Now I look back and am glad I had not consciously with me, as we drove away, the boy who once meant to write the life of Cervantes, and who I knew from my recollection of his idolatry of that chief of Spaniards would not have listened to the excuses of Valladolid for a moment. All appeared fair and noble in that Spain of his which shone with such allure far across the snows through which he trudged morning and evening with his father to and from the printing-office, and made his dream of that great work the common theme of their talk. Now the boy is as utterly gone as the father, who was a boy too at heart, but who died a very old man many years ago; and in the place of both is another old man trammeled in his tangled memories of Spain visited and unvisited.
It would be a poor sort of make-believe if this survivor pretended any lasting indignation with Valladolid because of the stench of Cervantes's house. There are a great many very bad smells in Spain everywhere, and it is only fair to own that a psychological change toward Valladolid had been operating itself in me since luncheon which Valladolid was not very specifically to blame for. Up to the time the wedding guests left us we had said Valladolid was the most interesting city we had ever seen, and we would like to stay there a week; then, suddenly, we began to turn against it. One thing: the weather had clouded, and it was colder. But we determined to be just, and after we left the house of Cervantes we drove out to the promenades along the banks of the Pisuerga, in hopes of a better mind, for we had read that they were the favorite resort of the citizens in summer, and we did not know but even in autumn we might have some glimpses of their recreation. Our way took us sorrowfully past hospitals and prisons and barracks; and when we came out on the promenade we found ourselves in the gloom of close set mulberry trees, with the dust thick on the paths under them. The leaves hung leaden gray on the boughs and there could never have been a spear of grass along those disconsolate ways. The river was shrunken in its bed, and where its current crept from pool to pool, women were washing some of the rags which already hung so thick on the bushes that it was wonderful there should be any left to wash. Squalid children abounded, and at one point a crowd of people had gathered and stood looking silently and motionlessly over the bank. We looked too and on a sand-bar near the shore we saw three gendarmes standing with a group of civilians. Between their fixed and absolutely motionless figures lay the body of a drowned man on the sand, poorly clothed in a workman's dress, and with his poor, dead clay-white hands stretched out from him on the sand, and his gray face showing to the sky. Everywhere people were stopping and staring; from one of the crowded windows of the nearest house a woman hung with a rope of her long hair in one hand, and in the other the brush she was passing over it. On the bridge the man who had found the body made a merit of his discovery which he dramatized to a group of spectators without rousing them to a murmur or stirring them from their statuesque fixity. His own excitement in comparison seemed indecent.