第43章 8th January,1836(1)

To the Rev.A.Brandram (ENDORSED:recd.Feb.15,1836)Badajoz,JANRY.8,1836.



ON the afternoon of the sixth of December I set out for this place,accompanied by my servant Anthonio.I had been informed that the tide would serve for the FELOUKS,or passage-boats,employed in crossing the Tagus,at about four o'clock,but on reaching the river's side opposite Aldea Gallega,between which place and Lisbon they ply,I found that the tide would not permit them to start before eight o'clock.Had I waited for them I should probably have landed at Aldea Gallega at midnight,and I felt little inclination to make my ENTREE in the Alemtejo at that hour;therefore as I saw small boats which can push off at any time lying near in abundance,I determined upon hiring one of them for the passage,though the expense would be thus considerably increased.I soon agreed with a wild-looking lad to take us over,who told me that he was in part owner of one of the boats.I was not aware of the danger in crossing the Tagus at any time in these small boats at its broadest part,which is between Lisbon and Aldea Gallega,but especially at close of day in the winter season,or I should certainly not have ventured.The lad and his comrade,a miserable object,whose only clothing,notwithstanding the severity of the weather,was a battered jerkin and trousers,rowed until we had advanced about half a mile from the land;they then hoisted a large sail,and the lad,who seemed to be the principal and to direct everything,took the helm and steered.The evening was now setting in;the sun was not far from its bourne in the horizon,the air was very cold,the wind was rising,and the waves of the noble Tagus began to be crested with foam.I told the boy that it was scarcely possible for the boat to carry so much sail without upsetting;upon which he laughed,and began to gabble in a most incoherent manner.He had the most harsh and rapid articulation that has ever come under my observation;it was the scream of the hyena blended with the bark of the terrier;but it was by no means an index of his disposition,which I soon found to be light,merry,and anything but malevolent;for when I,in order to show him that I cared little about him,began to hum:'EU QUE SOU CONTRABANDISTA'('I,who am a smuggler'),he laughed heartily,and clapping me on the shoulder said that he would not drown us if he could help it.The other poor fellow seemed by no means averse to go to the bottom;he sat at the forepart of the boat looking the image of famine,and only smiled when the waters broke over the side and drenched his scanty clothing.In a little time I had made up my mind that our last hour was come;the wind was becoming higher,the short dangerous waves were more foamy,the boat was frequently on its beam-ends,and the water came over the lee side in torrents;but still the wild lad at the helm held on,laughing and chattering,and occasionally yelling out parts of the Miguelite air 'QUANDO EL REYCHEGOU'['When the King arrived'],the singing of which in Lisbon is punished with imprisonment.The stream was against us,but the wind was in our favour,and we sprang along at a wonderful rate.Isaw that our only chance of escape was in speedily getting under the shelter of that part of the farther bank of the Tagus,where the bight or bay commences at the extremity of which stands Aldea Gallega,as we should not then have to battle with the waves of the adverse stream,which the wind lashed into fury.It was the will of the Almighty to permit us speedily to gain this shelter,but not before the boat was nearly filled with water,and we were all wet to the skin.At about seven o'clock in the evening we reached Aldea Gallega,shivering with cold and in a most deplorable plight.

Aldea Gallega,or the Galician Village,for the two words have that signification,is a place containing,I should think,about four thousand inhabitants.It was pitchy dark when we landed,but rockets soon began to fly about in all directions,illumining the air far and wide.As we passed along the dirty unpaved street which leads to the LARGO or square in which the town is situated,a horrible uproar of drums and voices assailed our ears.On enquiring the cause of all this bustle,I was informed that it was the Eve of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin.As it was not the custom of the people of the inn to provide provisions for the guests,I wandered about in search of food,and at last seeing some soldiers eating and drinking in a sort of wine-house,I went in and asked the people to let me have some supper.In a short time they furnished me with a tolerable meal,for which,however,they charged two crowns.

Having engaged with a person for mules to carry us to Evora,which were to be ready at five next morning,I soon retired to bed,my servant sleeping in the same apartment,which was the only one in the house vacant.I closed not an eye during the whole night;beneath us was a stable in which some ALMOCREVES,or carriers,slept with their mules,and at our back in the yard was a hog-stye.

How could I sleep?The hogs grunted;the mules screamed;and the ALMOCREVES snored most horribly.I heard the village clock strike the hours until midnight,and from midnight till four in the morning,when I sprang up and began to dress,and despatched my servant to hasten the man with his mules,for I was heartily tired of the place,and wished to leave it.

An old man,but remarkably bony and hale,accompanied by a bare-footed lad,brought the beasts.He was the proprietor of them,and intended to accompany us to Evora with the lad,who was his nephew.