BY JOHN HAY
Published November 1903
In this Holiday Edition of Castilian Days it has been thought advisable to omit a few chapters that appeared in the original edition. These chapters were less descriptive than the rest of the book, and not so rich in the picturesque material which the art of the illustrator demands. Otherwise, the text is reprinted without change. The illustrations are the fruit of a special visit which Mr. Pennell has recently made to Castile for this purpose.
BOSTON, AUTUMN, 1903
MADRID AL FRESCO
SPANISH LIVING AND DYING
INFLUENCE OF TRADITION IN SPANISH LIFE
AN HOUR WITH THE PAINTERS
A CASTLE IN THE AIR
THE CITY OF THE VISIGOTHS
A MIRACLE PLAY
THE CRADLE AND THE GRAVE OF CERVANTES
MADRID AL FRESCO
Madrid is a capital with malice aforethought. Usually the seat of government is established in some important town from the force of circumstances. Some cities have an attraction too powerful for the court to resist. There is no capital of England possible but London. Paris is the heart of France. Rome is the predestined capital of Italy in spite of the wandering flirtations its varying governments in different centuries have carried on with Ravenna, or Naples, or Florence. You can imagine no Residenz for Austria but the Kaiserstadt,—the gemuthlich Wien. But there are other capitals where men have arranged things and consequently bungled them. The great Czar Peter slapped his imperial court down on the marshy shore of the Neva, where he could look westward into civilization and watch with the jealous eye of an intelligent barbarian the doings of his betters. Washington is another specimen of the cold-blooded handiwork of the capital builders. We shall think nothing less of the clarum et venerabile nomen of its founder if we admit he was human, and his wishing the seat of government nearer to Mount Vernon than Mount Washington sufficiently proves this. But Madrid more plainly than any other capital shows the traces of having been set down and properly brought up by the strong hand of a paternal government; and like children with whom the same regimen has been followed, it presents in its maturity a curious mixture of lawlessness and insipidity.
Its greatness was thrust upon it by Philip II. Some premonitory symptoms of the dangerous honor that awaited it had been seen in preceding reigns. Ferdinand and Isabella occasionally set up their pilgrim tabernacle on the declivity that overhangs the Manzanares. Charles V. found the thin, fine air comforting to his gouty articulations. But Philip II. made it his court. It seems hard to conceive how a king who had his choice of Lisbon, with its glorious harbor and unequalled communications; Seville, with its delicious climate and natural beauty; and Salamanca and Toledo, with their wealth of tradition, splendor of architecture, and renown of learning, should have chosen this barren mountain for his home, and the seat of his empire. But when we know this monkish king we wonder no longer. He chose Madrid simply because it was cheerless and bare and of ophthalmic ugliness. The royal kill-joy delighted in having the dreariest capital on earth. After a while there seemed to him too much life and humanity about Madrid, and he built the Escorial, the grandest ideal of majesty and ennui that the world has ever seen. This vast mass of granite has somehow acted as an anchor that has held the capital fast moored at Madrid through all succeeding years.
It was a dreary and somewhat shabby court for many reigns. The great kings who started the Austrian dynasty were too busy in their world conquest to pay much attention to beautifying Madrid, and their weak successors, sunk in ignoble pleasures, had not energy enough to indulge the royal folly of building. When the Bourbons came down from France there was a little flurry of construction under Philip V., but he never finished his palace in the Plaza del Oriente, and was soon absorbed in constructing his castle in cloud-land on the heights of La Granja. The only real ruler the Bourbons ever gave to Spain was Charles III., and to him Madrid owes all that it has of architecture and civic improvement. Seconded by his able and liberal minister, Count Aranda, who was educated abroad, and so free from the trammels of Spanish ignorance and superstition, he rapidly changed the ignoble town into something like a city. The greater portion of the public buildings date from this active and beneficent reign. It was he who laid out the walks and promenades which give to Madrid almost its only outward attraction. The Picture Gallery, which is the shrine of all pilgrims of taste, was built by him for a Museum of Natural Science. In nearly all that a stranger cares to see, Madrid is not an older city than Boston.
There is consequently no glory of tradition here. There are no cathedrals. There are no ruins. There is none of that mysterious and haunting memory that peoples the air with spectres in quiet towns like Ravenna and Nuremberg. And there is little of that vast movement of humanity that possesses and bewilders you in San Francisco and New York. Madrid is larger than Chicago; but Chicago is a great city and Madrid a great village. The pulsations of life in the two places resemble each other no more than the beating of Dexter's heart on the home-stretch is like the rising and falling of an oozy tide in a marshy inlet.
There is nothing indigenous in Madrid. There is no marked local color. It is a city of Castile, but not a Castilian city, like Toledo, which girds its graceful waist with the golden Tagus, or like Segovia, fastened to its rock in hopeless shipwreck.
But it is not for this reason destitute of an interest of its own. By reason of its exceptional history and character it is the best point in Spain to study Spanish life. It has no distinctive traits itself, but it is a patchwork of all Spain. Every province of the Peninsula sends a contingent to its population. The Gallicians hew its wood and draw its water; the Asturian women nurse its babies at their deep bosoms, and fill the promenades with their brilliant costumes; the Valentians carpet its halls and quench its thirst with orgeat of chufas; in every street you shall see the red bonnet and sandalled feet of the Catalan; in every cafe, the shaven face and rat-tail chignon of the Majo of Andalusia. If it have no character of its own, it is a mirror where all the faces of the Peninsula may sometimes be seen. It is like the mockingbird of the West, that has no song of its own, and yet makes the woods ring with every note it has ever heard.
Though Madrid gives a picture in little of all Spain, it is not all Spanish. It has a large foreign population. Not only its immediate neighbors, the French, are here in great numbers,—conquering so far their repugnance to emigration, and living as gayly as possible in the midst of traditional hatred,—but there are also many Germans and English in business here, and a few stray Yankees have pitched their tents, to reinforce the teeth of the Dons, and to sell them ploughs and sewing-machines. Its railroads have waked it up to a new life, and the Revolution has set free the thought of its people to an extent which would have been hardly credible a few years ago. Its streets swarm with newsboys and strangers,—the agencies that are to bring its people into the movement of the age.
It has a superb opera-house, which might as well be in Naples, for all the national character it has; the court theatre, where not a word of Cas-tilian is ever heard, nor a strain of Spanish music. Even cosmopolite Paris has her grand opera sung in French, and easy-going Vienna insists that Don Juan shall make love in German. The champagny strains of Offenbach are heard in every town of Spain oftener than the ballads of the country. In Madrid there are more pilluelos who whistle Bu qui s'avance than the Hymn of Riego. The Cancan has taken its place on the boards of every stage in the city, apparently to stay; and the exquisite jota and cachucha are giving way to the bestialities of the casino cadet. It is useless perhaps to fight against that hideous orgie of vulgar Menads which in these late years has swept over all nations, and stung the loose world into a tarantula dance from the Golden Horn to the Golden Gate. It must have its day and go out; and when it has passed, perhaps we may see that it was not so utterly causeless and irrational as it seemed; but that, as a young American poet has impressively said, "Paris was proclaiming to the world in it somewhat of the pent-up fire and fury of her nature, the bitterness of her heart, the fierceness of her protest against spiritual and political repression. It is an execration in rhythm,—a dance of fiends, which Paris has invented to express in license what she lacks in liberty."
This diluted European, rather than Spanish, spirit may be seen in most of the amusements of the politer world of Madrid. They have classical concerts in the circuses and popular music in the open air. The theatres play translations of French plays, which are pretty good when they are in prose, and pretty dismal when they are turned into verse, as is more frequent, for the Spanish mind delights in the jingle of rhyme. The fine old Spanish drama is vanishing day by day. The masterpieces of Lope and Calderon, which inspired all subsequent playwriting in Europe, have sunk almost utterly into oblivion. The stage is flooded with the washings of the Boulevards. Bad as the translations are, the imitations are worse. The original plays produced by the geniuses of the Spanish Academy, for which they are crowned and sonneted and pensioned, are of the kind upon which we are told that gods and men and columns look austerely.
This infection of foreign manners has completely gained and now controls what is called the best society of Madrid. A soiree in this circle is like an evening in the corresponding grade of position in Paris or Petersburg or New York in all external characteristics. The toilets are by Worth; the beauties are coiffed by the deft fingers of Parisian tiring-women; the men wear the penitential garb of Poole; the music is by Gounod and Verdi; Strauss inspires the rushing waltzes, and the married people walk through the quadrilles to the measures of Blue Beard and Fair Helen, so suggestive of conjugal rights and duties. As for the suppers, the trail of the Neapolitan serpent is over them all. Honest eating is a lost art among the effete denizens of the Old World. Tantalizing ices, crisped shapes of baked nothing, arid sandwiches, and the feeblest of sugary punch, are the only supports exhausted nature receives for the shock of the cotillon. I remember the stern reply of a friend of mine when I asked him to go with me to a brilliant reception,—"No! Man liveth not by biscuit-glace alone!" His heart was heavy for the steamed cherry-stones of Harvey and the stewed terrapin of Augustin.
The speech of the gay world has almost ceased to be national. Every one speaks French sufficiently for all social requirements. It is sometimes to be doubted whether this constant use of a foreign language in official and diplomatic circles is a cause or effect of paucity of ideas. It is impossible for any one to use another tongue with the ease and grace with which he could use his own. You know how tiresome the most charming foreigners are when they speak English. A fetter-dance is always more curious than graceful. Yet one who has nothing to say can say it better in a foreign language. If you must speak nothing but phrases, Ollendorff's are as good as any one's. Where there are a dozen people all speaking French equally badly, each one imagines there is a certain elegance in the hackneyed forms. I know of no other way of accounting for the fact that clever people seem stupid and stupid people clever when they speak French. This facile language thus becomes the missionary of mental equality,—the principles of '89 applied to conversation. All men are equal before the phrase-book.
But this is hypercritical and ungrateful. We do not go to balls to hear sermons nor discuss the origin of matter. If the young grandees of Spain are rather weaker in the parapet than is allowed in the nineteenth century, if the old boys are more frivolous than is becoming to age, and both more ignorant of the day's doings than is consistent with even their social responsibilities, in compensation the women of this circle are as pretty and amiable as it is possible to be in a fallen world. The foreigner never forgets those piquant, mutines faces of Andalusia and those dreamy eyes of Malaga,—the black masses of Moorish hair and the blond glory of those graceful heads that trace their descent from Gothic demigods. They were not very learned nor very witty, but they were knowing enough to trouble the soundest sleep. Their voices could interpret the sublimest ideas of Mendelssohn. They knew sufficiently of lines and colors to dress themselves charmingly at small cost, and their little feet were well enough educated to bear them over the polished floor of a ball-room as lightly as swallows' wings. The flirting of their intelligent fans, the flashing of those quick smiles where eyes, teeth, and lips all did their dazzling duty, and the satin twinkling of those neat boots in the waltz, are harder to forget than things better worth remembering.
Since the beginning of the Revolutionary regime there have been serious schisms and heart-burnings in the gay world. The people of the old situation assumed that the people of the new were rebels and traitors, and stopped breaking bread with them. But in spite of this the palace and the ministry of war were gay enough,—for Madrid is a city of office-holders, and the White House is always easy to fill, even if two thirds of the Senate is uncongenial. The principal fortress of the post was the palace of the spirituelle and hospitable lady whose society name is Duchess of Penaranda, but who is better known as the mother of the Empress of the French. Her salon was the weekly rendezvous of the irreconcilable adherents of the House of Bourbon, and the aristocratic beauty that gathered there was too powerful a seduction even for the young and hopeful partisans of the powers that be. There was nothing exclusive about this elegant hospitality. Beauty and good manners have always been a passport there. I have seen a proconsul of Prim talking with a Carlist leader, and a fiery young democrat dancing with a countess of Castile.
But there is another phase of society in Madrid which is altogether pleasing,—far from the domain of politics or public affairs, where there is no pretension or luxury or conspiracy,—the old-fashioned Tertulias of Spain. There is nowhere a kindlier and more unaffected sociableness. The leading families of each little circle have one evening a week on which they remain at home. Nearly all their friends come in on that evening. There is conversation and music and dancing. The young girls gather together in little groups,—not confined under the jealous guard of their mothers or chaperons,—and chatter of the momentous events of the week—their dresses, their beaux, and their books. Around these compact formations of loveliness skirmish light bodies of the male enemy, but rarely effect a lodgment. A word or a smile is momently thrown out to meet the advance; but the long, desperate battle of flirtation, which so often takes place in America in discreet corners and outlying boudoirs, is never seen in this well-organized society. The mothers in Israel are ranged for the evening around the walls in comfortable chairs, which they never leave; and the colonels and generals and chiefs of administration, who form the bulk of all Madrid gatherings, are gravely smoking in the library or playing interminable games of tresillon, seasoned with temperate denunciations of the follies of the time.
Nothing can be more engaging than the tone of perfect ease and cordial courtesy which pervades these family festivals. It is here that the Spanish character is seen in its most attractive light. Nearly everybody knows French, but it is never spoken. The exquisite Castilian, softened by its graceful diminutives into a rival of the Italian in tender melody, is the only medium of conversation; it is rare that a stranger' is seen, but if he is, he must learn Spanish or be a wet blanket forever.
You will often meet, in persons of wealth and distinction, an easy degenerate accent in Spanish, strangely at variance with their elegance and culture. These are Creoles of the Antilles, and they form one of the most valued and popular elements of society in the capital. There is a gallantry and dash about the men, and an intelligence and independence about the women, that distinguish them from their cousins of the Peninsula. The American element has recently grown very prominent in the political and social world. Admiral Topete is a Mexican. His wife is one of the distinguished Cuban family of Arrieta. General Prim married a Mexican heiress. The magnificent Duchess de la Torre, wife of the Regent Serrano, is a Cuban born and bred.
In one particular Madrid is unique among capitals,—it has no suburbs. It lies in a desolate table-land in the windy waste of New Castile; on the north the snowy Guadarrama chills its breezes, and on every other side the tawny landscape stretches away in dwarfish hills and shallow ravines barren of shrub or tree, until distance fuses the vast steppes into one drab plain, which melts in the hazy verge of the warm horizon. There are no villages sprinkled in the environs to lure the Madrilenos out of their walls for a holiday. Those delicious picnics that break with such enchanting freshness and variety the steady course of life in other capitals cannot here exist. No Parisian loves la bonne ville so much that he does not call those the happiest of days on which he deserts her for a row at Asnieres, a donkey-ride at Enghien, or a bird-like dinner in the vast chestnuts of Sceaux. "There is only one Kaiserstadt," sings the loyal Kerl of Vienna, but he shakes the dust of the Graben from his feet on holiday mornings, and makes his merry pilgrimage to the lordly Schoen-brunn or the heartsome Dornbach, or the wooded eyry of the Kahlenberg. What would white-bait be if not eaten at Greenwich? What would life be in the great cities without the knowledge that just outside, an hour away from the toil and dust and struggle of this money-getting world, there are green fields, and whispering forests, and verdurous nooks of breezy shadow by the side of brooks where the white pebbles shine through the mottled stream,—where you find great pied pan-sies under your hands, and catch the black beady eyes of orioles watching you from the thickets, and through the lush leafage over you see patches of sky flecked with thin clouds that sail so lazily you cannot be sure if the blue or the white is moving? Existence without these luxuries would be very much like life in Madrid.
Yet it is not so dismal as it might seem. The Grande Duchesse of Gerolstein, the cheeriest moralist who ever occupied a throne, announces just before the curtain falls, "Quand on n'a pas ce qu'on aime, il faut aimer ce qu'on a." But how much easier it is to love what you have when you never imagined anything better! The bulk of the good people of Madrid have never left their natal city. If they have been, for their sins, some day to Val-lecas or Carabanchel or any other of the dusty villages that bake and shiver on the arid plains around them, they give fervid thanks on returning alive, and never wish to go again. They shudder when they hear of the summer excursions of other populations, and commiserate them profoundly for living in a place they are so anxious to leave. A lovely girl of Madrid once said to me she never wished to travel,—some people who had been to France preferred Paris to Madrid; as if that were an inexplicable insanity by which their wanderings had been punished. The indolent incuriousness of the Spaniard accepts the utter isolation of his city as rather an advantage. It saves him the trouble of making up his mind where to go. Vamonos al Prado! or, as Browning says,—
"Let's to the Prado and make the most of time."
The people of Madrid take more solid comfort in their promenade than any I know. This is one of the inestimable benefits conferred upon them by those wise and liberal free-thinkers Charles III. and Aranda. They knew how important to the moral and physical health of the people a place of recreation was. They reduced the hideous waste land on the east side of the city to a breathing-space for future generations, turning the meadow into a promenade and the hill into the Buen Retiro. The people growled terribly at the time, as they did at nearly everything this prematurely liberal government did for them. The wise king once wittily said: "My people are like bad children that kick the shins of their nurse whenever their faces are washed."
But they soon became reconciled to their Prado,—a name, by the way, which runs through several idioms,—in Paris they had a Pre-aux-clercs, the Clerks' Meadow, and the great park of Vienna is called the Prater. It was originally the favorite scene of duels, and the cherished trysting-place of lovers. But in modern times it is too popular for any such selfish use.
The polite world takes its stately promenade in the winter afternoons in the northern prolongation of the real Prado, called in the official courtier style Las delicias de Isabel Segunda, but in common speech the Castilian Fountain, or Castellana, to save time. So perfect is the social discipline in these old countries that people who are not in society never walk in this long promenade, which is open to all the world. You shall see there, any pleasant day before the Carnival, the aristocracy of the kingdom, the fast young hopes of the nobility, the diplomatic body resident, and the flexible figures and graceful bearing of the high-born ladies of Castile. Here they take the air as free from snobbish competition as the good society of Olympus, while a hundred paces farther south, just beyond the Mint, the world at large takes its plebeian constitutional. How long, with a democratic system of government, this purely conventional respect will be paid to blue-ness of blood cannot be conjectured. Its existence a year after the Revolution was to me one of the most singular of phenomena.
After Easter Monday the Castellana is left to its own devices for the summer. With the warm long days of May and June, the evening walk in the Salon begins. Europe affords no scene more original and characteristic. The whole city meets in this starlit drawing-room. It is a vast evening party al fresco, stretching from the Alcala to the Course of San Geronimo. In the wide street beside it every one in town who owns a carriage may be seen moving lazily up and down, and apparently envying the gossiping strollers on foot. On three nights in the week there is music in the Retiro Garden,—not as in our feverish way beginning so early that you must sacrifice your dinner to get there, and then turning you out disconsolate in that seductive hour which John Phoenix used to call the "shank of the evening," but opening sensibly at half past nine and going leisurely forward until after midnight. The music is very good. Sometimes Arban comes down from Paris to recover from his winter fatigues and bewitch the Spains with his wizard baton.
In all this vast crowd nobody is in a hurry. They have all night before them. They stayed quietly at home in the stress of the noontide when the sunbeams were falling in the glowing streets like javelins,—they utilized some of the waste hours of the broiling afternoon in sleep, and are fresh as daisies now. The women are not haunted by the thought of lords and babies growling and wailing at home. Their lords are beside them, the babies are sprawling in the clean gravel by their chairs. Late in the small hours I have seen these family parties in the promenade, the husband tranquilly smoking his hundredth cigarette, his placens uxor dozing in her chair, one baby asleep on the ground, and another slumbering in her lap.
This Madrid climate is a gallant one, and kindlier to the women than the men. The ladies are built on the old-fashioned generous plan. Like a Southern table in the old times, the only fault is too abundant plenty. They move along with a superb dignity of carriage that Banting would like to banish from the world, their round white shoulders shining in the starlight, their fine heads elegantly draped in the coquettish and always graceful mantilla. But you would look in vain among the men of Madrid for such fulness and liberality of structure. They are thin, eager, sinewy in ap' pearance,—though it is the spareness of the Turk, not of the American. It comes from tobacco and the Guadarrama winds. This still, fine, subtle air that blows from the craggy peaks over the treeless plateau seems to take all superfluous moisture out of the men of Madrid. But it is, like Benedick's wit, "a most manly air, it will not hurt a woman." This tropic summer-time brings the halcyon days of the vagabonds of Madrid. They are a temperate, reasonable people, after all, when they are let alone. They do not require the savage stimulants of our colder-blooded race. The fresh air is a feast. As Walt Whitman says, they loaf and invite their souls. They provide for the banquet only the most spiritual provender. Their dissipation is confined principally to starlight and zephyrs; the coarser and wealthier spirits indulge in ice, agraz, and meringues dissolved in water. The climax of their luxury is a cool bed. Walking about the city at midnight, I have seen the fountains all surrounded by luxurious vagabonds asleep or in revery, dozens of them stretched along the rim of the basins, in the spray of the splashing water, where the least start would plunge them in. But the dreams of these Latin beggars are too peaceful to trouble their slumber. They lie motionless, amid the roar of wheels and the tramp of a thousand feet, their bed the sculptured marble, their covering the deep, amethystine vault, warm and cherishing with its breath of summer winds, bright with its trooping stars. The Providence of the worthless watches and guards them!
The chief commerce of the streets of Madrid seems to be fire and water, bane and antidote. It would be impossible for so many match-venders to live anywhere else, in a city ten times the size of Madrid. On every block you will find a wandering merchant dolefully announcing paper and phosphorus,—the one to construct cigarettes and the other to light them. The matches are little waxen tapers very neatly made and enclosed in pasteboard boxes, which are sold for a cent and contain about a hundred fosforos. These boxes are ornamented with portraits of the popular favorites of the day, and afford a very fair test of the progress and decline of parties. The queen has disappeared from them except in caricature, and the chivalrous face of Castelar and the heavy Bourbon mouth of Don Carlos are oftener seen than any others. A Madrid smoker of average industry will use a box a day. They smoke more cigarettes than cigars, and in the ardor of conversation allow their fire to go out every minute. A young Austrian, who was watching a senorito light his wisp of paper for the fifth time, and mentally comparing it with the volcano volume and kern-deutsch integrity of purpose of the meerschaums of his native land, said to me: "What can you expect of a people who trifle in that way with the only work of their lives?"
It is this habit of constant smoking that makes the Madrilenos the thirstiest people in the world; so that, alternating with the cry of "Fire, lord-lings! Matches, chevaliers!" you hear continually the drone so tempting to parched throats, "Water! who wants water? freezing water! colder than snow!" This is the daily song of the Gallician who marches along in his irrigating mission, with his brown blouse, his short breeches, and pointed hat, like that Aladdin wears in the cheap editions; a little varied by the Valentian in his party-colored mantle and his tow trousers, showing the bronzed leg from the knee to the blue-bordered sandals. Numerous as they are, they all seem to have enough to do. They carry their scriptural-looking water-jars on their backs, and a smart tray of tin and burnished brass, with meringues and glasses, in front. The glasses are of enormous but not extravagant proportions. These dropsical Iberians will drink water as if it were no stronger than beer. In the winter-time, while the cheerful invitation rings out to the same effect,—that the beverage is cold as the snow,—the merchant prudently carries a little pot of hot water over a spirit-lamp to take the chill off for shivery customers.
Madrid is one of those cities where strangers fear the climate less than residents. Nothing is too bad for the Castilian to say of his native air. Before you have been a day in the city some kind soul will warn you against everything you have been in the habit of doing as leading to sudden and severe death in this subtle air. You will hear in a dozen different tones the favorite proverb, which may be translated,—
The air of Madrid is as sharp as a knife,— It will spare a candle and blow out your life:—
and another where the truth, as in many Spanish proverbs, is sacrificed to the rhyme, saying that the climate is tres meses invierno y nueve infierno,—three months winter and nine months Tophet. At the first coming of the winter frosts the genuine son of Madrid gets out his capa, the national full round cloak, and never leaves it off till late in the hot spring days. They have a way of throwing one corner over the left shoulder, so that a bright strip of gay lining falls outward and pleasantly relieves the sombre monotony of the streets. In this way the face is completely covered by the heavy woollen folds, only the eyes being visible under the sombrero. The true Spaniard breathes no out-of-doors air all winter except through his cloak, and they stare at strangers who go about with uncovered faces enjoying the brisk air as if they were lunatics. But what makes the custom absurdly incongruous is that the women have no such terror of fresh air. While the hidalgo goes smothered in his wrappings his wife and daughter wear nothing on their necks and faces but their pretty complexions, and the gallant breeze, grateful for this generous confidence, repays them in roses. I have sometimes fancied that in this land of traditions this difference might have arisen in those days of adventure when the cavaliers had good reasons for keeping their faces concealed, while the senoras, we are bound to believe, have never done anything for which their own beauty was not the best excuse.
Nearly all there is of interest in Madrid consists in the faces and the life of its people. There is but one portion of the city which appeals to the tourist's ordinary set of emotions. This is the old Moors' quarter,—the intricate jumble of streets and places on the western edge of the town, overlooking the bankrupt river. Here is St. Andrew's, the parish church where Isabella the Catholic and her pious husband used to offer their stiff and dutiful prayers. Behind it a market-place of the most primitive kind runs precipitately down to the Street of. Segovia, at such an angle that you wonder the turnips and carrots can ever be brought to keep their places on the rocky slope. If you will wander through the dark alleys and hilly streets of this quarter when twilight is softening the tall tenement-houses to a softer purpose, and the doorways are all full of gossiping groups, and here and there in the little courts you can hear the tinkling of a guitar and the drone of ballads, and see the idlers lounging by the fountains, and everywhere against the purple sky the crosses of old convents, while the evening air is musical with slow chimes from the full-arched belfries, it will not be hard to imagine you are in the Spain you have read and dreamed of. And, climbing out of this labyrinth of slums, you pass under the gloomy gates that lead to the Plaza Mayor. This once magnificent square is now as squalid and forsaken as the Place Royale of Paris, though it dates from a period comparatively recent. The mind so instinctively revolts at the contemplation of those orgies of priestly brutality which have made the very name of this place redolent with a fragrance of scorched Christians, that we naturally assign it an immemorial antiquity. But a glance at the booby face of Philip III. on his round-bellied charger in the centre of the square will remind us that this place was built at the same time the Mayflower's passengers were laying the massive foundations of the great Republic. The Autos-da-Fe, the plays of Lope de Vega, and the bull-fights went on for many years with impartial frequency under the approving eyes of royalty, which occupied a convenient balcony in the Panaderia, that overdressed building with the two extinguisher towers. Down to a period disgracefully near us, those balconies were occupied by the dull-eyed, pendulous-lipped tyrants who have sat on the throne of St. Ferdinand, while there in the spacious court below the varied sports went on,—to-day a comedy of Master Lope, to-morrow the gentle and joyous slaying of bulls, and the next day, with greater pomp and ceremony, with banners hung from the windows, and my lord the king surrounded by his women and his courtiers in their bravest gear, and the august presence of the chief priests and their idol in the form of wine and wafers,—the judg-ment and fiery sentence of the thinking men of Spain.
Let us remember as we leave this accursed spot that the old palace of the Inquisition is now the Ministry of Justice, where a liberal statesman has just drawn up the bill of civil marriage; and that in the convent of the Trinitarians a Spanish Rationalist, the Minister of Fomento, is laboring to secularize education in the Peninsula. There is much coiling and hissing, but the fangs of the ser-pent are much less prompt and effective than of old.
The wide Calle Mayor brings you in a moment out of these mouldy shadows and into the broad light of nowadays which shines in the Puerta del Sol. Here, under the walls of the Ministry of the Interior, the quick, restless heart of Madrid beats with the new life it has lately earned. The flags of the pavement have been often stained with blood, but of blood shed in combat, in the assertion of individual freedom. Although the government holds that fortress-palace with a grasp of iron, it can exercise no control over the free speech that asserts itself on the very sidewalk of the Principal. At every step you see news-stands filled with the sharp critical journalism of Spain,—often ignorant and unjust, but generally courteous in expression and independent in thought. Every day at noon the northern mails bring hither the word of all Europe to the awaking Spanish mind, and within that massive building the converging lines of the telegraph are whispering every hour their persuasive lessons of the world's essential unity.
The movement of life and growth is bearing the population gradually away from that dark mediaeval Madrid of the Catholic kings through the Puerta del Sol to the airy heights beyond, and the new, fresh quarter built by the philosopher Bourbon Charles III. is becoming the most important part of the city. I think we may be permitted to hope that the long reign of savage faith and repression is broken at last, and that this abused and suffering people is about to enter into its rightful inheritance of modern freedom and progress.
SPANISH LIVING AND DYING
Nowhere is the sentiment of home stronger than in Spain. Strangers, whose ideas of the Spanish character have been gained from romance and comedy, are apt to note with some surprise the strength and prevalence of the domestic affections. But a moment's reflection shows us that nothing is more natural. It is the result of all their history. The old Celtic population had scarcely any religion but that of the family. The Goths brought in the pure Teutonic regard for woman and marriage. The Moors were distinguished by the patriarchal structure of their society. The Spaniards have thus learned the lesson of home in the school of history and tradition. The intense feeling of individuality, which so strongly marks the Spanish character, and which in the political world is so fatal an element of strife and obstruction, favors this peculiar domesticity. The Castilian is submissive to his king and his priest, haughty and inflexible with his equals. But his own house is a refuge from the contests of out of doors. The reflex of absolute authority is here observed, it is true. The Spanish father is absolute king and lord by his own hearthstone, but his sway is so mild and so readily acquiesced in that it is hardly felt. The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it, and the Spanish family seldom calls for the harsh exercise of parental authority.
This is the rule. I do not mean to say there are no exceptions. The pride and jealousy inherent in the race make family quarrels, when they do arise, the bitterest and the fiercest in the world. In every grade of life these vindictive feuds among kindred are seen from time to time. Twice at least the steps of the throne have been splashed with royal blood shed by a princely hand. Duels between noble cousins and stabbing affrays between peasant brothers alike attest the unbending sense of personal dignity that still infects this people.
A light word between husbands and wives sometimes goes unexplained, and the rift between them widens through life. I know some houses where the wife enters at one door and the husband at another; where if they meet on the stairs, they do not salute each other. Under the same roof they have lived for years and have not spoken. One word would heal all discord, and that word will never be spoken by either. They cannot be divorced,—the Church is inexorable. They will not incur the scandal of a public separation. So they pass lives of lonely isolation in adjoining apartments, both thinking rather better of each other and of themselves for this devilish persistence.
An infraction of parental discipline is never forgiven. I knew a general whose daughter fell in love with his adjutant, a clever and amiable young officer. He had positively no objection to the suitor, but was surprised that there should be any love-making in his house without his previous suggestion. He refused his consent, and the young people were married without it. The father and son-in-law went off on a campaign, fought, and were wounded in the same battle. The general was asked to recommend his son-in-law for promotion. "I have no son-in-law!" "I mean your daughter's husband." "I have no daughter." "I refer to Lieutenant Don Fulano de Tal. He is a good officer. He distinguished himself greatly in the recent affair." "Ah! otra cosa!" said the grim father-in-law. His hate could not overcome his sense of justice. The youth got his promotion, but his general will not recognize him at the club. It is in the middle and lower classes that the most perfect pictures of the true Spanish family are to be found. The aristocracy is more or less infected with the contagion of Continental manners and morals. You will find there the usual proportion of wives who despise their husbands, and men who neglect their wives, and children who do not honor their parents. The smartness of American "pickles" has even made its appearance among the little countesses of Madrid. A lady was eating an ice one day, hungrily watched by the wide eyes of the infant heiress of the house. As the latter saw the last hope vanishing before the destroying spoon, she cried out, "Thou eatest all and givest me none,—maldita sea tu alma!" (accursed be thy soul). This dreadful imprecation was greeted with roars of laughter from admiring friends, and the profane little innocent was smothered in kisses and cream.
Passing at noon by any of the squares or shady places of Madrid, you will see dozens of laboring-people at their meals. They sit on the ground, around the steaming and savory cocido that forms the peasant Spaniard's unvaried dinner. The foundation is of garbanzos, the large chick-pea of the country, brought originally to Europe by the Carthaginians,—the Roman cicer, which gave its name to the greatest of the Latin orators. All other available vegetables are thrown in; on days of high gala a piece of meat is added, and some forehanded housewives attain the climax of luxury by flavoring the compound with a link of sausage. The mother brings the dinner and her tawny brood of nestlings. A shady spot is selected for the feast. The father dips his wooden spoon first into the vapory bowl, and mother and babes follow with grave decorum. Idle loungers passing these patriarchal groups, on their way to a vapid French breakfast at a restaurant, catch the fragrance of the olla and the chatter of the family, and envy the dinner of herbs with love.
There is no people so frugal. We often wonder how a Washington clerk can live on twelve hundred dollars, but this would be luxury in expensive Madrid. It is one of the dearest capitals in Europe. Foreigners are never weary decrying its high prices for poor fare; but Castilians live in good houses, dress well, receive their intimate friends, and hold their own with the best in the promenade, upon incomes that would seem penury to any country parson in America. There are few of the nobility who retain the great fortunes of former days. You can almost tell on your fingers the tale of the grandees in Madrid who can live without counting the cost. The army and navy are crowded with general officers whose political services have obliged their promotion. The state is too much impoverished to pay liberal salaries, and yet the rank of these officers requires the maintenance of a certain social position. Few of them are men of fortune. The result is that necessity has taught them to live well upon little, I knew widows who went everywhere in society, whose daughters were always charmingly dressed, who lived in a decent quarter of the town, and who had no resources whatever but a husband's pension.
The best proof of the capacity of Spaniards to spread a little gold over as much space as a goldbeater could is the enormous competition for pub-lic employment. Half the young men in Spain are candidates for places under government ranging from $250 to $1000. Places of $1500 to $2000 are considered objects of legitimate ambition even to deputies and leading politicians. Expressed in reals these sums have a large and satisfying sound. Fifty dollars seems little enough for a month's work, but a thousand reals has the look of a most respectable salary. In Portugal, however, you can have all the delightful sensations of prodigality at a contemptible cost. You can pay, without serious damage to your purse, five thousand reis for your breakfast.
It is the smallness of incomes and the necessity of looking sharply to the means of life that makes the young people of Madrid so prudent in their love affairs. I know of no place where ugly heir-esses are such belles, and where young men with handsome incomes are so universally esteemed by all who know them. The stars on the sleeves of young officers are more regarded than their dancing, and the red belt of a field officer is as winning in the eyes of beauty as a cestus of Venus. A. subaltern offered his hand and heart to a black-eyed girl of Castile. She said kindly but firmly that the night was too cloudy. "What," said the stupefied lover, "the sky is full of stars." "I see but one," said the prudent beauty, her fine eyes resting pensively upon his cuff, where one lone luminary indicated his rank.
This spirit is really one of forethought, and not avarice. People who have enough for two almost always marry from inclination, and frequently take partners for life without a penny.
If men were never henpecked except by learned wives, Spain would be the place of all others for timid men to marry in. The girls are bright, vivacious, and naturally very clever, but they have scarcely any education whatever. They never know the difference between b and v. They throw themselves in orthography entirely upon your benevolence. They know a little music and a little French, but they have never crossed, even in a school-day excursion, the border line of the ologies. They do not even read novels. They are regarded as injurious, and cannot be trusted to the daughters until mamma has read them. Mamma never has time to read them, and so they are condemned by default. Fernan Caballero, in one of her sleepy little romances, refers to this illiterate character of the Spanish ladies, and says it is their chief charm,—that a Christian woman, in good society, ought not to know anything beyond her cookery-book and her missal. There is-an old proverb which coarsely conveys this idea: A mule that whinnies and a woman that talks Latin never come to any good.
There is a contented acquiescence in this moral servitude among the fair Spaniards which would madden our agitatresses. (See what will become of the language when male words are crowded out of the dictionary!)
It must be the innocence which springs from ignorance that induces an occasional coarseness of expression which surprises you in the conversation of those lovely young girls. They will speak with perfect freedom of the etat-civil of a young unmarried mother. A maiden of fifteen said to me: "I must go to a party this evening decolletee, and I hate it. Benigno is getting old enough to marry, and he wants to see all the girls in low neck before he makes up his mind." They all swear like troopers, without a thought of profanity. Their mildest expression of surprise is Jesus Maria! They change their oaths with the season. At the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the favorite oath is Maria Purissima. This is a time of especial interest to young girls. It is a period of compulsory confession,—conscience-cleaning, as they call it. They are all very pious in their way. They attend to their religious duties with the same interest which they displayed a few years before in dressing and undressing their dolls, and will display a few years later in putting the lessons they learned with their dolls to a more practical use.
The visible concrete symbols and observances of religion have great influence with them. They are fond of making vows in tight places and faithfully observing them afterwards. In an hour's walk in the streets of Madrid you will see a dozen ladies with a leather strap buckled about their slender waists and hanging nearly to the ground. Others wear a knotted cord and tassels. These are worn as the fulfilment of vows, or penances.
I am afraid they give rise to much worldly conjecture on the part of idle youth as to what amiable sins these pretty penitents can have been guilty of. It is not prudent to ask an explanation of the peculiar mercy, or remorse, which this purgatorial strap commemorates. You will probably not enlarge your stock of knowledge further than to learn that the lady in question considers you a great nuisance.
The graceful lady who, in ascending the throne of France, has not ceased to be a thorough Spaniard, still preserves these pretty weaknesses of her youth. She vowed a chapel to her patron saint if her firstborn was a man-child, and paid it. She has hung a vestal lamp in the Church of Notre Dame des Victoires, in pursuance of a vow she keeps rigidly secret. She is a firm believer in relics also, and keeps a choice assortment on hand in the Tuileries for sudden emergencies. When old Baciocchi lay near his death, worn out by a horrible nervous disorder which would not let him sleep, the empress told the doctors, with great mystery, that she would cure him. After a few preliminary masses, she came into his room and hung on his bedpost a little gold-embroidered sachet containing (if the evidence of holy men is to be believed) a few threads of the swaddling-clothes of John the Baptist. Her simple childlike faith wrung the last grim smile from the tortured lips of the dying courtier.
The very names of the Spanish women are a constant reminder of their worship. They are all named out of the calendar of saints and virgin martyrs. A large majority are christened Mary; but as this sacred name by much use has lost all distinctive meaning, some attribute, some especial invocation of the Virgin, is always coupled with it. The names of Dolores, Mercedes, Milagros, recall Our Lady of the Sorrows, of the Gifts, of the Miracles. I knew a hoydenish little gypsy who bore the tearful name of Lagrimas. The most appropriate name I heard for these large-eyed, soft-voiced beauties was Peligros, Our Lady of Dangers. Who could resist the comforting assurance of "Consuelo"? "Blessed," says my Lord Lytton, "is woman who consoles." What an image of maiden purity goes with the name of Nieves, the Virgin of the Snows! From a single cotillon of Castilian girls you can construct the whole history of Our Lady; Conception, Annunciation, Sorrows, Solitude, Assumption. As young ladies are never called by their family names, but always by their baptismal appellations, you cannot pass an evening in a Spanish tertulia without being reminded of every stage in the life of the Immaculate Mother, from Bethlehem to Calvary and beyond.
The common use of sacred words is universal in Catholic countries, but nowhere so striking as in Spain. There is a little solemnity in the French adieu. But the Spaniard says adios instead of "good-morning." No letter closes without the prayer, "God guard your Grace many years!" They say a judge announces to a murderer his sentence of death with the sacramental wish of length of days. There is something a little shocking to a Yankee mind in the label of Lachryma Christi; but in La Mancha they call fritters the Grace of God.
The piety of the Spanish women does not prevent them from seeing some things clearly enough with their bright eyes. One of the most bigoted women in Spain recently said: "I hesitate to let my child go to confession. The priests ask young girls such infamous questions, that my cheeks burn when I think of them, after all these years." I stood one Christmas Eve in the cold midnight wind, waiting for the church doors to open for the night mass, the famous misa del gallo. On the steps beside me sat a decent old woman with her two daughters. At last she rose and said, "Girls, it is no use waiting any longer. The priests won't leave their housekeepers this cold night to save anybody's soul." In these two cases, taken from the two extremes of the Catholic society, there was no disrespect for the Church or for religion. Both these women believed with a blind faith. But they could not help seeing how unclean were the hands that dispensed the bread of life.
The respect shown to the priesthood as a body is marvellous, in view of the profligate lives of many. The general progress of the age has forced most of the dissolute priests into hypocrisy. But their cynical immorality is still the bane of many families. And it needs but a glance at the vile manual of confession, called the Golden Key, the author of which is the too well known Padre Claret, confessor to the queen, to see the systematic moral poisoning the minds of Spanish women must undergo who pay due attention to what is called their religious duties. If a confessor obeys the injunctions of this high ecclesiastical authority, his fair penitents will have nothing to learn from a diligent perusal of Faublas or Casanova. It would, however, be unjust to the priesthood to consider them all as corrupt as royal chaplains. It requires a combination of convent and palace life to produce these finished specimens of mitred infamy.
It is to be regretted that the Spanish women are kept in such systematic ignorance. They have a quicker and more active intelligence than the men. With a fair degree of education, much might be hoped from them in the intellectual development of the country. In society, you will at once be struck with the superiority of the women to their husbands and brothers in cleverness and appreciation. Among small tradesmen, the wife always comes to the rescue of her slow spouse when she sees him befogged in a bargain. In the fields, you ask a peasant some question about your journey. He will hesitate, and stammer, and end with, "Quien sabe?" but his wife will answer with glib completeness all you want to know. I can imagine no cause for this, unless it be that the men cloud their brains all day with the fumes of tobacco, and the women do not.
The personality of the woman is not so entirely merged in that of the husband as among us. She retains her own baptismal and family name through life. If Miss Matilda Smith marries Mr. Jonathan Jones, all vestige of the former gentle being vanishes at once from the earth, and Mrs. Jonathan Jones alone remains. But in Spain she would become Mrs. Matilda Smith de Jones, and her eldest-born would be called Don Juan Jones y Smith. You ask the name of a married lady in society, and you hear as often her own name as that of her husband.
Even among titled people, the family name seems more highly valued than the titular designation. Everybody knows Narvaez, but how few have heard of the Duke of Valencia! The Regent Serrano has a name known and honored over the world, but most people must think twice before they remember the Duke de la Torre. Juan Prim is better known than the Marques de los Castillejos ever will be. It is perhaps due to the prodigality with which titles have been scattered in late years that the older titles are more regarded than the new, although of inferior grade. Thus Prim calls himself almost invariably the Conde de Reus, though his grandeeship came with his investiture as marquis.
There is something quite noticeable about this easy way of treating one's name. We are accustomed to think a man can have but one name, and can sign it but in one way. Lord Derby can no more call himself Mr. Stanley than President Grant can sign a bill as U. Simpson. Yet both these signatures would be perfectly valid according to Spanish analogy. The Marquis of Santa Marta signs himself Guzman; the Marquis of Albaida uses no signature but Orense; both of these gentlemen being Republican deputies. I have seen General Prim's name signed officially, Conde de Reus, Marques de los Castillejos, Prim, J. Prim, Juan Prim, and Jean Prim, changing the style as often as the humor strikes him.
Their forms of courtesy are, however, invariable. You can never visit a Spaniard without his informing you that you are in your own house. If, walking with him, you pass his residence, he asks you to enter your house and unfatigue yourself a moment. If you happen upon any Spaniard, of whatever class, at the hour of repast, he always offers you his dinner; if you decline, it must be with polite wishes for his digestion. With the Spaniards, no news is good news; it is therefore civil to ask a Spaniard if his lady-wife goes on without novelty, and to express your profound gratification on being assured that she does. Their forms of hospitality are evidently Moorish, derived from the genuine open hand and open tent of the children of the desert; now nothing is left of them but grave and decorous words. In the old times, one who would have refused such offers would have been held a churl; now one who would accept them would be regarded as a boor.
There is still something primitive about the Spanish servants. A flavor of the old romances and the old comedy still hangs about them. They are chatty and confidential to a degree that appalls a stiff and formal Englishman of the upper middle class. The British servant is a chilly and statuesque image of propriety. The French is an intelligent and sympathizing friend. You can make of him what you like. But the Italian, and still more the Spaniard, is as gay as a child, and as incapable of intentional disrespect. The Castilian grandee does not regard his dignity as in danger from a moment's chat with a waiter. He has no conception of that ferocious decorum we Anglo-Saxons require from our manservants and our maidservants. The Spanish servant seems to regard it as part of his duty to keep your spirits gently excited while you dine by the gossip of the day. He joins also in your discussions, whether they touch lightly on the politics of the hour or plunge profoundly into the depths of philosophic research. He laughs at your wit, and swings his napkin with convulsions of mirth at your good stories. He tells you the history of his life while you are breaking your egg, and lays the story of his loves before you with your coffee. Yet he is not intrusive. He will chatter on without waiting for a reply, and when you are tired of him you can shut him off with a word. There are few Spanish servants so uninteresting but that you can find in them from time to time some sparks of that ineffable light which shines forever in Sancho and Figaro.
The traditions of subordination, which are the result of long centuries of tyranny, have prevented the development of that feeling of independence among the lower orders, which in a freer race finds its expression in ill manners and discourtesy to superiors. I knew a gentleman in the West whose circumstances had forced him to become a waiter in a backwoods restaurant. He bore a deadly grudge at the profession that kept him from starving, and asserted his unconquered nobility of soul by scowling at his customers and swearing at the viands he dispensed. I remember the deep sense of wrong with which he would growl, "Two buckwheats, begawd!" You see nothing of this defiant spirit in Spanish servants. They are heartily glad to find employment, and ask no higher good-fortune than to serve acceptably. As to drawing comparisons between themselves and their masters, they never seem to think they belong to the same race. I saw a pretty grisette once stop to look at a show-window where there was a lay-figure completely covered with all manner of trusses. She gazed at it long and earnestly, evidently thinking it was some new fashion just introduced into the gay world. At last she tripped away with all the grace of her unfettered limbs, saying, "If the fine ladies have to wear all those machines, I am glad I am not made like them."
Whether it be from their more regular and active lives, or from their being unable to pay for medical attendance, the poorer classes suffer less from sickness than their betters. An ordinary Spaniard is sick but once in his life, and that once is enough,—'twill serve. The traditions of the old satires which represented the doctor and death as always hunting in couples still survive in Spain. It is taken as so entirely a matter of course that a patient must die that the law of the land imposed a heavy fine upon physicians who did not bring a priest on their second visit. His labor of exhortation and confession was rarely wasted. There were few sufferers who recovered from the shock of that solemn ceremony in their chambers. Medical science still labors in Spain under the ban of ostracism, imposed in the days when all research was impiety. The Inquisition clamored for the blood of Vesalius, who had committed the crime of a demonstration in anatomy. He was forced into a pilgrimage of expiation, and died on the way to Palestine. The Church has always looked with a jealous eye upon the inquirers, the innovators. Why these probes, these lancets, these multifarious drugs, when the object in view could be so much more easily obtained by the judicious application of masses and prayers?
So it has come about that the doctor is a Pariah, and miracles flourish in the Peninsula. At every considerable shrine you will see the walls covered with waxen models of feet, legs, hands, and arms secured by the miraculous interposition of the genius loci, and scores of little crutches attesting the marvellous hour when they became useless. Each shrine, like a mineral spring, has its own especial virtue. A Santiago medal was better than quinine for ague. St. Veronica's handkerchief is sovereign for sore eyes. A bone of St. Magin supersedes the use of mercury. A finger-nail of San Frutos cured at Segovia a case of congenital idiocy. The Virgin of Ona acted as a vermifuge on royal infantas, and her girdle at Tortosa smooths their passage into this world. In this age of unfaith relics have lost much of their power. They turn out their score or so of miracles every feast-day, it is true, but are no longer capable of the tours de force of earlier days. Cardinal de Retz saw with his eyes a man whose wooden legs were turned to capering flesh and blood by the image of the Pillar of Saragossa. But this was in the good old times before newspapers and telegraphs had come to dispel the twilight of belief.
Now, it is excessively probable that neither doctor nor priest can do much if the patient is hit in earnest. He soon succumbs, and is laid out in his best clothes in an improvised chapel and duly sped on his way. The custom of burying the dead in the gown and cowl of monks has greatly passed into disuse. The mortal relics are treated with growing contempt, as the superstitions of the people gradually lose their concrete character. The soul is the important matter which the Church now looks to. So the cold clay is carted off to the cemetery with small ceremony. Even the coffins of the rich are jammed away into receptacles too small for them, and hastily plastered out of sight. The poor are carried off on trestles and huddled into their nameless graves, without following or blessing. Children are buried with some regard to the old Oriental customs. The coffin is of some gay and cheerful color, pink or blue, and is carried open to the grave by four of the dead child's young companions, a fifth walking behind with the ribboned coffin-lid. I have often seen these touching little parties moving through the bustling streets, the peaceful small face asleep under the open sky, decked with the fading roses and withering lilies. In all well-to-do families the house of death is deserted immediately after the funeral. The stricken ones retire to some other habitation, and there pass eight days in strict and inviolable seclusion. On the ninth day the great masses for the repose of the soul of the departed are said in the parish church, and all the friends of the family are expected to be present. These masses are the most important and expensive incident of the funeral. They cost from two hundred to one thousand dollars, according to the strength and fervor of the orisons employed. They are repeated several years on the anniversary of the decease, and afford a most sure and nourishing revenue to the Church. They are founded upon those feelings inseparable from every human heart, vanity and affection. Our dead friends must be as well prayed for as those of others, and who knows but that they may be in deadly need of prayers! To shorten their fiery penance by one hour, who would not fast for a week? On these anniversaries a black-bordered advertisement appears in the newspapers, headed by the sign of the cross and the Requiescat in Pace, announcing that on this day twelve months Don Fulano de Tal passed from earth garnished with the holy sacraments, that all the masses this day celebrated in such and such churches will be applied to the benefit of his spirit's repose, and that all Christian friends are hereby requested to commend his soul this day unto God. These efforts, if they do the dead no good, at least do the living no harm.
A luxury of grief, in those who can afford it, consists in shutting up the house where a death has taken place and never suffering it to be opened again. I once saw a beautiful house and wide garden thus abandoned in one of the most fashionable streets of Madrid. I inquired about it, and found it was formerly the residence of the Duke of———. His wife had died there many years before, and since that day not a door nor a window had been opened. The garden gates were red and rough with rust. Grass grew tall and rank in the gravelled walks. A thick lush undergrowth had overrun the flower-beds and the lawns. The blinds were rotting over the darkened windows. Luxuriant vines clambered over all the mossy doors. The stucco was peeling from the walls in unwholesome blotches. Wild birds sang all day in the safe solitude. There was something impressive in this spot of mould and silence, lying there so green and implacable in the very heart of a great and noisy city. The duke lived in Paris, leading the rattling life of a man of the world. He never would sell or let that Madrid house. Perhaps in his heart also, that battered thoroughfare worn by the pattering boots of Ma-bine and the Bois, and the Quartier Breda, there was a green spot sacred to memory and silence, where no footfall should ever light, where no living voice should ever be heard, shut out from the world and its cares and its pleasures, where through the gloom of dead days he could catch a glimpse of a white hand, a flash of a dark eye, the rustle of a trailing robe, and feel sweeping over him the old magic of love's young dream, softening his fancy to tender regret and his eyes to a happy mist—
"Like that which kept the heart of Eden green Before the useful trouble of the rain."
INFLUENCE OF TRADITION IN SPANISH LIFE
Intelligent Spaniards with whom I have conversed on political matters have often exclaimed, "Ah, you Americans are happy! you have no traditions." The phrase was at first a puzzling one. We Americans are apt to think we have traditions,—a rather clearly marked line of precedents. And it is hard to see how a people should be happier without them. It is not anywhere considered a misfortune to have had a grandfather, I believe, and some very good folks take an innocent pride in that very natural fact. It was not easy to conceive why the possession of a glorious history of many centuries should be regarded as a drawback. But a closer observation of Spanish life and thought reveals the curious and hurtful effect of tradition upon every phase of existence.
In the commonest events of every day you will find the flavor of past ages lingering in petty annoyances. The insecurity of the middle ages has left as a legacy to our times a complicated system of obstacles to a man getting into his own house at night. I lived in a pleasant house on the Prado, with a minute garden in front, and an iron gate and railing. This gate was shut and locked by the night watchman of the quarter at midnight,—so conscientiously that he usually had everything snug by half past eleven. As the same man had charge of a dozen or more houses, it was scarcely reasonable to expect him to be always at your own gate when you arrived. But by a singular fatality I think no man ever found him in sight at any hour. He is always opening some other gate or shutting some other door, or settling the affairs of the nation with a friend in the next block, or carrying on a chronic courtship at the lattice of some olive-cheeked soubrette around the corner. Be that as it may, no one ever found him on hand; and there is nothing to do but to sit down on the curbstone and lift up your voice and shriek for him until he comes. At two o'clock of a morning in January the exercise is not improving to the larynx or the temper. There is a tradition in the very name of this worthy. He is called the Sereno, because a century or so ago he used to call the hour and the state of the weather, and as the sky is almost always cloudless here, he got the name of the Sereno, as the quail is called Bob White, from much iteration. The Sereno opens your gate and the door of your house. When you come to your own floor you must ring, and your servant takes a careful survey of you through a latticed peep-hole before he will let you in. You may positively forbid this every day in the year, but the force of habit is too strong in the Spanish mind to suffer amendment.
This absurd custom comes evidently down from a time of great lawlessness and license, when no houses were secure without these precautions, when people rarely stirred from their doors after nightfall, and when a door was never opened to a stranger. Now, when no such dangers exist, the annoying and senseless habit still remains, because no one dreams of changing anything which their fathers thought proper. Three hundred thousand people in Madrid submit year after year to this nightly cross, and I have never heard a voice raised in protest, nor even in defence of the custom.
There is often a bitterness of opposition to evident improvement which is hard to explain. In the last century, when the eminent naturalist Bowles went down to the Almaden silver-mines, by appointment of the government, to see what was the cause of their exhaustion, he found that they had been worked entirely in perpendicular shafts instead of following the direction of the veins. He perfected a plan for working them in this simple and reasonable way, and no earthly power could make the Spanish miners obey his orders. There was no precedent for this new process, and they would not touch it. They preferred starvation rather than offend the memory of their fathers by a change. At last they had to be dismissed and a full force imported from Germany, under whose hands the mines became instantly enormously productive.
I once asked a very intelligent English contractor why he used no wheelbarrows in his work. He had some hundreds of stalwart navvies employed carrying dirt in small wicker baskets to an embankment. He said the men would not use them. Some said it broke their backs. Others discovered a capital way of amusing themselves by putting the barrow on their heads and whirling the wheel as rapidly as possible with their hands. This was a game which never grew stale. The contractor gave up in despair, and went back to the baskets. But it is in the official regions that tradition is most powerful. In the budget of 1870 there was a curious chapter called "Charges of Justice." This consisted of a collection of articles appropriating large sums of money for the payment of feudal taxes to the great aristocracy of the kingdom as a compensation for long extinct seigniories. The Duke of Rivas got thirteen hundred dollars for carrying the mail to Victoria. The Duke of San Carlos draws ten thousand dollars for carrying the royal correspondence to the Indies. Of course this service ceased to belong to these families some centuries ago, but the salary is still paid. The Duke of Almodovar is well paid for supplying the baton of office to the Alguazil of Cordova. The Duke of Osuna—one of the greatest grandees of the kingdom, a gentleman who has the right to wear seventeen hats in the presence of the Queen—receives fifty thousand dollars a year for imaginary feudal services. The Count of Altamira, who, as his name indicates, is a gentleman of high views, receives as a salve for the suppression of his fief thirty thousand dollars a year. In consideration of this sum he surrenders, while it is punctually paid, the privilege of hanging his neighbors.
When the budget was discussed, a Republican member gently criticised this chapter; but his amendment for an investigation of these charges was indignantly rejected. He was accused of a shocking want of Espanolismo. He was thought to have no feeling in his heart for the glories of Spain. The respectability of the Chamber could find but one word injurious enough to express their contempt for so shameless a proposition; they said it was little better than socialism. The "charges" were all voted. Spain, tottering on the perilous verge of bankruptcy, her schoolmasters not paid for months, her sinking fund plundered, her credit gone out of sight, borrowing every cent she spends at thirty per cent., is proud of the privilege of paying into the hands of her richest and most useless class this gratuity of twelve million reals simply because they are descended from the robber chiefs of the darker ages. There is a curious little comedy played by the family of Medina Celi at every new coronation of a king of Spain. The duke claims to be the rightful heir to the throne. He is descended from Prince Ferdinand, who, dying before his father, Don Alonso X., left his babies exposed to the cruel kindness of their uncle Sancho, who, to save them the troubles of the throne, assumed it himself and transmitted it to his children,—all this some half dozen centuries ago. At every coronation the duke formally protests; an athletic and sinister-looking court headsman comes down to his palace in the Carrera San Geronimo, and by threats of immediate decapitation induces the duke to sign a paper abdicating his rights to the throne of all the Spains. The duke eats the Bourbon leek with inward profanity, and feels that he has done a most clever and proper thing. This performance is apparently his only object and mission in life. This one sacrifice to tradition is what he is born for.
The most important part of a Spaniard's signature is the rubrica or flourish with which it closes. The monarch's hand is set to public acts exclusively by this parafe. This evidently dates from the time when none but priests could write. In Madrid the mule-teams are driven tandem through the wide streets, because this was necessary in the ages when the streets were narrow.
There is even a show of argument sometimes to justify an adherence to things as they are. About a century ago there was an effort made by people who had lived abroad, and so become conscious of the possession of noses, to have the streets of Madrid cleaned. The proposition was at first received with apathetic contempt, but when the innovators persevered they met the earnest and successful opposition of all classes. The Cas-tilian savans gravely reported that the air of Madrid, which blew down from the snowy Guadarra-mas, was so thin and piercing that it absolutely needed the gentle corrective of the ordure-heaps to make it fit for human lungs.
There is no nation in Europe in which so little washing is done. I do not think it is because the Spaniards do not want to be neat. They are, on the whole, the best-dressed people on the Continent. The hate of ablutions descends from those centuries of warfare with the Moors. The heathens washed themselves daily; therefore a Christian should not. The monks, who were too lazy to bathe, taught their followers to be filthy by precept and example. Water was never to be applied externally except in baptism. It was a treacherous element, and dallying with it had gotten Bathsheba and Susanna into no end of trouble. So when the cleanly infidels were driven out of Granada, the pious and hydrophobic Cardinal Ximenez persuaded the Catholic sovereigns to destroy the abomination of baths they left behind. Until very recently the Spanish mind has been unable to separate a certain idea of immorality from bathing. When Madame Daunoy, one of the sprightliest of observers, visited the court of Philip IV., she found it was considered shocking among the ladies of the best society to wash the face and hands. Once or twice a week they would glaze their pretty visages with the white of an egg. Of late years this prejudice has given way somewhat; but it has lasted longer than any monument in Spain.
These, however, are but trivial manifestations of that power of tradition which holds the Spanish intellect imprisoned as in a vice of iron. The whole life of the nation is fatally influenced by this blind reverence for things that have been. It may be said that by force of tradition Christian morality has been driven from individual life by religion, and honesty has been supplanted as a rule of public conduct by honor,—a wretched substitute in either case, and irreconcilably at war with the spirit of the age.
The growth of this double fanaticism is easily explained; it is the result of centuries of religious wars. From the hour when Pelayo, the first of the Asturian kings, successfully met and repulsed the hitherto victorious Moors in his rocky fortress of Covadonga, to the day when Boabdil the Unlucky saw for the last time through streaming tears the vermilion towers of Alhambra crowned with the banner of the cross, there was not a year of peace in Spain. No other nation has had such an experience. Seven centuries of constant warfare, with three thousand battles; this is the startling epitome of Spanish history from the Mahometan conquest to the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. In this vast war there was laid the foundation of the national character of to-day.
Even before the conquering Moslem crossed from Africa, Spain was the most deeply religious country in Europe; and by this I mean the country in which the Church was most powerful in its relations with the State. When the Council of Toledo, in 633, received the king of Castile, he fell on his face at the feet of the bishops before venturing to address them. When the hosts of Islam had overspread the Peninsula, and the last remnant of Christianity had taken refuge in the inaccessible hills of the northwest, the richest possession they carried into these inviolate fastnesses was a chest of relics,—knuckle-bones of apostles and splinters of true crosses, in which they trusted more than in mortal arms. The Church had thus a favorable material to work upon in the years of struggle that followed. The circumstances all lent themselves to the scheme of spiritual domination. The fight was for the cross against the crescent; the symbol of the quarrel was visible and tangible. The Spaniards were poor and ignorant and credulous. The priests were enough superior to lead and guide them, and not so far above them as to be out of the reach of their sympathies and their love. They marched with them. They shared their toils and dangers. They stimulated their hate of the enemy. They taught them that their cruel anger was the holy wrath of God. They held the keys of eternal weal or woe, and rewarded subservience to the priestly power with promises of everlasting felicity; while the least symptom of rebellion in thought or action was punished with swift death and the doom of endless flames. There was nothing in the Church which the fighting Spaniard could recognize as a reproach to himself. It was as bitter, as brave, as fierce, and revengeful as he. His credulity regarded it as divine, and worthy of blind adoration, and his heart went out to it with the sympathy of perfect love.
In these centuries of war there was no commerce, no manufactures, no settled industry of importance among the Spaniards. There was consequently no wealth, none of that comfort and ease which is the natural element of doubt and discussion. Science did not exist. The little learning of the time was exclusively in the hands of the priesthood. If from time to time an intelligent spirit struggled against the chain of unquestioning bigotry that bound him, he was rigorously silenced by prompt and bloody punishment. There seemed to be no need of discussion, no need of inculcation of doctrine. The serious work of the time was the war with the infidel. The clergy managed everything. The question, "What shall I do to be saved?" never entered into those simple and ignorant minds. The Church would take care of those who did her bidding.
Thus it was that in the hammering of those struggling ages the nation became welded together in one compact mass of unquestioning, unreasoning faith, which the Church could manage at its own good pleasure.
It was also in these times that Spanish honor took its rise. This sentiment is so nearly connected with that of personal loyalty that they may be regarded as phases of the same monarchical spirit. The rule of honor as distinguished from honesty and virtue is the most prominent characteristic of monarchy, and for that reason the political theorists from the time of Montesquieu have pronounced in favor of the monarchy as a more practicable form of government than the republic, as requiring a less perfect and delicate machinery, men of honor being far more common than men of virtue. As in Spain, owing to special conditions, monarchy attained the most perfect growth and development which the world has seen, the sentiment of honor, as a rule of personal and political action, has there reached its most exaggerated form. I use this word, of course, in its restricted meaning of an intense sense of personal dignity, and readiness to sacrifice for this all considerations of interest and morality.
This phase of the Spanish character is probably derived in its germ from the Gothic blood of their ancestors. Their intense self-assertion has been, in the Northern races, modified by the progress of intelligence and the restraints of municipal law into a spirit of sturdy self-respect and a disinclination to submit to wrong. The Goths of Spain have unfortunately never gone through this civilizing process. Their endless wars never gave an opportunity for the development of the purely civic virtues of respect and obedience to law. The people at large were too wretched, too harried by constant coming and going of the waves of war, to do more than live, in a shiftless, hand-to-mouth way, from the proceeds of their flocks and herds. There were no cities of importance within the Spanish lines. There was no opportunity for the growth of the true burgher spirit.
There was no law to speak of in all these years except the twin despotism of the Church and the king. If there had been dissidence between them it might have been better for the people. But up to late years there has never been a quarrel between the clergy and the crown. Their interests were so identified that the dual tyranny was stronger than even a single one could have been. The crown always lending to the Church when necessary the arm of flesh, and the Church giving to the despotism of the sceptre the sanction of spiritual authority, an absolute power was established over body and soul.
The spirit of individual independence inseparable from Gothic blood being thus forced out of its natural channels of freedom of thought and municipal liberty, it remained in the cavaliers of the army of Spain in the same barbarous form which it had held in the Northern forests,—a physical self-esteem and a readiness to fight on the slightest provocation. This did not interfere with the designs of the Church and was rather a useful engine against its enemies. The absolute power of the crown kept the spirit of feudal arrogance in check while the pressure of a common danger existed. The close cohesion which was so necessary in camp and Church prevented the tendency to disintegration, while the right of life and death was freely exercised by the great lords on their distant estates without interference. The predominating power of the crown was too great and too absolute to result in the establishment of any fixed principle of obedience to law. The union of crozier and sceptre had been, if anything, too successful. The king was so far above the nobility that there was no virtue in obeying him. His commission was divine, and he was no more confined by human laws than the stars and the comets. The obedience they owed and paid him was not respect to law. It partook of the character of religious worship, and left untouched and untamed in their savage hearts the instinct of resistance to all earthly claims of authority.
Such was the condition of the public spirit of Spain at the beginning of that wonderful series of reigns from Ferdinand and Isabella to their great-grandson Philip II., which in less than a century raised Spain to the summit of greatness and built up a realm on which the sun never set. All the events of these prodigious reigns contributed to increase and intensify the national traits to which we have referred. The discovery of America flooded Europe with gold, and making the better class of Spaniards the richest people in the world naturally heightened their pride and arrogance. The long and eventful religious wars of Charles V. and Philip II. gave employment and distinction to thousands of families whose vanity was nursed by the royal favor, and whose ferocious self-will was fed and pampered by the blood of heretics and the spoil of rebels.
The national qualities of superstition and pride made the whole cavalier class a wieldy and effective weapon in the hands of the monarch, and the use he made of them reacted upon these very traits, intensifying and affirming them.
So terrible was this absolute command of the spiritual and physical forces of the kingdom possessed by the monarchs of that day, that when the Reformation flashed out, a beacon in the northern sky of political and religious freedom to the world, its light could not penetrate into Spain. There was a momentary struggle there, it is true. But so apathetic was the popular mind that the effort to bring it into sympathy with the vast movement of the age was hopeless from the beginning. The axe and the fagot made rapid work of the heresy. After only ten years of burnings and beheadings Philip II. could boast that not a heretic lived in his borders.
Crazed by his success and his unquestioned omnipotence at home, and drunken with the delirious dream that God's wrath was breathing through him upon a revolted world, he essayed to crush heresy throughout Europe; and in this mad and awful crime his people undoubtingly seconded him. In this he failed, the stars in their courses fighting against him, the God that his worship slandered taking sides against him. But history records what rivers of blood he shed in the long and desperate fight, and how lovingly and adoringly his people sustained him. He killed, in cold blood, some forty thousand harmless people for their faith, besides the vastly greater number whose lives he took in battle.
Yet this horrible monster, who is blackened with every crime at which humanity shudders, who had no grace of manhood, no touch of humanity, no gleam of sympathy which could redeem the gloomy picture of his ravening life, was beloved and worshipped as few men have been since the world has stood. The common people mourned him at his death with genuine unpaid sobs and tears. They will weep even yet at the story of his edifying death,—this monkish vampire breathing his last with his eyes fixed on the cross of the mild Nazarene, and tormented with impish doubts as to whether he had drunk blood enough to fit him for the company of the just!
His successors rapidly fooled away the stupendous empire that had filled the sixteenth century with its glory. Spain sank from the position of ruler of the world and queen of the seas to the place of a second-rate power, by reason of the weakening power of superstition and bad government, and because the people and the chieftains had never learned the lesson of law.
The clergy lost no tittle of their power. They went on, gayly roasting their heretics and devouring the substance of the people, more prosperous than ever in those days of national decadence. Philip III. gave up the government entirely to the Duke of Lerma, who formed an alliance with the Church, and they led together a joyous life. In the succeeding reign the Church had become such a gnawing cancer upon the state that the servile Cortes had the pluck to protest against its inroads. There were in 1626 nine thousand monasteries for men, besides nunneries. There were thirty-two thousand Dominican and Franciscan friars. In the diocese of Seville alone there were fourteen thousand chaplains. There was a panic in the land. Every one was rushing to get into holy orders. The Church had all the bread. Men must be monks or starve. Zelus domus tuae come-dit me, writes the British ambassador, detailing these facts.
We must remember that this was the age when the vast modern movement of inquiry and investigation was beginning. Bacon was laying in England the foundations of philosophy, casting with his prophetic intelligence the horoscope of unborn sciences. Descartes was opening new vistas of thought to the world. But in Spain, while the greatest names of her literature occur at this time, they aimed at no higher object than to amuse their betters. Cervantes wrote Quixote, but he died in a monk's hood; and Lope de Vega was a familiar of the Inquisition. The sad story of the mind of Spain in this momentous period may be written in one word,—everybody believed and nobody inquired.
The country sank fast into famine and anarchy. The madness of the monks and the folly of the king expelled the Moors in 1609, and the loss of a million of the best mechanics and farmers of Spain struck the nation with a torpor like that of death. In 1650 Sir Edward Hyde wrote that "affairs were in huge disorder." People murdered each other for a loaf of bread. The marine perished for want of sailors. In the stricken land nothing flourished but the rabble of monks and the royal authority.
This is the curious fact. The Church and the Crown had brought them to this misery, yet better than their lives the Spaniards loved the Church and the Crown. A word against either would have cost any man his life in those days. The old alliance still hung together firmly. The Church bullied and dragooned the king in private, but it valued his despotic power too highly ever to slight it in public. There was something superhuman about the faith and veneration with which the people, and the aristocracy as well, regarded the person of the king. There was somewhat of gloomy and ferocious dignity about Philip II. which might easily bring a courtier to his knees; but how can we account for the equal reverence that was paid to the ninny Philip III., the debauched trifler Philip IV., and the drivelling idiot Charles II.?
Yet all of these were invested with the same attributes of the divine. Their hands, like those of Midas, had the gift of making anything they touched too precious for mortal use. A horse they had mounted could never be ridden again. A woman they had loved must enter a nunnery when they were tired of her.