As a matter of fact, we were very near not going even to Tarifa, though we had promised ourselves going from the first. But it was very charming to linger in the civilization of that hotel; to wander through its garden paths in the afternoon after a forenoon's writing and inhale the keen aromatic odors of the eucalyptus, and when the day waned to have tea at an iron table on the seaward terrace. Or if we went to Gibraltar, it was interesting to wonder why we had gone, and to be so glad of getting back, and after dinner joining a pleasant international group in the long reading-room with the hearth-fires at either end which, if you got near them, were so comforting against the evening chill. Sometimes the pleasure of the time was heightened by the rain pattering on the glass roof of the patio, where in the afternoon a bulky Spanish mother sat mute beside her basket of laces which you could buy if you would, but need not if you would rather not; in either case she smiled placidly.

At last we did get together courage enough to drive twelve miles over the hills to Tarifa, but this courage was pieced out of the fragments of the courage we had lost for going to Cadiz by the public automobile which runs daily from Algeciras. The road after you passed Tarifa was so bad that those who had endured it said nobody could endure it, and in such a case I was sure I could not, but now I am sorry I did not venture, for since then I have motored over some of the roads in the state of Maine and lived. If people in Maine had that Spanish road as far as Tarifa they would think it the superb Massachusetts state road gone astray, and it would be thought a good road anywhere, with the promise of being better when the young eucalyptus trees planted every few yards along it grew big enough to shade it. But we were glad of as much sun as we could get on the brisk November morning when we drove out of the hotel garden and began the long climb, with little intervals of level and even of lapse. We started at ten o'clock, and it was not too late in that land of anomalous hours to meet peasants on their mules and donkeys bringing loads of stuff to market in Algeciras. Men were plowing with many yoke of oxen in the wheat-fields; elsewhere there were green pastures with herds of horses grazing in them, an abundance of brown pigs, and flocks of sheep with small lambs plaintively bleating. The pretty white farmhouses, named each after a favorite saint, and gathering at times into villages, had grapes and figs and pomegranates in their gardens; and when we left them and climbed higher, we began passing through long stretches of cork woods.

The trees grew wild, sometimes sturdily like our oaks, and sometimes gnarled and twisted like our seaside cedars, and in every state of excoriation. The bark is taken from them each seventh year, and it begins to be taken long before the first seventh. The tender saplings and the superannuated shell wasting to its fall yield alike their bark, which is stripped from the roots to the highest boughs. Where they have been flayed recently they look literally as if they were left bleeding, for the sap turns a red color; but with time this changes to brown, and the bark begins to renew itself and grows again till the next seventh year. Upon the whole the cork-wood forest is not cheerful, and I would rather frequent it in the pages of Don Quixote than out; though if the trees do not mind being barked it is mere sentimentality in me to pity them.

The country grew lonelier and drearier as we mounted, and the wind blew colder over the fields blotched with that sort of ground-palm, which lays waste so much land in southern Spain. When we descended the winding road from the summit we came in sight of the sea with Africa clearly visible beyond, and we did not lose sight of it again. Sometimes we met soldiers possibly looking out for smugglers but, let us hope, not molesting them; and once we met a brace of the all-respected Civil Guards, marching shoulder to shoulder, with their cloaks swinging free and their carbines on their arms, severe, serene, silent. Now and then a mounted wayfarer came toward us looking like a landed proprietor in his own equipment and that of his steed, and there were peasant women solidly perched on donkeys, and draped in long black cloaks and hooded in white kerchiefs.