Spain - The Route Of The Silver Fleets
( Originally Published 1905 )
" Paul, the Physician, to Cristobal Colombo, greeting. I perceive your magnificent and great desire to find a way to where the spices grow."
"And thus leade they their lyves in fullfilling the holy hunger of golde. But the more they fill their handes with finding, the more increaseth their covetous desire." — Decades in the New Worlde.
I WANTED to go from Seville to Cadiz by water. I longed to sail by the " Silver Road " in the wake of the silver fleets. The little artist, as befitted her youth, preferred a Manila shawl to that historic pilgrimage. So I proposed to make this trifling trip alone.
Don Jose was shocked. Merriest and most indulgent of hosts, he was inclined at this point to play the tyrant. If I must see Cadiz, well and good. He would take me to the morning express and put me under charge of the conductor. At Utrera, an hour farther on, his son would come to the train and see that all was well. At Puerto de Santa Maria, another hour distant, I should be met by a trusted friend of the family, who would transfer me to another train and another conductor, and so speed me for my third hour to Cadiz, where I should be greeted by a relative of mine hostess and conveyed in safety to his home.
I appreciated the kindness involved in this very Andalusian programme, but otherwise it did not appeal to me. That was not the way Columbus went, nor Cones. And much as I delighted in the Alhambra, and the Mosque of Cordova, and the Alcazar of Seville, I did not feel called upon to bow a New England bonnet beneath the Moorish yoke.
Thus Don Jose and I found ourselves quietly engaged in an Hispano-American contest. He heartily disapproved of my going, even by train. " Una senora sola ! It is not the custom in Andalusia." His plan of campaign consisted in deferring the arrangements from day to day. "Manana ! " Whenever I attempted to set a time for departure. he blandly assented, and presently projected some irresistibly attractive excursion for that very date. His household were all with him. His wife had not been able. to procure , the particular dukes indispensable to a traveller's luncheon.. Even my faithless comrade, ,draped in her flower garden, shawl, practised the steps of a seguidilla to the rattle of the castanets and laughed at my defeats.
At last, grown desperate, I suavely announced at the Sun-day dinner table that I was going r Cadiz that week. My host said, " Bueno ! " and: my hostess, " Muy, bien ! " But there was no, surrender in their tones. On Monday, instead of writing the, requisite notes to these relays of protectors along, the route, Don Jose took us himself, on a mimic. steamboats for a judicious distance down the Guadalquivir. Tuesday he put me off with Roman ruins, and Wednesday with a private gallery of Murillos, ; By, Thursday I. grew insistent, and, with shrug and sigh, he finally consented to my going by train on Friday. I still urged the, boat, but he heaped up a thousand difficulties. There wasn't any;it would be over crowded ; I should be seasick; the boat would arrive, wherever it might arrive, too late for my train, whatever my train might be. Compromise is always becoming, and, I. agreed to take-the-nine o'clock express in the morning.
After the extended Spanish farewells, for to kiss on- both cheeks and be kissed on both cheeks down a long feminine line, mother, daughters, and maid-servants, is no hasty ceremony, I sallied forth at half-past eight with Don Jose in attendance. He called a cab, but Spain the cabbies are men' and brothers, and this' one, on learning our destination, declared that the train did 'not start until half-past: nine-and it was much better for a lady to wait en casa than at the depot. This additional' guardianship goaded me to active remonstrance. Why not take the cab for the hour and look up a procession on our way to 'the station ? There are always processions in Seville. This appealed to both the pleasure-loving Spaniards, and we drove 'into the palmy Plaza de San Fernando, where an array of military bands was serenading some civic dignitary.
The music was of the best, and we fell in with the large aid varied retinue that escorted the musicians to the palate of the archbishop. - As they were rousing-him front his reverend slumbers with La Marcha de Cadiz, I caught-a twinkle in Dora Jose's eye. Did he hope- to keep me chasing after those. bands all the forenoon ? I awakened the cabman; whom the music had lulled into the easy >Andalusian doze, and we sintered off to the station. Of all silent and forsaken plates! I looked suspiciously at Don Jose, whose swarthy countenance wore an overdone expression of innocent surprise. A solitary official sauntered out.
" Good morning, senor ! Is the express gone ? " asked the driver.
" Good morning, senor ! There isn't any express to-day," was the reply. "The express runs only Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays."
" What a pity," cooed Don Jose, contentedly. "You will have to wait till to-morrow."
"Yes, you can go tomorrow," indulgently added the driver, and the official chimed sweetly in, " Manana por manana ! " " But is there no other train to-day ? " I asked.
The official admitted that there was one at three o'clock. Don Jose gave him a reproachful glance.
" But you do not want to go by train," said my ingenious host. " Perhaps to-morrow you can go by steamboat."
" Perhaps I can go by steamboat now," I returned, seizing my opportunity. " When does that boat start ? "
Nobody knew. I asked the cabman to drive us to the Golden Tower, off which sea-going vessels usually anchor. Don Jose fell back in his seat, exhausted.
The cabman drove so fast, for Seville, that we ran into a donkey and made a paralyzed beggar jump, but we reached the river in time to see a small steamer just in the act of swinging loose from the pier. In the excitement of the moment Don Jose forgot everything save the necessity of properly presenting me to the captain, and I, for my part, was absorbed in the ecstasy of sailing from the foot of the Golden Tower along the Silver Road.
It was not until a rod of water lay between boat and wharf that the captain shouted to Don Jose, who struck an attitude of utter consternation, that this craft went only to Bonanza, and no connection could be made from there to Cadiz until the following afternoon. And I, mindful of the austere dignity that befitted these critical circumstances, could not even laugh.
It was a dirty little boat, with a malodorous cargo of fish, and for passengers two soldiers, two peasants, and a commercial traveller. But what of that ? I was sailing on a treasure ship of the Indies, one of those lofty galleons of Spain, "rowed by thrice one hundred slaves and gay with streamers, banners, music," that had delivered at the Golden Tower her tribute from the hoard of the Incas, and was proudly bearing back to the open roads of Cadiz.
We dropped down past a noble line of deep-sea merchantmen, from Marseilles, Hamburg, and far-away ports of Norway and Sweden. We passed fishing boats casting their nets, and met a stately Spanish bark, the Calderon. On the shores we caught glimpses of orange grove and olive orchard, lines of osiers and white poplars, and we paused at the little town of Coria, famous for its earthen jars, to land one of our peasants, while a jolly priest, whose plain black garb was relieved by a vermilion parasol, tossed down cigars to his friends among the sailors.
Then our galleon pursued her course into the flat and desolate regions of the marismas. These great salt marshes of the Guadalquivir, scarcely more than a bog in winter, serve as pasture for herds of hardy sheep and for those droves of mighty bulls bred in Andalusia to die in the arenas of all Spain. For long stretches the green bank would be lined with the glorious creatures, standing like ebony statues deep amid the reeds, some entirely black, and many black with slight markings of white. The Guadalquivir intersects in triple channel this unpeopled waste, concerning whose pro-fusion of plant life and animal life English hunters tell strange tales. They report flocks of rosy flamingoes, three hundred or five hundred in a-column, ",glinting in the sun-shine like a pink cloud," and muddy islets studded thick with colonies of flamingo nests. Most wonderful of all, the camel, that ancient and serious beast of burden, a figure pertaining in all imaginations to the arid, sandy desert, keeps holiday in these huge swamps. It seems that, in 1829, a herd of camels was brought into the province of Cadiz, from the Canaries, for transport service in road building and the like, and for trial in agriculture. But the peculiar distaste of horses for these humpy monsters spoiled the scheme, and the camels, increased to some eighty in number', took merrily to the marshes, where, in defiance of all caravan tradition, they thrive in aquatic liberty. The fascination of this wilderness reached even the dingy steamer deck. Gulls, ducks, and all manner of wild fowl flashed in the sunshine, which often made the winding river, as tawny as our James, sparkle like liquid gold.
If only it had been gold indeed, and had kept the traceries of the Roman keels that have traversed it, the Vandal swords whose red it has washed away, the Moorish faces it has mirrored, the Spanish — " listed come ?"
It might have been Cartes who was offering that bowl of where, but no! Cortes would have mixed it in his plumy helmet and stirred it with that thin, keen sword one may see in the Madrid Amelia. This was a barefooted cabin boy, in blue linen blouse and patched blue trousers, with a scarlet cloth cap tied over his head by means of an orange-colored handkerchief. The dancing eyes that lit his shy brown face had sea blues in them. He was a winsome little fellow enough, but I did not incline to, his cookery. ; While I was watching river, shores, and herds-and' chatting with the simpatico sailor, who, taking his cue from my kook, expressed the deepest abhorrence of the bullfights, which, make no doubt, he would sell his dinner, jacket; ,bed, 'even his guitar, to see, I had taken secret, note of the cuisine. This child, who could not have counted his twelfth birthday, kindled the fire in a flimsy tin pail, lined with broken bricks. He cracked Over his, knee a few pieces .of, driftwood, mixed the fragments with bits of `coal which he shook out of a sheepskin bottle, doused oil over the whole, and. cheerfully applied the match, while the commercial traveller, hastily drew up a bucket of water to have on hand for emergencies. Then the` boy, with excellent intentions in the way of neatness, whisked his blackened hands across the rough end of a rope and plunged them into the pot of garbanzos, to which he added 'beans, cabbage remnants of fried fish, and other sundries at his young discretion. And while the mess was simmering,he squatted down on then deck, with his grimy 'little feet in his 'fists, rocking himself back and forth to his own wild Malaga songs; and occasionally disengaging one hand or the other to plunge it into, the pot after a tasty morsel.
"Will you eat?" he repeated manfully, reddening under the scrutiny-of stranger eyes. -
" Many thanks ! May it profit yourself!"
I opened my luncheon; and again we exchanged these fixed phrases of Spanish etiquette, although after the refusals en-joined by code of courtesy, the boy was finally induced to relieve me of my more indigestible goodies.
"Did you ever hear of Columbus?" I asked, as we munched chestnut cakes together, leaning on the rail.
"No, senora," he replied, with another blush, "I have heard of nothing. I know little. I am of very small account. I cook and sing. I am good for nothing more."
And is it to this those arrogant Spanish boasts, which rang like trumpets up and down the Guadalquivir, have come at last !
We were in the heart of a perfect sapphire day. The river, often turbulent and unruly, was on this April afternoon, the sailors said, buen muchacho, a good boy. The boat appeared to navigate herself. The captain nodded on his lofty perch, and the engineer was curled up in his own tiny hatch-way, trying to read a newspaper, which the fresh breeze blew into horns and balloons. The rough cabin bunks were full of sleeping forms, and the leather wine-bottles, flung down carelessly in the stern, had cuddled each to each in cozy shapes, and seemed to be sleeping, too. The two soldiers, who had been gambling with coppers over innumerable games of dominos, were listening grimly to the oratory of the commercial traveller.
" No fighting for me ! " this hero was declaiming. " In strenuous times like these a man ought to cherish his life for the sake of his country. Spain needs her sons right here at home. It is sweet, as the poet says, to die for the patria, but to live for the patria is, in my opinion, just as glbrious."
And more comfortable," grunted one of the soldiers, while the other gave a hitch to those red infantry trousers which look as if they had been wading in blood, and walked for-ward to view from the bows the little white port of Bonanza.
As the boat went no farther, I had to stain my silver route by a prosaic parenthesis of land. It was some comfort to remember that Magellan waited here for that expedition from Seville which was the first to sail around the globe. I think I travelled the three miles from Bonanza, Good Weather, to San Lucar de Barrameda in Magellan's own carriage. It was certainly old enough. As I sat on a tipsy chair in the middle of a rude wagon frame mounted on two shrieking wooden wheels, and hooded with broken arches of bamboo, from which flapped shreds of russet oilcloth, I entered into poignant sympathy with Magellan's ups and downs of hope and fear. The jolting was such a torture that, to divert my attention, I questioned the driver as to the uses of this and that appliance in his rickety ark.
" And what are those ropes for, there in the corner ? " was my final query.
"Those are to tie the coffins down when I have a fare for the cemetery," he replied, cracking his whip over the incredibly lean mule that was sulkily jerking us along.
" Please let me get out and walk," I entreated. " You may keep the valise and show me the way to the inn, and I can go quite as fast as that mule."
"Now, don't ! " he begged, with even intenser pathos. " Strangers always want to walk before they get to the inn, and then the people laugh at me. I know my carriage isn't very handsome, but it's the only one in Bonanza. Just do me the favor to keep your seat a little longer."
I, had been lurched out of it only a minute before, but I could not refuse to sacrifice mere bodily ease to the pride of Spanish spirit.
Notwithstanding Don Jose's dark predictions, this was the only trial of the trip. To realize to the full the honesty, kindliness, and dignity of the everyday Spaniard, one needs to turn off from the sight-seer's route. On the beaten tourist track are exorbitant hotels, greedy guides, cheating merchants, troops of beggars — everywhere "the itching palm." But here in San Lucar, for instance, where I had to spend twenty-four hours at a genuine Spanish fonda, the proprietor took no advantage of the facts that I was a foreigner, a woman, and practically a prisoner in the place until the Saturday afternoon train went out, but gave me excellent accommodations, most respectful and considerate treatment, and the lowest hotel bill that I- had seen in Spain.
San Lucar has, in early Spanish literature, a very ill name for roguery, but, so far as my brief experience went, Boston could not have been safer and would not have been so genial. I strayed, for instance, into a modest little shop to buy a cake of soap, which its owner declined to sell, insisting that I ought to have a choicer variety than his, and sending his son, a lad of sixteen, to point me out more fashionable counters. This youth showed me the sights of the pleasant seashore town, with its tiers of closely grated windows standing out from the white fronts of the houses, and its sturdy packhorses and orange-laden donkeys streaming along the rough stone' streets, and when, at the inn; door, I hesitatingly offered him a piece of silver, doffed his cap with smiling ease, and said he did not take pay for a pleasure.
Once off the regular lines of travel, however, speed is out of the question. I might have gone from Seville to Cadiz in three hours ; thanks to historic enthusiasms, it took me nearer three days. After escaping from San Lucar, I had to pass four hours in Jerez, another whitewashed, palm-planted town, whose famous sherry has made it the third city in Spain for wealth. The thing to do at Jerez is to visit the great bodegas and taste the rich white liquors treasured in those monster casks, which bear all manner of names, from Christ and His twelve disciples to Napoleon the Great; but mindful,, in the light of Don Jose's admonitions, that the weak feminine estate is " as water unto wine," I contented myself with seeing the strange storage basin of the mountain aqueduct an immense, immaculate cellar, where endless vistas of low stone arches stretch away in the silent dusk above the glimmer of a ghostly lake.
The train for Cadiz must needs be two hours late this particular evening, but my cabman drove me to approved shops for the purchase of bread and fruit, and then, of his own motion, drew up our modest equipage in a shady nook opposite the villa of the English consul, that I might enjoy my Arcadian repast with a secure mind. Jehu accepted, after due protestations, a share of the viands, and reciprocated the attention by buying me a glass of water at the nearest stand, much amused at my continued preference for Jerez water over Jerez wine.
One of the Jerez wine merchants, German by birth, shared the railway carriage with me for a while, and after the social wont of Continental, travel fell to discussing the war. " The Spaniards deserved to be beaten," he declared, " but the Yankees didn't deserve to beat. They were conceited enough before, heaven knows, and now they expect all Europe to black their shoddy shoes. Your own country was a bit to blame in blocking every effort to keep them in their place."
I felt it time to explain that I was not English, but American. Much disconcerted, he did his best to make amends.
" I wouldn't have said that for the world if I had known you were an American—but it's every syllable true."
He thought over this remark in silence for a moment, his Teutonic spirit sorely strained between kindliness and honesty, and tried again.
"I would like to say something good about the United States, I would indeed, — if there was anything to say."
It seemed to occur to him, after a little, that even this apology left something to be desired, and he brightened up.
"Wouldn't you like some roses ? They sell them here at this station. There comes a boy now with a nice, big bunch. One peseta ! I think that's too dear, don't you ? "
I hastened to assent.
"The lady says that's too dear. Seventy-five centimos? No. The lady can't pay that. Sixty centimos? No. The lady can't afford sixty centimos. Fifty centimos? No. The lady says fifty centimos is too much. She will take them at forty centimos. Here's a half peseta. And you must give me back a fat dog."
The boy held back the penny and tried to substitute a cent.
" Oh, sir, please, sir, forty-five centimos ! There are two dozen roses here, and all fresh as the dawn. Give me the puppy-dog over."
But the German, who knew how to put even a sharper edge on the inveterate Spanish bargaining, secured for the value of eight cents, instead of twenty, his great bouquet of really beautiful roses, and presented it with as much of a bow as the carriage limits permitted.
"I meant to pay all the time, you know ; but one can always make a better trade, in Spain, if it is done in the name of a lady." And he added, with that sudden tact which innate goodness and delicacy give to the most blundering of us mortals, " If you don't like to take them from a stranger for yourself, you will take them as my peace-offering to your country."
I was reminded again of my native land by another fellow-traveller — a Spaniard of the Spaniards, this time, one of the Conservative and Catholic leaders, greeted at the various stations by priests and monks and friars, whose hands he solemnly kissed. This distinguished personage was absorbed in a voluminous type-written manuscript, from which he occasionally read aloud to the band of political confidants who accompanied him. It was an arraignment of the Liberal Party, and, by way of exposing the errors of the Sagasta government, included a merciless resume of the Spanish naval and military disasters, with elaborate comparisons of the American and Spanish equipments. He was then on his way to join in a consoling pilgrimage to a certain image of Christ, which had been cudgelled by a grief-maddened priest whose dying mother the image had failed to heal.
These surroundings more or less jostled my sixteenth century dream, but I held to it so stubbornly that, when pyramids of salt began to glimmer like ghosts along the way, and a sweeping curve of lights warned me of our approach to Cadiz, I made a point of seeing as little as possible. It was midnight, but Spanish hours are luckily, so late that Don Jose's friends were still at the height of evening sociability and regaled me with alternate -showers of sweetmeats and questions. Finally, after many exclamations of horror at the audacity of the trip, all the feminine hospitality of the household lighted me to a chamber whose walls were hung with pictures of martyrs and agonizing saints.. Among these I counted five colored representations of Christ opening his breast to display the bleeding heart.
The next morning I promptly took boat to Puerto de Santa Maria, embarked on the return steamer, and so at last found myself once more on the Silver Road, entering Cadiz harbor from the sea.
To be sure, the Montserratwas riding proudly in my view, although the warships to which she had been used to' curtsy the open roads of Cadiz would never cut those shining waves again. The waters were as turquoise blue as if they had just: come from the brush of an old master, and the towered city rose before us like a crystal castle-in the air. Its limited space, built-as it is within great sea walls on an outlying rock, which only a rope of sand moors to the mainland, has necessitated narrow streets and high houses, whose miradares, look-outs that everywhere crown the terraced roofs, give this battlemented aspect to the. town. One of the most ancient and tragic cities known to time, claiming Hercules for its founder, in turn Phoenician, Carthaginian, Roman, Gothic, Moorish, Spanish, it yet looks fresh as a water-lily. - I could have spent another three days in gazing. And this sparkling vision was Spain's Copa de Plata, the Silver Cup which has brimmed with the gold and pearls of America, with blood and flame and glory. Its riches have taken to themselves wings, but its high, free spirit and frank gayety abide. Still the Andalusians sing : —
Viva Cadiz, Silver Cadiz,
Good luck to merry Cadiz,
But I am bound to add that the cannon do not look dangerous.