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Chapter 2

  • I spent several days at Cordova. I had been told of a certain manuscript i_he library of the Dominican convent which was likely to furnish me with ver_nteresting details about the ancient Munda. The good fathers gave me the mos_indly welcome. I spent the daylight hours within their convent, and at nigh_ walked about the town. At Cordova a great many idlers collect, towar_unset, in the quay that runs along the right bank of the Guadalquivir.
  • Promenaders on the spot have to breathe the odour of a tan yard which stil_eeps up the ancient fame of the country in connection with the curing o_eather. But to atone for this, they enjoy a sight which has a charm of it_wn. A few minutes before the Angelus bell rings, a great company of wome_athers beside the river, just below the quay, which is rather a high one. No_ man would dare to join its ranks. The moment the Angelus rings, darkness i_upposed to have fallen. As the last stroke sounds, all the women disrobe an_tep into the water. Then there is laughing and screaming and a wonderfu_latter. The men on the upper quay watch the bathers, straining their eyes, and seeing very little. Yet the white uncertain outlines perceptible agains_he dark-blue waters of the stream stir the poetic mind, and the possessor o_ little fancy finds it not difficult to imagine that Diana and her nymphs ar_athing below, while he himself runs no risk of ending like Acteon.
  • I have been told that one day a party of good-for-nothing fellows bande_hemselves together, and bribed the bell-ringer at the cathedral to ring th_ngelus some twenty minutes before the proper hour. Though it was still broa_aylight, the nymphs of the Guadalquivir never hesitated, and putting far mor_rust in the Angelus bell than in the sun, they proceeded to their bathin_oilette—always of the simplest—with an easy conscience. I was not present o_hat occasion. In my day, the bell-ringer was incorruptible, the twilight wa_ery dim, and nobody but a cat could have distinguished the difference betwee_he oldest orange woman, and the prettiest shop-girl, in Cordova.
  • One evening, after it had grown quite dusk, I was leaning over the parapet o_he quay, smoking, when a woman came up the steps leading from the river, an_at down near me. In her hair she wore a great bunch of jasmine—a flowe_hich, at night, exhales a most intoxicating perfume. She was dressed simply, almost poorly, in black, as most work-girls are dressed in the evening. Wome_f the richer class only wear black in the daytime, at night they dress  _a l_rancesa_. When she drew near me, the woman let the mantilla which had covere_er head drop on her shoulders, and "by the dim light falling from the stars"
  • I perceived her to be young, short in stature, well-proportioned, and wit_ery large eyes. I threw my cigar away at once. She appreciated this mark o_ourtesy, essentially French, and hastened to inform me that she was very fon_f the smell of tobacco, and that she even smoked herself, when she could ge_ery mild  _papelitos_. I fortunately happened to have some such in my case, and at once offered them to her. She condescended to take one, and lighted i_t a burning string which a child brought us, receiving a copper for it_ains. We mingled our smoke, and talked so long, the fair lady and I, that w_nded by being almost alone on the quay. I thought I might venture, withou_mpropriety, to suggest our going to eat an ice at th_neveria_.[[3]](footnotes.xml#footnote_3) After a moment of modest demur, sh_greed. But before finally accepting, she desired to know what o'clock it was.
  • I struck my repeater, and this seemed to astound her greatly.
  • "What clever inventions you foreigners do have! What country do you belong to, sir? You're an Englishman, no doubt!"[[4]](footnotes.xml#footnote_4)
  • "I'm a Frenchman, and your devoted servant. And you, senora, or senorita, yo_robably belong to Cordova?"
  • "No."
  • "At all events, you are an Andalusian? Your soft way of speaking makes m_hink so."
  • "If you notice people's accent so closely, you must be able to guess what _m."
  • "I think you are from the country of Jesus, two paces out of Paradise."
  • I had learned the metaphor, which stands for Andalusia, from my frien_rancisco Sevilla, a well-known  _picador_.
  • "Pshaw! The people here say there is no place in Paradise for us!"
  • "Then perhaps you are of Moorish blood—or——" I stopped, not venturing to add
  • "a Jewess."
  • "Oh come! You must see I'm a gipsy! Wouldn't you like me to tell you  _l_aji_?[[5]](footnotes.xml#footnote_5) Did you never hear tell of Carmencita?
  • That's who I am!"
  • I was such a miscreant in those days—now fifteen years ago—that the clos_roximity of a sorceress did not make me recoil in horror. "So be it!" _hought. "Last week I ate my supper with a highway robber. To-day I'll go an_at ices with a servant of the devil. A traveller should see everything." _ad yet another motive for prosecuting her acquaintance. When I left college—_cknowledge it with shame—I had wasted a certain amount of time in studyin_ccult science, and had even attempted, more than once, to exorcise the power_f darkness. Though I had been cured, long since, of my passion for suc_nvestigations, I still felt a certain attraction and curiosity with regard t_ll superstitions, and I was delighted to have this opportunity of discoverin_ow far the magic art had developed among the gipsies.
  • Talking as we went, we had reached the  _neveria_ , and seated ourselves at _ittle table, lighted by a taper protected by a glass globe. I then had tim_o take a leisurely view of my  _gitana_ , while several worthy individuals, who were eating their ices, stared open-mouthed at beholding me in such ga_ompany.
  • I very much doubt whether Senorita Carmen was a pure-blooded gipsy. At al_vents, she was infinitely prettier than any other woman of her race I hav_ver seen. For a women to be beautiful, they say in Spain, she must fulfi_hirty  _ifs_ , or, if it please you better, you must be able to define he_ppearance by ten adjectives, applicable to three portions of her person.
  • For instance, three things about her must be black, her eyes, her eyelashes, and her eyebrows. Three must be dainty, her fingers, her lips, her hair, an_o forth. For the rest of this inventory, see Brantome. My gipsy girl coul_ay no claim to so many perfections. Her skin, though perfectly smooth, wa_lmost of a copper hue. Her eyes were set obliquely in her head, but they wer_agnificent and large. Her lips, a little full, but beautifully shaped, revealed a set of teeth as white as newly skinned almonds. Her hair—a trifl_oarse, perhaps—was black, with blue lights on it like a raven's wing, lon_nd glossy. Not to weary my readers with too prolix a description, I wil_erely add, that to every blemish she united some advantage, which was perhap_ll the more evident by contrast. There was something strange and wild abou_er beauty. Her face astonished you, at first sight, but nobody could forge_t. Her eyes, especially, had an expression of mingled sensuality an_ierceness which I had never seen in any other human glance. "Gipsy's eye, wolf's eye!" is a Spanish saying which denotes close observation. If m_eaders have no time to go to the "Jardin des Plantes" to study the wolf'_xpression, they will do well to watch the ordinary cat when it is lying i_ait for a sparrow.
  • It will be understood that I should have looked ridiculous if I had propose_o have my fortune told in a  _café_. I therefore begged the pretty witch'_eave to go home with her. She made no difficulties about consenting, but sh_anted to know what o'clock it was again, and requested me to make my repeate_trike once more.
  • "Is it really gold?" she said, gazing at it with rapt attention.
  • When we started off again, it was quite dark. Most of the shops were shut, an_he streets were almost empty. We crossed the bridge over the Guadalquivir, and at the far end of the suburb we stopped in front of a house of anythin_ut palatial appearance. The door was opened by a child, to whom the gips_poke a few words in a language unknown to me, which I afterward understood t_e  _Romany_ , or  _chipe calli_ —the gipsy idiom. The child instantl_isappeared, leaving us in sole possession of a tolerably spacious room, furnished with a small table, two stools, and a chest. I must not forget t_ention a jar of water, a pile of oranges, and a bunch of onions.
  • As soon as we were left alone, the gipsy produced, out of her chest, a pack o_ards, bearing signs of constant usage, a magnet, a dried chameleon, and a fe_ther indispensable adjuncts of her art. Then she bade me cross my left han_ith a silver coin, and the magic ceremonies duly began. It is unnecessary t_hronicle her predictions, and as for the style of her performance, it prove_er to be no mean sorceress.
  • Unluckily we were soon disturbed. The door was suddenly burst open, and a man, shrouded to the eyes in a brown cloak, entered the room, apostrophizing th_ipsy in anything but gentle terms. What he said I could not catch, but th_one of his voice revealed the fact that he was in a very evil temper. Th_ipsy betrayed neither surprise nor anger at his advent, but she ran to mee_im, and with a most striking volubility, she poured out several sentences i_he mysterious language she had already used in my presence. The wor_payllo_ , frequently reiterated, was the only one I understood. I knew tha_he gipsies use it to describe all men not of their own race. Concludin_yself to be the subject of this discourse, I was prepared for a somewha_elicate explanation. I had already laid my hand on the leg of one of th_tools, and was studying within myself to discover the exact moment at which _ad better throw it at his head, when, roughly pushing the gipsy to one side, the man advanced toward me. Then with a step backward he cried:
  • "What, sir! Is it you?"
  • I looked at him in my turn and recognised my friend Don Jose. At that moment _id feel rather sorry I had saved him from the gallows.
  • "What, is it you, my good fellow?" I exclaimed, with as easy a smile as _ould muster. "You have interrupted this young lady just when she wa_oretelling me most interesting things!"
  • "The same as ever. There shall be an end to it!" he hissed between his teeth, with a savage glance at her.
  • Meanwhile the  _gitana_  was still talking to him in her own tongue. Sh_ecame more and more excited. Her eyes grew fierce and bloodshot, her feature_ontracted, she stamped her foot. She seemed to me to be earnestly pressin_im to do something he was unwilling to do. What this was I fancied _nderstood only too well, by the fashion in which she kept drawing her littl_and backward and forward under her chin. I was inclined to think she wante_o have somebody's throat cut, and I had a fair suspicion the throat i_uestion was my own. To all her torrent of eloquence Don Jose's only reply wa_wo or three shortly spoken words. At this the gipsy cast a glance of the mos_tter scorn at him, then, seating herself Turkish-fashion in a corner of th_oom, she picked out an orange, tore off the skin, and began to eat it.
  • Don Jose took hold of my arm, opened the door, and led me into the street. W_alked some two hundred paces in the deepest silence. Then he stretched ou_is hand.
  • "Go straight on," he said, "and you'll come to the bridge."
  • That instant he turned his back on me and departed at a great pace. I took m_ay back to my inn, rather crestfallen, and considerably out of temper. Th_orst of all was that, when I undressed, I discovered my watch was missing.
  • Various considerations prevented me from going to claim it next day, o_equesting the  _Corregidor_  to be good enough to have a search made for it.
  • I finished my work on the Dominican manuscript, and went on to Seville. Afte_everal months spent wandering hither and thither in Andalusia, I wanted t_et back to Madrid, and with that object I had to pass through Cordova. I ha_o intention of making any stay there, for I had taken a dislike to that fai_ity, and to the ladies who bathed in the Guadalquivir. Nevertheless, I ha_ome visits to pay, and certain errands to do, which must detain me severa_ays in the old capital of the Mussulman princes.
  • The moment I made my appearance in the Dominican convent, one of the monks, who had always shown the most lively interest in my inquiries as to the sit_f the battlefield of Munda, welcomed me with open arms, exclaiming:
  • "Praised be God! You are welcome! My dear friend. We all thought you wer_ead, and I myself have said many a  _pater_  and  _ave_  (not that I regre_hem!) for your soul. Then you weren't murdered, after all? That you wer_obbed, we know!"
  • "What do you mean?" I asked, rather astonished.
  • "Oh, you know! That splendid repeater you used to strike in the librar_henever we said it was time for us to go into church. Well, it has bee_ound, and you'll get it back."
  • "Why," I broke in, rather put out of countenance, "I lost it—"
  • "The rascal's under lock and key, and as he was known to be a man who woul_hoot any Christian for the sake of a  _peseta_ , we were most dreadfull_fraid he had killed you. I'll go with you to the  _Corregidor_ , and he'l_ive you back your fine watch. And after that, you won't dare to say the la_oesn't do its work properly in Spain."
  • "I assure you," said I, "I'd far rather lose my watch than have to giv_vidence in court to hang a poor unlucky devil, and especiall_ecause—because——"
  • "Oh, you needn't be alarmed! He's thoroughly done for; they might hang hi_wice over. But when I say hang, I say wrong. Your thief is an  _Hidalgo_. S_e's to be garrotted the day after to-morrow, withou_ail.[[6]](footnotes.xml#footnote_6) So you see one theft more or less won'_ffect his position. Would to God he had done nothing but steal! But he ha_ommitted several murders, one more hideous than the other."
  • "What's his name?"
  • "In this country he is only known as Jose Navarro, but he has another Basqu_ame, which neither your nor I will ever be able to pronounce. By the way, th_an is worth seeing, and you, who like to study the peculiar features of eac_ountry, shouldn't lose this chance of noting how a rascal bids farewell t_his world in Spain. He is in jail, and Father Martinez will take you to him."
  • So bent was my Dominican friend on my seeing the preparations for this "nea_ittle hanging job" that I was fain to agree. I went to see the prisoner, having provided myself with a bundle of cigars, which I hoped might induce hi_o forgive my intrusion.
  • I was ushered into Don Jose's presence just as he was sitting at table. H_reeted me with a rather distant nod, and thanked me civilly for the present _ad brought him. Having counted the cigars in the bundle I had placed in hi_and, he took out a certain number and returned me the rest, remarking that h_ould not need any more of them.
  • I inquired whether by laying out a little money, or by applying to my friends, I might not be able to do something to soften his lot. He shrugged hi_houlders, to begin with, smiling sadly. Soon, as by an after-thought, h_sked me to have a mass said for the repose of his soul.
  • Then he added nervously: "Would you—would you have another said for a perso_ho did you a wrong?"
  • "Assuredly I will, my dear fellow," I answered. "But no one in this countr_as wronged me so far as I know."
  • He took my hand and squeezed it, looking very grave. After a moment's silence, he spoke again.
  • "Might I dare to ask another service of you? When you go back to your ow_ountry perhaps you will pass through Navarre. At all events you'll go b_ittoria, which isn't very far off."
  • "Yes," said I, "I shall certainly pass through Vittoria. But I may ver_ossibly go round by Pampeluna, and for your sake, I believe I should be ver_lad to do it."
  • "Well, if you do go to Pampeluna, you'll see more than one thing that wil_nterest you. It's a fine town. I'll give you this medal," he showed me _ittle silver medal that he wore hung around his neck. "You'll wrap it up i_aper"—he paused a moment to master his emotion—"and you'll take it, or sen_t, to an old lady whose address I'll give you. Tell her I am dead—but don'_ell her how I died."
  • I promised to perform his commission. I saw him the next day, and spent par_f it in his company. From his lips I learned the sad incidents that follow.