He turned to look at them as they drew near, and they saw that he was a young man, not much over twenty, tall and strong, and remarkably well made and good-looking.
Old Moodie cast a sinister look on him, and longed to strip him of his frock, and put him between the stilts of a plough.
“This is a noble specimen,” the commissary remarked, “of that useless army the country maintains at free quarters. His ration would more than feed one English or two Portuguese soldiers for its defence.”
“I would like to turn him loose on a Frenchman,” said L’Isle, “armed, like himself, only with the cajado. What a recruit Beresford lost when this young fellow put on the uniform of St. Francis’ brigade!”
L’Isle exchanged greetings with the young friar as he rode up abreast of him, and entered into conversation with him at the suggestion of Lady Mabel, who, partly to annoy her crusty watchman behind her, affected to be much interested in this young limb of the church.
The able bodied servant of St. Francis proved intelligent and sociable, and, while he eyed the travelers, particularly Lady Mabel, with much interest, let them know that he had left his conventual home at Villa Vicosa, on a visit to his mother, who lived at a village al, and that he would pass the night at near Ameixial, and that he would pass the night at the venda near the bottom of the hill. They being also bound thither, he joined them without ceremony, keeping up with them with ease, while he drew out the news by a number of questions, which showed that he was truly an active young friar, disposed to gather ideas as well as alms on his perambulations.
When late arriving at our inn of
Whose roof exposed to many a winter sky,
Half shelters from the wind the shivering guest,
By the pale lamp’s dreary gloom
I mark the miserable room,
And gaze with angry eye
On the hard lot of honest poverty,
And sickening at the monster brood
Who fill with wretchedness a world so good.
It was twilight when they reached the venda, a large but somewhat ruinous building, surrounded by a few scattered trees, on the sloping ground near the foot of the hill. The arriero led his mules through the archway which formed the only entrance, and the travelers following found themselves beside and almost in a large apartment, which served at once as kitchen, parlor and dining-room to this house of refuge, which betrayed by many signs, that if it had ever done a thriving business, that day had long gone by. Dismounting here, their horses were led on into the stable under the same roof, and imperfectly separated from the kitchen by a rude wall.