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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Unconscious grace in Spanish women


than do ours,--for more of them have to help earn the family living as well as bring up and take care of the children,--and they are not able to dress well, with the natural result that they are rarely prepossessing. This in part accounts also for the belief of foreigners that Spanish beauty fades,--which is not the case with those who are able to live in fairly easy circumstances any more than it is in other countries. Among Spaniards it is often said that the Valencian women are the handsomest, closely followed by the Andalusians, who rank as the most witty. It is to be noted that the Moslem element in Spanish blood is very strong in these sections. Another popular misconception as to Spanish _se?oritas_ (young ladies) is that they are so dainty that they would almost melt in one's hand. In fact they are unusually self-contained in manner, and if they have any pronounced defect it is one which does not go with daintiness,--that of a loud, often metallic voice. On the other hand there is most decidedly an all-pervading, unconscious grace in Spanish women. Women other than those of the working classes find very little to do. Servants are extraordinarily cheap,--one can get a nurse-girl in Seville for about ten cents a day; so there is little occasion to do housework. Spanish women are not assiduous readers, do not even sew or knit to any marked degree, and comparatively few of them sing or play the piano. They are fond of a walk or ride in the afternoon, accompanied by the children and the nurse-girls, and enjoy social gatherings at night. In fine, their life is passed largely in pleasant conversation, with very little variety; indeed, they require little that is novel, for they are simple in their tastes, and are easily entertained. The Spanish husband is not nearly so domesticated as the American species. Instead of remaining at home at night he quite regularly goes out,--and even may occupy a different place at the theatre from the group of seats where his wife and daughter are found. This is the expected thing, and Spanish women do not appear to wish it otherwise. They seem to consider that the men have done them a great favor by marrying them, and take the attitude of desiring to repay them for the rest of their lives. The husband is devoted to his wife and the children, but he would commit suicide before he would carry a baby in the street. Despite the fact that the brains of most Spanish women may be said to lie fallow, they are often brilliant talkers, sharing with the men the intellectual potentialities of the race. They rarely travel, and know very little beyond the bounds of their home town or city and the nearest watering-place. They are usually very religious, but not in an aggressive way; in a country where there is virtually no competition with the Catholic Church there is no stimulus to make their religion anything but a purely personal matter for the individual. This helps to account for the almost complete lack of religious discussion in the Spanish circles one meets with. Young ladies rarely go into the street unless accompanied by their mother or some older person. Whenever they do appear they are stared at by the men, but the practice seems to be regarded as proper and in a measure complimentary. They are hedged around with safeguards which prevent their seeing the young man of their choice alone, except perhaps as separated by the narrow grating of a window, until the day of their marriage. According to all reports these measures fulfill their intended purpose, for the material bars are supplemented by the inherited instincts of the women themselves. Aside from prostitutes Spanish women have a nation-wide reputation for good moral conduct. Once married the size of the family depends, as many put it, "As God wills!" A family of from five to seven children is not considered large, and there are many families which are very much larger.

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