Pajáres Road.]

The cathedral has been recently restored (not before it was necessary,
according to Street's description); but this difficult work has been
admirably executed, though the newness of the stone still renders it
rather conspicuous to the eye. The interior is gorgeous with carving and
tapestry; and a word may be spared for the Gotho-Renaissance cloisters,
and for the great western portals with the Last Judgment graven over the
doors. Some of the details of the latter are not without suspicion of
humour. A monarch, walking delicately like Agag towards the gates of
Paradise, is remorselessly barred by St Peter, and directed to the
opposite road. One blessed spirit has been set to play the organ--and
another has been deputed to blow it! Truly "one star differeth from
another star in glory"; but an eternity of organ-blowing must rank low
in the scale of bliss!

Scarcely less famous than the cathedral is the Collegiate Church of St
Isidore; not the shepherd saint of Madrid, but the Doctor of Spain who
compiled the Mozarabic ritual;[8] the "second Daniel" of Pope Gregory
the Great. It is a queer patchwork edifice, but mostly of the eleventh
century. The tower forms a bastion in the city rampart; and the little
_Panteon_ Chapel beneath it is the burial-place of the early monarchs of

Here in 1065 occurred the strange death scene of the founder, the
warrior monarch Fernando I. of Leon and Castile. Smitten with sore
disease while camping on the marches of Valencia, he had been borne back
to make his dying confession before the altar of his metropolitan
church. There he laid aside his crown and robes, and clad his wasted
limbs in sack-cloth, and for a full day and night lay writhing in ashes
on the pavement till his self-inflicted penance was at last ended by his
death. We are assured that his original sickness really had been mortal
from the first.

[Illustration: LEON

Church of San Isidoro.]

Few capitals of Spain are without some memorial of Las Navas de Tolosa,
the great victory won by Alfonso VIII. in 1212, which crippled the
Spanish Moslems for offensive warfare, and paved the way for the
conquest of Andalusia by Ferdinand III. Búrgos and Pamplona have the
trophies of the fighting; but Leon has only a legend; and it is to
_San Isidoro_ and King Fernando that they are indebted for having
anything at all. For it came to pass on the eve of the battle that a
sound was heard at midnight in the streets of the slumbering city. A
sound as of the passage of a mighty army, the clang of armour and the
tramp of horse and man. The priest who was keeping vigil at the shrine
of St Isidore heard the phantom host halt before the portal and their
thundering summons beat upon the door. "Who knocks?" he cried; and the
ghostly captains answered him, "Ferdinand Gonzalez and Roderic of
Bivar![9] And we are come to call King Fernando the Great, who lies
buried in this holy temple, that he may rise and ride with us to deliver
Spain!" The terrified monk fell fainting on the pavement, and when he
revived the door stood open. The last great recruit had joined the
colours, and the spirit host had passed upon their way.

No doubt we may read in this legend the rebuke of the Church against the
selfish policy of the Crown, for no soldier of Leon drew sword in that
great battle for the deliverance of Christendom. Castile and Navarre and
Aragon were the people that jeoparded their lives in the high places of
the Morena. Nay, the Leonese monarch was even mean enough to seize the
occasion for "rectifying his frontier" at the expense of his brother the
Castilian. And this at a crisis when the very dead could rise from their
graves and forget the feuds of their lifetime in the hour of national

The main streets of the city are overshadowed by several fine _Solares_,
the mansions of the old _hidalgos_, and, beside all its churches and
monasteries, the town boasts an attractive Guildhall. But perhaps its
most interesting feature is supplied by the crowd that frequents them;
for Leon is the metropolis of a big agricultural population, a grave and
stalwart race attired in the most picturesque old-world costumes. The
dresses of the women are perhaps somewhat lacking in brightness; for
they have a taste for sombre shades, especially a mauve-coloured head
kerchief which does not accord nearly so well with their olive
complexions as the brilliant scarlets and yellows of the girls in
Galicia and the south. But this quakerish tinge in the individual does
not produce much effect in the aggregate, and they look bright enough in
the busy market beneath their forest of umbrella-shaped booths.
They are reputed to "wear _Carambas_ in their hair," but this we cannot
corroborate. They kept them discreetly covered with the
kerchief--perhaps from fear of the police. In any case it is to be hoped
that the fashion will not spread indiscriminately. Imagine a German lady
in a "_Donnerwetter_" _coiffure_!

[Illustration: LEON

The Market Place, and Casa del Ayuntamiento.]



"HE that is minded to go to _Santiago_ may fare thither in many ways
both by sea and land";--and to continue in Sir John Mandeville's vein we
might add "by the heavens also," for our old friend the Galaxy--Milk
Street as it has been irreverently nicknamed--masquerades in Spain as
the "Santiago road." The Holy Apostle himself stranded at El Padron
(after a rapid passage from Joppa in three days and in a stone coffin);
and the pious pilgrims of our own land were wont for the most part to
take ship to Coruña. But the main pilgrim stream poured along the old
Roman road through Leon and Astorga and the Vierzo passes; and perhaps
when the fame of the shrine was at its height there was no other spot in
Europe which drew so great a throng.

Even to this day we may catch faint echoes of its ancient
celebrity:--"Please to remember the grotto!" our school-children's
August refrain. They do not know what they commemorate; but their date
(by the Julian calendar) and their grotto and candle-ends and
cockle-shells are all the prerogatives of St James.

As we thread the long poplar avenues which radiate from the gates of
Leon, and climb from its fertile valley on to the bald bleak moors, we
might almost persuade ourselves that the days of pilgrimage are not over
even yet. The road is thronged for miles with a steady procession of
country-folk, trooping into the early market in the old Gothic
capital--as picturesque a medley as ever delighted the student of
costume. Market-women stride-legged between their donkey's panniers,
like Dulcinea del Toboso when she was enchanted; bronzed and tattered
countrymen with the sun glinting on their shouldered scythes; long teams
of mules jingling in gaudy trappings; and lumbering ox-carts with their
prodigious loads of chaff. Here and there we met substantial yeomen well
horsed and muffled, with their womenkind a-pillion; and sometimes a
broad-breeched _Maragato_ tramping along beside his loaded wain. The
clear crisp light of the early morning revealed all the landscape in its
brightest colours. To the southward the dun plain sweeps away unbroken
till it is lost in illimitable distance; and the view to the northward
is bounded by the long blue line of the Cantabrian mountains, peak
beyond peak in endless range, like a string of chevrons on the horizon.
No wonder the Spaniards call their mountain chains _Sierras_, "saws."

The wide bed of the Orbigo river is crossed by a long uneven bridge; the
scene of the famous "Pass of Honour," dear to the heart of Don Quixote
and all the annalists of chivalry. In the year of the great Jubilee at
Santiago in 1439 Don Suero Quinones, a valiant Leonese, made a vow to
maintain that bridge for thirty days against all knights who refused to
admit the pre-eminent beauty of his lady-love. In token whereof an iron
collar was riveted round his neck, not to be removed till he had
redeemed his vow. He was a knight of the military order of Santiago,
hailing from what is now the convent of San Marcos.[10] But membership
of the Spanish military orders was no impediment to love-making, or even
to marriage (except in the case of widowers); so that Don Suero (a
Paladin of his day, who was wont to fight Moors with his right arm bare
like King Pentapolin of the Garamantas), was quite in order in paying
these courtesies to the fair.

Now there were many knights going to Santiago for the Jubilee, and Don
Suero and his nine companions enjoyed an extremely busy time. Seven
hundred and thirty combats did they accomplish during those thirty
days--a daily working average of two and a half apiece. Don Suero,
however, duly got rid of his collar, to his eternal honour and glory;
and seeing that even Philip the Prudent had his story republished as a
perpetual example, perhaps it is not surprising that poor Don Quixote
should have taken the pamphlet _au pied de la lettre_.

The bridge itself is long and narrow, with a pronounced kink in the
middle, and if the tilts were actually run upon it, it is easy to
understand the challenger's success. It needed but knowledge of the
ground and a little judicious timing, and he could cut into his
disordered opponent broadside as he rounded the bend. But doubtless this
unworthy suggestion is a libel on the gallant Suero. His lists would
have been fairly pitched in the open plain.

When we crossed the venerable arches they were in the state described
by Mr Chucks as "precarious and not at all permanent." The ox-carts
preferred fording the river. But perhaps this has been "mitigated" by

Another stage across the moorland brings us up under the massive
ramparts of Astorga, standing "four square to all the winds that blow,"
as it stood in the days of that Cæsar Augustus whose name it now so
barbarously mis-spells.[11] "It is absurd to speak of Astorga as a
fortress," wrote the impatient Duke; "it is merely a walled town." And a
walled town it is, most emphatically; but the "merely" seems rather
inadequate, for the walls of Astorga are a trifle of twenty-two feet
thick. They are sadly battered indeed, and mercilessly plundered of
their facing stones; yet their huge rugged nakedness, scowling
truculently across the plain from the crest of their natural _glacis_,
makes them a far more impressive spectacle than their house-encumbered
rivals at Lugo and Leon. They have at all events stood two artillery
sieges; for the citizens held them for two months against Junot in 1810,
and the French for three against Castaños in 1812; yet the old Roman
mason who built them might readily acknowledge them still.

[Illustration: ASTORGA

From the South-east.]

My Santiago pilgrimage was not the first occasion of my visiting
Astorga. I had called the previous year--and incidentally had left my
heart there--but was not aware that my unobtrusive transit had sown any
tender memories to sprout at my return. No sooner, however, had my nose
inserted itself within the Fonda doorway than the señora swooped upon me
out of the kitchen like a hospitable avalanche, and welcomed me back
with as much fervour as if I had been a long-lost son. This pleasure at
the sight of an old face is a very engaging feature in Spanish
character. They are by no means forgetful to entertain strangers even at
first sight; and often upon quitting a café I have found that my bill
has been already paid by an unknown neighbour with whom I had exchanged
a few commonplace remarks. Yet these earlier courtesies are formal; they
are cordial to older acquaintances; and, like the Briton, they are
reserved in their intimacies, and rather inclined to resent a too rapid

One worthy old gentleman indeed, a frequenter of the café at Astorga,
proved more insistently amiable even than mine hostess herself. He would
no longer have me as a guest, but wished to sign me on as a townsman;
there was no need for me to go further, I might stay and be naturalised
out of hand. He could even supply me with a wife, and would warrant her
"very beautiful!" Had Faustina been the guerdon, I doubt whether my
constancy could have endured!

And Faustina: where meanwhile was Faustina? In vain had we come to
Astorga if we might not have sight of its belle! I remembered her curled
on the window settle, nursing her baby brother. Her raven tresses
flooded her shoulders like a mantle, and her great dark eyes and Cupid's
bow lips--the touchstones of Spanish beauty--were set off by the most
piquant features and the clearest olive skin. Faustina was quite
conscious of her attractions, and seemed by no means averse to
challenging a little flirtation; but this time she was away "in the
country," and the baby brother was as much aggrieved as ourselves. By
now, belike, she is another's. Spanish maidens grow early to womanhood.
Would that I could show future visitors how fair a sight they have

The broad brown moors which environ the city tilt themselves up toward
the westward till they culminate at the Pass of Manzanal. Their interest
is principally due to their unique population, for they are the
recognised Reserve of the _Maragatos_, that strange self-centred tribe
who were long such a puzzle to ethnologists, but who now seem definitely
identified as direct descendants of the original Berbers who came over
with Tarik and Musa twelve hundred years ago. Astorga is regarded as
their centre, but they are now more readily met with in the neighbouring
villages; and the little hamlet of Combarros produced quite a
respectable crowd. They are carriers by caste: and their burly,
big-framed men, in their wide Zouave breeches and scarlet waistcoats and
garters, had already become familiar to us even on the remoter roads.
But this was the only place where we caught a glimpse of the women, who
were attired in short orange skirts and scarlet cross-overs, with their
hair drawn tight back from their foreheads and knit into trim little
buns. They wore, too, some striking jewelry in the shape of large
filigree earrings. But in point of physique the ladies were scarcely a
match for their lords.

The ascent of the pass upon the eastern side is comparatively gentle,
and its height not very much above the general level of the moors; but
towards the west the ground breaks away more sharply, and the hillside
is scored with deep rocky gulches, which are a source of great
perplexity to the descending road. It is a savage bit of country, and a
fit scene for the thrilling adventure which is furnished to Gil Blas;
for near Ponferrada was the cave of the redoubtable Captain Rolando, who
interfered so masterfully with his intended scholastic career. Our hero
was kidnapped at Cacabellos; he reached Astorga the night after his
escape; and his distressed damsel, the unfortunate Doña Mencia, was
waylaid upon this very road. The robbers must have found it a more
profitable beat in those days than it would be at present, for then
there was no road at Pajares, and even travellers from Oviedo had to
come this way to the south.

The Vierzo basin into which we are now descending is one of the most
interesting districts in the mountains of Northern Spain. It is a great
natural saucer some twenty-five miles in diameter, considerably below
the level of the plateau of Leon, and completely surrounded by a ring of
mountain peaks. Geologically it is the bed of a primeval lake, long
since emptied of its waters through the gorges of the Sil; and its many
ancient monastic establishments, the primitive character of its
peasantry, and the wild and picturesque scenery in the surrounding
mountains, render it an admirable hunting-ground for the vagrant
pleasure-seeker. Mere birds of passage like ourselves could see but
a tithe of its attractions. It should be explored with a guide and a
pack mule, a rod and a gun. And sportsmen need never complain of the
lack of sufficient variety:--the Nimrod whom we encountered was
combining "partridges and bears!" The hills are rugged and precipitous,
the birthplace of unnumbered rivulets, their flanks flooded chin deep
with oceans of white heather, and their feet hidden in primeval forests
wellnigh impenetrable to man.

[Illustration: THE VIERZO

From Ponferrada, looking towards the Pass of Piedrafita.]

At our first view the country seemed hardly in holiday humour, for the
sky was dark and lowering; and though the cloud effects were
magnificent, the landscape beneath them looked eerie and morose. But,
like all southern landscapes, it woke up wonderfully under the witchery
of the sunshine, and donned its brightest colours next morning in honour
of its patroness, Our Lady of the Oak-tree, whose festival was to be
celebrated that day.

Ponferrada, the centre and capital of the district, is a picturesque
little township, situated on a steep bank over the river Sil. Its most
prominent feature is an imposing castle once a preceptory of the Knights
Templar; but this was the evening of the Vigil, and the townfolk were
all thronging into the portals of the church. The vast, gloomy interior
was lit only by two or three tapers, which scarcely served to make
darkness visible; and at first we could discern nothing but the white
snoods of the women, who were kneeling in companies about the great
aisleless nave. But presently the spring blind over the Altar went up
with a sudden snap, and disclosed _Nuestra Señora de la Encina_ herself,
the little black wooden image which is the Palladium of the whole
Vierzo, clad in white satin and tinsel, and set in a halo of
incandescent lamps! This startling modern _finale_ gave a queer jar to
the old-world solemnity of the preliminaries; and the chant which burst
out at the signal scarcely helped to restore the effect. The men's
voices in Spain are frequently powerful and impressive; but here they
were relying entirely on their trebles, who are always terribly shrill
and grating, even to the least musical ear.

The great road which passes through Ponferrada on its way across the
Vierzo has been the track followed by numberless armies from the days of
Rome to our own; and to Englishmen it has a special interest as being
the path of the ill-fated Moore. The second and more arduous stage of
the famous retreat began at Astorga, where Napoleon abandoned the
command of the French armies to Soult. Moore might very possibly have
checked his pursuers on the great natural _glacis_ of Manzanal; but it
was the aim of his strategy to entangle them as deeply as possible in
the Galician mountains, and he did not wish to make a stand too soon.
Accordingly the English army, with Soult hot upon their track, swept
swiftly through the Vierzo. They got abominably drunk in the
wine-cellars at Bembibre and Ponferrada. They had a sharp brush with the
enemy's cavalry at the hamlet of Cacabellos. Then at Villafranca they
were swallowed again by the mountains, and headed for Lugo by the long
and labyrinthine pass.

The road across the Pass of Piedrafita is a very different thing
nowadays to what it was in the time of Moore; yet even now it would be
no pleasant journey in January, with the snow-drifts blocking the narrow
"prison vale." Gradually ascending the left bank of the river Valcarce,
we passed through several picturesque but grimy villages romantically
placed amid the rocky and wooded hills. The ascent became steeper and
more tortuous as the road climbed up towards the saddle; and at last, on
the very summit, we reached the "fixed stone" which is the boundary of
Leon and Galicia, and entered the head of the Návia valley, which guided
us down the long descent.

The western portal of the Pass a little above Nogales is guarded by a
solitary watch-tower, perched upon the point of an isolated boulder in
the centre of the V-shaped vale. This outlet, however, does not get us
clear of the mountains; for another lofty ridge rises immediately beyond
it, and it was at this point that some of the most terrible scenes
occurred in the course of Moore's retreat. Hundreds lay dying of cold,
hunger, and exhaustion; and the army treasure-chests, containing 150,000
dollars, were rolled down the hillside into the river gully, to save
them from falling into the hands of the French. The closeness of the
pursuit, however, was checked by Paget in a sharp action at the old
Roman bridge of Constantino, which spans a rocky gorge half-way up the
hill; and Moore was enabled to reach Lugo without much further loss.

We spent the night at the mountain village of Becerrea, high up near the
summit of the ridge--a night of the most brilliant moonlight, which
showed up the distant mountains almost as clearly as the day. Next
morning, however, found the village buried in clouds; and through these
we laboriously groped our way, with the trained fog-craft of Londoners,
till at last we succeeded in rising above them, and emerging on the
summit of the ridge. The scene was such as seldom falls to the lot of a
cyclist, for the vapour choked all the valleys beneath us, and the
mountain peaks that reared themselves out of it showed like so many
islands in a sea of cotton-wool. The gorse and bracken around us were
silver with the webs of the gossamer spiders, and the moisture that
still hung to the tree-twigs sparkled like jewels in the rising sun.
Before us a great pale mist-bow was outlined upon a paler curtain; and
it cost us some regret to desert so striking a spectacle and plunge
again into the cold cloud-bath that awaited us on the other side.

The series of parallel ridges which the road crosses upon its journey
westward sink gradually lower and lower, till the environs of Lugo
appear comparatively level. The valleys are green and well wooded with
tall timber trees; and as the sun got the better of the clouds some
hours before mid-day, we had good cause to remember them in a favourable
light. Many of the wayside cottages were extremely pretty--irregular
old stone shanties with shadowy eaves and balconies, and rude verandahs
heavily draped with vines; and the distant prospect of plain and
mountain forms a delightful background to the views.

Lugo stands upon one of the minor ridges which help to compose what
Galicia calls a plain; and the river Miño, broad and placid like the
Thames at Richmond, flows far beneath it in a deep, well-wooded vale.
Like many of the Galician mountain townships, Lugo is roofed with rough,
grey slating, and this fact at the first glance gives it a curiously
un-Spanish air; yet there is no town in all the Peninsula more
thoroughly national in tone.

The massive walls of the city are its greatest and most impressive
feature. They are probably of genuine Roman workmanship, for they are
built of square stones, instead of the random courses which were the
fashion in mediæval days, and of such portentous thickness as only a
Roman could conceive. At Astorga the walls are battered and incomplete:
but at Lugo the facing is still practically intact; and one might drive
a horse and trap round the top the full circuit of the town, without
apprehending any particular difficulty if one met another horse and trap
coming the other way.

[Illustration: LUGO

The Santiago Gate.]

The cathedral is situated just inside the gate of Santiago. It is a
thirteenth century building, but--like many other Galician
churches--completely cased externally in late Renaissance days. Its
three tall towers form a very conspicuous group from all quarters of the
city; and it was a great grief of mind to my friends at the Santiago
gateway that I had not included them all in my sketch. It was evidently
a slight upon Lugo to insinuate that it had only one steeple. A
Spaniard's idea of a "fine view" is invariably a panorama.

But the true charm of Lugo consists in its squares and fountains and the
picturesque Gallego peasantry eddying in the narrow streets. The
fountains in particular are a perpetual delight to an artist, and it is
in the last hour before dusk in the evening that they may really be seen
at their best. Then the entire feminine population of the city sally
forth to obtain their water supply,--a kaleidoscopic medley of colour,
and a babel of chattering tongues. An unfortunate _alguazil_ is usually
told off to keep order and preserve some kind of a _queue_. But no one
thinks of taking the _alguazil_ seriously except himself, for the girls
are all in the highest spirits, and regard the whole function as a sort
of glorified game of Tom Tiddler's ground, with the _alguazil_ as a
semi-official "he." The aim of every player is to slip in out of her
turn. And directly she scores her first point, and the exasperated
official rushes round to expel her, there is, of course, a gap left for
number two. The sparkle and gaiety of the crowd is a standing reproach
to us Northerners. It would be a very dour and drab-coloured assemblage
if it had to be managed by us. Macaulay's artistic New Zealander will
never make much of a picture out of the Hebes of Seven Dials filling
their buckets in Trafalgar Square.

The pitchers which are seen at the fountains would require a monograph
all to themselves, for the designs are always strictly local, and in no
two districts are they ever fashioned alike. The big peg-top-shaped jars
of red earthenware are peculiar to Lugo itself. Vigo prefers them white,
and shapes them like an exaggerated teapot, with no lid and a very
rudimentary spout; their rude resemblance to a hen--(any relation, I
wonder, to the "tappit hen" of Scotland?)--is an idea which is often
exploited by a potter of artistic mind. The black oval keg shown in the
sketch of Rivadeo is monopolised by western Asturias; Pajares boasts an
elegant three-handled speciality; and the pitchers at Caceres are
of "Forty Thieves" design. The little wooden buckets are less
susceptible of variety, yet even of these there are several kinds. The
commonest type (much wider at the base than at the top) are hooped with
three metal bands about two and a half inches wide. In Asturias these
hoops become very broad indeed, leaving only about half an inch of wood
showing between; they are kept brightly polished, and make a very
handsome show on a cottage dresser, but must be rather heavy on the
head. At Pamplona the hoops are equally wide, but there are only two of
them; and at Pontevedra we saw a queer jug-shaped bucket which we never
encountered elsewhere.

[Illustration: LUGO

Fuente de San Vicente.]

Next comes a great tribe of metal pitchers of various shapes and sizes,
used by the inhabitants of Villafranca, Plaséncia, and Leon; and the
very last ride I took on Spanish soil, in the neighbourhood of
Santander, introduced me to a round-bellied, long-necked bottle of rough
green glass, which opens a new vista of possibilities. Alas! that among
all these delightful old vessels one should see so many outsiders in the
shape of common cheap pails of galvanised and enamelled iron! One thinks
with a shudder of the lean kine in the vision which eventually devoured
all the rest.

The three tall towers of Santiago de Compostela salute the traveller
from afar off across the wild moors that flank the Lugo road. The city
is deceitfully situated--for when we are once within it we imagine
ourselves on an eminence; but, viewed from without, it is undeniably in
a hole. Yet there is no lack of impressiveness in this first view of
"the city of our solemnities." The early pilgrim used to prostrate
himself at the sight of it, and many would finish the last stage of the
journey upon their knees. Such thoroughgoing devotion is probably very
rare nowadays, but we would not like to assert that it is yet entirely
extinct. For once in the little town of Briviesca, on the furthest
confines of Castile, we did indeed come across a genuine pilgrim, with
his "cockle hat" and rusty gabardine, his staff, his gourd, and his
"sandal shoon," all quite complete. The retinue of urchins which
followed him proved that he was not altogether a common spectacle; but
in what other country than Spain could one look for such a survival at
all? It is consoling to think that among his own people St James is not
quite without due honour even yet.


From the Lugo Road.]

"Ballads are too old to lie," said Sancho Panza, and I love to think the
same of legends. The mere fact that they have passed current for
centuries should be a bar to further investigation of title; and a spot
which has been held sacred by fifty generations of pilgrims does not
need to be hall-marked by Dr Dryasdust. Nevertheless when a blind man is
bent upon going into a dark room to look for a black cat, it is but
charity to inform him that it isn't there, and the pedantically-minded
may be glad to receive the assurance that the whole proof of Santiago's
identity is entirely visionary.

It is related by a monkish chronicler of the English Abbey of St Alban,
how one night in the fourteenth century it was revealed in a dream to
one of the brethren that the relics of Saint Amphibalus were awaiting
the quest of the faithful beneath a certain barrow on the Watling
Street. Which barrow being reverently opened, there were discovered
(sure enough) the bones of Amphibalus, and of sundry of his disciples,
and the axe where-with he was martyred, and various other articles of
great interest and sanctity. Whereby it came to pass that some grim old
neolithic chieftain, buried æons before amid his weapons and his wives,
was piously installed as a tutelary in the Abbey Sanctuary. And much
dumfoundered he must have been at it all, if he was present in spirit at
the ceremony. "Oh, Bottom! how thou art translated!"

It was evidently something very similar that happened in the ninth
century at Santiago de Compostela. But the Spanish chroniclers have been
lacking in the Englishman's regard for circumstantial detail; so whether
it was an untamed Cantabrian or a Roman Centurion who was annexed as
_hero eponymus_ for the basilica of Iria Flavia it is now impossible to
guess. Be that as it may, the bones were certainly lost not long after
they were beatified, and the authorities had to account for their
disappearance by protesting that Archbishop Gelmirez had built them, for
safety's sake, into the foundations of his great cathedral. This
delightfully incontrovertible statement was the sole satisfaction
provided for the medieval pilgrims. But we are now no longer permitted
to build our faith upon such a stolid foundation. The relics were
rediscovered little more than a generation ago.

This, however, is, of course, rank heresy. If any had ever doubted the
genuineness of the original relics, their cavilling was speedily
silenced by the direct interposition of Santiago himself. Sword in hand,
upon his white horse, he rallied the Christian host at the crisis of the
battle of Clavijo, mowing down the astonished Moslems ten thousand to a
swathe. That day made his fortune for ever: but it was by no means his
only exploit. Through many generations of warfare there was hardly a
battle contested without his appearance in the ranks.

The warrior Saint, however, was not allowed to score all the tricks in
the rubber; and one fancies that the hated infidel must have fairly
wiped out the adverse balance on the day when Al Manzor, the great
Vizier of Córdova, led his ever-victorious army across the Vierzo
passes, and carried off the very bells from the steeple to adorn the
_Ceca_[12] of Mahound. None had ventured to bar his progress, for the
very name of "The Conqueror" spelt despair to the Christians of that
day. The walls were unguarded, the city deserted,--man, woman, and child
had escaped to the mountains lest they should be consumed. But as the
Vizier spurred his charger through the cathedral portal, behold, before
the tomb of the Apostle there knelt a solitary monk. "What dost thou
here?" the Moor demanded. The monk raised his eyes to the terrible
soldier whose face none else had dared to look upon. "I am praying," he
answered. And for the sake of that one brave simple-minded man, the
conqueror bade spare the shrine. Christian monarchs were not always
equally scrupulous; for Gelmirez himself had to use his cathedral as a
fortress; and Pedro the Cruel murdered Archbishop Suero on the very
steps of the sanctuary--his motive being solely robbery, as usual with
that royal ruffian.

The interior of the cathedral is disappointing. It is a large and
imposing Romanesque building; but the furniture is tawdry and
uninteresting when judged by a Spanish standard; and the colossal image
of Santiago over the High Altar, though genuinely ancient, has rather a
heathenish air.[13] Externally the structure is completely cased in late
Spanish Renaissance or "_Churrigueresque_" work. This is not a beautiful
type,--overloaded, _bizarre_, and extravagant: but everything that
can be said in its favour may be said of the cathedral of Santiago; and
it must be a source of no little surprise to a purist that so poor a
style can produce such a splendid result. The west front is indeed
Churriguera's masterpiece; and a noble conception it is, had it but been
erected elsewhere! But it is almost a blot at Compostela, for it hides
the great Romanesque Portal "_de la Gloria_," which (as Ruskin might
say) is the only really perfect thing of its kind in the world.


The Cathedral from the North-east.]

The cathedral is most admirably situated, for it forms the central mass
to four great quadrangles which keep a clear space in front of it on
each of the four façades. And colleges, hospitals, and palaces are
grouped around the quadrangles, like a party of lordly vassals assembled
to do honour to a king.

The streets of the city are narrow, paved with great slabs of granite;
and in most cases arcaded, as protection against, not the sun, but the
rain. For Santiago is notoriously the rainiest spot in the Peninsula,
and is heartily bantered in consequence by all who are envious of its
complaint. There is a tale told of a preaching friar who was making a
round of the churches, and whose sermons upon the delights of Heaven
drew large congregations in every country-side. Beneath the _nebulæ
malusque Jupiter_ of Santiago he discoursed upon warmth and sunshine,
and won all the hearts of his hearers by the tale of such fabulous
bliss. But he needed a different bait when he reached the far end of his
circuit. The scene and the season were altered, and the unfortunate
Franciscan, _sub curru nimium propinqui solis_, was sizzling on the
fiery plains of Murcia. Like Horace, he was still faithful to his text,
but his reading of it had altered, and his song was now all of a Heaven
that was deliciously moist and cool! Our much-maligned English climate
has at all events got compensations. Let a man have a surfeit of
sunshine and he learns to think tenderly of the rain.



LUGO is the hub of Galicia. It lies at the mouth of the Pass of
Piedrafita, on the great main road which enters the province from Leon;
and which at this point trifurcates southward, westward, and northward
to Orense, Santiago, and Coruña. Sir John Moore had reserved his option
to the last, and up to this point his pursuers could not tell for
certain whether he were bound for Coruña or Vigo. Here then he paused to
re-form his straggling regiments, and boldly offered battle upon the
eastern front of the town. But Soult was too cautious to fight till he
had concentrated his whole army; and Moore having gained his two days'
rest, made a last spurt for Coruña after nightfall on the second day. We
shall come across his traces later, as we work our way around the
northern coast; but first we would see something further of Galicia, and
turn to chase the Miño to the sea.

There are many parts of Galicia in which the scenery has an English
flavour, and the Miño valley at Lugo is one of the cases in point. The
fields are green and well-wooded, fenced with rough stone walls or
sometimes with slabs set edgewise. The hilltops, rounded and heathy, are
plentifully studded with Celtic and Roman earthworks; and when we mount
to their summits (an event which happens more frequently than is quite
agreeable to the cyclist) it is only like straying from Dorset to Exmoor
or the Yorkshire fells. The moist climate of Galicia gives the
vegetation a chance that it does not obtain in the interior, and of
which it avails itself enthusiastically. The trees in the village
_alamedas_ are planted so thickly that they would seem doomed to
suffocation. Yet they flourish luxuriantly, plaiting their branches
together till the foliage forms a thick matted blanket over the whole
area; and beneath them is "darkness that may be felt," so dense and
solid that one feels one might dig a way in.

Our first stage from Lugo brought us to Monforte--a real "strong mount,"
not unlike St Michael's, but standing in the centre of a great plain
encircled by a ring of lofty hills. Thence we proceeded up a long,
winding mountain roadway; through the vine-clad villages that covered
the lower slopes, and over the bare wild moorland that rose above them
to the crest of the ridge.

A big Celtic camp was planted commandingly upon the summit, and here we
paused like mariners out of their bearings as we peered over into the
valley which yawned for us on the further side. Surely this could not be
the Miño! We had parted from it yesterday at Lugo--a domesticated and
navigable-looking river, quite different from the uncivilised little
torrent that we now saw far beneath us, tearing along the bottom of this
V-shaped glen. The map was a little ambiguous, but it offered no
plausible alternative; and when, after several very crooked miles, the
road at last succeeded in curling itself down alongside, behold! it was
the Miño, sure enough.

The Miño is undoubtedly the most beautiful of all the great rivers in
Northern Spain, and the variety of its moods is, perhaps, its most
attractive feature. Nothing could be wilder than the glen by which it
forces the mountains, unless it be the sister-glen by which the Sil
comes down to unite with it, brimming with the waters from the Vierzo
springs. Yet from the confluence to Orense it flows through an Eden of
fertility, its hilly banks festooned with vine and olive, and the
meadows beneath them teeming with corn and maize. Then comes a sterner
stretch amid the mountains along the Portuguese frontier--more majestic,
yet scarcely less fertile,--till it emerges at last in the broad, rich
valley of Tuy, and circling under its ramparts glides slowly onward to
the sea.

Orense, the capital of the district, lies a little back from the river
on the crest of a slight eminence, an offshoot of the neighbouring
hills. Its fine old Romanesque cathedral would of itself be enough to
dignify any town; but the great lion of Orense is its magnificent
bridge. This mammoth structure was the work of the mediæval bishops,
whose reverence for the memory of St Christopher did not entirely expend
itself in frescoes on their cathedral walls. It is the greatest of all
the gable bridges, and its main central span, one hundred and fifty feet
from pier to pier, is the widest of any in Spain. Neither Martorell nor
Toledo can quite equal it; but Almaraz is considered superior, and it
has neither the dizzy height nor the stupendous bulk that might rank it
as a rival to Alcántara.

[Illustration: ORENSE

The Bridge over the Miño.]

The bridge of Orense was the pivot of the French operations when Soult
led his power from Coruña to renew the subjugation of Portugal. His
earlier attempts to cross the Miño at Tuy were foiled by the
flooded river, the bad watermanship of his landlubbers, and a little
plucky opposition from the further shore. Orense gave him an opening,
and the country was for a moment at his mercy. But the respite had been
invaluable--he had now but a short time. Within two months his army was
reeling back from Oporto, without hospital, baggage, or artillery, in a
worse plight even than Moore's. He had wrestled his first fall with the
great antagonist who was destined to beat him from the Douro to

And while he was clutching at Portugal, and Ney at western Asturias,
Galicia had slipped from their fingers and the heather was aflame. The
outlying garrisons were captured, the foragers waylaid and massacred,
even the camps and columns incessantly sniped from the hills. One noted
_guerrillero_ assured Freire that he had personally superintended the
drowning of seven hundred French in the waters of the Miño. Probably it
is permissible to discount his arithmetic; but the ugly boast is a
sufficient indication of the spirit in which the struggle was carried

The invaders were finally drawn away by Wellington's advance up the
Tagus valley; but indeed their whole scheme of occupation had been
foredoomed to failure from the first. "It is impossible for any army to
hold Galicia," wrote Soult to his imperial taskmaster. The mountains and
irreconcilables were too much for any force that could be spared.

The Galician methods of viniculture have at least the merit of elegance,
and the Miño is still undisciplined by the stiff formal terraces of the
Rhine. The vines are trained over light rustic _pergolas_, the
horizontal sticks being fixed at a height of about six feet above the
ground, so that there is just room for a man to walk beneath them. The
whole area of the field is thus covered with a leafy awning, and in most
instances the old stone cottages are half surrounded with verandahs
constructed in similar style. These are certainly the prettiest
vineyards with which we have yet made acquaintance, but they are seldom
seen beyond the limits of Galicia. The vines of the Duero are ground
vines, and the landscape gets very little profit out of them.

The local _vins ordinaires_ of the Northern Provinces are generally
somewhat similar to Burgundy, but their quality varies greatly in the
different districts. Often they are really excellent, but sometimes
exceedingly harsh and rough--attuned to the "hard stomachs of the
reapers," and flavoured with the pitch which is used in dressing the pig
skins in which they are stored. The most famous of all is Sancho's
beloved Valdepeñas from the arid plains of La Mancha; but the Miño wines
also are excellent, and our hostess had good reason for confidence when
she produced "her own wine" so proudly at La Cañiza. Old James Howell
refers very affectionately to the "gentle sort of white wine" which is
grown at Ribadávia; and he might without any injustice have extended his
approval to the red. At all events it was nobly thought of by Don
Francisco de Toledo, commandant of the _Tertia_ of the Miño, who sailed
in the Spanish Armada, for he shipped an ample stock of it on board the
_San Felipe_. Whereby it chanced that three hundred convivial Zeelanders
were carried incontinently to the bottom as they were carousing in the
battered derelict.

The truly accommodative traveller should drink, like the natives, _a
trago_, out of the regulation glass teapot or time-honoured "leather
bottle." These experts hold the vessel well above their heads, and
squirt the thin jet of liquid straight into their open mouths. But the
art needs a long apprenticeship, and is painfully hazardous to a
novice. It should not be essayed before strangers, nor in any elaborate

We had hoped that our mountaineering experiences would cease for a while
at Orense--that our road would consent to abide by the Miño, and accept
its guidance to the sea. We had got no further than Ribadávia, however,
before we found ourselves again going up to the heavens, and the little
riverside towns between Ribadávia and Tuy are only to be approached by
branch roads which drop upon them from above. The hillsides are clothed
with pine woods, plentifully sugared with huge boulders as big as
ordinary cottages; and if (as seems probable) these are indeed _blocs
perchés_, the ancient glaciers of Galicia must have been of respectable
size. All over the lower slopes they are scattered in lavish profusion,
and the topmost are gingerly balanced on the very summits of the

[Illustration: TUY AND VALENCIA

The Frontier Towns on the Miño.]

The clouds were massing ominously upon the heights above us as we rose
clear of the pine woods, and our further impressions of the landscape
were merged in the universal deluge that swallowed us when we reached
the top. But the little mountain village of La Cañiza rescued us, and
fed us and dried us, and made itself agreeable to us next morning
ere it set us again on our way. La Cañiza was preparing a _Fiesta_; and
a fact that excited our interest was that fresh figs were selling in the
market at sixteen a penny--or indeed over twenty a penny, with allowance
for the rate of exchange. We hope they were favoured with fine weather,
but the outlook was not altogether assuring; and we were glad when we
found ourselves across the _Puerto_ and dropping once more into the
summer-like climate of the deep rich vale beyond.

Tuy is the frontier town of the Miño, and the Portuguese fortress of
Valencia confronts it across the river like some "deadly opposite" in an
interrupted duel. But its quaint old houses and cathedral do not now
wear a very martial appearance; and as I was allowed to sketch
uninterrupted under the very nose of a sentry, it would seem that the
rival cities have agreed to differ without any unnecessary parade.

Vigo (to our surprise) proved quite unknown to all the inhabitants of
Tuy. "Bigo" they knew; but they rejected any other designation. And that
with a firmness which would be warmly approved at "Balladolid." The
consonants _b_ and _v_ seem everywhere at odds for supremacy; and it
rather adds to the perplexity of the stranger that they often get
written as pronounced. "_Villar_," at the first glance, is not at all
suggestive of "Billiards"; and "_Aqui se bende bino_" would be so much
more comprehensible if it were "spelt with a we." "'_Vivere_' is the
same as '_bibere_' to a Spaniard," laughs Martial; so the provincialism
is at all events of respectable antiquity. Yet it is not countenanced in
the Cloisters of Toledo, where the "Sir Oracle" of classical Castilian
is reputed to hold his court. At the same time we must confess that when
we visited those hallowed precincts we did not hear so much as a
syllable of any language at all.

Vigo lies about twenty miles from Tuy, on the further side of a wall of
pointed hills; and our first intimation of our approach to that famous
seaport was a procession of barelegged fishwives with their big dripping
baskets balanced upon their heads. Untrammelled by their burden, they
came swinging down the road towards us at a good five miles an hour, the
elderly and grizzled among them as upright and elastic as the girls. If
ever the craze for pedestrianism should culminate in an international
team race for ladies, the fishwives of Vigo would be a "very strong
tip." Indeed, if we felt quite sure that they would not get
disqualified for "lifting," we might even venture to pronounce them a
"moral cert."

A Galician woman thinks nothing of a moderate-sized haystack as her
ordinary walking head-dress; and any article she may carry, from an
umbrella to a harmonium, is invariably poised upon her head. No doubt
they considered us extremely foolish not to do the same with our
knapsacks, for the theory of equilibrium comes as natural to them as
their breath. Walking or sitting, standing or stooping, they never so
much as raise a hand to steady their baskets or their pails. And the
lifelong habit has certainly given them a most stately carriage. A
duchess who is ambitious of walking worthy of her vocation could hardly
do better than go into training with them.

The Spanish peasant girls may not be classically beautiful, but they are
well-built, strong and active; a healthy-looking, open-air race. The
chamber-maids of the hotel at Vigo seemed to spend the whole of their
existence carrying buckets of water upstairs on their heads to the
bedrooms. The hotel was five storeys high; and their labour was as the
"Well of Ronda."[14] Yet these cheerful Danaids were quite unconcerned
about their task. Even the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso, it may be
remembered (upon identification), proved capable of heaving the crowbar
as well as the lustiest young fellow of the village, and her remarks to
the reapers could be heard at a distance of half a league.

Nature has dowered Vigo with the most magnificent natural harbour in
Europe; but Vigo is only a fishing port, "a place for the spreading of
nets." The economist who chances to wander thither will weep his eyes
out over neglected opportunities; but an artist may use his to better
purpose. Seldom can he feast them upon a more delightful spectacle than
that great landlocked mountain-girt firth, with its deep blue waters
bosomed amid the luxuriant vegetation of the hills. My sketch was taken
looking seaward from the extreme end of the inner harbour; where Admiral
Rooke sank the "Silver Fleet" in 1702, and where many generations of
treasure-seekers have since groped over the muddy bottom in their vain
endeavours to recover the "pieces of eight." Beyond the bottle-necked
entrance lies the outer harbour upon which the town is situated; and
further still, out of sight in the extreme distance, the natural
breakwater of the Islas de Cies repels the ocean from the bay.

[Illustration: VIGO BAY

The Inner Harbour, looking out towards the Sea.]

But in the town itself the most attractive feature is indubitably the
fishing quarter. The throng of picturesque fishing craft elbowing each
other in the crowded basin; the crazy old arcaded houses that ring the
harbour round; the sailors staggering up the inclines with their baskets
full of gleaming silver; the women sitting along the quay and deftly
decapitating sardines with their thumbs. The mess, the noise, the crowd,
the bustle, the glitter, form one of the most brilliant pictures that a
painter could possibly conceive. And as for the smell, we do declare
upon our veracity that it is distinctly perceptible at a distance of
five miles.

There are many such _Rias_ as Vigo along the coast to the northward; and
the road rising sharply over the intervening ridges, finds in each
successive valley a fresh garden of delight. The huge mountain groynes
push themselves far out into the ocean; and their precipitous headlands,
Vilano, Toriñana, and Finistierra, form the mighty spur stones of the
sea-borne traffic to the south. Between them lie the gleaming estuaries,
each a harbour fit for a navy, and the deep verdant valleys well watered
by the streams from the hills. Perhaps there is no plant in the world
which could not be induced to grow here with a little attention; for the
range from palms to heather is a wide one, but they flourish as if to
the country born. "It is the Paradise of Spain," exclaimed an
enthusiastic Astorgan. And one can well imagine how such a picture would
appeal to a native of the arid plateaus of Leon.

Yet Galicia has a plague of its own lest the angels should prefer it to
heaven; for the Lord of that land is Beelzebub, and its children are
fodder for his flies. On the dry, lofty plains of the interior these
pests are less virulent than one might expect in a tropical country; but
in Galicia even the ordinary house-fly thinks nothing of transfixing a
worsted stocking, and our shanks were soon spotted like currant
dumplings with the scars of their innumerable bites. The chief
tormentors, however, are the horse-flies--the "clegs" of the Highlands
of Scotland--a terror even to the thick-skinned mule and pony, and
cordially anathematised by the Galician muleteer. Their only redeeming
quality is a certain bull-dog tenacity, which is all in favour of the
avenger; though death is no adequate penalty for such horribly venomous

The village granaries in this district are a very insistent feature.
There is one in nearly every cottage garden--a little stone ark raised
on six lofty legs. In Asturias they are much larger, built of wood and
capped with a pyramidical roof. There no one could mistake them for
anything but what they are; but here their shape, and their size, and
the little stone crosses on their gables, are all so irresistibly
suggestive of a sarcophagus, that at first we could not imagine that
they had any other purpose to serve. The average Gallego's fancy seems
to turn on thoughts of funerals. His peculiar local type of bullock-cart
also was manifestly derived from a coffin on wheels.

At El Padron we turned inland past the local shrine of _Nuestra Señora
de la Esclavitud_. (_Penal_ servitude, I regret to say, for it was a
noted sanctuary for criminals.) The west front is a modest imitation of
that of Santiago Cathedral, and the niche under its great stairway
enshrines a beautifully cool fountain, which we could recommend more
confidently if it did not issue from the churchyard. At this point it
was that Borrow left the main track on his weird journey to Corcuvion;
but we pushed straight ahead for Santiago de Compostela; and once more
threaded its arcaded _Ruas_ in search of the Coruña road.

The coach that runs daily from Santiago to Coruña prides itself upon
possessing the most numerous team of any vehicle in Spain. We were
assured that sixteen mules were frequently requisitioned to drag it over
the snowy hills in winter-time; but from our own personal observation
(in August) we cannot vouch for more than ten. The passengers were just
stowing themselves into it as we passed them. They had a ten hours'
journey before them, and it promised to be a roasting day. Yet the
"insides" were packed like sardines in a basket; and some brave spirits
were even occupying the roof among the interstices of the baggage, where
they were all corded down together under a general tarpaulin! We
wondered what they would look like when they emerged from their
travelling oven at the other end!

The road is rather homelike in character, remote alike from coast-line
and mountain: and more than one stage of the journey might have been
borrowed from Hindhead or Rake Hill. Yet we gleaned passing hints of our
latitude from the picturesque figures of the husbandmen, with their mild
little cream-coloured oxen, their mattocks, and their primitive


These last are of Adamite construction, made entirely of wood and so
light that the long-suffering women can carry them upon their heads.
Such was the pattern known to Hesiod and to Virgil. Such an one was
Wamba using when the lords of the Visigoths came to summon their
Cincinnatus to the throne of Toledo, and the haft blossomed in his hand
in token that their tidings were true.

We have continued gradually rising for the greater part of our journey;
but the ground breaks away suddenly and sharply a few miles short of the
coast. The view from the crest is delightful. A wide expanse of green
undulating woodland maps itself out beneath us at the foot of the deep
descent; and beyond gleam the still blue waters of the ocean, and the
little saucepan-shaped city of Coruña standing out boldly in the centre
of its bay.

What a welcome sight it must have presented to Moore and his soldiers as
they struggled over the Puerto Bello, a few miles along the ridge to the
east! Barefoot, ragged, and hungry, and drenched by the pelting tempest,
like Xenophon's harassed ten thousand, at last they were in sight of
the sea. The long night march from Lugo had been the most trying and
disastrous of any. Yet there was no slackness when they turned to bay;
and near Betánzos even the stragglers proved that they retained
sufficient cohesion to repulse a cavalry charge.

Dropping in long steep sweeps from the heathery heights to the woodland,
the road gradually settles itself down beside the banks of the Mero
river; and just as the streamlet widens into an estuary we dip across
the mouth of a little lateral valley, where the village of Palávia
nestles between two parallel hills. The bones of three thousand men lie
buried along that little valley, and the trim villas and gay gardens of
the Coruña suburbanites cover the ground where French and English fought
out their desperate struggle a hundred years ago. The focus of the
fighting, however, was not at Palávia, but higher up the valley towards
our left, where the ground was more favourable to the assailants, and
where the defenders had no river to protect their flank. Here Soult made
his grand attack under the fire of his great battery; here Moore fell
mortally wounded on the slopes above Elviña at the very moment when he
felt assurance of success.

Moore's grave is in the citadel of Coruña. An unpretentious monument,
but now well kept, and the centre of a charming little walled garden.
Like many another faithful servant of his country, he had been set to do
impossibilities, and was vilified by the impatient stay-at-homes,
because they could not grasp the measure of his success. They had sent
out a gallant army; and it was restored to them hungry and naked, broken
by cruel marches, and reeking from a stricken field. They had never
before realised what war was, and they blamed their general for
revealing it. Indeed, as even Condé admitted, the details are ugly in

Moore's famous victory was not the only one achieved by British arms in
this neighbourhood. Over two centuries before, in the year after the
Spanish Armada, Drake and Norreys landed an expeditionary force to
chastise the port from which it had sailed. They captured and plundered
the town, and upon the very margin of Moore's battle-field they stormed
the bridge of El Burgo and defeated the Spanish militia who had
assembled for its relief. Of these they slew "a thousand," while they
lost but three of their own men. From which it may be inferred that
Drake and Norreys had been reading the exploits of Santiago, and
thought that a little local colour in their dispatches would serve as a
guarantee of good faith.

We had intended to make but one stage of it from Coruña, and encompass
the bay to Ferrol. But our plans were all blown to the winds when we
spied the little town of Betánzos clustered together upon its conical
hill in a loop of the Mendo river,--far too attractive a spectacle to be
skipped with a casual call. It won our hearts at first sight, as we
stooped to the vale from the uplands: and our affections were confirmed
the moment we entered the gates. A delightful little township, with none
of its lines parallel and none of its angles right angles; and a whole
population of models grouping themselves in its ramshackle arcades.[15]

[Illustration: BETÁNZOS

A Colonnaded Calle.]

We had been commended to Betánzos by Valentina, the waitress at
Santiago. Betánzos was Valentina's _pueblo_, and "a very gay place" (so
said Valentina). Betánzos played up to its reputation by an improvised
ball in the evening; and few set ballets in a theatre could provide
so pretty a sight. The _Plaza_ is paved with cobbles, which are
disadvantageous for dancing. But the fountain which stands in the centre
acts as hub to a multitude of smooth flagged pathways; and up and down
these, in to the centre and out again, the couples swung unwearyingly in
a great vibrating star. The electric lamps (oh yes! they have electric
lamps in Betánzos) only partially illuminated the area; and the patches
of light and shadow gave an additional variety to the effect.

The Galician peasant woman's costume is one of the prettiest in the
Peninsula. As usual, it is very simple; a skirt and bodice, a kerchief
tied over the head, and another crosswise over the shoulders. But the
charm is in the colouring, and the Galician women wear the brightest of
colours: brave reds and yellows for the kerchiefs, with something rather
quieter for the skirt. They almost all go barefoot; a spendthrift use of
commodities, but doubtless extremely convenient so long as the wear does
not tell. The foot will grow coarsened in time; but the girls have not
any misgivings,--and the beggar maid probably profited when she came
before King Cophetua. It is rather humiliating to compare the
square-toed natural foot with the narrow, artificially pointed article
which has been evolved for us by our boot-makers. Verily we have small
cause to laugh at the fashions of the Chinese!

The men wear loose "white" shirts with dark-coloured breeches and
stockings, and a _cummerbund_ wrapped round the loins. Sometimes there
happens to be a waistcoat, or a cloak slung over the shoulder; and the
costume is usually completed by a battered broad-brimmed hat.

"Capital stuff, this," cried Ferdinand the Catholic, with reference to
the royal jerkin, "it has worn out three pairs of sleeves!" And his
highness's predilection for patching still appeals to the lieges of
to-day. So piously do they practise his precept that it is often
difficult to determine whether any part of their garments was original;
and they all appear (justly enough) to have clung to a working
hypothesis that the matching of colours is hazardous, but there is
always safety in contrast. The picturesqueness of the result, however,
is as obvious as its economy. Perhaps some day an English Ferdinand will
revive the example for us.

[Illustration: THE MASMA VALLEY

Near Mondoñedo.]

The beautiful bay of Coruña lay still within the curve of our advancing
roadway, and every re-entering angle was filled with a gleaming creek.
To our right rose rugged hills, plentifully besprinkled with
farmsteads; and more than one rustic township punctuated the stages of
the way. The last and most important of the inlets was the great
bottle-necked lagoon of Ferrol; and the famous arsenal itself lay half
concealed at the mouth of it, close under the guardian headlands that
form the gateway to the bay.

Ferrol surrendered to Soult without a blow after Coruña, and the
pusillanimity of its governor probably robbed it of a creditable
success. With half the spirit of Gerona or Zaragoza it would have proved
impregnable, in the light of subsequent events. The Galicians were taken
unaware when Moore drew the war into their mountains, and were stunned
before they were aroused. The season, too, was winter, when a
_guerrilla_ was almost impracticable. They showed a better spirit when
their torpor was thawed in the spring.

From Ferrol the road heaved us aloft to the crest of the great moorland
plateau where the Miño hoards its fountains, and from which we looked
out westward and northward over an almost limitless length of
coast-line, with the dark upland ridges running out between the creeks
like the ribs of a fan. How high we had risen we scarcely realised till
we came to descend again, and saw the long, deep, highland glen
dropping visibly before us mile beyond mile. Yet when we reached the
corner, the little cathedral town of Mondoñedo still lay far below us;
for what show as mountains over the Masma valley are really only the
edges of the moor. We eventually came down to the sea at the estuary of
Foz a little before sunset; and just as the dusk was turning to darkness
we ran into the narrow streets of Rivadeo, and the arms of the motherly
old hostesses who rule the "Castilian Hotel."



A BUXOM old lady who was occupying the shadow of a large umbrella in the
centre of Rivadeo marketp-lace greeted us volubly as we emerged from the
_Fonda_ door. "A good day to your honours! It seems then that they are
upon a journey? Ah! without doubt they are going to Castropol. Yes,
there is a road there, but it is a long way round the _Ria_. They will
save an hour,--two hours,--by taking a boat!" Our honours, indeed, had
already come to the same conclusion; neither were they altogether
surprised when their friend's eloquence culminated in the announcement
that she herself (thank God) was a Castropolitan, and her boat in
waiting at the quay below. A small black-eyed damsel was hastily
installed commandant of the big umbrella, and the old lady sallied forth
to rout out her boatman and steer us down to the shore.

This spirited attempt to corner the entire passenger traffic was hotly
resented by a partner in a rival firm; an unprincipled operator who
endeavoured to gain control of the market by the most shameless
rate-cutting. He would take us across for six _reals_! for five _reals_!
for four!! He followed us down the street, waving his arms and
gesticulating and pitching his voice a tone higher at every bid. But the
old dame resolutely headed off all his attempts to get at her convoy;
silenced his feebler abuse with broadsides of the bitterest sarcasm; and
finally expressed her scorn for competition and equilibrium by a dance
of derision executed upon the poop as the boat shoved off into the bay.

It was truly a lovely morning, and the view was worthy of the sunshine.
Behind were the white walls and shiny slate roofs of Rivadeo scrambling
one above the other up the steeply sloping cliff; before us Castropol
rose from the water's edge in a pyramid of purple shadow,--for the sun
was dead behind it,--and between the two lay the glassy _Ria_, a long
narrow fiord, winding away inland, reach beyond reach, till it lost
itself in the bosom of the hazy hills. Evidently the path before us was
at least cast in pleasant places.

[Illustration: RIVADEO

An Approach to the Harbour.]

We had made bold to confide somewhat in fortune when we embarked on
this stage of our campaign. The map gave no pledge of a road, and the
guide-books were equally uncommitted. Borrow, indeed, had traversed the
province, with his honest guide, Martin of Rivadeo; but Borrow made his
journey on horseback, and his description did not lead one to infer that
there was any opening for wheels. Yet our trust in the chapter of
accidents brought a suitably generous reward.

Take the mountains of the Lake District, and double their height; plant
them under an Italian sky behind a Cornish coast; add plenty of old
broad-eaved, balconied houses, not unlike Swiss chalets, a primitive
picturesque population clad in bright colours, and draught cattle,
ploughs, waggons, pack mules, and other appointments _en suite_. Such a
picture is fairly typical of the scenes that awaited us upon our way.
Here the road dipped to carry us past the end of a rocky inlet, where
the waves were breaking upon the chesil beach some fifty yards away.
Here it rose again to disclose a panorama of sea and mountain, with the
thin blue smoke of the charcoal burners' fires trailing lazily across
the plateau or wreathing itself around the shoulders of the hills. To
Borrow's eyes it had all seemed gloomy and desolate; but he had
traversed it in the mists of a stormy autumn, and beneath the halcyon
skies of summer it is a veritable fairyland.

The _Ria_ at Návia is scarcely worthy of the name, for it is merely the
mouth of a little tidal river, not a harbour for sea-going ships, like
the firth of Rivadeo. Yet it is a beautiful valley, and the
queerly-cropped poplars give a very _bizarre_ effect to the view. A
little further on is a more striking feature. A huge serrated ridge,
known as the Sierra de Rañadoiro, flings itself out at right angles to
the _cordillera_, and stands like a wall across the plateau which
divides the mountains from the sea. Just before it reaches the coast it
branches off into a number of smaller ridges, ravelling out like the
strands of a cable; and the last group in the series are the seven
_Bellotas_, which proved such formidable obstacles to Borrow and his

There is no chance of "shirking the fences." Each ridge terminates in a
bold and lofty headland, each valley in a rocky creek; and seventy years
ago those deep narrow gorges must have been ugly places enough. But
Borrow's stony bridle-path is now a fine broad roadway, his "miserable
venta" is a comfortable inn; and he certainly would not have
troubled to push on to Muros had he found such good entertainment as did

[Illustration: THE NAVIA VALLEY]

Mine host was a stout and jovial yeoman with a loud voice and a hearty
laugh. He sat very wide at the head of the table, and promised us that
we should have our cutlets raw. "What! Were we not Englishmen? And
should he set cooked meat before Englishmen? No, indeed; that perfectly
comprehended itself. _Spaniards_ ate cooked meat, but _Englishmen_
devoured it raw." Of course (as a special concession) _we_ might have
them cooked--"_á la Española_." But this without prejudice to the
eternal verity that "_á la Inglesa_" was "raw." We struggled in vain to
persuade him that we knew as much about England as he did. An Asturian
dalesman is commonly reputed capable of driving a nail into a wall with
his head. But so long as his principles were not controverted he
certainly was excellent company for his guests. He regaled us with a
capital white wine, "_Vino Castellano_" (I suppose from the Medina del
Campo district, which is the only place where I know of white wine in
Castile); he discoursed to us on the beauties of Právia and the
excellence of Asturian cider; and sped us at parting with the assurance
that there were very few hills on the road. But this last piece of
information (as we subsequently discovered) was to be accepted in a
strictly Asturian sense.

Luarca and Cudillero, the two little coast towns of the district, are
twin brothers in situation, but moving in different sets. Luarca is
aspiring to the dignity of a watering-place:--it must have quite a dozen
visitors in the season even now. Cudillero is a fishing village pure and
simple, and is content to leave vanities alone. Each town lies nestling
in a deep narrow notch of the lofty coast-line, with its quaint shanties
spilling themselves pell-mell down the precipitous escarpments in all
shapes, sizes, and positions, like rubble shot out of a cart. The
brawling waters of a little brook go tumbling down the middle; and the
tiny creek at the bottom is lined with a sturdy array of quays and
breakwaters, where the fishing fleet can shelter itself from the
tempests of the Bay. Perhaps of the two Luarca has the prettier harbour;
but the unabashed raggedness and dilapidation of Cudillero, and the
old-world simplicity of its people, will appeal more strongly to an
artist's eye.

The main road drops in to call at Luarca, but it is quite unaware of the
existence of Cudillero, and but for the directions of an auspicious
waggoner we might have strayed past it altogether. A break-neck descent
of a mile or so eventually brought us on to the roofs of some houses;
and it presently transpired that the town was "underneath." Down we
plunged into it by a ricketty corkscrew street, as steep as that at
Clovelly; ducked under the weather-beaten old church which is plugged
like a bung in the outlet; and eventually emerged at the waterside,
where the fishwives were sitting in a long parti-coloured fringe along
the edge of the quay, armed with their large flat baskets, and awaiting
the return of the boats.

The _Fonda del Comércio_ was a poky and primitive little hostelry, but
they had plenty of fresh sardines; and his lot is not entirely pitiable
who sups upon fresh sardines. We slept in tiny alcoves curtained off
from our dining-room; and our last recollections were connected with
parties of happy fishermen in the street without, singing rollicking
ditties in honour of "_amor_."

I was down in the harbour early in the morning for the purpose of
sketching, and so also were a goodly contingent of the townsfolk, intent
on their morning dip. It is a libel on the Spanish nation to imagine
that they do not wash. Perhaps it is true of the central plains,--poor
people, they lack the water, but all along the coast they are much
given to bathing. The women stroll unconcernedly down to the beach,
armed with a huge towel and a sort of glorified sack which serves as a
bathing costume. The huge towel, spread over their heads, envelopes them
completely, and under cover of it they make their toilet. At Cudillero
the beach where the boats were drawn up was reserved for the women, and
the men bathed off the rocks a little distance away. But neither party
made any pretence of privacy; and there is an air of primitive innocency
about the whole proceeding which forbids all notion of offence.

Another primitive sight, though of a different character, was awaiting
me as I re-entered the town. It was Sunday morning, and the early Mass
was being celebrated in the church at the stairfoot of the roadway. The
building was crowded even beyond its utmost capacity, for a long _queue_
of kneeling worshippers had thrust itself out from the open door, like
bees hanging from a hive when they are about to swarm. Whatever may be
the case in the cities, it is certain that the peasantry are as devout
as ever in their religious observances; and once or twice upon holy
days we have found the highway itself absolutely blocked with a crowd of
worshippers intent on their orisons before some wayside shrine.

[Illustration: CUDILLERO

The Harbour.]

We regained the high road above Cudillero by a long winding ascent; and
leaving far below us on our left the beautiful estuary of Muros, bore up
into the mountains for the secluded vale of Právia at the confluence of
the Narcea and the Nalon. "Právia is better than Switzerland," our host
at Bellotas had informed us, and we do not wish to deny it. But the
comparison could only be made by one who had never seen Switzerland, for
there is nothing in common between the two. Our own Lake District would
supply a nearer parallel; but I know nothing quite like Právia except
Právia itself; a meeting-place of many valleys with vistas of mountain
scenery opening out on every side. Yet the heart of the range still
holds remote and invisible. It is not till we have progressed some
distance up the Nalon valley, and are drawing near to Oviedo, that we
get acquainted with the higher peaks. Then, indeed, the scale becomes
truly Alpine, and the valleys which lie across our path would not
discredit Piedmont or Savoy.

Oviedo is not a town for which I have ever been able to acquire much
enthusiasm. A traveller newly landed from France might find it
delightfully Spanish, but to one who is fresh from the interior it has a
flavour of underdone French. It lies amid beautiful scenery, but just
out of sight of the best of it; and perhaps, as it is bent upon a career
of commercial enterprise, this retirement is creditable to its taste.
Yet its situation is by no means commonplace, its atmosphere not
generally smoky, and its fine old palaces and narrow cobbled _calles_
must be allowed to weigh something in the balance against its boulevards
and tram-lines and plate-glass.

The cathedral is a fine building, though it hardly can rank with the
finest; and it seems to be somewhat infected by the prevailing
Frenchified air. Yet in sanctity it is pre-eminent; for it boasts the
holiest relics in the Peninsula--all the miracle-working treasures which
the kings of the Visigoths had hoarded in their temple at Toledo, and
which the faithful bore away with them into the mountains when they fled
from the invading Moors. Some splendid specimens of early jewellery may
be seen among the caskets and monstrances; and the reredos behind the
High Altar is quite in the best Spanish style.

The children seem afflicted with an uncontrollable mania for getting
their pictures taken. Perhaps there is thought to be luck in it, for
even their elders are not entirely exempt. This fact accounts for the
presence of the venerable _Sereno_ in the foreground of my drawing of
the cathedral. He insisted on shaking hands with me for my kindness in
putting him there, although I had conceived the obligation to be all on
my side.

These quaint old watchmen are a sort of hall-mark of municipal
respectability. No Spanish city "of any degree of _ton_" would think of
dispensing with its _Serenos_. Indeed, in some instances the _Sereno_
has survived where the city is now little more than a name. Fine
picturesque old figures clad in cloaks and slouch hats, and armed with
javelins and lanterns,--(the towns are all lighted by electricity, but
that is a detail),--they give a deliciously old-world flavour to the
deserted streets at night. It is questionable whether they would be much
use in a row; for like our own late lamented "Charlies," they are often
aged and infirm. But their pictorial effect is incomparable: and they
are real good Samaritans to the belated reveller, for they carry the
keys of all the street doors on their beat, so that the errant
householder can always steal quietly to cover, after he has awakened
half the parish in summoning "_Ser-êno-o!_"

Light sleepers abominate the whole tribe; for they have powerful voices,
and their melodious bellow, "Twelve o'clock, and all serene!"--(the
refrain to which they owe their title)--is sure to arouse all the dogs
that happen to have stopped barking since eleven. It sounds such
gratuitous worry to make night hideous because the weather is fine.

But it seems quite a passion with Spaniards to know how the time is
progressing--not from any regard of its monetary value, but merely from
an altruistic and dilettante point of view. They adopt at least three
bases of reckoning--the local time, the Madrid time, and the Western
European (by which the trains do _not_ start). All the clocks are at
variance with all of them: and the whole system seems solely contrived
for the bewilderment of the foreigner, for the _habitué_ impartially
ignores the lot.

The people of Oviedo,--and, indeed, all Asturians and Gallegans,--are
esteemed an inferior race by your true Castilian. The prejudice is
rather puzzling: for "the mountains" are the cradle of the oldest and
bluest blood in Spain. But it is of very old standing; for even the Cid
Campeador, when administering the oath to Alfonso VI. (who was suspected
of complicity in King Sancho's murder[16]), could devise no more
humiliating adjuration than "If you swear falsely, may you be slain by
an Oviedan!"

[Illustration: OVIEDO

A Street near the Cathedral.]

Perhaps the early warriors who sallied forth to achieve the reconquest
despised those who remained quietly behind in the mountains. And when in
later days royalty and chivalry made their home in the south, the
simpler northerners would come to be regarded as boors. Even to this day
the Asturian peasant seems to lack something of the formality of the
Castilian. He is less punctilious in enquiring "how you have passed the
night" of a morning; less prompt with the regular roadside greeting,
"May your honour go with God!" The slurring of these little niceties may
possibly be sufficient to brand him as a "bounder"; and there is no
stigma more hard to obliterate than this.

For all these courteous trifles are the _shibboleth_ of high breeding to
a Spaniard, and a terrible stumbling-block to the blunt-spoken
Englishman,--so apt to give unwitting offence. The Spanish generals
always waited on Wellington to ask how he had slept, even when they knew
that he had watched all night in the trenches. If they omitted the
ceremony they feared he would deem himself slighted. "On the contrary,"
quoth Alava drily, "he will be very much obliged."

The Asturian monarchs had good reason for fixing their capital at
Oviedo; for it guards the main gateway of their kingdom, the chief of
the passes to the south. It lies not indeed at the actual mouth of the
valley, but a little on one side of it. Our road has to struggle over a
couple of thousand-foot ridges ere it can lay its course straight for
its goal. These two preliminary mountains we resolved to put behind us
in the evening, and keep a clear day for the Pass of Pajares itself.

Our overture was by no means a trifle. It was dark when we began the
second descent, and the iron furnaces of Miéres glowed up out of the
black profundity beneath us like little volcano craters anxious to win
themselves fame. Miéres is a village of ironworkers, and rather shabby
and grimy in consequence: yet we were glad to gain its shelter, for the
sky had long been threatening, and the storm broke soon after our
arrival--a true mountain tempest, with the rain roaring on the roof like
a cataract, and incessant flashes of lightning illuminating the valley
with the brightness of day.

Storm succeeded storm throughout the night, and the outlook next
morning was far from promising. But we took our courage in both hands
and started at the first break in the downpour. The valley was choked
with mist, and the road in a state of unutterable slabbiness: yet our
enterprise was soon rewarded, for the weather had done its worst in the
darkness, and the sunshine brought the vapours steaming up out of the
meadows and banished them with the clouds across the summits of the

The symptoms of industrial activity do not extend far above Miéres, and
Lena is but the quiet head village of a peaceful mountain glen. Lena is
famous for the possession of the precious little eighth-century church
of Sta Cristina, perhaps the most notable of the group for which the
Oviedo district is renowned; and the scenery amid which it is situated
is very similar to that of our own Welsh or Cumberland Highlands, though
planned on a larger scale.

Hitherto the ascent has been gradual; but now the road takes to the side
of the mountain, and heaves itself up from shoulder to shoulder in a
vast skein of steadily rising zigzags; while the railway which has so
far accompanied it wanders off by itself into remote lateral valleys,
groping for an easy gradient to help it up its four-thousand-foot
climb. Twenty miles by road from Lena, and over thirty by rail, the
approach to the summit is long and arduous, though redeemed by most
lovely views. We have a vivid recollection of the glass of water which
was bestowed upon us by the woman in charge of the level crossing at the
foot of the final ascent. She was a Navarrese woman, and the water was
the most delicious in the world!

At the final pitch the railway takes to a tunnel; and the road scrambles
alone to the saddle, rewarding its clients with the most magnificent
panorama,--looking out over the abysmal valley to the wilderness of pike
and fell on the westward, where the rigid outlines of the Peña Ubiña are
seldom destitute of snow. A rock-climber might break his neck very
satisfactorily among these savage crags. One great _aiguille_ in
particular seems to challenge him by its sheer inaccessibility--a rocky
splinter torn apart from its parent precipice, like another Napes
Needle, but probably a thousand feet high. When the Alps have become
unbearably Roshervilled, perhaps these untrodden fastnesses may solace
the _blasé_ mountaineer.

The step which carries us across the Pass of Pajares is one of the most
decisive of any we have yet taken. It spans the frontier of Leon and
Asturias, the boundary of the realms of cloud and sun. The ridge parts
not merely two provinces but two climates, and we seem to enter the
tropics at a stride. Behind lies the green and flowery valley, and the
heathery slopes half veiled in tender haze; before are the hot bare
rocks, and the parched grass toasting itself under the stare of the
sunshine; and though the Atlantic clouds bank thick upon the northward,
it is only an occasional straggler who ventures across to the south.

The scenery is perhaps less attractive, but on the whole even more
striking; for the rocks, as in all Spanish landscapes, take most daring
and original forms. The most remarkable example is near the foot of the
descent, just before arriving at the village of Pola de Gordon. Here the
limestone strata have been tilted up absolutely vertical, hard layers
alternating with soft, like the fat and lean in a piece of streaky
bacon. The principal hard layer forms the precipitous face of a
mountain, and stretches for a mile or more along the river, like a huge
surcharged retaining wall. The complementary layers are at first buried
in the mass behind; but presently the ridge dips to give passage to the
river, and rises again beyond in a bold conical hill, so that all the
layers become at once exposed. The soft strata at this point are
entirely weathered away, and the hard remain, like huge parallel
cock's-combs, rising as straight and steep as the parapets of a gigantic
stairway. These razor-back limestone ridges are a very characteristic
feature of Spanish mountain scenery; but nowhere else have I seen them
quite so strongly marked as here.

We were not to escape from the Pass without one final downpour, but
luckily it caught us within reach of shelter at Pola de Gordon. A black,
oily cloud glued itself onto the mountain above the village, the windows
of Heaven were opened, and the deluge fell. It only lasted some thirty
minutes; but by that time the village was paddling, and all the
bye-lanes had converted themselves into foaming torrents which had piled
great dykes of shingle at intervals across the street. Yet all the while
we had been able to see the sky clear and brilliant under the fringe of
the storm-rack towards the southward; and three miles away, the road was
dry and dusty, and even the river that ran beside it was unconscious of
the coming flood.


Near Pola de Gordon.]

We finally slipped from the valley at the village of La Robla, and
mounted onto the bare, brown moorlands that slope towards the city of
Leon. The mountains come to a halt behind us as abruptly as if they were
toeing a line; and the vast level sweeping away from their feet to the
southward is broken only by the deeply grooved valleys of the Esla's
tributary streams. The effect is somewhat similar to the line of the
Merionethshire mountains breaking down into the Morfa. But this
remarkable emphasising of primary physical features is specially
characteristic of the geology of Spain. Leon itself lies low beside the
river, and only comes into view when we are close upon it; but the
cathedral spires are just high enough to overtop the upland, and form a
solitary landmark for several miles around.



The Esla valley runs down broad and level from Leon towards the south; a
monotonous umber-coloured valley, very different from the wild glens
whence its waters are derived. The road is straight and featureless,
though its newly-planted acacia avenues give some promise of ultimate
redemption; and the mud-built wayside villages have a forlorn and
collapsible air.

Occasionally one lights upon a regular troglodyte settlement, a group of
bee-hive cellars excavated in the hillside, with the chimneys struggling
out among the sparse herbage which covers them. These caves have no
windows, and are lit only through the open doors, yet they continued to
be the homes of the peasantry till within comparatively recent days.
Indeed, in some few instances they are still inhabited; but generally
they are utilised only as storehouses and stables, while the population
has migrated bodily into the more modern cottages which have sprung up
to form the village at their side.

The Esla itself is the most interesting item in the scenery. It flows
parallel with the road some two or three miles to the left, close under
the crumbling yellow cliffs which overlook the vale. Its course is
marked by trees and greenery, chiefly the inevitable poplar; and its
thin line of verdure, shot with flashes of sparkling water, is a welcome
relief to the dun and dusty plain. The riverside hamlets plastered upon
the face of the cliffs are so weather-nibbled and irregular, and so
exactly the colour of the grounding, that they might be taken for some
weird growth of parasitic fungus; and the whole scene has a most
convincingly Nilotic air.

A short distance from Benavente occurred one of the few mishaps which it
was our lot to occasion. An old countryman was jogging sleepily along
the road before us with a mule and a donkey, when the animals suddenly
took fright at our approach. A Spaniard is commonly a good
horseman--when he is riding a horse. But he does not think it worth
while to ride a donkey, so he merely sits on it,--sans reins, sans
stirrups, with both his legs on one side, and no more control over his
mount than a sack of turnips. For a few strides our victim bounded
wildly between his panniers like an animated shuttlecock; and then
toppled over in ruin, while his beasts stampeded across the fields. We
recaptured his fugitives for him, and purchased his broken eggs; but I
fear that it somewhat soured our sympathy when we found him doing
nothing but wring his hands and bewail his losses meanwhile. We could
not help feeling that the "language" of an English teamster would have
furnished a much more satisfactory solution of his woes.

Benavente stands upon a tongue of high ground between the Esla and
Orbigo valleys. The extreme tip is occupied by the old castle of the
Counts of Benavente, one of whom is immortalized by Velasquez in the
Prado gallery, clad in suit of armour which seems capable of reflecting
your face. But his once splendid palace is now a ruin,--plundered and
burnt by the stragglers of Sir John Moore's army; and the poor old town
itself, though it contains some interesting churches, has grown wofully
battered and threadbare since its _seigneurs_ were driven from their

[Illustration: BENAVENTE

From above the Bridge of Castro Gonzalo.]

Yet Benavente is not without honour among us Englishmen. Its name
figures upon a clasp of the Peninsular medal, and upon the colours of
the 10th Hussars. Here the leading squadrons of Napoleon just got
into touch with the rearguard of the retreating Moore;--and received a
smart buffet for their forwardness, which was not at all to the
Emperor's taste. The cavalry of the Imperial Guard had unexpectedly
forded the river; and were wellnigh overwhelming the pickets, when Paget
and his horsemen swooped upon them from behind the houses, rolled them
up with the loss of half their number, and captured their general,
Lefebre Desnouettes. Had Napoleon been an hour or two earlier he might
himself have been an eye-witness of their discomfiture from the high
ground above the Esla, the point from which my sketch was made. And it
is a pity he missed the opportunity; for it was not till Waterloo that
he would again see British cavalry in action, and it was the same Paget
who was to lead them on that momentous day.

The _mêlée_ took place on the broad poplared plain which lies between
the town and the river, and the old bridge of Castro Gonzalo spans the
torrent a little below the Frenchmen's ford. It is a long, uneven stone
structure, with three timbered spans to remind us of the work of Moore's
sappers; and the steep bank which rises above it is famed for a humbler
scuffle, but one which was no less creditable to the parties chiefly
concerned. Three days before the cavalry skirmish, when the French were
known to be approaching, Privates Walton and Jackson of the 43rd were
posted here at nightfall with orders that, if attacked, one should hold
his ground and the other run back to call the picket. The night was dark
and squally, and the flood of foemen poured over them before they were
aware. Jackson ran back: but the horsemen were close behind him, and he
was cut down even as he gave the alarm. But when the picket stormed up
and the assailants were swept back into the darkness, they had not yet
finished with Walton,--that sentry was still at his post. His uniform
was pierced in twenty places and his bayonet was twisted like a
corkscrew; but like the "brave Lord Willoughby"[17] he was scrupulously
holding his ground!

A finger-post and a kilometre stone stood side by side on the branch
road at the summit. The former said "To Zamora," and the latter "38
kilos"; whereat we rejoiced and set our pace more leisurely, for the
daylight would last us for nearly another three hours. Yet presently as
the tale of _kilos_ petered out we began to experience misgivings. The
bare wide plateau of the _Tierra de Campos_ still rolled away before us
fold beyond fold; the sun was already close upon the horizon; and where
was the Duero valley wherein Zamora lies?

Three _kilos_ more,--and still no sign of our haven.--Two
_kilos_,--one,--and our hopes were dashed to the ground. Our road shot
us out into one of the most desolate stretches of the great highway from
Madrid to Vigo; and a venerable shepherd who suddenly materialised out
of the empty landscape blandly informed us that Zamora was just "four
leagues." Our mistake was obvious enough. The 38 _kilos_, had of course
been reckoned from the junction with the highway. But a couple of wary
continental travellers should have been on their guard against so stale
a trap.

At the first blush it seemed as though we were destined to fare every
bit as badly as we merited. The last glow was dying out of the sky
behind us, and a grumbling thunderstorm was nursing its wrath for us
ahead. But our good luck came to our rescue, and found us a city of
refuge:--the little hamlet of Montamarta, which was ambushed in a dip of
the road.

By this time we had learned not to be too dainty about our quarters; yet
the _Parador_ at Montamarta was so very unassuming that at first we gave
it the go-by; and the landlord was an unshaven ruffian who seemed fully
capable of the blackest crimes. But the dingy little den to which he
ushered us was full of familiar faces:--Velasquez' jolly "Topers"
beaming over their wine-cups, the matchless "Booby of Cória," and wild
ragged goatherds and vine dressers, with whom Salvator Rosa might have
joined in "painting _jabeques_."[18] Rough as they looked, they were all
in the mildest of humours. It was a sight to see our murderous-looking
landlord truculently dandling his infant; while the mother crouched upon
the great hearth in the centre, supervising a multitude of pipkins which
were simmering in the glowing embers of the fire. "It is good, isn't
it?" she asked eagerly, as we essayed her stew: and she watched every
mouthful down our throats with affectionate solicitude to be sure that
we did justice to our meal. The kitchen was both dining and
sitting-room, and our garret was shared with the children, but our hosts
were determined to make us comfortable, and we forgot their
deficiencies in their zeal. There is no gilded luxury in a _Parador_,
but at least we felt sure we were welcome. One barely obtains toleration
in a _Metropole_ or a _Grand_.

With dawn we were again on our journey, dodging our way past the
cavalcade of country-folk who were pouring along to market from the
various villages around. It was an easy stage. We had nearly made port
yester even. Within a few miles we were at Zamora gates.

In our Protestant ignorance of times and seasons we were unaware that
the day was the festival of Corpus Christi; consequently the apparition
of a fifteen-foot pasteboard giant lurching deviously down the main
thoroughfare occasioned us a little mild bewilderment. This wandering
ogre, however, was fully entitled to liberty. All respectable Spanish
cities retain a team of giants as part of their ordinary municipal
outfit, and Corpus Christi day is the great occasion for parading them.
The tourist should always arrange to spend that festival in some good
old-established city where the choicest breeds are preserved.

Zamora itself is quite old enough for the purpose. Its fine old
Romanesque cathedral was built by no less a person than the Bishop Don
Hieronymo, "that good one with the shaven crown," who so ably
represented the Church militant among the companions of the Cid. But
long before his day the old frontier fortress had made itself a name by
many a desperate resistance to the Moor, and the boast that "Zamora was
not won in an hour," still clings to the old dismantled ramparts which
were once its justification.[19]

Moreover, the story of the greatest leaguer of all, is it not written in
the book of the Chronicle of the Cid, and as famous in Spanish annals as
the siege of Troy? For it came to pass that in the eleventh century King
Fernando the Great,[20] on his deathbed, divided his kingdoms among his
children; and the immediate and obvious consequence was a five-cornered
family duel which set all the said kingdoms by the ears. Sancho of
Castile had quickly dispossessed his brothers Garcia and Alfonso of
Galicia and Leon; and his sister Elvira had yielded to him her town of
Toro. Only Urraca his elder sister still held her patrimony; and
Zamora was too important a pledge to be left in any hands but his own.

[Illustration: ZAMORA

From the banks of the Duero.]

"So King Sancho drew near and beheld Zamora how strongly it was built,
upon a cliff, with many massy towers and the river Duero running at the
foot thereof." It was no light task to reduce it, and he proffered
Valladolid in exchange. But my lady was in no mood to barter her
beautiful stronghold for commonplace Valladolid, and doubtless regarded
the offer from the same standpoint as her practical councillors,--"He
who assails you on the rock would soon drive you from the plain."

The Castilian army lacked the aid of its champion: for Ruy Diaz had been
bred up with the princess at Zamora in Don Arias Gonzalo's household,
and would not fight against her in person "for the sake of old times."
Yet King Sancho was very competent to manage his own battles; and though
his assaults were abortive, he soon began to feel more sanguine of
blockade. Zamora was reduced to the last extremity when Vellido Dolphos,
a knight of the princess's, put into practice against King Sancho the
old ruse of Gobryas and Sextus Tarquinius. He feigned desertion, won the
confidence of the king, and assassinated him under the walls in the
course of a pretended reconnaissance, escaping again to the city when
the deed was done. Less fortunate than his prototypes who gained credit
for their services, Vellido Dolphos has ever since been held up to
execration as the very type and pattern of a traitor; and Don Diego
Ordoñez gave voice to the wrath of the Castilians by issuing a formal
challenge to the whole city of Zamora,--man, woman, and child, the babe
unborn, and the fishes in the river:--which even Don Quixote considered
was going a trifle too far. Yet the city was saved; for the heir to the
throne was Alfonso, and his return from exile put an end to the civil

It is a shame to tell the story in prose. Yet we cannot refrain from
recalling how Don Arias Gonzalo, the princess' foster-father, pointed
out to Don Diego Ordoñez what a very serious thing he had done in
challenging a whole cathedral city. How (no doubt with a grim chuckle)
he produced the Rules for such case made and provided, whereby it
appeared that the challenger must meet five champions in succession, and
be declared disgraced if he failed against any one;--which was
considerably more than Don Diego had bargained for! Nevertheless he put
a bold face on the matter and gallantly met and slew his two first
antagonists. But the third contest was indecisive; so honour was
declared satisfied, and all imputations withdrawn. The old chivalrous
legend makes a capital sauce for our musings as we pace the still
formidable ramparts from which Doña Urraca once looked down upon her
foes; or gaze up from the fortified bridge at the rock-built city above
us, towering over the waters of the Duero like the very embodiment of

But meanwhile it is still Corpus Christi day; and the giants are
becoming impatient. We found them all four at the bridge-head, attended
by a large retinue of loiterers, and waiting outside a church door, like
camels at the eye of a needle. The show had not really begun. But as we
approached to investigate, there suddenly gushed upon us out of the
church itself as strange a medley as that which encountered Don Quixote
on a similar anniversary in the chariot of the Cortes of Death. First,
four minor giants--great goggling pumpkin-headed Prince Bulbos--and the
drum and fife band of Falstaff's ragged regiment. Then the processional
cross and candlesticks, and Our Lady gorgeous in a white silk frock,
borne shoulder-high on a litter, with her canopy bucketting along behind
her about half a length to the bad. More saints, also on litters--the
boys struggling and fighting for the honour of acting as bearers, and
getting cuffed into a shortlived sobriety by their indignant elders. And
finally the Host itself in its silver ark surrounded by chanting priests
with banners and tapers. The giants closed in behind it as it issued
from the door and beamed serenely down the long procession from their
commanding elevation in the rear.

Whether the spectacle were a sacrament or a circus, seemed at first an
open question; but it was soon resolved. At once every head was
uncovered and every knee was bowed, and "_His Majesty's_"[21] progress
through the kneeling throng seemed all the more impressive for its
incongruous trappings.

Beyond the bridge the procession received its final embellishment in the
accession of a mounted guard of honour; and throughout the rest of the
day it continued to parade the streets and call at the various churches,
while the populace thronged the balconies, crossing themselves, and
cheering, and showering their paper flowers impartially upon saints and
giants and the bald heads of the accompanying priests--an attention
which did not appear at all gratifying to the cavalry horses of the

[Illustration: ZAMORA

Church of Sta. Maria de la Horta.]

The last we saw of them was in the market square at evening. The giants
were standing at the corners; and in the centre sat Margaret of Antioch,
Virgin and Martyr, on a grand practicable dragon which could wag its own
head and tail. She was understood to be an "Extra," the exclusive
property of Zamora, and not to be met with in less favoured localities.
But precisely what she was doing in this galley we could not ascertain.
As for the giants, they are allegorical, and typify the four quarters of
the globe;--concerning which explanation one can only say that it is
little better than none.

The very Highest of High Masses was celebrated in the cathedral in
honour of the occasion. The priests were in their most gorgeous
vestments; the altar almost buried under a pyramid of silver plate; and
the walls of the cloisters draped with magnificent pieces of old Spanish
tapestry--Corah, Dathan and Abiram going down into the pit on horseback
like true _caballeros_, and Pharaoh pursuing the Israelites in a coach
and four. The service as usual was rather of a go-as-you-please
character; for the _Coro_ and _Capilla Mayor_[22] being completely
enclosed, it is only possible to watch the proceedings from the
transepts at the intersection. The congregation generally seem to treat
the affair like a "Caucus Race." They look on when they like, and leave
off when they like, and spend the intervals strolling round the aisles.
You are of course requested not to spit, or wear wooden shoes (which
seem equally obnoxious to Roman Catholics and Orangemen[23]). But
otherwise there are no restrictions: and there are certainly great
attractions in the side shows; for the chapels are a museum of medieval

The silver ark in which the Host made its progress was on show in one of
the aisles. All Spanish cathedral bodies are inordinately proud of this
piece of furniture (which is generally modern and tawdry); and there is
no nearer way to the sacristan's heart than to tell him that his
specimen is a finer one than that which you saw last at some rival
town--Salamanca, for instance. There is a warm neighbourly hatred
between Zamora and Salamanca; and once when I incautiously admitted
that the Salamanca people had told me there was nothing to see here, I
thought I should have produced an _émeute_.

Wherefore I would exhort future travellers not to be misled by those
Salamanca people. For Zamora is not merely ancient; it is even (in some
ways) up to date. It is somewhat of a shock to an antiquarian to
discover that the town is fully equipped with electric light; still more
so to realise that the power station is established in the old church of
Sta Maria de la Horta, with the dynamos purring among the arcades, and
the chimney tucked in behind the tower. But one soon gets reconciled to
these little incongruities. In Spain they are really so common that one
learns to expect them from the first.

The town of Toro stands some twenty miles further up the river than
Zamora, and makes a capital partner for its neighbour. Indeed, at first
sight it seems even more imposingly situated, for it rises on a much
loftier hill. But its cliffs are only of soft alluvial deposit instead
of solid rock; and its walls built only of mud, which has now nearly
crumbled away. In other respects they are not ill-matched, for the
streets of Toro are fully as picturesque as those of Zamora, and its
great collegiate church not unworthy of comparison with the cathedral.

The streets, as in most Spanish towns, are empty and deserted during the
heat of the afternoon; the houses closely shuttered, and the people
within doors. But as soon as the shadows have lengthened across the
roadway, they turn out unanimously on to the pavement, where they sit
spinning, sewing, and gossiping, in a sort of semi-publicity. In
unsophisticated districts the women (like mermaids) are much addicted to
combing each other's hair. The operator sits on a low chair or doorstep,
while her subject settles herself upon the ground at her feet, with her
head thrown back upon the other's lap, and her thick black mane flooding
out over her knees. A very pretty and poetical little group they
make--_if you do not pry too curiously into the details_. The younger
women have frequently magnificent hair; for they are quite innocent of
"transformations," yet their brows are most copiously crowned. One girl
at Salamanca wore a thick black pigtail that was positively tapping her
heels; and the beauty of Astorga (who was also of pigtail age) was not
many inches inferior.

[Illustration: A SPANISH PATIO]

The majority of the houses in the town are probably not more than a
couple of centuries old; but amongst them are a few genuine _Solares_,
once the homes of _hidalgos_ and grandees. It was to one of these that
the "_Conde Duque_" of Olivares, the celebrated minister of Philip IV.,
retired upon his disgrace and banishment from court; philosophically
busying himself with the cultivation of cabbages,--those gawky
long-stalked abortions, uncannily suggestive of Encrinites, which still
fill all the gardens round the town. Here he was visited by Gil Blas,
his quondam secretary, who flattered him with smug allusions to
Diocletian. Here also he used occasionally to entertain a more worthy
guest,--the painter Velasquez, who was too high-minded to desert his old
patron merely because he was under the displeasure of the king.
Politically Olivares was as worthless and corrupt as any of his rivals,
yet he evidently had an attractive personality. Quevedo, imprisoned four
years in the Leonese dungeon for lampooning him, would probably remember
him in a less amiable light!

The lofty situation of the city gives it an immensely extensive outlook;
for the left bank of the Duero is flat and low-lying, and but for the
interposition of the high heathy ground about Fuentesauco, one would
almost certainly be able to descry the spires of Salamanca itself.
Doubtless Marshal Marmont used frequently to pace the terrace of the
collegiate church when his headquarters were established here in the
summer of 1812; gazing out over his future battleground and planning
those intricate manoeuvres which were to close in disaster and

The scene of that final catastrophe is too far distant to be visible.
But a scarcely less notable conflict actually takes its name from the
town. This was the famous battle of Toro, which put an end to the civil
war at the opening of the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and seated
the Catholic kings firmly upon their throne. The rebellious nobles had
fortified themselves by an alliance with Alfonso of Portugal, and both
Toro and Zamora were in their hands. Alfonso's headquarters were at
Toro, but Zamora was besieged by Ferdinand, and Alfonso marched to its
relief. Seeing that both towns stand on the northern bank of the river,
it is difficult to understand what the Portuguese king could hope to
effect by advancing on the south. Perhaps he fancied that Zamora still
commanded the bridge and that he would thus be able to enter
unopposed. But Ferdinand's grip was too close; the bridge was in his
hands, and Alfonso had no choice but to return.

[Illustration: TORO

From the banks of the Duero.]

Ferdinand hurried his forces across the river in pursuit. His own army,
as usual in medieval days, could not be maintained at fighting strength
for many weeks together, and he was now nowise loth "to put it to the
touch to gain or lose it all." He came up with his foe a little distance
short of Toro. Mendoza was leading; and headed the charge against the
troops of his brother prelate the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, with a
breezy vehemence worthy of old Picton at Vitória, "Come on, you
villains! I'm as good a Cardinal as he!" The weary, overmarched
Portuguese were unable to sustain the onset; and their only retreat to
Toro lay over the narrow patchwork bridge. Alfonso himself escaped, but
there was no further fighting. The Catholic kings commemorated their
victory by the erection of the great church of San Juan de los Reyes at
Toledo, and the revolted nobles hastened to "come in" upon the best
available terms.



Spain is far poorer in lakes than in mountains: and the deficiency has
compensations, as it discourages the breeding of flies. But it offers a
rare opportunity for the disquisitions of a militant geologist, for the
lakes must have swamped all other physical features in the days when the
hills were young. Liebana and the Vierzo have been already conceded, but
he regards these as drops in the ocean. Now he claims the whole basin of
the Duero from the Cordillera of Cantabria to the Sierras of Grédos and
Guadarrama, from the highlands of la Demanda and Moncayo to the rocky
barrier on the frontiers of Portugal, through which the pent-up waters
at length cleft their passage to the sea.

Now the dry bed of an ancient lake is not in itself an ideal foundation
for a landscape; particularly when its original conformation is
remorselessly emphasised by the entire omission of fences and of trees.
The mud which formed the bottom has settled unevenly; and the rivers
have eroded it into yawning channels, whose steep sides (so prominent at
Toro) are scarped and furrowed into myriads of wrinkles by the scouring
of the winter rains. The district is not unfertile, for it is a land of
corn and wine and oil-olive, and water may be found at no great depth;
yet the surface soil is parched and dusty, the villages few and far
between, and great tracts of the higher ground consist of untilled
heaths where the ilex and cistus make their profit out of the heritage
unclaimed by man.

It scarcely seems an interesting district for a walking tour, yet we
were barely started before we fell in with one who thought otherwise. He
was English, of course:--mad as usual, despite his Spanish domicile; and
we fraternised with him at a wayside fountain where he recognised us as
compatriots (by our Spanish) directly we saluted him. Our programmes had
something in common, but his was by far the more onerous, and none but
the veriest devotee of the _Wanderlust_ could have ventured to undertake
it without some inward qualms. A long solitary tramp, and mostly
through desolate country, over mountain and moorland, from Toro, all the
way to Valéncia del Cid. True, he was a naturalist and an antiquary, and
could speak the language like a native; yet, if he was proof against
boredom, he must have been very good company to himself. It is not every
traveller who could rely so exclusively on his own resources. The ideal
tramp, like Don Quixote's ideal knight-errant, needs to be equipped with
"most of the sciences in the world."

Fortunately the cyclist's self-sufficiency is not tested nearly so
highly. He moves both further and faster than the pedestrian,--covering
two days' march in a single morning's ride. For him the great Spanish
plains are shorn of half their monotony; and if he loves Spain he may
blame me for hinting at monotony even here. He finds something strangely
exhilarating in the gorgeous sunshine, the dry crisp air, the unrivalled
immensity of landscape, and the all-pervading silence, so grateful after
London's maddening din. Spain is pre-eminently a land of ample horizons,
of panoramas, and bird's-eye views. The hollow conformation of the
plains gives the widest of scope to the vision, and the pale blue peaks
which enclose them may be as much as one hundred miles away. Standing
on the summit of the Guadarrama passes, we were wellnigh able to
persuade ourselves that the peaks just above us might disclose a view
extending from the Cantabrian mountains even to the Sierra Nevada;--all
the kingdoms of Spain and the glory of them at a single _coup-d'oeil_.

The purity of the atmosphere indeed is downright bewildering, and our
first preconceptions of distances went wandering wildly astray. Even as
far on our way as Madrid, a fortnight later, we found that we had not
yet been schooled to credit the milestones against the evidence of our
eyes. Madrid lay there before us: we could tell every house, every
window. It was absurd to try and convince us that it was ten kilometres
away! Yet we passed nine stony compurgators ere we reached the Toledo
gateway; and even our own cyclometers professed themselves "all of a
tale." The illusion is accentuated by the great distances which separate
the hamlets, and the absence of any intervening landmarks on the bare
red plains between.

Meanwhile the details of the landscape are far from uninteresting. The
heath flowers are varied and plentiful and the butterflies brilliant in
the extreme. The whole air rings with the yelling of the cicadas or the
croaking of the frogs in the rare and starveling streams. Little brown
lizards are numerous even in the mountains, but here on the plains is a
more imposing breed; great green monsters fifteen inches in length, who
lie out sunning themselves in the dust of the roadway, and scuttle
wildly to cover as our shadows sweep silently by. The natives eat
them;--so possibly does the tourist also, for many are the unsuspected
ingredients which are involved in the meshes of a Spanish stew.

The birds also, such as there are, seem exclusively decorative
specimens. First among these are the hoopoes, with their black and white
barred plumage, and their feather crowns, the gift of Solomon the Wise.
They have a strong fellow-feeling for the cyclist, and flit from tree to
tree along the road beside him with the most engaging _cameraderie_. If
they get too far ahead they will perch and await him, cocking their
crests and _hoo-poo-pooing_ encouragement; and once more resume their
swift drooping flight as soon as he draws level. Should these lines meet
their eyes they are assured that their companionship was much
appreciated. The little watery gullies where the frogs live are
generally picketted by the storks. Magpies too are alarmingly plentiful
in the wild stony districts along the feet of the mountains. Seven at a
time is all very well,--at least one knows Who to expect then,--but what
grislier horror is portended by thirteen? A Grand Inquisitor?

[Illustration: SALAMANCA

Arcades in the Plaza de la Verdura.]

Men as a rule seem scarcely so numerous as magpies, and one may ride for
miles at a stretch without encountering a soul; but those whom you do
meet are admirably in rapport with their surroundings; and though their
pursuits may be prosaic their appearance would illustrate a romance.
This solitary horseman, for instance, is probably a most commonplace
personage in reality. We shall sit next to him at _comida_ in an hour or
two, and discover that he is an eminently innocuous bagman. But out here
in the midst of the wilderness, clad in his broad-brimmed hat and his
ample black cloak which muffles him up to the eyes, he might pass as a
living embodiment of Roque Guinart himself, and we rather plume
ourselves on our resolution in venturing to keep to the road. The
Spaniard as a rule wraps himself up amazingly when he goes a-travelling;
and the Scotch shepherd sallying out to visit his flock in a December
snowstorm is not more jealously plaided than the Castilian carrier
trudging along beside his pack mules, with his purple shadow blotting
the dusty roadway at his feet. By way of contrast one may occasionally
see the small children scampering about outside the cabin doors without
so much as a rag of any description whatever--an infinitely more
enviable costume.

The greater number of the vehicles are ramshackle tilt-waggons, drawn by
a goodly array of mules, five or seven in a string. These have a horrid
habit of pulling _en échelon_, so that each beast has a clear view of
all the road ahead of him, and can make up his mind exactly what he
means to shy at. This formation occupies the whole width of the roadway,
and the driver (being a driver) is of course asleep; consequently, if
you have a rock wall on one side and an everlasting vertical precipice
on the other, you had better be careful how you pass. Indeed, it is well
to give them a wide berth in any case, for even the immortal Bayard
himself, "without fear and without reproach," professed himself anxious
about his shins in the neighbourhood of a Spanish mule. They are
harnessed with delightful inconsequence in all sorts of gay tags and
fringes, and scraps of old caparisons of yellow Cordovan leather; while
all deficiencies are eked out with string. This requires great
quantities of string. The waggons which they draw are equally
patchworky, with their cargoes bulging out on all sides in an imminently
precarious fashion. In the wine districts they generally carry an
"extra" in the shape of a huge tun slung under the axle between the
lofty wheels.

It is worthy of remark that a Spanish "gee-upper"[24] is commonly unable
to think of any worse name for a mule than its own. "Arré! Mula!!" he
cries, and collapses impotently. What more can he call it? It _is_ a
mule. To do him justice, however, he seldom resorts to blows to
reinforce his vocabulary; and the cruelty so often inveighed against in
southern countries is not very noticeable in northern Spain. The beasts
are gaunt, bony, and ill-kempt, but herein they are no worse off than
their drivers: they are too often worked when galled or foundered; yet
this is but negative heedlessness, and positive misusage is rare.

The temper of the beasts is uncertain. The ox and the ass are
phlegmatic, but the horse and mule (which have no understanding) have
decidedly fidgetty nerves. The mules are frequently gigantic animals, as
high-standing and big-boned as an English dray-horse, though much less
heavy and muscular. Mixed teams are frequently requisitioned in the
mountain districts. One sample that we met had a horse for leader, then
two mules tandem, a pair of oxen, and a mule in the shafts; another had
a mule for shafter, with two more mules outside the shafts, a fourth
ahead, and three yoke of oxen to lead the way. It is extremely
fashionable to finish off the string with a diminutive donkey (generally
the smaller the better) tacked on as a sort of afterthought at the head
of the whole cavalcade. He looks as though meant for a tassel, but is
really played as a pace-maker; for he is always the fastest walker and
the most enthusiastic worker in the team.

There was a real "little Benjamin" of jackasses that we met on the road
near Segóvia. Two men were coming into the town in charge of a bull; and
by way of getting the hulk steered with as little personal attention as
might be, it had struck them to harness this trifle to the monster's
spreading horns. Had the bull really resented the arrangement it would
have cost him but a turn of the head to heave the whole equipage over
the parapet among the tops of the poplars below. Fortunately, however,
he was not actively annoyed--only rather grumpy and puzzled. Every
few steps he would stop, shaking his head and bellowing; while his
little pilot gathered himself together, drove in his toes, and flung
himself into the collar with the exalted enthusiasm that does not reck
of odds. He fairly squirmed with glee as his charge condescended to move
a step or two forward, and evidently considered that every yard of
progress was exclusively attributable to himself.

[Illustration: SALAMANCA

Church of San Martin.]

We took our last look at the Cantabrian mountains from the crest of the
watershed between the Duero and Tormes; and the same hill that concealed
them brought us into full view of another equally imposing range to the
southward--the Sierra de Grédos, whose monarch, the Plaza Almanzor, is
only a few feet inferior even to the Rock of Ages which dominates Europa
Pikes. But it is to the fallows around us that our first attention is
owing;--a site which should stir the imagination of an Englishman as Don
Quixote's was stirred on the Campo de Montiel.

Over these bleak, red plough lands for six long July days in 1812 the
armies of Marmont and of Wellington marched and countermarched and
circled round each other like dancers in some vast quadrille or chess
players fencing for an opening. Neither leader would risk a doubtful
action; for the French Army of the Centre was rapidly approaching, and
its junction might make or mar a victory. Almost within speaking
distance, they raced for advantage in position, and scarcely once did
they pause to exchange a blow. It was a repetition of the old drama
enacted centuries before by Cæsar and Afranius upon the plains of
Lérida. But the Cæsar of this production was playing Afranius' _rôle_.

Marmont had the pace of his opponent, and Wellington pivoted round
Salamanca to guard his communications with Rodrigo. Foiled on the right,
Marmont dashed round to the left, forded the Tormes and thrust at
Salamanca from the south. Wellington still faced him; but King Joseph
was now close upon him, and within two days at furthest the English
would be hopelessly outnumbered by the junction of the hostile hosts.
Retreat was inevitable: had, indeed, already commenced; for the baggage
was on the move, and Wellington was but waiting for nightfall to cover
the withdrawal of his fighting line.

"A silver bridge for a retreating enemy," saith the Spanish proverb; but
Napoleon's aspiring young marshal had been trained in a more aggressive
school. He knew that his troops were the speedier, that Joseph's
junction would bring a winning superiority of numbers. If he could but
hold the English to their position for another day the campaign might be
finished at a blow;--and he eagerly pushed on his left under Maucune to
command the Rodrigo road. Clausel's brigade, already wheeling in from
the rear, would link the left to the centre; and his foe would be in a
cleft stick. But Clausel's march was limed in the thick web of olive
woods which mantles the hills towards Alba; the fatal gap yawned
conspicuous behind the hurrying columns; and in an instant Wellington
pounced upon Maucune.

Well was it for Marmont that the day was now far spent, and that the
fords of the Tormes had been left unguarded! For never was victory more
rapid or more complete. In forty minutes Marmont's magnificent army of
forty thousand men were a horde of disorganized fugitives; and the whole
of the central provinces lay defenceless at the feet of his foe.

It seems a little strange that Salamanca should contain no monument of
the great battle which freed half Spain from the grasp of the invader,
and which, in after years, the mighty victor himself was wont to regard
as his masterpiece--the Austerlitz of his career. Its only memorials
nowadays are a few forgotten tablets on the walls of the great
cathedral: from the roof of which the anxious townsfolk once heard the
sudden roar of the closing battle, and watched the great column of smoke
and dust soaring up slowly over Arapiles into the placid evening sky.

Salamanca shows itself off to best advantage when approached from the
southern side. It stands upon rising ground on the right bank of the
Tormes, with a fine old Roman bridge leading up to it across the stream.
The river banks are lined with voluble washerwomen,--at least a quarter
of a mile of them, fairly elbowing one another as they chatter over
their work; and behind them the red-roofed houses of the city are piled
up the slope in picturesque disarray. The most prominent object is the
great cathedral, a sixteenth century Gothic building of the type that is
only to be encountered in Spain. It is of imposing proportions, and
lavishly ornamented with a marvellous profusion of delicate carving
which could not possibly have stood the exposure to the weather in any
less favourable clime. Yet it lacks the deep mouldings and majestic
solidity of earlier works; and this somewhat academic pretentiousness
is not nearly so impressive as the stunted strength of the old
cathedral which nestles under the shadow of its more showy sister--a
typical Romanesque edifice, rude, massive, and solemn, like an oak
beside a poplar colonnade.

[Illustration: SALAMANCA

From the left bank of the Tormes.]

No city suffered more than Salamanca from Napoleon's disastrous
invasion; and what that implies let her fellow victims testify! The
French are pleased to regard themselves as the modern Athenians;--the
modern Vandals is the name that their neighbours might prefer! Gaiseric
himself never systematised pillage like Napoleon; and who can wonder at
the savage retaliation of the _Partidas_ when he sees the havoc which
was wrought in unhappy Spain? "Twenty-five convents, twenty-five
colleges, and twenty-five arches to the bridge," was the boast of the
citizens of Salamanca before the days of their visitation. But no less
than twenty colleges and thirteen convents (amongst them some of the
noblest Renaissance monuments) were razed to the ground by the
remorseless Marmont when he built his three great redoubts to fortify
the town against Wellington in 1812; and a ghastly bald scar in the
midst of the crowded city still marks the spot where the tyrant's hand
was laid. It is but poor consolation to remember that the ramparts
erected at this frightful cost crumpled up like the pasteboard helmet
beneath the stroke of his mightier foe: and that Marmont himself reaped
a small instalment of his whirlwind within actual sight of the city
which he had marred.

Perhaps it is hardly too much to assert that at the end of the
eighteenth century Salamanca must have been the most magnificently
housed university in the world. Even now, after all her losses, I can
think of no other on the Continent which can so well stand comparison
with our own. But, alas! she has fallen upon evil days. The famous Irish
college had a population of seven (Dons and Students included) at the
time of our visit; and the salaries of the professors are such as no
master of a board school would consider adequate in England. The
Augustan age of Salamanca commenced in the reign of Ferdinand and
Isabella; and was perhaps already declining when Gil Blas visited it
with his adventurous young mistress masquerading in her doublet and
hose. Then the city had more students than it has now inhabitants; and
even Paris and Bologna admitted the superiority of the Salamanca
schools. She was a progressive university too; and albeit she rejected
Columbus, she at least accepted Copernicus--a considerable step on the
way. In one respect her example might inspire present-day universities,
for here it was that a lady first held a professorial chair.

The great gate of the Library is now the chief relic of these bygone
glories: and that gem of the early Renaissance is worthily supported by
the arcaded quadrangles of some of the colleges and schools. They are
built of the warm golden-brown stone which is common to most Salamancan
monuments, and their richly-carved parapets and fantastically-shaped
arches have an air of oriental opulence which is very taking to the eye.

But even apart from its churches, convents, and colleges, Salamanca
would still remain notable by reason of its palaces alone. First among
these is the _Casa de las Conchas_,--spangled all over with the great
stone scallop shells from which it derives its name. It is even more
striking and original than its larger and lordlier rival, the famous
_Palacio de Monterey_; and I owe it a special acknowledgment for the
liberty which I have taken with it in pirating its façade to serve as
the cover of this volume.

The Castilian and Leonese _casas_ have much in common with the typical
Florentine palaces; and even their cousins of Aragon only differ from
them in so far as they are brick instead of stone. Towards the street
they present a square and solemn façade, plain or heavily rusticated,
and pierced with but few windows, which are always stoutly barred. The
entrance is large and plain, and generally arched over with enormously
deep _voussoirs_, which have a very imposing effect. Within is an open
_patio_ surrounded by a double arcade. A fine staircase in a recess
gives access to the upper tier; and the rooms which are ranged around
the gallery all open direct into the air. The centre of the _patio_ is
occupied by a well or fountain, and is often filled with flowers. The
type seems exceptionally suitable to a semi-tropical country; yet modern
builders will have none of it; and, though common in all provincial
capitals, it is nowhere to be met with in Madrid.

In a second and smaller type of house the great entrance doorway
occupies practically the whole of the ground-floor frontage. Obviously
it was generally entered on horseback, and the hall within (like that of
a village _posada_) served as antechamber both to the living rooms above
and to the stables behind. The family lived on the first and second
floors, while the third was originally a _belvedere_. But nowadays the
latter has been enclosed and the ground floor generally converted into a

[Illustration: SALAMANCA

The Puerta del Rio, with the Cathedral Tower.]

It is one of the penalties of sketching in a crowded city that everybody
who has no immediate occupation of his own becomes consumingly
interested in yours. There is but one spot in Salamanca where one is
quite secure from surveillance, and that is opposite the porch of San
Martin, perhaps the most frequented corner in the town. Here, balanced
gingerly upon a narrow ledge, you overlook the heads of the bystanders,
and even the most agile urchin can find no foothold in your rear.

Yet the immunity is hardly worth winning. At best it is very
uncomfortable; and if you submit to your heckling, the entertainment is
not all on one side. At the bridge head it even secured me the offer of
a commission. The Boniface of the little wine-shop was urgent with me to
reproduce my sketch enlarged upon the front of his bar. My recompense
was to comprise full board and lodging during the operation,--and that
would have been no trifle. But he must have had considerable faith in
the covering capacity of water colours to pit a little twenty-pan
paint-box against fifty square feet of deal boards.

But it was at the _Puerta del Rio_ that I found my _entourage_ of most
practical utility. It had been snowing overnight in the mountains, and
the Sierra de Grédos was draped from base to summit in a mantle of
dazzling white. In spite of the brilliant sunshine the wind was
incredibly bitter, and the miserable sketcher would have been frozen
without his human screen. Truly "Winter is not over till the fortieth of
May" within reach of those icy summits. The Duke of Wellington asserted
that the coldest thing in his recollection was the wind at Salamanca in



There were "Bulls at Salamanca" (so ran the placards) on the day when we
were to resume our journey towards the south; and the _Señor Patron_
seemed quite crestfallen at realising that we had no intention of
deferring our departure in order to witness the fun. Bull-fighting was
_not_ cruel, he protested. That was all our inexplicable British
prejudice. And as patrons of prize-fights and football we ought to be
the last to throw stones. We were rather expected to sympathise with the
national sport of Spain.

His conclusion was truer than his reasoning. There are certain thrilling
forms of playing with death amiably tolerated by the British public
which are logically no whit better than bull-fighting: and it is not
humanity but fashion that dictates to us which to condemn. Only a few
days earlier an unfortunate woman had been killed at Madrid while
"looping the loop" on a motor; and the Spanish papers (those eager
reporters of bull-fights) were all most properly indignant at the
dangerous and degrading character of this new-fangled foreign show. Our
British high-toned repugnance is distinctly less moral than squeamish.
But we did not want our feelings harrowed in the midst of a holiday

Bull-fighting is one of the many sports that have been ruined by
professionalism. In the days when the young gallants of the court
encountered the bull themselves, on their own horses, before the eyes of
their lady-loves in the _Plaza Mayor_, there was a spice of chivalry
about the proceeding that half redeemed its brutality. It was truly a
sport then, albeit a savage one; but now it is merely a show.

Moreover, even our host admitted that this time the _Corrida_ would be
shorn of its foremost attraction. It was to have been inaugurated by a
bull-fighting _Pierrot_ who was wont to await the first rush of the
monster motionless upon a tub in the centre of the arena. The bull would
charge headlong upon him,--check, sniff, and turn away. No doubt he owed
his immunity to his apparent lifelessness; but it was billed as the
"power of the human eye." Alas! on the last occasion his programme had
miscarried. Just at the critical moment a fly had settled on his nose;
and for one infinitesimal fraction of a second the entire voltage of the
human eye was switched upon that miserable insect. The effect on the fly
was not stated, but it markedly reassured the bull. Poor _Pierrot_ had
been tossed as high as a rocket, and apparently was not expected down
again in time for the performance to-day.

The two English visitors to Salamanca also failed to figure at the
function. They had crossed the bridge very early in the morning, and
were heading for the mountains of Grédos by the highway leading to
Béjar. The actual battlefield was passed upon the left, about four miles
distant from Salamanca, subtending the angle formed by the roads to Alba
and Béjar; and the olive woods which so hampered Clausel spread wide
around us over the hills behind. It was a just Nemesis which overtook
the invaders on this occasion, for the destruction of olive trees for
fuel had been one of their most gratuitous outrages during the war. The
olive is a slow grower, and a few hours' reckless cutting might take
half a century to repair.

At first the road rises gradually and the country is open and
undulating; but soon it gets deeply involved in a labyrinth of
mountains, and tacks despairingly backwards and forwards in vain
endeavours to twist itself free from the toils. Finally it extricates
itself by a frantic rush up a long steep hill, and resumes its journey
at first-floor level along the shoulders of the range. Some distance
further west it manages to discover a passage across the main ridge into
the province of Estremadura; but the town of Béjar itself lies four or
five miles upon the hither side.

[Illustration: BÉJAR

An Approach to the Town.]

Hope had told us a flattering tale concerning the attractions of Béjar.
A Salamanca gentleman to whom we confided our intention of visiting it
had kissed his finger-tips ecstatically at the mere mention of its name.
"_Muy bonita!_"[25] he exclaimed. "_Preciosa!!_" And truly his
adjectives were excusable; for a more charming situation for a mountain
township it is almost impossible to conceive. A long knife-edged ridge
is thrown out from the range at right angles. The one street is carried
along its crest, and the houses cling to either side of it like panniers
on the back of a mule. A great snowclad peak, one of the minor
summits of the Sierra, towers above the head of the ridge and gravely
surveys the street from end to end; while the extreme point looks out
over the wild hummocky country towards Ciudad Rodrigo, with the great
masses of the Sierra de Gata and Peña de Francia surging up truculently
above the lower hills. Béjar is a fragment of Tyrolean scenery dropped
accidentally on the borders of Estremadura. Its buildings are nothing
remarkable, but its situation is irreproachably picturesque.

The town was holding a little _Fiesta_ of its own upon the day of our
visit, and the advent of two pedlars with knapsacks was naturally
accepted as a part of the show. Several anxious enquirers stopped us in
the street to ascertain "what our honours were selling"; and the
prevalent notion appeared to be that we were vendors of edible snails!
Many of the country-folk had come in from the remoter villages and were
attired in the quaintest of costumes. The women wore very brief skirts,
which gave an exceedingly squat appearance to their sturdy thick-set
figures. The men had tight black breeches and jerkins adorned with
polished metal buttons; enormously broad leather belts something like
the cuirasses of the Roman legionaries, and forked leather aprons
loosely strapped down their thighs. This weird type of dress we had
already noticed at Salamanca; and for a hot climate it must be about the
most unsuitable ever conceived by man.

The journey from Salamanca to Ávila entails a longer spell of Duero
valley scenery than that from Salamanca to Béjar; and for the best part
of a day we were perseveringly reeling off league after league of the
same dry red plough lands which had already wearied us in the North. It
was not till towards evening that the road at last began swerving and
plunging upon the great ground-swell which ripples out into the plain
from the feet of the Sierra de Guadarrama; and the huge granite boulders
littered about among the stunted ilex and gorse which clothed the shaggy
ridges apprised us that we had drawn within reach of the derelict
_moraines_. Still as we held our course each successive wave bore us
higher than its predecessor, till at last we looked down into a wide
upland basin, and beheld the towers of Ávila rising proudly upon their
daïs in the midst.

[Illustration: BÉJAR

A Corner in the Market-place.]

There is no other walled town of my acquaintance that flaunts its
defences quite so defiantly as Ávila. Its circlet of tower and curtain
crests its great natural _glacis_ like the substantialised vision
of a mural crown. The walls themselves are only about twelve feet in
thickness, which is, of course, a mere trifle compared to Lugo and
Astorga; but it is height that tells, and their commanding situation
gives them an incomparably finer effect.[26] Only on the further side
has the city begun to overflow its ancient cincture; and with its core
of tightly-packed houses clustering round its great cathedral-fortress
which crowns the brow of the eminence, it still receives its latter-day
visitors in the same garb that it donned for the Cid. Doubtless the old
rebel barons had an eye to its scenic capabilities when they selected it
as the theatre for their mock deposition of Henrique IV. This thing was
not to be done in a corner, and the impudent pageant which they enacted
under its walls must have been visible for miles round.

But the chief pride and glory of Ávila is the boast that it was the
birthplace of Sta Theresa, the "seraphic" lady whom a more emotional
epoch has preferred to the martial Santiago, and almost matched with the
Virgin herself as the modern patroness of Spain.

Sta Theresa was quite a modern saint; and, like her contemporary
Ignatius Loyola, much more truly saintly than hagiologists would have us
infer. They would rather persist in belauding her visionary ecstasies
and ascetic self-mortification. Her practical common-sense and her
gentle resolution are dismissed as earthlier virtues: yet it was these
that made her a power.

She certainly lost no time in beginning the practice of her profession,
for at the age of seven she persuaded her baby brother to run away with
her to Barbary to get martyred by the Moors. Being captured and brought
home by their distracted parents, they next decided upon becoming
hermits. But this notable scheme was also vetoed;--poor little mites!
Maybe we know other small children who have started somewhat similarly
on the road to canonization; but Theresa's romantic devotion outlasted
this fanciful stage. At the age of sixteen she assumed the veil--a step
which in wiser years she was not so eager to advocate, but in which she
found ample opportunity for the exercise of her piety and her zeal. Her
reform of the Carmelite nunneries was achieved in the teeth of great
opposition from the hierarchy of the day; and her literary work is of an
excellence that places her high among the classical writers of Spain.
It is to such as her and Loyola, rather than to Torquemada and Ximenes,
that the Roman Church owes its hold upon the people. And by these she is
dowered with the attributes which belong to Catherine of Siena in
another land.

But perhaps the most remarkable honour ever accorded to her is the fact
that two hundred years after her death she was actually gazetted
commander-in-chief of the Spanish armies in the Peninsula war! Certainly
Louis XI. had previously honoured Our Lady of Embrun with the colonelcy
of his Scottish Guards. But here was a popular assembly, in the
nineteenth century, which could "see him and go one better"; a far more
deliberate extravagance than the whim of a fetish-cowed king. Of course
there was more method in their madness than appears on the surface. They
did not really want a commander-in-chief at all. What they did want was
a Name which should fire the enthusiasm of the peasantry, as the
citizens of Zaragoza had been fired by the name of Our Lady of the
Pillar. At the same time it must be admitted that matters seemed to move
more smoothly when she was superseded by the Duke of Wellington.

The cathedral is a most massive structure of stern grey granite, with
its apse bulging out beyond the city walls--battlemented, loop-holed,
and machicolated like the profanest bastion of them all. It looks every
inch a castle, and has not served amiss when so utilised; for in the
great western tower the infant King Alfonso XI. (Father of Pedro the
Cruel) was kept safe from his would-be guardians during his long
minority, by the Bishop and people of Ávila. The interior of the
building is one of the noblest in Spain--severe, gloomy and solemn; but
furnished with that surpassing magnificence which only Spanish
cathedrals can boast.

The old town itself is full of quaint nooks and corners, and most of its
streets and houses are as unalterably medieval as the walls. A county
council inspector would probably play sad havoc with them, for even if
they are sanitary they are terribly out of repair. There is a smell
which lingers distinctive in these old Spanish townships. Not indeed
altogether unpleasant, but rather grateful from association, like the
smell of the stone walls of the West country after a summer shower. It
is compounded of many simples, and its leading ingredient is garlic. But
it would be hard to prove its innocency before our stern courts of

[Illustration: ÁVILA

From the North-west.]

A Spaniard, however, takes his risks more lightly than an Englishman.
Like Sancho Panza, he argues that the physician is worse than the
disease. Life is a shockingly hazardous business even on wafers and
_membrillo_, and perhaps, after all, roast partridge is not quite so
deadly as Hippocrates supposed.

Perhaps the most notable of the many monasteries and churches of Ávila
is the Convent of San Tomas at the foot of the hill to the south. As in
many important Spanish churches, the choir is placed in a great stone
gallery at the west end, and in this instance the arrangement is
balanced by a similar gallery for the High Altar at the east. The floor
is occupied by the beautiful marble monument of Prince Juan, the only
son of Ferdinand and Isabella. The Catholic kings, fortunate in all
else, desired in vain that greatest blessing of all, the happiness of
their children. Juan, the hope of their kingdom, died a few months after
his marriage, and his posthumous child was still-born. Isabella, their
eldest daughter, torn from the cloister to give an heir to the crown,
was married to the Crown Prince of Portugal. Her young husband was
killed by a fall from his horse; and though she was again married to his
successor, she died in child-birth; and her infant son, heir to the
whole Peninsula, did not long survive. Poor mad Juana, crazed by the
neglect of her worthless husband, was the second daughter of the
ill-starred family, and the youngest was Catherine of Aragon.

Ávila lies at an extremely lofty elevation, three thousand feet above
sea level; and both here and at Segóvia snow frequently falls as late as
the middle of May. The mountains immediately behind it, however, are but
the connecting link between the Sierras of Grédos and Guadarrama, and
all the loftier peaks lie at some distance east and west. A road leads
through the gap to Talavera de la Reyna (a circumstance, it may be
remembered, which was extremely fortunate for Sir John Moore).[27] But
we, being bound for Madrid, set our course along the north of the
mountains, heading eastward to join the main road from Vigo at the
little town of Villacastin.

Our course lay over a brown and undulating moorland, with the Duero
plains to the left of us and the broken ridges of the Sierra rising up
boldly upon the right. The scene might well be matched in Scotland,
Donegal, or Connemara; for the granite mountains are very similar in
formation, and the purple hardhead which clothes them is an excellent
imitation of heather, though of a deeper shade, suggestive of royal
mourning. Here and there great tracts of the moorland, many acres in
extent, are thickly strewn with gigantic boulders, singly or in heaps,
like huge natural cairns. Doubtless these are _blocs perchés_, the
relics of extinct glaciers, like the similar blocks on the road from
Salamanca, or those near Ribadávia above the Miño vale. The road, as
usual, was almost deserted, but conscientiously patrolled by two very
large and splendid _carabineros_ mounted on humble asses, which could
scarcely raise their riders off the ground.

At Villacastin we struck the great royal road for which we had been
making, and the mountains stretched out their arms to receive us as we
turned our faces towards the south. The day had been well advanced when
we quitted Ávila, and now it was nearly dusk. The mountains were of
indigo darkness, and the deep, closed valley into which we were plunging
was as black as the throat of a wolf. But the white road led us on
surely and steadily; and we knew that somewhere in the chasm before us
was the shelter upon which we were counting for the night.

The _Fonda San Rafael_ is a long, low, straggling building, very similar
to our own old coaching inns, but much more primitive in style. The
village aristocracy were engaged at dominoes in the kitchen; and the
time which we wasted in dining they attempted to utilise more profitably
by mastering the English tongue. They borrowed our pocket dictionary and
started their task with enthusiasm. But this laudable access of energy
did not win the success it deserved. Unluckily they commenced operations
among the _sn's_--a combination which no Spaniard can ever pronounce
without an antecedent e. And they came such amazing croppers over
"_es-na-îl_," "_es-nâ-ké_" and "_es-ne-êzé_," that their bewildered
interpreters got as much at sea as themselves.

[Illustration: ÁVILA

A Posada Patio.]

The ascent of the _Puerto de Guadarrama_ begins immediately beyond the
village; a series of long steep zigzags well shaded by slender pine
trees--the "spindles of Guadarrama," to which Don Quixote likened
Dulcinea. The climb in itself is not particularly arduous, but no doubt
it is an ugly place in a December snowstorm; and so Napoleon found
to his cost, when he forced the passage in 1808, rushing northwards from
Madrid to fall upon the adventurous Moore. Marbot has left us a grisly
description of its snow-drifts and precipices; and the furious eddies of
whirlwind which swept horse and man to destruction as they struggled up
the icy paths. But probably his account is a little over-painted; for
precipices should be perennial both in summer and winter; but the
steepest which we could identify were about of tobogganing pitch.

Viewed from the north, the pass is a saddle at the end of a long deep
valley; but its southern face forms an embrasure in a great mountain
wall. The whole valley of the Tagus seemed spread beneath us as we gazed
down from the summit; the plains all shimmering in a sea of purple heat
haze, and the blue Toledan mountains rising faint and ethereal upon the
further shore. So "Lot lifted up his eyes and looked and beheld all the
Vale of Jordan." The text seems singularly appropriate to many of these
vistas of Spain. A little later in the day, when the haze had been
lifted by the sunshine, every detail of the country would have shown up
as clearly as on a map.

At the foot of the descent we swung to the right along a pleasant
undulating road amid trees and meadows and hedgerows. And here, as in
private duty bound, let us record our gratitude to Don Fernando, who
erected the noble fountain whereat we refreshed ourselves by the way.
Don Fernando's fountain is a great stone cistern, with the water gushing
into it from an upright pillar behind. Verily his spirit is at rest if
the wayfarers' prayers may avail him; for nowhere is water more
appreciated than in this land of wine.

Don Fernando (_requiescat in pace_) is by no means the only benefactor
who has conferred such a boon on his countrymen. Almost every village
near the mountains is dowered with a tank in the _plaza_, and a generous
jet of water beneath which you may seethe your hissing head. Would that
we were as well off in England! For our fountains can furnish no more
than a miserable trickle, and even that is frequently dry. How often
have we raged unsatisfied from one faithless nozzle to another, while
the yokels mocked our agonies with commendations of the beer! Beer is
excellent in its way--but not when one is thirsty. Then _on revient
toujours à ses premiers amours_. [Greek: ARISTON MEN UDÔR].

The famous palace of Escorial opened suddenly before us as we rounded a
shoulder of the mountain, and there can be few palaces in the world
which occupy so imposing a site. It is often referred to as standing
upon a plain, but the description is entirely misleading. It rises upon
the lap of the mountains, high above the level of Madrid. Our first
view, moreover, much discounted our preconceived notions regarding its
gloomy appearance; for bathed in a flood of southern sunshine, it had
rather a cheerful aspect. But the very sunshine itself grew chilled as
we narrowed the radius; and the bare rude walls, vast, grey, and
featureless, like an enormously exaggerated Newgate, seemed to crush out
all the gladness of nature with their cold, unalterable frown.

"First a tomb, next a convent, last a palace," was the ideal at which
the founder was aiming; and the massive asceticism of the building is an
apt reflection of his mood. It boasts itself the finest of all the great
monasteries: and if tested by weight or by measure, the claim could
hardly be denied. But this vast gloomy prison is a thing which has
nothing in common with the staid beauty of Poblet,[28] or the
Aladdin-like brilliance of the Certosa at Pavia. Yet the extreme
severity of its style is by no means inappropriate to the great church
which forms the central feature; and none that remember its grim
associations would wish to see the Escorial other than it is.

The memory of Philip the Prudent is still held in honour by Spaniards,
for he reigned in the days of their glory, and was probably the most
powerful autocrat who ever occupied the throne. But history's more
equable judgment has condemned the reign as a failure, and the monarch
as one of the scourges of mankind. True, he has not lacked apologists;
for there is an uncanny fascination about his grim personality; and it
is not difficult to show some redeeming quality even in a Louis XI. or a
Richard III. But most of us prefer our history broadly coloured, with
good strong lights and shadows. We must be allowed a real villain
occasionally; and, till such time as we get Iago incarnate, Philip II.
will do very sufficiently well. "A rake in his youth, a monster in his
manhood, a miser in his old age;"--the bitter epitaph scribbled up over
his deathbed paints his character in three lines.

[Illustration: ESCORIAL

From the East.]

And yet none who has once visited the Escorial will thereafter think of
Philip without some glimmerings of respect. Our loathing for his
selfish and cruel tyranny is tempered with a kind of shuddering pity for
that other side of his character;--his gloomy religious mania, the taint
inherent in his blood. There was something of gruesome greatness in the
mind which could conceive such a building, "reserving for himself but a
cell in the house he was erecting for God."

The Escorial was Philip's most cherished creation. Probably he had a
large share in designing it; certainly he watched it stone by stone as
it grew. Here he dwelt as "Brother Philip," a monk in his own monastery,
"ruling two worlds with a scrap of paper, from a cell on a mountain
side." Here he was worshipping when he received the news of Lepanto, and
of the destruction of the Armada. And it was with the same resolute
stoicism that he learned of the victory and of the defeat. Here he
died--the death of Herod Agrippa; sustaining his two months' agony with
a constancy worthy of de Seso himself.[29] And all that is left of him
rests in the little octagonal chapel beneath the High Altar, where his
sire and his successors share his tomb. His portrait by Pantoja hangs on
the walls of the library. A dreadful visage,--heartless, deceitful,
obstinate,--miserable beyond the power of words to express. But no
picture ever painted, no statue ever carved, could reveal his character
more vividly than the great gloomy pile of hard grey granite which he
himself has bequeathed as a legacy to posterity.

Yet on one point the tyrant-hermit claims our unreserved approbation. He
displayed a most excellent taste in the matter of selecting a site. Here
we can feel no shadow of sympathy for his critics. His choice was
unexceptionable: and those who impugn it are blind. Indeed, this whole
range of Sierras is a region of singular beauty, and the charming old
towns which lie on the foot hills beneath it,--Béjar and Plaséncia,
Ávila and Segóvia,--give it an added interest which mountain districts
do not often possess. Charles V. was drawn hither to Yuste, as Philip to
Escorial: yet each held an ample dominion and neither was an incapable
_connoisseur_. The jaded soldier and statesman could wish for no
pleasanter resting-place than these grave highland solitudes which form
the backbone of Spain.

The road which leads plainwards from Escorial to Madrid--"that splendid
road constructed regardless of cost for the gratification of a royal
caprice"--seems now scarce worthy of Macaulay's eulogies. Many of the
roads to the northward have had to encounter far greater engineering
difficulties, and show quite excellent results. Yet this and all other
Madrid roads are uniformly villanous; and when they amalgamate they
produce the Madrid paving, which is a thing to remember in bad dreams.

The capital itself, however, does not show up badly when approached from
the northward; and the Royal Palace which dominates it, on the hill
above the Manzanares, is an exceedingly imposing pile. Aránjuez (we were
given to understand) considers itself equal to Windsor; but no one of
our acquaintance would dare mention Buckingham Palace in competition
with the _Palacio Real_ at Madrid.



There are but three reasons, that I know of, for anyone visiting Madrid.
First, that the roads (which are very bad) lead there; second, that the
Prado picture gallery (which was closed) is exceeding magnifical; and
third, that there is a bicycle repairer--which is an unsatisfactory
reason at best. Smart, well-groomed, busy cities with commodious
mansions and boulevards may be found (by such as have need of them)
within easier distances than this. And for those who seek old streets,
historic monuments, and that delightful aroma of medievalism which is
the true inward charm of the Peninsula,--are not the little crooked
_calles_ of Ávila and Segóvia and Toledo better than all the _carreras_
of Madrid?

To them the "Only Court" is no more than a convenient "jumping-off
place"; a head office of "Cooks'"; an _entrepôt_ of the central roads.
The Mecca of their pilgrimage lies fifty miles to the southward,--Toledo,
the ancient stronghold of the Moor, the Visigoth, and the Roman in the
days when none dreamed of such a kingdom as Castile.

The map showed two roads to Toledo, and already I had sampled one of
them. "The Illescas road," I argued, "was as bad as possible"; and
"therefore the Aránjuez road is the best." My premise had been quite
unassailable, yet after all my deduction proved fallacious. More just,
and equally logical, was "therefore it has necessarily improved."

The Aránjuez road, to do it justice, starts off with the most admirable
intentions; and as if it were really determined to arrive (as it
proposes) at Cadiz. But there is a sad slump in its prospects before it
has got far on the journey. It becomes stony and bumpy and hummocky,
with ruts like the furrows of a plough; and to steer a bicycle along the
narrow ribbon of practicable track at the margin is an operation of some
nicety, which is not at all facilitated by a heavy side wind. Presently
there is a lucid interval of good smooth surface, which lasts just long
enough to put the victim into good humour; and the final stage into
Aránjuez is like the shingle that is upon the sea-shore.

Such are the habits of a Spanish road; and in a way its eccentricities
are consolatory. However bad it may be, you can always cherish the hope
that it will reform itself altogether round the next turn. There is no
reason why it should, but it often does. Of course, "in the alternative"
the converse is equally true, but that is a point which needs glossing.
Unless you foster a sanguine temperament you will make no progress at

I have dwelt at some length on the state of the road, but, indeed, at
this stage there is little else to dwell upon. A struggling avenue is
pluckily endeavouring to push a line of green pickets across the
dun-coloured plain; and here and there are a few miserly olives, each
perched upon the little hoard of soil clutched by its hungry roots. But
the only things that seem really to flourish are the gigantic six-foot
thistles, and I fear that is an ill-omened fertility. It is a greener
and leafier world when we descend into the Jarama valley.

[Illustration: TOLEDO

Bridge of Alcántara, from the Illescas Road.]

Yet those who have heard Aránjuez described as a Garden of Eden in the
midst of a desolate wilderness are likely to find themselves somewhat
disillusioned by the reality. True, a tree is always a welcome object in
verdureless Castile; but the English elms which are the boast of King
Philip's oasis, "they grow best at home in the North Countree"; and
though they wear a brave face, they must envy the ample glades and rich
green turf which their brethren enjoy in the parks of England. That the
much-vaunted palace itself should prove rather a failure need surprise
no one. The Spanish nobles are town-dwellers, and a country seat such as
Haddon, or Hatfield, or Burleigh, is quite beyond their ken. Aránjuez
was a first attempt, and is not the right plant for the soil. Perhaps
Hampton Court, enlarged and remodelled in the style of an Alexandra
Palace, might convey some notion of its cheap tea-gardeny air: but even
the river is uninteresting--a reproach that can seldom be levelled at
the Tagus!

I had been cheering my flagging spirits by the anticipation of a nice
shady road down the Tagus banks to Toledo: but now an old muleteer
regretfully mentioned that the road was dead, and truly it was the
spectre of a road to which he introduced me. The ox-carts had been
wallowing in it axle deep throughout the winter, and the spring sun had
baked it into a chaos of _seracs_ and _crevasses_ which might have been
practicable for a goat. It was wide and straight indeed, and it boasted
a noble avenue; but its sole saving feature, from a practical
standpoint, was a grassy footpath at the side. So long as the avenue
continued, the track maintained some semblance of coherency; but when
that also defaulted, it frankly abandoned all further interest in life.
As a guide it was luckily needless; I had simply to follow the valley,
and as there were no walls or hedges I could make a bee-line if I chose.
Moreover, on the further side of the river a lofty detached hill, with a
ruined castle on the summit, formed a prominent landmark by which to
gauge my progress; and with plenty of time before me, I was bound to
arrive in the end.

A sympathetic bandit, who found me hauling my bicycle across a ploughed
field, dispassionately suggested that I might find the railroad better.
This opinion was loyally endorsed by Second Bandit a mile or so to the
rearward; and Third Bandit (ever the most practical of the trio) fairly
marched me up the embankment and launched me along the permanent way.
They were quite right--it was better; but sleepers and ballast are not a
desirable cycle track, and my well-regulated English mind revolted
against the scandalous impropriety of the whole proceeding. However, it
is sheer waste of one's scruples to squander them over the infraction of
Spanish bye-laws. They are humoured so long as convenient; but for
everything there is a season: and nobody dreams of enforcing them if
they chance to be inopportune. There was a wayside station to pass
before I reached Toledo; there was a train drawn up at the platform,
with all the officials _en evidence_, and the passengers, as usual,
profiting by the stoppage to indulge in a stroll and cigarettes. I
dismounted perforce at the points; but through the station I rode
unblushingly: and no one seemed to regard the circumstance as the least
unusual or reprehensible. No doubt from Aránjuez to Toledo all
bicyclists travel that way.

Meanwhile I had been making fair progress, and my goal was nearly
gained. My castellated beacon had dropped out of sight behind me; and in
front, at the end of the valley, silhouetted against the western sky,
rose the great rocky knoll which is the seat of imperial Toledo. A bend
of the river had brought its waters within easy reach, and having washed
off the dust of travel, I was indulging in a few minutes' idleness
before resuming the road. Suddenly a herd of cattle plashed down into
the river a few yards away from me; and their diminutive Corydon--a
little brown wisp of humanity in the costume of a second-hand
scarecrow--came pattering happily at their heels. An English yokel
would have been hopelessly flabbergasted by such an unlooked-for
encounter; but not so my little Castilian. He bowed, sat down beside me,
and launched out into conversation with the most delicious confidence
and self-possession, as if it were all the most natural occurrence in
the world. He accepted a cigarette with becoming gravity, and made
sympathetic murmurs when the matches refused to light. Our final success
was acknowledged with a prim little "Blessed be God!" At the end of our
chat he escorted me back to the pathway, and made his adieu with a
quaint courtliness that conferred a dignity on his rags. Yet probably he
had never set foot outside his village, nor set eyes on a stranger in
his life. Good manners, like good looks, are sometimes bred in the bone.

[Illustration: TOLEDO

The Bridge of Alcántara.]

Hitherto the valley has been wide and open; but now the river begins to
reveal itself in its true character,--_El Tajo_, the Gash,[30]--deep and
narrow between its riven walls. Across its path lies the massive granite
barrier of the mountains of Toledo. The stream drives squarely into them
and recoils away sullenly towards the west. But ere it turns it has
bitten deep, and a great outlying bastion is held in the hollow of its
curve. The sun at his creation shone first upon that rocky dais! The
dignity of Toledo demands no meaner site!

It is indeed an ideal situation for a medieval fortress; in plan a rough
approximation to the shape of a rather square D. The curved line is
formed by the gorge of the Tagus, whose steep, rocky banks would alone
be an adequate defence; the straight by the landward face,--also lofty
and precipitous, and crowned with the remnants of Wamba's ancient walls.
And at the two corners the grand fortified medieval bridges of San
Martin and Alcántara throw their lofty arches across the stream. The
site is very similar to that of Durham: but the Toledo plateau is
larger; and the Tagus is all unwooded, and wilder and grander than the

The founder, of course, was Hercules. All Spanish cities were founded by
Hercules, except a few which had been previously founded by Tubal. No
doubt a large man with a club was a somewhat recurrent phenomenon; and
the tale of his legendary prowess was the sole evidence of identity that
an early Phoenician colonist was likely to require. After the
Phoenicians came the Romans. But the glory of Toledo first reached its
height in the Dark Ages which succeeded the Roman, when the Visigoth
dwelled in the land. Toledo was the capital of the Visigothic kingdom;
and that kingdom in the day of its power, during the reigns of Leovigild
and Wamba, was probably the most potent among all the nations of the
West. How dire must have been the consternation of Austrasia and
Neustria and Lombardy, when, scarcely a generation later, their
protagonist succumbed so utterly before the onset of the Moors!--when
the Jews opened the gates of the unwary capital to admit the hordes of
Tarik, and the fall of imperial Toledo set the seal on the disaster of

Neither Christian nor Moslem underrated the catastrophe of that fatal
Palm Sunday; and the meagre outline of history has been gaudily coloured
by romance. Who has not heard the tale of the enchanted Tower of
Hercules, wherein the self-willed Roderic sought and learned the secret
of his doom? The fascinating Shahrazad won a full night's respite from
her dangerous lord by her catalogue of the loot of the "City of
Labtayt"--the hundred and seventy crowns of pearl and jacinth, the
magical mirror, and the emerald table of Solomon!

[Illustration: TOLEDO

Puerta del Sol.]

The Tower of Hercules is no longer alive to testify: but an old Moorish
ruin down by the water's edge, under the bridge of San Martin, is still
pointed out as the scene of the companion tale. Here the fair Florinda
was bathing in the Tagus when her beauty caught the eye of the royal
Roderic, and fired the passion which brought unnumbered woes to Spain.
It is, indeed, a little hard upon poor Florinda that she should never
have been forgiven for her share in the disaster. It was her father, not
she, who let loose the Moors to avenge her; and even the legend
describes her as more sinned against than sinning. Yet the ballads,
which can spare pity for Roderic, have nothing but contumely for her. It
is argued, I suppose, that all the trouble arose out of her unbridled
passion for bathing. But this is a failing which we northerners regard
more leniently. Arletta's ablutions were under a happier star!

During the palmy days of Moslem dominion, Toledo had to yield pride of
place to Córdova. But after the fall of the western Caliphate it
disputed the _hegemony_ with Seville; and it was with considerable
equanimity that Mohammed, the king of Andalusia, saw his formidable
rival grappled by the Christians under Alfonso VI. The author of the
_Poema del Cid_ bitterly deplores the fact that there was no "sacred
bard" to immortalise the chivalrous incidents of that great two years'
leaguer; but, at least, the result was satisfactory, and three hundred
and seventy years after its capture Toledo was won again from the Moor.
Its fall was wellnigh fatal to the Spanish Moslems; for Mohammed himself
was now unable to resist the conqueror; and willing to live "a
camel-driver in the African deserts rather than a swineherd in Castile,"
he despairingly summoned the Almoravides from Morocco to his aid. He had
sold his kingdom to save it; yet the newcomers beat back Alfonso: and
the Cid's newly-won kingdom of Valéncia went under in the flood. But
Toledo, once the stronghold of Paynimry, was now the bulwark of
Christendom; and against its iron ramparts the wave of Moslem reaction
spent itself in vain.

Now began the second period of Toledo's greatness. The city became the
seat of the Spanish primate and the favourite residence of the Castilian
kings. Some of its importance leaked away southward when Córdova and
Seville were reconquered by Ferdinand III. in 1248. But the first great
blow to its prosperity was the inhuman expulsion of the Jews by
Ferdinand and Isabella at the end of the fifteenth century. Toledo had
been one of their chief asylums ever since the destruction of Jerusalem;
and though Goth and Moor and Christian had all alike persecuted them
whenever they became rich enough to make it worth while, yet they were
now a numerous colony, wealthy, honoured, and well affected to the
crown. But Torquemada's savage fanaticism overbore the scruples of the
queen. The whole nation was ruthlessly exiled at a bare six months'
notice; and perhaps it is no exaggeration to say that nearly all of
them, beggared and hopeless, perished of hardship by the way.

Toledo was still important enough to play the leading rôle in the great
revolt of the _Communeros_ at the beginning of the reign of Charles V.
It was indeed the last city to succumb; and that resolute lady, Maria
Pacheco, the widow of Padilla, held it for many months against the
imperial forces before she finally abandoned the struggle and fled from
the realm. The thoroughness with which this rising was suppressed is
perhaps a matter for regret. The triumph of the crown was too complete;
and Spain, once the most democratic of medieval monarchies, was
henceforth an absolute autocracy.

With this last effort Toledo's prominence upon the stage of history
comes practically to an end. Henceforth it retired upon its reputation,
and let the busy world go on without it as it chose. It still turns out
a few of those famous sword blades, "the ice brook's temper," which
Othello bore upon his thigh; but, for the rest, it is but a quiet
country town, dozing placidly under the _ægis_ of the great cathedral,
which now seems to furnish its only _raison d'être_.

[Illustration: TOLEDO

Calle del Comércio, with the Cathedral Tower.]

Nearly a thousand years have elapsed since Toledo was recovered by the
Christians; and, though but few of its monuments are of genuine Moresco
workmanship,[31] yet to all outward appearance it remains a Moorish city
still. The trade-mark of the East is stamped indelibly upon it;--steep,
narrow, crooked streets; and square, sombre palaces, whose grim façades
give no hint of the lovely _patios_ within. Its mazy network of _calles_
is spread all over the surface of the great domed rock upon which it
stands; and the fact that the Calle del Comércio is the widest,
longest and straightest of any, may serve as some indication of the
character of the rest. Street frankly admits that it is one of the few
cities where he could not find his way without a guide; and but that I
found all ways equally fascinating, it is highly probable that I should
have been in the same predicament myself. Every corner of the stage
seems still set exactly as it was quitted by the heroes and heroines of
Lope de Vega and Calderon. Lazarillo de Tormes might still be town
crier. It might be but yesterday that the horrified Gil Blas recognised
the comrades of his early escapades walking among the condemned in
the procession of the _Auto-da-fé_. One little alley that I discovered
in the course of my wanderings bore the remarkable title of
"_Calle del Diablo pertinece al Ayuntamiento_,"
"The-Devil-belongs-to-the-Corporation Street." He does!--to many
Corporations! But few are ingenuous enough to proclaim the fact at the
street corners! And few have such slight cause to lament it;--he is
generally a Devil of Unrest.

The great Alcázar,[32] which is the most prominent object in the city,
is too uncompromisingly cubical to be strictly picturesque; and the
cathedral, which is its chief glory, is singularly unobtrusive in a
general view. The houses shoulder up against it as though anxious to
keep it hidden; and when, after much circumnavigation, we do manage at
last to unmask it, behold! it is bare and featureless, only redeemed
from meanness by its noble western tower.

But the moment we pass the portal all cavilling is awed to silence. Out
of the blaze of the southern sunshine we step into a vast, mysterious
twilight, lit only by the jewelled pictures in the clerestory overhead.
The air is heavy with the odour of incense; and the chant of the canons
thunders down the aisles. The style of this great temple is the purest
and most solemn of thirteenth-century Gothic. Built by the canonized
king, St Ferdinand, out of the spoils of Seville, it is equal to Rheims
in majesty, and ranks next to Cologne in point of size. But noble as is
the edifice itself, this is but the casket for its nobler treasures. No
other Cathedrals in the world can compete with the Spanish in the
richness of their furniture; and here, for more than three centuries,
the richest of all the great Chapters[33] lavished their wealth upon the
adornment of their shrine. The skilfulest craftsmen of the
Renaissance,--Copin and Rodrigo, de Arfe and Villalpando, Borgoña and
Berruguete,--spent the best years of their lives upon its stalls and
_rejas_ and _custodias_.[34] They were furnished with gold and silver,
jasper and alabaster, with a prodigality worthy of Solomon himself; and
we may well apply to them all the boast that is recorded of two of
them,--that no one can ever determine who best deserves the palm.

The great masterpieces of the cathedral are concentrated in bewildering
profusion about the _Coro_ and _Capilla Mayor_; but each and all of the
score of chapels that surround it, is stored with relics of history and
gems of ancient art. Here lies Alvaro de Luna, the Cardinal Wolsey of
Spanish history. The great Constable died on the scaffold in the _Plaza_
at Valladolid, and his vindictive enemies would not spare even his tomb;
but his beautiful marble monument shows that his daughter's piety was
respected in a later reign. Here lies the Grand Cardinal Mendoza,
_tertius rex_ to the wedded "kings" who made Spain a nation; and his
tomb is worthy of a king. Here lie the early monarchs of Castile,--their
sarcophagi caught up in the tangle of intricate tracery which encloses
the _Capilla Mayor_. And here, among all these kings and princes, are
the monuments of two others;--Abu Walid the Moslem, "the good _Alfaqui_"
who pled for his persecutors against the wrath of Alfonso VI.; and the
humble shepherd of the Morena, who led Alfonso VIII. by the secret pass
across the mountains, and died on the plains of Tolosa in the great
victory which his guidance gained.[35] "They buried them in the city of
David among the kings, because they had done good in Israel." The men of
the thirteenth century were no respecters of persons, and could
understand an honourable reward.

[Illustration: TOLEDO

The Gorge of the Tagus.]

One of the chapels is specially reserved for the performance of the
Mozarabic[36] ritual, the ancient Use of St Isidore, which had been
preserved by the Toledan Christians throughout the period of their
subjection to the Moors. At the reconquest the Romanizers were anxious
to suppress it, and after much controversy the question was referred to
ordeal by battle. Two bulls were appointed champions for the rival
churches! but the defeat of the Roman representative left his clients
unconvinced, and two knights took the place of the bulls. Again the
Toledan was victorious, but again the argumentative Romanists refused to
accept the result. The arm of the flesh was a vain thing in such a
matter; "the God that answereth by fire, let Him be God!" The protests
of the _Mozárabes_ were overborne, and the arbitrary bonfire was kindled
in the triangular Toledan market-place. The Romanists astutely conceded
the privilege of "first go." They complacently watched their antagonists
commit St Isidore's precious Missal to the flames. _And, behold, it
would not burn!_ Had the Romanists kept their heads it might have
occurred to them that the old parchment tome, with its thick oak boards
and solid metal clasps, was about as unpromising a bit of fuel as mortal
bonfire could tackle. But this third defeat gave them a panic. There was
only a draw to be hoped for, and they dared not expose their own volume
to such an unprofitable risk. With desperate ingenuity they once more
tried to revive the controversy from the beginning; but their opponents
were now upon too firm ground, and their orthodoxy had to be conceded.

In later years, however, the Mozarabic ritual fell into disuse, and was
only rescued from oblivion by the enterprise of Cardinal Ximenes, who
collated and republished it, and founded the chapel wherein it is still
performed. This sounds rather a broad-minded act for a Grand Inquisitor;
but Ximenes, an ascetic and a conqueror, a foe to knowledge and a patron
of learning, was one of those strange complex characters whose actions
seem consistent to no one but himself.

One might readily fill a volume with a list of the glories of Toledo,
and not a tithe of its attractions can be mentioned in these meagre
notes. Its proximity to Madrid renders it somewhat better known than the
majority of Castilian cities, yet most visitors appear to imagine that
they can "do" it adequately in a day. A cheerful American whom I met
there had come over from Madrid in the morning, and was returning the
same afternoon. He was seeing Toledo in three hours, and was spending
one of them in dining! A month might well prove insufficient; but a
month was not to be spared. One further visit, however, is incumbent on
every Englishman. A pilgrimage down the Tagus to the battlefield of
Talavera is a duty that he may not ignore.

The Tagus valley becomes more tame and domesticated below the grim
defiles of Toledo; and its mountain fences, the Sierras of Grédos and
Guadalupe, face one another at a distance of some fifty miles. Yet the
intervening plains have not nearly the amplitude of the Duero's, though
the ground is comparatively open and even comparatively green. It is a
very interesting district; for the Tagus was long a frontier river, and
its banks were as diligently fortified as those of our own Tweed.

The roads from Madrid and Toledo unite at the castle of Magueda; and it
was at the brook beneath it that I made the acquaintance of _El Maestre_
Pedro and his wife and family, a couple of Pyrenean bears and a Barbary
ape. What an ungainly group they looked as they came scrambling down the
road towards me! But they were all true Castilians (at least all the
human section), and offered me a share of their food when they stopped
to lunch at the water side, as all well-bred wayfarers should:--Would my
honour please to eat? "Many thanks! a good meal to your honours!" is the
correct reply to this courtesy: and therewith I went my way.

And now the military tourist will begin to recognise that he is
approaching a classic neighbourhood. His ear is caught by the names of
the villages--Torrijos, Sta Olalla, Alcabon. They are humble little
hamlets enough, yet their names ring vaguely familiar. They each dropped
a card upon history one hundred years ago.

Now, too, the landscape is pervaded by an additional feature, which was
likewise important enough to win historical mention on the
battlefield.[37] To wit, Pigs. Pigs and pigs and pigs. Pigs by single
spies, pigs in battalions. No fat and greasy citizens, like their
cousins in England, but sinewy, razor-backed racers of strong sporting
proclivities, who rioted along beside the bicycle in sheer exuberance of
athleticism. There was a big pig fair toward at Talavera on the morrow,
and its votaries were mustering from all points of the compass like the
sorcerers of Domdaniel when Eblis summoned them to doom. They were all
washed beautifully clean by a tremendous thunderstorm which caught us at
the bridge over the Alberche: but the streets and lanes of the city were
reduced to an indescribable state.


From the banks of the Tagus.]

Talavera de la Reyna lies upon low ground on the right bank of the
Tagus, which here is comparatively wide and shallow, and is crossed by
a long and very crooked bridge. The town is not strictly fortified;
but it is walled, and well screened by its orchards; and as the plain is
here narrowed by outlying hummocks from the mountains, it forms an
effective position for disputing the passage of the road.

All the main fighting in the battle took place upon the higher ground to
the northward. The town itself, with its enclosures and orchards, was
occupied by the Spaniards under their obstinate old Captain-General
Cuesta. They had nearly come to grief two days before in retreating
across the Alberche, but were now entrenched in a position too strong
for assault; and Jourdan and Victor directed all their efforts against
the left and centre where the English were drawn up. Here the ground is
more open and more elevated, sloping up from the flats by the river till
it culminates in the hill of Medellin. The position (as in most other
battlefields) does not seem very formidable to a layman. But then any
position that did would probably never be attacked.

The battle was one of the bloodiest in the Peninsula; for the British
were heavily outnumbered, and their raw militia battalions lacked three
years' tempering of the Ironsides of Albuera and Badajoz. But what they
lacked in warcraft they redeemed in staunchness. For two days and a
night they were fighting, and then their assailants sullenly withdrew.
Yet, after all, Sir Arthur Wellesley had won merely a tactical victory.
His strategic position was too perilous to permit him to garner the
fruits. Soult's Galician army corps, already reorganised after the
_debacle_ of the Douro, was threatening his rear from Plaséncia; and it
was only by an adroit retreat across the Tagus at Arzobispo that he was
able to elude the stroke.

One of the minor incidents of the battle was an extraordinary piece of
marching. The Light Division, under General Craufurd, was far in the
rear at the commencement of the fighting, and were eager to get up
before the close. The task was too great, but the attempt was something
Homeric. They covered sixty-two miles in twenty-six hours, all in full
marching order: and lost but seventeen stragglers by the way! This was
probably a record for the Peninsula; though Wellington himself thought
that it might be paralleled in India; and some of Marmont's marches
previous to Salamanca were not far behind. What manner of men were they
who could achieve such feats in July under a Spanish sun?



The Estremadura road launches out boldly from the end of the Segóvia
bridge at Madrid, and the fingerpost which points along it laconically
observes that that way you will get to Badajos. But quite a lot of water
will flow under the Segóvia bridge first, even though it is only the
Manzanares which runs there.

Wherefore, to avoid over-watering this narrative, we will not begin it
at Madrid, nor even at Talavera, but transport ourselves at one stride
right away to the other end of the long line of snowy mountains which
guards the northern side of the Estremadura road. Here the Sierra de
Grédos ends in a forked tail like one of its own falcons, and between
the forks a long, straight valley runs up into the centre of the range.
The great snow-peaks sit along either side of that long, straight valley
like a Parliament of Gods, with the shaggy ilex woods wrapped around
their knees; and at its mouth, on a slight eminence half encircled by
the new-born waters of the Jerte, stands the ancient city of Plaséncia.

I were ungrateful not to retain a warm corner in my heart for pretty
little Plaséncia, for I arrived there limping and dog-wrecked, and
Plaséncia was kind to me. But he would be an unimpressionable mortal who
could not love her for her beauty alone; and I am not sure that even
I--such is man's gratitude--would remember her as kindly had she been
less fair. The crumbling walls, the solemn palaces, the quaint old
streets and beautiful situation, make this little Hesperian township one
of the most charming in Spain. Is she not rightly named "Pleasaunce"?
Queenly Segóvia herself need not disdain so fair a cousin.

But Plaséncia should not strictly be included in the Castilian family
circle; she has married into Estremadura, and the mountains part her
from her kind. The picturesque Estremenian peasantry lounge about her
squares and _plazas_, but her site and her buildings seem still to
proclaim her kinship. Like other Spanish wives, she has not quite
dropped her maiden name.

[Illustration: PLASÉNCIA

Puente San Lazaro.]

There is not much traffic in the streets of Plaséncia, neither is
much expected. The workmen patching the cathedral roof were heaving over
the broken tiles on to the pavement without so much as a prefatory
"Heads below!" Yet the place looks far from dead, for the balconies are
gay with flower-boxes, and the numerous old palaces still wear a
comparatively prosperous air. The cathedral stands right upon the
ancient walls, which form a sort of terrace to it upon the southern
side. Internally its effect is marred by a transverse partition; but
externally, though (like Mr Mantelini's countesses) it has no outline,
it is decked with a fanciful miscellaneous finery which makes it
inordinately picturesque. Moreover, it is an educational centre, and we
are indebted to it for constant processions of demure little students,
clad in black cassocks with a burning heart worked in crimson upon the
breast. They are beyond comparison the best-behaved children in the
Peninsula, and make most appropriate figures in the quiet and shady

The _Fonda_ where I brought myself to anchor was situated entirely upon
the first floor; and this waste of good space was gratuitous, for the
ground floor was all empty vaults. My bedroom was at the back. To reach
it I had to pass through the kitchen; and incidentally to make myself
amiable to the cook, who was manipulating her pots over a range of
strictly classical construction which might have been imported from
Pompeii. Beyond was a tiny _patio_ where Maria and the Señora were busy
at their household duties under the shade of the vines; and then came my
room. There was no window except the glazed upper panel of the door; and
no ventilation when the door was shut, so it was usually open. I could
shut it without getting out of bed. Our meals were served in the little
_comedor_ adjoining the kitchen. Maria waited, handing round the viands
in their native earthenware pipkins, piping hot from the fire. Also she
led the conversation, being a notable authority on all the latest gossip
and scandal; and the cook popped her head through the serving-hatch and
chimed in volubly at every suitable opening. There is a homeliness about
these little hostels which is very delightful; but it is always a puzzle
to me how the women get their meals. They seldom dine with their
men-folk, and, so far as my observation goes, must subsist entirely on

[Illustration: PLASÉNCIA

The Town Walls and Cathedral.]

Of course you seldom get a bill. "This is no time o'night to use our
bills! With one word of my mouth I can tell them what is to
betall."[38] The Señora confined herself literally to one word when I
asked her, and responded "thirty-two," but I suppose my face must have
betrayed some uncertainty, for "_reals_[39] not _pesetas_!" added the
Señora hastily, knocking seventy-five per cent. off my mental
calculation, and bringing her charges for full board and lodging down to
about three shillings a day. I wonder who was responsible for the libel
that Spanish innkeepers cheat; any attempt at overcharging is an almost
unprecedented event.

The borderland character of Plaséncia is reflected in its surroundings.
The Castilian sierras wall it in upon the east; but away to the west
stretches the wilderness of Estremadura--vast rugged moors interlaced
with wide belts of olive and ilex, or small rare patches of cultivated
ground. The lonely road holds steadily upon its way till it reaches the
lip of the Tagus ravine, and then plunges abruptly down to the level of
the river.

There is a marked contrast in the scenery along the two great rivers of
northern Spain. The Duero valley is wide and tame, a great unfenced
expanse of vineyard and cornfield, edged by low hills of petrified
earth; but the Tagus rift is narrow and savage, walled in by bare black
rock, and showing few traces of the hand of man. The road swings down
the hill in admirable style, but startles the traveller by coming to an
abrupt and untimely end about half a mile short of the river; and I had
to plough my way down through the shingle to the water's edge to
prospect for a continuation. Far away up stream a few shattered piers
and arches testify to the neglected munificence of some old _Pontifex
Maximus_ of Toledo; and overhead the great lattice girders of the
railway spring from pier to pier across the gulf; but where is there a
passage for a wayfaring man? "It strictly prohibits itself" to use the
railway line; moreover, the sleepers are laid directly upon the naked
girders, so that the passenger gets a fine bird's-eye view of the
landscape between his toes; but there is neither ferry nor ford,--at
least none where a stranger can see them; and why strain at the strict
prohibition if you can swallow the bird's-eye view?

Some little way up the further shore I stumble across the road again. It
is getting along capitally, thank you, and tackles the steep ascent in a
most business-like system of curves and gradients without bestowing a
thought upon the lamentable _hiatus_ in the rear. Elsewhere one might
reprobate such conduct, but here one accepts it as natural. "_Cosas de
España_,"--It's the way with Spain.

At the top is a wilderness of rocky pasture powdered with flocks of
merino sheep, the great nomad hordes that migrate every winter into
these southern latitudes, and are now working their way north again
towards the mountains of Leon. Among them stand the cloaked figures of
their shepherds, tall and motionless,--a hermit race; and the pale peaks
of Almanzor and his brother giants far away in the background, survey
with complacent approval a picture as antiquated as themselves.
Presently this desert gives way to olive woods, and the olive woods to
more cultivated ground. Thick cactus hedges, fringed round with an
edging of blossom, begin to hint at a southern climate; and the
peasantry are already reaping the barley harvest, though it is yet but
the middle of May. At last a cluster of towers planted in the saddle of
a low serrated ridge marks the goal of my day's journey, and with a wide
sweep to the right, to outflank an intervening valley, I enter the town
of Cáceres.

The tourist who wishes to explore Estremadura will find that the
inexorable laws of geography have fixed his headquarters at Cáceres. But
he need have no grudge against the inexorable laws aforesaid; they might
have chosen a much worse place. To begin with, Cáceres is a town of
resources; there is a man in it who owns a bicycle, and who did own till
recently a tube of rubber solution, but this rare and costly curio has
since been acquired by a foreign collector. Moreover, it is the capital
of its province, and it rejoices in a picturesque and busy little
market; but the gem of the whole, to an artist's eyes, is the "old town"
which crowns the rising ground in the centre, a delightful relic of
antiquity all untainted by the contact of to-day.

Nobody seems to go into the old town of Cáceres except the girls with
their water pitchers _en route_ for the Fountain of Council on the
further side. The streets are so steep that they are all stepped, and so
narrow that it is impossible for two loaded mules to pass. No sound is
heard in them but the clattering of the storks, and the grim old palaces
which wall them in have an indescribable air of mystery and romance. I
am convinced that any bold spirit who dared to penetrate into their
flowery _patios_ would find them still inhabited by the old
comrades of Cortes and Pizarro and Diego Garcia de Paredes, the great
Estremenian warriors of yore. No mere modern mortals can dwell behind
those changeless walls. The grey old ramparts which enclose them must
have checked the march of time.

[Illustration: CÁCERES

Within the old Town Walls.]

Four main roads diverge from Cáceres towards the four points of the
compass. That towards the east leads to Trujillo, the birthplace of
Pizarro, and the mountain sanctuary of Guadalupe, which the Estremenian
conquerors enriched with the spoils of Mexico and Peru. I was scheming
in vain to attain to them, but my fate was most resolutely hostile. Two
sallies resulted in breakdowns, and at last I reluctantly succumbed. My
first successful foray was towards the south.

This road leads over a queer wild country, half common, half moor,
sparsely inhabited, and fringed with the low, rugged ridges which are
such a feature of the district. It was a notable haunt of robbers a
couple of generations ago. Towards the south-east rises the Sierra de
Montanchez, which at this point forms the watershed between the Tagus
and Guadiana, and the road gradually rises to pass over its tail. The
Sierra piles itself up into fine bold masses on the left of the road;
and beneath it on the further side lies the hamlet of Arroyo Molinos,
where three thousand French soldiers, reputed the best in Spain, were
surprised and crushed by General Hill in 1811.

Girard was retreating before Hill from Cáceres, and had halted here for
the night, leaving pickets along the road to the northward to give
warning of pursuit. But the pursuers he dreaded had already outstripped
and intercepted him. Hill had followed the parallel road (which is now
the main one) and lay unsuspected at Alcuesca, three miles to the south.
Not a Spaniard in either village but knew of the intended _coup_; but
who would betray it to a Frenchman? And no whisper of his danger reached
Girard till the 71st and 92nd regiments swept the street with fixed
bayonets in the grey of the stormy dawn. Estremadura was Hill's
province, and his other most notable exploit, the seizing of the bridge
of Almaraz, was also achieved in this locality. Two victories of which
Wellington himself might have been proud.

From the summit of the pass the ground sweeps away to the southward, an
ocean of white-flowered cistus bushes interspersed with the vivid yellow
of the broom. But this brilliant spectacle does not continue for many
miles; it soon gives way to the usual jumble of rock and grass and
olive; and at last from this stony upland one looks down across the
sloping cornfields to the distant Guadiana and the town of Mérida.

A big red-roofed village with no special feature, built beside the broad
and sandy bed of a great river, Mérida from a distance looks commonplace
enough. Yet the wide, smooth cornfields around it might disclose a
different scene. Time was when the garrison of Augusta Emerita was
fifteen-fold more numerous than her present population, when her walls
were twenty miles in circumference, and even in her decay her astonished
conqueror could confess that it was "impossible to enumerate" the
marvels she contained. Comparing what she is with what she was, the
wonder is not that so much has survived, but that so much has
disappeared; and yet in good truth the remains are ample enough, "equal
to Rome" say the Meridans, and who should know better than they?

First the great aqueduct (the greatest of three); the bridge of
sixty-four[40] arches which spans the Guadiana, and the mighty castle
which guards its townward end. The theatre, still almost perfect; the
ruins of the Temple of Diana, and of the massive Arch of Trajan. The
amphitheatre is now but an heap, and the hippodrome can only be traced
by its foundations; but the whole soil teems with coins and fragments of
pottery, and if ever systematic excavation could be hoped for in this
happy-go-lucky country, who can guess what treasures might be revealed?
It is at least an encouraging symptom that the Meridans are very proud
of their "_antiguedades_," and are always eager to act as showmen; in
which capacity they are equipped with the most startling archæological
heresies that have ever been foisted upon an astonished world.

It was a hard-worked little room that was assigned to me for my lodging
at Mérida. At night I slept there, but by day it was a tailor's shop,
and between times it was borrowed by Juanita for the conduct of her
little _affaires du coeur_. Its many-sidedness was the result of its
situation, for it was on the ground floor, with a large French window
opening direct on to the pavement, and guarded with a stout iron grille.
To myself this entailed a rather embarrassing publicity, but it just
suited Juanita, who could interview her lover comfortably through the

[Illustration: CÁCERES

Calle de la Cuesta de Aldana.]

Each night as I returned from the café I beheld the same little
picture (it was being produced in replica in half the streets of the
town); the moonlight bright upon the _Fonda_ walls, and the black
cloaked figure clinging like a bat to the rails. I am proud to remember
that I always tried to play the game properly, and glided off
unobtrusively into a side street before I got near enough to interfere.
But I doubt if I ever really escaped observation, for at my next round
the pavement would be untenanted, and Juanita waiting at the street door
to let me in.

It might be supposed that there was no ostensible motive why she should
not have kept tryst at the door instead of the window, or "gone out
walking" with her lover as an English girl would have done. But no! that
would not be "proper." La Señora Grundy insists upon a barred window.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons why all Spanish windows are barred.

"Marriage is honourable to all." But in Spain it is considered expedient
to give an elaborately clandestine flavour to the indispensable
preliminary of courtship; and during the whole of that period Romeo is
officially tabooed by Juliet's kin. He may be a most desirable _parti_,
and the bosom friend of all her brothers. But now he is remorselessly
"cut." When they meet, they never see him;--neither (logically enough)
do they ever notice that cryptic enigma who is "feeding on iron" at the
lattice every evening soon after dark. So matters continue until the
courtship has ripened and the happy lover can formally demand his lady's
hand. Then he is at once received into all honour and affection, and the
lovers are put on a regular footing by being formally betrothed, a
ceremony scarcely less binding than marriage itself.

Mérida was my southernmost limit, and detained me somewhat longer than I
had intended. But, indeed, the very origin of the city seems to
constitute an invitation to repose. First invaded and last subdued of
all the Roman provinces, Spain was just witnessing the dawn of her early
millennium when Augustus founded this home of rest for the veterans of
the final campaign. If rest was his intention, it would rejoice his
heart to see how diligently it is still practised by the descendants of
his original colonists. But my own sojourn was not entirely voluntary. I
had tried once more for Trujillo, and been forced to put back for
repairs. Even a fate-compelled idleness, however, may sometimes be found

[Illustration: MÉRIDA

"Los Milagros," the ruins of the Great Aqueduct.]

The great ruined aqueduct, the headquarters of all the storks of
the Guadiana, towered over the Cáceres road to the right of me as I
again bore away to the northward. It had been the first object to greet
my arrival, and was the last to haunt me as I left. The huge gaunt piers
and crumbling arches seem more imposing in their ruin even than the
complete structure at Segóvia, though I believe actual measurements
place the latter first by a short head. "The Miracles," the townsfolk
call them; and the title is well bestowed. Yet Estremadura can boast one
other miracle more stupendous even than these.

Once more I sallied forth from Cáceres, and set my face towards the
west; and surely in all the solitudes of Estremadura there are none more
solitary than this. Mile after mile the straight, white road heaves its
long line across the ridges of the rolling moor. Its dust is seamed with
the trail of the viper, and here and there the eagle hangs poised above
his hunting-ground; but other life or landmark there is none for leagues
together, till one feels one has been riding there for ever, and will
probably continue till the end of time. Sometimes a ruined watch-tower
will afford a distant beacon; sometimes a well-ambushed hamlet, whose
swine are reputed to develop a specially succulent bacon by a strict
adherence to a viper dietary. They appear like the phases in a dream,
and are swallowed in the immensity of their surroundings. As well seek a
pin in a haystack as a homestead in this boundless waste.

If there be any faith in the milestones, Alcántara cannot lie beyond
that great purple combe ahead of me. Yet how can there be room for the
Tagus valley on the hither side? But even as I am flouting their
promise, the road dives gracefully over the lip of an unsuspected
hollow, and the fragments of a crumbling rampart resolve themselves into
the long-sought town. The gateway admits me to a forlorn and grimy
street; the houses are ruinous and neglected; everywhere is dirt and
misery and dilapidation. What went ye out into the wilderness to see?

Just beyond the town, and far below the level of the moors, the Tagus
has carved its deep and savage glen. Right and left, as far as the eye
can reach, the bare bluff headlands stoop down into the abyss like the
tors on the Devonshire coast; and at the bottom, pent between its walls
of rock, the tawny river swirls down the ravine. All is vast and huge
and desolate; the town itself hardly shows in such a picture; yet in the
midst one object catches the eye which seems to challenge comparison
even with nature itself,--the work of Titans rather than men,--THE
BRIDGE--_Al Kántarah_.

Spain is the land of bridges. In all Europe they have few rivals, but
here they own a King. Since the day when Caius Julius Lacer finished his
great work for the Emperor Trajan, and was laid to rest beside it, no
other bridge has ever challenged comparison with his;--a work to vie
with the pyramids of Egypt, or the Flavian Amphitheatre at Rome.

It is long before the eye can learn to grasp its full dimensions; all
around it is rock and mountain, there is nothing to give scale. We are
warned of it first by the camera, for the lens will not look at so wide
an angle; and then by the size of the archway flung across the road at
the centre pier. Presently, as we peer over the parapet into the depths
of the gulf below us, we realise that there is a man down there walking
by the waterside, and a dog which seems to bark though we cannot hear
the sound. Our eye slowly sizes up the _voussoir_ above which we are
standing; it is a twelve-ton block of granite; and the huge vault with
its eighty such _voussoirs_ seems to widen and deepen beneath us as we
gaze; for the brook that it spans is the river Tagus, whose waters have
their source three hundred miles away.

Thus hint by hint we have pieced together the astonishing conclusion
that the span of each of the two great central arches is rather wider,
and nearly as high as the interior of the dome of St Paul's; and that
the height of the railway lines above the Firth of Forth is sixty feet
less than that of the road above the Tagus! What must the scene be like
in winter, when the waters are foaming against the springer stones one
hundred and fifty feet above their summer level! How vast the strength
of these massive piers which for eighteen hundred years have defied the
fury of the floods!

Where now is the great _Via Lata_ that ran from Gades to Rome? Where are
the famous cities which it threaded on the way? The vine and olive grow
in the forum of Italica, and the Miracles of Mérida are a dwelling for
the stork. But here at the wildest point of all its wild journey our
eyes may still behold a memorial which nature has assailed in
vain:--"Pontem perpetui mansurum in sæcula mundi,"--the monument of
Caius Julius Lacer, more enduring even than Wren's.

[Illustration: ALCÁNTARA]

We English, I regret to say, were responsible for blowing up one of
the smaller arches in 1809; and our makeshift restoration,--a suspension
bridge made out of ships' cables, probably the earliest introduction of
the type to Europe,--lasted till the time of the Carlist wars. Then it
was again destroyed, and the Spaniards were long content with a ferry.
Now, however, they have restored it in its native granite, a feat of
which they are justly proud. Only, seeing that no cement at all was used
in the original building, it was really a little too bad of them to
insist upon pointing the joints!

It seems rather farcical to make a parade of military secrecy about a
structure that has been famous for eighteen centuries; but there is a
sentry assigned to it to make sure of preserving its privacy, and I
think I acted kindly towards him in providing one culprit for the year.
Our re-arrival in the town to interview the _Teniente_ created quite a
little sensation, particularly as that official was not to be found at
his office, and had to be hunted through the parish by packs of
importunate boys. The _Teniente_ was eventually run to earth in his
bedroom, in a state of great deshabille, but as polite as if he had been
attired in full court uniform. His house and his goods were at my
service, and himself only too anxious to do anything in the world to
oblige me; but I must not sketch within twenty-five miles of the
frontier without a special permit from the Minister of War at Madrid!
The travelling Englishman (when not admittedly mad) is always an object
of suspicion. But it must be confessed that his vagaries are generally
humoured in Spain. He only gets gently restrained in remote and
inaccessible places, where the official (never having seen a stranger
before) naturally feels it incumbent upon him to do something, but it is
not quite certain what. I made no attempt to protest. It would, of
course, have been entirely useless; and my Spanish had been already
heavily strained in compliments. Moreover, in this instance the _genius
loci_ had benignantly decreed that I should have got the horse before
they locked the stable door.

Meanwhile I had been left some consolation. The bridge is not quite the
only lion at Alcántara, and the grand Benedictine convent of its old
military monks rises most imposingly upon the edge of the impending
moors. It is now ruinous and dismantled, its fine church perfect but
empty, and its cloisters used as a cart-shed by the thrifty usurpers of
its halls. Beyond this feature, however, the town has little attraction.
It was mercilessly sacked in the spring of 1809 by General
Lapisse,--killed three months later while striving to rally his division
during the great assault at Talavera,--and since that crushing disaster
it has never had spirit to raise its head. There comes a stage when ruin
ceases to be picturesque and becomes only depressing. It is rather in
this connection that I remember Alcántara and Sahagun.[41]

It is not altogether surprising, in such an inconsequent country, to
discover that by crossing Alcántara you will arrive--Nowhere! and that
the only traffic across that stupendous edifice is limited to a few
flocks of sheep and some casual mules. I had hoped to return to
Plaséncia by way of Cória. It is no great distance. Alcántara is in
Cória diocese, and there are no special obstacles beyond the river; but
there is no vestige of a road. No, I must return from Alcántara to
Cáceres, and from Cáceres to Plaséncia, and from Plaséncia I might find
a road to Cória--perhaps. Which is the reason why Cória is now
bracketted with Trujillo and Guadalupe as one of the places I hope to
see some day. I returned, therefore, to Plaséncia the same way that I
had come; and passing round the end of the Sierra de Grédos, took my
farewell of these "extrema Durii"[42] from the summit of the Pass of

I have since learned that "nothing but a lively historical curiosity,
and a keen sympathy with the lonely melancholy of the heaths, could have
enabled me to endure with equanimity the privations to which I was

It is astonishing how little I realised my fortitude at the time.



Few streams are so mercilessly bantered as the hapless Manzanares, and
it is rough on an honest little river to rag it because it is poor. It
is "navigable at all seasons for a coach and six"; it is mockingly urged
"to sell its bridges for water"; and it labours under a gross imputation
(not to be whispered in the presence of touchy Madrilenos), that upon
one occasion when it happened to be sufficiently copious to float a
mule's pack-saddle, the enthusiastic citizens turned out to capture the
"whale." Even its few partisans show a calculated _gaucherie_ in their
compliments. "Duke of streams and viscount of rivers" is quite a
preposterous flight. But perhaps the bitterest tribute is the gibe of a
jealous young sportsman (a Toledan, and consequently part-proprietor of
the Tagus) who had fainted from heat at a bull-fight, and to whom his
neighbours were kindly proffering a pitcher of water:--"Pour it into
the Manzanares," gasped the Spanish Sidney, "it needs it more than I."

No one would have had an ill word to say of it had it clung to its
lowlier destiny. It reaps the reward of the tuft-hunting which sent it
to visit Madrid. A mile above the Iron Gate it is as pretty and secluded
a little brooklet as anyone need desire;--a clean shingly bed, and
broken banks fringed with brushwood and poplars, beneath whose shade we
very contentedly dozed through the hot hours of siesta-time, cooling our
toes in the water and restfully contemplating the distant summits of the
Sierra de Guadarrama,--faint opalescent outlines above the tree-tops in
the glen. We had ridden in that morning from Toledo; and to push on
across the mountains the same afternoon was too heavy a task to be
seriously contemplated. No; we would take matters easily during the
heat, and drift on in the evening towards the foot of the pass. We
should find lodging--of a sort--at some little village _posada_, and
could tackle the long ascent in the cool of the early dawn.

[Illustration: SEGÓVIA

Church of San Miguel.]

The sun was sinking as we passed las Rozas, but there was still an hour
of daylight before us, and it seemed a pity to waste such a beautiful
evening, so we launched out venturously on to the moors. At first
we had fellow-voyagers;--a homeward ploughman with his yoke of oxen,--a
shepherd with his whip--(is there any other region where shepherds use
whips?)--and his droop-necked flock earing the ground towards their
fold. But soon the dusk won its will, and the darkling track lay empty.
The only survivor astir was the habitual belated _arriero_, with his
team outspanned for the night and his waggon beached upon the margin of
the road. The stars had already begun to flicker up in the heavens, and
we could see that Torrelodones, the next village, must be Hobson's
choice for ourselves.

At Torrelodones, saith the proverb, are twenty-four burgesses and
twenty-five thieves (the twenty-fifth being the curate); yet there is no
innkeeper among so many. Bread and wine, however, were forthcoming at
one of the cabins, and eggs at a second, which we got cooked at a third;
and if anyone wanted to wash himself, was there not the fountain on the
village green? Beds, however, were a different matter. A muleteer would
have rolled himself up on the floor in his blanket; but we had no
blankets, and did not fancy the floor. As for the reputation of the
villagers, no doubt that was wholly unmerited; but we thought of the
fresh air of heaven, and the scent of the clean sweet herbage was borne
in to us upon the breeze.

It was already dark when we quitted the hamlet, and the distant lights
of Madrid were twinkling up at us from the misty plain below. But
another beacon rose in sight as we breasted the surge of the moorland--a
large brilliantly-lighted building, apparently right in front of us and
only a few hundred yards away. What was it? Evidently no ordinary
farmstead--the lights were so many and so small. But anyway it would not
do to camp right under its windows, so the question was shelved
unanswered. We wheeled aside from the roadway, and picked out a bedroom
under the lee of a huge boulder which promised us shelter from the wind.

Anyone who has ever tried the experiment must be perfectly well aware
that the delights of an extemporary bivouac are better imagined than
endured; but we had not bargained to take our discomfort in exactly the
form that it came. The last few nights we had spent at Toledo kicking
the last sheets off our beds in a vain endeavour to get reposefully
cool.[43] But the boot was on the other leg up here in the lap of the
mountains. In vain did we empty our knapsacks; we could not get the
clothes to keep us warm. About midnight the wind veered. Our faithless
boulder no longer gave us shelter; and as we rose to shift our berth,
behold, there was that brilliantly lighted building still shining in
front of us as steadily as before. What could it be, keeping this
night-long vigil when all the rest of the world was asleep? But now the
mist had cleared and our eyes had grown accustomed to the starlight, and
the true solution of the riddle flashed suddenly across our minds. A
dozen miles off at the least, on the further side of the intervening
valley, the thousand windows of the Escorial were staring out
unwinkingly into the night!

The stars seemed to travel very slowly across the zenith as we dozed
through the dog-watches in our chilly nest. But at last a lightening in
the east heralded the approach of dawn; and no sooner was there enough
light to swear by than we were again upon the road, thankful for the
excuse to work some warmth into our shivering limbs. Our teeth fairly
chattered as we dipped into the cold shadowy hollows; but the level rays
of the rising sun caught us as we topped the ridges, and cheered us with
an ample promise of a warm time to come. It was not long before our
troubles were forgotten, and a big bowl of hot coffee at Villalba sent
us to the pass like giants refreshed.

The Puerto de Navacerrada is one thousand feet higher than that of
Guadarrama, and the road, being less frequented, is unfortunately not so
well kept. But for all that it can be cordially recommended to the
traveller, for it boasts far finer scenery as a reward for the extra
toil. To our right the shadowy dome of the Great Iron Head cut a bold
arc of purple out of the glowing eastern sky, while to our front and
left lay the long serrated ridge of the Seven Pikes, a prominent
landmark to travellers across the northern plains. The hillsides were
draped from foot to summit with the rich purple mantle of the flowering
hard-head, variegated with vivid splashes of gold where the broom had
ousted its hardier rival; and every here and there the slope was broken
by groves of pine, or jutting crags of grey granite, with the cool blue
shadows sleeping at their feet. Looking back over our left shoulders
along the southern face of the mountains, our eyes were caught by the
towers of the Escorial rising up nobly from the lower slopes, and
scarcely dwarfed even by their mountain background; while, a little
nearer, the Vigo road--a pyramid of persevering zigzags--was struggling
up the face of the range to reach the Puerto de Guadarrama.

Our own pass rejoices in the possession of a multitude of summits, and
the sixth or seventh of these (upon which we had really pinned our
faith) disappointed us bitterly by abdicating in favour of another,
distant at least an hour away. This last, however, was guaranteed
genuine by the inevitable hall-mark of a _caminero's_ hut, and was,
moreover, on such intimate terms with the Seven Pikes that we felt there
was no room for deception.

The gradient of the northern face is distinctly steeper than the
southern, and the road zigzags down sharply through the shadowy
pine-woods which clothe all this portion of the range. Not a soul
crossed our path as we threaded their silent alleys; and the only house
is a solitary _Venta_ midway down the descent, which rejoices in the
ominous title of Mosquito Tavern. We thought of Polonius at supper and
did not risk a meal. Deep down in the dingle beneath us a mountain
stream was chattering towards the plain; and as we neared the outlet of
the valley, and felt that we had broken the back of our day's journey,
we began to cast envious glances at the inviting waters.

Our bedroom had not proved altogether a success, but our bathroom was
worthy of Diana. The clear cold stream gushed smoothly over its pebbly
bed, and the pines which thronged its mossy banks spread a green network
against the blaze of the noonday sun. A skein of brilliant blue
dragon-flies flashed to and fro across the ripples; and at the head of
the glade a solitary peak rose clear and sharp against the sky. The
beautiful Dorothea cooling her crystal feet in the limpid water was the
sole thing lacking to complete the picture. And even she would have been
an embarrassment from a practical point of view. How much they miss who
travel through Spain by railway, and grumble (legitimately enough) at
the difficulty of obtaining baths at their hotels! The wayfarer has
happier fortune;--but not an Eresma every day!

At the mouth of the valley stands the royal palace of La Granja, built
by Philip IV. as a rival to Versailles. The structure is not nearly so
fine, though the site and the fountains are finer. But who goes to Spain
to see copies of things French? And we swung disdainfully past the
gateway, and headed our course for the great cathedral tower that marks
the position of Segóvia.

[Illustration: SEGÓVIA

Arco San Estéban.]

We were drawing quite close to the city when we overtook a party of
four,--two _carabineros_ and two civilians,--sauntering arm in arm along
the roadway and amicably sharing cigarettes. But a hideous blight
descended upon this innocent idyll when they drew up with us at the
_Fielato_.[44] The _carabineros_ shouldered their rifles and gave an
extra twirl to their mustachios,--the civilians meekly held out their
wrists for the handcuffs,--and Law and Order with their miserable
captives strutted inspiringly into public view. Evidently Segóvia
demanded a certain amount of style, and we two vagabonds eyed each other
dubiously. But the Eresma had given us a "clean slate." No one would
have guessed from our looks that we had spent the night in the open and
ridden across the mountains since the dawn. "Nevertheless," quoth one of
us sententiously, "what with the bad night, and the early start, and the
long ride, and the hot sun, and the bathe, and the pine-woods, and the
_comida_ which we are going to eat, I expect there'll be more _siesta_
than sight-seeing for us this afternoon."

There are a certain number of towns in Europe which form a class by
themselves--a class of professional models for the delectation of the
artist. They do not necessarily possess the most interesting monuments,
but they are blessed with a certain genius for assuming graceful poses,
for wearing harmonious colours, and framing themselves into pictures
from whatever point they are viewed. They are a very select
company,--even Florence and Nuremburg can scarcely be included,--but
Venice is one, and Bruges, and Rothenburg-a-Tauber; and Segóvia ranks
with them.

The principal lion of the city was lying in wait at the gates
thereof,--the huge granite Aqueduct, one of the wonders of Spain. Its
mighty piers go striding like colossi across the valley, and the little
puny houses "peep about under their huge legs." By whom it was built is
a matter of some question; possibly by Augustus,--more probably by
Trajan[45]; so at least say the learned, who are wofully wrong-headed
about such things. The true story is that it was erected by the Devil in
a single night, out of his love and affection for a fair damsel of
Segóvia, to save her the trouble of going down the hill to draw water.
Her townswomen unto this hour are profiting by her sumptuous love-token.
But her poor suitor was not so fortunate. His Delilah found one stone
a-missing, and took advantage of the flaw to repudiate her contract.

Beneath its broad shadow we dived in among the crazy patchwork houses of
the _Azoquejo_, the once disreputable "Little Market" where Don
Quixote's rascally innkeeper had been wont to "practise knight-errantry"
in his callow days. A steep crooked street led us up under the toppling
balconies, past the beautiful Romanesque arcades of the Church of San
Martin, and the heavily rusticated façade of the sombre Palace of Pikes.
Truly this was a captivating city; we made the confession immediately.
And as yet all the grounds of our verdict were a few steps inside the
back door.

Segóvia is Queen of Castilian cities, as Toledo is the King of them. But
Segóvia does not lend her countenance to those who approach from the
south. She sits with her face to the northward towering over the road
from Valladolid:--an unforgettable vision, the fairy city of our dreams.

Spain seems to take a delight in concentrating her fascinations. For
mile after mile she will trail you over a dull and spirit-quelling
country, till all your enthusiasm is properly subdued. Then she will
suddenly overwhelm you with a whole cargo of accumulated perfections, an
extravagance of beauty which leaves admiration aghast. And never was
_coup de théâtre_ more artfully developed than this great spectacle of
Segóvia. A far-distant glimpse of a little group of turrets bristling
upon the base of the mountains at the foot of the Seven Pikes; a tardy
approach up the valley of the Eresma, whose trees and rocks impede all
further view. The valley becomes a trench; and a vision of towers and
cliffs begins to stir our anticipation; while the trench narrows down to
a gullet, with sides so straight and smooth that they might have been
cut by hand. Then comes a sudden turn; the rock gates swing wide open,
and all in a moment the marvel stands revealed.

Perched upon the precipitous cliffs of a long wedge-shaped promontory
between two confluent gorges, Segóvia has been aptly likened to a ship
stranded sidelong on the mountains with its bows slanting towards the
plain. The sharp prow and lofty forecastle are formed by the heights of
the _Alcázar_; a little further aft is the "bridge,"--the high ground
round the _Plaza Mayor_, where stands the cathedral, the central feature
of the whole. And if one is to run the comparison to death, I
suppose the funnel would be represented by the cathedral campanile, and
the stern galleries by the aqueduct arcades. The likeness is undeniable,
but altogether too prim and pedantic. As well might one picture a fairy
in a tailor-made costume.

[Illustration: SEGÓVIA

The Alcázar]

There is something almost life-like in the sweep of the tilted strata as
the great cliff leaps above the summit of the poplars. It seems like the
"station of the herald Mercury";--arrested motion rather than repose;--a
great wave petrified in the act of breaking, with spires and gables for
the spray upon the crest. Beneath it curves the green and fertile
valley, the "terrestrial Paradise" of the Monks of El Parral[46]; and
the richness, brilliance and daring of the whole wonderful composition
form a theme which is the despair both of pen and pencil alike.

The _Alcázar_, which is poised upon the extremity of the precipice, was
gutted by fire some forty years ago, and is consequently largely a
restoration; but it harmonises so admirably with the lines of nature
that one hardly realises that it has not grown of its own accord. It has
always been a royal stronghold, but never played any very important part
in the tumultuous drama of Spanish history; our friend the enemy, with
commendable discretion, having commonly preferred to gather his laurels
from some less inaccessible bough. It has, however, attained a minor
celebrity through the carelessness of a nursemaid. This sounds but a
threadbare method of achieving greatness; but the girl who accidentally
dropped an heir-apparent out of a window of the _Alcázar_ at Segóvia
must be allowed to have fixed the standard at the very highest
conceivable peg.

But the proudest day in its annals was that upon which Isabella the
Catholic (newly apprised of the death of her brother King Henry) rode
forth from its gateway to claim the homage of Castile and Leon. The
moment was critical, for her succession was disputed; but Segóvia stood
firmly in her favour,--a worthy birthplace for the worthiest era of
Spain. The site seems designed for such a pageant; but it bore its own
bane in the setting: for from the little convent of Sta Cruz, below the
gateway of San Estéban, Torquemada was drawn to sway his nobler Queen.

Torquemada was Isabella's evil genius--the demon who was to turn all her
blessings to a curse. It is but just to him to admit that he was honest
in his wrong-headedness; that he believed as sincerely in the
wickedness of an unauthorised conscience as in the righteousness of
persecution, and would have gone to the stake himself in support of his
tenets with as much resolution as any of his victims. It is the standing
puzzle with such men how they could fail to recognise in their own
spirit the condemnation of their own methods. Persecution they would
have derided if applied to them by others. Why should they credit its
efficacy when applied to others by them? And an even saner thought they
might have gleaned from the old essayist[47]:--"When all is done it is
an over-valuing of one's convictions by them to cause that a man be
burned alive."

The cruelty for which we chiefly condemn them is a crime for which they
were not wholly responsible. The age was cruel,--"the most cruel of all
ages," wrote the grave Montaigne:--and the Inquisition did but deal with
heresy as treason was dealt with by the State. Its secrecy was its new
and horrible feature and the one most deeply resented at the time.

For at first, even in Spain, the Inquisition was not tamely accepted;
and some of the noblest churchmen were loudest in its rebuke.[48] It
sinned against the light. It was a thing of devils; an atrocity only to
be paralleled by the witch-doctors of Ashanti and Benin.

These grisly reflections are the inevitable Nemesis of all romantic and
chivalrous associations; but they seem as sadly out of place in this
sunny Eden as the trail of the serpent in its prototype. Isabella was a
generous patroness to the little convent, and her own mottoes and badges
figure in its delicate carving. She needed no such piety to keep her
memory green.

[Illustration: SEGÓVIA

Arco Santiago.]

The Valladolid road skirts the foot of the precipice on the larboard
side and doubles back into the city, where the slope is easiest at the
stern. But the straight path is taken by an irresponsible little
bye-way, which rushes the steep ascent along the feet of the beetling
ramparts, and succeeds in winning a footing inside the Santiago gate.
Here the elegant horse-shoe arches look as if they might have been
borrowed from the Alhambra; and as we issued from under their shadow we
were confronted by the graceful campanile of the Church of San Estéban,
a work of the thirteenth century, and unique in Spanish
architecture, though it may be mated in Provence. _Were_ confronted,
alas! for I fear it now stands no longer. The tower was badly cracked
when first we saw it, and on the occasion of my second visit was being
taken down as dangerous. As to its ultimate destiny it is quite
impossible to prophesy: but Spaniards are capable restorers should they
happen to think it worth while. It may be as reverently revived as the
work at Leon Cathedral, or (_Di meliora!_) razed with as little
compunction as the late leaning tower at Zaragoza.

The gateway of San Estéban is a little abaft the church, and, like its
neighbour of Santiago, has distinctly a Moorish air. Not so the Arco San
Andres, the other great gate, to the starboard. That is uncompromisingly
Gothic, and large and massive enough to balance both the other two.

Upon this side the city is bounded by the little bourn of the Clamores,
a scantier stream than the Eresma, but equally romantic and picturesque.
It flows in a straight-sided gully like a natural moat, the upper
reaches becoming gradually shallower and wider till they expand into the
broad valley which is crossed by the aqueduct arcade. Here the most
prominent feature is the cathedral, which surges up out of the medley
of houses, overtopping even the pinnacles of the _Alcázar_. It is the
latest important Gothic monument ever erected upon Spanish soil, a
sister church to the new cathedral of Salamanca, and, like it, of
imposing and elegant proportions, though its details are less
elaborately ornate.

We are far from exhausting the subject, but it is vain to continue the
catalogue. The true fascination of the town must be felt and not
described. I am afraid that even the Segóvians are not fully
appreciative; for our host considered that we were wasting our time
there, and wished to pack us off to la Granja to see the fountains play.
"It was a shame," he said, "to spend every day in Segóvia."
Segóvia!--where every street corner is worth a wilderness of fountains!

[Illustration: SEGÓVIA

Church of San Estéban.]

When Gil Blas was imprisoned in the "tower of Segóvia," his kind-hearted
gaoler assured him that he would find the view from his window very
fine--when he cared to look. This casual remark gains significance from
the fact that it is about the only allusion to scenery in all that
veracious biography.[49] For any hint to the contrary the
Cantabrian mountains might be mole-hills, and Grenada itself as
commonplace as Valladolid. Le Sage dealt with men, not with scenery, and
no doubt, like Dr Johnson, would have preferred Fleet Street; but
Segóvia wrings a tiny tribute even from him.

Gil Blas, it may be remembered, was not impressed by the prospect. He
had a very bad fit of the blues, and could only observe that there were
nettles by the stream. But doubtless he saw better ere leaving. His
character (never much to boast of) was at least vastly improved by his
involuntary sojourn, and perhaps it is not too fanciful to suggest that
"the view from the window" may deserve some of the credit of the cure.

"There are none of beauty's daughters with a magic like thee," sings
Byron to one of his _houris_; and the same whole-hearted allegiance to
Segóvia will be paid by most of those who have once come under her
spell. Grenada, perhaps, may equal her. So does Albarracin, in
tertio-decimo: and the situation of Cuenca is probably the grandest of
all. But even Grenada herself will not steal her admirers from Segovia;
and Cuenca, for all its brilliance, is a gem of fewer facets than this.



Last but not the least among the merits of Segóvia is to be reckoned the
fact that it pays some attention to its roads, for these are decidedly
the best in all the central provinces. No doubt they owe something to
their proximity to the Sierra de Guadarrama, which supplies them with
their granite metalling, and even vouchsafes them an occasional shower.
Yet there is a balance of credit to be shared among the worthy
_camineros_,--those humble "pawns" who are posted at long intervals
along the roadway (each with his donkey and his dog), diligently
trimming the margins and spreading the tags of herbage over the surface
of the road. The method seems somewhat original, but at least it has the
merit of success; for the scraps of turf serve to catch the dews at
night-time--and moisture is the chief desideratum upon every Spanish

The wide tawny plains which spread themselves northward from Segóvia are
chequered with mighty pine-forests, the homes of solitude and shade.
These rich green masses form a striking contrast to the bare red earth
around them, and the pale blue of the distant mountains which show
faintly upon the horizon beyond. For miles at a stretch the road burrows
through these colonnades of tree-stems,--all plentifully blazed for
resin, and festooned with the little earthenware pipkins in which it is
collected;--and seldom indeed is either man or beast encountered to give
a touch of life to the shadowy depths around. At one point we passed a
venerable _padre_, faithfully conning his breviary as he trudged behind
his mule; at another a small brown damsel lording it over a herd of
gigantic kine. But the only other living creature was a large snake
dusting itself in the roadway, over whom we narrowly escaped riding, for
we were right upon him before we saw what he was.

Once clear of the pine-belt, the country quickly relapses into the
monotony typical of the Duero vale. One may partly avoid it by taking
the road to the eastward, and making straight for Búrgos by Sepúlveda
and Aranda de Duero across a region of wild and lofty moors. But of the
two roads to Valladolid there is little to choose between Olmedo and
Medina del Campo, and we may as well follow the more direct.

It is easy to understand, as we cross these great limitless levels, in
what manner the Moors were so long able to maintain their supremacy
against the hardier races of the North. The whole district is an ideal
battle-field for the light-armed cavalry in which their strength
consisted; and to set a medieval man-at-arms, cased in full panoply, to
do a hard day's fighting under that roasting sun is a conception worthy
of Perillus himself. The battles with which History concerns itself,
however, are of a later age. The disconsolate little walled town of
Olmedo (once one of the keys of Castile) has given its name to two
desperate conflicts in the interminable civil wars which ravaged the
peninsula in the middle of the fifteenth century. Here it was that
Alvaro de Luna[50] gained his great victory over his confederate enemies
in the reign of John II. Here, too, in the following reign, was fought a
bloody fratricidal action between Henrique IV. and Alfonso, the brothers
of Isabella the Catholic.

On the eve of this latter battle, Archbishop Carillo of Toledo[51] (as
usual "agin the government") sent a courteous message to his special
enemy, the king's favourite, apprising him that forty knights had bound
themselves by an oath to fight neither with small nor great, but only
with him, the following day. Don Beltran de la Cueva, however, though he
might not deserve his honours, at least knew how to wear them gallantly.
He countered by remitting a full description of his horse and armour, so
that the forty knights might make no mistake;--rode into battle as
advertised;--and escaped unscathed. His spirit deserved no
less:--perhaps even Carillo thought so. But one would like to know what
became of the forty knights.

Olmedo figures also in fiction, but not in so martial a vein. Hither, in
fear of his life along the road from Valladolid, fled our old friend Gil
Bias--ex-assistant to Dr Sangrado--with more murders on his conscience
than even that seasoned article felt quite easy under, and the avenger
of blood at his heels in the shape of an enraged Biscayan. We followed
the track of his agitated _Hegira_, but, of course, in the reverse
direction, dropping gradually down to the level of the Duero by a bare
and undulating road. The broad river-basin looks comparatively green and
well-wooded when viewed from the heights above Simancas; yet as one
crosses it, it is arid enough; and the steep, flat-topped hills which
bound it seem absolutely Saharan, whether looked at from above or below.
The Duero itself at this point flows in a trench between crumbling
yellow banks; and the village near it, where Gil Blas struck up
acquaintance with the barber and the strolling actor, lingers in our
memory as the scene of our most decisive victory over our enemies the
dogs. Our pockets were fairly bulging with ammunition as we descended
into the _mêlée_, and whatever we missed on the volley seemed fated to
catch the _ricochet_. Our last missile was expended absolutely at random
on the sound of a dog behind us. But to judge from the yell which
followed it, it was none the less effective for that.

Valladolid has the general unfinished air befitting a town that has made
several unsuccessful attempts to establish itself as a Capital; and its
failure to support that dignity is perhaps less surprising than the fact
that it should have been cast for the _rôle_. It stands upon no
important river, on no commanding hill. There is hardly a village in the
plain around it but might equally well have drawn a prize in the lottery
which decreed its eminence.

[Illustration: BÚRGOS

Arco San Martin.]

In strategical position it is inferior to Búrgos--to Toledo in
historical prestige.

Its memories, too (even apart from Dr Sangrado), are none of the most
cheerful; for it was one of the chief seats of the dreaded Inquisition,
and no city save Seville can boast a blacker fame. The wretched Jews and
Moors fill up the roll of the _Quemadero_,[52] but there were many
scholars and nobles among the victims of the _Plaza Mayor_ at
Valladolid. Here died the noble San Roman, the first of the Spanish
reformers. His ashes were collected by the very soldiers that guarded
his pyre and were brought to London by the English Ambassador,--a
foretaste of evil to come. Here it was that Don Carlos de Seso, his
limbs mangled by torture and disfigured by the ghastly _San Benito_,
paused as he passed the royal daïs, and sternly demanded of Philip, "as
one gentleman of another," how he could have the heart to tolerate such
atrocities in his domain. "I would slay mine own son were he as thou
art," was the bigot's answer. And so, to do him justice, he would;--on
even less provocation;--as a certain grave in the Escorial can testify
unto this day. But surely even Philip's conscience can not have been
appeased by such a rejoinder. The memory of that awful indictment must
have haunted him years afterwards in the long terrible days when he was
himself meeting a yet more hideous death with equally resolute

There was one at least of the judges who sickened at his share in that
day's butchery: for when, many years afterwards, Carranza, Archbishop of
Toledo, himself fell under the suspicion of the Holy Office, the remorse
which he felt for de Seso was imputed to him for a crime. And the spirit
which such a man could inspire in his fellows may be judged from young
Julian Sanchez, who suffered the same day. The flames burnt the cords
which bound him, and in his agony he wrenched himself free. The friars
sprang forward to hear his recantation. But Julian's eye fell upon the
heroic figure of his leader, still steadfast amid his sufferings, and
with the cry, "Let me die like de Seso!" he flung himself back into the

Nowhere in Europe had Protestantism nobler martyrs than the Spaniards:
and numbers of them were men of eminence; for their very judges lamented
that the learned men whom they had sent to confute foreign heretics were
returning to preach the faith which they were commissioned to destroy.
But against such persecutors their cause was hopeless. Philip and Valdez
were men with hands of iron.

Valladolid has many fine monuments, but they are scattered and lost
among newer and less interesting surroundings. Even the old arcaded
_plaza_ is becoming deplorably modernised; and the old-world charm of
Toledo and Segóvia may here be sought in vain. The Pisuerga river (upon
which the city stands) forms the eastern boundary of the _Tierra de
Campos_, as the Esla forms the western.[53] And the scenery of the two
valleys is so nearly identical that a traveller dropped unexpectedly in
either might be puzzled to say which. There are the same wide basin, the
same crumbling yellow cliffs, the same troglodyte villages, the same
Nilotic-looking stream. The only speciality of the Pisuerga is the
extreme dustiness of the roads.

Dueñas is one of the most typical little towns of the district. Perched
in full sunshine on one of the bare hills that flank the valley, it
looks as thoroughly baked as a pie-crust, in spite of the poplared
meadows at its feet. Here Ferdinand and Isabella first started their
housekeeping, on a very modest scale indeed, with scarcely enough
capital to guarantee to-morrow's dinner. "Saving a crown, he had nothing
else beside," sings the Scottish lassie of her suitor in the old ballad.
But the royal lovers' crowns were still in abeyance; and the then wearer
of the Castilian diadem had very different matrimonial plans for his
high-spirited sister. Wherefore he, whom History remembers as the
austere and politic Ferdinand, stole secretly across the hostile
frontier, disguised as groom to his own attendants, at the imminent risk
of a broken head; and the knot was safely tied in the cathedral at
Valladolid, with the connivance of a few of Isabella's staunchest

[Illustration: DUEÑAS]

The little cathedral town of Paléncia lies a little off the direct road;
but it is most conveniently situated as a half-way house to Búrgos. The
cathedral is a singularly fine one, though rather ramshackle externally;
and, like a true Spanish cathedral, it is crammed with works of art. The
streets are all quaintly colonnaded; but we were somewhat taken aback
when we were shown the entrance to the _Fonda_, a miserable rat-hole in
a blank and dirty wall. We had expected something better of
Paléncia:--yet nothing quite so good as the delicious shady _patio_
which we found at the end of the passage; for the hotel is really
an excellent one, and its true entrance is from a street at the back. On
the whole, we have nothing but commendation for Paléncia. Only we wish
that the little sisterhood, "_Siervas de Maria, ministras para los
enfermos_,"[54] would mind--not their p's and q's, but their m's and
n's. A little ambiguity in the final syllable is so extremely

We quitted Paléncia early on midsummer morning, and soon regained the
Búrgos road. The villages that lay before us were vomiting such volumes
of smoke that we concluded Torquemada must be justifying its title by
the celebration of an _Auto-da-fé_. But it proved to be only lime-kilns;
and Torquemada is pretty enough to deserve a gentler name. Here the
Pisuerga is crossed by a long crooked old bridge; and in the fields near
by occurred the incident which forms the subject of Pradilla's famous
picture, when poor mad Juana, escorting her husband's body from Búrgos
to Grenada, elected to spend the night in the open sooner than shelter
the faithless corpse in a convent of nuns. An incident worthy of Lear!

Now we deserted the Pisuerga to follow the Arlanzon, a greener and
narrower valley, though still somewhat dreary at times. The poppies were
blazing in the brilliant sunshine with a splendour that dazzled the eye.
They grow best where blood has been spilled, if we are to credit old
folklore; and the Arlanzon valley may well bear out the assertion, for
every stage in the journey--Torquemada, Quintana del Puente, Venta del
Pozo--was the scene of some fierce skirmish during Wellington's retreat
from Búrgos in 1812. His army suffered terribly hereabouts; for the
roads were wellnigh impassable in that rainy autumn, and the sulky
troops broke out of all control. At one time there were twelve thousand
of them all drunk together in the wine-vaults at Torquemada! The result
was almost disaster. But fortunately the stock of wine was a large one,
and they left enough for the French. It may be urged in extenuation that
the country vintages are more heady than one would think, especially for
exhausted and starving men.

[Illustration: BÚRGOS

Hospital del Rey.]

Our own difficulties arose not from rain but from sunshine, and the last
few miles over the hilly ground were distinctly exhausting. But at these
high levels even the sultriest sun is tempered by a crisp and bracing
air. The traveller who starts early can generally ride out the
morning, and the leafy avenues of Búrgos were our haven at mid-day.

Búrgos shows itself off at best advantage when seen from the eastern
side, but the approach from the west is not unworthy of the Capital of
Old Castile. First we pass the beautiful _Plateresque_[55] gateway of
the Hospital del Rey. Then the towers of Las Huelgas, the most famous
Nunnery in Spain. The convent was founded by Alfonso VIII.,--a trespass
offering after his great defeat by the _Miramamolin_[56] at Alarcon. And
his atonement was accepted; for twenty years later he was able to hang
up over the High Altar the sacred banner captured at Las Navas de
Tolosa, the great victory which extinguished for ever the long
domination of the Moor.

Under its folds the young Prince Edward of England knelt watching his
arms on the eve of his knighthood in 1254. Here he was married--a boy
bridegroom--to his girl-bride, the Princess Leonora of Castile; and
hence he carried her away with him to his home in his northern island,
where as the "dear Queen" of the Eleanor Crosses her name is held in
honour to this day.

"Laws go as Kings wish," says the Spanish proverb; otherwise it is
difficult to imagine how the nuns could have ever permitted such a
shocking thing as a wedding in their own Conventual Church. When we
peeped into it, the very effigies of the kings on the royal tombs were
jealously shrouded--for propriety's sake! Formerly ten thousand dollars
dowry and sixteen quarterings were indispensable to the lady who wished
to renounce the vanities of the world in this exclusive cloister! But
now the sisterhood is sadly reduced, and takes in "paying guests,"--to
wit, another sisterhood, with whom they live (it is said) in peace and
amity. I mention this because an old French curé, who visited the
convent with us, seemed to regard it as the most astounding miracle that
Búrgos had to boast.

[Illustration: BÚRGOS

Arco Sta Maria.]

The main entrance to the city is formed by the magnificent Arco de Sta
Maria at the head of the bridge over the Arlanzon. It was erected to
propitiate Charles V. after the revolt of the _Communeros_; and that
monarch's effigy consequently occupies the most conspicuous niche. He is
surrounded by all the local heroes of Búrgos;--Diego de Porcelos,
_Fundator noster_, whose German son-in-law erected the _Burg_,--Lain
Calvo, chief of the early "Judges,"--and Fernan Gonzalez, the great
count who founded the kingdom of Castile. But of course the greatest of
all the city demi-gods is their "Champion Chief," my Cid Ruy Diaz of
Bivar. Doubtless he would have been their patron saint if the Pope could
have been induced to canonize him;--a queer type of saint perhaps;--but
there are queer types in the Calendar.

"My Cid" flourished about the time of our Norman Conquest, and from his
youth upward was recognised as the doughtiest warrior in Spain. He was
the sword-arm (according to legend) of three successive Castilian
sovereigns; and his services culminated in the conquest of Toledo, where
(again according to legend) he was commander-in-chief. Afterwards he
fell into disgrace;--chiefly owing to his invincible ignorance of the
dogma that you ought to stop killing Moors as soon as your king has made
peace with them; and Alfonso VI. arranged the difficulty by banishing
him from Castile,--to kill more Moors. "My Cid" now obtained letters of
marque (or their equivalent) from the Moorish King of Zaragoza, and
proceeded to carve out a kingdom for himself by the conquest of
Valéncia. This enterprise required money, and "My Cid" raised it from
the Jews, leaving in pawn a sealed chest full of gravel, which purported
to contain his family gems. Apparently he was indignant with the Hebrews
because they would not accept his bare word; and it never occurred to
either party that they were, in fact, accepting his bare word in the
matter of the sealed chest. As a commercial transaction it seems a
little bewildering; but it all came right in the end; and "My Cid"
loyally redeemed his chest of gravel at full face value when Valéncia
was subdued.

At Valéncia he reigned in great glory, reconciled to the king and
victorious against all assaults of the Moors. There he made an edifying
end, serenely indifferent to the gathering of the mighty host which his
foes were assembling for their final effort. Thence he sallied for the
last time at the head of his comrades,--a ghastly figure, stiff in
death, but clad in full armour, and mounted on Bavieca, as he was wont
to ride of yore; and all the Moors that beleaguered him fled at the
sight of him, so that the spoil that he took at his death was more than
he had ever taken in his life. Ximena, his widow, bore back his body to
Búrgos, as he had bidden her; and his bones are exhibited to
inquisitive strangers in the Town Hall at a _peseta_ a head! How could
the Burgalese have the heart to ravish them from his own monastery of
San Pedro de Cardena, where he slept with Ximena and Bavieca, like the
tough old Berseker that he was?

Of all the cities of Northern Spain, Búrgos is probably the best known
to the average tourist; but though the English language (for which one
acquires a very keen ear after a month's abstinence) may be occasionally
heard in the environs of the cathedral, yet the quaint old _calles_ and
palaces are still much less visited than they deserve. Many of the
latter are particularly fine examples of their class, especially the
stern old _Casa del Cordon_, which takes its name from the great cord of
St Francis, sculptured over the portal,--a common embellishment in the
palaces of that date; and the more graceful _Casa Miranda_, built (as we
may surmise) by some relative of the "prudent" Don Diego, Don Quixote's
hospitable host. This last is a lovely old building of Italian delicacy
of ornament, but, now, alas! sadly mutilated and partitioned off into
squalid tenements, not entirely innocent of fleas.

"It is never hot at Búrgos," we had been told by a friendly mentor: and
I can testify that it is often cold there, for the place stands high,
and the mountains of la Demanda rear their snowy crests at no great
distance away. Yet the local saying, "Nine months of Winter, and three
of H--l"[57] is distinctly a more impartial summary, and this month was
apparently one of the three. The narrow streets blazed white and
scintillating under the flood of sunshine. The wayfarer edged his way
gingerly along the shady margin, and picked out the narrowest point
before he would venture to cross. Then, after a timid pause, he would
draw a deep breath and make a bolt for it. The sun caught him in transit
like the blast from the mouth of a furnace; and he scuttled gasping into
shelter, and cooled off on the further side. The Spanish shade
temperature may perhaps be matched on a hot day in England, but it needs
the _Piazza_ at Venice to rival the fury of the sun.

[Illustration: BÚRGOS

Patio of the Casa de Miranda.]

There are, indeed, some few Salamanders who do not appear to mind it. A
party of tonsured Franciscans were unconcernedly challenging it to do
its worst. But most of the saner inhabitants wisely keep indoors till
the evening; and whoso wishes to see Búrgos Society taking its airing,
let him seat himself after dusk in front of the Café Suizo upon the
Espolon. Then all the beauty and fashion turn out to promenade upon a
regulation hundred yards of pavement, under the eyes of their fathers
and brothers, who sit sipping their coffee and _anis_ beneath the trees.
A very handsome company they are; but, alas! their hats and frocks are
mostly Parisian creations. That most graceful of all head-dresses, the
_mantilla_, is reserved for state occasions, such as High Masses and
Bull-fights. "Nothing is sacred to a sapper,"--nor to a milliner, unless
it is new.

There is a cathedral at Búrgos; and we feel ourselves justified in
mentioning it, because we heard it frankly admitted that it was "a vurry
fine church _for such a small town_." Our Amurrican Ruskin seemed to
think it hardly class enough for Chicago; but in contests of this
description the battle is not to the millionaire. The builder of the
Escorial, for all his great possessions, knew that it was not for his
craftsmen to rival the Cartuja tombs.[58]

Indeed, there is something overwhelming about the magnificence of
Búrgos. It is rather German in character, as Leon is rather French. Yet
though Juan de Colónia was a Rhinelander and Archbishop Maurice an
Englishman, there is too much pure Spanish at Búrgos to assign all the
credit to them. The building ranks as one of the wonders of Europe:--a
cathedral perhaps as large as Canterbury, but finished throughout with
the delicate extravagance of the _bijou_ chapel of Roslin;--which, of
course, is really Spanish also, if Scotchmen will excuse my saying so.

And, moreover, the splendour of the furniture is fully in keeping with
the fabric: particularly the gorgeous metal _rejas_,--for what other
craftsmen in Europe could vie with the Spanish smiths? Riches which
might deck out a whole church among us lovers of bare walls are here
found packed within the compass of a single chapel; and little gems of
carving and inlay are thrust aside like lumber into corners where they
can be scarcely seen. The whole is a dream of magnificence unsurpassable
even in Italy: yet it is the gorgeous gloom of Toledo which still
springs first to the memory when we contrast our own chaste chilly
churches with the opulence of the shrines of Spain.

The cathedral stands upon steeply sloping ground well above the level of
the Arlanzon. A long broad flight of steps leads up from the street to
the south transeptal entrance; and from the pavement of the northern
transept the noble staircase of Diego de Silöe climbs up to another
street level upon the further side. Beyond it and above are piled the
quaint red-roofed houses, clambering tier upon tier up the flanks of the
escarpment; yet for all their aspirations the bare steep mound draws
clear of them, and "Dubreton's thundering citadel" frowns alone upon the

This castle has rather an unsatisfactory interest for Englishmen, for it
was the obstacle which checked the advance of Wellington in his great
campaign of 1812. It stands at the tip of a long tongue of high ground
which runs up to the river almost at right angles; and this extreme end
is separated from the rest of the ridge by a deep depression, so that it
forms a sort of semi-detached hillock, shaped like a gigantic mole-hill
some three hundred and fifty feet high. The castle is included within
the circuit of the city walls; and the cathedral is so close beneath it
that it is wonderful that it escaped destruction during the bombardment.
Yet even the stained glass which once adorned the clerestory was only
destroyed by the explosion which occurred the following year. The castle
was once the royal residence of Castile: but nothing now remains of it
except a few lines of grass-grown earthworks, which are utilised as
rope-walks by the peaceful Burgalese. The modern fortress is on the hill
of San Miguel, on the other side of the depression.

In Wellington's day San Miguel was merely an outwork. Its capture was a
preliminary operation, and it was stormed early in the siege. With
modern artillery such a _coup_ would have been decisive. The citadel
itself would have been blown over the pinnacles of the cathedral without
more ado. But in those times the old line-of-battle ships fought their
thirty-two pounders muzzle to muzzle, and "three or four feet between
the mouths of your pistols" was considered "as good as a mile."

Wellington was, moreover, miserably provided with artillery, and the
guns of the castle were far superior to his own. His troops were
endeavouring to "tear down the ramparts with their naked hands"; and the
conspicuous pillar which overlooks three counties from the lonely
heights of Malvern, records the fate of the young heir of Eastnor who
was killed while directing the approaches. A month's siege and five
desperate assaults left the castle still unwon when the French
armies had gathered to relieve it: and the besiegers with muffled wheels
stole away over the bridges in the night-time. The campaign which began
so gloriously at Salamanca[59] had ended in another retreat.

[Illustration: BÚRGOS

From the East.]

Yet the labour and carnage were not wasted. Joseph had neither time nor
money to spend upon repairing the battered fortress, and next year the
tide of war rolled back like the surge of the sea. Wellington, riding at
the head of his troops across the hills from the westward, was saluted
by the thunder of a terrific explosion which darkened the heavens above
him and shook the ground beneath his feet. Then first, with stern
elation, he recognised the presage of Vitória. His foes had despaired of
resisting him. The castle of Búrgos was no more.



It must give some flavour of unreality to our impressions of the
Peninsula that we should not allude to the beggars until the ultimate
chapter of all. And our only excuse for our negligence will sound like
an aggravation of the error; for we hold that the Spanish beggar has
been much over-advertised and does not (on his merits) deserve any more
prominent place. The number of beggars in Spain varies directly in
proportion to the number of tourists. They are most persistent at
Búrgos; there is a moderate superfluity at Segóvia and Toledo: but in
the out-of-the-way districts there is only the fundamental residue, and
that (to speak frankly) we should be rather loth to spare.

"His honour the beggar, your brother"--the authorised official
beggar--is a gentleman. He is frequently distinguished by a badge, like
old Edie Ochiltree; and his resemblance to that worthy philosopher does
not terminate with the badge. He is seldom unduly importunate. He begs
"in God's name"; and when "in God's name" you implore him to excuse you,
he seems to resignedly argue that such an adjuration would never be
refused on insufficient grounds. His station is in the church porches;
but he sometimes goes stumping the _calles_, and breathing a
supplicating "_Ave Maria_" into every open door--an invocation which
generally brings a very peppery blessing rattling down the staircase
from the busy housewife overhead. And in fine, his entire demeanour is
so eminently high-bred and dignified that it seems a privilege to oblige
him. You feel as if you were conferring an obol on Belisarius, and are
consequently on the best of terms with yourself for all the rest of the

This "Lord High Vagabond of the Stocks" is, however, not quite pushing
enough for the era. In be-touristed cities he is swamped by an army of
interlopers. These are perhaps most frequently children; but the tribe
is bewrayed by their cry,--"_Perrita por pan![60]--Señor-e-e-to! una
perr-e-e-ta!_" a capital phrase for a beggar's whine! A small initiate
was squatting beside me all the time I was sketching the Casa Miranda.
She was engaged in coaching the baby--these were to be his first words.
The baby being unresponsive, she maintained the refrain herself, at
intervals of five minutes, in an uninterested semi-detached tone. If she
got the _perrita_, that would be so much profit; but she would not be
depressed if she didn't--she was not so keen about the _pan_. The
benevolent stranger is misled by their bare feet and rags and
persistency, and imagines that they are all on the brink of starvation;
but if he wants to see real poverty let him penetrate to the remoter
villages--and he will find no beggars there. There more than once I have
been humbled to the dust at having my "tip" politely spurned by the
dignified ragamuffins who have rendered me some trifling service. And
lest I should ruin their self-respect with coppers, I have been forced
to undermine their constitutions with cigarettes.

The last beggars whom we encountered at Búrgos, however, were "right"
beggars. They were clustering round the entrance of the great monastery
of La Cartuja[61] de Miraflores, awaiting their daily dole. Everybody
visits La Cartuja to see the marvellous tombs which Isabella erected for
her father and brother--the masterpieces of _el mæstre_ Gil; yet not the
least attractive feature are the white-robed Carthusian brethren
themselves, and the ragged mendicants "coming for their soup" according
to the immemorial usage of old.

The convent stands about two miles from Búrgos, on a slight eminence to
the right of the Pancorvo road, and was the last of the great monuments
of the city that we passed on our departure towards the east. The road
had been rising almost imperceptibly all the way from Valladolid.
Gradually the fields had got greener and the trees more plentiful as we
left the dun plains behind; and now a fine row of big shady elms
introduced a welcome variety to the everlasting poplars and half-grown
acacias which had been our only solace for many a sultry mile. The
country, moreover, now begins to assume a more mountainous character.
Away to the right rises the desolate Sierra de la Demanda, the northern
outpost of the rugged ranges round Sória,--perhaps one of the wildest
districts in all western Europe at the present day. The wolf and the
boar still roam at will through its untrodden valleys, though I believe
the bear now only survives in the Western Cantabrians and the Pyrenees.
Here the venerable monastery of Silos lay securely hidden even from the
sacrilegious Moors; and here in later years the dreaded _partidas_ of
Mina the _guerillero_ were able to defy the utmost efforts of the

Our road passes only over the merest outskirts of these mountains, and
leads us on through Briviesca by a long, gradual, and monotonous
descent. Yet the gates of Castile are still before us, and we do not
quit that most Spanish of provinces without seeing it once more in its
sternest and wildest mood. North of the road lies the long level-topped
ridge of the Montes Obarenes, a range not dissimilar to our own Mendips,
and, like them, cleft with an unsuspected pass. For some distance we
skirt the base of the hills; and then with a sharp turn to the left we
dive suddenly into the grim defile of Pancorvo, a Deva gorge in
miniature, where road, river, and railway jostle each other through a
maze of fantastic limestone crags.


These mountain ramparts, pierced with their deep natural posterns, are a
most characteristic feature of the Castilian frontiers; and probably
that "Land of Castles" owes its name as much to them as to its
man-built donjons and citadels. Indeed, it requires no very vivid
imagination to discover the outlines of towers and battlements among the
sheer bare weather-beaten stones. One magnificent imitation overshadowed
our road in the _Serranía_ of Cuenca, with keep and watch-tower and
ballium as complete as a _Château Gaillard_. Another more ambiguous
specimen we caught sight of in this very district;--one of those
isolated conical hills crowned with a square rocky tooth, which are not
uncommon in the neighbourhood of Pamplona. First it seemed that it was a
rock,--then that it was a castle; and the balance of probability
appeared to change every half mile. The road led straight up to our
landmark and circled around the base, so that we saw it fairly close,
and from three different sides; but whether it was really a rock or a
castle we are not quite positive even to this day. There can be little
doubt that it is to some of these _Fate Morgane_ that we owe the old
proverb concerning castles in Spain.

The northern face of the Montes Obarenes is much more broken than the
southern; and as we run down from the pass into the pretty little town
of Miranda, we may see, far away on our right, that other great notch
to the eastward where the Ebro forces its passage out into the Rioja
plains. The Ebro is but young up here in the Vizcayan highlands; yet it
is already a fine broad river; and the massive old stone bridge of
Miranda, flanked by quaint houses and churches, makes a singularly
attractive sample of Spanish scenery to the tourist newly arrived from

The river breaks through the mountains some ten miles lower, by a gap
between two rocky headlands, known as the cliffs of Bilibio and Buradon;
and beyond are the tawny undulating plains around Haro,--a famous
wine-growing district, whose vintages usually reach the English market
under the name of Bordeaux, though they taste just as good under their
own. The view (given in the illustrations as La Rioja Alavesa) is one
which is very typical of Spanish inland scenery. But a special local
touch is given by the Navarrese villages bunched together at the tops of
their conical hills, like so many hedgehogs with their bristles out.
Navarre was a buffer state in medieval times, and anyone who had nothing
else to do used to kill time by invading it. The Navarrese villages were
always upon the defensive, and evidently acquired the habit of
arranging themselves to suit.

[Illustration: LA RIOJA ALAVESA

Looking Northwards across the Ebro.]

Meanwhile our road to Pamplona keeps still to the northward of the
mountains, and, crossing the Ebro at Miranda, makes straight for the
heights of Puebla and Morillas, which answer to the Montes Obarenes on
the opposite side of the vale. The little river Zadora comes rippling
out to meet us; and the gap from which it issues admits us into a wide
level basin some ten miles in diameter, to which the Zadora itself forms
a somewhat irregular chord. The ground on the left bank of the river
rises considerably higher than on the right, and culminates in a little
shaggy knoll which stands close beside our road. Watch for it, and do
not pass it unnoticed; it is the "Englishmen's Hill." Well has it earned
that name, for it has been twice baptized in the blood of our nation.
Once when a detachment of the Black Prince's army, under the command of
Sir Thomas Felton, fell fighting valiantly against thirty times their
number on the eve of the battle of Navarrete.[62] Again when Picton's
"fighting devils" came like a storm against it in the crisis of the
battle of Vitória, cutting their path through the centre of King
Joseph's tottering array.

Salamanca was Wellington's most brilliant victory, but Vitória was
unquestionably the ablest of his campaigns. This invasion was not like
those that had gone before it--no mere sally from his impregnable
mountain lines. At last he could wield an undivided command and an army
as numerous as his opponents; and as he crossed the little frontier
river Agueda, he had looked back to Portugal with a confident "adieu."
Hill to the right and Graham to the left had already been slipped on
their quarry; and against such a sweeping combination neither Tormes,
Duero, nor Carrion could provide any adequate defence. Madrid was
abandoned before him,--Búrgos was dismantled. And the retreating French
convoys, with all their baggage, plunder, and munitions, were jammed in
the city of Vitória at the head of the road to Bayonne.

Joseph sought to bar the advance at Pancorvo, and thought the defile was
impregnable. He looked for assault from the southward, but the storm
broke upon him from behind. Wellington had shifted his base by sea from
Lisbon to Santander; and sweeping Reille and Maucune before him, came
pouring down the Ebro from the north. The stroke was a _coup de Jarnac_,
as fatal as it was unexpected. The heights of Obarenes and Morillas were
no longer barring the way; and Joseph hastily fell back to the hills
behind the Zadora, the only remaining position which he could possibly
hope to defend.

As it was in the days of Las Navas de Tolosa, so was it also in this
"crowning mercy" of the Peninsular War. It was a peasant who led Kempt's
brigade over the unguarded bridge at Tres Pontes, and fell, like his
prototype of the Morena, at the moment of the victorious attack.
Clinging in desperation to each successive thicket and farmstead, the
French were pushed remorselessly backward into the chaos of transport
behind. And even more fatal than the frontal onset was the blow struck
far to the left on the very confines of the plain. There Graham stormed
the village of Gamarra Mayor, and shut off the flying army from the use
of the great royal road. Nothing that ran upon wheels could go along the
branch road to Pamplona. Guns, ammunition, treasure, baggage, and
plunder all fell entire into the hands of the victors; and probably at
the moment Joseph was very well contented that the prize was
sufficiently valuable to effectually hamper the pursuit.

The battle was the ruin of Napoleon, as well as of his cause in the
Peninsula. The struggle had sapped his strength for years, and the
catastrophe came at the very crisis of his fate.[63] Among all his
enterprises there had been none more thoroughly inexcusable;--wantonly
conceived, treacherously undertaken, ruthlessly carried out. As great a
blunder in statecraft as it was an outrage on humanity. "The Spanish
canker destroyed him"; and so in bare justice it should.

Our route follows the track of the flying army along a deep green
Navarrese valley between lofty and cliff-like hills. By its side runs
the single line which connects Madrid with the frontier; but this turns
off to the north about halfway to Pamplona, making for San Sebástien and

[Illustration: MIRANDA DEL EBRO

A Corner in the Town.]

The villages are much devoted to _Pelota_[64]; and few are too poor to
possess some species of primitive court. Those in the larger towns are
most imposing erections; but any bare wall will do, and some of the
churches have hoisted pathetic petitions that the parishioners will not
practise against the walls _during the hours of divine service_.
The houses themselves seem almost built with a view to the pastime, for
they are solid square stone buildings, shouldering close up against the
roadway; and their blank expanses of ashlar are persistently
commandeered by the boys.

_Pelota_ is exclusively a Basque game. In Castile and Leon the men are
content with skittles, and the boys are generally engrossed in the
enacting of miniature bull-fights--a game in which the star performer
invariably elects to play bull. Dancing is, of course, an amusement
which is common to all provinces and to both sexes: but a game in the
English significance is an institution which seldom appeals to the
southern mind.

In this district, however, the cyclist provides a good deal of salutary
exercise for the conscientious toll-keeper. For the Basque roads are not
national but provincial, and the provinces maintain them by taking
tolls. The stranger, however, is not generally aware of this custom; and
as the toll-bars are quite unobtrusive, he rides innocently past them on
his way. His first intimation takes the shape of a breathless and
howling _caminero_ sprinting desperately along the road behind him, and
smarting under the conviction that he is being wilfully bilked.

Some little distance before we reach Pamplona we pass one of the most
remarkable examples of rock formation that is to be met with even in
Spanish hills. Here the deep glen of Larraun debouches upon the main
valley, and across its mouth is drawn a huge natural wall of precipitous
limestone which can hardly be less than a thousand feet high. The top is
serrated, but both faces are equally sheer; and the thickness at the
base is not relatively greater than one would expect in an artificial
masonry dam. Probably, indeed, it was a natural dam originally,
retaining a vast reservoir in the vale behind; but now it is cleft in
the centre from top to base with a huge gash, clean-cut and narrow; and
through this stupendous portal the little river issues from the vale.

[Illustration: PAMPLONA

From the Road to the Frontier.]

Pamplona stands in the centre of an amphitheatre of mountains, rising
out of the level arena on a sort of daïs covered with walls and spires.
It is the chief of the northern frontier fortresses; but its bastions
date mostly from the days of Vauban, and its strength (from a modern
military standpoint) must depend on the forts which cap the neighbouring
hills. The cathedral is an interesting building, and possesses a
most lovely cloister; but the town generally is not very attractive to
the artist, though it forms a good "jumping-off place" for exploring the
country around.

The bare, windy wastes that stretch away from the city towards the
Pyrenean foot-hills are not altogether so tenantless as they seem to a
casual view. Several of the villages still bear traces of ancient
prosperity;--Estella, charmingly situated in a rocky hollow; Sangüesa,
with its noble monastery; Olite, once the Windsor of Navarre. The
last-named might almost rank as a working model for an antiquarian. Its
lanes are packed with the decaying mansions of the long-departed
courtiers, and dominated by the huge ruined castle which was the home of
the warrior kings. This palatial stronghold is noted as one of the
finest examples in the Peninsula: a match for our own Bamburgh or
Warkworth, and consequently with few rivals in the world.

As the capital of Navarre, Pamplona has, of course, been pre-eminent for
its sieges; and it was in one of these that Ignatius Loyola received the
wound which converted him from a dandy into an ascetic, and led to the
foundation of the Order of Jesuits. But the siege which possesses the
greatest interest for an Englishman is that undertaken by the Duke of
Wellington after Vitória; the enterprise which led to that series of
desperate struggles usually lumped together vaguely as "the Battles of
the Pyrenees."

The sieges of San Sebástien and Pamplona had been undertaken
simultaneously; but neither made very rapid progress, and Soult was not
the man to let them fall without an attempt to come to their aid. He had
re-formed the wrecks of Joseph's army on the French side of the
frontier; and advancing towards the passes of Maya and Roncesvalles, he
assailed them both suddenly the same day. The detachments which guarded
them were overpowered after a most resolute resistance, and Soult pushed
down the valleys towards Pamplona, reuniting his forces on the road.
Wellington had expected that the blow would be aimed at San Sebástien.
He was momentarily outwitted; but he recovered just in time. Soult found
his path barred at the fatal ridge of Saurauren,--just outside the
Pamplona basin, and literally within sight of his goal. The beleaguered
garrison heard the roar of that furious battle; they could watch the
smoke-wreaths curling above the intervening ridge. But no French
standards appeared in the mouth of the pass in the evening. When
the battle was renewed two days later, the English were the assailants;
and Soult and his beaten army could barely find safety in flight.

[Illustration: OLITE

The Castle.]

Saurauren was Wellington's last great battle on Spanish soil. A few
weeks later the two great fortresses had fallen, and--first of all the
allied Generals--he carried the war into France. Five years previously
he had landed in Portugal--a "Sepoy General," little more distinguished
than Cornwallis or Eyre Coote. But those five years in the Peninsula had
fixed his reputation for ever; and the giant who crossed the Bidassoa
had but little to add to his stature on the field of Waterloo.

There is a choice of two roads from Pamplona to the frontier. The
_kilos_ are reckoned from Maya; but Roncesvalles bears the more historic
name. In point of scenery there is little to choose between them; but
perhaps Maya is the harder journey, for Maya includes Vellate, and this
extra pass is the loftiest of the three.

The country towards Roncesvalles is at first much less mountainous in
character than that towards Vitória; for the high peaks of the Pyrenees
lie in the centre of the range, to the eastward; and those immediately
before us, though wild and rugged, do not show up very imposingly above
the lofty levels upon the Spanish side. Near Pamplona the meadows are
green and civilised, but the view becomes sterner and more barren as we
draw near to the feet of the hills; and presently we enter a long,
narrow, rocky gully--the bed of a mountain river--whose steep, bare
sides are dotted with trim little bushes of box. How hot it was in that
narrow gully! The sun's rays poured vertically into the breathless
hollow, and their heat was radiated by every burning stone. Even the
six-inch shadows of the box bushes were quoted at fancy values; and
shedding our outer garments one after another, we eventually emerged at
the further end in an almost aboriginal state.

"Are you thinking of resuming the garb of civilisation?" enquired one
vagabond of another, as we halted for a moment on the little bridge near
the village of Burguete. "I am thinking of resuming the garb of Adam,"
retorted his comrade desperately, as he glared into the pool beneath. It
was rather a public place for a bathe; but there are no passengers on a
Spanish road at _Comida_ time. And as that meal is invariably
unpunctual, we knew that the little _Fonda_ could be reached in plenty
of time.

Burguete stands in the centre of a little cup-like valley; and prominent
upon the further lip rises a big domed hill, one of the flankers of the
pass. It is a sleek, smooth mountain, upholstered with green turf, and
spangled with grazing sheep; and the big round beeches and chestnuts
herd together all over its crest, as domesticated as on an English lawn.
Yet the little hillock beneath it was the scene of one of the greatest
of tragedies; for there stood the abbey of Roncesvalles, the sepulchre
of Charlemagne's slaughtered Peers.

A good deal of controversial ink has been spilt over Charlemagne's
famous Spanish expedition: and all the confusion of history has been
worse confounded by romance. The French Epics tell of it as a glorious
and successful crusade, undertaken in the cause of Christendom against
the insolence of the Moors. The Emperor dictated his own terms in his
enemy's palace at Córdova, and it was only the treachery of Ganelon that
led to the regrettable incident at the end. Very different is the story
of the Spanish ballads. Their bards were most wofully sceptical of
religious and disinterested invasion; they wished to be left to fight
out their own quarrels with their own infidels, and felt no sort of
satisfaction at the prospect of Spain becoming a province of the
Franks. It was their own native heroes, Bernardo del Carpio and the
chivalry of Leon, who overthrew the Paladins at Roncesvalles. Is not
Roland's "Durandal" in the armoury of Madrid to this day, to prove that
the Spaniard was the better man?

[Illustration: PAMPLONA

A Patio near the Cathedral.]

In truth the expedition was directed against the newly-established
Caliphate of Córdova, in alliance with Suleiman Ibn-al-Arabi, the
Moorish king of Barcelona, who was jealous of Abderahman's growing
power. Charlemagne captured Pamplona (which was Christian), and obtained
some acknowledgment of suzerainty from the Sheikhs of Gerona and Huesca.
But Zaragoza held out against him with all its traditional obstinacy:
the ill-matched allies could by no means pull together; and the campaign
fizzled out abortively without any substantial gain. As for the dolorous
rout which concluded it, that was the work of neither Goth nor Moor, but
of the angry Basques of the mountains, a nation whom Charlemagne had not
regarded, and whom he probably despised. They had seen their country
pillaged, their capital Pamplona taken; and now, when the rearguard was
entangled in the mountains, they at last got the chance of plunder and
revenge. No doubt they trapped them in that long rocky defile--straggling,
way-worn, and cumbered with plunder and baggage--a position as hopeless
as Elphinstone's in the Koord Kabul. The disjointed line was toiling
painfully along the gullet; the slippery screes rose unscalable on
either side; and the jutting crags that frowned at every corner
afforded both ramparts and missiles to the unweariable mountaineers.
None but the doughtiest warriors could have succeeded in breaking out
into the basin of Burguete. And here their superior arms and discipline
would enable them to fight their way across to the further side. Only
one short ascent still remained to be surmounted; but their active
enemy was before them, and the task was beyond their power. Wounded
and exhausted, they drew together in a rallying square upon the little
hillock; and there, fighting desperately, they were cut down to a man.

The course of that fight is retold in the very conformation of the
valley, yet somehow the picture is inadequate. The drama is not quite
worthily staged. The place is too homely and pastoral for the scene of
that great Saga which Taillefer chanted between the embattled hosts at
Hastings; and which has since thrilled the hearts of generations of
warriors, as Sidney's was thrilled by the tale of Chevy Chase. We need a
more rugged environment for the memory of a departed demi-god. "He who
aspires to be a hero," said Dr Johnson, "should drink brandy!" And
perhaps, while he is about it, he might get killed in a Deva gorge.

There is a softer lay for the minstrel who would linger by the braes of
Burguete; a tale of two true lovers, who, as usual, were distressingly
ill-starred. Their story is even more ancient than the doughty deeds of
arms that we have just been rehearsing; for it relates to the days of
Charlemagne's illustrious grand-sire, Charles Martel. Othman ben Abu
Neza, the Moorish warden of the marches, had espoused a Christian bride,
Lampegia, daughter of Duke Eudo of Aquitaine; and fleeing with her
across the mountains to seek refuge from his indignant suzerain, was
overtaken in the pass of Roncesvalles, and slain in his lady's arms. The
unemotional historian is convinced that the marriage was political, and
hints that both Eudo and Othman were conspiring against their respective
liege lords. But at least he will grant us a certificate as to the
authenticity of the final catastrophe: and he flatly declines to go
further even for Roland and his Peers.

Battlefields lie thick in Navarre, and even the Vale of Thorns is not
absolutely the last of them. A second battle of Roncesvalles was
contested upon the heights of Altobiscar, at the very crest of the Pass,
in 1813. Here the British had been posted for six weeks, covering the
blockade of Pamplona; and had greatly vexed the soul of their general by
persistently deserting in twos and threes every night.

Why these seasoned soldiers, at this very hour of their triumph, should
have been seized with so strange an epidemic, is a problem which might
take a good deal of arguing. The only contemporary theory was the
suggestion that they were finding things slow! But their fighting
qualities did not seem to have got much affected. Soult finally attacked
them in person with much superior numbers: and they offered a most
resolute resistance, only giving ground after night-fall, when it was
evident they were being outflanked. Cole, the hero of Albuera, led them
stubbornly back along the mountain ridges towards Pamplona; and the act
was played out at Saurauren, where he arrived just in time to seize the

The ascent of the Pass upon the Spanish side is but trifling. A few
brisk turns in the track, and we have climbed from the abbey ruins to
the summit of the _col_ behind. Before us the road to France drops coil
below coil into the deep green valley, a long descent of over three
thousand feet. The actual frontier is some dozen miles further, at the
village of Valcarlos; where a modest little bridge, shepherded by a
horde of sentries, spans the waters of the infant Nive. But the spirit
of Spain lags behind us up here upon this breezy saddle. Here is the
true parting of the nations; and as we turn our faces plainwards, we
feel that we are taking our leave.

Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies!
  Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain!
For we've received orders to cross the salt waters;
  _We hope before long we shall see you again_!



Abándames, 21, 28, 30, 39, 42

Abderahman I., Caliph of Córdova, 296

Abu Walid, Alfaqui of Toledo, 208

Alarcon, Battle of, 267

Alba de Tormes, 163, 173

Albarracin, 255

Alberche, River, 212-213

ALCÁNTARA, 230-235
  Bridge, 92, 231-235
  Monastery, 53, 234

Alfonso VI. of Castile and Leon, 124-125, 140, 142, 202, 208, 269

Alfonso VIII. of Castile, 60, 208, 267

Alfonso XI. of Castile and Leon, 180

Alfonso V. of Portugal, 150-151

Alfonso, Prince of Castile, 258, 281

_Alguazils_, 53, 79, 80

Al Manzor, Vizier of Córdova, 85-86
  Mountain, 161, 221

Almaraz, Bridge, 92, 224

_Almoravides_, 202

Altobiscar, Mountain Ridge, 299

Alxaman, Moorish Emir, 35

Andalusia, 60, 202

Aragon, 61, 168

Aránjuez, 191, 193-195

Arapiles, 164

Arlanzon, River, 266, 268, 274

Armada, The, 95, 107, 189

Arriondas, 37-38, 42

Arroyo Molinos, Battle of, 224

Arzobispo, Bridge, 214

ASTORGA, 68-71, 75, 78, 177

Asturias, Eastern, 15-16, 24-42
  Western, 93, 113-131

Augustus, Emperor, 68, 228, 246

_Autos da Fé_, 205, 261-262

ÁVILA, 176-183, 190, 192

Barcelona, 296

Basques, 289, 296

Bathers, 120

Bavieca, 270-271

Becerrea, 76-77

Beggars, 278-280

BÉJAR, 173-176, 235

Bellotas, 116

Bembibre, 75

BENAVENTE, 133-136
  Battle of, 134-135

Berruguete, Alonzo, Sculptor, 207

BETÁNZOS, 106, 108-110

Bidassoa, River, 6, 293

BILBAO, 5-7, 9

Birds (Wild). Eagles, 21, 229;
  Falcons, 213;
  Hoopoes, 156;
  Magpies, 157;
  Ospreys, 22-23;
  Partridges, 73;
  Storks, 157, 222, 229, 232

Biscay, Bay of, 5-7, 39

Bivar, Rodrigo Diaz de. _See_ Cid.

Borgoña, Felipe de, Sculptor, 207

Borrow, George, 54, 103, 108 _note_, 115-117

Briviesca, 82, 282

Buenavista, 46, 48, 50

Bull Fights, 171-173, 208, 273, 289

BÚRGOS, 60, 257, 264-277, 280-281, 286
  Castle, 275-277
  Cathedral, 273-274
  Monasteries, 267-268, 280-281
  Palaces, 270
  Siege, 275-277

Burguete, 294-295, 297-298

Cabezon, 19, 42

Cacabellos, 72, 75

CÁCERES, 81, 221-224, 229, 235

_Cafés_, 13-14, 69-70, 273

Calderon, Pedro, Dramatist, 205

Camps, Celtic and Roman, 90-91

CÁNGAS DE ONIS, 30-33, 37, 39

CANTABRIAN MOUNTAINS, 15, 19-20, 43, 66, 152, 161, 282

Cares, River, 28-29

Cardena, San Pedro de, Monastery, 271

Carillo, Archbishop of Toledo, 151, 258-259

Carlists, 54-55

Carpio, Bernardo del, 296

Carranza, Archbishop of Toledo, 262

Carreño, 29-30

Carrion, River, 51, 286

Castaños, General, 68

Castile, Kingdom, 60-61, 202, 207
  Old, 7-23, 43-45, 176-185, 243-258, 266-284
  New, 185-214, 237-243

Castles. Benavente, 134;
  Búrgos, 275-276;
  Magueda, 211;
  Mérida, 225;
  Olite, 291;
  Ponferrada, 73;
  Segóvia, 249-250;
  Toledo, 205
  in Spain, 282-283

Castro Gonzalo, Bridge, 135-136

Castropol, 113-114


Cathedrals. Avila, 180;
  Búrgos, 273-275;
  Leon, 58-59;
  Lugo, 79;
  Orense, 92;
  Oviedo, 122;
  Paléncia, 264;
  Pamplona, 290-291;
  Plaséncia, 217;
  Salamanca, 164-165;
  Santiago, 86-87;
  Segóvia, 253-254;
  Toledo, 205-208;
  Tuy, 97;
  Zamora, 145-146

Catharine of Aragon, Queen of England, 182

Cervera del Pisuerga, 45

Cervantes, Miguel. _See_ Quixote, Don.

Charlemagne, Emperor, 295-298

Charles V., King of Spain and Emperor of Germany, 190, 203, 268

Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles I.), 48

Charles Martel, Mayor of the Franks, 298

Churriguera, Architect, 87

_Cicadas_, 156

CID, The. Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, 61, 124-125, 140-143, 177, 202, 269-271

Cies, Islas de, 101

Clamores, River, 253

Clausel, General, 163, 173

Clavijo, Battle of, 85

Climate, 129, 170, 182, 266-267, 272, 294

Cole, General, 299

Colonia, Juan de, Architect, 274

Combarros, 71

COMMUNEROS, Revolt of, 203-204, 268

Constantino, Bridge, 76

Corcuvion, 103

Córdova, 85, 201, 295-296

Cória, 235

_Corpus Christi_, Festival of, 139, 143-146

Cortes, Hernando, 223

CORUÑA, 64, 89, 104-105, 108, 110
  Battle of, 92, 106-108, 111

Costume, 49, 62-63, 65, 71, 109-110, 157-158, 175-176

Courtship, 226-228

COVADONGA, 25, 33-37
  Battle of, 24-25, 34-37
  Nuestra Señora de, 24-25, 34, 37

Craufurd, General, 214

_Cubos_, 22, 58

CUDILLERO, 118-121

Cuenca, 255, 283

CUERA, Sierra de, 30, 38-39

Cuesta, Captain General, 213

Cueva, Don Beltran de la, 259

Cuidad Rodrigo, 162-163, 175

Dancing, 40, 48, 108-109, 289

De Arfe, Metal worker, 207

DEVA, River, 20-21, 28, 42
  Gorge, 22-23, 25-28, 42, 43, 298

Dogs, 17-19, 216, 260

Dorothea. _See_ Quixote, Don.

Douro, Battle of the, 93, 214

Drake, Sir Francis, 107

Dubreton, General, 275

DUEÑAS, 263-264

DUERO, River, 94, 141, 149, 259-260
  Valley, 137, 152-153, 176, 182, 211, 220, 257

Dulcinea del Toboso. _See_ Quixote, Don.

Ebro, River, 284-285, 287

Edward, Prince of England (Edward I.), 267
  "The Black Prince", 285

El Burgo, Bridge, 107

Eleanor of Castile, Queen of England, 267-268

Electric Lighting, 109, 147

El Padron, 64, 103

Elviña, 106

Elvira, Princess, 140

Encina, Nuestra Señora de la, 73-74

Eresma, River, 243-245, 248

ESCLAVITUD, Nuestra Señora de la, 103

ESCORIAL, 186-190, 240-242, 261

Esla, River, 57, 131, 132-135, 263

Estella, 291

Estremadura, 175, 215-236

Eudo, Duke of Aquitaine, 298

EUROPA, Picos de, 20-21, 27-29, 30, 33, 161

Felton, Sir Thomas, 285

Ferdinand I. of Leon and Castile, 60-61, 140
  III. of Castile and Leon, 60, 202, 206
  of Aragon (The Catholic), 110, 150, 263-264
    and Isabella of Castile, "The Catholic Kings", 150,
      166, 181-182, 203, 263-264

Ferrol, 108, 111

Finistierra, Cape, 101

Fishing Ports, 9-10, 19-20, 40-41, 100-101, 118-119
  Rivers, 38

Fishwives, 98, 101, 119

Flies, 31, 102

Florinda (La Cava), 201

Flowers (Wild). Broom, 224, 242;
  Cactus, 221;
  Cistus, 153, 224;
  Hardhead, 183, 242;
  Heather, 73, 102;
  Poppy, 266

Fountains, 79-81, 108, 186, 222, 239

Foz, 112

Francia, Peña de, 175

Galicia, 15, 24, 62, 76-112, 140

Gamarra Mayor, 287

Ganelon, 295

Garlic, 13, 180

Gata, Sierra de, 175

Gelmirez, Archbishop of Santiago, 84, 86

Gerona, 111, 296

_Gigantes_, 139, 143-145

Gijon, 20, 35-36

GIL BLAS de Santillana. Birth-place, 19;
  Captain Rolando, 72;
  Dr Sangrado, 259-261;
  Flight from Valladolid, 259-260;
  Don Bernardo de Castel Blazo, 53;
  at Salamanca, 166;
  Imprisonment, 254-255;
  at Toledo, 205;
  Visit to Olivares, 149;
  Liria, 254 _note_

Girard, General, 224

Gonzalez, Count Fernando, 61, 269

Gonzalo, Don Arias, 141-142

Graham, General, 286-287

GRÉDOS, Sierra de, 161, 170, 173-174, 182, 211, 215, 221, 235

Grenada, 255, 265

Guadalete, Battle of the, 200

Guadalupe, Monastery, 223, 235
  Sierra de, 211

GUADARRAMA, Sierra de, 18, 155, 176, 182, 238, 256
  Puerto de, 184-185, 242-243

Guadiana, River, 223, 225, 229

_Guardia Civil_, 53-54, 183, 245

_Guerrilleros_, 93-94, 111, 282

Haro, 284

Henrique IV. of Castile, 177, 250, 258

Hercules (at Toledo), 199-201

Hieronymo, Bishop of Zamora, 139

Hill, General, 224, 286

Howell, James, 48, 95, 206 _note_

Huesca, 296

Illescas, 193

Inns, 8-9, 25-27, 29, 46-48, 50, 69, 138-139, 184, 217-219, 226-227, 264-265

Inquisition, 250-252, 261-263

Isabella of Castile (The Catholic), 250, 252, 281.
  _See also_ Ferdinand.
  Princess, 181

Isidoro, San, 59-61, 208-209

Jackson, Private, 136

Jarama, River, 194

Jerte, River, 216

Jews, 200, 203, 261, 270

Joseph Buonaparte, 162-163, 277, 286-288

Jourdan, Marshal, 213

Juan II. of Castile, 258, 281
  Prince of Spain, 181

Juana, Queen of Spain, 182, 265

Junot, Marshal, 68

La Cañiza, 95-97

Lacer, Caius Julius, Engineer, 231-232

La Demanda, Sierra de, 152, 281-282

La Granja, 244, 254


La Mancha, 95

Lampegia, 298

Lapisse, General, 235

Laredo, 10-11, 15

La Robla, 130

Las Huelgas, Convent, 267-268

Las Rozas, 238

Lefebre Desnouettes, General, 135

Lena, 127-128

LEON Province (Old Kingdom), 43, 45-76, 89, 102, 128-176, 258-266, 296
  City, 36, 45, 50, 57-65, 66 _note_, 68, 81, 131
  Cathedral, 58-59
  Church of San Isidoro, 59-61

Leovigild, King of the Goths, 200

Le Sage, 255.
  _See also_ Gil Blas.

Liebana, Vale of, 23, 42-44, 152

LLANES, 40-41

Lobsters, 8-10, 19-20

Lope de Vega, Dramatist, 205

Loyola, Ignatius, 178-179, 291

Luarca, 118

LUGO 68, 75-82, 89-90, 106, 177

Luna, Don Alvaro de, 207, 258

Madrid, 190-193, 215, 238, 240

Mansilla de las Mulas, 57

_Mantillas_, 273

Manzanal, Puerto de, 70-71, 75

Manzanares, River, 215, 237-238

_Maragatos_, 65, 70-71

Marbot, General, 185

Maritornes. _See_ Quixote, Don.

Marmont, Marshal, 149-150, 161-163, 165-166, 214

Martorell, Bridge, 92

MASMA, River, 112

Maucune, General, 163, 287

Maurice, Archbishop of Búrgos, 274

Maya, Puerto de, 292-293

Mayorga, 57

Meals, 8-9, 11-13, 41, 119, 138, 218

Medellin, Hill of, 213

Medina del Campo, 117, 258

_Membrillo_, 12, 181

Mendo, River, 108

Mendoza, Cardinal, 151, 207

MÉRIDA, 225-229, 232

Mero, River, 106

Mexico, 20, 223

Miéres, 126-127

Military Orders, 53, 66, 73, 234

Mina, General, 282

MIÑO, River, 6, 78, 89-97

Miraflores, La Cartuja de, 273, 280-281

  Casa de, 271, 280

Mondoñedo, 111

Money, 219, 279 _note_

Monforte, 90

Montamarta, 137-139

Montanchez, Sierra de, 223

MOORE, Sir John, at Salamanca, 182 _note_;
  at Sahagun, 54-55;
  assailed by Napoleon, 184-185;
  Benavente, 134-136;
  Retreat across the Vierzo, 74-75;
  Pass of Piedrafita, 76;
  Lugo, 89;
  March to Coruña, 105-106;
  Battle of Coruña, 106-107

Moors. Conquest of Spain, 200, 282;
  repulsed from Asturias, 34-37;
  Caliphate of Córdova, 201, 296;
  Charlemagne's Invasion, 295-296;
  Clavijo, 85;
  Al Manzor, 85-86;
  Sieges of Zamora, 140;
  Reconquest of Toledo, 202;
  The Cid, 269-270;
  Fresh irruption, 202;
  Battle of Alarcon, 267;
  Battle of las Navas de Tolosa, 60, 267;
  Reconquest of Andalusia, 60, 202;
  Persecuted, 261

Morena, Sierra, 46, 61, 208

Morillas Mountains, 285

_Mozarabes_, 208-210

_Mudejares_, 204 _note_, 208 _note_

Mules, 42, 65, 104, 158-160

Munuza, Emir, 36

Muros, 117, 121

Nalon, River, 121

Napoleon Buonaparte. Pursuit of Sir John Moore, 55, 184-185, 135, 75
  Spanish War, 165, 288

Narcea, River, 121

Navacerrada, Puerto de, 242-244

Navarre, 61, 284-300

Navarrete, Battle of, 285

Navas de Tolosa, Battle of, 60-61, 208, 267, 287

NÁVIA, River, 76, 116

Nervion, River, 5

Ney, Marshal, 93

Nive, River, 300

Nogales, 76

Norreys, Sir John, 107-108

Obarenes, Montes, 282-285

Olivares, Conde Duque de, 148-149

OLITE, 291

Olmedo, 258-259

Orbigo, River, 66-67, 134

Ordoñez, Don Diego, 142

ORENSE, Bridge, 32, 92
  City, 89, 91-92

Othman ben Abu Neza, Emir, 298

OVIEDO, 121-127
  Cathedral, 122

Oxen, 15-17, 30-31, 44-45, 103, 105, 159

Pacheco, Doña Maria, 203

Paget, General, 76, 135

PAJARES, Puerto de, 36, 58, 80, 126-130

Palaces. Búrgos, 271;
  Cáceres, 222-223;
  Leon, 62;
  Olite, 291;
  Oviedo, 122;
  Plaséncia, 216-217;
  Salamanca, 167-169;
  Santiago, 87;
  Segóvia, 247;
  Toledo, 204;
  Toro, 148

Palávia, 106

Paléncia, 264-265

PAMPLONA, 60, 81, 283, 290-294, 296
  Siege, 291-293, 298

PANCORVO, Defile, 281-282, 286

Pantoja, Painter, 189

Paredes, Don Diego Garcia de, 32, 223

Peasantry, 26-27, 31, 40, 48-50, 62, 65, 79, 99, 109-110,
     120, 138, 147-148, 175-176, 197-198, 216, 280, 287

Pedro, the Cruel, of Castile, 86, 180
  _El Maestre._ _See_ Quixote, Don.

Pelayo, King of Asturias, 24, 31-32, 34-37

_Pelota_, 288-289

_Peones Camineros_, 243, 256

Philip II. of Spain, 67, 188-190, 194, 261-262, 273
  IV. of Spain, 148, 244

Phoenicians, 199-200

Picton, General, 151, 285-286

Piedrafita, Puerto de, 75-76, 89

Pigs, 212, 229-230

Pilar, Nuestra Señora del, 179

Pilgrimages, 24-25, 64-65, 82-84

Pilona, River, 38

Pisuerga, River, 263, 265

Pizarro, 223

PLASÉNCIA, 81, 214, 216-219

Ploughs, 105

Poblet, Monastery, 187

Pola de Gordon, 129-130

Ponferrada, 72-75

Pontevedra, 81

Porcelos, Diego de, 269

Portugal, 92-93, 97, 150, 181, 286

Portugalete, 5, 9

Potes, 26, 42, 43

Právia, 117, 121

Pyrenees, Mountains, 282, 293-300
  Battles of the, 292-293, 299

Quevedo, Francisco, Satirist, 149

Quinones, Don Suero, 66-67

QUIXOTE, Don. Tales of Chivalry, 2-3, 32, 66-67, 142, 161;
  Ideal Knight Errant, 154;
  Company at the Inn, 46;
  Innkeeper, 247;
  Dorothea, 244;
  Dulcinea del Toboso, 65, 100, 184;
  Sancho Panza, 8, 49, 83, 95, 181;
  Maritornes, 9;
  The Cortes of Death, 143;
  Don Diego Miranda, 271;
  _El Maestre_ Pedro, 211;
  Roque Guinart, 157

Rañadoiro, Sierra de, 116

Reille, General, 287

Religious Observances, 120-121, 143-146, 273

Reptiles, Frogs, 46, 156
  Lizards, 156
  Snakes, 229-230, 257

Ribadávia, 95-96, 183

RIOJA, The, 29, 284

RIVADEO, 80, 112-116

Rivadesella, 39-40

Rock Formations, 22-23, 28, 129-130, 282-283, 290

Roderic, King of the Visigoths, 24, 200-201

Roland, 296-298

Roman Remains. Aqueducts, 225, 228-229, 246
  Bridges, 76, 225, 231-232
  Camps, 90
  Theatres, 225
  Walls, 58, 68, 78, 164, 225

Roncesvalles. Puerto de, 292-300
  Battles of, 292, 295-299

Ronda, Well of, 99

Rooke, Admiral, 100

Roque Guinart. _See_ Quixote, Don.

Sahagun, 32, 54-56, 235

SALAMANCA 146-147, 149, 163-171, 176
  Cathedrals, 164-165, 254
  Colleges and Palaces, 165-169
  Battle of, 150, 161-164, 214, 277, 286

Saldaña, 51, 55

Sanchez, Julian, 262

Sancho II. of Castile, 124-125, 140-142
  Panza. _See_ Quixote, Don.

Sangüesa, Monastery, 291

San Rafael, Fonda, 184

San Roman, 261

San Sebástien, 6, 288, 292

Santander, 15, 20, 81, 287

SANTIAGO (St James the Greater), 64, 83-86, 177
  de Compostela, 64, 82-89, 104
    Cathedral, 82, 84, 86-87, 103

Santillana, 19

SANTOÑA, 10-11


Sardines, 9-10, 101, 119

Sauráuren, Battle of, 292-293, 299

SEGÓVIA, 182, 192, 216, 229, 244-257
  Alcázar, 248-250
  Aqueduct, 246-247
  Cathedral, 253-254

SELLA, River, 32, 37-39

_Serenos_, 123-124

Seso, Don Carlos de, 189, 261

Seville, 201, 206

Shepherds, 137, 208, 221, 239

Siete Picos, Mountain, 242-243, 248

Sil, River, 72-73, 91

Silöe, Diego de, Sculptor, 275
  Gil de, Sculptor, 281

Silos, San Domingo de, Monastery, 282

Simancas, 260

Somers Cocks, Major, 276

Sontres, 26

Sória, 281

SOULT, Marshal. Pursuit of Sir John Moore, 55, 75-76, 89;
  at Coruña, 106;
  Conquest of Galicia, 92-94, 111;
  Repulsed from the Douro, 93;
  Advance upon Talavera, 93-94, 214;
  Battles of the Pyrenees, 292-293, 299

Stage Coaches, 41-42, 104

Street, G. E., Architect, 59, 205

Suero, Archbishop of Santiago, 86

Suleiman Ibn-al-Arabi, Emir, 296

TAGUS, River, 195, 197-199, 201, 212, 214, 220, 230-232
  Valley, 93, 185, 210-211, 219-220, 230-231

TALAVERA DE LA REINA, 182, 210-214
  Battle of, 210-214, 235

Tarik, 71, 200

Theresa de Ávila, Sta, 177-179

Tierra de Campos, 137, 263

Tina Mayor, River. _See_ Deva, River.

TOLEDO, 98, 105, 151, 192-193, 197-210, 240, 269
  Bridges, 92, 199
  Cathedral, 122, 205-210, 274

Toledo, Montes de, 185, 198
  Don Francisco de, 95

Toriñana, Cape, 101

Tormes, River, 161-163
  Lazarillo de, 205

TORO 140, 147-151, 153
  Battle of, 150-151

Torquemada, 265-266
  Tomas de, Inquisitor, 179, 203, 250-251

Torrelavega, 15, 19

Torrelodones, 239-240

Trajan, Emperor, 226, 231, 246

Trees. Acacia, 132, 281;
  Box, 294;
  Beech, 44, 295;
  Chestnut, 44, 295;
  Elm, 194-195, 281;
  Ilex, 153, 215-216, 219;
  Olive, 173, 194, 221;
  Palm, 102;
  Pine, 184, 242-244, 257;
  Poplar, 57, 65, 133, 281

Tresviso, 26-27

Troglodyte villages, 132-133, 263

Trujillo, 223, 235

TUY, 92-93, 96-98

Ubiña, Peña, 128

Unquera, 20-21, 39, 42

URDON, 25-27

Urraca, Princess, 140-143

Valcarce, 75

Valcarlos, 300

Valdepeñas, 95

Valdeprado, 44

Valdez, Inquisitor, 263

Valéncia del Cid, 60, 154, 202, 270
  do Minho (Portugal) 97

VALLADOLID, 97, 141, 207, 259-264, 281

Velasquez, Painter, 134, 138, 149

Vellate, Puerto de, 293

Vellido Dolphos, 141-142

Verney, Sir Edmund, 48

Victor, Marshal, 213

VIERZO, The, 72-75, 91, 152

VIGO, 80, 97-101
  Bay, Battle of, 100

Vilano, Cape, 101

Villacastin, 182-183

Villafranca, 75, 81

Villalba, 242

Villalpando, Francisco de, Metal Worker, 207

Vineyards, 94, 153, 220

Visigoths, 105, 122, 200

VITÓRIA, Battle of, 151, 277, 286-288, 292

Vizcaya, 5-7, 24

Walton, Private, 136

Wamba, King of the Visigoths, 105, 199-200

Water pitchers, 13, 80-82, 222

WELLINGTON, Duke of. Campaign of the Douro, 93;
  Campaign of Talavera, 93, 212-214;
  at Salamanca, 165-166, 170;
  Battle of Salamanca, 161-164;
  Criticises Siege of Astorga, 68;
  Siege of Búrgos, 275-277;
  Retreat from Búrgos, 266;
  Generalissimo of Spanish armies, 179;
  Campaign and Battle of Vitória, 277, 286-288;
  Battles of the Pyrenees, 292-293;
  Allusions to Spanish character, 49, 125-126

Wines, 12-13, 94-96, 266, 284

Ximena, 270-271

Ximenes, Cardinal, 179, 210

Yakub aben Yussef of Morocco, 267

Yuste, 190

Zadora, River, 285, 287

ZAMORA, 136-137, 139-147, 150
  Cathedral, 139-140, 145-146

Zaragoza, 253
  Sieges of, 111, 179, 296

[Illustration: MAP NORTHERN SPAIN]


       *       *       *       *       *



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[1] "Infernal _anis_," says the advertisement, "made from the worst
wines of the Priorato, is neither tonic, digestive, nor restorative,
and has never been commended at any exhibition."

[2] Literally "Tubs", the solid semicircular bastions of Spanish town

[3] A collegiate church, intermediate in dignity between a parish
church and a cathedral.

[4] A public promenade, thickly planted with trees.

[5] A Spanish league is about an hour's march, say 3-3/4 miles.

[6] At one place it consisted of a huge earthenware bowl, 3 feet high
and 4 feet in diameter, filled up solid with earth to within 4 inches
of the rim.

[7] Here died ----.

[8] See p. 140.

[9] See p. 140.

[10] This monastery is a very notable Leonese monument, a masterpiece
of _Plateresque_, somewhat similar to the _Otto Heinrichs Bau_ at
Heidelberg, and formerly the property of the knights of Santiago.

[11] Astorga = _Ast_urica _Aug_usta.

[12] Literally the "House of Purification," _i.e._ the Great Mosque of

[13] There is something of the same flavour about the inscription on
the Gates of the _Hospital del Rey_ at Burgos; "Blessed is the man that
provideth for the sick and needy, St James (!) shall deliver him in the
time of trouble."

[14] The fate most dreaded by the Spanish prisoners in the Moorish wars.

[15] Borrow stigmatises Betánzos as a filthy and evil-smelling
pest-house. But then his horse broke down there. So much depends upon
the point of view!

[16] See page 142.

[17] /p "Who would not give a foot of ground For all the Devils in
Hell."--_Ballad of Lord Willoughby._ p/

[18] A cant term for knifing. The Neapolitan had a standing feud with

[19] The proverb is still quite current. A carrier of whom we inquired
the distance to Zamora oracularly answered that "It could never be
gained in an hour."

[20] See p. 60.

[21] The recognised Spanish title for the Host.

[22] Presbytery.

[23] "Here's to the glorious, pious and immortal memory of the great
and good King William, who delivered us from Popery, brass money, _and
wooden shoes_!"

[24] _Arriero_, from _arré_! gee-up!

[25] As in Italian, the diminutive is a sort of endearing form of

[26] They were built at the end of the eleventh century. A singularly
fine bit of work for so early a date.

[27] Moore was at Salamanca and his artillery at Talavera when Napoleon
reached Madrid.

[28] The burial-place of the Kings of Aragon.

[29] See p. 261.

[30] Such is the meaning of the word, but I would not like to vouch for
the etymology. The derivation is possibly the other way.

[31] The tiny mosque of _San Cristo de la Luz_ is the only genuine
Moorish fragment. The _Puerta del Sol_, the church of _Sta Maria la
Blanca_, etc., are _Mudéjar_ work. Cp. note on p. 208.

[32] _I.e._ "Citadel," _Cæsareum_.

[33] James Howell in 1620 estimates the annual income of Toledo at
£100,000, a sum equivalent to nearly half a million to-day.

[34] Metal screens and reliquaries.

[35] He has only a statue at Toledo; but his actual grave has a
scarcely less honourable site in _las Huelgas_ at Búrgos.

[36] The _Mozárabes_ were Christians under the dominion of the Moors,
as _Mudéjares_ were Moors under the dominion of the Christians.

[37] Several such herds were seized by the hungry regiments in the
course of the retreat.

[38] Heywood, _Fair Maid of the West_.

[39] The country people invariably reckon in _reals_--the old coinage.
The piece is no longer struck, but its value is one-fourth of a

[40] Some call it eighty-one. But this includes some arches of
construction in the spandrils, and is not fair counting.

[41] Cp. p. 55.

[42] The province derives its name from the conquests "beyond the
Duero" won in the earlier stages of the struggle with the Moors.

[43] _Noche Toledana_ is proverbial in Spanish as equivalent to a
sleepless night.

[44] The _Octroi_ office, to receive the city tolls.

[45] Trajan was a Spaniard born, and his reign an extremely prosperous
period for Spain.

[46] "The Vineyard," a lovely dismantled monastery planted beside the
Eresma, just underneath the town.

[47] Montaigne.

[48] _E.g._ Talavera, first Archbishop of Grenada, and Peter Martyr,
the Confessor and Biographer of Isabella.

[49] The beautiful _Huerta_ of Liria is the only district actually

[50] Cp. p. 207.

[51] Cp. p. 151.

[52] The place of execution at Seville.

[53] Cp. p. 132.

[54] The ambiguity would not be apparent to a Spaniard. To him
_Invierno_, "Winter," is the assonym to _Infierno_, "Hell."

[55] The "Silversmith style," or early Spanish Renaissance. So called
from the Cellini-like carving which is its leading characteristic.

[56] The Emperor of Morocco; at this time the martial Yakub aben Yussef.

[57] Cp. note on p. 265.

[58] See p. 281.

[59] See p. 161.

[60] "A ha'penny for bread." The _perrita_ or "little dog" = a
halfpenny, and the _perro gordo_ or fat dog = a penny. Thus "Two reals
minus a little dog" is 45 _centimos_. The animal irrelevantly called a
"dog" is the lion on the reverse of the coin.

[61] _Certosa._ Charterhouse.

[62] This incident has been utilised by Conan Doyle in his _White
Company_. But that story rather exaggerates the height and steepness of
the hill.

[63] During the sitting of the Congress of Dresden.

[64] A highly developed form of Fives.

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