Agnes M Goodall.

Portugal online

. (page 5 of 5)
Online LibraryAgnes M GoodallPortugal → online text (page 5 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

for its beauty than for its immense size. Even after
gazing at its long facade, and wandering for hours
through its endless courts and halls, you find it
difficult to realize how huge it is. It is said to con-
tain 2,500 doors and 5,200 windows ; it took thirteen
years to build from 1717 to 1730 and at one time
as many as 45,000 workmen were employed on it.

Statues and busts adorn the building inside and
out. Towers and pavilions rise above the roof,
which is crowned by a dome, and the floors, walls
and columns are of the most costly materials rare
marbles, porphyry, jasper, and other stones collected
from all parts of the kingdom. It comprises a
church, a monastery, a palace, and barracks, and
cost over 4,000,000. This sum was raised by
extra taxation, and put the final touch to the ruin
and poverty of the country.



Mafra is no great distance from one portion of the
celebrated lines of Torres Vedras, the double range
of hills which runs from the town of Alhandra on
the Tagus in a north-westerly direction to the sea,
and which was fortified and held by Wellington to
protect Lisbon from the French.

It was during the gradual retreat of the English
and Portuguese army on this strong position that
the Battle of Bussaco was fought. Bussaco is a
name for English people to be proud of, for it was
there that on September 27, 1810, Wellington
defeated the French under Massena, " the spoilt
child of victory," as Napoleon called him.

The British headquarters were at a little monastery
hidden away in the heart of a beautiful forest on the
side of a hill, where giant cedars and other trees
and plants, collected from every corner of the globe,
grew and flourished under the fostering care of the
good Carmelite Fathers. Above the wood lies
the battlefield, a steep, bare rock-strewn ridge,
which was held by the English and their Portuguese
allies against the much larger army of Massena.
It was a desperate hand-to-hand struggle, beginning
at break of day, and both sides fought with the
utmost gallantry. At one moment the French
actually gained the crest of the hill, but a timely
bayonet charge drove them back again, and by
midday the battle was over.





WE in England have many sports, such as hunting,
shooting, fishing, racing, cricket, football, and
countless other games and pastimes. In Portugal,
beyond a very little shooting, there is only one real
sport, and that is bull-fighting.

It is very exciting indeed, and the Portuguese
take great delight in watching it.

Most of us think of bull-fighting as terribly
cruel, and as degrading to those who witness it,
and so it is in Spain. The audience there expect
to see bulls killed, horses gored to death by cruel
horns, and many other horrors too revolting to
think of.

In Portugal, however, it is altogether different,
although it is still such a dangerous amusement that
a slip or a false move may cause a man's death.
The main object is to show great skill and agility
in teasing and playing with the infuriated bull,
without giving him the chance of retaliating.
Anyone who gets either himself or his horse injured
is looked on as a very clumsy fellow.

po. Si ii


I will try to tell you all that Pedro, a little
bullet-headed Portuguese boy saw, one fine Sunday
afternoon, when his father and mother took him
for the first time to see a bull-fight.

It w r as at Lisbon, where there is an enormous
bull-ring, a great round building standing on a hill
to the north of the city, and big enough to hold
10,000 or 12,000 people. Large crowds were
trooping towards it, some in carriages, some on foot.

Pedro was all excitement, and was quite bewildered
when he got inside at seeing so many faces, row upon
row, and the boxes and stalls packed with gaily-
dressed ladies.

The building had no roof, and was divided into
two parts called sol and sombra " sun ' and
" shade." Those who could afford it sat in the
shade, those who had less of this world's goods took
cheaper seats in the sun, which beat down fiercely
on them, and until the commencement of the sport,
the sunny side was one vast sea of parasols and
umbrellas. Water-sellers with glasses and large
red earthenware jars plied a busy trade, as they
passed up and down crying with shrill voices :
" Water, cold water !"

Pedro was one of the lucky ones who sat on the
shady side. He was quite cool and comfortable,
so he had nothing to distract his attention from all
that was going on. A band played some preliminary



music, but the little boy could hardly listen to this,
so anxious was he for the show to begin.

At last a flourish of trumpets and the applause
of the company proclaimed that the Director of
the Corrida had entered the tribune, just below
the royal box, which was empty on this occasion,
though royalty may often be seen at the bull-fights.

A bell rang, and Pedro could have screamed with
delight as a gateway facing the tribune was thrown
open for a horseman and twelve men on foot to
enter. The horse was a beautiful animal, capari-
soned in silk and gold. The rider, or cavalheiro,
was young and handsome, with powdered hair, and
dressed in a most becoming costume, such as might
have been worn by Dick Turpin or Claude Duval.
He had on a dark green coat, richly laced with gold,
and with deep curls, broad lapels, and ruffles at
the wrists ; a frilled shirt, lace cravat, a three-
cornered hat with feathers, white breeches, and high
boots up to the knees. The stirrups were of the
old-fashioned, square, box-like variety common to
the country, and were of shining silver.

On either side of him stood three bander ilheiros
men who attack the bull on foot. They, too, had
three-cornered hats, and wore tightly-fitting jackets
and breeches of bright-coloured silk, embroidered
with gold or silver lace, and gaudy coloured scarves
were wound round their waists.

83 ii 2


Behind these were six other men, called mofos de
forcado, or fork-men, so named from the pole, with
a small blunt iron fork at one end, which they
sometimes carry. They were peasants from the
plains of Alemtejo, where the bulls are bred, and
on this occasion were clad in gay-flowered chintz
jackets, drab breeches, bright sashes, white stockings,
and long green bag caps.

Whilst all these remained standing, the cavalkeiro
rode round the ring. He was a most finished horse-
man, and as he bowed gracefully, hat in hand,
making his horse caracole and amble, little Pedro
quite lost his heart to him, and thought he was
the most beautiful person he had ever seen.

After this all withdrew, and then the cavalheiro
returned, accompanied by two of the bander ilheiros
carrying red cloaks, with which to irritate the bull.
They were all provided with darts sticks about a
foot long, with very fine barbed points, and orna-
mented with floating ribbons. These have to be
stuck in the upper part of the bull's neck, about
6 inches behind the horns, and on a spot less than
4 inches square. It is the one part of the sport
that might be considered cruel, but the skin in that
place is about 2 inches thick, and very hard and
callous, and it is said (let us hope with truth) that
the bulls hardly feel the prick.

As the feat of placing the darts is generally per-


formed while the animal is actually charging, it
demands the utmost daring, agility, and sureness
of eye.

At a given signal a door was thrown open, and
while Pedro held his breath with excitement and
terror, a fierce black bull rushed bellowing in, and
charged straight at the bold cavalheiro. Galloping
past it, he plunged his little dart into the animal's
neck, at the very moment when the small spectator
felt that nothing on earth could prevent both
horse and rider being thrown to the ground. For
an instant the bull turned aside, only to renew
its mad rushes again and again. The rider flew
before it, or galloping alongside, and forcing his
now terrified horse to close quarters, placed his
darts and wheeled away once more with marvellous
quickness to escape the horns of the enraged

The performance lasted for ten minutes, and then
eight or nine tame oxen, with bells round their necks,
were driven in through a large doorway. They
surrounded the wild bull, and got him to trot
quietly out with them.

All this time Pedro had been held spellbound, but
the moment had now come when his hero was to
receive the reward of his prowess in the shape of
applause, clapping of hands, shouting and stamp-
ing. Caps and hats were thrown in the air, ladies



waved their handkerchiefs, and Pedro joined with
the others till he had shouted himself hoarse.

After this another bull was let in, and this time
he was tackled by two banderilheiros. He tossed
his head, pawed up the ground, and bellowed so
loudly that it sent a cold shiver down poor little
Pedro's back. How was it possible, he thought, for
unarmed men on foot to escape ?

The bull charged straight at one of them, who
stood like a statue, holding his scarlet silk cloak in
front of him. As the bull seemed almost in the act
of tossing him, he bounded lightly to one side,
striking with his dart at the same moment, and
throwing the cloak into the animal's face. It was
torn to ribbons in a few seconds, for the enraged
beast lowered his great muscular neck, and gored and
tossed it, trampling and stamping on it as though
he were killing some living thing. The next moment
he was once more charging his enemy, who escaped
this time by leaping nimbly over one of the barriers
which separated the audience from the ring.

Later on a great commotion was caused by the
bull himself jumping the first barrier in pursuit of
his tormentor no mean feat, for it was five and a
half feet high. The people in the front seats were
terrified lest he might take it into his head to clear
the second also, and get in among them, and the
relief was great when he was safely back in the ring.



Another item of the programme consisted of
what might almost be called a romp with the bull,
carried out by the mofos de forcado.

One of them walked boldly forward shouting,
hooting, whistling, and throwing his arms about to
attract the animal's attention, and, finally, leaning
down with his hands on his knees, stared him straight
in the face. A furious charge followed, and quick
as lightning the man leapt upwards right between
the lowered horns, which he grasped firmly with
both hands, resisting every effort made to toss him.
Loud was the applause as the maddened beast tore
round the ring with his enemy borne aloft and

His companions now rushed forward to rescue
him. With foolhardy daring they seized the bull
by the tail, the horns, the legs ; pushed against his
sides, and so bewildered and overpowered him, that
the man was able to jump down in safety from his
dangerous position.

The performance was divided into two parts,
and there were ten bulls in all. Several times the
whole audience went, what we placid English people
would call quite " off their heads " with enthusiasm
over some special act of skill or daring, and on one
occasion, not content with shouting, stamping,
and clapping, they flung gloves and handkerchiefs,

flowers and cigars into the ring at the^tiero/jS .feet.

ft-*/ * " *

/ . .




, I


Pedro joined in the applause, feeling quite
hurt at not being allowed to throw something
himself, not even his mother's fan, which he wanted
to do very badly indeed. He was determined that
when he grew up, he, too, would be a handsome
cavalheiro on a beautiful prancing horse, and would
receive the plaudits of the multitude with becoming
grace. In this happy frame of mind let us say
" Good-bye " to him, and to Portugal.


- . '

_ ,,



1 2 3 5

Online LibraryAgnes M GoodallPortugal → online text (page 5 of 5)