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my first tour! No longer dark and mysterious ; no longer peopled with shadowy foes; no longer recalling scenes of violence and murder; all was open, spacious, beautiful ; everything called up pleasing and romantic fancies ; Lindaraxa once more walked in her garden ; the gay chivalry of Moslem Granada once more glittered about the Court of Lions! Who can do justice to a moonlight night in such a climate and such a place? The temperature of a summer midnight in Andalusia is perfectly ethereal. We seem lifted up into a purer atmosphere; we feel a serenity of soul, a buoyancy of spirits, an elasticity of frame, which render mere existence happiness. But when moonlight is added to all this, the effect is like enchantment. Under its plastic sway the Alhambra seems to regain its pristine glories. Every rent and chasm of time, every mouldering tint and weather-stain, is gone; the marble resumes its original whiteness; the long colonnades brighten in the moonbeams; the halls are illuminated with a softened radiance, the enchanted palace of an Arabian tale!
“What a delight, at such a time, to ascend to the little airy pavilion of the queen's toilet (el tocador de la reyna), which, like a bird-cage, overhangs the valley of the Darro, and gaze from its light arcades upon the moonlight prospect ! To the right, the swelling mountains of the
Sierra Nevada, robbed of their ruggedness and softened into a fairy land, with their snowy summits gleaming like silver clouds against the deep blue sky. And then to lean over the parapet of the Tocador and gaze down upon Granada and the Albaycin spread out like a map below ; all buried in deep repose; the white palaces and convents sleeping in the moonshine, and beyond all these the vapory vega fading away like a dreamland in the distance. “Sometimes the faint click of castanets rise from the Alameda, where some gay Andalusians are dancing away the summer night. Sometimes the dubious tones of a guitar and the notes of an amorous voice, tell perchance the whereabout of some moonstruck lover serenading his lady's window. “Such is a faint picture of the moonlight nights I have passed loitering about the courts and halls and balconies of this most suggestive pile; ‘feeding my fancy with sugared suppositions,’ and enjoying that mixture of reverie and sensation which steal away existence in a southern climate ; so that it has been almost morning before I have retired to bed, and been lulled to sleep by the falling waters of the fountain of Lindaraxa.”
One of the writer's vantage points of observation was a balcony of the central window of the Hall of Ambassadors, from which he had a magnificent prospect of mountain, valley, and vega, and could look down upon a busy scene of human life in an alameda, or public walk, at the foot of the hill, and the suburb of the city, filling the narrow gorge below. Here the author used to sit for hours, weaving histories out of the casual incidents passing under his eye, and the occupations of the busy mortals below. The following passage exhibits his power in transmuting the commonplace life of the present into material perfectly in keeping with the romantic associations of the place : —
“There was scarce a pretty face or a striking figure that I daily saw, about which I had not thus gradually framed a dramatic story, though some of my characters would occasionally act in direct opposition to the part assigned them, and disconcert the whole drama. Reconnoitring one day with my glass the streets of the Albaycin, I beheld the procession of a novice about to take the veil ; and remarked several circumstances which excited the strongest sympathy in the fate of the youthful being thus about to be consigned to a living tomb. I ascertained to my satisfaction that she was beautiful, and, from the paleness of her cheek, that she was a victim rather than a votary. She was arrayed in bridal garments, and decked with a chaplet of white slowers, but her heart evidently revolted at this mockery of a spiritual union, and yearned after its earthly loves. A tall stern-looking man walked near her in the procession: it was, of course, the tyrannical father, who, from some bigoted or sordid motive, had compelled this sacrifice. Amid the crowd was a dark handsome youth, in Andalusian garb, who seemed to fix on her an eye of agony. It was doubtless the secret lover from whom she was forever to be separated. My indignation rose as I noted the malignant expression painted on the countenances of the attendant monks and friars. The procession arrived at the chapel of the convent; the sun gleamed for the last time upon the chaplet of the poor novice, as she crossed the fatal threshold and disappeared within the building. The throng poured in with cowl, and cross, and minstrelsy ; the lover paused for a moment at the door. I could divine the tumult of his feelings; but he mastered them, and entered. There was a long interval. I pictured to myself the scene passing within: the poor novice despoiled of her transient finery, and clothed in the conventual garb ; the bridal chaplet taken its long silken tresses. I heard her murmur the irrevocable vow. I saw her extended on a bier; the death-pall spread over her; the funeral service performed that proclaimed her dead to the world; her sighs were drowned in the deep tones of the organ, and the plaintive requiem of the nuns; the father looked on, unmoved, without a tear; the lover — no — my imagination refused to portray the anguish of the lover — there the picture remained a blank. “After a time the throng again poured forth and dispersed various ways, to enjoy the light of the sun and mingle with the stirring scenes of life; but the victim, with her bridal chaplet, was no longer there. The door of the convent closed that severed her from the world forever. I saw the father and the lover issue forth; they were in earnest conversation. The latter was vehement in his gesticulations; I expected some violent termination to my drama; but an angle of a building interfered and closed the scene. My eye afterwards was frequently turned to that convent with painful interest. I remarked late at night a solitary light twinkling from a remote lattice of one of its towers. “There,” said I, ‘the unhappy nun sits weeping in her cell, while perhaps her lover paces the street below in unavailing anguish.’ “— The officious Mateo interrupted my medi