No people embrace more readily than the Spaniards the opportunity of spending a day without work. Their frequent holidays are a relic of the days when the Church stood between the people and their taskmasters, and fastened more firmly its hold upon the hearts of the ignorant and overworked masses, by becoming at once the fountain of salvation in the next world, and of rest in this. The government rather encouraged this growth of play-days, as the Italian Bourbons used to foster mendicancy, by way of keeping the people as unthrifty as possible. Lazzaroni are so much more easily managed than burghers!

It is only the holy days that are successfully celebrated in Spain. The state has tried of late years to consecrate to idle parade a few revolutionary dates, but they have no vigorous national life. They grow feebler and more colorless year by year, because they have no depth of earth.

The most considerable of these national festivals is the 2d of May, which commemorates the slaughter of patriots in the streets of Madrid by Murat. This is a political holiday which appeals more strongly to the national character of the Spaniards than any other. The mingled pride of race and ignorant hate of everything foreign which constitutes that singular passion called Spanish patriotism, or Espanolismo, is fully called into play by the recollections of the terrible scenes of their war of independence, which drove out a foreign king, and brought back into Spain a native despot infinitely meaner and more injurious. It is an impressive study in national character and thought, this self-satisfaction of even liberal Spaniards at the reflection that, by a vast and supreme effort of the nation, after countless sacrifices and with the aid of coalesced Europe, they exchanged Joseph Bonaparte for Ferdinand VII. and the Inquisition. But the victims of the Dos de Mayo fell fighting. Daoiz, Velarde, and Ruiz were bayoneted at their guns, scorning surrender. The alcalde of Mostoles, a petty village of Castile, called on Spain to rise against the tyrant. And Spain obeyed the summons of this cross-roads justice. The contempt of probabilities, the Quixotism of these successive demonstrations, endear them to the Spanish heart.

Every 2d of May the city of Madrid gives up the day to funeral honors to the dead of 1808. The city government, attended by its Maceros, in their gorgeous robes of gold and scarlet, with silver maces and long white plumes; the public institutions of all grades, with invalids and veterans and charity children; a large detachment of the army and navy, - form a vast procession at the Town Hall, and, headed by the Supreme Government, march to slow music through the Puerta del Sol and the spacious Alcala street to the granite obelisk in the Prado which marks the resting-place of the patriot dead. I saw the regent of the kingdom, surrounded by his cabinet, sauntering all a summer's afternoon under a blazing sun over the dusty mile that separates the monument from the Ayuntamiento. The Spaniards are hopelessly inefficient in these matters. The people always fill the line of march, and a rivulet of procession meanders feebly through a wilderness of mob. It is fortunate that the crowd is more entertaining than the show.

The Church has a very indifferent part in this ceremonial. It does nothing more than celebrate a mass in the shade of the dark cypresses in the Place of Loyalty, and then leaves the field clear to the secular power. But this is the only purely civic ceremony I ever saw in Spain. The Church is lord of the holidays for the rest of the year.

In the middle of May comes the feast of the ploughboy patron of Madrid, - San Isidro. He was a true Madrileno in tastes, and spent his time lying in the summer shade or basking in the winter sunshine, seeing visions, while angels came down from heaven and did his farm chores for him. The angels are less amiable nowadays, but every true child of Madrid reveres the example and envies the success of the San Isidro method of doing business. In the process of years this lazy lout has become a great saint, and his bones have done more extensive and remarkable miracle-work than any equal amount of phosphate in existence. In desperate cases of sufficient rank the doctors throw up the sponge and send for Isidro's urn, and the drugging having ceased, the noble patient frequently recovers, and much honor and profit comes thereby to the shrine of the saint. There is something of the toady in Isidro's composition. You never hear of his curing any one of less than princely rank. I read in an old chronicle of Madrid, that once when Queen Isabel the Catholic was hunting in the hills that overlook the Manzanares, near what is now the oldest and quaintest quarter of the capital, she killed a bear of great size and ferocity; and doubtless thinking it might not be considered lady-like to have done it unassisted, she gave San Isidro the credit of the lucky blow and built him a nice new chapel for it near the Church of San Andres. If there are any doubters, let them go and see the chapel, as I did. When the allied armies of the Christian kings of Spain were seeking for a passage through the hills to the Plains of Tolosa, a shepherd appeared and led them straight to victory and endless fame. After the battle, which broke the Moorish power forever in Central Spain, instead of looking for the shepherd and paying him handsomely for his timely scout-service, they found it more pious and economical to say it was San Isidro in person who had kindly made himself flesh for this occasion. By the great altar in the Cathedral of Toledo stand side by side the statues of Alonso VIIL, the Christian commander, and San Isidro brazenly swelling in the shepherd garb of that unknown guide who led Alonso and his chivalry through the tangled defiles of the Sierra Morena.

His fete is the Derby Day of Madrid. The whole town goes out to his Hermitage on the further banks of the Manzanares, and spends a day or two of the soft spring weather in noisy frolic. The little church stands on a bare brown hill, and all about it is an improvised village consisting half of restaurants and the other half of toyshops. The principal traffic is in a pretty sort of glass whistle which forms the stem of an artificial rose, worn in the button-hole in the intervals of tooting, and little earthen pig-bells, whose ringing scares away the lightning. There is but one duty of the day to flavor all its pleasures. The faithful must go into the oratory, pay a penny, and kiss a glass-covered relic of the saint which the attendant ecclesiastic holds in his hand. The bells are rung violently until the church is full; then the doors are shut and the kissing begins. They are very expeditious about it. The worshippers drop on their knees by platoons before the railing. The long-robed relic-keeper puts the precious trinket rapidly to their lips; an acolyte follows with a saucer for the cash. The glass grows humid with many breaths. The priest wipes it with a dirty napkin from time to time. The multitude advances, kisses, pays, and retires, till all have their blessing; then the doors are opened and they all pass out, - the bells ringing furiously for another detachment. The pleasures of the day are like those of all fairs and public merrymaking. Working-people come to be idle, and idle people come to have something to do. There is much eating and little drinking. The milk-stalls are busier than the wine-shops. The people are gay and jolly, but very decent and clean and orderly. To the east of the Hermitage, over and beyond the green cool valley, the city rises on its rocky hills, its spires shining in the cloudless blue. Below on the emerald meadows there are the tents and wagons of those who have come from a distance to the Romeria. The sound of guitars and the drone of peasant songs come up the hill, and groups of men are leaping in the wild barbaric dances of Iberia. The scene is of another day and time. The Celt is here, lord of the land. You can see these same faces at Donnybrook Fair. These large-mouthed, short-nosed, rosy-cheeked peasant-girls are called Dolores and Catalina, but they might be called Bridget and Kathleen. These strapping fellows, with long simian upper lips, with brown leggings and patched, mud-colored overcoats, who are leaping and swinging their cudgels in that Pyrrhic round are as good Tipperary boys as ever mobbed an agent or pounded, twenty to one, a landlord to death. The same unquestioning, fervent faith, the same superficial good-nature, the same facility to be amused, and at bottom the same cowardly and cruel blood-thirst. What is this mysterious law of race which is stronger than time, or varying climates, or changing institutions? Which is cause, and which is effect, race or religion?

The great Church holiday of the year is Corpus Christi. On this day the Host is carried in solemn procession through the principal streets, attended by the high officers of state, several battalions of each arm of the service in fresh bright uniforms, and a vast array of ecclesiastics in the most gorgeous stoles and chasubles their vestiary contains. The windows along the line of march are gayly decked with flags and tapestry. Work is absolutely suspended, and the entire population dons its holiday garb. The Puerta del Sol - at this season blazing with relentless light - is crowded with patient Madrilenos in their best clothes, the brown-cheeked maidens with flowing silks as in a ball-room, and with no protection against the ardent sky but the fluttering fan they hold in their ungloved hands. As everything is behind time in this easy-going land, there are two or three hours of broiling gossip on the glowing pavement before the Sacred Presence is announced by the ringing of silver bells. As the superb structure of filigree gold goes by, a movement of reverent worship vibrates through the crowd. Forgetful of silks and broadcloth and gossip, they fall on their knees in one party-colored mass, and, bowing their heads and beating their breasts, they mutter their mechanical prayers. There are thinking men who say these shows are necessary; that the Latin mind must see with bodily eyes the thing it worships, or the worship will fade away from its heart. If there were no cathedrals and masses, they say, there would be no religion; if there were no king, there would be no law. But we should not accept too hurriedly this ethnological theory of necessity, which would reject all principles of progress and positive good, and condemn half the human race to perpetual childhood. There was a time when we Anglo-Saxons built cathedrals and worshipped the king. Look at Salisbury and Lincoln and Ely; read the history of the growth of parliaments. There is nothing more beautifully sensuous than the religious spirit that presided over those master works of English Gothic; there is nothing in life more abject than the relics of the English love and fear of princes. But the steady growth of centuries has left nothing but the outworn shell of the old religion and the old loyalty. The churches and the castles still exist. The name of the king still is extant in the constitution. They remain as objects of taste and tradition, hallowed by a thousand memories of earlier days, but, thanks be to God who has given us the victory, the English race is now incapable of making a new cathedral or a new king.

Let us not in our safe egotism deny to others the possibility of a like improvement.

This summery month of June is rich in saints. The great apostles, John, Peter, and Paul, have their anniversaries on its closing days, and the shortest nights of the year are given up to the riotous eating of fritters in their honor. I am afraid that the progress of luxury and love of ease has wrought a change in the observance of these festivals. The feast of midsummer night is called the Verbena of St. John, which indicates that it was formerly a morning solemnity, as the vervain could not be hunted by the youths and maidens of Spain with any success or decorum at midnight. But of late years it may be that this useful and fragrant herb has disappeared from the tawny hills of Castile. It is sure that midsummer has grown too warm for any field work. So that the Madrilenos may be pardoned for spending the day napping, and swarming into the breezy Prado in the light of moon and stars and gas. The Prado is ordinarily the promenade of the better classes, but every Spanish family has its John, Paul, and Peter, and the crowded barrios of Toledo and the Penue-las pour out their ragged hordes to the popular festival. The scene has a strange gypsy wildness. From the round point of Atocha to where Cybele, throned among spouting waters, drives southward her spanking team of marble lions, the park is filled with the merry roysterers. At short intervals are the busy groups of fritter merchants; over the crackling fire a great caldron of boiling oil; beside it a mighty bowl of dough. The bunolero, with the swift precision of machinery, dips his hand into the bowl and makes a delicate ring of the tough dough, which he throws into the bubbling caldron. It remains but a few seconds, and his grimy acolyte picks it out with a long wire and throws it on the tray for sale. They are eaten warm, the droning cry continually sounding, "Bunuelos! Calientitos!" There must be millions of these oily dainties consumed on every night of the Verbena. For the more genteel revellers, the Don Juans, Pedros, and Pablos of the better sort, there are improvised restaurants built of pine planks after sunset and gone before sunrise. But the greater number are bought and eaten by the loitering crowd from the tray of the fritterman. It is like a vast gitano-camp. The hurrying crowd which is going nowhere, the blazing fires, the cries of the venders, the songs of the majos under the great trees of the Paseo, the purposeless hurly-burly, and above, the steam of the boiling oil and the dust raised by the myriad feet, form together a striking and vivid picture. The city is more than usually quiet. The stir of life is localized in the Prado. The only busy men in town are those who stand by the seething oil-pots and manufacture the brittle forage of the browsing herds. It is a jealous business, and requires the undivided attention of its professors. The ne sutor ultra crepidam of Spanish proverb is "Bunolero haz tus bunuelos," - Fritterman, mind thy fritters. With the long days and cooler airs of the autumn begin the different fairs. These are relics of the times of tyranny and exclusive privilege, when for a few days each year, by the intervention of the Church, or as a reward for civic service, full liberty of barter and sale was allowed to all citizens. This custom, more or less modified, may be found in most cities of Europe. The boulevards of Paris swarm with little booths at Christmas-time, which begin and end their lawless commercial life within the week. In Vienna, in Leipsic, and other cities, the same waste-weir of irregular trade is periodically opened. These fairs begin in Madrid with the autumnal equinox, and continue for some weeks in October. They disappear from the Alcala to break out with renewed virulence in the avenue of Atocha, and girdle the city at last with a belt of booths. While they last they give great animation and spirit to the street life of the town. You can scarcely make your way among the heaps of gaudy shawls and handkerchiefs, cheap laces and illegitimate jewels, that cumber the pavement. When the Jews were driven out of Spain, they left behind the true genius of bargaining.

A nut-brown maid is attracted by a brilliant red and yellow scarf. She asks the sleepy merchant nodding before his wares, "What is this rag worth?"

He answers with profound indifference, "Ten reals."

"Hombre! Are you dreaming or crazy?" She drops the coveted neck-gear, and moves on, apparently horror-stricken.

The chapman calls her back peremptorily. "Don't be rash! The scarf is worth twenty reals, but for the sake of Santisima Maria I offered it to you for half price. Very well! You are not suited. What will you give?"

"Caramba! Am I buyer and seller as well? The thing is worth three reals; more is a robbery."

"Jesus! Maria! Jose! and all the family! Go thou with God! We cannot trade. Sooner than sell for less than eight reals I will raise the cover of my brains! Go thou! It is eight of the morning, and still thou dreamest."

She lays down the scarf reluctantly, saying, "Five?"

But the outraged mercer snorts scornfully, "Eight is my last word! Go to!"

She moves away, thinking how well that scarf would look in the Apollo Gardens, and casts over her shoulder a Parthian glance and bid, "Six!"

"Take it! It is madness, but I cannot waste my time in bargaining."

Both congratulate themselves on the operation. He would have taken five, and she would have given seven. How trade would suffer if we had windows in our breasts!

The first days of November are consecrated to all the saints, and to the souls of all the blessed dead. They are observed in Spain with great solemnity; but as the cemeteries are generally of the dreariest character, bare, bleak, and most forbidding under the ashy sky of the late autumn, the days are deprived of that exquisite sentiment that pervades them in countries where the graves of the dead are beautiful. There is nothing more touching than these offerings of memory you see every year in Mont Parnasse and Pere-la-Chaise. Apart from all beliefs, there is a mysterious influence for good exerted upon the living by the memory of the beloved dead. On all hearts not utterly corrupt, the thoughts that come by the graves of the departed fall like dew from heaven, and quicken into life purer and higher resolves.

In Spain, where there is nothing but desolation in graveyards, the churches are crowded instead, and the bereaved survivors commend to God their departed friends and their own stricken hearts in the dim and perfumed aisles of temples made with hands. A taint of gloom thus rests upon the recollection and the prayer, far different from the consolation that comes with the free air and the sunshine, and the infinite blue vault, where Nature conspires with revelation to comfort and cherish and console.

Christmas apparently comes in Spain on no other mission than that referred to in the old English couplet, "bringing good cheer." The Spaniards are the most frugal of people, but during the days that precede their Noche Buena, their Good Night, they seem to be given up as completely to cares of the commissariat as the most eupeptic of Germans. Swarms of turkeys are driven in from the surrounding country, and taken about the streets by their rustic herdsmen, making the roads gay with their scarlet wattles, and waking rural memories by their vociferous gobbling. The great market-place of the season is the Plaza Mayor. The ever-fruitful provinces of the South are laid under contribution, and the result is a wasteful show of tropical luxuriance that seems most incongruous under the wintry sky. There are mountains of oranges and dates, brown hillocks of nuts of every kind, store of every product of this versatile soil. The air is filled with nutty and fruity fragrance. Under the ancient arcades are the stalls of the butchers, rich with the mutton of Castile, the hams of Estremadura, and the hero-nourishing bull-beef of Andalusian pastures.

At night the town is given up to harmless racket. Nowhere has the tradition of the Latin Saturnalia been fitted with less change into the Christian calendar. Men, women, and children of the proletariat - the unemancipated slaves of necessity - go out this night to cheat their misery with noisy frolic. The owner of a tambourine is the equal of a peer; the proprietor of a guitar is the captain of his hundred. They troop through the dim city with discordant revel and song. They have little idea of music. Every one sings and sings ill. Every one dances, without grace or measure. Their music is a modulated howl of the East. Their dancing is the savage leaping of barbarians. There is no lack of couplets, religious, political, or amatory. I heard one ragged woman with a brown baby at her breast go shrieking through the Street of the Magdalen, -

  "This is the eve of Christmas, 
  No sleep from now till morn, 
  The Virgin is in travail, 
  At twelve will the child be born!"

Behind her stumped a crippled beggar, who croaked in a voice rough with frost and aguardiente his deep disillusion and distrust of the great: -

  "This is the eve of Christmas, 
  But what is that to me? 
  We are ruled by thieves and robbers, 
  As it was and will always be."

Next comes a shouting band of the youth of Spain, strapping boys with bushy locks, crisp and black almost to blueness, and gay young girls with flexible forms and dark Arab eyes that shine with a phosphorescent light in the shadows. They troop on with clacking castinets. The challenge of the mozos rings out on the frosty air, -

  "This is the eve of Christmas, 
  Let us drink and love our fill!"

And the saucy antiphon of girlish voices responds, -

  "A man may be bearded and gray, 
  But a woman can fool him still!"

The Christmas and New-Year's holidays continue for a fortnight, ending with the Epiphany. On the eve of the Day of the Kings a curious farce is performed by bands of the lowest orders of the people, which demonstrates the apparently endless naivete of their class. In every coterie of water-carriers, or mozos de cordel, there will be one found innocent enough to believe that the Magi are coming to Madrid that night, and that a proper respect to their rank requires that they must be met at the city gate. To perceive the coming of their feet, beautiful upon the mountains, a ladder is necessary, and the poor victim of the comedy is loaded with this indispensable "property." He is dragged by his gay companions, who never tire of the exquisite wit of their jest, from one gate to another, until suspicion supplants faith in the mind of the neophyte, and the farce is over.

In the burgher society of Castile this night is devoted to a very different ceremony. Each little social circle comes together in a house agreed upon. They take mottoes of gilded paper and write on each the name of some one of the company. The names of the ladies are thrown into one urn, and those of the cavaliers into another, and they are drawn out by pairs. These couples are thus condemned by fortune to intimacy during the year. The gentleman is always to be at the orders of the dame and to serve her faithfully in every knightly fashion. He has all the duties and none of the privileges of a lover, unless it be the joy of those "who stand and wait." The relation is very like that which so astonished M. de Gramont in his visit to Piedmont, where the cavalier of service never left his mistress in public and never approached her in private.

The true Carnival survives in its naive purity only in Spain. It has faded in Rome into a romping day of clown's play. In Paris it is little more than a busier season for dreary and professional vice. Elsewhere all over the world the Carnival gayeties are confined to the salon. But in Madrid the whole city, from grandee to cordwainer, goes with childlike earnestness into the enjoyment of the hour. The Corso begins in the Prado on the last Sunday before Lent, and lasts four days. From noon to night the great drive is filled with a double line of carriages two miles long, and between them are the landaus of the favored hundreds who have the privilege of driving up and down free from the law of the road. This right is acquired by the payment of ten dollars a day to city charities, and produces some fifteen thousand dollars every Carnival. In these carriages all the society of Madrid may be seen; and on foot, darting in and out among the hoofs of the horses, are the young men of Castile in every conceivable variety of absurd and fantastic disguise. There are of course pirates and Indians and Turks, monks, prophets, and kings, but the favorite costumes seem to be the Devil and the Englishman. Sometimes the Yankee is attempted, with indifferent success. He wears a ribbon-wreathed Italian bandit's hat, an embroidered jacket, slashed buckskin trousers, and a wide crimson belt, - a dress you would at once recognize as universal in Boston.

Most of the maskers know by name at least the occupants of the carriages. There is always room for a mask in a coach. They leap in, swarming over the back or the sides, and in their shrill monotonous scream they make the most startling revelations of the inmost secrets of your soul. There is always something impressive in the talk of an unknown voice, but especially is this so in Madrid, where every one scorns his own business, and devotes himself rigorously to his neighbor's. These shrieking young monks and devilkins often surprise a half-formed thought in the heart of a fair Castilian and drag it out into day and derision. No one has the right to be offended. Duchesses are called Tu! Isabel! by chin-dimpled school-boys, and the proudest beauties in Spain accept bonbons from plebeian hands. It is true, most of the maskers are of the better class. Some of the costumes are very rich and expensive, of satin and velvet heavy with gold. I have seen a distinguished diplomatist in the guise of a gigantic canary-bird, hopping briskly about in the mud with bedraggled tail-feathers, shrieking well-bred sarcasms with his yellow beak.

The charm of the Madrid Carnival is this, that it is respected and believed in. The best and fairest pass the day in the Corso, and gallant young gentlemen think it worth while to dress elaborately for a few hours of harmless and spirituelle intrigue. A society that enjoys a holiday so thoroughly has something in it better than the blase cynicism of more civilized capitals. These young fellows talk like the lovers of the old romances. I have never heard prettier periods of devotion than from some gentle savage, stretched out on the front seat of a landau under the peering eyes of his lady, safe in his disguise, if not self-betrayed, pouring out his young soul in passionate praise and prayer; around them the laughter and the cries, the cracking of whips, the roll of wheels, the presence of countless thousands, and yet these two young hearts alone under the pale winter sky. The rest of the Continent has outgrown the true Carnival. It is pleasant to see this gay relic of simpler times, when youth was young. No one here is too "swell" for it. You may find a duke in the disguise of a chimney-sweep, or a butcher-boy in the dress of a Crusader. There are none so great that their dignity would suffer by a day's reckless foolery, and there are none so poor that they cannot take the price of a dinner to buy a mask and cheat their misery by mingling for a time with their betters in the wild license of the Carnival.

The winter's gayety dies hard. Ash Wednesday is a day of loud merriment and is devoted to a popular ceremony called the Burial of the Sardine. A vast throng of workingmen carry with great pomp a link of sausage to the bank of the Manzanares and inter it there with great solemnity. On the following Saturday, after three days of death, the Carnival has a resurrection, and the maddest, wildest ball of the year takes place at the opera. Then the sackcloth and ashes of Lent come down in good earnest and the town mourns over its scarlet sins. It used to be very fashionable for the genteel Christians to repair during this season of mortification to the Church of San Gines, and scourge themselves lustily in its subterranean chambers. A still more striking demonstration was for gentlemen in love to lash themselves on the sidewalks where passed the ladies of their thoughts. If the blood from the scourges sprinkled them as they sailed by, it was thought an attention no female heart could withstand. But these wholesome customs have decayed of late unbelieving years.

The Lenten piety increases with the lengthening days. It reaches its climax on Holy Thursday. On this day all Spain goes to church: it is one of the obligatory days. The more you go, the better for you; so the good people spend the whole day from dawn to dusk roaming from one church to another, and investing an Ave and a Pater-Noster in each. This fills every street of the city with the pious crowd. No carriages are permitted. A silence like that of Venice falls on the rattling capital. With three hundred thousand people in the street, the town seems still. In 1870, a free-thinking cabman dared to drive up the Calle Alcala. He was dragged from his box and beaten half to death by the chastened mourners, who yelled as they kicked and cuffed him, "Que bruto! He will wake our Jesus."

On Good Friday the gloom deepens. No colors are worn that day by the orthodox. The senoras appear on the street in funeral garb. I saw a group of fast youths come out of the jockey club, black from hat to boots, with jet studs and sleeve-buttons. The gayest and prettiest ladies sit within the church doors and beg in the holy name of charity, and earn large sums for the poor. There are hourly services in the churches, passionate sermons from all the pulpits. The streets are free from the painted haunters of the pavement. The whole people taste the luxury of a sentimental sorrow.

Yet in these heavy days it is not the Redeemer whose sufferings and death most nearly touch the hearts of the faithful. It is Santisima Maria who is worshipped most. It is the Dolorous Mother who moves them to tears of tenderness. The presiding deity of these final days of meditation is Our Lady of Solitude.

But at last the days of mourning are accomplished. The expiation for sin is finished. The grave is vanquished, death is swallowed up in victory. Man can turn from the grief that is natural to the joy that is eternal. From every steeple the bells fling out their happy clangor in glad tidings of great joy. The streets are flooded once more with eager multitudes, gay as in wedding garments. Christ has arisen! The heathen myth of the awakening of nature blends the old tradition with the new gospel. The vernal breezes sweep the skies clean and blue. Birds are pairing in the budding trees. The streams leap down from the melting snow of the hills. The brown turf takes a tint of verdure. Through the vast frame of things runs a quick shudder of teeming power. In the heart of man love and will mingle into hope. Hail to the new life and the ever-new religion! Hail to the resurrection morning!