It was hard by her cottage that we saw our first mosque, which had begun by being a Gothic church, but had lost itself in paynim hands for centuries, in spite of the lamp always kept burning in it. Then one day the Cid came riding by, and his horse, at sight of a white stone in the street pavement, knelt down and would not budge till men came and dug through the wall of the mosque and disclosed this indefatigable lamp in the church. We expressed our doubt of the man's knowing so unerringly that the horse meant them to dig through the mosque. "If you can believe the rest I think you can believe that," our guide argued.
He was like so many taciturn Spaniards, not inconversable, and we had a pleasure in his unobtrusive intelligence which I should be sorry to exaggerate. He supplied us with such statistics of his city as we brought away with us, and as I think the reader may join me in trusting, and in regretting that I did not ask more. Still it is something to have learned that in Toledo now each family lives English fashion in a house of its own, while in the other continental cities it mostly dwells in a flat. This is because the population has fallen from two hundred thousand to twenty thousand, and the houses have not shared its decay, but remain habitable for numbers immensely beyond those of the households. In the summer the family inhabits the first floor which the patio and the subterranean damp from the rains keep cool; in the winter it retreats to the upper chambers which the sun is supposed to warm, and which are at any rate dry even on cloudy days. The rents would be thought low in New York: three dollars a month get a fair house in Toledo; but wages are low, too; three dollars a month for a manservant and a dollar and a half for a maid. If the Toledans from high to low are extravagant in anything it is dress, but dress for the outside, not the inside, which does not show, as our guide satirically explained. They scrimp themselves in food and they pay the penalty in lessened vitality; there is not so much fever as one might think; but there is a great deal of consumption; and as we could not help seeing everywhere in the streets there were many blind, who seemed oftenest to have suffered from smallpox. The beggars were not so well dressed as the other classes, but I saw no such delirious patchwork as at Burgos. On the other hand, there were no idle people who were fashionably dressed; no men or women who looked great-world.
Perhaps if the afternoon had kept the sunny promise of the forenoon they might have been driving in the Paseo, a promenade which Toledo has like every Spanish city; but it rained and we did not stop at the Paseo which looked so pleasant.
The city, as so many have told and as I hope the reader will imagine, is a network of winding and crooked lanes, which the books say are Moorish, but which are medieval like those of every old city. They nowhere lend themselves to walking for pleasure, and the houses do not open their patios to the passer with Andalusian expansiveness; they are in fact of a quite Oriental reserve. I remember no dwellings of the grade, quite, of hovels; but neither do there seem to be many palaces or palatial houses in my hurried impression. Whatever it may be industrially or ecclesiastically, Toledo is now socially provincial and tending to extinction. It is so near Madrid that if I myself were living in Toledo I would want to live in Madrid, and only return for brief sojourns to mourn my want of a serious object in life; at Toledo it must be easy to cherish such an object.
Industrially, of course, one associates it with the manufacture of the famous Toledo blades, which it is said are made as wonderful as ever, and I had a dim idea of getting a large one for decorative use in a, New York flat. But the foundry is a mile out of town, and I only got so far as to look at the artists who engrave the smaller sort in shops open to the public eye; and my purpose dwindled to the purchase of a little pair of scissors, much as a high resolve for the famous marchpane of Toledo ended in a piece of that pastry about twice the size of a silver dollar. Not all of the twenty thousand people of Toledo could be engaged in these specialties, and I owe myself to blame for not asking more about the local industries; but it is not too late for the reader, whom I could do no greater favor than sending him there, to repair my deficiency. In self-defense I urge my knowledge of a military school in the Alcazar, where and in the street leading up to it we saw some companies of the comely and kindly-looking cadets. I know also that there are public night schools where those so minded may study the arts and letters, as our guide was doing in certain directions. Now that there are no longer any Jews in Toledo, and the Arabs to whom they betrayed the Gothic capital have all been Christians or exiles for many centuries, we felt that we represented the whole alien element of the place; there seemed to be at least no other visitors of our lineage or language.