+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


It was three o'clock of an August morning,
and the soft deep blue darkness of the Andalucian
firmament was punctuated with golden
and diamond stars that seemed to wink at me
as, half-sleepily, I tugged-to my carpet-bag,
eventually, after a hard struggle, got the
better of it and locked it with a chirping
click of triumph. I desended the silent
stone stairs of the Fonda Europa, thinking
of Gil Blas's scampish but amusing night
adventures, fell over two pails, one pair of
boots and a tin dust-pan, and debouched by
a side door into the now silent diligence
office, where the shuffle and pawing of hoofs
indicated the presence of horses.

But I must go back, or I shall never get
on with the story of my wonderful ride
through that enchanted Moorish country.
My ride came to me thus. I and Major
Hodgins of the Mounted Bombardiers, at
present stationed at the Rock (as subs, with
half-fretful love, call Gibralter, when they
do not contract it to Gib), had come to
Malaga from Bailen, the scene of the only
real victory over the French the Spanish
ever gained in the late Peninsular War.
Tired of the City of Raisins, we determined
to push on at once, hot and fast, for Granada,
the city of the Moorish palace. Before we
had well got down our muscatel-grapes and
white bread, we hurried to the diligence
office, invited by a red-lettered board inscribed
with the names of a dozen or two cities. A
severe old Don looked at us over his stern
steel spectacles, and referred to endless
books, muttering. It was of no use;
people were hurrying back from bathing and
the bull-fight, from Malaga to Granada.
There wre no seats for fifteen days. Imagine
no conveyance, or, rather, no places vacant,
from London to Derby for fifteen days! My
blood rose to two hundred and fifty in the
shade, and I am afraid the Don grew
offended at our imatience, closed his books,
nibbed his pen, and, refusing to answer any
further applications, began piling up a Nelson
column of figures and then running up red
lines with his pen as if he were climbing a
ladder. In vain we clung to the mahogany
rails of his desk, and, through the bars, put
imaginary cases of possible misfortunes
attendant on fifteen days' delay. Don
Fulano was deaf and dumb. In vain we
talked about the Swiss system of Supplements,
which were put on the road as
postscripts for residue travellers who could not
be accomodated by the regular diligence. In
vain we enlisted allies in the shape of a
voluble negro boots in a yellow jacket, who,
with a shoe in one hand and a brush in the
other, addressed entreaties to Don Fulano
worthy of Cicero in his best days. In vain
he was joined by a friendly one-eyed touter
in a rusty black-craped hat, who threw
himself into pathetic attitudes worthy of the old
judicial Roman mimics who did the gestures
while Cato did the speaking. All they did
was to drive the Don almost to personal
violence. The black Cicero and the Cyclops
touter fled before his uplifted ruler. After
some quieter diplomacy, however, and the
shovel-boarding of a stray half-dollar, Don
Fulano grew more civil. Don Denaro had
done what neither Cicero nor Demosthenes
could do.

Joy, joy in Avelon! Don Fulano erases
the name of an old woman, who can safely
be defied, and whose fifteen days are of
no importance, and inserts—? " Whose
name, Señor? " Hodgins and I looked at
each other. We agree to toss up, Don
Fulano puts his pen behind his ear, and
huddles up to the rails to see the " sortes;"
the old divination by lot. Up goes the
dollar in a silvery somersault.

"Heads or tails?  Man or woman?"

"Woman," I cry.

It comes the Queen of Spain, and I win.

Hodgins, before convivial and noisy, looked
blank. I drew him apart into the little den
of my friend the negro boots. I proposed to
him that he should hire two horses and a
guide, and ride over the spur of the Sierra
Nevada, by way of Velez, Malaga, and
Alhama (Byron's Alhama), to Granadafairyland,
sugar-canes, oleanders, Arabian nights,

"And perhaps get murdered? " said Hodgins,
taking to his cigar-case. " I don't seem to see
it. Riding, when off duty, is a bore."

"My dear fellow," said I, with a quiet
diplomatic smile, " I only said this to try you.
I will be knight errant, and ride over the
mountain, as you will not let me over-ride