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to the Iron Duke. It was subsequently blown up by Lord Hill, when the misconduct, or perfidy, or whatever you like to call it, of Ballestros compelled him to evacuate Madrid. Since which time, to the day in which we live and hunt for specimens of Bueno Retiro, one of the standing calumnies against us—so often repeated, and still credited by young Spain, although more than half a century has elapsed—is that all the finest specimens were destroyed by the English from mere jealousy. Whereas the real truth is that the fathers, or grandfathers, of our gallant allies of to-day scarcely recollect what they did yesterday— they broke the Ollas themselves, and converted the manufactory into a Bastille, which, and not the pipkins, we did destroy. So little did we dread Spanish competition, which might well be dreaded if Spain could produce, in 1875, such specimens as those once issued from “ La China,” .. that we have actually introduced their system; and very fair china is now produced at Madrid, made for the most part by English workmen.
Ferdinand VII., on his restoration, re-created
“ La China,” removing the workshops and warerooms to La Mondoa; but this has also ceased to exist—at least as regards high art.
On my first visit to Madrid—or La Corte, as it was generally termed by Spaniards, as if there were no other court in Europe save that of the Spanish Paradise or La Gloria-I own my heart beat with fond anticipation of the numberless specimens of Bueno Retiro china I should carry homeward. But, alas, such was my ignorance of this extremely rare and beautiful porcelain, that all my researches were more or less in vain. I obtained little or nothing worthy to be purchased; and with the exception of a few very moderate and imperfect specimens, I have never been enabled to secure anything of great beauty. In fact, the only group of real value that I then cast my eyes on at Madrid was a centre-piece on the English minister's table, which, when hungry, one hardly thanked him for exhibiting; for while, on the one hand, it created envy and jealousy, on the other, the impossibility of keeping one's longing eyes from it prevented due attention to his gastronomic hospitality.
In other days there were three very indifferent bric-à-brac shops at Madrid. One was more or less a private collection, though everything was for sale that was gathered together by Don Hosez, landlord of the Hôtel d'Angleterre, the only decent hotel both as regards charges and comfort I ever recollect at Madrid. Don Hosez's establishment was opposite the British Legation, in the ancient palace or judgment-hall of the Inquisition. But both Don Hosez and his hotel have ceased to exist, and happily the Inquisition also. The house afterwards became the residence of the French ambassador, and Don Hosez's collection has since been scattered far and wide. From him I chanced to get a few pieces of Spanish pottery and porcelain of little value. One of the other shops appears also to have vanished; and on my last visit to La Corte, I only discovered the third in the Calle Alcaza, where little is to be obtained, save an occasional sword, and various heavy and by no means choice specimens of mediæval furniture.
Some years ago, when strolling leisurely one intensely hot evening in August along the Calle Alcaza, the very best if not the principal street of Madrid, I chanced to see some curious cups in the window of the shop in question. After examining them, and asking their value, I suggested to the owner, that, as it was late and my dinner awaited me, if he would send them to my hotel on the following morning, I would make him an offer. To this he agreed, and expressed a desire to show me a handsome china déjeûner then in his possession. “It is late and getting dark,” said I; nevertheless I could not resist a peep; and so after traversing several dark passages, we entered a room filled with ancient dusty furniture, when a cupboard being unlocked, he produced therefrom a large brass-bound box, which contained, as he had said, a déjeûner of the most lovely modern Sèvres it has ever been my good fortune to behold. Having taken one of the pieces in my hand and examined the mark, I carelessly asked the price, which being named I found far beyond my means and intentions. Nevertheless the owner appeared extremely anxious to part with it; and as I bade
him good evening, he urged me to come again by daylight. “Well,” I replied, “it is very beautiful, though quite modern; moreover, if it were not so, your price is at least two-thirds beyond what I should be disposed to give.” “Maybe; but the signor will at all events call to-morrow?" Possibly," said I. And so we parted, not, however, without a lingering desire on my part to possess the déjeûner, however small the hope. I felt, besides, an intense curiosity as to how he had obtained it; for it was far too costly to have come, as I supposed, honestly into the hands of him who claimed it.
On the following morning a Signorina, somewhat fat and certainly over forty, accompanied by a lad, called on me with the few specimens I had selected, which, after a little bargaining, became my property; and she then urged on me to take another look at the Sèvres, which I agreed to do, appointing three o'clock as the time of my visit. On my arrival, having passed along the same dark passages, which were divided by doors, the china was again placed before me,