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[226] passage had now become too steep and difficult for the horses; and on the summit, or rather just below it, so as to shelter themselves from the north-winds and give them a southern aspect, we found this very extraordinary establishment.

Its origin is not well known. The hermits pretend that it has existed ever since the time Christianity came into Spain, though not precisely on the spot where it now is; but all that is certain is, that about two hundred and fifty years ago a nobleman of Cordova, wearied with the world, retired to this solitude and was soon after followed by others, who were attracted by his reputation for sanctity to imitate the austerity of his life and devotions. Their number was shortly so great that they chose one to govern the establishment, and from 1613 they have regular Fasti. . . . . Thirty-four that now live there are shut up, each in his little cell, which stands separate from all the others. They never speak together but on especial occasions, with leave of their head; they never see each other but at mass, once a day; never sleep on anything but boards; never eat anything but vegetables nor drink anything but water, and refuse all alms in money or in anything else that does not serve as the immediate means of subsistence. They have a little church, plain and simple, where the Elder Brother—Hermano Mayor, as he is called—lives; and the little cabins of each of the hermits, though not squalid or miserable, are small, and absolutely destitute of everything that can be called either the comforts or the conveniences of life. . . . . Over the door is the skull of one of its former tenants, and within, before the crucifix, there is commonly another. Nine times a day they perform their devotions, at a signal given from the church, which is answered by a bell from each cell; and if there be any faith in wan and suffering countenances, the bloody thongs I saw, hanging up before their humble altars, are but the proofs of the cruel severity of their secret mortifications.

With all this, they are of no religious order, have made no profession and taken no vow, and can go from their hermitage as freely as they came to it; and yet, such secret charms has this life, that there is no instance remembered, or on record, of any one who has returned to the world. Neither have they been men who came here from the lowest classes of society, ignorant of the pleasures of this world, for there is hardly a noble family in Cordova that has not furnished more than one hermit. There are four or five such there now, besides one that has been a colonel in the army, another that commanded a frigate, and fought bravely at Trafalgar. . . . The Elder Brother himself, who has been there twenty-six years, might, if he would

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