MY next impressions were gathered on the margin of a southern sea - -if the Bay of Biscay indeed deserves so soft-sounding a name. We generally have a mental image beforehand of a place we think of going to, and I supposed I had a tolerably vivid prevision of Biarritz. I don't know why, but I had a singular sense of having been there; the name always seemed to me expressive. I saw the way it lay along it's gleaming beach; I had taken in imagination the long walks toward Spain over the low cliffs, with the blue sea always to my right, and the blue Pyrenees always before me. My only fear was that my mental picture was not brilliant enough; but this could easily be touched up on the spot. In truth, however, I was exclusively occupied in toning it down. Biarritz seemed to be decidedly below it's reputation; I am at a loss to see how it's reputation was made. There is a partial explanation that is obvious enough. There is a low, square, bare brick mansion seated on the sands, under shelter of a cliff; it is one of the first objects to attract the attention of an arriving stranger. It is not picturesque, it is not romantic, and even in the days of it's prosperity it never can have been impressive. It is called the Villa Eugénie, and it explains in a great measure, as I say, the Biarritz which the arriving stranger, with some dismay, perceives about him. It has the aspect of one of the "cottages" of Newport during the winter season, and is surrounded by an even scantier umbrage than usually flourishes in the vicinity of those establishments. It was what the newspapers call the "favourite resort" of the ex-Empress of the French, who might have been seen at her imperial avocations with a good glass at any time from the Casino. The Casino, I hasten to add, has quite the air of an establishment frequented by gentlemen who look on ladies windows with telescopes. There are Casinos and Casinos, and that of Biarritz is, in the summary French phrase, "impossible." Except for it's view, it is moreover very unattractive. Perched on the top of a cliff which has just space enough to hold it's immense brick foundations, it has no garden, no promenade, no shade, no place of out-of-door reunion - -the most indispensable feature of a Casino. It turns it's back to the Pyrenees and to Spain, and looks out prettily enough over a blue ocean to an arm of the low French coast.

Biarritz, for the rest, scrambles over two or three steep hills, directly above the sea, in a promiscuous, many-coloured, noisy fashion. It is a watering-place, pure and simple; every house has an expensive little shop in the basement, and a still more expensive set of rooms to let above stairs. The houses are blue, and pink, and green; they stick to the hillsides as they can, and being near Spain, you try to fancy they look Spanish. You succeed perhaps, even a little, and are rewarded for your zeal by finding, when you cross the border a few days afterward, that the houses at San Sebastian look strikingly French. Biarritz is bright, crowded, irregular, filled with many sounds, and not without a certain second-rate picturesqueness; but it struck me as common and cocknified, and my vision travelled back to modest little Etretal, by it's northern sea, as to a more truly delectable resting-place. The south-western coast of France has little of the exquisite charm of the Mediterranean shore. It has of course a southern expression which in itself is always delightful. You see a brilliant, yellow sun, with a pink-faced, red-tiled house staring up at it. You can see here and there a trellis and an orange tree, a peasant woman in gold necklace, driving a donkey, a lame beggar adorned with ear-rings, a glimpse of blue sea between white garden walls. But the superabundant detail of the French Riviera is wanting; the softness, luxuriousness, enchantment.

The most picturesque thing at Biarritz is the Basque population, which overflows from the adjacent Spanish provinces and swarms in the crooked streets. It lounges all day in the public places, sprawls upon the kerbstones, clings to the face of the cliffs, and vociferates continually in a shrill, strange tongue, which has no discoverable affinity with any other. The Basques look like the hardier and thriftier Neapolitan lazzaroni; if the superficial resemblance is striking, the difference is very much in their favour. Although those specimens which I observed at Biarritz appeared to enjoy an excess of leisure, they had nothing of a shiftless or beggarly air, and seemed as little disposed to ask favours as to confer them. The roads leading into Spain were dotted with them, and here they were coming and going as if on important business - -the business of the abominable Don Carlos himself. They struck me as a very handsome race. The men are invariably clean shaved; smooth chins seem a positively religious observance. They wear little round, maroon-coloured caps, like those of sailor-boys, dark stuff shifts, and curious white shoes, made of strips of rope laid together - -an article of toilet which makes them look like honorary members of base-ball clubs. They sling their jackets, cavalier fashion, over one shoulder, hold their heads very high, swing their arms very bravely, step out very lightly, and when you meet them in the country at eventide, charging down a hillside in companies of half a dozen, make altogether a most impressive appearance. With their smooth chins and childish caps, they may be taken, in the distance, for a lot of very naughty little boys. They have always a cigarette in their teeth.

The best thing at Biarritz is your opportunity for driving over into Spain. Coming speedily to a consciousness of this fact, I found a charm in sitting in a landau and rolling away to San Sebastian, behind a driver in a high glazed hat with long streamers, a jacket of scarlet and silver, and a pair of yellow breeches and of jack-boots. if it has been the desire of one's heart and the dream of one's life to visit the land of Cervantes, even grazing it so lightly as by a day's excursion from Biarritz is a matter to set one romancing. Everything helping - -the admirable scenery, the charming day, my operatic coachman, and smooth-rolling carriage - -I am afraid I romanced more than it is decent to tell of. You face toward the beautifully outlined mass of the Pyrenees, as if you were going to plunge straight into them, but in reality you travel beneath them and beside them; you pass between their expiring spurs and the sea. It is on proceeding beyond San Sebastian that you seriously attack them. But they are already extremely picturesque - -none the less so that in this region they abound in suggestion of the recent Carlist war. Their far-away peaks and ridges are crowned with lonely Spanish watch-towers and their lower slopes are dotted with demolished dwellings. It was hereabouts that the fighting was most constant. But the healing powers of nature are as remarkable as the destructive powers of man, and the rich September landscape appeared already to have forgotten the injuries of yesterday. Everything seemed to me a savoury foretaste of Spain. I discovered an unconscionable amount of local colour. I discovered it at St. Jean de Luz, the last French town, in a great brown church, filled with galleries and boxes, like a playhouse - -the altar and chair, indeed, looked very much like a proscenium; at Bohebia, on the Bidassoa, the small yellow stream which divides France from Spain, and which at this point offers to view the celebrated Isle of Pheasants, a little bushy strip of earth adorned with a decayed commemorative monument, on which, in the seventeenth century, the affairs of Louis XIV. and his brother monarch were discussed in ornamental conference; at Fuentarabia (glorious name), a mouldering relic of Spanish stateliness; at Hondaye, at Irun, at Renteria, and finally at San Sebastian. At all of these wayside towns the houses show marks of Alphonsist bullets (the region was strongly Carlist); but to be riddled and battered seems to carry out the meaning of the pompous old escutcheons carven above the doorways, some of them covering almost half the house. It seemed to me, in fact, that the narrower and shabbier was the poor little dusky dwelling, the grander and more elaborate was this noble advertisement. But it stood for knightly prowess, and pitiless Time had taken up the challenge. I found it fine work to rumble through the narrow single street of Irun and Renteria, between the strange-coloured houses, the striped awnings, the universal balconies, and the heraldic doorways.

San Sebastian is a lively watering-place, and is set down in the guidebooks as the Biarritz or the Brighton of Spain. It has of course a new quarter in the provincial-elegant style (fresh stucco cafes, barber shops, and apartments to let), looking out upon a planted promenade and a charming bay, locked in fortified heights, with a narrow portal to the ocean. I walked about for two or three hours, and devoted most of my attention to the old quarter, the town proper, which has a great frowning gate upon the harbour, through which you look along a vista of gaudy house fronts, balconies, and awnings, surmounted by a narrow strip of sky. Here the local colour was richer, the manners more naïf. Here too was a church with a flamboyant Jesuit façade and an interior redolent of Spanish Catholicism. There was a life-sized effigy of the Virgin perched upon a table beside the great altar (she appeared to have been walking abroad in a procession), whom I looked at with extreme interest. She seemed to me a heroine, a solid Spanish person, as perfect a reality as Don Quixote or St. Theresa. She was dressed in an extraordinary splendour of laces, brocades, and jewels, her coiffure and complexion were of the finest, and she evidently would answer to her name if you spoke to her. Improving the stateliest title I could think of, I addressed her as Doña Maria of the Holy Office; whereupon she looked round the great dusky, perfumed church, to see whether we were alone, and then she dropped her fringed eyelids and held out her hand to be kissed. She was the Sentiment of Spanish Catholicism: gloomy, yet bedizened, emotional as a woman, and yet mechanical as a doll. After a moment I grew afraid of her, and went slinking away. After this I didn't really recover my spirits until I had the satisfaction of hearing myself addressed as "Cabellero." I was hailed with this epithet by a ragged infant, with sickly eyes and a cigarette in his lips, who invited me to cast a copper into the sea, that he might dive for it; and even with these limitations, the sensation seemed worth the cost of my excursion. It appeared kinder, to my gratitude, to make the infant dive upon the pavement.

A few days later I went back to San Sebastian, to witness a bull fight; but I suppose my right to descant upon this entertainment should be measured less by the gratification it afforded me than by the question whether there is room in literature for another bull fight. I incline to think there is not; the Spanish diversion is the best described thing in the world. Besides, there are other reasons for not describing it. It is extremely disgusting, and one should not describe disgusting things - -except (according to the new school) in novels, when they have not really occurred, and are manufactured on purpose. But one has taken a certain sort of pleasure in the bull fight, and yet how is one to state gracefully that one has taken pleasure in a disgusting thing? It is a hard case. If you record your pleasure, distinctly, you seem to exaggerate it and to calumniate your delicacy; and if you record nothing but your displeasure, you feel rather crabbed and stingy. This much I can say, at any rate, that as there had been no bull fights in that part of the country during the Carlist war, the native dilettanti (and every man, woman, and child of them comes under this denomination) returned to their previous pastime with peculiar zest. The spectacle, therefore, had an unusual splendour. Under these circumstances it is highly picturesque. The weather was beautiful; the near mountains peeped over the top of the vast open arena, as if they too were curious; weary of disembowelled horses and posturing espadas, the spectator (in the boxes) might turn away and look through an unglazed window at the empty town and the cloud-shadowed sea. But few of the native spectators availed themselves of this privilege. Beside me sat a blooming matron, in a white lace mantilla, with three very juvenile daughters; and if these ladies sometimes yawned, they never shivered. For myself, I confess that if I sometimes shivered, I never yawned. A long list of bulls was sacrificed, each of whom had pretentions to originality. The banderillos, in their silk stockings and embroidered satin costumes, skipped about with a great deal of elegance; the espada folded his arms, within six inches of the bull's nose, and stared him out of countenance; but I thought the bull, in any case, a finer fellow than any of his tormentors, and I thought his tormentors finer fellows than the spectators. In truth, we were all, for the time, rather sorry fellows together. A bull fight will, to a certain extent, bear looking at, but it will not bear thinking of. There was a more innocent picturesqueness in what I saw afterward, when we all came away, in the late afternoon, as the shadows were at their longest the bright-coloured southern crowd, spreading itself over the grass, and the women, with mantillas and fans, strolling up along before the mountains and the sea.