A Ride in Spain

WE were at Jerez, which is still pronounced as if the name began with an H, as it used to be when it began with an X ; the universal substitution of J for X is the Spanish spelling reform of the last twenty years, — we were at Jerez, and wanted to go across the mountains to Ronda. My companion was an Oxford scholar, who was traveling from Oxford through the Church of England towards those fresh religious pastures which the modern faith of so many of the clergy of England expects to find in a super-biblical future.

We were agreed to take a short ride across a region of Spain not much vexed by tourists, in search of the characteristic and the picturesque. The difficulty was to find means of conveyance; for Jerez was undergoing its annual three days’ fair, and animals were not to be had for money, the only spring of movement or attention to a traveler’s wants in Spain. The town was crowded and excited, the hotels charged double price, — as the Spanish hotels do on the least provocation, — and the owners of horses and mules were coining money, transporting people to the fair-ground, the races, and the bull-fight. The races on Saturday and Monday, and especially the bull-fights on Sunday, were the absorbing attractions of the week.

Jerez, which is dear to the world as the depot and factory where the Manzanilla and kindred sorts of grape-juice are manipulated, seasoned, and colored, and fortified into the various kinds of sherry, is ordinarily as dull and uninteresting, as modern and whitewashed, as most other Spanish towns. We had read in the guide-books a great deal about the couleur locale of this and that city of the Peninsula. Observation has taught us that the couleur locale of Spain is “ whitewash.” Houses, within and without, are whitewashed; churches are whitewashed ; walls, and monuments, and fountained courts are whitewashed; heaps of stone on the highway for repairing the roads are whitewashed ; everything, except the cactus hedges, the treeless hills, and the bulls, is whitewashed. Whenever the private owners of a delicious bit of old Moorish ornamental work in stucco can have their own way, they whitewash it.

It was Sunday in Jerez. In all the Sunday-schools the good children were saying, “ What a sweet Sabbath day for a bull-fight! ” The bull-fight was not to take place till the afternoon, — so carefully do these devout people separate their religion from their amusements. In this land, girls and boys are taken at a tender age to the bull-fights, in order that they may be accustomed early to the characteristic national pastime, and not be disgusted with the cowardly cruelty and the degrading spectacle when they arrive at years of discretion. Train up a girl in the way she should go, and when she is at the most effective fair age she will not depart from the arena so long as there is a noble bull to be tortured, and a two dollar and a half hack of a horse to be ripped open by his horns.

Our acquaintances in Jerez tried to convince us that our proper way to Ronda was the great railway circuit round by Gobantes, and thence by diligence. We replied that the one way we wished specially to avoid was the one by Gobantes. We adhered to this blind purpose, and failing to procure horses we took places in the old diligence for Arcos, and on Monday afternoon, at four o’clock, mounted our seats beside the driver, and set out over the arid plain of Caulina; leaving on our right the once magnificent monastery, the Cartuja, famous in old time for its fine cloisters and patios, or courts, its unrivaled collection of pictures by Zurbaran, its rich vineyards, and its breeding ground for Andalusian horses, — a properly conducted monastery could not well be celebrated for much more.

Our driver was a compact little man, round-faced and clean shaven, — as most of the Spaniards are, — taciturn to his kind, but very communicative to himself and to his horses. We had a team of five horses, two at the wheel and three leaders abreast, the latter driven without reins. I noticed that the two reins were attached only to the outside of the bits of the wheel horses; the control of the team depended largely upon the driver’s whip and the power of his lungs. The whip was always swinging and cracking in the air, and the driver called to his horses almost incessantly, and occasionally made them long addresses, which they appeared to understand. The harnesses were monstrous constructions of heavy, broad leather straps, ropes, and big collars; the drawing-traces were ropes ; each animal had upon his headstall a string of bells. The diligence was a lumbering, rickety vehicle, which swayed and creaked. As soon as we were under way, with bells jingling, whip cracking, coach creaking; the inside passengers, among whom was a smart gendarme, chattering; the driver conversing with his cattle ; the dust rising in thick clouds that almost hid from view the hedges of cactus and aloes along the road, and made the crowd of laden donkeys, carriages, and big wagons like phantoms in a dusty dream, — when, I say, we thus got under way, at a speed, with all this noise and tumult, of probably little less than three miles an hour, we felt that we were actually in Spain. We had sixteen miles to go, and we made the distance in about five hours.

The road was a straight white line across the arid plain, a good specimen of the treeless, sun-baked wastes of Andalusia. Beyond were low hills, equally denuded of foliage ; but when, after a weary pull, we ascended among them, more green appeared, and large fields of grain, but sadly stunted and burned up by the long drought. We soon, also, came upon olive orchards among the rolling hills, but the general aspect of the country was desolate. Beyond the hills, however, we saw glorious mountains, and one majestic dome of rock, which I took to be the Pico de S. Cristoval, towering above the others. In the transparent air it seemed very near. The road, it must be said, was exceedingly well made, carried round curves, through cuts in the hills, and over embankments, like the graded track of a railway. Where roads are made at all, they seem to be thorough pieces of work, very different from our make-shift and ungraded highways for wagons.

At regular intervals on our route we encountered a couple of gendarmes posted by the roadside, a civil force to which I shall have occasion to refer again. We found two of them at the half-way posada, where we stopped to breathe and let the passengers “ wine,” — a good example of the Spanish inn of the country. This inn is principally a stable; but a part of the stable is partitioned off for the family, and another part for the refreshment room. Above seems to be a low garret. It appeared to be altogether a very decent place, for a stable, and the proprietor and his wife and daughters were civil. Spain is still the land of riding, and not of driving. After leaving the environs of Jerez, we encountered no wagon, but scores of travelers on mules, donkeys, and horses. A very good specimen of its caballero dismounted at the inn, — a resolute, square-riding man, on a powerful white horse, who rode as if he were mortised into his “ Mexican ” saddle, an embroidered manta strapped behind, and a gun in its leather case hanging perpendicularly behind the saddle.

There were no houses along the road, and only here and there one on a hillside, whitewashed, and commonly with a whitewashed wall about the premises. I suppose that those were haciendas, and that in English an hacienda would be a stable for mules and cattle, with family apartments above it.

All the region for miles and miles around Arcos is thickly planted with olives, which give a pleasing aspect to this hilly country. It, was late twilight when we came clattering into the ancient town, and were set down at the house where the diligence stopped, which seemed to be presided over by three old women. We were surrounded at once by a curious and helpful population, all eager to seize our pieces of luggage and bear them to parts unknown. The driver, who was our friend, appeared to be having a conference with the old women as to whether they should have the plucking of us, or would send us to the regular posada, to which we wished to go. In the growing darkness it was impossible to see where we were, or where the posada was, and it required all our vigilance to keep track of our lug gage. After a groat deal of confusion, we found ourselves transferred, bag and baggage, to the posada, which was almost exactly opposite, in debt to half the loafers of Arcos for their valuable assistance. The posada, the best in the place, showed no sign of light or life. We entered the stables, and made our way up a stone staircase to the hotel apartments. No obsequious landlord or landlady welcomed us, but we at last discovered a tall, sour-faced maid-of-allwork, haughty and dirty, who condescended to show us a couple of clean but utterly bare little rooms, and undertook to get us something to eat. We felt humbly obliged. The stranger in Spain, at most inns and elsewhere, is treated as if the most acceptable thing he could do would be to take himself speedily out of the country. Our apartments were furnished with Spartan simplicity : the guest is allowed a washbowl, but no pitcher, and the water given him in the bowl is supposed to be quite enough for his needs ; but the bed, though the mattress is made of uncomfortable lumps of wool, is scrupulously clean. Our repast was all that we could expect. The person who is fond of tasteless beans will find Spain a paradise. In this land of olives, those served on the table are bitter and disagreeable, and the oil, in which everything is cooked, is uniformly rancid. But it should be confessed that the oil is better than the butter, when the latter luxury is attainable. Something seems to be the matter with the cows.

I do not wonder that the Spaniards are at table a temperate and abstemious, race. It is no merit to be abstemious, with such food and cooking. The wine at Arcos, however, was a sort of Manzanilla, that made us regard any food with favor. It was a medicinal draught, with a very strong flavor of camomile ; a very useful sort, l believe, in the manipulation of the market sherry, and exceedingly wholesome. So long as a man can drink this wine, he will not die. I should recommend the total abstinence society to introduce it into our country.

Cheered by our repast we walked out to see the town. The moon was at the full ; the night was lovely. On such a night a whitewashed town shines with dazzling splendor, and Arcos is picturesque even in daylight, especially in its situation. It lies on lofty hills above the river Guadalete, and in old times, before the final conquest, was a famous fortress. The horses bred in the plain, below, and their fearless riders, gallop along in the spirited ballads of the time. It is called Arcos de la Frontera, because of its frontier position after it was taken from the Moors. During the wars of Granada, it was in the possession of that gallant soldier, Roderigo Ponce de Leon, Marquis of Cadiz, whose wife, the highspirited marchioness, was once beleaguered there by the Moors, when the most immense of grandees, Don Juan de Guzman, the Duke of Medina Sidonia, came to her rescue, and saved Arcos to the Christians, — a most gallant and Christian act on the part of the duke, for he and the marquis were hereditary enemies. We could make out by moonlight the convent and the tower that crown the two hills of the town, and from the esplanade in front of the Gothic cathedral we enjoyed a broad view over the plain of the Guadalete. The town must have been, in the old days, almost impregnable in its situation. We could fancy the fair Marchioness of Cadiz on such a night, centuries ago, looking down from her watch-tower upon the Moorish camp, and expecting the rescue at the hands of Medina Sidonia.

The pensive night should have brought out the romance of Arcos, but, save the tinkling of a guitar here and there indoors, there was little sign of what is supposed to be the universal occupation of Spain. I fear that the lovers do not go about much at night-time with their guitars. Lovers we saw, at least youths in the attitude of lovers ; but they trusted to their own natural powers of persuasion. The attitude of a lover in Spain is to stand motionless, hour after hour, at a heavily grated window. We saw one slim gallant in the position, when we set out on our walk, and an hour after he maintained the same impassioned, patient embrace of the iron grating. It would seem to be a safe sort of courtship, and as intoxicating as talking with a nun through the grille of her cell.

We had bargained the night before for a muleteer, two mules, and a horse for the baggage, and the sour-faced maid roused us at four o’clock in the morning. It is needless to say that the muleteer had the profitable end of the bargain, for the traveler has to pay for the privilege of associating with the proud and haughty Spaniard, — and all Spaniards are proud and haughty. I ought to except our friendly driver of the diligence, who seemed to feel a responsibility for our getting on safely. He came to our room before we went to bed, and shook hands with us, and patted us on the shoulder with something like affection, which was not all the offspring of the piece of silver we had given him. His good-humored face expressed the most cordial interest in a fortunate journey for us. We could not exchange an intelligible word, for the few pure Castilian words we had picked up were not current with him; but I doubt if our mutual sympathy would not have been marred and less perfect if we could have talked with him.

To mount we came down into the stable, the perfume of which is “ convenient” to all parts of the house, and found our cavalcade ready. Our mules were stout, lazy-going animals with comfortable saddles. The sun was scarcely free of the horizon when we descended the stony streets into the ravine between the two hills of the town. Early as it was, the morning market was already an active scene, bright with piles of oranges and heads of fresh green lettuce. All operations were suspended to see us pass by down the valley, and our exit was hailed with mingled cries of admiration and derision.

The morning was lovely, the grass and foliage sparkled with dew, birds sang jubilantly in the hedges, and we set out with an exhilarated feeling of adventure and discovery. As we descended into and crossed the rich plain, and the river Gaudalete, the town rose behind us in most picturesque magnificence on its hills, with its white houses conspicuous in the sun, grouped about the sheltering cathedral, and presided over by the ancient tower. Paths led in all directions through the vast plantation of olives. Most of the trees were very old, — the olive does not reach its best bearing till it is past thirty years, — gnarled and twisted, and many of them were mere skeletons of bark and decayed wood, not simply hollow, but showing the daylight through them, so that it was a marvel that they could stand. Yet they not only stood,— withered, tough, and ugly as the Spanish beggars, — but supported vigorous green branches. The trees were now in full blossom, and made a very pleasing show. Across this sweet valley of bloom and color and promise, the tortula (turtle-doves) were calling to each other in the accents of love and spring, and all the plain was vocal with the notes of the cuckoo. It was now the 2d of May. I do not know the habits of the bird in Spain, but I was reminded of the old English rhyme : —

In April,
Come he will;
In May,
Sing all day;
In June,
Change his tune;
In July,
Away he fly;
In August,
Go he must.

The country people whom we met urging their donkeys towards town saluted us gravely and without curiosity. “ The salutation,” said my companion, “ reminds me of the saying of a —a — What was it he said, and where did he say it?” It reminded me of the same thing. All the landscape and the scene seemed the simulacrum of an old romance, the echo of an early dream.

As we mounted out of the plain, the country became still lovelier: it was still covered with olives; great wheat fields were brilliantly sown with scarlet poppies; the cactus hedges were in full blossom, of red and yellow ; and the lustrous dark green aloes sent up splendid central spikes, twelve feet high.

Crossing a stony ridge, we entered extensive groves of cork-trees, large misshapen boles, often larger where the branches diverge than near the roots; bulging, distorted trunks, looking like a hospital of invalid trees. The donkeys we had met were laden with cork bark, and most of the trees had been stripped, some recently. The inner, remaining bark of these torn and abused veterans had a dull red color, that contrasted finely with the dark green of the branches. All the morning the mountain range we had marked at Jerez was in sight, and just ahead of us, and above all hovered the rock dome, the purple height of St. Cristoval. After hours of travel towards it, it seemed just as distant as when we started.

Dwellings were scarce on the way: only here and there a white farm-house embowered in a plantation of trees. Usually, the houses had one door and no windows, at most a square opening to admit the air; and the centre room of the dwelling, to which the door gave access, was a mule stable. And it is only right that the donkey, who abounds in this region, should have the best place, for all the carriage and transport devolve on him. Herds of fine cattle were frequent, and springs and streams of clear water were abundant. We passed one small salt-work, with a few vats. During the day we had been joined by several horsemen, who jogged on with us for some hours, and at last turned southward among the mountains, at a clear spring, with large stone reservoir of solid construction. Before noon we were near El Bosco, or El Bosque, the village where we were to lunch, and its neighborhood was marked, as is the approach to all large places of Eastern origin, by worse roads, walls, cactus hedges, and a general Oriental appearance. BUT El Bosco is not Oriental. It is simply a clean, rudely-paved town of low whitewashed houses, without an architectural or other object of interest. We strolled into the parish church while our lunch was preparing, and found a bare interior, a few rubbishy images and pictures, and a discouraged priest, who said naively that the people were so poor that it was impossible to make the church like the cathedral at Seville.

At the clean posada, over the stable, we were served with a very good lunch, by a big, motherly, Connecticut sort of woman, who took such an interest in us that she showed us her large beds, and urged us to stay all night. We had bread, and eggs, and fried meat, and milk, and wine, and coffee, — everything the land afforded. The bread, after the fashion of this region, is made in small, white, and hard loaves, with twisted handles to carry them by, and on each loaf is plainly stamped its weight. If it is sold by weight, it must be expensive. The wine was a Manzanilla of an excellent quality, not nearly so strong of camomile as the Arcos sort. The motherly old Connecticut woman charged us thirty reals for our entertainment, which being translated is the large sum of a dollar and a half. That came of our reckless draught on the resources of the country. A Spaniard would have lunched for about two reals, and taken it out in bread and green beans.

An hour after leaving El Bosco, we came in sight of the secluded mountain town, Puerto Sta. Maria. The road was more rugged and stony, and the country grew wilder at every step. We were, in fact, entering the fastnesses of the Serrania de Ronda, that jumble of mountains and hiding-places and obscure passes, renowned in the wars of the Conquest for border forays, retreats, and pursuits, and desperate hand-to-hand encounters of the Moorish and Christian chivalry, and in later days as the resort of the bandit and the contrabandista. On the water-course in the deep narrow gorge at our left were two or three small cloth factories, and long strips of the coarse brown fabric were spread on the rocks to dry.

Puerto Sta. Maria is a white town of perhaps two or three thousand inhabitants, built on a ledge at the foot of St. Cristoval. The centre of the town was a large open field of fruit trees and pasture, the houses ranged around it in an elliptical form. Perhaps this place was a survival of old communal times. The town was evidently poor enough, — poorer than El Bosco. I did not see a pane of window glass in the whole place. Glass is a scarce luxury in all this region.

We mounted through the town, and rose rapidly round the mountain side, ascending by an exceedingly steep and rough highway, which had once been well paved with large blocks of stone, laid sometimes, so sharp was the ascent, in steps. I do not know whether this solid path for horses was the work of Moors, or of Spaniards after the Conquest, but it is utterly neglected now. We had ascended into wide-spreading forests of stately oaks and ilexes, with an undergrowth of shrubs and gay wildflowers. Occasionally a level bit of road gave us charming glimpses of open forest glades. On one side we looked down into the deepening gorge and over a jumble of mountains, and on the other up to the gray buttresses and walls of St. Cristoval. We were on historic ground, which had been the scene and witness of one of the most stirring and bloody episodes of the wars of the Conquest.

It was in the year of grace 1483, after the overwhelming disaster to the Spanish knights in the mountains of Malaga, that Muley Abul Hassan, King of Granada, who had regained the city, and denounced his son, Boabdil el Chico, as a renegade, planned a plundering raid that should carry alarm and desolation into the fertile plains of Andalusia. He chose for its head old Bexir, the gray and crafty alcaide of Malaga. The rendezvous of the expedition was Ronda, the most pestilent nest of Moslem depredators. The fierce inhabitants of this belligerent city were then in command of Hamet Zeli, surnamed El Zegri, of the warlike tribe of the Zagories, a proud and daring warrior, an old campaigner, who knew every pass and cleft in the Serrania. His immediate attendants were a legion of fierce African Moors, mercenary troops, of the tribe of Gomeres. Trained to the hardships of rapid marches and sudden onsets, mounted on the swift and strong horses bred in the rich pasturage of the valley of Ronda, this cavalry was the terror of Andalusia.

The summons of Bexir to the foray were responded to by all the border chivalry, and soon a force of fifteen hundred horse and four thousand foot assembled within the walls of Ronda. In secret the preparations were made ; in silence, and without tap of drum or clash of cymbal, the splendid host sallied out of Ronda, and entered one of the savage defiles of the Serrania. Many of the warriors had insultingly arrayed themselves in the rich armor of the Christian knights slain in the massacre of the mountains of Malaga, and some rode the Andalusian steeds captured in that disaster.

So craftily had Bexir concerted his plans and movements that he was confident of surprising the Christian towns. But, unfortunately for him, some Christian scouts, or marauders, hovering about in hope of picking up cattle or prisoners for the Christian market, saw the march of the host, and speedily spread the news in every direction. Among those who were warned was the Marquis of Cadiz and Luiz Fernandez Puerto Carrero, in command at Ecija. The result is well known. The Moors descended, in fancied security, into the plain of Utrera, and separated in bands for pillage. The hastily collected army of Christians took them by surprise in the rear, on the banks of the river Lopera, and there occurred, on the 17th of September, 1483, the famous battle of Lopera, in which the Moslem host was cut to pieces, and pursued with slaughter into the recesses of the hills. A large body of them fled southward to the Guadalete, where they were encountered and destroyed by the valiant Ponce de Leon, Marquis of Cadiz. But few Moors escaped the savage pursuit and slaughter. Great quantities of Christian armor captured at the Malaga massacre were retaken, and the marquis encountered and slew the Moor who rode the horse that belonged to his brother Beltran, one of the victims of the mountain slaughter.

Hamet el Zegri, the alcaide of Ronda, was raiding over the plain of Utrera gathering cattle, when he heard the noise of the fight on the Lopera and dashed thither with his handful of Gomeres. He was too late ; his comrades were slain or scattered, and the Christians held all the passes of his retreat. There was in his little band, however, a renegade Christian, who knew a circuitous route through the enemy’s country by which a pass in the Serrania could be gained ; and under promise of a purse of gold if he conducted El Zegri in safety, and the threat of being cleaved to his saddle-bow if he betrayed him, the renegade guided the troop round about through the plain to a pass in the hills. At midnight they dodged under the walls of Arcos, crossed the Guadalete, and, by the very way that we had been traveling all day, effected their retreat to the mountains. They followed this same wild path that we were now leisurely pursuing. “ The day dawned,” says Irving, from whose brilliant pages I have condensed this narration, “ as they made their way up the savage defiles. Their comrades had been hunted up these very glens by the enemy. Every now and then they came to where there had been a partial fight, or a slaughter of the fugitives, and the rocks were red with blood, and strewed with mangled bodies. The alcaide of Ronda was almost frantic with rage, at seeing many of his bravest warriors lying stiff and stark, a prey to the hawks and vultures of the mountains. Now and then some wretched Moor would crawl out of a cave or glen, whither he had fled for refuge; for in the retreat many of the horsemen had abandoned their steeds, thrown away their armor, and clambered up the cliffs, where they could not be pursued by the Christian cavalry.”

As we toiled, still upward, around the mountain side the view opened, the ravine beneath broadened into a valley, with green fields and occasionally a house or two, and from the cultivated spots in the far deep, sounds of laughter and of labor came to us. Flocks of sheep and goats were picking about in the scant, green patches on the slope where we rode, tended by vigilant boys. One of the bright-eyed urchins, who might become a Pizarro, if Spain now had any occasion for heroes, had a hot conflict with the little fox-like dog which accompanied us. I suspect the dog had been insulting the sheep, and the boy pursued the cur, breathing forth maledictions and hurling stones, up and down the rocks, and back and forth, for fifteen minutes. No steeps or sharp stones daunted the boy, who had stern death in his eye. The dog escaped, at last, with a wound in his breast, but my sympathies were altogether with the young shepherd. A good David has no doubt gone to waste in him. He had the gift of song, the wailing monotonous strain of the Orient. All day long the singing of men at the plow, or women in their houses, or children at play, was of the purely African sort.

The prospect opened more grandly as we rose. At one time we looked, through the openings in the mountains, westward beyond Jerez, and southward to the region of Gibraltar. The great valley, whose side we were ascending, was closed by a sharp divide that ran from St. Cristoval to the jagged range opposite; it was the height of the pass, and we climbed it with intense curiosity to see what it would reveal. Our anticipations were exceeded. We were by the barometer something like thirty-one hundred feet higher than Arcos, but the view was one belonging to a greater altitude, and such as one chances to see not often in life.

To the westward, the eye ranged over mountains to the sea beyond Cadiz, fully sixty miles away. At another time of day the water would not have been visible, but the sun struck it so that a long expanse of the Atlantic shone along the horizon with the brightness of silver. Before us, to the eastward, and precipitously below us, the prospect was more varied and striking. We looked into a great valley, but a valley diversified with sharp peaks of rock, and set about with high-running mountain ranges. In the middle foreground was a shattered mountain of stone; below it, on either hand, the green of trees and meadows ; and beyond all, on a mountain plateau, what seemed to be the level walls and shining houses of a large city. We could scarcely believe that it was not, but the muleteer insisted that it was only a peculiar formation of rock, and the shifting light soon convinced us. Upon each side of this gorge before us, descending as if to a focus, swept the jagged rocks of the boundary ledges, broken into towers and bastions and pinnacles. It was a scene of mingled beauty and sublimity. As we stood there, a hawk sailed about, close to our heads.

As we descended several hundred feet by a treacherous path of loose stones, and turned the corner of a ledge, a still more wonderful sight greeted us. It was the city of Grazelema, directly beneath us ; a town of ten thousand people, with compact white houses, tiled roofs of reddish-brown, irregular streets, two or three church spires, and a cathedral mass, lying in a stone bowl of the gray mountain, which towered behind it, and held the city from the valley below as if in a dish. At the distance we stood above it, the green fields below seemed close to the city ; but we found when we descended, next morning, that it is really high up above the valley. Grazelema was a surprise to us, and we declared that it alone was worth two days of mule-back to see. My companion, who had been a wide traveler in the known places of Europe, Asia, and Africa, but believed that he never before had been off the lines laid down by the ubiquitous Murray, was delighted to visit a place not mentioned in the guide-book.

The sun was still above the horizon when we rode down, down, through the clean and roughly paved streets of the city, and ran the gauntlet of stares and comments of a population unaccustomed to the sight of foreigners. But we had long ago ceased to expect civility in the demeanor of Spaniards toward strangers, and certainly did not expect it in a place so remote as Grazelema, where curiosity is added to dislike. The town is clean and apparently thriving, though what it thrives on, there among the rocks, and with no communication with the world except by mule paths, we could not imagine. Many of the houses had pretty balconies, gay with flowers; glass in the windows was more common than in other mountain towns we had passed; and here and there an open door gave view of a neat patio.

The national costume has pretty much vanished from Spain, but we saw some relics of it here in the dress of the men, especially the young bucks and majos, some of whom still affect the dress now usually seen only on the lower class. Its peculiarity is a short, plain jacket, a broad, red sash about the waist, and a round black felt hat, with a broad brim turned up about the low crown, like a saucer with a cup turned over in it.

The women, who were sitting in the door-ways, or taking the air in the streets, with the lace mantilla over the head and the incessant fan in hand, were the most comely we had seen. With wellmade and elastic figures, regular and finely formed features, and large dark eyes, they have not the pasty skin of the Andalusian beauties ; and their complexion is not a matter of powder and paint, but clear and light in hue, and only slightly olive, with the red blood of virtuous health shining through. I am delighted to pay these prepossessing women this compliment, in return for their attention to our unprepossessing cavalcade.

Our muleteer took us to the best posada in the city. From the neat and thriving appearance of the place we were led to expect excellent accommodations ; much better, said our muleteer, than at El Bosco. I do not know what a Spaniard’s notion of good quarters is, but this posada was not built for anything above the refinement and aspirations of a mule. We entered the usual stable, a place that would delight a farmer in search of fertilizers, and climbed up the broken stone stairs, through the reek, to the apartments above. After some search, we roused an ancient crone, who hospitably offered us the best the house afforded. The room that I obtained was a small chamber with a stone floor, and it did not take me long to make an inventory of the furniture. There was a cot bedstead with horse-blankets, but clean sheets, a tripod with a wash-bowl, and a chair. I forget : the room had a good coat of whitewash. The window was a small opening, without glass, and an iron grating outside ; when I shut the wooden blind, the only method of closing the window, the room was totally dark.

When, after we were installed, we approached the kind old woman on the subject of something to eat, she seemed a little surprised that anything of that sort should be expected of an inn. There was no milk to be bad at this time of night, nor in the morning: milk was only to be procured about noon. She could send out and buy some meat, if it was absolutely necessary, but it was late. As to bread, the old entertainer’s face brightened up at once ; bread, certainly ; wine, yes ; perhaps eggs; may be cheese. We were reminded of a dialogue, which Gautier quotes, in a Spanish inn : —

Traveler: “ I should like to take something.”

Landlord: “Take a chair.”

Traveler: “ I should like something more nourishing.”

Landlord: “ What have you brought with you ? ”

Traveler : “ Nothing.”

Landlord: “Well, the baker is down the street, there, and the butcher is just round the corner.”

While our provident hostess was looking for a hen’s nest, we sallied out to view the town. It is as neat as whitewash can make it, has several large churches, a spacious public square, and better houses than one would expect to see here. The plaza was a genuine surprise for its size, smart appearance, and animation. The oblong centre, elevated slightly, and surrounded by a low parapet, is the place of promenade and of shows. At one end is a lofty church, and at the other a prosperous jail. This institution is contrived for the pleasure as well as the detention of criminals ; the barred windows open upon the square, and the prisoners on the ground-floor were chatting with their friends. Our advent was received with marked attentions. The young majos, or loafers, decorated with the black saucer hat and red waist-scarf, who were lounging about the prison end of the square, or leaning against the door-posts, bestowed upon us scowling and suspicious glances; people crowded to the doors, to stare at us; women, seated before their houses, or promenading in groups of three or four, nudged each other and laughed; and a crowd of unmannerly boys followed us about, and inspected us with undisguised interest. As we crossed the plaza towards the church, we were struck by a few pebbles ; but they were small pebbles, and the boys ran to a safe distance when we turned round. Perhaps they were only trying to attract our attention, and see what a new kind of human being would do when excited. Boys are much the same the world over, and we bore them no malice; indeed, we could not take in ill part a performance that seemed to entertain their haughty and courteous elders. Besides, we were by this time so accustomed to Spanish civility that we did not mind it. I have no doubt that if we had been familiar with the language, and dressed so as to pass for Spaniards, we should have been spared these delicate attentions. The people of a shop into which we stepped were certainly polite. It was the only shop in which we saw anything characteristic of the country. The articles for sale were blinders of mule bridles, and saddle cloths embroidered in worsted, of vivid colors and staring patterns. The Spaniards are fond of this sort of decoration. But the glory of this bright plaza is its situation. Above it, and almost overhanging it, is a mass of gray rock, nearly perpendicular, and rising, I should think, a thousand feet. Its color is superb ; I have seen nowhere else such a mass of solid mountain of anything like this lovely gray color. It is gray, and yet upon its surface, in patches, is a light green lichen that serves to bring out the gray. The terrace above the town, to the right, is strewn with enormous bowlders. The mountain seems to threaten to crush the city, which it holds in one of its rocky bowls. Half-way up the side of the gray precipice is a large white church ; a pilgrimage chapel, I suppose. I could see no path leading to it along the cliff, nor could I discern how it held itself there against the mass of rock, on which it seemed to hang like a bird-cage on the wall of a house. But of course it had a sufficiently broad ledge for a resting place.

It rained in the night, and it was still drizzling when our muleteer called us at five in the morning ; but a day in this dark and foodless posada was not to be thought of. The landlady made us some beverage which in Spain, as well as in France, is called coffee, — it was six hours too early for milk, — into which we dipped our hard bread ; and thus refreshed, after paying our hostess a dollar and forty cents for the pleasure of her society and our stable accommodations, we mounted, and rode down the slippery streets into the valley. We then saw in what a mere eagle’s perch the city lay. The clouds soon broke away, hanging in heavy masses about the mountain peaks, and disclosing to us superb views, as we ascended the opposite hill. The road was bad, but the views and the country made amends. Our way all the morning lay through woods, openly planted, — great forests of oak, ilex, and cork. The mountain sides were gay with cistus, a shrub not unlike the oleander in appearance, with large white single blossoms having yellow stamens, — a show as beautiful as a laurel mountain side in New England in spring. Mingled with it were patches of the yellow gorse and broom, the poet’s asphodel, and a hundred wild flowers besides. After a long climb, we emerged upon a large breezy plateau, like an English park, and, crossing this, descended by a steep path into a cultivated valley, and struck a well-graded highway leading into the basin of Ronda.

The muleteers we met on the way, and all the men and women whom we met during our ride, returned our salutation with the uniform phrase, “ Va usted con Dios.” Literally it is, “ Go you with God,” and I fancied it had a slightly different signification from “ God go with you,” or our “ God be with you.” good-by. For does it not imply that it will be well with you if you go with God, and not otherwise, making your welfare depend upon your free choice ?

The great highway was not yet finished, though parts of it were old, as if it had been a long time building, and was not used except for riding. I suppose the road is really in advance of the demands of the people, who seem not yet to have come to the wheel age ; they are still in the horse age. We saw no wheeled vehicles in this region till we left Ronda, and then no private carriages ; nothing but the diligence and big goods-wagons. Yet this highway is splendidly built, and graded as if for rails. It winds down through a lovely defile, wooded and watered by a clear stream. We jogged easily down for miles, until it emerged and swept down the mountain side in long curves, opening to us the valley, the rocky hill in the centre of the valley on which Ronda Stands, and the mountains which hem it in on every side.

It was doubtless up this mountain defile that the shining and confident troops of the wary Bexir and the fierce Hamet el Zegri took their way that September morning, unconscious of the bloody reception that awaited them on the banks of the Lopera. It was from the cliffs yonder that the marauding scouts looked down and beheld the Moslem army, bearing the standards of the various towns and the pennons of the wellknown commanders, clad in velvet and steel, and flaunting their caparisoned steeds and costly armor, stealing up this rocky way, without sound of drum or trumpet, or clash of cymbal. Already the fierce Gomeres of Ronda, curbing their prancing steeds, anticipated the descent into the rich plains of Andalusia, the scene of so many productive forays. Vanished is all this pageantry. Never more will these defiles brighten with a like warlike array. As we move along down the easy grade, the only cavalcade we meet is one of laden donkeys, and instead of a war cry we hear only, Va usted con Dios.

The situation of Ronda is vaunted as one of the most picturesque in Europe. It is on the top of a long, sharpbacked mountain, cut off from the mountains around it by a deep valley. The prospect from it is extensive and fine, but its boldness seemed a trifle tame after the region we had passed. The peculiarity of the town is this: that the old Moorish quarter occupies the south end of the hill, and is cut off from the modern town by the Tajo, a gigantic rent in the rock, some two hundred feet wide, and three hundred and fifty feet deep. Across this chasm a noble modern bridge has been thrown. The old town was not only defended by this chasm, but there was no approach to it, up the precipices which surround it, except at the south end of the hill, which was guarded by a strong fort. Before the invention of artillery it was of course impregnable. The portion of the city built on the north part of the hill is higher, and commands the old town.

But no part of the town is now old.

It is all thoroughly modern and uninteresting, and the place is only worth visiting on account of its historical associations and its picturesque situation. There are only two objects that will detain the sight-seer. One is the pretty Alameda and rose garden in the new town, from the parapet of which you look sheer down the precipice of rock, nearly a thousand feet, into the green valley, and off upon the lofty mountain peaks and wild passes to the west. It is a favorite place of promenade for the inhabitants at sunset; and although the day we were there was showery and cold, a number of idle cavaliers in long cloaks — which are still the country fashion in Spain — were pretending to enjoy it, and several priests, in broadbrimmed black hats, were promenading in twos and threes, like devout ravens. The other sight is the Tajo, or chasm. Under the pavement of the bridge itself is a city prison, and by leaning over the parapet the visitor can see the grated window out of which the prisoners look down, as he does, into the abyss. The place would seem to be a secure and cool summer residence. At the bottom of the chasm flows a considerable stream, which rises in the chasm itself, and is used now, as it was in the time of the Moors, to turn several little mills, which nestle under the rocks.

We descended into the Tajo, on both sides of the bridge, and slid about on the slippery stones and amid the city sewage with true antiquarian zeal. We looked at a dirty pool said to have been cut out of the solid rock by Christian slaves in 1342. Above it is a wooden door, opening to a staircase in the rock leading up to the house of the Moorish king, built in 1042. It was by this secret way that the inhabitants procured water when they were besieged. I suppose that it was this source of supply that the Marquis of Cadiz discovered and stopped, when he captured the city, in 1485.

The capture was a surprise. Apprehending no danger to his impregnable perch, old Hamet el Zegri, since the Christians were engaged in the siege of Malaga, had taken his Gomeres for a refreshing turn in Andalusia, and was returning from a satisfactory raid into the rich lands of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. As he came with droves of cattle and flocks of sheep through the Serrania and approached Ronda, he was startled by the roar of artillery. Spurring his horse to an eminence overlooking the plain, he beheld the Christian army encamped about the city, with the royal standard of King Ferdinand displayed, the devoted town enveloped in smoke, and shaken by the incessant discharge of the heavy guns. El Zegri smote his breast, and cried with rage, in vain; in vain he tried to cut his way through the beleaguerers with his fierce Gomeres; in vain he kindled watch-fires and summoned the mountaineers. The camp could not be forced, and the siege went on, its handful of warriors defending it with the heroism of desperation. The valiant alcaide was impotent to aid them. “ Every thunder of the Christian ordnance,” writes Irving, “ seemed to batter against his heart. He saw tower after tower tumbling by day, and various parts of the city blazing at night.” “They fired not merely stones from their ordnance,” says a chronicler of the times, “ but likewise great balls of iron, cast in moulds, which demolished everything they struck. They also threw balls of tow, steeped in pitch and oil, and gunpowder, which, when once on fire, were not to be extinguished, and which set the houses in flames. Great was the horror of the inhabitants: they knew not where to fly for refuge ; their houses were in a blaze, or shattered by the ordnance ; the streets were perilous from the falling ruins or bounding balls, which dashed to pieces everything they encountered. At night the city looked like a fiery furnace; the cries and the wailings of the women between the thunders of the ordnance reached even to the Moors on the opposite mountains, who answered them by yells of fury and despair.”

I can believe all of that except that the women’s screams could be heard on the distant mountains. However, Ronda fell, never more to be regained by the Moors, and the chains of the Christian captives, rescued from its dungeons, were hung up on the church of San Juan de los Reyes, in Toledo, where they may be seen to-day. Ronda is reputed a salubrious place, and productive of octogenarians. “ The ladies,” says the Guide Book, which is worthy to be called a guide to the female beauty of Spain, “ are as fresh and ruddy as pippins.” We did not see many of these pleasing pippins, but they doubtless all appear in full bloom once a year, at the annual May bull-fights. The bull-ring is an ancient building of stone, and superior in solidity to any other we have seen. The Rondañas pride themselves on their good apples and pears, rosy women, and superior horses, and the fair and bull-fights in the last of May have a more than local celebrity.

The inn-keepers of Spain are ready arithmeticians, and have nothing to learn in the way of their business except how to keep a hotel. In their bills they cleverly unite the European and American systems. They charge a round sum per day, and then embellish the account with ornamental extras ; and their method of reckoning time is peculiar. We arrived at the Ronda posada at eleven o’clock one morning, and departed at nine o’clock the next morning. Our bill was made out for a day and a half. Breakfast is not included in “ the day.”

ronda’s communication with the world is by diligence to the railway at Gobantes, nearly thirty-five miles. A critical assembly of boys, loafers, and beggars is collected to see the start. The baggage is secured on top ; the passengers take their places; we ascend the ladder to our seats in the coupé above the driver’s box; the horses are brought out, — two horses, four horses, six horses, eight horses, half of them mules, clad in heavy harness, and all jingling bells ; the conductor mounts to his seat, grasps the two reins of the wheel horses, and swings his long whip ; the postilion, as the team starts, vaults into the saddle of the near leader without touching the stirrup, a cool lightweight in shirt-sleeves, with a short whip, and a horn slung at his side; the supplementary driver, who also has a short whip, runs beside the team to excite it for the start, and then springs up beside the conductor. We are off ; three whips cracking, bells jingling, conductor, postilion, and driver shouting, horn tooting, as we turn the street corners, and away we go at a pace of seven miles an hour over a smooth turnpike, on an exhilarating morning. There are few pleasures in life equal to this.

The gait struck at first is maintained without change, up grade and down grade, through cuttings, round long curves, over the rough stones of newly mended places, — a trot unbroken for an instant during the first stage of twelve miles. The postilion squarely sits his saddle, and directs the team ; the conductor swings his long whip occasionally, but rarely utters an ejaculation ; the business of the supplementary driver is to do the talking to the team. He talks incessantly, calls the horses by name, shouts peculiar wild cries of encouragement, makes long speeches. The conductor is too dignified a person to waste himself in this gabble; but on an unusual grade, over a newly stoned stretch, the voices of the three drivers are required, and the team is kept up to its slapping pace only by frantic appeals and talk enough to get a bill through Congress.

The road is superbly made. Every three miles there is a white stationhouse, in which the road-repairers live, with Peonas Comineros written over the door. The road-makers are in uniform. Red is a favorite color with them, — red sashes and red facings to their coats. Portions of them are at work all along the line. Other houses besides these stations are not seen. The country, wholly denuded of trees, is broken into rolling, irregular hills, cut with deep ravines, bristling with sharp, rocky peaks. We are always sweeping round curves, circling ravines, ascending long stretches of road, from which we have superb views of distant mountains. The soil is deep red ; the hill-tops and ledges seaming the sides are of gray rock ; the cultivated spots in high valleys are vivid green : and we get some splendid effects of color, patches of red, green, and gray, mingled in harmony by distance.

At La Cava, a whitewashed little village in a valley, we change horses; nine in the team, this stage. At the posada in one end of the stable we all take coffee, which is as good as you could expect in a stable. We change again at Peñas Rubia, or Red Rock, taking its name from a mountain of red stone that overlooks it. We change again at Teba. Except for these villages, the region we passed through is houseless.

At intervals of five miles along the route we encountered two gendarmes. They always stood in the same attitude, one on each side the road, facing the coach, and presenting arms. We saw them in this position a long distance off. They maintained the same immovable attitude as long as we were in sight. These men belong to the Guardias civiles, which is the most remarkable and effective body of police, perhaps, in the world. This guard was organized in 1844, and is composed of 20,000 foot and 5000 horse guards, all picked men, selected from the army and the cadet college at Madrid, for high character as well as physical perfection. They are tall, well-made, fine-looking fellows, and remarkable for their esprit de corps. They wear a picturesque and becoming cocked hat, their uniform is blue, with buff belts and straps, and they carry the Remington rifle. Two of them are stationed in every small town and village, and in barracks on every highway, and squads in every large town. They patrol the roads, meet every train at every station, and perform the duties of police with such effect that robberies are rare and seldom undetected. It is due to this alert, well-disciplined, self-respecting body of men that order and security exist in Spain, and the country is safe for travelers. The body has a weekly periodical of its own ; it is governed by minute and severe rules, and is animated by something of the spirit of devotion and knightly pride that characterized the soldiers of Loyola. We had encountered these men all the way from Arcos. We had met couples of them mounted in the most lonesome mountain passes and forests. They were always neat, always civil, always alert. If Southern Italy and Sicily had such a body of guardians, the robbery and brigandage which disgrace people and government would cease.

At two o’clock we dashed into the insignificant little railway station of Gobantes. Our exciting ride was over. The lively postilion approached, hat in hand, for a pesata. The conductor gravely commended us to God. As we ate our lunch in a mean posada, our minds ran back over the region through which we had been whirled, mostly barren, except for the patches of wheat and vetch, now and then a small olive plantation, or a line of slender trees and bushes by some feeble stream. The prevailing impression was of a wide, open, windy sweep of desolate, treeless land. But for four days, at least, we had been in Spain.

Charles Dudley Warner.