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- The Grey Lady - 6/45 -
Like lutes of angels, touched so near Hell's confines, that the damned can hear.
Time: Five o'clock in the afternoon. Five o'clock, that is to say, by the railway time. There is another time in Barcelona--the town time, to wit--which differs from the hour of the iron road by thirty minutes or thereabouts. But then the town time is Spanish, that is to say that no one takes any notice of it. For into Spanish life time comes but little. If one wishes to catch a train--but, by the way, in Spain we do not catch, we take the train--a subtle difference--if then we wish to take the train, we arrive at the station three-quarters of an hour before the time indicated for departure, and there we make our arrangements with due dignity.
Place: The Rambla, which for those who speak alien tongues has an Arabic sound, and tells us that this, the finest promenade in the world, was once a sandy river-bed. Here now the grave caballero promenades himself from early morning to an eve that knows no dew.
Priest and peasant, the great lady and the gentleman who sells one a glass of water for a centimo, brush past each other. The great lady is dressed in black, as all Spanish ladies are, and on her head she wears the long-lived mantilla, which will last our time and the time of our grandsons. The humbler women-folk wear bright handkerchiefs in place of the mantilla; in dress they affect bright colours.
With the sterner sex, the line of demarcation is equally distinct. There is the man who wears the peasant's blouse, and the man who wears the cloak.
It is with one of the latter that we have to deal--a tall, grave man, with quiet eyes and a long, pointed chin. The air is chilly, and this promenader's black cloak is thrown well over the shoulder, displaying the bright-coloured lining of velvet, which is all the relief the Spaniard allows his sombre self.
The caballero's face is brown, as of one whose walk is not always beneath the shady trees. The expression of it is chastened. One sees the history of a country in the faces of its men. In this there is the history of a past, it is the face of a man living in a bygone day. He notes the interest of the moment with grave surprise, but his life is behind him.
This man has the Spaniard's thoughtful interest in a trifle. He pauses to note the number of the sparrows, as thick as leaves upon the trees. He carefully unfolds his cloak, gives the loose end a little shake, and casts it skilfully over his shoulder, so that it falls across his back, and, hanging there, displays the bright lining. He pauses to watch the result of an infantile accident. The baby picks itself up and brushes the dust from its diminutive frock with all the earnestness of early youth. And the cavalier walks on.
All this with a contemplative grandeur of demeanour worthy of larger if not better things.
In the roadway at the side of the broad promenade a carriage and pair followed this gentleman--carriage and horses which were beautiful even in this land of horses. For this was Cipriani de Lloseta de Mallorca, a great man in Barcelona, if he wished it, a greater in his own little island of Majorca, whether he wished it or not.
Leading out of this same fascinating Rambla, to the left, up towards the impenetrable fortress of Juich--impenetrable excepting once, and then it was the pestilent Englishman, as usual--leading then to the left is the Calle de la Paz. In the Street of the Peace there is a house, on the left hand also, into the door of which one could not only drive a coach and four, but eke a load of straw. Moreover, the driver could go to sleep and leave it to the horses, for there is plenty of space. This is the Casa Lloseta, the town residence since time immemorial of the family of that name. There are servants at the door, there are servants on the broad marble staircase, there are servants everywhere! for the Spaniard is unapproachable in the gentle art of leaving things to others. In the patio, or marble courtyard, there plays a monotonous little fountain, peacefully plashing away the sunny hours.
In England el Senor Conde de Lloseta de Mallorca would be looked upon as a mystery, because he lived in a large house by himself; because it was not known what his tastes might be; because the interviewer interviewed him not, and because the Society rags had no opportunity of describing his drawing-room.
In Spain things are different. If the count chose to live in his own cellar, his neighbours would shrug their shoulders and throw the end of their capes well over to the back. That was surely the business of the count.
Moreover, Cipriani de Lloseta was not the sort of man of whom it is easy to ask questions. His was the pride of pride, which is a vice unbreakable. When the Moors went to Majorca in the eighth century they found Llosetas there, and Llosetas were left behind eight hundred years later, when the southern conqueror was driven back to his dark land. Among his friends it is known that Cipriani de Lloseta lived alone because he was faithful to the memory of one who, but for the hand of God, would have lived with him until she was an old woman, filling, perhaps, the great gloomy house in the Calle de la Paz with the prattle of children's voices, with the clatter of childish feet in the marble passages.
The younger women looked at him surreptitiously, and asked each other what sort of wife this must have been; while their elders shrugged their ample shoulders with a strange little Catalonian contraction of the eyes, and said -
"It is not so much the woman herself as that which the man makes her."
For they are wise, these stout and elderly ladies. They were once young, and they learnt the lesson.
This man, Cipriani de Lloseta, leads a somewhat lonely life, inasmuch as he associates but little with the men of his rank and station. It is, for instance, known that he walks on the Rambla, but no one of any importance whatever, no one that is likely to recognise him, is aware of the fact that another favourite promenade of his is the Muelle de Ponente, that forsaken pier where the stone works are and where no one ever promenades. Here Cipriani de Lloseta walks gravely in the evening--to be more precise, on Tuesday or Friday evening--about five o'clock, when the boat sails for Majorca.
He stands, a lonely, cloaked figure, at the end of the long stone pier, and his dark Spanish eyes rest on the steamer as it glides away into the darkening east and south.
Often, often this man watches the boats depart, but he never goes himself. Often, often he gazes out in his chastened, impenetrable silence over the horizon, as if seeking to pierce the distance and look on the bare heights of the far-off island.
For there, over the glassy smoothness of the horizon, behind those little grey clouds, is Majorca--and Lloseta.
Lloseta, a bare, brown village, standing on the hillside, as if it had economically crept up there among the pines, so as to leave available for cultivation every inch of the wonderful soil of the plain. Below, the vast fertile plateau, tilled like a garden, lies to the westward, while to the east the rising undulations terminate in the bare uplands of Inca. Olive-trees cover the plain like an army, trees that were planted by the Moors a thousand years ago.
Amid the rugged heights of the mountains, here at their highest, and in the fastness of a gorge, lies Lloseta itself.
From the heights above a subtle invigorating odour of marjoram, rosemary, lavender, growing wild like heather, comes down to mingle with the more languid breath of tropic plant and flower.
Such is Lloseta--a home to live for, to die for, to dream of when away from it. As a man is dreaming of it now, just across that hundred miles of smooth sea, on the end of the Muelle de Ponente at Barcelona,
He is always dreaming of it--in Spain, where he is a Spaniard--in England, where he might be an Englishman. It is not every one of us who has a home from whence his name is derived, who signs his letters with a word that is marked upon the map.
Such is Cipriani of that name, who has now left the Rambla and is wandering along the deserted pier.
The steamer has loosed its moorings, is slowly picking its way out of the crowded harbour, and it will pass the pier-head by the time that Cipriani de Lloseta reaches that point.
The man walks slowly, cloaked to the mouth, for the evening breeze is chilly. He gravely descends the steps and begins to walk on the little path around the circular tower at the end of the pier. He usually stands at the very end, so as to be as near to Majorca as possible, one might almost think.
He gravely walks on, and quite suddenly he comes upon a youthful Briton smoking a cigar and dangling a thick stick.
"Ah!" the two men exclaim.
"What are you doing in Barcelona?" asks the Spaniard.
"The devil only knows, my dear man. I don't."
"I hope he had nothing to do with your coming here--idle hands, you know."
The Englishman sat gravely down on a small granite column and reflected.
"No," he answered after a pause, "it was not that. I left England because I wanted to get away from--Well, from an old woman who wants me to marry her daughter. I went to Monte Carlo, and, if you don't mind my saying so, I'm hanged if she didn't follow me, bringing the poor girl with her."
The Spaniard smiled gravely.
"A willing victim!"
"No, Lloseta, you're wrong there. That's the beastly part of it. That girl, sir, was actually shivering with fright one night when
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