Villafranca--The Pass--Gallegan Simplicity--The Frontier Guard--The Horse-shoe -- Gallegan Peculiarities -- A Word on Language--The Courier--Wretched Cabins--Host and Guests--Andalusians.
"AVE MARIA," said the woman; "whom have we here? This is not Gil the clock-maker?""Whether it be Gil or Juan," said I, "we are in need of your hospitality, and can pay for it." Our first care was to stable the horses, which were much exhausted. We then went in search of some accommodation for ourselves. The house was large and commodious, and having tasted a little water, I stretched myself on the floor of one of the rooms on some mattresses which the woman produced, and in less than a minute was sound asleep.
The sun was shining bright when I awoke. I walked forth into the market-place, which was crowded with people. I looked up, and could see the peaks of tall black mountains peeping over the tops of the houses. The town lay in a deep hollow, and appeared to be surrounded by hills on almost every side. "Quel pays barbare!" said Antonio, who now joined me; "the farther we go, my master, the wilder everything looks. I am half afraid to venture into Galicia; they tell me that to get to it we must clamber up those hills: the horses will founder." Leaving the market-place I ascended the wall of the town, and endeavoured to discover the gate by which we should have entered the preceding night; but I was not more successful in the bright sunshine than in the darkness. The town in the direction of Astorga appeared to be hermetically sealed.
I was eager to enter Galicia, and finding that the horses were to a certain extent recovered from the fatigue of the journey of the preceding day, we again mounted and proceeded on our way. Crossing a bridge, we presently found ourselves in a deep gorge amongst the mountains, down which rushed an impetuous rivulet, overhung by the high road which leads into Galicia. We were in the far-famed pass of Fuencebadon.
It is impossible to describe this pass or the circumjacent region, which contains some of the most extraordinary scenery in all Spain; a feeble and imperfect outline is all that I can hope to effect. The traveller who ascends it follows for nearly a league the course of the torrent, whose banks are in some places precipitous, and in others slope down to the waters, and are covered with lofty trees, oaks, poplars, and chestnuts. Small villages are at first continually seen, with low walls, and roofs formed of immense slates, the eaves nearly touching the ground; these hamlets, however, gradually become less frequent as the path grows more steep and narrow, until they finally cease at a short distance before the spot is attained where the rivulet is abandoned, and is no more seen, though its tributaries may yet be heard in many a gully, or descried in tiny rills dashing down the steeps. Everything here is wild, strange, and beautiful: the hill up which winds the path towers above on the right, whilst on the farther side of a