By-Ways of Europe: Catalonian Bridle-Roads

“ And mule-bells tinkling down the mountain-paths of Spain. WitITl IER.

I LEARNED something of the bridle-roads of Catalonia in defiance of advice and warning, and almost against my own inclination. My next point of interest, after leaving the Balearic Islands, was the forgotten Republic of Andorra, in the Pyrenees ; and the voice of the persons whom I consulted in Barcelona — none of whom had made the journey, or knew any one who had — was unanimous that I should return to France, and seek an entrance from that side. Such a course would certainly have been more comfortable ; but the direct route, from the very insecurity which was predicted, offered a prospect of adventure, the fascination of which, I regret to say, I have not yet entirely outgrown. “It is a country of smugglers and robbers,” said the banker who replenished my purse; “ and I seriously advise you not to enter it. Moreover, the roads are almost impassable, and there is nothing to be seen on the way.”

These words, uttered with a grave face by a native Catalan, ought to have decided the matter, yet they did not. To be sure I thanked the man for his warning, and left him to suppose that I would profit by it, rather than enter into any discussion ; but when I quitted his office, with fresh funds in my pocket, and corresponding courage in my bosom, my course was already decided. Had I not heard the same warnings, in all parts of the world, and had not the picturesque danger always fled as I approached it? Nevertheless, there came later moments of doubt, the suggestions of that convenient life which we lead at home, and the power of which increases with our years. Fatigue and hardship do not become lighter from repetition, but the reverse; the remembrance of past aches and past hunger returns whenever the experience is renewed, and aggravates it.

So, when I had descended from Montserrat, and was waiting in the cool of the evening at the door of the rudest possible restaurant, at the railway station of Monistrol, a little imp whispered : “ The first train is for Barcelona. Take it and you will be in France tomorrow night. This way is safe and speedy ; you know not what the other may be.” I watched the orange-light fade from the topmost pinnacles of Montserrat ; a distant whistle sounded, and the other pilgrims hurried towards the ticket-office. I followed them as far as the door, paused a moment, and then said to myself: “No, if I back out now, I shall never be sure of myself again ! ” Then I returned to my seat beside the door, and saw the train go by, with the feeling of a man who has an appointment with a dentist.

In another hour came the upward train, which would carry me as tar as the town of Manresa, where my doubtful journey commenced. It was already dusk, and deliciously cool after the fierce heat of the day. A full moon shone upon the opposite hills as I sped up the valley of the Llobregat, and silvered the tops of the olives; but I only saw them in glimpses of unconquerable sleep, and finally descended at the station of Manresa not fully awake.

A rough, ragged porter made a charge upon my valise, which I yielded to his hands. “ Take it to the best hotel,” I said. “ Ah, that is the Chicken ! ” he replied. Now, the driver of the omnibus from Montserrat had recommended the San Domingo, which had altogether a better sound than the Chicken.; but I did not think of resisting my fate. I was conscious of a wonderful moonlight picture, — of a town on a height, crowned by a grand cathedral; of a winding river below ; of steep slopes of glimmering houses ; of lofty hills, seamed with the shadows of glens ; and of the sparkle of orangeleaves in the hanging gardens. This while we were crossing a suspensionbridge ; at the end, we plunged into narrow, winding streets, full of gloom and disagreeable odors. A few oillamps burned far apart ; there were lights in the upper windows of the houses, and the people were still gossiping with their neighbors. When we emerged into a plaza, it was more cheertul ; the single cafe was crowded, the estanco for the sale of tobacco, and the barber’s shop were still open. A little farther and we reached the Chicken, which was an ancient and uninviting house, with a stable on the groundfloor. Here the porter took his fee with a grin, and saying, “ You will want me in the morning ! ” wished me good night.

I mounted to a dining-room nearly fifty feet in length, in which a lonely gentleman sat, waiting for his supper. When the hostess had conducted me to a bedroom of equal dimensions, and proceeded to put clean sheets upon a bed large enough for four Michigan soldiers, I became entirely reconciled to my fate. After trying in vain to extract any intelligence from a Madrid newspaper, I went to bed and slept soundly ; but the little imp was at my ear when I woke, saying : “ Here you leave the railway ; after this it will not be so easy to turn back.” “ Very well,” I thought, “ I will go back now.”

I opened the shutters, let the full morning sun blaze into the room, dipped my head into water, and then cried out:

II Begone, tempter! I go forwards.” But, alas ! it was not so once. There is a difference between springing nimbly from one’s rest with a “Hurrah! there ’s another rough day before me ! ” and a slow clinging to one’s easy pillow, with the sigh, “Ah! must I go through another rough day?” However, that was my last moment of weakness, and physical only,— being an outcry of the muscles against the coming aches and strains, like that of the pack-camel before he receives his load.

I The first stage of my further journey, I learned, could be made by a diligence which left at eleven o’clock. In the mean time I wandered about the town, gathering an impression of its character quite distinct from that of the previous evening. It has no architectural monuments ; for the cathedral, like all such edifices in Spain, is unfinished, internally dark, and well supplied with bad pictures. Its position, nevertheless, is superb ; and the platform of rock upon which it stands looks over a broad, bright, busy landscape. The sound of water, wheels, and the humming looms of factories fills the air ; however primitive the other forms of labor may be, the people all seem to be busy. The high houses present an agreeable variety of color, although a rich brown is predominant ; many of them have balconies, and the streets turn at such unexpected angles that light and shade assist in making pictures everywhere. Manresa has a purely Spanish aspect, and the groups on the plaza and in the shady alleys are as lively and glowing as any in Andalusia.

I read the history of the place, as given in the guide-books, but will not here repeat it. According to my English guide, it was sacked and its inhabitants butchered by the French, during the Peninsular War ; according to the French guide, nothing of the kind ever took place. As I read the books alternately, I came to the conclusion that both sides must have been splendidly victorious in the battles which were fought in Spain. When the Englishman said : “ Here our army, numbering only eighteen thousand men (of whom eight thousand were Spanish allies, of doubtful service), encountered thirty - seven thousand French, and completely routed them,” the Frenchman had : “ Here our army, numbering only fifteen thousand, including seven thousand Spaniards, put to flight thirty-three thousand English,—-one of the most brilliant actions of the war.” At this rate of representation, it will be a disputed question, in the next century, whether Soult or Wellington was driven out of Spain.

My porter of the night before made his appearance, and as I had suspected him of interested motives in conducting me to the Chicken, I tested his character by giving a smaller fee for an equal service ; but he took it with the same thanks. Moreover, the diligence office was in the San Domingo Hotel, and I satisfied myself that the Chicken was really better than the Saint. Two lumbering yellow coaches stood in the spacious stable, which was at the same time entrance-hall and laundry. On one side some lean mules were eating their barley ; on another, a pump and stone trough supplied the house with water; a stone staircase led to the inhabited rooms, and three women were washing clothes at a tank in the rear. Dogs ran about scratching themselves ; country passengers, with boxes and baskets, sat upon stone posts and did the same ; and now and then a restless horse walked forth from the stalls, snuffing at one person after another, as if hoping to find one who might be eatable. Two mayorals or coachmen, followed by two grooms, bustled about with bits of harness in their hands, and the washerwomen made a great clatter with their wooden beetles ; but the time passed, and nothing seemed to be accomplished on either side. The whole scene was so thoroughly Spanish that no one would have been surprised had the Don and Sancho ridden into the doorway. One of the women at the tank was certainly Maritornes.

At length, after a great deal of ceremony, one of the vehicles drove off. " It’s going to Berga,” said a man in faded velvet, in answer to my question ; “and all I know is, that that ’s the way to Puigcerda.” The mules were now harnessed to our diligence and we took our places, — my friend in velvet ; two stout women, one of whom carried six dried codfish tied in a bundle ; a shrivelled old man, a mild brown soldier, and myself. It was an hour behind the appointed time, but no one seemed to notice the delay. We rolled out of the amnioniated shadows of the stable into a blaze which was doubled on the white highway, and thrown back to us from the red, scorched rocks beside it. The valley of the Cardoner, which we entered on leaving Manresa, quivered in the breathless heat: the stream was almost exhausted in its bed, and the thin gray foliage of the poplars and olives gave but a mockery of shadow. Everywhere the dry red soil baked in the sunshine. The only refreshing thing I saw was a break in an irrigating canal, which let down a cascade over the rocks into the road. No water in the world ever seemed so cool, so fresh, so glittering; in the thirsty landscape it flashed like a symbol of generous, prodigal life. Who could fling gold around him with so beautiful a beneficence ?

The features of the scenery, nevertheless, were too bold and picturesque to be overlooked. As we gained a longer vista, Montserrat lifted bis blue horns over the nearer hills, and a dim streak of snow, far in the northwest, made signal for the Pyrenees. Abrupt as were the heights enclosing the valley, they were cultivated to the summit, and the brown country-houses, perched on projecting spurs, gave them a life which the heat and thirsty color of the soil could not take away. Our destination was Cardona, and after a smothering ride of two hours we reached the little village of Suria, half-way in distance, but by no means in time. Beyond it, the country became rougher, the road steep and toilsome ; and our three mules plodded slowly on, with drooping heads and tails, while, inside, the passengers nodded one after the other, and became silent. We crossed the Cardoner, and ascended a long slope of the hills, where the view, restricted to the neighboring fields, became so monotonous that I nodded and dozed with the rest.

We were all aroused by the diligence stopping beside a large farm-house. There was a general cry for water, and the farmer’s daughter presently came out with a stone pitcher, cool and dripping from the well. The glass was first given to me, as a stranger ; and I was about setting it to my lips, when two or three of the passengers suddenly cried out, “ Stop ! ” I paused, and looked around in surprise. The man in velvet had already dropped a piece of sugar into the water, and the old woman opposite took a bottle from her basket, saying, “This is better!” and added a spoonful of anise-seed brandy. “Now,” exclaimed both at the same time, “ you can drink with safety.” The supply of sugar and anise-seed held out, and each passenger was regaled at the expense of the two Samaritans. After this, conversation brightened, and we all became talkative and friendly. The man in velvet, learning my destination, exclaimed: “ O, you ought to have gone by way of Berga ! It is a dreadful country about Solsona and the Rio Segre.” But the old woman leaned over and whispered : “ Don’t mind

what he says. I come from Solsona, and it’s a good country, — a very good country, indeed. Go on, and you will see ! ”

The valley of the Cardoner had become narrower, the mountains were higher, and there were frequent ruins of mediaeval castles on the summits. When we had reached the top of the long ascent, the citadel of Cardona in front suddenly rose sharp and abrupt over the terraced slopes of vine. It appeared to be within a league, but our coachman was so slow and the native passengers so patient, that we clid not arrive for two hours. Drawing nearer, the peculiar colors of the earth around the base of an isolated mountain announced to us the celebrated salt-mines of the place. Red, blue, purple, yellow, and gray, the bare cliffs glittered in the sun as if frosted over with innumerable crystals. This mass of native salt is a mile and a half in circumference, with a height of about two hundred and fifty feet. The action of the atmosphere seems to have little effect upon it, and the labor of centuries lias no more than tapped its immense stores. As in Wieiiczka, in Poland, the workmen in the mines manufacture cups, ornaments, pillars, and even chandeliers, from the pure saline crystal,— objects which, although they remain perfect in the dry atmosphere of Spain, soon melt into thin air when carried to Northern lands.

The town of Cardona occupies the crest of a sharp hill, rising above the mountain of salt. Between it and the river, on the north, stands the citadel, still more loftily perched, like a Greek acropolis. Our road passed entirely around the latter and mounted to the town on the opposite side, where the diligence set us down in front of a rude fonda. The old gate was broken down, the walls ruined, and the first houses we passed were uninhabited. There was no longer an octroi; in fact, the annoyances of travel in Spain diminish in proportion as one leaves the cities and chief thoroughfares. As I dismounted, the coachman took hold of my arm, saying, “ Cavalier, here is a decent man who will get a horse for you, and travel with you to the Seo de Urgel. I know the man, and it is I who recommend him.” The person thus introduced was a sturdy, broad-shouldered fellow, with short black hair, and hard, weather-beaten features. He touched his red Catalan cap, and then looked me steadily in the face while, in answer to my inquiries, he offered to be ready at four o'clock the next morning, and demanded six dollars for himself and horse, the journey requiring two days. There were two or three other arricros present, but I plainly saw that none of them would enter into competition with a man recommended by the coachman. Moreover, as far as appearances went, he was the best of the lot, and so I engaged him at once.

While the fat hostess of the fonda was preparing my dinner, I strolled for an hour or two about the town. Ihe church is renowned for having been founded in the year 820, immediately after the expulsion of the Moors from this part of Spain, and for containing the bodies of St. Celadonio and St. Emeterio,— whoever those holy personages may have been. I confess I never heard of them before. What I admired in the church was the splendid mellow brown tint of its massive ancient front. Brown is the characteristic color of Spain, from the drapery of Murillo and the walls of cathedrals to the shadow of cypresses and the arid soil of Ine hills. Whether brightening into gold or ripening into purple, it always seems to give the key of color. In the streets of Cardona, it was the base upon which endless picturesque groups of people were painted,—-women spinning flax, children cooling their bare bodies on the stones, blacksmiths and cobblers forging and stitching in the open air, — all with a keen glance of curiosity, but also a respectful greeting for the stranger. The plaza, which was called, like all plazas in Catalonia, dc la Constitution, overhung the deep ravine at the foot of the salt mountain. From its parapet I looked upon the vineyardterraces into which the hills have been fashioned, and found them as laboriously constructed as those of the Rheingau. A cliff of salt below sparkled like prismatic glass in the evening light, but all the nearer gardens lay in delicious shadow, and the laden asses began to jog homewards from the distant fields. There was a cafe on the plaza, patronized only by two or three military idlers ; the people still worked steadily while the daylight lasted, charming away their fatigue by the most melancholy songs.

The inn was not an attractive place. The kitchen was merely one corner of the public room, in which chairs lay overturned and garments tumbled about, as if the house had been sacked. The members of the family sat and chattered in this confusion, promising whatever I demanded, but taking their own time about getting it. I had very meagre expectations of dinner, and was therefore not a little surprised when excellent fresh fish, stewed rabbits, and a roasted fowl were set successively before me. The merry old landlady came and went, anxious to talk, but prevented by her ignorance of the pure Spanish tongue. However, she managed to make me feel quite at home, and well satisfied that I had ventured so far into the region of ill-repute.

What was going on in the town that night I cannot imagine ; but it was a tumult of the most distracting kind. First, there were drums and—as it seemed to me-—tin pans beaten for an hour or two in the street below ; then a chorus of piercing, dreadfully inharmonious voices ; then a succession ot short cries or howls, like those of the Oriental dervishes. Sometimes the noises moved away, and I settled myself to sleep, whereupon they came back, worse than before. " O children ot Satan!” I cried, “will ye never be still ? ” Some time after midnight the voices became hoarse ; one by one dropped off, and the charivari gradually ceased, from the inability of the penformers to keep it up longer. I hen horses were led forth from the stable on the ground-floor, whips were violently cracked, and the voices ot grooms began to be heard. At three o’clock Juan, my new guide, came into the room with a coarse bag, in which he began packing the contents of my valise, which could not otherwise be carried on horseback, — and so my rest was over before it had commenced.

I found the diligence about starting on its return to Manresa, and my horse, already equipped, standing in the stable. The sack, valise, and other articles were so packed, before and behind the saddle, that only a narrow, deep cleft remained lor me to sit in. I he sun had not yet risen, and the morning air was so cool that I determined to walk down the hill and mount at the foot. Stepping over two grooms who were lying across the stable door on a piece of hide, sound asleep, we set forth on our journey.

The acropolis rose dark against the pearly sky, and the valley of the Cardoner lay cool and green in the lingering shadows. Early as was the hour, laborers were already on their way to the fields ; and when we reached the ancient bridge of seven arches, I saw the two old ladies of Solsona in advance, mounted on mules, and carrying (.heir baskets, boxes, and dried codfish with them. Although my French guidebook declared that the road before me was scarcely practicable, the sight of these ladies was a better authority to the contrary. I mounted at the bridge, and joined the cavalcade, which was winding across a level tract of land, between walled fields and along the banks of irrigating canals. Juan, however, found the mules too slow, and soon chose a side-path, which, in the course of a mile or two, brought us into the main track, some distance in advance of the old ladies. By this time the sun was up and blazing on ajl the hills; the wide, open country about Cardona came to an end, and we struck into a narrow glen, covered with forests of pine. Juan directed me to ford the river and follow the track on the opposite side, while he went on to a lootbridge farther up. “ In a few minutes'" he said, “you will find a carrctcrap — a cart-road, which proved to be a superb macadamized highway, yet virgin of any wheel. Men were working upon it, smoothing the turf on either side, and levelling the gravel as carefully as if the Queen’s mail-coach travelled that way ; but the splendid piece of workmanship has neither beginning nor end, and will be utterly useless until it touches a finished road somewhere.

A short distance farther the glen expanded, and I recrossed the river by a lofty new bridge. The road was carried over the bottom-land on an embankment at least forty feet high, and then commenced ascending the hills on the northern bank. After passing a little village on the first height, we entered a forest of pine, which continued without interruption for four or five miles. The country became almost a wilderness, and wore a singular air of loneliness, contrasted with the busy region I had left behind. As I approached the summit, the view extended far and wide over a dark, wooded sweep of hills, rarely broken by a solitary farm-house and the few cleared fields around it. On the nearer slope below me there was now and then such a house; but the most of them were in ruins, and young pines were shooting up in the deserted vineyards. The Catalans are so laborious in their habits, so skilled in the art of turning waste into fruitful land, that there must have been some special reason for this desolation. My guide either could not or would not explain it.

When we reached the northern side of the mountain, cultivation again commenced, and I saw the process of clearing woodland and preparing the soil for crops. The trees are first removed, the stumps and roots dug up, and then all the small twigs, brambles, weeds, and dry sticks,—everything, in fact, which cannot be used for lumber and firewood, — are gathered into little heaps all over the ground, and covered with the top soil. A year, probably, must elapse, before these heaps are tolerably decomposed ; then they are spread upon the surface and ploughed under. The virgin soil thus acquired is manured after every crop, and there is no such thing as an exhausted field.

The fine highway came to an end as suddenly as it had commenced, in the rough forest, with no village near. The country became broken and irregular, and the bridle-path descended continually through beautiful groves of oak, with an undergrowth of box and lavender. the odors from which filled the air. I was nearly famished, when, after a journey of five or six leagues, we emerged from the woods, and saw the rich valley-basin of Solsona before us, with the dark old town in its centre. Here, again, every available foot of soil was worked into terraces, drained or irrigated as the case might be, and made to produce its utmost. As I rode along the low walls, the ripe, heavy ears of wheat leaned over and brushed my head. Although there is no wheeled vehicle —not even a common cart — in this region, all the roads being the rudest bridle-paths, the town is approached by a magnificent bridge of a dozen arches, spanning a grassy hollow, at the bottom of which flows a mere thread of a brook.

At the farther end of the bridge, a deserted gateway ushers the stranger into Solsona. Few strangers, 1 suspect, ever enter the place ; for labor ceased as I passed along the streets, and even Don Basilio. on his way home from morning mass, lifted his shovelhat, and bowed profoundly. Many ot the houses were in ruins, and bore the marks of fire and balls. I rode into the ground-floor of a dark house which bore no sign or symbol over the door, but Juan assured me that it was an inn. A portly, dignified gentleman advanced out of the shadows, and addressed me in the purest Castilian ; he was the landlord, and his daughter was cook and waiting-maid. The rooms above were gloomy and very ancient ; there was scarcely a piece of furniture which did not appear to be two centuries old ; yet everything was clean and orderly.

“ Can we have breakfast ?” I asked.

“ Whatever wc have is at your disposition,” said the landlord. " What would you be pleased to command ? ”

“ Eggs, meat, bread, and wine ; but nothing that cannot be got ready in a few minutes.”

The landlord bowed, and went into the kitchen. Presently he returned and asked, “Did I understand you to wish for meat, Cavalier ? ”

“ Certainly, if you have it,” I replied.

“ Yes, we have it in the house,” said he; “ but I did n’t know what your custom was.”

I did not guess what he meant until a plate of capital mutton-chops was smoking under my nose. Then it flashed across my mind that the day was Friday, and I no better than a heathen In the eyes of my worthy host. According to the country custom of Spain, master and groom fare alike, and Juan took his seat beside me without waiting for an invitation. I ought to have invited the landlord, but I was too hungry to remember it. To my surprise — and relief also — Juan ate his share of the chops, and there was a radiant satisfaction on his countenance. I have no doubt he looked upon me as the responsible party, and did not even consider it worth while to confess afterwards.

“ You have a beautiful country here,”

I remarked to the landlord, knowing that such an expression is always accepted as a half-compliment.

“ It is a country,” he exclaimed with energy, “que nada falta,&emdash;which lacks nothing! There is everything you want ; there is not a better country Under the sun ! No, it is not the country that we complain of.”

“ What then ?” I asked.

For a moment he made no reply, then, apparently changing the subject, said, “ Did you see the houses in ruins as you came into Solsona ? That was done in the Carlist wars. We suffered terribly : nearly halt the people of this region were slaughtered.”

“ What good comes of these wars ?”

1 asked. “ Is anything better than it was before ? What have you to offset all that fire and murder ? ”

“That’s it!” he cried ; “that was what 1 meant.”

He shook his head in a melancholy way, drank a glass of wine, and said, as if to prevent my saying anything further : “ You understand how to travel, or you would not have come into such wild parts as these. But here, instead of having the rattling of cart-wheels in your ears all day, you have the songs of the nightingales. You don't have dust in your nose, but the smell of grain and flowers ; you can start when YOU please, and ride as far as you like. That’s ?ny way to travel, and I wish there were more people of the same mind. We don’t often see a foreign cavalier in Solsona, yet it’s not a bad country, as you yourself say.”

By this time Juan and I had consumed the chops and emptied the bottle; and, as there were still six leagues to be travelled that day, we prepared to leave Solsona. The town, of barely two thousand inhabitants, has an ancient church, a deserted palace of the former Dukes of Cardona, and a miraculous image of the Virgin, — neither of which things is sufficiently remarkable in its way to be further described. The age of the place is apparent; a dark, cool, mournful atmosphere of the Past fills its streets, and the traces of recent war seem to have been left from mediaeval times.

The sky was partly overcast, but there was an intense, breathless heat in the air. Our path led across the bounteous valley into a wild ravine, which was spanned by two ancient aqueducts. The pointed arch of one of them hinted of Moorish construction, as well as the platform and tank of a fountain in a rocky nook beyondHere the water gushed out in a powerful stream, as in those fountains of the Anti-Lebanon in the country of Galilee. Large planetrees shaded the spot, and the rocks overhung it on three sides, yet no one was there to enjoy the shade and coolness. The place was sad, because so beautiful and so lonely.

At the farther end of the ravine we entered a forest of pine, with an undergrowth of box, and commenced ascending the mountain-range dividing the valley of Solsona from that of the Rio Salado.. It might have been the Lesser Atlas, and the sky that of Africa, so fierce was the heat, so dry and torn the glens up the sides of which toiled my laboring horse. Birds and insects were alike silent: the lizard, scampering into bis hole in the red bank of earth, was the only living thing. For an hour or more we slowly plodded upward ; then, emerging from the pine wood upon a barren summit, I looked far and wide over a gray, forbidding, fiery land. Beyond the Salado Valley, which lay beneath me, rose a range of uninhabited mountains, half clothed with forest or thicket, and over them the outer Pyrenees, huge masses of bare rock, cut into sharp, irregular forms. A house or two, and some cultivated patches, were visible along the banks of the Salado ; elsewhere, there was no sign of habitation.

The bajada, or descent, to the river was so steep and rough that I was forced to dismount and pick my way down the zigzags of burning sand and sliding gravel. At the bottom I forded the river, the water of which is saline, and then hastened to a mill upon the farther bank, to procure a cup of water. The machinery was working in charge of a lusty girl, who shut off the water while she ran to a spring in the ravine behind, and filled an earthen jar. There was nothing of Spanish grace and beauty about her. She had gray eyes, a broad, flat nose, brown hair, broad shoulders, and the arms and legs of a butcher. But she was an honest, kind-hearted creature, and the joyous good-will with which she served me was no less refreshing than the water.

The path now followed the course of the Rio Salado, under groves of venerable ilex, which fringed the foot of the mountain. Thickets of box and tamarisk overhung the stream, and the sight of the water rushing and murmuring through sun and shade made the heat more endurable. Another league, however, brought me to the little hamlet of Ojern, where my road took to the hills again. Nature has given this little place a bay of rich soil between the river and the mountains, man has blackened it with fire and riddled it with shot; and between the two it has become a complete ami surprising picture. Out of superb gardens of orange and fig trees, over hedges of roses and wild mounds of woodbine, rise the cracked and tottering walls, — heaps of ruin, but still inhabited. Nothing could be finer than the contrast of the riotous vegetation, struggling to grow away from the restraining hand into its savage freedom, with the firm texture, the stubborn forms and the dark, mellow coloring of the masonry. Of course the place was dirty, and offended one sense as much as it delighted the other. It is a pity that neatness and comfort cannot be picturesque.

I knew that the Rio Segre could not be very distant, but I was far from guessing how much the way might be lengthened by heat and almost impracticable roads. This ascent was worse than the former, since there was no forest to throw an occasional shade. A scrubby chaparral covered the red and flinty slopes, upon which the sun beat until the air above them quivered. My horse was assailed with a large gadfly, and kicked, stamped, and whirled his head as if insane. I soon had occasion to notice a physiological fact, — that the bones of a horse’s head are more massive than those of the human shin. When we reached the summit of the mountain, after a long, long pull, I was so bruised, shaken, and exhausted diat Juan was obliged to help me out of the saddle, or, rather, the crevice between two piles of baggage in which I was wedged. The little imp came back chuckling, and said, “I told you so! ” In such cases, I always recall Cicero’s consolatory remark, and go on my way with fresh courage.

Moreover, far below, at the base of the bare peaks of rock which rose against the western sky, I saw the glitter of the Rio Segre, and knew that my day’s labor was nearly at an end. The descent was so rugged that I gave the reins to Juan, and went forward on foot. After getting down the first steep, the path fell into and followed the dry bed of a torrent, which dropped rapidly towards the river. In half an hour I issued from the fiery ravine, and was greeted by a breeze that had cooled its wings on the Pyrenean snow. Olivetrees again shimmered around me, and a valley-bed of fruitful fields expanded below. A mile farther, around the crest of the lower hills, I found myself on a rocky point, just over the town of Oliana. It was the oldest and brownest place I had seen, up to this time ; but there was shade in its narrow streets, and rest for me under one of its falling roofs. A bell in the tall square tower of the church chimed three ; and Juan, coming up with the horse, insisted that I should mount, and make my entrance as became a cavalier.

I preferred comfort to dignity ; but when everybody can see that a man has a horse, he really loses nothing by walking, The first houses we passed appeared to be deserted ; then came the main street, in which work, gossip, and recreation were going on in the open air. Here there was a swingingsign with the word “ Hostal ” over the inn door, and most welcome was that inn, with its unwashed floors, its fleas, and its odors of garlic. I was feverish with the absorption of so much extra heat, and the people gave me the place of comfort at an open window, with a view of green fields between the poplars. Below me there was a garden belonging to the priest, who, in cassock and shovel-hat, was inspecting his vegetables. Gathering up his sable skirts, he walked mincingly between the rows of lettuce and cauliflower, now and then pointing out a languishing plant, which an old woman in attendance then proceeded to refresh by flinging water upon it with a paddle,, from a tank in a corner of the garden. Browning’s “ Soliloquy in a Spanish Cloister” came into my head ; and I think I should have cried out, could the padre have understood the words : “ O, that rose has prior claims ! ” I must say, however, that the garden was admirably kept, and the priest’s table was all the better for his horticultural tastes.

There were three or four jolly fellows 5n the inn, who might have served in Sherman’s army, they were so tall and brown and strong. My attention was drawn from the priest by their noise and laughter, and I found them gathered about a wild-looking man, dressed in rags. The latter talked so rapidly, in the Catalan dialect, that I could understand very little of what he said ; but the landlady came up and whispered, “ He ’s a loco (an idiot), but he does no harm. " To me he seemed rather to be a genius, with a twist in his brain. He was very quick in retort, and often turned the laugh upon his questioner ; while from his constant appeals to “ Maria Santissima,” a strong religious idea evidently underlay his madness. The landlord gave him a good meal, and he then went on his way, cheerful, perhaps happy, in his isolation.

I suppose Juan must have been well satisfied to eat meat on a Friday without the sin being charged to his personal account, and must therefore have given a hint to the landlord; for, without my order, a chicken was set before me at dinner, and he took the drumsticks as of right. When the sun got behind the tall mountain opposite, I wandered about the town, seeing nothing that seems worthy of being recorded, yet every view was a separate picture which I cannot easily forget. There were no peculiarities of architecture or of costume; but the houses were so quaintly irregular, the effects of light and shade so bold and beautiful, the colors so balanced, that each street with its inhabitants might have been painted without change. There was a group before the shoemaker’s door, — the workman on his bench, a woman with a shoe, a young fellow in scarlet cap, who had paused to say a word, and two or three children tumbling on the stones ; another at the fountain, — women filling jars, coining and going with the load on hip or head ; another at the barber’s, and all framed by houses brown as Murillo’s color, with a background of shadow as rich as Rembrandt’s. These are subjects almost too simple to paint with the pen ; they require the pencil.

In the evening, the sultry vapors which had been all day floating in the air settled over the gorge, and presently thunder-echoes were buffeted back and forth between the rocky walls. The skirts of a delicious rain trailed over the valley, and Night breathed odor and coolness and healing balsam as she came down from the western peaks. Rough and dirty as was the guests’ room of the “ hostal,” my bedroom was clean and pleasant. A floor of tiles, a simple iron washstand resembling an ancient tripod, one chair, and a bed, coarsely, but freshly spread,— what more can a reasonable man desire ? The linen (though it is a bull tosay so) was of that roughly woven cotton which one finds only in Southern Europe, Africa, and the Orient, which always seems cool and clean, and has nothing in common with the frowzy, flimsy stuff we find in cheap places at home. Whoever has slept in a small new town (I beg pardon, “city”) on an Illinois prairie, knows the feeling of soft, insufficient sheets and flabby pillows, all hinting of frequent use, between which he thinks, ere sleep conquers his disgust, of the handkerchief which awaits him as towel in the morning. In the poorest inn in Spain I am better lodged than in the Jimplecutc House in Roaring City.

Juan called me at three o’clock, for another severe day was before us. Our road followed the course of the Rio Segre, and there were no more burning mountains to climb ; but both M. de Lavigne and Mr. Ford, in the little which they vouchsafed to say of this region, mentioned the frightful character of the gorges through which the river breaks his way downward to the Ebro ; and their accounts, if the timid traveller believes them, may well deter him from making the journey. In the cool half-hour before sunrise, as I rode across the circular valley, or conque, of Oliana, towards the gloomy portals of rock out of which the river issues, my spirits rose in anticipation of the wild sceiiery beyond. The vineyards and orchards were wet and fresh, and the air full of sweet smells. Clouds rested on all the stony summits, rising or falling as the breeze shifted. The path rose to the eastern side of the gorge, where, notched along the slanting rock, it became a mere thread to the eye, and finally disappeared.

As I advanced, however, I found that the passage was less dangerous than it seemed. The river roared far below, and could be reached by a single plunge ; but there was a good, well-beaten muletrack,—the same, and probably the only one, which has been used since the first human settlement. Soon after entering the gorge, it descended to within a hundred teet of the river, and then crossed to the opposite bank by a bold bridge of a single arch, barely wide enough for a horse to walk upon. The parapet on either side was not more than two feet high, and it was not a pleasant sensation to look down from the saddle upon the roaring and whirling flood. Yet the teeling was one which must be mastered ; for many a mile of sheer precipice lay betore me. The Segre flows through a mere cleft in the heart of the terrible mountains, and the path continuously overhangs the abyss. Bastions of naked rock, a thousand feet high, almost shut out the day; and the traveller, after winding for hours in the gloom ot their shadows, feels as if buried from the world.

The sides of the gorge are nearly perpendicular, and the dark gray rock is unrelieved by foliage, except where soil enough lias lodged to nourish a tuft of box ; yet here and there, wherever a few yards of less abrupt descent occur, in spots not entirely inaccessible, the peasants have built a rude wall, smoothed the surface, and compelled a scanty tribute of grass or grain. Tall, wild-looking figures, in brown jackets and knee-breeches, with short, broadbladed scythes flashing on their shoulders, met us; and as they leaned back in the hollows of the rock to let us pass, with the threatening implements held over their heads, a very slight effort of the imagination made them more dangerous than the gulf which yawned on the opposite side of the path. They were as rough and savage as the scenery in appearance ; but in reality they were simple-hearted, honest persons. All that I saw of the inhabitants of this part of Catalonia assured me that I was perfectly safe among them. After the first day of my journey I gave up the prospect of finding danger enough to make an adventure.

By and by the path, so lonely for the first hour after starting, began to be animated. The communication between the valleys of the Spanish Pyrenees and the lower Segre, as far as Lerida, is carried on through this defile, and pack-mules were met from time to time. Juan walked in advance, listening for the tinkling bells of the coming animals, and selecting places where the road was broad enough for us to [lass without danger. Sometimes I waited, sometimes they, — one leaning close against the rock, one pacing slowly along the.brink, with the river below booming into caverns cut out of the interlocking bases of the mountains. As the path sank or rose, accommodating itself to the outline of the cliffs, and the bells of the unseen mules or horses chimed in front around some corner of the gorge, they chimed to my ears the words of another, who foresaw as well as remembered.

O, dear and distant Friend and Poet! henceforth I shall hear your voice in this music of Spain. AH that day, in the wild and wonderful canons ot the Segre, you rode with me ; and poetical justice demanded that I should have paid, like Uhland to his boatman, for the other spirit who sat upon my weary steed. I tried to look with your clear eyes, so quick to detect and interpret beauty ; and 1 try now to write of the scenery, so that you may behold it through mine. As turn after turn of the winding gorge disclosed some grander conformation of the overhanging heights, some new pinnacle of rock piercing the air, or cavern opening its dark arch at the base of a precipice, I drew you from your quiet cottage by the Merrimack, and said, as we paused together in a myrtle-roofed niche in the rocks, “ All this belongs to us, for we alone have seen it ! ”

But, alas ! how much of subtle form, of delicate gradation of color, of fleeting moods of atmosphere, escapes us when we try to translate the experience of the eyes ! I endeavor to paint the living and breathing body of Nature, and I see only a hard black silhouette, like those shadows of grandfathers which hang in old country homes. Only to minds that of themselves understand and can guess is the effort not lost. A landscape thus partly describes itself; and so, in this case, I must hope that something of the grand and lonely valley of the Rio Segre may have entered into my words. Perhaps the best general impression of the scenery may be suggested by a single peculiarity. Two hours after entering the defile, I issued from it into the conque of Nargo, —an open circular basin some three miles in breadth, beyond which the mountains again interlock. The term conque (shell?) is applied to these valleys, which occur regularly at intervals of from six to ten miles ; and their arrangement is picturesquely described in French as being en chapelet, for they are literally strung like beads on the thread of the river. No part of Europe is so old (to the eye) as these valleys. There seems to have been no change for a thousand years. If the air were not so dry, one could fancy that the villages would be gradually buried under a growth of moss and lichens. The brown rust on their walls is almost black, the walls of the terraced fields are as secure in their places as the natural rock, and the scars left by wars are not to be distinguished from those of age. Whenever there is a surplus of population it must leave, for it cannot be subsisted. There may be mountain-paths leading inland from these valleys, but none are visible ; each little community is enclosed by a circle of tremendous stony walls and pinnacles, which the river alone has been able to pierce.

At the farther end of the conque of Nargo lay the village, perched upon a bold crag. Several sharp, isolated mountains,, resembling the horns and needles of the Alps, rose abruptly out of the open space ; and their lower faces of dark vermilion rock made a forcible contrast with the splendid green of the fields. We did not pause in the village, but descended its ladder of a street to the river-wall, and plunged at once into a second gorge, as grand and savage as the first, though not. more than a league in extent. Juan again went ahead and warned the coming muleteers. In another hour I reached the conque of Organa, a rich and spacious tract of land, with the village of the same name on a rock, precisely like Nargo. A high, conical peak on the left appeared to be inaccessible, yet there was a white chapel on its very summit. Look there ! ” said Juan, “ that saint likes a cool place.”

Fine old walnut-trees made their appearance in this valley; water was everywhere abundant, and the gardens through which I approached the village were filled with shade and the sound of streams. Indeed, the terraces of ancient vines and fruit-trees, mixed with cypresses and bosky alleys of flowering shrubs, might have belonged to the palaces of an extinct nobility; but the bouses which followed were those of peasants, smoky with age, low, dark, and dirty. A pack of schoolchildren, in the main street, hailed me with loud shouts, whereat the mechanics looked up from their work, and the housewives came to the doors. There was a dusky inn, with a meek, pinched landlady, who offered eggs and a guisado (stew) with tomatoes. While these were cooking, she placed upon the table a broad-bellied bottle with a spout, something like an old-fashioned oil-can in shape. I was not Catalan enough to drink without a glass ; but Juan, raising the bottle above his head, spirted a thin stream ot wine into his open mouth, and drank long and luxuriously. When he was satisfied, a dexterous turn of the wrist cut off the stream, and not a drop was spilled. At the table, these bottles pass from hand to hand, — one cannot say from mouth to mouth, for the lips never touch them. I learned to drink in the same fashion without much difficulty, and learned thereby that much of the flavor of the wine is lost. The custom seems to have been invented to disguise a bad vintage.

While we were breakfasting, a French peasant, whom I had seen at Oliana, arrived. He was on foot, and bound for Foix, by way of Andorra. This was also ray route, and I accepted his offer of engaging another horse tor me at Urgal, in the evening, and accompanying me over the Pyrenees. He was not a very agreeable person, but it was a satisfaction to find some one with whom I could speak. I left him at the table, with a company of Spanish muleteers, and never saw him aiterwards.

Before leaving Organd, I was stopped in the street by a man who demanded money, saying something about the “ Pons,” which I could not comprehend. It finally occurred to me that the defile through which I was about to pass is named Los Tres Pons (The Three Bridges) on the old maps of Catalonia, and that the man was asking for toll, — which proved to be the case. The three martos - which I paid was the veriest trifle for the privilege of passing over such a road as followed. The mountains were here loftier, and therefore more deeply cloven ; the former little attempts at cultivation ceased, for even Catalonian thrift shrank from wresting any profit out of walls so bare and bluff that scarcely a wild goat could cling to their ledges. Two hundred feet below, the river beat against the rocks with a sullen, mysterious sound, while, from one to two thousand feet above, the jagged coping of the precipices cut the sky. A cool, steady wind drew down the cleft, filling it with a singular humming sound. The path crossed to the eastern side by a tremulous wooden bridge laid flat upon natural abutments ; then, a mile farther, recrossed by a lofty stone arch, under which there was a more ancient one, still perfect. Several miles of the same wonderful scenery succeeded, — scenery the like of which I know not where to find in Switzerland. The gorge of Gondo, on the Italian side of the Simplon, is similar in character, but less grand and majestic. Far up in the enormous cliffs, I saw here and there the openings of caverns, to which no man has ever climbed; cut into the heart of inaccessible walls were unexpected glens, green nests of foliage, safe from human intrusion, where the nightingales sang in conscious security ; and there were points so utterly terrible in all their features that the existence of a travelled path was the greatest wonder of all.

In the preceding defiles, Nature had accidentally traced out the way, but here it had been forced by sheer labor and daring. Sometimes it was hewn into the face of the upright rock ; sometimes it rested on arches built up from below, the worn masonry of which threatened to give way as I passed over. Now, fortunately, the tinkling of mule-bells was rare, for there were few points where travellers could safely meet. Convulsion was as evident in the structure of the mountains themselves as in their forcible separation. In some places the perpendicular strata were curiously bent, as if the top had cooled rapidly and begun to lean over upon the fluid ascending mass. The summits assumed the wildest and most fantastic forms, especially about the centre of the mountain range. When I had crossed the third bridge, which is more than a league above the second, the heights fell away, the glen gradually opened, and I saw before me the purple chain of the Pyrenees, mottled with dark patches of forest, and crested with snow.

The pass of The Three Bridges has its tragic episode of recent history, in addition to those which the centuries have forgotten. Here, forty years ago, the Count of Spain, who governed Catalonia in the nameof Ferdinand VII., was betrayed by his own adjutant, by whom, and by a priest named Ferrer, he was murdered. The deed is supposed to have been committed at the instigation of Don Carlos. A stone was tied to the corpse, and it was flung from the rocks into the torrent of the Segre. The place breathes of vengeance and death ; and one seems to inhale a new air when he emerges into the conqnc of Le Pla, after being enclosed for two hours within those terrible gates.

It was a double delight to me to come upon lush meadows, and smell the vernal sweetness of the dowering grass. Leaving the river on my left, I struck eastward along the sides of clayey hills, with slopes of vine above me, and the broad green meadows below. The vegetation had already a more northern character; clumps of walnut, poplar, and willow grew by the brooksides, and the fields of wheat were not yet ripe for harvest. I passed a picturesque, tumbling village called Arfa, crossed the Segre for the last time, and then rode onward into a valley several miles in diameter, the bed of which was broken by rounded hills. This was the valley of Urgel, or “the see,” — el sen, as it is called by the people in their dialect. The term recalls the days when Bishop was a sovereign prince, and his see a temporal, as well as ecclesiastical, government.

Juan pointed out a fortress in advance, which I supposed to be the town. Near it, on the slope of the lull, there was a mass of buildings, baking in the afternoon sun ; and I know not which was most melancholy, the long lines of cracked, deserted ramparts on the hill, or the crumbling, uninhabited houses on the slope below. I did not see six persons in the place, which was not Urgel, but Castel Ciudad. The former city is a mile farther, seated in the centre of the plain. I saw, on my left, the mouth of a glen of the Pyrenees, and guessed, before the groom said so, that within its depths lay the forgotten Republic of Andorra. The Valira, the one stream of the Republic, poured upon the plain its cold green waters, which I forded, in several channels, before reaching the gates of Urgel.

Juan had cheered me with tiie promise of a good inn. The exterior of the house was, if anything, a trifle meaner than that of the neighboring houses ; the entrance was through a stable, and the kitchen and public room very dirty; yet, these once passed, I entered a clean, spacious, and even elegant bedroom. A door therefrom opened upon a paved terrace, with a roof of vine and a superb view of the Pyrenees; and hither, as I sat and rested my weary bones, came the landlord, and praised the country. There was inexhaustible coal in the mountains, he said ; there was iron in the water; the climate was the best in Spain; people were healthy and lived long, —and the only thing wanting was a road to some part of the world.

The towns through which I had passed seemed as old and lonely as any towns could well be ; but they are tame beside the picturesque antiquity of Urgel. Nothing seems to have been changed here since the twelfth century. The streets are narrow and gloomy, but almost every house rests on massive arches, which form continuous arcades, where the mechanics sit and ply their avocations. The vistas of these arched passages arc closed either with a single building of very primitive and ponderous architecture, or by the stones of a wall as old as the times of the Moors. The place is like a gallery ot old sepia drawings. I attracted the usual wonder, as I loitered through the gloom of the arcades ; work was suspended while I passed, and tongues were silent. When I entered the venerable cathedral, which was finished six hundred years ago, the solitary worshipper stopped in the midst of an ave, and stared at me with open mouth. The spacious Gothic nave, however, was less attractive than the pictures outside ; so I passed from the interior to the exterior shadows, — one about as dense as the other. Presently I came upon a massive house, with a magnificent flat-roofed arbor of grapes beside it, and was saying to myself that there was one fortunate person in the poverty-stricken capital, when the door opened and Don Basilio came forth with sweeping cassock and enormous hat. A little farther, I found myself in a small plaza, one side of which was occupied by a building resembling a fortress. Over the door I read the inscription, “Princeps soberan del valle de Andorra.” This was the residence of the bishop, who claims the title of sovereign of the little republic; his powers, in fact, being scarcely more than nominal.

I was tempted to present myself to his Reverence, and state my intention of visiting Andorra ; but my information with regard to the republic was so vague that I knew not how such a visit might be regarded. I might be creating difficulty where none existed. With this prudent reflection I returned to the inn, and engaged a fresh horse and guide for the morrow, sending Juan back to Cardona. It was but an hour’s ride, the landlord said, to the frontier. The region of ill-repute lay behind me ; the difficult bridle-roads were passed, and all evil predictions had come to naught. By-ways are better than highways, and if an intelligent young American, who knows the Spanish language, will devote a year to the byways of Spain, living with the people and in their fashion, he will find that all the good books of observation and adventure have not yet been written.