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Spain

( Originally Published 1924 )



THE WORD "Spain" evokes thoughts of ro mance: Spanish galleons, gold, buccaneers, conquistadores and senoritas. Hence, when I sailed for that. country in the spring of 1896 I was fulfilling a desire which had its origin in the reading of my youth.

We arrived at Gibraltar one fine April morning. The great rock loomed up above us, the town nestled at its foot. In the harbor was a fleet of British war-ships. Great cannon frowned on us from the mole. We stepped aboard a tender and soon set foot on historic British soil.

With what thrills H had sailed over the sea around and about Cape Trafalgar! How many great ships and how many brave sailors' mouldering remains must carpet the bottom of the sea. Hn imagination I saw the Sanctissima Trinidad, the Bucentaur, the Royal Sovereign and the Victory belching out flames. I heard the cries and the cheers and I thought of Nelson in the cockpit of the Victory, dying. The sea was so placid it seemed only a dream that there had been fought the greatest naval battle the world has ever seen. Nelson's body was brought home in a cask of rum, which the sailors eyed with mingled feelings and said, "Old man, you are in better spirits than we are."

I was, as a special privilege, given access to the interior of the Rock. It is tunnelled like a rabbit warren. Long corridors are cut out of the rock, with here and there an incomplete embrasure for a gun. There are miles of these corridors. It is said that the fortress is provisioned for a three years' seige, for the authorities have always in mind the great seige under "Old Elliott," which lasted three years and ended in the defeat of the combined French and Spanish forces. It was during this seige that the plan of firing red-hot cannon balls against wooden ships was first devised, with great effect.

On the summit of the Rock stands a great gun which can throw half a ton of steel thirty miles. There is also a signal station up there and a population of monkeys. Access to the summit is forbidden to the public and an aerial basket carries officers and orderlies up at all times. I went up one of the roads which zigzag up the rock and could look down into the yard of a military prison, and saw soldier prisoners doing "ball drill." A cannon ball was placed in each of the four corners of the yard. The prisoner picked it up and carried it to the next. corner, put it down and picked up another, and so during a monotonous round lasting for hours. It must be a heavy punishment. I do not know if it has been abolished or not. Another military punishment in time of war was "pegging out." A soldier prisoner was tied to four pegs set out like a St. Andrew's cross and kept there for some hours. Hn other cases men were tied with outspread arms and legs, in a standing position, to the wheel of a gun, a punishment known as "spread eagle." These punishments have been forbidden.

When I was in Jamaica some years ago a Russian cruiser was in port. She put to sea early one morning and returned to her moorings in the evening. I t was reported at the time that the Russians had " keel hauled " a culprit, from which punishment he was said to have died. The process is to run a rope from a yard arm under the ship and hack again. The prisoner is attached to the rope and pulled under the ship and up the other side. H do not know if this cruel punishment was ever in vogue in the Royal Navy, but I hope not.. Flogging with the cat-o'-nine tails has been abolished for many years both in the army and navy. At one time it was a common thing to tie a man up and give him a round dozen, or even more.

To return t.o my story ; the population of Gibraltar is cosmopolitan ---Levatines, Arabs, Moors, Spaniards and Italians rub shoulders with Tomrnies and Jack Tars. The rock is joined t.o the mainland by a narrow strip of sand and rock through the centre of which runs a white and dusty road and along it trudge Spanish peasants returning from the sale of their vegetables in Gibraltar. A neutral zone stretches, bare and glaring in the sun, between the British frontier and that of Spain. Military posts are maintained by the British and Spanish on their respective frontiers. No greater contrast could be imagined than the appearance of the men of the two armies. The British Tommy smart in his red coat. and white helmet (this was in 1896), well set up and brisk in his movements; the Spaniard, in blue tunic, and a curious kepi, slovenly and languid in his movements. One represented the power that is, and the other, one which has been.

I took a fussy, dirty, little paddle-wheel steamer to Algeciras on my way to Granada. Landing at the jetty one undergoes the usual customs examination, when the officials mess one's clothing about with their grubby fingers. Embarking on the train I reached Granada, to be assailed by a mass of hotel touts each screaming the merits of his hotel. I climbed into an omnibus and was eventually deposited safely, of which 1 had my doubts, at the Hotel de los Siete Sucks, which is an annex of the Hotel Washington Irving. This hotel is charmingly situated at the foot of the Calle du/ Cimitario, midway between the Moorish Palace of the Alhambra and the Generalife, a restful and delightful spot. One is surrounded by lofty ivy-clad battlements, the entry to the hotel grounds being through a great tower. Through it Boabdil passed out of his capital for ever. One could imagine his grief at the loss of his throne, his kingdom and his beautiful palace, a grief whieh was enhanced by the division and treachery in his camp. The expulsion of the Moors from Spain was one of the tragedies of religious warfare, for the -Moors took with them all the art, science, culture and romantic chivalry which characterized the Spain of the day. On the part of the Christians it was a religious crusade, for the Spanish army was aided by numerous soldiers from England and France, who deemed it a highly meritorious service to religion to drive out the hated infidel. The Moors have left indelible traces in the language, the manners and customs and in the architecture of Spain. For instance, one does not whistle or snap the fingers to call a. waiter, one claps the hands, just as the king did in the Arabian Nights tales.

One of the annoyances of travel in Spain is the importunity of the hordes of beggars. Filthy, clothed in rags, blind, halt, deformed and vociferous, they assail one at every turn. One soon learns to say "A nda" (Be off).

I do not propose to describe the beauties of the Alhambra. It has often been done. Suffice it to say that it is charming and soul-stirring. We were taken into the Ilan of the Ambassadors, and pointing to the dais on which Ferdinand and Isabella sat, the guide said "Here Columbus bade farewell to the King and Queen. A few months later he discovered America." I said, "Que lastima" (What a pity), a remark the satire of which did not. penetrate him and left him greatly astonished.

I must, however, say a. word about the beautiful Gothic cathedral. It is vast and its vastness is accentuated by the floor of black and white marble. It is richly gilded and elaborately sculptured, but the size of the nave is so great that the ornamentation seems a long way off; so much so that. the effect is greatly lessened. The most interesting portion is the Royal Chapel, built as a mausoleum for Ferdinand and Isabella. Like the building which contains it, it is late Gothic, with glittering gilded stars adorning its high arches. The floor is of white marble. To the right and left of the altar kneel wooden effigies of the king and queen.

Directly in front of the altar are the magnificent white marble tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, surmounted by their statues, also in marble. Around the tombs is a beautiful metal screen, an example of the ironworker's art.

The stone coffins in which the sovereigns lie arc below and are approached by a narrow stone stairway. Christopher Columbus is not here, but sleeps at Seville.

In the streets one is struck by the appearance of the people. One sees a priest, in shovel hat, astride a mule or a donkey; an itinerant vendor of lemonade carrying his wares on his back; fair, sensuous-looking women in hats, worn only by the better class. The mantilla is only worn at church and at bull fights, for the poor wear neither hat nor mantilla, but go bareheaded. A young Spaniard attaehed himself to me as a guide. He was very intelligent and spoke some French and English. He was very anxious to go to America and thought. I would help him.

After spending a few delightful days in Granada I went to Seville by train. It was very warm, but the Spaniards insisted on keeping the windows closed and smoked cigarettes incessantly, which they passed to every one in the compartment. I t is merely a polite custom, for one is not supposed to take one.

Arrived at Seville I put up at a large hotel. I chose an outside room, for in the courtyard assemble all the domestics of the establishment at some unearthly hour in the morning and discuss their private affairs at the top of their voices, while scrubbing- pots and pans with great vigor. Sleep after five a.m. is impossible. When I arose I asked for a bath, which caused great astonishment, accompanied by much gesticulation. After three-quarters of an hour a small tin tub was produced in which the maid poured about four- quarts of cold water. It seemed there was not a bathroom in the establishment. Meal hours were disconcerting to an Anglo-Saxon with an appetite. Lunch at. two and dinner at eight o'clock. The first breakfast, served in the bedroom, consisted of two attenuated and anaemic crescents and coffee or chocolate. Native claret was plentiful, of good quality and cheap.

I arrived on April 29th and went peacefully to bed, but I had hardly laid down when the ringing of a handbell and voices chanting in the street disturbed me. This went on every quarter of an hour all night. and all the next night. On enquiry I found that a fast preceded the Feast of Mary on May 1st and that the chanting and bell ringing was clone by priests and acolitcs, who perambulated the streets chanting "Maria ow pro nobis" and lest people should not hear them, rang their handbells with all their might. The effect of this was, that when the 1st. of May arrived the people, from want. of sleep and fasting, were in a highly nervous state. Hence when the procession with the papier mach & image of the Virgin perambulated the streets, the figure being laden with jewels, men and women threw themselves on their knees on the cobblestone pavement in a condition of religious frenzy. Heading the procession were the governor of the province, the mayor of the city, the eity council, the officer commanding the district and many important people. It also comprised hundreds of priests and a strong guard of soldiers. I took off my hat, as everybody else did, and flattened myself against the wall. I lad 1 not done so I would have been assaulted ; as it was I heard much grumbling and suppressed cries of " hereje" (heretic) because I did not kneel down. I took an early opportunity to vamoose (derived from the Spanish vamos, let us go.)

Seville has something of the Oriental about it. The appearance of the private residences, which are built around a patio, or central courtyard, their barred windows, the seclusion of the women, the dignity and aloofness of the men, all remind one of the East. Young men are not allowed access to young women. At dusk everywhere one hears the strumming of guitars under barred windows. The fair one sits within. The men are said when courting, to "eat iron "—the iron of the barred windows.

In many ways it is a beautiful city. The Spanish have a saying:

" Quien no ha visto Sevilla

No ha vista maravilla."

The cathedral is certainly a. marvel, being one of the largest in the world.

It now contains the mortal remains of Christopher Columbus. (They were not there in 1896.) He died at Valodolid in 1509, and at his own request his body was sent to San Domingo. When the island was captured by the French it was removed to Havana and on the declaration of the independence of Cuba it was transferred to Seville. His son Fernando's body lies where it was first buried, near the main door of the cathedral. His monument is a plain marble slab over which so many feet have passed that the inscription is scarcely legible. On it is inscribed:

"A Castilla y Leon

Neuvo mondo dio Colon."

(Columbus gave a new world to Castille and Leon.)

It was in Seville that I saw my first and last bull fight. It is a horrid, yet a fascinating spectacle.

Imagine a vast amphitheatre crowded with thousands of women in white mantillas and gay dresses, and more thousands of men in more sober colored clothing and sombreros, or straw hats; a gay, laughing, excited mass of 14,000 people. One side of the arena is shaded and the other in the full glare of the sun.

At one end is an official box filled with civil and military dignitaries. In the centre is a great oval of sand, soon to be blood-stained, around which arc barriers over which leap the participants when too closely pressed by the bull. At the other end are great doors which lead to the cattle pens, where are gathered a choice lot of bulls from some ranch celebrated for the brave race of bulls which it breeds specially for the purpose of fighting—tawny beasts with sharp horns and fiery eyes.

One felt the excitement in the air. A band played popular Spanish and other airs. The Spanish airs have something plaintive in them, a relic of the music of the Moors. Sellers of lemonade and bottled beer did a brisk trade, for the heat was great.

We were early in our places and spent the time watching the people. When not smiling, they have a sad and even melancholy expression. Their complexions are generally pale olive, with black hair and eyes. The women's faces were dead white and many wore a rose or other bright flowers set in their hair over one ear. They say it whispers of love.

The hour approached and in a chapel behind the ring the principals partake of the communion, which may be their last, for this is a dangerous game. It means death either to the bull or the matador, many of whom have been gored to death.

A bugle sounds, the vast crowd hushes when a gay procession enters and passes before the amide in the state box. He rises, bows, takes up a key and throws it into the ring. The matador and his attendants retire. The capeadores, or cloak wavers, and the picadors, or mounted men armed with lanees, take their places. A great hush comes over the crowd. Presently the great doors at the far end of the arena open and in rushes a bull. He stands quite still—dazed and gazing at the gay colors and the masses of people. The bull snorts, paws the earth, and presently, seeing a picador mounted on a wretched horse, gives him a fiery glance, lowers his head and charges. Man and horse fall to the ground, but as the man is encased in iron armor he is unhurt ; but the bull has been wounded by the lance and is infuriated by his pain and the waving of scarlet cloaks. He charges madly around the ring, bellowing and lashing his tail. Now he sees the horse again, but the horse is blind on one side and his rider keeps the blind side towards the bull. The bull gives a snort of rage and charges again at the horse. Man and horse are again thrown down. The man slips off, but the horse does not rise, while blood gushes from his neck. Again the bull gores him, lifting him up three or four feet in the air, shakes and drops him, dead.

A new horse and picador come forward. The bull gores him in the belly and the horse runs around the arena with his entrails hanging out awl dragging on the ground. He is taken out and if not too far gone is sewn up and brought in again. Suddenly the bull sees a cloak-waver, who nimbly jumps over the barrier, to the delight of the crowd. It is a great festa and the crowd is very bloodthirsty. More horses arc brought in, if two or three will not satisfy them.

Now come the banderillos, young, lithe and gorgeously arrayed. Their work is to worry the bull by placing gayly decorated darts between the neck and spine of the bull. The crowd gets excited for it is dangerous work and a slip may mean death- The bull roars with pain and dances around and charges the banderillos, who dodge him.

Now it is the matador' s time to kill the bull. It is fight to the death. The crowd is now wild with excitement. Shouts and cries rend the air. The matador is cool. He walks to the front of the alcalde' s box and makes a graceful bow. In his right hand he holds a short, straight sword and in the other a red cloth.

The now infuriated bull sees and runs up to him, pauses, snorts and paws the ground. His eyes are furious, but he drips blood and is mad with pain and rage. 1-k charges, but the matador steps lightly aside. The bull turns. The man stands firmly, holding his sword straight before him at full arm's length and points it at the bull. The bull charges. The matador hardly moves. The bull has spitted himself, falls to his knees and dies. The audience goes wild. Hats, cigars and money are thrown into the ring. Women wave their shawls. Men shout and many leap into the ring and embrace the matador, who then makes a triumphal round of the arena.

Some matadors acquire such fame as Babe Ruth's and much wealth beside. If they live they become people of distinction, but the majority are either killed or seriously disabled, sooner or later. Some die rich, but many of them waste their wealth in excesses and end in the almshouse.

Before I leave the subject of Seville, I must say a word about the Giralda. It was originally a Moorish tower, upon which a Christian belfry had been built, but the object of interest is the weathercock which is represented by a woman grasping a cross and a banner and veering with the wind. It must have been designed by a satirist, for to most people fixity of belief is an important element of faith.

I took an early-morning- train to Cordova. In the compartment were two English ladies, who fussed incessantly about the closed windows. Two or three Spaniards and a German completed the company. I got in conversation with the German, who complained of being ill, and when he learned that I was a doctor begged me to prescribe for him. On arrival we went to a queer little chemist shop, where I wrote a prescription in Latin, which I hope did him good ; but the incident impressed on my mind the advantage of Latin as a universal language for medicine.

The great sight in Cordova is the Mesquita, a marvellous mosque converted into a Christian church. Thu interior presents an endless series of pointed arches and pillars of colored marbles. It is an enchanting spectacle marred only by the Christian chapel which has been built in the middle. A central arcade is a marvel of gold and colors. The walls are of marble Coupe a jour and emblazoned with Arabic inscriptions in letters of gold.

The roof is built of wood, wonderfully carved and gorgeously colored in gilt. Space does not permit me to go into details, but I can say that to see this building alone is worth the journey to Spain.

The impression I have of Madrid is of wind and dust. It is situated on a high plateau, which is mostly arid, and from whence come these winds which make life so unpleasant in the capital of Spain. The principal square is the so-called Gateway of the Sun (Puerta del Sot). About it cluster the principal shops and hotels. The object of the greatest interest is the National Museum of Painting, which is rich in the works of the Spanish school; large numbers of Murillo's, Velasquez's and Goya's paintings are to be found there, while there are many of Titian's, Raphael's and Paul Veronese's works. Next to the Museum of Painting in interest is the Museum of Arms, which is one of the finest in the world. The collection of suits of armor, inlaid with gold and silver, is unequalled.

I noticed that the men in the streets nearly all wore cloaks of blue or brown cloth, which they held folded so as to cover the mouth, giving them the appearance of stage conspirators, especially as they wore broad-brimmed sombreros pulled well down over the face. It is said that they do this because of the wind and dust, which they dread.

As I am not writing a guide-book to Spain I will refrain from describing my further wanderings. I longed to see Ciudad, Rodrigo, Albuerra, Torres Vedras and Busaca, made famous in the Peninsular War, but time did not permit. I left Spain at San Sebastian, now the most fashionable watering place. It was a bright, modern town which has grown out of an old Basque fishing village. I was greatly interested in the fort, which lies on top of a high and steep hill. As I climbed up the road on that hot May morning I wondered how it was possible for British soldiers to climb up the steep incline, in the face of a brisk fire, laden with all the old-fashioned equipment of 1813, when they made the assault ; yet they did it, as British soldiers have done the almost impossible in all parts of the world. In the coarse grass one could see almost illegible, tumble-down tombstones. Will those in France be in the same condition a hundred years hence? Families die out or lose interest and nations forget.

1 left Spain after a most interesting sojourn. It is a land of transition, from the fourteenth to the twentieth century.

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