In the absence of any specific record in my notebook I do not know just how it was between this first glimpse of the cathedral and dinner, but it must have been on our return to our hotel, that the little interpreter who had met us at the station, and had been intermittently constituting himself our protector ever since, convinced us that we ought to visit the City Hall, and see the outside of the marble tomb containing the bones of the Cid and his wife. Such as the bones were we found they were not to be seen themselves, and I do not know that I should have been the happier for their inspection. In fact, I have no great opinion of the Cid as an historical character or a poetic fiction. His epic, or his long ballad, formed no part of my young study in Spanish, and when four or five years ago a friend gave me a copy of it, beautifully printed in black letter, with the prayer that I should read it sometime within the twelvemonth, I found the time far too short. As a matter of fact I have never read the poem to this day, though. I have often tried, and I doubt if its author ever intended it to be read. He intended it rather to be recited in stirring episodes, with spaces for refreshing slumber in the connecting narrative. As for the Cid in real life under his proper name of Rodrigo de Vivas, though he made his king publicly swear that he had had no part in the murder of his royal brother, and though he was the stoutest and bravest knight in Castile, I cannot find it altogether admirable in him that when his king banished him he should resolve to fight thereafter for any master who paid him best. That appears to me the part of a road-agent rather than a reformer, and it seems to me no amend for his service under Moorish princes that he should make war against them on his personal behalf or afterward under his own ungrateful king. He is friends now with the Arabian King of Saragossa, and now he defeats the Aragonese under the Castilian sovereign, and again he sends an insulting message by the Moslems to the Christian Count of Barcelona, whom he takes prisoner with his followers, but releases without ransom after a contemptuous audience. Is it well, I ask, that he helps one Moor against another, always for what there is in it, and when he takes Valencia from the infidels, keeps none of his promises to them, but having tortured the governor to make him give up his treasure, buries him to his waist and then burns him alive? After that, to be sure, he enjoys his declining years by making forays in the neighboring country, and dies "satisfied with having done his duty toward his God."
Our interpreter, who would not let us rest till he had shown us the box holding the Cid's bones, had himself had a varied career. If you believed him he was born in Madrid and had passed, when three years old, to New York, where he grew up to become a citizen and be the driver of a delivery wagon for a large department-store. He duly married an American woman who could speak not only French, German, and Italian, but also Chinese, and was now living with him in Burgos. His own English had somewhat fallen by the way, but what was left he used with great courage; and he was one of those government interpreters whom you find at every large station throughout Spain in the number of the principal hotels of the place. They pay the government a certain tax for their license, though it was our friend's expressed belief that the government, on the contrary, paid him a salary of two dollars a day; but perhaps this was no better founded than his belief in a German princess who, when he went as her courier, paid him ten dollars a day and all his expenses. She wished him to come and live near her in Germany, so as to be ready to go with her to South America, but he had not yet made up his mind to leave Burgos, though his poor eyes watered with such a cold as only Burgos can give a man in the early autumn; when I urged him to look to the bad cough he had, he pleaded that it was a very old cough. He had a fascination of his own, which probably came from his imaginative habit of mind, so that I could have wished more adoptive fellow-citizens were like him. He sympathized strongly with us in our grief with the cold of the hotel, and when we said that a small oil-heater would take the chill off a large room, he said that he had advised that very thing, but that our host had replied, with proud finality, "I am the landlord." Whether this really happened or not, I cannot say, but I have no doubt that our little guide had some faith in it as a real incident. He apparently had faith in the landlord's boast that he was going to have a stately marble staircase to the public entrance to his hotel, which was presently of common stone, rather tipsy in its treads, and much in need of scrubbing.