But here comes a native of this region to enliven, if not adorn, the landscape. This lean, swarthy young fellow, under his sombrero with ample brim, exhibits a fair specimen of the peasants of Alemtejo. His sheep-skin jacket hangs loosely from his shoulders, and between his nether garment and his clumsy shoes, he displays the greater part of a pair of sinewy legs, which would be brown, were they not so well powdered with the slate dust of the rocky road he travels. With a long goad he urges on the panting beasts, yoked to the rudest of all vehicles—the bullock cart of Portugal. Its low wheels, made of solid wooden blocks, are fastened to the axle-tree, which turns with them, and at every step squeaks out complaining notes under the burden of a cask of the muddy and little prized wine of the province, which is seeking a market at Elvas.
The carter is now overtaken by a peasant girl, who, with basket on her arm, has been gathering chesnuts and bolotas in the wood. They are no strangers to each other, and she exchanges her brisk, elastic step, for a pace better suited to that of the toiling oxen. The beauty of this dusky belle consists of a smiling mouth, bright black eyes, and youth and health. Though fond of gaudy colors, she is not over dressed. A light handkerchief rather binds her raven hair than covers her head. Her bright blue petticoat, scanty in length, and her orange-colored spencer, open in front, both well worn, and showing here and there a rent, but half conceal the graces of her form, and a pair of nimble feet, scorning the trammels of leather, pick their way skillfully along the stony path. That she does not contemn ornament, is shown by her one small golden ear-ring, long since divorced from its mate, and the devout faith which glows in her bosom is symbolized by the little silver image of our lady, slung from her neck by a silken cord, spun by her own silk worms, and twisted by her own hands. In short, she is neither beautiful, nor noble, nor rich; yet her company seems instantly to smooth the road and lighten the toils of travel to her swain. He helps himself, unasked, out of her basket, and urges her to partake of the stores of his leathern wallet—hard goat’s cheese—and the crumbling loaf of broa, or maize bread. Soon in deep and sweet conference, in their crabbed, but expressive tongue, he forgets to make occasional use of his goad, and thus keeping pace with the loitering bullocks, they go leisurely along. Let them pass on, and wait for better game.
Turn and look at this cavalcade toiling up toward you. A sudden bend in the road has brought it into view, and its aspect, half native, half foreign—its mixed civil and military character—attract attention. Two mounted orderlies, in a British uniform, lead the way, and are followed by a clumsy Lisbon coach, every part of it well laden with luggage. It is drawn by four noble mules, such as are seldom seen out of the peninsula, deserving more stylish