“And often brought disaster upon them,” L’Isle replied. “For instance, St. Antony is the patron saint of Portugal. I am not going to deny that he may have done them good service at times. But when the archduke, Charles of Austria, commanded the army, about 1700, the soldiers became exceedingly unruly, and demanded a native general. The king sent them St. Antony, in the shape of a wooden image. He was received with all the honors due to his rank. By royal decree a regular commission was made out, appointing him generalissimo of all the forces of Portugal, and he continued long in command; but, though an excellent saint, Antony proved a very bad general, and repeatedly brought the kingdom to the brink of ruin. They have lately been compelled to displace him. Now that Beresford does their fighting, St. Antony has full leisure to devote himself to intercession on their behalf, and, between the two, with some help from us, they are getting on pretty well.”
The commissary now hinted that they had before them all that was worth seeing in “this musty old place,” and the party passing out of the opposite gate pushed on as fast as they could over a rough road, running across a succession of hills, the off-shoots of Serra d’Ossa.
“Traveling in this country,” said Lady Mabel, as she paused with L’Isle, to let the rest of the party come up, “is like sailing over rough waters, a perpetual up and down, neither speedy nor safe.”
“Few countries exhibit a greater variety of surface than Portugal,” said L’Isle; “it may be likened to the ocean the day after a storm, when a change of wind has intersected the mountain billows with every variety of little waves. The language, accordingly, is rich in terms expressive of these variations of surface. It has Monte, a mountain; Montezhino, a little mountain; Outeiro, a hill; Outeirinho, a hillock; Serra, a lofty mountain, with various inequalities of surface; Serrania, a cluster of mountains; Penha, a rocky precipice. So that you can hardly be at a loss for a word to express the character of any elevation. Meanwhile, let us hasten up this Montezhino, for both the sun and our night’s quarters are on the other side of it, and the former will not wait for us there.”
They presently caught sight of what seemed at first to be a very tall woman; but they soon perceived that it was a friar, who, with the hood of his black cloak thrown back on his shoulders, and the skirts of his dingy grey frock girded up under St. Francis’ cord, was making such good time on his up-hill path, that they overtook him with difficulty at the top of the hill. He grasped in his hand what had a marvelous resemblance to the cajado, a seven-foot staff, pointed at one end, and with a heavy knob at the other, with which the Portuguese peasant always goes armed; and a formidable weapon it is in his skillful hands. The shortened skirt of the friar exposed a pair of muscular calves, that bore him well over the mountain road.