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Title: My Spanish Year
Author: Whishaw, Mrs. Bernhard
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: “DOÑA ELENA.”]



                             MY SPANISH YEAR

                                   BY
                          MRS. BERNHARD WHISHAW

                    AUTHOR (WITH BERNHARD WHISHAW) OF
                             “ARABIC SPAIN”

                        WITH TWENTY ILLUSTRATIONS

                          MILLS & BOON, LIMITED
                            49 RUPERT STREET
                               LONDON, W.

                            _Published 1914_



INTRODUCTORY


To the foreigner visiting Spain for the first time so many things seem
topsy-turvy that, unless a philosophical spirit be cultivated, one’s
temper might suffer serious damage. But there is one way not only
to endure, but actually to enjoy the minor discomforts, absence of
consistency, and utter lack of common sense forced upon one at every
turn in this most original country; and that is to regard them all from
the standpoint of comic opera. So many people expect to find Spain
merely an enlarged edition of Bizet’s _Carmen_ that it ought not to be
difficult for them to smile when comic-operatic incidents are enacted
before them in daily life; and yet one often sees the impatient traveller
exhausting himself in furious denunciations of tough beef, bad butter,
unpunctual trains, faulty postal services, retrograde hotels, and so on
_ad infinitum_, instead of thanking his lucky stars that there is still
one country in Europe which remains much as God made it, instead of being
recast in the mould preferred by the tourist agencies.

No doubt when we get express trains flying from Irun to Madrid and from
Granada to Seville at sixty miles an hour, with a chain of cosmopolitan
hotels all along the road, those tourist agencies will be able to do far
better business. But their clients will not then travel in Spain but in
Cosmopolitania, and the last stronghold of romance left in Western Europe
will have gone the way of Switzerland and Italy, where in some towns it
is almost the exception to hear the language of the native spoken in
the streets. Thank Heaven, Spain has not yet awakened to the commercial
advantages of moulding her national characteristics into the groove of
the common-place, and her soul has not yet been cut out and thrown away
in the pursuit of filthy lucre.

Meanwhile, the traveller who follows the beaten track has really very
little to complain of, for during the last ten years great progress has
been made both in the train service and the hotel accommodation; and
when you have grumbled and slept and scolded through the eight or ten
or twelve or twenty hours’ railway journey from one provincial capital
to another, and take your place at the table d’hôte in one of the big
new hotels, you might almost imagine yourself in London or Paris or New
York. One thing, however, reminds you that you are in Spain: the anxious
solicitude of the waiters, who watch your every mouthful as if it were a
matter of personal consequence to them that you should be pleased with
your dinner, and press fresh dishes upon you if you do not eat as much as
they think you ought, assuring you that they are very excellent and that
you must keep up your strength in order to enjoy the beautiful monuments
that you are going to visit to-morrow. This interest of the _mozo_ in
his master’s client is genuine, not inspired by the anticipation of
favours to come. He feels it as a reflection upon the credit of the house
if you refuse to take every course, and finds it difficult to understand
that abstinence may mean satiety, not dissatisfaction with the viands. I
doubt if anywhere else one seems of quite so much importance in the eyes
of the establishment as in Spain, for these attentions begin with your
first meal in the hotel and are continued throughout your stay; and can
anything make you more at home in an hotel than a cordial interest in
your appetite?

If you complain of the interminable time that you have spent on the
journey, you will be met with the grave assurance that it is safer to
travel slow than fast, and that Spain has far fewer railway accidents
than England or the United States. You may reply that she has far fewer
trains, but we don’t trouble ourselves about the law of averages in
Spain, and the Spaniard solemnly assures you that nothing is gained by
the alarming rapidity of Anglo-Saxon life except more speedy arrival at
the grave.

If you dispute an hotel bill, longer than would be made out at the Ritz,
for an entertainment which it would be complimentary to describe as
mediocre, the landlord justifies his charges by explaining how much you
get for your money in these days of progress, compared with what you
lacked when life in Spain was cheaper, and after all what can a dollar or
an _esterlina_ (£) more or less matter to so great a lord as yourself,
who must evidently be a millionaire to be able to travel so far from
home merely for his own pleasure. You must also take into account, he
says, that the tourist season only extends over a couple of months in
the spring, thanks to the general ignorance abroad of the charms of the
winter climate in that particular part of Spain. And how, he asks, is a
poor man to keep his hotel open all the year round for the convenience of
the English lord in the spring, unless the English lord pays enough when
he comes to save him from bankruptcy during the other ten months of the
year? And if these arguments—in the course of which the exorbitant items
under discussion have been skilfully left out of the conversation—do not
remove your objections to an extortionate bill, only one of two courses
remains open to you. Either shake the dust of Spain off your feet and
depart to some other land where the innkeepers realise that one contented
guest will bring more money into their coffers than ten who depart in
anger; or come with me right off the beaten track, and learn to know the
real Spain, and to love, as I do, the real Spaniard.

Will he exploit the foreigner? He would rather give you the coat off his
back than take a penny from you that he has not honestly earned; and
he will do you all sorts of services with the native grace which has
created the tradition that “every Spaniard is a gentleman.” That class
of Spaniard does not frequent the large cities, nor is he to be found by
foreigners who seek him with the aid of an interpreter. Indeed, he is not
worth the interpreter’s powder and shot, for he cannot pay a commission
on purchases made by the guileless traveller through the agency of his
guide: he has nothing to sell save his honour and courtesy, and those are
not marketable commodities. So he is left undisturbed in his beautiful
mountain fastnesses or in his fertile plains, where only a select few
will take the trouble to seek him out. And long may he remain there!

But when he is sought and found by the traveller who is not content to
form his opinion of the whole country on his observations from the window
of an hotel, then indeed it becomes evident that the heart of Spain beats
strong and true beneath the froth of political passion and greed of gain
which disfigure her outward semblance; and the veil of romance woven
about her by the poet and the artist will enwrap that traveller, and he
will return to Spain again and again, until he, like the writer, finds
that into the web are woven some of his own heartstrings.

Then all the minor discomforts will become but mere matter for laughter,
with an _arrière-pensée_ of satisfaction at the barrier they set up
against the flood of cheap trippers which, but for them, might overwhelm
our Peninsula. And if sometimes we hear a note of tragedy beneath the
light chorus of our opera, it does but deepen the music, as the purple
shadows in an Andalucian street throw up the golden glow that bathes the
white-washed houses basking in the sun.

One word more. My readers may perhaps be surprised to find a “heretic” on
good terms with many ecclesiastics in Spain, for there seems to be an
impression abroad that this is a bigoted land where foreign non-Catholics
are given the cold shoulder, if nothing worse.

Of course there are many Spaniards who feel strongly on the subject of
their religion, and no doubt any one who publicly showed disrespect to
objects of worship here would have cause to regret his lack of good
manners. But so long as he behaves decently in sacred places, and
observes a certain amount of discretion in conversation, the “heretic”
need fear no discourtesy either from priests or people. Nor will he
meet with any oppressive zeal in the direction of proselytising. The
most embarrassing effort in that direction that I have known was the
gentle remark from a nun: “You are so good already that you ought to be
a little better. I pray daily that you may become a good Catholic.” And
an entertaining experience was that of a member of our family whom a
distinguished divine announced his desire to convert—

“We will begin with a game of chess,” said he, “and after that we will
discuss dogmas.”

The game of chess proved so engrossing that it lasted till bedtime, when
the divine took his leave in a hurry, forgetting all about the dogmas.

The accusation of bigotry now—whatever may formerly have been the case—is
as undeserved as many other unkind things that have been said about Spain.

“We are very much misrepresented by foreign writers,” an intelligent
young officer said to me one day; “if ever _you_ write a book about
Spain, I hope you will speak of us as you find us, so that for once we
may have a little justice from a friend.”

With this rather pathetic appeal in mind I have tried my best to describe
Spain as I have found it, and I must maintain that I have done my Spanish
friends no more than justice, even though those who do not know them
write me down a prejudiced Hispanophil.

    ⁂ The accents marked on the Spanish words in the text are in
    most cases added merely as a guide to the pronunciation, for
    those who do not know the language.



CONTENTS


                                        PAGES

                      PART I

    SUMMER                               1-64

                     PART II

    AUTUMN                             65-149

                    PART III

    WINTER                            150-241

                     PART IV

    SPRING                            242-312



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


    “DOÑA ELENA”                                    _Frontispiece_

                                                      FACING PAGE

    “A SUMMER AFTERNOON IN THE PATIO”                           1

    THE CHURCH WHERE CARMENCITA WAS MARRIED                    21

    IN THE FLOUR MARKET                                        37

    PINE CONES AND PRICKLY PEARS                               43

    AN ANCIENT GATEWAY                                         48

    IN THE KEEP OF ARCOS CASTLE                                65

    A PREHISTORIC WEIR                                         87

    “A SADDLE FOR FEMININITY”                                  97

    RUSTIC LOVERS                                             108

    A FUNERAL VESTMENT OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY               117

    POSED FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHER                                134

    THE DANCE OF THE SEISES IN SEVILLE CATHEDRAL              150

      From the picture by GONZALO BILBAO. By permission of
      the owner, the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Rosebery, K.G.

    THE BRIDEGROOM’S DOOR                                     183

    THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY BANNER OF OUR LADY OF GRANADA       199

    “THE ENGLISH ECONOMICAL KITCHEN”                          216

    GOING HOME FROM THE MARKET                                242

    A REST AT THE FORD                                        261

    THE COLUMBUS MONUMENT                                     281

    DRESSED FOR THE FAIR                                      299



[Illustration: “A SUMMER AFTERNOON IN THE PATIO.”]



MY SPANISH YEAR



PART I.—SUMMER



CHAPTER I

    Life in the patio—Locked doors and lovers—The uses of the
    grated gate—Courting under difficulties: the keyhole and the
    crack—Manolo and Carmencita, a romance in real life.


The great event to which the whole creation moves in the eyes of a
Spanish señorita—not being a resident in Madrid—is the annual fair in the
capital town of her province. This generally takes place in the spring,
and therefore, for her, the spring is the end and not the beginning of
the year, looked forward to with increasing excitement through autumn and
winter, while to that young lady summer is but the beginning of the long
year which has to be lived through until spring and LA FERIA, in capital
letters, comes round again.

I, like the Spanish señorita, will begin my Spanish year with the summer,
if not exactly for the same reason, for one akin to it. The great heat
of summer, with its dust, mosquitoes, and flies, is the most trying time
in all the twelve months in this country, as the spring is the most
enjoyable; and wise people keep the best to the last.

Let it not be supposed, however, that summer in Spain has no
compensations. They are many and various, and not the least among them is
the life of the patio, which begins in June and ends in September.

The patio is always spoken of as one of the peculiar charms of southern
Spain, but how many of my readers, who have not visited the country, know
exactly what it is? I myself, before I came here, had a vague idea that
it was something in the nature of a yard, and I remember that on seeing
a huge _corral_ for cattle, attached to a farmhouse near Tarifa and so
large as to be visible from the steamer as we approached Gibraltar, I
asked whether that was a patio!

The Andalucian house of to-day is in essentials the direct descendant of
the house built by the Greeks who colonised Andalucia, or Tartessus, as
they called it, some six or seven centuries B.C. The _pylon_, now called
the _zaguan_, is the vestibule leading from the street door direct into
the _peristyle_, the open courtyard round which the house is built, now
known as the _patio_. In the daytime the _zaguan_ is open to the street,
but entrance to the patio is barred by a large iron grille, which can
only be opened from within. The Romans continued the Greek form of
house, with slight structural modifications, and added the _solarium_,
an open gallery or arcade intended for basking in the sun. This feature
is common in the older houses of Andalucia to-day, although those of
more modern construction lack it, and the inmates when they wish to sun
themselves go up to the _azotea_, the flat brick roof on which the family
washing is usually hung out to dry. The names _azotea_ and _zaguan_
are both Arabic, showing, were demonstration needed, that neither the
Visigoths nor the Arabs made any essential alterations in the structure
of the houses they found when they respectively conquered Andalucia.

The patio is a central court off which numerous rooms open, always
including the summer dining-room and the summer kitchen, their winter
counterparts being on the floor above. There is also a _sala_ or
reception-room, and in old houses this may have beautifully carved
Arabic roof-beams, filled in with fine fifteenth- or sixteenth-century
lustre tiles: for while the upper stories are frequently modernised
and sometimes brought quite up to date in the matter of bathrooms,
ample windows, and effective ventilation, the patio with the dark rooms
surrounding it is very seldom reconstructed. It is only used as a refuge
from the summer heat, and the architects of to-day wisely refrain from
interfering with the shadowy lights and cool refreshing temperature which
make life enjoyable even when the thermometer outside stands at 110 or
more in the shade.

Great doors—sometimes of mahogany, cedar, or lignum-vitæ four inches
thick, studded with large brass or iron nails, and adorned with corner
pieces, lock, key, and knockers, all richly wrought to match—shut off
the _zaguan_ from the street. All day long these stand open, as though
inviting the passer-by to step in and admire the patio within, the
whole of which can be seen through the _cancela_ or iron grille already
mentioned: but at night they are closed and secured with a huge iron
bolt, often two or three feet long. The noise made by the closing of
these doors at night, and the shrieks of the great bolts, which are never
by any chance oiled, can be heard one after the other all along the
street, and are liable to interfere a good deal with the beauty sleep of
the stranger. But, unless there is a _velada_ or a _tertulia_ going on,
the noise is all over by 11 p.m. or earlier, because custom requires that
respectable houses should present blank faces to the moonbeams a full
hour before midnight.

If you ask how this can be when every one knows that Spanish gentlemen
make a practice of turning night into day at their cafés and clubs, I
must call your attention to the _postigo_, a little low wicket opening in
one of the great doors. The stern father, forgetful of his own youthful
escapades, or determined that his son shall not follow in his footsteps,
may order the door to be locked at eleven every night; but there is
always a corruptible servant or a tender-hearted sister on the watch to
lift the latch of the _postigo_ and screen the young scapegrace from the
paternal ire.

We may take it for granted that when the sister connives at her brother’s
late hours, it is not to enable him to gamble at his club or drink more
than is good for him at the café. It must be a love affair that enlists
pretty Amparo’s sympathies and keeps her out of her bed to all hours. She
has probably been listening to the professions of devotion of her own
forbidden lover until long after midnight, and thus all her sympathies
are with Manolo, who also has lost his heart without permission from the
parents.

In these cases the soft nothings have to be breathed between the bars
of the stout iron gratings which are placed outside every ground-floor
window, not only as a precaution against malefactors, but, as a young
Spaniard once told me, “to keep the girls in and the boys out.” To
English ideas this seems a poor enough way to make love, but in some
country towns even the grating is not considered sufficient protection
for the youth and beauty within, and I know of one case in which the
grandfather, a blue-blooded old aristocrat and a good deal of a martinet,
had wire netting fixed all over the ground-floor windows to prevent his
granddaughters being kissed between the bars! Such are the difficulties
attendant on _pelando la pava_ (plucking the turkey) or _comiendo hierro_
(eating iron), as these grating courtships are called.

In old houses, no matter how large, it is not unusual to see only a
single window, with its inevitable grating, on the ground floor of the
street front—a survival of the Oriental idea of the seclusion of women,
for down to the sixteenth century, in southern Spain, no windows at all
opened on to the street. This one window, which generally lights the
porter’s lodge, will be appropriated by the daughter of the house if
she encourages a secret admirer. The servants are always on the side of
romance, and will not hesitate to aid the lovers by every means in their
power, so the old porter, who is supposed by his mistress to see that no
illicit interviews go on after dark, finds no difficulty in taking a nap
in his rocking-chair in the patio, while _la niña_, whom he has known and
spoilt from her cradle, sits at his window and listens to the passionate
whispers of her admirer in the street.

Meanwhile the maid-servants have their own sweethearts to attend to,
and, failing a second window, it might seem difficult to get into
communication, for the daughters of the respectable poor are as strictly
chaperoned as the señoritas, and a girl would lose her character if she
had an “evening out,” unless under the wing of her mother or some female
friend of mature years. But love laughs at locksmiths, and a friend of
mine told me how he learnt by personal experience the way in which the
courting is managed in such cases, after the street door is closed.

He was going home along the main street of the country town in which
his father lived. The night was dark and the street lamps few and dim,
and he stumbled over something soft lying along the pavement in front
of the door of a large house. A sibilant whispering relieved his first
fear that an assassin’s knife had been at work. It was a young man lying
full length on the ground, with his lips at the crack under the door,
talking to his sweetheart, who lay on the floor inside, while another
maid-servant and her lover had possession of the keyhole, and the
señorita in the grated window modestly pulled the curtain to hide herself
from my friend’s glance when she heard his footsteps approach.

These be the amenities of summer. In winter fewer lovers are to be seen
about the streets, because bad colds and stiff necks are apt to be caught
by young men—even though wrapped in the voluminous cloak so dear to
romance—who stand for many hours out of doors “eating iron” with their
feet in a puddle, staring up at the beloved in the balcony of the first
floor whereon she resides from October to June. Indeed, I know of one
love affair that was broken off, never to be renewed, because the girl
took offence at the prolonged absence of her admirer, who, poor fellow,
was in bed with influenza and unable to get the sad intelligence conveyed
to his goddess at her window.

In this case the mother’s opposition had reached an acute stage, and the
love-sick Manolo’s explanation fell into the wrong hands. Intimation was
sent, as from Carmencita, that her legitimate fiancé was offended by
Manolo’s attentions, and that they were therefore unwelcome: and as the
unfortunate youth on his sick-bed had no means of getting into direct
communication with his charmer, he had to sigh with such patience as he
might until the weather improved and he could return to the window bars,
and demand an explanation of that cruel message. Meanwhile Carmencita was
told that Manolo’s absence was due to the attractions of a new _novia_:
in which, seeing that these loves of the grating are taken up and dropped
as easily as a travelling acquaintance, there was nothing inherently
improbable. So she wept profusely at his supposed inconstancy, and when
she learnt the truth adopted the last resource open to the heart-broken
señorita—hysterics, and threats to refuse food (a mode of coercing the
authorities in vogue among revolting daughters here long before it was
adopted by the suffragettes), and to fling herself from the _azotea_ into
the patio below, unless she were allowed to write to Manolo and assure
him of her undying devotion.

But alas! Manolo, although of good family, had no money and no prospects,
whereas the distinguished Señor Conde de las Patillas Blancas,[1]
although he had begun life as an assistant in a grocer’s shop, had gone
to Cuba before the war with America had destroyed that mine of riches
for Spaniards who knew how to make their account out of it, and having
returned wealthy had revived a title to which he may or may not have had
a legal claim. Thus he was now in every respect a most desirable _parti_
for the fair Carmencita.

So Manolo rose from his bed of sickness to read in the local paper that
“the aristocratic and affluent Señor Conde de las Patillas Blancas
had asked the hand of the exquisitely beautiful young Señorita
Carmen Perez y Dominguez, daughter of the Marquises[2] of Campos
Abandonados”—literally “deserted fields,” but perhaps best paraphrased
into the familiar English title of Bareacres.

As Manolo well knew, this was the end. For not only is the mother in
Spain absolute mistress in the matter of her daughter’s marriage, but
Carmencita herself, once she had shed the conventional tears over the
loss of her lover, was perfectly well aware on which side her bread was
buttered. Both these young people were intimate friends of mine, and if I
had consented to act as go-between when I went to congratulate Carmencita
on her engagement, and incidentally provoked a torrent of tears by
remarking on Manolo’s fortunate recovery, it is just possible that she
might have made a fresh effort to get her own way. But it is the part
of wisdom not to meddle with Spanish love affairs, which are seldom or
never quite what they seem, and in her inconstant little heart Carmencita
certainly thanked me for refusing to carry any messages. As for Manolo,
he consoled himself by marrying an heiress a year or so after, and
disappears from this veracious history.



CHAPTER II

    Social life in a mountain town—Moslem traditions—The etiquette
    of betrothal—Wedding presents—The trousseau—Little tragedies of
    Spain—Dramatic Carmencita—Compensations for the Countess.


If I were to describe the scene of the wedding where it actually took
place, it is just possible that some of those concerned, if they happened
to see this book, might recognise themselves. I will therefore transfer
it to the picturesque mountain town of Ronda, which, although frequented
by tourists, and boasting two really comfortable hotels, still preserves
some peculiar local customs.

Of these perhaps the most noticeable is the Moslem tradition of the
separation of the sexes. The numerous travellers, both native and
foreign, who spend a day in the town on their way to or from Algeciras in
the spring or autumn, have as yet made no impression on the conservatism
of the Rondeños, and one has only to stroll up and down the Paseo de la
Merced on a Sunday night in summer to see that social customs in Ronda
are quite unaffected by contact with the outer world.

The heat of the day being over, and a cool west wind rustling the leaves
of the avenues of planes, the purple peak of La Liba, which forms the
_clou_ of a charming picture, is suddenly blotted out as the electric
light is switched on. In the matter of street lighting Spain is by no
means behind the age. The Spanish love for a blaze of light out of doors
probably accounts for the strides made by the electric lighting industry
during the last few years. It is true that often even well-to-do people
are still content to illuminate their houses with a cheap paraffin lamp,
or even with a _candil_ of brass with its tiny wick fed with olive oil.
But once these lovers of display realised that a few arc lamps hung
along the Paseo turned night into day, and that electricity would enable
the gilded youth to display his new straw hat of the English shape, his
beautiful red tie, and his shiny brown boots at least as well at midnight
as at noon, the towns found money for street lighting without apparent
difficulty, and now there is hardly a village, even in the plains where
there is no water-power available, that is not lit by electricity. I have
seen electric lamps at every street corner in a place to which there is
no means of access save a mule track, and no contact with the outer world
save a visit from the postman on his donkey two or three times a week, if
there happen to be any letters to deliver.

Ronda with its wonderful Tajo, through which the Guadalevin rushes in a
torrent during the winter rains, was provided with electric light when
I first visited it ten or eleven years ago. At that time the power used
to fail ignominiously in the summer, at which season all the water of
the shrunken river has to be turned into the irrigation channels, as
has been the legal right of the numerous market gardeners in the valley
from Arabic times. Now steam has been brought in to supplement the
water-power, and the lighting of the principal hotels, and above all of
the Paseo, is as brilliant as any one can desire.

In summer it is too hot to stroll about with comfort in the daytime, and
the youth of both sexes had little opportunity of contemplating each
other’s charms at that season until artificial light came to the rescue.
Now, especially on a Sunday night, the whole town crowds into the Paseo,
where under powerful arc lights the young people can admire each other to
their hearts’ content.

One of the curious customs of the place is that all the pretty girls
march up and down, from two to six or seven together, while their portly
mothers and aunts sit and fan themselves on the stone benches and chairs
ranged along both sides of the walk. The young men also march up and
down, also in groups, but carefully confining themselves to either
side of the broad space in the centre occupied by the girls. Each town
in Spain is socially a law to itself, and it seems to be contrary to
Ronda etiquette for the men to walk with the girls under any condition
whatever, although in other places the presence of a duenna makes it
quite correct.

Engaged couples may enter the Paseo together (of course properly
chaperoned) but they must not join in the promenade. They may only sit
under the trees with the mother or the aunt, and console themselves for
their enforced retirement by squeezing each other’s hands under cover of
the shadows cast by the overhanging boughs. But if the girl happens to
come late, her fiancé gets a chance to show himself. Then he may walk
up and down as much as he pleases in the midst of the swarm of girls,
pretending to be looking for his sweetheart. I watched Carmencita’s
elderly lover at this performance one Sunday night, and every time he got
well into the focus of one of the arc lamps he stopped short with the
light full on him, glancing this way and that with assumed anxiety as
to the whereabouts of the lady, although he knew, and she knew, and all
their friends and acquaintances knew, that his charmer would not appear
till the band began to play at ten o’clock.

Carmencita’s wedding was fixed for July, partly because the summer,
when the boys are home from school and university, is the gayest time
here, but mainly because propriety demands that the religious ceremony
shall take place within quite a few weeks of that known as “asking for
the hand”—in other words, the signing of the marriage contract. The
_noviazgo_, which is not strictly speaking an engagement, but rather a
protracted courtship which may or may not end in a wedding, sometimes
goes on for years and is then broken off, without any blame attaching
to the jilt, be he male or female. It is quite an understood thing that
there is no moral obligation to marry as long as the hand of the lady has
not been formally “asked.” But once this has been done, not by the lover
but by some relative of the elder generation, the marriage is regarded
as the necessary consequence, and a man or woman who declined to fulfil
the engagement after that ceremony had been gone through would be _mal
mirado_—badly looked at—which is more or less equivalent to being sent to
Coventry.

So when I heard that Carmen was finally engaged I knew it would not be
long before I received an invitation to the wedding, which came in due
course, printed in silver on a highly glazed card. It was not strictly
speaking an invitation at all, for it merely set out at full length
the names and titles of the bride and bridegroom and their parents
(and Spanish names and titles are as long as a Presbyterian sermon),
and announced the day and hour of the wedding without “requesting the
pleasure of my company.” The opposite side of the card contained an
identical announcement on the part of the bridegroom.

On the day before the wedding I went, by Carmencita’s special request, to
see her trousseau, which to the Andalucian bride is even more exciting
than the wedding presents.

She received me in a dainty _bata_, a garment which is a cross between a
tea-gown and a pinafore, with her hair loose and falling below her waist,
and her eyes were so bright and her laugh so gay that I felt sure she was
as contented as were her parents with the affluent future before her. She
took me to the winter reception-rooms upstairs, which looked as if they
were prepared for a sale of work. On a number of tables and chairs were
displayed the presents—innumerable sofa cushions, embroidered night-dress
cases, crocheted table-covers, antimacassars, lace d’oyleys, and so
forth; with the more solid offerings of glass, china and plate from older
relatives half lost to sight among the hand-made gifts from Carmencita’s
schoolfellows and girl friends.

But the presents were completely eclipsed by the far more important
personal outfit of the little bride. Trestle tables filled the middle
of the long room from end to end, and looked something like reefs under
the froth of breaking waves, so covered were they with house and table
linen, towels and side-cloths edged with wonderfully complicated _fleco
morisco_ (“Arabic fringe”), and a fluff and foam of personal wear of fine
lawn, lace, and muslin enough to last a lifetime, all made by Carmencita
and her sisters and her friends, and all exquisitely embroidered with her
initials in an endless variety of interlacing monograms. The wealthiest
English or American bride might be proud to wear such lingerie as I saw
there.

As soon as her tiny hands can hold a needle, the Spanish señorita is
taught by the nuns at her school to sew in this dainty fashion, and
from her earliest childhood she devotes the fruits of her labours to
furnishing her trousseau; for here the bride brings all the house linen
as part of her dowry, and long before she is old enough to have a lover
her careful mother will provide the huge quantities of fine linen and
lace, and the pounds of embroidery silk and cotton which are required for
the proper plenishing of one of those great carved chests in which the
daughters of the house have stored their wedding outfits for centuries
past.

If the daughter passes out of her teens without being married the chest
will be full long before it is required, and indeed sometimes it is never
needed at all; for unless a girl is rich, or of distinguished family, or,
if poor, remarkably beautiful, it is quite likely that no one will ever
ask for her hand.

And sometimes poverty descends on the family, and the daughters, orphaned
and penniless when already past their youth and unable to earn any sort
of a living, are reduced to selling one by one all the produce of so
many years of industry to satisfy the claims of hunger, or, if the old
house has been sold, to pay the rent of some wretched little room which
in their prosperous days they would hardly have given to a maid-servant.
I have witnessed pathetic scenes when ladies of gentle birth have come
to me in the dusk of evening to ask if I will buy some dainty embroidery
or delicate pillow lace “to help a friend who has lost her money.” And
to the end they will try to salve their hurt pride by keeping up this
transparent fiction, holding the bedspread or pillow-case upside down, in
the hope that until they have left with the money in their pockets I may
not notice that the initials worked on it are their own.[3]

But these are the little tragedies that lie beneath the surface, and we
must not dwell on them, for we have not done yet with the trousseau of
our Carmencita.

She was only seventeen when her fate was decided, so her chest was not
quite full; but fortunately there were enough nearly finished sheets and
pillow-cases and so forth in those of her younger sisters to supply all
deficiencies; and every afternoon through the weeks before the wedding
the three little _marquesitas_ and their girl friends had sat together
in their cool patio under the orange and palm trees in the shade of the
heavy canvas awning, stitching away for dear life, amid an incessant
prattle about clothes and lovers, and a continual munching of chocolates
flavoured with cinnamon.

Space for the unknown bridegroom’s initials had as usual been left on
all the house linen when it was made, but in this case only the Count’s
coronet had to be worked, and a heavy strain on girlish invention was
thus avoided, for there is not much variety about a coronet, while it
takes a good deal of imagination to vary an initial several dozen times.

Oddly enough, my admiration of some beautiful stitching in this heraldic
ornament seemed to upset Carmencita’s equanimity, and in an instant her
sunny smile and gay chatter turned into a tempest of sobs and tears.

“You are cruel, barbarous, Doña Elena, to remind me of all I am losing!
How can you dream that I am consoled by being a rich Countess for the
loss of the wealth of love lavished upon me by my adored Manolo? I am
a martyr, a victim to the ambition of my parents! Even now at the last
moment I think I shall declare that my heart is Manolo’s and I will never
marry any but him! _Madre mia de mi alma!_ how terrible is this life!
Better that I had flung myself from the roof, as I wanted to do when they
forbade me to see my Manolo: then I should have been spared this torment,
this broken heart which will end by dragging me into the grave!”

I was pretty sure that the theatrical outburst was provoked by a more or
less conscious desire to play up to the situation and to be consistent
to the last: for Carmencita, as I have hinted, had already made me her
confidante, and Spaniards are born actors. She would feel better all her
life for having dramatically rounded off the play to her audience of one,
and I would not spoil the climax by any lack of sympathy.

“True, true, my child,” I answered, “you are indeed a martyr, but it is
to duty. Think of the season in Madrid that you will be able to share
with your sisters—the theatres, the receptions, the dances! With your
birth and the Count’s wealth you will certainly be received at Court,
and what higher destiny could be offered to you than to take Pura and
Dolores away from this dreary village into all the delights of the
capital? Have courage, my noble girl, and crush the dictates of your
heart for their sake, and, believe me, happiness will be yours.”

“True, Doña Elena; how beautiful an ideal you put before me! And I
hear that Manolo has gone away and will not be back for six months, so
what should I gain by refusing to marry the Count? And it would make a
terrible scandal. And then, have you seen my wedding dress? It is too
lovely for words! Do you know, it has a train two yards long! Cesar
insisted; he says I am so little I must have a train to give me presence.
I have never worn a long dress in my life, and I am so afraid I shall
stumble over it. How dreadful if I made myself ridiculous in the church,
before all Ronda! Doña Elena, did you have a train two yards long to your
wedding dress, and did you find it difficult to manage?”

The melodrama was over, Carmencita was once more all smiles and
merriment, and my suggestion that she should put the wedding dress on
and practise walking up and down the patio in it for my benefit sent her
and all her companions into screams of laughter. She had made her little
oblation to the god of love, and now was ready to enjoy to the full the
material fruits of her sacrifice.

She made me promise that I would come to her house and accompany
the wedding party to the church, which is only a few yards from the
ancestral home of the Campos Abandonados. I told her she had better let
me efface myself in the back of the church, because I had no wedding
garment in my suit-case and should do the party no credit.

“Don’t be absurd,” she retorted, kissing me affectionately. “You look
like a Duchess with a black mantilla over your white hair, and if you
haven’t got yours here, Mamma shall find one for you.”

Who could resist the pretty creature? And she meant every word of it, at
any rate while she was speaking. But she really was sincere in her desire
that I should be there as an intimate friend, not a mere acquaintance,
and when I arrived shortly before two o’clock on the eventful afternoon I
found little ten-year-old Lola, otherwise Dolores, waiting for me at the
door, having been ordered by the bride to see that I was taken special
care of, “because being a foreigner I might not know exactly where to go,
and thus might fail to enjoy myself.”

Such consideration really surprised me. Carmen might well have been
excused for forgetting, on this great day of her life, that one of her
guests was a foreigner; yet she had not only planned for my pleasure,
but, as I found, had asked more than one of her old friends to look out
for me and see that I was placed where I could have a good view of the
ceremony before the side altar of the Virgen del Carmen, at which she had
worshipped throughout her short life.

[Illustration: THE CHURCH WHERE CARMENCITA WAS MARRIED.]



CHAPTER III

    The wedding—Our Lady of the Carmen: her lady-in-waiting—The
    ancestral house of the Campos Abandonados—The kissing habit in
    Spain—Muscatel and Manzanilla—Arabic sweetmeats—King Alfonso
    and the convent _yemas_—The bride’s dance—Mantillas and a
    hat—Good-bye to Carmencita.


This image of the Virgin of the Carmen has no particular artistic merit,
but Carmencita was promoted to being her “lady-in-waiting” when she left
school, and had taken great pride in keeping “her” Virgin’s wardrobe in
perfect order; and to-day she had gone very early to Mass and had dressed
the image, for the last time, in the festival robe of eighteenth-century
brocade and the tulle veil she had herself embroidered to present to her
Virgin on her first communion. She had also filled the silver vases with
the tall stiff bouquets which are so much admired here, and had offered
quite a number of gilded wax candles for a blessing on her marriage.

And now she stood before the altar—her own altar—with her first long
dress trailing behind her (she had not stumbled over it, but had made a
most dignified entrance) and placed her helpless-looking little white
hand in that of the stout, common-place man, over thirty years her
senior, whose word was henceforth to be her law (for a married woman
in Spain has practically no civil rights), and who had already made it
evident that he would be a jealous husband. It may, however, be remarked
that marital jealousy is regarded by many Spanish wives as rather a
compliment than otherwise, as showing that their husbands think them
worth being jealous of.

The ceremony was soon over, and while the bride and bridegroom, the
bride’s parents and godparents, and her brothers and next sister, went
into the sacristy with the priest to sign and witness the register,
little Lola slipped her hand into mine.

“Carmencita told me to take you to our house now,” she said. “I am too
little to witness for her, and she was afraid you would go away, and she
wants you to see her dance in her wedding dress before she leaves with
Cesar.”

She led me out of the church and along the badly paved street, which was
lined with spectators anxious to see the new Countess whom they had known
from a baby.

“There are only two carriages,” said Lola, “mamma’s and Cesar’s. Can
you believe it? Carmencita has to come home all alone with Cesar in his
carriage! She cried last night, and so did Pura and I, we all cried
together. Fancy having to be left all alone with that horrid old man! Do
you know, she is afraid he will kiss her, and his ugly blue nose will
disarrange her hair. That is the only thing she is afraid of—being alone
with him.”

A Spanish girl is never, under any circumstances, left alone with her
fiancé, until she is actually married to him. There is always a mother,
or an aunt, or some other female relative present to superintend the
love-making. Small wonder that stolen interviews at the grating, with
no listeners but the moon, have their charm. And perhaps the happiest
marriages are those which come to pass, sometimes after years of parental
opposition, between lovers whose courtship began thus. They at least have
a chance of getting to know each other, free from the restraint of the
chaperone whose attentive ear makes all real confidence impossible.

The house of the Campos Abandonados in Ronda is one of the most perfect
examples of its kind in Spain. To the right of the spacious _zaguan_,
as large as many a patio, are the stables, empty now, save for the
Marchioness’s mules. The sixteen mangers are pure Arabic work, built
into the wall, with a cusped arch over each. Passing these we get to the
“modern” part of the house, which was renovated and “restored” in the
prosperous sixteenth century, when gold poured into Spain from her new
colonies across the Atlantic. Beyond this patio, the walls of which are
covered with roses, jessamine, and other creepers planted in the ground,
we get a glimpse of the inner one, cool and shady under its white awning.
This is the summer sitting-room, furnished with easy-chairs and lounges
all gay with bright calico covers, tables with work-baskets, photographs,
and knick-knacks, and the other trifles which ladies of gentle birth all
the world over collect about them, books and newspapers only excepted,
for it is a rare thing to see anything to read in a Spanish lady’s
sitting-room.

This inner patio is all just as it was when the Arabs ruled in Ronda:
columns, capitals, carved beams, round arches—nothing has been altered
since the conquest of the old town by the Catholic kings. In the
mountains it is the fashion to paint every brick within reach with a
solution of red ochre, and the maids, in their desire to add a touch of
extra glory to the place for the wedding, had painted the arches as well
as the brick floors. On one side of the arch nearest the staircase is
a stone roughly carved and springing from a base very much older than
the Arab invasion, and this was left of its own yellow stone colour, so
that its extreme age was apparent. For this is one of those Græco-Roman
houses of which I have spoken, and each of the successive races who
have inhabited it used the remains of their predecessors’ building and
carving when they in their turn added to it. There was a third patio
beyond this, from which one looked sheer down into the ravine 500 feet
below, past arched openings giving light and air to subterranean chambers
under the house, which are often said to be prison cells, but are in fact
_mazmorras_ for the storage of corn, wine, and oil. Indeed, there still
exist in one of these cellars, half built, half cut out of the rock, a
number of enormous oil-jars, quite large enough for the Forty Thieves to
hide in.

When I reached the house with Lola I found the inner patio transformed.
Everything movable had been taken away, and the arcades on all four
sides had been filled with chairs: the piano had been pushed to one side,
the whole centre of the court was bare, and the blind organist of one
of the churches, a couple of guitarists and a man with a _bandurria_ (a
tenor guitar) were busy tuning up, to the accompaniment of the shrill
whistling of half a dozen canaries and the excited screams of the
Marchioness’s pet parrot.

Two great seventeenth-century mirrors in handsome carved frames painted
red and gold had been brought downstairs and hung on two pillars opposite
each other, and Lola made straight for one of these the moment we came
in, to see, she said, if they reflected properly, but really to study her
own appearance.

“Carmencita was determined to have them brought down,” she told me:
“_Papaito_ [diminutive of Papa] objected because he says they are so old
that the frames might get broken, and they have never been moved since
they were made; but Carmen said she _must_ see what she looked like,
dancing _seguidillas_ in her satin train, and Mamma said of course she
should have what she wanted, now that she had been so good and obedient
about marrying the Conde. _Ay de mi de mi alma!_ I wonder what my husband
will be like when _my_ turn comes! I do hope he won’t be quite so old and
ugly as Cesar.”

Her further confidences were cut short by the arrival of her father and
mother in their ancient family coach, with leather curtains in place of
windows, drawn by two great black mules whose bells jingled so loudly and
the brass of whose harness was so bright as almost to hide the deplorable
state of the leather. The portly Marchioness had barely time to recover
her breath after the exertion of getting out, and to take up her post
of honour in the patio, before the bride and bridegroom appeared,
he almost as fat and short-winded as his mother-in-law, she looking
extremely pretty with a flush on her olive cheeks and her usually sombre
heavy-lidded eyes alight with excitement and pleasure at the openly
expressed admiration of the crowd all along the road from the church.

The instant they came in the whole place burst into life, for every
corner was invaded by the number of guests who had been invited and
the still greater number of those who had not. The well-to-do friends
and relations were followed by the poor ones, then came the household
servants, old and young, with their friends and relations, and then
everybody, without distinction, who wanted to see the bride and wish her
joy. And as these last seemed to be half the town, for a short time we
were packed like sardines, while the new little Condesa, standing at her
mother’s side, was receiving resounding kisses on both cheeks from every
woman, child, and old man in the crowd, the young men being apparently
the only ones who might not claim the privilege.

The amount of kissing done in Spain is extraordinary. Children as a
matter of course put up their faces to the merest stranger who speaks
to them, middle-aged ladies on notoriously bad terms would think it a
grave breach of courtesy not to kiss loudly on meeting and parting in an
afternoon call, young girls embrace effusively in the most public places,
fathers sit with their babies on their knees, mumbling their fat little
hands by the hour together, and all the servants expect to be kissed by
the ladies of the family when they start on or return from a journey—a
most embarrassing custom if the mistress is an Englishwoman. More than
once I have been in a shop when a woman has come in and put her baby on
the counter, whereupon the shopman has left me to go and kiss the child,
whom he probably had never seen before. Strangers will often stop short
before a nice-looking child, and exclaim “_Qué mono!_” (what a pretty
little thing) and bestow on it a couple of kisses that can be heard all
down the street. Of late an attempt has been made in Madrid, at the
instigation of the Queen, to stop this promiscuous kissing, and for one
season at least it was the fashion to hang a label round the babies’
necks when out walking, on which was written, “Please don’t kiss me.” But
there is no diminution of embraces outside of the capital.

As soon as every claimant to the cheeks of Carmencita had been satisfied,
the uninvited guests went away almost as suddenly as they had come in,
and the rest of the gathering moved on into the inner court, and turned
their attention to tobacco, wine, and sweet cakes. The sons of the house
and their friends carried round a tray of glasses in one hand and a
bottle of Malaga, Manzanilla, or Muscatel in the other, and each guest
was expected to empty his glass at once and replace it on the tray for
the use of his neighbour. Then came the bride’s sisters and their friends
with trays full of sweetmeats and pastry made of almond paste, cocoa-nut
paste, chocolate, custard with a variety of flavourings, and other sweets
of Arabic origin, with untranslatable names, the recipes for making
which are carefully preserved in a few convents, whose inmates sometimes
have little left to live on save what they can earn by the sale of their
cakes. Among these there is a popular kind called _yemas_, because
made from the yolks of eggs (_yemas_). They look like the yolk of a
hard-boiled egg, and are covered with transparent caramel of a surprising
stickiness.

And here I cannot refrain from digressing to tell a little tale about
King Alfonso.

The first time that he and the Queen came to Seville was when their first
baby, the little Prince of Asturias, was a few months old. The King,
whose active habits and disregard of ceremony are well known, went out
on the morning after their arrival for a walk through what is called
the “Moorish” quarter of the old town, a maze of narrow streets little
visited by sight-seers. Here he stopped at a certain convent famous for
its sweets, and asked the “mother” who opened the little grille in the
street door for “a packet of _yemas_ for his wife and child.” The good
nun hesitated: she had not the remotest idea who her customer was, and
the Mother Superior, she knew, had set aside all the best of the last
batch to send as an offering to the baby Heir to the Throne.

“Pardon me, Señor,” she stammered, divided between her desire not to lose
a possible peseta and the difficulty of reconciling a refusal with her
natural courtesy; “I fear—to-day—it is impossible—we—we,” and then, with
a brilliant inspiration, “we do not sell to foreigners.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” said the King, “I am a Spaniard by birth and
education, and my present address is the Alcazar of Seville.”

The conclusion of the purchase may be left to the imagination.

I have never been able to manage more than two of these luscious sweets
at a time, and little Lola became quite distressed when her sixth
invitation to eat more and still more of the sugary delicacies proved
unavailing.

“I know what you will like,” she said at last, “I am sure you will like
that, for our North American friend[4] said it was the best thing in
Ronda. It is time to hand those trays now, so I will run and get mine for
you.”

And the next moment Lola was at my side again, pressing upon me slices of
raw smoked ham, to be offered and eaten with the fingers, just as is done
with dainties at wedding parties in Constantinople and Beyrout to-day.

Undoubtedly the Andalucian acorn-fed hams are excellent, but it was
rather a shock to have to start upon ham, and raw ham at that, when one
had already eaten too many sweetmeats.

“Don’t you like _ham_?” said poor Lola, her mouth drooping with
disappointment. And then a brilliant idea struck her. She dumped her tray
down on a vacant chair and ran off to the kitchen, returning in triumph
with half of one of those iron-hard rolls known as _roscas_. This she
thrust into my hand and planted a slice of ham on the top of it, saying
with a sigh of relief—

“I know that is what you want, for the North American lady never would
eat ham without bread. I _am_ so glad I thought of it, because only a
few minutes ago Carmencita told me to be sure and get you everything you
like until she has time to come and talk to you. But now we are going to
dance, so she won’t have any time to spare yet.”

To eat raw ham with one’s fingers, as all the ladies round me were
doing quite simply and naturally—throwing the fragments that remained
on the floor under their chairs—may seem peculiar to our notions of
table etiquette; but nobody would laugh at these “country manners” who
saw, as I did, the innate courtesy that lay beneath. That the bride
at a fashionable wedding should have told off one of her sisters to
show special attention to an elderly lady of no particular importance,
simply and solely because “being a foreigner she might feel strange,”
illustrates the traditional courtesy of well-bred Spaniards. And perhaps
this funny little incident will explain to some of my readers why I love
the real Spain and the real unconventionalised Spaniard.

Now the piano, the guitars, and the bandurria struck up the
_seguidillas_, whereupon Carmen and her sister Pura at once stood up to
dance. The object of the two mirrors became apparent, for at every turn
of the dance the bride was able to see herself in a fresh attitude, and
her childlike delight in the folds of her long train, as she watched it
sweeping after and around her, was a pretty sight. She had the reputation
of being the best dancer in her native town, and loud cries of _Muy bien_
and _Olé_ greeted the conclusion of the performance.

All these dances consist of what are called _coplas_ (couplets), because
the movements of the dance were originally interludes in the singing
of verses, often traditional, among which extempore references to the
happenings of the moment are introduced. Thus when the girls dance
without any singing, a series of movements follow in sequence, lasting
twenty minutes or more, according to the number of _coplas_ that they
may perform. To the uninitiated all the dances, and still more all the
_coplas_, seem to be pretty much alike, when danced by girls only. But
when one sees these dances performed professionally by a man and a woman
together, one realises that every step, every turn of the head, and every
movement of the body and arms, has had its origin in a drama of passion,
of coquetry, or of courtship. One also realises why it is not permissible
for youths and girls to dance them together, save in the intimacy of a
family gathering, and why even then the man must, so to speak, only
play at taking part, snapping his fingers in response to the rattle of
the castanets as the girl waves them over his head, and holding himself
rigidly upright while his partner sways and bends as she whirls before
and round him.

The whole thing is essentially Oriental, and it needs only the glance of
an eye or the turn of a hand to convert the graceful movements of ladies
in a drawing-room into an exposition of sensuality.

One understands therefore why Spanish ladies are so careful how they
allow their daughters to dance even the apparently harmless _seguidillas_
with men instead of girls for their partners.

The usual form of concerted performance is for the men to sing the
_coplas_ and the girls to dance between each of them; and when Carmencita
had finished her performance, the guitarists struck up the rattling
chords that preface the _Peteneras_. After much pressing on the part of
the girls, Carmencita’s eldest brother Paco, otherwise Francisco, was
induced to sing, and here is a translation of his first and last verses,
which he sang to the strange quavering air without tune or rhythm, and
full of the odd intervals and curious turns and flourishes peculiar to
this kind of music, while the spectators accompanied him with a fusillade
of hand-clapping and shouts of applause which burst out at every pause.

    “My _novia_ has deserted me,
        Child of my heart;
    Thinking that I should grieve for her,
        Child of my heart.

    I am not sure whether I shall take another sweetheart now,
    Or wait and look about me through the summer.

    When I am on my death-bed,
        Child of my heart,
    Seat thyself at my bed-head,
        Child of my heart.
    Bring me a good veal cutlet,
    Two fowls and a nice beefsteak,
    And if this does not seem to thee enough
    Bring me anything else that occurs to thee.”

The wedding party thought this screamingly funny, and there were shouts
of _Otra copla! Otra copla!_ (another verse) when he had finished. But
he made a sign to his second sister Pura, and another to the musicians,
and the dancing began again.

The _peteneras_ are more dramatic and crisper in movement than the
_seguidillas_, and the brother and sister did a great deal of rhythmical
hand-clapping and stamping, curiously at variance with the sentimental
refrain of the song. When it was over, Pura dropped into the nearest
seat, panting and fanning herself vigorously, while Paco slipped away to
join the men, who from first to last sat in the outer patio and seemed
to take no interest in the proceedings within, except when occasionally
one of them planted himself in the entrance to commend some girl whose
dancing he admired.

Proceedings became increasingly lively as the afternoon advanced, though
the decorum was never relaxed. It got hotter and hotter, and the air grew
suffocating under the awning, but there was no pause in the dancing. As
soon as one couple of girls ended another stepped out, and sometimes
half a dozen were dancing together. All the grown-up girls wore high
combs and white mantillas, which never seemed to become disarranged,
and quantities of natural flowers on their heads and breasts, chiefly
jessamine blossoms pulled off their stems and fastened together to
form large rosettes—another survival of Arabic customs. One would have
expected to see the floor strewn with the flowers as the dancing went
on, but I knew that every girl had spent at least an hour arranging her
head-dress before she started for the wedding, and had taken good care
that everything was firmly fixed. And then, however lively the dancing
may be, it is always graceful, and there is never a jerky or violent
movement, which accounts for these elaborate head-dresses being as neat
at the end as they are at the beginning.

Everything must finish some time, and presently the bridegroom, who had
never come near the ladies since he and his wife entered the house,
appeared at the entrance of the inner patio, his nose rather bluer than
usual, and smelling strongly of smoke, to tell Carmencita that it was
time to change her dress for the train.

“_Por Dios!_” exclaimed the girl, “I had quite forgotten that I was going
away. Come, Pura; come, Lola, one more set of _seguidillas_: who knows
when we shall dance together again!”

Sixteen-year-old Pura in her first mantilla, Lola with streaming hair
and scanty petticoats little below her knees, and Carmencita with her
two yards of train, made a very ill-assorted trio; but they did not
concern themselves about the general effect. They danced no less than six
_coplas_ together, the last including some odd little jumps off the floor
with both feet, quite the least graceful performance I had yet seen, and
most inappropriate to a long train. And then, to a chorus of _Olé’s_
the three stopped dancing, flung their arms round each other, burst
into floods of tears over the imminent parting, and were all borne away
sobbing by their mother and various sympathetic friends.

The two younger sisters were still crying when they came downstairs an
hour later with the bride in her travelling dress, a really charming
arrangement of white muslin and blue ribbons, but Carmencita’s face was
almost hidden under an overwhelming straw hat covered with immense roses.

Now she was once more all smiles, and beamed impartially on everybody as
she moved towards the great doors amid a perfect fusillade of explosive
kisses. How they managed to reach her face under that hat I could
not understand, but I heard her say several times, “_Cuidado con mi
sombrero_” (Mind my hat), while she moved towards me; and as she embraced
me I discovered why she was leaving her home smiling instead of in a
flood of hysterical tears, as Spanish brides usually do.

“Isn’t my hat enchanting?” she whispered in my ear; “you know it is the
first hat I ever had in my life, and Cesar actually ordered it for me
from Gibraltar! Isn’t he an angel? And we are going to Madrid, and then
to Paris, and he is going to buy me ever so many more! But don’t tell
anybody; I want to pretend I am quite accustomed to wearing a hat.”

The fascinating novelty carried her through all the adieux and safe into
the carriage with her bridegroom, and the last we saw of Carmencita was
her laughing face as she straightened the monstrosity, which she had
almost knocked off against the carriage door as she got in.

[Illustration: IN THE FLOUR MARKET.]



CHAPTER IV

    The “season of the baths”—Furnished apartments without beds—The
    amenities of the _Balneario_—Sea views at a discount—Bathing
    costumes: flounces and frills—The force of example—Happy
    swimmers.


The “season of the baths,” as the summer holidays are here called, is a
very serious business indeed. In the fashionable seaside resorts such
as San Sebastian, Santander, Malaga, etc., it is possible to get a
comfortably furnished villa or flat for a few weeks, though only at a
ruinous cost; but in the smaller places it was until lately difficult
to get any accommodation at all outside of the _Balneario_ or Hotel for
Bathers, unless one took a so-called furnished house and sent the missing
necessaries from one’s own home by carrier or train; for the furnishing
in such houses generally consisted mainly of more or less rickety chairs.

Personal luggage, of course, goes with the traveller, but things which
do not come into that category, and they are many, must be booked and
paid for separately. What exactly constitutes personal luggage varies a
good deal with the taste and fancy of the booking-clerk. At one station,
for instance, they flatly refused to take my _jamugas_ (a folding donkey
saddle described on p. 66), and at another an obliging porter tied them
on to my suit-case and they went through without difficulty. But speaking
generally, nothing but portmanteaus, bags, and such like are admitted,
with one notable exception. About bedding there is never any trouble.
A mattress for each member of the party, with its pillows, sheets, and
blankets, will all go as personal luggage, though, as the limit of weight
is only 60 lbs. per head, you may have to pay a considerable sum for
excess. You can also book your bed and bedding (which it is just as well
to take with you to a “furnished house” at any of the smaller seaside
places) together with other immediate necessaries, by _grande vitesse_,
when it is supposed to travel by the same train as yourself, and to be
accessible immediately on arrival. But if there happens to be a crowd at
the departure station, it is as likely as not that the things booked by
_grande vitesse_ will be left behind.

This happened to some Spanish acquaintances of mine one summer. They had
booked everything except the children’s lunch and such trifles as they
could take in their hands, and they arrived at the village where they
and we were to spend the holidays late at night and dead tired, without
any luggage at all. The neighbours set to work and improvised beds
for the smallest children, and the mothers, aunts, and sisters sat in
rocking-chairs all night.

“What else is to be done?” they said philosophically; “this sort of thing
always happens if you go to the baths in the fashionable season, when
everybody wants to be there at once.”

None of them were at all cross or depressed, although they were very
grateful when we provided a mattress or two for the tired babies to be
put to bed on.

Travellers who want to see the Spanish bathing season in full swing
may put up at the _Balneario_ with which every little seaside resort
is provided. But they must be prepared to get no sleep or rest as
long as they stay there, for the noise is inconceivable. There will
be anything from fifty to two hundred men, women, and children—but
chiefly children—of all ages, and all agog to make the most of the
seven, fourteen, or twenty-one days of bathing prescribed by the family
physician. For be it known that we don’t bathe as we please in Spain,
but under medical orders and strictly for the good of our health, and
many people believe that all the virtue in salt water would be lost did
they take one bath too many or too few. And from the moment they wake in
the morning until the last frequenter of the hotel bar goes to bed some
time in the small hours, the din of voices and the clatter of feet on the
brick floors never ceases for one instant.

Most Spaniards have extraordinarily loud voices. Of course it is usual
in any country to shout at a foreigner under the impression that he
will understand better if you deafen him to begin with. But in Spain it
is not only the foreigner who is bawled at, for Spaniards all shout at
each other in the bosoms of their families to such a degree that when I
first came to live here I got the impression that they were continually
quarrelling. Men and women alike have this unpleasant habit, and although
many of them are aware what a noise they make and remark that it is a
bad custom, they seem constitutionally incapable of lowering their voices.

When I am almost driven crazy with the strain on my ears I pretend to be
puzzled at what is said, and politely remark—

“I am stupidly ignorant of Castilian, but I shall understand better if
you will kindly talk a little slower.”

“Slower” (_mas despacito_) is a euphemism for “lower,” and the request
never fails to elicit a pleasant smile and a comment on the shrillness of
Spanish voices, in a half whisper. But in two seconds habit holds sway
again, and the din rises higher and higher until one feels that one’s
only refuge is flight unless one wishes to qualify for Bedlam.

The children of the well-to-do—unlike those of the poor—are quite
undisciplined, and are allowed to shriek and scream as they please. Their
noise does not worry their parents, who take it as a matter of course,
and it never occurs to them that it can annoy any one else. When dozens
of children of all ages are collected together in a _Balneario_, the
racket is such as might have inspired Dante with an idea for a tenth
circle in his hell. If you suggest that some white-faced, heavy-eyed
creature of two or three years old would be better in bed than in the
hall of an hotel blazing with electric light at ten or eleven at night,
its parents merely reply “_No quiere_” (He doesn’t want to), which is
considered an entirely sufficient reason for letting their sickly infant
sit up to all hours.

The children mostly dine at the table d’hôte of the _Balneario_ in small
towns, and when the endless meal is at last over some one begins to thump
dance tunes on a cracked piano, and the little girls from six to fourteen
swarm into the general sitting-room and start dancing. When midnight
approaches and the children drop asleep from sheer weariness, filling
the benches and flopping across their parents’ knees, the grown-up young
ladies and their attendant swains take the floor, and keep the fun going
till 2 or 3 a.m. This is not one night but every night, and not in one
_Balneario_ but in every _Balneario_, throughout the month of August.

I once spent a day and a night in one of these hotels, which are often
pretty and sometimes have beautiful sea views and other advantages which
should make them really attractive out of the season, did they not all
close as soon as it is over. For my sins I was at the _Balneario_ of Our
Lady of the Rosary in the height of the summer. I fled by the earliest
train I could get next morning, and the landlord was most willing for
me to go, for he had a married couple with three children ready to pack
themselves into the tiny room I had engaged, which contained nothing in
the way of furniture save a looking-glass, one chair, a small enamelled
wash-basin, and one huge bed.

The last thing Spaniards seem to care about in the bathing season is the
sea. The _Balneario_ of Our Lady of the Rosary looked out right over the
Atlantic, whose blue waves washed the foot of the low cliff on which the
village stood. I never saw anything more lovely than the sunset over
the sea the evening I was there, and the hotel dining-room opened on
to a broad terrace supplied with numbers of chairs and tables at which
people sat and sipped _refrescos_—a mild beverage consisting largely of
sugar and water. Of all the people thus engaged I was the only one who
turned to look at the sunset. And when after dinner I went out to the
post office I found all the occupants of all the nice new houses built
by themselves to live in during the brief bathing season, seated on
uncomfortable chairs on the footway in the narrow, dirty street, and all
with their backs to the sea. Their houses all had terraces running out to
the edge of the water at high tide, like that of the _Balneario_, but as
I strolled back to the hotel in the moonlight along the shore I noticed
that there was not a single human being to be seen on any of these
terraces. I had never imagined such a waste of opportunity, or such a
strange idea of enjoying the sea. But I have been at a good many Spanish
bathing-places since then, and have always been regarded as a harmless
lunatic on account of my preference for sitting with my face to the sea
instead of at my street door watching the passers-by.

[Illustration: PINE CONES AND PRICKLY PEARS.]

The bathing at that village was excellent, the best, I think, that I have
ever known, though a trifle dangerous for any but strong swimmers when a
stormy day left a heavy roll and undertow. The _Balneario_, which had a
monopoly of the bathing-houses for about half a mile of beach, provided
a sufficiency of buoyed ropes, and a leaky old boat was anchored a
hundred yards out all the summer in case of accidents. This boat was only
accessible by swimming, there being no other anywhere within range, and
it had no oars, so its precise use on an emergency does not appear. It
filled and sank whenever the sea got up, but it was always dragged out,
emptied, and replaced in position by the men in attendance, by the time
the sea was calm enough for the visitors to bathe again.

Although we never stayed at the _Balneario_, we spent several summers in
the village, where we took a little cottage and furnished it with what
our Spanish friends thought very bad taste, for it contained plenty of
books and tables and not a single pier-glass. Here we attracted a good
deal of attention by sitting out at all hours, when the sun was not too
blazing hot, under an awning rigged up on a sandhill facing the sea,
where we watched with an amusement equal to their astonishment at our
eccentricities, the amenities of Spanish families taking their baths.

The first year we were there the women all wore heavy serge gowns right
down to their feet, mostly edged with a broad frill of the same material.
Strange to say, one of them managed to swim, and to swim well, in this
most unsuitable garment. Her husband, who was lame and could only walk
with a stick, also swam well. He used to fling his stick ashore as soon
as he was in the water to his waist, and he and his wife would swim out
to the old boat, her flowing robe ballooning largely behind her. Later on
we came to know them and their family, and the eldest son, a nice boy
of about sixteen, told us as politely as he could how dreadfully shocked
the Spanish ladies had been that first summer at our indelicate bathing
garments, consisting of blouses with short sleeves, knickers, and a skirt
to the knees. No doubt our by no means modern bathing dresses surprised
them, although we had no idea of it at the time, for that year even the
men wore long trousers, sometimes trimmed with little frills round the
ankles, while coats covered their arms to the wrists. True, the men so
attired did not attempt to swim, but bobbed up and down with their wives
and daughters, all holding on to the rope for dear life and never moving
an inch from where the bathing-man had put them, until he returned, when
he thought they had been in long enough, with sheets to envelop the
ladies and bring them to shore again.

Yes, all the ladies were carefully wrapped in sheets when they came out,
although no human eye could discern the form so carefully hidden under
their voluminous draperies. The only creatures who were allowed to expose
any part of their anatomy to direct contact with the water were the
babies. They, poor little miseries, were carried down stark naked to the
water’s edge and handed over to the bathing-men. These, no doubt with the
best intentions, would take the screaming mite in one hand and dip it
head first into a good big wave, using their free hand to disengage the
frantic clutch of the terrified creatures when they came up in an agony
of fright from their ducking and found themselves, choked and blinded
by the salt water, turned upside down for a second dip. Three times was
this brutality repeated every day, and if the piteous cries grew less the
third time, the parents, watching the proceedings from the shore, would
congratulate themselves that the child was beginning to enjoy his bath.

To me it seemed more likely that he was beginning to die from it,
and indeed a summer rarely passes without at least one or two small
children coming to an untimely end at the _Balnearios_. But nothing can
convince the mothers that such treatment is too violent for babies. They
themselves took their first sea baths under those conditions, and so did
their parents before them, and therefore it must be the right thing and
produce good results in the long-run, no matter how the little one may
suffer in health and nerves at the moment.

Infant mortality is always high in Spain. In summer, I understand, it is
higher than at any other time, and I do not wonder at it.

That first summer the lame Don Basilio and his wife were the only
swimmers except ourselves. But the next year several schoolgirls begged
him to teach them to swim, and as the season went on and they made
progress in the new accomplishment the flowing skirts were exchanged for
trousers, and the trousers gradually grew shorter until a reasonable
amount of bare leg was displayed. One or two of the girls managed to swim
out to the boat before their twenty-one baths came to an end, and indeed
the mystic number was treated with unusual disrespect that year, and the
limit often far exceeded.

And the following year, when we arrived rather later in the summer than
usual, we found all the girls wearing bathing costumes which gave their
limbs free play as they swam, and the old boat was the daily rendezvous
of a crowd of laughing and chattering young people, scrambling on board
and diving off again with as much energy as if they had been English.

I always maintain that Spaniards only want a lead to induce them to adopt
modern customs and conveniences, for no people are quicker or cleverer
at imitating new modes once they see that they are an improvement on the
old. The only difficulty is to make them see that any such novelty _is_
an improvement, and that, I admit, is a difficulty. The Andalucians have
a saying against themselves, that they are “_muy amarrados à la cola del
borrico_”—very fast tied to the donkey’s tail—meaning that they go along
in a stupid rut of inherited convention which they find it very hard to
get out of.

I think, however, that the speedy adoption of swimming knickers in place
of flowing skirts, and the rapid shortening of these same knickers as
soon as practical experience proved their convenience, argue that the
rising generation have more common sense and less conventionality than
their elders, and promise well for the future of athletic sports in
Spain. But all the same the young people, although they have learnt how
to enjoy mixed bathing in the sea on summer mornings, still sit with
their parents at their ugly street doors after dinner, turning their
backs on the beauty of the sea, the sunset, and the moon, while they
watch the passers-by and talk of lovers and frocks.



CHAPTER V

    Travelling in Spain: four grades of trains but only one
    price—Ten miles an hour—Dangerous speed—Amusing the villagers—A
    slow night journey—Suppressing a raconteur—“Shall we go?”—Hot
    water while we wait—The paralytic—Taking a photograph—The
    beauty at the window—A discourteous custom—Empty minds—The
    toothpick—A gentleman of the old school—Hospitality at
    Antequera—A Spanish dinner table—Delightful memories.


Travelling in this country is really a trial to the patience. It is
true that the main lines have now been made comfortable, with corridor
carriages, well-cushioned seats, and good lighting on the night trains;
but the unpunctuality and the purposeless delays all along the line make
even a short journey tiresome and a long one intolerable, unless one
resolutely determines only to look at the comic side of things.

There are four classes of passenger trains, and we may take the journey
from Madrid to Seville as typical of the rest. This line is used by the
King, the Court, and the governing classes generally, and is travelled
by nearly every tourist who comes to Spain, for every one wants to
see Seville, Cordova, and Granada, while naturally the capital, with
its superlative picture gallery, is the objective of all foreigners
interested in art.

[Illustration: AN ANCIENT GATEWAY.]

The slowest of these trains is the _mixto_, a sort of cross between a
passenger and a luggage train. The distance from Madrid to Seville is 358
miles, and the _mixto_ does the journey in twenty-four hours and twenty
minutes, or at the rate of nearly fifteen miles an hour, if it gets in
punctually, which it seldom or never does. Next we have the _correo_ or
mail train, which nominally takes eighteen hours one way and nineteen the
other—the more rapid journey being rather under twenty miles an hour.
Then comes the _expreso_, which takes eleven and a half hours one way
and twelve the other, travelling at the rate of about thirty miles an
hour; and then the _expreso de lujo_, which does the journey in eleven
hours and forty minutes, being a shade faster than the _expreso_. Both
these last are _trains de luxe_, with dining-car and the wagon-lits
Company’s carriages, and are usually pretty punctual. These trains, be it
remembered, are running on one of the chief main lines of Spain.

On the branch lines nothing like these speeds are attained. On one of
these, as I was told by a friend who often had to travel by it, the usual
rate was ten miles an hour, and the district petitioned the railway to
reduce the speed, which was considered highly dangerous. The petition was
refused, on the ground that if the train went any slower it would come
too expensive, on account of the increased coal consumption.

With true Spanish inconsistency the same fares are charged for all these
trains except the _trains de luxe_, for which an excess of ten per
cent. is levied on the first-class fares. On these trains there is no
second-class, and on one of them only a single third-class carriage. The
_mixto_ is horribly uncomfortable, and the carriages of all classes are
usually dirty, but one need not fear any rudeness or roughness from one’s
fellow-travellers.

It was once my fate to travel by a _mixto_ from a wayside station where
I had missed the express after a long donkey ride across country. My men
had never been there, but when it became evident that by no possibility
could I catch the train I had intended, they declared, in their desire
to reassure me, that there was a decent _posada_ close to the station
where I could comfortably spend the night. We arrived to find not even
a cottage, but only a _choza_ or hovel, built of stones and thatched
with reeds, and a canteen consisting of the bar and a tiny room off it,
where the railway people took their meals, for it was a junction of some
importance, and several men were employed there. I had no alternative but
to go on by the _mixto_, and I sat for seven mortal hours in that train,
travelling in all eighty-four miles. It was about three in the morning
when I reached a town which gave reasonable promise of possessing some
sort of hotel, and at least half of that time we spent at stations, all
lighted up and all crowded with villagers, just as if it were day.

I am bound to say that although the seats were so hard and so grimy,
and the jolting of the train so incessant that sleep was impossible, I
neither heard nor saw anything offensive, although my fellow-travellers
were all men, and there was not one gentleman, in the conventional
sense of the term, among the lot. One man, it is true, began a funny
story which it was probably just as well that I did not understand, but
before he came to the point his friends hushed him up, on the ground
that they had heard it all before, whereupon the facetious person so
promptly dropped asleep that I guessed he had been looking too long on
the wine-cup before he started. Nothing was said to me, but I quite
understood that the raconteur was silenced out of consideration for my
presence.

The _correo_ on the main lines is much better than the _mixto_; the first
and second class even have corridor carriages, and these are roomy and
comfortably cushioned. If time were absolutely no object—as indeed seems
to be the case in Spain—one need not complain of the _correo_ at all.
But to people who prefer getting to their journey’s end to sitting in
the train, the endless delays and the purposeless dawdling are intensely
irritating. The train stops at every little station, apparently to amuse
the villagers, for often no one gets either in or out, though there will
be from twenty to a hundred loafers on the platform. After long waiting
a guard is heard to inquire, “Shall we go?” (_Vamonos?_); some other
official says, “Let’s go!” (_Vamonos!_); a third rings a bell and shouts,
“My lords the travellers to the train!” (_Señores viajeros, al tren!_);
some one blows a horn, the engine whistles two or three times, and we
drift out as vaguely as we drifted in, ten, twenty, or thirty minutes
before.

At one station on a very dull journey which I often have occasion to
make, an extra delay seems to have been arranged to enable the wives
of the stationmaster, the canteen keeper, and the one porter to obtain
a supply of hot water from the engine boiler, for every time I travel
that way I see a group of these ladies filling cans and buckets from a
steaming jet which certainly is not let off anywhere else.

At another station we spend an interminable time watering the engine.
This station is only half an hour from a junction where the train waits,
according to schedule, for thirty minutes, and why the water cannot be
taken in then, the demon of dilatoriness that presides over Spanish
railways alone knows. This, like the distribution of hot water, does not
occur only once in a way. I have been over the line eight times, for my
sins, and have seen the same incidents every time.

Once our train waited an extra ten minutes while a poor paralysed old
woman was conveyed in front of the engine from a train alongside of
ours to the exit from the station, where a donkey awaited her. The
porter carried her slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, head
downwards. We all thought she was dead until we saw her hands waving and
heard her shrill voice bidding the man shift her into an easier position,
which he did, by no means unkindly. She was a very poor woman, and her
old husband trudged after her, bearing a couple of worn pillows and a
bag of food. It was clear that there was no money wherewith to tip that
porter. No one grumbled at the time lost by our train, which was already
close on an hour late, although she might just as well have been carried
behind it and thus let us go on. They only said, “Poor creature! She
seems very ill.” On the other hand, no one thought of producing pesetas
or even coppers to alleviate her sufferings, though probably if I had
been ready-witted enough to suggest it, most of my travelling companions
would have contributed. Spaniards are curiously destitute of imagination
in such cases, but when I have had the presence of mind to propose some
such obvious charity as the above they have quickly followed suit,
expressing admiration of our English initiative.

The funniest example of official indifference to the time table that I
have seen occurred on a journey from Algeciras to Bobadilla. During a
long pause at a wayside station one of our party got out to photograph a
group of picturesque beggars—for on the Andalucian railways beggars are
chartered libertines, permitted to climb up to the windows and pester the
travellers for money. Before he had finished the bell rang for the train
to start, but seeing how he was engaged the stationmaster politely turned
to the guard.

“Wait a moment longer,” he said; “do you not see that the gentleman is
taking a photograph?”

Let it not be supposed, however, that Spanish travellers find their slow
trains such a trial as we do. The men chat, smoke, eat, drink, and sleep,
and the women eat and sleep—the elder ones, that is. The younger ones
spend most of their time standing at the window. This is a very favourite
occupation of all Spanish travellers in first-class compartments.
Directly the train slows into a station every window of the corridor
carriage will be occupied by a more or less portly person of either sex,
who thrust their heads and bodies out as far as they will go, to stare
up and down at the exceedingly uninteresting crowd assembled to see the
train come in. Except on Sundays and holidays, when the station is to
the village what the fashionable promenade is to the town, the people
who loaf on the platform are by no means the pick of the population,
being merely those who have nothing else to do. But this does not seem
to diminish the Spanish traveller’s interest in them, and he will block
the windows till the very last minute, watching the village idiot or the
diseased beggar until he is quite out of sight, as if all his hopes of
happiness depended on getting the very last glimpse of the unpleasing
spectacle.

The girls who travel have, it must be admitted, another object in
planting themselves at the window while the train is in a station. They
want not so much to see as to be seen, and _faute de mieux_, the open
admiration of the village loafer helps to pass the time. On one occasion
I travelled for many hours in company with the wife and daughter of a
man whose office under the Government argued a good social position and
a certain amount of cultivation. The mother talked of nothing but the
excellence of the food in the town we had both been visiting, and the
girl never spoke at all save to ask me at intervals where we were and
how much behind time the train was now. At every station she planted
herself in the window, and as she was strikingly handsome with unusually
brilliant colouring, a group of yokels never failed to collect in front
of our compartment, staring at her for all they were worth.

“I cannot imagine,” the mother once remarked to me, “why so many people
stand there.”

“Well,” I said with perfect sincerity, “they probably do not often have
any one so pretty as your daughter to look at.”

The mother bridled and smiled, and immediately told the girl what I had
said.

After that our young beauty never left the window at all—presumably lest
some admirer should miss the opportunity of gazing on her charms—from
the moment the train drew into any station until it left again; and I
calculated afterwards that she had stood three solid hours on end in the
corridor, only varying her position to move to my window at the opposite
end of the compartment when we stopped at a station where the platform
was on that side.

This discourteous habit, common to men and women alike, of blocking the
first-class carriage windows regardless of the comfort and convenience
of the other passengers, is in some ways the most unpleasant feature
of travelling in Spain. It is practically confined, however, to the
well-to-do, and I am bound to say that on short journeys, where a little
fatigue does not matter, I often prefer to travel second or even third
class, so that I may get my fair share of the view and the air, which
is impossible when travelling with Spaniards who can afford to pay the
higher fares. On the other hand, as they seem quite unable to amuse
themselves in other ways (for very few of them ever read in the train,
or indeed in their own houses), perhaps one ought not to grudge them
the delightful distraction and the wide enlightenment to be obtained by
looking out of the carriage window.

In other ways many little courtesies are shown. Food, for instance,
is always offered, even though you are at the moment unpacking your
own lunch basket. This is as a rule a form, which means no more than
the offer of his house, at such a number of such a street, which your
travelling acquaintance will make you when he gets out at his station,
well knowing that you and he will never meet again in this world. But
sometimes the offer to share with you is quite genuine, as in the case of
a stout Catalan commis-voyageur, who, after I had politely declined three
times over to divide his lunch, having just finished my own before his
eyes, took two elegant celluloid toothpicks out of his pocket, and laid
one upon my knee, saying, “That at least you will accept!”

He afterwards told me that he “travelled” for a German firm which made
celluloid ornaments, and I always regret that I returned his toothpick
without reading the advertisement printed on it. I thought he might want
it, and I knew I did not, but I believe he really did wish me to accept
his gift—and take a note of his firm.

When one has the luck to make the acquaintance of a Spanish gentleman
of the old school, one realises what a loss is inflicted on society by
his retirement from the world, for men of his kind dislike the new
aristocracy of wealth, and shrink from competing with the _cursileria_ of
the large towns as much as Don Quixote himself would have done.

On my way to Granada one lovely May day I had the rare good luck to
travel with one of these gentlemen. I was accompanied by an old friend
whom I had not seen for many years, and we congratulated ourselves on
finding an empty compartment when we got into the train. Just before we
started, however, a slim well-dressed man of forty or so clambered up
the precipitous steps into the carriage, with a pot of carnations under
each arm. This alone would have prepossessed one in his favour, for the
male Spaniard of any class above the labourer usually thinks it degrading
to be seen carrying anything in his hands, and leaves the parcels to be
borne by his wife if there is no servant handy. Our man not only carried
his own carnations, but was a great deal more careful of them than of his
smart personal luggage, and finally, after asking permission, he wedged
them up in the rack between his valise and mine, explaining that he had
bought them at the last moment to take to his wife, and was anxious that
they should come to no harm.

The ice thus broken, we soon got into conversation, and when he found
that we were going to stop the night at Antequera he seemed quite
delighted.

“That is my own town,” he said, “I can assure you that it is worth a
visit, and I wish more foreigners knew how beautiful is the situation,
and how many objects of interest it contains. There is also a quite
passable hotel, and the people of Antequera have good manners, and do
not worry tourists in the streets, although they see comparatively few
English ladies, or—what is even of greater interest to them—English
ladies’ hats.”

Most unluckily, he said, he would only be at home himself for quite a
few hours, as he had to go on to Malaga early next morning, but he was
deeply interested in archæology, and on finding that my tastes lay in
that direction, he said that, no matter what business he had to set
aside, he must have the pleasure of showing me some very curious capitals
of columns, recently unearthed from a fourteenth-century convent wall,
the period of which he found himself unable to determine. I accepted the
invitation with delight, for not only did I know by experience that great
interest often attaches to objects “found in the convent walls,” but I
knew it was the chance of a lifetime for my friend to see the interior of
a Spanish gentleman’s country house.

Having fixed the hour for our call and given us his address, our friend
proceeded to spread his belongings over three seats, for we were
approaching a junction, and he explained that he did not mean anyone else
to get in, as he had slept badly over-night and wanted a good nap.

The station was crowded and many people came and looked into our
compartment, shook their heads at the much-engaged seats, and went off
to stow themselves in the packed compartments elsewhere. Our friend
smiled pleasantly, showing beautiful white teeth under a short fair
moustache—for he was as blond as a Dane, with brown hair and blue
eyes—and suggested that the stationmaster should put on another carriage
when an insistent lady with several children tried, in vain, to force her
way in against his polite resistance.

And when we were safe out of the station he pulled out his three seats
to form a sofa, as is done when these compartments are converted
into sleeping carriages at night, and calmly slumbered until we got
to Bobadilla some three hours later. This is the Clapham Junction of
southern Spain, and it was impossible for our fellow-traveller, for
all his fine manners and general grand air, to appropriate our whole
compartment any longer; but, as he remarked, he had had his sleep and now
no longer required the extra seats. So other travellers were welcome to
come in, and the more so because we should all three be getting out at
the next station but one.

“You will require half an hour to secure your rooms at the hotel, and
half an hour to rest,” he said as we parted, we in one omnibus and he in
another, with many apologies for not being able to offer us his carriage,
because his return was unexpected, and no one had come to meet him. “But
I hope you will be able to reach my house conveniently by six o’clock,
that I may present my wife and children to you, and show you my capitals
in a good light.”

He had, of course, given us his card, but the name told us nothing
except that he was not a man of title. So in the omnibus we took the
opportunity of obtaining a little information about him. We found he was
the Alcalde, or Mayor, which means that he was little short of a king in
the town, for the Alcalde here holds a position social, political, and
municipal, considerably higher than that of any Lord Mayor in England. In
fact we have at home no authority with which the Spanish Alcalde can be
compared, for he is appointed by the Government, and can make and unmake
at will any of the numerous paid officials under him. Alcaldes therefore
generally have as many enemies as friends during their term of office,
but our Alcalde of Antequera seemed to have gained the affections of his
townspeople, not by political favouritism, but by his personal qualities.

“He is the richest and the best man in the town,” said the respectable
tradesman with whom we talked in the omnibus; “and I should not say that
if it was not true, for he is a Conservative and I am a Liberal, and I
lost my job at the Town Hall when they made him Alcalde, so I’ve kept a
sharp look out for any mistakes he might make.”

At six o’clock, according to promise, we made our way to the Alcalde’s
house, and were ushered by a smiling servant, evidently on the look out
for us, across a patio blazing with geraniums and heavy with the scent
of roses, heliotrope, and jessamine, through a long shady gallery with
fine eighteenth-century furniture ranged along the walls, into a charming
little reception-room, furnished with light-painted wood, and adorned
with the usual window blinds, chair-backs, and table-covers of exquisite
needlework, edged and inset with fine lace and embroidery.

To us here appeared our Alcalde leading his handsome wife and followed by
his two good-looking children. We were a little late, and he apologised
for the family being at dinner; but if we would come into the dining-room
and “accompany” them at their meal, without ceremony and as friends, he
and the Señora would soon have done eating and be ready to take us round
their—and our—house and show us any little object of interest which might
repay us for the trouble of looking at it.

Of course we agreed, while apologising for our unpunctuality, and
regretting the disturbance we were causing in the family.

But when we entered the large and well-furnished dining-room, we found
that the whole thing had been planned by our hospitable acquaintance in
order to induce us to dine with him; for places had been laid for us and
they had not even begun their dinner. So we had no alternative but to sit
down and accept the admirably cooked dishes that were set before us, or
feel that by not eating with the family we were compelling our friends to
swallow their food in haste while they kept us uncomfortably waiting.

The table was well furnished with good silver and glass, and china
bearing the Alcalde’s arms. A vase of choice roses stood in the centre,
and family portraits hung round the walls. We really might have been
at an English dinner party, save for the unceremonious attendance of
women servants with silk kerchiefs on their shoulders and flowers in
their hair, who casually strolled in and out with large dishes, which
they always offered first to their master, then to their mistress, and
afterwards to the guests. This is etiquette in old Spain, dating from
the times when the food might perhaps be poisoned, and the host helped
himself first to show that it could safely be eaten.

The dishes too, though tempting and well-cooked, were somewhat different
from ours. First came a white soup thickened with vermicelli and having a
strong flavour of fowl. Then a dish of _frituras_, a mass of milk sauce
thickened with flour and minced ham, allowed to cool, then shaped into
the form of pears, rolled in fine bread-crumbs, and fried with a skill
which makes a dish of this kind one of the most appetising in the Spanish
menu. Then came cold boiled fish, fresh from Malaga, served with a sauce
made of yolk of egg and oil, and garnished with raw tomatoes, raw onions,
and green and red _pimientos_, a kind of capsicum without any heat. A
fowl followed, whose lack of flavour showed that it had been boiled in
the soup; then the inevitable _puchero_ or _cocido_, also boiled in the
soup, and consisting of _garbanzos_, ham, bacon fat, beef, haricot beans,
and the stems of an edible thistle. Then an excellent concoction of
custard with tiny meringues floating on the top. After this, biscuits,
fruit, quince cheese, fresh goat-milk cheese, and various sweetmeats. Red
and white wine were on the table, and last of all came a cup of capital
black coffee. This was the everyday fare of the Alcalde’s family, but
not of the Alcalde. He told us that his stomach was delicate, and took
nothing but a couple of poached eggs and a glass of hot milk—which amply
accounted for his elegant slenderness, so unlike the enormous obesity
that afflicts most Spaniards of his wealth and position after twenty
years or so of the feeding above described.

What was most noteworthy in his house, however, was the daintiness and
luxury of the dining-room appointments, for it is not unusual to find,
even in the homes of well-to-do people, only just enough knives, forks,
and plates to go round once, while flowers on the table or anywhere else
in the house are unheard of. Perhaps the excessive scantiness of the
cutlery and crockery have much to say to the absence of those invitations
to lunch and dinner which are the current social coin with us. The idea
that a pretty and well-found table adds to the comfort and refinement of
life at home never seems to have occurred to the mass of middle-class
Spain; and of course where the family share a tumbler and eat three or
four courses off the same plate, a visitor at meals is not likely to be
welcome.

No doubt there are many people in the position of our Alcalde who live as
elegantly as he does, but it is a great exception to find oneself invited
to take one’s place as a guest at their table; and his hospitality, the
beauty of the town, the glorious mountain views all round, the wealth of
wild flowers on the hills, and the many remains of ancient buildings,
all combined to mark Antequera with a white stone in my friend’s and my
memories.

We see now that, although the “offer of the house” on the part of a
travelling acquaintance has become in ninety-nine cases out of one
hundred degraded into the merest empty compliment, the root whence grew
this flower of a fine courtesy thrives in the soil to which it is native.
For there are still Spanish gentlemen whose hospitality is as graceful
as it is instinctive, and who, when they tell you that at such-and-such
a number of such-and-such a street “you have your house and a friend,”
really hope and expect that if occasion offers you will take them at
their word and accept their frank invitations.

[Illustration: IN THE KEEP OF ARCOS CASTLE.]



PART II.—AUTUMN



CHAPTER VI

    A saddle for femininity—September fairs—Three kinds of
    hostelries—A night at the street door—_Buñolitos_—Mosquitoes
    and holy water—All the fun of the fair—The etiquette of
    mendicancy—A Spanish circus—A cinematograph—Drunk but still
    courteous—The diligence.


There are three perfect months for exploring the mountains and visiting
remote hills, valleys, and villages in the leisurely way only to be done
on horse, mule, or donkey back. One is April, but then one ought to
be in Seville for the most typical fair in Western Europe; another is
May, but then one must be in Granada for the nightingales and the roses
which make the Alhambra a dream of delight; the third is September, when
grapes, peaches, and melons are in their prime, when the weather though
brilliantly sunny is no longer oppressively hot, and the high roads
are gay with swarming herds of creatures moving from fair to fair, and
forming with their owners a series of living pictures which make the
longest journey enjoyable.

For a woman no longer young, a donkey with _jamugas_ and a pack mule is
the ideal mode of transit over the mountains. If you possess your own
_jamugas_, as I do, with the leathern straps that support them on three
sides fitted to your measure, there is no more comfortable riding seat.
But perhaps I ought to explain what the _jamugas_ consist of, for they
are rarely seen nowadays except in mountain towns, and unless seen are
not easily imagined.

According to the dictionary of the Spanish Academy the word is derived
from the Basque _zamucac_, “a seat intended for femininity to mount
on any kind of beast of burden.” But although the name may have been
originally Basque, the apparatus is Oriental, for one sees just the same
sort of thing in Morocco and in the East, only there it is hooded to hide
all the femininity from curious eyes.

The basis is simply a folding trestle, like that for a table, with
cross-straps to prevent the trestle from opening too wide. This is placed
on the _aparejo_ of the beast of burden, the _aparejo_ being a stout pad
of straw used to prevent the _jamugas_ or the panniers, as the case may
be, from galling the animal’s back. It is fixed firmly with innumerable
twists and turns of tightly knotted cord, and a folded blanket is laid
across the donkey’s back to make your seat soft. As a matter of fact you
generally feel the cord through the blanket, but to obviate this you can
use a pillow, which is supplied if desired with the donkey, pillow-case
and all. For the information of my fellow-femininity I may add that I
personally take a cushion of my own to sit upon, and have the pillow
tied to the strap which forms the back of the _jamugas_, and thus save
myself from jolts and jars on rough ground, no small advantage on a long
journey. Between the blanket and the cushion a gaily coloured cotton
cloth covers the _aparejo_ and most of the donkey, and streams out
behind and around when you meet the wind. The oldest and most delicate
femininity can ride in this arm-chair, for it amounts to that, and I have
travelled all day long on my _jamugas_ up hill and down dale, and my
sure-footed little donkey has never tripped or turned a hair.

It is slow progress, certainly, but what of that, when at every fresh
step fresh beauty is revealed, and all your way your guide, as he leads
the sumpter mule with your inappropriate modern “grip” or suit-case in
its panniers, entertains you with his discourse, or wakes the echoes with
his song, for he sings most of the way, “to bring good luck.”

The worst of it is that nowadays one has to go a long way by rail and
road before one reaches country remote enough for _jamugas_: one is lucky
if half a charming tour can be covered on a donkey. Such was my fortune
one sunny September, and I never felt more sorry than when I had to come
back to the railway after a fortnight spent on the hills. But the first
part of the journey was not without incident, as I will now relate.

I left the train at Jerez, the sherry city with its huge bodegas full of
valuable wine, its cosmopolitan hotel, and its numerous millionaires.
From there to Arcos, thirty kilometres distant along a mountain road
continually increasing in beauty, a motor bus takes one in about two
hours. Arcos is a town of 20,000 inhabitants, perched on the steepest of
hills, with a Tartessian-Roman-Arabic castle on the very top, altered and
restored like many others in this country by the great Dukes of Arcos,
who in the fifteenth century were the rivals in wealth and political
power of the Medina Sidonia family.

From an Arabic loggia, here called _mirador_, which means literally
“view place,” we obtain a marvellous panorama of the mountains, with a
bird’s-eye view of a fertile valley in the foreground, encircled by the
winding Guadalete. It is truly a bird’s-eye view, for the _vega_, as
the cultivated valley is called, lies fully five hundred feet below the
sheer cliff on which the castle stands, and people walking on it look
about six inches high. The cliff is so steep that in many places even the
ubiquitous cactus cannot take hold, and here vultures and eagles build
their nests in security, for no little boy can throw stones anywhere
near them. Even the goats can only clamber up a little way at the base,
where the detritus of ages has formed a sharply sloping rise extending
fifty or sixty feet up from the river and the new high road which leads
from Arcos to El Bosque. That view alone is worth a stop at Arcos, but it
is by no means the only “sight,” for the ancient town is full of Roman,
Arabic, and Renaissance remains, and the fourteenth-century mother church
contains a wonderful gold chalice given by one of the ducal family when
the church was built—a relic which no one interested in goldsmith’s
work should miss. This church, which the people call their cathedral,
overlooks a square at the foot of the castle, and that square in May is a
mass of golden mimosa. I have never seen such a glow of colour or smelt
such overpowering sweetness from trees of that kind.

Part of the castle was granted to the Town Council for their hall in
the sixteenth century, and in one of the rooms, which was the chapel
of the Dukes of Arcos, are preserved no less than eleven grants to the
city bearing the signature of Alfonso the Learned, who won it from the
Almohad Moors in 1284 with the help of his ally Al Ahmar, the Arab king
of Granada.

The Dukes of Arcos held sway here for over two hundred years, until all
memory of the friendship of Alfonso and his father St. Ferdinand with the
Moslems of Granada was forgotten in the ambition of the “Catholic Kings,”
Ferdinand and Isabella, to make a united kingdom of Spain. Then, when
Andalucia was all a-fire with ruthless war, Arcos fell on evil days, for
lying as she does on the frontier of the kingdom of Granada (hence her
full name, which is Arcos de la Frontera), the Moslems naturally seized
the opportunity to try again and again to recover this strong outpost of
their former dominion. Until nearly the end of the war the castle held
out, but in 1484 the Moslems possessed themselves of the city, and the
Duchess, who was defending the castle, was so hard pressed that surrender
seemed inevitable. The Duke was away besieging Alhama by the Queen’s
orders, and although the Duchess contrived to send a message to her
husband telling him of her straits, Isabella could not spare him and his
troops even to rescue his wife.

The only knight who could help was the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who was
known to be somewhere in the district, on his way from Seville with
reinforcements for the Queen. But Medina Sidonia and Arcos had been at
daggers-drawn for generations. It was almost as bitter and prolonged
a feud as that of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and none of the Arcos
faction dreamed of appealing to Medina Sidonia for help.

Medina Sidonia, however, was a very chivalrous gentleman. The tidings
of the lady’s plight reached him as he lay before Setenil (so called,
according to local etymology, because the Romans besieged it seven
times—_septem_ = _sete_—and took nothing—_nil_!) some twenty miles from
Arcos. He turned back at once with half of his troops, drove the Moslems
out of the town, left a strong guard with the rescued lady, and then
returned to continue the siege of the still stronger fortress of Setenil,
and to play his part in the taking of Alhama.

If Medina Sidonia had not brought the feud between the two families
thus dramatically to an end Arcos would have had to capitulate, as its
neighbour Zahara had already done, and once the Moslems had recovered the
four strategic points, Arcos, Zahara, Setenil, and Ronda, the war against
Granada might have had a different ending.

We do not find this story in the published histories of Ferdinand and
Isabella, but it is written in the archives of the city of Arcos and in
those of the Arcos family, now, alas! mouldering in a locked room in one
of the great towers of the castle, which is falling to ruin because its
owners cannot afford to keep it up.

With regret I tore myself away from the castle, whose once warlike keep
is now a garden of roses, orange trees, jessamine, and geraniums grown
into bushes with age. But I had to get on to Bornos and Villamartín on
the way to Algodonales, where I was to change the diligence for the
donkey.

Of that stage of the road the less said the better. Much of it was
dull, all of it was dusty, and the diligence was packed to its utmost
capacity, for it was the eve of the Villamartín September Fair, and the
rattling old shandridan, built to carry eight or ten passengers in all,
had five horses instead of three, and no less than twenty-seven people
were stowed inside, on the box, and on the roof. Every one declared that
it was excessively dangerous, and made a great joke of the fact; and as
Spanish drivers make a point of whipping up their horses when they near
the bottom of a hill, in order to take the next rise on the run, and the
over-loaded machine rocked like a ship in a storm on every such occasion,
it was little short of a miracle that we arrived at Villamartín alive.

Arrive we did, however, and at once found ourselves in all the fun of the
fair.

The only _fonda_ in the place looked out on the main square. The polite
name for _fonda_ (the Arabic _fondak_) in English is hotel, and the
_fonda_ professes to provide food and beds for its customers; unlike the
_parador_ (stopping-place), which only gives beds to travellers providing
their own food, and the _posada_ (rest-house), which is really little
more than a stable for animals with some sort of shelter attached for the
people who belong to them. Our Villamartín “hotel” only had three or four
bedrooms and no sitting-room at all, the food being served in a passage
through which one passed from the street to the staircase, or one might
rather say step-ladder, leading up to an open gallery containing one of
the convenient and comfortable folding bedsteads called _catres_, minus a
mattress; one broken-backed chair, and nothing else. From this a narrow
door led into a tiny bedroom which just held a bed and a washstand.

We had no choice but to stay here. The humble Spanish friends with whom
I was travelling to their home at Algodonales—a mother and son—insisted
on my taking the bedroom, although they gladly accepted my invitation to
share the washstand. The mother said she could sleep on the _catre_ with
a pillow from my bed, and the boy on the floor alongside, with his head
on my travelling-bag. Every other corner in the house was full for the
fair, and even this modest accommodation could only be had for one night.
Poor as it was, the bedding and the linen were clean, and we thought
ourselves lucky to get a room at all.

But we rashly arranged a pillow and rug for Rosario on the _catre_
before going out to see the town, and when we got back, the _catre_,
the pillow, and even the broken-backed chair had been carried off for
another customer, and my poor friends had just to sit downstairs at the
street door and amuse themselves as best they could till it was time
to start. This, however, was not quite the hardship it sounds, for all
Spaniards love to turn night into day; and their main concern was lest I
should be uncomfortable.

We were to start by diligence for Algodonales, our final destination,
at 3 a.m., and pretty Rosario had agreed to let me sleep till two—if I
could, which seemed doubtful in view of the incessant noise in the main
street on which my tiny window looked. I did sleep, notwithstanding the
noise, and woke to find the sun streaming in, and the town alive with
goatherds and their flocks, donkeys loaded with fruit and vegetables,
women with baskets of eggs and live fowls tied together by the legs and
distressfully clucking, and a continual stream of ponies, mules, cows,
calves, pigs, sheep, and oxen coming in from the country to the fair;
while all along the footwalks little canvas-covered sweet-stalls had
sprung up like mushrooms in the night. I had slept through all the riot
of the small hours, and the diligence had either not gone at 3 a.m. or
had gone without me.

I sprang up and opened my door, wondering if Rosario had also overslept
the appointed hour. There she was with a cup of coffee for me, smiling as
brightly as ever, but her curly hair was ruffled and she had a generally
dishevelled appearance. The diligence had not gone. Something was wrong
with the wheels, or the harness, or the horses, or the driver, no one
knew exactly what; but Rosario thought that the truth was probably that
the driver wanted to do some business in the fair. Anyhow the diligence
did not start, and Rosario and her boy had sat all night long in their
chairs, with various other visitors to the town, who like themselves
could get no beds.

Relieved of their anxiety lest I should be vexed at the delay, the mother
and son quickly brightened up, and we agreed that as we had to stay there
all day we would get all the fun we could out of it. Rosario after a wash
and a brush in my room looked as fresh as if she had slept in her own
comfortable bed, and as for the boy, he was at an age to enjoy anything.

The innkeeper flatly declined to provide us with coffee or anything else
for breakfast, so we went out and ate _buñolitos_, a peculiar dainty
largely in evidence at these country fairs, where booths are set up
entirely for their sale. My friends took me to the largest and gayest
of the two tents already opened, which had white muslin curtains tied
together in the middle with streamers of red and yellow calico, just like
the sweet-stalls in Syria. An overpowering smell of boiling oil greeted
our nostrils as we approached, and such was the frizzling and the smoke
that we could hardly see the _buñolera_, a stout lady in a brown skirt,
white apron, and blue cross-over, with a red handkerchief picturesquely
knotted round her head. She saw us, however, and promptly turned to serve
us with the odd product of her cooking—a mixture of flour and water
squeezed through a funnel into a vast frying-pan and coiled round and
round as it fried, until the whole was deftly thrown out unbroken on the
dish. _Buñolitos_ are crisp and tempting and really delicious to eat,
provided only that the oil be good and of last year’s milling; for the
new oil has an abominable smell and taste which only a native can endure.

This was good oil, and the _buñolera_ was an artist. We ate all we
could, and be it observed that I fell little short of my companions in
the quantity consumed. We paid a penny a piece for our breakfast, and
then strolled up the hill to the Parish Church, for it was Sunday and a
festival Mass was in progress.

Very few people were present. A couple of nuns, a few ladies shrouded in
black gauze veils falling over their shoulders and down to their knees,—a
graceful Oriental survival which lends dignity to the stoutest old
dowager,—two or three peasants with handkerchiefs on their heads, and the
usual group of beggars about the door.

I got past these last without trouble by using the accepted formulas,
“Pardon me, brother, for God’s sake,” or “May God support you”; both of
which mean that one consigns them to the mercy of Providence because
one has no mercy of one’s own for them. And if this seems rather
hard-hearted, let me point out that in remote places, where foreigners
are never seen from one year’s end to another, the gift of a penny to
a single beggar will be a sowing of the dragon’s teeth to raise up
as by magic a swarm of from twenty to fifty more, who pursue one with
pitiful appeals that change to imprecations and even stone-throwing,
unless one proceeds to dole out pennies all round. One may therefore
be thankful that the ceremonious response above quoted seldom fails of
its effect, it being a matter of etiquette in Spanish mendicant circles
politely to accept the time-worn courtesy in lieu of coin of the realm.
It has often acted like a charm in my own experience, and I can call
to mind brutal-looking men with some affliction or other which by no
means hampered their physical power for violence, who stopped short and
turned away with a gentle “Go with God” instead of a rude retort, when I
answered their petitions with _Perdóneme, hermano_.

The Mass ended a few minutes after we went in, and as I stood by the main
door studying the not very interesting architecture of the church, I
suddenly felt a wet finger on my forehead. It was one of the nuns, who,
noticing that I had failed to cross myself with holy water, was doing it
for me. I appreciated her good intention, but did not appreciate that
particular holy water, for the marble vessel was alive with mosquito
grubs, whose progenitors swarmed round us where we stood. I knew the holy
water was seldom changed in these country churches, but never had I seen
any quite so dirty as that.

A clamour of brass instruments drew us out. It was the town band making a
round of the chief streets to announce that the fair had begun. It was
a much better band than we should find in many English country towns of
a similar size, and indeed the level of the brass bands is rather high
here—a fact I cannot explain, for among amateurs one practically never
hears any concerted music at all, and even when two performers sing
together on the stage in the minor theatres, it is as often as not in
unison. This band had already woke the town on its first round at 6 a.m.,
when the church bells were ringing for early Mass, and now as soon as its
performance came to an end, a sort of blaring roar from a merry-go-round
began and continued at intervals throughout the rest of the day. I had
never imagined, far less heard, anything like the noise of that fair in
the daytime; but worse was reserved for the night.

Many hours were yet to pass, however, before night fell, and I must say
they did not hang heavily, for the people and their animals formed a
series of moving pictures which it would need the brush of a Sorolla or a
Zuloaga to do justice to. One especially took my fancy. Two pretty girls
(and the mountain people are as a rule remarkably handsome), dressed in
beautifully laundered print gowns with flowers in their sleek black hair,
rode together on a white horse covered with the brilliantly embroidered
trappings familiar to us in pictures of the last century and still in
common use in the Sierras. One girl sat facing one way and the other
the other, with their arms round each other’s waists, and a slim lad in
a round Cordovese hat, a brown velvet jacket, and richly embroidered
leather overalls,[5] led the horse by a purple-and-white halter made of
twisted aloe fibre. On a donkey alongside were slung the girls’ worldly
goods, consisting of a box almost as large as the donkey, brilliantly
yellow with new paint that gleamed golden in the morning sun, balanced
by a large bundle tied up in a crimson wrapper, and topped by a sheaf of
pale maize stalks, which would be the donkey’s provender during the fair.
It was a riot of youth and beauty and colour and gaiety which would have
been the chance of a lifetime for a painter, but sad to say no painter
was there to immortalise the scene.

In the afternoon we went to see a circus in the Bull Ring, and in company
with the rank and fashion of the town we paid one peseta apiece for what
was described on the programme as a “stall.” The “stalls” were honest
reed-seated chairs, such as are sold new for two pesetas, but were
borrowed on this occasion from the kindly neighbours and brought in by
half-dozens at a time, as the aristocratic part of the audience increased.

The show was advertised for five o’clock, but did not begin till about
six, by which time the shady side of the ring was crowded, and the
stalls had almost surrounded the very small circle railed in and sanded
for the performers. We first had a tumbler with a week’s beard, dressed
in crimson satin and red cotton stockings, who usually came to grief
in his feats, but never failed to draw applause. Followed a highly
coloured young lady whom we had seen at the door taking tickets, and who
now juggled with knives and cubes of wood, which invariably landed on
the ground instead of on the table; a clown, in the same crimson satin
and red cotton stockings, who played the fiddle quite nicely, but was
interrupted by another clown with a feather brush, who always stopped the
music by tickling the violinist’s nose at the third or fourth bar, to the
intense delight of the audience; and then another highly rouged lady,
past her first youth, who exhibited three rather sad little performing
dogs.

An acrobat, again in the crimson satin and red cotton stockings, now came
on, after great preparations and testing of wires, to perform a trapeze
act. There seemed to be some sort of hitch about starting, which was
explained when the acrobat with a sweet smile indicated that we had been
seated by the attendants immediately under his taking-off platform, as
indeed we were, unknown to ourselves. So we and our immediate neighbours
picked up our chairs and retired, while the acrobat did some rather
pretty swinging.

The unshaven tumbler then reappeared, now dressed in a pilot coat and
brown trousers, but still unshaven, and we discovered that what the
advertisements called an “automovil race” was about to take place. It was
in fact a terribly gimcrack “loop-the-loop” affair, and the performer
looked haggard with nervousness as he examined his wires and pulleys.

In retiring from the trapeze we had unconsciously planted ourselves just
where the “automovil” must inevitably smash into us all; no attempt
having been made to indicate a danger zone. No one waited to be asked
to retire this time. As soon as we saw the bold chauffeur climb his
scaffold and realised what was going to happen, we just got up and bolted
like rabbits, all quite as frightened as the chauffeur looked. We did
not, however, omit to carry our chairs with us. The band struck up an
inappropriate gipsy dance, the performer whirled down, and we settled
into our seats with a sigh of relief that he and we had escaped with our
lives.

But even this was not the last time we were moved on, for the finale was
a play in pantomime, in which the middle-aged lady played the heroine,
in a long train which she carefully held up all the time; the other lady
played the young lover in yellow tights and a red cloak; the tumbler, the
clowns, and the manager, all wearing Russian caps and blouses trimmed
with rabbit-skin over their workaday trousers, interfered each after
his manner with the course of true love; and the stout acrobat with a
scarlet-horned hood over the inevitable crimson satin and red stockings,
appeared as a friendly devil and made all the stage furniture dance to
distract the attention of the rest of the company from the antics of
the lovers. The devil ended by letting off a lot of fireworks right in
front of the “stalls,” and this time we got up and ran, regardless of our
chairs. It was not as dangerous as it looked, however, for the fireworks
promptly fizzled out, and I for one was so weak with laughter by then
that I could not even start when a cracker went off under my nose.

The whole centre of the ring had been invaded by a swarm of young men and
lads of the peasant class, who obviously had not paid a peseta for the
privilege. The manager, wearing a monstrous Emperor William moustache
fiercely curling up to his eyebrows, had at intervals blandly requested
them to retire and not incommode the ladies. They always retired with
perfect politeness, to return again the moment his back was turned. When
the circus was over this portion of the audience at once blocked the
only exit, and gave us time to observe the back of the scenery of the
pantomime, which was remarkable. A sheet of painted canvas stood on end,
held in place by some mysterious law of cohesion, for visible supports
it had none; and how the red devil, who must have weighed a good fifteen
stone, contrived to jump in and out of the window without bringing the
whole thing down will always be for me an insoluble mystery.

The _fonda_ was less of an hotel than ever this evening, and we were
warned that we must, willy-nilly, leave by the night diligence, because
a _viajante_ (commis-voyageur) had engaged my room and would want to go
to bed when the Fair meeting of the Commercial Club closed about 2 a.m.
But the fun of the Fair was not yet over for us, and the little window
overlooking the main square now became for me a kind of Royal Box at the
opera, music and all.

At nine o’clock the band took up its position under my window, and the
fireworks began. Another point I have never quite understood is why
Spanish fireworks even in remote little towns like Villamartín are always
good; and how it is that every remote little town manages to keep its own
firework-maker. But the profusion of devices in interlacing circles of
arabesques leads me to suspect an Arabic origin for this as for so many
other popular junkets in Spain.

The Villamartín fireworks were beautiful, differing from those of the big
towns only in quantity, not at all in quality, and the set pieces were
quite the most attractive to the crowd, whose inherited instincts are all
for the arabesque in art.

After the fireworks came a cinematograph, still accompanied by the
band, whose repertoire consisted of six pieces, very well played, which
they had been repeating at intervals all day. The people grew wildly
enthusiastic over the moving pictures, and shouted and laughed and
clapped like children, at the runaway who upsets every one he meets
as he evades his pursuers, at the illicit lover who hides under the
dinner-table and turns it over so as to spill the soup into the lady’s
lap, and at all the other stale old jokes which seemed to be brand-new to
these unsophisticated southerners. There was no risk at all of our going
to sleep and forgetting our diligence now. No one but a deaf mute could
have closed an eye in the main square of Villamartín that night.

After midnight, when the cinematograph closed, I laid me down fondly
imagining I might get a little sleep; but the clamour of the voices in no
way diminished. On the contrary, as the night wore on it began to rise
louder and louder, until it became a perfect roar. Now and then it would
die down for a few minutes, until a boyish voice shouted something that I
could not catch, when it began again worse than ever, still good-natured,
but sounding ever more impatient, as if the self-restraint of the crowd
were rapidly becoming exhausted.

At last, about half-past one, a distant noise like thunder made itself
heard above all the human din, and then the crowd seemed to go perfectly
mad, yelling and shouting like Bedlam let loose. It was time to get ready
to leave anyhow, so I rose from my sleepless bed and went to the window.

Then I saw what it all meant. It was the _encierro_, the bringing in of
the bulls for the bull-fight next day. In this case they were not full
grown bulls; only year-old bullocks, and of these there were but two, the
rest of the future victims being heifers. For fighting bulls cost a good
deal of money, and Villamartín is a small town and not particularly rich:
so the sportsmen of the ring here have to content themselves with the
inexpensive heifer and “yarlin’,” as they say in Devon.

To hear the yells of delight raised when they came in sight, one would
have thought that all Villamartín was out to receive the bullocks and
their decoy: but as a matter of fact all Villamartín except the dregs
had long gone home to bed, and the howling mob consisted entirely of a
few men of mature years, financially interested in the bull-ring, and a
crowd of boys and lads, the rag-tag and bobtail of the working classes,
for the respectable working men and their families do not approve of
the “sport.” These two elements in the Spanish social system nowadays
form the immense majority of those who still support what is called
“the national sport.” Yet tourists seem to imagine that they represent
the nation! So well is it recognised by the governing classes that the
bull-fight has ceased to appeal to any save the riff-raff and those
to whom, in one capacity or another, it is a source of income, that
legislative attempts have been made to forbid the bull-fights on Sunday,
because if they only took place on week-days the aforesaid dregs of the
working classes would find it difficult to attend at the cost of a day’s
wages, and the whole brutal concern would soon come to an end. But the
vested interests are tremendously strong, and capital has great power
in Spain; so the bull-fight still goes on, and the tourists go to see
it, and Spanish social reformers shrug their shoulders when they are
told by foreigners that the first step to social reform in Spain must be
the suppression of the bull-ring, which the foreigners’ entrance money
largely helps to keep going, and of which their mere presence is supposed
by amateurs to express approval.

But this is another of the tragedies of Spain, and Rosario and her boy,
who hate the very name of bull-fight, though they are mere peasants and
never heard of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
did not talk about it that night with me as we watched the tumultuous
passage of a particularly lively heifer across the square under my
window. Setting aside humanitarian considerations, it was a picturesque
sight enough, for the victims of the morrow, surrounded and steered by
half a dozen stolid old cows with bells on their necks, were preceded and
followed by the _garrochistas_, those herders of the wild cattle, with
the high-peaked saddles and great square stirrups and long poles with
iron points, which form so effective a group on post-cards purporting to
represent the everyday life of Spain. Some of the rabble had gone out to
meet the procession with torches, and these still flared as the crowd
surged by, making curious yellow cross-lights when they fell on the glare
of the arc lights of the town.

I have been told that it was once proposed to start a branch of the
Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at Madrid, and that in
order to obtain funds a great bull-fight was organised. I do not know
whether Ben Trovato is responsible for this story, but I have myself met
a member of that Society, an English lady of mature years, who refused to
subscribe to an entertainment in Spain because it was to take place on a
Sunday, and then quarrelled violently with her husband because he refused
to take tickets for her for the bull-fight on Easter Day! This is a true
story, though the well-known Italian raconteur might be proud to father
it. I remember also a British curate of extreme evangelical opinions,
who gave at a luncheon party a full, true, and particular account, with
realistic details, of the disembowelling of a horse and the wounding of
a _torero_ that he had witnessed, embellished with the usual expressions
of horror at the innate degradation of a nation which supported such
barbarities. Some unkind person present remarked that it was believed
that the Bishop of Gibraltar objected to his chaplains attending the
bull-fight; to which the ingenuous curate replied: “Ah, but you see I
went in without my clerical collar”—the fatuous immorality of which
remark closed the conversation.

I was not altogether sorry when the time came to start for Algodonales.
I had never heard such prolonged and uncontrolled noise made by human
beings before, and much though the whole thing had amused me I do not
care if I never hear such a noise again. When we made our way out into
the brilliantly lighted square most of the crowd appeared to be drunk,
but riff-raff though they might be, they were civil to the last, and
good-naturedly lurched aside in a bunch to make room for us to pass into
the comparative darkness of the street where the diligence awaited us,
we, needless to say, being the only passengers who wished to leave the
town just then.

[Illustration: A PREHISTORIC WEIR.]



CHAPTER VII

    Mountain philosophy—A Rembrandt mother and child—Egyptian
    cotton fields—The Khalif and the _cañeria_—My lodging in a
    bakery—Embarrassing hospitality—An Arabic banner—Subterranean
    reservoirs—The Way of the Cross.


It was pitch dark, and the sky was clouded when we started from
Villamartín, and the creaking and jolting of the crazy vehicle down
the sharp slope from the town to the bridge over the Guadalete would
have brought my heart into my mouth had I not been too tired and sleepy
to care what happened. Rosario smiled at my terrors. Being a Serrana
(mountain woman) by birth, she was not in the least alarmed when the
diligence seemed to be diving head-foremost to perdition. “Even if we
upset,” she said, “we should come to no harm, for the road was so narrow
and the banks so steep that we could not fall far.” She also told me that
there was a much better road on the other side, but as we were starting
late and were a light load, the driver, an old acquaintance of hers, had
chosen a short cut which in winter is a water-course.

Protected by the Providence which looks after fools, we presently landed
with a final bone-shaking jerk on the high road, and thence proceeded
for several miles in comparative comfort, so much so indeed that we
all three went to sleep, and the boy so soundly that he hardly woke
till we got within hail of his native village: for this is the King’s
highway, and well looked after, as are all of its class, by Government
road-menders. I, however, was roused by a stop and voices at a wayside
_venta_, a peasant drinking-place with a deep porch and vine-bowered
poles set up in front to give shelter from the sun. Finding that we
were to be there ten minutes, while the driver refreshed himself with
_aguardiente_ (his offer of which, as it is a fierce spirit largely made
in its cheaper forms from potatoes, I politely declined), I got down to
warm my chilled limbs by movement, for we were now pretty high up and the
air was cold.

Behind us, already a long way off, the lights of Villamartín still
twinkled as gaily as if the night were yet young. The black clouds had
broken, and the young moon stuck one slender horn out from their midst,
while near at hand a patch of burning weeds cast a Rembrandtesque glow
on a handsome young woman seated before a _choza_ built of bamboos and
maize stalks, with an infant at her breast. One wondered why in the world
she was awake and up at four in the morning, but a voice at my elbow
explained it:—

“_Señora, por Dios, una perilla pa’ pan!_” [“Lady, for God’s sake a
little dog (½d.) for bread!”]

The ubiquitous beggar, in this case a ragged child eight or nine years
old, was on the watch for a possible penny from some weary traveller who
might give the coin in order to be freed from the unmusical professional
whine.

I weakly gave the _perilla_. No other beggars were near to see, and the
picture was worth it. I continually regret as I travel in Spain that I
was not born a painter.

It was another _nuit blanche_ for me after that. Any one who knows the
joy and the glory of daybreak and sunrise over the hills will understand
that one would not willingly lose a moment of the glowing change from
darkest shadow to glowing dawn. It is not fully light in these latitudes
before six in September, and the beauty of the morning does not culminate
till nearly eight. The boy slept dreamlessly, and poor tired Rosario
dozed with her head on his shoulder, but I sat and gazed till my eyes
were dazzled by the splendour of the sun on the everlasting hills.

About 7.30 we came to a _venta_ by a fine new bridge with one arch
spanning the river. It was only built a few years ago, when the high road
was extended to Algodonales. Until then this thriving village, with some
7000 inhabitants and a large trade in fruit and vegetables and walnut
wood, had no communication with the outer world save by a mule track.
Now it is on one of the main roads from Ronda to Jerez, and I hear that
since I was there it has been provided with a motor-service from Jerez.
From the bridge to Algodonales is a shady climb, the scenery growing more
beautiful at every turn; and Algodonales itself is one of the prettiest
villages I have seen in Spain, all orchards and walnut groves, with the
music of running waters wherever one goes.

It still retains its Arabic name, the meaning of which is
“cotton-fields,” and the tradition of cotton grown there “_en tiempos
antiguos_.” One can understand that cotton-growing might have been a
staple industry among the Arabs who came here from Egypt, for the valleys
around are well sheltered, and an inexhaustible supply of water is
brought from the hills above and distributed through an Arabic fountain
with fourteen mouths. In the hottest summer it never fails, and the town
and the _huertas_ are still supplied according to irrigation laws dating
from Arabic times, in a strict order of precedence which no one ever
dreams of disputing.

I was shown the tiny garden of a poor old man, rich with green vegetables
and ripening fruit, and told how, when he brought a complaint against
a flour mill recently erected by a rich man, for taking his water, the
case was immediately decided in his favour, because his little _huerta_
was on the old _cañeria_ (irrigation system), and therefore held rights
inalienable for all time. It reminded me of the story of a poor man at
Cordoba to whom the great Khalif Abderrahman III. paid an enormous price
for a few feet of land alongside of the river, because the poor man
showed that if he lost that land the water rights of his _huerta_ would
be interfered with.

All along the _cañerias_, which everywhere except in the streets are
open to the air, maidenhair fern grows in masses, and all the banks are
green with wild vegetation. One sees here, as in many other places, that
Spain needs nothing but irrigation to become one of the richest corn- and
fruit-producing countries in Europe, for in this climate, once you have
water, one crop succeeds another all the year round.

Rosario’s coming had been announced beforehand, and it seemed to me that
the whole village was waiting to welcome her. It was pretty to see the
care she and her friends took that I should not feel left out in the
cold, and before I knew where I was I found myself installed as a guest
in the house of the youngest but most prosperous of her sisters, and
quite unable, without actual discourtesy, to seek as I had intended a
couple of rooms in the main street, whence I should get a view of the
walnut trees, the _huertas_, and the hills.

The sister’s husband was the leading baker of the place, and his ancient
bakery of Arabic construction, with its vast dark granaries and cavernous
ovens, seemed to cover about an acre of ground. They had arranged their
own bedroom for me, with beautifully embroidered linen on their own
handsome brass bedstead, and the only wash-basin in the house, a very
small one of enamelled iron, planted on one of the numerous chairs which
form the chief furniture of a Spanish bedroom, whether rich or poor. They
apologised for not having cleared out the drawers for me, as they were
full of the children’s clothes, and they had not ventured to assume that
I would honour them by accepting their hospitality until I saw whether I
could put up with so poor a house.

I only had two objections to it. The first was that the spacious entrance
was the favourite meeting-place of all the women of the neighbourhood,
with their babies, who cried a good deal; and the second was that the
one little window of the bedroom opened on to a pigsty. This Rosario
apologised for, saying that she knew English ladies did not like smells,
but if I could otherwise be comfortable here, the pigsty should be
cleaned out every day during my visit, instead of—as was customary—once a
month.

I really did not like that pigsty, but it was impossible to wound the
susceptibilities of an entire family so full of genuine hospitality by
declining the room, and I knew that I should see more of peasant life as
an inmate of the _tahona_[6] than I possibly could in a lodging apart
from Rosario. So I graciously permitted pretty blue-eyed Dolores to make
up beds for herself, her husband, and her children on the floor of the
granary, and induced her as a favour not to clear out her one chest of
drawers for me.

And there I slept for a week, with the pigs in front, the poultry behind,
and a pony in a stable to my right, which got loose regularly every night
and compelled me to call my hosts to catch him, lest he should break his
knees over a stone feeding-trough and water-vessel left in the yard by
a forgotten generation. For I knew that if they had not given me their
room they would hear the noise for themselves, and I could not let their
pony come to grief, because they were too hospitable to me. By closing
my window and its shutters I was able to exclude most of the smell of
the pigs, and there was no lack of air, because the heavy door had
dragged itself half off its hinges with age, and would not close within
six inches. It had to be fixed with a chair, but, as Rosario pointed
out, I need not be in the least nervous if it opened of itself any time,
“because I was among friends; not in a _fonda_, where one never knew who
might come along and try one’s door at night.”

It is usual for whole families of Spaniards, even of a much richer class,
to use one dressing-table and washstand in common. Indeed, at a furnished
flat which we took at a high rent one summer at the seaside, we found
only one small washstand supplied for our whole party, consisting of
three adults and a servant. Thus it never occurred to Rosario or Dolores
that I could mind washing with my door half open, and I got over the
slight inconvenience by hanging my dressing-gown over the gap, while my
host and his apprentices sat and smoked just outside.

The one thought of the family seemed to be how to secure me the most
enjoyment possible, and each day expeditions were planned. The whole
village used to turn out to see us start: I on my _jamugas_, with my
host leading the donkey, Rosario on another donkey or a mule led by her
son, seated on the top of the _serón_ (panniers) containing our food for
the day and my tools and photographic apparatus; for (although this is
somewhat off the point) the primary object of my mountain expeditions
is archæological, and I am always on the look out for ruined castles or
other interesting remains worth digging in. This makes one’s luggage
rather heavy, but it is a solid satisfaction to pretend that one’s
pleasure trips are undertaken in the cause of science.

One of our jaunts from Algodonales was to Zahara, the strong fortress
of which I have already made mention. My host’s name was Salvador Malo
(Wicked Saviour!), and he loved to be told that although wicked by name
he was not so by nature. I pressed this brilliant _jeu de mots_ on him
at Zahara, where he pulled me up to the very top of the ruined castle by
main force. It seems to have been destroyed by an earthquake, the masses
of fallen masonry are so split up and tumbled about. The Christians
are said to have surrendered Zahara through lack of water during the
Granada war, and one can well believe it, for they never seemed to have
grasped the necessity of keeping up the admirable Arabic systems either
of storing water or irrigation; and once they let the great subterranean
_aljibes_[7] get into disrepair, the garrison of Zahara must have been at
the mercy of the enemy, since the only springs are outside the old town
walls, two or three hundred feet below the fortress.

The view from the crumbling towers is superb, and the little town
climbing up the precipitous hill is full of interesting remains, the
most important of which is perhaps a square yard of red silk of Arabic
manufacture called _tafetán_, with the remains of some Arabic characters
in white. This was the banner of the Moslems, surrendered after the fall
of Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella. It is now regarded as a religious
relic, and is carried once a year in procession through the streets
after the image of the patron saint of Zahara. I must not forget to
mention that the only access to Zahara, with its 1700 inhabitants, is
a bridle-path. Very neat woodwork in walnut is done here, as also at
Algodonales, but the Zahara style is more distinctly Arabic, and I saw
some brackets and a spice box carved with “stalactite” ornamentation
which might have come out of a mosque. They had been made by the village
carpenter as a wedding gift to his wife.

Longer trips were planned for me, always to places inaccessible to
wheeled vehicles, such as Grazalema, perched under the shadow of San
Cristóbal, the highest peak in the Sierra de Ronda. Here admirable cloth
is still woven by hand, and fetches a good price in all the country
round, for it has the reputation of being indestructible. The once
flourishing town has now dwindled to a village, and many of its fine
houses are in ruins.

Most of my stay at Algodonales was, however, spent in the immediate
neighbourhood, which is so richly wooded and so well watered as to
present a most picturesque contrast to the grim mountain, which the
natives say towers 700 metres above the village. I do not think it is
as high as that—in fact, I should guess that the frowning cliff which
springs straight up from the level of my pigsty into the blue sky above,
does not really measure from the pigsty to the top more than 400 or 500
feet. But the villagers think they ought to know, for on that barren crag
are perched three iron crosses, and every year the young men and maidens
toil up a path which seems fit only for goats, in the performance of the
religious exercise known as the Way of the Cross. The older people and
the children are excused, for only active youth can safely surmount that
stony way, and for them there is a humble altar set up half-way, whereat
they worship while the priest says a Mass for the safe return of the
adventurous pilgrims.

The street leading to this mountain path is called Calvary, and the
whole ceremony is a survival of bygone days, when the Passion Play took
place in every mountain town, with living actors instead of the images
now carried in procession, and every penitent must walk on his bare and
bleeding feet along the Way of the Cross before he could hope to be
shriven of his sins.

[Illustration: “A SADDLE FOR FEMININITY.”]



CHAPTER VIII

    Fancy bread and sun-worship—Prehistoric sandals—A bower of
    oleanders—An Andalucian St. John—Fashion and footpaths—The
    _mauvais pas_—The midday rest—A mountain storm—Thunder,
    lightning, and flood—Kind-hearted donkey-drivers—A welcome
    shelter.


All too soon my allotted time came to an end, and I found myself at seven
o’clock of a glorious September morning bidding farewell to my kind
friends, as I started for a ride of 30 kilometres over the mountains to
the railway station at Morón de la Frontera. My host as a parting gift
presented me with some curious bread of his own making, in what is called
a _caracól_ design—a primitive sun-symbol of Egyptian origin, had he
only known it. I asked him where he got the design, and he said, “From
his father: it was nothing, but as I liked _cosas antiguas_ (old things)
it had occurred to him to make it.” I have since found that this form
of “little bread” is peculiar to Algodonales, and my parting gift is
preserved in a glass case with other interesting survivals of sun-worship
in the Tartessus of the Greeks, the Baetica of the Romans, and the
Andalucia of to-day.

This was one of the longest and most beautiful rides I have ever taken,
as also the most adventurous. I had indeed cut my visit short by a
few days because there were indications that the weather was likely to
break up, and this mountain path—often no more than a goat-track—is
impassable after rain, when parts of it may be washed away into the river
Guadálporcón hundreds of feet below.

We climbed up and up for a couple of hours, until vines and olive groves
were left behind, and forests of evergreen oaks, covered with acorns,
took their place. This oak, which grows almost up to the line where
snow sometimes lies till June, is only second in value to the olive on
mountain estates, for it costs very little in labour, and its acorns are
the best food that can be given to the droves of brown long-haired pigs
which haunt these lofty solitudes.

On we went, sometimes up the hill, sometimes down under the shade of the
oaks, sometimes along a water-course through thickets of brambles and
pink oleanders, which in this climate grow almost into trees when their
roots can reach a stream. Over one such thicket a wild vine, growing from
a rock above, had spread its tangled branches, and the goatherds had cut
and trained it to form a shelter impervious to the sun. A flock of goats
was browsing around, guarded by a man and a boy wearing wide straw hats,
blue cotton jackets, and short trousers with striped socks and sandals
made of twisted _esparto_ grass, just like those in use three thousand
years or more ago among their Tartessian progenitors. They lay half
asleep under their bower of vine leaves and oleander blossom, but rose at
our approach and insisted on my sitting down to rest in the shade, while
they chatted outside in the sun with José. It was so cool and pretty that
I would gladly have stopped there for the noonday siesta, but it was
still too early for that, and we had many miles yet to travel.

A cry of distress from a nannygoat broke the sunny calm round us, and the
boy ran up the hill like a hare to see what had happened to his charges.
The last I saw as I rode away was the little goat-herd standing on a
rock far above us, waving a hand in adieu, with an injured kid slung
round his neck. One constantly meets with incidents of this kind, and of
course one is inevitably reminded of the boy St. John with his lamb. In
a recent country fair I saw two men taking turns to carry a full-sized
goat in their arms, she having somehow hurt a leg on the journey into the
town. It was less picturesque than a kid on the shoulders, but the spirit
was the same; for the goat could still walk, so that not necessity but
kindness dictated the action.

We met few people in those beautiful but desolate hills. José told me
that in the course of a few weeks, when the acorns ripened, a number of
families would come from the villages round and live in _chozas_ during
the harvest. The _chozas_ of the Sierra are very different from those
of the plains. They are built of stones laid dry one on the other, and
roofed with _esparto_ grass from the streams, and they almost always
have some sort of a chimney, for the cold here on autumn nights and on
wet days is considerable. But these stone-built huts can be made very
snug and warm, by mortaring the walls within and roofing with something
more durable than reed, and I can imagine no more delightful summer
holiday than one spent in a well-made _choza_ among these glorious
mountains—provided that the _choza_ lay within reach of a Tartessian
castle or necropolis wherein to excavate in the intervals of enjoying the
view.

The few people we did meet always appeared at inconvenient moments. A
fat young lady riding a very small donkey with very wide _jamugas_,
and carrying a beautiful flounced silk parasol, suddenly came into the
picture half-way down a precipitous hill, so steep and so strewn with
boulders that I, feeling discretion to be the better part of valour,
had got off my donkey to walk. Indeed I very often did get off to walk
downhill on that journey, for in many places I felt that the only way to
avoid diving over the donkey’s head would be to hold on to his tail, and
it seemed on the whole safer as well as more dignified to trust to my
own feet. The young lady with the parasol was coming up as I went down,
but I am sure she would have held on to the donkey’s tail any number of
times rather than get off once had our situations been reversed, for I
never saw a more confirmed expression of bland laziness than hers. She
was too sleepy even to respond to the “Go with God” with which we greeted
her, and that is a breach of good manners that nothing but the torpor of
extreme fatness could condone. I am not very clear how we managed to pass
her and her convoy of servants and baggage donkeys: I only remember that
I had to climb on to the top of the nearest boulder and stand there for a
long time to be out of the way while the train went by.

She was the daughter of a neighbouring landowner, who lived in a fine
house built on the ruins of a castle round the spur of a hill to our
left, as José informed me. He could not remember the name either of the
family or the castle, and I was not particularly anxious to know either.
What interested me was the notion of a rich landowner building himself
a fine house on the slope of a hill to which no road could be made. It
was for the olives and the cork trees, said José: that _caballero_ owned
thousands and thousands of them, and came out to the Sierra from Arcos
with all his family to “take the mountain air” when the crops were coming
in.

Our next rencontre was a more exciting one. We had to cross the side of
a steep hill sloping sharply down to the river far below, by a path just
wide enough for the donkey and the mule to put one foot before the other,
and no more. This in itself would have been nothing, had the slope been
clothed with vegetation like the rest of the mountain. But it was the
“bad step” of the pass, José said, the place which after a storm even of
summer rain is not only dangerous but impossible, for the hillside here
is of a shaly sort of slate, and a very little water is enough to send
the whole path slithering down to the river. It was perfectly safe now,
said José, for there had been no rain for three months, and everything
was dust-dry. But my honour would well understand, seeing the bad step
with her own eyes, why he could not have attempted to take her the
journey to Morón, much as he delighted in pleasing her, had the dreaded
thunderstorm come up last night, as he had been a little afraid it might.

“My honour” did indeed understand, and looked back rather anxiously at
the hills behind, where a lovely but ominous background of purple-blue
clouds threw the gorgeous sunshine around us into strong relief. Did José
think the storm would come up during the day? Had we not better press on
towards some house where we could shelter if we were caught in the rain?

My honour must free herself from anxiety. In no case could we hasten
here, where a false step would be fatal, and there was no house within
many miles. And the storm was still distant, on the other side of San
Cristóbal: may be, if God pleased, it would not overtake us; and at the
worst we should be well over the pass before it came.

As a rule I tie the halter round my donkey’s neck and let it pick its own
way, but here José led it, leaving the pack mule to follow as best it
could. It was clear that he felt a little anxious, and he explained that
some heavily loaded animal must have had a slip at one spot, where the
path disappeared altogether, and we had to make a detour above. For some
minutes we had heard a voice singing, and just at this point a lad riding
a donkey appeared. That boy proceeded with the utmost nonchalance to make
a new path across the loose shale, rather than take the trouble to go
off the direct line as we had done. He shouted to his donkey, kicked it
hard with his heels, encased in the usual _esparto_ sandals with soles
an inch thick, and took the dangerous bit at a trot! It was not done for
effect, as one might have imagined, for he paid no attention at all to
us, and we heard him gaily singing as he rode on, apparently unaware that
he had risked a sudden and terrible death by his foolhardy performance.

After this our way led downwards, and at one o’clock, as the clouds
seemed to have dispersed, we ventured to stop for a rest under two fine
walnut trees which had sown themselves above the bank of the river,
now beginning to assume respectable proportions, but still a good way
below us. José unharnessed his animals, fixed up a sort of tent with the
blanket from under my _jamugas_ and the cloth from his mule, to give us
shade, and after we had lunched he lay down with his head on my hold-all
and I with mine on my riding-cushion, and we both slept soundly for over
an hour. More than that we could not allow, he had said, if I was to
catch the five o’clock train at Morón, for we were already behindhand
owing to my frequent pauses to enjoy the scenery, and we still had a very
long way to go.

While we slept the clouds came up, and I awoke to find a thundery
suffocating heat in the air, the sun obscured, and not a breath of wind
anywhere. José looked grave, and devoutly thanked God that we were over
the pass. Had we been caught by this weather on the other side we should
have had no alternative but to return to Algodonales, and the Señora
would not have crossed this pass before next summer.

As he talked he was hurriedly saddling the animals and packing the lunch
basket, etc., into the panniers, while I unstrapped my hold-all and got
out umbrella and mackintosh, which undoubtedly I should very soon need.

“There is no alternative,” said José, “I must take your honour to shelter
in the Venta del Albercón. It is only half a league out of the way, but
if we do not find shelter we shall be drowned. What a fool I was to allow
your honour to leave Algodonales, but I did it for the best, and Salvador
agreed that the storm would not come up before to-morrow.”

Long before we got to the _venta_ we were wet to the skin. The rain fell
in one unbroken sheet, through which streaks of lightning dazzled us at
appallingly frequent intervals, accompanied by peals of thunder which
sounded perfectly terrific in their reverberations among the hills.

As soon as possible José led the way down to the banks of the stream,
and dragged the animals across at the risk of breaking their legs among
the rough stones that filled the bed. Already the biggest stones were
almost covered, and José said that if we delayed to cross till we got to
the ford the river would be up to our necks. Thence we made our way, I
hardly know how, through the oleanders and brambles to what was really
only a goat-track some twenty feet or so up the bank, and by this time
the situation was so critical that José ceased to apologise, for all his
energies were devoted to urging on the terrified beasts. Fortunately they
knew and loved him, and his caressing voice soothed even the mule, which
was young and got half wild with terror when the lightning flashed in its
eyes.

We passed the ford where the Algodonales track crossed a by-road from
Olvera to Villamartín, leaving it on our left. It was already a raging
torrent eight to ten feet deep and rising higher every minute, and all
the little tributary water-courses which had been stony wastes when we
started were now turbid streams, rushing down to swell the flood. I have
never seen anything to equal the rapidity with which the waters gathered,
and I really began to wonder whether José and I would ever be seen again
by our respective families, for it seemed as if at any moment we might
be overwhelmed by an avalanche of stones and shale tumbled down from the
peaks above us by those nightmare torrents which had suddenly sprung into
being where an hour ago all was dust-dry. It also crossed my mind that
my family, who were away in England, had not the remotest idea where I
was, my trip having been a sudden inspiration of which I had not informed
them; and I pictured my friend Rosario distractedly seeking my corpse in
company with the widow and children of José (I learnt afterwards that he
was a bachelor) and wildly telegraphing to break the news, hampered by
having no notion of my family’s address.

Fortunately these gloomy forebodings were not fulfilled. A peal of
thunder that seemed to shake the whole world, and a flash of lightning
so close over our heads that we were almost blinded, heralded our arrival
at the _venta_, and in a moment I found myself lifted off the donkey
and half carried into the cottage by the kindly people within, while
José slipped the panniers—which would not pass through the door—off his
mule, and led the two poor, frightened, half-drowned beasts through a
clean white-washed kitchen into a roomy stable beyond, where he patted
and soothed them until they were quite quiet and happy, before he gave
a thought to his own comfort. The storm had come up so suddenly that
although he had dragged out an extra wrap for me, he had been unable or
unwilling to stop and put on his own blanket, which was in the panniers
under my luggage, and all my persuasions had failed to induce him to take
mine, which had been thrown over the luggage, when we started, to protect
my camera from the sun.

There is an impression abroad that Spaniards are not kind to their
animals, but this is a great mistake.

“How should we not do the best we can for our donkeys, when we depend on
them for our livelihood?” one of my _arrieros_ remarked on my praising
his tender care of an injured mule.

True one often sees even quite young and active mules and donkeys in
the villages of the Sierra with their knees badly broken; but when one
realises that most of their work has to be done on tracks such as I have
endeavoured to describe—for, thanks to the neglect of the governing
classes, there are thousands of villages in Spain which can only be
reached by such paths—one has to admit that it is a wonder that the
condition of the beasts of burden is no worse. And indeed I know for a
fact that many poor men working on the land never let their donkeys go
hungry while they have a bite of bread for themselves, so that my heart
often aches to see the animals thin and out of condition, knowing it
means there is want in the home.

Having all my luggage with me (a further advantage of travelling on
donkey-back) I was able to get out of my wet clothes at once, and while
I changed in a roomy loft over the kitchen, where the family slept and
kept their corn, beans, winter melons, and other stores, the pretty
daughter of the _ventera_ told me that although autumn and winter
storms were frequent enough on these hills, they had never known one
come up so suddenly or with such rapidity so early in the season. We
learnt afterwards that it was indeed rather a cyclone than an ordinary
thunderstorm, and that it did terrible damage on the other side of the
range of mountains, flooding an entire village on a river bank, and
drowning an unfortunate gipsy family encamped under a bridge in the bed
of the stream, which no one expected any water to reach until at least a
month later.



CHAPTER IX

    Rustic humour—The haunted _venta_—Prehistoric graves—A
    deferred journey—More mountain hospitality—The end of my
    ride—A lost train—A night in a _posada_—Chivalrous José—Mixed
    company—Good-bye to the hills.


The rain poured in torrents, and the clouds were so black that at three
in the afternoon we sat in semi-darkness; but the time did not hang
heavy on our hands, for I was entertained by watching the amenities of
my pretty girl and her lover, a shy youth with an odd lock of white hair
over his forehead. And there was a wizened old fellow picturesquely clad
in a short brown jacket strengthened in the decorative style of the
province at the elbows, wrists, collar, and seams, with black cloth cut
in a design, and wearing really handsome embroidered leather overalls
reaching from his waist to his knees, who had a sly humour that brought
forth peals of laughter from the company. He sharpened his wits upon
Mariquita and her Rafael, but I took care not to understand these jokes,
knowing that they are apt to embarrass a modest British matron; and
as soon as I could I turned the conversation by asking if it was true
that there was a _susto_ (fright), _miedo_ (fear), or _duende_ (ghost)
haunting the river, as I had heard tell in Algodonales. It was not
strictly true that I had heard such a tale, but I know by experience that
an inquiry of the kind, if made sympathetically, often brings forth some
interesting folk-lore.

[Illustration: RUSTIC LOVERS.]

It did so in this case, and the story proved so strange that I must tell
it in full.

I learnt that the _venta_ is haunted by the ghost of a white cat, which
appears outside the door and vanishes up the gully in the direction of a
place called Las Cuevas.

How did they know it was a ghost, and not a real cat?

Because there was no white cat on the premises, and because it answered
when spoken to. Many people had seen it, and if they said

    “_Gatito, gatito, porque tan flaquito?_”

    (Little cat, little cat, why art thou so thin, or feeble?)

The cat would answer

    “_Porque ’tamo’ li’to’_,”

which is the peasant pronunciation of “_estamos listos_.” The correct
meaning of this is “Because we are ready,” or “clever” (_listo_ has both
meanings), but they here gave “_listo_” the meaning of “finished” or
“done with.”

But why did the cat go up to the Cuevas (caves)? And what caves did it go
to? And who were referred to as “finished”?

Well, it went there because there were other ghosts there, many of them
animals in all sorts of shapes; but the cat was the only one that spoke.
There always had been a _susto_ in that gully. The _cuevas_? Well, they
were just caves, like any other caves in the Sierra. The gipsies slept in
them on their way from one fair to another, and shepherds too were glad
enough to take shelter there from storms like the present one. Would my
honour like to see them? The storm was passing over now, and they could
take me up there in a moment, before I continued my journey.

José was quite willing to accompany me to Las Cuevas, but pointed out
that it was already so late that we could not hope to catch the five
o’clock train at Morón, as the road, although quite safe for the rest of
the way, would be muddy in places and make our progress slow. The Señora
must understand that it would be night before we arrived, and Señoras
seldom liked riding at night, although he had observed that day that
English Señoras, if they were all like me—the first specimen of the race
that he had come across—were much more valiant than those of his own
country.

The _ventera’s_ family, now quite determined to overcome all difficulties
in the way of a visit which would “give importance” to their ghosts,
flung themselves into the breach. Why should I not stay the night in
their house? True, it was only a house of poor people, but I should
have a _catre_ in the kitchen, and the mattress of Mariquita, and the
bed-linen from her chest, all quite new for her approaching wedding.
And then I could go on next day at my ease for the afternoon train, for
certainly it would be fine to-morrow after the storm, and the mud would
have dried up; while as for food, if I would condescend to share the
family _puchero_, it would be very rich to-day, for they had killed a
fowl to put in it, and there were fresh eggs and goat cheese, and plenty
of wine.

Who could resist such an offer? Certainly no archæologist on the track of
caves and ghosts.

And now comes the really strange part of my story. I found the Cuevas
to be a series of chambered tombs, more or less destroyed by the wind
and the rain of ages, but unmistakably sepulchral, the necropolis of a
race which still used implements of stone, as many remains of such lying
in the débris around testified. And on the morrow, with the aid of José
and the sons of the widowed _ventera_, I set to work to open one as yet
untouched, and found, as I expected, a human skeleton extended full
length on the ground, and with it sherds of broken pottery which enabled
me to astonish my peasant friends by making a vague guess at the tens of
centuries that had elapsed since “those dead men” were buried here.

I saw at a glance that the Cuevas had a scientific importance, for close
at hand I found the relics of a remarkable temple to the sun, with its
stone altar for, I fear, human sacrifices, and a stone seat for the
priests. It was beyond my power to neglect such a chance for research,
and I sent José back to his own village while I lingered on for a week
at the _venta_, digging at the tombs all day. And I slept, attended by
Mariquita, in a tiny two-roomed cottage built near her mother’s house
for her to live in when she married, and shared the simple but excellent
meals of the family, who most considerately suppressed the garlic as long
as I stayed with them.

And now for the point of my long story. Until the tombs were opened
and the skeletons discovered, no one in the neighbourhood had the
remotest idea that there had ever been burials in Las Cuevas. How then
did the place get the reputation of being haunted? The _susto_ was of
old standing, for the _ventera_ was far from young, and she remembered
hearing her grandfather say that _his_ grandfather, like himself, had
seen the white cat in the doorway of the _venta_, which the same family
had owned for generations.

Upon examination I found that the present house, rebuilt when the actual
owner was married some twenty-five years ago, stood on the ruins of a
Tartessian construction, the walls of which, over a yard thick, were
still visible, forming the boundary of a paved floor on which tables and
benches were set out for the wayfarers frequenting the place. Previous
to the rebuilding, the ruined walls had enclosed a tank or reservoir for
winter rains, about ten feet deep. It had been filled up with stones from
the hillside, because the stagnant water proved unhealthy; but the place
retained its ancient name, the _Venta_ of the _Albercón_ or tank. There
was no doubt about it, those ruined walls were pre-Roman, for I had to
work for days to get through the fellow to them which sealed the entrance
to one of my chamber tombs; and the mortar was crystallised with age.

Why, I ask again—for I am quite unable to answer the question myself—do
these unlettered Andalucian peasants think they see the ghost of a white
cat come out of a modern house and disappear into a burial-place, which
may have dated from somewhere near the period when the people of ancient
Egypt worshipped a cat, among other animal deities? The only thing I can
certainly say is that the legend is one of which no one can tell the
origin, and that no one would be more astonished than these ghost-seers
to learn that a cat was something more than a cat when those tombs
were first dug out of the rock. From a certain jealousy concerning my
discovery, with which any archæologist will sympathise, I have slightly
misdescribed the locale of the haunted caves. But every word of the story
is strictly true, and I am quite willing to give full particulars to any
one who takes a scientific interest in the matter. He will not, however,
hear anything about the cat ghost unless he speaks Spanish freely and
adopts an attitude of awed credulity, for no Spanish peasant will talk of
ghosts if he thinks he is being laughed at.

When I finally left the _venta_ I had to charter an extra donkey to carry
the load of sherds of pottery, bricks, stones, and mortar that I had
gathered in the neighbourhood of Las Cuevas, to say nothing of skulls,
jaw-bones, and teeth, which Mariquita shuddered at and refused to touch
when I was packing them. But the rest of the journey to Morón was
accomplished in perfect weather, and nothing worthy of note happened on
the way.

I missed my train, owing to my inveterate habit of stopping to study
stones on the road. And the result was that I had to spend the night
in a tiny and far-from-clean room over the _posada_ where José stabled
his beasts, because the only houses of call were full of _viajantes_
and I could find nowhere else to sleep. José himself waited on me, for
a _posada_ provides no service, although a modest tip produced a pair
of nice clean sheets from the landlady of the stable. He brought me hot
strong coffee from the café which is always to be found even in small
Spanish villages, coaxed hot water from some unknown place, for there is
never a kettle in a _posada_, and slept with his head on my baggage at
the foot of the stairs leading up to my room.

“It was no place for a lady,” he said, “but at least he knew the people
to be honest, and I could feel quite safe (as indeed I did) with himself
close at hand.”

I only caught three fleas in my bed, which I thought a moderate allowance
for a room over a stable, and when I was awakened by the chumping and
stamping of the numerous animals below me I smiled to think of my
family’s horror could they have seen my quarters that night. They have
accustomed themselves, by force of circumstances, to the idea of my
sleeping on straw mattresses in country cottages, but this was my first
introduction to a _posada_.

I do not know that I yearn to repeat the experiment, but it was worth
while for once. The discomfort was atoned for by the picturesqueness of
the stable through which I had to pass to get in and out of my room, with
the animals and their owners dimly outlined in the light of two or three
ancient olive-oil lamps hung here and there on the walls. A Madonna-like
young mother with a baby at her breast, resting against a pair of
panniers which her husband had backed up with a load of straw and covered
with a gay striped rug, formed a pretty contrast to a grey-haired old man
who was cooking his supper on a blackened brick stove in a corner near
by. And the people of the house, fat and comely and pleasant-looking, sat
on a queer little landing half-way upstairs, sewing and chatting under a
two-candle-power electric bulb hanging from a wire so thick with flies
that it looked like a hempen rope. They seemed quite indifferent to those
around, but I saw that they were keeping a watchful eye on the comings
and goings below, ready to secure their money at any moment from the
customer whose movements indicated an early departure with his donkey.
The gallery gave on to a tiny kitchen, where they cooked their own
meals, although declining, as the law permits, to cook mine. It was hung
with brightly polished brass utensils, and a few bits of coarse pottery
adorned the chimney shelf. Among these was a curious old plate of local
manufacture, which they sold to me for a few pence when I took my leave
in the morning.

And so ended that trip in the Sierra. A chill in the air told me that
winter was approaching as I rode down to the station, escorted to the
very carriage door by the faithful José; and with a sigh of regret I saw
my _jamugas_ consigned to the luggage van, knowing that they would now
have to lie idle at home for many weeks to come.

[Illustration: A FUNERAL VESTMENT OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.]



CHAPTER X

    Mourning customs—“Keening” the dead—The night before the
    funeral—Sympathetic friends—“Accompanying” the mourners—A
    verbal error—Black masks at a dance—A black-draped house—The
    locked piano—Three years’ seclusion—The mourning of the
    poor—Black shirts but laughing faces—“Killed in action”—The
    heroism of Rosa—“My Papa”—Why Paz will be an old maid.


Mourning in Spain is a serious feature of family and social life. Even in
the larger towns one sees but a slight tendency to move with the times,
and away from Madrid, Seville, or Barcelona the rigid observance of
ancient customs is, like the customs themselves, quite Oriental.

I remember being kept awake almost all one night in a large town by an
extraordinary concert of lamentable sounds which issued from a tenement
house next door. First came a long tenor wail, rising and falling in a
minor key, then a precisely similar wail in a deep contralto, and then
in a shrill treble, evidently from a child. I learnt next morning that
an infant had died in the house in question, and that the father, the
mother, and a small brother had been “keening” the dead all night long.
This demonstration of grief is not so common now as it was a few years
ago, even among the least educated classes, but other peculiarities
hardly more in accordance with modern ideas are to be observed among
mourners of all ranks.

Of these one of the strangest, to our ideas, is the custom of holding
what might be called a wake over the corpse the night after death. The
funeral has to take place within twenty-four hours, an excellent sanitary
regulation which we English might adopt with advantage. But, as a young
lady in deep mourning for her adored mother calmly remarked to me, “It is
true that in the cold climate of England dead persons do not decompose so
rapidly as here.” It is also true that twenty-four hours amply suffice
to put the family into mourning in a country where every woman has, as a
matter of course, a suit of black in her wardrobe all the year round, so
that no time is lost in making clothes for the funeral, and on the night
after a death has taken place all the most intimate friends are ready to
sit round in token of sympathy.

A great deal of very real kindness is shown in cases of severe illness.
Trained nurses are seldom or never called in, but the friends take turns
to sit up with the family and the patient, and, if they are not rich,
keep them supplied with chickens, eggs, and whatever else may be of use
in the sick-room. The custom of “accompanying” the sufferer is, however,
sometimes embarrassing to foreigners. On one occasion, when a member of
my family was supposed to be _in articulo mortis_, his most intimate
Spanish friend almost insisted on sharing my night-watches; and when at
length I persuaded him that even his sympathetic presence might prove
injurious to one for whom absolute quiet was the only chance, he said
with intense conviction—

“At least you must promise to send for me at any moment of the day or
night when you know the last hour is at hand, that I may witness the
ascent of so noble a soul to heaven!”

My appreciation of what I knew was meant for the truest kindness hardly
mitigated my repugnance to the mere suggestion of such an intrusion on
one’s privacy at such a time. Happily for Don Antonio’s feelings as
well as for mine, the illness took a favourable turn, and our friend’s
tears of delight at the good news quickly obliterated the jar he had all
unconsciously inflicted on one’s susceptibilities at the time of crisis.
Another friend, out of sheer courtesy and goodness of heart, contrived to
shock still more our British ideas: he came post-haste, on hearing that
the patient was given up, to offer his services in the arrangements for
the funeral!

Our ideas of keeping the sick-room free from movement or noise, and our
refusal to receive at the bedside all the kind Spanish friends who came
to inquire, struck them as very strange indeed, for with them sympathy
is necessarily expressed by providing plenty of company “to cheer the
sufferer” and those near and dear to him. I remember on one occasion
being pressed by a friend to go and call on the mother of a girl who
was desperately ill with meningitis—a complaint which (if correctly
diagnosed) seems curiously common among the well-to-do in this country. I
demurred, on the ground that my very slight acquaintance with the lady
hardly justified my intruding on her grief and anxiety.

“But she is my cousin, and you are my friend, and she will certainly
notice your absence if you do not go.”

I went. I counted twelve women and girls in the patient’s room, for I was
obliged to go upstairs and look at the poor girl through the open door,
or be regarded as cruelly unkind by the mother.

She died, as was to be expected, a few days later, and I had to appear at
the house of mourning on the evening of the funeral, accompanied by the
one member of our family belonging to the dead girl’s generation. I had
a black dress, but my girl had only a white one, and we had hoped that
this might be accepted as an excuse for her non-appearance. By no means.
The cousin and her two daughters came in person, swathed in black silk
shawls from head to foot, to insist on our both going with them to “_dar
el pésame_,” to express sympathy with the mourner.

It was one of the most distressing experiences I have had in Spain. We
elder people all sat round the room on chairs, sofas, and settees too
heavy to move an inch from their appointed places, and one by one we were
led into a small inner room where the mother, blind with crying, sat
hunched up with her elbows on her knees and her head on her hands, giving
loud utterance to her unrestrained grief.

“Oh, my daughter, my dear companion! Oh, my daughter, my dear companion!”
she moaned over and over again in a voice hoarse with sobbing, and not
in the least knowing what she was saying.

We had to sit down and kiss her tear-drenched cheek and say what a
beautiful and charming girl her Belén had been, and offer a conventional
prayer for divine consolation, and then some one else came in to take our
place, amid a fresh burst of sobs and moans. The poor soul had worked
herself into a state of hysterics, but through it all was conscious
that she was fulfilling her friends’ expectations and doing the right
thing by her daughter in thus proving herself helplessly broken down by
her trouble. Self-restraint on such an occasion is considered to show
coldness of heart and a lack of respect and affection for the dead.

When I came out after my painful interview with the mother, I found all
the young cousins and companions of poor Belén in shrieks of laughter,
and they all turned on me exclaiming—

“Oh Doña Elena, how funny your Olivita is! What amusing things she says!
And what strange customs you have in your country!”

It appeared that my “Olivita” had been trying to explain in her still
imperfect Spanish that in England young men and maidens were allowed to
go out walking together, unchaperoned as here by “Mamma” on one side and
“my aunt” on the other. And in mistake for _pasear_, to go out walking,
she had used the word _besar_, which means to kiss. So that our mourners
took her to say that it was the custom in England for the men and girls
to kiss each other whenever they met in the street, and their amusement
at the idea had completely blotted out of their minds for the time being
the melancholy reason for their meeting.

The elder ladies took it all as a matter of course.

“Poor children,” they remarked; “they are very tired, and they laugh
easily. It is quite natural, and generally happens on these sad
occasions.”

As may be imagined, such vociferous grief does not long endure; but well
as I thought I understood the Spanish temperament, I was rather shocked
when on one occasion two girls in black masks and dominoes accosted me at
a Carnival dance, and revealed themselves as the sisters of a youthful
bride who had died, with her baby, less than a month before.

They threw themselves on my mercy, fearing that I might recognise them,
and begged me not to betray their escapade to their mother, who believed
them to be spending the evening with a sick friend, and whose consent had
been with difficulty obtained for them to go out even on that errand, so
soon after their sister’s death. I think this was an exceptional instance
of “quick frost, long thaw,” but one often finds women in deep mourning
speaking bitterly of the restrictions imposed by custom on their social
and even their home life when a near relative dies.

I have heard of the whole house, from the street door to the ladies’
boudoir, being hung with black draperies for the nine days of rigorous
mourning after the sudden death of the master of the house, and during
all that time the women had to sit in semi-darkness, morning, noon, and
night. The daughters were not allowed to touch the piano for three full
years after their father’s death. A friend of theirs and mine told me
that the girls, who were very fond of music, and good pianists, moped
themselves into actual illness, so keenly did they feel the loss of their
favourite occupation after their first grief had worn off, but nothing
would induce the mother to have the piano unlocked. They were fresh young
girls in their teens when the father died, full of life, of good social
position, and with plenty of money to gratify every whim. When I saw them
after their three years’ seclusion they were pale, thin, and melancholy,
and looked like women nearer thirty than twenty in their enveloping
chiffon veils, for although they had left off crape they were still clad
in black from head to foot.

The friend in question, a young married woman with a devoted husband and
two pretty little girls, had herself just emerged from a year’s strict
retirement after losing her mother. She told me she was looked on by the
older generation as an unnatural creature, because she had now begun to
play her beloved piano again.

“You cannot tell how I have longed for music sometimes, as I grew
accustomed to my loss,” she said, “but I could not bring myself to
play. It would have seemed so dreadful to my friends and relations. I
have often been terribly sad. I have sometimes almost gone mad with
depression. My husband has begged me to travel with him, to play the
piano, to do anything in the world that would tend to lessen my sadness.
But as I never obey him when I am happy, you may guess how little
attention I paid to his wishes when I was mourning for my mother. Now it
is a year since she died, and I cannot help it if my neighbours criticise
me. I _must_ begin to live again.”

The strange thing about this shocking exaggeration of the outward
semblance of grief is that while almost every woman one meets complains
of its absurdity, its evil effects on the health, its cruel inroads on
youth and happiness, none of them have the courage actively to rebel.

Poor people, while of necessity rousing themselves speedily to go out
in search of the day’s wage, are just as strict as the rich in their
mourning garb. When a parent dies, everything has to be black: black
facings are stitched on to the men’s shirt fronts and cuffs, black
cotton coats are worn, black neckties in place of collars, and black
felt hats, even in the height of summer. The women for their part wear
black underclothes beneath their black dresses, and tie up their heads in
black handkerchiefs, sometimes pawning all their coloured clothes to pay
for the conventional garments of woe. Beneath these gloomy trappings one
often sees beaming smiles and eyes full of life and fun; for the workers
are nothing if not sincere, and when they feel happy they show it. But
when the country is in trouble whole towns and villages seem to feel it;
as, for instance, during the Moroccan War of 1909. The massacre of some
two thousand soldiers in the death-trap of the Gurugú at Melilla threw a
great number of poor families into mourning; and again in 1913, during
the campaign of Larache, as it was here called, mourning was widespread.
Every day brought news that one or two or ten or twenty men had fallen in
the guerilla war carried on against Spain by the arch-bandit El Raisuli:
and here not only the immediate family of the dead man wears black for
him, but mourning is _de rigueur_ among all the collateral relations even
to second and third cousins.

This was brought home to me one day when I wanted to photograph a stream
where women and girls were washing, for every one of them that day wore
black. We finally gave up the attempt, and waited for another occasion,
for, as I remarked to my photographer, we ought to introduce in the
brilliant sunshine at least one girl dressed in colours.

“Very true,” was his answer, “but there is a great deal of mourning
about. You see there are so many soldiers dying in Morocco just now.”

And many officers too, was my mental addition, for his words sent my
thoughts with a painful rebound to a scene of domestic tragedy which I
had witnessed not long before.

A lad of twenty-one, fresh from the Military Academy at Toledo, had
been killed in his first action, within a week of landing in Africa.
His younger brother and sister were driving to attend the _Jura de la
Bandera_ (oath to the colours) of the new recruits on the parade-ground
outside the town where they lived. They bought a morning paper and read
in it the news of their brother’s death, “which he gloriously met in
the endeavour to save a wounded private.” Their father, who was an army
doctor, was away from home; their mother, an invalid suffering from
heart trouble, never read a paper. The two poor children, for they were
nothing more, determined to conceal from her what had happened until
their father’s return. He meanwhile, to break the blow, telegraphed to
her that their Antonito was wounded, and she jumped to the conclusion
that he was bringing the young man home to be nursed, and for three
mortal days Julian and Adelita kept their secret and watched their mother
preparing the bedroom and making cooling drinks and strengthening broths
for the boy who was already in his grave.

My girl, who was a great friend of theirs, told me that Adela and her
brother broke down completely when they were with her and out of their
mother’s sight, but they contrived somehow or other to pull themselves
together and bear brave faces before her, even when she called them
straight from the condolences of sympathetic friends in the _cancela_
to ask their opinion of this or that arrangement she had made for the
comfort of their lost brother. They thought that their father, being a
doctor, would know how to tell her what had happened without danger to
her health, when he came home, and that gave them strength to play their
parts.

Poor children and poor mother! When on the third day the cab drove up and
the father got out alone, Doña Ramona needed no telling of the truth. She
cried out, “My son is dead! I knew it all the time,” and fell fainting on
the floor. And even then Adela and Julian subdued their own grief, while
they helped to carry her upstairs and lay her on the bed which she did
not leave again for many weeks.

And here I should like to tell another little story, also of brave
self-restraint in the face of death, though of a different character.

Whatever may be the attitude of certain classes of Spaniards towards
their religion and their priests, it is certain that most ladies of
gentle birth believe implicitly in the dogmas and teaching of their
Church. And of these one tenet of the truth of which they are absolutely
convinced is that a soul which leaves the body unshriven will suffer
doubly in purgatory, unless Supreme Unction is omitted owing to wilful
obstruction on some one else’s part. In such a case the one who
interferes with the last rites must bear the penalty, which here, in
the belief of a strict Catholic, amounts to little less than eternal
damnation.

A girl friend of mine saw her mother suddenly struck down with pneumonia,
and the doctors told her that the case was quite hopeless, and that
death must supervene within three days. None of the family had had the
slightest idea that there was any danger, and when Rosa returned to the
sick-room after hearing the verdict, her mother reproached her for being
so long away.

“I heard you talking,” she said; “who were you with, and what was all the
conversation about?”

“It was the—the—laundress,” said Rosa, “you know how careless she is.”

Her great-aunt, a stern old lady who ruled Rosa and her sister with a rod
of iron, here called the girl out of the room.

“Not a moment must be lost,” she said. “We must immediately send for the
priest, lest your mother should suddenly die without the Holy Oils.”

And now Rosa, a plump, placid, and hitherto seemingly characterless
person, showed what filial love is capable of. I will finish the story in
her own words, as she related it to me a few months later.

“I knew that if the priest came it would frighten my mother terribly.
She was not at all frightened then, and was she to spend her last days
on earth in a state of panic? ‘I will not send for the priest,’ I told
my great-aunt, for it was _my_ duty to send in the absence of my father,
because I was the elder of the children and a nearer relation than my
great-aunt. She was very angry. ‘You know what this means?’ she asked,
and I said ‘Yes.’ I knew what my punishment would be, and I was willing
to remain for ever in purgatory to spare my mother the fear and pain of
knowing that she must leave us all. I was very frightened, but I would
not give way, and my father is a free-thinker, so when he came home
he said I had done well. But after my mother was dead (she died quite
peacefully, thinking she was only falling asleep) my conscience troubled
me very much, and I went and told what I had done to our confessor. And
he was very gentle to me. He said: ‘Child, there are moments when what
seems a mortal sin is only a lesser sin.’ And he gave me only a little
penance, for he said he knew I had suffered very much.”

I am generally very careful to refrain from expressing any sort of
opinion regarding the rites and rules of a religion which is not my own;
but on this occasion I forgot myself. I told Rosa she had behaved nobly,
and kissed her on both cheeks as heartily as if I had been a Spanish
lady. With immense difficulty I had induced the father and the terrible
great-aunt to let Rosa come with me to the seaside, for she had been
ailing ever since her mother’s death, and it was considered impossible
for her to leave the house in her own town, even for the walks which the
doctor had recommended as necessary exercise.

“Dear Doña Elena, you are too good to me,” she said, returning my embrace
with effusion; “how glad I am Papa let me come to stay with you. Paz and
I were both getting so dreadfully fat sitting indoors all day, and oh!
so _triste_. My mother liked society and amusement, as you know, and
she took us out every day to the Promenade or to pay visits, and now we
can never go out at all, except to Mass, and we were getting fatter and
fatter. Paz has her _novio_, but I had nothing to distract me till you
brought me here. If it were not for my dear Papa I should like to stop
with you all the summer.”

Her “dear Papa” was a distinguished-looking man who earned a good
income in a Government office, but having perpetrated a poem or two
when younger, went through life posing as a soul astray in a desert
of uninteresting fact. He wore rather long hair thrown back from his
forehead in picturesque disarray. The picturesqueness was, however,
somewhat discounted by my simple Rosa, who, seeing a bottle of a
favourite Spanish hair-wash on my table, naïvely observed—

“My Papa is using this. His hair has got thin on the top of his head, and
he is so worried about it! Do you think this stuff is any good? Paz and I
take turns to rub it on his scalp every night for half an hour before he
goes to bed, but I don’t see much difference.”

“My Papa” was by no means a disconsolate widower. While the women of the
family carry their mourning to the exaggerated lengths I have described,
the men resume their usual habits a very short time after the funeral.
Thus Papa’s daughters would often have to sit up very late at night to
attend to his hyacinthine locks before he went to bed, but they took it
all as a matter of course, and would have been extremely surprised had I
hinted that Rosa’s delicate health and over-strained nerves might be a
sufficient excuse for her release from these nocturnal duties. This is
another aspect of the Oriental tradition—the inability of both men and
women to realise that the husband or the father has not the right, simply
because he is the husband or the father, to demand from his women-folk
the service of slaves at all hours of the day or night, regardless of
their convenience, happiness, or health.

When their mother had been dead a year, and Rosa and Paz had recovered
their natural spirits and were ready to enjoy life again, their father
had an attack of influenza, and both the girls got into a panic lest they
were to be left doubly orphaned. He was not seriously ill, but very sorry
for himself, and for months afterwards, whenever he caught the slightest
cold or felt the least little indigestion, he would come home from his
office and go straight to bed, and then he expected both his daughters to
be ready to wait upon him. Paz always had to prepare his meals, because
she knew better than the cook how he liked them flavoured; and Rosa had
to be on hand to sit with him, read to him, and generally anticipate his
every requirement. And as they never knew when he might feel unwell and
come home to bed, and as he, of course, never dreamed of sending them
notice beforehand from his office, it ended in his daughters literally
never daring to go out at all after lunch.

I was shocked when I discovered the life they were leading. The _novio_
of Paz had broken off the engagement, nominally because she could not pay
her weekly duty calls on his mother, who was a stickler for etiquette
and had no sympathy with “my Papa’s” hypochondria, and the only gleam of
brightness on the poor girls’ horizon was the appearance of a lover for
Rosa, the quiet one of the sisters, who had never attracted attention
like handsome Paz. It was quite useless to ask them out, to suggest
their taking turns in keeping Papa company, to make impromptu calls on
the way to cinematographs or theatres on the chance of finding them
free. Papa always either had just gone to bed or was just expected home
to dinner; their duty to him had become an obsession, and the obsession
was encouraged by him from purely selfish motives, and by the old aunt
because in her view the girls would be committing a grave breach of
decorum in going into society so soon (well over a year!) after their
mother’s death. And worst of all, papa, from pure jealousy, objected to
Rosa’s lover and forbade him the house, professing to have discovered
that his means were uncertain, and announcing that he had no intention of
spending his own hard-earned money on the support of an idle son-in-law.

But for once Papa met his match. The lover was neither idle nor
impecunious, but a man of strong character and good position, and he was
genuinely attached to our placid Rosa. So one fine morning the lovers met
at Mass, and got married after a fashion peculiar, I believe, to Spain.

Just before the Mass ended they stepped forward, declared themselves
man and wife, and asked for a blessing on their union. The priest may
object, but he cannot refuse, for he must pronounce the benediction after
saying Mass, and that serves as the blessing which sanctions these stolen
marriages.

So Rosa went away with her husband and was happy, and soon fined down
to her normal soft but shapely plumpness, while poor Paz stayed at home
and pandered to her father until she came to weigh something like two
hundredweight.

I met her quondam _novio_ shortly after Rosa’s marriage, and gently
reproached him for deserting the girl whom he had “pretended to” for so
long.

“Don’t blame me,” he said; “it’s all her father’s fault for not letting
her take enough exercise to keep her fat down. I am not tall (he was
about five feet high, a slim little pocket Adonis), and I haven’t the
courage to make myself ridiculous by marrying a woman who will make two
of me before she is thirty.”

I could not help feeling that there was something to be said on his side;
but once again the cruel results of this branch of Spanish etiquette
became apparent. If Paz had been able to lead a natural life, walking
by day and dancing by night, as she did while her mother was living,
she would not have lost either her figure or her lover, for before they
went into mourning she and Rosa were among the merriest and most active
of all the girls in their set. And now one can anticipate for her no
brighter future than to be the maiden aunt to Rosa’s children, a sort of
household drudge and mother’s help for life;—beloved, it is true, by the
nephews and nieces, who will regard her with an affection almost if not
quite equal to that bestowed on their mother herself, but always just
“my aunt,” a woman in a subordinate position, given a home for the sake
of her services as nurse while the children are young, and as duenna
when the girls grow up. She will always be cheerful and philosophical,
for Paz is made that way, and she will always be practical and helpful
in the house. But she will be an old maid, a good wife spoiled, and she
will feel it to the end. And all because when she was yet in her teens
she was compelled to sit indoors for a year after her mother’s death,
and therefore grew so fat that her lover was frightened away. Poor Paz!
She is one of many victims to a ridiculous and indefensible custom and a
mistaken sense of duty.



CHAPTER XI

    Entertaining in town and country—Critical guests—A subscription
    ball—_Le dernier cri_ from London—Dancing in a bog—Why the
    ladies went home—The search for Spanish gaiety—A disappointed
    artist—Afternoon calls—Arab hospitality—Ladies at work—Spanish
    unpunctuality—A new winter coat—Maria’s compliment—Open house
    to old servants—Carmen the _cigarrera_.


It does not cost much to entertain in Spain, at any rate in the smaller
towns. In the large towns things are otherwise, and it may be as well to
begin by relating an incident that I heard of in connection with some
very pleasant friends who lived in one of the “capitals,” which means
the chief town of the great provinces into which Spain is divided. Here
there is a great deal of _cursileria_—a slang term best translated as
“snobbishness”—and as every lady who gives a party wishes to spend more
than any other lady, and as pride is everywhere more plentiful than
pesetas, little hospitality is shown to or by people who are not rich.

[Illustration: POSED FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHER.]

An heiress had married the head of an old and noble family who himself
possessed hardly anything beyond the family estate in Castile. Just when
her eldest girl put on her first long frock and was about to be presented
at Court, my friend lost almost all her money through some unfortunate
speculation on the part of her husband—for the husband, be it observed,
is absolute master of his wife’s property in Spain. After the first shock
the Condesa removed to a smaller house, and arranged her mode of life to
suit her altered circumstances, while the Conde, a Colonel in the King’s
Guard, went to Madrid as usual to fulfil his duty at Court.

One of the things saved from the wreck was a grand piano, for the Condesa
was a first-rate musician, and on Salud’s eighteenth “name-day” a party
was arranged with the double object of “offering the new house” to their
large circle of acquaintance, and giving the girl a little amusement at
home, since it was now out of the question for her to have a season at
Madrid. The three daughters set to work and made paper flowers—a pretty
accomplishment in which Spanish ladies excel—and garlands of leaves to
adorn the patio. The Condesa herself superintended the preparation of
various dainty little refreshments for her guests, and everything on the
eventful night was as bright and attractive as good taste and willing
hands could make it.

But there were no ices, no champagne, no set supper, and no band,
the girls of the house taking turns to play endless _seguidillas_,
_rigodones_, and valses for their guests. And when the dance was over and
the Condesa and her daughters stood in the patio saying good-bye to those
whom they had done their best to entertain, they heard one aristocratic
dame remark to another of her kind—

“Were you ever before invited to anything quite so shabby? Really, if
Maria de las Nieves could not afford something better than that, she had
no business to invite us at all!”

But this specimen of aristocratic courtesy was displayed in a “capital,”
and things fortunately are very different in more out-of-the-way places.

In these I have seen young people meet together to talk and laugh and
dance for hours, quite satisfied with no more costly refreshment than a
bottle of water with a single glass from which they all drank in turn;
while a lady who held weekly receptions to which we were invited once
for the whole year, was regarded as quite a liberal hostess because she
provided weak coffee and biscuits _ad lib._

It was in a country town that I had the pleasure of attending my first
and only subscription ball in Spain. The King’s approaching marriage had
brought everything English very much into fashion, and we were received
on entering the theatre, where the ball was held, by the young gentleman
who had got us the tickets, dressed as a Pierrot but wearing a bowler hat
from Christie’s, whose label was displayed by an ingenious turn of the
hand as he led me into the dancing-room, otherwise the auditorium of the
theatre.

It was Carnival, and most of the dancers were in fancy dress. The place
was prettily decorated, and the boxes and dress circle were crowded with
spectators. All the elder ladies were wearing black or white mantillas or
Manila shawls, and one ought to have received an impression of smartness
or even of elegance. But something was wrong somewhere to our English
eyes, and instead of admiring the _coup d’œil_ one cast about to see
why one felt as if one had accidentally intruded upon a festivity in
Whitechapel.

“Will you dance with me?” asked the Pierrot of a girl of our party, who,
by the way, wore a realistic beggar’s dress, all red and yellow rags,
which her Spanish friends thought very absurd because it had cost only a
few pesetas. And as the couple moved off together I suddenly discovered
why the scene reminded me of a London coster dance. Every young man and
many of the old ones wore a hat—generally a bowler—and even if he took it
off to valse, which not many of them did, he carried it carefully under
his arm as he danced, regardless of the inconvenience to his partner.

“What do you think of our ball?” asked an acquaintance, who was smoking a
cigarette as well as wearing his hat.

I was tactless enough to say that it looked odd to us to see so many
hats about, and I noticed that the young man’s face fell. I learnt
afterwards that the bowler from Christie’s was believed to be absolutely
the _dernier cri_ in England, and that being so, it was considered as
appropriate to the ballroom as to the street.

The entertainment was got up by the rank and fashion of the town,
so everybody behaved with great dignity, and there was none of the
rollicking fun we expected to see at a Carnival ball. The ladies in the
boxes continually threw serpentinas and confetti at the dancers, until
the floor was inches deep in them, and an Irish girl in our party said
she felt as if she was dancing in one of her native bogs. But no one got
excited, and an English artist on the look out for local colour began to
bewail the absence of the light and life that he had believed inseparable
from Spanish society.

A little before 1 a.m. there was a universal move towards the centre of
the theatre, and at a given signal the heavens seemed to open and a mass
of paper flowers, confetti, and bonbons concealed behind the garlands
draping the ceiling, showered down on our heads, while a number of white
pigeons were let loose and flew about in terror; but still nobody got
excited. When this was over the Pierrot in charge of our party called the
eldest of the Englishmen aside and asked him to take his ladies home,
“because other ladies would be coming now”—a gentle hint, on which all
the English and most of the Spanish dames hastily took their departure.
The artist was the only one of us who stayed, hoping that with the advent
of the “other ladies” he might see something of the celebrated animation
which he wanted to introduce into his pictures of Spanish life. He told
us next day that he had stopped till 4 a.m., and then came home escorted
by half the Spanish army and all the Spanish navy—as represented at the
ball—most of them rather and some of them very drunk, but solemn to the
last.

“Spanish gaiety is a fraud,” he indignantly declared, and departed in
dudgeon, shaking the dust of our town off his feet.

But when I came to know more of Spanish society I understood why all the
ladies and many of the men were so solemn on that occasion. Being at a
subscription and thus a semi-public ball, they considered that it would
be _infra dig._ to show that they were amused. I never went to another
such dance, for I prefer natural fun among young people at a party, but
I would not have missed that one for the world; it was so delightfully
unlike anything else of the kind one had ever seen.

Afternoon calling in Spain is very different from the quarter-of-an-hour
duty visit or the formal leaving of cards which is customary in
England—or was when I left my native country ten years or so ago.

Here it is a serious matter for those who have any sort of occupation,
for one is expected to stay never less than an hour, and indeed your
intimate friends are hurt if you don’t remain the whole afternoon.

It is absolutely contrary to etiquette to go out when you have visitors,
no matter how important an engagement you may have made before the
uninvited guests appeared. I have known friends fail to arrive when
expected to a ceremonious dinner at our house, and the all-sufficient
reply to my reproaches has been, “I was very sorry, but what was I to do?
We had visitors.”

This exaggerated regard for the duties of hospitality in your own house,
coupled with a calm disregard of any obligation imposed by an engagement
to visit your neighbours, is another of the innumerable survivals of
Arabic tradition, and as such must be respected by all who would enjoy
the friendship of Spaniards. It is stronger in the south than in the
north, where the Oriental influence was comparatively ephemeral and
made no lasting impression on the natives. And it is even said that
in Barcelona the Catalans sometimes turn up punctually when they have
made a business engagement. This, I am credibly informed, is one of the
causes, as well as an effect, of Cataluñan prosperity. But the Catalans
are reputed to make a boast of their virtues, and this ridiculous regard
for punctuality and the rest is one of their many offences in the eyes
of _e.g._ the Andalucians, who are to the Catalans as oil to water, and
never will agree with them on any single question to the crack of doom.

The extraordinary indifference of Spaniards to fixed hours and previously
made engagements caused me no little trouble in connection with the
photograph facing the head of this chapter. I wanted to take a pretty
group formed day after day by the friends with whom I was staying, as
they sat at work in their charming old patio, with some small nieces
playing about them, and a typically Spanish air of ease and comfortable
_négligé_ pervading the whole scene. So I asked them to be in their usual
rocking-chairs on a certain day, fixed by themselves, and arranged with
the photographer to come at three o’clock on that afternoon, this being
the time when my friends were always sitting there with their needlework,
and the one hour in the whole day when the light in the patio, which was
shadowed by a large orange tree, admitted of successful photography.

At three o’clock the patio was empty, save for a baby niece and her
nurse. The girls, I was told, were dressing for the occasion. At
three-thirty the photographer came. By that time the baby niece, badly
bored, had begun to cry, and she continued to cry until at last she
had to be taken away. She was a pretty baby, and I did not want to
lose her from the picture. At four o’clock, when the light in the
patio was already bad, the girls at last appeared, not, as had been
arranged, in their everyday dresses prepared to sit down for a couple
of hours’ needlework, but in the costume of peasant girls got up for
the fair, and quite obviously ladies in fancy dress. Nor was this the
only disappointment to a writer who wanted a picture of Spanish ladies
at home, for the sight of the camera had attracted all the children of
my friends’ friends within range, and I was told by my hostess that
great offence would be given if they were not allowed to figure in the
photograph.

As it was evidently useless now to attempt to get the sort of group I
wanted, I gave way with such grace as I could command. The weeping baby
was brought back, still weeping and refusing to be comforted even by some
artificial flowers offered by its mother, who had put on a beautiful
Manila shawl as an appropriate garment for sewing in the patio. The
children from over the way planted themselves as seemed good to them, and
the grown ladies settled themselves as the photographer recommended. When
all was ready half an hour or so later, the sun went behind a cloud, the
baby gave an extra howl, my particular friend stepped out of focus, and
the photograph was of course hopelessly spoiled.

When the superfluous children had run away thinking it was all over,
and most of the ladies had taken their leave, the sun reappeared, and
the photographer hastily snapped the two prettiest girls, with the
baby’s mother pretending to be the nurse of the elder nieces, who yawned
violently and informed us that their dolls had gone to sleep.

All things considered, I think the result was fairly good, but it is not
a picture of Spanish ladies sitting at home with their sewing in the
reposeful attitudes characteristic of the land where one hour is as good
as another. I gave that up after wasting a whole afternoon and a certain
amount of money in the manner here described. Neither the ladies nor the
photographer seemed at all concerned at the fiasco, nor were the former
at all contrite at having caused it by their unpunctuality. Indeed one
of them, adding insult to injury, informed me that if I had had Señor
Fulano instead of Don Mengano to take those photographs I should have
obtained better results. And I think it should be counted to me for
righteousness that I refrained from pointing out what admirable pictures
my photographer produced when he had not to deal with society ladies.

The subjects of conversation at these friendly sewing parties are apt to
be somewhat limited in scope, but one that never fails to please is dress
in all shapes and forms.

The day after the photograph fiasco was the saint’s day, or name-day,
of Maria de las Mercédés, one of the two señoritas pretending to be a
peasant at the well in the patio. And in the afternoon I was invited
to eat cakes and drink wine, and be introduced to various callers who
had come to offer the usual congratulations. Mercédés had received, as
a name-day present from her brother, a new winter coat of the latest
fashion, and first she had to put it on to exhibit to every woman and
girl who called, and then every girl who called had to take the coat and
try it on for herself. How they could do this I can’t imagine, for it was
a blazing hot day of St. Martin’s summer, and in deference to a lady who
had a cold we were all together in a small sitting-room with the windows
shut. But one after the other of Mercédés’ young friends slipped into the
garment, studied her appearance in the mirrors with which every Spanish
sala is plentifully provided, suggested improvements in this or that
detail, and invariably ended by asking how much the coat cost and telling
the owner that it was a wonderful bargain.

If the señoritas had brought gifts themselves, there might have been some
excuse for their insatiable curiosity as to the price of the brother’s
present; but no: on Spanish name-days (which are equivalent to our
birthdays) it is the heroine of the day who makes offerings, represented
by cakes and wine, instead of receiving them. I trust that my readers
will not cry “enough of King Charles’s head” if I again remark that this
is an Oriental tradition, just as many of the cakes themselves are made
after Oriental recipes.

The custom of asking the price of whatever they admire is universal here,
and is not in the least considered bad manners. The first Spanish lady
whose acquaintance we made in Spain asked us what we were paying at the
hotel we were staying at. When we took a house we were always asked what
rent we paid, and when finally we bought the house in which we hope to
end our days, all our Spanish friends asked us what the price was, and
held up their hands in congratulatory amazement, exclaiming, “How cheap!”
It is always a compliment to say you have made a good bargain, and if you
wish to annoy, you have only to remark, “How they have cheated you!”

An old servant who lived with us for a good many years hoarded all her
wages and spent nothing beyond the “tips” she received from visitors. To
my certain knowledge she never bought a new dress for herself all the
time she was with us, but wore my cast-off clothes when doing her work,
and a brown, or as she called it, “Carmelite” cloth skirt, given her by a
visitor, for Mass and the street, year in year out, until some one else
gave her a blue serge which she turned and made to look like new. She was
under a vow from her childhood never to wear any colour out of doors but
brown, in honour of Our Lady of Carmel; but the vow somehow slipped into
the background when she received the blue serge, and this will probably
last her till she dies, for she is well over seventy.

This old lady, the first time she saw me in a new (and rather expensive)
dress, came up and fingered the silk very carefully, and walked round
and round me with expressions of enthusiastic admiration, such as—

“Señora, how beautiful! How handsome you are in your new costume! Never
have I seen you look so well and so fat!” (As in the East, stout women
are greatly admired here.)

And to finish up with, she said—

“Señora, the material is excellent. What did you pay for the dress, and
where did you get it? To-morrow I shall go to the shop and buy myself
just such another!”

I am afraid I did not receive this proposal with enthusiasm; but after a
while I became used to talk of the kind, for I discovered that old Maria
had no more idea of copying my clothes than she had of making a trip to
England, and merely intended to suggest that sincerest form of flattery
which is found in imitation.

I have met with many odd incidents showing how in certain ways the most
complete familiarity prevails between master and servant, although in
others there is a gulf fixed which seems to be impassable.

Servants, male and female, who have been engaged in a house even for a
short time, especially in the country, are made more or less free of
it for the rest of their lives. They may go away to other situations,
or marry and set up their own homes, but always when they come to see
their former mistress they walk in as if the house belonged to them, and
are treated as if they had a perfect right to be there. A laundress or
charwoman will arrive with three or four small children at her heels,
and these will sit about in the laundry or the patio all day, while the
mother does her work. I am bound to say that the little things generally
behave very well, being trained in the hard school of necessity,
and as soon as they can walk and talk they begin to run errands for
the household. They soon become useful in this way, for errands are
innumerable here. Save in big country houses which depend largely on
their own farms and fruit gardens for provisions, it is the exception to
have a storeroom, and every pennyworth of household sundries, down to
salt, pepper, and spices, is bought from day to day. As no attempt is
made to furnish a list of requirements for the day’s meals when the cook
goes to market, every item used in the cooking has to be got when it is
found to be wanted—a system which accounts for much of the unpunctuality
of meals in Spanish houses, and for the resultant national tendency to
various forms of dyspepsia.

This of course does not apply to the poor, whose food is of the
simplest. They eat bread and _morcilla_ or _chorizo_ (varieties of dried
sausage highly flavoured with garlic) for their lunch, and _puchero_ or
_cocido_—of which more later on—for their dinner. In the towns they buy
everything by the day, like their employers. But in the country they
largely live on what they grow themselves, unless the whole family is
engaged on the farm at a wage which includes food. And they thrive on
bread, _morcilla_, and water, not even coffee being drunk by country
cottagers, as I have discovered when accepting their hospitality on
my archæological excursions. Thus they have no need to be continually
running to the _comestibles_ shop, like their town friends, which is just
as well when the nearest town may be anything from two to ten miles away.

To return to the manners of Spanish servants. I was sitting one evening
with friends over the after-dinner coffee when a picturesque creature in
a purple garment of penitence, with a white handkerchief on her head,
and a pair of twins in her arms, strolled in to tell the family that she
had had a letter from her brother, a soldier in Morocco. They were all
obviously interested, and while I listened to their sympathetic inquiries
about the young man’s health and happiness, I finished my coffee and
handed my cup for a fresh supply. The bearer of the twins broke off short
in her talk on noticing that I refused sugar.

“Is it possible that the Señora drinks coffee without sugar? Never have I
heard of such a thing. Is it not very unpleasant to the taste?”

And then and there she shifted both babies on to one arm, took the unused
spoon from my saucer, dipped it into my cup, and proceeded to try for
herself what coffee without sugar tasted like.

I had much ado to refrain from laughing, the woman’s simple
unconsciousness of offence was so funny. One of my friends asked me in
English—

“What do you think of Spanish impudence?” but no one else took any notice.

This particular act was unusual, because everybody takes sugar in their
coffee, so that few opportunities arise for a servant to sample the
unsweetened coffee in her master’s cup. But the licensed familiarity that
underlay it is widespread.

Sometimes, however, an excess of familiarity brings about condign
punishment, as in a case that occurred in the hotel in which we stayed on
our first arrival in Spain.

I was alone in our little sitting-room one day, strumming on a guitar,
when the door suddenly opened and in marched a large blowsy woman with
big black eyes, a wilted rose in her hair, and a cigarette in her mouth.
She plumped herself down on the only easy-chair in the place, took the
guitar from my unresisting hands, remarked “I can play better than _that_
at any rate!” and struck up the twanging chords which preface every
south-Spanish song.

It was perfectly true that she played better than I did, though that
was not saying much, for she could hardly have played worse. And I was
so much amused at her calm assurance that I just sat and laughed, while
she twanged the guitar and beat on the floor with her slippered foot
preparatory to bursting into song. But the concert was quickly brought to
an end by the entrance of an indignant chambermaid, who seized the guitar
and soundly cuffed the guitarist with an _Anda! Vete tu!_(“Go! Get out!”)
full of wrath and indignation.

“She seems fond of music,” said I deprecatingly, for the whole scene had
been as good as a play to me.

“Fond of music! _Ca!_” retorted the chambermaid. “She’s the washerwoman,
and she’s drunk!”

Further inquiry elicited that the washerwoman was a _cigarrera_ by
profession—hence the cigarette, for respectable women in Spain do not
smoke. And her name was Carmen! Shades of Bizet and his “toreador”!
Alas! The landlady dismissed her next morning, and I never had another
scene from that play enacted before me. Incidentally I may remark that
drunkenness among women is extremely rare in Spain, and I can only
remember coming into direct contact with one other old lady the worse for
_aguardiente_ in all the years I have lived here.



PART III.—WINTER



CHAPTER XII

    A December festival—The “Mystery”—A holy war—The story of the
    _Seises_ and their Dance—The Triduum of Carnestolendas—The
    real Don Juan—The Dancers of Corpus Christi—The defeat of Don
    Jaime de Palafox—The Christmas Ship—Marzapan and _Polvorón_—The
    Cock’s Mass on Christmas Eve—“Nativities”—The midnight “lunch”
    in the mansion—The “Good Night” of the poor.


Probably every one who takes any interest at all in Spain has heard of
the famous Dance of the Seises before the high altar of Seville Cathedral
on certain festivals, _i.e._ that of the Immaculate Conception of Our
Lady in December, the Carnival in February, and Corpus Christi in June.
But no one either in Spain or out of it can give definite information
with chapter and verse about the origin of the dance, still less of the
name.

[Illustration: THE DANCE OF THE SEISES IN SEVILLE CATHEDRAL.

(From the picture by Gonzalo Bilbao. By permission of the owner, the Earl
of Rosebery, K.G.)]

In Spanish the word _seises_, plural of _seis_, means “sixes,” and it
is usual to conclude that the name was given because six little boys
performed the curious old-world movements known as the “dance.” But as
a matter of fact ten little boys take part, and one seventeenth-century
writer speaks of twelve and another of seven, and although my impression
is that these two figures were slips of the copyists, there is no
evidence that the number ever was precisely six, as it must have been
for that to be the origin of the name. It looks, therefore, as if the
assumption that _seises_ here means sixes (and why not Six instead
of Sixes as if they were dice?) were one of those hasty philological
generalisations based upon sound alone which constantly crop up to puzzle
the conscientious historian.

Those who pin their faith to the obvious translation of the word as
written to-day, suggest that originally there were only six dancing
boys, and that the other four were the attendants of the Archbishop,
placed by way of ornament at the four corners of the carpet on which the
dance takes place—and a very beautiful old carpet it is, by the way. But
here we meet with the objection that, whereas the corner boys are the
tallest of the ten, those who attend the Archbishop are the smallest, and
moreover that two and not four follow in his train. To us who know how
great is the force of tradition in southern Spain, it is inconceivable
that the Dean and Chapter, or the Archbishop, or even the Pope himself,
should arbitrarily and for no apparent purpose, at a time which is not
stated in any record, have added four more to the six boys whose number
is supposed to have given the name to their dance. Nor is it probable
that this particular dance should have been made numerically more
important when all over Christendom the religious dances of the Middle
Ages were dying out or were being deliberately suppressed by the Church.

The most rational explanation appears to be that of a friend of mine,
a distinguished Orientalist, who propounded a theory that the dance is
a survival of the Mozarabic ritual, and that the little “Seises” were
originally the _sais_, or attendants on the priests, at the time when
Arabic was the only language used in Seville, not only by the Moslems in
their mosques, but by the Arabicised Christians who maintained their own
forms of worship although they had forgotten their own tongue. Two little
_sais_ are seen in one of the illuminations of the _Cántigas_ of Alfonso
the Wise (1252) in attendance upon a priest who is worshipping the image
of Our Lady of the See (_Sede_—now over the high altar in the Cathedral),
and they were provided with rations and education by a Bull of Pope
Eugene IV. in 1438. But nowhere do we find any mention of their number,
as we could hardly fail to do had it been limited to six; whereas nothing
would seem more natural than the conversion of the Arabic _sais_ into
the Spanish _seis_, when Castilian was made the language of reconquered
Andalucia by law of Alfonso the Wise.

But for the loss of the deeds and archives relating to the faithful
Mozarabs of this diocese and their metropolitan Church of Saint Mary
during the troubled half-century between 1200 and the reconquest in 1248,
we might have known something about the true origin of the Seises, of
the mediæval fresco of “Our Lady of the Old Time,” and others of Mozarab
tradition, of the celebrated Guilds and Brotherhoods which come out in
procession in Holy Week, and of other curious details of Sevillian
ritual touched upon in a later chapter.

I will take the festivals enlivened by the Dance of the _Seises_ in their
order, beginning with the Octave of the Immaculate Conception of the
Blessed Virgin (to give the feast its full official title), for this not
only comes first in point of time, its vigil being on 7th December, when
winter weather has hardly yet begun in this favoured clime, but it is in
point of fact the greatest festival in the whole ecclesiastical year in
Seville, which city from first to last was the self-constituted champion
of this “Mystery.”

No one seems to know when the belief that Mary as well as her Son was
born without human agency first began to gain ground in Seville, but
Don Manuel Serrano, who has spent most of his life in the study of
Sevillian Church history and art, believes he has evidence that her
“sinless birth” was venerated from the fourth century onwards, and that
St. Isidore, the “learned doctor” of Seville, found it in the primitive
rite and transferred it to his own liturgy not very long before the
Moslem invasion. And since the Isidorian or Sevillian ritual (_Rito
hispalense_) was the one used here by the Mozarabs throughout the
dominion of Islam until San Fernando replaced it by the Roman rite in
1248, Sevillian archæologists have some ground for claiming that this see
was _par excellence_ “the land of the Blessed Virgin” (_tierra de Maria
Santisima_) throughout its chequered history. At any rate, some evidence
in favour of their claim is that the feast of the Immaculate Conception
of the Virgin does not figure in the Mozarab ritual of Toledo before the
year 1300, whereas it seems to have been in full swing here in 1248, for
Alfonso the Wise in his _Chronicle_ refers to the use in Seville of the
ritual of “Saint Isidre é de San Leadre” (SS. Isidore and Leander), which
contains this feast.

The belief in the “Mystery” was by no means universally accepted after
the reconquest even in Seville, whatever may have been the case among the
faithful Mozarabs, but feeling did not wax really hot over it until the
seventeenth century. Then the Franciscans and Jesuits combined to work
for its acceptance by the whole Church, while the Dominicans controverted
it, and Seville took the lead in what became almost a holy war.
Extraordinary acts of devotion were witnessed, among the most remarkable
being the selling of himself back into slavery by a freed slave, who
gave the price of his own flesh and blood to the cult of the “Most
Pure.” He and his fellow-negroes maintained an altar to the Conception
in the church of Our Lady of the Angels, and it was for this that the
freed slave desired to raise money. And a priest in an excess of ecstasy
actually had the A.M. (Ave Maria) branded on his face.

The burning of a Dominican monastery was considered an intervention
of Providence against those who “insulted” Our Lady by denying her
miraculous birth, and it gave rise to serious rioting, only quelled at
last by the ecclesiastical authorities placing over the door of the
monastery the inscription, “Mary, conceived without sin.” To this
period of storm and stress are to be assigned the numerous repetitions
of the monogram A.M. (Ave Maria) seen over the doors of old houses in
almost every town and village in Andalucia and other provinces where the
controversy raged, and from this century dates the addition of an image
of the Virgin to almost every one of the Holy Week processions, with its
accompanying banner called the _Sin Pecado_, because embroidered with
those words in testimony to Mary’s immaculate conception. And of this
period too is a remarkable festival cope in the church of San Lorenzo
at Seville, made of white brocade woven all over with the monogram A.M.
and the initials S.P.O., so that on every fold it reads “Hail Mary! Born
without original sin” (_Ave Maria, Sin Pecado Original_).

And now the ancient Dance of the Seises became one of the most brilliant
features in the festival of the Conception. Hitherto, one gathers, no
special pains had been bestowed upon the costumes of the boys, but in
1654 it was thought desirable to bring them “up to date.” One would give
a good deal to know how they were dressed before this, for probably the
costumes were traditional and centuries old in style if not material. But
the wealthy and pious Sevillians had then as now but scant regard for
relics of the past. The Chapter which thought it a great deed to remove
the robes in which San Fernando was buried in 1252 and replace them with
the costume of their own day (in which costume the embalmed corpse of the
great general and saintly monarch is still displayed to the gaze of his
worshippers three times in every year)—such a Chapter would be incapable
of seeing anything worth preservation in the dancing-boys’ dress of,
say, the thirteenth century. And they readily found a devout old couple
to present a complete new set of “ornaments” for the festival of the
Conception in the Cathedral, including costumes for the _Seises_.

The benefactors were Don Gonzalo Nuñez and his wife, Doña Mercia, who
had recently returned from the Indies with a handsome fortune. He was
old and crippled with gout and other ailments, but he was borne into the
Cathedral on a carrying-chair to attend the octave of the feast from the
7th to the 14th of December 1654, and thus he was able to witness “the
incredible delight of the entire city” at the splendid trappings provided
for the popular ceremony by his own and his wife’s munificence.

No less than 150,000 ducats, or £40,000 of our money, did the pious pair
set aside to endow the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, “in order
to make it as splendid as that of Corpus Christi,” and they gave the
money in their lifetime too, instead of bequeathing it by will so as to
enjoy it themselves as long as they lived. There were new blue and white
vestments for the priests, blue and white draperies for the pulpit, the
reading-desk, and the Archbishop’s throne, blue and white banners, even
cushions of blue and white for the Archbishop to kneel on in the choir
and before the high altar. Now for the first time the little boys were
given vestments of blue and white, “colours of the Mystery,” and so
comprehensive was the scheme laid down by the generous Don Gonzalo that,
as the archive says, “even the Singing Children called Seises” had “all
their borders and fringes of equal cost and richness” with those of the
Dean himself.

Nor were women entirely left out in this endowment, for it was ordered
that “certain poor maidens” should be provided with dowries out of the
£40,000, and these maidens were to walk in the processions throughout
the Octave clad to match the Seises in white robes and hooded mantles of
blue, such as Murillo was depicting then in his representations of the
Virgin. Doña Mercia for her part endowed the _Capilla de las Doncellas_
(Chapel of the Maidens) in the cathedral, and here until recent
years the dowries provided by her husband and herself were annually
distributed, and here portionless girls even now go to pray for good
husbands, although unfortunately most of the endowment funds mysteriously
disappeared in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

One of the interesting details in this donation is the light it throws on
the condition of the silk weaving industry of Seville in the seventeenth
century. All the vestments, of whatever class, the altar and other
hangings, the costumes of the Seises, and the dresses for the maidens,
were to be “of the finest possible materials,” and they were “to be woven
for the purpose in the city of Seville, which in such weaving does not
give place either to Milan or Naples.” Such is the wording of the deed
of gift. Had Don Gonzalo himself been a silk merchant we might have
suspected prejudice in favour of his own manufactures; but not so, he
had made his fortune as a general trader with the New World.

The silk industry of Seville dated from Arabic times, and appears to have
been at its height in the eleventh century under the beneficent rule of
the Abbadite kings, who brought civilisation and luxury here to a greater
height than ever was attained in Cordova, always more distinguished for
literature and science than for arts or industries. The Beni Abbad were
Yemenite Arabs, and their family with many others of Yemenite descent
(contrary to what is generally supposed) had peacefully established
themselves side by side with the Christian natives in the eighth century.
They had a full appreciation of the benefits of commerce and industry,
for the Yemenites were not nomads like many other Arabs, but had
developed, with the aid of their conquerors the Persians, a remarkable
civilisation and art in their beloved capital, Sana, the traditional
glories of which were still the theme of their poets several centuries
after the Arab occupation of Spain. Thus we find in the silks, damasks,
and brocades manufactured in Seville right down to the seventeenth
century a curious Egypto-Persian influence in design, an influence
which, strange to say, even now persists in the beautiful work done by
Andalucian women, whether lace, embroidery, or drawn thread, and in the
naïve traditional birds and beasts painted on the pottery of Triana.
So characteristic are these designs that it is easy to recognise the
Seville school of art from the earliest Arabic times down to the present
day, while the productions of the seventeenth century can be dated with
tolerable accuracy by a new feature which then appeared, as a result of
the Sevillian devotion to the “Immaculate.”

New, however, is hardly the correct word, for it had its root in the
sacred lotus of Egypt, whose pointed leaves symbolised the flame of life,
worshipped from prehistoric ages.

As far back as the thirteenth century this lotus or lily (_azucena_)
had been adopted as their heraldic device by the knightly Order of Our
Lady of Old Time, and in 1400 when they began to rebuild the Cathedral
of Seville it was assumed as the heraldic arms of the Chapter. Now, in
consequence of the general devotion to the “Mystery,” the device became
known as the “Heraldic Arms of the Virgin,” and henceforth the jar or
vase, with the two-branched lily springing from it, is ubiquitous in
Andalucian design. The calix of the lotus flower turned into the vase,
while the stamens and pistils grew into the two branches. Some artists
indeed went so far as to paint the Virgin sitting on a water-lily with
two stems, one of which had its root in the breast of St. Anna, her
mother, and the other in that of St. Joachim, her father. We can hardly
imagine that an idea so foreign to Western hagiology would have sprung up
spontaneously after the Mozarab rite had been suppressed in favour of the
Roman on the reconquest of Seville, whereas it would only be natural that
the art of the Mozarabic Church should be influenced by Eastern ideas at
the time when the members of that Church were in intimate contact with
the Arabic civilisation and were practically isolated from the rest of
Christendom. As for the Egyptian (or Coptic) tradition, the Yemenite
Arabs would have brought it with them in the eighth century, when they
came to Spain after their conquest of Egypt, and it would be reinforced
by the close intimacy which existed in the eleventh century between the
Fatimite Khalifs and the Abbadite court in Seville.

Thanks to Don Gonzalo Nuñez the celebration of the Immaculate Conception
has been observed in Seville since 1654 with greater magnificence than
anywhere else. The columns of the transepts and nave are draped from
top to bottom with crimson velvet curtains, for which the merchants of
Seville subscribed £17,000 towards the close of the century, the whole of
the reredos and the high altar are covered with plates of chased silver,
and the pyx is placed in a shrine of gold surrounded by a coronal of
blazing diamonds, each as large as a small pea. This is raised high above
the actual altar, and gleams dazzlingly through the dim light of the
candles placed round it. When the bell rings for the Elevation, after the
dance of the Seises is over, the red velvet curtains screening the Host
are slowly drawn back; soft orchestral music fills the air; the Cardinal
Archbishop steps forward to give the benediction, and the thousands of
worshippers kneel in silent adoration. Then indeed one realises the
extraordinary hold that the “Mystery” has taken upon the imagination of
the people of Seville.

The little Seises, no matter what imps of mischief they may be at other
times, comport themselves with great gravity on this occasion. Filled
with honourable pride, convinced that their dance is the event towards
which moves all the magnificent ritual of the whole Cathedral year,
each small boy feels that everything depends on the perfection of his
own performance. Should a single _Seis_ err in the minutest detail, the
whole stately dance would break up in confusion. For this “dance” is in
truth a series of complicated arabesques traced by small feet upon a
velvety carpet, each movement growing out of and depending upon those
before and after. There are over two hundred musical settings, but there
is only one rule for the dance, and a choir boy, however clever, has to
practise it for a whole year before he can be promoted to the dignity of
a _Seis_, the summit of his ambition. Indeed to be a _Seis_ is something
like winning a scholarship, for when he outgrows his costume and his
voice begins to break, his future is taken care of by the Chapter, who
train him for the priesthood if he has a bent that way, or apprentice
him to some trade whereby he may eventually earn his living, unless,
as frequently is the case, he be the son of parents able to give him a
professional career.

Their dresses are still made after the seventeenth-century fashion,
though somewhat modified, and, alas! no longer of “the best materials”
to be obtained in Seville. The trunks of an earlier day have degenerated
into knickerbockers down to the knee, but we still see the white shoes
and the white stockings which once were trunk-hose, the round hats turned
up at one side with feathers, doublets of white satin with strips of
blue edged with gold, and streamers to match hanging from the shoulders,
as once did the elegant cloaks of which these are the modest survival.
For all the changes and diminished glories of their dress, the little
Seises strike a ringing note from the past as they hurry across the broad
aisle to the choir before their dance begins, eight of them passing along
the railed-off gangway leading from the choir to the high altar, while
the two smallest place themselves one on either side of the great carved
reading-desk with its immense old missals, ready to take their place of
honour behind the Cardinal-Archbishop when he moves from his throne to
the altar. The tiny blue and white figures constitute an enchanting touch
of childish insouciance among the sombre purples of the canons’ robes
and the rich brown of the carved cedar stalls, the top of which they can
hardly look over, for they are only seven or eight years old; and they
stand first on one foot and then on the other through the long vespers
intoned by the choir-men and the beneficed clergy, trying in vain to
behave as if they were big boys not at all tired by the drone of phone
and antiphone over their small heads.

At last evensong is over and their moment of moments comes. Preceded by
the _Pertiguero_ with his silver wand of office, in tie-wig, wide falling
collar, and sixteenth-century robe of black serge, the Chapter marches
in solemn procession down the railed gangway from the choir to the high
altar, the Cardinal-Archbishop in his magnificent scarlet robe with a
_Seis_ at each side bringing up the rear. The dignitaries all kneel down
beside broad wide-armed sixteenth-century chairs placed to the right at
the foot of the altar steps, and remain on their knees throughout the
dance; the orchestra strikes up and the Hymn of the Seises begins. It
is never accompanied by the organ, but always by a string band composed
of laymen, placed opposite the seats of the dignitaries, to the left of
the altar steps. And this lay band suggests that the dance was initiated
before organs were used in the primitive Spanish Church.

There is nothing Oriental either in the hymn or in the music of the dance
which follows it; all is sweet, tender, and reverent as a religious
ceremony performed by children in a church should be. But at the close
of each couplet we are suddenly reminded of the East by the rattle of
castanets held all this time hidden in the palms of the boys’ hands,
and now played by them with a mastery of crescendo and diminuendo, that
shows how the castanets may be made instruments of music, not merely of
rhythmical noise. Here strikes the note of tradition once again, for the
castanets are Oriental and must have been introduced into the Cathedral
service, like the dance itself, by the Arabicised Christians of Seville
under Islam.

The hymn has two verses and the dance is gone through twice; then the
ten little boys run lightly up the steps, five on either side of the
altar, make their reverence to the Elements shut away from sight in the
golden pyx above the image of “Mary most pure”—a fine sculpture in wood
by Martinez Montañes—and disappear into the sacristy at the back of that
wealth of silver and brocade provided by the long-forgotten Don Gonzalo.
But before the music of the Benediction begins half the congregation
seated in the transept rise and hastily make their way to the Door of
the Poles under the Giralda tower, for that is the way the Cardinal goes
out to his palace across the square, and the pious Sevillians think an
especial blessing will be their portion if they can intercept his passage
and kiss his beautiful amethyst ring as he leaves the Cathedral after the
Dance of the Seises in the Octave of the Immaculate Conception of Our
Lady.

The next time the boys dance is during the three days of Carnival, and
if we ask why this very secular occasion be chosen, the archives of the
Chapter give us the explanation.

In 1682 there died in Seville one Don Francisco de Contreras de Chaves,
Knight of the Order of Santiago, Gentleman of the King, Familiar of
the Holy Order of the Inquisition, and one of the _Veintecuatros_
(twenty-four), an order of nobility granted to Seville and Seville
alone, in the thirteenth century. This distinguished individual was
distressed at the vain and worldly amusements indulged in during the
_Carnestolendas_ (the Latin _carnis tollendus_), which are the three
days in which meat is eaten in preparation for the forty of abstinence
beginning with Ash Wednesday; and he fondly hoped that by introducing
the Dance of the Seises into the Cathedral services of those three days,
the tide of profane entertainment might be stemmed. So he willed that
after his wife’s death all his “large fortune” should be bestowed on “the
triduum of Carnestolendas” in order that these days should be celebrated
in the Cathedral with as much pomp and magnificence as the Conception and
Corpus Christi.

When his estate came to be cleared up it was found that thirteen thousand
_pesos escudos de plata_ (about £1260) were available for the purpose,
and in testimony of gratitude to their generous benefactor the Chapter
ordered all the minor clergy and dependants of “the holy House” to attend
his funeral, half of them bearing yellow candles and half white, while
the bier was covered with the pall used at interments of prebendaries.
Further, a requiem Mass was celebrated in the church of San Francisco
(now the Town Hall) where the defunct Inquisitor was buried, and the
Chapter attended this in copes and birettas, and the Cathedral musicians
sang the Mass, which was recited by three dignitaries, the sermon being
preached by a fourth.

“In such wise,” says a contemporary writer, “the Chapter did honour to
Don Francisco de Contreras for having left all his fortune to improve the
worship of God, from whom he will have received his reward.”

Don Francisco died the same year as Murillo, but we are not told that
the Chapter bestowed any such funeral honours upon him. Presumably they
thought that having paid for his pictures they had done their duty by
the artist, although he had devoted his life to the service of religion,
painted thirty-two pictures of the Conception, and turned his back upon
worldly honours and rewards lest he should offend the Holy Office by
producing works other than religious.

The dresses provided for the Seises by the bequest of Don Francisco
are of the same style and materials as those worn for the Conception,
but where the latter are blue the Carnival garb is red, and these red
and white costumes are worn also at Corpus Christi, which takes place
early in June. There is, however, a notable difference between this
ceremony and the two former ones, for whereas they take place within the
Cathedral, that procession of Corpus goes out with the Host into the
streets, passes the Town Hall where all the rank and fashion of the town
assemble to receive it, on stands erected for the occasion, and makes
a long round through the heart of the oldest part of Seville before
returning with its sacred burden to the Mother Church.

The feast of Corpus Christi, although officially instituted in the
thirteenth century, and probably a survival of one of those pagan
ceremonies which the early Fathers, instead of quarrelling over, so
wisely adapted to Christian worship, was not developed in its full
splendour until 1613, and then the benefactor who endowed it was none
other than that interesting historical character, Don Mateo Vazquez de
Leca, Archdeacon of Seville, known in poetry and romance as “Don Juan.”

The only child of wealthy parents who died when he was yet a youth,
he became a priest and was given a high place in the Chapter at the
early age of twenty-three. It was not to be wondered at that, as a
contemporary puts it, “as his age was short and his rents were long, his
steps were not so well balanced as his ecclesiastical state demanded.”
His palatial mansion indeed was conducted on lines more befitting a
plutocrat than a priest, and his licentious life was the scandal of the
town. But when he was thirty “Heaven pleased to warn him of the peril he
was in,” by a miraculous intervention which has been erroneously attached
to the name of Don Juan Mañara, a contemporary of Murillo who gave much
gold to the Hospital of the Caridad in Seville, and ordered “Here lies
the worst man that ever lived,” to be inscribed upon his tombstone in the
church of the Hospital. Thanks to this exhibition of posthumous humility,
the adventure of Don Mateo has been attributed by the romancists to Don
Juan Mañara, instead of to the real hero, the Archdeacon, who really was
a far more picturesque personality.

The year was 1600, the day that of the feast of Corpus Christi—and
we need have no fear of error in the date, for the event figures in
the archives of the Chapter. Don Mateo, more intent upon his personal
elegance than his holy office, arrayed himself for the occasion in a
beautiful brocade under-dress, trusting that its brilliancy of silk and
gold thread would gleam through the diaphanous silk of his soutane and
the transparent lace of his rochet. For he had his mind and his eye
fixed upon a mysterious lady whom he had observed of late among the
congregation in the Cathedral, and he hoped his handsome face and richly
clad figure might win her favour on this day of religious and secular
cheer. All through the protracted ceremony in the Cathedral and the slow
progress of the long procession, he contrived to keep her in view, and
when at length he was free to divest himself of his ecclesiastical garb
and go where he would, he found her waiting for him outside the sacred
building, and immediately tried to address her.

But the lady was very coy, notwithstanding her coquettish glances at the
Archdeacon during the ceremony, and when he approached her she moved
away so fast that he could not obtain even a glimpse of her face beneath
the long black veil wrapped round her head and shoulders, nor could he
overtake her although he followed her all through the centre of the town,
into the Macarena and out round the city walls until she led him back
again into the Cathedral.

Within the building it was now twilight, for the whole afternoon had been
consumed in the pursuit, and the lady flitted from chapel to chapel, and
altar to altar, until at length she paused before that of Our Lady of the
Old Time. Don Mateo trembled, for this image had always been his especial
devotion. But the flesh after so many years of self-indulgence was too
strong for the spirit. He clasped the lady in his arms, forgetful of the
sacred spot on which he stood, and tore off her veil, intent on seeing
the lovely features of the woman who had defied him so long. One word was
breathed into his ear, like a sigh from another world.

“ETERNITY!” was the word he heard, and down the long empty aisles it
seemed to float away, only to rise again and roll out louder—louder until
it sounded like thunder on the ears of the wretched priest.

And then with a horrible rattle of dry bones, the warm living body he
held in his arms sank into a shapeless heap on the floor. That for which
he had committed sacrilege was nothing but a withered and disintegrated
skeleton.

From that moment the Archdeacon led a new life, and in his deep
repentance he became the most devout of all the priests in the Chapter.
He left his magnificent mansion and moved to a mean house in the alley
of Santa Marta, under the shadow of the Cathedral; he devoted his whole
fortune to pious and charitable uses; and he endowed with large rents for
ever the feast of Corpus Christi, because on that day God had seen fit
to rescue him from his life of sin. He gave for the feast no less than
an hundred silver candlesticks, hangings and canopy for the high altar,
and silver altars to carry in the procession through the streets. He gave
a complete set of white vestments to be used only on that day, for all
the Chapter, the minor clergy, the singers, musicians, and servants of
the altar, including of course the Seises. He gave altar-frontals for
the portable altars, hangings for the pulpit and the Cathedral cross,
curtains for the silver shrine, and rich draperies for the platform on
which the shrine with the pyx within is carried through the town. And he
endowed the preachers, bell-ringers, illuminations, and procession—in
short, everything relating to the festival, not excepting the Guild of
Our Lady of the Pomegranate, which maintains an altar in the Chapel of la
Granada (pomegranate) under the Giralda, and still preserves the weighty
poles on which until recent times they carried the platform with the
shrine, in the genuine old Arabic fashion.

From the earliest times the procession of Corpus Christi had been
attended not only by the little Seises in their gala dress, but also
by groups of men and women dancers similar in idea to the Giants and
Bigheads which figure in the festival of Our Lady of the Pillar at
Zaragoza, as described in Chapter XVII. These have now been suppressed
for so long that few know what they once were, but I find a mention of
the Giants in the year 1690, when the Civil Governor or _Asistente_, as
he was then called, combined with the Archbishop, Don Jaime de Palafox,
in a determined attempt to put down celebrations which they considered
inconsistent with the dignity of the Church.

They knew very well that if the public became aware beforehand of what
was intended it would be impossible to carry out their scheme, so nothing
was said until six o’clock in the morning of the festival. Then the
announcement was made that no group of Dancers should enter the Cathedral
on pain of a fine of one hundred ducats for the leader of any such party,
and fifty ducats and four years’ imprisonment for the bearer of any
one of their banners. But the Archbishop and the _Asistente_ reckoned
without their host, for although the people, stupefied by this unexpected
interference with their immemorial rights, remained quiet as if stunned
by the blow, the lawyers of the Town Council (which provided funds for
the “Dancers”) went straight to the Court of Justice, and presently the
Archbishop was informed that he had no legal status in the matter, that
the “Dancers” were immediately to take their accustomed places in the
procession within the Cathedral, and the ceremony was to proceed in the
usual order.

The Archbishop, furious at his authority being disputed, ordered that
if the Dancers entered the Cathedral the procession should be at once
withdrawn, and the Host in its magnificent silver _Custodia_ (a replica
in miniature of that erected in the “Monument” during Holy Week) should
be taken back to its own place. But now the priests, friars, and other
ecclesiastics turned against him, saying that they had been invited by
the Chapter to attend the carrying forth of the Host among the people,
and they could not leave the Cathedral until this sacred duty had been
fulfilled.

Meanwhile the public, angry and disappointed, saddened by a quarrel over
what they held sacred, and terrified lest the divine wrath should descend
upon the city because the feast-day was not being honoured according to
the ritual of their forefathers, collected in the Plaza de San Francisco,
and clamoured for the procession to start, while the gentler and more
timorous spirits knelt down all along the streets and prayed to God to
remove the difficulties which had so suddenly and unexpectedly arisen.

At long last the Archbishop withdrew, his place being taken by a lesser
dignitary, and the procession came out of the Cathedral with the Dancers
in their usual places, followed by the Brotherhood of the Tailors (of
whom more anon), the Capuchins, Mercenaries, Augustines, and Carmelite
friars, the Tribunal of the Inquisition, the canons, and the _Asistente_,
who could not dissimulate his indignation at the defeat of himself and
the Archbishop, over which the whole town was rejoicing all along the
route.

Don Jaime de Palafox then appealed to the King and the Pope, but all
he got was an order that women should be excluded from the Dances and
that no masks or other disguises should be worn by the Dancers in the
Cathedral, no attempt being made to put a stop to the dances themselves,
because “this kind of festival had always continued in Seville.” The
Archbishop was charged neither to impede nor to embarrass the entry of
the Dancers into the Cathedral, and he got a rap over the knuckles from
the King for having tried “to introduce novelties.”

Don Jaime de Palafox was not the man to own himself beaten, and ten years
later came the turn of the _Seises_. On June 18th of the year 1700 he
got an order from the Pope to the Chapter to “suppress the abuse of the
dances of the Seises,” apparently thinking he would thereby put an end to
that traditional performance. The Dean, however, was as stout a fighter
as Don Jaime himself. He represented to the Holy Father that the Hymn and
the Dance of the Seises could not be fairly judged of by hearsay but
must be seen to be understood, and he reminded the Pope that the first
principle of the Council of Trent was that no judgment should be given
in any dispute until both sides of the case had been heard. He stuck to
his point until he obtained permission to take the Seises, costumes,
castanets, and all, to Rome to dance before the Pope, and the final
result was that the dance remained a recognised part of the ritual of the
Cathedral of Seville, and has been performed at its appointed seasons
without intermission ever since.

Thus it survives to-day, to the pious delight of all good Sevillians.
But, as said the chronicler of the attempt to suppress it, “Only he who
sees it can comprehend it, and it is worth seeing. For it is performed
with the greatest seriousness and composure, with the result that it is
one of the most remarkable things in this Holy Church, very far removed
from irreverence, but rather an example of an especial respect to the
Lord.”

       *       *       *       *       *

About a week before _Noche Buena_—the Good Night—which is Christmas Eve,
the grocers’ shops in Seville blossom out into still-life pictures,
generally with a huge ship of wicker-work as the centre, having oars of
Bologna sausages, a great ham as a sail, and a cargo of gold in the shape
of oranges. Silver is represented by Tangerine oranges wrapped in lead
paper, and vacant corners are filled up with a variety of sweetmeats,
while the rigging consists of tinsel streamers. A banner of the national
colours, of more or less expensive silk, flies of course over the whole,
and this “flagship” is flanked by a squadron of lesser fry in every shape
and form, but always of wicker-work. The whole fleet and its constituent
parts are offered for sale at exaggerated prices, and the crew in every
case consists of one or more bottles of wine.

These baskets of provender are bought for Christmas gifts, and if we may
judge from the absence of any special attractions in other shops, they
are the most popular kind of present, except marzapan cakes. Of these
the confectioners offer a considerable variety, the majority in the form
of bulls or dragons, but some representing the beloved ham, which is so
favourite an article of food, while some, but these are the minority,
are made in pretty and artistic rounds, diamonds, or floral forms. All
consist of the same rich almond paste, and all are adorned with preserved
fruits and bonbons. Several varieties of a kind of nougat called _turrón_
also appear at Christmas and on two or three other great festivals, and
some of them are delicious.

The marzapan cakes, like the _turrón_ and the baskets of groceries, are
all very expensive, which is not surprising in a country where even the
locally made beetroot sugar is so heavily taxed that the consumer has to
pay 70 centimes a pound for it. Thus the above dainties are only for the
rich. The Christmas cake of the poor is called _polvorón_, and consists
of a curious dry substance like extra short short-cake, made chiefly
of almond flour, sugar, and white of egg. The Christmas _polvorón_ is
a large round cake, about half an inch thick, and it generally has
a preserved orange in the middle, into which an artificial flower is
stuck. It is always sold on a cardboard tray, because its consistency is
such that it would otherwise fall to pieces of its own weight. Although
it costs a mere trifle compared to the marzapan and _turrón_ eaten in
well-to-do houses, it is nevertheless of excellent flavour.

Indeed I doubt whether the workers do not prefer their _polvorón_
to marzapan, if only because they get so much more of it for their
money. It is customary to give a cake to your servants for Christmas,
and I recollect that on one occasion, when talking over a projected
kitchen-party with my cook, she politely gave me to understand that
much as they had enjoyed the beautiful marzapan dragon of the previous
Christmas, they would really prefer a _polvorón_ this time, as the same
expenditure on that class of cake would allow all their friends to cut
and come again, instead of being limited to a mere mouthful, as had been
the case with the five-dollar dragon of last year.

Whatever be the cake you give to the _ménage_, the best part of it will
be set aside to offer to the master and mistress and their family. If it
be a bull, the head and horns will be kept; if a dragon, the head and
tail; and on the evening after the servants’ party, when your dinner is
over, the cook will hastily don a white apron and knot her best silk
handkerchief round her head, and will march into the dining-room bearing
the remains of the cake with all its inedible decorations carefully
rearranged to hide what has gone. This she will courteously offer to
every one at table, pressing them to taste and see how rich a dish the
Señores have provided for the delectation of those in their employ. And
as often as not some talented member of the household will stand at the
door meanwhile, and sing at the top of his or her voice an improvised
couplet setting forth the generosity and amiability of his employers.

Of the actual giving of Christmas parties there is very little. Christmas
trees are, of course, quite foreign to the soil, and I have never heard
of a Christmas dance, outside of Madrid, save those given by foreign
residents. But Christmas Eve is celebrated by high and low, and rich
people at this time spend a good deal of money in what seems to us a
singular and unpractical method of displaying their religious fervour.
This consists in setting up a _Nacimiento_ (Nativity), or representation
of the birth of Christ, which is prepared in the private chapel of the
house, if there is one, or in a principal reception-room, in as elaborate
a form as the means of the family permit.

Even the poorest try to procure something of the kind for their children,
and the necessary figures for it are sold in the streets and in the
shops for a week or so before the great day, at prices varying from one
centime to hundreds of pesetas. I have bought the whole scene modelled in
coarse crudely painted clay by the vendor, for a peseta. The stable of
such a _Nacimiento_ has three little walls and no roof, the Virgin and
St. Joseph kneel on either side of the Babe, two tiny plumes of pampas
grass and some cocks and hens represent the rural surroundings which
these artists imagine to be appropriate, and, regardless of the Bible
story, the beloved St. John as a grown man will be found somewhere in
the background. One cannot please a poor family more than by presenting
them with a _Nacimiento_ of this class. It will be set up in the place
of honour on the chest of drawers, whose top is always devoted to their
“saints”—appallingly bad images, as a rule—and family photographs; while,
if the exiguous wages permit, one or more candles will be lighted in
front of the treasure every night until the “Day of the Kings,” which
is our Twelfth Night, a far greater festival to Spanish children than
Christmas or New Year’s Day. And the smallest infant is taught that no
sacrilegious finger is to be laid on the sacred toy.

The _Nacimientos_ in rich houses are put up with an absolute disregard of
cost (I remember seeing one of which a single figure cost £4), but the
idea is the same—a plastic representation of the Nativity. Here, however,
it is made the occasion of a social function, and it is curious to read
in the papers on Christmas Day how a magnificent _Nacimiento_ was set up
over-night in the gorgeous chapel of the splendid mansion of the Dukes
of Mengano or the Counts of Fulano, and how, after the Reverend Bishop
of this or the learned Canon of that had read the Office and delivered
an inspired address, the whole family adjourned to the dining-room at 1
a.m. and were regaled with “a succulent lunch,” which was “made the more
agreeable by abundance of _champán_.”

In this country the press reports of functions of this kind are not
sparing in their adjectives. The accounts are paid for like any other
advertisement, and the rich hosts of the “new” nobility like to have
value for their money just as much as do the wealthy merchants and
financiers. As for the old rural nobility, they are mostly too much
reduced in fortune for display at Christmas or any other time, and if
they are still well off, their tastes and traditions are averse from
newspaper celebrity, so that reporters have little chance of getting
inside their grave old houses, still less of obtaining fees for
advertisements in the shape of adulatory narratives of their religious
observances.

In Seville all old customs still keep an extraordinary hold on the
popular imagination. Of these one of the most curious is a religious
ceremony called the “Cock’s Mass” (_Misa del Gallo_), which takes place
on Christmas Eve. So strange is it and so archaic that at one time
efforts were made to get the Pope to prohibit it; but the Franciscan
Friars of the Monastery of San Buenaventura appealed to him in person;
permission was given for a commission of the Brothers to perform the
Cock’s Mass at the Vatican, and after hearing it for himself the Pope
gave a special licence for its continuance in a slightly modified form.

San Buenaventura is the church to go to on Christmas Eve in Seville
if one would hear the Cock’s Mass in its most refined form, with good
singing and organ-playing; but for real local colour and a passionate
fervour which overflows all the bonds of self-restraint, we must find
standing-room, if we can, in the little chapel of San Antonio Abad, in
the street called Alfonso XII., for this is the chosen resort of the
poor, to whom their religion is as real as their daily bread.

The Mass begins on the stroke of midnight, but hours before that the
little church will be occupied by silent worshippers, who kneel on the
floor praying, with their eyes fixed on the high altar. Here is displayed
the Nativity, and prominent among the figures is a donkey, the pride and
glory of the congregation, because it is the only life-sized model of the
kind to be seen in any church in Seville.

People drop in every minute or so to look at the _Nacimiento_, kneel for
a short time in prayer, and then go out again to meet their friends and
pass the time till the Mass begins. The streets are crowded, and every
café and restaurant is full, for people go from one church to another to
see the different _Nacimientos_, and few of them will get to bed before
two or three in the morning; so the system must be sustained with coffee
and cakes, or wine and ham, or _aguardiente_ and crab claws, or cold
water and roasted chestnuts or acorns, according to personal taste and
depth of purse.

At midnight the Mass begins at San Antonio Abad with a clash of barbaric
sounds, the small organ being reinforced by guitars, tambourines,
castanets, triangles, and an Oriental instrument called a _zambomba_,
which must be an inheritance from the most primitive times of Arabic
music. This is made of coarse clay, and is in shape something like a
flower-pot, with a waist in the middle and with no bottom. The wider end
is covered with a tightly stretched parchment, through which is thrust a
thin piece of cane, tightly tied underneath. The “music” is produced by
wetting the hand and then rubbing the cane up and down, and the noise it
makes is indescribable. If one can imagine a drum bellowing like a cow
that has lost her calf, one would come somewhere near the sound of the
_zambomba_: but it must be heard to be appreciated. The Andalucians love
it, and if they can’t afford to buy a _zambomba_ for the _Noche Buena_
they will make one of a flower pot with a wet cloth stretched over it
instead of the skin—a substitute which produces even weirder noises than
the legitimate vessel.

This instrument of torture is not now often to be heard in the churches,
and it is to be feared that even in San Antonio Abad it will soon cease
to delight the Christmas Eve congregation; but when we first went to
Seville it was still an essential part of the orchestra.

The whole of the Cock’s Mass is but a gradual leading up to the crowning
act of the “Good Night”—the presentation of the Babe to be kissed by the
worshippers. In most of the churches this is a solemn ceremony, and one
feels how intensely in earnest are those who file past the altar steps
to kneel before the image of the infant Saviour. The blazing lights that
surround the image, the gorgeous vestments of the priests, the dim light
of the side aisles whence the veiled worshippers glide out, kneel to
kiss the foot of the little figure, and then disappear into the darkness
again,—all this combines to make the Cock’s Mass in many of the churches
a picturesque and emotional spectacle. In such churches there is only
the organ, or perhaps a string band, and there is nothing archaic in the
traditional Cock’s Mass save the name.

But in San Antonio Abad and other minor churches frequented mainly if not
entirely by the poor, the Mass has quite another character.

In some of these the music begins as early as eleven, soft and low at
first, and gradually increasing in tone and cheerfulness as time goes on
and the church fills more and more. And the spirits of the people rise
with the music, until some piece with a strongly marked rhythm strikes
up, and the congregation seem to lose their heads altogether. They sway
from side to side, keep time with their heads and hands, and finally
break into step with their feet, completely carried away by excitement as
the “Good Night” draws nearer and nearer to its climax.

They recover themselves when the bell rings for the elevation of the
Host, and all kneel down, although they are so tightly packed that it
is a gymnastic feat to get up again. There is a pause, as if they were
taking breath, during the Benediction, and then, as the head priest takes
his seat on the altar steps with the image of the Infant on his knee, the
music bursts out again, organ, guitars, tambourines, _zambombas_, in a
triumphant medley of sound without any particular form or rhythm, and
the whole crowd moves simultaneously towards the Nativity, one step at
a time, without the least pushing or shoving, but all resolved to adore
their Christ, to see and touch “The Child” who is also “The Lord.”

It means a good deal to some of them: nothing less, indeed, than an
augury for good or ill for the year to come. I heard one woman in the
crowd tell another as they left the church one Christmas Eve that she
would have good fortune now, for _El Niño_ had looked up at her and
smiled as she knelt to worship Him: and her naïve confidence in the happy
omen explained much that would otherwise have puzzled me in the demeanour
of the crowd during the Cock’s Mass.

[Illustration: THE BRIDEGROOM’S DOOR.]



CHAPTER XIII

    The Columbus country—The way to Moguer—A rickety
    bridge—An historical family—Blue eyes and honourable
    hearts—Fifteenth-century iron work—Martin Alonso Pinzón, the
    friend of Columbus—His history as told by his descendant—Palos
    de la Frontera—The castle of the Pinzóns—The church of St.
    George—The Virgin of Columbus—The bridegroom’s door—La Rabida:
    what it is and what it might be.


February in southern Spain is already spring as a rule, but I visited the
Columbus country in 1912, and in that unusual year the winter ran on well
into the middle of February, a month which generally carpets the fields
with blue iris, golden buttercups, and scarlet poppies. So my trip to
Moguer, Palos de la Frontera, and La Rabida may come under the heading
of Winter Sketches, and perhaps my readers will like to know that it is
possible to explore these remote villages even in showery weather.

I started with the intention of doing a few days’ digging in a buried
town on the banks of the Rio Tinto, on my way to the Tharsis copper
mines, away up in the Sierra de Huelva, where I was going to see a little
museum of objects found by the Company in their various shafts. But the
weather, perfect when I left Seville, changed in the night, and I woke
next morning to see a downpour of rain which put excavations out of the
question—the more so because to reach my site I had to cross the Rio
Tinto by a ford which is impassable after rain. So I left my _jamugas_
and tools in the charge of the amiable landlady of the uncomfortable
rooms I had been compelled to engage because there was no other within
many miles of the ruins, and went on to Moguer, furnished with an
introduction to the family of Pinzón, lineal descendants of Martin
Alonso Pinzón, who with his two brothers accompanied Columbus on his
epoch-making voyage from Palos de la Frontera to the Bahamas.

I left the train in a heavy shower at the wretched little station of San
Juan del Puerto, a poverty-stricken village lying on the mud-flats of the
Rio Tinto near its junction with the Odiel. This is the nearest station
to Moguer, and people who want to see the district, which is very pretty
as well as full of historical interest, should not be misled by the
guide-books into taking any other route to La Rabida, for reasons which I
will presently explain.

Moguer is only about a mile and a half from the station, and a diligence
meets every train. It is true that it is not a luxurious conveyance, and
sometimes if one does not rush to secure a seat one may find oneself left
behind. So unless the trip is a sudden thought, as mine was, it is well
to write to the landlady of the Fonda Almirante Pinzón at Moguer, and she
will not only send a carriage to the station, but reserve one of her few
bedrooms for you, and add an extra dish to her simple dinner in view of
your arrival. It is always advisable, when possible, to give notice of
your coming to modest little hostelries like this.

The diligence was not crowded the day I first went to Moguer. In fact
it contained, besides myself, only an old doctor and his young wife,
and the village idiot from San Juan, who rode on the step outside until
he realised that nothing was to be got out of the doctor or me by his
whines, and then he dropped off and strolled back in the rain to his own
place.

Not far out of San Juan there is a long low wooden bridge on trestles
across the Rio Tinto, which here is very wide. It creaked and groaned
a good deal as we crossed it, and the doctor remarked that it had been
condemned long ago as unsafe by the Inspector of Roads, and every time he
crossed it he wondered whether it would hold up till he got to the other
side.

“Oh, Cayetano! How can you say so, when we have to return by the same
road to-morrow!” shrieked his wife.

I looked at the turbid yellow water, already swollen with the rain. A
bath in it would be highly unpleasant, even if it were nothing worse than
a bath. But we got safely across, and rattled up a gentle rise into the
pretty little town, where at every turn one meets reminders of the wealth
and splendour that it enjoyed in the sixteenth century, when the gold
that poured in from America enriched every one connected with those who
adventured in the New World.

The Fonda del Almirante Pinzón is established on the ground floor of
the house belonging to the Admiral’s grandson, and when I was there the
family, reduced in means like so many of the old nobility, were living on
the floor above. Ever since the great days of their voyages with Columbus
the head of the Pinzóns has been a sailor, and the Admiral whose name
is given to the hotel distinguished himself in the Peninsular War, and
quite recently a cruiser was sent to convey his remains to the national
pantheon of illustrious mariners at San Fernando. And his son upheld and
his grandson still upholds the traditions of a family which Charles V.
honoured with a grant of nobility, and the same arms as those given to
Columbus himself—the three historic caravels and the motto—

    “_A Castilla y à Leon_
    _Nuevo mundo dió Pinzón._”

    (To Castile and to Leon
    A new world was given by Pinzón.)

But the proudest boast of the Pinzóns, who were wealthy when their great
ancestor first set sail for the unknown west, is that they have never
soiled their hands with ill-gotten gains, and that one Admiral Pinzón
after another has held high posts under Government and has left office
no richer than when he entered it. Honesty such as this, in a country
where politics and office are universally regarded as a short road to a
fortune, argues a standard of morality as lofty as it is rare. Sigismund
Moret, the Liberal statesman who was three times intrigued out of the
Premiership because he would not buy party support, died a poor man,
and all the Spanish press united to proclaim the fact as the highest
honour they could pay him. As yet it is vain to hope for the honest
administration of public money, but we must trust that in the long-run
the example of the Pinzóns and the Morets and their like will prevail.
For it is one of the tragedies of Spain that her natural wealth, mineral
and agricultural, is immense, and she only needs honest and common-sense
administration to become one of the richest, instead of the poorest
country in Europe.

This digression is excusable because in the Columbus country you meet the
Pinzóns at every turn, and it is they and their like who some day will
leaven the lump. It is usual to say that Spain will never rise because
the dead weight of egoism and self-seeking lying on the top of the good
dough underneath will prevent any sound morality from getting to the top.
But _qui vivra verra_. I, personally, believe that cracks are spreading
in the crust of administrative selfishness, and I hope before I die to
see some such awakening here as took place in my own country when I was
young, and English society suddenly began to realise that it had not
fulfilled its whole duty to the poor by giving them blankets and beef-tea.

The little _fonda_ with its grand name is not a place one wants to stay
long at, for although clean the beds are somewhat hard, and the food
is such as might be expected for five pesetas a day _tout compris_.
But in the modest patio there is a large painting of the Virgin of
Montemayor which belonged to the Admiral and his forbears. And in the
simply furnished dining-room there is a beautiful wrought-iron well-head
dating from the fifteenth century, in style and design identical with the
pulpit in the little church of Palos de la Frontera, whence was read the
decree of Isabel the Catholic calling on her lieges of the port to man
and furnish the ships _Santa Maria_ and _Niña_ for the expedition into
the unknown. These ships, according to the Pinzóns, were the property of
Martin Alonso Pinzón and his brothers, although in the lawsuit brought
many years after by Diego, the son of Columbus, against the State a
different account was given. The papers relating to that long quarrel
have been the basis for much of what has been written about Columbus’
first expedition, so if my readers find the family traditions widely
varying from popular histories of the period, they must remember that the
Pinzón point of view naturally differs from that of the other side in an
unhappy lawsuit, and they may choose for themselves which story they will
believe.

The day after my arrival at Moguer was bright and sunny, and the Señora
de Pinzón, after studying my credentials, allowed her young daughter
Conchita (otherwise Maria de la Concepción) to join me in my expedition
to La Rabida. This was really a great favour, for Spanish mothers never
like to let their girls out of their sight until they are safely married.
But Conchita had been educated by the Irish nuns of the Loretto at
Gibraltar, and the Señora could not resist her appeal to be allowed
to spend the day with me to practise her English, which she said she
was afraid of forgetting. It seemed to make the dry bones of history
curiously alive to go over the ground with that bright young creature and
hear her continual references to “my ancestor Martin Alonso” as we drove
along a pretty lane to the famous Palos, greeted by every man, woman, and
child we met with a cordiality which showed in what esteem the family are
held here.

“We never were very rich,” said Conchita, “although our vineyards and
olive orchards formerly brought in a good deal more than they do now, so
it was not our money that made my family popular here. No, it is what my
ancestor did for Spain that is never forgotten. You see he lived here all
his life, while Columbus was only a foreign visitor, who came to find
ships and went away again. It is no wonder that the people remember my
ancestor better than him.”

The intense pride of my little friend in her family history shone through
every word she spoke. She expressed it more openly, perhaps, than an
English girl would have done in her place, but I am bound to say I
cordially sympathised with her. I am proud enough of my own ancestors,
whose deeds made but the faintest mark on the history of their time. If
they had helped to discover America there would have been no holding me!

Palos, the once famous port about half-way between La Rabida and Moguer,
now lies high and dry, with a strip of pasturage between the village
and the estuary. Even the little caravels of 1483 could now not anchor
anywhere near the ruined castle, and the whole place seems to sleep away
the days, resting on its fame in the past.

“The castle belonged to my ancestor,” said Conchita, pointing out a
ruined wall on a slight eminence behind the little church. “There was
only a tower left when Columbus came, and my ancestor’s residence was at
Moguer. But the Pinzóns kept their vessels here, and it was here that
Columbus came to look for Martin Alonso and talk to him about the voyage
he wanted to make. He had made Martin Alonso’s acquaintance in Rome,
where they were both studying navigation. You know it was a favourite
study in those days with rich men who loved the sea. How ridiculous it is
to say that Columbus came here by chance! You see what an out-of-the-way
place it is. And if he had wanted to get to Huelva to visit his
brother-in-law, as Washington Irving says, he would have been a fool to
go to La Rabida, to which there is no road at all except this, while
Huelva was on the main road. It says in our family papers that Columbus
came to look for his friend Martin Alonso Pinzón and discuss with him
plans for the voyage, and Martin Alonso went with him to La Rabida. The
story of his asking for food and drink at La Rabida is silly. As if my
ancestor would have let him leave his house without giving him and his
child a good dinner! It makes me angry to see that absurd picture at La
Rabida of the porter giving bread and water to his little boy. It is
quite modern and not at all well painted, I am glad to say!”

We had climbed up to investigate the ruined wall, melancholy relic of the
strong fortress that gave Palos its importance as a frontier town (_de la
frontera_) during the civil war between Moslems and Mozarabs in the ninth
century, when all this district was in the hands of descendants of King
Witiza, the last legitimate monarch of the Goths, whom for twenty-five
years the Sultans of Cordova sought in vain to dislodge. From this
eminence I could see that, before it silted up, the little harbour of
Palos would have been a safe and convenient shelter from the west winds
sweeping up the broad estuary.

“Two of the ships belonged to the Pinzóns,” said Conchita, “but the
family were out of favour with the Catholic Kings—we have never found
out why—and they could not lend them to Columbus without asking leave of
the Queen, who had put an embargo on them by way of punishment for some
unknown offence. When Columbus and my ancestor had well talked over the
proposed adventure, they went to La Rabida to ask the Prior, Juan Perez
de Marchena, to use his influence with Isabella to remove the embargo,
so that Martin Alonso and his brothers might lend Columbus their ships.
The Pinzóns could not go to the Court themselves, because they were
in disgrace. I wish we knew why. The family papers tell us nothing,
and there is only a vague tradition that it was something to do with
religion. I cannot imagine what it could be, for the Pinzóns have always
been good Catholics, and they had not long before restored or rebuilt
part of this church, which as you see is very old indeed.”

While we talked we were sitting on a bench in the little church of St.
George. On our left was the wrought-iron pulpit whence the call for
volunteers was read; on the right was the ancient image of the Virgin
which local tradition claims as the one which Columbus took with him on
board the _Santa Maria_.

It is by no means improbable that local tradition is correct, for the
image is mediæval, and as such would have been the object of special
adoration by the people of Palos then as now. Thus Martin Alonso Pinzón,
the lord of Palos, could do no greater honour to his friend Columbus, and
find no surer way to calm the fears of the families of their crews, than
by taking this venerated image as the patroness of the expedition. The
ships were bound to come safe home again, the people of Palos would say,
having their beloved Virgin on board.

Traditions about the patron image of a town do not grow up spontaneously,
although as the centuries go by the original story becomes adorned and
overlaid with the additions made to it by one generation after another.
Without some foundation in fact, it is most unlikely that the statement
that this was the image in question should have been made and accepted,
and thenceforth handed on as a tradition by the people of Palos. Little
was seen of Columbus at Palos after his return from his first voyage.
The Pinzóns attribute this to the early death of Martin Alonso, said
by historians to be due to his disappointment that Columbus should have
obtained more honour and rewards than himself after his “base desertion”
of the Admiral at Cuba. The family naturally ignore, if indeed they are
not now ignorant of, all that was alleged against their ancestor in the
lawsuit of Diego Colon. For them Martin Alonso’s death was brought about
by the hardships he suffered and the illness he contracted when through
stress of weather his ship was separated from that of Columbus, whom he
never saw again until both the great navigators returned to Palos, one
in the morning and the other in the evening of 15th March 1493, seven
months and a half after they had left the little port together. Be this
as it may, it must be admitted that Pinzón and his brothers played an
important part in the discovery of the New World, and that it was their
great misfortune to be under a cloud at Court when favours and rewards
were being showered upon the man whom they had so materially aided at the
outset.

Perhaps if I had visited Palos with a descendant of Columbus instead of
a daughter of the other house, the part played by Pinzón would assume
smaller proportions in my retrospect of that far-off time. But as things
were, I felt as if I had got the story from the very actors themselves,
and I could no more doubt that this was indeed the patron image which
watched over the adventurers from the chapel set up on the _Santa Maria_
by her owner, Martin Alonso Pinzón, when he handed his ship over to
Columbus as commander of the “fleet,” than I could doubt that Martin
Alonso was more sinned against than sinning in the reports that were
spread of his disappearance on the coast of Cuba.

And when Conchita took me out round the west end and down a flight of
steps to the north door of the church, which is decorated with red and
white brickwork of the style called “Mozarabic,” and told me that it
was known as the “Door of the Bridegrooms” when the Pinzóns lived at
the castle, and was only opened to admit the eldest son of the family
on his wedding-day, I found myself quite able to accept her statement,
regardless of various inherent improbabilities which afterwards suggested
themselves.

Having thoroughly taken in the beauty and the tradition of this
architectural gem, with its fortress-like outer walls, its strangely
dwarfed nave, and its lofty Gothic transepts, we resumed our triumphal
progress along the road travelled by Columbus four hundred and
twenty-eight years before—I say triumphal advisedly, for all down the
one narrow ill-paved street of Palos, Conchita was bowing and smiling
like a young princess at the people who ran out to greet her when they
caught the sound of our approaching wheels. One understood that not many
carriages drive through the village nowadays, but mere curiosity would
not account for the cordiality of her reception.

From Palos to La Rabida the road is good and well kept, and at one point
it is really very pretty, winding through a pine wood, between the trees
of which we see the Arabic _Tapia_ of the monastery walls gleaming rosy
pink in the afternoon sun on their eminence above the estuary.

The inherent lack of common sense which characterises all Spanish
administration is exemplified by the very existence of this road. In
1893 the fourth centenary of the discovery of America was marked by a
tremendous celebration organised by what is called the Columbian Society
of Huelva. The monastery was proclaimed a “national monument,” which
means that its upkeep is henceforth a national charge, and no further
voluntary effort to preserve it will ever be made, or even expected.
An overpowering column with a statue of Columbus on top was set up at
a cost, I have been told, of 80,000 pesetas (£3200)—a large sum to be
raised by subscription in Spain—which was designed and erected by the
architect to the Government. A landing-stage was built on the bank of the
estuary for holiday-makers coming from Huelva, and a broad road, wide
enough for half a dozen carriages to drive abreast, was made from the
landing-stage up to the monastery, and carried on thence to join the road
to Palos, as I have said. Extensive repairs and restorations were begun
in the building, and the slopes round it were laid out as gardens, which
were to be a glory of indigenous and American flowers and foliage—as well
they might in a climate where everything grows at such a rate that the
blossoming of Aaron’s rod would hardly be a miracle here.

But alas! the great column, ludicrously out of place alongside of the
monastery walls, all weathered and mellowed by time, has never been
finished; and worse than that, it was jerry built with what may have
been left, after the celebration was concluded, of the 80,000 pesetas
subscribed by a confiding public, and now, twenty-one years after the
first stone was laid, this national monument to Spain’s greatest hero
is surrounded by a rough paling labelled in large letters _Peligro_
(Danger), and one passes it hastily by, wondering whether the statue of
Columbus will fall on one’s innocent head from the lofty height which
makes its details indiscernible.

A peal at the monastery door—the door by which Columbus entered—brings
forth an unshaven porter, who turns one loose to wander at will in the
empty cloisters, but reappears in search of his _pourboire_ when he hears
one’s steps returning. No photographs or even picture post-cards are to
be obtained here, no printed papers or books relating to the building,
there are no seats to be found in the whole of the monastery save some
tiled recesses in the chapel walls—all is empty and desolate, with the
unmistakable air of a place seldom visited and quickly left.

The broad new road down to the water serves no possible purpose, for
no conveyance of any kind can be procured nearer than Moguer, and for
visitors with time and energy to make the journey there on foot a path
from the landing-stage to Palos would have served every purpose. A
forlorn rowing-boat was moored to the steps where we went down, but its
owner could not be found. It was kept there, our coachman told us, in
case any one wanted to row to Huelva, several miles away up the mouth of
the Odiel. “But,” he added scornfully, “who wants to row to Huelva when
they have come in a carriage from Moguer?”

La Rabida is a monument of misspent public money. I was told that in
summer people make up water parties from Huelva, but they must all bring
their own refreshments, for not so much as a cup of coffee can be got
at the monastery. One thought what a Mecca for Americans, and indeed
for all other pilgrims, this spot could be made, were it in hands more
appreciative and more sensible than those of the Spanish bureaucracy.
One pictured a gay little hotel down below, far enough removed from the
monastery not to jar on its old-world peace, but near enough to offer
comfort and convenience to the pilgrim, whether he came by land or sea.
One provided the sunny refectory, now empty save for those inferior
fancy pictures of Columbus which annoyed Conchita Pinzón, with a library
of books dealing with the history of the place and of the voyages of
Columbus and his companions; one saw the friars’ cells, now closed and
smelling of shut windows, furnished and available for students to live
and work in; and one installed a service of motors from Seville and
Huelva to the landing-stage, so that every tourist who came to Seville
might take a day’s run to Moguer, Palos, and La Rabida, as a necessary
part of his Andalucian trip.

But alas! a heavy shower woke me from my dream of what ought to be in
this lovely corner of a lovely land. The sky had darkened while we
were exploring the melancholy monastery, and depressed, silent, and
grieving over its wasted opportunities I drove away from La Rabida, my
last glimpse of Columbus on his shaky monument showing us the Admiral
tottering to a fall, as sad and gloomy as the gathering clouds banked up
over the Atlantic whose conquest he achieved.

[Illustration: THE FIFTEENTH-CENTURY BANNER OF OUR LADY OF GRANADA.]



CHAPTER XIV

    The Convento de la Luz—The Poor Clares and the
    Conceptionists—Our Lady of Montemayor—A fortified religious
    house—The _ribats_ of Spain—The ancient refectory—Arabic
    inscriptions in the Nun’s Chapel—The Portocarreros—Family
    tombs—A night at San Juan—The shyness of the nun—An early
    start—Mossen Bethancourt and the Canary Isles—The beginning of
    the floods.


“You who are so interested in everything old should not leave Moguer
without seeing the _Convento de la Luz_,” said Conchita as we drove back
from La Rabida. “I will take you there to-morrow morning if you like,
before you start for the train. Formerly no one except the clergy could
enter any part of the convent, for it belonged to the Poor Clares, and
you know how rigidly closed the Order is. But now they are all dead,
and the convent has been sold or let or lent by the Duke of Alba to
the Conceptionists—the teaching branch, not the closed one—and the
Reverend Mother lets me take in visitors at any time. All the aristocracy
of Moguer send their daughters to be educated there, and they have
free classes for the poor as well. It enlivens our circle having the
Conceptionist nuns there instead of the Poor Clares.”

She went on to tell me that the convent had become hopelessly
impoverished, though it was once one of the wealthiest in the district.
The Clares seem to have lived like private ladies, each with her little
suite of rooms, bedroom, sitting-room, and kitchen, and even her own
share of the walled garden. Each had her own woman servant, who lived not
in the convent but in the town, coming in and out daily to attend to her
mistress’s wants. Anything less like the accepted idea of monastic life I
never heard of; and when I saw the bright sunny little flats partitioned
off by the nuns for their private convenience, I wondered still more how
such a conception of asceticism could have lasted down to the end of the
first decade of the twentieth century.

“Reverend Mother says,” pursued Conchita, “that the one Poor Clare who
still lived when the Archbishop of Seville sanctioned the transfer to the
Conceptionists, was the tiniest creature she ever saw, quite imbecile
from age, and withered and shrunk up just like a doll. They had been
gradually dying off one by one, until this little old woman was the only
inhabitant of the convent, which is so large that it contains a dormitory
a hundred feet long, while the central patio is a hundred feet square.
There are many beautiful objects of art there even now, and they say
that formerly it was a perfect treasure-house. No one knows when it was
built, but the Pinzóns’ ancestors, the Portocarreros, whose monuments you
will see there, were very rich, and they always protected the convent.
What date was that? Oh, I don’t know, but it was before the discovery of
America; and of course after that, when everybody grew rich, the convent
got more gifts than ever. But you can fancy what went on in later years,
when the Poor Clares were getting older and more helpless every day, and
more dependent on their servants. They say that those women never went
in without securing some valuable work of art to carry off and sell,
though where they sold them no one knows, for they were never offered in
Moguer. Of course not! No one _here_ would buy valuables robbed from the
nuns. Well, that is all over now, and no one will steal what is left. The
Conceptionists are not poor at all (though of course they always want
money for their free classes) and they take great care of the pictures
and tiles, and everything else that those bad servants could not carry
away.”

Truth to tell, I did not expect to find much that would interest me in
the _Convento de la Luz_, imagining from Conchita’s account that it
would be a fifteenth-century building of the type so frequently found
in this part of Spain. The wealthy and powerful families of Arcos and
Medina Sidonia set the fashion at that time of lavishing their riches
on building and restoring convents and monasteries, and of course every
great noble with plenty of money followed their example. Too often the
gold which poured into Andalucia after the discovery of America was
spent on barbaric display of carved and gilded woodwork, chased silver,
and costly draperies, more conspicuous for their money value than for
their beauty: and I confess that I rather disliked the idea of spending
a couple of my few hours at Moguer in visiting such a monument, when I
might have driven out to the hermitage of Our Lady of Montemayor. For Our
Lady of Montemayor had been worshipped as far back as the ninth century,
when Palos de la Frontera was an outpost of the Spanish Christians, who,
although they forgot their language during the many centuries of Moslem
rule, steadily maintained their religious beliefs.

But it was impossible to refuse the invitation of my kind and courteous
little friend, and I agreed to go with her to the convent next morning
instead of making an expedition into the country.

What then was my delight at finding in the _Convento de la Luz_ an almost
perfect survival of the fortified religious houses which the Moslems
called _ribats_—outposts built to defend the frontier, and garrisoned by
men of a semi-religious order, sworn to this particular form of military
service. Whether the Order was originally instituted in Andalucia by
the Christians (Mozarabs) who remained in occupation of their lands and
castles when Spain was conquered by the Mohammedans, no one seems to
know, though the existence of La Rabida itself, and of various other
places bearing the same name, in which Mozarabic remains are seen,
suggests that _ribats_ were established here long before the Almoravides
founded their empire over Morocco and Spain, in a _ribat_ on the river
Niger in the first half of the twelfth century.

Be that as it may, I saw at once that the _Convento de la Luz_ was
built for such a fortress, while the church with its massive walls
and buttressed ramparts could never have been intended for other than
Christian worship.

So much for the outside. The only break in the enclosing walls is where
an opening has been made to give easier access from the street. One sees
that formerly the nuns had to come out and cross a courtyard to speak
with callers at the gate, and one can understand that this would hardly
suit the comfort-loving old ladies who were the last of this branch of
their Order.

A Sister opened a heavy door giving on a cloister which borders all four
sides of the great central court, and led us through an archway six feet
deep into a large hall. This was the refectory in the days when a hundred
Poor Clares occupied the convent, but now it is the nuns’ reception-room,
and here the mothers of pupils, rich and poor, sit and discuss with
the Superior and the heads of the classes the tastes, talents, and
idiosyncrasies of their girls.

It is a very lofty, chapel-like hall, whose vaulted roof would suggest a
thirteenth-century architect, but for the tiny windows, placed so high up
that one sees that the first thought of the builder was security against
attack. And we know that after 1257, when this district was conquered by
Alfonso X., there was no need to build fortified religious houses. We
sat on brick benches left in the thickness of the wall and faced with
iridescent tiles of the rich green colour introduced by the Arabs out of
compliment to Mahomet’s banner; and as I watched a ray of sun from one of
those lofty windows lighting up the gilded halos in a fifteenth-century
painting of the Last Supper, I wished the walls could speak and tell us
the true history of the convent. Even the origin of its name is lost.
The townspeople call it _de la Luz_, but they do not know why, and the
earliest mention of it in Andalucian history, which is in 1349, describes
it as “The convent of Santa Clara at Moguer.”

More than one of the earliest crucifixes existent in Andalucia is known
as “_Nuestro Señor Cristo de la luz_” (Our Lord Christ of light), and
such works of art, be it remembered, are necessarily Mozarabic, because
the Mozarabs were the only Christians in this part of Spain previous
to 1248. There is a fine one in the Nuns’ Chapel of this convent, the
advocation of which has been forgotten. Perhaps the last little Poor
Clare, had she not been in her dotage when the convent was taken over by
its present occupants, could have told them that this was “Our Lord of
Light,” whose prototype had been worshipped here for about a thousand
years.

This may seem a bold statement to those who suppose that the Christians
suffered persecution during the rule of Islam in Spain. But recent
research has proved that so far from this being the case, the Christians
as a rule were treated with kindness and consideration, as long as they
refrained from showing open disrespect for the alien religion. And here
in Moguer is the material corroboration of conclusions deduced from
scattered references to the condition of the Mozarabs which are found in
the writings of the time, both Arabic and Christian. For the walls of
the Nuns’ Chapel (screened off by a stone grille with Arabic tracery from
the church restored by the Portocarreros) are lined with ancient wooden
choir stalls, on each arm of which is carved a lion’s head and an Arabic
inscription in Kufic characters of the style used in Cordova in the tenth
century. These certainly were not placed here after 1257, at which date
the African character was in use all over Moslem Spain, and as certainly
such stalls never were used in Moslem worship.

It was interesting to retrace the course of history from that time
to this. Here was the evidence of the upholding of their faith by
the native Christians for century after century, during the whole of
which they were practically cut off from Rome and isolated from their
co-religionists elsewhere. A painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe,
surrounded by worshippers in thirteenth-century costumes, seemed to bring
us into direct contact with the period when Andalucia was conquered by
San Fernando of Castile, and her “few remaining loyal priests” were
confirmed in their houses and offices by that wise monarch. In the church
were life-size alabaster effigies of the noble family of Portocarrero,
nine men and women in fifteenth-century dress, at the foot of the high
altar. Burial in that sacred spot was the privilege granted to Don
Pedro Portocarrero, Lord of Moguer, his wife Doña Elvira Alvarez, and
their heirs for ever, in acknowledgment by a grateful Church of their
benefactions to the convent of Santa Clara and the monastery of San
Francisco, which last comparatively modern edifice is now falling into
ruin in the shadow of the imperishable walls of the Mozarabic foundation.
Above us hung a lamp made of silver brought from the New World by Martin
Alonso Pinzón, although his tomb, as Conchita regretfully admitted, is
not to be found here. And by my side was the young daughter of those
ancient houses, who proudly told me that she too inherited the right to
be buried at the foot of the high altar when her time came.

Truly this Columbus country has more than ordinary interest for the
traveller in Spain, and as I remarked at the beginning of my attempt to
describe it, it is a pity to be misled by the guide-books into visiting
La Rabida by boat from Huelva instead of by diligence from San Juan del
Puerto. Because, in the first place, if the weather be bad you cannot
get to La Rabida by water at all, and, in any case, as the estuary there
is very wide and much exposed to wind and to the Atlantic waves, a trip
of two hours each way is apt to be unpleasant to all except first-rate
sailors. And because, in the second place, even though you are a good
sailor and get to La Rabida in ideal weather, you will certainly not
have time to go on to Palos and Moguer and get back to Huelva before
nightfall, since you will have no option but to walk from La Rabida.
And, as I hope I have shown, Palos and Moguer have attractions for the
artist and the archæologist, as well as for the pilgrim to the shrine of
Columbus.

For my own part, although I was obliged to catch the afternoon train
from San Juan in order to go on to the mines of Tharsis on the day that
Conchita first introduced me to the Convent de la Luz, I shamelessly
threw over all my other engagements on the return journey, and went
straight back to Moguer.

Not quite straight back, though, come to think of it, for the diligence
was crowded when I reached San Juan, and as it was impossible to get any
other conveyance, or even a donkey to ride, I had to spend the night
there, since it was pouring with rain and I dared not attempt the walk to
Moguer in the dark, through mud up to my ankles.

The only room I could get was at the one inn in the place, an
establishment consisting of two rooms and my bedroom, which opened off
the kitchen. It literally _opened_ off it, for the door had no kind
of fastening, and the landlady’s niece put a chair against it on the
outside, as the only means of preventing my toilet operations being
performed in public. The whole place was streaming with damp, and
flood-marks were plainly to be seen on the walls of my bedroom. There
was no food to be had except _puchero_, and the landlady was quite
grateful when I told her I could dine off the remains of the excellent
lunch provided by my hosts at Tharsis, for she had no one to send out for
supplies.

The poor little place was clean, the people inspired me with such
confidence that the keyless door did not trouble me in the least, and I
slept from the time I went to bed till 6 a.m. Then I got up and dressed
by the light of a candle, for the diligence was to start at seven, and
I intended to walk on and cross the trestle bridge before it picked me
up. Heavy rains had swollen the rivers everywhere, and I reflected with
dismay on the remarks of my travelling companion on the condition of that
bridge when we drove over it the week before.

It was still almost dark when I left the village behind me, and through
the gloom a blazing wood fire shone invitingly alongside of the railway
line, from the cottage of a family in charge of the level crossing. The
wife ran out and begged me to come in and warm myself, full of wonder
and commiseration at the hard fate—whatever it might be—that compelled a
_señora de edad_ (“a lady advanced in years”) to take the road on foot so
early in the morning.

I had to explain that the English of all ages have a curious fancy for
walking in the dark, and after a few minutes’ pause, filled up by the
family’s ejaculations at my remarkable activity, I pursued my way across
the rickety bridge, watching a pale yellow gleam gradually appearing in
the east, and wondering whether it meant that the sun would come out
presently. The river was higher than ever. As a rule the Rio Tinto is a
stream of wonderful colours, coppery green and bronze and orange, which
turn to molten gold in the sunshine; but now the flood-water had so
completely swamped the rest that it looked more like a sea of liquid mud
than the “dyed river.” It seemed to me doubtful whether the bridge would
hold up another twenty-four hours, and I knew that the part of wisdom
would be to turn round and go back to Seville by the next train. But I
was bent upon another visit to the convent at Moguer, and still more bent
upon getting the photographs which the Mother Superior had given me leave
to take, and I could only hope that the yellow streak in the east might
mean a day without rain and a diminished flood to-morrow.

I got my photographs, between showers, and one of them would have been
made quite charming by the graceful figure of the nun who showed me
round, leaning over the well-head to raise the bucket from the water far
below. But when she realised that she was in the picture she fled behind
the camera, and nothing would induce her to pose for me.

“_Por Dios!_” she cried; “I cannot go out into the world in a photograph!”

The rain began again in the evening, and I heard it pelting on the
windows as I sat with the Señora de Pinzón and her daughter round the
cosy _camilla_, talking of friends in common. We are apt to think a
brazier rather an insufficient means of warming a room on a chilly
night, but when we have sat an hour or so with our toes under the round
petticoated table close to the pan of charcoal, we find ourselves
suffused from head to foot with a warm glow which is by no means to be
despised. It was late when I took my leave of the family to whom I owed
so much of the enjoyment of my trip, and I had to get up about 4 a.m. to
catch the early diligence to the station. I was anxious to get across
the estuary as soon as possible, and I had given special orders to secure
my seat in the bus beforehand.

“You will not mind letting yourself out,” said the landlady cheerfully,
when I bade her good-night. “I have told the driver to send a man down
for your luggage at five o’clock. He will tap at your window when he
comes, and you will find the key in the door. We do not get up so early
if we can help it, and we know you are a lady who can be trusted to shut
the street door after her.”

I don’t suppose there was much to steal in the _fonda_, but whatever
there was I could have taken it had I chosen, when I left Moguer next
morning, and I thought it was just as well that the Señora de Pinzón had
a stout iron grille at the entrance to her apartments upstairs, with all
their valuable historical contents, if this was the usual way of speeding
the parting guest. I got up at four, boiled water to wash in on my spirit
stove, drank hot coffee out of my thermos flask, and packed my things
ready to start at five. But five struck, and 5.15, and 5.30, and no one
came from the diligence, and at last in despair I unlocked the street
door, left it on the latch, and hurried up the hill in the rain and
darkness to the coach office. There was the coach ready to start, and the
driver was taking his early _aguardiente_ in the drink shop hard by, but
there was no one to fetch my luggage, and when I got hold of the coachman
he said he had heard nothing about it, and had no one to send.

“But the landlady told me she gave special orders last night, and that
you promised to have me fetched at five o’clock.”

“She didn’t tell me, for I was not at the office. Had she told me I
should have been at the _fonda_ before now. She must have told the other
driver, who takes turns with me to go to the station. What is to be done?
Can you not carry your own bag to the coach if I wait here for you?”

“I certainly can not. And meanwhile the _fonda_ door is open for thieves
to enter, and the inmates may be murdered in their beds. Why not fetch it
yourself and earn my peseta instead of my giving it to some one else who
does not deserve it half so much? I should be greatly obliged to you, and
you will get your tip at the station just the same, besides your peseta
now.”

“_Andando!_ (Come along!) Certainly I can do with a _pesetita_ as well as
another man.”

And, telling an old woman in the shop to mind his meek and dejected
horses, he set off with me to the inn, shouldered my belongings, shouted
a “good-morning” outside the landlady’s room which must have roused
everybody within from the sleep they were so desirous of prolonging, and
banged the street door as we went out with a noise loud enough to wake
the town.

“They thoroughly deserve it,” said he as we hurried off together. “What
disgraceful discourtesy to allow a lady like your honour to leave the
_fonda_ unattended! _Gracias à Dios_ that I was on the spot to make good
their short-comings. You will send for me next time you come to Moguer,
Señora, and you shall not have to complain of negligence again!”

I certainly shall remember him, for I never saw a prompter “quick change
act” from supine indifference to my plight to eager courtesy than was
effected by him on the mention of the magic word “peseta.”

It continued to rain heavily; we ploughed in pitch darkness through a sea
of mud, and the diligence rocked and rolled in the ruts all down the long
hill to the river. But I was so well entertained by the conversation of
my only fellow-passenger that we got into San Juan and pulled up at the
station before I realised that we had crossed the perilous bridge safe
and sound.

He was, he said, going to meet a connection of his family recently
arrived in Seville, Señor Bethancourt, who held a high diplomatic
position in one of the South American republics. His relative’s career,
said the homely-looking countryman, had been most romantic. He came of a
very old family of French origin, had left his home in Moguer when quite
a lad, had been shipwrecked and cast up on the estate of a wealthy man
who took him into his employ, and eventually made him a partner in the
business and allowed him to marry his only daughter.

“But he has never forgotten his family at Moguer,” concluded my friend,
“and although I am only related to him through my wife, he has lately
written to me saying that he was coming to Spain, and inviting me to meet
him in Seville.”

I may not have got the details of the romance quite right, but there was
no doubt about the great man’s loyalty to those he had left behind him,
and all through the drive the name of Bethancourt rang in my ears, while
I tried in vain to recall what I had previously known of the family.

On looking them up among the multifarious notes which I have a genius for
making and forgetting, I found that here was another of Moguer’s links
with Spanish history.

In 1344 Pope Clement VI. gave the Lordship of the Canaries, then known as
the Fortunate Isles, to Don Luis de la Cerda, a grandson of Alfonso X.,
with the title of Prince, and instructions to conquer and Christianise
them. One would have thought that the islands should be conquered before
they were given away, but it seems to have been the custom for the Popes
to give away what they did not possess. Some historians assert that
Alfonso XI., sovereign lord of the islands, was not best pleased at their
being presented to his cousin, and wrote a letter to the Pope which
to the frivolous modern eye seems to have been couched in a somewhat
satirical vein, for he “thanked His Holiness for having made the gift,
although it was in his (the writer’s) sovereign dominion.”

Don Luis de la Cerda, however, did not benefit by the somewhat dubious
rights conferred on him, for he went off to France, his mother’s native
land, and was there killed in battle two years later, never having
visited the Canaries at all; and the next we hear of the Fortunate Isles
is that after some vicissitudes they came in the course of a business
transaction into the hands of “Mossen Juan de Betancur,” a French
gentleman who carried out his enterprise to such good purpose that the
people gave him the title of king.

This was in 1417, and meanwhile a good deal of highly profitable traffic
had been going on between the “idolaters” of the islands and Seville and
other Andalucian ports, including, it would seem, our little Palos and
Moguer. Efforts were again being made to convert them, some Franciscan
friars had established themselves there, and now Pope Martin V. appointed
“Mossen” Bethancourt’s cousin, Don Mendo, as Bishop of the Rubicon, which
seems to have been the name given to the diocese, and he came to Seville
to swear obedience, as his suffragan, to the Archbishop.

Twenty years later, the commerce with the Canaries becoming presumably
more and more lucrative, it was discovered that a great mistake had been
made in allowing a Frenchman to acquire the lordship of the islands,
and an armed force was sent over from Spain to dispossess Mossen Juan’s
son, who now reigned in his stead, on the pretext of misgovernment and
disrespect to the friars, who were busy making “new Christians” of
“Mossen Menaute” Bethancourt’s subjects.

Mossen Menaute, according to the chroniclers, was not strong enough to
fight the Spaniards, but he came pretty well out of the business, for he
sold his rights, lock, stock, and barrel, to the Count of Niebla, one of
the Medina Sidonia family, and with the proceeds he established himself
at Moguer. When his guiding hand was removed, the prosperous trade which
had aroused the cupidity of the powers in Spain so quickly declined that
the Canary Isles became a source of expense rather than of profit, and
changed hands time after time in the next half-century; while “Mossen
Betancur” flourished on his new estate, and founded the family with which
my travelling companion was so pleased to claim connection.

I got back to Seville none too soon, for the rain which drove me away
from Moguer continued and increased, until all the Andalucian rivers
overflowed. The railway from Seville to Huelva was under water, and the
Columbus country isolated. In the matter of the shaky bridge, however,
good came out of evil, for it became so much shakier in consequence of
the floods that the authorities were forced at last to take action, and
now pilgrims to La Rabida may drive there _viâ_ Moguer and Palos with
quiet minds, for there is no longer any imminent danger of the diligence
toppling over into the river.



CHAPTER XV

    The Guadalquivir—Arabic gardens—“Bird’s milk”—Wild
    camels—Tartessian cattle—The city of Hercules—The foundations
    of Tharsis—Subterranean galleries—The “Labyrinth”—A careful
    father—The potters’ suburb—The City of the Poles—Triana
    under flood—Rising wells—A tower of refuge—Villages under
    water—Humours of the inundated—Governmental neglect—A night of
    terror—The gallant priest—King Alfonso feeds the hungry—The
    “Economical Kitchen”—Honours for the English ladies.


The Guadalquivir seems to be known to the English chiefly by Byron’s
references to it, and unluckily he rhymes it with “river,” which was
convenient for him, but not for the tourist who takes Byron for his
guide to the pronunciation. For the Guadalquivir is the _Wady al kabir_
of the Arabs (the great river) and the name is still pronounced with
the accent, as in Arabic, on the last syllable. Thus when the traveller
asks his way to the “Gwaddlequiver,” the native is at a loss for his
meaning. Baedeker might usefully see to this; and while he is about it he
might also mention that Granáda has the accent on the second syllable.
For when a traveller in a hurry asks for the train to “Grannader” the
porters are apt to get confused and put him into the first train for any
town the name of which is accented on the first syllable—_e.g._ Málaga.
This actually happened in the case of an acquaintance of ours, who
was rather deaf and did not know a word of Spanish. He found himself
at Málaga instead of “Grannader,” and his language was vigorous and
picturesque. All this waste of time, temper, and money might have been
avoided had Baedeker instructed his readers how to pronounce the Spanish
for pomegranate.

[Illustration: “THE ENGLISH ECONOMICAL KITCHEN.”]

Since time began Seville seems to have been the victim of floods.
The catchment area of the Guadalquivir is enormous, since with its
tributaries it drains practically the whole of Andalucia, from the Sierra
Morena in the north to the Sierra Nevada in the south. From Cordova the
river runs through vast plains, mostly alluvial soil of great fertility.
So rich is this soil that the Arabs used to say that bird’s milk could
be got from the gardens round Seville, meaning that there is nothing
that will not grow there with sufficient care and attention. The Arabic
historians assure us that, nine centuries ago, there were twenty thousand
farms and villages between Cordova and Seville, all living by agriculture
and gardening; and although the number is obviously exaggerated,
there can be no doubt that the whole of the riparian plain was highly
cultivated. At that time the great river and its tributaries were so
carefully dyked and dammed for purposes of milling and irrigation, that
floods were far less frequent than now.

But the local archives show that within a century after the Christians
became rulers of Seville the irrigation system was falling into decay,
and the bed of the river was rapidly silting up. Now hardly a trace
remains of the system of hydraulics inherited from Egypt, or perhaps
inherited from Tartessus, for the Tartessians too constructed admirable
water-works. To-day, chiefly for lack of water, most of the valley of the
Guadalquivir is a waste of rough pasture, a swamp in winter and a desert
in summer, ranged over by herds of half-wild cattle when the spring and
autumn showers have raised a crop of coarse grass; the resort of birds
of every description, the dwelling-place of boar, deer, hares, and other
wild creatures, great and small, and the safe refuge of a herd of wild
camels, never approached and seldom seen unless by the passenger or crew
of some river steamer when they come down to the water at dawn. Thus they
were once observed by a friend of mine, who took them for cattle until
the sun rose suddenly and she saw their humps. After that she was always
on the look out for them, and saw them again not long after, near enough
and for long enough to count sixteen of them, old and young.

The origin of this herd of wild camels is unknown, but it seems clear
that they have a good deal of vitality. For generations the marsh men
used to shoot the young and sell their flesh as venison in the towns;
yet the herd continued to breed in its secret places in the wilds, and
now that the shooting of them is strictly prohibited it is increasing—a
testimony to the immense extent of the waste lands as well as to the mild
climate of this province. What the camels do when the valley is flooded
no one knows, but they must go to some place of refuge, for every one
knows what happens to the cattle if they are caught by the flood.

Some years ago a ten months’ drought was broken by a terrific
thunderstorm which in one night raised the Guadalquivir many feet. A
friend of ours had some eight hundred cattle herded on the Isla Mayor, a
large island in the river about half-way between Seville and San Lucar.
They were caught by the flood water, although it did not rise high enough
to sweep them away. Next morning over four hundred of them lay dead, not
from drowning but from the sudden chill, which their frames, weakened by
the long drought and by struggling against the rush of water, were unable
to resist.

In Tartessian times the cattle of the famous breed of Geryon, afterwards
dedicated to the new deity adopted by the Tartessians and known as
Hercules, used to feed in the valley of the Guadalquivir, or river
Tartessus. But their pasturage area cannot have been anything as large
as it is now, for we are told that the river was like a great lagoon
then, and contained a chain of islands, great and small, on which the
Tartessian cattle fed and bred, to the great profit of their owners.
There must have been, however, plenty of shallows and elevations formed
by the ever-growing alluvial deposits of the river, for Strabo tells us
that twice every day, when the tide came up from the sea, the Tartessian
cattle of their own accord left the lower pastures and took refuge on the
higher ground of the islands.

In the annals of a sixteenth-century Sevillian writer I find a note
to the effect than when Hercules first came up the Guadalquivir he
discovered Seville itself lying on an island in the middle of the
river, and called it the City of Poles, because it was built on piles.
Afterwards, say our non-critical chroniclers, Hercules and his “brother”
Atlas decided to build the “great city” on the highest point of the same
islands, and replaced the “poles” by more solid material.

Down to the seventeenth century these ingenuous legends were so firmly
believed by the Sevillians that no sceptic dared risk a broken head by
disputing them. And indeed to this day we see three granite monoliths on
the precise spot indicated as that chosen by Hercules, after consultation
with Atlas, for the erection of his temple. They are still commonly
known as the Columns of Hercules, although half a century or so ago an
intelligent municipality, for no apparent reason, elected to change the
name of the street to Marmoles, which means not granite but marbles.

With the gradual spread of knowledge the legend of Hercules and the city
he built here became discredited, until after the seventeenth century
it was dismissed as a ridiculous myth without any foundation. But the
silly “common” people went on calling their monoliths “The Pillars of
Hercules,” because, as they could not read or write, the antiquarian
discussions of the Sevillian professors did not affect their traditional
beliefs.

And now comes the point of my story. Three or four years ago a worthy
man of business, who knew nothing and cared less for any of the theories
of the learned gentlemen who decided what was or was not to be believed
in Seville, began to dig for his own purposes near the place which
tradition marks as chosen by Hercules for the site of his city. And to
his annoyance he found one layer of ancient buildings below another,
until he had got some twenty-seven feet down below the level of the
present street of Marmoles, in his search for firm foundations on which
to build new shops. Here he found subterranean galleries, man high and
wide enough for two men to walk abreast, built of stone and of that
indestructible cement which seems to have been the secret of Tartessus,
together with small broken columns of the same granite and the same
cutting as those three of Hercules, twenty of whose forty feet still
project from the top of this same hill. And now it seems clear that this
was the lost city of Tharsis, whose site has so long been a mystery.

Subterranean galleries, the purpose of which has not yet been discovered,
are found beneath all this quarter of Seville. One begins to see that
the sixteenth-century Heraclean legend may have had some foundation in
fact, and that the worshippers of Hercules or his forerunner Geryon may
literally have substituted these galleries of masonry for the perishable
foundations of the prehistoric “lake-dwellings” built on poles. This view
is supported by Don Carlos Cañal, Deputy to Cortes, who wrote a book on
_Prehistoric Seville_ twenty years or more ago, before the discoveries in
Crete had revolutionised the science of archæology.

Some portions of the Tartessian galleries still exist in a state of
perfect preservation; but these are under the highest part of the town,
where floods could never have come, and I think must have been built for
some of the mysteries of the Tartessian sun-worship, relics of which one
finds elsewhere. Others, at a lower level, seem as if they must have been
intended to afford free passage to the water of the river.

One most interesting and perfectly accessible gallery is unluckily
private property, and it is exceedingly difficult to get permission to
visit it. I have done so three times, thanks to the insistence of a
priest as keen about archæology as I am. But it was sorely against the
grain of the owner.

He is a middle-aged gentleman who has never in his life ventured down
the staircase which was built to give access to the labyrinth, as
it is called, when it was accidentally discovered in the sixteenth
century. On my first visit I went down the twenty-seven feet to the
floor level of the galleries with the owner’s son, an intelligent lad
keenly interested in the strange place. Although it is pitch dark, it is
perfectly ventilated through invisible openings to the upper air, the
outlets of which have long been lost sight of, and we easily made our
way from one circular chamber to another by the light of candles along
the barrel-shaped passages, which are of convenient width and more than
a man’s height, and I was delighted at finding such an opportunity for
study at my own door, as it were.

But alas! I had reckoned without my host. Before we had been there ten
minutes that gentleman began to shout from the head of the stairs for us
to come back—

“You have been down there quite long enough. You will get lost in the
dark. You will catch pneumonia in the cold and the damp. Come up! Come
up! I insist! I command! My son, why do you not obey me? I will not have
you catch pneumonia. You have had more than time to see everything. There
is nothing to see. For thirty years I have lived here and I have never
gone down. The place is of no importance whatever. You must come up at
once.”

Not for a moment did he stop shouting. At first the boy told me to
pretend I did not hear, and to pay no attention to his father’s
protestations, but very soon he said he dared not remain longer, and
that if I would come up now he would take me down again the day after
to-morrow, by which time he would talk his father over into letting us
stay below as long as we wished.

Again, alas! With much protest I was allowed to go down again the day
after to-morrow, as arranged, but the shouts to “come up!” were more
continuous and more insistent than ever, and little work could be done.

Once more, some months later, I wrung a reluctant permission from the
owner to take down a distinguished architect, but the only time we were
allowed to enter the sacred precincts was at eight in the morning, when
the friendly son, uninformed of our visit, was safe in bed. Two ancient
female servants were sent down to see that we did not get into mischief,
while for a whole hour the owner shouted that if we had any regard for
our health we would not linger in that dangerous darkness.

When next I saw the boy, who was anxious to have the place scientifically
studied, he told me that his father was determined to refuse all further
applications for permission to visit this almost unique survival of a
vanished civilisation.

“And to make quite sure that I shall not open the door when he is out of
the way,” said the lad, “he now keeps the key in his pocket all day and
sleeps with it under his pillow.”

Such is the encouragement given to archæologists in Seville.

It seems clear that the inhabitants of a town built on the principle of
a prehistoric lake-dwelling, but having solid stone galleries instead of
piles for its foundations, would have little to fear from floods. And
it is the case that from the dawn of Spanish history until after the
reconquest in 1248 we find nothing to suggest any serious trouble of
the kind. But from then onwards we hear more and more of the increasing
ravages wrought by the water, and these can only be attributed to
persistent neglect of the hydraulic engineering works which the Seville
Arabs and Mozarabs had carried to such perfection.

Triana, the potters’ suburb of Seville from time immemorial, although
now to some extent protected by wharves, lies considerably below the
level of even a moderate flood. Probably in old times it was all built on
galleries and arcades, and even now the main street has ancient arcades
on either side for some little distance. The road between has risen so
much that one column, perhaps Roman, is only three or four feet high, and
when the floods come the water quickly fills the ground-floor rooms to
the ceilings. It is possible that this is an actual relic of the “City
of the Poles,” although of course rebuilt again and again until only the
idea of the primitive part remains.

Triana is always the first quarter to be flooded and the last to be
cleared when the river overflows, for the sewer outfalls are below the
flood-level, and it seems impossible to close them against the weight of
the flood water—moreover, when they are closed, the rain has no outlet
and pools in the streets. Some day perhaps the petition of the 10,000
Trianeros, repeated year after year for goodness knows how long, will be
attended to by the authorities in Madrid, and then the old river-bed (_la
madre vieja_), which has been silted up for centuries, will be cleared
out and used to carry off the flood water. But this obvious remedy has
not yet been applied by the wisdom of the Ministers who rule Spain, and
the terror that seizes upon all who live below the flood-level when heavy
rains set in is a thing to be remembered.

In February 1912 we were living in a modern house in a low-lying part
of Seville, some little way from the river. The ground floor of the
house had been artificially raised about five feet above the level of
the street, but if the river had risen two or three inches above the
twenty-seven feet that it had reached the night before it began to go
down, the whole street would quickly have been flooded, and we, like
Triana, would have had to be fed by boat. All that night a violent
thunderstorm raged, to add the finishing touch to our panic; for there
was nothing now between Seville and the river save some improvised
barriers hastily erected with sixty hours of incessant labour by the
soldiers of the garrison, and against these the water was already
streaming with force.

But our case, though serious enough, was nothing like so critical as that
of many others, for it was at any rate not likely that the water would
actually come into our house. A friend of mine, like scores of residents
in Seville, has in her house a well of brackish water, and all these
wells are fed in some way from the river bed. My friend knows that it is
only the walls of the new wharves, built during the last twenty years or
so, that keeps her well from overflowing whenever the river rises even a
few feet. And once the wells in that part of the town overflow from the
river, nothing can check the ingress of the water, for the whole district
lies far below flood-level. Day and night for a week she kept on taking
soundings, until during the last night, that of the thunderstorm, the
water in the well at last began to rise, one metre ... two metres ...
three metres.... By daybreak, notwithstanding all her prayers and vows
to the Virgin, it was within six feet of the top, and was still rising
rapidly.

“And then,” said she, “at the last moment Our Lady answered my prayers.”

The storm ceased, the sun came out, and before the tide turned at midday
the flag was flying on the Torre del Oro to tell panic-stricken Seville
that the river was going down. Indeed the change came only just in time,
for the flood was within an ace of overlapping the frail temporary
barriers which alone kept the water out of the main part of the town.

By that time Triana, on the opposite bank, had been for six days under
water, with from six to nine feet of it in every single house. The
whole of the river valley, from Cordova down to the mouth, was one vast
inland sea. In the riverside villages hardly a house was above water.
Algaba, the first village above Seville, was entirely submerged, and
about 750 out of the 800 inhabitants, having nowhere else to go, were
huddled together in the ancient tower which, the villagers say, was built
expressly as a refuge when the river rises. Imagine 750 people shut up
for a week in one small tower! As soon as it was possible to row against
the subsiding stream, I went up with a boat-load of good Samaritans to
carry help to some families we knew, and I shall never forget what I saw.

The fields were feet deep in silt, the spring crops ruined, the streets
a mass of indescribable filth, the poor cottages, generally trim and
sweet with frequent whitewash, were banked up with stinking mud. But the
blazing February sun was streaming down on all the misery; gay-coloured
clothes, blankets, mats, curtains, beds and bedding, were hung out to
dry, the women were all hard at work with their whitewash and scrubbing
pails, and an astonishing spirit of courage and philosophy pervaded the
whole place.

From the moment they could get across the ferry, three families had been
tramping into Seville—about a mile and a half of road, mostly under
water—to get rations from the “English” soup kitchen, and it was to
verify their incredible tales of distress that we had rowed up.

“Yes, it was quite true that there was hardly anything to eat. It was
also true that there was no work at present, and thus the supplies of
rice, garbanzos, and haricot beans given by the Señores were more welcome
than words could say. But the good sun was shining and everything would
soon dry up, and then the rich Señors Fulano and Mengano, who owned all
the land round about, would have to employ every hand they could get to
sow the fields over again, for they certainly would not lose a whole
season’s crops, and they would have to pay good wages too, for there
would be work for every able-bodied man from Seville to Cordova. And
thus, if God pleased, good might soon come out of their present misery.”

One of the more prosperous women, who had a loft above her cottage—a
great rarity in this single-storeyed village—and thus had been able to
save her furniture, insisted on giving us hot coffee before we left,
and indignantly refused to be paid for it. “It was the least she could
do when we had been so good to them,” she said, and she had a brazier
burning so that we should not feel the damp of the room, which she had
just finished whitewashing before we came.

We felt ashamed to demur at sitting for ten minutes in the kitchen,
reeking with damp, where the family had to live, but we were shivering
with cold before we could decently take our leave, and since then I have
always wondered why the whole village did not die of fever and ague,
instead of being noted for their excellent health.

The cheerfulness with which the disaster was met at Algaba was even more
striking at Triana. Here those whose houses had two or three storeys
all took refuge on the upper floors, and were fed from boats for the
six days during which the suburb was under water. Rations for all were
provided by the authorities, and no one here need have starved, although
the organisation of supplies for some ten thousand people in this quarter
alone, besides several thousands more in flooded streets on the outskirts
of the town itself, was a task of no small difficulty. Every one fared
alike, getting only bread and the plainest fare, but in sufficient
quantities to keep body and soul together if each took no more than his
fair share. Very few could get ferried through the flooded streets to the
bridge into Seville, and indeed for a day or two wheeled traffic over
the single bridge was forbidden, save to convey food, for the water was
nearly up to the top of the arch, and the whole structure was threatened.
Had the bridge gone, all Triana must have starved, for no boat could
cross that raging torrent.

Few lives were lost, though house after house in the oldest and poorest
quarters fell in, and in one case a whole family was shut up in an old
building without a window to the street, and when they were discovered
three days later two of the children were dead from cold and hunger. For
it was very cold during those grey, sunless days. But the rescue work was
as well organised as the commissariat, and the young vicar of the parish,
Don Bernardo Guerra, who was working like a man, became the hero of the
imprisoned Trianeros. He himself seemed quite unaware of his popularity;
indeed, he said his people were angry with him because, “although he was
working at relief so many hours a day that he had hardly time to eat or
drink or sleep or pray, it was impossible to supply a hundredth part of
their needs.”

“But now that the sun is shining again, things are going better,” he
said. “Indeed, even during the worst of the bad week it was surprising
how a fitful gleam of sunshine enlivened the inundated people. The
Trianeros have a gaiety of spirit peculiarly their own, which never
deserts them for long, and it was curious to see how it came out among
the hundreds of refugees housed in our new school buildings. It was
also very noticeable how the women preserved even there their habits of
cleanliness and decency. None of them had more privacy than they could
obtain by hanging up shawls and sheets to separate one family from
another, and yet most of them contrived to keep their own little places
tidy and comparatively comfortable. The gipsies, it is true, looked as
if they were picnicking in a rag fair, but they kept together at one end
of the big class-rooms, apart from the other refugees. And you would
have smiled to see the girls dressing their hair as if for a _fiesta_,
and even dancing while the young men sang to a guitar which one of them
had saved from the wreck of his home. It was difficult to believe—when
the sun shone for a few moments—what desolation there was outside. But
when night fell the suffering was at its worst. The authorities managed
to keep water, gas, and electric light going in the streets, but in the
houses the fittings were all under water, and the darkness accentuated
the distress. And then the pistol shots going off for help, and the
difficulty of locating the sound along the flooded streets, and the fear
of arriving too late to save lives ... it was an experience one would not
forget in a century.”

Don Bernardo stopped speaking, with a look in his liquid-brown eyes as of
one who sees a nightmare.

“But you did always get there in time?” I gently prompted; “what about
the affair in the Calle Evangelio? I saw it mentioned in the papers. They
said you got an ovation.”

“The papers talk a lot of nonsense,” said the priest, smiling once more.
“It was nothing, and what credit there was is not mine. Now about those
mattresses? How many more can you provide from the English Relief Fund?
We are to get fifteen hundred from the Government grant, they tell me,
but not until the money is paid, and I am wondering if it will come
before next summer. Meanwhile the hundred sent by the English ladies
have been a great boon, and there were also sixteen from a Spanish lady.
But we want a thousand at once, for families who have lost everything
and now are sleeping on the floors of houses which were under water a
week ago. _Ay de mi de mi alma!_ And all this suffering would have been
prevented if the Government had agreed to the protective work on the old
river bed last year!”

“But I want to know about the affair in the Calle Evangelio,” I
persisted, and Don Bernardo, always courteous, could not refuse to tell
me.

“It was nothing—there were many such incidents. I was in bed. Tired?
Well, perhaps; we do not sleep much just now. Suddenly I heard pistol
shots, several, fired quickly one after the other, so I knew the danger
was imminent. I ran to my window to call the boatman, who was supposed
to be at my service day and night, but the poor fellow was tired out,
and a long way off, at the far end of this long street. I could make
out his boat, tied to a balcony. I guessed he had fallen asleep, or
perhaps, for we are all human, was inside the house getting a drink. Do
not blame him. Those who had stayed out all day in the cold wind and
soaking rain knew well how pardonable was his lapse from duty. If there
had been a cart or even a donkey I should have taken it without asking
permission. But it was the middle of the night. I dared not wade; I am
not tall, and the water was over three feet deep in my street. And then
one of my neighbours, excellent fellow, roused like myself by the shots,
offered to take me on his back. He is a fisherman, strong in the legs
and much taller than I. Understand that he asked no reward; indeed, he
refused payment from the funds that I hold for relief. He carried me on
his shoulders to the boat, and the boatman came out quickly, very much
ashamed. My fisherman began to rate him, but I said, ‘Save your breath
to help row, for I fear we may arrive too late.’ We all three rowed
very hard, and the current seemed like a giant’s hand dragging back our
boat. You see the embankment of the railway to Huelva causes the flood
water to eddy in our streets. I do not understand engineering, but every
one in Triana knows that the embankment is our ruin. It was planned by
engineers in Madrid, and the protest of those who knew the river was not
attended to. The poor people of Triana curse the embankment every time
there is a flood, and this time they would have gone and torn it down
with their own hands if they could have got to it without being drowned
on the way. Well, we reached the Calle Evangelio at last. The shots were
fired from a house with two storeys, and all the inhabitants had been
living on the upper one since the flood began. The water was six feet
deep in the street, and it was quite dark. We got them all into the boat
from a balcony, except one man. He had to jump, for just as he was ready
to climb over the rail the whole front of the house seemed to melt away.
It had been undermined by the water, and fell in all at once. Yes, I
suppose the poor people might all have been drowned, had the good God
not woke the fisherman in time to go to their rescue. I was responsible
in a certain sense, but I could not have got there in time but for him.
Therefore, such credit as there was, should have been given by the
papers to him, not to me.”

On the last and worst day of the floods the King came to Seville with
the Minister of Public Works; and then the poor Trianeros were glad they
had not pulled down the railway embankment, for the first thing His
Majesty did was to steam off along that line, across the waste of waters,
to visit a village which lay with little more than its roofs above the
flood. I watched the engine with its single carriage crawl over the
bridge and along the embankment, very slowly, for there was no knowing
what unseen damage might have been done by the turbid yellow flood below
the rails and sleepers.

Everybody thought that as the King and the Minister had now seen for
themselves the intolerable injury that the piece of bad engineering was
inflicting on Seville, the necessary authority for the work on the old
river bed would be given immediately. That was a year and nine months
ago, and Don Bernardo and his colleagues have been making ceaseless
efforts ever since to get the matter attended to. But we have had three
different Ministries in power during these twenty-one months, and none of
them has had time to think of such trifles as protecting the third most
important port in Spain from devastating inundations. During November
1913 the port had twice to be closed to navigation, owing to the height
of the flood water, and it would not be difficult to calculate how much
money has thus been lost to the town, though no one who has not seen
Triana flooded can estimate the cost in fear and anxiety to the fathers
who cannot earn bread for their children, and the mothers who watch in
hourly dread of the irremediable ruin of their homes.

But no one blames the King. They know it is no fault of his, for they saw
him in Triana that February day in 1912, going from house to house in a
cart or a boat and hoisting up provisions with his own hands, in baskets
slung down from the balconies, and they watched him standing ankle deep
in water at the rise of the bridge, insisting on visiting the streets
that had suffered most.

“God knows no one street had suffered more than another,” said the
journeyman potter who told me this, “for all were under water alike.
‘What a terrible disaster!’ said the King. His gentlemen tried to hold
him back, for they had to follow where he led, and they did not want to
get their feet wet. But they might as well have tried to hold the river
back. He is a _King_! He gave two thousand pesetas then and there, and
he sent twenty thousand more from Madrid as soon as he got back. But the
best thing of all was the King’s Kitchen. He ordered free hot meals to be
served at his expense every day and all day as long as the flood lasted,
to every Trianero who chose to ask for them—no recommendations required,
no religious conditions. The King said no one was to be asked a question:
everybody who was hungry was to have a meal in his kitchen. It saved many
lives. True, we all had bread from the Town Council, but we fathers could
not take our share while the children were hungry, and we were weak from
long fasting, for you must understand that many of us had been out of
work for a month, owing to bad weather, before the river overflowed. What
a bad time God gave us this winter! But, thank God, there is work for all
Triana now, for there are so many houses to be repaired and rebuilt that
we cannot make bricks fast enough, and the masters have had to raise our
wages.”

Soup kitchens, or as the Sevillians call them, “Economical kitchens”
(_cocinas economicas_), are little used here in times of public distress.
It never seems to occur to the wealthy Sevillian ladies that with a very
little trouble and organisation they could easily start private soup
kitchens in their own houses, if only for the friends and relations of
their numerous _ménages_. Of course, when the floods came, a soup kitchen
was the first idea that occurred to some members of the English colony,
and within twenty-four hours of the inundation of Triana, Mr. Keyser, our
Consul, together with myself and a few other ladies, had collected enough
money among our personal friends to supply two hundred rations a day for
a fortnight.

The distribution took place in our house, because our patio happened to
be the most convenient for the purpose, and all our servants, like those
at the Consulate, worked double tides throughout the fortnight, so that
none of the Relief Fund should be spent on extra hands. At first we only
intended to feed families connected with the English business houses, but
we soon found that it was impossible to lay down hard-and-fast rules.
One afternoon a man who had been waiting an hour for what might remain
after the privileged people were fed, dropped in a dead faint on the
floor, and it took half an hour to bring him round. After that we ladled
out our soup as fast as we could to every white-faced shivering creature
that presented himself, without asking for his subscriber’s card, not
wishing for a repetition of the fright that seized us when the man
fainted, for on that occasion it looked for a while as if our very small
amount of red tape was to cost a life.

We got up to five hundred rations a day before we closed our soup
kitchen, and even then had money left to buy the hundred mattresses and
pillows that were so useful to the Triana priest—and all for a little
over £60 in English money. True, the mattresses were very cheap, for a
maker of them contributed to the relief by selling us all that we asked
for considerably below cost price—a practical form of charity that
greatly appealed to the people. But if we had spent £6000 instead of
£60 we could not have met with more gratitude. It was not so much the
quantity or the quality of the soup, our parish priest explained. It was
having it ready at the precise moment when it was wanted, for the thing
was put in hand very promptly, and we got in ahead even of the King’s
Kitchen. Strange though it may seem to English people, accustomed to
organised charity, no other private individual or private association in
Seville adopted this simple means of providing hot meals at a minimum of
cost.

But we had no idea of the fame we were acquiring—indeed, we had no time
to think of how our modest effort might strike the public. So we were
surprised and amused when the editor of a local weekly paper sent round
his photographer to get an illustration for an article on the “noble
initiative of the English ladies.” We told him we preferred to remain
in retirement with our kettles. But he pointed out that a photograph of
our truly “economical” kitchen would encourage the ladies of Seville to
go and do likewise when another occasion should arise; and after that we
could not of course refuse to be immortalised with our tin pots about us,
if only to show how easily five hundred people could be fed from a dozen
petroleum tins boiled on gas rings. And having got his photograph and
published his little article, our philanthropic editor proceeded to offer
each of our helpers a copy of the photograph at three times the market
price!

Another pretty speech brought further evidence, were it wanted, of the
popular feeling towards the young Queen. We set aside a little of our
money to redeem pawn-tickets in the case of two or three families who
had been comparatively well-to-do before the floods and now only needed
respectable clothing to obtain good employment again, and, of course,
this was to be obtained much more cheaply by taking their own garments
out of the Mont de Piétè than by buying new for them.

One of the poor women said with tears in her eyes as she handed me a
sheaf of the depressing little papers—

“Oh, Señora Elena, you are like the Queen!”

I smiled at the remark, for although it has long been the fashion for
Spanish gallants to tell English girls they resemble the Queen when they
want to offer the greatest flattery, I could not imagine how even the
most fervent gratitude could find any resemblance between an old woman
with white hair and the beautiful young Queen.

“Not in face, Señora, although you too are _muy guapa_ (very attractive),
but in generosity with the pawn-tickets. Have you not heard what the
Queen did in that way? A very poor woman of Triana threw a whole bundle
of tickets into the Queen’s carriage one day when she was driving through
Triana, and instead of being vexed, the Queen sent down to Juana’s house
after she got back to the palace to see if it was true that she had sold
everything. And it was quite true, and the Queen redeemed her tickets and
afterwards many more for other women, when she learnt of cases of great
distress for which the women were not to blame. I wish the rich knew how
helpful it is to redeem our pawn-tickets, for many of our clothes and
especially our boots are very good when we ‘put them away,’—indeed, if
they are not good the Mont de Piétè will not give us anything for them.”

Nor was this the end of the compliments paid us; for a few days later our
man-servant came to tell me that he had been asked for the full names,
family and baptismal, of all the English ladies who had helped to serve
the soup, the same having been requested by a popular performer of
“Flamenco” songs at a certain music-hall.

“But I refused to tell him,” said our man proudly. “Having been in
England with the Señores and knowing English customs, I informed him that
compliments in your country had to be paid in a roundabout way, and that
if your names were mentioned he would offend instead of pleasing.”

“But what in the world did he want to know our names for?” I asked,
completely mystified.

“_Por Dios_, Señora! Don’t you know that a couplet in praise of the
English economical kitchen is sung every night at the Blankblankblank,
along with one about the King’s Kitchen and the brave deeds of Don
Bernardo Guerra? Señora! That song has been the most popular item in the
programme for many nights past, and for that reason Pepito wanted to
improvise a second couplet giving all the ladies’ names. But don’t be
anxious: I assure you I refused with quite sufficient coldness to make
him understand that he was taking a liberty.”

The joke of it was that the Blankblankblank is a well-known café chantant
in Seville which has been for years a stone of offence to Mrs. Grundy,
both the English and the Spanish variety, and well-behaved members of
society like ourselves would not have set foot inside it for worlds. Of
course our disapproval, even if they had been aware of it, would not have
troubled the café chantant people at all, but we felt rather as if those
black sheep were heaping coals of fire on our respectable heads, when
we learned that songs about our civic virtues were delighting crowded
houses every night. But at any rate we were in good company, with the
King on one side and the parish priest on the other.

And thus on a note of comedy closed our part in the tragedy of the
greatest floods ever known in the long annals of the devastation wrought
century after century by the Guadalquivir.



PART IV.—SPRING



CHAPTER XVI

    Popular monarchs—King Alfonso and the washerwoman—Royal
    charity—No bull-fight required—Reaction against the bull-ring—A
    monarchical republican—The guardian of the polo ground—The
    King introduces the Queen—A loyal old gardener—The grief of
    Enriqueta—The King at Ronda—A lucky donkey-driver—Careful
    rioters—_Viva el Rey!_


I am often asked by visitors whether the English Queen is popular in
Spain, and I always wonder why such a question should occur to them. How
could she fail to be popular, with youth, beauty, and a kind heart to
give an extra gilding to her crown?

As a matter of fact, the longer one lives in Spain and the more one sees
of the peasantry and the working classes in general, the more delightful
tales one hears of the private dealings of the King and Queen and the
rest of the royal family with the “common” people; and as very few of
these have been published in the English papers, it seems worth while
to put them on record before they are forgotten. I do not vouch for
their literal truth, but I hardly think such stories would be current
coin unless they had some foundation in fact, and in any case the people
believe them to be true, and thus they illustrate the popular feeling
towards the Royalties.

[Illustration: GOING HOME FROM THE MARKET.]

Perhaps the story of King Alfonso and the washerwoman is already a
chestnut, although I have never seen it in print. It dates from the days
when motors were comparatively in their infancy, and the young King kept
his entourage in a state of chronic nervousness by his devotion to the
new machine, which in the opinion of the timid might run away or blow
up at any moment. One winter afternoon the King did not return at the
time he was expected, and there were serious thoughts of sending out a
detachment of the Civil Guard with an ambulance in search of the errant
motor. When His Majesty appeared, his lateness was explained by his
having picked up a lame old laundress laden with clean linen, some little
way out of Madrid, and taken her in his motor to the residence of her
employers before he came home.

Possibly this may be one of Ben Trovato’s stories, but I can myself quite
believe it, having heard at first hand of many other incidents showing
the same impulsive kindness to the poor and lowly, and the same disregard
of convention and regal state.

Not only the King and Queen, but also the Queen-Mother and other members
of the royal family have at one time or another picked up unfortunates
who had met with accidents in the streets, and conveyed them to their
homes or to a hospital. On one occasion Queen Christina sat for half an
hour on a bench in the park at Madrid, while her motor took an unlucky
cyclist to hospital. He was a student who had cut his head badly, and
the Queen herself directed her servants to lay him as comfortably as
possible on the cushions, after binding up his wounds with her own hands.

The Infanta Isabel, aunt of King Alfonso, recently delighted the crowd
by an action which is less common now than it was a century ago. True,
the vehicle was a fashionable motor, instead of a great royal coach as
formerly, but the inspiration was the same.

The Princess on her afternoon drive met a procession carrying the
Viaticum from one of the minor churches to a dying person. She got out
of her motor, made the priest get in with his sacred burden, and herself
walked to the sick man’s house in the procession behind the Host,
carrying a lighted candle. She is a great favourite in Spain, especially
among the amateurs of the bull-ring, for her devotion to the national
sport is so warm as to compensate them for the unconcealed distaste of
some other members of her family.

The King and Queen seldom go to a bull-fight, although when they do
appear at one the fact is so freely advertised, and photographs of their
Majesties are so widely circulated by those interested in maintaining
the “sport,” that probably the outside world believes that they are
devoted to it. It is of course impossible that those who love horses and
are themselves skilled in horsemanship should have any sympathy with an
entertainment in which the mangling of horses is an essential feature,
although a King and Queen may sometimes have apparently to condone what
they cannot approve. But their real feeling may be judged from a little
incident which I had from an excellent authority—the private secretary
of the man to whom the King spoke.

The occasion was a visit from their Majesties to a certain town which
is renowned for its bull-fights, and has the reputation of producing
the best _toreros_ in Spain. The Alcalde presented his programme of
festivities for the King’s approval, and, pointing out one or two vacant
dates, asked—

“When would you like to have the bull-fight, sir?”

The King replied that he and the Queen had come for a holiday, and did
not wish to have every day filled up in advance; “and therefore,” said
his Majesty, “when I want a bull-fight I will ask for it.”

The Court spent a whole month in that town, and no bull-fight took place.

Of course this, like everything else in Spain, is a political question.
The Reactionaries, true to their principles, support existing
institutions, while the Conservatives, Liberals, Radicals, Republicans,
both reforming and revolutionary, Socialists, etc., all combine to
denounce what they regard as one of the main factors in the _atraso de
España_ (the backwardness of Spain).

Foreigners who object to the bull-fight must bear in mind that an
immense amount of money is sunk in it, by the owners of large estates
who breed the bulls, in the building and upkeep of the bull-rings, and
in the very costly apparatus of the show, and it is only natural that
capitalists should fight for the institution in which their money is
invested. When foreigners indignantly ask why the King does not put a
stop to the barbarous “sport,” if it be true that he dislikes it, they
do not realise that a constitutional King, however radical a reformer
he may be, cannot by a stroke of the pen destroy the vested interests
of a great and powerful section of the community. To suggest that King
Alfonso should arbitrarily close all the bull-rings would be something
like proposing that the King of England should, _propio motu_, close all
the music-halls, regardless of the rights of the shareholders. And the
bull-fights can at any rate plead a venerable antiquity. Their origin
is not certainly known, but it is possible that they date from the days
of the Liby-Tartessians, when Minos ruled and encouraged bull-fights in
Crete.

What is new is the reaction against the ring, which is spreading with
encouraging rapidity. One of the greatest virtues of Isabel II., in the
opinion of her time, was that she “was very fond of the bulls,” and
even now old ladies and gentlemen of that unlucky Queen’s generation
speak of her affection for the bull-fight as one of her redeeming
qualities. Whereas not the least of King Alfonso’s acknowledged claims
on the respect and sympathy of the Radical and Republican sections of
his subjects (and these include the mass of the working classes) is his
obvious preference for other and more manly forms of sport.

The republicanism of the peasant is a curious and interesting study, and
I always love to draw him out on the subject. One day when I was digging
in the mountains a heavy shower came on, and I took shelter with my
workmen in a chambered tomb that we had been clearing. How the subject of
the Monarchy came up between them I did not notice, for I was absorbed
in a dramatic shifting of the storm-scene as I saw it framed by a rough
opening in the rock where a fallen stone had revealed the existence of
our burial cave. The hills had been purple, almost black, against the
thunderclouds, when suddenly there was a rift in the overcast sky, a
streak of sunshine shot out, and through the pouring rain a great sheet
of silver appeared like magic on the distant hillside, where an instant
before all had been unrelieved gloom. It was only a patch of grey rock,
but it was transformed by a cascade of rain-water from the peaks above
into a thing of ethereal beauty which vanished as quickly as it had
appeared.

A small boy—a goat-herd in his Sunday best on his way to a fair in the
neighbouring town—had taken shelter with us in the cave, and at the
men’s request had been singing the local songs in a shrill treble for my
benefit; and when my thoughts began to wander from the company to that
glorified hillside, he was wailing a love-song of which I could not make
out a word. It was rather a shock to me to be brought back to earth by
hearing the gentlest and most courteous of my two diggers remark that he
wished he had the King and the Alcalde of the town together in the cave,
so that he might throttle them both.

He explained that the Town Council owed him a considerable sum of money
for a contract carried out by his father (recently dead) and himself,
and his view was that if the King really was up to his work he would long
ago have made an end of corruption and jobbery, and would have replaced
the existing bureaucracy with honest men, who would pay poor labourers
what they owed them instead of buying motors for their private amusement.
And as the King had not done this, let him be throttled, or if not that,
at least let us have a republic and make him the President of it.

Poor Ramón! He was suffering from a bad attack of political indigestion,
and no wonder, for the unpaid bill, amounting to some hundreds of
pesetas, meant a very heavy loss to a young man who had to support a
widowed mother and various young brothers and sisters. I gave him a note
of recommendation to the Alcalde, whom I knew to be rather better than
most of his class, and I hope he got his money when the next pay-day
came. But I sadly pondered over the state of Spain, administered on a
system which poisons every limb of the body politic and makes it almost
impossible for the local authorities to pay their workers and at the same
time meet the demands of the blood-suckers who live without working,
while they pull the strings that make the office-holders dance to their
piping.

In a country where politics permeate and pollute everything it is not
easy to keep clear of them, but I have heard many little anecdotes of the
King and Queen which fortunately are free from that taint; and if most of
them relate to Seville, my excuse must be that most of my life in Spain
has been spent in that city.

About a mile outside the town there is a large expanse of meadow land
alongside the Guadalquivir, known as the Tablada, which has played a part
many times in Andalucian history.

Here grazed the long-horned Tartessian cattle mentioned in the last
chapter. Here Julius Cæsar reviewed the native militia when the natives
of Hispalis enlisted under his banner after refusing to open their gates
to Varro, the lieutenant of Pompey. Here the offspring of Witiza, the
last legitimate King of the Visigoths, grew rich as they cultivated the
fertile plain and built ships to carry on that profitable trade with the
East which made Ishbiliyah rich under the rule of Witiza’s descendants,
who amicably intermarried with Arab princes and ruled the land under
nominal subjection to the Sultans of Cordova. Here the Northmen, ten
centuries ago, after sailing up the river, were repulsed when they
tried to set fire to the town. Here Saint Fernando set up his camp when
he besieged Seville in 1248 and spent a year and a half in the vain
endeavour to effect an entrance through the imperishable walls which were
first built somewhere about the time that Minos brought bull-fighting
into fashion.

True the Carthaginians conquered Tharsis, sacked and destroyed the city
of their rivals the Greco-Tartessians (who in recent centuries had twice
possessed themselves of Cadiz), and even deprived Tharsis of its name,
adding it to that of Cadiz by way of an extra jewel in the Gaditanian
crown. But the encircling wall defied their vengeance, and although they
may have made a breach here and there they could not destroy it, for the
“cob” of pre-Roman Spain is as hard as stone, and luckily for posterity
the Carthaginians did not know the uses of dynamite.

Unless aided from within, none of her enemies ever got into Seville until
the walls fell into disrepair. Even Marshal Soult would hardly have
found the siege of Seville such a farce as he did, but for the ruinous
condition into which Spanish neglect had allowed the fortifications to
decline. True he did not have to encamp on Tablada to starve the town
into surrender, as did Saint Fernando, but the inhabitants had time
to hide a good many of their treasures, artistic and other, in the
subterranean vaults and galleries which have existed since Tharsis was
built, before the French general battered down their gates.

The plain of Tablada is now a busy place, for right across it a great
canal is in course of construction, which, coupled with a further
deepening of the channel of the river, will open Seville, some fifty
miles inland, to steamers of over 10,000 tons and make it the principal
port in Spain, except perhaps Barcelona.

But part of this plain is devoted to sport of different sorts, and here a
polo ground is laid out when the Court comes to Seville. Thus here, as in
Moguer, my little anecdotes are linked to a thread of history, and this
long digression has more object than at first appears.

A certain old man had been appointed gatekeeper to the entrance to the
Tablada sports ground, because his son, a _torero_, had been killed in a
bull-fight and the bulls destined to die in the Seville ring are always
enclosed in a field at Tablada a day or two before the fight. He was a
conscientious old man and never deserted his post, even when all the town
turned out to receive the King and Queen on their arrival from Madrid.
They had an exceptionally enthusiastic reception that year, because
King Alfonso had recently granted a large piece of ground from the
Alcazar gardens to give access, light, and air to a poor quarter packed
away behind the lofty walls of the palace; and it was a good deal of a
sacrifice on the part of the old man to go out to Tablada at the usual
time instead of shouting _Vivas_ with his friends at the station first:
but he had his reward in a little-expected shape.

A few days after the arrival of the Court, word was sent to our friend
that he must be extra careful to admit no unauthorised persons to the
enclosure, because their Majesties would be driving out in the course of
the afternoon to see the polo ground preparatory to a match fixed for the
next day. So when a young man whom he did not know galloped up, slightly
dishevelled from riding fast in a stiff wind, the gatekeeper flatly
refused to open the gate, saying in explanation that the King and Queen
were coming.

“Do you know the King?” inquired the rider.

“No; nor the Queen either,” answered the old man, “and I only wish I did,
for my grandchildren plague the life out of me every day asking whether
I have seen her and whether she is as beautiful as everybody says.”

“Well, now you will be able to tell them,” said the horseman, “for here
she comes.”

Up drove the Queen, and the old man thereupon became aware that his
interlocutor—as of course my readers have guessed—was the King himself,
for he proceeded to tell her of the conversation in a way that made her
laugh heartily.

“And now that you have seen the Queen, what shall you tell your
grandchildren? Is she as beautiful as everybody says?” asked the King in
the best of humours, for, as all the world knows, nothing pleases him
more than these spontaneous evidences of the admiration bestowed on his
wife.

“More, more, a thousand times more,” stammered the old man, quite abashed.

The royal cortége waited while the Queen asked about the children, how
many there were, what were their ages, and why they lived with their
grandfather. And on hearing how they had been orphaned and were dependent
on his modest earnings at the gate, the King gave him a bank-note—which
could not have been less than twenty-five pesetas, for that is the
smallest paper money, and may have been more—telling him to let the
children have a feast of cakes and chocolate by which to remember the
Queen.

It is pretty to see the real affection inspired by this brilliant young
couple even in the humblest of their entourage.

While the piece of ground given to the town was being cut off from the
palace gardens, there was for a week or more a long space by the new road
which was open to the world at large, for although the work was pressed
on with all speed, a high and strong wall had to be built, and that could
not be run up in a moment. It was January, and very cold for Seville,
and one day when I walked round the gardens I missed the oldest of the
gardeners, who with his chubby, cheerful daughter are particular friends
of mine.

It appeared that old Toro was crippled with a serious chill, and could
only just hobble across from his cottage to the place where the building
was going on, where he was acting as watchman until the new wall was
finished.

“How has he managed to get ill just now?” I asked, for he was a sturdy
old fellow whom no amount of work ever seemed to tire.

“It is because he has been up for several nights, keeping guard over
there,” explained his daughter. “The Town Council put on two extra
policemen, but my father thought they were not enough to make sure that
no bad characters got in in the dark, for it is a long piece of road as
you see, and he was not going to have bad characters in His Majesty’s
garden if _he_ could help it.”

“Well done, Toro,” said I; “I know how loyal he is to the King, and I
hope he will get a handsome tip for his extra care.”

“Oh no, he didn’t do it for that, it is purely voluntary; and anyhow
he won’t get anything, because the Señor Marqués (the Governor of the
Alcazar) doesn’t know anything about it. You may be sure my father is
not going to tell him. And please, Doña Elena, don’t say anything to my
father about it, for he would be angry with me for telling you. He feels
he is only doing his duty.”

One admires the King whose kindness to his employés secures such
unselfish affection, and one admires the high ideal of duty which leads
an old man nearer seventy than sixty to stop out of doors all night for
a week at a stretch to guard his royal master’s garden. I do not know
if Toro’s devotion ever reached the King’s ears, but I fear not, for
the last time I saw chubby Enriqueta she was in tears because, owing to
extensive alterations in that same garden, the house she and her father
had lived in for so many years was to be pulled down and they had to seek
a new abode outside of the precincts.

She cheered up, however, as I led her back to talk about the royal
family, always her favourite subject of conversation.

She adores the little Prince of Asturias, and related with pride how she
had long ago heard him talking in English to his pony. “He was hardly
four years old, and yet he could already talk in a language I did not
understand!”

But her most cherished recollection relates to a day of alarms and
excursions when, owing to some political crisis, the Court left Seville
at a few hours’ notice, a day or two earlier than had been intended.

“I have never been employed inside the palace,” said Enriqueta, “only to
wash table linen and such-like here in our own laundry. But that day
every one was so busy that we were all called to help with the packing.
There are certain things that the Queen herself directs the packing of,
and one of her ladies told me to carry a tray of silver and spoke rather
sharply because I was slow with it, being unused to such delicate work.
And a voice behind said in the kindest tone, ‘Don’t scold the poor girl;
I am sure she is doing her best.’ And there was the Queen herself, who
had come to see if the silver was ready! We would all go down on our
knees to serve their Majesties, who have kind words for everybody, and it
is a deep grief to me that when we live away from the palace I shall have
no chance of serving the Queen even by washing her table linen.”

I heard a pleasant story of the King at Ronda, which he visited a year or
so ago on his way from a military review at Algeciras.

The Alcalde, although of noble birth, was very old and had not been to
Court for so long that he had even forgotten how to address his King.
He began by taking the seat of honour in the carriage, and when the
King asked him the depth of the Tajo—that tremendous cleft in the rock
through which flows the Guadelevín—he replied that he did not know. The
Tajo is the pride and glory of all good Rondeños, for the gorge has a
sheer drop of between five hundred and six hundred feet, and great was
the indignation of the town when the Alcalde’s indifference to those
all-important local statistics became known.

The King was driven up to the new hotel, the Reina Victoria, on the crest
of a hill where the Tajo opens out into a fertile valley. And here the
Alcalde seems to have set his royal guest down and left him to his own
devices, without so much as having a glass of wine set before him.

Later in the day a poor muleteer, toiling up the winding path which leads
from the flour mills below to the “old town” on the top of the hill,
was accosted by a strange young gentleman who, with a companion, was
beginning the ascent. No one is more responsive to a pleasant greeting
than the Andalucian peasant, and the _arriero_ at once slipped off his
donkey in order to carry on the conversation more comfortably on foot.

“I suppose you gentlemen, being strangers, got a sight of the King this
morning,” said he. “They say he is very _simpático_, and very good to the
poor.”

“I am glad to hear that,” said one of the strangers, “but haven’t you
seen him yourself?”

“Not I,” said the _arriero_; “I can’t afford to lose my day’s wage merely
to enjoy myself, and I have no chance of seeing His Majesty unless he
comes down into the Tajo to look for me.”

They climbed on up the stony zigzag path, and presently the young man
asked the _arriero_ if the donkey could carry his weight, for he found
walking up the almost vertical hill rather hard work.

“Of course he could get on the donkey, and welcome. Castaño often carried
two hundredweight of potatoes up to the town, and the Señor certainly
did not weigh that. He, Castaño’s owner, thought very little of climbing
the hill several times a day when there was a lot of produce to take to
market, but he could understand that a _forastero_ [stranger—any one not
belonging to the speaker’s native place] who was not used to the Tajo
might find it heavy walking.”

So the gentleman got on the donkey, sitting on the panniers with his long
legs dangling on each side of the beast’s neck in true country fashion,
and in this wise the little procession reached the new road recently made
through a breach in the town walls to give an easy approach for motors.

Here the “stranger” dismounted and gave a gratuity to the _arriero_ which
left him speechless with surprise and delight, for it was more than a
week’s wages that he found in his hand.

“Thank you for my pleasant ride,” said the gentleman. “And you can tell
your friends that the King not only went to see you at the bottom of the
Tajo, but was very glad to borrow your donkey to come up again.”

When he left that evening King Alfonso is reported to have said that he
would never forget Ronda, for it was the first place he had been to in
all his life where he was neither offered nor asked for anything.

These are but a few of the many stories we hear of the King, the Queen,
and their people, but they will suffice to show the estimation in which
their Majesties are held, as well as some of the reasons for it. And to
end the chapter I will add one incident in very modern history, which
occurred as recently as November 1913, and is significant, it seems to
me, of the present state of Spanish politics.

The tax known in France as the _octroi_ and in Spain as the _consumos_,
because it is levied on nearly everything that is consumed in the
use,—_i.e._ food and firing,—bears heavily on the poor and causes more
discontent than any other detail of local administration. It is very
harshly enforced in many places, every box, basket, or bundle that enters
the town being examined with irritating and unnecessary thoroughness.
Every traveller has suffered from it on arrival at the railway station,
and what is worse, one often sees weary labourers forced to unload and
reload again their tired donkeys on their way home from work, because
the _consumista_ chooses to imagine that some article of food may be
concealed under a hundredweight of charcoal or firewood. I have myself
been detained in pouring rain at the entrance to a town after a long
day on the hills, while a surly official poked and prodded the panniers
of a mule laden with nothing more dutiable than ancient tiles, bricks,
and such-like from my excavations. A shocking accident occurred, in
connection with this tax, at a seaside village where we spent one
summer; for a poor woman had put her sleeping infant in the panniers of
her donkey, and the _consumista_, assuming without inquiry that they
contained vegetables, ran the baby through with the long sharp spike used
for testing the contents of a load that is not unpacked before them, and
killed it on the spot.

At election times, when the whole country is greatly excited, the
_consumos_ grievance is always prominent, and the popular indignation
is apt to explode in plain language about the Town Councils, for these
have a legal right to substitute some other local tax for the _consumos_,
if they choose to do so. Naturally the poor feel that they, in whose
starvation wages every farthing is of importance, suffer more by a direct
tax on food than do the rich, and thus it has become a class question,
needing extremely delicate handling at critical moments.

In a modest village of two or three thousand inhabitants, in the
province of Huelva, called Bolullos del Candado, feeling about the
_consumos_ had risen to boiling-point before the 1913 municipal elections
began, and some mismanagement at the Town Hall led the malcontents
to believe—perhaps justifiably—that the voting would not be fairly
conducted. In less than no time some five hundred people collected
outside the Town Hall, and the authorities, alarmed at their menacing
aspect, locked the doors and ordered the Civil Guard to fire on the
crowd. Infuriated by being shot at when they had done nothing wrong or
illegal, the people burst in the doors, and a free fight ensued. When it
ended they were masters of the situation, and then they sacked the Town
Hall and made a bonfire of the furniture in the village square.

But before a hand was laid on the municipal property, one of the
“rioters” took down a picture of the King, which hung in the
council-room, and a detachment of them conveyed it to a place of safety,
while the whole crowd shouted _Viva el Rey!_

It was the triumph of King Alfonso’s personality over political passion,
and shows, I think, that there is not much fear of a popular revolution
against the Monarchy in Spain.

[Illustration: A REST AT THE FORD.]



CHAPTER XVII

    Music and the people—Arabic instruments—The _saetas_ of
    Andalucia—The tango in the theatre—A working-class wedding—A
    drama in a dance—The alarmed widow lady—The Jota of Aragón—Our
    Lady of the Pillar—Spaniards in Morocco—Moors, savage and
    civilised—The Sultan and his prisoners—The tragedy of the
    Wolf’s Gorge—After the retreat—The salvation of a regiment—The
    power of the guitar.


The influence of the traditional popular music on the life of the people
is perhaps in some ways more marked here than in any other country.
It may seem strange to us that this should be the case, for Western
ears find it difficult to catch the tuneless songs, with their curious
intervals and lack of tonality and rhythm, which are another of Spain’s
legacies from the time when her arts and sciences were all Oriental. But
the strange and to us pointless cadences of the Guajiras, Malagueñas,
Granadinas, Sevillanas, and the rest offer no difficulties to the
Andalucian, though even cultivated foreign musicians find them almost
impossible of reproduction.

During the time of the Moslem rule in Spain, Seville was noted for its
devotion to music; so much so that in the palmy days of the Khalifate,
when for nearly a century Seville and Cordova were on good terms with
each other, it was usual, when a rich man died in Cordova, to send his
musical instruments to Seville for sale. But during the Moslem period
music was cultivated everywhere in Spain, as is shown by treatises
on the art existing in the library of the Escorial, and by the long
list of instruments in use among the Arabs, some of which, or their
counterparts, exist to-day, although others are now unknown. Among these
were flutes made of bone and elegantly decorated with carved designs, an
almost perfect specimen of which was found in a tomb at Malaga, besides
fragments of two others in an excavation at Seville. Possibly the skill
of the Andalucian on the military bugle is a legacy from those times,
as also his fondness for drum and fife bands. The drum or tambor is of
Oriental origin, and I have already described a variety of it known as
the _zambomba_.

It is only to be expected that Arabic music should persist in the
repertoire of the people of Andalucia, as indeed it does. But the most
curious survival is not in the music of the theatre or the home, but
in improvised hymns sung in the streets by fervent devotees when the
images of Our Lord and His Mother are carried in procession during great
religious festivals, such as those of Holy Week, Corpus Christi, or the
patron saint of the locality.

The curious fact about these hymns is that while the music is Oriental,
the name, _saeta_, is not. It means “an arrow” (Lat. _sagitta_), and
the Spanish dictionary gives the other meaning, “a short hymn to excite
devotion,” without explanation. I think myself it must date from
early Christian times, before the Arab conquest, for one can hardly
suppose that the name was applied to these erotic outbursts or the
hymns themselves composed after the reconquest of Seville. One has only
to compare the hymns sung elsewhere at that period with the _saetas_,
to see how widely they differ in feeling. Here are two lines from a
thirteenth-century hymn by “Brother Henry of Pisa”:—

    “Christ divine, Christ of mine,
    Christ the Lord and King of all.”

And here are two lines from a _saeta_ to Our Lady, of the traditional
style improvised anew every year all over Andalucia when the people turn
out to see a religious procession:—

    “Thou art the passion flower
    That opens for thy Son.”

Even more exotic than the words is the ecstasy thrown into them by the
singer. Suddenly in the midst of the reverential silence which falls
on the laughing, chattering throng as the _Santos_ are carried past,
rises the pathetic minor cadence with which every _saeta_ is prefaced,
and as long as the hymn lasts those around stand still and listen. When
it is over (it never extends beyond four or five lines) the singer is
vigorously applauded, and the crowd again becomes mundane. The singer,
who for a brief moment seemed absolutely lost to the things of earth,
uplifted into unconsciousness of everything save the object of his
adoration, his head thrown back, his eyes fixed on the image, and his
whole body tense with pious emotion, comes straight down to earth again,
and smilingly accepts the compliments of his friends.

The _saeta_ is always a solo: not necessarily because it is improvised,
for there are a few traditional couplets that everybody knows, but
because no one attempts to sing a _saeta_ unless and until the spirit
moves him. And, the effusion being so short, it is all over before his
hearers could catch and join in the air, even if they wished to do so.

It is not the least curious feature of these _saetas_, considering how
infectious religious emotion has always been, that they are never turned
into choruses by the crowd. Perhaps this is due to the Arabic strain in
the people, for there seems to be nothing to indicate that the Moslem
musicians combined their instruments to produce orchestral effects, and
at the present time there is singularly little feeling for concerted
music of any kind in Spain compared with other European countries. But
the sympathy of the crowd with the singer, and still more with the
subject of his song, is shown by the breathless hush with which they
follow every trill and shake of the interminable recitative, so harsh and
unmusical to our ears, but so beautiful to theirs.

       *       *       *       *       *

To turn to another branch of Spanish popular music. The so-called
Argentine tango is of course perfectly familiar here, and the echoes
which have reached Spain of the animated discussion in the English
press as to its morality or the reverse have caused a good deal of
amusement; for as every one here knows, the propriety or otherwise of
the tango—whether “Argentine” or Andalucian—depends entirely on the
performer. It can be a graceful and inoffensive drawing-room dance, or it
can be made an exhibition indecent enough to put a Solomon islander to
the blush.

Of its Oriental origin there can, of course, be no doubt whatever,
apart from the references in Spanish or Spanish-Arabic history to its
parent the _zambra_, against which the Church more than once fulminated,
apparently with very little effect. As for the improvised verses which
in Andalucia accompany the tango, they are as changeable as are the
movements of the dancer; but among the numerous printed couplets in my
possession there is not a word which could offend the most squeamish.

I first saw the tango danced by a handsome gipsy at a public performance,
and I am bound to say I never witnessed anything less graceful or more
disgusting. That was in the early days of our residence in Spain, and we
had stopped to see the end of the entertainment, unaware that everything
that might offend the proprieties is always reserved to the last, and
that the offence is likely to be considerable in the final scenes of a
late function.

It is easy to avoid these when one knows the ropes, for theatrical
shows are generally of the “triple bill” variety, and ladies may attend
the pieces put on before eleven o’clock quite comfortably. Popular
comediettas, musical or otherwise, are given from night to night at
different hours, and varied to suit all tastes, being carefully
Bowdlerised for the earlier audiences. A play called _Las Bribonas_ (The
Impostors—female) had an immense success one winter, and I went with a
party to a performance which began at ten. It was amusing and well acted,
but there was one scene which was decidedly vulgar, although not actually
indecent. I happened to speak of it afterwards to two English friends who
had seen it on different occasions. One, who went to an eight o’clock
performance, found it food for babes; the other unfortunate lady, who in
her ignorance had gone to the latest one, was almost too shocked to talk
about it. The tango, it is hardly necessary to say, was one of the chief
features in the doubtful scene in _Las Bribonas_.

The most amusing tango I ever saw was danced at the wedding of a servant
of ours, who had politely fixed the day to suit the convenience of
her Señores, so anxious was she to have the great event graced by our
presence.

The mother was a well-to-do laundress who rented the whole of the ground
floor of a small tenement house, and the guests overflowed from the
patio into the bridal _sala_ and _alcoba_. The _alcoba_ or alcove is a
recess curtained off from the sitting-room and furnished with a bed,
which, in the homes of the poor, generally completely fills it. The
same arrangement also obtains in the houses of the rich, and here it is
usual for the mistress’s bedroom to open out of the drawing-room, with
the doors between thrown back and the curtains drawn aside to display
the elegant appointments of the marital chamber. Although the other
bedrooms are often lacking in what we should call common necessaries,
this one is always furnished at least as handsomely as its corresponding
_sala_, forming a striking contrast to the rest of the private rooms.
The explanation is that, when a child is born, the mother receives her
whole family, her husband’s relatives, and all her intimate friends in
her bedroom when the infant is twenty-four hours old; thus this room
has to be at least as well furnished as the drawing-room; and the same
custom prevails in all classes of society. It never seems to occur to the
doctors or any one else that these social celebrations have anything to
do with the excessive mortality among young wives and their babies, and I
have often been pressed to go and sit with some unfortunate acquaintance,
seriously ill after a bad confinement, when I have called to inquire for
her and her child, on the ground that she had had only a few callers that
day and as she was very weak my company would cheer her up.

The _alcoba_ of Carolina, the laundress’ daughter, just held the bedstead
and a table with her _Santos_—a chromo-lithograph of a Murillo Virgin,
flanked by a St. Anthony of Padua and a “San Juan de Dios,” before which
were placed vases of artificial flowers and, on this great occasion, a
couple of lighted candles. All the rest of the bedroom furniture was in
the _sala_. Here we were invited by the bride to drink Manzanilla, and
as the guests of honour we (more fortunate than at Carmencita’s wedding)
each had a glass to ourselves. It was all clean and bright and gay, and
when we went out into the patio Carolina’s girl friends began dancing
_seguidillas_.

It was a pretty sight to see them dancing under the February sky, with
a brilliant moon irradiating the old courtyard and blending its beams
with those of an electric bulb hanging from the crazy balcony, which
was all the light a generous landlord provided for his twenty or thirty
tenants. The thrumming of the single guitar was completely drowned by the
hand-clapping and foot-stamping with which the spectators accompanied
the dancers, but we did not miss it. Indeed, it would be a powerful
instrument that could have made itself heard above all that rhythmical
clatter. Personally I find the _palmas_, as this hand-clapping is called,
very trying, for the noise is overwhelming; but that is because I have no
Eastern blood in my veins. To Andalucians of whatever class, noise of any
kind seems to be sheer delight.

Things gradually grew more lively as the slight restraint caused by our
arrival wore off, although the guests were always perfectly well-mannered
and decorous; and presently Carolina came to tell me that Juanillo
Carrera, a famous singer and dancer, would perform the tango in her
mother’s kitchen, if the Señores would care to see him.

“Why would he not dance in the patio?” I asked, for I was enjoying the
picture made by the moonlight.

“Oh, that would not suit the girls, who wanted to go on dancing
themselves. But if we would step into the kitchen and would kindly not
mind standing for a few minutes, Juanillo would dance on the table, so
that the _señora viuda_ (the widow lady) who came with the Señora, and so
much likes Andalucian dancing, would see him to the best advantage.”

Juanillo was a thin pock-marked man of forty or so, without a redeeming
feature in his face save a pair of brilliant deep-set black eyes. He
wore a striped cotton blouse and trousers with a black sash wound many
times round his waist, and bright yellow boots with long pointed toes. I
thought he looked an unfortunate specimen of the Andalucian dancer, but
I soon found that appearances were deceptive in this as in so many other
cases.

The widow lady, although no longer in her first youth, was tall,
handsome, and very well dressed. She had been for days past expressing
her desire to see this tango of which she had heard so much before
she came to Spain, and I am afraid she rather hoped to be shocked by
it. I saw the moment she came in that Juanillo admired her, and heard
him remark to Carolina that she was _guapisima_, meaning extremely
attractive. Carolina rapped him over the knuckles, unaware that I was
watching, and told him to behave himself and remember that the tango was
to be performed for distinguished ladies and must have nothing of the
_corral_ (low-class tenement house) about it; but I rather wondered what
was going to happen.

He sprang on to the table with the graceful agility of a cat, and began
the tapping with one foot which prefaces all these dances, his eyes
meanwhile fixed on the widow, who as yet had not realised that she was
his objective. Then suddenly, regardless of the din of voices, _palmas_,
and stamping in the patio, he burst into song.

I could not catch all the words, but I heard enough to grasp their
tenor. The rascal was addressing a passionate declaration of love to
the American widow; and now his cavernous eyes began to light up, and
even she, unconscious as she was of the meaning of his song, realised
that he was looking very hard at her. And when he began the dance not
only she but every one else in the room was made fully aware that the
entire performance was wholly and solely addressed to her. I never saw
a cleverer pantomime of devotion, jealousy, scorn, pride, humility,
and final despair than the impudent scamp contrived to act by his
movements in this tango. And all without moving from the middle of the
kitchen-table on which he danced—indeed, if he had not kept to the dead
centre of it he would inevitably have come down with a crash, for it did
not measure over three feet any way. The whole thing was dramatic to a
degree: one’s attention was caught at the outset by the expression of
his eyes, and he never allowed his hold on us to relax for an instant.
His ugly face, shabby dress, and hideous yellow boots all fell into the
picture, which was none the less effective because the only light was
a flaring petroleum lamp held up by the bridegroom, whose delight in
his friend’s performance caused him to wave it about dangerously in
his efforts to keep it, like the lime-light at a theatre, always on the
dancer’s face.

“I never saw anything so horrible in my life,” murmured the widow in my
ear when the tango came to an end. “Do let us go; I am quite frightened!
The man looks as if he could commit a murder. No more tangos for me,
thank you! I felt as if he might stick a knife into me at any moment.”

She was really frightened, and, humour not being her strong point, I
felt that it would be useless to try to make her see the joke of it.
Dramatic expression comes naturally to the Andalucian, and I knew that
Juanillo had taken her as the heroine of his pantomime simply because
she was the most noticeable member of our party, expecting her to be as
gratified as a Spanish Señorita would have been at the compliment. During
the remainder of her stay the lady ceased from troubling me with demands
to be taken to see the local dances; but when her nerves had recovered
from the shock it became evident that not the least pleasing of her
recollections of Spain would be the little comedy of admiration played
by Juanillo. In that version of the tango there was nothing to bring the
blush of shame to the cheek of modesty, but I imagine that it is not
quite what is danced in London or Paris.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another dance with its accompanying song, which is known, at any rate by
repute, outside Spain, is the Jota of Aragón, the music of which does
not seem to be of Oriental origin. No one attempts to decide when it
first came into being, but the probability is that, like the “war dance”
of the Basques, it dates from prehistoric times, when women were won
not by favour but by force. Be this as it may, the Jota now is the hymn
of Aragón as well as her national dance, and has the same extraordinary
religious influence over the Aragonese as the _saeta_ has over the
Andalucians. Fully to appreciate its swing and dash one must hear it sung
by a native of the province, but wherever and by whomsoever performed it
sets the blood dancing when the refrain bursts out—

    “_À la jota, jota,_
    _Que viva Aragón_
    _Y la Pilaríca_
    _De mi corazón._”

    (Sing to the jota,
    Long live Aragón
    And the Pilarica
    Of my heart.)

The patron saint of Zaragoza, the capital of Aragón, is Our Lady of the
Pillar (_Nuestra Señora del Pilár_), who is said to have come down from
heaven when St. James was converting Spain, to encourage him in his holy
labours. She sat, so the story goes, on a pillar while he said Mass
before her, and he, as a good saint should, founded the Cathedral of
Zaragoza on that spot, with the pillar of Our Lady as its shrine.

Zaragoza has two Cathedrals, one dedicated to N. S. del Pilár, and the
other to Our Lord of the Seo (Aragonese for a cathedral church). The
people will assure you that that of the Pilár is much the older of the
two, regardless of their architectural styles, and it is quite possible
that the black image of Our Lady is older than anything in the Seo,
although when it comes to relics of the Mozarabic Church in Spain it is
never wise to dogmatise about dates. Indeed, there are cases in which
popular tradition has received material confirmation from unexpected
sources long after it had been pronounced mere fantasy by the learned.
The Cathedral of the Pilár, or as her adoring Aragonese love to call her,
the Pilarica, is quite modern, whereas parts of the Seo date from before
the twelfth century. But the actual image of Our Lady of the Pillar,
with the column on which it stands, are of immemorial antiquity. The
column had been so worn away by the kisses of the faithful that it is
now protected by a case of silver and crystal. One may imagine the many
centuries of devotion which must have gone by ere a stone could be thus
impressed by the touch of human lips alone.

A singular performance takes place in Zaragoza every year on the 12th
of October, the festival of the Pilarica, in which certain strange
figures called _gigantes y cabezudos_ take a prominent part. The giants
represent a man, a woman, and a negro (not a Moor), while the big-heads
(_cabezudos_), worn by men of ordinary height, seem to have no special
meaning. I have tried in vain to discover the origin of this festival.
It must date from before the reconquest of Zaragoza (which took place
about 1120), for the negro would certainly have been a Moor had it
been introduced after Zaragoza was incorporated with the dominions of
the King of Aragón, but no convincing record exists. A replica of the
Pilarica is borne through the streets, and the gorgeous procession of
the Cathedral Chapter, the military, civil, and municipal authorities,
all in their gala dress, the town band, and the devout of both sexes,
carrying candles, is wound up by these singular survivals of some
forgotten and probably pagan festivity. One of the fascinations of Spain
is this intimate connection between the present and the past, with its
picturesque and quite unintelligible jumble of the sacred and profane.

It is only natural that the love of the Pilarica, which is so bound up
with the religion of the Aragonese, should colour every action of their
daily life; and an incident that took place during the war in Morocco in
1909 is a good illustration of this.

The Aragonese are good fighting men, and make excellent soldiers,
although it is true that the same may be said of all the Spaniards. But
there are times in every war when the martial spirit droops before human
pain and the sorrow of seeing comrades cut down in the flower of their
youth. Such a day came to the Spanish troops at Melilla when the fatal
attack upon the mountain of Gurugú was made, to which I have already
referred in connection with mourning customs.

So little was heard about it in England at the time, owing to the
rigorous censorship, that I may be excused for briefly relating what I
heard from one of those engaged in it, who was himself severely wounded.

When the trouble with Morocco began, the Spanish Government made the
common mistake of underestimating the strength of the enemy. They had to
deal with scattered tribes, some of them barbarians of the most savage
description, others gentle, comparatively civilised, and quite ready to
take advantage of the commercial and educational facilities afforded by
contact with European nations.

Although they have no connection with the Pilarica and the Jota of
Aragón, it may be of interest to tell two little stories which illustrate
the wide difference between these two classes of Moors, for the facts
speak for themselves.

In the summer of 1913 a Spanish gun-boat, the _General Concha_, went
ashore in a fog on the Moorish coast, and a hostile tribe attacked the
wreck. They shot down some of the sailors who tried to swim ashore,
and after a plucky defence led by a junior officer, the captain and
the senior lieutenant having been killed by the first volley, they got
on board, looted the vessel, and took the survivors prisoners. To make
matters worse, they had begun by pretending that they belonged to a
friendly tribe, and thus had managed to get within close range of the
boat without opposition, opened fire from the cliffs above, and shot down
the two officers and several men before the crew could get the guns to
work.

Naturally the gravest fears were entertained for the fate of the
prisoners, but two or three weeks later it became known that through
the influence of a friendly chief they had been taken to the house of
one of his friends, where they were well treated and eventually aided
to escape to a small boat hidden on the beach a few miles from their
prison. The friendly Moors, besides guiding them to the boat, helped to
row them out to a Spanish man-of-war which had been sent to bombard the
coast villages. Not only had they been provided with the necessaries of
life as long as they remained with the friendly Moors, but the women had
done their best to cure the wounded, and thanks to them, only one—a case
for amputation—failed to recover. And the Moors carried those who were
unable to walk some twelve miles across the enemy’s country to the boat,
although they well knew that there would be short shrift for them and for
the prisoners were the flight discovered.

So much for the “civilised” Moors. Now for the reverse of the medal.

A Spanish officer told me that he had himself seen the following
incident, which was only one out of many that occurred during the eight
years that he was quartered at Ceuta, whence in times of peace his work
took him to various parts of the country.

The father of the present Sultan, who was opposed to any sort of change
in his methods of government, used to make an annual “royal progress”
from Fez to Morocco, and picked troops went before him to remove any
possible source of danger to the monarch. He paid these men a dollar for
a live prisoner and two for a dead one, so, said my friend, “you may
imagine that more were brought in dead than alive.” Any one who could
be even remotely suspected of disaffection was promptly beheaded and
his property confiscated. In a word, the “royal progress” was in fact a
murderous raid, the loot of which paid for the upkeep of the troops and
saved some collecting of extra taxes.

On one occasion my friend, in his official capacity, met the Sultan at a
place where two hundred prisoners were marshalled in a row, each with a
wooden collar round his neck, tied with a rope to that of the next man.
As the Sultan rode up a poor woman flung herself on the ground before
him, and clasped his horse’s knees with such force that it could not
move, crying that her son who was among the prisoners was innocent, and
imploring that the collar be taken off his neck. The Sultan turned to the
two negro executioners who accompanied him everywhere.

“Take off her son’s collar,” he said, “and his head with it, and give
them to the woman.”

And this was done on the spot.

“You will understand,” said the officer who told me the story, “why we
who have seen such things feel that we cannot abandon our civilising
mission in Morocco, although it may be years before we get any material
return for the blood and money it is costing us now. But,” he went on to
say, “every year we are making more friends among the tribes, and since
1909 we have been getting on very hopefully with our Spanish-Arabic
schools and hospitals and colleges of agriculture and commerce, while our
native troops are already the pride of our army in Morocco.”

But to return to the Jota, after this long digression. In the summer
of 1909 things were going very badly indeed, and the Government, true
to the time-honoured Spanish rule of directing a distant war from the
arm-chairs of Ministerial offices in Madrid, ordered the General in
command to make a frontal attack on the Gurugú, the peak which towers
over Melilla. This was intended partly to dislodge, once for all, the
hornet’s nest of sharp-shooters who were worrying the Spanish garrison,
but mainly to silence by a brilliant victory the growing murmurs of the
nation against a campaign which popular orators declared to have been
begun in the interest of a few wealthy capitalists owning valuable mines
in the immediate neighbourhood of Melilla.

The General, Marina, a good officer and able strategist, protested in
vain. The orders were explicit. Public opinion was dangerously excited,
and a brilliant and decisive action had to be fought at once. The attack
was accordingly attempted, with the result that one of the infantry
regiments was caught in an ambush, and a whole battalion of the Cazadores
de las Navas was practically wiped out. Considerably over a thousand
officers and men of that and other regiments fell in the Wolf’s Gorge
of the Gurugú, and so complete was the defeat that for three months the
bodies of those martyrs to duty and a preposterous governmental system
could not be recovered.

On the night of the catastrophe the Colonel of the Cazadores went
to offer what cheer he could to the few survivors of his ill-fated
regiment. Heart-broken himself, he found no words to say to the
heart-broken men who hardly had spirit enough to stand up and salute
him—half their comrades dead, their soldierly pride humbled, their
demoralisation seemingly beyond repair. But as he stood among them,
silent and grief-stricken as themselves, he saw that one of the men,
hardly conscious what he was doing, had picked up his guitar and was
lightly touching the strings. It must here be explained that although the
Cazadores de las Navas is a Catalan regiment, it is mostly recruited in
Aragón.

“A gleam of hope entered my heart,” said the Colonel, when many days
after he related what had taken place. “If only he would play loud enough
to be heard he would save us; I know what their music means to the men
of Aragón. I dared not speak, I was so afraid of putting him off, for
if he had known I was there he would have dropped the guitar to stand
at attention. But he went on, a little louder and a little louder, and
another man took up the air, and then another, until at last all the
regiment—all that was left of it—followed suit, and all began singing—

    “‘_La Virgen del Pilár dice_
    _Que no quiere moros ni moras,_
    _Que quiere ser capitana_
    _De la tropa aragonesa._’[8]

“Very softly they sang at first, as if it were a dirge for their dead
friends, but when they came to the chorus their voices rang out as
bravely and gaily as if all were well with us—

    “‘_À la jota, jota,_
    _Que viva Aragón,_
    _Y la Pilaríca_
    _De mi corazón._’

“Then,” said the Colonel, “I quietly slipped away. They no longer needed
consolation from me, for they remembered that, whatever they had lost,
they still had the Pilarica, the beloved of all hearts.”

When the Gurugú was finally taken, an English newspaper correspondent
commented on the extraordinary lightness of heart and irresponsible
gaiety of these Spanish soldiers, saying that he had actually seen one of
them carrying a guitar under his arm as he scrambled up the precipitous
slopes that had been the scene of disaster three months earlier. The
newspaper man jumped too hastily to his conclusion, for which, however,
he may be forgiven, for he could hardly know what the Jota, played on the
guitar, may mean to the men of Aragón.

[Illustration: THE COLUMBUS MONUMENT.]



CHAPTER XVIII

    Holy Week in Seville—What not to see—The Blessing of the
    Palms—Cathedral dignitaries—The Cardinal and the children—The
    Dean’s smile—The Cathedral steps—The Entry into Jerusalem—Light
    in dark places—Mozarabic ritual—The Display of the Banner—Our
    Lady of the Old Time—Mozarabic art—The Banner of the
    _Menestrales_—A portrait of San Fernando—The Roman eagles—The
    Entombment—The silver shrine and its golden key—Wheeled traffic
    forbidden—Brotherhoods, rich and poor.


I suppose _My Spanish Year_ would be incomplete without a chapter
about the Holy Week ceremonies and the Seville Fair; but so much has
already been written on these subjects from the tourist’s point of view
that, if I am to say anything about them, I must try to describe some
characteristic features which are apt to pass more or less unnoticed.

Every one knows that during Holy Week numerous Brotherhoods and Guilds
pervade the streets of Seville and other Andalucian towns in procession,
the original intention of which was to show images representing events in
the Passion of Our Lord, in order to bring home to the illiterate people
the tragedy of the Crucifixion. And every one who sees these processions
in Seville remarks on the artistic merit of many of the images, the
magnificent dresses, and the picturesque effects produced in the streets
and in the Cathedral by the innumerable candles flickering round the
platforms on which the images are borne.

These are the common-places of Holy Week in Seville. They catch the
eye of every visitor who has the slightest knowledge of or feeling for
art; but long before the week is out, those who come merely to see
something new are sick to death of the eternal repetition of the same
thing—the “Brothers” or the “Nazarenes” in their voluminous robes and
tall peaked hoods, the brass bands, the Civil Guard, the first _paso_
draped with velvet or satin, and surrounded with silver candelabra and
vases of flowers, with an image of Our Lord in the centre; more Brothers
or Nazarenes, more music, more Civil Guards, and then the _paso_ of Our
Lady, which closes every procession save some which were instituted
before the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin became a dogma of the
Roman Church.

When one has seen between twenty and thirty of the _pasos_, all creeping
along at a snail’s pace, with a pause every few yards for the bearers to
rest and the people to admire, one does begin to get a thought weary of
certain features in them. But we who know Seville have learnt what to see
and what to avoid, and we are careful not to exhaust ourselves physically
and mentally by attempting to watch the slow progress of a dozen _pasos_
past the same point on the same day, for indeed the processions are but
one feature in the manifold ceremonies of Holy Week, and if you set about
it the right way you may vary your emotions almost every hour of the day.

Therefore I, who have often felt sorry to see my compatriots enduring
the maximum of fatigue to see the minimum of what is most interesting in
these curious survivals of the early Church, will try to indicate a few
incidents in the long programme of ecclesiastical ceremonies which do not
figure in the official account of what are incongruously described as
_las fiestas de Semana santa_.

The Blessing of the Palms on Palm Sunday is one of the most beautiful of
all the Cathedral ceremonies. I go early—not later than 8 a.m., and as
much earlier as I find convenient, and when the early Mass is over I go
across to the Columbus monument in front of the south door, and there get
a perfect view of the procession on its stately march down the long aisle
to the door of San Miguel. First goes the bearer of the Cathedral cross,
its brass gleaming above the curious round frame here used to drape
the parish crosses with the ritual colour for the day. Then follow the
minor clergy in black soutanes and stiffly starched rochets with flowing
sleeves; the censer-bearers in beautiful dalmatics of old brocade,
swinging chased silver censers worthy of a place in a museum; the choir
boys in scarlet soutanes and white rochets; the beneficed clergy—recently
granted, as a special favour to the Cardinalate of Seville, permission
to wear red silk linings to their black silk cloaks (_capa corál_);
the portly canons in purple silk, the officiant and his servers in
magnificent embroidered vestments centuries old, and then, supported by
the Dean and the Arch-priest of the diocese, the Cardinal-Archbishop.

He is already very stout although hardly past middle life, but his
unwieldy figure is counterbalanced by a strong face with a powerful jaw
and friendly humorous grey eyes, and he looks magnificent in his white
fur hood and robe of scarlet silk, with a train four yards long, borne
behind him by two of the Seises, whose history has already been related.
He has only been here four years, and came after a long interregnum due
to two sudden deaths in the episcopate, but the way in which he has
stirred up the diocese is surprising. The Cathedral music, from being the
worst, now ranks among the best in Spain, the services begin punctually
instead of at any hour that happened to be convenient, and above all, he
has put a stop to the illicit sale by parish priests, monks, and nuns of
objects of artistic value belonging to their churches. Formerly a brisk
trade was carried on in such, but our energetic Cardinal has had every
picture, carving, and church ornament in his diocese inventoried, and now
not so much as a painted tile can be touched without a licence from the
palace.

Yet he is a kindly man, this vigorous prelate. I once followed in his
train at a charitable affair in which I had the privilege of presenting
to him some twenty small children of the working class whom I had put
into fancy dress, to their and my own great enjoyment. And for every
child the Cardinal, as he gave them his ring to kiss, had a smile and
a kind and a witty remark on their costume or the historical character
it represented; so that all the little faces beamed behind him as he
made his progress round the hall where they stood to attention. Kissing
episcopal rings is hardly in my line, but Cardinal Almaraz’s kindness
to the children always makes me remember my share in that ceremony with
pleasure.

Next in gorgeousness of vestment to the Cardinal comes the Dean, a most
courteous gentleman not much over forty, and blessed, like his Bishop,
with a strong sense of humour. On one memorable Palm Sunday, as the
procession passed the Columbus monument, the Dean caught sight of me
standing there with a tall English girl, whose broken Castilian he had
been helping out at a dinner party at our house a few weeks before, and
his eyes began to twinkle and his fingers instinctively went up to give
us an Andalucian salute. He recovered his gravity in an instant, and
with great presence of mind converted his salute into a motion which
the public would take for a blessing. But the deed had been done. When
next we met outside the Cathedral we thanked him for his “blessing,” and
now he can never look at us in the crowd during a procession without a
twinkle in his eyes and a visible compression of his lips, lest he should
indecorously smile at us again.

The attitude of a Spanish congregation during the Mass is remarkably
reverent compared with the behaviour in many foreign Cathedrals: one
really finds here an atmosphere of sincere devotion. But the processions
are regarded from a different standpoint. The dignitaries there are in
the midst of the crowd, and the crowd, although perfectly respectful,
does its best to win a sign of recognition from its friends and
acquaintances in the long lines of clergy, choir-men, and _monocillos_
(little monkeys), as the singing-boys are familiarly called.

The door of San Miguel—opposite to the College, or cloister of that
name, in which dwelt all the Mozarabic priests who still survived when
San Fernando entered Seville—is thrown wide open as the procession
approaches, and a wonderful shimmering effect of light and shade is
produced when the waving palms borne by the clergy move out from the
dimness of the Cathedral into the blazing sunshine of the street. But I
never follow the palms; one only gets lost in the crowd, and misses all
the best of the picture. As soon as the last gleam of the Cardinal’s
scarlet disappears through the door, I turn round and go to meet the
procession on its way back.

One has time to go out by the door of the Bells (_campanillas_), where
formerly bells were rung to call loiterers to Mass, and walk round to
that of los Palos—so-called because it once opened on to a grove of trees
(poles, _palos_, now long cut down)—getting a good view of the procession
as it comes round outside the Orange Court on the broad terrace raised
by six steps above the level of the road. This terrace is a relic of the
half-century during which the ancient Visigothic Cathedral was converted
to Moslem uses. Every Mozarabic church that was used as a mosque has a
raised terrace on one or more sides, like that of the mosque of Cordova.
It was originally intended to accommodate the overflowing congregations
during Ramadan, but after the reconquest the Christians allowed it to
degenerate into a meeting-place for merchants to transact business, like
the money-changers in the Temple, until the scandal became too great,
and the Casa Lonja (now containing the archives of the Indies) was built
in the seventeenth century. The terrace forms a fine vantage-ground for
those who want to see the Holy Week processions, the recent widening of
the Calle Canovas del Castillo giving an uninterrupted view from the door
of San Miguel, where they enter the Cathedral, right away to the Town
Hall.

Just as the Palm Sunday procession reaches the door of the Palos it is
closed, and the whole procession comes to a stop, while the Master of the
Cathedral Ceremonies raps on it three times. This, with the palms and
olive branches strewed before the Cardinal, represents the entry of Our
Lord into Jerusalem. A verse is intoned and then in the midst of a dead
silence the doors slowly open, and the many-coloured procession with its
waving palms fades into the twilight within, while women and children
try to secure an olive twig, for they, like the palms, are blessed. A
palm branch hung on the balcony protects the house from lightning, and
the olive branch brings peace and contentment if carried home and placed
before your “Saints.”

Palm Sunday evening is devoted to the first of the street processions.
These are late ones, reaching the stands of reserved seats in front
of the Town Hall when night is falling. It is wise to get one’s first
impressions from the Sunday evening _pasos_ after their candles are
lighted, so that the images of the Passion and of Our Lady convey the
beautiful symbolical idea of carrying with them light into dark places.
Formerly all the street lamps were extinguished on the line of march, so
that the way of the people was literally lighted by their “Saints”; but
that was a long time ago, and now we can only imagine how impressive the
old custom was, from the glow that floods the street of Sierpes before
the procession itself comes into sight.

It is impossible to compress into a single chapter all the interesting
and beautiful ceremonies of Holy Week in this Cathedral, apart from
their historic aspect. Seville does not retain the actual Mozarabic or
Visigothic ritual in any of her chapels, as does Toledo, for when San
Fernando got here the Popes for over a century and a half had been trying
to suppress the rite of the Church, which from force of circumstances had
been so long cut off from and almost independent of Rome, and therefore
the rite was not retained after the reconquest. But it is clear that the
sainted king permitted the faithful Mozarabic priests of the College
of San Miguel to take a leading part in the offices of the transformed
mosque when it once more became the Cathedral of Seville, for the
Oriental survivals we see to-day could never have been introduced in the
middle of the thirteenth century by priests and bishops from Castile.

Many such survivals are mere details, more interesting to ecclesiastical
archæologists than to laymen. But others are so striking that no visitor
of intelligence should miss them.

One of these is the so-called “Rending of the White Veil” after the
nine o’clock Mass on the Wednesday of Holy Week. This is represented by
drawing apart immense curtains of beautiful old white _tafetán_, a fine
soft silk of the kind worn by Moslem princes when Seville was celebrated
for her manufacture of velvets, brocades, and satins, all of which were
lined with this filmy _tafetán_. No one knows exactly why the White Veil
is rent on this day, though I am told that it is another heritage from
the Mozarabs. It is torn from the rod on which it hangs, so that when
divided one curtain falls in a heap on either side of the altar, whence
they are drawn into the sacristy by the Seises.

At 3.30 on Tuesday in Holy Week we have what is known as the Display of
the Banner, another ceremony foreign to the ritual of Rome. Two priests
kneel on the altar steps, while a third waves over them a voluminous
banner of the same soft gauzy _tafetán_ as the White Veil. The banner
is of a dark green, so dark as to appear black in the dim Cathedral,
where all the painted windows are shrouded with black curtains during
this season of penitence. Formerly the two priests used to prostrate
themselves; now they only kneel. No one can explain the ceremony, which
takes place four times in all, from the eve of Passion Sunday to Holy
Tuesday, but it is supposed to have some connection with the Mozarabic
_Virgen de la Antigua_, a twelfth-century fresco in the chapel of that
name, whose history is worth relating.

When the Almohade Moors took Seville and appropriated the old Gothic
Cathedral for their new mosque, this mural painting of Our Lady was
left in its place. Alfonso X. in his _Cántigas de la Virgen Maria_
(Hymns of the Virgin) says that more than once the fanatic Almohades
wished to destroy the image, but such a glory shone from it as to dazzle
their eyes and they retreated, afraid to touch it. The truth probably
was that the Almohade ruler, who was dependent on Sevillian artists
for his alterations and additions to his mosque and his Alcazar,[9]
did not venture to risk a revolt among his Mozarab subjects, for the
Christian community was always more numerous here than anywhere else in
Moslem Spain. Therefore, although he appropriated or perhaps bought the
old Cathedral, as Abderrahman I. had done with that of St. Vincent in
Cordova, he left this venerated image and its chapel to the Christians,
who made an entrance to it from the street and closed the former door,
which otherwise would communicate with the mosque.

It is related in the same _Cántigas_ that when San Fernando was besieging
Seville, he was miraculously admitted one night through the Jerez
gate—the nearest to the Cathedral—into the Chapel of N’ra Señora de
la Antigua (Our Lady of the Old Time), and being discovered there by
the Moors he hardly escaped with his life. Tradition suggests that Our
Lady of the Old Time was walled up after this by the Moslems, probably
from indignation at what must have seemed to them treachery on the part
of the Mozarabs within the walls, for they alone could have admitted
the Christian king into their own chapel. The city surrendered not
many weeks later, and there is at present nothing to show when the
picture was uncovered. But reference is made to it from the thirteenth
century onwards, and my own impression is that the chapel was reopened
immediately, for there had certainly not been time to forget its
situation, as happened elsewhere in the case of images buried to save
them from desecration.

In the sixteenth century the fresco was removed from the wall on which it
was painted to the altar of the present chapel, which had been built to
receive it. It was at that time unfortunately “restored,” “renovated,”
and “beautified” as well as removed, as a contemporary account tells us,
and much of its mediæval character was thus lost. But the Child still
has the characteristic round bullet head with stiff black curls, which
is seen in all the Mozarab work in this region, and is in every case
so curiously inferior in technique to that of the Mother that one can
only accept it as a type, venerated and copied from one generation to
another from primitive times. The Virgin, on the other hand, as in all
the work of the twelfth century, is beautiful in technique as well as
in feature, and her strange drapery with its stiff diagonal folds is
singularly reminiscent of the drapery of some of the Egypto-Tartessian
figures found in the Cerro de los Santos several years ago, and now in
the Archæological Museum at Madrid.

Long and bitter have been the quarrels of local art critics over the
period and origin of this fresco, but once the history of the Christians
of Seville under Islam has been made clear, all combines to show that
Our Lady of the Old Time was here when San Fernando came, and that the
image was worshipped by the Mozarabs throughout the Almohade occupation.
And in the light of present knowledge it seems highly probable that
the Display of the Banner is a reminiscence of some act of humiliation
imposed on the faithful priests who, even after their last Bishop fled in
1239, still lived in the Cloister of San Miguel and continued to exercise
the rites of their religion. The Moors may perhaps have made the ceremony
a condition of the retention by the Christians of their chapel within the
precincts of the mosque; and it is by no means impossible that something
conclusive on the subject may come to light one day, when the mass of
unexamined documents in the Cathedral archives are at length sorted and
read.

Though so little is known about it as yet, the interest of this curious
Display of the Banner is seen to be great when one realises that it is
a direct link with the Moslem dominion in Seville, taking us back six
centuries to the time when the splendid ritual which now delights the
eyes and ears of thousands was represented in this ancient basilica by a
few poor priests who said Mass in the Chapel of _La Antigua_, perhaps at
the risk of their lives.

Most of the remaining ceremonies of Holy Week are the same as in Rome
and elsewhere, save in minor details which need not be described here.
But the processions in the streets date from the thirteenth century, and
we can hardly doubt that they too have survived from the early Christian
Church.

San Fernando himself gave a banner with his portrait embroidered on it to
the Brotherhood of the _Menestrales_ (Mechanics: the Guild was of working
tailors); and that too must have existed before the reconquest, for the
King died only four years later, and we are not told that he founded the
Brotherhood in the interval. Indeed, if he had done so it would have been
very carefully recorded in their annals, as was his gift of the banner.
They, as the oldest of the Brotherhoods and favoured by the King, were
given the privilege of watching beside his coffin when he died, and they
maintained their right to this place of honour on the anniversary of his
death until their Guild dissolved for lack of funds not many years since.
Another and richer Guild tried to oust them two or three centuries ago,
but the _Menestrales_ went to law and won their case. The banner given
by San Fernando now hangs in a glass case in the church of St. Isidore.
Very little is left of the portrait, and what little there is was hidden
in the sixteenth century by an embroidered head of Charles V. which was
sewn over it. This was removed for examination a few years ago, and
the thirteenth-century portrait was found beneath. Although, like the
banner of San Fernando in the Town Hall, it has been so much repaired and
restored that very little of the original remains, enough can be seen to
convince any expert in embroidery that it is Mozarabic work of the period
in question.

The strongest evidence of the early origin of the Brotherhoods lies in
the fact that the Roman eagles and a standard with S.P.Q.R. are borne
in advance of every _paso_, while “Roman soldiers” ride after some few
of them. These cannot have been “put on the stage” in the thirteenth
century, for illuminated MSS. of that period, including the exceedingly
valuable contemporary works of Alfonso X., all depict sacred characters
in the costumes of the day. Nor were they introduced in the fourteenth
century, for there is a missal of that date in which the Roman soldiers
at the Crucifixion wear the dress of the fighting-men of Alfonso XI.,
and one of the men casting lots for the coat of Our Lord is dressed in
parti-coloured hose with cap and bells, like a court jester.

The consecration of the Holy Oils, the great procession with the Host to
the “Monument” erected at the west end of the Cathedral (over the tomb
of the Columbus family), the washing of the feet of twelve poor men by
the Cardinal-Archbishop in the Cathedral, the dinner given to them in
the Archbishop’s palace, the Miserere on the night of Holy Thursday,
the Adoration of the Cross, when the clergy and the Dean and Chapter
walk barefoot round the nave, the consecration of the Paschal candle,
which weighs about 70 lb., and the Rending of the Black Veil, when the
Host is returned to the high altar—all these things are described in
the programmes hawked about the streets, and only one of them calls for
notice here.

This is the ceremony of Holy Thursday, when the Host is taken to the
“Monument,” symbolising the burial of Our Lord. In silence the pyx
is removed, its shrine is left open, and the cloth is dishevelled in
careless folds across the altar, to show that the sacred elements are
gone from it. The procession, all clad in funeral vestments, moves slowly
and silently down the nave to the west end, where the sixteenth-century
“Monument” towers almost to the roof, its white and gold columns
supporting life-sized saints and angels, while beneath its tall dome
gleams the great silver _Custodia_ in which the Host is to lie until the
day of Resurrection. This shrine, which is ten feet high, is one of the
master-pieces of that master of Spanish silversmiths, Juan de Arphe, and
the idea of its representing the tomb of Christ is one more among many
anomalies. The golden pyx is placed in the _Custodia_, the doors are
closed and locked with a golden key, and the key is handed to the Civil
Governor, who hangs it on a gold chain round his neck. It will remain in
his keeping until Easter Eve, because, so we are told, the body of Christ
was laid in unconsecrated ground after the Crucifixion; and therefore,
while the Host is within the tomb, the Chapter transfers the care of it
to the lay authority.

During Holy Thursday and Good Friday the lights on the “Monument” are
kept burning day and night. Then on the Saturday morning the gold key is
returned to the priests, the _Custodia_ is opened, and the Host is taken
out and carried in procession back to the altar. And the moment the pyx
is replaced in the shrine the organ peals out, all the bells are rung,
and guns are fired.

It will be noticed that the Church in Seville anticipates both the
Crucifixion and the Resurrection by a day, celebrating the former on
Thursday and the latter on Saturday. The Sevillian divines profess to
explain this, but I am bound to say I could never understand their
explanation, which connects it in some way with the mystery of the
Eucharist. The people have their own account of the matter. They say that
“in old times” the fast was kept from Wednesday until Easter morning,
during which days no wheeled traffic was permitted in the streets, the
shops were closed, and all business was suspended. After a time the four
days’ fast was found so inconvenient that it was reduced to three, and
in order to make this possible it was arranged that the Resurrection
should be celebrated on Easter Eve instead of on Easter Day! Many people
implicitly believe this, and the explanation was given to me in such good
faith that I actually accepted it at first, although it seemed a strange
way out of the difficulty. Wheeled traffic is still forbidden in the
streets on Holy Thursday and Good Friday even in “modern” Seville, and
in other places in Andalucia not so much as a donkey can be hired at any
price on Good Friday.

“I should be _mal mirado_” (sent to Coventry), said a village _arriero_
to me one Good Friday, “if I took money for my beast on the day Our Lord
died. On that day rich and poor alike must walk in penitence, no matter
how tired they may become.”

In Seville people do not trouble so much about being _mal mirado_ on
ecclesiastical grounds, and strenuous efforts were made one year by the
Radical party to induce the authorities to withdraw the prohibition of
driving, even at the cost of altering the route of the processions.
But such an outcry was raised by the public at the proposal that it
had to be dropped; for Seville business people know very well that any
interference with the processions would injure trade by diminishing the
influx of tourists, who flock here every year for Holy Week, far more
than is done by closing the central streets to cabs and tram-cars during
the two days.

Indeed, the slightest change in the time-honoured regulations stirs up
sentiments which are anything but pious, as I have already shown in
regard to the Corpus Christi festival.

For years past there has been a latent enmity between a wealthy
Brotherhood, whose name it is kinder to suppress, and a very poor one.
The hours of their respective appearance at the “Stations” (as the route
taken is called, because in former days the progress of the processions
represented the Stations of the Cross) are fixed by the Dean and Chapter,
for if two processions meet at any “Station,” hopeless confusion results;
and the two Brotherhoods in question have long been liable to meet if
the first is unpunctual. Two years ago the rich Brotherhood arrived an
hour late at one of the “Stations,” and were met by the poor one from the
other side of the town. The poor Brothers were in the right of it, for
this was the hour at which their _paso_ was due to cross that street, but
the others were determined to take precedence, as they would naturally
have done had they started at the proper time. These particular Brothers
are largely of the aristocracy, and expect to be obeyed without question
by their inferiors in worldly position. Their leader autocratically
commanded the poor men to stand back and make room for him and his
followers to pass. But the poor men refused, as they had every right to
do in the circumstances, whereupon the aristocrat, regardless of his
gorgeous velvet mantle and satin hood, forgot all the penitence and
humility he was supposed to be feeling, and attacked the other man with
his fists.

What might have happened had the leader of the poor procession hit back,
no one can say; but the belligerent “noble” was quickly brought to his
bearings, for the “Elder Brother” of the poor Guild with presence of
mind laid their great processional cross on the ground before the feet
of the would-be fighters. No Sevillian, however angry, would dream of
desecrating the cross, so the irate aristocrat had to retire, while the
other procession passed on. Pride, I fear, swelled the hearts of the
Brothers under the homely calico habits, bought out of their poor wages
at the cost of long thrift and self-denial, which thus for once took
precedence of their wealthy rivals.

Personally I find the poor Brotherhoods far more interesting than the
rich, for they all have history behind them, and sometimes modest _pasos_
whose Brothers are dressed in cheap calico, are draped with ancient
damask and brocade more valuable and far more beautiful than the stiff
new gold-embroidered mantles with which the modern Brotherhoods deck
their “Virgins,” regardless of cost. Some day I shall write a book about
the stories of the _pasos_, grave and gay, but I must not begin upon them
here, for I have already dwelt too long perhaps on these aspects of Holy
Week in Seville.

[Illustration: DRESSED FOR THE FAIR.]



CHAPTER XIX

    The April Fair—From the harem to the _caseta_—The Prado of
    San Sebastian—The Inquisition—Conscripts and the Flag—Spanish
    football clubs—Buying votes—The cattle at the Fair—Harnessed
    _à la_ Jerez—The Sevillian _élégante_: fourteen dresses for
    three days—The afternoon drive—Dancing at night—The marriage
    market—Mantillas, _velos_, and Paris hats—Midnight in the
    Fair—The curtained _casetas_ of the clubs—Manila shawls—The
    Queen and the mantilla—“John-a-Dreams” and the national
    dress—Three engagements and a marriage—The year ends in
    Paradise.


The true history of the April Fair at Seville, like so much else in
Spain, is lost in the mists of ages; but old prints and pictures combine
with tradition to show that it was at first merely a cattle fair, where
dealers coming from a distance set up tents in which to sleep and
transact business, attended by the itinerant gipsies who flock to fairs
of every kind in every country. Gradually the tents of the dealers became
a meeting-place for their families and their friends from the town, and
then refreshments had to be provided, and amusements such as music,
dancing, and singing soon followed. Now the Seville Fair on the Prado de
San Sebastian almost suggests, in some respects, a show at Earl’s Court
or Olympia, with the important difference that it is a living reality,
not a scenic representation for which one takes a ticket at the gate.

The most curious feature about this three days’ riot of festivity is
its extraordinary contrast to the daily life of Spain. I have already
referred to the seclusion of women, the extreme privacy of domestic life,
typified by the lace curtains which shroud every window on the street
and are never drawn aside, the darkness of the rooms thus guarded from
the intrusion alike of the sun and of the stranger’s eye, the strict
surveillance exercised over young girls not only in the street but in
their own homes—in short, the persistence of the Oriental tradition that
the women belong to their men, not to themselves, and that no stranger
has a right to look at and admire them.

This is the mode of life imposed on the women throughout the whole year.
But when April comes and the Fair begins, all these restrictions are
thrown to the winds, the mothers escort their daughters to the Prado,
and there, seated in the “reception-room” of a _caseta_ or booth, with
its wooden floor raised three feet above the ground to give a better
view, they look on while their girls dance in full view of the public,
hour after hour and night after night, for all the world as if they
were professionals at a theatre. The whole thing is an anomaly without
explanation, unless indeed one takes it as an unconscious protest of the
Sevillian women against their lifelong imprisonment in a home which in
respect of its seclusion is not very different from a harem.

The visible result, however, is quite charming. There are whole streets
of canvas booths, large and small, luxurious and the reverse, simple,
artistic, and fantastic; handsome buildings of brick and iron set up by
the fashionable clubs; ephemeral representations of favourite _corrales_
and _ventas_, beloved of artists, who paint their typical _casetas_ with
their own hands; there are acres of canvas covering hundreds of toy
and sweetmeat stalls, drinking stalls, Aunt Sallies or their Spanish
equivalents, and, above all, stalls for the sale of the ever-popular
_buñolitos_ described in an earlier chapter. The _casetas_—a name given
without distinction to every erection in the Fair—make in all directions
boundary-lines between the carriage ways and the ground occupied by the
cattle, of which there are thousands upon thousands, crowded together
over the great plain, herd by herd, without any sort of partition between
them, donkeys cheek by jowl with pigs, sheep rubbing shoulders with
mules, all peacefully lying or standing in their appointed places.

Here San Fernando encamped for a time when he was besieging Seville,
and here later on stood the _Quemadero_, the burning-place of the
Inquisition. Now, except during the great fair in April and the lesser
one at Michaelmas, the Prado is the exercise-ground for the troops of
the garrison. Here the annual batches of new recruits are drilled, and
here takes place the interesting ceremony of the _Jura de la Bandera_,
when thousands of conscripts, all kneeling together, swear fealty to
their God, their Flag, and their King. Here, too, the football clubs,
of which there are several, play on Sundays all the year round, even in
the heat of summer. I don’t think many Englishmen would care to watch,
far less to play, football with the thermometer at 100 in the shade;
yet the “_Sevilla Balompié_” plays right through the summer, beginning
their matches at 6 a.m. when the afternoons get too hot for running.
And the more praise is due to these energetic lads because they get
no support either in money or approval from those in a higher social
position. What their financial difficulties are I learnt last summer from
an English clerk who umpires for one of the clubs. He told me that now
the weather was getting so hot they wanted to start cricket instead of
football, but they had no money to buy the cricket things and knew no one
who would help them to raise funds! And yet at election times, whether
parliamentary or municipal, there is always plenty of money to buy votes,
and one of these same footballers told me that he had been offered up to
fifteen pesetas during a hotly contested election to go and personate
a voter who was safe in his decent grave! It has never yet occurred to
candidates that a subscription to football clubs and the like would be a
more respectable form of bribery than offering money to a half-back.

But during the Fair nobody pays any attention to football, politics, or
anything else of a serious nature. We are out to enjoy ourselves, and we
do it.

A drive through the actual cattle fair surprises those who think that
Spaniards are cruel to animals. Sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, mules,
horses, cattle, are all herded together, quite tame and happy, most of
them loose and kept from wandering only by the voice of the herdsman and
the bark of his dog; troops of young horses and young mules are enclosed
only by an impromptu rail consisting of a rope tied to iron stakes driven
into the ground; great long-horned oxen and bulls lie on the ground
without any sort of tether or fence. The only animals really shut in are
the well-bred riding and carriage horses, which occupy wooden stables
on the farther side of the _Reál de la Feria_. This is the street where
are the fashionable _casetas_, where the fireworks are let off at night,
and where horsemen and women display their skill in a game which may be
called threading the maze, among the countless motors and carriages of
all sorts and kinds, private and hired, most of which contain daughters
in white mantillas and mothers in black, all intent on seeing and being
seen by the crowd.

Many of the horses in this medley of conveyances are harnessed _à la
Jerezana_—a heavy collar and saddle, and rope traces covered with leather
where they touch the horses, with many tinkling bells and innumerable
balls and tassels of gay-coloured wool tied on wherever possible, and
especially to the headpiece. I do not know why this harness is called
“Jerez fashion,” for I have seen far more animals thus decorated in the
Sierra than I ever saw at Jerez. But even the most persistent seeker
after information is fain to put aside his notebook here, and merely
enjoy the picturesqueness and old-world air of these family coaches with
their Goya-like occupants, and the life, colour, and animation of the
whole scene. For in spite of the exhilaration produced by the pure fresh
April air with its brilliant sunshine, and the universal atmosphere of
enjoyment, one never quite loses the feeling that it is a play, even
though oneself be one of the players, and that all too soon the curtain
will ring down on one of the prettiest scenes to be found in Spain if not
in Europe.

I have been told that the really smart young lady has fourteen new
dresses every year for the Fair. How she contrives to wear them all I
don’t know, unless she puts one on over the other, for she can only
change her frock three times a day, because all the rest of the day and
night she is _en evidence_. In the morning she puts on the latest hat
from Paris to drive round and look at the cattle, hiding her almond eyes
and her pretty arched eyebrows with some horrible “creation” utterly
unsuited to her style. Few Spanish women can put on a hat—very likely
from want of practice, for it is only in the last twenty years or so that
the mantilla or _velo_ has ceased to be the universal wear.

When our _élégante_ shows herself in the afternoon in her second new
dress, with her hair done very high, a mass of carnations resting
against it and the immense comb of pierced tortoiseshell which she has
inherited from her great-grandmother, and with the soft folds of a white
silk mantilla floating about her face as she drives (or motors—dreadful
anachronism!) up and down the Reál, we hardly know her for the same girl
who looked so dull and heavy under that Paris monstrosity this morning.
Her eyes flash, her white teeth gleam, and one begins to understand what
poets mean when they talk about the sparkling brilliance of an Andalucian
beauty.

By this time the _casetas_ are full of dancers, mostly schoolgirls and
children as yet, for coquettes of sixteen and upwards are well aware
that they will show to more advantage after nightfall, in the brilliant
artificial light. The older girls, unless they own carriages or have the
entrée to the fashionable clubs, stroll up and down with their friends
of both sexes, criticising the “carriage folk” and thinking no doubt
how much better they themselves would grace those expensively appointed
vehicles. At six o’clock, when the bull-fight ends and the spectators
come to the Prado, the already crowded drive, nearly a mile long with
carriages four deep, becomes so congested that nothing can move beyond
a foot’s pace, and nervous pedestrians can only cross the Reál and the
intersecting roads at the entrance to the Fair by a sort of diminutive
Eiffel Tower erection which was built some fifteen years ago for this
particular purpose.

At night the Eiffel Tower, or _Pasadera_, as it is called, is illuminated
from top to bottom, the whole of the Reál is arched over with garlands of
coloured electric bulbs, and every _caseta_ vies with its neighbours in
the lighting of the reception-rooms in which the girls, in their third
new frocks, are to dance. For the display of youth and beauty is the main
object of the social side of the Fair, which is in point of fact the
marriage market of Seville. It is said that more young people come to an
understanding during these three days than in all the rest of the year,
and it is easy to believe it, for we know that all the world over spring
is the prettiest ring-time, and the young man’s fancy in particular
lightly turns to thoughts of love at that season here in Seville.

Dancing goes on from nine o’clock till two or three in the morning.
Whether it be good or bad, the sight of waving arms and bending heads
in _seguidillas_ and _peteneras_ never fails to attract the passers-by.
Often as many as a couple of hundred people will collect in front of a
fashionable _caseta_ where half a dozen Señoritas are dancing together,
although only the first row of the crowd, pressed against the steps
leading up from the footpath, can see anything beyond faces draped in
white lace or black _madroños_, and white hands waving be-ribboned
castanets.

The greater the crowd in front, the better the dancers are pleased;
indeed, I remember some girls telling me one year that they had had a
tremendous success over-night, “for there were so many people watching
them that some of the invited guests had tried to get through to the
_caseta_ no less than three times in vain.” And these are the girls who
would lose their reputations if they were seen in the street alone in the
daytime, or even two sisters together, without a chaperone! Mysterious
indeed are the social customs of Spain!

I have already written of fireworks. If these are good even in villages,
it may be supposed that they are considerably better in wealthy Seville.
The only wonder is that the whole street of the Reál is not set alight
every night of the Fair, for the fireworks always end with the dangerous
_traca_, a chain of crackers laid from tree to tree the whole length
of the canvas street, and the crackers seem to explode actually into
the _casetas_. And alongside of the footpath is a double or treble row
of carriages, whose horses seem to be merely bored with the squibs and
other noisy and fiery arrangements which explode under their noses.
It is sheer good luck that no terrible accident has yet occurred. But
no one protests, although every year people mildly remark that it is
horribly dangerous and very disagreeable to have sparks falling all over
the footpaths. In the matter of fireworks Andalucian _laissez faire_ is
peculiarly apparent.

At midnight the fun of the Fair is in full swing. Merry-go-rounds
are numerous and highly popular, and each one has its steam organ or
mechanical piano grinding out popular airs long since done to death in
the streets. There is one in particular, called “Serafina,” which for
years has had a vogue equal to that of “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay” in England
when we were young, and it is just as fatuous a tune with even more
fatuous words, if that be possible. This nightmare pursues us all along
the street of the gipsies, and that of the toy stalls, and that of the
bourgeois _casetas_ to the right of the Reál. The only place where it
is not heard is at the top of the Reál, where are the _casetas_ of two
of the principal clubs. Here all the curtains are carefully closed lest
any profane eye should see the glories within, and military bands play
valses and _rigodones_—a quite peculiarly dull form of quadrille—for the
amusement of the _alta aristocracia_.

Why these clubs should go to the trouble of receiving guests behind drawn
curtains in the Prado instead of in their handsome club-houses in the
town does not appear. There certainly is nothing in these entertainments
of the traditional spirit of the Fair, the essence of which is that all
the amusement should go on in full view of the public. One of their
morning receptions is, however, quite delightful. This is the children’s
ball, which begins at 10 a.m. and ends before lunch. It is attended by
a crowd of fascinating babies in fancy dress, all Spanish—the boys as
_toreros_, _majos_ (the Andalucian “nut” of a bygone day), bandits, and
what not, the girls in miniature mantillas, Manila shawls, or gipsy
dress, and their innocent vanity makes the Reál charming when they drive
up and down after the party in their mothers’ carriages, pretending to be
quite grown up.

A Manila shawl is the gala dress of every working woman who can manage to
buy or hire one for the Fair. In some cases they are heirlooms, handed
down from mother to daughter. Just as the mantilla is the survival of
the Moslem veil among the well-to-do, so this shawl, like the black one
worn every day, is the survival of the veil among the poor. As late
as the seventeenth century, Spanish women still covered their faces;
indeed, in the Provinces of Cadiz, Malaga, and Granada there are even
now villages where the women leave only one eye exposed when they go
out, especially to Mass. Decrees were issued by more than one king,
forbidding this “pagan” veiling of the female face, on the ground that it
tended to immorality by rendering the charms thus concealed irresistible
to the opposite sex. The ladies retaliated by refusing to come out of
their houses at all if they were compelled to expose themselves in that
“indecent” fashion (I quote from contemporary writers); but at last a
compromise was arrived at. They still covered their faces when they
appeared in the street, but it was with transparent embroidery and lace,
thus observing the letter of the law but most effectually violating the
spirit. We owe a certain debt of gratitude to those ladies, whose strong
sense of propriety gave birth to the mantilla, the prettiest head-dress
ever invented by woman.

When we first came to Spain in 1902 fashionable ladies were doing their
best to suppress the mantilla, on the ground that it was ridiculous to
keep up a “national costume” in Spain when all civilised countries had
adopted Paris fashions; and at one time it really seemed as if it would
soon cease to be worn by any woman who had money enough to buy a hat.
Fortunately, however, these women were in a minority, for here hats
are only bought by the rich, and are very expensive. The simpler form
of lace head-dress known as the _velo_, which is worn for the Mass,
and by middle-aged women out of doors, had happily not begun to fall
into disuse outside of Madrid and Barcelona, even among the well-to-do,
notwithstanding the crusade against the more conspicuous mantilla. And
then at the psychological moment came the young English Queen, with all
a foreigner’s admiration of the beautiful head-dress. The first portrait
of her that was sold at a price within the means of the masses showed her
beauty enhanced by the typical drapery of exquisite lace, and “She puts
it on as if she were a Spaniard,” said the people, for the arrangement
of the mantilla is subject to strict rules, and no foreigner can hope
to penetrate those mysteries unaided. This saved the mantilla. It soon
became apparent that Her Majesty intended to wear it on every suitable
occasion, and naturally all fashionable female Spain followed suit, to
the delight of everybody except the milliners.

In the last Seville Fair there were more mantillas than hats, and if it
was a shock to artistic sensibilities to see them in motors, it was at
any rate a great deal better than not seeing them at all, as was almost
the case six or seven years ago. One year about that time we had a
_caseta_, to which came a good number of English and American visitors.
All these ladies wore mantillas, and were delighted to have the chance
(for the mantilla, it should be said, is only worn _en grande tenue_),
and our Spanish friends agreed to stand aloof from the then prevailing
fashion and leave their hats at home when they came to dance in the
_caseta de los ingleses_. If there was a little self-consciousness
among the Englishwomen—one or two of them said the first day that they
felt rather like being at a fancy ball—it disappeared when we read the
local papers next morning. For there in large type was an article on
the decline of the mantilla and a poetical paragraph thanking, in almost
pathetic terms, the foreign ladies for wearing “with peculiar grace” the
lovely head-dress which Andalucians now seemed to despise.

We never found out who the writer was; he called himself “John-a-dreams”
and begged us not to try to pierce his incognito when we wrote to
invite him to the _caseta_ he had been good enough to praise. But we
were pleased to find that our adoption of the mantilla was regarded
as a compliment to Spain, and now we and our friends follow the
Queen’s example and wear it as often as we can. Apart from all other
considerations, the festival mantilla and its humbler relative the
_velo_, for common wear, are not only universally becoming, but are also
very economical, for although a good piece of lace costs as much money
as a Paris hat to begin with, it lasts for years and never goes out of
fashion.

Our _caseta_ that year fulfilled its duty well. We had the light
carefully arranged to fall becomingly on the girls’ faces, and we had
a platform raised extra high for them to dance on. We said that if the
object of the _caseta_ was to show off the Señoritas we might as well
set the stage with special regard to its purpose. And no less than three
engagements were the outcome, one of which at least has led to what seems
to be a very happy marriage.

As for me, I have come back to the point from which I started. The
summer, autumn, and winter are past, and the April Fair has come and
gone. My Spanish year is over and the bride’s new year has begun,
with the scent of roses, jessamine, and orange blossom, the murmur of
fountains, and the warble of the nightingales among the elms up the
hillside at Granada. For that is where girls who wear mantillas go for
their honeymoon, and where good tourists go when they die.



FOOTNOTES


[1] Count of the White Whiskers. There are many such titles among the
Spanish nobility, dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries,
when royalty often bestowed titles referring to personal peculiarities.

[2] The wife in Spain, from the Queen downwards, merges her identity in
that of her husband when they are spoken of together, and we have _los
Reyes_, the Kings, instead of the King and Queen; _los Duques_, the
Dukes, instead of the Duke and Duchess; and so on down the whole gamut
of society. The practical convenience of this abbreviation is so obvious
that I make no apology for adopting it.

[3] As the use of their surnames by Spanish wives is confusing to a
foreigner, it may be well to explain that both men and women use the
family name of the father and the mother. Thus Antonio Lopez marries
Maria Garcia, and his children’s family name is Lopez y Garcia. One of
his sons marries Luisa Ramirez, and _his_ children are called Lopez y
Ramirez, and so on. A married woman keeps her maiden name. Thus if Maria
Garcia y Perez marries Antonio Lopez y Rodriguez, she will be described
in formal documents—a will, for instance—or in an announcement of death,
as Maria Garcia y Perez, esposa de Antonio Lopez y Rodriguez, although
her acquaintances speak of her as La Señora de Lopez, or more shortly,
La de Lopez. Until they get well on into middle life, women, married or
single, are always addressed by their Christian name without any prefix,
even by men on a first introduction.

[4] To Spaniards “America” means Spanish America: the inhabitants of the
U.S. are always _Norteamericanos_ or _Yanquis_.

[5] These garments, which are commonly worn by the peasants, are merely a
kind of divided apron of leather, covering the front of the body from the
waist to the feet.

[6] Arabic name for a bakery, always used here.

[7] Underground reservoirs for rain-water.

[8]

    “The Virgin of the Pillar says
    That she does not like Moors,
    That she will be the captain
    Of the Aragonese soldiers.”

[9] Seville under Islam was always noted for its fine buildings.


_Printed by MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED, Edinburgh_





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