Had they preserved their pedigree, this family would have found many an ancestor among the Lusitanian Moors, and afforded the most striking among the many proofs the travelers had met with, that many a Mohammedan, when the crescent waned before the cross, had preferred his country to his faith. The girls were for a while abashed at the presence of the strangers; but, with a hospitality spurred on by curiosity, soon recovered themselves, and encumbered the ladies with their attentions. Strangers they seldom saw, and these outlandish ladies were as strange to them as if they had dropped from the moon. Under pretence of assisting the travelers to rid themselves of their outer garment of dust, they examined the texture and fashion of their dresses, veils and gloves, spread out Lady Mabel’s shawl to admire the pattern, and asked more questions than she could answer or understand. They were closely inspecting the rings on her fingers, and wondering at the whiteness of her hand, when their father coming in, rebuked their obtrusiveness. He made them gather up the pile of flax, with the spindles and distaffs now lying idle on the floor, and invited the ladies to take possession of the cushions, which, after a Moorish custom still lingering here, the girls had used as seats.
L’Isle coming in and finding father and daughters bestirring themselves to make their guests comfortable, suggested that their most urgent want was water. One of the girls at once brought a cup, and one from among several jars, and, while the ladies were drinking, L’Isle called their attention to the peculiarities of the vessel, of so porous a nature, that the water, always oozing through it, kept the outside wet, the constant evaporation of a part cooling what remained within. He pointed out, too, the peculiar fashion of the jar—its beautiful and classic mould indicating that, amidst the corruption of taste and the loss of arts, in pottery at least, the antique type of form had been faithfully handed down from the time of the Roman. But the ladies were too busy with the water to bestow much thought on the jar, and L’Isle’s lesson in vertu was pretty much lost on them.
The house consisted of several small rooms, besides the larger apartment, in which, after a while, the whole party was collected, including the servants and muleteer. The girls called in an old woman to assist them in their household duties, and she employed herself at the smoky fire-place in cooking some sausages, which, by the perfume they soon diffused through the room, proved that in stuffing them the genus allium had not been forgotten. To give a classic flavor to the fumes, L’Isle found himself quoting the lines:
“Thestylis et rapido fessis messoribus
Allia serpyllumque herbas contundit olentes.”