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PAGE 3

Some Portuguese Sketches
by [?]

Though little apt to do what is supposed to be a traveller’s duty in visiting certain obvious places of interest, I one day hunted for the English cemetery in which Fielding lies buried, and found it at last just at the back of a little open park or garden where children were playing. On going in I found myself alone save for a gardener who was cutting down some rank grass with a scythe. This cemetery is the quietest and most beautiful I ever saw. One might imagine the dead were all friends. They are at anyrate strangers in a far land, an English party with one great man among them. I found his tomb easily, for it is made of massive blocks of stone. Having brought from home his little Voyage to Lisbon, written just before he died, I took it out, sat down on the stone, and read a page or two. He says farewell at the very end. As I sat, the strange and melancholy suggestion of the dead man speaking out of that great kind heart of his, now dust, the strong contrast between the brilliant sunlight and the heavy sombreness of the cypresses of death, the song of spring birds and the sound of children’s voices, were strangely pathetic. I rose up and paced that little deadman’s ground which was still and quiet. And on another grave I read but a name, the name of some woman “Eleanor.” After life, and work, and love, this is the end. Yet we do remember Fielding.

On the following day I went to Cintra out of sheer ennui, for my inability to talk Portuguese made me silent and solitary perforce. And at Cintra I evaded my obvious duty, and only looked at the lofty rock on which the Moorish castle stands. For one thing the hill was swathed in mists, it rained at intervals, a kind of bitter tramontana was blowing. And after running the gauntlet of a crowd of vociferous donkey-boys I was anxious to get out of the town. I made acquaintance with a friendly Cintran dog and went for a walk. My companion did not object to my nationality or my inability to express myself in fluent Portuguese, and amused himself by tearing the leaves of the Australian gum-trees, which flourish very well in Portugal. But at last, in cold disgust at the uncharitable puritanic weather which destroyed all beauty in the landscape, I returned to the town. Here I passed the prison. On spying me the prisoners crowded to the barred windows; those on the lower floor protruded their hands, those on the upper storey sent down a basket by a long string; I emptied my pockets of their coppers. It seemed not unlike giving nuts to our human cousins at the Zoo. Surely Darwin is the prince of pedigree-makers. Before him the darings of the bravest herald never went beyond Adam. He has opened great possibilities to the College dealing with inherited dignity of ancient fame.

This Cintra is a town on a hill and in a hole, a kind of half-funnel opening on a long plain which is dotted by small villages and farms. If the donkey-boys were extirpated it might be fine on a fine day.

Returning to the station, I ensconced myself in a carriage out of the way of the cutting wind, and talked fluent bad French with a kindly old Portuguese who looked like a Quaker. Two others came in and entered into a lively conversation in which Charing Cross and London Bridge occurred at intervals. It took an hour and a quarter to do the fifteen mites between Cintra and Lisbon. I was told it was considered by no means a very slow train. Travelling in Portugal may do something to reconcile one to the trains in the south-east of England.

The last place I visited in Lisbon was the market. Outside, the glare of the hot sun was nearly blinding. Just in that neighbourhood all the main buildings are purely white, even the shadows make one’s eyes ache. In the open spaces of the squares even brilliantly-clad women seemed black against white. Inside, in a half-shade under glass, a dense crowd moved and chattered and stirred to and fro. The women wore all the colours of flowers and fruit, but chiefly orange. And on the stone floor great flat baskets of oranges, each with a leaf of green attached to it, shone like pure gold. Then there were red apples, and red handkerchiefs twisted over dark hair. Milder looking in tint was the pale Japanese apple with an artistic refinement of paler colour. The crowd, the good humour, the noise, even the odour, which was not so offensive as in our English Covent Garden, made a striking and brilliant impression. Returning to the hotel, I was met by a scarlet procession of priests and acolytes who bore the Host. The passers-by mostly bared their heads. Perhaps but a little while ago every one might have been worldly wise to follow their example, for the Inquisition lasted till 1808 in Spain.