HOME, SWEET HOME
IT is a curious fact that in a country where a poetic genius for love-making is inborn in the
heart of every man and woman, custom has made it as difficult as possible for young people
to find their mates.
Spanish girls are always under the watchful eye of some staid female attendant; they are
never allowed to go out for a walk alone, even in the daytime, and the utmost precautions
are taken to see that they are never left alone in a room with a man, no matter how great
a friend of the family he may be. Under these conditions it is not surprising to find that
surreptitious methods of sweethearting are resorted to; but all such
 methods are of a romantic nature, as, for instance, moonlight serenading, and passing
glances, lingering looks with eyes well trained to deliver messages which lips cannot
speak when there are other ears to hear than those for which they are intended. And
some-times in spite of the strictest vigilance of the girl's mother in particular, and all
her female relatives in general, the young couple will manage to steal away together for a
brief spell; or when there is an old family servant on duty, a little bribe gallantly
administered with much flattery may effect the same happy result.
Frequently the lover-man's diplomacy is a long and vain expenditure of energy, for Spanish
women are born coquettes, and they thoroughly enjoy the fine art of attracting and
receiving court. But frequently, too, these clandestine preliminaries end in an
engagement, and by the time a Spanish woman pledges her word to marry she has generally
had enough of playing with love to satisfy her romantic soul, is sure of her mind, can
trust to the genuineness of her feelings, and will settle down to make her lover and
beloved a most loyal and devoted wife.
Spanish men make very good husbands. A Spanish boy is always devoted to his mother, and
learns through his love for her to reverence his wife. The women as a whole take no
interest in the progressive movement of their sex afoot in other parts of the world, and
the only right claimed by the majority is to be petted and made much of in their homes.
But although custom has decreed that the men shall not make any intellectual
 demands on the women, and the women shall be content with the homage and adoration of the
men, fortunately there is something in feminine Spanish nature which prevents the women
from degenerating into spoiled babies and dressed-up dolls. That something, which has made
for the salvation of the sex and for the general welfare of the country, is the maternal
instinct, with its kindred spirit, the love of home.
There is no country in the world—no, not even England—where home-life is a
higher ideal than in Spain, and it is the women who make the homes there so dear to the
heart of every member of their family.
Let the abode be rich or poor, cheerfulness always reigns supreme within its precincts.
Mother may have had a tiring, worrying morning, but she plays a Spanish version of "This
little pig went to market" with her treasured baby as though she were still a merry child
herself. A little later she will be preparing her husband's midday meal, singing the
while. She may not have much to give him to eat, but the dishes are sure to be tasty, and
she will lead the gay chatter which makes a feast of the repast, however frugal it may be.
The evening meal finds her in the same good spirits, and the children—such of them
as are not yet happily asleep—are full of fun and frolic. There are no sullen faces,
no grumblings and growlings, no discordant elements to popularize public entertainments
and social gatherings. Consequently, the Spanish husband prefers as a rule to stay at home
for his evening's amusement; he is quite pleased if a neighbour drops in for a gossip,
 a hand at cards, or a game of dominoes, but he is also perfectly content to be alone with
Loyalty and devotion are in themselves fine traits, but the loyalty of the Spanish wife,
the devotion of the Spanish mother, are priceless virtues, for from them are bred that
cheerfulness which does so much to make the home a magic circle.
The poor peasants live in little cottages or tiny hovels. Truth to tell, they do not
always keep their rooms scrupulously clean; but as whitewashed walls are very common, even
the homes which disimprove most on acquaintance present a pleasing appearance as a rule
when first seen. The nobility have their country mansions and estates, or fine residences
in the large towns, but among ordinarily well-to-do folk it is a common practice for
several families to share one house.
One of the most attractive features of a great many Spanish dwellings is the Oriental
patio, or court, round which the house is built. The patio usually has a fountain in the
centre, and while shady trees add to the enticement of this spot as a cool retreat, there
are thick carpets of gay flowers to rejoice the luxury-loving Southern heart. In the
summer an awning is drawn over the patio, seats are taken out, very possibly a piano, too,
and the family or families in the surrounding house spend much of their time in this
delightful out-of-door room.
The smallest Spanish hovels bear witness to the national love of flowers. Often you see
the windows of tumble-down dwellings in the meanest of streets richly bedecked with rows
of plants, creepers climbing
 over the walls, flowers growing out of nooks and crannies here, there, and everywhere, and
trees rising from the roofs. This national passion can naturally expend itself more freely
in the southern districts, where sun-loving vegetation flourishes in reckless pro-fusion;
and it is here that we find the most beautiful garden-houses and the wonderful fairy
gardens, with magic fountains, orange-walks, myrtle-thickets, lemon-groves, palm-aisles,
fern-grottoes, stately cypresses, spreading cedars, gorgeous oleanders, and flower-laden
terraces. Rich colours flash in the sunshine; cool water bubbles up on every side; the air
is delicately perfumed with a thousand fragrant scents. It is difficult to imagine a more
sumptuous banquet than that which is provided by a Spanish garden as you wander around,
wide awake to its delights; but if you would really feast with the gods, hearken to the
call of the trees, and, with the burning kiss of the sunshine on your brow, the rich
bouquet of Nature's perfume intoxicating your whole being, go dream within the leafy
portals of their magic shadowland.
A SPANISH PATIO.
To return to the commonplace, one of the most striking features of Spanish municipal and
household arrangements is the very general use of electric light. You travel miles beyond
the civilization of a big town, toil up a very winding path, and arrive late at night in a
little out-of-the-way village on the top of a high hill. Primitive is the only word to
describe your surroundings, yet when you muster up courage to enter the only inn, you are
greeted by a cheering flash of electric lights, and there is electric light in your
 put to flight any fears aroused by your first sight of the ramshackle hostelry, fears
which might very well have brought you a sleepless night under the ghostly influence of a
During the period when gas was popular in other countries Spain was too far behind the
times to adopt that method of lighting. She has jumped straight away from candles and
olive-oil lamps to electric light, and by the very general use of this up-to-date method
of illumination she is ahead of many other more generally advanced countries in the matter
of lighting facilities.
The streets of many of the smallest towns are now lit by electricity. The street lamps
formerly in use were very quaint. On the top of a wooden post was a close-meshed network
receptacle, made of thick, strong wire, in shape very much like a frying-pan; this was
filled with chips and logs of pine-wood, which, when kindled, gave quite a good light.
Stacks of wood were stored at the base of each post, and the lamp-lighter not only had to
go his round to light the lamps, but it was his duty to feed them, so that they kept on
burning throughout the night. At festival times copies of the old street-lamps are still
sometimes used for illumination purposes, to show the children how their native town was
lighted in the days not long gone by.
To let you see how far electric lighting has been brought within the bounds of possibility
for the masses of Spain, I will give you some idea of the cost thereof. On inquiring of a
peasant how much she paid for this modern convenience, she explained to me that she had
one light in the living-room and one in the
sleeping-  room. For economy's sake, the fittings were so arranged that she must switch off the one
before she could use the other, and on these terms her bill amounted to one and a half
pesetas a month—about 1s. 3d. in our money.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics