THE CITY OF THE VISIGOTHS
Passing by a world of artistic beauties which never tire the eyes, but soon would tire the chronicler and reader, stepping over the broad bronze slab in the floor which covers the dust of the haughty primate Porto Carrero, but which bears neither name nor date, only this inscription of arrogant humility, HIC JACET PULVIS CINIS ET NIHIL, we walk into the verdurous and cheerful Gothic cloisters. They occupy the site of the ancient Jewish markets, and the zealous prelate Tenorio, cousin to the great lady's man Don Juan, could think of no better way of acquiring the ground than that of stirring up the mob to burn the houses of the heretics. A fresco that adorns the gate explains the means employed, adding insult to the old injury. It is a picture of a beautiful child hanging upon a cross; a fiendish-looking Jew, on a ladder beside him, holds in his hand the child's heart, which he has just taken from his bleeding breast; he holds the dripping knife in his teeth. This brutal myth was used for centuries with great effect by the priesthood upon the mob whenever they wanted a Jew's money or his blood. Even to-day the old poison has not lost its power. This very morning I heard under my window loud and shrill voices. I looked out and saw a group of brown and ragged women, with babies in their arms, discussing the news from Madrid. The Protestants, they said, had begun to steal Catholic children. They talked themselves into a fury. Their elf-locks hung about their fierce black eyes. The sinews of their lean necks worked tensely in their voluble rage. Had they seen our mild missionary at that moment, whom all men respect and all children instinctively love, they would have torn him in pieces in their Maenad fury, and would have thought they were doing their duty as mothers and Catholics.
This absurd and devilish charge was seriously made in a Madrid journal, the organ of the Moderates, and caused great fermentation for several days, street rows, and debates in the Cortes, before the excitement died away. Last summer, in the old Murcian town of Lorca, an English gentleman, who had been several weeks in the place, was attacked and nearly killed by a mob, who insisted that he was engaged in the business of stealing children, and using their spinal marrow for lubricating telegraph wires! What a picture of blind and savage ignorance is here presented! It reminds us of that sad and pitiful "blood-bath revolt" of Paris, where the wretched mob rose against the wretched tyrant Louis XV., accusing him of bathing in the blood of children to restore his own wasted and corrupted energies.
Toledo is a city where you should eschew guides and trust implicitly to chance in your wanderings. You can never be lost; the town is so small that a short walk always brings you to the river or the wall, and there you can take a new departure. If you do not know where you are going, you have every moment the delight of some unforeseen pleasure. There is not a street in Toledo that is not rich in treasures of architecture, - hovels that once were marvels of building, balconies of curiously wrought iron, great doors with sculptured posts and lintels, with gracefully finished hinges, and studded with huge nails whose fanciful heads are as large as billiard balls. Some of these are still handsome residences, but most have fallen into neglect and abandonment. You may find a beggar installed in the ruined palace of a Moorish prince, a cobbler at work in the pleasure-house of a Castilian conqueror. The graceful carvings are mutilated and destroyed, the delicate arabesques are smothered and hidden under a triple coat of whitewash. The most beautiful Moorish house in the city, the so-called Taller del Moro, where the grim governor of Huesca invited four hundred influential gentlemen of the province to a political dinner, and cut off all their heads as they entered (if we may believe the chronicle, which we do not), is now empty and rapidly going to ruin. The exquisite panelling of the walls, the endlessly varied stucco work that seems to have been wrought by the deft fingers of ingenious fairies, is shockingly broken and marred. Gigantic cacti look into the windows from the outer court. A gay pomegranate-tree flings its scarlet blossoms in on the ruined floor. Rude little birds have built their nests in the beautiful fretted rafters, and flutter in and out as busy as brokers. But of all the feasting and loving and plotting these lovely walls beheld in that strange age that seems like fable now, - the vivid, intelligent, scientific, tolerant age of the Moors, - even the memory has perished utterly and forever.
We strolled away aimlessly from this beautiful desolation, and soon came out upon the bright and airy Paseo del Transito. The afternoon sunshine lay warm on the dull brown suburb, but a breeze blew freshly through the dark river-gorge, and we sat upon the stone benches bordering the bluff and gave ourselves up to the scene. To the right were the ruins of the Roman bridge and the Moorish mills; to the left the airy arch of San Martin's bridge spanned the bounding torrent, and far beyond stretched the vast expanse of the green valley refreshed by the river, and rolling in rank waves of verdure to the blue hills of Guadalupe. Below us on the slippery rocks that lay at the foot of the sheer cliffs, some luxurious fishermen reclined, idly watching their idle lines. The hills stretched away, ragged and rocky, dotted with solitary towers and villas.
A squad of beggars rapidly gathered, attracted by the gracious faces of Las Senoras. Begging seems almost the only regular industry of Toledo. Besides the serious professionals, who are real artists in studied misery and ingenious deformity, all the children in town occasionally leave their marbles and their leap-frog to turn an honest penny by amateur mendicancy.