IN the innocence of our hearts, for we were even yet far from inured to Spain and equally far from comprehending the devious customs of Spanish railways, we went down on a sunshiny Saturday morning to take the “rapide” for Segovia. And with that good fortune which now and then favors the ignorant, we discovered it to be a day on which the authorities decreed the train should be run. It was further characteristic of our inexperience that we had formed the spacious intention of running out to Segovia for the day and returning that same night late. The time-table certainly revealed this course to us as possible; but how it worked out in practice will best be left for the end of the chapter. Meantime we interrogated the Señorita Rosario as to the proper means of letting ourselves into the house at night.
We were living in a modest pension on the Calle Mayor, boasting none of the elegance of a hotel, but comfortable withal, the kind of place one finds frequented by artists in any big European city, and a boon to those who dislike both the bustle and display, not to say the cost of large hostelries. It was four long and weary flights above the pavement, but pretended of course to be on the third floor by that amiable fiction whereby a Spaniard begins numbering his floors with the second or third. Also it had the usual Spanish provision of a wicket with a screen and a flap, suitable for permitting the big black eyes of the señorita to observe who it was that knocked before she deigned to open.
The señorita produced a prodigious key, and explained the manner of its use. The señor must insert it in the lock, so, and turn it thrice, so, so, so, each turn producing some inscrutable change in the lock’s inward parts ; then, behold, the door would open ! But the street door below? Ah, the señor must summon the sereno for that ! For in Spanish cities not even the householder himself can enter his own residence at dead of night without the friendly assistance of the night watch ! However, the señorita said this presented no difficulty. The sereno would not be far away in any case, and his ear would be found carefully attuned to catch the sound of hand-clapping from afar. Should he still delay to come, we must shout, calling aloud upon his name, “Sereno! Sereno ! ” Oh, certainly he would have the key. He has all keys to all doors along his beat. He knows them all by heart ! And one should give him a few centimos, of course. Thus, provided with keys and a box of candle-matches to light our midnight way up those dark and toilsome flights of stairs, we set out joyfully for our day in the country, relieved of every semblance of bag-gage, and free as the birds that wheeled between the tall buildings of the narrow street.
It was early morning, and Madrid was not yet fully awake. Men with short lines of hose were sprinkling the asphalt of the streets, shifting their jointed lengths of pipe to successive hydrants in the pavement. Janitors were noisily raising the iron shutters which had protected wayside shops over-night, and sleepy boys were sweeping up yesterday’s accumulation of dust and litter. A few carriages jogged lazily through the deserted streets. Thus it was in the city.
But when the ” rapide ” had pulled out of the town and began its industrious climb toward the Guadarramas over our familiar road, we discovered that the peasantry had begun their day much earlier. In the fields they were already resting from a few hours of toil, and isolated figures could be seen peacefully sleeping on the ground in what little shade offered itself, or else eating what, in polite Spanish society, would be entirely too plentiful a meal to figure as breakfast. Ahead the jagged skyline of the mountain range shone startingly white against the blue.
It was an excellent train, and well filled. The passengers were mainly intent on going through to France by way of Irun, but there was still a considerable sprinkling of Spaniards journeying for shorter distances. Out in the corridors men smoked their cigarettes and gazed at the splendid panorama of the mountains. Tiny electric bulbs glowing with light presaged tunnels ahead. As for speed, the train did as well as could be expected of one that was climbing a lofty mountain pass. We halted but a moment at the dreary Villalba, and then bore off into the depths of a stupendous valley, always gradually upward, the line visible for miles in advance as a straight gash in the side of the mountain range opposite. Far away across the open moor loomed the spectral bulk of the Escorial.
Late in the forenoon the train attained the heights, trundled with increasing swiftness through a succession of tunnels, and then began coasting down the opposite side of the divide toward Segovia, whose lofty cathedral tower soared up out of the landscape miles away, yet distinct. The snow was not far above us now ; indeed, it seemed from our car windows that a scramble of fifteen minutes would have put us in the midst of those fields of white. The air was deliciously clear and bracing. Meantime the mountain chain spread before us a new panorama, wheeling around to the north in a magnificent circle of peaks, not as Alpine in their whiteness as the Sierras at Granada had been, but much more rugged and in their way more satisfying. We found Segovia almost at their feet.
The usual array of outworn omnibuses was waiting at the station, narrow, covered coaches into which six people could be crowded at a pinch. They were not inviting in any case, but the distance to the city was obviously considerable, and despite the high altitude, the day was far from cold. We chose for some occult reason the coach marked with the image and superscription of the Fonda del Comercio, and set forth at a gallop which speedily degenerated into a sort of lurching crawl over execrably paved streets. The octroi officers thrust their heads into the stuffy carriage only long enough to see that we were empty-handed, and left us to the enjoyment of the view.
I think it consumed a good half-hour, this ride into the heart of Segovia. The road itself was uninteresting, but it could not be said that the distant prospect of the city was disappointing in the least. Even on the way from the station, which is easily the least picturesque of the roads to Segovia, the appearance of it is splendidly commanding. Situated on a rocky hill of long and narrow shape, a hill that rises in lonely grandeur out of a rolling country, her aspect is imposing. Two rivers, after flowing past her precipitous sides, unite at her westernmost extremity, constraining the rocky height to narrower and narrower bounds, until at last it terminates in a razor-like edge strongly suggesting the prow of a gigantic ship as it towers out of the poplar trees. Her rambling houses fill the un-even top of her constricted plateau in a confused and huddled mass, and from their outermost walls the hill drops almost perpendicularly to the deep glens and ravines beneath, Out of the wilderness of weather-worn tiles rise a score of towers, chiefest of which is, of course, the lofty campanile of the cathedral, massive but graceful, a landmark for many undulating miles. All these things we marked with appreciative eye, holding tightly the while to the sides of our carriage, which bounced over the cobbles, crawling up long inclines only to dash madly down sharp pitches beyond in a frantic effort to gather momentum for the next ascent.
The streets of Segovia were not wider than those of Toledo and for the same reason. They were built originally by Romans, and were modified by Moors. As a result, our views ahead became very limited the moment the coach entered the city, and we came full upon the famous aqueduct before we were aware, dashing down into an open plaza across the width of which strode this magnificent Roman ruin. Ruin, however, is hardly the word, for it is in practically perfect preservation, and stretches in a majestic, thin, gray line across the whole valley to the lower ranges of the mountains. Naturally it is visible from almost any point on the eastern side of Segovia, but it seems most impressive of all when you come unexpectedly upon it as we did and look up at its double tiers of arches at their very highest point. Down the spacious highway to the right you may follow its diminishing perspective as it streams off toward the hills. At the left it buries itself in the citadel of Segovia, which looms directly over your head. Despite the fact that these stones were laid without mortar and without clamps of any sort in the time of the Emperor Augustus, almost every one of them is still firmly in place. To-day a few Christian images serve to exorcise the demons that pious Segovians believe erected this work, for like almost every such ruin this bears the generic name puente de diablo, the devil’s bridge. Tradition insists that Satan, enamoured of a fair but frail Segovian maid, promised to build her a bridge to bring water to the city in a single night’s time, if only she would promise to be his. She promised, of course, never dreaming that the contract could be fulfilled, and one may well suspect also that she was not averse to the idea of an aqueduct which should save her the labor of toiling down to the banks of the Clamores with her buckets. At any rate, the compact was made. Imagine, then, the rash maiden’s horrified amazement, at dawn, to see this colossal structure, gray and ghostly in the morning, towering out of the plain, and Satan grinning between the arches, his eyes glittering for her soul ! However, says the legend, she escaped. The bishop of Segovia ruled that the fact that two stones were missing at the break of dawn was a breach in limine of the terms of the contract, sufficient to vitiate it and save the maid from the consequences of her bar-gain, a truly Spanish and priestly decision, for Segovia has had the full benefit of the aqueduct from that day to this, and Satan has had to build many another puente in other places for just as little pay !
Splendid as this ancient structure is, I find my-self doubting that it is the greatest glory of Segovia. Doubtless it is the oldest, and from the archæologist’s standpoint the most interesting, sight in this ancient city. The common statement is that it is superior to any other Roman monument now left in Spain, and surely there are few more complete than this even in Rome itself. Nevertheless, considered purely as a lion of the place, it can hardly compare with the magnificent views of the town itself, as seen from the river-banks just under its frowning precipices, a fact which we discovered for ourselves during the course of an afternoon ramble. But for the moment we were fully content to marvel at the devil’s bridge as the omnibus toiled up the final steep and speedily lost itself in the mazes of the city streets, which turned and twisted in true Moorish fashion among the time-worn houses of the town. I suppose it was but a trivial distance to the fonda, and of course the familiarity of the native made it a perfectly plain course to steer; but the manifold turnings and windings of the streets struck us as uncommonly perplexing, and we despaired of finding our way back again through that labyrinth on foot without the aid of some local Ariadne and her cord, until we reflected that of course the chief difficulty would be, as always, to reduce the number of youthful guides to anything under half a dozen. Meantime the coach labored up to the fonda, an unassuming inn with a rather unprepossessing door, in a street narrower than any of the others had been. Immediately a small boy, who seemed to be the only representative of the proprietor anywhere about, and who was somewhat hazy in his own mind as to the exact hour of lunch, welcomed us into the damp interior and placed before us the inevitable police blanks. The latter, apparently, were duly scanned by the reporters of the one local newspaper in true American fashion, since a few hours later we had copies of it laid before us and discovered our names spread forth with much pomp and circumstance among the locals as turistas norte americanos. Who shall say that Segovia is not enterprising and up to date, despite the decline and fall of her woolen mills?
The newspaper, by the way, was far from uninteresting, small as it was. It announced itself as procurable anywhere in Segovia at one peseta per month and bore the simple and highly descriptive name, “Diario de Avisos.” Like all European news-papers, it was printed on poor paper with excessively black ink. Its first page was mainly given up to news, of which we furnished our part along with an anarchist on trial for making bombs and a few paragraphs of ” echoes of society.” On the last page it boasted but four was a department devoted to the latest intelligence, received by telephone. The inside was largely made up of poetry and advertising matter, the former predominating in such volume as to reveal a stupendous literary activity on the part of the present race of Segovians. One man had indulged himself in a two-column ode on the aqueduct, ascribing its erection to Trajan, and recounting all the remarkable persons in history who had seen it. As for the advertisements, they were chiefly of the national lottery and various cinematograph establishments, for the Spaniard loves the moving picture machine as dearly as does his Italian cousin. Also I noticed a most eloquent advertisement of a gramofon. But aside from these and one or two patent medicine announcements, one of which was upside down, it was hard to find any-thing savoring of business activity. If I lived in Segovia, however, I think I should certainly subscribe to the “Diario de Avisos,” even if it had not honored me on my first visit by printing my name, marvelously misspelled ; for it gave us a very lively half-hour of Spanish gossip over our tortillas and vino tinto, and put us in a proper frame of mind for venturing into the heart of the town immediately after the midday meal.
There are, of course, Mohammedan remnants to be seen here and there in obscure patios throughout Segovia, and the narrow crookedness of the town’s byways is in itself a lasting monument to the Moorish domination of the city, sufficient to stamp it as having been a Moslem stronghold even though it boasts no plethora of horseshoe arches and azulejos. As at Toledo, there is one highly interesting relic of the Moorish days in the name still clinging to the ancient market-place the open plaza which the aqueduct crosses at its most impressive height called the “Azoquejo.” It requires but a normal perception, surely, to see in this word merely another form of ” Zocodover” and ” Soko,” all lineal descendants from the Arabic sukh. But in spite of these lingering vestiges of the swarthy invaders, and in spite of the unmistakable Roman sound in her very name, Segovia remains rather more Castillian than otherwise. It would seem that the hold of the Moors was too short to impress itself very deeply on the architecture of the ancient city, and their efforts to hold it against the advancing armies of Castile appear to have been brief and rather perfunctory, not because the situation was not admirably adapted to defense, but because the out-post was rather too far north and too easily cut off from the main body of the Moorish kingdom in Spain. Rome is after all far more with us, late and soon, than is the Moor in Segovia ; for if the devil’s bridge serves to recall the days of the pagan empire with the vividness of yesterday, the minor churches of the Segovia of today affect the Romanesque with a fervor that amounts to a passion.
We set out attended by the usual crowd of urchins, and although we ostentatiously selected the most promising of the lot for guide-in-chief, the others persistently followed on and would not be denied. Even the guide-in-chief was a stupid lad, quite different from little Paco of Ronda and Pepe of Toledo, perhaps because tourists have not yet descended on Segovia in such volume as in the other cities. This happy condition of affairs, alas, cannot long endure. Segovia is bound to be known, and her incomparable charms realized, and after that the deluge !
The crowd of boys had no suggestion to offer as to whither we would best turn our steps, and we made off at random down a street that seemed to lead toward the aqueduct in order that we might get a comprehensive view of it from above. It was thus that we stumbled by accident upon the church of San Martin, perhaps the most typical at present of the Romanesque churches in the city with its characteristic Segovian modification, the sur-rounding loggia, or colonnade. At San Martin it runs around three sides of the structure and is extremely graceful and effective, at least on the south and west, where the arches have not been barbarously bricked up as they have on the north side. There are several other old churches in Segovia exemplifying this happy variation of the Romanesque, but none more successful than San Martin, for the reason that the others are either sadly ruined and deserted or have suffered from the Spanish passion for filling all cloistered arches with something impervious to wind and weather. Many such we found a trifle later, when we had oriented ourselves and began our systematic exploration of the town. The boys proved such utter failures as guides that we distributed bribes among them to make them run away, and relied solely on the map, which was small and inferior, and made distances look small that in actuality proved rather alarming. Nevertheless, we found it better than those dull-witted urchins had been, and came by easy stages, unattended, to the Plaza Mayor, which lies almost in the centre of the city. It was a most satisfactory old square, quite the equal of the Zocodover of Toledo, and to my own way of thinking the peer of the much-lauded plaza of Salamanca, claimed to be the finest in Spain. The main square of Segovia is not as ornate as that of Salamanca, to be sure, but is easily as picturesque. As usual, we found it to be arcaded all around, and the sagging façades of the houses suggested great age. It was a curious jumble of architecture, rather more satisfactory on the whole than the similar instances of Toledo, and producing almost a Dutch effect here and there. Of course, the arcade sheltered a multitude of tiny shops, but of business one saw little or nothing. On market-day it is a place of much bustle, and is thronged with picturesque peasants, but at other times is as sleepy as a New England village on a summer’s afternoon. A rather incongruous and unwelcome bandstand intruded itself in the midst of the plaza, which was not filled with greenery, as the one at Salamanca is, but was bare and brown. Down a side street just at the farther end rose the splendid chevet of the cathedral, and over it all glowed the brown tower which we had seen from so many miles away.
We sought the great church, and entered it through a door in its northern transept, expecting something gloomy and depressing. But in this we were agreeably disappointed. The interior was as dignified and churchly as had been the case at Seville, but with the difference that here everything was light and cheerful. The interior was, as usual, much more satisfactory than the outside of the building had been ; for Segovia cathedral, despite its plain western façade, is over-elaborated externally as you approach it from the plaza. And as one comes to this church more often from the east, and sees only the semicircular apse and the huge gable of the transept, it seems to have been thought wise to lavish the greater effort at beautification here and let the real front of the edifice go bare. But within it gave no evidence of wasteful and meaning-less ornamentation. It was spacious and lofty and airy, the tawny yellow of the stone giving back the flood of afternoon sunlight as it streamed in glorious colored beams from the clerestory windows to fall upon the silent organs and the majestic shafts of the columns. Even the floor, inlaid with parti-colored marbles, was an object of decorous cheer.
Sombre priests gliding noiselessly here and there lent a note of picturesqueness to the scene. It was the hour of the oracion. One by one the brothers gathered from their sacristy, swarthy men who glanced curiously at us as they hurried by to their stalls, their black and brown robes in curious contrast with the lightness of the vast church. Out of a dusky corner behind one of the pillars suddenly scurried one of the smallest boys I have ever beheld, clothed all in scarlet like a miniature cardinal, his mischievous face lighted by a dancing pair of the blackest Spanish eyes. Did the señor wish the sacristan? Yes? He would fly in quest of him. And he did so, scampering off like a tiny red spider over a boulder, his floating red cape making a brilliant dot in the midst of all the sober cheerfulness of the church, like that tiny dash of red one looks for in the paintings by Rousseau.
The sacristan, when he came, was quite a different sort, a good fellow as it turned out, but as sombre as a turnkey with a death warrant. He led us out of the church and into the silent cloisters, whose beautiful Gothic arches were somewhat marred by glazing. Nobody else was there save ourselves, and the sun fell warm and bright in these ancient courts, whose midst, as usual, was filled with lush greenery. That inescapable campanile soared loftily above our heads. Among the shrubs of the court was the customary well, garnished as to its ancient curb with a painfully modern tin pail. These cloisters, it deserves to be said, are much the oldest portion of the present cathedral, they having been moved stone by stone from their original place next the older cathedral of Segovia and built up anew under the shadow of the later church. Under a modest slab in the cloister lies the body of Juan Gil, architect of this cathedral as well as of that at Salamanca, who died here when the work was in its early stages. His son, Rodrigo Gil, who was also employed on the work, was fortunate enough to live to see it substantially completed in 1577, and died beholding that it was very good. He is interred in the cloister also, and the epitaph of these two might well be the same as Sir Christopher Wren’s.
I craved the privilege of photographing the interior of the church as well as the cloisters, but the sacristan said it could not be granted except on petition to the canons. It might, he thought, be freely done “after six o’clock,” at which time, of course, the light would be too dim ; so that he might as well have told me to take snapshots at midnight ! Nevertheless, he added, as we handed him a trifling fee, that he proposed at present to depart, and muttered something in Spanish to the effect that what one does n’t see never hurts one. Thus left to our own devices, with the priests safely engaged in their oraciones in the depths of the screened choir, we obtained a surreptitious but very satisfactory photograph of the south aisle with its pillars and one lofty organ. But it was no easy matter to restrain those red-robed rascals of acolytes, who possessed an insatiable desire to scamper into the field of vision, and who had to be quelled with perritas and perro gordos.
Grand as the cathedral was, we bore in mind our intended return to Madrid on the evening express, and tore ourselves away from it to seek out some of the other quaint bits of architecture of which we had heard. But in much of this we were doomed to disappointment. San Esteban, once a notable church of Segovia, was a mass of scaffolding, and its glorious tower, which had become a source of danger, was in process of demolition. We passed it by, and sought a steep declivity which promised to lead us down through the city gates to the banks of the river, the murmur of whose waters came faintly up to us from the depth of the vale. Once we found it, a convenient bridge led across to the farther bank, and a narrow road, high-walled and dusty, turned our steps eastward toward the deserted monastery of El Parral. We went to its gate, less to see the monastery than to get a comprehensive view of lofty Segovia, whose northern side was now turned toward us, rising abruptly from the river’s brim and crowned with domes and towers. We found El Parral closed tight, and its exterior was all that could be seen, a quaint and rather pleasing building, yellow-brown, like the cathedral, but possessed of a handsome Romanesque portal worth more than a passing glance.
I should most certainly advise visitors to Segovia not on any account to miss the circuit of the city from below, following the river paths from El Parral around to the south. This is perhaps the finest sight that the city has to show, and the magnificence of it reaches its culmination at the western end of the lofty rock, where the twin rivers meet and sharpen the cliff to a stupendous point, a point crowned with a castle such as one dreams of in his childhood days. The latter is the alcazar, now prosaically employed as a repository of military archives, painfully trim and new, like the restorations at Carcassonne, but, nevertheless, like them abundantly satisfying when touched by the enchantments of distance.
We had already seen that castle at closer range, and felt it to be rather disappointing, but that sentiment disappeared when we saw it from below. Down by the rushing waters of the Clamores it lost all its newness, and was softened by the afternoon light into a mediæval structure in very truth, as if it were no younger than the alcazar which of old had crowned this same summit. Alfonso the Wise erected it a century or so before the time of Columbus, but lightning and fire have ravaged it since, and the only portions that now remain from the ancient building are two turrets and the foundation stones. Within a few years it has been thoroughly repaired and renovated and it ” shows.” The common superstition insists that the first calamity when a bolt of lightning struck it in Alfonso el Sabio’s own day was a direct rebuke from Heaven because that learned and bookish monarch was so bold as to question the wisdom of God.
Either, as one account states, he was leaning to-ward the notion that the earth revolved around the sun, a most uncatholic bit of heresy, as we all know, or, as another states, he remarked that ” if he had been consulted at the creation he could have suggested a number of improvements in the general scheme.” In any event, he managed to invite the rebuke of Heaven, and forthwith was hurled down upon his palace the all-dreaded thunder stone. The palace was not destroyed, however, but was repaired, and became the shelter of Isabella of Castile, who was proclaimed queen here in 1474, and took her oath before the altar of the cathedral which in those days stood hard by. During the time of Charles V and Philip II, the alcazar was greatly amplified and adorned ; but either the wrath of Heaven was once again kindled by more monarchical heresy, or some other untoward fate was invoked, for fires later destroyed practically everything in-side it, and what one sees there to-day is but a modern structure of admirably consistent design.
As the culminating point of Segovia’s rocky ridge, however, it leaves nothing to be desired, and we strolled toward it from El Parral over a sheep trail that skirted the top of the river bluffs. The view on every side was inspiring. The whole north-ern flank of Segovia was in view, and behind towered the snow mountains ; while before, the country opened out into a broad valley sloping easily to-ward the west. Now for the first time came the realization that Segovia is really like a huge ship, her sharp prow turned toward the setting sun and her gray aqueduct trailing like a wake of foam astern. A stately galleon she is, and most stately of all when seen from directly beneath her impending prow. We hastened toward it, only to be turned aside for a moment to the little round church of Vera Cruz, an isolated and deserted building on a knoll near the river. I have called it ” round” because it gives the beholder that impression ; but in strictness it is twelve-sided, with three round apses, a miniature of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It is said to be a work of the Crusaders. As at El Parral, we could find no custodian and were forced to admire the little building solely from without. I believe that there is a custodian, however, or one who claims to be such and who at least goes through the motions of trying to unlock the door with a key that does not fit the lock ; but we had not even that small satisfaction when we were there, and had to content ourselves with the charming exterior of this outlying shrine.
It was but a step from here to the junction of the rivers, and the razor-edge of Segovia’s inland promontory was now almost overhead. Down in the sands of the stream, women with mustard-colored headgear were on their knees, washing and singing at their work. On the white and dusty highway great carts drawn by long tandem teams of mules creaked by, their two enormous wheels in each case groaning under the weight of much merchandise. We crossed the rivers now happily united on a splendid bridge, and struck off into a fascinating path along the opposite bank through the under-brush and shrubs that lined the stream. The birds began their vespers in the poplar trees, and mingled their melody with the sound of the waters and the music of the women.
Now we stood directly beneath the prow of the Segovian ” ship,” which it required but a little imagination to assume was actually rushing down upon us under full sail. Straight up from the river, rising proudly from the tossing spray of the budding poplars, towered this prodigious cut-water, like the ram of a man-of-war ; and on its top, at the very brink of the precipice, stood the majestic alcazar, its every crudeness softened by the purple shadows of the evening and seemingly as old as the rock it-self, the abode of gallant knights and dames of high degree. If only one could always approach Segovia from this point, and see the loftiness of that cliff towering up from afar in the mists of the morning ! I doubt if earth would have anything to show more fair than that lordly galleon of Spain gigantic against the roseate foreglow of the dawn.
Our river path led on through trees and shrubs, well above the torrent which intervened between us and the cliffs, until at last we had almost completed the circuit of the city, and came upon the aqueduct once more. As we advanced, the alcazar diminished in prominence and yielded place to the cathedral with its tower ; and at last the path grew in size and definiteness until it became almost a street, with squalid buildings here and there forming a sort of outlying lower hamlet. In the midst of these we finally discovered the church of San Millan.
The impressionable Hutton had experienced raptures over San Milian, pronouncing it one of the most satisfactory things in Europe in its peculiar way, and doubtless it may have been so once. But to-day one must be endowed with a faith that would move mountains to see it in its pristine beauty. It is thoroughly spoiled, outwardly, by the bricking up of its encircling arcades, which must have been very charming, but which today can hardly compare with those left unspoiled in the city above. I suspect that the great charm may have been an internal one ; but, as at the other shrines outside the walls of Segovia, we were wholly unable to gain admittance and missed the curious effects of light and shade that seem to have formed one of the church’s great attractions. Externally it certainly does not seem remarkable today, and they who admire San Milian must do it largely through the eye of faith.
Three thousand feet of altitude with snow mountains for neighbors naturally make the evenings in Segovia chill indeed. The cold came on even as the afterglow faded from the fields of ice on the summits, and dinner at the Fonda del Comercio proved but a comfortless meal. A stupid boy played at building a fire in the tiny stove that graced the centre of the great dining-room, but he was all the evening at it, thrusting unwieldy sticks down into the incipient flame in such wise as to discourage even a well-meaning fire. As a result we were fully reconciled to board the omnibus, which was stuffy as usual, but warmed by the close contact of its occupants, to set out for the evening train. Ah, if we had but planned to spend one more day ! If we could only have but a single sunrise among those glorious mountains. And La Granja, if only we might drive out to that palace in the sky ! 1 But alas, it was not so to be, or at any rate we thought so. And down through the deserted streets we rattled, the gloomy houses giving back the rumble of our wheels, a single Spaniard in the far corner revealing his presence only by his sharp knees and the intermittent glow of his cigarette.
It was pitchy black now, and the aqueduct was more ghostly than ever as we clattered under its resounding arches. Out into the dim avenue that lay toward the station we plodded, its imposing rows of plane trees half guessed in the gloom. Meantime misgivings began to assail us. Suppose the ” rapide ” should be full ? Somebody at the hotel had suggested that possibility, and we had laughed it to scorn, with a confidence we now felt oozing away from us.
In the cold, bare station, swept by the night wind and dimly lighted by flaring jets of gas, we found a shivering array of people in a long line be-fore the ticket office, mostly natives wrapped close in their great capes, the folds well over their mouths and the ends jauntily flung back over their shoulders to display the inevitable band of colored velvet. My two companions hovered near the platform door and shivered with mingled cold and anxiety. Meantime a whisper ran down the line, an ominous whisper in various languages : ” No hay asientos ! ” ” Il n’y a pas de places ! ” The agent had heard from the train and it was full !
” What ‘s the matter ?” came in two anxious voices from the platform door.
” There are no seats to be had.”
” No seats ! Are you positive? Have you asked the heffy?” (This last frivolous title being the family method of referring to the jefe de estacion.)
But the jefe confirmed the report in Spanish that was but too easy to comprehend. There was no getting back to Madrid. He was desolated, of course, as any well-regulated European official must be under such circumstances, but the señor must not be permitted to board the train without having reserved seats. Señoras ? Ah, that was also too bad ; but the rule was inexorable. However, he would ask the conductor of the train when it arrived.
Just then with a roar it came in. Now Segovia has a queer station, so arranged that all trains from whatever line come into it from the same direction, changing ends with the engine when they depart. ” Here ‘s the train,” came in chorus from the plat-form door. ” It is not the train,” I rejoined with that crisp, incisive inflection common to those wise in their own conceit. ” It came from the wrong direction. It is from Madrid.” But it was the train, for all that, and the conductor was all shrugs and sorrow. There were no seats at all, and we might not be allowed to stand. Wonder of wonders, we could not even bribe the man ! So back we went to the hotel in that crawling omnibus, over those stony streets now more deserted than ever. The proprietor was waiting for us, smiling and apparently no whit surprised to see us. He was used to this sort of thing and probably had expected it from the first, but had been too polite to say anything about it.
So we had our night in Segovia, after all. But we had made not one shred of preparation for spending a night away from home and had no luggage of any sort, not even a brush, and the night was cold.
However, an obliging maid introduced us for the first time to caloriferos, fat, carpet-covered receptacles filled with hot water and almost large enough to have served as heaters in a passenger car ; and in such garb as seemed best we went to bed with these and slept soundly, as soundly as we could in view of the visits of the local sereno. For if we had missed the experience of summoning that functionary to admit us to the Pensione Carmen Carmona, we had at least the benefit of his Segovian fellow, passing under our lofty windows at half-hour intervals, chanting the time and telling of the weather in those words which have given him his name, ” ‘T is midnight and serene.”