Our train did not pass very near, but the distance was not bad for them; it kept them sixty or sixty-five years back in the past where they belonged, and in its dimness I could the more distinctly see Don Quixote careering against them, and Sancho Panza vainly warning, vainly imploring him, and then in his rage and despair, "giving himself to the devil," as he had so often to do in that master's service; I do not know now that I would have gone nearer them if I could. Sometimes in the desolate plains where the windmills stood so well aloof men were lazily, or at least leisurely, plowing with their prehistoric crooked sticks. Here and there the clean levels were broken by shallow pools of water; and we were at first much tormented by expanses, almost as great as these pools, of a certain purple flower, which no curiosity of ours could prevail with to yield up the secret of its name or nature. It was one of the anomalies of this desert country that it was apparently prosperous, if one might guess from the comfortable-looking farmsteads scattered over it, inclosing house and stables in the courtyard framed by their white walls. The houses stood at no great distances from one another, but were nowhere grouped in villages. There were commonly no towns near the stations, which were not always uncheerful; sometimes there were flower-beds, unless my memory deceives me. Perhaps there would be a passenger or two, and certainly a loafer or two, and always of the sex which in town life does the loafing; in the background or through the windows the other sex could be seen in its domestic activities. Only once did we see three girls of such as stay for the coming and going of trains the world over; they waited arm in arm, and we were obliged to own they were plain, poor things.

Their whitewash saves the distant towns from the effect of sinking into the earth, or irregularly rising from it, as in Old Castile, and the landscape cheered up more and more as we ran farther south. We passed through the country of the Valdepenas wine, which it is said would so willingly be better than it is; there was even a station of that name, which looked much more of a station than most, and had, I think I remember, buildings necessary to the wine industry about it. Murray, indeed, emboldens me in this halting conjecture with the declaration that the neighboring town of Valdepenas is "completely undermined by wine-cellars of very ancient date" where the wine is "kept in caves in huge earthen jars," and when removed is put into goat or pig skins in the right Don Quixote fashion.

The whole region begins to reek of Cervantean memories. Ten miles from the station of Argamasilla is the village where he imagined, and the inhabitants believe, Don Quixote to have been born. Somewhere among these little towns Cervantes himself was thrown into prison for presuming to attempt collecting their rents when the people did not want to pay them. This is what I seem to remember having read, but heaven knows where, or if. What is certain is that almost before I was aware we were leaving the neighborhood of Valdepenas, where we saw men with donkeys gathering grapes and letting the donkeys browse on the vine leaves. Then we were mounting among the foothills of the Sierra Morena, not without much besetting trouble of mind because of those certain circles and squares of stone on the nearer and farther slopes which we have since somehow determined were sheep-folds. They abounded almost to the very scene of those capers which Don Quixote cut on the mountainside to testify his love for Dulcinea del Toboso, to the great scandal of Sancho Panza riding away to give his letter to the lady, but unable to bear the sight of the knight skipping on the rocks in a single garment.