“I were a heretic to complain,” she answered. “It is true the room has no window; but it has a square hole in the wall to let in the light and let out the foul air. The bed is hard and not over tidy. But what is wanting in cleanliness is made up in holiness; for the bedstead has an elaborate crucifix carved at its head, and I shall sleep under its immediate protection. On the slightest alarm, by merely throwing my arms upward, I can lay hold on the cross, and nothing will be wanting to the sense of security but faith in this material symbol of my faith. I shall have saintly company, too. On the wall to the right is a print of St. Christopher carrying the infant Christ over a river, and a bishop, in full canonicals, waiting on the other side, with outstretched arms, to receive him; on the left, is a picture of St. Antony, of Padua, preaching to the fishes. Religion is truly part and parcel of this people’s every day life; and the reality of their devotion, and the falsehood and frivolity of many of its objects, make a contrast truly painful to me.”
Old Moodie, the muleteer, and the servants, having seen after their horses and mules, now came straggling into this hall, common to all the inmates of the house. Here they accommodated themselves with such seats as they could find, or contrive out of the baggage; and one of L’Isle’s servants produced the rabbits and partridges purchased on the road, with some other provisions brought from Elvas. These he gave to the woman of the house to cook for the travelers, and no objection was started as to cooking flesh, that other people might commit the sin of eating it on a fast day. The whole party sat in a large semi-circle around the fire, conversing and watching the cooking of their supper; but no sooner did the savory fumes diffuse themselves through the building than another personage joined them. A stout pig, evidently a denizen of the house, came trotting and grunting out of the stable, and pushed his way into the interior of the social circle. Though he received some rude buffets, he persisted in keeping within it, until, trenching on Lady Mabel’s precincts, she made such an application of her riding-wand that he was glad to seek refuge again among his four-legged companions.
“It would seem,” Lady Mabel remarked, “that these Vendas are caravansaries, providing only shelter for the traveler, who is expected to bring his own food.”
“This is so true, that it is a blessing there are no game laws in the peninsula,” said L’Isle. “The traveler would often starve at the inn but for the game purchased on the road. And it is well to travel prepared to shoot one’s own game, as you are perpetually threatened with famine or robbers. The cookery, too, of this country is peculiar, and if you ladies watch the process closely, you may carry home some valuable hints in what some people think the first of the arts.”