THIRD DAY.
Conversation with an Ex-missionary from China. - Wonders of the Imperial
Gardens. Strange Belief of the Emperor of China.
THE first sounds I heard upon awakening this superiorly fine and glowing
morning, was not "the charm of early birds," but the obstreperous
rattle of a violent altercation, or, in simple truth, a downright squabble
which broke out, in the vestibule adjoining my room, between the Grand
Prior's secretary and a confidential attendant of my good friend of
"You know," said the first-mentioned  shrill-voiced consequential
personage, "my master is too lazy to stir from his shady quarters
whilst the sun shines out in so fierce a manner."
"You know," answered the other, " that we have business
of urgency at Alcobaça, and the Prince Regent's command to perform
it with the less delay the better."
"You do not pretend," rejoined the secretary, "do you,
to force on his excellency whether he will or not ?"
"What, does he mean to loiter the whole day in our garden of Eden?
Shall we not advance as far as Cadafaiz in the cool of the evening ?"
"Not we: his excellency has made up his mind to take his fill of
repose, and I am not the man to contradict him."
"Then you are a rebellious fool for your pains, and have forgotten
his royal highness's express orders. Go on drinking the waters
of Lethe if you dare."
 "Va beber," &c. "Go, drink the filthiest
puddle in these orchards," rejoined the waspish and irritated secretary.
Tingle, tingle, tingle, went the Grand Prior's silver bell; off ran
the disputants, and out came I into the vast echoing vestibule, opening,
by as many glazed doors as there are days in a month, into the orange
If ever a decent excuse could be offered for perfect laziness, it was
to be found in the warm, enervating atmosphere, loaded with perfume,
which universally invested this pleasant umbrageous region. No wonder
my Lord of Aviz, the most consummate professor of" il dolce far
niente" in all Portugal, and Algarve to boot, could not be withdrawn
from it without infinite reluctance. He could hardly even be persuaded
to traverse a short avenue which led to a summer pavilion on the banks
of the river, where our morning collation was prepared. The Prior of
St. Vincent's had a  sort of romantic scheme of having our repast
spread out on a little remnant of greensward which the heats had spared,
and sitting down to it in the Oriental style; but his illustrious colleague
gently intimated a preference to chairs and tables.
In addition to our usual party I found a certain padre, Machado, or
Azevedo, or some such name, who had not been long returned from China-nay,
from Pekin itself. During his residence at Macao, he had learnt sufficient
English from one of the padres of our Canton factory the chaplain,
I suppose to read Sir William Chambers' most florid essay on
Chinese gardening. I asked him how many words of truth there might happen
to be in all this luxuriant description? He answered, not in plain English,
but in a most delectable jargon, half Chinese sing-song, half lingua
franca "There be ten-tousand-time-ten-tousand."
You don't mean to assure me," said I,  that our famous
architect's most wonderful account of the magical splendour of Yven-ming-Yven
and Tchang-tchung-Yven is not exaggerated ?
It is not," answered the padre in sound Portuguese, having
quitted the straits and shallows of very scanty English for the full
flow of his vernacular language: "I have seen greater wonders
than he I have seen in the depth of winter a whole extent of
garden warmed by a deliciously mild and scented vapour, and all the
trees covered with silken leaves and artificial flowers, and, on a pool
of water, as clear and transparent as the sky it reflected, hundreds
of gaily-enamelled ducks, formed of metal, swimming by mechanism, and
by mechanism opening all their bills and uttering their accustomed sound
with their usual volubility, and swallowing the food the eunuchs of
the palace cast to them, ay, and re-  turning it again, to
all appearance most happily digested, the emperor standing by all the
while, laughing at my surprise, and believing himself neither more nor
less, I am entirely convinced, than an incarnation of the god Fo!"
"Dreadful!" exclaimed the Grand Prior: "I wonder he has
not shared the fate of Nebuchadnezzar!"
"He should have been sent to grass at once," observed the
Prior of St. Vincent's.
"That would have been a pity," rejoined the ex-missionary;
"for, notwithstanding his Tartarian nonsense about incarnations
and such like, and the impossibility I experienced of making him comprehend
our own ineffable mysteries, I must declare him to be a wise monarch
and an excellent man."
That is more difficult to believe than all you have told us,"
observed the Grand  Prior, "when we reflect upon the horrid
impiety of believing one's self Fo."
"There is no lie in the world people will not believe," replied
the missionary, "provided they are often told it by flatterers
in whom, for the very reason they ought not, they take delight in placing
confidence; and when all the princes of the blood, all the courtiers,
and all the mandarins of the different tribunals, are continually pouring
forth addresses at the foot of the throne, assuring his imperial majesty
Kien-Long, that he is the son of heaven, a god upon earth! what would
you have him do ?"
Go to the devil his own way, as there is no other remedy,"
said our hospitable host with a hearty laugh. "We are to conclude,
no doubt, you did your best to bring him round: perhaps you may succeed
better another time." (The padre was on the eve of returning
to his mission.) "And now let us go to mass," continued
the Prior,  bowing to his excellency of Aviz, "and pray for
the emperor's conversion!"
So to mass they went, and then a-fishing; and the evening of this day
was like the morning all warmth, and chat, and idleness.