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Title: Peeps at Many Lands: Portugal
Author: Agnes M. Goodall, - To be updated
Language: English
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Transcriber’s Note


All illustrations have been placed near to the text to which they refer.
Obvious typographical errors have been corrected, however variant
spellings and variable hyphenation have been retained. Hyphens have
also been added to the music to reflect where syllable breaks occur.



[Illustration: GOSSIP AT THE FOUNTAIN.]



 PEEPS AT MANY LANDS
 PORTUGAL

 BY

 AGNES M. GOODALL


 WITH TWELVE FULL PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS
 IN COLOUR
 BY
 THE AUTHOR


 LONDON
 ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK
 1909



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

    I. GROWTH OF THE KINGDOM                                1

   II. DECLINE OF THE KINGDOM                               7

  III. LISBON AND A GREAT EXPLORER                         12

   IV. MORE ABOUT LISBON                                   17

    V. PORTUGUESE CHILDREN                                 23

   VI. COUNTRY DANCES, SONGS, AND LEGENDS                  28

  VII. COUNTRY WAYS AND COUNTRY FOLK                       33

 VIII. COUNTRY WAYS AND COUNTRY FOLK (_continued_)         38

   IX. CINTRA                                              44

    X. OBIDOS, LEIRIA, AND THOMAR                          48

   XI. THE PEASANTRY                                       52

  XII. PILGRIMAGES                                         57

 XIII. FARMS AND VINEYARDS                                 63

  XIV. OPORTO                                              68

   XV. COIMBRA AND THREE OLD MONASTERIES                   74

  XVI. BULL-FIGHTING                                       81



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

BY AGNES M. GOODALL


 A GOSSIP AT THE FOUNTAIN                    _frontispiece_

                                               FACING PAGE

 STONE-PINES NEAR CINTRA                              viii

 JUDAS-TREE IN BLOOM                                     9

 LISBON FISH-WIVES                                      16

 GOING TO SEE FRIENDS                                   25

 THE FARM-CART OF THE COUNTRY                           32

 A QUIET POOL AT CINTRA                                 41

 RETURNING FROM MARKET, LEIRIA                          48

 THE END OF A LONG DAY                                  57

 HERD-BOY AND FLOCK                                     64

 A LONELY FARM                                          73

 WASHERWOMEN AT COIMBRA                                 80

 _Sketch-Map of Portugal on p. vii._



[Illustration: SKETCH-MAP OF PORTUGAL.]



PORTUGAL



CHAPTER I

HOW PORTUGAL BECAME A GREAT KINGDOM


Portugal is the most westerly country in Europe. It is a narrow strip
of land bordered on its northern and eastern frontiers by Spain, to
the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean, and is, roughly speaking,
about the same size as Ireland. It is a country of many contrasts,
of barren rocky mountains with deep gorges and valleys, of bleak and
treeless moorlands and wind-swept plains, of sand-dunes, and bold,
rugged headlands. A land also of vineyards, orange and lemon trees, of
pine-forests and cork-woods, chestnuts, oak and eucalyptus, of olive
groves and fruitful fields.

It is one of the smallest countries in Europe, but its early history is
a long romance--the story of a little nation with a great heart. Were
it not so, the Portugal of to-day would not exist at all.

Long, long ago, it was inhabited by men of the Celtic race; later on we
read of it as belonging to the great Empire of Rome, and later still,
as being overrun by Germanic tribes, Vandals, Alans, Suevis, and Goths.
In the eighth century came the Moors from the North of Africa, and about
the middle of the eleventh century Ferdinand “the Great” of Castile
conquered the northern portion, and founded the “countship” of
Portugal, as the country was to be henceforth called; and the
Counts of Portugal became great feudal lords who owed allegiance to
Spain.

There followed many years of fierce warfare with the Moors, who wished
to regain their lost possessions, and the Spanish King, Alfonso VI.,
at last appealed for aid to the chivalry of Christendom, to help him
in his battles against the Mohammedan warriors. Among the knights who
joined his army was Count Henry of Burgundy, who distinguished himself
greatly, and afterwards married one of the King’s daughters, Theresa,
and became Count of Portugal, and it is their son, Alfonso Henriques,
born in 1111, who, in 1140, declared himself independent of Spain,
assumed the title of King, and became the greatest hero of his country.
He did so much for it, and his memory is still so highly honoured, that
I must tell you just a little about him.

He was only three years old when his father died, and his mother
acted as Regent till he was seventeen, when he took over the
government himself. An old record tells us that at that
time he was “a skilful and valiant knight,” and “of very
comely presence.” He had, what is more, the dash and enterprise,
the sound judgment, and the grace and courtesy of manner of
a born leader of men.

He had already seen a great deal of fighting, and had earned the honour
of knighthood when only a little lad of fourteen. The young Count found
himself ruler of a land consisting chiefly of mountains, forests, and
heaths, and surrounded by enemies. In the north and east he had to
fight against the power of Spain, in the south he waged incessant war
against the fanatical followers of Mohammed, but he gradually drove
them back, till his “heroic exploits were the theme of the wandering
troubadour in every Christian Court in western Europe.”

The capture of Lisbon, Santarem, Evora, Beja, and many other towns
and strongholds, added more and more to his fame, and it is pleasing
to learn that it was by the help of some English Crusaders, who were
on their way to the Holy Land, that after several failures he at last
succeeded in taking the strong citadel of Lisbon.

As the King advanced in years, he deputed his son Sancho to carry on
the fighting, and devoted himself to the internal administration of his
country, dispensing justice, granting charters to many of his towns,
laying down boundaries, and, in fact, doing all he could to promote the
welfare of his subjects.

There is one scene in the life of Alfonso Henriques which I think you
would like to hear about--the last great exploit before his death,
which occurred the same year.

The Moors had gathered together a vast army, and had besieged Santarem.
Sancho and his troops had done their best, there had been many bloody
encounters, but at last the overwhelming numbers of the enemy began to
tell, and the hard-pressed garrison were on the point of surrendering,
when in the distance a large force of mounted men was seen riding
furiously to the rescue. Nearer and nearer they came, the well-known
banner of many a Christian knight waving in the breeze, and at their
head rode the grand old King.

Worn out as he was by years of warfare, bowed down by
age, and suffering from the effects of countless wounds
received in his country’s cause, this old man of seventy-four,
on hearing of his son’s peril, had led his knights by forced
marches from the very furthest corner of the kingdom.

With the help of the now rejoicing garrison, who sallied out to join in
the fray, he entirely routed the enemy, slew their leader, and drove
the scattered host back over the Tagus and across their own frontier.

It is little wonder that with such a leader the people grew into a
brave, chivalrous, and self-reliant race.

The curtain may be dropped for a time, to be raised again on the scene
of a great wedding, which was solemnized at Oporto in 1387 with much
pomp and splendour, between King John I., surnamed “the Great,” and
an English Princess, Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt, and the
granddaughter of our own King, Edward III.

Not quite two years earlier, at the Battle of Aljubarrota, Dom John,
the first King of the House of Avis, had gained a great victory over
the Spaniards, who had disputed the independence of his country, and
here again we read of 500 English archers fighting on the side of
Portugal, and doing yeoman service. Eight months later the Treaty of
Windsor was signed, the first great link between England and Portugal,
binding them to stand by one another, and in fulfilment of which John
of Gaunt, accompanied by his wife and two of his daughters, landed at
Corunna with 2,000 English lances and 3,000 archers. His expedition
against Spain proved successful, and ended in one of his daughters
being given in marriage to the heir to the Spanish throne, and the
other to King John of Portugal.

From this time, when English blood first flowed in the veins of the
Royal House of Avis, dates the real power of Portugal. From an obscure
little country, she rapidly became a powerful nation, with possessions
and colonies in every quarter of the globe, and it was one of the sons
of our English Princess, Henry, surnamed “the Navigator,” who did so
much to help on the explorations and discoveries which were to make
Portugal one of the greatest colonial Powers in the world. In the
course of twenty-four years--between 1497 and 1521--during the reign
of Emanuel, “the Fortunate,” her explorers sailed eastward round the
coasts of Africa and India to the East Indian Islands, Siam, and China,
and westward to the Brazils, and through the Straits of Magellan out
into the Pacific Ocean.

It was a period of great deeds performed by gallant men, and just as
mariners and soldiers bore high the honour of their country abroad, so
also did the statesmen, poets, and chroniclers at home. Lisbon became
the centre for all the commerce of the East. The trade of the Spice
Islands, of Africa, Persia, India, China, and Japan, all passed through
it, and it was the time of Portugal’s highest prosperity and power.



CHAPTER II

THE DECLINE OF PORTUGAL


The seeds of Portugal’s downfall were, however, already being sown.
With added riches the nobles grew self-indulgent, and the old patriotic
spirit gave place to a love of ease and luxury. The officials grew
corrupt, inclined to oppress the people, and, above all, the best
blood in the country was gradually being drained away to supply the
wants of her new possessions. Her young men volunteered as sailors to
man the fleets, or as soldiers to fight her battles in the far-away
lands beyond the seas, and what with the fighting and the unhealthy
climates, few of those who sailed away ever returned. There was also
much emigration to Madeira and the Brazils, and it was always the
strongest and most enterprising who left the mother-country to seek
their fortunes abroad.

There were yet other reasons which contributed to the gradual decline.

In 1441 negro slaves had been brought home by the explorer Nuno
Tristão, and the slave trade steadily increased as years went on, till
by far the greater part of Southern Portugal was cultivated for the
nobles by black labour. It was cheap, but it drove out the peasantry
for lack of employment, and led to more emigration than would otherwise
have been the case.

Then came King Emanuel’s great mistake, the expulsion of the Jews.

All Jews who refused to become Christians were ordered to leave the
country within six months. A great many of them were well known
for their honesty, industry, and wealth, and also for their high
intellectual qualities, so that Portugal was in reality banishing vast
numbers of her most capable and enterprising citizens.

In 1536, John III. introduced the Inquisition, which in course of time
became so fanatical that the merest suggestion of heresy caused men and
women to be imprisoned, cruelly tortured, and even burnt at the stake.
All this tended still further to crush out the manhood of the people.
Moreover, the powers of the Inquisition were largely used for political
purposes. Thus, under a fair exterior, the country was steadily
decaying.

King John died, and in 1557 we once more find a little child of three
years old--Dom Sebastian--ascending the throne.

This time, however, there was no wise mother to act as Regent, and at
fifteen the young King was declared of age, and took the government
into his own hands. He was by nature a dreamer and a visionary, and
very obstinate. He looked on war as the noblest occupation for a King,
and being deeply religious, became fired with a romantic ambition to
become a true soldier of the Cross, and to carry Christianity to the
Moors in the North of Africa at the point of the sword.

The Pope and the King of Spain both refused to help in such a wild
undertaking; Sebastian’s own Ministers and advisers did their best to
dissuade him, but he was a despotic and self-willed monarch, and in his
saintly enthusiasm he drained his treasury and imposed new taxes on his
already heavily burdened people, to provide money for the great Crusade.

His best Generals and fighting men were all in India, but he raised an
army of raw recruits and mercenaries hired from other countries, and at
length set sail for Morocco with an army of about 17,000 men.

Poor Dom Sebastian was utterly unpractical, and a hopelessly bad
General, but he proved himself, in his first and last great battle,
to be a brave and fearless soldier. His little army was surrounded by
that of the Moorish “Sherĩf,” more than three times its numbers,
and after an heroic struggle, in which quite half the force lost their
lives, the remnant were taken prisoners.

What became of the King nobody quite knows. He was last seen fighting
in the forefront of the battle, wearing his crown. Afterwards, stripped
of its clothes and disfigured with wounds, a body was found which was
supposed to be his, and which was eventually taken back to Portugal for
burial. There are others who say that no trace of the King could be
discovered, either among the prisoners or the slain, and the Portuguese
populace still believe that he will some day return in a miraculous
way, crown and all, to rule his people, and to raise his country to her
ancient fame.

There is no need to tell you much more about the history of Portugal.
After the reign of Dom Sebastian the days of her greatness were over.
She came under Spanish rule for sixty disastrous years, during which
time the enemies of Spain became her enemies also, and her trade and
naval power were practically ruined by the Dutch and English. She
was also made to feel the weight of Spanish oppression at home, but
at last, in 1640, the plucky little country, remembering the proud
traditions of her past, rose in revolt, and threw off the foreign yoke.

Since that time England, her old ally, has more than once stood by her
in her day of trouble.

In the time of Napoleon it was England who enabled Portugal to maintain
her place among the nations, but we must also not forget that it was
largely through her help that Wellington was able to bring the long
Peninsular War to a triumphant end.

At the present day the country has a constitutional Government somewhat
on the same lines as our own. The Cortes, or Parliament, consists of a
house of representatives elected by the people, which corresponds to
our House of Commons, and of an upper chamber of grandees--_fidalgos_
they are called--who are appointed for life by the King, and which is
rather like our House of Lords. But unluckily for Portugal, there is
a tendency among the officials never to do to-day what can be put off
till to-morrow, and much corruption prevails.



CHAPTER III

WHICH TREATS OF LISBON AND A GREAT EXPLORER


Lisbon has been the capital of Portugal ever since it was taken from
the Moors by King Alfonso Henriques in 1147.

The harbour, where the River Tagus broadens out into a veritable inland
sea, is one of the finest in the world. It is about ten miles from the
river’s mouth, where there is only a narrow passage by which ships may
pass in and out, the greater part of the entrance being blocked by the
bar or great sandbank, formed by the meeting of sea and river, and
which is uncovered at low tide.

Steaming up the river, the first great feature of Lisbon which one
notices is the palace of the Ajuda, standing out against the sky, a
huge, solid-looking building on a hill, above the western portion of
the town. It is in another palace near here, that of the Necessidades,
that the present King, hardly more than a boy, remained for so many
weeks without daring to venture beyond the walls, after the cruel
assassination of his father and elder brother in the early part of
1908. The dreadful event is still so recent that most people will
remember all about it.

The King and Queen and the Crown Prince had disembarked at the fine
landing-stage on the river side of the Praça do Commercio, or Black
Horse Square, as the English call it, from the equestrian statue of
King Joseph I., which stands in the centre. They had only just started
for the palace, and the carriage was turning out of the Square into the
narrow street known as the Street of the Arsenal, when a band of men
with firearms, which they had kept hidden under the long cloaks they
were wearing, sprang out and shot the King and the Prince before anyone
had time to interfere. The coachman lashed up his horses, and drove at
a gallop into the gates of the Arsenal close by. The brave Queen had
thrown herself in front of her son to try and protect him; but, alas!
it was too late to save either him or her husband. It is said that
when, some months later, the young King Manuel drove out for the first
time through the streets of the capital to attend a solemn requiem
Mass, the Queen-mother wandered in restless terror up and down the long
rooms and corridors of the palace, fear gripping at her heart, lest he
too should fall a victim to assassins, and she had arranged to have
telephonic messages sent to her from successive points on the royal
route as he passed them by in safety.

On the banks of the river below the Ajuda Palace is the historic old
Tower of Belem, solid and square, with turrets at the four corners, and
with ramparts, parapets, and battlements standing out into the water.

It was from this spot that long ago the great explorer, Vasco da Gama,
sailed away to discover the new route to India, round the Cape of Good
Hope. Those were the days of Portugal’s greatness, when her sons went
out to explore and to colonize, encouraged by their enlightened Prince,
Henry the Navigator. Gradually her sailors found their way farther
and farther from home, and made many settlements on the West Coast of
Africa. In 1487 Bartolommeo Diaz, going farther still, discovered the
Cape of Good Hope, and ten years later King Emanuel fitted out four
ships, which he placed under the command of Vasco da Gama, who was to
try and discover a way to India by sea.

We can picture the scene. The great explorer walking slowly down the
stone steps to the water’s edge, and stepping into the barge which
was to take him to the ships lying farther out in the stream; the
brightly dressed crowd, which had assembled to see him off; and the
hero himself, grave, yet full of hope, as he took his last farewell
of his native land before sailing away down the river with his little
squadron.

They were considered very fine ships in those days, but compared to the
great vessels we are accustomed to now they were really quite small,
and only 160 men were required to man all four. For months they battled
against adverse winds, which much delayed them, and then encountered
one frightful storm after another, till the superstitious crew, feeling
that all the powers of evil were being let loose against them, and
terrified at the idea of going on into the great unknown, mutinied, and
tried to force their leader to turn round and go back to Portugal. But
he was made of sterner stuff, and that which he had set out to do he
meant to accomplish. After doubling the Cape, he sailed on up the East
Coast of Africa, and then across the Indian Ocean, and at last, after
a voyage of nearly a year’s duration, he reached India. The result
of this expedition was that Portugal acquired many settlements and
colonies both in India and Africa, and Vasco da Gama had great honours
conferred upon him.

Many years later, on another voyage, he died at Cochin, far away from
home, but his body was brought back to Portugal, and now lies in the
beautiful church of Belem, near the old tower from which he had sailed
away on that great voyage of discovery, which, above all others, was to
make his name famous, and to alter the whole conditions of commerce
with the East. It is a fitting place for him to rest in, for it was
built by King Emanuel in fulfilment of a vow he had made to erect a
church and convent to the Blessed Virgin on the spot where the famous
navigator should land if his voyage proved a successful one, and it is
one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole country.

It is built in a style peculiar to Portugal, called “Emmanuelan,” a
kind of Gothic architecture, very elaborately carved with figures,
flowers, and foliage, knots, festooned cables, and endless other
devices. Often this is overdone, and many Portuguese buildings are,
for this reason, lacking in the simple grandeur of some of our own
cathedrals. But at Belem this is not the case, for in its own way it
is very beautiful. Coming into the cool semi-darkness from the hot,
glaring sunshine outside, you seem at first only to realize that it is
high and vast, a place in which to speak in whispers, a sanctuary to
worship in, with wonderful carved white pillars disappearing into the
mysterious gloom of the vaulted roof.

Behind the church lie the cloisters, where one might almost imagine
that some beautiful lace had been converted into stone by a magician’s
wand, so wonderful is the carving and so delicate the tracery of arch
and pillar.



CHAPTER IV

MORE ABOUT LISBON


Still farther up the river, and inland from it, high on one of
Lisbon’s many hills, stands the fortress of St. George, another
of the very few ancient buildings that escaped destruction in
the dreadful earthquake of 1755, when hardly a house remained
standing, and over 60,000 people perished.

It is a long climb to where the old Moorish fortress stands dominating
the town, up long flights of worn, uneven steps, and through narrow
twisting streets; but the visitor will be amply repaid by the splendid
view of the town and surrounding country which can be obtained from
the time-worn battlements of the citadel, to which he is admitted in
charge of a private of the “Casadore,” after an interview with the
friendly sergeant of the guard. From here he can see the Tagus with its
shipping, and the red-roofed, white-walled houses, with here and there
an odd one, coloured blue, pink, yellow, or green. From this point,
also, he may look down on the two largest _praças_, or squares, of the
city--the already-mentioned Praça do Commercio, near the river, and
more directly at his feet the Praça de Dom Pedro, so called from the
statue of Peter IV., which stands on a high column in the centre. This
place is known among the English sailors as “Roly-Poly Square,” on
account of the strange way the pavement is laid. It is in curved lines
of alternate black and white, and looks most uneven, almost like the
waves of the sea, or the ridge and furrow of a ploughed field, and it
is quite a surprise in walking across it to find that in reality it is
perfectly flat.

Still farther from the river is the Avenida da Liberdade, a very wide
and shady promenade, planted with palms and other trees. It is the
finest part of Lisbon, where smart carriages may be seen driving up
and down; and it is the happy haunt of children and nursemaids, not to
speak of caracoling cavaliers.

Looking round the old fortress, any Englishman would notice the list
of battles emblazoned on the barrack walls. They might have been taken
from the roll of honour on the Colours of some of our own regiments,
and remind one of the time when the Portuguese and English fought
shoulder to shoulder throughout the Peninsular War, and Wellington led
the allied armies to victory against the soldiers of the great Napoleon.

The Portuguese still have a very friendly feeling for England, which
was prettily shown one day by the gentleman in charge of the Arsenal
Museum, who was kindly showing me a fine collection of old bronze guns.
They were of many nations, and after examining them for some time, I
asked if there were no English guns among them.

“Ah, no!” he answered, with a charming smile; “the French and Spaniards
have often left their guns behind them, but the English never!”

Another hill in Lisbon, about midway between the Fort of St. George
and the Royal Palace, is crowned by the fine church of the “Estrella,”
whose towers and high dome stand out in bold relief against the bright
blue sky. Near by is the English church and cemetery.

Visiting a cemetery is generally rather a gloomy proceeding, but this
one is quite an exception. I saw it first in the month of April, when
the tombstones were wreathed in masses of pink roses, and everywhere,
growing so thickly that no earth could be seen, were beautiful white
arum-lilies, rising out of a perfect sea of glistening green leaves.
Above them stood the dark cypresses and light, spreading Judas-trees,
covered with purple-pink blossoms, which shed a carpet of flowers on
the narrow paths below.

There is a wise old proverb which says, “Do in Rome as Rome does,” and
certainly it pays in Lisbon to do as Lisbon does, and the same applies
to any part of Portugal. When you go shopping you must remember to
wish the shopkeeper “Good-day,” and if you are a man, to bow and raise
your hat. You are always expected to be polite, and you receive great
politeness in return. Even if you turn out half the shop, and then go
away without buying anything at all, the attendant shows no annoyance,
but, on the contrary, is sometimes even profuse in his apologies for
not having that which the _signor_ is in search of. If, however, you
enter in a lofty way--as I am sorry to say I have sometimes seen
English people do--and, omitting all form of greeting, roughly demand
this article or that, it is quite possible that even should the
shopkeeper have exactly what you want, he may tell you he does not
stock it, and bow you out of the door.

The people you see in the streets are mostly small and dark, and
to judge by the way they stand about talking, sometimes for hours
together, they would not seem to have very much to do. Walking down the
principal streets of the town any afternoon, you will see little groups
of men leaning up against the walls, or standing on the pavement arm
in arm, blocking the way for other people, and talking together with
much animation. Many are officers in uniform, from bemedalled generals
and admirals to subalterns and midshipmen. It looks quite natural
in Lisbon, but would strike us as very odd indeed in Bond Street or
Piccadilly.

One of the prettiest sights in the whole town is to be seen early in
the morning down on the quays along the river, when the graceful,
gaily-painted fishing-boats come in, and land their cargoes of
shimmering fish. The quays are very wide, and some of them slope right
down to the water’s edge. Here the fish are landed and piled up in
heaps, and a crowd of waiting women set to work to fill their large
flat baskets and take them off for sale in the market near at hand, or
to hawk them round the town. Some balance the baskets on their heads,
others have them attached to either end of a long pole, which rests
on the shoulder. These women are most picturesque. They have gaudy
handkerchiefs tied round their heads, beneath small black “pork-pie”
felt hats; the sleeves of their cotton blouses are turned up above
the elbows, and their bare feet show below very full, short, brightly
coloured petticoats.

[Illustration: LISBON FISHWIVES.]

These Lisbon fish-wives correspond to our Cockneys in their fund of
ready wit and good-humoured repartee. It is sometimes quite amusing to
listen to the banter which passes between the busy workers on the quays
and the fishermen, who shout their remarks from the much-encumbered
decks of the boats. There are other men and women busily employed,
salting and packing some of the fish into boxes and baskets for
transportation inland, and others are already at work overhauling the
nets.

The method of selling milk strikes one as very odd indeed. Instead of
a milk-cart and cans, the cows and goats go round to the houses, and
in the early morning are to be seen, even in the most busy streets of
the town, being driven slowly along and milked as required at people’s
doors.

The electric trams which now run throughout the town and far into the
country contrast strangely with old-fashioned customs of this kind,
for Lisbon is daily growing more up-to-date, though there is still a
slowness about many proceedings which makes one sometimes wonder what
would happen if a rush of business, such as goes on in our own large
towns, were to come that way. Southey, in one of his letters from
Portugal, tells an amusing story of an English sailor who happened to
see a fire in Lisbon. Assistance came late, and the house burnt slowly.
“Confound it all!” cried he; “there is no spirit in this
country. Why, we should have had a dozen houses burnt down
in London by this time!”



CHAPTER V

PORTUGUESE CHILDREN


Portuguese children are taught to be very respectful to their parents,
and those of the upper classes are carefully educated. It is the
fashionable thing to have foreign nurses for them--English, French,
or German--so that they may grow up to be good linguists. They go
out for their daily walks and amuse themselves much like English
boys and girls, hide-and-seek being a very favourite game; and they
are just as fond as we are of hearing fairy-tales. They know all the
old ones--“Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and many others,
besides many of the old Portuguese folk stories and legends, which are
gradually dying out, but which are still firmly believed in by most
of the peasants, and some of which I will tell you about presently.
Girls generally have foreign governesses as they grow older, and the
boys go to school very early. They work for long hours and have many
examinations to pass.

In Lisbon the young fellows play football and tennis, which they have
taken from the English; but the Portuguese people are not naturally
given to playing games. The little ones of the poorer classes have
hardly any education at all, and are only too often to be seen begging
in the streets.

The one event in the year which the town children look forward to
above all others is the Carnival. In Lisbon this is a great time for
them, though many of the old customs are gradually disappearing, for,
alas! in Portugal, as elsewhere, there are many people who think that
the old-time ways are not sufficiently up-to-date. The Carnival used
to last for many days, and all kinds of practical jokes were played,
some of them not at all amusing for the luckless folk who were the
victims. Strings were tied across the road to trip people up. Water was
squirted at the passers-by, or gloves full of sand and packets of flour
thrown down on them from the windows. Oftener, however, there would be
pleasanter missiles--bouquets, buttonholes, and bonbons--which were
caught and returned by the gay throng. All this is modified nowadays,
but a good deal of frolic still goes on, and it is considered
great fun to pin papers on people’s backs--“tails” they are
called. Many nice and some nasty presents and letters are
sent anonymously to friends through the post.

Then, also, there are masquerades, when people go about in fancy
costume, decorated carts are seen in the streets, and the whole town
gives itself up to amusement. Masked balls take place in the theatres,
everyone going in fancy dress, and wearing little black masks, so that
no one is supposed to know with whom they are dancing, and many of the
“costume balls” in smart society are given during the Carnival.

Some other festivals that are particularly looked forward to by children
are St. Anthony’s Day, on June 13; St. John the Baptist’s Day, on the
24th; and St. Peter’s Day, on the 29th. Small altars, decorated with
flowers and tiny candles, are placed on the door-steps by poor children
who run after the passers-by begging for farthings “for the good Saint”;
but it is the children, and not the “good Saint,” who benefit by the
contributions.

On the eves of these saints’ days all children, if they can, rich
and poor alike, delight in letting off fireworks, and in the evening
crackers and squibs may be heard on all sides.

At about this time of year the girls have many superstitions about
marriage. They throw thistles on the large bonfires which are lighted,
thinking meanwhile of some lover. These thistles are left out of doors
during the night and the following day, and if they remain green, they
believe they will be fortunate in their love affairs, but if black and
burnt, oh sorrow! no love is to be expected from the one thought of.
It is to be feared that under these circumstances there must be many
disappointments, unless, indeed, a little mild cheating be resorted
to. There is also an old custom of gathering rushes on St. John’s Eve.
Lovers each cut a rush of equal length, and if in the morning one is
found to be longer than the other, the love of the person who cut it is
supposed to be the more true and lasting.

Certain plants and flowers are looked on as being lucky, and special
virtue is supposed to attach to them if picked on the morning of St.
John the Baptist’s Day. In many parts there are legends of beautiful
enchanted Moorish maidens, who are doomed to live in deep wells, but
are allowed to appear early on that morning, and ask of those who come
to draw water some boon which may break the spell that binds them.

St. Anthony is supposed to be the match-maker among the saints. In the
church dedicated to him in Lisbon there is a letter-box where young
people post letters, asking the Saint to find them sweethearts, and
if their love affairs prosper, they sometimes post cheques and other
thank-offerings to him in the same little box in church. The priests
read the letters, and also stand proxy for St. Anthony in the matter of
pocketing the money.

It is not only the children who make merry on the eves of these three
saints’ days. In Lisbon the common people spend the night at the
Praça da Figueira--the market-place--which is beautifully decorated
with flowers and fruit, some hanging in bunches on sticks. Men and
women buy pots of “Majarico”--a sweet-smelling plant, in the middle
of which is stuck a large paper pink with some sweet love-verse,
and these pinks are presented and accepted with pleasure by both men
and women. Farther north, and especially at Coimbra and Figueira,
these festivals are most remarkable. There are bonfires and music;
the men and women dress in the picturesque costumes of the country,
the women wearing, as on all festive occasions, a great deal of very
handsome gold jewellery, for they spend most of their earnings on
these quaint ornaments, and are very proud of them. There is much
guitar-playing by the men, and all join in the popular Portuguese
dances, “Ver-de-Gaio” and others, and sing the most lovely
romantic songs.



CHAPTER VI

COUNTRY DANCES, SONGS, AND LEGENDS


The peasants are very fond of dance and song, particularly in Northern
Portugal. At harvest-time, and in the month of May, they delight in
gatherings where old-fashioned Oriental-looking dances take place.
They are slow and sedate, consisting quite as much of movements of the
body, arms, and hands, as of the feet, and must have been taken from
the Moors. You seldom hear any laughter at these _danças_, though in
the ordinary way the northern Portuguese are cheery and light-hearted
enough.

The music which accompanies them is also usually of a weird Oriental
nature, in a minor key, like many of the national airs and ballads, but
each district has its own peculiar songs, and these have often a great
charm and sweetness about them, more especially in the mountainous
districts, where the Moors never penetrated, and where the peasants
retain more of their ancient Roman and Gothic origin.

“When the Portuguese labourer has done his long day’s work, he does
not lean against a post and smoke a pipe, nor does he linger in the
wine-shop; but if it be a holiday or a Sunday, and in a rural district,
he puts on a clean shirt, with a large gold or silver stud as a neck
fastening, and his newest hat, varying in shape according to locality,
but always of black felt, and of the kind one sees in pictures of
Spanish life. He throws over his shoulder a black cloth cloak with a
real gold or silver clasp. He takes his favourite ox-goad in his hand,
as tall as himself, straight as an arrow, well-rounded, and polished,
and bound with brass. He slings his mandolin round his neck, and makes
his way to the nearest fashionable threshing-floor--the peasant’s
drawing-room. As he passes along, strumming careless chords and humming
snatches of strange airs, the girls and lads stop their labour and
accompany him, lovers will interrupt their love-making to follow too,
or continue their courting to the rhythmic tinkling of the mandolin.
When the music and its following arrives at the dancing place, and the
partners are all ranged in a circle, the dance will begin, with the
strangest, slowest, most old-fashioned steps, the like whereof has not
been danced under a civilized roof for centuries. The musician, or the
three or four of them whose mandolins make the orchestra, dance in the
round with the others, and, when the time arrives, turn and set to
their partners like the other dancers.”

The above is taken from the writings of an Englishman who spent many
years of his life in Portugal, and knew the country well.

There is still a great deal of superstition among the peasants, and
some of the quaint legends of vampires, spirits, and fairies in which
they firmly believe are most strange. Stories of Moorish maidens are
very general. If, wandering through the forests, a man happens to hear
an echo of his own voice, he thinks it is that of a Moorish maid, and,
being a good Roman Catholic, crosses himself devoutly to keep off harm.

In one place they tell of a huge and terrible dragon, who did all sorts
of dreadful things, and terrorized the entire neighbourhood. At last
a brave and chivalrous youth set out to try and destroy it, but while
he lay in wait for the monster in the heart of a dark wood, he was
overcome by sleep, and awoke, to his horror, to find himself in the
coils of the monster itself, and the horrible creature in the act of
kissing him on the lips. But as it did so the spell was broken, and
instead of a dragon, he found he was being embraced by a most beautiful
Moorish maiden, with whom he fell in love on the spot, and they were
married, and lived happily ever after.

In another place there is a story of one of these maidens whom some
wicked spirit had turned into a stone, and quite unconscious of what
it really was, a farmer was in the habit of using this particular stone
as a weight on his harrow. One day, to his great surprise, he heard a
voice in the air above him telling him to break off one corner of the
stone and take it home, and then to throw the rest into a deep pool in
the river, which flowed near at hand. He did as he was bidden, and as
the stone splashed into the water, he heard a peal of joyful unearthly
laughter, as the Moorish maid once more resumed her human form; and on
returning to his house the farmer found that the piece of stone he had
left there had been changed into pure gold, which made him rich for
life.

There is also a great belief in witches--_bruxas_ they call them. The
fishermen often think they see them at night on the crests of the
waves. They say they are quite accustomed to them, that the lapping of
the water is the murmur of their songs, and they are not at all afraid
of them, as these water-witches are considered quite harmless. The land
_bruxas_ are, however, much more dreaded, and it is strange in a land
of otherwise sensible people to hear of the queer customs which are
still in vogue, and are supposed to avert the evil they might otherwise
do. On May Day a piece of red wool is tied round the necks of all the
young animals on a farm: mules, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigs, etc. Old
horseshoes are nailed to the house-doors, and a slip of broom is stuck
into every stable-door. Every cart, plough, or ox-yoke in the place is
also decorated with broom, which is considered particularly efficacious
against the dreaded spells of the _bruxas_.

Some animals are looked on as “lucky,” particularly the oxen,
and the most superstitious peasant will believe himself to be
quite safe from all danger of charms or magic when standing
among them.

Of all the birds the house-martins are the most cherished, for the
legend still survives that they fly to heaven every day to wash our
Lord’s feet, and it would be thought most unlucky to in any way
destroy their nests or young.



CHAPTER VII

COUNTRY WAYS AND COUNTRY FOLK


The Portuguese peasants, dark-faced and unshaven, often
look such ruffians that at first, when you meet them on
some lonely country track, you would not be at all surprised
if they brandished a knife over your head with the blood-curdling
challenge of “Your money or your life!”

But in reality they are nice civil fellows, anxious to please in any
way they can, friendly and full of natural politeness. Do you ask your
way in broken sentences, your scanty Portuguese vocabulary helped out
with signs and gesticulations, the Portuguese workman will take the
greatest trouble, first of all to discover your meaning, and then to
help you and make himself understood, even going out of his way to
accompany you to some point of vantage, from whence he may the more
easily direct you. Then, with a smile, a bow, and lifted hat, he will
go on his way ready to act the good Samaritan to the next comer.

Would you like to imagine you are going for a walk in Portugal, and
that you see all the quaint country folk we should pass? Let us choose
a pretty walk--say down the valley to Collares, that little village of
vintage fame at the foot of the Cintra range of mountains, which tower
above us on the left, their summits standing out in bold masses of
rock, clear-cut against a deep blue sky.

It is spring-time, and all the fruit-trees are in blossom. Tender
spring colouring throws its veil of softest shimmering green over the
tall poplars, and wherever we look there are wild-flowers, springing up
in the fields and on the roadside and on the rock-strewn slopes of the
untilled land. Such wild-flowers! Vivid gentian-blue, and deepest rose,
and many that we know quite well, and cultivate with so much trouble
in our gardens at home. Tall, starry-shaped asphodels, slender white
lilies and large blue ones, snapdragons, lupins, orchids, gladioli,
blue and yellow irises, mallows, foxgloves, and many others; and
climbing among the cistus-bushes are wild-roses, and sweet-smelling
honeysuckle and everlasting peas, and there are the large, rose-like
white flowers of the cistus itself, with a handsome dark brown blotch
on each leaf. Brightest of all are the fields of blue convolvulus,
looking as though a piece of summer sky had lost itself, and had been
caught and held prisoner in the grass.

[Illustration: A QUIET POOL AT CINTRA.]

Down the valley flows a little brook clear as crystal, which goes
bubbling and gurgling along; gliding shyly round the big rocks as
though it wondered what it would find on the other side, and then,
grown bolder, leaping with a sparkle and a splash over some tiny
waterfall into a deeper pool below. There is an old moss-grown bridge
with maidenhair ferns peeping out from between the stones. We cross
over, and before long the footpath comes out into the dusty road.

Presently we meet a girl on a donkey, sitting sideways on a
funny-looking affair which does service for a saddle, and which half
smothers her small mount. She has got her best shawl on, and her
brightest orange handkerchief tied over her head, and because the sun
is hot (and perhaps still more because she is going to visit some
friends, and wishes to appear smart), she is holding up an old green
umbrella.

[Illustration: GOING TO SEE FRIENDS.]

Next, we meet another donkey, but he is a less prosperous beast than
his brother who has just gone by. Thin and tired, he droops his head,
and his ears lop sideways in a depressed way; and no wonder, for
hanging on either side of his pack-saddle are huge baskets filled with
earth, and piled above them and across his poor little back are great
bundles and sacks stuffed with green fodder. Perched, goodness knows
how, on top of all, sits an old country-woman. There is hardly any
donkey to be seen, except the head and legs, and a few inches above
the tail. We wonder how he can get along at all, but his mistress
won’t let him dawdle; and as her ruthless stick comes down with a
crack on the few available inches, we feel we would give anything
to save his poor thinly-covered bones.

Sights of this kind are the one thing that would make English boys and
girls miserable in Portugal. Kind as the people are to one another
and to their children, their poor animals are often most brutally
overladen, overworked, and beaten. No one seems to think that animals
need kindness and consideration, no one minds seeing acts of cruelty.

[Illustration: RETURNING FROM MARKET, LEIRIA.]

But let us walk on and try to forget that poor patient little donkey.
What is this coming down the road in a cloud of dust? A horseman,
cantering along with his heavy overcoat flying out behind him. He is
riding a pretty little bay horse, hardly bigger than a pony, with fine
legs and muzzle, long tail and mane, great big eyes looking about
him, and ears pricked well forward. What a strange figure the rider
makes! He is sitting on a very high saddle covered with flapping
goat-skins, and his feet disappear into the quaintest of stirrups,
veritable wooden boxes, handsomely ornamented with brass-work. He has a
brightly-coloured striped rug, with many tassels, rolled up and thrown
across the front of his saddle, and various other odds and ends are
swinging about. He is a young farmer, and thinks himself rather a fine
fellow, with his broad-brimmed felt hat, wide, magenta-coloured sash,
and thick black overcoat or cloak, with fur collar and scarlet lining.
It has, however, not struck him to shave since last Sunday week, and
his appearance is that of the villain in a play.



CHAPTER VIII

COUNTRY WAYS AND COUNTRY FOLK (_continued_)


Next we pass a string of heavily-laden mules, and now a farm-cart drawn
by big, sleepy-looking oxen. The Portuguese have seen no reason to
change the build of their farm-carts since the old days of the Roman
occupation. The wheels have no spokes, they are almost solid, and
instead of turning round on the axle as ours do, the axle is fixed in
and revolves with them. The body of the cart is just a flat board with
upright sticks round the edge, against which side planks can be propped
if required. When first you see these odd-looking carts, they strike
you as having come out of some prehistoric picture-book.

Away on the right a field is being ploughed, and the plough, like
the cart, is of the same pattern as those used by the Romans--a very
primitive affair. Just a wooden spike shod with iron, which scratches
shallow furrows in the earth. It is being drawn by a great big ox and
a very small donkey. The ploughman has a little boy to help him, who
carries a long pole with which to clear away the earth that clogs
the plough. Man and boy have been at work since very early morning,
and they will go on till six or seven in the evening. All day long,
hour after hour, they sing a monotonous kind of chant in a minor key,
only about two lines, repeated over and over again, and it sounds as
though there were no real words to it. It is just such a tune, or want
of tune, as may be heard any day on the east coast of Africa, sung by
native boat-boys.

[Illustration: THE FARM CART OF THE COUNTRY.]

It is a legacy from the early days when the country was held by the
Moors. The Southern Portuguese more especially have retained many
Moorish customs, and the peasants have a very distinctly Moorish type
of face, with the inscrutable expression which may so often be seen
among Eastern peoples.

There are many Arab wells or _shadufs_ in the country. A beam is placed
horizontally between two pillars, and on this is balanced a long pole,
to one end of which a weight (very often a large stone) is attached,
and to the other, by means of a rope, a bucket. A pull on the rope lets
the bucket down into the well; when full the rope is let go, and the
weight at the other end raises the water.

With a few exceptions, in some of the larger towns, nearly all the
shops are Eastern-looking. They have no smart plate-glass windows in
which to show off their pretty merchandise; often they have hardly any
window at all, but just a big doorway, through which you look into a
dark passage, where the various goods for sale hang on the walls and
from the ceiling.

The Portuguese have many other Eastern ways: for instance, if they wish
to send you farther from them, they make a sign with the hand which
we should take to be beckoning you nearer, and if they want you to
approach, they would seem to be motioning you away--both of which signs
are entirely Eastern.

They have also retained from the Moors a love of coloured tiles for
decorating their houses, and even their churches, both inside and out.
There are many factories at Lisbon and Oporto where these tiles are
made, but they never now attain the beauty of the old Moorish ones,
which are still to be seen here and there throughout the country. It is
a lost art.

But we have left our plough far behind, and are coming to a few
cottages and a small wayside inn. A bush hangs over the door to show
that wine is sold, the time-honoured sign which was used long ago in
England, and from which the saying comes, “Good wine needs no bush.”

Outside, tied to rings fastened in the wall, stand two or three
donkeys, a pony, and a mule, all very tired and dejected-looking,
while lolling in the doorway, or sitting on a bench inside, are their
masters, drinking the good red wine of the country, of which they
can buy a large bottle for the modest sum of forty _ries_, or about
twopence.

They are fond of a glass of wine, but you will see little or no
drunkenness, except occasionally on a Sunday. Close to the inn is
the old stone watering-place, the _fonte_, as it is called, whence,
out of the mouth of a quaintly-carved stone head, a fresh stream of
water, cool and clear from the mountains, is ever flowing. All over the
country, wherever there are a few houses together, and at the street
corners in the towns, may be seen these stone watering-places and
fountains, where the brightly-dressed peasant-women fill their large
earthenware jars, carrying them away balanced on their heads, where the
lads and maidens wrangle good-humouredly over whose turn it is next,
where the children play and dabble in the water, and the gossips meet
to talk over the latest scandal.

There is a small boy running about on sturdy, bare brown legs, hands
thrust deep into the pockets of his ragged and patched little breeches,
which are kept up by the usual sash, worn by men and boys alike, and
wound round and round the waist. His shirt is open at the neck, and on
his head he wears the cap of the country, a long worsted bag, drawn
well over the ears, and hanging almost to the shoulder.

These caps are always either black, or bright green with a scarlet
stripe round the opening, and, as we are soon to realize, serve many
useful purposes, as well as that of covering the head.

The little urchin, seeing we are strangers, comes up to have a good
look at us, and out of idle curiosity we ask his name. He gives us a
string of them, which sounds fitting for a young prince--Henriques
Quintino Rodrigues de Monserrate, the latter being probably the name of
the village he lives in. Finding us less interesting than he had hoped,
our small friend proceeds to remove his cap and to play with something
at the bottom of it, which he exhibits with great pride to another
child who has come out of one of the cottages. He eventually pulls
it out, and we see that it is a _very large black beetle_! His hand
goes in again and draws out another, and yet another, and his three
treasures are put down to crawl about on the steps leading up to the
watering-place. At last, tired even of this engrossing amusement, he
grabs hold of them again, and drops them one by one into the recesses
of the cap, which he then proceeds to replace upon his head. When
remonstrated with, he quite fails to catch our point, and assures us
that there could be no safer place for carrying black beetles.

We have lingered enough, and must be going on our way. The whole valley
seems transfigured, and all things loom fairylike through a golden haze
as we look towards the setting sun. We wander on through an orchard of
orange and lemon trees, with their wealth of golden fruit and tender
white blossom, the fallen fruit lying beneath the trees, as do the
apples in an orchard at home when shaken by the winds of autumn. We
meet an old priest, in wide-brimmed hat and long soutane, who smiles
benignly on us. He passes on, and the sound of a church bell, calling
to prayer, floats softly up the valley.



CHAPTER IX

CINTRA


If there is one spot in Portugal more famed than another for its
beauty, it is Cintra. The little town lies about seventeen miles from
Lisbon, perched on the side of the Cintra Mountains. Many of the
well-to-do people of the capital have villas there, where they go
for change and bracing air when the heat of summer makes town life
unendurable. The best time to be at Cintra is, however, in April and
May, when the piercing winter winds are gone, and before the sleepy
little place--half town and half village--is awakened out of its usual
quiet by the invasion of the smart society folk from Lisbon. It is then
that Nature puts on her fresh spring dress, and every nook and corner
is bright with wild-flowers.

There are many things which lend charm to the place: the beauty and
historic interest of the old half-Moorish palace in the village itself,
the wonderful Pena Palace, perched high on its rocky pinnacle on the
mountain-top; the ruined Moorish fort and castle, whose solidly-built
battlements and low towers crown another summit a thousand feet above
the town; the many _quintas_ or country houses hidden away among the
trees; the lovely gardens, full of flowers, palms, and semi-tropical
plants; the cool splash of water falling over rocks, and the deep still
tanks, covered with water-lilies, and reflecting the surrounding beauty
in their quiet depths.

Above all, there are the countless beautiful walks in every direction.
You may go by the road which zigzags down the steep hillside to the
valley below; wander eastward for miles towards Lisbon, over rough and
bleak moorland, or westward towards Collares, through the cork-woods,
where gnarled and twisted branches and grey-green foliage meet over
shady footpaths, and huge boulders rise out of a carpet of ferns and
flowers.

Of the many delightful walks and scrambles, the most charming of all is
a climb to the top of the hill--not by the dusty, winding highway, but
by a rough and steep footpath. It starts between overhanging trees and
high walls, old and lichen-covered. Maidenhair and other ferns grow in
every chink of the stones; primroses, periwinkles, and violets stud the
grass below.

[Illustration: JUDAS TREE IN FLOWER.]

Farther up the walls grow low and crumbling, and seen through the
blossom-laden branches of a Judas-tree is a bold mass of giant rocks,
crowned by a group of old stone-pines, with their dark umbrella-shaped
tops, and their stems glowing red and purple in the afternoon sunlight.

Far below lies the plain, neither green, nor brown, nor grey, nor
olive, but a little of all; bare undulating country stretching away to
the sea and to the hazy blue hills in the distance. Long white roads
can be clearly seen, like narrow tapes, leading over hill and dale to
the far horizon.

[Illustration: STONE PINES NEAR CINTRA.]

At length, standing high on its granite rock, you come to the Pena
Palace, with its many domes, towers, and turrets, a royal palace,
whence King Emanuel the Fortunate used to gaze out to sea, watching for
the return of Vasco da Gama from his first expedition to India.

The most striking features of the old Palace in the town below are two
tall chimneys, shaped like the tops of a couple of gigantic soda-water
bottles. They belong to the royal kitchens, and were intended to carry
off the fumes from the row of little charcoal fires along one side of
the vast apartments, and on which in days gone by all the cooking was
done. The kitchens have no ceiling at all, the walls simply narrowing
in to form the chimneys, and I fear that in winter-time the poor cooks
must have found it uncommonly draughty.

To enter this Palace you pass the old women who sit under their big
umbrellas, selling oranges at the corner of the little market-square,
and, taking no notice of a sleepy sentry, who as often as not leans
propped up against the gateway, you walk into the courtyard, and up a
broad flight of steps.

Most noticeable in the Palace are the exquisite old Moorish tiles set
into the walls, and the painted wooden ceilings of some of the rooms.

There is one of these in which poor King Alfonso VI. was imprisoned for
many years by his wife and younger brother, who usurped the throne.
Whatever his faults may have been, one cannot help feeling sorry for
the wretched man, who tramped up and down his prison till the stone
paving became worn away in a groove.

Whilst on this subject, I must not forget to tell you about Portuguese
prisons in general, and so I will describe the one at Cintra, which is
a fair sample of the others. It has large unglazed windows looking on
to the square, and behind a double row of iron cross-bars you see the
haggard pale-faced prisoners, herded together in filth and squalor.
They spend most of their time begging for alms from the passers-by.
Sometimes their friends stand in the street below, and hold long
conversations with them, or pass up food and tobacco in the prisoners’
long bag-shaped caps, which they lower by means of a string. The sentry
who keeps guard outside takes no notice of these proceedings, for
Portuguese criminals are allowed this one indulgence, perhaps to make
up for their otherwise wretched lot.



CHAPTER X

OBIDOS, LEIRIA, AND THOMAR


There are many places besides Cintra where ancient strongholds are to
be found. In a land where there was so much fighting every town had
to be protected, and throughout the country you come across old-world
places which but for the tumble-down state of the fortifications can
hardly have changed since the days when Moors and Christians struggled
for supremacy.

One such old town is Obidos, won from the Moors in 1148. I remember
it as I saw it last, perched high on its steep and rocky hill, with
battlements, towers, and the ruins of the castle standing out dark
and formidable against a glowing sunset sky. It is the quaintest
little place in the world, carrying one’s thoughts back to the Middle
Ages, and scarcely a house has crept beyond the shelter of its high,
castellated walls. There are only two narrow fortified gateways,
beneath whose arches the inhabitants pass in and out. Within the walls
are the tightly-packed houses, low and picturesque, and numerous
churches. The narrow, winding streets are full of dark-eyed
children, gaunt pigs, and straying donkeys, while flowers hang in
masses of brilliant colour over every wall and balcony.

In other towns the protecting fortress stands alone on some high
outcrop of rock, while the houses nestle at its foot, as, for instance,
at Leiria. Centuries ago it was a Roman centre of some importance, and
later on Suevis, Visigoths, and Moors held sway there in turn, until
it was finally taken by King Alfonso Henriques in about 1135. More
than a hundred years later King Diniz lived there, and on the site of
the Moorish stronghold he built the great castle the ruins of which
dominate the town to this day.

Surrounded by hills, and standing on the green banks of the River Liz,
Leiria is now a sleepy, picturesque country town, with a cathedral, a
market-square, wide, shady walks skirting the river, and quaint little
streets spanned at intervals by arches. It seems strange now to think
of the stormy days when knights in armour rode up the winding way that
leads to the castle, yet later years have also brought fire and sword
to this peaceful valley. In the Peninsular War, between 1807 and 1810,
the French troops passed through it no less than three times, and under
Marshal Junot and General Margaron it was given over to pillage and
violence.

Some twenty miles or more away, beyond hill-tops clothed with
pine-woods and heather, and valleys rich with olives, figs, and vines,
lies Thomar, another town sheltering beneath a high castle-crowned hill.

This fortress, under whose protection the town first sprang up, was
built by the Knights Templars in the middle of the twelfth century. It
was the special mission of this order of knights to defend the Holy
Sepulchre at Jerusalem, to protect the Christians in that city, and
to fight the Mohammedans wherever they might meet them. The Moslems
in Portugal were the Moors, who made a mighty effort to capture this
Castle of Thomar some sixty years after it was founded. It was a
celebrated siege, and an old inscription, let into one of the walls,
tells the history of it in a few quaint words. Translated, it reads as
follows:

 “In 1228, on the 3rd day of July, the King of Morocco came with
 400,000 cavalry, and 500,000 footmen, to besiege the Castle for six
 days, and destroyed all that he found outside the walls. God delivered
 the Castle, its Master and brethren from his hands. The same King
 returned to his country with innumerable losses of men and horses.”

On the suppression of the Order of Templars in 1312, King Diniz
established the Order of Christ at Thomar--“for the defence of the
Faith, the discomfiture of the Moors, and the extension of the
Portuguese monarchy,” as the old records put it. It became one of the
wealthiest and most powerful orders of chivalry in Christendom, its
knights fighting in all parts of the world, till in 1523 King John
III. converted it into a purely religious community of monks, and the
heroic days of war and adventure came to an end.

As the years passed by many additions were made to the grim old
fortress. A magnificent new church was added, chapter-houses and
cloisters, dormitories and kitchens. There are no fewer than eight
cloisters, of different dates, styles, and sizes, and all these
oddments of architecture, each one beautiful in its own way, have
mellowed with age into a rambling, fascinating whole.

The town below contains several churches of interest, and many
factories and cotton-mills. The River Nabao runs through it, passing
beneath a fine old bridge, and turning numberless picturesque
water-wheels as it flows along. On its banks poplars rear their tall
heads, willows dip their long branches in the cool stream, and rows of
peasant women may be seen standing in the water, hard at work washing.
They rub and scrub the clothes ruthlessly on hard stones, rinsing
them in the running water; but one feels quite reconciled to see the
garments being worn out and ruined, if only one may be allowed to watch
these charming, brightly-dressed laundresses, and to listen to their
merry talk and laughter.



CHAPTER XI

THE PEASANTRY


The peasants are very hard-working, particularly in the north,
where they are a finer race altogether than in the south, not only
better-looking, manlier, and more resolute in character, but thriftier
and more industrious.

In a previous chapter I told you about the dancing and singing that
they are so fond of; but they are not always light-hearted, for there
is another and darker side to their lives.

The wages are much lower than in England, and the working hours much
longer; sunrise to sunset is the measure of labour, and the summer days
are long and the sun is cruelly hot. By the time work is over, the
tired peasants can often have but little heart left for fun or frolic.

Very few agricultural machines are used in Portugal, all the sowing
and reaping being done by hand. The grain, too, is threshed out with
flails. The workers stand round a heap of maize and swing their flails
rhythmically up and down with a dull, thudding sound, till all the
grain is threshed out. There is an old folk-song about this which
I must quote for you. The feeling that runs all through the verses
reveals pathetically the dull monotony of the long hours spent in weary
toil. The singer begins by reproaching his flail; then his conscience
smites him as he remembers that it is by the aid of this trusty friend
that he earns his bread, and that to-morrow will be as to-day--an
endless to-morrow of toil and labour.

[Music: “O MY FLAIL.”

    O my flail, my sor-ry flail!
    A ve-ry clum-sy tool art thou.
    Ear-ly and late I feel thy weight.
    The sweat is pour-ing from my brow,
    Yet my flail, my trust-y flail!
    My flail that thresh-est out the grain,
    Though wear-y now,
    Both I and thou
    To-mor-row must to work a-gain.

The above is a well-known Portuguese folk-song. As is always the case
with folk-songs which are traditional, there are slight differences in
the versions in use in different places. The above is the version as
sung by students at Coimbra. All present should clap their hands on the
first three beats of every bar. The author is indebted for the English
translation to Mr. Morton Latham.]

Wheat is separated from the husk in a very odd way. It is trodden out
by oxen, and beans are worked out of their pods in the same manner. The
women toil in the fields just as hard as the men--if anything harder,
and one may often see a woman carrying a huge load on her head with
a man strolling idle and empty-handed beside her. Even the children
have to make themselves useful, starting work at a very early age. A
solemn little boy or girl carrying a goad twice their own height will
walk barefooted in front of ox-cart or plough, guiding the great docile
beasts in the way they should go. The children, too, are sent out to
herd the cattle and to look after the flocks.

I knew a little boy who seemed to spend his whole life shepherding his
father’s flock of sheep and goats, which are always mixed in Portugal.
Early in the morning he would leave the farm and wander off over the
moors. In cold weather he would wear a sack over his head to protect
himself from the piercing wind; in summer he would try to find a
cool spot beneath some high rock or shady tree, and there he
would contentedly eat his midday meal of black bread, olives,
and goat’s-milk cheese, always, however, keeping an eye
on his charges, lest any should stray.

[Illustration: HERD BOY AND FLOCK.]

Quite different is the work of the shepherds in the mountainous country
of the north and in the great Estrella range, where the lofty crags and
deep gorges of the mountains stretch away as far as the eye can see.
Here it is men’s work, and in the summer, when the flocks are taken to
the high upland pastures, the shepherds live in roughly-built stone
huts. At night they often sleep in the midst of their flocks, while
their dogs, big long-haired mastiffs, keep guard on the outskirts to
give warning at the approach of danger.

Very real danger it is at times, for in the narrow, precipitous ravines
of these wild hills are still to be found--though of late years much
more rarely--the large brown wolves, which steal down at dead of night
to carry off their prey. The struggle is fierce between the faithful
watch-dogs and their savage enemies. The shepherds in the darkness lay
about them lustily with their staves, the growling and snarling of the
wolves and mastiffs mingle with the bleating of the sheep and goats
and the shouts of the men, till at last the wolves are beaten off,
slinking away as noiselessly as they came.

The cottages of the poor are often only small, one-storied houses,
built of loose stones without cement, and just plastered roughly
over to keep out the wind. Inside they are dark and dreary, and very
scantily furnished. Although they work so hard, the peasants in many
parts are wretchedly poor, and their food none too plentiful. It is
different from that of an English labourer, being mainly black bread,
made from a mixture of maize and rye-flour. They also eat olives,
rice, oil, vegetables, and a considerable quantity of dried and salted
cod-fish--_bacalhau_, as it is called. It smells and tastes very
strong, and before it is cooked is as hard as a board. Nevertheless,
it is very nutritious. The whole population is particularly fond of
it, so much so that it is by no means unusual to see people eating it
uncooked, though to us it would not seem at all a tempting delicacy.

[Illustration: THE END OF A LONG DAY.]



CHAPTER XII

PILGRIMAGES


The _Romarias_, or annual pilgrimages, are a great institution in
Portugal. They are looked on partly as being good for the soul, and
partly as pleasurable outings. Sometimes the pilgrimage is to a shrine
on some lonely hill-top, sometimes to a spot marked by an array of
stone crosses, where some local saint is reputed to have performed a
miracle. These pilgrimages keep up interest in religious observances,
but unluckily there is often much superstition connected with them.

There are two places which, above all others, attract vast crowds of
the devout, as many as 30,000 to 35,000 people being often present.
One is “Bom Jesus do monte” (Good Jesus of the mountain), near
Braga; and the other “Bom Jesus dos boucas” (Good Jesus of the
barren sands), at Mathosinhos, a village on the sea-coast not
far from Oporto. Here, in an unpretentious church, is enshrined a
crucifix reputed to possess the most wonderful miracle-working
powers.

The legend runs that long, long ago, so far back that date and year
have been forgotten, this figure of our Lord was washed ashore and
placed by the priest in the village church. It had been much buffeted
by the waves, and had lost one arm, but some little time after, the
missing limb was discovered in the following miraculous way. A poor
old woman was trudging along the beach one day, picking up driftwood
wherewith to light her fire. She saw a piece which she thought was the
very thing required, and returned home with it, only to find that do
what she would, she could not get it to burn. She put it out in the
sun to dry, but all to no purpose; so at length she decided to cut it
up into little splinters, to see if in that way it would more readily
catch fire. No sooner was her chopper lifted ready to strike than the
wood jumped to one side! The faster the blows rained down the more
nimble did it become, till at last, in alarm, the old dame sought a
priest, to whom she related her strange story. He examined the piece
of wood, and was inspired to recognize the missing arm, which was soon
restored to its proper position.

The pious folk for miles around still firmly believe that this sacred
image, coming to them thus wonderfully from the sea, must have power to
help the toilers of the deep, and must be the very special protector
of seamen and fishermen. When the storms are wildest, and their boats
are in danger of being wrecked, it is to our Lord of Mathosinhos that
the sailors cry in their distress. They ascribe their preservation to
His miraculous powers, and the church is full of the quaintest votive
offerings given in humble gratitude for answered prayers. Extraordinary
wax models of legs and arms hang near the shrine, and also numberless
pictures, crudely painted by the mariners themselves. These depict
ships in every conceivable peril, and generally the figure in the
church is prominently portrayed, stilling the raging waves, or rescuing
the drowning men. Terrible daubs they are, but they hang there, a
pathetic witness to the faith which, in the hour of danger, could seek
for help where alone help was to be found. They are presented with a
gift of money at the great yearly pilgrimage at Whitsuntide.

A large fair is held at the same time, where whole stalls are devoted
to the sale of whistles. They are made of red, yellow, and brown
pottery, and are the very oddest-looking things, in the shape of
grotesque birds, beasts, and figures. Everyone buys one, and everyone
whistles. It is the right thing to do at Whitsuntide in Mathosinhos.

The pilgrimage to “Bom Jesus do monte” also takes place at Whitsuntide,
and lasts for three days. The church stands on a high hill. Leading up
to it are broad flights of steps, zigzagging from terrace to terrace,
and flanked by walls and overhanging trees. The terraces are ornamented
with statues, obelisks, and fountains carved in granite, and all the
way up, at regular intervals, are small shrines or chapels, in which
stand groups of life-sized figures representing different scenes in
the Passion of our Lord. Up these steps toil the pilgrims in their
thousands, men and women, young and old, reverently worshipping at each
shrine before passing on. Some few in their devotion, weighed down by
their burden of sin and sorrow, perform the entire ascent on their
knees. Masses are chanted and sermons preached in the church; solemn
processions pass to and fro, with banners and crucifix borne aloft. All
knees are bent, all heads are bowed, as priests in gorgeous vestments,
bearing the Host, move slowly along.

Children dressed like fairies take a great part in the processions,
with spangled wings, or the soft feathered pinions of a bird fixed to
their shoulders. I have seen weary little pilgrims, so small and so
tired that the men who marched beside them picked them up tenderly and
carried them along, fast asleep, in their arms.

There have to be great preparations made for so large a gathering.
For days beforehand the creaking of ox-waggons may be heard, wending
their way slowly up the hill, with their loads of food and casks of
wine. Decorations are put up, poles, and flags, and strings of Chinese
lanterns. The people begin to arrive on the Saturday. Some go to one
or other of the three hotels, which on these occasions are packed to
overflowing; but they mostly camp out in the woods in tents, or rough
huts made of branches. They also build fireplaces with stones and clay,
and ovens in which to bake their bread.

Here and there an idle youth brings out his guitar, or someone bursts
gaily into song. It is like a scene in a theatre, only that it is all
real--a huge, happy picnic party, come together for prayer and praise,
and after that to enjoy themselves as much as they possibly can.

All are dressed in their very best. The men wear tight trousers, white
shirts, sashes round the waist, broad-brimmed felt hats, and short
coats much tagged and braided. The women look very gay with blue,
orange, or red silk kerchiefs crossed over the breast, snowy-white
blouses, tight-fitting bodices, black or coloured, and thickly-pleated
skirts of every conceivable hue, cut short at the ankles. They wear
bright embroidered aprons, and a sort of pocket hanging round the
waist, very elaborately ornamented with beads or sequins. Embroidered
muslin handkerchiefs cover their heads, surmounted by round black hats
edged with floss silk made to curl and look like ostrich feathers.
Added to all this, they are decked out with a great deal of gold
jewellery--necklaces, heavy earrings, and huge heart-shaped lockets of
strange, intricate design.

A rich farmer’s wife will sometimes have her whole bodice covered
with gold ornaments, and should she happen to be the proud owner of
three pairs of earrings, will wear them all, to the great envy of her
neighbours.

The women also delight in possessing a great many petticoats. The more
they have the more important do they consider themselves, for it shows
how wealthy they must be, and on such an occasion as a pilgrimage they
don them all. Sixteen or eighteen on one woman! Just think of it in
warm weather! On festive occasions a rich peasant woman will be so
be-petticoated that she can scarcely walk, and will have to move slowly
along in a rolling, ungainly manner; but she will be a proud woman, and
will gladly endure the discomfort for the sake of the importance and
dignity conferred upon her by her many skirts.



CHAPTER XIII

FARMS AND VINEYARDS


The best tilled farms in Portugal are in the north, in the rich
province of Minho. They are quite small, and are worked like well-kept
gardens by the farmer and his family, with perhaps the help of one or
two hired hands.

The chief crop grown there is maize, and many different things are sown
with it, such as dwarf kidney-beans and gourds. Young cabbages are also
planted among the maize, and in the winter, after the grain has been
garnered, they grow to a great height, when their leaves are plucked
off one by one, the top being left to grow taller still.

June and July are very busy months. Besides the wheat and rye harvests,
the maize, which is not cut until September or October, gives endless
work. First it has to be hoed, and then earthed up. Later on it is
gradually thinned out, some of it being taken as fodder for the cattle,
and all the time it has to be carefully and regularly watered. This is
generally done by irrigation. A farmer’s whole prosperity depends on
his water-supply, and no trouble is too great to insure a good one.
Sometimes it is brought for miles in underground channels, or along a
groove cut in the top of a broad wall. Another method is to raise it
from a well by means of an old-fashioned water-wheel, worked by oxen.
Many buckets are set about a foot apart on an endless chain, which
passes over the wheel. With each turn these buckets dip into the well,
and as they come up again empty the water into little channels, which
carry it in all directions to irrigate the growing crops.

As the maize ripens to harvest the golden cobs have to be cut from the
straw, husked, dried, and finally threshed.

The husking or removing of the outer sheath is a tedious business, so
the farmers often give a kind of harvest home, to which they invite the
neighbouring peasants. They provide food and wine in plenty, and their
guests work far into the night, to the accompanying music of guitars
and violins.

There are many different kinds of beans grown--black, white, grey, and
yellow, mottled beans and striped beans, large and small. Flax, too, is
widely cultivated, and in the north the farmers’ wives and daughters
spend the long winter evenings spinning and weaving it into linen for
their clothes. In the marshy land near the sea we find rice, and most
of the onions that are sold in England as Spanish onions in reality
come from the North of Portugal.

From the north, too, comes the wine we call port. Vineyards flourish,
and wine is made in all parts of the kingdom; but that which is
imported so largely into England, and which is handed with dessert in
so many English houses, is made only from the grapes grown on the steep
hillsides of a tract of country on the banks of the River Douro, some
sixty miles above the old seaport town of Oporto. It extends a long way
up the river, and for a few miles to the north and south, through the
valleys and gorges of many small tributary streams. It is a mountainous
country, and from the water’s edge to the high hill-tops there is
nothing to be seen but vineyards, rising terrace above terrace in dull,
unvarying monotony. The vines are grown as bushes, and have none of
the beauty of those in many other parts, where they are trained over
trellises, or allowed to ramble at will up pollarded trees.

You may have often seen the rich tawny red wine on the dining-room
table, but I wonder if you have ever thought of all the labour that
went to produce it. The construction of the terraces where the vines
are to grow is in itself a mighty piece of work. Each terrace has its
strong retaining wall, built with the stones taken from the soil, and
when the vines have been planted, they require constant care and
attention. In the autumn the low-growing shoots have to be removed and
the roots uncovered. Pruning begins at the same time, and occupies
the whole winter. The ground has to be dug in March, when all weeds
are cleared away, and the earth is hoed into little mounds to protect
the roots from the hot rays of the sun. Next comes the training and
propping of the branches, which are secured by willow or rush ties to
stakes driven into the ground. A second digging takes place in May,
when the earth is once more levelled, and during the summer the vines
have to be sprayed with sulphur to keep off a dreadful blight called
_oidium_, which would otherwise do great damage.

At last, towards the middle or end of September, the vintage begins,
and this brings with it the hardest work of all. Bands of men and women
arrive from far-away villages in every direction to help with the work,
singing and dancing as they come, as though out on a holiday jaunt.

The women gather the great clusters of grapes into baskets, and empty
these into other larger ones, which the men carry away on their
shoulders, passing from terrace to terrace right down the hill to the
wine-presses. These are large granite tanks, into which the grapes
are thrown, and men are employed to tread out the juice with their
bare feet. It is very tiring, and is performed by relays of workers,
trampling steadily, their hands placed on each other’s shoulders to
steady themselves. This goes on for many hours. The pulp is then left
to ferment for some time, and bubbles and heaves as though it were
boiling. When the stalks and skins rise to the surface the liquor
gradually begins to cool down, and the time has come for running it off
into the huge vats in the cellars below. The following spring the wine
is put into casks, and sent in large boats down the Douro to Oporto,
where it is stored in the merchants’ “lodges” till required
for export.

[Illustration: A LONELY FARM.]



CHAPTER XIV

OPORTO


How am I to give you an idea of the quaint picturesque old town of
Oporto? It dates back to Roman times, when it was already a busy
seaport, and it is now only second in importance to Lisbon itself.

It does not at first sight present such an imposing appearance as
Lisbon, that dazzling white city throned on its seven hills and looking
down in calm dignity on the bright blue waters of the Tagus. But
whereas the southern capital is disappointing when you see it nearer,
Oporto grows on you more and more, with its steep, dark alleys and
old-fashioned balconied houses, its gardens and fountains, and busy,
bustling wharfs. The heart and soul of Oporto are to be looked for by
the riverside, the narrow green-watered Douro flowing swiftly along
between high granite cliffs, to which cling the white and yellow houses
with their many-tinted, red-tiled roofs.

The river is always crowded with shipping, from full-rigged ocean-going
merchantmen to dugouts shaped from a single tree; broad-beamed boats,
with graceful lateen sails, and narrow boats, with high peaks at bow
and stern; large flat-bottomed wine-boats from the vineyards far up
the river; rowing-boats, sailing-boats--in fact, boats of every size
and shape and colour.

The quays swarm with people hard at work loading and unloading cargo.
Women pass up and down along narrow planks from shore to ship with
baskets full of coal balanced on their heads. Longshoremen and idlers
look on, contentedly smoking. Groups of boys may be seen playing cards
or throwing dice, and younger urchins, of similar tastes but fewer
possessions, gambling excitedly with buttons. Here also are barefooted,
brightly-dressed fishwives, and girls selling fruit, children at play,
chestnut-sellers with their little charcoal stoves, rough brigand-like
men rolling barrels of wine ashore, strings of pack-mules, and ox-carts
waiting to be loaded, each with its pair of pretty browny-yellow oxen,
under their high, elaborately carved yokes.

It all forms the most charming medley of movement and colour against
a background of tumble-down overhanging houses with projecting gables
and painted balconies. There are vine-trellises offering leafy shade,
clothes hanging out to air, rows of fine old trees, and here and
there glimpses of the ancient river-wall. In this wall are many deep
recesses used as wine-shops, or as general stores, where the sailorman
may satisfy his numerous requirements in the way of oilskins, ropes,
blocks, and all the many articles smelling of tar, so dear to the
seafarer’s heart.

This is Oporto as seen from below, down by the water’s edge; but the
best view of the whole town is to be had much higher up, where the
great bridge of Dom Luiz spans the narrow gorge. From this point of
vantage you may look straight down on the river and on the busy wharfs
far below; you may see the narrow, rough-paved streets that lead by
flights of steps up the hillside, the many churches, the solid square
towers of the cathedral on the hill, the old Moorish walls, and the
odd little gardens--bright patches of colour in unexpected nooks and
corners.

Beyond the bridge, on the south side of the river, stands the ancient
convent of Nossa Senhora da Serra do Pilar, Wellington’s headquarters
in May, 1809, when he so successfully drove the French army under
Marshal Soult out of Oporto.

Six weeks earlier, after a three days’ siege, Soult had assaulted and
taken the brave old city, which had gallantly, if foolishly, refused
to surrender. Its fall was followed by hideous scenes of rapine and
slaughter. The French gave no quarter, and the hunted people fled down
to the river in thousands, hoping to escape by a bridge of boats that
stretched across to the other bank. So great a crowd proved more than
the bridge could bear. It sank under the weight, and over 18,000 men,
women, and children were drowned, or butchered by the French soldiers.

It was, however, a short-lived triumph for the arms of France. Three
weeks later Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future great Duke of Wellington,
landed at Lisbon, and before he had been in the country ten days he was
on his way north to retake Oporto.

On the morning of May 12, 1809, he was already on the south bank
of the Douro, but without bridge or boat by which to pass over. So
safe did Soult believe himself to be, with the steep cliffs and the
swift-flowing river between himself and the English, that he never
contemplated the possibility of a crossing, and Sir Arthur was able to
carry out one of the most daring plans in the annals of war.

By the aid of the inhabitants two boats were at last secured, and
twenty-five British soldiers rowed across in broad daylight, just above
the town. Under cover of artillery fire three companies of the Buffs
were next ferried over. They climbed by a track up 200 or 300 feet of
rock, seized an unfinished building, and held it with great bravery
while more troops were hurried across. Gradually the tables were
turned. The English became the attackers, the French slowly retreating,
till after some two hours’ fighting Soult and his army took to their
heels, leaving bag and baggage, guns and ammunition behind them. Sir
Arthur Wellesley is reported to have said on the evening of the 11th
that the next day he would breakfast in Oporto. He did breakfast in
Oporto and dined there too, on the food that had been prepared for the
French general!

The markets of Oporto are very attractive. The chief one is the Mercado
do Anjo, which lies just to the north of the fine church of the
Clericos, whose lofty tower may be seen from most parts of the town. It
is a picturesque spot, and presents a busy scene in the early mornings;
but as I write it is another market-square that rises before my mind’s
eye. It was the first I saw after landing in Portugal. I could not drag
myself away from it, and the fascination of it seems to hold me still.

There were low, shady trees in the middle of that little square, and
white booths beneath them, covered with fruit and flowers, cakes and
vegetables. The open-doored shops at the sides were windowless, and
had piles of goods heaped on the pavements in front of them, and
spreading out well into the road: shining pots and pans; gay coloured
kerchiefs--red and yellow, blue and green; rolls of sombre woollen
material and lighter-coloured cottons; and, most inviting of all,
the many heaps of pottery. What may not be purchased here for a penny,
or even for a halfpenny? Jugs and jars, mugs and plates, basins, bowls
and dishes, all of a dull cream-coloured ware, with simple brightly
painted designs boldly splashed upon them. Next to them, and more
tempting still, are the unglazed, red-brown earthenware vessels used
all over Portugal for carrying water. Beautiful in shape and colour,
they are of Moorish or Roman design; some with quaint twisted handles,
others with long narrow necks, some few with spouts, and all so cheap
that the smallest coin in your pocket will pay for two or three of
them.



CHAPTER XV

COIMBRA AND THREE OLD MONASTERIES


Another town that has filled an important position in Portuguese
history is Coimbra. A charming old place it is, built on a hill,
the River Mondego flowing at its foot, and the University buildings
crowning the summit. Its steep, narrow streets are full of picturesque
peasants and of students clad in long black cloaks, of the selfsame
pattern as the _togas_ worn by the Romans of old.

This ancient city witnessed the days of the Gothic occupation; saw the
Goths supplanted by the Moors, and the Moors by the Christians; was
for many years the capital of Portugal; and ever since 1306, when King
Diniz founded the University, it has with but short intermission been
the seat of learning and culture.

The University buildings are grouped round a large quadrangle, at
one side of which is a terrace commanding a view that may well have
inspired the ardent souls of poets and scholars. Looking out over the
town, the eye wanders up the silvery waters of the Mondego, and round
the bends and turns of a beautiful and fertile valley to the blue
mountains in the distance.

Across the river stands the great white convent of Santa Clara, “once
the glory of Coimbra and the cloister of Queens,” but now used as a
factory. Lower down are the ruins of another convent, in which the
Porta de Rosa recalls the pretty legend of the miracle of the roses.
St. Elizabeth, the wife of King Diniz, spent all her time and money in
ministering to the poor, till at length her husband remonstrated with
her and forbade her to continue her good works. The Queen was very
unhappy; she was loath to disobey, but her kind heart bled for the
hungry women and little children who would look in vain for her coming,
and one day she again sallied out with a basketful of bread on her arm.
As she was passing through a doorway, who should she meet but the King.

“What have you there?” cried he in anger.

“Roses,” faltered the trembling Queen, not daring to tell the truth.

“Let me see them!” thundered the King, lifting the cover
of the basket. And lo and behold! to the good St. Elizabeth’s
joy and wonder, it was full of beautiful roses.

This story is also told of her aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, but I
like to think it was true of the sweet Portuguese Queen.

To the right of the old convent lies the Quinta das Lagrimas--the
Villa of Tears. The tragic history attached to this is no legend, but
records the sad fate of a beautiful woman, Inez de Castro, who was a
maid of honour at the Court of Portugal in the middle of
the fourteenth century.

Dom Pedro, the King’s son, was desperately in love with her; but
his father and the nobles deemed her no fit mate for the heir to
the throne, and at length, in their hatred, caused her to be foully
murdered beside the waters of a deep spring which gushes out of the
rock--“The Fountain of Love in the Garden of Tears,” as it is
called to this day.

Dom Pedro’s grief was deep and bitter. He rebelled, and raised an army
to fight against his father. Two years later, when the old King died,
and Pedro in his turn came to the throne, he made a solemn declaration
that he had been privately married to the fair Inez. To punish the
haughty courtiers and nobles who had helped to bring about her death,
he had her body removed from its grave, crowned, arrayed in royal
robes, and placed on the throne. All had to vow fealty to her as to a
Queen, kneeling and kissing her hand in homage. Loyal to the last, this
most constant of royal lovers is buried in the old cathedral church of
Alcobaça, and close by, in another beautifully carved tomb, lies his
beloved and long-mourned wife.

The Monastery of Alcobaça was founded by King Alfonso Henriques in
1148, as a thank-offering for the capture of Santarem from the Moors.
It grew to be one of the wealthiest in Europe, and the monks--all men
of noble birth--ruled with kindly, despotic sway over the tenants and
peasants who tilled their broad acres.

Though living in the greatest luxury, and entertaining exalted guests
with more than royal splendour, they did not ignore the claims of
charity, but dispensed food and clothing to hundreds of poor people at
their gates.

The years passed by, war and desecration stripped the abbey of its
magnificence, and now that the religious orders have been suppressed
in Portugal, and their lands confiscated by the State, the monks and
friars are to be seen no more. The church where the French soldiers
stabled their horses is once more used for holy service; but only
visitors and tourists now frequent the bare and deserted cloisters, and
the remaining portion of the vast old building is used as a cavalry
barrack.

Some fifteen miles from Alcobaça lies Batalha, another huge deserted
monastery, the finest in Portugal, or perhaps in any other European
country. The road from Alcobaça leads through vineyards and cultivated
fields to the village of Aljubarrota, where in 1385 John the Great
gained his famous victory over the Spaniards. The story is still told
of a brave baker’s wife who sallied forth during the fray armed only
with her “oven-peel”--a sort of long wooden shovel--and slew seven
Castilian soldiers with this homely weapon.

Farther on we reach a high, narrow ridge, where silvery-grey aloes grow
in the sandy soil, and many high, weather-worn stone crosses stand by
the wayside.

The road then passes through dark pine-forests, carpeted with heather,
and down to the little hamlet of Batalha. In its midst rises the vast
old abbey, a perfect dream-abbey of grandeur and beauty, with its
glorious west front and its fretted pinnacles and spires. The church
inside is severe in character, but the light which streams through
the richly coloured windows, stains the grand, simple columns with
many hues, and the wealth of carving in the chapels and cloisters is a
revelation of grace and lightness in the airy delicacy of its exquisite
tracery. If Alcobaça, with its great kitchen and hospitable traditions,
carries one’s thoughts back to the time when monks made merry there
on the best of good cheer, Batalha, on the other hand, conjures up a
vision of pious brethren living in sanctity and poverty, the dim aisles
of their beautiful church echoing to the sound of holy chant and psalm.

It was Philippa of Lancaster, Portugal’s English Queen, who first
thought of building this beautiful monastery as a perpetual memorial of
the victory of Aljubarrota. She and her husband, John the Great, are
buried in the Founders Chapel, their stone figures lying hand in hand,
beneath a canopy bearing the joint arms of England and Portugal.

The Convent of Mafra, built by John V. as a thank-offering for the
birth of a son, is another great monument of the past. It is some
twenty or thirty miles to the north of Lisbon, and is less remarkable
for its beauty than for its immense size. Even after gazing at its long
façade, and wandering for hours through its endless courts and halls,
you find it difficult to realize how huge it is. It is said to contain
2,500 doors and 5,200 windows; it took thirteen years to build--from
1717 to 1730--and at one time as many as 45,000 workmen were employed
on it.

Statues and busts adorn the building inside and out. Towers and
pavilions rise above the roof, which is crowned by a dome, and the
floors, walls and columns are of the most costly materials--rare
marbles, porphyry, jasper, and other stones collected from all parts
of the kingdom. It comprises a church, a monastery, a palace, and
barracks, and cost over £4,000,000. This sum was raised by extra
taxation, and put the final touch to the ruin and poverty of the
country.

Mafra is no great distance from one portion of the celebrated lines of
Torres Vedras, the double range of hills which runs from the town of
Alhandra on the Tagus in a north-westerly direction to the sea, and
which was fortified and held by Wellington to protect Lisbon from the
French.

It was during the gradual retreat of the English and Portuguese army
on this strong position that the Battle of Bussaco was fought. Bussaco
is a name for English people to be proud of, for it was there that on
September 27, 1810, Wellington defeated the French under Massena, “the
spoilt child of victory,” as Napoleon called him.

The British headquarters were at a little monastery hidden away in
the heart of a beautiful forest on the side of a hill, where giant
cedars and other trees and plants, collected from every corner of
the globe, grew and flourished under the fostering care of the good
Carmelite Fathers. Above the wood lies the battlefield, a steep, bare
rock-strewn ridge, which was held by the English and their Portuguese
allies against the much larger army of Massena. It was a desperate
hand-to-hand struggle, beginning at break of day, and both sides fought
with the utmost gallantry. At one moment the French actually gained the
crest of the hill, but a timely bayonet charge drove them back again,
and by midday the battle was over.

[Illustration: WASHERWOMEN AT COIMBRA.]



CHAPTER XVI

BULL-FIGHTING


We in England have many sports, such as hunting, shooting, fishing,
racing, cricket, football, and countless other games and pastimes. In
Portugal, beyond a very little shooting, there is only one real sport,
and that is bull-fighting.

It is very exciting indeed, and the Portuguese take great delight in
watching it.

Most of us think of bull-fighting as terribly cruel, and as degrading
to those who witness it, and so it is in Spain. The audience there
expect to see bulls killed, horses gored to death by cruel horns, and
many other horrors too revolting to think of.

In Portugal, however, it is altogether different, although it is still
such a dangerous amusement that a slip or a false move may cause a
man’s death. The main object is to show great skill and agility in
teasing and playing with the infuriated bull, without giving him the
chance of retaliating. Anyone who gets either himself or his horse
injured is looked on as a very clumsy fellow.

I will try to tell you all that Pedro, a little bullet-headed
Portuguese boy saw, one fine Sunday afternoon, when his father and
mother took him for the first time to see a bull-fight.

It was at Lisbon, where there is an enormous bull-ring, a great round
building standing on a hill to the north of the city, and big enough to
hold 10,000 or 12,000 people. Large crowds were trooping towards it,
some in carriages, some on foot.

Pedro was all excitement, and was quite bewildered when he got inside
at seeing so many faces, row upon row, and the boxes and stalls packed
with gaily-dressed ladies.

The building had no roof, and was divided into two parts called _sol_
and _sombra_--“sun” and “shade.” Those who could afford it sat
in the shade, those who had less of this world’s goods took cheaper
seats in the sun, which beat down fiercely on them, and until the
commencement of the sport, the sunny side was one vast sea of parasols
and umbrellas. Water-sellers with glasses and large red earthenware
jars plied a busy trade, as they passed up and down crying with shrill
voices: “Water, cold water!”

Pedro was one of the lucky ones who sat on the shady side. He was quite
cool and comfortable, so he had nothing to distract his attention from
all that was going on. A band played some preliminary music, but the
little boy could hardly listen to this, so anxious was he for the show
to begin.

At last a flourish of trumpets and the applause of the company
proclaimed that the Director of the Corrida had entered the tribune,
just below the royal box, which was empty on this occasion, though
royalty may often be seen at the bull-fights.

A bell rang, and Pedro could have screamed with delight as a gateway
facing the tribune was thrown open for a horseman and twelve men on
foot to enter. The horse was a beautiful animal, caparisoned in silk
and gold. The rider, or _cavalheiro_, was young and handsome, with
powdered hair, and dressed in a most becoming costume, such as might
have been worn by Dick Turpin or Claude Duval. He had on a dark green
coat, richly laced with gold, and with deep cuffs, broad lapels, and
ruffles at the wrists; a frilled shirt, lace cravat, a three-cornered
hat with feathers, white breeches, and high boots up to the knees. The
stirrups were of the old-fashioned, square, box-like variety common to
the country, and were of shining silver.

On either side of him stood three _banderilheiros_--men who attack
the bull on foot. They, too, had three-cornered hats, and wore
tightly-fitting jackets and breeches of bright-coloured silk,
embroidered with gold or silver lace, and gaudy coloured scarves were
wound round their waists.

Behind these were six other men, called _moços de forcado_, or
fork-men, so named from the pole, with a small blunt iron fork at one
end, which they sometimes carry. They were peasants from the plains
of Alemtejo, where the bulls are bred, and on this occasion were clad
in gay-flowered chintz jackets, drab breeches, bright sashes, white
stockings, and long green bag caps.

Whilst all these remained standing, the _cavalheiro_ rode round the
ring. He was a most finished horseman, and as he bowed gracefully, hat
in hand, making his horse caracole and amble, little Pedro quite lost
his heart to him, and thought he was the most beautiful person he had
ever seen.

After this all withdrew, and then the _cavalheiro_ returned,
accompanied by two of the _banderilheiros_ carrying red cloaks, with
which to irritate the bull. They were all provided with darts--sticks
about a foot long, with very fine barbed points, and ornamented with
floating ribbons. These have to be stuck in the upper part of the
bull’s neck, about 6 inches behind the horns, and on a spot less
than 4 inches square. It is the one part of the sport that might
be considered cruel, but the skin in that place is about 2 inches
thick, and very hard and callous, and it is said (let us hope with
truth) that the bulls hardly feel the prick.

As the feat of placing the darts is generally performed while the
animal is actually charging, it demands the utmost daring, agility, and
sureness of eye.

At a given signal a door was thrown open, and while Pedro held his
breath with excitement and terror, a fierce black bull rushed bellowing
in, and charged straight at the bold _cavalheiro_. Galloping past it,
he plunged his little dart into the animal’s neck, at the very moment
when the small spectator felt that nothing on earth could prevent both
horse and rider being thrown to the ground. For an instant the bull
turned aside, only to renew its mad rushes again and again. The rider
flew before it, or galloping alongside, and forcing his now terrified
horse to close quarters, placed his darts and wheeled away once more
with marvellous quickness to escape the horns of the enraged beast.

The performance lasted for ten minutes, and then eight or nine tame
oxen, with bells round their necks, were driven in through a large
doorway. They surrounded the wild bull, and got him to trot quietly out
with them.

All this time Pedro had been held spellbound, but the moment had now
come when his hero was to receive the reward of his prowess in the
shape of applause, clapping of hands, shouting and stamping. Caps and
hats were thrown in the air, ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and
Pedro joined with the others till he had shouted himself hoarse.

After this another bull was let in, and this time he was tackled
by two _banderilheiros_. He tossed his head, pawed up the ground,
and bellowed so loudly that it sent a cold shiver down poor little
Pedro’s back. How was it possible, he thought, for unarmed men on
foot to escape?

The bull charged straight at one of them, who stood like a statue,
holding his scarlet silk cloak in front of him. As the bull seemed
almost in the act of tossing him, he bounded lightly to one side,
striking with his dart at the same moment, and throwing the cloak into
the animal’s face. It was torn to ribbons in a few seconds, for the
enraged beast lowered his great muscular neck, and gored and tossed
it, trampling and stamping on it as though he were killing some living
thing. The next moment he was once more charging his enemy, who escaped
this time by leaping nimbly over one of the barriers which separated
the audience from the ring.

Later on a great commotion was caused by the bull himself jumping the
first barrier in pursuit of his tormentor--no mean feat, for it was
five and a half feet high. The people in the front seats were terrified
lest he might take it into his head to clear the second also, and get
in among them, and the relief was great when he was safely back in the
ring.

Another item of the programme consisted of what might almost be called
a romp with the bull, carried out by the _moços de forcado_.

One of them walked boldly forward shouting, hooting, whistling, and
throwing his arms about to attract the animal’s attention, and,
finally, leaning down with his hands on his knees, stared him straight
in the face. A furious charge followed, and quick as lightning the man
leapt upwards right between the lowered horns, which he grasped firmly
with both hands, resisting every effort made to toss him. Loud was the
applause as the maddened beast tore round the ring with his enemy borne
aloft and unhurt.

His companions now rushed forward to rescue him. With foolhardy daring
they seized the bull by the tail, the horns, the legs; pushed against
his sides, and so bewildered and overpowered him, that the man was able
to jump down in safety from his dangerous position.

The performance was divided into two parts, and there were ten bulls
in all. Several times the whole audience went, what we placid English
people would call quite “off their heads” with enthusiasm over some
special act of skill or daring, and on one occasion, not content with
shouting, stamping, and clapping, they flung gloves and handkerchiefs,
flowers and cigars into the ring at the hero’s feet.

Pedro joined in the applause, feeling quite hurt at not being allowed
to throw something himself, not even his mother’s fan, which he wanted
to do very badly indeed. He was determined that when he grew up, he,
too, would be a handsome _cavalheiro_ on a beautiful prancing horse,
and would receive the plaudits of the multitude with becoming grace. In
this happy frame of mind let us say “Good-bye” to him, and
to Portugal.


BILLING AND SONS. LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD





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