DURING my stifling night journey from Madrid to the north I had much chat with Castilian and German ladies in the carriage about Spanish girls. Our talk turned especially on their reading, so reminding me of an incident of the past spring. On an Andalusian balcony I once found a little girl curled up in the coolest corner and poring over a shabby, paper-bound book. On my expressing interest in the volume, she presented it at once, according to the code of Spanish manners. ” The book is at the disposal of your worship.” But as the bundle of tattered leaves was not only so precious to her own small worship, but also greatly in demand among her worshipful young mates, whose constant borrowing seemed a strain even on Andalusian courtesy, I retained it merely long enough to note the title and general character. The next time I entered a book-shop I expended ten cents for this specimen of juvenile literature ” the best-selling book in Seville,” if the clerk’s word may be taken and have it before me as I write. On the cover is stamped a picture of two graceful senoritas, perusing, apparently, this very work, “The Book of the Enamored and the Secretary of Lovers,” and throughout the two hundred pages are scattered cheap cuts, never indecent, but suggesting violent ardors of passion embracings, kissings, gazings, pleadings, with hearts, arrows, torches, and other ancient and honorable heraldry of Cupid. The title-page announces that this is a fifth edition of ten thousand copies.
The opening section is on ” Love and Beauty,” enumerating, by the way, the “thirty points” essential to a perfect woman. ” Three things white skin, teeth, and hands. Three blackeyes, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Three rosy lips, cheeks, and nails.” But warning is duly given that even the thirty points of beauty do not make up a sum total of perfection without the mystic, all-harmonizing quality of charm.
Next in order are the several sets of directions for winning the affections of maid, wife, and widow, with a collection of edifying sentiments from various saints and wits concerning widows. Descriptions of wedding festivities follow, with a glowing dissertation on kisses, “the banquet-cups of love.” After this stands a Castilian translation of an impassioned Arab love-song with the burden, Todo es amor. Maxims on love, culled chiefly from French authorities, are succeeded by an eighteenth-century love-catechism :
“Question. Art thou a lover?
Answer. Yes, by the grace of Cupid.
Question. What is a lover ?
Answer. A lover is one who, having made true and faithful declaration of his passion, seeks the means of gaining the love of her whom he adores.”
This is the first lesson. The second treats of the five signs of love, the third of love’s duties, the fourth gives the orison of lovers a startling adaptation of the Lord’s Prayer and their creed: “I believe in Cupid, absolute Lord of Love, who gives to lovers all their joys, and in her whom I love most, for most lovable is she, on whom I think without ceasing, and for whom I would sacrifice gladly my honor and my life.”
There is nothing here, it will be noticed, of the English-man’s proud exception :
“I could. not love thee, Dear, so much, Loved I not honor more.”
Love has its own beatitudes, too. ” Blessed are they who love sincerely. Blessed are they of merry mood. Blessed are lovers who have patience. Blessed are the rich, for love delights to spend.”
A “Divination of Dreams,” “copied from an ancient manuscript found in the ruins of the convent of San Prudencio, in Clavijo,” that famous battle-ground where St. James first trampled the Moors, next engages attention. To dream of a fan is sign of a coming flirtation; of a banner, success in war; of. a woman’s singing, sorrow and loss; of stars, fair fortune in love; of fire, good luck at cards; of a black cat, trouble from the mother-in-law ; of closed eyes, your child in mortal peril ; of birds, joy and sweet content ; of a ghost, ill health ; of scissors, a lover’s quarrel ; of wine, a cheating Frenchman ; of shoes, long journeys ; of angels, good tidings from far away. Some of these omens are a surprise to the uninitiated reader. It is bad luck to behold in a dream images of Christ and the Virgin. A church, seen from within, denotes alms ; from without, death. To dream of the altar arrayed for high mass betokens grave misfortune. Other omens are significant of Spanish discontents. To dream of a Jesuit brings miseries and betrayals ; of a military officer, tyranny and brutality; of a king, danger; of a republic, ” abundance, happiness, honors, and work well recompensed.” Often these divinations run into rhyme, as :
” Dream of God at midnight dim, And by day you’ll follow Him.”
The next section of this Complete Guide is given over to snatches of love-song, which Andalusian children know by heart. These five are fairly representative :
” Mine is a lover well worth the loving. Under my balcony he cries : You have maddened me with your grace of moving, And the beaming of your soft black eyes.'”
“Though thou go to the highest heaven, And God’s hand draw thee near, The saints will not love thee half so well As I have loved thee here.”
“If I had a blossom rare, I would twine it in thy hair, Though God should stoop and ask for it To make His heaven more exquisite.”
“Such love for thee, sent forth from me, Bears on such iron gate That I, used so, no longer know Whether I love or hate.”
The learned are not wise, The saints are not in bliss ; They have not looked into your eyes, Nor felt your burning kiss.”
Then comes a ” New Dictionary of Love,” defining some two hundred doubtful terms in Cupid’s lexicon, as forever, no, unselfish. After this we are treated to the language of fan flirtation, of handkerchief flirtation, of flower flirtation, and ” the clock of Flora,” by which lovers easily make appointments, one, two, three, being numbered in rose, pink, tulip, and so on. A cut of a youth toiling at a manuscript-laden desk introduces some fifty pages of model love-letters, which seem, to the casual eye, to cover all contingencies. A selection of verses used for adding a grace to birthday and saint-day gifts comes after, and this all-sufficient compendium concludes with a ” Lovers’ Horoscope.”
A single illustration of the sort of reading that Spanish girls find in their way should not, of course, be pressed too far, and yet any one who had seen the pretty group of heads clustered for hours over these very pages on that shaded balcony would not deny the book significance. A taste for the best reading is not cultivated in Spanish girls, even where the treasures of that great Castilian literature are accessible to them. Convent education knows nothing of Calderon. As for books especially adapted to girlhood, we have just examined a sample.
Love and religion are the only subjects with which a senorita is expected to concern herself, and the life of the convent is often a second choice. Even when a Spanish girl wins her crown of wifehood and motherhood, her ignorance and poverty of thought tell heavily against the most essential interests of family life. The Spanish bride .ten a child in years. Pacheco’s direction for painting the Immaculate Conception ran, ” Our Lady is to be pictured in the flower of her age, from twelve to thirteen.” This was three centuries ago, but Spain changes slowly. The girl of to-day, nevertheless, marries later than her mother married. I remember one weary woman of forty with eighteen children in their graves and the three who were living physical and mental weaklings. She told us of a friend who married at fourteen and used to leave her household affairs in confusion while she stole away to a corner to play with her dolls. Her husband, a grave lawyer in middle life, would come home to dinner and find his helpmeet romping with the other children in the plaza.
The Spanish girl is every whit as fascinating as her musical, cloaked gallant confides to her iron-grated lattice. Indeed, these amorous serenades hardly do her justice, blending as she does French animation with Italian fervor. In Andalusia she dances with a grace that makes every other use of life seem vain. And when she bargains, there is nothing sordid about it. Her haggling is a social condescension that at once puts the black-eyed young salesman at her mercy.
” But the fan seems to me the least bit dear, senor.”
He shrugs his shoulders and flings out his arm in protest.
“Ah, senorita! You see not how beautiful the work is. I am giving it away at six pesetas.”
She lifts her eyebrows half incredulously, all bewitchingly.
” At five pesetas, senor.”
He runs his hand through his black hair in chivalrous distress.
” But the peerless work, senorita ! And this other, too ! I sacrifice it at four pesetas.”
She touches both fans lightly.
“You will let us have the two at seven pesetas, senor ? ” Her eyes dance over his confusion. He catches the gleam, laughs back, throws up his hands.
” Bueno, senorita. At what you please.”
It takes a Spaniard to depict a throng of Spanish ladies, – “fiery carnations or starry jasmine in their hair, cheeks like blush roses, eyes black or blue, with lashes quivering like butterflies ; cherry lips, a glance as fickle as the light nod of a flower in the wind, and smiles that reveal teeth like pearls; the all-pervading fan with its wordless telegraphy in a thou-sand colors.” In such a throng one sees not only the typical “eyes of midnight,” but those “emerald eyes” which Cervantes knew, and veritable pansy-colored eyes dancing with more than pansy mischief. But the voices ! In curious contrast to the tones of Spanish men, soft, coaxing, caressing, the voices of the women are too often high and harsh, suggesting, in moments of excitement, the scream of the Andalusian parrot. ” 0 Jesus, what a fetching hat ! The feather, the feather, see, see, see, see the feather! Mary Most Pure, but it must have cost four or five pesetas ! Ah, my God, don’t I wish it were mine ! ” The speaker who gets the lead in a chattering knot of Spanish women is a prodigy not only of volubility, but of general muscular action. She keeps time to her shrill music with hands, fan, elbows, shoulders, eye-brows, knees. She dashes her sentences with inarticulate whirs and whistles, and countless pious interjections : Gracias a Dios ! Santa Maria ! 0 Dios mio ! The others, out-screamed and out-gesticulated, clutch at her, shriek at her, fly at her, and still, by some mysterious genius, maintain courtesy, grace, and dignity through it all. Yet it is true that the vulgar-rich variety is especially obnoxious among Spaniards. An overdressed Spanish woman is frightfully overdressed, her voice is maddening, her gusts of mirth and anger are painfully uncontrolled. This, however, is the exception,, and refinement the rule.
The legendary Spanish lady is forever sitting at a barred window, or leaning from a balcony, coquetting with a fan and cropping arch responses to the ” caramel phrases ” of her guitar-tinkling cavalier.
” You’re always saying you’d die for me. I doubt it nevertheless ; But prove it true by dying, And then I’ll answer yes.”
For, loving as they are, Spanish sweethearts take naturally to teasing. “When he calls me his Butterfly, I call him my Elephant. Then his eyes are like black fire, for he is ashamed to be so big, but in a twinkling I can make him smile again.” The scorn of these dainty creatures for the graces of the ruling sex is not altogether affected. I shall not forget the expression with which a Sevillian belle, an exquisite dancer, watched her novio as, red and perspiring, he flung his stout legs valiantly through the mazes of the jota. “Men are uglier than ever when they are dancing, aren’t they ? ” she remarked to me with all the serenity in the world. And a bewitching maiden in Madrid, as I passed some favorable comment upon the photographs of her two brothers, gave a deprecatory shrug. “Handsome? Ca!” (Which is no many times intensified.) ” But they are not so ugly, either, for men.”
The style of compliment addressed by caballeros to senoritas is not like ” the quality of mercy,” but very much strained indeed. “Your eyes are two runaway stars, that would rather shine in your face than in heaven, but your heart is harder than the columns of Solomon’s temple. Your father was a confectioner and rubbed your lips with honey-cakes.” Little Consuelo, or Lagrimas, or Milagros, or Dolores, or Peligros laughs it off, ” Ah, now you are throwing flowers.”
The coplas of the wooer below the balcony are usually sentimental.
” By night I go to the patio, And my tears in the fountain fall, To think that I love you so much, And you love me not at all.”
“Sweetheart, little Sweetheart ! Love, my Love ! I can’t see thy eyes For the lashes above. Eyes black as midnight, Lashes black as grief ! 0, my heart is thirsty As a summer leaf.”
“If I could but be buried In the dimple of your chin, I would wish, Dear, that dying Might at once begin. ”
” If thou wilt be a white dove, I will be a blue. We’ll put our bills together And coo, coo, coo.”
Sometimes the sentiment is relieved by a realistic touch.
” Very anxious is the flea, Caught between finger and thumb. More anxious I, on watch for thee, Lest thou shouldst not come.”
And occasionally the lover, flouted overmuch, retorts in kind.
” Don’t blame me that eyes are wet, For I only pay my debt. I’ve taught you to cry and fret, But first you taught me to forget.”
“I’ll not have you, Little Torment, I don’t want you, Little Witch. Let your mother light four candles And stand you in a niche.”
The average Spaniard is well satisfied with his senora as she is. He did her extravagant homage as a suitor, he treats her with kindly indulgence as a husband, but he expects of her a life utterly bounded by the casa. ” What is a woman ? ” we heard one say. “A bottle of wine.” And those few words tell the story why, with all their charm, home-love, and piety, the Spanish women have not availed to keep the social life of the Peninsula sound and sweet.
“But to admire them as our gallants do, Oh, what an eye she hath! Oh, dainty hand! Rare foot and leg !’ and leave the mind respectless, This is a plague that in both men and women Makes such pollution of our earthly being.”
The life of the convent is attractive to girls of mystic temperament, like the Maria of Valdes, but many of these lively daughters of the sun regard it with frank disfavor. One of the songs found in the mouths of little girls all over the Peninsula is amusingly expressive of the childish aversion to so dull a destiny.
I came but slightly in contact with Spanish nuns. Among the figures that stand out clear in memory are a kindly old sister, at Seville, in the Hospital de la Caridad, who paused midway in her exhibition of the famous Murillos there to wipe her eyes and grieve that we were Protestants, and an austere, beautiful woman in La Cuna, or Foundling Asylum of Seville, who caressed a crying baby with the passionate tenderness of motherhood denied. The merriest Spanish hermana of our acquaintance we encountered on the French side of the Pyrenees. At Anglet, halfway between Biarritz and Bayonne, is the Convent of the Bernardines, Silent Sisters. The visitor sees them only from a distance, robed in white flannel, with large white crosses gleaming on the back of their hooded capes. These, too, were originally white, and the hoods so deep that not even the profile of the features could be seen; but the French Government, disturbed by the excessive death-rate in this order, recently had the audacity to interfere and give summary orders that the hoods be cut away, so that the healthful sunshine might visit those pale faces. The mandate was obeyed, but, perhaps in sign of mournful protest, the new hoods and capes are black as night. These women Trappists may recite their prayers aloud, as they work in field or garden, or over their embroidery frames, but they speak for human hearing only once a year, when their closest family friends may visit them and listen through a grating to what their disused voices may yet be able to utter. From all other con-tact with the world they are shielded by an outpost guard of a few of the Servants of Mary, an industrious, self-supporting sisterhood, whose own convent, half a mile away, is a refuge for unwedded mothers and a home for unfathered children. Hither the pitying sisters brought, a few days before our visit, a wild-eyed girl whom they had found lying on one of the sea rocks, waiting for the rising tide to cover her and her shame together. The chief treasure of this nunnery, one regrets to add, is the polished skull of Mary Magdalene.
That one of the Servants of Mary who showed us over the Trappist convent was a bright-eyed Spanish dame of many winters, as natural a chatterbox as ever gossiped with the neighbors in the sun. Her glee in this little opportunity for conversation was enough to wring the heart of any lover of old ladies. She walked as slowly as possible and detained us on every conceivable pretext, reaching up on her rheumatic tiptoes to pluck us red and white camellias, and pointing out, with a lingering garrulity, the hardness of the cots in the bare, cold little cells, the narrowness of the benches in the austere chapel, and, in the cheerless dining room, the floor of deep sand, in which the Bernardines kneel throughout their Friday dinner of bread and water. Longest of all, she kept us in the cemetery, all spick and span, with close-set rows of name-less graves, each with a cross shaped upon it in white seashells. The dear old soul, in her coarse blue gown, with tidy white kerchief and neatly darned black hood and veil, showed us the grave of her own sister, adding, proudly, that her four remaining sisters were all cloistered in various convents of Spain.
“All six of us nuns,” she said, “but my brother no ! He has the dowries of us all and lives the life of the world. Just think! I have two nephews in Toledo. I have never seen them. My sister’s grave is pretty, is it not ? They let me put flowers there. Oh, there are many families in Spain like ours, where all the daughters are put into convents. Spain is a very religious country. The sons ? Not so often. Some-times, when there is a conscription, many young men become priests to escape military service but it is the women who are most devout in Spain.”
And after the rustic gate was shut on the sleeping-place of the Bernardines, scarcely more silent and more dead beneath the sod than above it, she still detained us with whispered hints of distinguished Spanish ladies among those ghostly, far-off figures that, pitchfork or pruning knife in hand, would fall instantly upon their knees at the ringing of the frequent bell for prayers. Spanish ladies, too, had given this French con-vent many of its most costly treasures. We said good-by to our guide near an elaborate shrine of the Madonna, which a bereaved Spanish mother had erected with the graven request that the nuns pray for the soul of her beloved dead.
” Even we Servants of Mary are not allowed to talk much here,” said in parting this most sociable of saints, clinging to us with a toil-roughened, brown old hand. “It is a holy life, but quietvery quiet. I have been here forty-four years this winter. My name is Sister Solitude.”
The nun whom I knew best was an exquisite little sister just back from Manila. During several months I went to her, in a Paris convent, twice or three times a week, for Spanish lessons. The reception room in which I used to await her coming shone not as with soap and water, but as with the very essence of purity. The whiteness of the long, fine curtains had something celestial about it. The only book in sight, a bundle of well-worn leaves bound in crimson plush .and placed with precision in the centre of the gleaming mahogany table, was a volume of classic French sermons, the first two being on Demons, and the next on Penance. Further than this I never read ; for very punctually the slight figure, in violet skirt and bodice, with a white cross embroidered upon the breast, swept softly down the hall. A heavy purple cord and a large-beaded rosary depended from the waist. In conversation she often raised her hand to press her ring, sign of her sacred espousals, to her lips. Her type of face I often afterward saw in Spain, but never again so perfect. Her complexion was the richest southern brown, the eyes brightening in excitement to vivid, flashing black. The eyebrows, luxuriant even to heaviness, were nevertheless delicately out-lined, and the straight line of the white band emphasized their graceful arch. The nose was massive for a woman’s face, and there was a slight shading of hair upon the upper lip. The mouth and chin, though so daintily moulded, were strong.
Not the meek, religious droop of the eyelids could mask the fire, vigor, vitality, intensity, that lay stored like so much electricity behind the tranquil convent look.
We would go for the lesson to a severe little chamber, whose only ornament was a crucifix of olive wood fastened against the wall. Then how those velvet eyes would glow and sparkle in the eagerness of rushing speech ! The little sister loved to tell of her Manila experience, almost a welcome break, I fancied, in the monotonous peace of cloister life. All that Sunday morning, when the battle was on, the nuns maintained their customary services, hearing above their prayers and chants and the solemn diapason of the organ, the boom, boom, boom of our wicked American cannon. For, according to this naive historian, Catholic Spain, best beloved of Our Lady among the nations of the earth, had labored long in the Philippines to Christianize the heathen, when suddenly, in the midst of those pious labors with which she was too preoccupied to think of fitting out men-of-war and drilling gunners, a pirate fleet bore down upon her and overthrew at once the Spanish banner and the Holy Cross. Tears sparkled through flame as the hermanita told of her beautiful convent home, now half demolished. The sisters did not abandon it until six weeks after the battle, but as the nunnery stood out-side the city walls, their superior judged it no safe abode for Spanish ladies, and ordered them away. The French consul arranged for their transport to Hongkong on a dirty little vessel, where they had to stay on deck, the twenty-seven of them, during their week’s voyage, suffering from lack of proper shelter and especially from thirst, the water supply running short the second day out. But all this was joy of martyrdom.
“Is not Hongkong a very strange city ? ” I asked. “Did it seem to you more like Manila than like Paris and Madrid ?”
The little sister’s voice was touched with prompt rebuke.
“You speak after the fashion of the world. All cities look alike to us. Ours is the life of the convent. It matters nothing where the convent stands.”
Stimulated by reproof, I waxed impertinent. “Not even if it stands within range of the guns? Now, truly, truly, were you not the least bit frightened that morning of the battle ? ”
The sunny southern smile was a fleeting one, and left a reminiscent shadow in the eyes.
“Frightened? Oh, no! There were no guns between us and Paradise. From early dawn we heard the firing, and hour after hour we knelt before the altar and prayed to the Mother of God to comfort the souls of the brave men who were dying for la patria; but we were not frightened.”
There were strange jostlings of ideas in that cloistered cell, especially when the dusk had stolen in between our bending faces and the Spanish page.
Once we talked of suicide. That morning it had been a wealthy young Parisian who had paid its daily tribute to the Seine.
“What a horror ! ” gasped the little sister, clasping her slender hands against her breast. “It is a mortal sin. And how foolish ! For if life is hard to bear, surely perdition is harder.”
“It does not seem to me so strange in case of the poor,” I responded, waiving theology. ” But a rich man, though his own happiness fails, has still the power of making others happy.”
Ah, but I understand!” cried Little Manila, her eyes like stars in the dimness. ” The devil does not see truth as the blessed spirits do, but sees falsehoods even as the world. And so in his blindness he believes the soul of a rich man more precious than the souls of the poor, and tempts the rich man more than others. Yet when the devil has that soul, will he find it made of gold ? ”
One chilly November afternoon, gray with a fog that had utterly swallowed the Eiffel Tower above its first huge up-rights, which straddled disconsolately like legs forsaken of their giant, she explained in a sudden rush of words why Spain had been worsted in the war with America.
“Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth. As with per-sons, so with nations. Those that are not of His fold He gives over to their fill of vainglory and greed and power, but the Catholic nations He cleanses again and again in the bitter waters of defeat ah, in fire and blood ! Yet the end is not yet. The rod of His correction is upon Spain at this hour, and the Faithful are glad in the very heart of sorrow, for even so shall her sins be purged away, even so shall her coldness be quickened, even so shall she be made ready for her everlasting recompense.”
“And the poor Protestant nations? ” I asked, between a smile and a sigh.
The little sister smiled back, but the Catholic eyes, for all their courtly graciousness, were implacable.
She was of a titled family and had passed a petted child-hood in Madrid. There she had been taken, on her seventh birthday, to a corrida de taros, but remembered it unpleasantly, not because of the torture inflicted on the horses and bulls, but because she had been frightened by the great beasts, with their tossing horns and furious bellowing. Horns always made her think of the devil, she said. From her babyhood she had been afraid of horns.
One day a mischievous impulse led me to inquire, in connection with a chat about the Escorial, “And how do you like Philip II ? ”
The black eyes shot one ray of sympathetic merriment, but the Spaniard and the nun were on their guard.
“He was a very good Catholic,” she replied demurely.
“So was Isabel la Catolica,” I responded. “But don’t you think she may have been a trifle more agreeable ? ”
“Perhaps she was a little more simpatica,” admitted the hermanita, but that was her utmost concession. She would not even allow that Philip had a sorry end.
“If his body groaned, his soul was communing with the Blessed Saints and paid no heed.”
At the corner of the street which led under the great garden wall to the heavily barred gate of the convent was a flower-stand. The shrewd, swift-tongued Madame in charge well knew the look of the unwary, and usually succeeded in selling me a cluster of drooping blossoms at twice the value of the fresh, throwing in an extra leaf or stem at the close of the bargain with an air of prodigal benevolence. The handful of flowers would be smilingly accepted by the little sister, but instantly laid aside nor favored with glance or touch until the close of the visit, when they would be lifted again with a winsome word of acknowledgment and carried away, probably to spend their sweetness at the marble feet of the Virgin. In vain I tried to coax from this scorner of God’s earth some sign of pleasure in the flowers themselves.
” Don’t you care for tea-roses?” ” Oh, el mundo pasa. But their color is exquisite.”
Yet her eyes did not turn to the poor posy for the two hours following.
This mignonette has only the grace of sweetness.”
“It is a delicate scent, but it will not last. El mundo pasa.”
She held the sprays at arm’s length for a moment, and then laid them down on a mantel at the farther end of the-room. ” I am sorry these violets are not fresher.”
” But no! The touch of Time has not yet found them. Still, it is only a question of to-morrow. El mundo pasa.”
“Yes, the world passes. But is it not good while it lasts ? ”
” The world good ! No, no, and a thousand times no. Behold it now at the end of the nineteenth century,wars and sorrows and bitter discontents, evil deeds and evil passions everywhere. Do you see the peace of Christ in the faces on the Paris streets ? The blossoms of this earth, the pleasures of this world, the affections of this life, all have the taste of death. But here in God’s own garden we live even now His everlasting life.”
“You are always glad of your choice ? You never miss the friends of your childhood ? ”
” Glad, glad, glad. Glad of my choice. Glad to see no more the faces of father and mother. And for them, too, it is great joy. For Catholic parents it is supreme delight to give up their children to the Holy Church. The ways of the world are full of slippery places, but when they leave us here, they know that our feet are set on the very threshold of heaven.”
Sometimes the slight form shivered in the violet habit, and the dark foreign face looked out with touching weariness from its frame of soft white folds.
” You are cold? You are tired ? Will you take my cloak ? Were the children troublesome today ? ”
It was always the same answer : ” No importa. No importa. It matters not. Our life is not the life of flesh and blood.”
And indeed, as I saw her in the Christmas service among the other Spanish sisters, those lovely figures in white and violet making obeisance before the altar until their veiled foreheads almost touched the pavement, bowing and rising again with the music like a field of lilies swaying in the breeze, I felt that she was already a being of another world, before she had known this. Over her had been chanted the prayers for the dead. The strange ceremony of taking the veil had been her burial rite. The convent seemed a ghost land between earth and heaven.
My hermanita belonged to one of the teaching orders, and despite the strange blanks in her knowledge, for secular lore had been, so far as possible, excluded from her education, she was representative of the finer and more intelligent class of Spanish nuns. In Granada I heard of the nuns chiefly as the makers of those delicious dukes, sugared fruits, which were indispensable to a child’s saint-day, and there I was taught the scoffing epitaph :
Here lies Sister Claribel, Who made sweetmeats very well, And passed her life in pious follies, Such as dressing waxen dollies.”
To the spinster outside the nunnery Spain has little to offer. Small heed is paid to her except by St. Elias, who, on one day of Holy Week, walks about all Seville with a pen in his hand, peering up at the balconies and making note of the old maids. Since Andalusia expresses the theory of counter-parts by saying, “Every one has somewhere in the world his half orange,” the spinster can hardly hope for a well-rounded life. Careers are not open to her. There are “advanced women ” in Spain, the most eminent being Emelia Pardo Bazan, novelist, lecturer, editor, who advocates for women equal educational and political privileges with men, but who has not yet succeeded in opening the doors. The voice of Spanish women, nevertheless, is sometimes heard by Spanish statesmen, as when delegation after delegation of senoras who had relatives held as prisoners by the Filipinos invaded the senate-house with petitions until they could no longer be ignored.
A more thorough and liberal education for Spanish women is the pressing need to-day. There is, of course, great lack of primary schooling. A girl in her late teens, wearing the prettiest of embroidered aprons and with the reddest of roses in her hair, once appealed to me in Toledo for help. She had been sent from a confectioner’s to deliver a tray of wheaten rolls at a given address, and she could read neither the names of streets nor the numbers of houses. But the higher education will carry the lower with it. Spain is degenerate in this regard. The Moors used to have at Cordova an academy for girls, where science, mathematics, and history were taught. Schools for Spanish girls at present impart little more than reading and writing, needle-work, the catechism, the four rules of arithmetic, and some slight notion of geography. French and music, recognized accomplishments, are learned by daughters of the privileged class from their governesses or in the convents. Missionary work in Spain has largely concerned itself with the educational question, and Mrs. Gulick’s project for the establishment of a woman’s college in Madrid, a college without distinction of creed, is the fruit of long experience. Little by little she has proven the intellectual ability of Spanish girls. She established the International Institute at San Sebastian, secured State examination for her ninas and State recognition of their eminent success, and even won for a few of them admission to the University of Madrid, where they maintained the highest rank throughout the course. All that Spanish girls need is opportunity.
But if the senoritas are so charming now, with their roses and their graces and their fans, why not leave them as they are, a page of mediaeval poetry in this strenuous modern world ? If only they were dolls outright and did not suffer so ! When life goes hard with these high-spirited, incapable creatures, it goes terribly hard. I can see yet the tears scorch in the proud eyes of three undowered sisters, slaving at their one art of embroidery from early till late for the miserable pittance that it brought them. “We shall rest when we are dead,” said the youngest. The absolute lack of future for these brave, sensitive girls, well-born, well-bred, naturally as keen as the keenest, but more ignorant, in matters of common education, than the children of our lowest gram-mar grade, is heart-breaking. If such girls were stupid, shallow, coarse, it would be easier ; but the Spanish type is finely strung. Once I saw an impulsive beauty fly into that gust of angry passion which Spaniards term the rabia espanola. A clumsy, well-intentioned young Austrian had said a teasing word, and in the fraction of a second the girl, overwrought with secret toils and anxieties, was in a tempest of tears ; but the wrath that blazed across them burned the offender crimson. The poor fellow sent for his case of choice Asturian cider, cooling in the balcony, read the evening news aloud and discoursed on the value of self-control, but not even these tactful attentions could undo, for that evening at least, the work of his blundering jest. The girl flashed away to her chamber, her handkerchief bitten through and through, and the quick fierce sound of her sobs came to me across the hall deep into the night.
Wandering over Spain I found everywhere these winning, vivid, helpless girls, versed in needlework and social graces, but knowing next to nothing of history, literature, science, all that pertains to intellectual culture. Some were hungry to learn. More did not dream of the world of thought as a possible world for them. Among these it was delightful to meet, scattered like precious seed throughout the Peninsula, the graduates of the International Institute. So far as a stranger could see, education had enhanced in them the Spanish radiance and charm, while arming these with wisdom, power, and resource.