The Inn at Loxa

(Andalusia, Moorish Spain,1829)

Young widow – Yes! – mine hostess,
oh, eyes so dark and sultry,
silken black basquina
setting off her figure.
Leisurely her step, her bangles
jangling gently,
a coquetry about her
inviting admiration.

And then I saw her bravo –
eyes so dark with meaning,
leaning through the window,
fingering a dagger.

I made a swift decision
– it took a mere moment –
to keep the crimson current
running round inside me.

From ‘Journeys in Time’

Note: On a May evening in the spring of 1829, Washington Irving, on the last leg of a long and dangerous journey to Granada, made his final stop before reaching that city at an inn in the small frontier town of Loxa, high in the wild mountains overlooking the plain. Irving was straightaway struck by the beauty and free, inviting sociability of the young hostess,; in Irving’s words, her clothing ‘set off the play of a graceful form and round pliant limbs. Her step was firm and elastic; her dark eye was full of fire, and the coquetry of her air… showed that she was accustomed to be admired’. Irving’s thoughts (whatever he might have been thinking) were suddenly dashed by the appearance in the doorway of a sturdy young contrabandista dressed in excessive finery profusely decorated with silver buttons, and with a free, bold, and daring air, who straightaway entered into low and earnest conversation with the lady’s brother. Irving glimpsed, just outside, his powerful black horse ‘decorated with tassels and fanciful trappings, and a couple of wide-mouthed blunderbusses hung behind the saddle’. It was evident to Irving that this rather fearsome personage ‘had a good understanding with the brother of mine hostess; nay, if I mistake not, he was [her] favored admirer… ‘ Irving, it would seem, lay somewhat low thereafter. He need not have been overly concerned, though, for the man passed his evening at ease with them all, ‘and sang several bold mountain romances with great spirit’ to the guitar, which had, before he took it up, stood in the corner accompanied by another blunderbuss.

The leaning through the window and the fingering of the dagger are my own invention; in that imaginary circumstance (but considering too the actual dubiousness of the company and surroundings which he himself describes in greater detail) I have tried to catch – and, yes, dramatize a little – something of the apprehension which might have governed Irving’s feelings.

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