Somewhere at a junction our train had been divided and our car, left the last of what remained, had bumped and threatened to beat itself to pieces during its remaining run of fifteen miles. This, with our long retard at Santa Elena, and our opportune defense from the depraved descendants of the reforming German colonists by the Guardias Civiles, had given us a day of so much excitement that we were anxious to have it end tranquilly at midnight in the hotel which we had chosen from, our Baedeker. I would not have any reader of mine choose it again from my experience of it, though it was helplessly rather wilfully bad; certainly the fault was not the hotel's that it seemed as far from the station as Cordova was from Madrid. It might, under the circumstances, have, been a merit in it to be undergoing a thorough overhauling of the furnishing and decoration of the rooms on the patio which had formed our ideal for a quiet night. A conventionally napkined waiter welcomed us from the stony street, and sent us up to our rooms with the young interpreter who met us at the station, but was obscure as to their location. When we refused them because they were over that loud-echoing alley, the interpreter made himself still more our friend and called mandatorially down the speaking-tube that we wished interiores and would take nothing else, though he must have known that no such rooms were to be had. He even abetted us in visiting the rooms on the patio and satisfying ourselves that they were all dismantled; when the waiter brought up the hot soup which was the only hot thing in the house beside our tempers, he joined with that poor fellow in reconciling us to the inevitable. They declared that the people whom we heard uninterruptedly clattering and chattering by in the street below, and the occasional tempest of wheels and bells and hoofs that clashed up to us would be the very last to pass through there that night, and they gave such good and sufficient reasons for their opinion that we yielded as we needs must. Of course, they were wrong; and perhaps they even knew that they were wrong; but I think we were the only people in that neighborhood who got any sleep that night or the next. We slept the sleep of exhaustion, but I believe those Cordovese preferred waking outdoors to trying to sleep within. It was apparently their custom to walk and talk the night away in the streets, not our street alone, but all the other streets of Cordova; the laughing which I heard may have expressed the popular despair of getting any sleep. The next day we experimented in listening from rooms offered us over another street, and then we remained measurably contented to bear the ills we had. This was after an exhaustive search for a better hotel had partly appeased us; but there remained in the Paseo del Gran Capitan one house unvisited which has ever since grown upon my belief as embracing every comfort and advantage lacking to our hotel. I suppose I am the stronger in this belief because when we came to it we had been so disappointed with the others that we had not the courage to go inside. Smell for smell, the interior of that hotel may have harbored a worse one than the odor of henhouse which pervaded ours, I hope from the materials for calcimining the rooms on the patio.

By the time we returned we found a guide waiting for us, and we agreed with him for a day's service. He did not differ with other authorities as to the claims of Cordova on the tourist's interest. From being the most brilliant capital of the Western world in the time of the Caliphs it is now allowed by all the guides and guide-books and most of the travelers, to be one of the dullest of provincial towns. It is no longer the center of learning; and though it cannot help doing a large business in olives, with the orchards covering the hills around it, the business does not seem to be a very active one. "The city once the abode of the flower of Andalusian nobility," says the intelligent O'Shea in his Guide to Spain, "is inhabited chiefly by administradores of the absentee senorio; their 'solares' are desert and wretched, the streets ill paved though clean, and the whitewashed houses unimportant, low, and denuded of all art and meaning, either past or present." Baedeker gives like reasons for thinking "the traveler whose expectation is on tiptoe as he enters the ancient capital of the Moors will probably be disappointed in all but the cathedral." Cook's Guide, latest but not least commendable of the authorities, is of a more divided mind and finds the means of trade and industry and their total want of visible employment at the worst anomalous.

Vacant, narrow streets where the grass does not grow, and there is only an endless going and coming of aimless feet; a market without buyers or sellers to speak of, and a tangle of squat white houses, abounding in lovely patios, sweet and bright with flowers and fountains: this seems to be Cordova in the consensus of the manuals, and with me in the retrospect a sort of puzzle is the ultimate suggestion of the dead capital of the Western Caliphs. Gautier thinks, or seventy-two years ago he thought (and there has not been much change since), that "Cordova has a more African look than any other city of Andalusia; its streets, or rather its lanes, whose tumultuous pavement resembles the bed of dry torrents, all littered with straw from the loads of passing donkeys, have nothing that recalls the manners and customs of Europe. The Moors, if they came back, would have no great trouble to reinstate themselves. . . . The universal use of lime-wash gives a uniform tint to the monuments, blunts the lines of the architecture, effaces the ornamentation, and forbids you to read their age. . . . You cannot know the wall of a century ago from the wall of yesterday. Cordova, once the center of Arab civilization, is now a huddle of little white houses with corridors between them where two mules could hardly pass abreast. Life seems to have ebbed from the vast body, once animated by the active circulation of Moorish blood; nothing is left now but the blanched and calcined skeleton. ... In spite of its Moslem air, Cordova is very Christian and rests under the special protection of the Archangel Raphael." It is all rather contradictory; but Gautier owns that the great mosque is a "monument unique in the world, and novel even for travelers who have had the fortune to admire the wonders of Moorish architecture at Granada or Seville."

De Amicis, who visited Cordova nearly forty-five years later, and in the heart of spring, brought letters which opened something of the intimate life of that apparently blanched and calcined skeleton. He meets young men and matches Italian verses with their Spanish; spends whole nights sitting in their cafes or walking their plazas, and comes away with his mouth full of the rapturous verses of an Arab poet: "Adieu, Cordova! Would that my life were as long as Noah's, that I might live forever within thy walls! Would that I had the treasures of Pharaoh, to spend them upon wine and the beautiful women of Cordova, with tho gentle eyes that invite kisses!" He allows that the lines may be "a little too tropical for the taste of a European," and it seems to me that there may be a golden mean between scolding and flattering which would give the truth about Cordova. I do not promise to strike it; our hotel still rankles in my heart; but I promise to try for it, though I have to say that the very moment we started for the famous mosque it began to rain, and rained throughout the forenoon, while we weltered from wonder to wonder through the town. We were indeed weltering in a closed carriage, which found its way not so badly through the alleys where two mules could not pass abreast. The lime-wash of the walls did not emit the white heat in which tho other tourists have basked or baked; the houses looked wet and chill, and if they had those flowered and fountained patios which people talk of they had taken them in out of the rain.