The only battle in which Philip II. was ever engaged was that of St. Quentin, and the only part he took in that memorable fight was to listen to the thunder of the captains and the shouting afar off, and pray with great unction and fervor to various saints of his acquaintance and particularly to St. Lawrence of the Gridiron, who, being the celestial officer of the day, was supposed to have unlimited authority, and to whom he was therefore profuse in vows. While Egmont and his stout Flemings were capturing the Constable Montmorency and cutting his army in pieces, this young and chivalrous monarch was beating his breast and pattering his panic-stricken prayers. As soon as the victory was won, however, he lost his nervousness, and divided the entire credit of it between himself and his saints. He had his picture painted in full armor, as he appeared that day, and sent it to his doting spouse, Bloody Mary of England. He even thought he had gained glory enough, and while his father, the emperor-monk, was fiercely asking the messenger who brought the news of victory to Yuste, "Is my son at Paris?" the prudent Philip was making a treaty of peace, by which his son Don Carlos was to marry the Princess Elizabeth of France. But Mary obligingly died at this moment, and the stricken widower thought he needed consolation more than his boy, and so married the pretty princess himself.

He always prided himself greatly on the battle of St. Quentin, and probably soon came to believe he had done yeoman service there. The childlike credulity of the people is a great temptation to kings. It is very likely that after the coup-d'etat of December, the trembling puppet who had sat shivering over his fire in the palace of the Elysee while Morny and Fleury and St. Arnaud and the rest of the cool gamblers were playing their last desperate stake on that fatal night, really persuaded himself that the work was his, and that he had saved society. That the fly should imagine he is moving the coach is natural enough; but that the horses, and the wooden lumbering machine, and the passengers should take it for granted that the light gilded insect is carrying them all, - there is the true miracle.

We must confess to a special fancy for Philip II. He was so true a king, so vain, so superstitious, so mean and cruel, it is probable so great a king never lived. Nothing could be more royal than the way he distributed his gratitude for the victory on St. Lawrence's day. To Count Egmont, whose splendid courage and loyalty gained him the battle, he gave ignominy and death on the scaffold; and to exhibit a gratitude to a myth which he was too mean to feel to a man, he built to San Lorenzo that stupendous mass of granite which is to-day the visible demonstration of the might and the weakness of Philip and his age.

He called it the Monastery of San Lorenzo el Real, but the nomenclature of the great has no authority with the people. It was built on a site once covered with cinder-heaps from a long abandoned iron-mine, and so it was called in common speech the Escorial. The royal seat of San Ildefonso can gain from the general public no higher name than La Granja, the Farm. The great palace of Catharine de Medici, the home of three dynasties, is simply the Tuileries, the Tile-fields. You cannot make people call the White House the Executive Mansion. A merchant named Pitti built a palace in Florence, and though kings and grand dukes have inhabited it since, it is still the Pitti. There is nothing so democratic as language. You may alter a name by trick when force is unavailing. A noble lord in Segovia, following the custom of the good old times, once murdered a Jew, and stole his house. It was a pretty residence, but the skeleton in his closet was that the stupid commons would not call it anything but "the Jew's house." He killed a few of them for it, but that did not serve. At last, by advice of his confessor, he had the facade ornamented with projecting knobs of stucco, and the work was done. It is called to this day "the knobby house."

The conscience of Philip did not permit a long delay in the accomplishment of his vow. Charles V. had charged him in his will to build a mausoleum for the kings of the Austrian race. He bound the two obligations in one, and added a third destination to the enormous pile he contemplated. It should be a palace as well as a monastery and a royal charnel-house. He chose the most appropriate spot in Spain for the erection of the most cheerless monument in existence. He had fixed his capital at Madrid because it was the dreariest town in Spain, and to envelop himself in a still profounder desolation, he built the Escorial out of sight of the city, on a bleak, bare hillside, swept by the glacial gales of the Guadarrama, parched by the vertical suns of summer, and cursed at all seasons with the curse of barrenness. Before it towers the great chain of mountains separating Old and New Castile. Behind it the chilled winds sweep down to the Madrid plateau, over rocky hillocks and involved ravines, - a scene in which probably no man ever took pleasure except the royal recluse who chose it for his home.

John Baptist of Toledo laid the corner-stone on an April day of 1563, and in the autumn of 1584 John of Herrera looked upon the finished work, so vast and so gloomy that it lay like an incubus upon the breast of earth. It is a parallelogram measuring from north to south seven hundred and forty-four feet, and five hundred and eighty feet from east to west. It is built, by order of the fantastic bigot, in the form of St. Lawrence's gridiron, the courts representing the interstices of the bars, and the towers at the corners sticking helpless in the air like the legs of the supine implement. It is composed of a clean gray granite, chiefly in the Doric order, with a severity of facade that degenerates into poverty, and defrauds the building of the effect its great bulk merits. The sheer monotonous walls are pierced with eleven thousand windows, which, though really large enough for the rooms, seem on that stupendous surface to shrink into musketry loopholes. In the centre of the parallelogram stands the great church, surmounted by its soaring dome. All around the principal building is stretched a circumscribing line of convents, in the same style of doleful yellowish-gray uniformity, so endless in extent that the inmates might easily despair of any world beyond them.

There are few scenes in the world so depressing as that which greets you as you enter into the wide court before the church, called El Templo. You are shut finally in by these iron-gray walls. The outside day has given you up. Your feet slip on the damp flags. An unhealthy fungus tinges the humid corners with a pallid green. You look in vain for any trace of human sympathy in those blank walls and that severe facade. There is a dismal attempt in that direction in the gilded garments and the painted faces of the colossal prophets and kings that are perched above the lofty doors. But they do not comfort you; they are tinselled stones, not statues.

Entering the vestibule of the church, and looking up, you observe with a sort of horror that the ceiling is of massive granite and flat. The sacristan has a story that when Philip saw this ceiling, which forms the floor of the high choir, he remonstrated against it as too audacious, and insisted on a strong pillar being built to support it. The architect complied, but when Philip came to see the improvement he burst into lamentation, as the enormous column destroyed the effect of the great altar. The canny architect, who had built the pillar of pasteboard, removed it with a touch, and his majesty was comforted. Walking forward to the edge of this shadowy vestibule, you recognize the skill and taste which presided at this unique and intelligent arrangement of the choir. If left, as usual, in the body of the church, it would have seriously impaired that solemn and simple grandeur which distinguishes this above all other temples. There is nothing to break the effect of the three great naves, divided by immense square-clustered columns, and surmounted by the vast dome that rises with all the easy majesty of a mountain more than three hundred feet from the decent black and white pavement. I know of nothing so simple and so imposing as this royal chapel, built purely for the glory of God and with no thought of mercy or consolation for human infirmity. The frescos of Luca Giordano show the attempt of a later and degenerate age to enliven with form and color the sombre dignity of this faultless pile. But there is something in the blue and vapory pictures which shows that even the unabashed Luca was not free from the impressive influence of the Escorial.

A flight of veined marble steps leads to the beautiful retable of the high altar. The screen, over ninety feet high, cost the Milanese Trezzo seven years of labor. The pictures illustrative of the life of our Lord are by Tibaldi and Zuccaro. The gilt bronze tabernacle of Trezzo and Herrera, which has been likened with the doors of the Baptistery of Florence as worthy to figure in the architecture of heaven, no longer exists. It furnished a half hour's amusement to the soldiers of France. On either side of the high altar are the oratories of the royal family, and above them are the kneeling effigies of Charles, with his wife, daughter, and sisters, and Philip with his successive harem of wives. One of the few luxuries this fierce bigot allowed himself was that of a new widowhood every few years. There are forty other altars with pictures good and bad. The best are by the wonderful deaf-mute, Navarrete, of Logrono, and by Sanchez Coello, the favorite of Philip.

To the right of the high altar in the transept you will find, if your tastes, unlike Miss Riderhood's, run in a bony direction, the most remarkable Reliquary in the world. With the exception perhaps of Cuvier, Philip could see more in a bone than any man who ever lived. In his long life of osseous enthusiasm he collected seven thousand four hundred and twenty-one genuine relics, - whole skeletons, odd shins, teeth, toe-nails, and skulls of martyrs, - sometimes by a miracle of special grace getting duplicate skeletons of the same saint. The prime jewels of this royal collection are the grilled bones of San Lorenzo himself, bearing dim traces of his sacred gridiron.

The sacristan will show you also the retable of the miraculous wafer, which bled when trampled on by Protestant heels at Gorcum in 1525. This has always been one of the chief treasures of the Spanish crown. The devil-haunted idiot Charles II. made a sort of idol of it, building it this superb altar, consecrated "in this miracle of earth to the miracle of heaven." When the atheist Frenchmen sacked the Escorial and stripped it of silver and gold, the pious monks thought most of hiding this wonderful wafer, and when the storm passed by, the booby Ferdinand VII. restored it with much burning of candles, swinging of censers, and chiming of bells. Worthless as it is, it has done one good work in the world. It inspired the altar-picture of Claudio Coello, the last best work of the last of the great school of Spanish painters. He finished it just before he died of shame and grief at seeing Giordano, the nimble Neapolitan, emptying his buckets of paint on the ceiling of the grand staircase, where St. Lawrence and an army of martyrs go sailing with a fair wind into glory.

The great days of art in the Escorial are gone. Once in every nook and corner it concealed treasures of beauty that the world had nearly forgotten. The Perla of Raphael hung in the dark sacristy. The Cena of Titian dropped to pieces in the refectory. The Gloria, which had sunk into eclipse on the death of Charles V., was hidden here among unappreciative monks. But on the secularization of the monasteries, these superb canvases went to swell the riches of the Royal Museum. There are still enough left here, however, to vindicate the ancient fame of the collection. They are perhaps more impressive in their beauty and loneliness than if they were pranking among their kin in the glorious galleries and perfect light of that enchanted palace of Charles III. The inexhaustible old man of Cadora has the Prayer on Mount Olivet, an Ecce Homo, an Adoration of the Magi. Velazquez one of his rare scriptural pieces, Jacob and his Children. Tintoretto is rather injured at the Museo by the number and importance of his pictures left in this monkish twilight; among them is a lovely Esther, and a masterly Presentation of Christ to the People. Plenty of Giordanos and Bassanos and one or two by El Greco, with his weird plague-stricken faces, all chalk and charcoal. A sense of duty will take you into the crypt where the dead kings are sleeping in brass. This mausoleum, ordered by the great Charles, was slow in finishing. All of his line had a hand in it down to Philip IV., who completed it and gathered in the poor relics of royal mortality from many graves. The key of the vault is the stone where the priest stands when he elevates the Host in the temple above. The vault is a graceful octagon about forty feet high, with nearly the same diameter; the flickering light of your torches shows twenty-six sarcophagi, some occupied and some empty, filling the niches of the polished marble. On the right sleep the sovereigns, on the left their consorts. There is a coffin for Dona Isabel de Bourbon among the kings, and one for her amiable and lady-like husband among the queens. They were not lovely in their lives, and in their deaths they shall be divided. The quaint old church-mouse who showed me the crypt called my attention to the coffin where Maria Louisa, wife of Charles IV., - the lady who so gallantly bestrides her war-horse, in the uniform of a colonel, in Goya's picture, - coming down those slippery steps with the sure footing of feverish insanity, during a severe illness, scratched Luisa with the point of her scissors and marked the sarcophagus for her own. All there was good of her is interred with her bones. Her frailties live on in scandalized history.

Twice, it is said, the coffin of the emperor has been opened by curious hands, - by Philip IV., who found the corpse of his great ancestor intact, and observed to the courtier at his elbow, "An honest body, Don Luis!" and again by the Ministers of State and Fomento in the spring of 1870, who started back aghast when the coffin-lid was lifted and disclosed the grim face of the Burgess of Ghent, just as Titian painted him, - the keen, bold face of a world-stealer.

I do not know if Philip's funeral urn was ever opened. He stayed above ground too long as it was, and it is probable that people have never cared to look upon his face again. All that was human had died out of him years before his actual demise, and death seemed not to consider it worth while to carry off a vampire. Go into the little apartment where his last days were passed; a wooden table and book-shelf, one arm-chair and two stools - the one upholstered with cloth for winter, the other with tin for summer - on which he rested his gouty leg, and a low chair for a secretary, - this was all the furniture he used. The rooms are not larger than cupboards, low and dark. The little oratory where he died looks out upon the high altar of the Temple. In a living death, as if by an awful anticipation of the common lot it was ordained that in the flesh he should know corruption, he lay waiting his summons hourly for fifty-three days. What tremendous doubts and fears must have assailed him in that endless agony! He had done more for the Church than any living man. He was the author of that sublime utterance of uncalculating bigotry, "Better not reign than reign over heretics." He had pursued error with fire and sword. He had peopled limbo with myriads of rash thinkers. He had impoverished his kingdom in Catholic wars. Yet all this had not sufficed. He lay there like a leper smitten by the hand of the God he had so zealously served. Even in his mind there was no peace. He held in his clenched hand his father's crucifix, which Charles had held in his exultant death at Yuste. Yet in his waking hours he was never free from the horrible suggestion that he had not done enough for salvation. He would start in horror from a sleep that was peopled with shapes from torment. Humanity was avenged at last.

So powerful is the influence of a great personality that in the Escorial you can think of no one but Philip II. He lived here only fourteen years, but every corridor and cloister seems to preserve the souvenir of his sombre and imperious genius. For two and a half centuries his feeble successors have trod these granite halls; but they flit through your mind pale and unsubstantial as dreams. The only tradition they preserved of their great descent was their magnificence and their bigotry. There has never been one utterance of liberty or free thought inspired by this haunted ground. The king has always been absolute here, and the monk has been the conscience-keeper of the king. The whole life of the Escorial has been unwholesomely pervaded by a flavor of holy water and burial vaults. There was enough of the repressive influence of that savage Spanish piety to spoil the freshness and vigor of a natural life, but not enough to lead the court and the courtiers to a moral walk and conversation. It was as profligate a court in reality, with all its masses and monks, as the gay and atheist circle of the Regent of Orleans. Even Philip, the Inquisitor King, did not confine his royal favor to his series of wives. A more reckless and profligate young prodigal than Don Carlos, the hope of Spain and Rome, it would be hard to find to-day at Mabille or Cre-morne. But he was a deeply religious lad for all that, and asked absolution from his confessors before attempting to put in practice his intention of killing his father. Philip, forewarned, shut him up until he died, in an edifying frame of mind, and then calmly superintended the funeral arrangements from a window of the palace. The same mingling of vice and superstition is seen in the lessening line down to our day. The last true king of the old school was Philip IV. Amid the ruins of his tumbling kingdom he lived royally here among his priests and his painters and his ladies. There was one jealous exigency of Spanish etiquette that made his favor fatal. The object of his adoration, when his errant fancy strayed to another, must go into a convent and nevermore be seen of lesser men. Madame Daunoy, who lodged at court, heard one night an august footstep in the hall and a kingly rap on the bolted door of a lady of honor. But we are happy to say she heard also the spirited reply from within, "May your grace go with God! I do not wish to be a nun!"

There is little in these frivolous lives that is worth knowing, - the long inglorious reigns of the dwindling Austrians and the parody of greater days played by the scions of Bourbon, relieved for a few creditable years by the heroic struggle of Charles III. against the hopeless decadence. You may walk for an hour through the dismal line of drawing-rooms in the cheerless palace that forms the gridiron's handle, and not a spirit is evoked from memory among all the tapestry and panelling and gilding.

The only cheerful room in this granite wilderness is the library, still in good and careful keeping. A long, beautiful room, two hundred feet of bookcases, and tasteful frescos by Tibaldi and Carducho, representing the march of the liberal sciences. Most of the older folios are bound in vellum, with their gilded edges, on which the title is stamped, turned to the front. A precious collection of old books and older manuscripts, useless to the world as the hoard of a miser. Along the wall are hung the portraits of the Escorial kings and builders. The hall is furnished with marble and porphyry tables, and elaborate glass cases display some of the curiosities of the library, - a copy of the Gospels that belonged to the Emperor Conrad, the Suabian Kurz; a richly illuminated Apocalypse; a gorgeous missal of Charles V.; a Greek Bible, which once belonged to Mrs. Phcebus's ancestor Cantacuzene; Persian and Chinese sacred books; and a Koran, which is said to be the one captured by Don Juan at Lepanto. Mr. Ford says it is spurious; Mr. Madoz says it is genuine. The ladies with whom I had the happiness to visit the library inclined to the latter opinion for two very good reasons, - the book is a very pretty one, and Mr. Madoz's head is much balder than Mr. Ford's. Wandering aimlessly through the frescoed cloisters and looking in at all the open doors, over each of which a cunning little gridiron is inlaid in the woodwork, we heard the startling and unexpected sound of boyish voices and laughter. We approached the scene of such agreeable tumult, and found the theatre of the monastery full of young students rehearsing a play for the coming holidays. A clever-looking priest was directing the drama, and one juvenile Thespis was denouncing tyrants and dying for his country in hexameters of a shrill treble. His friends were applauding more than was necessary or kind, and flourishing their wooden swords with much ferocity of action. All that is left of the once extensive establishment of the monastery is a boys' school, where some two hundred youths are trained in the humanities, and a college where an almost equal number are educated for the priesthood.

So depressing is the effect of the Escorial's gloom and its memories, that when you issue at last from its massive doors, the trim and terraced gardens seem gay and heartsome, and the bleak wild scene is full of comfort. For here at least there is light and air and boundless space. You have emerged from the twilight of the past into the present day. The sky above you bends over Paris and Cheyenne. By this light Darwin is writing, and the merchants are meeting in the Chicago Board of Trade. Just below you winds the railway which will take you in two hours to Madrid, - to the city of Philip II., where the nineteenth century has arrived; where there are five Protestant churches and fifteen hundred evangelical communicants. Our young crusader, Professor Knapp, holds night schools and day schools and prayer meetings, with an active devotion, a practical and American fervor, that is leavening a great lump of apathy and death. These Anglo-Saxon missionaries have a larger and more tolerant spirit of propaganda than has been hitherto seen. They can differ about the best shape for the cup and the platter, but they use what they find to their hand. They are giving a tangible direction and purpose to the vague impulse of reform that was stirring, before they came, in many devout hearts. A little while longer of this state of freedom and inquiry, and the shock of controversy will come, and Spain will be brought to life.

Already the signs are full of promise. The ancient barriers of superstition have already given way in many places. A Protestant can not only live in Spain, but, what was once a more important matter, he can die and be buried there. This is one of the conquests of the revolution. So delicate has been the susceptibility of the Spanish mind in regard to the pollution of its soil by heretic corpses that even Charles I. of England, when he came a-wooing to Spain, could hardly gain permission to bury his page by night in the garden of the embassy; and in later days the Prussian Minister was compelled to smuggle his dead child out of the kingdom among his luggage to give it Christian burial. Even since the days of September the clergy has fought manfully against giving sepulture to Protestants; but Rivero, alcalde of Madrid and president of the Cortes, was not inclined to waste time in dialectics, and sent a police force to protect the heretic funerals and to arrest any priest who disturbed them. There is freedom of speech and printing. The humorous journals are full of blasphemous caricatures that would be impossible out of a Catholic country, for superstition and blasphemy always run in couples. It was the Duke de Guise, commanding the pope's army at Civitella, who cried in his rage at a rain which favored Alva, "God has turned Spaniard;" like Quashee, who burns his fetish when the weather is foul. The liberal Spanish papers overflowed with wit at the proclamation of infallibility. They announced that his holiness was now going into the lottery business with brilliant prospects of success; that he could now tell what Father Manterola had done with the thirty thousand dollars' worth of bulls he sold last year and punctually neglects to account for, and other levities of the sort, which seemed greatly relished, and which would have burned the facetious author two centuries before, and fined and imprisoned him before the fight at Alcolea. The minister having charge of the public instruction has promised to present a law for the prohibition of dogmatic doctrine in the national schools. The law of civil registry and civil marriage, after a desperate struggle in the Cortes, has gone into operation with general assent. There is a large party which actively favors the entire separation of the spiritual from the temporal power, making religion voluntary, and free, and breaking its long concubinage with the crown. The old superstition, it is true, still hangs like a malarial fog over Spain. But it is invaded by flashes and rays of progress. It cannot resist much longer the sunshine of this tolerant age.

Far up the mountain-side, in the shade of a cluster of chestnuts, is a rude block of stone, called the "King's Chair," where Philip used to sit in silent revery, watching as from an eyry the progress of the enormous work below. If you go there, you will see the same scene upon which his basilisk glance reposed, - in a changed world, the .same unchanging scene, - the stricken waste, the shaggy horror of the mountains, the fixed plain wrinkled like a frozen sea, and in the centre of the perfect picture the vast chill bulk of that granite pile, rising cold, colorless, and stupendous, as if carved from an iceberg by the hand of Northern gnomes. It is the palace of vanished royalty, the temple of a religion which is dead. There are kings and priests still, and will be for many coming years. But never again can a power exist which shall rear to the glory of the sceptre and the cowl a monument like this. It is a page of history deserving to be well pondered, for it never will be repeated. The world which Philip ruled from the foot of the Guadarrama has passed away. A new heaven and a new earth came in with the thunders of 1776 and 1789. There will be no more Pyramids, no more Versailles, no more Escoriais. The unpublished fiat has gone forth that man is worth more than the glory of princes. The better religion of the future has no need of these massive dungeon-temples of superstition and fear. Yet there is a store of precious teachings in this mass of stone. It is one of the results of that mysterious law to which the genius of history has subjected the caprices of kings, to the end that we might not be left without a witness of the past for our warning and example, - the law which induces a judged and sentenced dynasty to build for posterity some monument of its power, which hastens and commemorates its ruin. By virtue of this law we read on the plains of Egypt the pride and the fall of the Pharaohs. Before the fagade of Versailles we see at a glance the grandeur of the Capetian kings and the necessity of the Revolution. And the most vivid picture of that fierce and gloomy religion of the sixteenth century, compounded of a base alloy of worship for an absolute king and a vengeful God, is to be found in this colossal hermitage in the flinty heart of the mountains of Castile.