The Alhambra is not so impressive by its glory or grandeur as by the unparalleled beauty of its place. If it is not very noble as an effect of art, the inspiration of its founders is affirmed by their choice of an outlook which commands one of the most magnificent panoramas in the whole world. It would be useless to rehearse the proofs by name. Think of far-off silver-crested summits and of a peopled plain stretching away from them out of eye-shot, dense first with roofs and domes and towers, and then freeing itself within fields and vineyards and orchards and forests to the vanishing-point of the perspective; think of steep and sudden plunges into chasms at the foot of the palace walls, and one crooked stream stealing snakelike in their depths; think of whatever splendid impossible dramas of topography that you will, of a tremendous map outstretched in colored relief, and you will perhaps have some notion of the prospect from the giddy windows of the Alhambra; and perhaps not. Of one thing we made memorably sure beyond the gulf of the Darro, and that was the famous gipsy quarter which the traveler visits at the risk of his life in order to have his fortune told. At the same moment we made sure that we should not go nearer it, for though we knew that it was insurpassably dirty as well as dangerous, we remembered so distinctly the loathsomeness of the gipsy quarter at Seville that we felt no desire to put it to the comparison.
We preferred rather the bird's-eye study of the beautiful Generalife which our outlook enabled us to make, and which we supplemented by a visit the next day. We preferred, after the Barmecide lunch at our hotel, taking the tram-car that noisily and more noisily clambers up and down, and descending into the town by it. The ascent is so steep that at a certain point the electric current no longer suffices, and the car bites into the line of cogs with its sort of powerful under-jaw and so arrives. Yet it is a kindly little vehicle, with a conductor so affectionately careful in transporting the stranger that I felt after a single day we should soon become brothers, or at least step-brothers. Whenever we left or took his car, after the beginning or ending of the cogway, he was alert to see that we made the right change to or from it, and that we no more overpaid than underpaid him. Such homely natures console the traveler for the thousand inhospitalities of travel, and bind races and religions together in spite of patriotism and piety.
We were going first to the Cartuja, and in the city, which we found curiously much more modern, after the Latin notion, than Seville, with freshly built apartment-houses and business blocks, we took a cab, not so modern as to be a taxicab, and drove through the quarter said to have been assigned to the Moors after the fall of Granada. The dust lay thick in the roadway where filthy children played, but in the sunny doorways good mothers of families crouched taking away the popular reproach of vermin by searching one another's heads. Men bestriding their donkeys rode fearlessly through the dust, and one cleanly-looking old peasant woman, who sat hers plumply cushioned and framed in with a chair-back and arms, showed a patience with the young trees planted for future shade along the desperate avenue which I could wish we had emulated. When we reached the entrance of the old Carthusian Convent, long since suppressed and its brothers exiled, a strong force of beggarmen waited for us, but a modest beggar-woman, old and sad, had withdrawn to the church door, where she shared in our impartial alms. We were admitted to the cloister, rather oddly, by a young girl, who went for one of the remaining monks to show us the church. He came with a newspaper (I hope of clerical politics) in his hand, and distracted himself from it only long enough to draw a curtain, or turn on a light, and point out a picture or statue from time to time. But he was visibly anxious to get back to it, and sped us more eagerly than he welcomed us in a church which upon the whole is richer in its peculiar treasures of painting, sculpture, especially in wood, costly marble, and precious stones than any other I remember. According to my custom, I leave it to the guide-books to name these, and to the abounding critics of Spanish art to celebrate the pictures and statues; it is enough for me that I have now forgotten them all except those scenes of the martyrdom inflicted by certain Protestants on members of the Carthusian brotherhood at the time when all sorts of Christians felt bound to correct the opinions of all other sorts by the cruelest tortures they could invent. When the monk had put us to shame by the sight of these paintings (bad as their subjects), he put us out, letting his eyes fall back upon his newspaper before the door had well closed upon us.