ePub 版
[ocr errors]

the interior, or middle division, with seats for six persons, half of whom ride backwards, and the only places for looking out, are on each side. Last of all is the third apartment, which has also seats for six, and is entered by a door in the rear, like an omnibus. These last seats commonly cost about two-thirds, and those of the interior, three-fourths or more, of what is charged for those in front. I greatly prefer the middle seats, however, as in the winter they are more defended from cold than the others; and they are also usually occupied by the more substantial and intelligent class of trarellers; while in the rear are the poorer class of people and soldiers, not always clad in the neatest manner, and from whom but little can be learned. In front, on the other hand, one frequently meets with those who are disposed to be exclusive, and have much more gentility than brains. These diligences are drawn by eight or ten mules, sometimes harnessed three or four abreast; and besides these, there are often two or three horses in front, as leaders. In one case, in the South of Spain, where the road was very bad, we were drawn by seventeen horses and mules, mounted by six or eight half-crazy post boys, who, with their shouting, cracking their whips, and the noisy dashing of the animals and vehicle through the mud, made a real moving Bedlam.

The first six leagues after leaving Madrid, we were rapidly hurried over a straight, level road, with but little around to interest us. Then we began to descend into the beautiful and romantic vale of Aranjuez, the chosen abode of royalty, where the waters of the Golden Tagus at once soothe the ear by their delighful murmurs, and give to a thousand trees and plants a rank, luxuriant, and glowing fertility, worthy of an earthly paradise, and scarce surpassed in native richness and splendor by the highest conceptions of poetry or fiction. The palace of Aranjuez, the extensive and beautiful gardens, and the long avenues of lofty trees around it, occupy the centre of a valley or basin, enclosed by gentle hills; and both nature and art have conspired to make it one of the most delightful summer residences in the world. It was selected, and the palace was commenced, by that brilliant, but singular monarch, the Emperor Charles the Fifth; the traces of whose taste and power, and wide-spread and splendid conquests, are more often met with in Europe and the North of Africa, than those of any other individual who has ever lived, if we except, perhaps, Napoleon Bonaparte.

The town of Aranjuez is built after the model of those in Holland, an idea originating with the Marquis Grimaldi, after his return from an embassy to that country. The streets are broad and straight, some of them with rows of trees in the middle, while the houses are low and painted. The popula. tion is 4,022, but owing to the fact that the royal family, and the numerous court which attend them, reside there from April to July or August of each year, there are houses sufficient to accommodate 20,000 persons. There are also fondas, or hotels, coffee-houses, a theatre, an amphitheatre for bull-fights, and a sort of mimic navy, or feet, in which the royal family take pleasure excursions upon the Tagus; while in the vicinity are pleasant grounds for riding and walking, as well as facilities and inducements for fishing and hunting. But what reminded me most of home was, a genuine gristmill,

with six or eight run of stones, turned by the waters of the Tagus, and closely resembling those which are met with on every wild and noisy mountain stream throughout New England. This was the first structure of the kind that I had seen in my travels abroad, - the Spaniards, with their pertinacious adherence to old customs, uniformily employing those tall, long-armed giants of Don Quixote, the windmills. The mystery was solved, however, by learning that it was built and conducted by an Englishman, who kept the posada where I stopped.

The principal charms of Aranjuez, however, are its extensive and beautiful gardens, through which the Tagus winds its fertilizing way, giving to the numerous and lofty fruit and forest trees, and the thousand various kinds of flowering shrubs and plants, - the natives of every clime on earth, peculiarly rich and luxuriant growth, and the deepest and most splendid hues. Of these gardens, that of “ La Isla," or the Island, is enclosed on one side by the Tagus, which flows in a gently murmuring cascade, beneath the windows of the palace, and on the other by a canal, neatly walled, and with an iron railing along its banks; while in every direction are statues, tasteful summer houses, fountains, and various other ornaments, all of which unite in forming a truly elegant and delightful retreat. Not less rich and varied are the beauties of the garden, called that of the Principe, or Prince, while the luxuriance of its vegetation, the size and height of its forest, fruit, and shade trees, and the variety of exotic plants from every quarter of the globe, can hardly be surpassed. To


these charms we may add the music of multitudes of feathered songsters, which, during most of the year, find a quiet and pleasant retreat among the numerous trees and plants which flourish there. This garden is more than three and a half miles in circumference, and was commenced by Charles the Fourth, when Prince of Asturias. Taken in connexion with the elegant palace adjoining, called Casa del Labrador, it forms almost the only bright memorial of the reign and character of that weak and dissolute monarch.

My plan was to go from Aranjuez to Toledo, a city which I was peculiarly anxious to visit, as well from its being the religious capital, and the residence of the Primate of Spain, as from its great antiquity, its romantic situation, and its high historic interest, as having been, for a long succession of centuries, alternately the stronghold of Roman, Christian, and Moslem power, and alike the prize and the reward of many a brilliant and chivalrous contest. As the distance from Aranjuez was twenty-eight miles, and a private conveyance was necessary, my first object was to secure one. The man who had charge of the post-horses told me, that he could not accommodate me without orders from head-quarters, so that my only resort was to strike a bargain with a certain gruff and consequential blacksmith, who kept a lame and sorry apology for a livery stable. As most of the male population in Spain are now soldiers, and wear their martial garb, I found the dignitary in question, with his military coat and cap on, busily engaged in making horse nails. His stock in trade consisted of one decent horse, which, as he rode him himself, on parade, he would not lease on any terms, – one wretched little pony, scarce larger than a calf, with its back looking as if a wolf had made its supper from it, - and a great, vicious white mule, the largest animal of the kind I have ever seen, with a body like an elephant, and a long slender neck, not unlike that of a camel. Aside from the positive cruelty of riding the pony, with its back in such a state, his size was such that I feared, lest those I should meet might tell me that I ought, like the old man in the fable, to carry the animal instead of his carrying me. For the mule, harnessed in an old two-wheeled vehicle, and a boy to drive, he charged enough to pay for a coach and six; so that finally I agreed to ride the mule, paying him for it two or three times the value of the service required. He then wished some bondsman for the safe return of the animal, which he modestly

valued at $256, or only five or six times its real worth. He was glad to let it go, however, on my leaving in pledge, with the keeper of the posada, a letter of credit on my bankers in Madrid, for $ 100. But, before arrangements were fully made, it wanted but two or three hours of sunset; and as in Spain men rarely venture abroad after nightfall, for fear of robbers, I was scarce able to prevail on him to let the animal go that day. At length, however, the mule was equipped with an old patched-up saddle, and a rope-halter round the nose, by which to guide him. But on attempting to mount, he kicked and squealed, and setting off at a full trot for his stable, some two or three squares distant, he dragged the owner and his boy, who clung to the halter, rapidly along, until sick of the game they let go, and in high dudgeon followed on, fully bent on vengeance, and feeling as John Gilpin did, when he said to his horse that had run away with him, " 'T was for your pleasure you came here; for mine you shall


back.” After a severe contest, however, by putting on a powerful curbed bridle, the victory was finally gained, and I found myself swinging along through the air at a rapid rate on my way to Toledo.

The road from Aranjuez to Toledo lies along the valley of the Tagus, but rarely approaches near its banks. The country, which is free from trees, presents here and there a single house for the accommodation of travellers, and some few fields which are tilled, but most of it is occupied only by wandering flocks of sheep, under the care of shepherds, and their large and faithful dogs. Towards night they were collected together in folds made of hurdles, supported by cords, which were fastened to stakes driven in the ground, while their keepers sought repose in little hovels, shaped like a sugar-loaf, and covered with turf or thatched. After it was dark, the watchful dogs would come running across the fields, at a distance of half a mile from the folds, and pursue me, fiercely barking, until tired of the chase, when they returned again to their duty. Trusting as much to the sagacity of my mule, as to my own judgment in selecting the right path, among the variety of them which crossed the country, I at length arrived within sight of the lights, which marked the summit of the rude and lofty rock on which Toledo stands. The night was dark indeed, and I had no companion to cheer the loneliness of the way. Still

, when travelling in such a region, if one be at all familiar with the history of the past, he may deeply feel the truth of the remark, that in certain frames of mind we are never less alone than when alone; for, though in the midst of a crowded city, one may move in solitude among thousands, feeling himself to be but a solitary and disconnected drop in the great ocean of existence around him, yet, when his situation is changed, and wher wandering over wide-spread and desolate plains, or lonely and trackless deserts, where the fate of mighty empires has been decided, and liberty, learning, and the arts have flourished and decayed, the mind, then turned in upon its own resources, as if endowed with creative power, causes to appear and pass in brilliant perspective before it, the richly varied scenes, the noble achievements, the splendid pageants, and the dazzling glory of ages and generations long gone by. Even the darkness of night itself, by severing the union between the mind and surrounding nature, may lead one to draw forth, from the store house of memory and imagination, means of amusement far more vivid and exciting than any which the wildest and most beautiful scenery could possibly produce. Thus, in connexion with such a place as Toledo, and the region around, how naturally does the mind revert to the numerous eventful epochs of its history, from the earliest ages down to the present time. With what feelings of delightful excitement does one visit places of historic interest, which for years have been the subjects of his daily studies and his nightly dreams, and around which the mind has cast a kind of magic interest, by combining in a single splendid panorama, all the brilliant scenery and events with which either fancy or fact have graced or adorned the successive epochs of the past existence of those nations which have there flourished and decayed.

Thus the very mention of Toledo, and more than all, a near approach to that ancient and time-honored city, naturally carried back the mind to the period when its central situation as to the Spanish peninsula, the natural strength of the lofty rock on which it stands, almost surrounded as it is by the waters of the Tagus, foaming and chafing themselves in their deep rocky bed below, together with the widespread fertile plains around, led to its selection as a favored place of residence, and finally to its becoming for centuries the chosen capital of a long succession of kings and conquerors, of various and widely different tribes and nations. Without dwelling, however, upon that statement of early his

« 上一頁繼續 »