IF one will but take the trouble to scan the yellowed pages of some of the older city directories published in New England forty or fifty years ago, it will be discovered that the shoemakers and leather-workers of that day were almost invariably referred to as “cordwainers” ; and it is probable that here and there a battered signboard in the more remote villages still serves to keep alive that quaint designation, the meaning of which is hardly comprehended by the present race of New Englanders. I recall that my own youthful imagination pictured the cordwainer as a hewer of wood, obviously a notion springing from a mistaken derivation of the word. For in actuality the word cordwainer was merely another form of ” Cordovaner,” the man from Cordova, just as the milliner was the man from Milan; and the principal commercial activity of the city in each case gave a generic name to artisans in those lines everywhere. Milliners endure, however, while cordwainers have ceased to be and have sunk into an ill-deserved oblivion, in which course they have merely followed the decline and fall of the leather industry in Cordova herself. For today the material which made that city famous is much better bought in Morocco, and the latter country has largely supplanted the Spanish city in the industry, both in fact and in name.
From Cordova the glory has departed. She occupies her ancient site on a steep bluff overhanging the upper reaches of the yellow Guadalquivir, but retains almost no vestiges within her gates to reveal her former grandeur as the chief Mohammedan seat in Western Europe, apart from her great mosque and its adjoining court of oranges. Nothing is left of her former proud preeminence in science and the arts. Nothing save the vast shrine marks her as the ancient seat of the caliphs, who left be-hind them no such secular monument as one may find on the heights of the Alhambra. Whatever remained after the flight of the Moors was either destroyed with ruthless hand or was hopelessly marred by the inept and over-zealous Christian.
Such, at any rate, was our first impression as the omnibus jolted its devious way from the outlying railroad station to the hotel, through a dense fog of ‘ dust. And such is probably the impression that most visitors carry away with them from Cordova. All the world goes thither, as a matter of course, in passing from Seville to Madrid ; but it is probably a fact that the average visitor finds fewer objects to interest him there than in any other Spanish city of equal importance in history. And yet, whatever Cordova may lack in the number of her surviving treasures, she makes up in abundant measure by the impressiveness of what has been allowed to endure. Not even the lamentable defacement of the mosque by the zealous canons of the cathedral can be said to have obliterated its ancient charm. It has marred it, to be sure; but in so doing it has emphasized it by force of contrast.
The railway from Seville threads the valley of the Guadalquivir, a river no longer capable of being the highway of commerce that it was seen to be below the Seville bridges, but a broad and shallow stream, brawling in a turbid flood over frequent rapids, lined with bare meadows and dun bluffs. We leaned from the windows of the leisurely train to catch the last glimpses of the great cathedral of Seville towering out of the houses of the city and dominated by the slender bulk of the Giralda. More than ever did it seem the elephant amidst the sheep that Gautier thought it, and the appropriateness of his simile increased as the city receded. We were still riding second class, and the compartments were filled with a heterogeneous multitude. It was a curious car, separated as always by transverse benches, but open above their backs so that one could see from one end to the other, and if need be climb over the backs of the seats. One agile and good-humored native did so, to help an aged dame open a window, mirabile dictu 1 For the day was hot and even the native passengers condescended to admit a little of the outer air to mingle with, and mitigate, the garlic and cigarette smoke. It was a curious gathering with curious baggage. Many of the faces were of the type more commonly found in the third-class coaches, and I suspect they right-fully belonged there. All regulations, however, break down in an overcrowded train, and we jogged along harmoniously enough, accompanied by a most wonderful assortment of valises, sacks, crates of terrified and blinking poultry, a brace of caged rabbits, a dog of dubious lineage, and a singing bird. Everybody smoked, and nearly all produced parcels of food and leathern flasks. Meantime the train skirted the winding valley, pausing here and there for the usual lengthy halts, crossing and re-crossing the river on clattering bridges, burrowing under hills topped with ruined Moorish castles, and finally, with a prolonged shrieking of the whistle, dashed into Cordova and disgorged by far the greater portion of its human freight.
Of rain there had been none for some time, and the streets were inch deep in a fine, powdery dust which rose from the passing vehicles and settled in a white film over the shrubbery of the station grounds. The afternoon sun beat down mercilessly on the highways whose glare the new spring verdure hardly sufficed to relieve. They were not interesting streets through which the ‘bus clattered, but were painfully bare and ugly and new. An effort had been made to line them with gardens, and in a later, or a moister, season they would doubtless have relieved the general effect ; but on this April day they were parched and discouraged by the unseasonable warmth and the long lack of rain. Only when the carriage swerved with a jerk which took the outer wheels off the ground and entered a livelier thoroughfare, did the prospect improve. It was a broad boulevard bearing the name of that doughty warrior of the town, Gonsalvo de Cordoba, yclept the “Gran Capitan.” Its centre was a broad and well-shaded promenade wherein all Cordova appeared to be gathered. The adjacent cafés were full, and the clicking of dominoes rose above the clatter of the wheels. It was out of this hurly-burly that we soon turned into a narrow lane, wide enough for but one carriage at a time, and jolted our way over its stony pavement to the yawning portals of the Hotel Suisse, a cleanly house, withal, but, as we subsequently discovered, expensive out of all proportion to the size of the city.
We were in the heart of Cordova now, and the garishness of the boulevards gave place to some-thing much better, the devious byways of an old Moorish city, high-walled and shaded against the noontide, and by the same token well shielded in winter against the icy blasts of the north. Men walked in the cool darkness where the shadow fell sharply on the gleaming white of the neighboring walls. A succession of these narrow ways led toward the cathedral, and we plunged into them, guided by faith rather than by sight, and pursued by an officious individual, who was uniformed as a guide.
He was a most persistent fellow, who seemed to fathom our specious air of nonchalant familiarity with the tortuous streets as something assumed entirely for his benefit ; and when we halted in very real perplexity at the foot of the Calle de Jesus Maria, he laughed us to scorn and disappeared from view. Thereafter we were more free to follow our own noses.
The Calle de Jesus Maria, by the way, may serve to cause us a moment’s digression to consider the pious nomenclature so common among Spanish cities and families. To the pure nothing is blasphemous in Spain. “Love of God Street,” the “Street of Jesus and Mary,” and such like things are to be met everywhere. With a high disregard of sex the man-child is likely to be named Jesus Maria. Nor does the Spaniard esteem it a sin to swear roundly in a way that would shock a moderately religious American. And they are such comprehensive oaths ! The Spaniard does not swear by heaven ; neither by the earth. He swears by the Name of God, by God Himself, by the Mother of God, by the whole Holy Family, Jesus, Maria y Jose I Generally he means no ill. We knew later a charming senorita of eighteen in Madrid who was struggling with the rudiments of English grammar and whose efforts were constantly interlarded with the prettiest little oaths imaginable, astounding and terrible when translated, but spoken in the innocence of a thoroughly reverent and maidenly soul. A vicious “darn” in the mouth of a scrupulous New Englander would have far more profanity in it than Senorita Rosario’s most despairing dios mio. Still further to digress, since we have spoken of the Senorita Rosario, her name and such names as Dolores, Mercedes, and the like, reveal still further the passion of the Spaniard for holy names ; and not con-tent with the simple Maria, he employs a score of her saintly attributes, all of which is leading us far afield.
The Calle de Jesus Maria turned out, appropriately enough, to lead to the cathedral, where God is now worshiped in a fane once consecrated to Allah, the demons of paganism being duly exorcised by marking a huge cross in the centre of the building in the shape of a surpassingly ugly choir and transepts, which, with the inevitable capilla mayor, constitute the cathedral of today. It is a veritable house in the woods, a great church erected in the midst of a low building composed of an acre or so of those slender Moorish pillars which invariably give the effect of low-branching trees. Looking down upon the ground-plan of it, one sees it as a cross in the centre of the ancient building. But seeing it as the actual beholder must from the floor of the mosque, it resembles nothing so much as a rather intrusive building set in a dense grove of saplings ; and the screens of the choir serve to block the view in a manner even more irritating than is usually the case. On every side of the Christian church proper, stretches the old shrine of the Moors, its vistas of pillars reaching away to what seem like illimitable distances, shrouded in steadily increasing gloom.
No other church in Spain has so magnificent a cathedral close. The court of oranges at Seville, fragrant and beautiful as it is, cannot be compared with the court at Cordova. As at Seville, one gains no adequate idea of it from without. It is surrounded by a massive cincture of stone resembling a fortress, battlemented and strengthened by massive buttresses. Only at a single point does it give any outward and visible evidence of its inward and spiritual character; namely, where the massive bell tower rises above the Gate of Pardon near the street of Cespedes.
It was from that narrow thoroughfare that we emerged after some wandering on our first afternoon in Cordova, and stood marveling at the curious outworks of the cathedral. The great gate was closed, the outer surface of its mighty doors studded with metal scales and bosses. Towering three hundred feet or so above it was the campanile, shorn of every Moorish semblance. The archway of the gate, however, was of the traditional horseshoe form, and might easily have passed for Arab workmanship had not authority existed for holding it a mere Christian copy of the very similar gate at Seville. With the massive bell tower above, it is far more impressive than its more ancient original.
Comparatively few of the gates which once pierced this outer bulwark of Islam now remain. Where once there were twenty-one portals there are now but a dozen, distributed along the various sides of the great square court, showing ample traces of their Moslem origin. Through such as stand open one may from the streets outside gain some little idea of the beauty within, a beauty entirely out of accord with the grimness of the inclosing walls. And yet the walls are not without their claims to interest, containing as they do some bits of ancient Roman milestones and many fragments of Moorish ornamentation.
When we presented ourselves before the Gate of Pardon it was after five of the clock, and according to all authority the mosque should be closed for the day. But a peasant disappearing down a narrow flight of stairs through a small postern adjoining the greater gate led us also gingerly to thrust feet into the coolness of a gloomy passage and to follow him into a new and different world. For the broad court of oranges lay bathed in evening sunlight. The glossy green of the leaves contrasted charmingly with the gold of the ripening fruit. The air was heavy with perfume. Row after row of ancient trees led in broad aisles down to the walls of the mosque, out of the low roof of which towered the present church, far within. On every side of the courtyard ran a cloister ; and dominating it all the graceful tower graceful despite its sturdiness soared above the fronds of a gigantic palm. Bells clamored a melodious chorus in the arches high above. At the fountains of the court picturesque groups of women filled their water jars. Shouting children romped in the shade of the trees. Every-where was warmth and beauty and sweetness and Spanish life at its best and gayest.
In the distant days of the caliphs, this had been the court of ablution ; for the Moor, among his other excellences, was a cleanly creature, and his religion enjoined the washing of the body to a degree which his Spanish successors on the spot might emulate with great profit. The sad fact seems to be that bathing and the worship of Allah were simultaneously abandoned, and the excessive amplitude of Maria de Padilla’s bath has been atoned for by the abolishment of such pagan utilities altogether as being something essentially Moorish, and there-fore, of course, of the devil ! So worshipers no longer bathe in the court of oranges before proceeding to the church ; but water gushes from the fountains as of old, and the groups of women with their’ jars are constantly changing.
In original usage, therefore, as well as in design, the court of oranges was really an integral part of the scheme of the mosque. Its files of orange trees merely prolonged the rows of marble columns out into the open, and opposite every avenue in the orchard an archway led into the pillared groves of the building itself. Most of these arches have been filled with brick, surmounted by lunettes of outrageous green and yellow glass. Only one of the original nineteen portals serves as a gateway now, and all the beauty of the orange grove disappears the moment one steps within. It is one more evidence of the wretched disfigurement worked by Christian hands in the name of improved religion, and the wonder is that the mosque bears it so well. Those garishly glazed windows are enough to kill anything but an essentially immortal work of architecture.
No other surviving religious monument of the Moslems in Spain can compare with the mosque of Cordova. It was the chief mosque of the western world, and in its prime was only second in size to the famous Kaaba at Mecca. This magnitude and grandeur was by no means reached in a day, however. The original mosque was but a small affair, and supplanted a primitive Christian temple on the same site. But as the wealth and importance of Cordova increased under Moorish rule, caliph after caliph added to the building, pushing always toward the south until the river bluff became too steep for further amplification in that line, and forced future extensions to spread toward the east. Two hundred years after the building was begun, in 990 A. D., the mosque stood complete, and rivaled in size and grandeur the grand chief shrine of all Islam. Its columns numbered well over a thou-sand, of every sort of stone, porphyry, jasper, marble, breccia, which tradition insists came from every part of the known world, although it seems probable that most of them were quarried in Spain. Each pillar bore up a horseshoe arch and above this vast collocation of arches ran a second row supporting the roof. None of the shafts measured more than thirteen feet, and as a consequence the whole roof is very low. Most of the light comes from the windows on the side of the court, and the distances are dim and obscure. The oriental effect of the interior is heightened by the painted decoration of the arches in red and white bands, a device which may not be altogether fortunate because it produces an effect somewhat like that of bunting. But if one can overcome the illusion that this is a temporary structure decked out for the uses of a Grand Army fair, it will be seen that it preserves the effect of an Arab building despite its spoliation by the triumphant Catholics. The roof is no longer satisfactory, having been restored with but poor success, but in the general gloom of the place one scarcely notices that. As for the actual church now used by Christian worshipers, perhaps the less said of it the better. It is, indeed, light and airy while the rest is dark and chilly, but it is hopelessly out of harmony with its setting. Even Charles V, under whose permission the work was done, expressed appropriate disgust at the result, remarking that the canons, in building what anybody else could have built, had destroyed a building that could never again be duplicated. And yet, as we have already seen, Charles himself did even worse at Granada without the shadow of an excuse, whereas the priests of Cordova could at least plead that their liturgy demanded the erection of an altar and the choir.
It is on the farther side of the mosque, remote from the present site of worship, that the greatest magnificence is to be found, where still remain the prayer niches (mihrabs) with their wonderfully vaulted ceilings and their rich incrustations of mosaic. These, however, one is forced to see in the company of a sacristan with a taper.
Naturally there has been great question as to the means of lighting so vast and so low-roofed a structure in the days when it served as a mosque and when no lofty church set in its centre served to let a flood of light into its very midst. The roof was certainly not pierced with windows, and at no place was it more than thirty feet above the floor, a surprisingly low altitude when the vast expanse of the floor space is considered. It has been suggested, however, that possibly, besides the nineteen arches open toward the court of oranges, there may have been an open colonnade above them on the other sides, helping to illuminate the innermost depths of the centre. Nevertheless it must always have been a dimly lighted spot, and cool even on the hottest days of summer. In April, at sermon-time, I can testify to its chilliness, even to-day; for we stood through a long hour listening to an eloquent discourse by an impassioned and gesticulating friar, held there by his animation rather than by what we caught of his words, and came out chilled to the marrow. What wonder that the whole Spanish nation suffers from a racking cough? All through the country, north and south alike, we found the populace suffering from distressing colds, sneezing, coughing, snuffling, and, what was worse, spreading the distemper by the carelessness of their habits in public places and railway coaches. It was not without reason that James Howell uttered his sententious dictum, before quoted, as to the need of being phlegmatic in Castile ! Apparently centuries of environment have not acclimated the Spaniard to his own land. He pays the penalty of sudden changes from hot days to cold nights, from blazing streets to frigid churches and unwarmed houses, damp and ill-ventilated.
There is one other awe-compelling feature to divide the honors with the mosque as being Cordova’s chiefest attraction, and that is the great bridge over the Guadalquivir. Subsequently we saw many such in other parts of Spain, always old and yellow and many-arched, defended at either end by massive towers. This at Cordova is mainly Moorish in construction, although the foundations were laid by Rome. Crossing its dusty roadway to the farther bank, one may obtain what is probably the very best general view of the city, the town rising steeply from the muddy river on its undulating bluffs, the cathedral with its campanile dominating the picture, while in the foreground lies the hoary old bridge striding across the shallow but very spacious and very turbid waters of the stream. Below, still used and operated, lie some picturesque Moorish mills.
But apart from the mosque and the ancient bridge, Cordova, it must be confessed, has rather few lions to show. A massive and picturesque alcâzar to the southward of the city is interesting in itself, and lends a striking contrast to the scene as between the old and new. Still the most attractive thing about Cordova, after her major sights, lies in her winding streets with the innumerable patios that open from them. The doors generally stand ajar, and as a rule you are welcome to enter. As always, the exterior of the Cordovan house is excessively plain, and the luxuriance and beauty of these inner courts is in lively contrast with the outer view. Looking into these fascinating interiors was a pastime of which we never tired, although sometimes we ventured in with the furtive timidity of children, fearful of intruding where invasion was not desired. They were so cool and clean and so fragrant, these patios of Cordova. Their colors were so brilliant, and they were so quiet after the rattle of carts over the stones of the narrow streets streets so narrow that every corner must bear a printed signboard to mark it as either an entrance or an exit for vehicles, owing to the utter impossibility of passing. Of architectural beauty we found very little, but that little was worth searching out, a courtyard here, a portal there, the tower of some quaint old church yonder, ever and anon through streets that twisted and turned blindly among white-walled houses, up and down steep little hills in the city’s midst. There were seemingly few shops, and yet those that we saw were of a remarkable neatness, notably those dealing in groceries and foods.
“From the deathlike stillness of Cordova,” re-marks Sir Augustus Hare, “it is a strange transition to the animation and bustle of Seville.” And Richard Hutton, also speaking of Seville, similarly contrasts the bustle of that lively city with ” that almost morbid impression of stillness and silence that the traveler finds everywhere in Cordova.” It was with these placid sentiments in mind that we sought repose on our first night in the city in the upper rooms of our inn, after a long and imposing table d’hôte. But Cordova, whatever she might have been by day, was by night anything but a place of deathlike silence. The hollow cavern of the street gave back the rumble of passing wagons at intervals throughout the night, intervals nicely contrived to catch the would-be sleeper dozing off into his dreams of mosques and Moors and minarets. Between the recurrent visits of omnibuses and carts, the population of the city paraded its way up and down under our windows, never by any chance alone, but by twos and threes ; and never by any fortune silent, but laughing, shouting, singing, quarreling, debating. The fifty-seven thou-sand people Baedeker accredited to the city seemed to our troubled minds to be marching and counter-marching past the hotel all night in an endless pro-cession like the Roman legionaries in an opera. All the traditional remedies for insomnia failed dismally. Flocks of sheep that lazily passed by could not subdue the consciousness of the noisy flocks of lazily passing Cordovaners. Neither poppy nor mandragora could cope with the stern reality of busy mosquitoes from the Guadalquivir. As had been the case at Seville, these latter pests were sought to be held at bay by “bars” of netting, but the effect of these was merely to bother the mosquito and stifle the victim. Nothing could drown the irritating noises of the night, the strolling thousands, the late omnibuses, the melody of a distant cinematograph. Seville had been noisy with her constant passing of carriages, her grinding, squealing electric cars, but Cordova was vastly more irritating because the noises were intermit-tent. I still believe that night in Cordova to have been as uncomfortable as any we passed in all Spain. I have since been awakened many times in country towns by the sereno calling the hours and telling his auditors somewhat of the night I have huddled in cheerless railway fondas at mid-night over stoves that held fire without giving warmth ; I have jolted all night over rough road-beds in primitive railway cars; but I believe them all to have been nights of peace and pleasantness compared with that first attempt to sleep in sleep-less Cordova amid the tumult of the Calle Hornachuelos.
But let us not traduce Cordova or regret one wakeful moment spent there. The mosque was worth them all, and would have been even without the splendid old bridge and those smiling multitudes of patios. It was pleasant to visit them all, again and again, but those dim aisles and red-banded arches of the Mohammedan temple are the things that now seem most vivid of our Cordovan memories, more vivid even than the recollection of that pleasant orange grove with the crowds of children and women with water jars. When service in the church was done, the priests, canons, acolytes, and churchly dignitaries of high degree in full regalia . were wont to march in stately procession about the sacred edifice, their varied vestments blending with the changing hues of the pillars through which they wound their way, chanting the while in a deeply monotonous bass. This long file of men, long-robed and filling the air with song, losing itself and reappearing among the narrow aisles, now enveloped in shadow, now plashed with a slanting ray of sunlight, went far to make vivid the impression of being in some dense forest in some bygone age, witnessing some ceremonial of a mystic rite.
We cast about one hot Sunday afternoon for some suburban excursion which should take us on a long walk into the country, and finally selected one which the guidebooks described as ” less important,” but well within the reach of hardened pedestrians. It was to be to the convent of San Jeronimo, now used as an asylum for the insane, but said to be interesting. We never found it, as it turned out ; but instead we stumbled quite by accident on the lofty hermitage of Valparaiso, a point which we had despaired of attaining because of its distance from town. I should certainly not advise any one to attempt the walk for pleasure, because it involves so long a tramp across a level and dusty plain before one comes to the foot of the sierras on top of which the monastery stands. That we ourselves accomplished it was due to the fact that we were adrift on the vegas of Cordova with no chart or compass, and little realized the magnitude of the task until we finally staggered, footsore and weary, into the hotel at nightfall.
All went merrily on the way out. We passed the station, swung out into a broad meadow where a grass-grown cart-track invited us toward the distant hills through a lush growth of herbage and myriad wild-flowers, such as cistus and orchids, and then began a climb over low foothills where stood scattered farms. These were protected by perfect hordes of dogs, but obliging women drove them off and insisted on accompanying us up the slope until we found the highroad that led ever upward to the monastery. It began to dawn on us that this could not be San Jeronimo at all, but must be the hermitage that Baedeker had so discouraged us from visiting. A path verged from the road and made for the top of the most promising peak, so we obediently followed it, little caring whither it led if only that some end might be. It was steep and difficult enough, over shelves in the mountainside, around great boulders, and sometimes up breakneck natural steps but we pushed on and were rewarded at the top, after a scramble through a narrow gully, by finding ourselves suddenly at the monastery gate with Cordova’s spacious plains at our feet.
It was a well-protected establishment. All around it, even where the hillside was so steep as to be inaccessible, ran a tall white wall. But there was a great gate with a wicket and a bell, which latter we boldly rang; and with the result that at last a brown friar came, bearded and cowled, peered at us suspiciously through the wicket with one brilliant black eye, at least as black as any Barbary corsair’s, and then let us in. We had expected the senoras would be refused admittance, but apparently this was no such stern order. He gladly got us water from a mountain well to refresh our parched and dusty throats, and then conducted us over the grounds, which were spacious and ran off indefinitely over the mountain-side, with buildings scattered here and there. All about were solemn cypresses, twin rows which lined a gently ascending avenue along the ridge. The scattered buildings appeared to be small individual houses, one for each brother, built of stone and cleanly whitewashed ; and far away, glistening among the trees, was a diminutive chapel. One of the monk’s houses was shown us, a spare one, available for guests. It was a tiny affair of two rooms, very bare but spotlessly clean, one a sleeping room of truly monastic simplicity, and the other a living room with a table, a chair, and a crucifix ; nothing more. A visitor might abide there and welcome, remarked the friar, but few ever came. Within a yearthe brother swelled with visible pride the king had been a transitory guest, and had eaten luncheon on the very terrace where we were standing.
Surely it was fit for a king, that view on every hand over the plain, the distant hills, the winding valley of the Guadalquivir. Long rays of evening sunlight streamed down the deep glens of the west-ern mountains at our backs into the great green meadows, and gilded the domes and towers of Cordova far away. Meantime the brown brother babbled on, unmindful that we comprehended about one word in every dozen. Were we Germans? No? French, then? Surely not Italian? American, south or north ? Ah, North Americans, and from the United States ! the brother hesitated, and I felt for a moment that I detected a sinister aversion in those Barbary eyes, which glimmered for a moment and was gone. I gave him a peseta, and he bowed us out with quiet dignity, but I still feel that he would have preferred us to be Germans.
It was not a delectable walk home, after we had left the hills and elected to adhere to the highroad all the way instead of trusting ourselves to the dim uncertainties of that vast and silent plain with its deserted cart-track. The books had told us that “bandits were not unknown” in the hills we had just quitted, although it was nowhere recorded that any one had ever seen such a person there. Anyway, the highroad was new ground, and we would venture it for sheer variety. But it was tedious and uninteresting, and we regained Cordova at dusk well wearied. Go out, then, to the Eremitas, by all means, gentle reader, and climb to it on foot over the mountain path. But ride to its foot, and above all ride home again. So says the voice of experience.
Our own ramble proved to be the prelude to a strenuous night. It was our last day in Cordova, and the ride thence to Madrid was to be made on the night train, the usual thing, and, with all its discomforts, still easily the best. The station was gloomy and gusty, as well as ill lighted by flaring gas and oil lamps which repeatedly blew out in the night wind and left us all shivering in the darkness. The ticket offices were deserted, and in the high-backed settles of the waiting rooms isolated porters, stretched at full length, snored heavily. Everywhere was the penetrating chill of the Spanish night, more penetrating than ever because of the tempestuous breeze that swept the cavernous station from end to end.
But the ” rapide,” when it came, proved to be a splendid modern train with brilliantly lighted corridor cars and ample room,for a wonder. It was one of those limited expresses in which one pays an extra fare for his seat and on which it is occasionally quite impossible to get any seat at all, for love or money. But tonight it was quite true, as the somnolent ticket-vender had remarked, that there were poca gente abroad, and we curled up to rest in a broad compartment with two pleasant French gentlemen for company. We started with doors open to the air, but before long the train had climbed into highlands where the atmosphere was nipping and eager, so that everything was sealed up in true European fashion, and each cowered shivering in overcoats and rugs. The two Frenchmen soon snored apace, and the rest feigned a slumber that I fear was but factitious. In the corridor without, people passed and repassed, chatting as animatedly as if this were still the Calle Hornachuelos and our compartment the Hotel Suisse. Doors up and down the car grated on their hinges like the gates of Mil-ton’s inferno. A dim light filtered through the swaying curtains as the train groaned its way through tunnels, across trestles, over clicking switches. Stations made themselves felt, half guessed in the gloom, by the flashing of their lanterns as we trundled through them.
Occasionally we stopped, and now and then a belated traveler came aboard. One such, after securing his seat, went wandering through the train and finally entered our compartment by mistake. He was a fat and jolly soul, and sank into what he supposed was his former seat beside a companion, whom he embraced with fervor, thereby awakening the startled Frenchman, who was snoring in peace, and causing him to sputter with astonishment at this unexpected manifestation of esteem. The horrified Spaniard jumped from the compartment as if demented, ejaculating ” Carr-r-ramba ! ” The Frenchmen joined us in a laugh of truly Homeric proportions, which was renewed a moment later when the same jolly face was thrust in again, the same blunder repeated, and the same hasty exit made with a muttered tampoco (freely ” what, again?”) after which our wandering visitor was seen no more.
It grew colder and colder as the train clambered into the interior table-land of Spain, and when day dawned at some unearthly morning hour it revealed a vast and barren country, bleak deserts, rocky heights, scattered villages of starveling appearance, plains cultivated sparsely here and there, but in the main vacant and cheerless pastures. One by one the stiffened passengers shook themselves from comfortless slumber, splashed weary eyes with water in the cindery washrooms of the train, and gazed with envy at the equally weary-looking occupants of the solitary sleeping car. And still the train dashed along through those endless plains, down barren valleys between smooth and naked hills, wrinkled like folds of giant flesh, and at the last, far away across a great depression in the desert, came Madrid, a great city set in the midst of utter desolation, her roofs and towers sharply clear in the crisp air of the morning.