COUNTRY WAYS AND COUNTRY FOLK
 THE Portuguese peasants, dark-faced and unshaven, often look such ruffians that at first, when
you meet them on some lonely country track, you would not be at all surprised if they
brandished a knife over your head with the blood-curdling challenge of "Your money or your
But in reality they are nice civil fellows, anxious to please in any way they can,
friendly and full of natural politeness. Do you ask your way in broken sentences, your
scanty Portuguese vocabulary helped out with signs and gesticulations, the Portuguese
workman will take the greatest trouble, first of all to discover your meaning, and then to
help you and make himself understood, even going out of his way to accompany you to some
point of vantage, from whence he may the more easily direct you. Then, with a smile, a
bow, and lifted hat, he will go on his way ready to act the good Samaritan to the next
Would you like to imagine you are going for a walk in Portugal, and that you see all the
 country folk we should pass? Let us choose a pretty walk—say down the valley to
Collares, that little village of vintage fame at the foot of the Cintra range of
mountains, which tower above us on the left, their summits standing out in bold masses of
rock, clear-cut against a deep blue sky.
It is spring-time, and all the fruit-trees are in blossom. Tender spring colouring throws
its veil of softest shimmering green over the tall poplars, and wherever we look there are
wild-flowers, springing up in the fields and on the roadside and on the rock-strewn slopes
of the untilled land. Such wild-flowers! Vivid gentian-blue, and deepest rose, and many
that we know quite well, and cultivate with so much trouble in our gardens at home. Tall,
starry-shaped asphodels, slender white lilies and large blue ones, snapdragons, lupins,
orchids, gladioli, blue and yellow irises, mallows, foxgloves, and many others; and
climbing among the cistusbushes are wild-roses, and sweet-smelling honey-suckle and
everlasting peas, and there are the large, rose-like white flowers of the cistus itself,
with a handsome dark brown blotch on each leaf. Brightest of all are the fields of blue
convolvulus, looking as though a piece of summer sky had lost itself, and had been caught
and held prisoner in the grass.
Down the valley flows a little brook clear as crystal, which goes bubbling and gurgling
 gliding shyly round the big rocks as though it wondered what it would find on the other
side, and then, grown bolder, leaping with a sparkle and a splash over some tiny waterfall
into a deeper pool below. There is an old moss-grown bridge with maidenhair ferns peeping
out from between the stones. We cross over, and before long the footpath comes out into
the dusty road.
GOING TO SEE FRIENDS.
Presently we meet a girl on a donkey, sitting sideways on a funny-looking affair which
does service for a saddle, and which half smothers her small mount. She has got her best
shawl on, and her brightest orange handkerchief tied over her head, and because the sun is
hot (and perhaps still more because she is going to visit some friends, and wishes to
appear smart), she is holding up an old green umbrella.
Next, we meet another donkey, but he is a less prosperous beast than his brother who has
just gone by. Thin and tired, he droops his head, and his ears lop sideways in a depressed
way; and no wonder, for hanging on either side of his pack-saddle are huge baskets filled
with earth, and piled above them and across his poor little back are great bundles and
sacks stuffed with green fodder. Perched, goodness knows how, on top of all, sits an old
country-woman. There is hardly any donkey to be seen, except the head and legs, and a few
 above the tail. We wonder how he can get along at all, but his mistress won't let him
dawdle; and as her ruthless stick comes down with a crack on the few available inches, we
feel we would give anything to save his poor thinly-covered bones.
Sights of this kind are the one thing that would make English boys and girls miserable in
Portugal. Kind as the people are to one another and to their children, their poor animals
are often most brutally over-laden, overworked, and beaten. No one seems to think that
animals need kindness and consideration, no one minds seeing acts of cruelty.
But let us walk on and try to forget that poor patient little donkey. What is this coming
down the road in a cloud of dust? A horseman, cantering along with his heavy overcoat
flying out behind him. He is riding a pretty little bay horse, hardly bigger than a pony,
with fine legs and muzzle, long tail and mane, great big eyes looking about him, and ears
pricked well forward. What a strange figure the rider makes! He is sitting on a very high
saddle covered with flapping goat-skins, and his feet disappear into the quaintest of
stirrups, veritable wooden boxes, handsomely ornamented with brass-work. He has a
brightly-coloured striped rug, with many tassels, rolled up and thrown across the front of
his saddle, and various other odds and ends are swinging about. He is a young farmer, and
 himself rather a fine fellow, with his broad-brimmed felt hat, wide, magenta-coloured
sash, and thick black overcoat or cloak, with fur collar and scarlet lining. It has,
however, not struck him to shave since last Sunday week, and his appearance is that of the
villain in a play.