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Title: Ponce de Leon - The Rise of the Argentine Republic
Author: Pilling, William
Language: English
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PONCE DE LEON

NOTE.--This book was first published in 1878, and has long been
out of print. The work has been recognized as the best and most
accurate description yet written of the British Invasion, and
the rise of the Argentine Republic.


PONCE DE LEON

The Rise of the Argentine Republic

by

AN ESTANCIERO


    BUENOS AIRES                 LONDON
MITCHELL'S BOOK STORE       T. WERNER LAURIE
  530 CANGALLO 578           CLIFFORD'S INN
                      1910


   Al Gran Pueblo Argentino ¡Salud!



CONTENTS

                                BOOK I

                   THE BABYHOOD OF A GREAT NATION

    CHAP.                                                           PAGE
         Prologue                                                     3
      I. Father and Son                                               5
     II. How Don Gregorio Lopez sought an Answer to the
         Question of the Day                                         11
    III. Concerning the danger of Friendship with an Enemy           20
     IV. Showing how a Patriot may also be a Traitor                 29
      V. Perdriel                                                    36
     VI. In which it appears that a lesson may be well taught
         and yet not learned                                         47
    VII. The 12th August, 1806                                       53


                                BOOK II

                     THE PROWESS OF A YOUNG GIANT

         Prologue                                                    61
      I. At the Quinta de Ponce                                      63
     II. The Yeomanry of Buenos Aires                                71
    III. Arming the Slaves                                           78
     IV. Standing alone                                              85
      V. An Evening in the month of June                             93
     VI. The Landing of the English                                 100
    VII. The Baptism of Fire                                        110
   VIII. Los Corrales de La Miserere                                117
     IX. The Night of Sorrow                                        121
      X. The Council of War                                         131
     XI. The Pathways of Death                                      141
    XII. The Afternoon of the 5th July                              152
   XIII. The Capitulation of the 6th July                           158
         Epilogue to Books I. and II.: The Monuments and the
         Rewards of Victory                                         162
         Appendix: The Court Martial                                163


                               BOOK III

                         THE UNKNOWN FUTURE

         Prologue                                                   167
      I. At the Quinta de Don Alfonso                               169
     II. The Episode of the fair Mauricia                           175
    III. Watch and Wait                                             187
     IV. The raising of the Veil                                    193
      V. To our Friends the English!                                202


                                BOOK IV

                         THE DAWN OF FREEDOM

             PART I.--THE BRIGHTENING OF THE EASTERN SKY

         Prologue                                                   213
      I. Magdalen                                                   215
     II. How Don Gregorio Lopez a second time sought an Answer
         to the Question of the Day                                 223
    III. Several ways of looking at one Question                    227
     IV. How the Spaniards also proposed to themselves a
         Question, and how Don Carlos Evaña prepared an Answer      234
      V. How the Viceroy took Counsel with Don Roderigo             242
     VI. The Eve of a great Even      t                             249
    VII. The 1st January, 1809                                      258
   VIII. Evaña's Dream                                              267
     IX. The Day after                                              273
      X. America for the Americans                                  279


                                BOOK V

                         THE DAWN OF FREEDOM

                PART II.--THE MISTS OF THE EARLY MORN

         Prologue                                                   287
      I. The two Viceroys                                           289
     II. The Tertulia at the House of my lady Josefina              298
    III. La Junta de los Comandantes                                307
     IV. How Don Carlos Evaña attacked the Wild-duck, and
         routed them with great slaughter                           313
      V. How the Viceroy placed a sword in the hands of the
         enemies of Spain                                           323
     VI. ¡Caducó la España!                                         331


                                BOOK VI

                                LIBERTY

         Prologue                                                   347
      I. How the last Tie was broken                                349
     II. How Don Gregorio Lopez for the third time sought an
         Answer to the Question of the Day                          356
    III. The Opening of the month of May                            360
     IV. Dias de la Patria                                          367
      V. The 25th May, 1810                                         375
     VI. Lions in the Path                                          383
    VII. The first Fight in the War of Independence                 388
   VIII. How General Liniers lost an important Ally                 397
     IX. La Cabeza del Tigre                                        401
      X. Once more in the Porch together                            408


                          GENERAL EPILOGUE

      I. The Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires                            419
     II. The Year 1810                                              420
    III. Paraguay                                                   422
     IV. The Banda Oriental                                         422
      V. The Army of Upper Peru                                     424
     VI. The Sovereign People                                       427
    VII. The Congress of Tucuman                                    433
   VIII. Independence                                               434



BOOK I

THE BABYHOOD OF A GREAT NATION



PROLOGUE


The Argentine Republic drew her first faltering breath in a time of
universal tumult. Europe was in a blaze from the confines of Russia to
the Atlantic; the air reeked with blood, the demon of war strode
rough-shod over a whole continent, at each step crushing some ancient
nation to the dust. The peoples of Europe, down-trodden for ages, rose
in their misery and barbarism against their oppressors and wrote out
their certificate of Freedom in characters of blood; they asserted their
right to be men not slaves, and their voice as that of a mighty trumpet
reverberated throughout the earth. In the hearts of the Spanish Creoles
of America that voice found an echo.

       *       *       *       *       *

Spain arrogated to herself unlimited power over the nations she had
founded, witting not that they were nations. Though they were of her own
bone and her own blood, she knew them not as children, but as
bond-slaves, who existed to do her bidding.

       *       *       *       *       *

The voice of France in the first throes of her great agony sounded in
the ears of these bond-slaves, and in secret conclave they whispered one
to another, asking one another wistfully, whether they were men and not
slaves. To this whispered question for long there was no answer, for
Spain was to them as their mother.

       *       *       *       *       *

Can a mother sin in the eyes of her own child?



PONCE DE LEON



CHAPTER I

FATHER AND SON


"Thank God I am not a Spaniard."

"Marcelino! my son! what new heresy is this?"

"It is no new heresy at all, my mother; it is a fact. Thank God I am not
a Spaniard. I am an American, and the day will come when we Americans
will show the world that we are men and not slaves."

"Marcelino! Be comforted, my son; it is the fortune of war. You at any
rate did your duty, and did not fly till you were left alone. I should
have mourned for you if you had been killed. My heart would have been
desolate, my son, if I had lost you; now I have you yet, and I am proud
of you."

As the stately lady spoke thus, she laid her hands upon her son's
shoulder, while he sat gloomily on a low chair; and bending over him,
kissed him fondly on the cheek; then, still leaning on him, she raised
one hand to his head, running her taper fingers through the tangled
locks of curly black hair which covered it. As she thus caressed him,
the look of sullen gloom gradually vanished from his face; he looked up
at her with eyes the counterparts of her own in their lustrous
blackness, but differing from hers as those of an eager, passionate man
differ from those of a compassionate, tender-hearted woman.

"Mother," he said, raising his hand to his head, and taking her hand in
his own, "sit down and let us talk, for I am going."

"Going! at such a time as this!" answered she, drawing a stool towards
her, and seating herself on it beside him, still resting with one hand
upon his shoulder, and leaning upon him.

"Yes, mother, going. There will be no more fighting here now, our
citizens do not like that work, they told us so to-day pretty plainly
when we tried to make them stop and meet the English in the suburbs."

"Going! but where will you go?"

"Anywhere where I can be of more use than here. I cannot stop to see the
disgrace of my native city. To-morrow the English will march in in
triumph, with their flags flaunting in the air, and their music playing
before them. They will march through these streets of ours I tell you,
mother; the English flag will fly from the flag-staff in the fort
to-morrow, and Buenos Aires will be an English city. Our Buenos Aires,
my mother, will be an English city, an English conquest."

"To what God sends there is nothing but resignation, Marcelino."

"God has nothing to do with it, mother; Spain has decreed that we are
slaves and not men. Had we been men, do you think a handful of English
could take a city like this?"

"They took us by surprise, when we were not ready for them. Wait till
Sobremonte has time to collect troops, he will soon drive them back
again to their ships."

"Sobremonte! If you had seen him at the fort to-day, mother, you would
not have much hope from him. The most helpless old woman would have been
as much use as he was to-day. The only man to whom we can look now is
Liniers. Sobremonte and all the rest will give up their swords and swear
fidelity to Great Britain to-morrow."

"So your father told me just now, Marcelino; he says it is the only
thing they can do."

"He is a Spaniard, and thinks as a Spaniard; of course he must go with
the rest. Thank God I am not a Spaniard."

"The Spaniards will soon drive the English out again. Huidobro will send
troops from Monte Video, or they will send an army from Spain."

"And why should we look to Spain? Are there not plenty of us to drive
away not one thousand but ten thousand English? But what has Spain ever
done for us that we should fight her battles for her? We have no quarrel
with these English; for my part I should like to be good friends with
them; but give up my country to them, and let them rule over us--never!"

"No, we will never do that, Marcelino; but you spoke just now of
Liniers. What can he do?"

"He is a brave man, and a soldier; with the few troops he had he beat
off the English when they tried to land at Ensenada; so they came
nearer, and landed at Quilmes, and our army fled from them like sheep.
If Liniers will head us we will soon get enough paisanos together to
drive these English into the sea."

"Sobremonte will not permit him to do anything of the kind. What can
gauchos do with their lassoes and boleadores against troops?"

"Liniers is not a Spaniard, he is a Frenchman, and would care very
little for Sobremonte if he had men behind him; and men he will have for
the asking, that I can promise him."

"All that is nonsense, Marcelino; you must not go away, you must stop
here with me, you will ruin yourself with these strange ideas. Do not
leave me; promise me that you will not go away."

       *       *       *       *       *

So talked a mother and a son together in the city of Buenos Aires on the
evening of the 26th June 1806. An army of invaders had landed on the
coast, and was now encamped close to the city; the soldiers of Spain had
fled before them. On the morrow these invaders proposed to themselves to
march into the city, and to take possession of it in the name of the
King of Great Britain.

Marcelino Ponce de Leon was the eldest son of one of the Spanish
grandees, who ruled over the Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires; but his
mother was a Creole, the daughter of a Creole, and Buenos Aires was his
native city.

About the year 1780, Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon left Spain for Buenos
Aires in the employ of the Spanish government. Don Roderigo was a scion
of the noble house of Ponce de Leon, whose great ancestor, his namesake,
the Marquis of Cadiz, is famed in song and story as the chief of those
mighty warriors whose valour crushed for ever the power of the Moors in
Spain. He it was who captured the fortress of Alhama, the first victory
in that long series of victories which left Ferdinand and Isabella joint
sovereigns of the whole of Spain. A victory chronicled in the _Romance
mui dolorosa del sitio y toma de Alhama_, in which the distress and
consternation of the Moors is vividly set forth:

  "Por las calles y ventanas,
  Mucho luto parecia,
  Llora el Rey como fembra,
  Que es mucho lo que perdia,
         ¡Ay de mi! ¡Alhama!"[1]

Don Roderigo was proud of his ancestry, but in the diplomatic service of
Spain he had in his youth travelled in France and in England. He had
mingled with the young nobles of the Court of Versailles, whose talk was
of the rights of man, witting not that they themselves stood in the way
of these rights, and would presently be overwhelmed in that mighty flood
of revolution which reduced their theorising to practice; who talked of
liberty as of a glorious dream, and later on stood aghast when their
dream became a reality. In London he had met men of sterner mould, who
could even smile at the defeat of the arms of their own country, and
think it no misfortune, since this defeat had given birth to a new
nation, whose constitution based itself upon the will of the people; to
a nation of freemen, who made laws for themselves, who appointed
themselves their rulers, and obeyed them willingly. As he walked in the
streets of that great city, he found himself among a people who, in
comparison with his own people, were free; among a people who thought
for themselves, and who spoke their thoughts openly, none daring to stay
their utterance. When he returned to Spain, he looked around him upon
the stalwart men and graceful women, whose nationality was the same as
his own, and he said within himself, Are not these equal to those
others? cannot they think and act for themselves? Yet he saw that they
were as children, following blindly the behests of such as had authority
over them; then, in spite of the traditions of his class, his heart was
sore within him at the degradation of his own country. Out of the
fulness of his heart he spoke, and there were many who listened to him,
till the great lords, the elders of his family, looking seriously into
the matter, saw therein much danger to their own order, and finding that
opposition but strengthened those pestilent errors which he had learned
in his travels in other countries, they washed their hands of him by
procuring him an honourable post in the colonies.

He came to Buenos Aires, and was received with the distinction his own
talents and great connections warranted him to expect, but at first no
important trust was given into his hands, and he soon felt that his
mission to South America was nothing more than an honourable but
indefinite exile.

Before he had been two years in Buenos Aires he married Doña Constancia
Lopez y Viana, a daughter of Don Gregorio Lopez. This gentleman was a
wealthy Creole who had immense estates in various parts of the province
of Buenos Aires, where he reared vast herds of cattle, whose hides and
tallow yielded him a very sufficient revenue. The manners and customs of
the Argentines in those days were very simple, the harsh restrictions on
commerce and on intercourse with the rest of the world preserved them
from luxury. When living on one of his estancias Don Gregorio was little
better housed and fed than his peons, but he ruled over them with an
iron hand; short of life and death his power was absolute over most of
them, for most of them were slaves. His residence in the city was a
large rambling mansion, one storey high, with flat roofs and large
patios. Here he spent most of his time, surrounded by a crowd of
dependants of all ages and conditions; to all he dispensed with a lavish
hand, exacting only in return implicit obedience.

Don Gregorio had been twice married, his first wife had left him one son
who bore his own name; the children of his second wife had added their
mother's surname to his, and were known as the Lopez y Viana family;
among them Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon had found his wife Constancia.
They had lived happily together up to the year 1806, in which this story
opens, having three sons, Marcelino, Juan Carlos, and Evaristo, and one
daughter, Dolores, who differed greatly in appearance from all the rest
of the family, having grey eyes shaded with long dark lashes, and hair
of a bright chestnut colour which flowed over her shoulders in broad
curls almost to her waist, surrounding her if she stood in the sunshine
with a halo of glistening gold. This peculiarity endeared her to her
father, who saw reproduced in her the traditional features of the
ancient house of Ponce, features which time and intermarriage had almost
obliterated in their family.

Though Don Roderigo was an outcast from his own family, though new
interests and new ties bound him to America, yet he remained at heart a
Spaniard, he felt himself one of the dominant race, and could not look
upon a native American as his equal. His haughty manners estranged him
somewhat from his wife's family, but recommended him to the then
Viceroy, who soon forgot the unfavourable report he had received of him,
and advanced him from one post to another, till at the close of the last
century many thought that the highest post open to any Spaniard in the
colonies would at the next change be his.

About that time there arrived in Buenos Aires a naval officer, who had
distinguished himself in the service of Spain, and sought promotion and
further opportunity for distinguishing himself by service in her
colonies. This man was not a Spaniard by birth. Don Santiago Liniers y
Bremond was a Frenchman of noble origin, driven by the misfortunes of
his country and his class into foreign service. Of an ardent and lively
temperament, with distinguished manners, and a high reputation for
military skill, he had the art of gaining popularity wherever he went,
and soon became a great favourite with the warm-hearted Creoles of
Buenos Aires, and not less so with their Spanish rulers, who entrusted
him with some of the highest commands at their disposal.

Between Liniers (he dropped his second surname in America, and is known
to history as General Liniers) and Don Roderigo an intimacy sprang up
which quickly ripened into friendship. Long and earnest were the
conversations they held together concerning the events then passing in
Europe. As they talked together the warm aspirations of his youth came
back to Don Roderigo, visions passed before his eyes of the glorious
future that might yet await him, should Spain follow the example of the
other peoples and rise and emancipate herself. That she might do so he
believed possible, but he saw that it could only be possible after a
fierce struggle, in which he could and would bear an honourable part.

Liniers listened willingly to the warm confidences of his friend, though
he was far from feeling sympathy with his ideas, but Don Roderigo found
others who did sympathise with him, more especially among the better
educated of the Creoles. Before many years passed his opinions were
known in Madrid, the favour which had been extended to him was
withdrawn, and he found himself a marked man in the country which he had
hoped before long to rule. His friend Liniers also fell into disfavour,
and from being Commandant-General of the Navies of Spain in La Plata he
was relegated to the command of a small garrison at Ensenada, which post
he still held at the time of the invasion of the English under
Beresford.

Marcelino, the eldest son of Don Roderigo, inherited from his mother
much of her pliant Creole nature, and his amiable disposition rendered
him a favourite with all those with whom he came in contact, but he had
also inherited much of the courageous enterprising spirit of his father,
and his character had been further modified by his friendship with a man
some few years older than himself, who had been sent to Europe to
complete his education and had returned early in the year 1805 deeply
imbued with the revolutionary ideas then prevalent in France, where he
had spent the greater part of his time during his absence from Buenos
Aires.

This friend, Don Carlos Evaña by name, was the only son of a wealthy
Creole, who, falling under the displeasure of the Spanish authorities,
had died in a dungeon, leaving his then infant son to the guardianship
of Don Gregorio Lopez.

Marcelino Ponce de Leon had received what was in those days considered a
very superior education, had spent three years at the University of
Cordova, was well read in the Latin classics, could speak French
fluently, and had some knowledge of English. He had returned from
Cordova without taking a degree, when his father had wished him to visit
Europe, but Marcelino listened to the earnest entreaties of his mother
and remained at home, safe, as she thought, from the contagion of those
new ideas which she had been taught to look upon with dread.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mother and son sat far into the night talking earnestly together, the
mother daring not to leave him lest he should go she knew not whither,
and finding her influence totally unavailing to turn him from what she
considered his mad purpose. So they sat on a cold June night in an
uncarpeted, fireless room, in which the darkness was made visible by the
dull flame of a shaded lamp; so they sat, wrestling together for the
mastery; love and tenderness on the one side, love and reverence on the
other, equally fearful of giving pain, equally determined not to yield.
As the clock in a distant chamber chimed the midnight hour, the husband
and the father stood before them. A well-built man of medium stature,
with dark-brown hair and eyes, and with a clear, almost ruddy
complexion. His son, as he stood up on his entrance, seemed taller by
the head, but was more slimly built.

"Marcelino is going," said Doña Constancia; "he will not submit to these
English."

"He may stay and yet not submit," answered Don Roderigo. "Sobremonte has
fled; they cannot occupy the whole city, and cannot know who are in it,
save those who present themselves. I have orders to present myself and
shall do so," he said somewhat bitterly, "but there is no reason why you
should do so too, unless you wish it."

Marcelino Ponce de Leon remained that night in his father's house, and
the next day he heard the sound of the English trumpets and drums from
afar off, but he saw them not.

The next day, the 27th June 1806, 1500 British troops under the command
of General Beresford marched into the city, a city of 70,000
inhabitants, with their drums beating and their colours flying, and took
peaceable possession thereof; General Beresford establishing his
headquarters at the fort and hoisting the English flag upon the
flag-staff. Most of the local authorities hastened to give in their
submission, and Buenos Aires became an English city.

  [1] "And from the windows, o'er the walls,
      The sable web of mourning falls,
      The King weeps as a woman o'er
      His loss, for it is much and sore.
                          Woe is me! Alhama!"

      Byron's translation--last verse.



CHAPTER II

HOW DON GREGORIO LOPEZ SOUGHT AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION OF THE DAY


Buenos Aires became an English city, and throughout the city there was
shame and despair; men exchanged fierce looks one with another,
muttering low words in their anger, and women wept. And presently a
question went circling round from household to household, at a safe
distance from the British bayonets:

"What shall we do?"

To this question no man answered, but each one looked to some other who
should answer for him.

It was the evening of the third day since the triumphal entry of the
British, the badly lighted and unpaved streets were almost deserted, it
was bitterly cold, and a thin, drizzling rain was falling. Here and
there figures muffled in large cloaks wended their way about the
streets; several such figures passed along the street in which stood the
house of Don Gregorio Lopez, and entered by the great double door which
stood half open. Beyond the door was a covered passage called a
"zaguan"; from the centre of the roof of this zaguan there hung a lamp,
under which a tall negro paced up and down. Each man as he passed the
doorway and entered the zaguan paused and threw back the fold of his
cloak which covered his face, saying to the negro in a low voice:

"España."

"Pass forward to the second patio," answered the negro to each one.

Each man as he heard the answer replied by a slight inclination of the
head, and again muffling his face in his cloak, walked across the
brick-paved patio to a second zaguan, where another lamp was swinging.
Here he was met by a youth to whom he said one word:

"Rey."

"Good-night and pass forward," answered the youth.

One after another they passed forward through this zaguan to a second
patio, where each man paused till he was accosted by another youth, who
led him to a door on the left hand, which he opened, ushering him into a
large, well-lighted room, with a long massive table running down the
centre, and chairs ranged all along the walls.

In half-an-hour a numerous company were assembled in this room, they had
removed their hats, but most of them kept on their cloaks. This room was
the dining-room of Don Gregorio Lopez, these men there assembled were
citizens of Buenos Aires, invited by him to confer together upon what
answer should be given to the question which occupied all minds:

"What shall we do?"

Don Gregorio had taken such precautions as he thought necessary to keep
the meeting a secret from General Beresford, and also from such citizens
as were not specially invited. Those whom he had invited were not only
citizens of Buenos Aires but were exclusively men of American birth.
They walked up and down the room in couples, or stood in groups
conversing together in low tones.

To each man as he entered the room Don Gregorio had extended his hand in
cordial welcome; as the room filled he passed from group to group saying
a few complimentary words, or asking an adroit question on any subject
upon which they might happen to be speaking, but carefully avoiding the
question which had called them together. Don Gregorio was a stout-built
man of medium stature, with short hair which had once been black, but
was now plentifully sprinkled with grey, he had small dark eyes, heavy
eyebrows, and bushy grey whiskers, his lip and chin being clean shaven.
He wore a coat of brown cloth with brass buttons, the tails of which
sloped away from his hips, till they came almost to a point behind his
knees, his waistcoat came down over his hips, and was open in front,
showing a large frill of the finest cambric, on each side of which hung
the ends of the white lace cravat which enveloped his throat. Both
waistcoat and small-clothes were of black cloth, and he wore black silk
stockings with massive gold buckles in his shoes. He had a strong, deep
voice, and looked about him with the air of one having authority, but
his manners were exceedingly affable. On the present occasion his face
wore an air of great satisfaction; each question addressed to him he
answered in carefully subdued tones, accompanying his words with
frequent inclinations of the head and with approving smiles.

Again the door opened, a youth stepping in announced:

"Don Manuel Belgrano," and a man of middle height, with a high forehead
and a thoughtful expression on his face, which gave him the appearance
of being older than he really was, entered the room.

Don Gregorio, who was at that moment standing in the centre of a group
of his guests conversing with them, swung round on his heel as he heard
the name, leaving the sentence which was on his lips incomplete, and
walked towards the door with both hands stretched out to welcome the
new-comer. Conversation instantly ceased; and as the name Belgrano
passed from mouth to mouth, the hands hidden away under the cloaks
issued forth and clapped themselves together, while a low murmur of
"Viva Belgrano!" too low to be a cheer, went round the room.

Manuel Belgrano was at this time a man of mature age. Born in Buenos
Aires in the year 1770, he had in his sixteenth year gone to Spain,
where he passed several years studying at the University of Salamanca,
and afterwards at Valladolid, but his studies embraced a wider range of
subjects than were taught at these seats of learning. Of a generous and
thoughtful temperament, he had eagerly imbibed the ideas spread
throughout Europe by the French Revolution, had learned to look upon all
men as equal, and to hate all manner of tyranny and oppression. When he
left Spain, in the year 1794, he thought only of how he might make his
studies of service to his own countrymen. He took with him his
appointment as secretary to the "Consulado" of Buenos Aires, a body
entrusted with the official supervision of the mercantile relations of
the colony with the mother-country, and in this post had distinguished
himself by his efforts to ameliorate the effect of the ruinous
restrictions which were at that time imposed upon all commercial
intercourse. Not content with his official duties, he had further
exerted himself to establish a Nautical School, and a School of Design,
which under his able supervision flourished rapidly, and promised great
benefits to the colony. But his efforts found little support among his
own countrymen, encountered great opposition from the jealousy of the
Spanish authorities, and both schools were eventually closed by a
positive order from the Court of Aranjuez, in which the Consulado was
severely censured for having permitted them to be established.

On the occupation of the city by the British army, Belgrano had been
summoned by General Beresford to deliver up the archives of his
department, but had not only refused to do so but had also refused to
give in his own formal submission to the new authorities, saying that he
was responsible to the Viceroy, could only receive orders from him, and
would rejoin him so soon as he could discover where he had gone.

"You come late, my friend," said Don Gregorio, "but I knew you would not
fail us, so I waited for you."

"I had much to do, I was busy with my preparations, for I have no time
to lose," answered Belgrano, shaking hands with several friends of his
who pressed round him.

"What are you about to do?"

"To fly. You do not know what happened me to-day, I will tell you. When
General Beresford first sent for me I obeyed him, and when I refused to
give up to him the official seal and the archives of the Consulado,
saying that I could only obey an order from the Viceroy, he accepted my
excuse and dismissed me with much politeness and consideration. I
believe he thought that Sobremonte would present himself in a day or
two. But Sobremonte has gone off no one knows where, and many of us, as
you know, have given in our papers to the English general. This
afternoon he sent to me an order to present myself at once. To present
myself is to submit. I will not submit, therefore I must fly, and that
at once. You, my friends, will judge me. Do I not act rightly?"

"Perfectly! perfectly!" echoed from all sides; and again a low murmur of
"Viva Belgrano" ran round the room.

"But before you go you will spare us an hour or two," said Don Gregorio.
"You have more experience than many of us who are older than you, and
your counsel may be of great service to us."

"Assuredly," replied Belgrano. "I do not see what you can do for the
present but just quietly submit; you have----"

"Submit! we submit!" exclaimed Marcelino Ponce de Leon, who was one of
those present. "For each one man that they have we can put ten, why then
should we submit?"

"They are trained soldiers, and are well armed. Do you know what my men
said to me when we got the order to retreat? They said, 'It is well, for
this sort of work is not for us.'"

"They said well," said another who stood by, Don Juan Martin Puyrredon
by name. "They know what they are worth, your city militia, they do not
like the cold steel, and it appears that these English do not waste time
shooting at a distance, they like the bayonet better," he added with a
scornful laugh.

"Give us time to arm a few hundred paisanos, and the militia may remain
in their houses," said Marcelino. "We will drive the English into the
river without their help."

"The paisanos are brave men, but they cannot fight against trained
troops," answered Belgrano quietly.

"If our men were trained they would stand their ground as well as any
men," said another, named Don Isidro Lorea, who was a captain in the
city militia.

"They had arms and had nothing to do but to stand still and use them the
other day," said Puyrredon, "but they did not even do that. You set to
work firing before the English came within range, and then when they
came nearer you ran. All the effective resistance that the English met
was at the Puente Galvés, where Don Marcelino stopped them for an hour
or two by burning the bridge."

"When the English charged them with the bayonet your partidarios ran
quick enough," replied Lorea in an angry tone. "And Don Marcelino it
appears may thank his horse that he got away at all."

"Don Marcelino bore himself like a brave man," said Don Gregorio, laying
his hand upon the shoulder of his grandson, and speaking in a loud
voice, which had the effect of putting a stop at once to the dispute.
"It matters not now what has been done. What we shall do is what you
have done me the honour to come here to discuss quietly among ourselves.
Do me the favour, my friends, to arrange yourselves round the room; and,
Don Manuel, come with me to the head of the table."

So saying, Don Gregorio walked to one end of the table, where he seated
himself in an arm-chair, with Don Manuel Belgrano at his right hand and
Marcelino Ponce de Leon at his left; the latter having some sheets of
paper and pens and ink before him, while the rest seated themselves on
chairs round the room, with the exception of one group who remained
standing round Don Juan Martin Puyrredon at the far end.

When all were settled in their places, Don Gregorio rose from his seat,
and with many signs of hesitation, for he had never before attempted to
make a speech, began:

"Señores, my friends, I have invited you to meet in my house with one
sole object; our city is in the power of foreigners, our Viceroy has
fled, such troops as we had are dispersed. What shall we do? Shall we
submit to these foreigners, to these heretics who are the enemies of
Spain, and of our Holy Church?"

"No, no!" arose in answer from all sides.

"You have all of you read the proclamation of this Beresford, in which
he offers us freedom in the exercise of our religion, freedom of
commerce, and reduction of taxation, styling himself governor of this
city of ours by the authority of his Majesty the King of Great Britain.
The advantages he offers us are great; shall we not, then, accept this
Beresford as our governor?"

"No, no!" again rose in answer.

"Then if we will neither be bribed into treachery to our legitimate
king, nor tamely submit, we must fight and drive these English back to
their ships. But it was easier to keep them out than to drive them out
now they are in."

"It will be difficult, but we will do it," said Puyrredon.

"It will be done, I doubt not," continued Don Gregorio. "Let us then
consider carefully the means we should adopt. As yet the first requisite
is wanting to us--not one of us here present is a soldier who has seen
service. There is one whom I hoped to have seen here, who has served in
Europe, and only the other day showed us that he has not forgotten what
he learnt there. With a handful of men he beat off all the English army,
with their fleet to back them, at Ensenada, and now he has retired
without the loss of one man. You know who I mean--Don Santiago Liniers.
My son set off yesterday to confer with him, and to bring him here to us
to-night; as yet he does not appear, but even in his absence we may
agree to appoint him our chief, and when he comes he will tell us what
to do."

At that moment there came a knock at the door, which had been locked
when Don Gregorio took his seat at the head of the table; one of those
near at hand opened it, and gave entrance to the youth who had acted as
usher. He walked up to Don Gregorio, and spoke to him in a low voice.

"Tell him to give his name," said Don Gregorio.

"He refuses, but says he must see you."

"Go you, Marcelino, and see if you know him. He may be some messenger
from Liniers."

Marcelino went out, but quickly returned, bringing with him a tall man
of middle age, with strikingly handsome features. The stranger entered
first, and throwing aside his cloak and hat disclosed the undress
uniform of a field-officer.

"Don Gregorio, I kiss your feet," said he, bowing to that gentleman.
"Señores todos, felices noches," he added, as he cast a quick, searching
glance round the room.

"No fear; all are friends," said Marcelino, as he closed the door.

"Liniers! Liniers!" exclaimed many of those present, as they rose from
their seats to bid him welcome, and to congratulate him upon his recent
feat of arms, while Don Gregorio left his place at the table and walked
towards him with outstretched hand.

"My friend, I am glad to see you," said Don Gregorio. "A number of my
friends have come here together this evening to consult upon what
measures we shall adopt now that the authorities have either submitted
to the English or have fled. You are a soldier; this is not the first
time you have seen service; we should be glad to hear your opinion."

"And what do these gentlemen say?" answered Liniers, walking up to the
table, and leaning his hand upon it, while an expression of anxious
thought came over his handsome features.

"There are some who say that we ought to organise the militia of the
city and the partidarios into an army at some safe distance from the
city, and then attack the English, and crush them before any
reinforcement can reach them. There are not 2000 of them, but to form an
army we require a chief."

"And something more too than a chief," replied Liniers, with a
complacent smile, "something more than a chief; time is wanting. Do you
think one could make soldiers of your militia in a week?"

"What we want in discipline we will make up by numbers," said Don Isidro
Lorea. "The other day we had no leader, if we had had one the affair
would have been very different."

"We were mustered at the fort, and marched off anyhow," said Belgrano;
"what more could we expect than what happened? I agree with you, Don
Santiago, time is wanting before we can hope to do anything with the
militia."

"Then there are others," continued Don Gregorio, "who say that we should
do nothing at all at present, but wait until our Viceroy can collect
troops sufficient. There is a strong force in Monte Video, and small
detachments are scattered about the provinces."

"And they are the most sensible men," said Liniers.

"I am going to rejoin the Viceroy if I can find him," said Belgrano.
"Come with me, Don Santiago, he will give you authority to collect
troops."

"Better go to Monte Video," said Marcelino Ponce de Leon; "Huidobro can
give you both men and arms. You may be back by the end of the month, and
we will have an army ready for you by then."

During all this time there was one man there who had hardly spoken to
any. He sat on a chair beyond the end of the table, with his cloak
folded round him, his arms crossed over his chest, listening quietly to
all that was said, neither assenting to nor dissenting from anything
that was proposed, his quick, dark eyes alone showing the interest he
took in the discussion. His high, square forehead betokened him a man of
powerful intellect, while his pale, olive complexion, and the delicacy
of his long, thin hands bespoke him a student. As he sat he seemed to be
only of medium stature, and slightly built; now he rose and stood beside
the table, stretching himself to his full height, half-a-head taller
than any other man there present, and spoke as follows:--

"Señores, I have listened quietly to all that has been said. Were you
Spaniards I would applaud your patriotism, I would praise your brave
determination to risk your lives in an unequal conflict against men
trained to arms. Were I a Spaniard I would join you, and would think my
life well lost could I spend it in thrusting out from my country an
audacious invader. But this soil on which I stand is not Spain, neither
am I a Spaniard, nor are you, my countrymen, Spaniards. You, I, all of
us are Americans, the soil upon which we stand is American soil, the air
which we breathe is American air. True we are of Spanish blood, our
ancestors were Spaniards, they crossed the ocean and spent their lives
in conquering a new world. We are the sons of those gallant men who
built up the seats of new nations on a new continent; day by day we
spread ourselves further over these wide plains, drawing riches from
their luxuriant pastures; we explore the mighty rivers which bring down
to us the wealth of other provinces; and for whom do we so labour and
spend our lives? For Spain! What has Spain ever done for us that we
should spend our lives in her service? Spain sends us rulers and
tax-gatherers, who live here in plenty and go back to Spain laden with
riches for which we have toiled. Spain forces upon us her merchandise
when we could buy better and cheaper elsewhere, and so robs us of the
fruit of our labours. Spain sends us priests to instruct our youth in
knowledge which is of no avail, to prevent the spread of anything like
real education, and to keep our consciences in bondage to a slavish
superstition. This is what Spain has done for us up to now, and will do
for us to the end.

"There are men among you who have travelled in other lands as I have
done, who have seen the great uprising of the people which now shakes
the earth. Returning to their own land, they have sought to do something
to enlighten the ignorance of their own countrymen, they have sought to
raise them from the barbarism in which they live. How have their efforts
prospered? They have been reviled as infidels, they have been
stigmatised as rebels, and have been fortunate when they have escaped
fines and imprisonment as dangerous to the State. Why then should we
risk our lives for Spain? This land which our fathers conquered and we
possess is our land, it is nothing but a worn-out tradition which holds
us in bondage to Spain. Give ear to me, my countrymen, and know that
this disaster which has fallen upon our city is no disaster, but is the
first step towards our deliverance. There are many among you would think
it sacrilege to stretch out your hand and tear down the flag under which
you were born, under which you have lived, but if a foreigner tear it
down for you and cast it forth from our country he in no wise injures
you, he does but free us from a tyranny under which we have groaned for
centuries.

"We cannot look upon these English as friends, for they come to take our
country into their possession, but neither need we fear them as enemies.
They could not hold their own colonies in subjection when they rose
against them, although half the colonists were their friends, as many of
you to-day are the friends of Spain. How then shall they bring us into
subjection among whom they have not one friend to aid them? This
enterprise of these English is rash folly which will recoil upon their
own heads, but they may do us good service in driving out from among us
these Spanish rulers who have too long tyrannised over us.

"Why should we fear these English? Far distant from their own country,
they can but obtain a temporary footing on our soil. Let these dogs of
war, the paid agents of tyranny and misrule, rend each other in their
struggle for a dominion which is not theirs. Let the Spaniards and the
English fight out their quarrel by themselves, while we steadfastly
prepare to assert against either or both our own dominion on our own
soil, the inalienable right of all free-born men to make their own laws
and govern themselves. I have spoken!"

As the speaker ceased he struck the table with his hand, and looked
round him proudly, as though he would defy anyone to dissent from any
word he had spoken, and a deep silence fell upon all.

To most there present these words and ideas were entirely new. They had
listened in wonder, now they looked one at another in doubt and dismay;
what had been said was nothing less than treason, and they knew not but
that in listening, merely, they were themselves traitors.

But there were others there to whom these ideas were far from new, they
were ideas which they themselves had cherished, but had hidden in their
hearts, saying to themselves that the time had not yet come. Don Manuel
Belgrano sat with his elbows on the table, covering his face with his
hands. Marcelino Ponce de Leon made strokes on the paper which lay
before him with a pen which had no ink in it, ever and anon glancing up
at the speaker, and as quickly again dropping his eyes to the paper,
while his thoughts wandered to a time not long past when Don Carlos
Evaña had told him how he had met in London an exile from Venezuela, who
had spoken to him just such words as these.

And there was one there present upon whom these words had a different
effect to what they had on any other. This was not the first time that
Don Santiago Liniers had heard such words as these; they carried him
back in memory into the far-off past, when he had learned to look upon
men holding such opinions as impious in the sight of God, outcasts among
men, and had hated them with a bitter hatred, envenomed since then by
the losses he had suffered at their hands. In silence he listened,
leaning upon the back of a chair; there was to him a fascination in the
sound of that deep sonorous voice which spoke treason in accents of firm
conviction. His heart sank within him, and as that voice ceased, a cold
shiver, for which he could not account, ran through his frame. He looked
up at the speaker, and met the glance of a pair of dark eyes fixed
sternly upon him; again the cold shiver ran through him, he turned away
his gaze and looked anxiously around him, eager to note the effect of
these words on others.

Then rose Don Gregorio Lopez from his seat, and leaning with both hands
upon the table before him, said in a low voice, and speaking with great
deliberation:

"My friends, each man has a right to entertain such ideas as he please,
but we are not met together this evening to discuss ideas. I am sorry to
see that there is much division of opinion amongst us; it is thus
impossible that we unite cordially together in any one plan of action.
The object for which I invited you to meet me this evening has thus
failed. For my part I say, 'Out with these English!' Those who think as
I do will each act as he thinks best, in his own way, to bring about
this result."

"Afuera Los Ingleses! Fueran!!" was the answer from all sides. After
which the meeting resolved itself into groups, in which men talked
eagerly together for some minutes, discussing together their several
plans, and announcing their intentions. Then the door being thrown open
they gradually dispersed to their several homes.

Don Carlos Evaña was one of the last to leave. As he shook hands with
Don Gregorio, the latter said to him:

"Ah, Carlos! you boys learn many ideas in your travels, but, believe me,
it is at times dangerous to expose them so publicly."

"And believe me," answered Don Carlos, "that the day is not far off when
these ideas of mine will be the law of a new nation in America."

As he went out he was joined by Marcelino.

"Will you take no part with any of us?" asked Marcelino.

"To raise again that emblem of tyranny which has been torn down? Not I.
Have you so soon forgotten the lessons we have learned together?"

"I have not forgotten them, Carlos; but how shall I think of them when a
foreigner rules in my native country?"

"All tyrants are foreigners, Marcelino. When once we are fairly rid of
our tyrants then it will be time enough to turn out these English. If it
were to gain our country for ourselves none would be more forward than
Carlos Evaña."

"Let us turn out the English, and then we will work together."

"You do not know it, but these English are our best friends, Marcelino."

"Such friends are better at a distance," replied Marcelino.



CHAPTER III

CONCERNING THE DANGER OF FRIENDSHIP WITH AN ENEMY


The fort, where General Beresford had taken up his quarters, was an
edifice of imposing appearance but of no great strength, situate in the
centre of the river-face of the city. Its eastern front, which
overlooked the river, was a semicircular pile of brickwork, rising from
the water's edge some sixty feet above the average level of the river,
and was pierced with embrasures from which the black mouths of cannon
protruded. It was built in the massive style adopted by the Spaniards,
but its chief strength consisted in the shallowness of the river, which
prevented the near approach of any hostile squadron. In the rear of this
semicircular casemate stood some brick buildings in which the Viceroy
and his principal officers had apartments. Beyond these buildings was a
flat, open space, which served as a parade ground, in the centre of
which rose the flag-staff, on which the standard of Great Britain had
now replaced the gaudy flag of Spain. The whole of these buildings and
the parade ground were surrounded by a low brick wall, which was again
surrounded by a wide, dry ditch, crossed in the centre of the western
front of the fort by a drawbridge which through a wide gateway gave
entrance to the stronghold from the Plaza de Los Perdices.

This Plaza was a wide, open space, about 150 yards across, where the
country people daily brought their game, fruit and vegetables for sale
to the citizens; it was thus the market place of the city. This wide,
open space still exists, and is now known as the Plaza Veinte y Cinco
de Mayo, but it is no longer used as a market. To the west of the Plaza
de Los Perdices, facing the fort, stood two rows of shops, the flat
roofs of which were prolonged over the causeways both in front and
rear, and resting upon square brick pillars at the edge of the
causeways, formed arcades, cut off from the buildings at the north and
south the Plaza by roadways, which were the continuations of the two
central streets of the city.

Between the two arcades there was an open space crossed by a towering
arch of brickwork, having the appearance of a gigantic gateway, which
gave passage from the Plaza de Los Perdices to the Plaza Mayor, which
lay beyond. These two arcades with the archway were known as the
"Recoba Vieja."

The Plaza Mayor was equal in size to the other, and was surrounded by
buildings; half the western face being occupied by the "Cabildo" or
Government House, a lofty building two storeys high, with balconies
projecting in front of the windows of the upper storey, which storey
also projected over the causeway in front of the Cabildo, resting upon
massive brick pillars, and so forming another arcade, which occupied one
half of this side the Plaza. Half the northern side the Plaza was
occupied by the cathedral; the rest of the buildings around were
ordinary houses mostly one storey high, those on the south side being
also fronted by an arcade which covered the causeway, and gave the name
of the "Recoba Nueva" to that side the Plaza.

The centre of the Plaza was unoccupied and unpaved, but carriages and
horsemen being restricted to the sides, it was maintained in tolerably
level condition, affording a pleasant promenade for the citizens in
fine weather. All the buildings in both Plazas were of brick, plastered
and whitewashed, the cathedral being surmounted by a mighty dome. The
houses had large doorways and windows, but the latter were protected by
iron railings.

General Beresford took up his quarters in the fort, where he occupied
the apartments of the fugitive Viceroy; British soldiers occupied the
casemates and the barracks of the troops, their scarlet uniforms were
continually to be seen crossing the parade ground, and were by day
plentifully sprinkled about the adjacent Plazas. Most of his troops
Beresford cantoned in the houses about the Plaza Mayor; one strong
detachment occupied the Cabildo. His enterprise so far had been attended
with great success, but he did not disguise from himself that his
situation was extremely critical, his force was too small to do more
than overawe the city. All that he could do was to strengthen his
position as much as possible and wait for reinforcements.

In furtherance of this plan he constructed temporary platforms and
planted thirty guns on the parade ground at the fort, whose fire swept
the Plaza de Los Perdices and commanded all its approaches; he drew
breastworks across the entrances to the Plaza Mayor, and established a
line of outposts, one strong detachment being stationed at the Retiro to
the extreme north of the city, where on the high ground fronting the
river stood a large edifice which had been built about a century
previously by some English slave merchants, and used by them as a
storehouse for their human merchandise. This storehouse had been more
recently used as a barrack by the Spanish garrison of Buenos Aires. In
front of it there was a large space of open ground some squares in
extent; to the north of this open space stood a bull-ring, a large
circular edifice very strongly built round an open arena. From this
bull-ring the open space in front of the barracks was sometimes named
the Plaza Toros, but its more usual name was the Plaza del Retiro.

Further, General Beresford sought in every way to conciliate the
good-will of the inhabitants, preserving the strictest discipline among
his soldiery, and paying liberally for all supplies. And the inhabitants
of Buenos Aires apparently bore him no ill-will, treating him rather as
a guest than as a conqueror, inviting him and his officers to tertulias
at their houses, and accepting such hospitality as he could offer them
in exchange. Conspicuous among the householders for their friendly
treatment of the English were Don Gregorio Lopez and his son-in-law Don
Roderigo Ponce de Leon.

The Marquis of Sobremonte, Viceroy of Buenos Aires, in his hurried
flight from the city, had an excuse in his anxiety to save the public
treasure, which amounted to nearly a million and a half sterling in
bullion and specie. At the Villa Lujan, a country town some fourteen
leagues west of Buenos Aires, he was overtaken by a detachment sent by
Beresford in pursuit, and fled without any attempt at resistance,
abandoning the greater part of the treasure. The British detachment met
with no opposition from the country people either in its march upon
Lujan or on its return to the capital, and Beresford, after reserving
sufficient specie for the pay and support of his troops for several
months, embarked one million sterling on board the frigate _Narcissus_,
which sailed at once for England.

The ground plan of the city of Buenos Aires resembles a chessboard, all
the streets running either perpendicular to the course of the
river--that is, due east and west, or parallel with it--that is, due
north and south, crossing each other at right angles at distances of 150
varas. The city is thus cut up into square blocks of houses, each block
being styled a manzana. Between the two streets which run out westwards
from the Plaza Mayor, the two central streets of the city, and ten
squares distant from this Plaza, one entire block was left vacant of
buildings, and was in those days a mere open space of waste ground.

At the northern corner of the eastern side of this vacant space stood
the house of Don Isidro Lorea. Don Isidro was a captain in the city
militia. On the morning of the 26th June, when the English were
advancing upon the city, he had mustered his men, had marched them to
the fort, and had placed himself and them at the orders of the Marquis
of Sobremonte. Later on he had marched them into the suburbs, and upon
the near approach of the invaders had fled with them in confusion and
dismay back to his own home. Don Isidro's ideas on military matters
were vague in the extreme; previous to that day he had never seen a gun
fired in anger; but he was no coward, and when the first effects of his
terror had passed over he bitterly upbraided himself for his
pusillanimity. Tears had stood in the eyes of his wife, Doña Dalmacia,
as she had watched him march away, and she had spent the time during
his absence on her knees in a neighbouring church, praying earnestly
for his safety; but when he returned to her safe, sound, and
vanquished, then those same eyes looked upon him in utter scorn and
contempt, and his heart quailed within him even more than it had
quailed at the sight of the British bayonets.

During those days of shame and despair which followed, Don Isidro
nourished within his breast wild schemes of revenge and retaliation, and
he eagerly associated himself with those who planned together the
destruction of the small British force which held their city in thrall.

Yet weeks passed and nothing was attempted. As Don Gregorio Lopez had
told them, their first necessity was a leader, and he to whom they all
looked as a leader had gone from them. Liniers had gone to Monte Video
to seek the aid of Huidobro, who commanded in that city, telling them to
make what preparations they could in the meantime, and that he would
look to them for help on his return.

It was now the last week in July, a cold, clear, starlight night. In
defiance of the orders of General Beresford, and in despite of British
patrols, there was much going to and fro in the streets of the city that
night; a rumour had gone forth that Huidobro, a man of very different
stamp to Sobremonte, had received Liniers with open arms and had at once
placed all his disposable military force under his command, and that
Liniers was coming back with what speed he could. This news created a
great ferment throughout the city, each man wishing to know the
certainty of what he had only vaguely heard, and seeking information
from others who were no better informed than himself.

The house of Don Isidro Lorea was divided into two distinct parts, the
part occupying the corner of the block being used as the almacen (a
general store), of which the main entrance looked upon the open ground,
while several windows opened upon the adjacent street. The other half
was the dwelling-house, and had a separate entrance, a massive doorway
opening on the waste ground, which gave entrance through a zaguan to a
large, brick-paved patio, surrounded by the principal rooms of the
household. Three windows to the left of the doorway gave light to the
principal room of all, the sala, at one end of which there was a smaller
room known as the ante-sala, which was frequently used by Don Isidro as
his private office. All the exterior windows of both house and almacen
were guarded by massive iron "rejas," bars set in the brickwork, which
prevented all clandestine entrance into the house.

On this night the door of the dwelling-house was fast closed, but anyone
rapping with his knuckles at the door of the almacen would have found it
open to him forthwith. Many did so knock on that night, and passing in,
went out again by a side door into the patio of the dwelling-house, and
thence to the sala, or to the ante-sala, as seemed to them good. The
folding doors between the two rooms were thrown wide open, so that the
two rooms were as one, and there was much passing to and fro between
them. The sala was a large, richly furnished apartment, with
spindle-shanked chairs and tables, and much gaudy frippery in the way of
ornament. Here Doña Dalmacia sat in state, with a heavy velvet mantle
thrown over her shoulders. She was a stout, handsome woman, something
over thirty years of age, but was of that class of woman who preserves
her good looks till long past maturity, her complexion being of that
clear olive which looks perfectly white by candlelight, while the beauty
of her chiselled features and dark flashing eyes age might impair, but
would not destroy. Here she sat in state, talking eagerly and proudly
with the men who thronged around her--chiefly young men, who had but one
thought in their hearts, but one subject upon which they could
converse--the expulsion of the English.

"Ah, Don Marcelino," she said in clear ringing tones, as Marcelino Ponce
de Leon entered the room, "I have not seen you for weeks, but I know you
have not been idle; tell me what have you done. The day is very near
now."

"I kiss your feet, Misia Dalmacia," answered Marcelino, as he bowed low
before her. "We have not lost our time; we have collected and armed
nearly 1000 men, and they are near at hand when they are wanted. I have
come in to hear what is doing, and to you I come first."

"You have done well, for I can tell you something which will rejoice
you. Isidro has a note from Liniers dated a week back, he was then
leaving Monte Video with 1000 troops, all fully equipped, and has
probably by this reached Colonia. Vessels will meet him there to bring
him to Las Conchas, so he may be here any day now."

"Viva, Liniers!" said Marcelino; "he will find us ready, and then----"
His flashing eyes and clenched hands supplied the hiatus in his words.

"But, Don Marcelino, be cautious yet," said Doña Dalmacia. "We have done
what we can to amuse these English, but this Beresford is a crafty fox,
and has his suspicions."

"And there are traitors among us who sell news to him for gold," said a
short, stout man, who stood near by, Don Felipe Navarro by name, a
brother of Doña Dalmacia.

"Yes, you must not let anyone know where your men are," added Doña
Dalmacia; "only be ready. If Beresford hears of your preparations he
will attack you before Liniers can land."

"Let him," said Marcelino disdainfully. "We will be ready for him if he
ventures outside the city. We have formed an encampment at the Quinta de
Perdriel, if he comes there we will know how to send him back again."

"That is very near," said Doña Dalmacia.

"The less distance we have to march when the day comes the better,"
answered Marcelino. "But you city people, what have you done?" added he,
turning to Don Felipe Navarro.

"Every house will send out a soldier, and every azotea will be a battery
when the fire commences," replied Don Felipe.

"We have two cannon hid in the almacen, and plenty of ammunition," said
Doña Dalmacia. "Isidro has all his arrangements complete. This house is
the headquarters for all the neighbourhood, and when he fires off two
rockets, at any hour of the day or night, 200 men will meet here."

A mulatta girl entered the room bearing a silver salver with cups of
chocolate, which she handed round to the guests, and as they sipped the
chocolate Marcelino listened to many a strange tale about the English.
Don Isidro Lorea was very anxious to get rid of the English, but while
they were there his tradesman's instincts prompted him to cultivate
friendly relations with them. He had never before found such good
customers, and in the daytime Doña Dalmacia had frequently parties of
officers in her sala, with whom she conversed in very roundabout
fashion, finding much amusement in teaching them to suck mate, and
gleaning what information she could from them concerning the
dispositions and intentions of their chief. Many shrewd remarks she
made, and heartily she laughed as she told of the ludicrous mistakes
they made in attempting polite speeches to her.

"But withal," she said, "they are not bad sort of people; it gives
sorrow to me to think that they are enemies and--heretics."

"Little it matters to me that they are heretics," said Marcelino. "For
my part I believe there is more than one way to heaven."

"Your friend Don Carlos Evaña appears very intimate with them," said Don
Isidro, who had come from the outer room as they were speaking.

Don Isidro was of short stature and of light, active build, with very
clear complexion, aquiline nose, and jet-black hair and beard, the
latter falling in glossy waves down on to his chest. His manners were
very polished, and he had a great habit of gesticulating with his hands
as he talked.

"Ah! Don Isidro, buenas noches," said Marcelino, as he turned quickly
and gave him his hand; "I thought you were not at home. Yes, I should
think it probable that Don Carlos would be intimate with them, but what
of that?"

"It is not well that a man should be intimate with the enemies of his
country."

"Don Carlos has told us that in this affair he will take no part. He has
lived in England and speaks their language well. Doña Dalmacia tells me
that you are all doing what you can to amuse them; he is better able to
amuse them than any of you."

"We amuse the officers, but the general seems to care little for
amusement, he is doing all he can to strengthen his position, and seems
to know exactly where to meet us. I tell you, Don Marcelino, there are
traitors amongst us."

As Don Isidro said this he stretched out both his hands with the palms
upwards and stamped his foot on the ground, looking somewhat defiantly
at Don Marcelino. The latter flushed to the roots of his hair, but
smiling to conceal his annoyance, he answered in a light tone:

"It may be so, of that kind of people there are always too many. Find
them out and shut their mouths for them, that is all the advice I can
give you."

"If you and the others would have taken my advice, the Señor Evaña would
have been forced to leave the city, and there would be one traitor the
less walking amongst us to-day. What does he here, aiding us in nothing,
and holding conferences every day with the English general?"

"How!" said Marcelino, now really angry. "Have you yet that absurd idea
in your head? I tell you again, Don Isidro, that as I know my own honour
so I know that of my friend Carlos Evaña. To walk among you and to tell
of your preparations to the English is to be a spy, and if you apply
that word to my friend you will answer to me."

"I know you, Don Marcelino, and I know that there is not one man amongst
us of a sounder heart than you, but every man is liable to be deceived,
and your friendship blinds you to----"

"Isidro!" said Doña Dalmacia interrupting her husband. "Basta! in these
circumstances it is not meet that those who are working in the good
cause should quarrel."

"The intimate friend of General Beresford----"

"Isidro!" exclaimed Doña Dalmacia, again interrupting her husband.

"Thou also!" said Don Isidro; then shrugging his shoulders, and clapping
his hands on his hips, he made a low inclination with his head to Don
Marcelino and returned to the ante-sala.

Marcelino returned his salutation with rigid formality; then taking Don
Felipe Navarro by the arm he led him to a retired corner of the sala,
where he questioned him earnestly concerning the treachery thus plainly
imputed to his friend.

"One thing is certain," said Don Felipe, "Don Carlos is very intimate
with General Beresford, hardly a day passes but he spends some hours
with him, and they have often long private conversations together. We
have our spies, and know everything that the English do, but we do not
know what the general and Don Carlos find to talk about."

"I will ask him, and you may be sure he will tell me. But from what you
say Don Carlos makes no effort to hide his friendship for the English
general."

"Not the slightest."

"Then that is proof at once. Spies walk in darkness, and do not go to
visit their employers in broad daylight."

"But Don Carlos makes no secret of his opinions. He counsels us to make
friends of the English, and openly speaks of freeing us with their help
from Spain. That is treason against our lord the king."

"Against the king I say nothing; but Spain is our tyrant, and Spaniards
come here only to plunder us. Don Carlos shows his patriotism by his
enmity to Spain, and his patriotism is guarantee that he will never
prove false to us who are his countrymen."

"But further, he is an enemy to the holy mother Church, he never goes to
Mass, and scoffs at the priests; he is an infidel, a heretic--from a man
like that one may suspect anything."

"One should suspect no man without proofs," said Marcelino, turning
away. Then after taking leave with great cordiality of Doña Dalmacia and
of those about her he went on to the ante-sala.

"Don Isidro," said he, "I am going to see my friend Don Carlos Evaña. I
shall tell him plainly that he is suspected, and advise him to avoid the
society of these English for the present."

"You will not find him," said Don Isidro; "Beresford gives a dinner
to-day at the fort to the authorities, and to some of our principal men;
naturally his great friend will be there."

"I doubt it," said one of the visitors, who had been talking to Don
Isidro; "Don Carlos never goes anywhere where he is likely to meet
Spaniards."

"My father will be at the fort," said Marcelino.

"I know he is, and the two Don Gregorios also," said another; "I saw
them go together."

"Then I will go and see my mother. I have avoided our house whenever I
have been in the city, for I feared to compromise my father."

"You have done well," said Don Isidro. "More than once I have been asked
by English officers whether I knew anything of the eldest son of Don
Roderigo Ponce de Leon. If you go to-night you will see some of them
there, there are always English officers there in the evenings,
tertulias are things of every day. As your father will not fight them,
Doña Constancia does her part in amusing them."

"Hum!" said Marcelino. "I do not wish to meet any of them until we meet
sword in hand."

"No fear," said another; "the officers will be all on duty to-night."

"I will go at any rate," said Marcelino. "I may meet Carlos there, so
good-night to you all until _the_ day."

But Don Isidro would not let him depart thus coldly, he sprang to his
feet, and grasping him warmly by the hand said:

"Before many days we will meet again; meantime, warn your friend that he
keep within his own house and I guarantee you that no harm shall come to
him."

Marcelino found no difficulty in reaching his father's house, his name
was his passport. He walked boldly along the streets, met several
patrols of British soldiery, was questioned by them, but was immediately
permitted to pass on, as he gave his name, speaking in English, and told
them where he was going. As he drew near he heard sounds of music; in
the first patio he found several English soldiers muffled in their grey
great-coats, unarmed, walking up and down and joking in a rough,
good-humoured way with the mulatta girls and negresses, the servants of
his father's household.

"What are you women doing here?" asked Marcelino sternly.

"The night is fine, and the Señora permits us to watch the dancing,"
answered one.

"It is Don Marcelino," whispered another. "What joy for the Señora; I
will run and tell her."

"Stay where you are; I want to see who are here first." So saying
Marcelino went up to one of the sala doors, and opening it softly
looked in.

His mother was seated on a sofa at the far end, conversing gaily with an
English officer, whose massive epaulets showed him to be one who held a
high command. Other ladies sat about the sides of the room, most of whom
had one or two cavaliers in attendance, while the centre of the room was
filled with a crowd of dancers, of whom some half-dozen wore the scarlet
uniforms of Great Britain. The dance was one of those formal square
dances then much in vogue, and a flush of pleasure spread over
Marcelino's face as he looked upon the graceful forms flitting to and
fro. As he looked there came a pause in the dance, and the smile that
was on his face vanished in a frown. At the head of the room, standing
conspicuously side by side under the full glare of a chandelier of wax
lights, were two upon whom his gaze was riveted at once. One was a
British officer, in the scarlet jacket and tartan trews of a Highland
regiment. He had the yellow hair, clear skin, blue eyes, and reddish
whiskers of a Lowland Scot. The other was his own sister Dolores.

One looking casually upon these two might have taken them for brother
and sister, there was so much likeness between them, but a second look
would have shown an essential difference. Dolores Ponce de Leon was
remarkable for the small size of her hands and feet, and for the
delicate moulding of her features. The hands and feet of her partner,
though well formed, were large, and his features were somewhat
coarse--there was more of strength than of elegance in his appearance.
No one after a careful scrutiny could have taken them for brother and
sister, they were types of two branches of one great race, the
Anglo-Saxons of Great Britain, the Goths of Spain.

Again closing the door, Marcelino walked away to his own room in an
inner part of the house, saying to the same girl to whom he had before
spoken--

"When these go, tell my mother that I have returned."

When he reached his own room he clapped his hands, at which summons an
aged negro presented himself.

"Ah! Patroncito Marcelino," said the old negro as he saw him; "so much
as the Señora has hoped for you, and no one could tell where you were.
The Patron said you would be back in a few days, but now it is weeks. In
what can I be of service to your Señoria?"

"Have you seen Don Carlos Evaña to-day?"

"I saw the Señor Evaña not half-an-hour ago, when I went in with a tray
of dulces."

"Go and tell him that I am come, but do not let anyone else hear what
you say."



CHAPTER IV

SHOWING HOW A PATRIOT MAY ALSO BE A TRAITOR


The meeting between Marcelino Ponce de Leon and his friend Don Carlos
Evaña was very cordial; they embraced like brothers. Then Don Carlos
proceeded to question Marcelino concerning all that he had done during
the past three weeks. To every question Marcelino answered unreservedly,
Evaña listening to him with a tender light playing in his usually stern
eyes, and an approving smile upon his lips.

"How I envy you," he said, as the other paused, his face glowing with
enthusiasm.

"Why do you not join us? You are more clever and braver than I am. Ah!
how willingly I would serve under you. The chiefs we have are zealous
enough but very few of them have any brains. I have no experience, but I
can see the follies they do; one man like you were worth more than all
the rest put together."

"Of all those you have named to me, Don Juan Martin and yourself seem
the only ones at all fitted to command," replied Evaña. "Why are you
only a subordinate?"

"There is so much jealousy among them, all want to command, so I thought
I should set a good example by showing how to obey."

"Would there were more like you," said Evaña, with a sigh.

"There would be one more and one better than me, if you would only join
us," replied Marcelino.

"It may not be, I have vowed my life to one work, the Independence of my
native country. So long as Spain claims dominion over these provinces I
have only one aim in life, and there is only one enemy against whom I
will raise my hand."

"Yet, cannot you see, Carlos, that in this struggle with the English we
shall train our men and make soldiers of them, and so prepare them for a
fiercer struggle which must come later on?"

"What you have told me teaches me, even if I did not know it before,
that the worst misfortune which can happen to us is to triumph over
these English."

"How so? We shall at any rate gain experience and confidence in our own
strength."

"And ignorance of our own weakness; that is the danger I foresee," said
Evaña. "It will be painful to me to see my own countrymen defeated by a
foreigner, but believe me, Marcelino, it will be the greatest good that
can happen to our country, if it teach us that success can only be
gained by self-abnegation."

"Let the Spaniards then be our teachers, not these English, who are
strangers to us."

"I have talked much with their General Beresford during the last month,"
said Evaña.

"So I have been told," said Marcelino abruptly.

"You have been told? My wise countrymen with their childish plots, and
their schemes which anyone can see through, object to my intimacy with
the English general. Is it not so?"

"It is, Carlos. Is it well that you should be a friend to the enemy of
your country?"

"I seek to destroy that enemy by making him our friend."

"The English have taken our city by force, so long as they behave
themselves as conquerors we must look upon them as enemies."

"You will find them stern enemies to grapple with. Your preparations
only make my work more difficult. Beresford may listen to reason, but he
will meet force with force, and he is well informed of all your
movements."

"Yes, Carlos, there are traitors amongst us, and it was about that I
wished to talk with you. Do not go any more to visit General Beresford;
shut yourself in your own house, or leave the city, there are many
suspect you."

"Suspect me! And of what?"

"Of being a spy of the English."

"A spy! Me a spy of the English! Can you sit there quietly, Marcelino,
and say that to me?" exclaimed Evaña, springing to his feet.

"I know you, Carlos, therefore I can sit here quietly and tell you of
it, for I know that it is false. I did not sit quietly when they told
me."

"Who are they?"

"Nay, that I will not tell you, this is no time for quarrels among
ourselves. But I have told them that whoever applies that word to you
shall answer to me for the slander. Yet I ask you for your own sake to
hold no more conversations with the English general. You only expose
yourself to calumny, and your efforts will be all in vain. We cannot
look upon these English as friends so long as they hold our city."

"Then you will turn them out if you can, and will make enemies of them,
for they will not forgive a defeat. You will give yourselves back bound
hand and foot to the Spaniards."

"Carlos, my friend, believe me, it is too late to reason now. Liniers is
near at hand, and the whole city and province is ready for a rising. If
Beresford had come here offering us friendship and alliance against
Spain we might have joined him, or at least remained neutral, now it is
too late."

"Too late! no, it is not too late yet. I will see Beresford again for
the last time. He knows of all your preparations, for he has his spies,
though I am not one of them, but he makes light of what you can do, the
man he fears is Liniers, and it is against him that he is on the watch.
I will show him that your aid to either side will turn the scale, then
perhaps he may decide at once for an alliance with _us_."

The two friends talked little more together that night, the room door
was opened by an eager hand, Doña Constancia and Dolores came in, and in
the joy of meeting them again Marcelino thought no more of the projects
of his friend Evaña, but spoke only of the speedy expulsion of the
English from their city.

The next day, in the forenoon, Don Carlos Evaña left his house and
walked through the city to the Plaza Mayor, and thence to the fort,
where he inquired for General Beresford. On his way he had met and
passed many of his countrymen; sometimes they stood in groups at street
corners, or at the doors of almacenes talking together, sometimes they
were walking hurriedly along; on all their faces there was only one
expression, an expression of suppressed excitement and anticipation.
With some of them he exchanged salutations, some of them looked another
way, affecting not to see him, none of them accosted him; he felt
himself thrust out from among them, he knew that he had no share in the
one thought which occupied all hearts, and his heart grew bitter within
him.

"A spy!" he muttered to himself, as he folded his cloak more closely
round him; "when I do but seek to prevent them forging fresh fetters for
themselves. The fools!"

"There goes Evaña to visit the friend," said one as he turned into a
street leading to the Plaza Mayor; and they to whom this man spoke gave
him no salutation, and looked after him, as he passed on, scowlingly.

General Beresford was writing, but was not particularly occupied for the
moment, and rose smilingly to meet Evaña as he entered his apartment,
stretching out his hand to him in welcome. Evaña took his hand somewhat
coldly, and laying his hat on a table seated himself.

"You do well to keep your cloak on," said Beresford, walking up and
down, and stamping his feet upon the tiled floor. "There is one thing of
which you Porteños have no notion, and that is how to make yourselves
comfortable in cold weather. Look here at this large, half-empty room
without a fireplace, how can you expect a Christian to live in such a
room in such weather as this? Why in England the horses are better
lodged than you are here. There is not a window that fits tight, and as
for the doors, they seem made on purpose to let the wind in instead of
keeping it out. It comes in from both doors and windows in little gusts
which would give a horse his death of cold, to say nothing of a man."

"Yet we don't die quicker than other people, that I can see," replied
Evaña; "our city is noted for its healthiness."

"That you owe to the Pampero, as you call this south-west wind, which
clears the air for you about once a month, and a very good wind it is in
its way, but of the best things it is possible to have too much. It was
awfully cold when I inspected the troops this morning; some of the men
looked blue with the cold and could hardly hold their muskets, this wind
goes through you like a knife. I don't object to it on the parade ground
once in a way, but I do object to it most decidedly in my own room. I
must have something done to these windows, hear how they rattle."

"Unless you make up your mind quickly to some decisive action they will
not annoy you much longer," replied Evaña.

"Ha, ha, my friend!" said Beresford; "that is your little game, is it? I
thought you looked unusually solemn this morning. That Frenchman of
yours, Liniers, is coming with a pack of Spanish curs behind him to
pitchfork me into the sea. When may we expect his Excellency?"

"I think you know when to expect him better than I can tell you."

"Well, perhaps I do, but you see I am not trembling in my shoes yet."

"You are not afraid of Liniers, and you have no cause to fear _him_."

"Then who is this dreadful enemy who is more to be feared than the
mighty Liniers?"

"The people of Buenos Aires."

General Beresford paused in his walk up and down the room and looked
earnestly at Evaña, and a grave look came over his face as he slowly
answered:

"You mean what you say?"

Evaña merely bowed his head in reply, and Beresford renewed his pacing
up and down, evidently in deep thought. Then pausing again he resumed:

"I know it. This apathy, of which you have spoken to me so much, is a
mask. I have sources of information of which you know nothing. I know
that these shopkeepers have their deposits of arms, and that hordes of
gauchos are assembling outside. It will be necessary to give them a
lesson, and yet you would fain have persuaded me that they were my
friends."

"They might have been."

"And my allies, too? I want no such allies. Liniers would send them
flying with one volley of musketry, as I did a month ago."

"That they fled from you then was because they had no heart in the
cause. Why should they fight for Spain? I tell you that if you fight
them again you will find them a much more stubborn foe. Shopkeepers you
call them and gauchos!" said Evaña, rising to his feet; "you will find
that whatever be their occupation they are men. The next time you set
your bull-dogs on them they will not turn like frightened sheep, but
will meet you foot to foot and hand to hand. Do I not know them? They
are my countrymen! What have you done since you have been here but
insult them? Even your civility and the strict discipline you keep
among your men is an insult to them. One does not waste polite speeches
on a friend, nor are soldiers kept to their quarters when they are
living in a friendly city. You have your outposts keeping watch upon
all their movements; you have your patrols, who prevent free transit
about the streets at night. Every means you take to show them that they
are conquered; but they know that they are not conquered--they know
that they have never measured their strength with you yet. You despise
them, but I tell you that if you persist in making them your enemies
you will find them more dangerous than Liniers and his Spaniards. They
will not drive you into the sea, but they will tear you to pieces where
you stand."

"Sit down, sit down, do not get excited," said Beresford quietly. "I am
not afraid of the raw levies they can bring against me, but I have no
wish to try their strength. What I have done in the way of outposts and
patrols is a necessity."

"You are a soldier, and act on military rules," said Evaña, resuming his
seat. "If you wish success to your enterprise, you must learn to be a
diplomatist as well as a soldier."

"And with whom shall I treat? To whom can I address myself?"

"To the people, in a public declaration that you make war only on the
Spaniards."

"Even if I could make such a declaration--for which allow me to remind
you that, as I have told you before, I have no authority--my words would
be but as words spoken to the wind. Who is there that can give me any
answer, or can come forward to treat with me?"

"No one," answered Evaña, with a sigh; "but your words would not be
spoken to the wind, they would speak to the hearts of men, and would
disarm those who are now arming against you."

"Look you, Señor Evaña, the Home Government knows nothing of this
expedition; it is an affair entirely arranged by Sir Home Popham and
myself. We have taken your city from the Spaniards, and intend to hold
it until we get instructions from England. Our Government has no wish to
take possession of this country, but they wish to open these rivers to
our commerce. Go you and two more of your principal men to England, and
arrange an alliance for yourselves with Great Britain. You will be well
received by Mr Fox; he is an enthusiast about liberty of the people, and
so forth. With Pitt you would have had no chance, but there is no
telling, these Whigs might like the idea of a liberal crusade in South
America, and of serving the Spaniards as the French served us. I do not
see why you should not be independent of Spain; you are quite strong
enough to stand by yourselves, if you only knew it."

"I do know it, and I know that without our aid you cannot hold our city
against Liniers and his Spaniards, therefore I come to show you how you
may make an alliance with us."

"You know it yourself, but your countrymen do not know it; they have
grown up from childhood with a blind reverence for Spain. Nine-tenths of
them would think it treason to enter into any alliance with me,
therefore I will not ask it of them; all I ask of them is that they keep
neutral."

"To remain neutral would be to forfeit our rights as men. My countrymen
will not tamely look on while you and the Spaniards arrange between you
who is to rule over us. We claim the casting vote in the dispute. Offer
us your aid to achieve our independence, we will treat with you, and you
shall be our guest; if you refuse it, you are but a foreigner and an
enemy, and we will thrust you forth."

"With whom shall I treat? With you? You have no influence with them;
first, because you are little known, and secondly, because you are my
friend. With the municipality? Its powers are ill-defined; I could but
treat with its members as with private individuals, besides which they
are Spaniards. With Don Gregorio Lopez, or with any other of the
wealthy Creoles? What I might arrange with them might be all cancelled
by the first popular government you might appoint. No, Señor Evaña, you
are a man who has studied much in books, but you have not studied men as
I have. I can make no treaty, except with some recognised authority, and
no such authority exists among you. A declaration from me as general of
the British army it is beyond the scope of my commission to give; but
you know my opinion concerning the feasibility of achieving your
independence, and I have told you that the Government of Great Britain
would be likely to look upon the project with favour, if it were
properly represented to them. Now is the time for you to strike a blow
for your independence yourselves; turn your armed levies against Liniers
when he arrives with his Spaniards, then you will make yourselves my
allies, though there can as yet be no treaty between us. You shake your
head, you cannot do it! Then allow me to tell you, my friend, that you
were born too soon. Men who will not fight for their own freedom are not
yet ripe for independence."

To this Evaña answered nothing for a space, but rising from his chair,
commenced to walk with hasty strides about the room, while Beresford,
seating himself at his desk, took up his pen and went on calmly with
some writing on which he had been engaged when Evaña entered. Ten
minutes so elapsed, then Evaña stopped in front of Beresford, and laying
one hand on the table, said:

"Can I, then, promise that you will aid us?"

"I can promise nothing officially, personally, there is nothing I should
like better."

"Too late! too late!" said Evaña, in a bitter tone. "Our men are eager
for the struggle, nothing but an open declaration from you will now give
me any influence with them."

"Yea, there is something else may bring them to their senses," said
Beresford, laying down his pen. "They were panic-struck when they first
saw me, now they have got used to the sight of red coats, and they have
got back some stomach for fighting, they want a lesson to cure them of
their new mania for playing at soldiers. They have had the folly to
collect a strong force of their levies not far from here, right under
my nose, as it were, but where they are I do not exactly know. Where
are they?"

"Nay, do not ask me," replied Evaña.

"Though you will not tell me I shall easily find it out, and you may
tell them, if you like, that I am going to beat up their quarters; but I
would advise you to do nothing of the kind, unless you think they would
wait for me."

"So that you may massacre them with your disciplined troops."

"There shall be no unnecessary bloodshed, I shall merely disperse them
and send them off to their homes, where they will be much more safe than
in trying to help Liniers to hoist the Spanish flag on that staff
outside there. Plenty of them will die if they try to do that."

"If I can bring six or eight of our principal men here, will you tell
them that you will do your best to aid us in freeing ourselves from
Spain?"

"I will tell them what I have told you, that I myself would gladly join
you if I had a commission to that effect, and that I believe the British
Government would receive the idea very favourably. But I tell you now,
that you will not get six or eight men to listen to me, whom I would
care to speak to."

"Not now perhaps, but they may," replied Evaña, with some hesitation.

"Yes, when they have had a lesson to show them their weakness."

"You will give them that lesson, you say?"

"Yes, but Liniers should be at Colonia by now, if my advices are
correct. There is no time to lose if we are to come to any understanding
together. Once Liniers joins them, to me all are alike Spaniards."

"Will you promise me that your troops shall not fire upon them?"

"I do not think I shall go myself, I shall probably send Colonel Pack,
his orders will be to disperse them. If he finds it necessary he will
fire, not otherwise."

Evaña turned from him and walked to the far end of the room, where he
stood for some moments at a window, gazing with dreamy eyes out upon the
parade-ground, where British sentries in long grey coats paced between
the Spanish guns which had so recently changed owners; upon the Plaza de
Los Perdices, where the market-people moved to and fro among their
stalls; and further yet upon the towers and domes of the churches of his
native city.

"The day is close at hand," said he to himself. "This man does not see
his danger, though I tell him of it. He will fight like a lion at bay,
but that flag with the red and blue crosses will come down, and that
hated flag, the flag of tyranny, will go up there again. If there were
division among them he might have some chance, and as he says there is
no time to lose, even to-morrow Liniers may land and it will be too
late, to-day is already the last day in July. Besides, I shall not save
them any way, he has spies."

As he said this, his whole frame trembled with suppressed passion.

"Yes, they want a lesson, the fools," he muttered through his teeth.
Then turning back to Beresford, he looked him sternly in the face.

"The Quinta de Perdriel, do you know where that is?"

"Yes," answered Beresford.

"There it is that your pupils await you."

A smile flitted over the face of the English general as he bowed in
reply. Evaña without another word left the room and walked with hasty
strides away to his own home.



CHAPTER V

PERDRIEL


Don Carlos Evaña spent the afternoon, evening, and night of the 31st
July shut in his own apartments, seeing no one, studying not at all,
reading by fits and starts, and knowing nothing of what he read,
thinking always. He could not sleep; before dawn he mounted to his
azotea, hoping by exercise to weary himself to sleep.

His house stood in the same block as that of Don Gregorio Lopez. As he
looked round him he saw a stout figure wrapped up in a thick woollen
poncho, standing on the azotea of Don Gregorio's house, he crossed two
other houses and went up to him, it was Don Gregorio himself.

"Buenos dias, Carlos," said Don Gregorio; "you are early abroad in spite
of the cold."

"Milagro!" replied Evaña; "it is a frequent custom of mine to pass the
night in study, and then to breathe the morning air before I go to bed."

"A most abominable custom, my friend," said Don Gregorio. "The night is
made dark on purpose that men may sleep, when the sun shines then is the
time for all work."

"I find the quiet of night very favourable to study, one is not liable
to interruption when all others are asleep."

"That is one of the ideas you have brought with you from the Old World.
Like many of your ideas it is out of place in the New."

"My ideas are out of place solely because they are new," replied Evaña;
"but the new will be old when their time comes."

"True. Some day you will be as old as I am, Carlos; perhaps, I should
say, for if you pass your nights without sleep continuously you will
never reach my age. If you ever do, you will know by then that all rapid
and violent changes are out of place, not only in the Old World but in
the New also."

"Violent changes are at times necessary, Don Gregorio. Without violence
change is frequently impossible, and change is one of the conditions of
our existence."

"Change is one of the laws of Nature," replied Don Gregorio; "but the
changes of Nature proceed gradually. Watch them in the trees; from bud
to leaf, from leaf to flower, from flower to fruit, then fall the leaves
and the tree rests for the winter. When spring comes again another
series of change commences, and from year to year the tree increases in
size and beauty."

"Till the day comes," said Evaña, as Don Gregorio paused, "when a storm
tears up the old tree by the roots and it gives place to younger trees.
Your simile does not hold good, Don Gregorio; even Nature finds violence
a necessity at times to remove some obstruction to her invariable law of
progress. These fierce storms which at times sweep over our city cause
great damage and suffering while they last, but without them neither
trees nor men would flourish."

"True, but Nature does not work blindly, she knows what will be the
result of the storms she sends upon us. Do you know, Carlos, what will
be the result of the storm you would fain raise amongst us?"

"I do. The result will be the birth of a great nation."

"If the nation is to be, it is born already, but it is not yet strong
enough to walk alone."

"And therefore requires assistance," said Evaña.

"We shall know before long what sort of assistance we may expect from
your friends the English. I was awakened an hour ago by their trampling
along the street; they do not treat us very much like friends."

"Some patrol, I suppose."

"No patrol at all, but an expedition."

"A reconnaissance, probably, into the suburbs."

"A reconnoitring party would not take guns with them."

"Guns!" said Evaña, with an involuntary shudder of apprehension; "what
direction did they take?"

"Westward. I have no doubt that they have gone to wake up our friends at
Perdriel. Marcelino is there, so, as you may imagine, I am very anxious.
It is that has brought me so early to the azotea."

Evaña turned away sick at heart. Marcelino was in danger, the English
must anticipate resistance, or they would not take guns with them. Evaña
knew the daring spirit of his friend; with raw levies of men, the whole
brunt of the fighting, if there were any, would be borne by such as he.
He had brought this danger upon him, he had not even attempted to warn
him of it. Marcelino had reposed such confidence in him that he had told
him of all their plans, and had confided in him as though he were one of
themselves, though he had openly refused to join them. He had stood
forth alone to defend him when treachery was imputed to him; he had
taken as an insult to himself a calumny which was a calumny no longer.
Evaña shivered, but it was not with cold, as he folded his cloak more
closely round him. Two or three turns he took on the azotea, then going
back to Don Gregorio, the two paced up and down for some time in
silence, side by side. In thoughts and ideas they were wide apart, but
one great anxiety was common to both, and though they spoke no more they
were well content to be together, the presence of each was to the other
as a mute sympathy.

Presently, as the dawning day broke over the city which lay around them,
there came to them from afar off the crackling sound of an irregular
fire of musketry, which lasted about ten minutes, when there came the
louder report of a cannon, then all was still. As minute after minute
passed and there was no further sound of fighting, Evaña breathed more
freely.

"It is all over now," said he to Don Gregorio.

"So it appears," replied the elder gentleman. "Thank God, there has not
been much of it."

"I will go and see what has happened," said Evaña.

"Do, Carlos, and bring me word as soon as you return."

Evaña descended at once to his own house, and going to an inner patio
where his horse was tied under a shed, he saddled him himself, led him
out into the street, mounted, and rode off. As he passed along he saw
many men looking out from the doors of their houses, stopping the
market-people or the milkmen as they trotted in on their mules and
raw-boned horses, and questioning them. He drew rein once or twice and
listened to what was said, but the information he thus gleaned amounted
to nothing at all, so pressing his horse to a sharp canter he went on
more rapidly, had passed the suburbs and was among the quintas, when
again he heard the sound of musketry. This time it was no longer the
irregular dropping fire of skirmishers, it was the regular file firing
of trained infantry hotly engaged, and presently mingled with it came
the thunder of artillery.

Evaña drove his spurs into his horse's flanks and galloped on at full
speed, but ere he reached the scene of action the firing had ceased, and
light clouds of grey smoke drifting away were all that he could see of
the recent conflict. Passing a hollow without slacking speed, he was
soon on the open ground, and Perdriel lay before him.

Pickets of grey-coated infantry were marching away from him, while
beyond the plain was dotted with flying horsemen. Now and then one of
these pickets would halt, there was a shimmer of glistening steel as
their muskets fell to the "present," there was a flash of fire and a
light cloud of smoke, then on marched the infantry as before. Further
and further away galloped the horsemen, and Evaña saw that the rout of
his own countrymen was complete.

He knew that it would be so, he had said that their victory would be a
misfortune, but the sight was not pleasant to him. He felt that he would
rather himself have been one of those panic-stricken horsemen, flying
for their lives after hazarding them for their country, than be as he
now was, a passive spectator of the scene.

He galloped on till he reached the spot where he saw for the first time
the immediate result of the "pastime of kings." Around him on the
frosted grass lay some threescore of his own countrymen, dead or dying.
Some lay peacefully stretched out on their backs or faces as though they
were asleep; some with their limbs doubled up beneath them, and their
bodies twisted into strange contortions; some lay crushed under their
dead horses. Some few there were who were sitting up, striving in a
helpless manner to stanch the blood from some deep wound which was
draining their life away. Forcing his frightened horse to carry him into
the midst of this scene of horror, Evaña, his heart wildly beating with
a terror hitherto unknown to him, gazed eagerly around looking for
something which he felt he could willingly give up his own life not to
find, the body of his friend Marcelino. His search was unsuccessful, the
bodies lying round him were all those of swarthy, long-haired,
coarsely-dressed paisanos. Turning rein, and heeding nothing the cries
of the wounded who called wildly upon him for assistance and for water,
he again drove his spurs into his horse's flank and galloped to the
quinta, which he saw was occupied by British troops.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours before dawn that morning was a mustering of men in the Plaza
Mayor, no drums beat to arms, no trumpets sounded; silently the men took
their places in the ranks, each man with his firelock on his shoulder,
and his cartridge-box strapped on outside his grey overcoat, but without
knapsack. They were in light marching order, and had been told off the
night before for some special service which required secrecy and speed.
There were about 500 of them, and they had two guns with them.

When all was ready the officer in command, who was mounted on a small
horse, gave the word to march, and away they went at a quick step along
the quiet, darksome streets out westward. Light sleepers were awakened
from their dreams by the heavy tramp of armed men, and the rumbling of
the wheels of cannon. Windows were opened, and men half asleep gazed
forth from between the "rejas" on the long lines of grey-coated figures,
who went swiftly by in the darkness, their eyes dwelling more especially
with a sort of dreamy fascination upon the sloped barrels of the
muskets, and on the polished bayonets which glinted in the clear rays of
the stars.

After marching about a mile and a half the detachment emerged from the
main city into the suburbs, where the streets were no longer continuous
lines of houses, but were bordered by gardens and orchards, then the
street itself merged into a broad track, along which here and there, on
either hand, stood detached buildings, some of them large, square,
solidly-built houses, with flat, battlemented roofs, and with
reja-protected windows; but more of them were mere huts of mud and
wattle, with thatched roofs and no windows, save perhaps a square hole
in the wall closed at night-time by a wooden shutter. When there were no
houses there the road was bordered by a shallow ditch, on the inside of
which, on the top of the mound formed by the earth which had been thrown
out of the ditch, was planted an irregular fence of aloes, whose broad,
sharp-pointed leaves presented a formidable obstacle in the way of any
intruder. These fences enclosed the gardens of the men who furnished the
Plaza de Los Perdices with its daily supply of fruit and vegetables,
these thatched houses were their dwellings. Some of them were already
stirring as the troops passed, and were busy fixing panniers of raw hide
upon the backs of long-eared mules, or filling these panniers with such
produce as their gardens could produce at that season. The unwonted
appearance of troops marching on the road caused them no surprise; they
were men who were not in the habit of being astonished at anything. They
paused for a moment in their work to look after the troops, observing
one to another:

"The English! What do they, that they get up so early?"

Then straightway resuming their occupations they thought no more of
them.

About a mile the grey-coated soldiers marched through these fenced
gardens, which joined on to one another, or were separated only by an
occasional roadway, till they came to a new region of "quintas," which
were only gardens such as those they had passed, but on a larger scale,
divided one from another by wide open spaces of pasture-land. Here they
frequently saw horses picketed, or cows lay chewing the cud, and gazing
upon them with soft, sleepy eyes. The road was nothing but a broad,
beaten track running between these quintas, cut up with deep ruts made
by the wheels of heavy carts, but firm under foot, hardened to the
hardness of stone by the frosts of winter. At some of these quintas boys
were already driving up cows from the pasture towards rows of white
posts standing outside the quinta fences, where other cows were tied,
and women were busy milking.

In a hollow the troops were halted. At the head of the column had
marched the light company of the 71st Highlanders, under the command of
its captain, who had two lieutenants with him. As they halted, the
commanding officer rode up to the head of the column.

"Gordon," said he, to one of the lieutenants, "you have been here
before, and know something of the ground. We are close to Perdriel now,
I believe."

"Yes, sir. It is just over the rise lying a little to the left of the
road."

"Take twenty men with you and go forward, and see what you can make
out."

The young officer touched his Highland bonnet, and then with twenty men,
who carried their arms at the trail, marched swiftly away up the slope
and disappeared. In about half-an-hour he returned alone.

"I have left my men hidden under the fence of a small quinta," he said.
"The enemy are encamped just beyond in the open, to the left of the
Quinta de Perdriel."

"Do they cover much ground?"

"They seem to have a great many horses picketed all about, they stretch
as far as I could see, but they have not many bivouac fires, and those
are close up to the quinta."

"Is the ground all open between here and there?"

"This small quinta where I have left the men is all that is in the way,
and it will hide our approach. On both sides of it the ground is quite
open."

"Have they no outposts or videttes?"

"None that I could see."

"Then the sooner we are on to them the better. Lead on straight for this
small quinta you tell me of."

In low, gruff tones the word "march" passed from front to rear, and
again the small column was in motion, winding along like a grey serpent
up the slope, over the crisp, frozen grass, where each footprint left a
black mark on the glistening surface, bringing on with it in the rear of
the column the two guns, like a serpent which carries a double sting in
its tail.

The stars had faded away out of the heavens, the eastern sky was tinged
with ruddy gold, birds hopped about in the short grass, or flew hither
and thither chirping a welcome to the new-born day, for the birds do not
sing in Buenos Aires, as this column of armed men, strong in their
discipline, blindly obedient to the command of an experienced leader,
marched swiftly and stealthily towards their prey.

And what was their prey? A body of men nearly twice their own number, as
strong of arm and as stout in heart as they, but men who knew no
discipline, and were strangers to the use of arms; men who knew just as
much of war as did their leaders, that is to say, just nothing at all,
and thus had no confidence or trust in them, but would perchance follow
where they led, if they saw no faltering in them, and had no personal
antipathy to them.

As the composition of these two bodies of men was distinct, so also were
the objects which had brought them together. The British soldier did his
duty, and asked no questions; he was ready to shoot, stab, or knock on
the head anyone he was told; his life was just as precious to him as
that of any other man was to that other, but he had sold his services,
and his life, if need be, to his native country for a small modicum of
pay and a pension, if he lived long enough to earn it. He had nothing to
think of but to do his duty blindly, and it was his habit so to do it;
he fought the battles of his native country wherever she liked to send
him, and obeyed her implicitly, she being represented to him by whatever
officer happened for the moment to be in command of him. To these men
who formed this column of 500 soldiers, General Beresford represented
the might and majesty of Great Britain; he had told them to go forth and
scatter his enemies with fire and steel, and they intended to do it; why
these other men were the enemies of Great Britain they never troubled
themselves to inquire, they did their duty as they were accustomed to.

The men who were now encamped in and about the Quinta de Perdriel were
no trained soldiers gathered together to fight the battles of their
country, they were hardy yeomen, men whose lives were mostly spent on
horseback and in the open air. A cry had gone forth among them that a
band of foreigners had invaded their native country, had taken their
chief city, and had chased away their Spanish rulers; men whom they knew
had called upon them to assemble and take up arms to drive out these
invaders. Such a call had never before been made upon them, but they
obeyed it cheerfully, and had come together as though to some festive
gathering, their hearts swelling with a strange, unwonted pride. That
they had a country which was theirs, and from which it was their duty to
drive any foreign invader, was an idea which was quite new to them,
their hearts for the first time beat with patriotism.

Their leaders were mostly young men, to whom patriotism was not
altogether a novelty, they were eager and enthusiastic, and waited
longingly for the day when they might display their devotion to their
country by feats of arms, and might seal it, if necessary, with their
blood.

Neither of these two opposing forces represented a perfect army; the
distinguishing qualities of both in combination have characterised all
the armies of all nations, who have at any time in the history of the
world earned for themselves immortal fame by their prowess both in
victory and defeat.

As the column emerged from the hollow upon the level plain they heard a
confused murmur of voices which came to them from a distance through the
clear morning air, the patriot levies were already astir. As they drew
near the quinta, under whose fence Lieutenant Gordon had left his men,
they heard a shout and saw some of the Highlanders rush out from their
concealment. The approach of the column had been perceived by a small
party which had passed the night at this quinta, the horses of which
were picketed inside the fence. Several men had mounted hurriedly and
were now trying to make their escape. The Highlanders ran to the
tranquera on the south side the quinta, and stopped their exit by that
passage, making prisoners of two who tried to burst through; but there
was another exit in the western fence where the hedge had been broken
down by stray cattle, by which others made good their escape, and
galloped off to the main camp.

The column immediately deployed and advanced in line, with one company
and the two guns in reserve. The Highland light company on the right had
orders to advance upon and occupy the further quinta itself, the main
body keeping more to the left, where the blue smoke curling up in long
spirals from the watch-fires gave token of an encampment.

The Quinta de Perdriel was a large enclosure, one half of which was
planted with trees. The buildings consisted of a large, flat-roofed
house, stretching round two sides of a patio. Another side of this patio
was shut in by a low wall with an iron gateway in the centre, which ran
in a line with the fence, and the remaining side was occupied by a
confused group of ranchos which stretched back some fifty yards into the
quinta. The shape of the enclosure was an oblong, the fence was the
usual shallow ditch backed by an aloe hedge, along which arose here and
there the tall stems on which it is said that the aloe carries a flower
once only in every hundred years. The hedge was in many places eight
feet high and quite impenetrable, but there were numerous gaps through
which a man might easily force his way if he could scramble up the bank
and did not mind a few scratches. The quinta house and out-buildings
stood on the southern face of the enclosure; the attacking column
approached it from the south-east, and the encampment lay beyond,
outside the western fence.

A horseman rode at full gallop into the patio of the quinta, other
horsemen rushed madly about the encampment; all shouted the same warning
cry:

"Los Ingleses! Los Ingleses!!"

In an instant all was confusion, men sprang to the backs of their horses
without stopping to saddle, and galloped off to drive up the horses
which were feeding in troops all over the plain; others seized their
arms and collected in groups, not knowing what to do, and having no one
to tell them. The leaders ran together in the large patio of the quinta,
shouting contradictory orders which no one obeyed. The doors and windows
of the flat-roofed house were closed, and the iron entrance-gate was
shut. Women crowded into the ranchos, shrieking and dragging their
children with them. Among all this confusion one man alone preserved his
coolness and presence of mind, Marcelino Ponce de Leon, who at the first
shout of alarm mounted to the azotea and made a rapid inspection of the
approaching enemy; then descending again to the patio--

"Don Juan Martin," said he, addressing one of the chief leaders, "run
you outside and mount all the men you can collect together, while we
keep them out of the quinta."

Don Juan Martin Puyrredon mounted his horse, which stood at hand ready
saddled for him, and causing the iron gate to be opened galloped off at
once; and collecting the groups of armed men, who waited in the open,
not knowing what to do, told them to take up their saddles and retreat
with him behind the quinta, where by this time a good number of horses
had been driven together.

"Now those who have muskets up to the azotea," said Marcelino, as
Puyrredon galloped off.

"I will defend the gate," shouted one excited young man, drawing his
sword, and giving it a wild flourish in the air, "who will help me?"

In a moment he was surrounded by volunteers. Then Marcelino, calling on
a number of others by name to follow him, ran off through the trees
which surrounded the house towards the eastern fence of the quinta. He
was only just in time, the Highlanders were already on the other side,
but had halted while search was made for some way of passing through it.
A random volley of pistol and carbine shots was the first notice they
had of a foe more formidable than thorny aloes.

The captain in command gave the word "Forward!" and Lieutenant Gordon
shouting, "Come on, 71st, follow me!" ran quickly over the intervening
ground, and picking out the lowest place he could see in the hedge
before him jumped clean over the ditch and into the hedge, whence he
slipped and fell on his knees inside. In an instant he was on his feet
again, and with two or three dexterous cuts with his claymore cleared a
way for his men to follow him through the fence; the next moment a blow
on the head stretched him on the ground, but ere it could be repeated
the Highlanders came springing in through the gap and entrance was won.

Marcelino made one desperate rush with such men as he could get to
follow him, to try and drive them back; but his men with their swords
and facones could not stand against the muskets and bayonets of the
Highlanders, they were beaten off, and Marcelino broke his own sword in
the scuffle. As they retired Lieutenant Gordon drew up a few of his men
in line, and rushed after them with levelled bayonets, when they fled at
once to the shelter of the trees. Here Marcelino again tried to make a
stand, but the Highlanders had now cut several passages for themselves
through the aloe hedge, and poured in by dozens. In five minutes the
light company had the whole of the quinta to the rear of the house in
their possession.

Meantime the main body of the British force had driven everything before
them in the open, capturing a quantity of arms and horse-gear, and
several carts containing provisions and ammunition. They now turned
their attention to the flat-roofed house, whence a desultory fire had
been opened upon them, threw out skirmishers, who ran up to the ditch
and fired upon all who showed their heads above the parapet of the roof
or who stood unprotected in the patio or among the out-buildings. Then
finding the iron gate fast locked and the key gone, one of the guns was
brought up, and at the first discharge shattered it so severely that it
was easily pulled down and the troops poured into the patio.

Marcelino, who had retreated to the house and had taken the command
there, had withdrawn the men from the azotea, for towards the quinta
there was no parapet to the roof, and the light company spread among the
trees had them at their mercy. He now turned his attention to
strengthening the doors and windows and spoke of holding out to the last
extremity, and of allowing the house to be knocked to pieces about his
ears rather than surrender, but he had only about forty men with him and
their ammunition was nearly all expended. They looked blankly one at
another, and as he was but one of themselves they waited only for a
pretext to throw off the authority which he had given himself over them.

By interior doors the rooms of the house all communicated, but most of
the garrison were collected in the principal room, waiting in gloomy
silence for what might happen, marvelling that the English left them so
long without molestation. After about twenty minutes of this anxious
waiting, they heard again hoarse voices of command and the rapid tramp
of marching men. Cautiously opening the shutters of the windows they
looked out and saw that only a small detachment was left in possession
of the patio, while a strong force of the enemy was manoering in the
open.

Don Juan Martin Puyrredon, having got from Marcelino Ponce de Leon some
idea of what to do, did it with considerable energy, and having
collected five or six hundred of his men and brought them into something
like order, now returned to the scene and at once made a swoop upon the
small British force which was drawn up to receive him. The British
officer had formed his men in line two deep, with his right resting on
the quinta fence, the two guns in the centre in reserve, and a few
sections thrown back on his left to guard against any attempt to take
him in the rear.

Waving his sword, and riding some two lengths ahead of his men, Don Juan
Martin brought them on at a gallop, their sabres and the blades of their
lances glistening brightly in the rays of the rising sun, while their
many-coloured ponchos fluttered and danced in the morning breeze. When
about 200 yards distant he shouted the word: "Charge!" and bowing to his
horse's neck and driving in his spurs he dashed at full speed at his
enemy. His men answered with a wild yell, and throwing themselves almost
flat on their horses' backs broke their ranks and followed him, a
disorganised mob of horsemen, rushing at headlong speed upon a slender
line of grey-coated soldiers, who stood motionless to receive them,
motionless, but quite ready, with their firelocks grasped tight in their
hands, their teeth set, and their eyes gleaming with excitement. Scarce
fifty yards intervened between them and the foremost horsemen, when from
the lips of that one horseman who sat so quietly in his saddle in the
centre of the line of soldiery came one low word addressed to the bugler
who stood beside him; the notes of the bugle rang out clear on the
frosty air, down went those shining barrels, a flash of fire and smoke
ran from one end to the other of the line, and then began again in one
continuous roll. At the same time the Highland company who had remained
in the quinta, and had been drawn up behind the fence, hidden by the
leaves of the aloes, opened a rapid flanking fire upon the horsemen.
Horses and men rolled over in dozens. Don Juan Martin Puyrredon was one
of the first to fall. His horse was shot under him. Half-stunned and
dazed, he staggered to his feet; then one of his men drawing rein beside
him, he mounted up behind him, and rode out of the press.

But other brave leaders were not wanting. Shouting words of
encouragement to their men, they led them through the smoke right on to
the British bayonets; but it was no use, they could make no impression
on that stolid line of infantry. If they spurred their horses against
the bayonets of the first rank, it only made them an easy mark for the
bullets of the second. One strong squadron of them had outflanked the
infantry, and wheeled round to attack them in the rear. Upon these the
guns were brought to bear, two rounds of canister at short range emptied
many of their saddles, and scattered them in hopeless confusion. The
struggle did not last five minutes. The level ground around the British
position was strewed with men and horses, most of them quiet in death,
some few groaning and writhing with the agony of mortal wounds.

Don Juan Martin Puyrredon having procured another horse, rallied yet
again a confused crowd of the stragglers and with them made another
attempt to take his enemy in flank; but his men no longer followed him
with reckless impetuosity; as they saw the gunners again wheel round
their pieces to oppose them they turned and fled. Don Juan Martin drew
rein within fifty paces of the British bayonets; clenching his hand he
raised it and shook it at them in fierce despair, then turned and
trotted slowly away. More than one musket came sharply up to the
shoulder as he thus defied the soldiery, but the officer in command
shouted to them in clear ringing tones:

"Do not shoot him! He is a brave fellow that."

His men echoed his opinion by bursting into a hearty "Hurrah!"

Leaving the artillery and Highlanders in possession of the quinta, the
officer in command started at once with the rest of his men in pursuit.
Split up into pickets of about twenty men each, they spread rapidly over
the open ground beyond the quinta, firing upon any groups who ventured
to let them come within range. But the panic-stricken horsemen made no
further attempt to molest them. Such groups as attempted to rally, broke
up and fled as the infantry came down upon them at the double; in
half-an-hour not a single horseman remained in sight.

Some threescore, dead or mortally wounded, lay upon the plain, five dead
men lay on the flat roof of the azotea. The British detachment had two
men killed and about a dozen wounded.

The lesson which General Beresford had thought it necessary to teach had
been taught by one well experienced in such kind of teaching; whether it
had been learnt or not was quite another question.

Meantime, as the first volleys of musketry shook their windows, the
garrison of the flat-roofed house had whispered one to another that now
was their time to escape. In vain Marcelino prayed them to hold out till
Don Juan Martin had driven off the English, they had imbibed a wholesome
fear of these English and would not listen to him. They opened a side
door and rushed forth; the officer in command of the picket which
occupied the patio made no attempt to stop them, they ran at once for
the trees and were soon safe from all pursuit. All save one, who stood
alone in the open doorway, with his arms crossed over his chest and the
stump of a broken sword in his hand, listening intently to the sounds of
the fierce contention which raged outside, of which he could see nothing
from where he stood.

As these sounds died away his lips closed tightly together, and as the
ringing sound of a British cheer came to him through the smoke, which
was lightly drifting away over the tree-tops, he threw the stump of the
broken sword from him and bowed his head as though he resigned himself
to some bitter fate.

"Porkey Oosty no va?" said a voice close at hand, speaking in very
barbarous Spanish, but yet in words which Marcelino could understand.

He looked round and saw a young English officer standing on the paved
causeway which surrounded the house, looking curiously at him.

"Will not you stop me?" answered Marcelino in English.

"Stop you? no; our orders are to send you away from here."

Marcelino looked at him attentively, he had seen him before somewhere,
presently he remembered where that was. This was the young officer who,
to his astonishment and that of his men, had jumped in among them over
the aloe fence not an hour before; also the same officer whom he had
seen standing under the glare of the wax-lights beside his sister in his
mother's sala only two nights ago.

"You will not stop here, you will go back to the city?" he said.

"I believe so," replied the officer.

"Then will you do me a favour?"

"I shall have much pleasure."

"You visit at the house of Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon?"

"Yes, frequently," answered the young officer, his face lighting up with
pleasure.

"I will write a line for Doña Constancia if you will carry it for me."

"Certainly I will," answered the other, who began to have some idea of
who he was speaking to.

Marcelino drew a pocket-book from his breast and wrote in pencil a line
only to say that he was safe, signing it only with one letter, M. Then
tearing out the leaf, he folded it up and handed it to Lieutenant
Gordon, saying:

"There is no treason in it, but it may give ease to an anxious heart."

"She shall have it as soon as I can get off," replied the other.

They shook hands cordially together, and Marcelino raising his hat
turned away, and walked off deliberately but rapidly through the quinta.

"He is her brother, or I am a Dutchman," said Lieutenant Gordon to
himself, as he watched him till he disappeared among the trees; "and a
fine fellow, too; what a pity we should have to fight those fellows!"



CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH IT APPEARS THAT A LESSON MAY BE WELL TAUGHT AND YET NOT LEARNED


As Marcelino left the quinta on one side, Evaña galloped in by the gate
on the other. The Highland officer in command knew him slightly, having
seen him frequently in company with General Beresford, and seeing his
agitation divined the object of his visit, and invited him to dismount.

"Are there any killed here?" asked Evaña.

"Several," replied the officer.

The men were collecting the bodies of the slain from among the trees and
from the azotea, and laid them in the patio side by side; some wounded
also they removed within the house. Eagerly Evaña scrutinised them one
by one as the soldiers brought them forward; as they brought the last
his heart gave a bound of joy, Marcelino was not among them.

"There are some wounded outside," said he to the officer; "I will go and
see if I can assist them."

"I will send a party to collect them and bring them here," replied the
officer.

But without waiting for aid, Evaña remounted his horse, rode back to the
scene of horror which lay without, and set to work to aid the wounded to
the best of his ability, tearing strips from the clothing of the dead to
bind up the wounds of those for whom there was yet hope.

One man he saw lying on his face with a leg hid under the body of his
dead horse. As he passed him the man turned his head slightly to look at
him; he was not dead. Evaña knelt down beside him to see if he was past
all aid; he could see no wound on him.

"Speak," said he to him, "where are you wounded?"

"Leave me," answered the man; "for God's sake, leave me. I am not
wounded, but if they know that I am alive they will kill me."

"I am alive, and they do not kill me," said Evaña. "Don't be a fool; the
fight is over now, get up and help me with these wounded."

Then taking up a lance-shalt which lay by, Evaña pushed it under the
body of the fallen horse, and using it as a lever raised the dead animal
sufficiently to let the man draw his leg out from underneath. He
staggered to his feet, and limped about, his leg was bruised but he was
otherwise unhurt.

"Ah! I am lost! Here come the heretics," he exclaimed, as Evaña chafed
his leg for him to restore the circulation; then he threw himself again
flat on the ground, saying, "Mount your horse and fly while you can."

Evaña looked round and saw a party of Highlanders headed by an officer,
and carrying stretchers, coming towards him from the quinta. As they
drew near he saw with pleasure that the officer was one he knew,
Lieutenant Gordon; he had met him more than once at the house of Don
Roderigo Ponce de Leon.

"Señor Evaña, good-morning; you are well employed," said the lieutenant.
"I have come to help you. Most of them appear to be killed, if there are
any wounded we will carry them inside."

"There are few," answered Evaña sadly; then giving him a kick in the
ribs, he said to the man lying at his feet, "Get up, you fool, and help
us."

The man rose at once to his feet, glaring savagely at the new-comers,
but when he saw that they only smiled and looked curiously at him, he
set to work very willingly with the rest, and in a short time such
wounded as there remained any hope for were removed to the quinta. All
the beds in the house were brought into requisition for them, and they
were placed in the care of the women and a few men belonging to the
quinta who had taken no part in the fighting and had not fled with the
rest.

When the wounded were all sent off, Evaña commenced a search among the
dead; they were all swarthy, roughly dressed paisanos. The man whom he
had rescued from the fallen horse knew several of them and told him
their names, which Evaña at once took down in his pocket-book, and then
inquired of him if he knew anything of Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon, or
had seen anything of him that day.

"Is he a tall young man with black hair and a short black beard?"

"Yes."

"Always very dandy in his dress, like one of the city?"

"Yes."

"Then I think I know who you mean; I saw him yesterday. He was always
wanting us to do exercise and was never satisfied, and very much a
friend with Don Juan Martin. I did not see him to-day, but there was
some fighting in the quinta, perhaps he was there."

"I will go at once and inquire there," replied Evaña, walking towards
his horse.

"And what shall I do?" asked the man. "Are you going to leave me here
among these?"

"Take your recao and bridle off your horse and follow me; if I cannot
get you another horse I will give you mine."

When they reached the quinta Evaña found many others there who had come
from the city to see what had happened, to whom the Highlanders were
offering stray horses which they had captured for sale. He bought one
for two dollars and gave it to the man who had followed him, who lost no
time in saddling and mounting.

"Patron," said he to Evaña, as he settled himself in the saddle, "you
have saved my life. My life, my services, and all that I have are at
your disposal. I am only a poor gaucho, but you have only to speak, and
I will do whatever you wish for you."

He still thought that the English had only removed the wounded to the
house so that they might cut their throats at their leisure, and that
they would have killed him at once had not Evaña been there to speak for
him.

"Vaya con Dios," replied Evaña, and as the man galloped off he smiled,
remembering that he had neither told him his name nor where he came
from, so that he knew not where to apply for his services should he
require them.

Evaña dismounted in the patio of the quinta and then went in search of
Lieutenant Gordon, whom he found inside the house superintending the
arrangements for the comfort of the wounded.

"Señor Gordon," said he, drawing him to one side, "I have come here in
search of a friend of mine, who I have reason to believe was one of the
garrison of the quinta this morning. I am very anxious about him."

"What was his name?" asked the lieutenant.

"I do not wish to mention his name," replied Evaña.

"Was it the same as this?" asked the other, drawing from his
waistcoat-pocket a small piece of paper folded into the form of a letter
and addressed to--

  La Sra:
  Doña Constancia Lopez y Viana.

"No," answered Evaña, as a thrill of joy shot through him; he recognised
the handwriting of his friend.

Lieutenant Gordon looked at him for a moment with a puzzled expression
on his face, then--

"Ah; I forgot," said he, "women do not change their names in this
country when they marry. Of course, but you recognise that writing?"

"Yes, it is his."

"Then he is all safe, I spoke with him not an hour ago. He went away the
last of them all. But it is not his fault that he is safe, if they had
been all like him we should not have got in so easily."

"If they were all like him you would not have got in at all," replied
Evaña warmly, at which the young officer smiled and shrugged his
shoulders.

"Excuse me," continued Evaña, "but that note is to his mother. If you
will permit me I will take it to her at once."

A look of disappointment came over Lieutenant Gordon's face, he seemed
loth to part with the letter, but after pondering a little he handed it
to Evaña, saying:

"Yes, you had better take it, you can go at once, but I may probably be
here all day."

Evaña put it carefully into his pocket-book.

"You will not mention his name to anyone," he said, turning to go away.

"No fear," answered Gordon. "No one spoke to him but myself, and as he
did not mention his name there will be no need to tell it, but probably
no questions will be asked."

As Evaña rode out of the gate he met the commanding officer returning
from the pursuit, and stopped to speak with him. He recognised him as
Colonel Pack, General Beresford's second in command.

"I shall remain here till the afternoon," said the colonel, in reply to
a question of Evaña's. "They have carried off most of their wounded with
them; those fellows are deuced difficult to unhorse, but we have some
here, I believe, and it will be well if you can send me some native
surgeon to look after them."

This Evaña promised to do, and then started at once for the city at a
quick gallop.

At the house of Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon he found all in a state of
great anxiety. Vague rumours of a fierce fight that morning, in which
the slaughter had been immense, were current among them. Some said that
Liniers had arrived in the night, and had been completely defeated;
others, that he had cut to pieces the entire English detachment sent to
oppose him, and was now advancing upon the city; others, that the
English had fallen upon the levies at Perdriel, and had massacred them.
Many not belonging to the household were there, seeking information, or
giving information upon which no reliance could be placed. Among them
Doña Constancia wandered restlessly, listening to all, but believing
nothing of what was said.

The entrance of Evaña into the sala, booted and spurred, and flushed
with his rapid gallop, caused a general cessation of talk. Taking out
his pocket-book he drew from it the folded paper and handed it to Doña
Constancia with a reassuring smile.

"Gracias à Dios!" exclaimed she, as she read the few words written by
Marcelino. "He has spared my son to me yet again."

Her daughter Dolores, leaning on her shoulder, read the words with her;
then throwing her arms round her mother's neck, and hiding her face in
her bosom, she burst into tears.

"Yes; thank God that Marcelino is safe," she murmured; "but why should
they fight when they might be such good friends?"

Evaña heard the low words, and a tender look came over his usually stern
features as he gazed upon her; then turning away he gave Don Roderigo
and the others a rapid account of what he had seen and heard that
morning. As he spoke Doña Constancia came and stood beside her husband,
resting her crossed hands upon his shoulder, while Dolores leaned upon
her father with his right arm thrown round her.

"Then Marcelino was not engaged with the cavalry?" said Don Roderigo.

"No; he appears to have been in the quinta all the time. I believe they
made some attempt to defend the place. Mr Gordon spoke very highly of
the way he had behaved."

"And the Señor Gordon intended to have brought this note himself?" said
Doña Constancia.

"Yes; and he seemed much disappointed that he was not able to do so."

"You will find him for me, and will bring him here, Roderigo?" said Doña
Constancia.

"I will," said Don Roderigo, "We shall hear all the particulars from
him. But have you no idea, Don Carlos, where Marcelino has gone to?"

"No; but as their levies seem to be completely dispersed, he will
probably wait at no great distance until we see what Liniers can do."

"He will go and join Liniers now, and they will fight again," said
Dolores.

"God protect us!" said Doña Constancia. "Have we not already thought of
this?"

There was great ferment throughout the city all that day. It soon became
generally known that the partidarios under Don Juan Martin Puyrredon had
suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the English, but instead of
losing heart at the news the townsmen murmured among themselves vows of
vengeance, and the name of Liniers passed frequently from lip to lip; in
him was now all their hope.

Late in the afternoon many of them were gathered together in the
dining-room of Don Gregorio Lopez. Don Carlos Evaña had made another
effort to bring them to look favourably upon the English; the only
answers he received were fierce threats and upbraidings: the threats he
treated with contempt, the upbraidings he suffered in silence.

"Take my advice, Don Carlos," said Don Gregorio Lopez, "leave off
talking to us in that strain; your ideas are all very well in your
study, here they are quite out of place. However ready we might have
been to accept the friendship of the English, the time has now gone by.
The sword is drawn, and we have thrown away the scabbard."

"There is war between us now, and war to the knife," said Don Isidro
Lorea, who was one of those present. "They have attacked us, and have
murdered our brothers with their cannon; this question can now only be
settled by fire and blood."

"It is folly to talk to us of Spanish tyranny," said another. "Do the
Spaniards ever send their men to shoot us and bayonet us when we are
asleep? On the contrary, the Spaniards have often shed their blood in
our defence, they have made war upon the Indians for us, and their ships
destroyed the English pirates who infested the Parana in the days of our
grandfathers."

"I have been at Perdriel to-day," said another. "I helped to put the
dead into the carts we sent out for them. For each dead man I touched I
vowed that I will kill an Englishman. Wait until Liniers comes; if he is
strong enough, then we will show them the mercy they showed to our
countrymen to-day; those of them who can swim off to their ships may
escape, the rest die. If he is not strong enough for them, then we will
kill them all the same, but more slowly, with the knife."

"If you had listened to me before, this disaster would never have
happened," said Evaña. "The partidarios were armed, therefore their
encampment was a challenge. General Beresford does not make war upon
peaceable citizens."

"Basta, Don Carlos," said Don Gregorio. "In attacking the partidarios he
has made war upon us. We are men; if we cannot fight him we know at
least how to die with honour. Come with me, I have something to say to
you in private."

Don Gregorio took Evaña with him into a smaller room, and locking the
door, he seated himself.

"Do you know what these say of you?" said he.

"Sufficient evil, I make no doubt," answered Evaña.

"More than sufficient, my friend. They say you have reasons for thus
speaking in favour of the English."

"Reasons! of course I have. I love my country, and would see her free
and great. I know that she can only become so by the help of these
English."

"I know you love your country. There are some who say that you love
English gold better."

"I know they say that too," answered Evaña, looking straight at Don
Gregorio.

"I know you better, Carlos," said Don Gregorio. "But men make traitors
of themselves for ideas as well as for gold. To say the least, your
frequent interviews and friendship with the English general are not in
good taste at this juncture."

"You know the reason why I have sought his friendship, Don Gregorio."

"I do; but you must now see that it is too late."

"I fear it is."

"I know it is, and I request you as a personal favour to myself to see
him no more."

Evaña made an impatient gesture as he answered:

"I have already made a considerable impression upon him, he has even
assured me that he would be very willing to join us in a war for our
independence, and that the British Government would look favourably upon
a project for an alliance with us. Shall I then leave the work half
done?"

"It is not half done; this morning's work has undone it all. Even I
would not now make peace with the English on any condition short of
their immediate departure from the country. Listen to one who is older
than you, Carlos, and knows much more of his own countrymen than you do.
I tell you that all alliance between us and the English is at present
impossible. Promise me that you will see him no more."

"What must be, must be," said Evaña with a sigh. "I will not visit him
again for fifteen days; by then we shall have seen what Liniers can do."

"That is well, Carlos; I am content," said Don Gregorio. "Now I have
another request to make of you. For the fifteen days be my guest, I will
give you a quiet room, and you shall send for what books and things you
like from your own house, for anything that you wish you have nothing to
do but to ask."

"You wish me to be your prisoner; can you not trust me, Don Gregorio?"
asked Evaña sadly.

"Trust you? of course I do; your word is better security to me than any
prison, you are as a son to me; I propose this for your own safety."

"What! not content with calumny, they would assassinate me too!"
exclaimed Evaña.

"I fear it," said Don Gregorio.

"Fear not, against assassins I will trust to my own right arm."

"As you will," answered Don Gregorio, then unlocking the door, he
grasped his hand warmly, and they walked out together.

Evaña went straight to his own house, and shut himself up in his own
rooms to ponder upon the failure of this scheme, and to devise a fresh
one, while throughout the city Don Gregorio Lopez, Don Isidro Lorea, and
many others were eagerly consulting together about how they might best
assist the operations of General Liniers and avenge the disaster of
Perdriel.



CHAPTER VII

THE TWELFTH AUGUST, 1806


Colonia is a small town situated on the eastern bank of the estuary of
La Plata, right in front of Buenos Aires. In the year 1806 it was
fortified, having walls built of massive blocks of granite, and bastions
on which cannon were planted.

On the afternoon of the same day on which Colonel Pack dispersed the
levies of the partidarios at Perdriel, Liniers reached Colonia at the
head of 1000 men, who had been placed under his command by General
Huidobro, the Governor of Monte Video. Two days afterwards he embarked
with this force on board such craft as he could collect together, and on
the 4th August landed at Las Conchas on the other side of the river,
some nine leagues north of Buenos Aires.

Volunteers flocked to his standard. In a few days he saw himself at the
head of over 4000 men, with whom he marched upon the capital. To the
west of the city was a wide, open space of ground, known as the Plaza
Miserere, of which General Liniers took possession.

The city remained all this time very quiet. General Beresford found no
difficulty in procuring provisions for his men, the shops were open,
business went on as usual, and the markets were well supplied; but since
the affair of the 1st the English officers had been invited to no more
tertulias, and when they adventured to pay complimentary visits to the
houses of any of their native friends they were conscious of being
received with great coldness by the men, while the ladies were generally
invisible altogether. One officer alone found himself an exception in
this matter. When Lieutenant Gordon visited the house of Don Roderigo
Ponce de Leon he experienced no lack of cordiality, and the ladies
especially seemed never to tire of listening to what he could tell them
of the black-haired young man who had opposed his entrance to the Quinta
de Perdriel, and whom he had not detained when the fight was over.

The city was quiet because it was ready, and only awaited the signal to
rise in arms and drive out its conquerors. Every man had provided
himself with a weapon of some kind; many of the militia had stolen out
at night with their arms and accoutrements, and had joined the force
under the command of General Liniers. Don Isidro Lorea had not left
town, and was as attentive as ever to his business, but he had always
two rockets at hand in one corner of his almacen, his sword and a brace
of loaded pistols lay ever on a small table in his ante-sala, covered
over by some embroidery work of his wife Doña Dalmacia, who had regained
all her confidence in him, and was prodigal of her caresses.

General Beresford was a prey to great inquietude. The dispersion at
Perdriel seemed to have failed altogether in its object; the city gave
him no trouble, but he knew that the hardy yeomen of the country,
undeterred by their defeat, had joined Liniers by hundreds. Under
skilful management their reckless valour would not be thrown away, and
their numbers made them dangerous. Moreover, he had seen nothing since
the last day of July of his friend Don Carlos Evaña, and on sending to
his house to inquire for him he had been informed that he had left the
city. Without his intervention any attempt to come to an arrangement
with the townspeople was impossible. On the 10th he received a summons
from Liniers to surrender at discretion within fifteen minutes. General
Beresford did not require fifteen minutes to make up his mind, he could
only have one answer to such a summons, which was a prompt refusal.

On the morning of the 11th Liniers moved from the west to the north of
the city, and drove in the British detachment which was stationed at the
Retiro. Beresford despatched at once a reinforcement to retake the
position, but this force was driven back by a tremendous fire of
artillery and musketry, which was directed upon the troops as soon as
they debouched from the shelter of the streets. After this Beresford
drew in his other outposts, and stood on the defensive in the two
central plazas, where the fort served him as a citadel in case of a
reverse.

Then Don Isidro Lorea buckled on his sword, thrust his two pistols into
his belt, kissed his wife, and taking his two rockets in his hand
sallied out into the open ground in front of his house. There he fired
off these rockets one after the other. Ere their sticks had reached the
ground, doors opened in houses near at hand, and armed and eager men ran
out to join him. In half-an-hour he had his 200 men drawn up, the two
guns he had hidden in his almacen brought out and mounted, and waited
only for orders to march upon the Plaza Mayor. But no orders came.
Liniers contented himself with the advantage he had already gained that
day, and took his measures with the great precaution. He established a
line of outposts which completely surrounded the British position on the
land side, but he kept the bulk of his troops in the suburbs, and
deferred further operations until the next day.

Few of the militia retired to their homes that night, they made great
fires at the street corners and bivouacked in the open air. By sunrise
next morning they were all again under arms and impatient of the delay,
the reason of which they could not understand.

Don Isidro Lorea had planted his two guns at the end of the street which
led from the south side the open space to the Plaza Mayor, and had told
off parties of his men to occupy the adjacent azoteas. At sunrise he
drew up his small force on the open ground and looked eagerly for the
arrival of a reinforcement which Liniers had promised to send him. An
hour he waited; his men began already to murmur loudly, when at last a
welcome shout announced the arrival of those who were to share with them
their task that day.

Don Juan Martin Puyrredon rode in by one street at the head of a column
of his fierce partidarios, the yeomen of Buenos Aires; Don Marcelino
Ponce de Leon at the same moment rode in by another at the head of
another column of horsemen. Marcelino's conduct at Perdriel had won him
warm approbation from all who had shared with him the dangers of that
skirmish, and Don Juan Martin had made him his second in command. Their
losses by deaths, wounds, and desertion at Perdriel were already more
than made up by the volunteers who had joined them since.

As they debouched upon the open ground, both columns halted and the two
commanders rode forward to speak with Don Isidro. Their consultation was
long and somewhat angry; Don Juan Martin wished Don Isidro to take his
guns out of the way so that he might advance at once upon the Plaza with
his horsemen, but Don Isidro insisted upon leading the column of attack
himself, and protested that without the guns it would be impossible to
destroy the breastwork which the English had thrown across the end of
the street. The dispute waxed warm, but it was at last decided that Don
Isidro with his two guns and a small party of infantry should march down
the street leading to the right hand the Plaza Mayor, that Don Juan
Martin should follow him with his cavalry in the centre of the street,
that the rest of the infantry should keep pace with the cavalry along
the side-walks, and that Don Marcelino with his column of cavalry should
advance by the parallel street one square to the left, and either
attempt to force a way into the Plaza for himself or support the other
column as he might judge best.

The arrangements were hardly completed ere a spattering fire of musketry
was heard from the northern quarter of the city; Liniers was evidently
moving though he had as yet sent no orders. At the sound of the musketry
the impatience of the men became ungovernable, they were tired of seeing
their chiefs talking together and to all appearance wasting their time,
they broke up the conference with loud snouts of "Avancen! Avancen!" It
seemed as though very little more would have made them break their ranks
altogether and rush without leaders upon the enemy. Even the horses of
the cavalry seemed to share the general impatience, they curveted,
champing their bits and neighing with excitement.

The signal to march was received with loud "Vivas." Some score men,
slinging their muskets, laid hold of the guns and trundled them
along. Don Isidro with a small party of his best men marched in
front, and close behind came Don Juan Martin Puyrredon, sitting his
restive black horse with ease in spite of his plunging at the head of
as fine a body of men as any country in the world could furnish.
Tall, square-shouldered, and spare of flesh, they were formed equally
for strength and endurance; in the saddle they knew no fatigue, they
feared no danger; they were horsemen, to each man his horse was as a
part of himself, and being a part of himself was a necessity.

Similar scenes among the native levies were at the same time going on
all over the city; everywhere the cry went up, "Avancen! Avancen!" And
Liniers, seeing that his army was getting out of hand, gave the signal
to advance, and at once moved with his regular forces from the Retiro
upon the central Plazas.

Don Isidro Lorea had the honour of opening the attack; halting his
guns one square from the British breastwork, he opened fire with
round shot upon the slight defence; the guns were served by eager
hands and the fire was rapid, and, in spite of the musketry from the
azoteas flanking the breastwork, a breach was soon made. Don Juan
Martin Puyrredon wanted no more; shouting to the gunners to wheel
their pieces to one side, he waved his sword to his men, and putting
spurs to his horse dashed at full speed down the street. His own men
and the infantry followed him pell-mell, the British bayonets and
clubbed muskets were of no avail against his fiery onset, he burst
through the small detachment which guarded the ruined breastwork and
made his way to the centre of the Plaza; his men poured in after him,
and the infantry forcing their way into the houses on either hand
drove the British troops from the azoteas.

At the same time another party of militia, headed by Don Felipe Navarro,
had burst into the houses in the block on the south side the Plaza
Mayor, and crossing the azoteas now attacked the British troops who were
stationed on the roof of the Recoba Nueva. The struggle was a short one;
in a few minutes these troops were all either killed or prisoners.

Meantime Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon had advanced with his column to the
cross street level with the corner where Don Isidro had planted his
guns. Here he halted, and, after a careful inspection of the breastwork
which barred his entrance to the Plaza, dismounted half his men and sent
their horses to the rear. These men he joined to a detachment of
Liniers' troops who had advanced thus far by the cross street from the
Retiro, and bursting in the doors of the houses on the east side the
street, he mounted at once to the azoteas and led them against a British
picket posted at the far corner which looked upon the Plaza and
commanded the approaches to two breastworks. His Spanish troops poured
in a volley at close quarters, then his own men rushed forward
brandishing sabres and facones, and shouting wild cries of defiance. The
British defended themselves with desperation, and were aided by a heavy
fire from the next block and from the roof of the cathedral, where other
parties of British troops were stationed, but they were outnumbered ten
to one, and in five minutes the few who were not killed or disabled
threw down their arms and surrendered.

Marcelino left the troops in possession of the azotea lately occupied by
the British with instructions to screen themselves for a space as well
as they could from the fire directed upon them from the cathedral, but
to concentrate their own fire upon the party of the enemy who held the
breastwork, as soon as he should give the signal. This breastwork was
merely a line of barrels set on end across the street, topped with a row
of sacks filled with sand, to demolish which would be easy if it could
be reached. The dismounted cavalry left the azotea and collected in the
patio of the house to the right of the breastwork, the door of which
opened about twenty yards up the street, while Marcelino returned, put
himself at the head of the rest of his men, and led them on at a trot.
As he reached the street corner he waved his sword, it was the signal
agreed upon. The Spanish troops sprang from the sheltering parapets,
under which they had crouched, and opened a deadly fire upon the British
detachment posted at the breastwork; the dismounted cavalry opened the
door of the house, poured into the street, and rushing upon the
barricade with their facones in their teeth, tore away in a twinkling
the sacks and barrels from the centre of the roadway. Marcelino, who was
by this time half-way down the square, again waved his sword and put
spurs to his horse, his men answered him with fierce shouts and yells,
and utterly regardless of the fire directed against them from the azotea
on their right, which struck many of them from their saddles, rushed
with headlong fury for the opening before them. Don Juan Martin
Puyrredon had not spurred his horse fifty yards into the Plaza on one
side, ere Marcelino and his column poured into it on the other, while
another body of militia charged and took almost unopposed the breastwork
which crossed the street beside the cathedral.

The partidarios spread themselves over the Plaza, sabring and lancing
the scattered groups of soldiery, who, attacked on all sides, and
overwhelmed by a plunging fire from the roof of the Recoba Nueva, strove
in vain to reform their broken ranks. A strong party of the 71st
Highlanders drawn up in front of the archway of the Recoba Vieja yet
presented a firm front, and kept up a steady fire upon the horsemen as
they continued to pour into the Plaza, till the ground in front of the
Cabildo was strewn with men and horses.

"A mi! Muchachos! A mi!!" shouted Don Juan Martin Puyrredon, as he saw
the deadly effect of this steady fire.

Marcelino brought up a number of his men in tolerable order, and, Don
Juan Martin joining them with those who had answered to his shout, put
himself at their head and charged right upon the centre of the
Highlanders. The rest of his men who were spread about the Plaza joined
in the general rush, nothing could withstand their onset, they beat down
the Highlanders under their horses' feet and galloped over them. A
sergeant who carried the regimental colour was cut down by Don Juan
Martin, who snatched the flag from his hand as he sank upon the ground,
and waved it over his head in triumph.

"Save the flag!" shouted a Highland officer, as he rallied some of his
men under the archway.

The men lowered their bayonets and rushed desperately upon the
triumphant horsemen; for a moment they drove them back, and the officer
springing upon Don Juan Martin, seized the staff of the flag with both
hands and almost tore him from his saddle. But Puyrredon still clung
fiercely to his prize, and Marcelino, who was close at hand, drew a
pistol from his belt and fired. The officer made one more frantic effort
to free the flag from the clutch of his foe, then fell back senseless.
As he fell, Marcelino recognised in him the young officer who had taken
the note from him to his mother on the day of the fight at Perdriel. He
sprang to the ground at once, and calling upon two of his men to help
him, lifted him up and carried him out of the press.

The success of the Highlanders was only for a moment, they were
surrounded, their order was lost, their leader apparently slain;
standing back to back and using their bayonets freely, about one half of
them forced a passage through the archway and rejoined their comrades in
the Plaza de los Perdices.

Meantime in this Plaza General Beresford had had enough to do to
withstand the onset of Liniers and his trained troops, aided by swarms
of militia and armed citizens, who after desperate fighting had
dislodged the British from most of the houses commanding the Plaza, and
now opened a galling fire upon them from the azoteas. Beresford saw that
his only chance lay in holding the fort until succour could reach him
from the squadron. As rapidly as possible he passed his men in at the
gate and raised the drawbridge. Some of the reckless horsemen who had
captured the Plaza Mayor dashed after him as he retreated, but the fire
of the guns on the parade ground quickly drove them back again to the
shelter of the Recoba Vieja.

Liniers lost no time in bringing up all his guns, and covered the
azoteas around the Plaza with infantry. For two hours the firing was
kept up on both sides, but with little result, when Beresford showed a
flag of truce, and the firing ceased. But Liniers refused to enter into
any negotiation with him, calling upon him to surrender at discretion.

While Beresford hesitated the troops and levies of all arms poured into
the Plaza, hundreds of them sprang into the ditch of the fort, and
clamoured for an immediate assault. Then the British flag was hauled
down from the flag-staff, the Spanish flag was run up in its stead, the
gate opened, the drawbridge was lowered, and General Beresford walked
out alone to deliver up his sword to Liniers in token of surrender.
Liniers putting aside the proffered sword opened his arms and clasped
him to his breast, the air was rent with the acclamations of the
multitude, and the British troops drawn up within the fort grounded arms
in silence.

The loss of the British in this affair was 400, between killed and
wounded; that of the victors is variously estimated, but must have been
at least the same number.



BOOK II

THE PROWESS OF A YOUNG GIANT



PROLOGUE


The first tottering steps of a child, held up by the hands of its nurse,
are not strictly speaking steps at all, they consist of a series of
kicks with the heels upon the floor, and are in no way conducive to
progression. The day that the child first stands alone, the day he first
successfully balances his weight upon his feet unaided, is an epoch in
his history. Once having learned the strength of his limbs, to use them
and to walk is a necessary sequence.

The flight of the Viceroy Sobremonte, the rout of the Spanish troops,
left the people of Buenos Aires alone in face of the enemy. They armed
themselves, they chose their own leader, they turned upon the enemy and
crushed him.

Buenos Aires was no longer a servile dependant upon Spain; in her hour
of trial she had triumphed by her own strength, the trial and the
triumph taught her what she knew not before, they taught her that she
could stand alone. Having learnt that she could stand alone, she essayed
to walk.

Sobremonte had fled to the provinces, he returned with an army, but
Buenos Aires knew him not and had already rulers of her own. The city
called together a "Congress of Notables"; of these "Notables" only
one-fourth were natives, but the Congress acted under the eyes of the
people and obeyed their behests. The leader chosen by the people in
their hour of trial was again chosen by them in their hour of triumph,
and entrusted with the task of forming their rude levies into an army.

Liniers, though he had no such title, became virtually the dictator of
Buenos Aires, and Buenos Aires prepared herself to renew the struggle
with Great Britain, looking no longer to Spain for protection but
trusting in her own strength.



CHAPTER I

AT THE QUINTA DE PONCE


About three leagues from Buenos Aires, and about half-a-mile to the west
of the great southern road which led to the Guardia Chascomus, stood the
Quinta de Ponce. The house was a small one with a sloping roof of tiles
and with a verandah running round three sides of it. There were also
three smaller houses detached, built of mud and wattle, with thatched
roofs. The ground belonging to the quinta was fenced in and carefully
cultivated, all round the fence ran a double row of poplars, and many
other trees grew about in clumps. The house stood at one corner of the
quinta, some twenty yards away from the fence; all about that corner the
ground was laid out as a garden, where flowers grew in wild luxuriance.
Within the house was furnished with great simplicity; numerous doors and
windows shaded by green jalousies provided for ample ventilation; the
verandah and the many trees which grew around it protected it from the
glare of the summer sun. It was well adapted for a summer residence, and
had been built for that object by Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, whose
family regularly spent there the hot months of the year.

A cluster of similar quintas on a smaller scale stood around the Quinta
de Ponce, divided from each other by roads bordered by poplars. Beyond
these quintas on every side was open pasture-land, stretching away to
the southward in long undulations, dotted here and there by the lonely,
treeless house of some native "hacendado." To the north the towers and
domes of Buenos Aires could be seen marking themselves clearly out on
the horizon, to the south-east at a nearer distance the sun-rays were
reflected from the white-walled houses of the small town of Quilmes.
This group of quintas formed a sort of oasis, on which the traveller,
bound on some far journey into the depths of the treeless Pampa, looked
back with a sort of tender gratitude as he passed by, it was his last
glimpse of the world of men as he galloped on towards the world of
Nature.

It was a sultry evening towards the end of November, the sun had sunk
behind a dense bank of clouds on the horizon; though the sky overhead
was yet clear there was evidently a storm brewing somewhere, but the
weather occasioned no inquietude to three persons who were sitting under
the front verandah of the Quinta de Ponce. These three were Doña
Constancia, the wife of Don Roderigo, Dolores his daughter, and
Lieutenant Gordon of the 71st Highlanders, who had been their guest
since the preceding 12th August--their guest, but at the same time a
prisoner of war.

When Marcelino had found, after the fighting ceased that day, that
Gordon's wound was not mortal he had him carried at once to his father's
house, where under the care of the surgeon of his own regiment he
rapidly recovered, but still remained there as a guest, and when in the
spring the family left town for the quinta he went with them, hoping in
the fresh country air soon to regain his former strength and activity.
Marcelino and he were fast friends, and with all the household he soon
became a favourite. Lounging there in an easy-chair under the verandah
he did not look like a prisoner of war, nor did he feel like one either,
talking gaily with the two ladies who were his companions.

Doña Constancia had an embroidery-frame before her, but her daughter
seemed to have nothing particular to do, as she sat on a low stool
beside her, laughing at some absurd mistake in Spanish which Gordon had
just made, for in spite of the best of teaching the young soldier was by
no means yet a proficient in the language of the country. No man could
wish for better teachers than he had. Doña Constancia, tall and stately,
was a model of matronly beauty, and the clear, rich tones of her voice
as she spoke sounded like music to the ear; her daughter, much smaller
in person, and differing greatly from her in features and complexion,
Gordon had already learned to look upon as the fairest specimen of
womankind he had ever met. In voice alone she resembled her mother; it
was the same voice, but much younger, and had a silvery ring in it which
at present amply compensated for the want of depth in tone which could
only come with maturity.

It is said that the most speedy way in which a man can learn a foreign
tongue is to listen to it as spoken by a beautiful woman. Gordon had had
ample opportunity of hearing Spanish so spoken, and already spoke it
himself with considerable fluency, but not with perfect correctness, and
so not unfrequently made ludicrous mistakes, at which Dolores laughed.

Porteña ladies do not generally laugh at the mistakes in language made
by inexperienced foreigners, their innate good-breeding makes them very
tolerant of inaccuracies; but Dolores did laugh at the mistakes made by
Lieutenant Gordon, and her laughter was a sign of the mutual confidence
existing between them. Besides which Dolores was very fond of laughing,
and Gordon liked to hear her laugh, and to see the merriment lighting up
her face and shining in her deep grey eyes, half veiled by the long dark
lashes which fell over them.

"Why do you laugh so much, Dolores?" said Doña Constancia; "I feel sure
that when you try to talk English you make far worse mistakes than Mr
Gordon does in Spanish."

"Indeed she does, Doña Constancia," said Gordon, "fifty times worse."

"And then you laugh at me," said Dolores, still laughing; "and it is
quite right that you should laugh. If you looked grave and dismal, as if
you were some teacher, I should not like it at all, and would never try
to speak a word of English."

"I will laugh as much as you like if you will only set to work to learn
to read English. I found in my trunk to-day a prize that I will give
you as soon as you can read one page of it without making more than
three mistakes."

"A prize! Oh! I will be very good and very diligent; but what is it?"

"It is a book."

"An English book?"

"Yes; it is a novel called 'Evelina.' All the young ladies in England
read it, and in my country too."

"A novel!" said Doña Constancia, somewhat gravely; "I do not wish
Dolores to read novels. I never read a novel."

"You never read a novel, Doña Constancia," said Gordon. "Well to be sure
you have no novels in Spanish, or hardly any other books either, that I
can see."

"Oh yes, we have," said Dolores. "Papa has plenty of books in town.
Marcelino is always reading them, and is always wanting me to read with
him. I used to try just to please him, but oh! I used to get so tired.
Long, prosy tales about people that I never heard of, nor ever want to
hear of; about Cortes and Pizarro, and Boabdil el Chico, and the Duke of
Alva, and the King of Jerusalem, and I don't know how many more.
Marcelino says that they were once all real people, and that I ought to
know what has happened in the world before I was born, but I would
rather read those legends of the saints that Padre Jacinto lends me
sometimes, though Marcelino tells me that they are all false. Padre
Jacinto was very angry with him for telling me that, but Marcelino knows
more than Padre Jacinto does."

"Those legends are sanctioned by the Church, Lola," said Doña
Constancia, "and so it is very right that you should read them, but you
have no need to tell Padre Jacinto what Marcelino says about them."

"Or about him either," said Dolores. "Marcelino says that if he had a
house of his own he would never allow a padre to come inside his doors."

"Those are the French ideas that Marcelino has learnt from Don Carlos
Evaña," said Doña Constancia sadly. "He will learn better some day."

"But nearly all the young men who are at all clever have just the same
ideas, mamma," replied Dolores. "Don Carlos would not speak to a priest,
and used to say all kinds of things about them. Padre Jacinto says that
if they talk that way and never go to Mass they will never go to heaven
when they die, but for my part, if it is only men like Padre Jacinto can
go to heaven, I would rather go--somewhere else with Marcelino."

"Hush, Dolores! you do not know what you are saying," said Doña
Constancia. "It is getting so dark that I can hardly see to work any
longer. Let us walk down the road a little, Marcelino is late this
evening."

"Papa said he would try and come out this evening, so I suppose
Marcelino has waited for him," said Dolores.

Doña Constancia wore an immense tortoise-shell comb at the back of her
head, secured in the thick folds of her luxuriant hair, over this she
threw a light shawl of black lace, the ends of which she brought
forward over her shoulders. This was the "mantilla," a style of
head-dress which suited well the stately beauty and graceful figure of
Doña Constancia. Her daughter threw a similar light shawl over her head,
but she wore no comb, and her hair, arranged in large plaits, formed a
golden background to the interlaced flowers and leaves of black silk
which made up the gossamer-like web which she used as a head-covering.

"If your Padre Jacinto could read English I do not think he would object
to Dolores reading 'Evelina,' Doña Constancia," said Gordon, as they
walked down the road side by side. "My sisters have both read it, and
were delighted with it. In fact the book is a present to me from one of
them."

"But then he cannot read English. What is it about?" asked Dolores.

"It is about a young English lady, who was brought up very quietly in
the country, and describes what she saw and felt in London when she went
there for the first time, and about the balls and theatres she went to."

"I am sure then I might read that," said Dolores. "I should so much like
to know what the young ladies in England are like. Are they at all like
us, Mr Gordon?"

As the lieutenant looked at the fair questioner, he thought that if they
were all like her England would be a very Eden to live in, but he
answered:

"There are of all kinds there, bad and good, as everywhere else, but
they do not dress with so much taste as you do, and when they walk in
the open air they wear hats with feathers in them instead of
'mantillas'; but sometimes they put on most horrible bonnets, which hide
their faces, so that one cannot see what they are like."

"How absurd!" said Dolores. "But are they pretty?"

"Oh yes! There are more pretty girls there than in any other country in
the world."

At this Doña Constancia and Dolores both laughed very heartily.

"You say that with enthusiasm, Mr Gordon," said Doña Constancia.

"I suppose he has good reasons for being enthusiastic," said Dolores.
"Does not your heart beat quicker when you think of them, Mr Gordon?"

"Hardly," replied the lieutenant; "for in spite of all your kindness to
me it reminds me that I am a prisoner of war."

"Do not think of that, you will not be a prisoner always," said Doña
Constancia. "You will be able to go back some day and see the pretty
English girls you think so much of."

"I am very sorry I said that," said Dolores. "But you should not think
you are a prisoner when you are with us. You are our guest, not a
prisoner, and I hope you will stop long enough with us for me to learn
to read 'Evelina,' and then I shall know what the English ladies are
like."

They had reached the end of the road between the poplars, and now stood
for a space gazing over the open plain which stretched before them for
no great distance ere it mingled with the fast-falling shades of night,
appearing to mount upwards, as though it were the slope of some
hillside, and to shut them in within a very near horizon. Lieutenant
Gordon bent his ear to the ground and listened.

"I can hear them," he said; "they will soon be in sight; but there are
more than two of them, and they are galloping very quickly."

"We will stop here, mamma, shall not we? Then they will dismount, and we
will all walk back together," said Dolores.

They waited, and presently the footfalls of horses at a rapid pace could
be heard by them without bending to the ground. Then out of the darkness
appeared four figures, who saw them and drew rein as they came closer.

"Grandpapa and Uncle Gregorio also," said Dolores, clapping her hands.

Two more horsemen came behind, and the first four dismounting gave their
horses in charge to these two, who were peons.

"Your blessing, papa," said Dolores, running up to Don Roderigo, and in
another minute she was in his arms.

"Your blessing, papa," said Doña Constancia, gliding in her usual
stately manner up to Don Gregorio Lopez, who answered a few low words
and kissed her gravely on the forehead.

Then there was more kissing and saluting among the others, Gordon having
his due share of the latter, after which they all turned to walk
together to the house, Don Roderigo leading the way with his wife
leaning on one arm, while his daughter clung to the other talking
eagerly with him. Marcelino, walking beside his mother, conversed with
her in low tones. The other three followed, Don Gregorio the elder
occasionally addressing some complimentary observation to the
lieutenant, but his son walked on beside them in silence.

When they reached the quinta the whole party halted under the front
verandah. The main room of the house, which served both as sala and
dining-room, was brilliantly lighted up and the table laid out for
supper, and the windows and doors being open a flood of light poured
upon them which contrasted somewhat dazzlingly with the darkness from
which they had emerged. The four new-comers all wore light ponchos and
were booted and spurred. Dolores ran inside to see that extra covers
were laid for the unexpected guests, Doña Constancia followed her more
slowly; as she went Gordon saw her turn and gaze wistfully upon him; at
the same time he noticed an unusual gravity upon the faces of the
others, even his fast friend Marcelino seemed anxious not to meet his
eye.

"My friend Gordon," said Don Roderigo, turning abruptly towards him as
his wife disappeared, "I have an unpleasant duty to perform. We have
advices that the British Government on hearing of the capitulation of
Buenos Aires prepared at once to send out a strong reinforcement; the
British fleet yet remains cruising off Monte Video, there is little
doubt that they will make another attempt to take our city. Under these
circumstances the 'Reconquistador'[2] has determined that all our
English prisoners shall be sent into the interior. I have asked for an
exemption for you, and have offered to guarantee your security, but I
can only give that guarantee on one condition: that you pledge me your
word of honour that you will make no attempt to escape, that if your
countrymen land you will hold no communication with them, and that while
you remain with us you will reside wherever I may direct."

Lieutenant Gordon turned pale as he heard this, then flushed crimson,
and as Don Roderigo ceased speaking answered at once:

"I can have only one answer, Don Roderigo," he said. "You have all
treated me with such kindness that I have never felt that I am a
prisoner among you. Your offer to stand guarantee for me is a fresh
kindness, for which I can never be sufficiently grateful. I should be a
scoundrel and a fool to reject it, so I give you my word as you require.
I will make no attempt to escape, and will hold no communication with my
countrymen except through you or with your permission."

"Palabra de Ingles?" said Don Gregorio the younger in a harsh voice.

"The word of a soldier and a gentleman," replied Lieutenant Gordon.

"Then you will continue to be our guest?" said Don Roderigo, grasping
his hand warmly. "You will always take care that either Marcelino or
myself know where you are, and for the present, at least, I will place
no restriction upon your movements; go and come as you please amongst
us."

"I am very glad," said Marcelino, coming forward and embracing him; "I
was afraid you would refuse."

The lieutenant, albeit not much accustomed to embracing, responded
cordially to his caress, and then the elder Don Gregorio took his hand,
saying:

"We will do what we can to make your time as a prisoner pass pleasantly
amongst us. Do you think you are strong enough yet for a gallop? If you
are, I am on my way to one of my estancias, and invite you to accompany
me."

"I shall have great pleasure in going with you, I feel quite strong
again now, and have a great curiosity to see something of your life on
the Pampas, but I have neither saddle nor horse."

"I will find you a saddle," said Marcelino; "as for a horse, that can
always be found. Leave all that to me; we will make a gaucho of you
before we let you go back to your own country."

Marcelino and Lieutenant Gordon had shared one room between them since
they had been living at the quinta. As they retired for the night, so
soon as they were alone together, Gordon seated himself on the side of
his bed and asked his friendly gaoler:

"Why did you think that I would not give my parole to your father?"

"I was afraid you might have thought it your duty to lose no chance of
rejoining your army."

"My parole does not prevent me from doing all I can to procure my
release by exchange; but if you sent me up the country no one would know
anything of me."

"Then when the English come, if they take any officer of ours prisoner
they will give him back for you?"

"Probably so."

"And then you would go back to them and would fight against us?"

Gordon hesitated, looking wistfully at his friend ere he answered:

"I should have to do my duty, but do not let us suppose anything like
that. Have you heard nothing of your friend the Señor Evaña? You told me
you thought he had gone to England."

"No, I have heard nothing from him since I received that letter from
Monte Video that I told you of. If he has gone to England I shall not
hear again from him for months."

"General Beresford has declared publicly that he considers it the true
policy for England to aid you natives in freeing yourselves from Spain."

"Yes, General Beresford has been very incautious, and has no right to
complain that he is now a prisoner at Lujan, instead of being free on
parole in Buenos Aires; many good men are in prison now for listening to
him."

"And you think you are not ready yet for independence?"

"No, we are not. You have met Don Manuel Belgrano at our house in town I
think?"

"A soft-eyed man, with a long nose, and neither beard nor whiskers, who
talks English and French?"

"Yes, that is he. He is now major of the Patricios, and no officer is
more active than he is in drilling the men, or more zealous in urging
all of us to prepare for another struggle with the English. He is no
friend to Spain, yet he says, 'The old master or none at all,' and so
say all of us."

"When Sobremonte comes back the first thing he will do will be to disarm
your militia."

"Disarm the Patricios and Arribeños![3] He had better not try to do
that."

"He will, you will resist it, and then will commence your war of
independence."

"I hope you are not a true prophet; if we strike the blow too soon we
shall fail. As I said before, we are not ripe for independence."

"And so long as the Spaniards rule over you they will take care that you
never do ripen, so that your hope of independence is a dangerous dream."

"Dangerous it may be, but it is no dream," said Marcelino, rising
excitedly to his feet; "I know my own countrymen and I have faith in the
future of my native country. No great work can be performed without
danger; there are heroes amongst us who fear no danger; let the danger
come, they will teach us how to meet them. I tell you, my friend, before
these black hairs of mine have turned grey you will see the rise of a
great Republic on the shores of La Plata."

"In establishing it you will do your share of the work nobly," answered
Gordon. "May God help you, for I believe you have a hard task before
you."

"Do you believe there is a God?" asked Marcelino, reseating himself and
looking steadfastly at his friend.

"I do, as surely as I see you sitting there before me."

"I think there is too; but I do not think that he takes any interest in
the affairs of men."

"That is most illogical," replied Gordon. "In all God's works around us
we see the greatest evidence of care and foresight in preparing this
world for our habitation, how then shall he care nothing for us who are
his chiefest work?"

"I wish I could think as you do. Do you know, one of the first days when
you were ill at our house I went in to look at you, you were delirious,
I thought you would die, and the thought made me very miserable; I would
have done anything to save you and could do nothing. I fell down on my
knees by your side, I don't know why, and I prayed wildly to God that he
would let you live. It is in moments like that that one feels that there
is really a God. When I thought what I was doing I jumped up again to my
feet ashamed of my weak folly, but I went away quite happy for I felt
sure that you would live. Do you think that God would listen to a prayer
addressed to him in that way?"

Tears swam in Gordon's eyes at this new proof of his friend's care for
him.

"Those are just the prayers that God does listen to," he answered. "When
men can do nothing then they feel their dependence upon God and trust
entirely to him. That is simple faith, and is just what God requires of
us."

"Some men would call it superstition," said Marcelino.

"You acknowledge that there is a God, and you know that he must be
infinitely greater and more powerful than you are, therefore to trust in
him is no superstition. To trust in dead men or in ceremonies of man's
devising, that is superstition."

"Who shall mark the line between faith and superstition?" asked
Marcelino.

"It is impossible to do it, for it is a purely mental line in the mind
of each individual. I know Protestants in my own country who carry their
horror of ceremonies to such an extent that their worship of God can
hardly be considered as worship at all, yet many of them are most
fearfully superstitious; and I believe there are good Christians among
you who go through all the ceremonies of the Romish Church, whose faith
is very slightly tainted with superstition. Yet faith and superstition
are quite distinct from one another."

"But your religion is all taken from your Bible, which is a bundle of
old books written by the Lord knows who or when. Does it teach you
anything about faith?"

"The one lesson which the Bible teaches is simple faith, the rest is
mainly historical."

"Some day I will read the Bible, I have one somewhere, Evaña brought it
for me from England as a curiosity," said Marcelino. "I should like to
know more about this faith you tell me of. If the Bible is really a
message from God, as some people say it is, everyone ought to read it.
If religion is faith in God, then it is a study fit for men and may well
be the guiding principle of a man's life."

  [2] A complimentary title given by the people to General Liniers
      after the victory of the 12th August.
  [3] One of the first measures adopted by General Liniers on assuming
      the command in Buenos Aires, was to organise the native militia
      into four battalions of infantry. The first and second battalions
      were composed of Creoles of Spanish descent, the third was
      composed of negroes and mulattoes, all natives of Buenos Aires;
      these three battalions formed the regiment of the "Patricios."
      The fourth battalion was composed of provincials and was known as
      the "Arribeño" regiment.



CHAPTER II

THE YEOMANRY OF BUENOS AIRES


"What, Marcelino! are you going too?" asked Doña Constancia the next
morning, as she saw her son, after fully equipping his friend Gordon for
a journey, getting himself ready also.

"Yes, mamita; and I am very glad you have come to ask me, for I want to
tell you why I am going. My uncle Gregorio is going to Las Barrancas to
raise a squadron of cavalry, as you know, and I have been trying to
persuade grandpapa to let me raise a company of infantry among the
slaves on his chacras about the Guardia Chascomus."

"Make slaves into soldiers!"

"Yes, mother. The affair at Perdriel showed me that if we want to beat
the English we must have infantry. The Spanish regiments and the militia
are sufficient to defend Buenos Aires, but we want troops who can meet
the English in the open field. Now the paisanos will not serve on foot,
but I think I could soon drill negroes into very fair foot soldiers. If
grandpapa will set the example plenty more will give me slaves, and I
will raise a large regiment."

"But to put arms into the hands of slaves, that is never done."

"No, and therefore grandpapa says we must keep it secret till we see
whether it can be done. Don Fausto Velasquez is on his estancia now, so
we are going to ride over from the Barrancas to the Pajonales to consult
with him before I do anything."

"I do not like the idea at all, Marcelino. Now that Juan Carlos has
joined the Patricios you are surely exempt from service. If you must
serve, why did you resign your commission?"

"For the sake of peace, mother. Don Isidro Lorea behaved very well on
the 12th August, so now he thinks himself a hero, and wants to have
everything his own way in the regiment. Many think that I know more of
military affairs than he does, and there was danger of disunion, so I
resigned my commission, and I have permission from Liniers to form a
separate command for myself if I can find men."

"And you have not told your father?"

"No, this must be a secret for the present. The Cabildo would put a stop
to the project if they knew of it, but once I get the men together
Liniers will bear me out."

Doña Constancia attempted no more to dissuade him from the idea, and
before the sun was two hours high all were ready for the road except Don
Roderigo, who remained at the quinta, and who had promised to read
"Evelina," and to report upon the book on their return.

The "Casa-teja," and much land lying around, was the property of Don
Gregorio Lopez, and was one of his estancias. Here Don Gregorio and his
party drew rein a little before noon, and in ten minutes they were
seated at breakfast in the principal room.

"You are tired, Don Alejandro," said Don Gregorio to Lieutenant Gordon.

"A little, for I have only been a few times on horseback at the quinta,
but in an hour I shall be quite ready for another gallop."

"Yes, and then to-morrow you will be quite knocked up. No, it is well
that the old and the invalid keep company together. We will remain here
until to-morrow, but my son and Marcelino are in a hurry, so we will let
them go on by themselves."

The word of Don Gregorio was the law of his household, so that matter
was settled without discussion, and Don Gregorio the younger and
Marcelino, after partaking sparingly of the plentiful breakfast which
was spread before them, mounted fresh horses and galloped off, taking a
peon with them and driving a tropilla before them. They travelled fast,
but ere sundown the storm which was brewing on the preceding evening
burst upon them, and they were forced to take refuge in a rancho which
stood by itself surrounded by a forest of thistles, some two squares to
the left of the road. They received the usual frank welcome of a
paisano, and were told to dismount and unsaddle. In ten minutes they
were seated on horse-skulls in a smoky kitchen, sucking mate,[4] and
safe from the storm which now raged furiously, driving clouds of
thistledown before it and laying prostrate acres of the tall thistles
themselves.

Their host was a slim, active man, not so tall as Marcelino, but
apparently some few years his senior. His complexion was a bright yellow
with a ruddy tinge in his smooth cheeks. His hair, jet-black and glossy,
was of very coarse texture, falling down to his shoulders in a scarcely
perceptible wave; had it been cut short it would have appeared quite
straight. A small black moustache graced his thin upper-lip, and a
slight fringe of black hair on his chin did duty as a beard. His eyes,
black also, were very bright and in constant movement.

His wife was a young woman of similar complexion but of stouter build,
with full red lips and with very white teeth, which she was fond of
showing, by smiling whenever she was spoken to, but she spoke very
little herself, leaving that part of their entertainment to her husband.

For some time they talked on indifferent subjects; at last Don Gregorio
said:

"I often pass this way, but I never remember seeing this rancho before."

"I have only been here two months, till then I lived with my father over
there," replied their host with a jerk of his head.

"Are you by chance one of the Vianas?" asked Don Gregorio.

"Just so. I am Venceslao Viana, at your service, Señor, and this is my
wife. When I married, my father gave me some cows, and I have built this
place for myself. We were married at the Guardia, for, as my father said
to me, people of family should marry."

As the man said this he threw back his head proudly, and his wife
smiled at her guests, showing more of her white teeth than ever. They
both evidently thought that they had conferred great distinction upon
themselves by marrying, as was in fact the case, for among the paisanos
in those days marriage was a token of respectability and social
standing.

"I call myself Gregorio Lopez," said Don Gregorio in reply, "and I
congratulate you both."

"Many thanks, Señor. Don Gregorio of the Barrancas, is it not so?"

"Exactly."

"Then we are in some sort relations," answered Venceslao.

"To me, no; to this one yes," replied Don Gregorio coldly, and looking
at Marcelino. "I knew that Viana's land lay somewhere near here, but I
did not know that it reached as far as this."

A brother of the second wife of Don Gregorio Lopez the elder, named
Francisco Viana, had married a mulatta, and had by so doing lost caste
with his own family, and had lived ever since in seclusion on his
estancia, so that his existence was unknown to the younger branches of
the family of Don Gregorio Lopez, and Marcelino looked curiously at
Venceslao, wondering how he could in any way be a relation of his.

"I have seen you before," said Venceslao, as he returned his gaze.

"Have you? Where? I have not been so far as this since I was a boy,"
replied Marcelino.

"When the English----"

"How? Were you with us at Perdriel?"

"Yes. I saw you there every day."

"And after, what became of you?"

"I escaped by a miracle, and came straight back to my father's house."

"Were you with Don Juan Martin?"

"Yes. I followed him right up to the English, but they confounded us
with shot. Caramba! how the bullets went, phiz! phiz! I shall never
forget it. I missed a stroke at one of them with my lance, and before I
knew what had happened my horse reared and fell over with me, and caught
my leg so that I could not get away. Dios! what moments those were! it
appeared a century. Afterwards, when they were coming to finish me,
there was a tall man, one of the city, who spoke to them in their own
Castilian, so they let me go, and he gave me a horse, but I did not feel
safe till I got back here. Dios mio! for days I did not know whether I
was alive or dead. And you, where were you that day? You will excuse me
the question."

"I was in the quinta all the time."

"Jesus!" exclaimed the wife. "Venceslao said they killed all that were
there."

"They killed some of us," replied Marcelino, "when we tried to keep them
out, but when they got inside they let the rest of us go."

"Look you, what an escape you made! You have never seen them again I
feel sure," said Venceslao.

"I did though. I went off to Las Conchas, and had my revenge at the
Reconquest."

"Also you found yourself in that affair? Already you had not enough of
them?"

"A patriot never has enough while an enemy treads the soil of his native
country."

"A patriot! what is that?"

"A patriot is one who is ready to make every sacrifice for the good of
his country, as you did when you risked your life for our country at
Perdriel."

"You are mistaken. They talked to us in the encampment about that; but
excuse me, I am not a patriot, of that I understand nothing. I went to
the war because Julian Sanchez was going, and asked me to go with him.
You see he has done me many favours, he is my brother-in-law, and we
were always great friends, so that I could not do less than go when he
invited me."

"And how did it go with him?" asked Don Gregorio.

"Well. He did not find himself at the fight, he had gone the night
before to visit some friends at San José de Flores."

"And afterwards?"

"He presented himself to Don Juan Martin at Las Conchas, but when he
found I was not with them he came back to tell my family that I was
killed, and here he found me alive."

"The English are coming again," said Don Gregorio.

"You don't say so!"

"True. And there will come more of them this time."

"And all will be to do over again. Look you what heretics they are, that
they will not leave us in peace; for my part I abhor them; why did they
come here at first?"

"They are at war with the Spaniards," replied Marcelino. "Last year they
had a great fight with the Spanish ships on the sea, and the English
were the strongest; so now they go about in their ships where they like,
and wherever they find Spaniards on the land where they can get near in
their ships they come on shore and fight them."

"And that is what they call war?" said Venceslao. "Look you that they
are barbarians."

"The same would the Spaniards do to them if they could," said Marcelino.

"And what does that matter to us?" said Venceslao.

"Nothing, until they come to our country; but if they come here, then it
is our duty to help the Spaniards to turn them out."

"It may be, but I don't see why. If they only come to fight the
Spaniards, why should we meddle? Let them fight themselves alone."

"But if the English beat the Spaniards then they will take our country
for themselves."

"In every way that may not be. They would put laws after their fashion,
and we should have to talk their Castilian, I could never accustom
myself to that."

       *       *       *       *       *

Beyond the Guardia Chascomus, which was at that time a frontier town
held by a small garrison of Spanish troops, there stretches a chain of
lakes, running in a southerly direction till they join the Rio Salado.
In some places the land around these lakes slopes gently down to the
water's edge, so that when they overflow during heavy rains, their
waters spread themselves for a considerable distance over the plain. At
other places the surrounding land rises abruptly, forming perpendicular
cliffs, which are called "barrancas"; probably the highest of these
barrancas is not more than forty feet above the general level of the
lake; but forty feet is a considerable elevation where the chief feature
of the country is one uniform flatness. About half-way between the
Guardia and the Rio Salado, the east side of this chain of lakes was for
nearly two leagues one continuous line of barrancas; all the land about
there, contiguous to the lakes and stretching far inland, was the
property of Don Gregorio Lopez the younger, who had inherited it from
his mother whom he had never seen. He had placed there an estancia
called "Las Barrancas," where he and his father had immense herds of
cattle and troops of mares, and a few flocks of long-legged sheep.

The estancia itself consisted of a group of ranchos, in front of which
two ombues shaded the palenque, where horses were tied. Behind them was
an enclosure of considerable size, part of which was planted with trees,
and the rest carefully cultivated by slaves. Some slaves were also
employed as herdsmen, but the majority of these mounted peons were
freemen, who worked hard for small wages, and who mostly lived in
ranchos of their own on different parts of the estate, at great
distances from each other. All these freemen provided their own horses,
and were skilled from their earliest youth in the use of the lasso and
bolas. They almost lived on horseback, and had the greatest dislike to
any labour which could only be performed on foot, deeming such work
below the dignity of a man, and only fit for slaves.

Many other estancias similarly organised lay scattered about the Pampa,
within a day's gallop of the Estancia de Las Barrancas. The limits of
these different estancias were ill defined, their title-deeds being
merely a grant of some certain number of leagues of land from the
Viceregal Government of Buenos Aires or of Peru. There was yet much land
not allotted at all, so that any of these freemen who worked on the
estancias, who could get together a few cows and horses, and wished to
settle down quietly, could easily find land on which to build himself a
rancho and to pasture his animals. These freemen were of a roving
nature, seldom working more than a few months at a time on one estancia;
but hundreds of them had thus made homes for themselves; to some of them
at times government gave grants of the land on which they had settled,
and they became proprietors. They were a hardy, simple race of yeomen,
who held the dwellers in cities in great contempt, and considered that
man's first necessity in life was a good horse. Their amusements
consisted of feats of horsemanship, in which horse-racing naturally held
a prominent place, in hunting deer and ostrich with their boleadores, or
in listening to the long monotonous songs of some "cantor" of their own
class, who generally invented his songs for himself, and not
unfrequently improvised a fresh one when some incident of the day
provided him with a subject. Government was to them a mysterious power,
which gave grants of land and imposed taxes. Religion to them consisted
in the baptism of children, and in the burial of the dead in consecrated
ground; yet they had an unwritten law among them which they observed
most strictly, and they had a sort of natural religion, which told them
that there was a God and a life beyond the grave.

Among these men, peons or small proprietors, Don Gregorio Lopez proposed
to raise a squadron of cavalry, and Marcelino Ponce de Leon proposed to
help him in his work by instilling into them the first principles of
patriotism.

Don Gregorio met with very fair success, his recruits being left at
liberty all the week and meeting every Sunday at the Estancia de Las
Barrancas for drill, which to them was a novel amusement. Their chief
did not purpose to embody them permanently until the near approach of
the English should render their services necessary, but contented
himself for the present with selecting his officers and instructing them
in their duties, in all which he showed considerable skill. But his
nephew instead of being any assistance to him was rather a hindrance.

The sturdy yeomen were accustomed to obey their superiors and to ask no
questions, the summons of Don Gregorio they looked upon as a command, to
serve under him if they were wanted they considered a duty from which
they might ask exemption as a favour, but to which they could not refuse
obedience. Marcelino spoke to them of patriotism, and tried to instill
into them enthusiasm for the defence of their native country against
foreign invasion. Patriotism was some new idea which they did not
understand; as for enthusiasm, it mattered nothing to them who had the
city so long as nobody took their cows from them. But when Marcelino
began to talk to them of the rights of free-born men, of liberty,
equality, and so forth, then their shrewd common sense prompted them to
argue the point with him.

"If all men are equal," said one of them, "why has the patron Don
Gregorio twelve leagues of camp, while I have only 200 cows and have to
feed them where I can?"

"And what is this liberty," asked another, "if I have to leave my cows
to go and fight these English, who never did me any harm that I know
of?"

"Will it be true what they say of these English, Patroncito?" said
another; "that they are not people but have tails like the monkeys?"

"Those are lies," answered Marcelino; "the English are men just like we
are."

"Then why should they not come here? there is plenty of camp for them
which has now no owner."

When Marcelino spoke to them in high-flown words they did not understand
him, when he tried simple arguments they posed him with questions such
as these. The only effect of his talk was to raise vague, communistic
ideas in their minds, and to teach them that they were in some unknown
way unjustly treated, which was not at all conducive to the strict
discipline which Don Gregorio sought to maintain among them.

Thus passed two weeks, when a peon brought Marcelino a letter from Don
Fausto Velasquez of the Estancia de Los Pajonales, telling him that his
grandfather had already been some days with him, and inviting him over
at once to join in their consultation concerning the arming of the
slaves.

Marcelino received the letter in the morning, and sunset found him the
guest of Don Fausto Velasquez. His uncle had laughed at him as he bade
him good-bye, telling him that he might be a very clever fellow in the
city, but that in the campaña he was worse than useless.

"You do not understand our people," he said; "it is necessary to order
them, and they obey, but you must not give reasons to them, for they
know nothing."

  [4] A word of two syllables--American tea.



CHAPTER III

ARMING THE SLAVES


The estancia house at Los Pajonales was a large brick building with a
flat roof, surrounded by a stockade of posts. There were also three
ranchos detached within the stockade, and outside a considerable extent
of ground was enclosed by a ditch and cultivated, the negro slaves who
were kept for this work having their huts at a distance at the far side
the enclosed ground.

When Marcelino Ponce de Leon reached the estancia he was conducted at
once to the sala, being met at the door by Don Fausto Velasquez, a
middle-aged man, tall and of striking presence, who was dressed with
great neatness in light linen clothing suitable to the season, and wore
his hair powdered and tied behind his head with a ribbon. Don Fausto
bowed low with great formality to Marcelino as he entered, and then
taking his hand led him up to his mother, a dignified old lady with
silvery hair, who was dressed in black silk and reclined on cushions at
one end of a low estrade which ran all down one side of the room. She
received him very graciously and inquired particularly after his mother,
who had been a great favourite of hers in days gone by; then with an
approving smile and a graceful inclination of the head she dismissed
him.

Several other ladies were present, all of whom were seated or reclined
on cushions on this estrade, some were sewing or knitting, others were
sucking mate, which was served to them by two little negro girls. One of
these ladies was the wife of Don Fausto, a stout, well-developed woman,
with regular features, an exceedingly white skin, and with large,
lustrous black eyes, but with a languid manner about her which lessened
considerably the effect of their brilliance. She was a sister, many
years younger, of the lady who had been the second wife of Don Gregorio
Lopez, and was thus grand-aunt to Marcelino, though younger than his own
mother. At her feet there rolled a stout, active little boy about five
years old, whom she caressed occasionally in her languid way, calling
him her "son," her "Justito," who seemed to find great pleasure in vain
attempts to prevail upon her to join him in a game of romps.

After being introduced to the other ladies and to two or three men who
were present, and after a cordial exchange of greetings with Don
Gregorio Lopez and Lieutenant Gordon, Marcelino drew forward a heavy,
straight-backed chair, the seat of which was of embossed leather, and
placed himself in front of his aunt, whom he had not seen for several
years, Don Fausto having resided for that time on his estancia in
consequence of some trouble he had had with the Spanish authorities of
Buenos Aires. For Don Fausto, though a Creole, was a proud man and a
wealthy, and thought himself the equal of any Spaniard, an idea which in
those days was apt to bring any free-spoken Creole into trouble. The
other men were mostly walking about, sucking mate when their turn came,
and occasionally addressing a few words to one or other of the ladies,
but the conversation was far from animated.

Other than the cushioned estrade on which the ladies were seated, the
room was very bare of furniture, a couple of small tables and a few
high-backed, very uncomfortable-looking chairs comprised the whole of
it; but upon the walls hung some very choice paintings, several of which
were said to be the works of Velasquez, a famous Spanish painter, who
was claimed by Don Fausto as one of his ancestors. The art of painting
was held in small repute in Buenos Aires at that time; Don Fausto knew
nothing of it, only preserved these paintings out of respect for the
memory of his father, who had set great store by them, and was both
surprised and pleased at the great admiration of them which was
expressed by his English guest Lieutenant Gordon. He strove in vain to
see any beauty in them himself, but he was proud to see them appreciated
by another who came from the Old World.

Marcelino talked long with his aunt, telling her of his adventures in
Buenos Aires during the English occupation. As he told of the affair at
Perdriel and of the defeat of the English on the 12th August, she caught
up her little son in her arms, pressing him to her bosom with unwonted
animation, saying as she caressed him:

"Ah, Justiniano, my little son! your mother will take better care of
you, she will never let you run away from her, nor fight fierce soldiers
who come over the sea!"

"The soldiers, mamita!" said the boy laughing, and patting her cheek
with his little hand; "I have never seen a soldier, but when I am big
like this one then I will put myself to kill the English. All of them,
mamita, all of them."

As he said this he struggled from his mother's arms, and rolling over a
cushion, clambered down from the estrade, and running up to Lieutenant
Gordon clenched his little fist and struck him on the leg.

"This is one," he said; "some day when I am big I will kill you."

Marcelino rose hurriedly from his chair, and Don Fausto walked quickly
to the spot with a look of great annoyance on his face, but Gordon
stooping down to the boy lifted him up in his arms and kissed him,
saying with a merry laugh:

"When you are as big as I am, my little man, we English will be great
friends with you, and will know better than to come here to fight you."

"Thanks, my friend, thanks," said Don Fausto, taking his free hand in
both his own. "With years we shall all of us learn a little wisdom."

Justiniano looked wonderingly from one to the other with a finger in his
mouth to aid his reflections, then seizing hold of one of Gordon's
whiskers he whispered in his ear:

"You no, don't be frightened, you are not one of the bad ones. Always we
will be friends."

"Mind you remember that, little rascal," said Marcelino, patting him on
the cheek.

"If he ever forgets it you will remind him," said Gordon: then raising
the boy to his shoulder he danced with him up and down the long room,
the child shouting and tossing his arms about with delight.

Doña Josefina, the boy's mother, had meanwhile sunk back again upon her
cushions, following him with her eyes, and seemed to care little whether
Marcelino resumed the conversation or not, but there were other ladies
there younger than she, who had listened eagerly to what Marcelino had
told them of the English invasion, and wished to hear more. The twilight
deepened into darkness, the mate-pot ceased its rounds amongst them,
lamps were lighted, fresh faces were seen in the room, and others who
had been there disappeared, but still Marcelino talked on in glowing,
enthusiastic language of the changes during the last sixteen months in
the city of Buenos Aires, and of the greater changes which he foresaw in
the future. He had often talked thus before among men of his own age and
of his own class, and he had seen weariness in their faces, and scorn
curling on their lips; he had talked thus to men his seniors in age, and
had been treated as a visionary, or had been silenced by a stern rebuke;
but here he found an audience who hung upon his words, who sympathised
in his hopes, and saw no folly in his wildest aspirations; it was an
audience of women, of women learned in needlework and household lore,
skilled in the art of dressing themselves and making the most of the
natural graces to which they were born, of beautiful women who could
barely write their own names, who knew little of the world in which they
lived, and nothing of the world which had passed away. These women were
incapable of following out the abstruse reasonings by which at times he
sought to elucidate his argument, the illustrations he drew from history
conveyed no lesson to their minds, his logic was thrown away upon them,
yet they understood him and sympathised with him, and learned from him
to believe that their country would one day be a great nation, governed
by its own laws, and free from all foreign control.

Several of them joined in conversation with him, asking him questions,
making shrewd observations of their own and deductions from his
arguments, some of which were very wide of the conclusion to which he
wished to point. One of them, a young girl, plainly dressed, and of very
plain features, with a sallow complexion and brown hair, asked him no
questions, and spoke to him no word. Listening to him, she had crept
nearer till she leaned upon Doña Josefina, resting her folded hands upon
her shoulder, and her chin upon them, her thin lips pressed tightly
together, and her whole life seemingly concentrated in her large grey
eyes.

Marcelino felt her gaze and moved uneasily on his chair, but he
continued the conversation without pause till one of his audience,
drawing herself up and pressing her hands together, exclaimed:

"Look! look at Malena!"

"What have you, Niña?" said Doña Josefina.

Malena, raising herself from her leaning posture, heaved a deep sigh,
and looked round her in a bewildered sort of manner as though she had
just awakened from a dream.

After supper it was the custom for Don Fausto and his guests to repair
to the verandah and to spend an hour or two there smoking and talking
together while coffee was handed round, but on this evening Gordon found
himself alone there before he had finished his first cigar; after
drinking their coffee the others had walked off, Marcelino saying to him
as he went:

"Wait for me here."

Don Fausto had invited such neighbours of his, landed proprietors and
slave-owners, as resided within a day's gallop of his estancia, to visit
him that day for the purpose of discussing together the project of
raising a regiment of slaves, which had been started by Marcelino Ponce
de Leon. After coffee they assembled together in a small room; four only
had accepted the invitation of Don Fausto. Don Fausto explained to them
the purpose for which they were met together, and then left Marcelino to
himself to argue his case with them. Marcelino spoke long and eagerly to
them, but they looked upon it as a scheme full of danger in the future,
and he would probably have given up the idea but for the aid of Don
Gregorio Lopez, who struck in to his assistance.

"Our slaves," he said, "are not as a rule hard-worked, they will not
lead more easy lives under strict military discipline than they do at
present, therefore I do not think a few months' military service will
make them any the worse workmen afterwards."

"It will make them better workmen," said Marcelino, "for it will make
them more active and more obedient than they now are. The objection I
see, which none of you have mentioned, is that they will not give up
their present easy life for one of hardship and danger. I do not want
unwilling recruits, I want volunteers, and I anticipated more difficulty
with them than with you."

"As far as my slaves are concerned you will have no difficulty," said
Don Gregorio. "If we defeat the English I will give one in every ten of
them who may serve under you his liberty; that will be reward enough to
bring you volunteers."

"If all the proprietors would do that, then I should soon raise my
regiment," said Marcelino.

"But I do not see yet why such a step is necessary," said one of the
strangers. "With the new regiments, Liniers has sufficient infantry in
the city, and in the campaña we can collect thousands of partidarios in
an emergency."

"Yes, you can," replied Marcelino, "and they would give very efficient
assistance to drilled troops on a field of battle, but they could not
stop the advance of an army from the coast, and in the city they would
be useless. And again the militia and the Spanish regiments who are kept
embodied in the city will defend entrenchments to the last, but they
cannot manoeuvre in the open against the well-drilled soldiers of the
English. They are only of use to defend the city, so that if the English
land again at Quilmes, Liniers has no troops fit to meet them. But if I
can raise and drill 2000 negroes, and teach them to march and
manoeuvre, then Liniers will have a small force upon which he can rely
for any rapid movement, and can trust the defence of the line of the
Riachuelo to his other infantry, and to the partidarios."

"Two thousand!" exclaimed Don Fausto; "you can never collect 2000 slaves
from this district."

"No, I cannot, but if I can commence here with 200, then others will
come forward from all the country."

"Well, if Don Gregorio will let you pick fifty from among his slaves I
will give you twenty from mine; I will run the risk of some of them
being killed."

"Conforme," said Don Gregorio; "the thing is to commence at once; where
do you intend to fix your headquarters?"

"If you will permit me, grandpapa, I should like to establish myself at
your large chacra close to the Guardia, the Chacra de Los Sauces. I
shall encamp my men on the open ground, and there is a rancho I marked
there which will do for me. The commandant of the Guardia has promised
me a sergeant and three corporals to assist me in drilling them."

"Agreed," replied Don Gregorio. "Then, gentlemen, if you will promise
nothing definite, you will let us hope that when the danger becomes more
pressing you will let my grandson seek more recruits among your slaves."

"I will let you have twenty as soon as the wheat is cut," said one.

"Come, we have not done so badly," said Don Gregorio to his grandson;
"the thing is to make a beginning."

Marcelino was disappointed to find his idea meet with so cold a
reception, nevertheless he returned to the verandah in very good
spirits, and met with more sympathy in his scheme from his English
friend than he had done from his own countrymen. Don Fausto had promised
to call all his slaves together the following morning for inspection by
Marcelino, and ere the sun was up the latter was awakened by someone
shaking him by the shoulder. Opening his eyes drowsily, he saw his
friend Gordon standing by his bed.

"Get up, my friend," said the latter; "if you would be a soldier you
must learn to parade your men every morning at sunrise."

Laughing at his eagerness, Marcelino sprang from his bed.

"Why you take as much interest in it as I do," said he.

"Ah! if it were only not against us, I would be the first of your
recruits myself."

"The day will come yet," answered Marcelino, "when we shall fight side
by side."

Rejecting youths and old men, Marcelino found it easy to select twenty
stalwart negroes from among the many slaves who were brought together by
Don Fausto for his inspection, but when he commenced to make a speech to
them, asking them to show themselves men by volunteering under his
orders for the defence of their native country, his host cut him short,
and spoke to them himself.

"Boys," said he, "our country has need of your services. Go with my
young friend here, and obey him as you would obey me. You are henceforth
under military discipline; disobedience or desertion will be punished
with death. If you behave yourselves bravely a reward shall not be
wanting to each one of you; to any two of you who may be specially
recommended to me by Don Marcelino, I will give freedom on your return.
To-day you are at liberty to make what preparations you require,
to-morrow at sunrise you march."

Several of the "volunteers" looked far from joyful as they listened to
this speech, and many of the women collected round burst into loud
lamentations as the word passed among them that these twenty had been
selected to go and fight the English. Marcelino would willingly have
exchanged two or three of them who had families for others of those he
had passed over, but Don Fausto would not hear of it.

"The first duty of a slave, as of a soldier, is unquestioning
obedience," said he.

"Give them plenty to eat and keep them hard at work, and they will be
quite happy," said Don Gregorio. "You have made a good selection, and I
believe if you are strict with them you will soon drill them into very
good soldiers."

Later on in the day word was brought to Marcelino that one of the twenty
had made off from the negro huts towards a dense pajonal about
half-a-league from the estancia. Don Fausto immediately mounted several
peons, and started in pursuit. Before sundown he returned, bringing back
the runaway, tied hands and feet, on the back of a spare horse.

"There is your deserter," said he to Marcelino; "I should advise you to
shoot him at once, as a warning to the others."

"No, that would be a poor commencement," replied Marcelino. Then
summoning the other nineteen, he ordered them to drive four stout stakes
into the ground in the form of a square, and to lash the runaway to them
by the ankles and wrists with flat strips of raw hide; after which he
told off four of them to keep guard over him till the following morning,
giving him food and water as he required, but allowing no one to
approach him or speak to him.

During the evening Marcelino visited his prisoner once every two hours,
and found his guards always at their posts, till midnight, when, on the
runaway promising that he would make no further effort to escape, he
told the others to cut the thongs so that he might sleep at ease, but
warned him that if he repeated the offence he would shoot him on the
spot where he found him.

"I am glad you did not shoot him," said Gordon, who was with Marcelino
at the time; "but with these men you will find it necessary to be very
severe."

Next morning at sunrise Marcelino and his twenty men marched away,
Marcelino riding, but the men marching on foot, each man with a bundle
of spare clothes and provisions, and a stout stick. Don Gregorio and
Gordon set off at the same time, attended by peons driving a tropilla
before them, and reached the Guardia Chascomus before midday.

The next day Marcelino and his recruits reached the Chacra de Los
Sauces, where Don Gregorio had collected the most robust of his slaves
from his various establishments round about. From these Marcelino
selected fifty, and with the seventy men he had thus under his orders
he formed an encampment on some open ground by the edge of the Laguna de
Chascomus, and, aided by the sergeant and corporals sent him by the
commandant of the Guardia, proceeded at once to drill them into
soldiers.

He had not been many days at work ere, greatly to his surprise and
pleasure, he received a fresh detachment of recruits, ten stout slaves,
sent to him by his father, who also wrote him a letter expressing the
warmest interest in his project, and offering him any further assistance
in his power.



CHAPTER IV

STANDING ALONE


Weeks passed, busy weeks for Marcelino Ponce de Leon. Every morning at
cockcrow the reveillé sounded at the Chacra de Los Sauces, at sunrise
the recruits mustered, and the first six hours of the day were spent in
steady drill and in long marches. Marcelino had but a dozen muskets
which had been lent him by the commandant of the Guardia; a dozen men
were detached every hour for instruction in the manual exercise by the
sergeant, the rest were instructed in evolutions by Marcelino himself
and the corporals. The afternoons were spent by the negroes in the
manufacture of accoutrements, and in the routine work of the encampment;
at sundown they were paraded again, and sentinels were told off for the
night.

Under this discipline the negroes improved rapidly, lost their slouching
gait, and some of them showed such intelligence that in January
Marcelino selected sergeants and corporals from among them, and advanced
his four Spaniards to brevet rank as subaltern officers. Not a week
passed but he received some accession of strength by small drafts of
slaves from the estancias or chacras round about; at the end of January
he had 150 men. At this time he received a note from Don Gregorio Lopez
of the Barrancas, telling him that he was going to march his
newly-raised squadron inside for inspection by General Liniers, and
advising him to accompany him, as, if his recruits would bear
inspection, the Reconquistador would probably give him arms for them at
once.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the second week in February; Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon and his
wife Doña Constancia had a houseful of guests at their quinta. The paved
verandah round the house had resounded all day with the clanking of
sabres and the jingling of armed heels. The Reconquistador and his staff
had breakfasted with them that day at noon, after inspecting the cavalry
regiment from Las Barrancas and the negro recruits under the command of
Marcelino Ponce de Leon. Her military guests had done full justice to
the plentiful breakfast Doña Constancia had placed before them,
patriotic toasts had been honoured with enthusiasm, cheerfulness and
confidence had shone in every face.

The morning inspection had passed off very well, the cavalry had
performed some simple evolutions without getting into hopeless disorder;
the negroes, now fully armed and accoutred, had marched and wheeled with
a rapidity and precision which surprised the general, and had elicited
a warm eulogium from Major Belgrano of the Patricios, for whose opinion
the commandant of the negroes had a very high regard. All this was very
pleasing to Doña Constancia, but nevertheless, now that Liniers and his
staff had returned to town, and her remaining guests were chiefly
members of their own family, sitting at her ease under the front
verandah with her favourite son beside her, she was far from cheerful or
happy herself. She had cause for anxiety, one face that she had been
accustomed to see almost daily for more than twenty years she had not
seen to-day, nor for many days past, the face of her second son, Juan
Carlos.

Early in January a detachment of the Patricios had volunteered to
proceed to Monte Video to aid in the defence of that city against the
English. They had crossed the river too late to take part in the action
of the 20th January, in which the Spanish troops had been defeated by
Sir Samuel Auchmuty. Since then the city had been invested by land and
sea, and whether the Patricios were on their way back again, or whether
they had succeeded in entering the city, and now formed a portion of the
beleaguered garrison, was as yet unknown in Buenos Aires. Among these
volunteers had gone Juan Carlos Ponce de Leon with the rank of
lieutenant.

Mother and son found much to talk of, and they talked together sitting
side by side, till the long shadows of the trees had stretched
themselves right across the open space in front of the house, had
climbed up the white palings of the outer fence, shutting them out from
the sinking sun, and had then stretched on into infinity until they were
no longer shadows at all, but all was one general shadow, the shadow of
night. Others came and went in the verandah, some who had had a busy day
seating themselves there to rest their weary limbs, but presently
lounging away again to some room inside where they could rest yet more
at their ease. Others walked to and fro under the shade of the trees in
couples, blue smoke curling up from under the wide brims of their hats,
and as they themselves were lost to sight under the darkling shade of
the foliage, the fiery tips of their cigars yet gave evidence of their
presence. Among them Dolores flitted backwards and forwards, having
taken upon herself the care of their guests now that the more important
of them had gone, and so leaving her mother at liberty and at rest. She
was dressed in a white gossamer-like material bound together some few
inches below her shoulders by a broad scarlet ribbon, tied behind her in
a huge bow with two long streamers. The sleeves of her dress were very
short, not reaching down to her elbows, and were puffed out till they
looked like a pair of young balloons. Her round white arms were
uncovered, and on her head she wore a small straw hat, also adorned with
scarlet bows and streamers, of which hat she was very proud, only
wearing it on great occasions, for such a head-dress was rarely seen in
Buenos Aires at that time.

This review of the recruits raised by her uncle and brother had been a
great occasion for Dolores. During the inspection she had ridden at the
left hand of General Liniers in this her gala dress, with the addition
of a flowing mantle and gloves reaching up to her elbows. The general
had been very polite to her, treating her with great deference and
toasting her afterwards at the breakfast as the Queen of the day. In his
suite she had also found many other attentive cavaliers, who had found a
sure way to her smiles and good graces by lavishing encomiums upon her
brother and his negro troops. Among these cavaliers was one who seemed
to take almost as much pride as herself in the proficiency of the
negroes, but who looked somewhat contemptuously upon the cavalry,
Lieutenant Gordon, who was again her father's guest at the Quinta de
Ponce. To him General Liniers had been very cordial, and Major Belgrano
of the Patricios had ridden beside him all the morning, conversing with
him and listening attentively to all his critiques upon the movements
and bearing of the recruits. Major Belgrano had not returned to town
with the General and his staff, but had accepted Don Roderigo's
invitation to remain at the quinta until the following day.

Dolores had also had another cavalier in attendance who had enjoyed the
military display even more than she had done, her youngest brother
Evaristo, who was yet only fourteen years of age. Mounted on a pony, he
had galloped about all the morning, eagerly trying to make himself
useful, chiefly succeeding in being always in the way when any rapid
movement was performed, but invariably extricating himself with great
skill and presence of mind from his difficulties.

"They will ride over that boy presently," said Liniers to Dolores, on
one of the occasions. "Who is he?"

"He is my brother," replied Dolores.

Whereupon Liniers, calling the lad to him, complimented him upon his
horsemanship, and subdued and rewarded his enthusiasm by appointing him
an extra aide-de-camp, and keeping him beside himself till the
evolutions came to an end.

Lamps were lighted in the sala, the table was duly set out for dinner,
Marcelino and his mother yet sat side by side under the shade of the
wide verandah, when the galloping of horses was heard on the road
outside. As they reached the quinta gate the horsemen drew rein and
dismounted, they opened the gate and two walked up the winding path to
the verandah with the confidence of men who were no strangers there. As
they drew near one quickened his step and took off his hat as he set
foot on the brick pavement. One word only he said:

"Mamita!"

"Juan Carlos! my son!" exclaimed Doña Constancia, springing from her
chair and throwing herself into his arms.

At her cry many others came forward from inside and from under the
trees, and crowded round Juan Carlos, shaking him warmly by the hand or
embracing him, all of them asking him but one question:

"What news?"

"What matter the news?" said Doña Constancia; "I have my son again, let
me look at him."

She drew him into the sala, into the lamplight.

"You look pale, my son," said she, "and weary. These cursed wars! But
you are back again!"

"We have been very anxious about you, Juan Carlos," said Don Roderigo.
"Since the affair of the 20th January we could not tell what had become
of you. I am glad you have come back again, it would have been useless
to try to force your way into Monte Video."

"I went to Monte Video, father," answered Juan Carlos sadly, "and I have
come back again. That I am here at all I owe to----Ah! where is he? I
thought he had come with me."

He turned and looked out into the darkness. There, unnoticed by anyone,
leaning in an attitude of careless grace against one of the iron pillars
of the verandah, stood a tall man, with his hat thrust back from his
forehead, while an amused smile flitted over his sallow features,
lighting them up into a kind of stern beauty.

"Evaña!" exclaimed Marcelino, who was the first to recognise him, and
ran out at once to seize him by the hand and draw him forward.

"You are glad to see me again, mother," said Juan Carlos. "Then thank
him, for to him I probably owe my life, and certainly my escape from an
English prison."

"Don Carlos!" said Doña Constancia; "you are back? This is the second
time that you have been the one who has given me happiness when I was
anxious for my sons. Are you their guardian angel? God bless you for it,
I can only give you the thanks of a grateful mother."

"And that is reward sufficient, Señora," said Evaña, as he raised her
hand to his lips in courtly salutation. "But I fear that the news we
bring will not give equal pleasure to all of you."

"What of Monte Video?" asked Don Roderigo. "What has been done?"

Evaña turned away without answering, leaving Juan Carlos to answer for
him.

"You said you came from Monte Video; what has happened?" asked Marcelino
of his brother.

"Monte Video has fallen," answered Juan Carlos.

"How? The English have taken the city already!" exclaimed Don Roderigo.

"They opened a breach in the wall close to the sea, and stormed it under
the fire of their ships. We had blocked up the gap in the night before
the assault, and the defence was rude and cost them many men, but they
carried everything before them at the point of the bayonet."

"When was the assault?"

"At dawn on the third."

"And you had entered the city before that?"

"Yes, three days before. We were not at the breach, but were posted near
the citadel, and beat off a party that tried to scale the wall, but we
were cut off and surrounded by the English before we knew that they had
forced the breach. We fired on them, and they would have massacred us
but for Don Carlos, who kept them back, and ran in through our fire
waving a handkerchief. He told us that resistance was useless, as the
English had already captured the Plaza, and had all our positions in
reverse, so we surrendered."

"Then you were made prisoner," said Marcelino.

"Yes, but Don Carlos spoke for me, and they let me go on promising that
I would not serve against them any more in this war."

"And Sobremonte, what does he do?" asked Don Roderigo. "He had some
force collected not far off, and we expected that he would prevent the
English from attempting an assault."

"Sobremonte does nothing."

"And never will do anything," said Marcelino sullenly.

"How many men have the English?" asked Major Belgrano.

"About 5000," answered Juan Carlos.

"They have the city, but they have not yet the campaña," said Don
Gregorio Lopez, who had already sent off his recruits to their homes,
but who had remained himself at the quinta.

"The campaña, with Sobremonte to keep it, is the same as lost," said
Marcelino.

"Henceforward we can only look upon the Banda Oriental as a danger,"
said Major Belgrano. "The English have now secured themselves a footing
on American soil, that is all they seek in Monte Video, but the prize
they strike for is Buenos Aires. They will come, my friends, but this
time they will find us ready for them. Is it not so, Don Gregorio? Is it
not so, Marcelino?"

"It is," answered both together.

"Then courage, my friends," added Belgrano; "you have to-day shown us
that we have the raw material amongst ourselves of an efficient army. I
have wished to take our militia from their homes and embody them as
soldiers. I feel confident that this is the only way in which we can
hope to meet with success in a renewed struggle against these invaders,
but my counsels are set at naught, and my forebodings are treated with
derision. The Reconquistador is a man of experience and shares my
opinions, but unfortunately he values his popularity too much to support
them. Aid me then, my friends, ere it be too late."

"I would aid you with pleasure if my aid could be of any service," said
Don Roderigo; "but the militia will not leave their homes and their
families until the enemy land."

"Leave such follies alone, that is what I counsel you, Don Manuel," said
Don Gregorio Lopez. "Among streets and houses your militia are all
right, but in the open camp they are worth nothing."

"The proper way to defend the city," said Belgrano, "is to meet the
invaders when they land, and not to let them see the city at all."

Don Gregorio and the major carried on the discussion for some time, but
no one else paid any further attention to the matter, crowding round
Juan Carlos as he told of his adventures since he had left Buenos Aires,
and questioning Evaña as to where he had been for months past, but not
pressing their questions, as he seemed little inclined to satisfy their
curiosity.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was nearly midnight. Marcelino and his friend Don Carlos Evaña sat in
an inner room talking earnestly together, seated one on each side of a
small table, on which stood a shaded lamp. Both had been smoking, but
Marcelino had let his cigar go out, so absorbed was he in the subject on
which they conversed together.

"What are you two discussing?" said Major Belgrano, pausing as he passed
the open door in company with Don Gregorio Lopez; "you might be talking
treason, you look so solemn."

"Something very like treason, according to my friend here," answered
Evaña, stretching himself on his chair, and puffing a long jet of smoke
from his lips. "Come in; I should like to hear your opinion on the
subject, Major, and yours too, Don Gregorio."

"Say no more," said Marcelino, leaning over the table, and whispering to
him, "with my uncle there is danger in such ideas; he does not
understand you as I do."

"Danger!" replied Evaña laughing; "I should like all the world to listen
to me, my opinions are no secret. I see you in your ignorance rushing
headlong to destruction; I am no traitor, but a friend, when I try to
open your eyes to your danger. What do you say, Don Gregorio?"

"You are among friends here and may speak," replied Don Gregorio,
drawing forward a chair and seating himself; "but I know your opinions,
and I warn you that you run great danger if you show yourself in the
city."

"So will you run danger when you rush with your raw levies upon the
bayonets of the English."

"I shall do my duty."

"And I not less so. I have been to England, as I told you, and what I
foresaw has come to pass. The English are not a warlike people, but they
are very jealous of their military fame, and the affair of the 12th
August has raised a storm of indignation. I had interviews with several
members of the Government, and got the same answer from them all.
Whatever their private opinions may be, they are forced to yield to the
popular clamour, which demands the conquest of Buenos Aires in
satisfaction for the defeat of their General Beresford."

"And the people of Buenos Aires will deny this satisfaction to the
people of England," said Don Gregorio, fiercely striking the table with
his clenched fist. "We have defeated and made prisoner one Beresford;
let them send ten Beresfords, we will serve them all the same."

"Whatever harm they may yet do us, they have at least done us one
service," replied Evaña; "they have taught us our own strength. I know
and rejoice at it. Am I not also a Porteño of Buenos Aires? Shall I not
glory in the prowess of my own countrymen?"

"Well, it may be so. You are a Porteño and a fellow-countryman, but you
sympathise strangely with the enemies of our country. How is that?"

"Spain is our enemy, we have no other."

"And these English then are our friends! They come with their ships and
their cannon to break down our walls and to kill the best men amongst
us, as they killed Don Pancho Maciel, not a month ago, near Monte Video.
Frankly, of friendship of that kind I understand nothing."

"Don Pancho Maciel died in defence of the flag of our tyrants, many more
will die as he did if we continue to defend it. To you, Belgrano, I
appeal; you have more influence with the Patricios than any other, your
newly-organised militia has the destinies of our country in its hands.
Let them tear down that flaunting flag which waves at the fort, and put
our own flag in its place, then we can treat with the English and they
will be our friends."

"Our flag! We have no flag," replied Belgrano.

"We have none, but we can make one. The day we hoist our own flag we
declare our independence and achieve it."

"You deceive yourself, Evaña," said Belgrano; "the time has not yet
come. To tear down that flag now would be to kindle at once a civil war
amongst us, that flag alone it is that binds us together."

"Your own argument tells against you, Carlos," said Marcelino. "We are
the sons of Spaniards, the English people know no difference between us
and them. Whatever flag we fight under, they look upon us as enemies,
and will not be content till they have trampled us under their feet."

"We have more chance than we had last year," said Belgrano. "We have
8000 trained infantry in the capital, and the campaña will rise as one
man when the enemy lands."

"To say nothing of the slaves," said Evaña laughing. "How many of them
have you, Marcelino?"

"I have enough to commence with, and I have many promises of more
to-day."

"And not one of them has yet fired a musket. Can your Patricios yet fire
a musket without shutting their eyes, Belgrano?"

To this Major Belgrano did not answer, and Evaña continued:

"Give up this idea of a foolhardy resistance to an overwhelming force;
you are brave men, show that you are also wise, receive the English as
friends, and staunch friends you will find them. All their interests
drive them to a friendly alliance with us. There is time yet to organise
a provisional government of our own, there wants but one step more to
consolidate our independence, a separate treaty with the English."

As Evaña ceased the three others looked doubtfully at one another, his
words had made a deep impression upon them, for with two of them at
least their independence of Spain was second in importance in their eyes
only to their freedom from the enforced authority of Great Britain.

"Do you think the English commander would make a treaty with us, and
abstain from invading our country, if we had a government of our own?"
asked Belgrano.

"I doubt it much," said Don Gregorio.

"Nevertheless, the first step might be taken," said Marcelino. "After
this news from Monte Video it will not be difficult to persuade the
corporations to depose the Viceroy. Sobremonte has already not one
friend in the city."

"Well thought," said Belgrano, rising. "Of this we will speak more
to-morrow, and will consult with Don Roderigo."

       *       *       *       *       *

"These ideas of yours are not so new to us as they were," said Marcelino
to Evaña, when they were again alone. "General Beresford and his
officers openly declare that the British Government would cordially
welcome an alliance with us if we would declare our independence of
Spain, but they may make peace with Spain any day and withdraw their
help from us. I can only see danger in such an alliance until we have
some solid organisation of our own."

"Do they mix freely with the citizens?" asked Evaña eagerly.

"They were for two months at liberty on parole," replied Marcelino; "but
they spoke so very openly that Liniers and the Cabildo took alarm;
Beresford and Pack and several others were arrested and sent to Lujan in
October, and most of the other officers have been sent into the
interior; fortunately Gordon has been all the time separate from the
rest, so we have been able to keep him with us. Several citizens were
also arrested on suspicion of treasonable designs, and until now there
they are, the most of them, in prison. It is fortunate that you have
been away all these months, or you would have most certainly been
imprisoned. We gave it out that you had gone to Paraguay, but you will
require to be very cautious."

       *       *       *       *       *

The following morning Don Roderigo, Don Gregorio, Major Belgrano, and
Don Carlos Evaña, rode in together to the city. Before sundown the
latter had interviews with most of the principal native residents, and
with many Spaniards also. The result of his propaganda appeared on the
10th February, when the various corporations of which the actual
Government was composed assembled together and formally deposed the
Marquis de Sobremonte from his authority as Viceroy and took possession
of his seals and papers.

Thus Buenos Aires became for the time _de facto_ an independent
Commonwealth, but her Government ruled in the name of Spain, and one
only fear kept the heterogeneous members together, fear of the English.



CHAPTER V

AN EVENING IN THE MONTH OF JUNE


The excitement occasioned in Buenos Aires by the fall of Monte Video,
and the favourable report of General Liniers, brought many recruits to
Marcelino Ponce de Leon, so that at the end of March he had over 300 men
under his command at the Chacra de Los Sauces, but his dream of forming
a legion of 2000 men remained a dream, he had to be content with his
300, and spared no pains to make efficient soldiers of them.

Early in march General Beresford, Colonel Pack, and three other English
officers escaped by the aid of some friendly Creoles from their prison
at Lujan; three days they remained concealed in Buenos Aires, and then
embarked at night in a small boat and sailed for Monte Video. They were
picked up on their way by an English cruiser and reached the British
headquarters in safety. General Liniers sent to demand that they should
be delivered up to him on the ground that they had broken their parole;
the demand was refused by Sir Samuel Auchmuty on the plea that their
imprisonment at Lujan cancelled the parole which they had previously
given. General Beresford returned at once to England, and to Colonel
Pack was confided the command of the garrison of Colonia.

Meantime the English had overrun the western parts of the Banda
Oriental, they had garrisons at Canelones, Santa Lucia, and Colonia; but
the country people remained unsubdued, hovering in small parties about
any position held by the British, cutting off stragglers, seriously
impeding the communications between the different garrisons, and driving
off the horses from their immediate neighbourhood, so that the invaders
had great difficulty in mounting their cavalry. In addition to this,
various expeditions were sent from Buenos Aires to aid the natives of
the eastern province against the common foe; in particular, a strong
force under the command of Colonel Don Calisto Elio, a Spanish officer,
which was attacked by Colonel Pack in the neighbourhood of Colonia,
totally defeated and compelled to re-embark, with heavy loss both in men
and equipments.

So the months passed on until June, when it was reported in Buenos Aires
that large reinforcements of English had reached Monte Video, and that
the invasion so much talked of would be no longer deferred. This
intelligence excited the enthusiasm of the citizens to the utmost; the
militia required no urging to be constant at their meetings for drill,
confidence beamed in every face and was spoken by every tongue, no--not
by every tongue. Major Belgrano had thrown up his commission in the
Patricios, disgusted at the small heed paid to his warnings, and now
served on the staff of General Balviani. He did not speak confidently,
he said that neither the militia nor the Spanish regiments could face
half their number of English troops in the open field.

Don Carlos Evaña lived again at his house, near to that of Don Gregorio
Lopez, taking no part in the military preparations and thereby incurring
general censure, but passing his days in study and his evenings at the
houses of his more particular friends, talking little, but listening
much and watching always.

One evening a miscellaneous company, including many ladies, were
assembled in the large sala of the house of Don Gregorio Lopez. Many
officers in uniform were there; they were the most favoured guests,
envied by the men who were in plain clothes, and basking in the smiles
of the ladies, who looked upon them as their defenders, and told them so
in flattering words. One young officer was more especially selected for
attention, he had been absent from the city for months. Slim and active,
his uniform displayed to perfection his graceful figure, while his
bronzed cheek and erect bearing marked him out as one to whom military
duty was a profession, not a pastime, as it was to many of the citizen
soldiers around him.

Marcelino Ponce de Leon had marched his men to the Casa-teja, and
leaving them there had come to town to place himself and his command at
the orders of General Liniers, deeming his negroes now fit for active
service. He had already received his orders, which were to march to the
town of Ensenada and to report himself to his uncle Colonel Lopez of the
Barrancas cavalry, who had the command of that important station, and
whose regiment was spread in detachments along the coast.

One of the ladies present was Doña Dalmacia, the wife of Don Isidro
Lorea.

"Come and talk to me, Don Marcelino," said she to him, as he crossed the
room and passed near her chair. "I wish to speak to you about a friend
of yours."

"Always at your orders, Señora," said Marcelino, seating himself beside
her.

"Your friend Don Carlos Evaña is a patriot, so say you and some others
who know him better than I do; but for my part I understand nothing of
such patriotism. An invasion is coming, all our young men take some part
in the preparations except he, he shuts himself up in his house and does
nothing. Where was he last year? There are who say he was never in
Paraguay at all, but was in England. It is known that there are
Americans in London, who have for their own purposes encouraged and even
asked the British Government to send out this expedition; probably he
knows them, perhaps he is one of them, he was much in London before he
came back from Europe."

"Don Carlos does nothing because he thinks resistance is useless."

"And he stirs not a hand to save our city from the dishonour of a second
time being conquered by a foreign army."

"He says that its conquest is dishonour to Spain, not to us; in this I
do not agree with him."

"I should think not. If we are beaten the loss and the dishonour will be
ours. But I have no fear; on the 12th August we had no troops, now we
have thousands; we shall win, and the glory will be ours. You will have
your part in it, my friend, but as for Evaña--Pish! I am sorry that he
is a friend of yours, and a protegé of Don Gregorio; if he were not he
would long since have been where such traitors ought to be, in
calabozo."

"Forgive me for differing from you, Doña Dalmacia, but Evaña is no
traitor, he is simply an enemy of Spain. If we drive back the English we
shall have the glory, as you say, but Spain will reap the reward."

"If! why you say 'if' as though there could be any doubt about it."

"This army which is coming against us is much stronger than the
detachment Beresford took our city with a year ago."

"A surprise; now we are ready; 'el hombre prevenido nunca fue
vencido.'"[5]

"Evaña says we are not 'prevenido,' our militia cannot face the English
in the field, and I agree with him. I have not seen much of the English,
but their soldiers are better than our militia. Gordon has told me much
about their drill and discipline."

"Do you know I like that English friend of yours," said Doña Dalmacia.
"He is very simple, but he is not wanting in intelligence."

"And he is a soldier, therefore his opinion is of more value than that
of either Evaña or myself; he says that one English division would be
sufficient to rout all the infantry now in the city, in the open field."

"He did not tell me so the other day when he was at my house. He told me
that he had been to pay you a visit, and that your negroes were very
good soldiers."

"My negroes are not citizen soldiers, Doña Dalmacia."

"But you will not tell me that they are equal to Isidro's company."

To this Marcelino merely bowed in answer, and hastened to turn the
conversation.

"But about Evaña, Señora," said he; "I am sorry that you should think so
ill of him as to say that he merits the calabozo."

"There are some who would put him there to-morrow but for fear of
offending Don Gregorio, and perhaps they may do. I called you to me to
tell you so. Several officers of the Patricios met together to-day at
our house; Isidro has brought them here, and has asked Don Gregorio to
send for Don Carlos Evaña, so that they may question him privately as to
where he was last year, and if he was in England what he was doing
there. If he refuses to answer their questions they will denounce him to
the Reconquistador and he will be arrested to-morrow."

"Many thanks, Señora, for having told me this. If Evaña comes he will at
any rate have one friend beside him."

"Don Gregorio is his friend."

"True, but my grandfather does not understand him as I do."

"And you would like to be with him when they question him?"

"I should," replied Marcelino, looking round. "Where is my grandfather?
I will speak to him at once."

"Then I will not keep you longer. Just before I called you, Don Carlos
came in. You were so much occupied with the bright eyes of Elisa
Puyrredon that you did not see him, and he went away with Don Gregorio
and Isidro and some others; you will find them in some other room. Come
back and tell me what he says."

"I will not fail," said Marcelino, as he rose from his seat and walked
away.

Marcelino learned from a servant that his grandfather and several others
were in the dining-room, in consultation, the man said. He found the
door of the room locked, but on knocking he was admitted. Don Gregorio
sat in his arm-chair with a stern, anxious expression on his face;
others sat or stood around him, several of whom wore on the left sleeve
a scarlet badge, on which was embroidered in black letters the words
"Buenos Aires"; these were officers in the regiment of the Patricios. In
front of them, leaning back in a chair, with his legs crossed, and a
scornful smile flitting over his features, sat Don Carlos Evaña.

"Why do you speak to us of the Spaniards? leave them," said one of the
Patricios to him, as Marcelino entered. "It is not of them we wish to
speak, it is of the English."

"How came you to be with the English when they captured Monte Video?"
asked Don Isidro Lorea.

"The thing is very simple," answered Evaña. "I came back from Europe in
an English ship."

"And you joined them in the assault, and entered the town with them?"

"I followed them through the breach when they had stormed it."

"Traitor! you took part with our enemies, and yet you dare to come here
and live amongst us?" exclaimed Don Isidro.

"Gently, Don Isidro," said Marcelino, who had seated himself beside his
friend. "Don Carlos went in without arms, and exposed his own life among
them to save the lives of our people. To him I owe that my brother Juan
Carlos was not killed that day."

"Gentlemen," said Don Gregorio, "let us not dispute about what has
nothing to do with the subject before us. Don Carlos is no traitor to
us, and his friendship with the English may be of great service to us.
Those who have most experience amongst us nearly all agree that it is
almost hopeless to attempt to defend our city against the army the
English will bring against us now."

"There is no man amongst us of more experience than the Reconquistador,"
answered another officer, "and he speaks very differently."

"Liniers," replied Don Gregorio with an impatient shrug of his
shoulders, "Liniers is a vain, hot-headed fool. When you shout 'Viva
Liniers!' he is ready to tell you any sort of folly. Ask Belgrano, your
late major, he will tell you that the English will drive all your
battalions before them like sheep."

"What Belgrano says is worth no attention," said Don Isidro. "If things
are not done exactly as he wishes, they are all wrong. If we find the
English too strong for us in the open we will retreat upon the city,
and we will defend it block by block, and street by street. It cost them
hundreds of men to storm one breach in Monte Video, here each street
corner will be a breach, and the street itself will be their grave."

"Well said! well said! Viva Don Isidro!" shouted the officers, clapping
their hands. Even Evaña smiled encouragement upon his accuser.

"Let us be friends, Don Isidro," said he, rising and stretching out his
hand to him. "Our country has need of such as you, and it is to prevent
you and others like you from throwing away your lives in a useless
contest that I strive to make you look upon the English as friends, and
to unite you against our real enemy."

"If you wish us to look upon the English as friends," said Don Isidro,
drawing back, "try your persuasive talents upon them and keep them from
invading our country. They have the Banda Oriental, let them keep it;
but if they come here they are enemies, and the sword alone will make
treaty between us."

"They say there is a new general come out to take command of the
English," said Marcelino, as Evaña, somewhat disconcerted, reseated
himself. "Do you know him, Evaña?"

"His name is Whitelock," answered Evaña.

"He might be more willing than the other to make some arrangement with
us," said Don Gregorio, "as he has left England later. From that letter
you showed me it seems that Miranda and your other friends in London
have not been idle lately. Do you know anything of him?"

"No, I never heard of him before; but doubtless his instructions will be
the same as those of Sir Samuel."

"You are known to many of the English, could you not go to Monte Video
and prevail upon Whitelock to remain there?" said Don Gregorio.

"Do so," said Don Isidro; "in this way you may make your friendship with
the English of some use to us and we shall no longer look upon you as a
traitor. Something you will have done, though you care not to risk your
life in the defence."

"I am not more careful of my life than other men," answered Evaña
angrily, "but I am not fool enough to----"

"Say you will go, Evaña," interrupted Marcelino; "I believe you may
possibly do some good, and you can bring us information upon which we
can rely. To-morrow I leave this for Ensenada, come with me, and I will
manage somehow to get you put across the river."

"Be it so. At what hour do you leave?"

"Probably not before noon, but I will send you word."

"Then adios, Don Gregorio," said Evaña, shaking hands with the old
gentleman. "If the English hang me as a spy they will do me less
injustice than these friends of yours, who would shoot me as a traitor."

"Neither spy nor traitor are you, Carlos," replied Don Gregorio.
"Whether you succeed in averting this war from us or not, I know that
you will regard as nothing the danger to yourself. Go, and may God have
you in his keeping."

It was nearly midnight when Marcelino reached his father's house. To his
surprise he found the whole household astir, busily employed dismantling
the rooms and packing up clothes, house-linen, and crockery. In the sala
he found his sister, assisted by Evaristo and Gordon, collecting the
thousand and one articles of ornament and luxury with which the room was
adorned and carefully stowing them away in a large packing-case.

"Lola!" said he, going behind her and seizing her by the two elbows,
"what is all this about? Are you going to fly away?"

"Ahi!" screamed Dolores, springing away from him. "Marcelino, how you
frightened me! I thought that they had come already and that I was a
prisoner."

"Who are 'they,' that you are so frightened of, and what are you doing?"
asked Marcelino, seating himself on the case and drawing her towards
him.

"Hush!" answered Dolores, laying one finger on her lip and looking round
at Lieutenant Gordon, then stooping over him she whispered in his ear,
"the English. Papa was away all evening, when he came back he told us to
commence at once to pack up everything, for we are all to go out to the
quinta to-morrow."

"But why?" asked Marcelino, laying a hand upon the shoulder of his
brother Evaristo, who had come up to him as he spoke.

"Don Alejandro says a soldier should obey and ask no questions," said
Evaristo; "so he and Lola and I have been hard at work ever since."

"You are not a soldier, my fine fellow," said Marcelino.

"Not yet, but I shall be."

"Don't say that, Evaristo," said Dolores. "You know mamma does not like
to hear you say that. Is it not plenty that one is a soldier?"

"I shall go with them to the quinta of course," said Evaristo; "but when
_they_ come," he continued in a lower voice, and looking at Gordon,
"then I shall be with you. Promise me, Marcelino, that you will send for
me, I will do all you tell me if you will only let me be with you."

"You must stop at the quinta and take care of mamma and Lola."

"There will be papa and Juan Carlos and Don Alejandro."

"And Evaristo too," said Dolores. "Come, now that you are here, though
it is so late, you shall help me just a little, for we have nearly
finished now."

As they spoke together Gordon had kept away at the far end of the room.
Rising from his seat on the packing-case, Marcelino went up to him and
laid one hand on his shoulder.

"It is not far off now," he said in a low voice.

"It appears not, but I have asked no questions," replied Gordon.

"Promise me that whatever happens you will stay by them to the end,"
said Marcelino.

"I will, so help me God," replied Gordon.

The four then worked steadily on in silence till the packing-case was
full, and all the smaller articles which had been scattered about the
room were stowed away. Then Marcelino went in search of his father and
learnt from him that advices had been received that day which reported
that the bulk of the English forces had been concentrated in Monte
Video, and that their number made it hopeless to attempt to oppose their
landing on the western shore of La Plata, so that some of the leading
townsmen had proposed to entrench the city at once. Rather than run the
risk of being shut up in a besieged city, Don Roderigo had determined to
remove his family to the quinta, stowing away his furniture in an inner
room, locking up his plate and valuables in an underground cellar, and
leaving the dismantled house in the custody of a couple of slaves.

"I am glad you have so decided, father," said Marcelino. "I shall care
less for their cannon when I know that my mother and Dolores are out of
reach of their shot. I suppose you will take Don Alejandro with you."

"Yes, in case the English should land at Quilmes or Ensenada, some of
their foraging parties may come as far as the quinta, and Gordon may be
of service to us."

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning a great lumbering vehicle resembling an oblong box upon
wheels, which was called a "galera," was drawn up in the street in front
of the house of Don Roderigo. It was a capacious conveyance, and had
need to be so, for it had a heavy load to carry that day. Marcelino with
his two brothers, Lieutenant Gordon, and Don Carlos Evaña formed an
escort.

As they left the city a feeling of sadness oppressed them all. What
might happen before they met there again? Should they ever again all
meet together in the old house?

  [5] "The prepared man was never conquered."--_Spanish Proverb._



CHAPTER VI

THE LANDING OF THE ENGLISH


The commission held by Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon designated him as a
captain of militia, but having a separate command he was known at
Ensenada as the "Comandante de los Morenos." On presenting himself to
his uncle he was ordered to encamp his men near to the river-side to the
north of the town. The land about there was very swampy, and "paja" grew
in great luxuriance; the negroes made themselves little huts with this
paja, in which a man could neither sit nor stand upright, but in which
he could lie at full length and sleep at his ease, quite sufficiently
protected from the night dews or rain. A small rancho close at hand was
taken by Marcelino for his own accommodation, and here he spent rather
more than a fortnight, always on the alert, and practising his negroes
at target shooting in addition to their regular drills.

On the 26th June his brother Evaristo galloped into his encampment,
bringing him letters from the quinta and from the city. Among them was a
short one from his friend Evaña, accompanying a sort of circular letter
which he had addressed to Don Gregorio Lopez and to several other
leading citizens of Buenos Aires.

"I have done what I can," he said in his letter to Marcelino, "but it is
all in vain; the English insist upon the surrender of the city, and
their new general, Whitelock, brings with him his commission as Governor
of Buenos Aires, with a salary of £12,000 per annum. This Whitelock
appears to me to be very inferior to General Beresford both in
intelligence and in military skill, but as he has some first-class
officers with him. Although I cannot join you in defence of the flag of
Spain, I sympathise greatly with your mistaken heroism. Would that I
could wish you success, but I cannot. Your victory will be a misfortune
to our country, and the welfare of our country must with me override all
personal feeling. Vale."

Marcelino had filled up many a lonely evening during the past summer and
autumn by reading in that book whose chief lesson, as his friend Gordon
had told him, was faith. As he read he became more and more convinced
that the book was the Word of God, and that the lessons it taught were
of Divine authority. As he applied these lessons to his own actions, he
became confirmed in his opinion that his present course was the right
one to pursue. If they beat off the English armament they might thereby
forge fresh fetters for themselves, but Marcelino had learnt in this
book that to do right and to leave the result to God was the essence of
faith. He was satisfied that he was doing right, and that the result
would be in some unseen way for the future welfare of his country.

As the bugles sounded the reveillé the next morning, there came a knock
of the door of the rancho in which Marcelino had taken up his quarters.
He sprang from his catre, and, hurrying on a few clothes, opened the
door.

"Adelante," he said, and a negro sergeant stepped into the room.

"Señor Comandante," said the sergeant, "the Señor Lieutenant sends me to
advise you that the river is covered with ships, which appear to be
coming here."

As the door opened Evaristo had also awakened. As the sergeant spoke he
sprang up, shouting:

"The English! and I shall be one of the first to see them. What luck!"

Marcelino rapidly dressed himself, buckled on his sword, and with
Evaristo beside him walked up to a small hillock in front of his
encampment which overlooked the river, and on which it had been his
constant practice since his arrival there to have a sentry at all hours
on the look-out. The sentry was still there, wrapped up in a thick,
striped poncho, and walking rapidly backwards and forwards. As Marcelino
approached he drew himself up, presented arms, and then resumed his
rapid walk up and down. On the hillock stood another man wrapped in a
large cloak, gazing steadfastly towards the river. As the sentry
presented arms he turned and raised his hand to his cap in a military
salute.

"Buenos dias, Asneiros," said Marcelino, returning his salute; "it
appears that we have them at last."

"So it appears, Señor Comandante," replied the other.

Asneiros was a Spaniard who had formerly been a sergeant in the garrison
of Chascomus. He was now first lieutenant of the negro corps, and was
greatly trusted by Marcelino. This trust he merited, for he was a very
active officer, but he was a rigid disciplinarian and very severe. The
negroes obeyed him from fear only; their commandant they obeyed with
cheerful alacrity, for his treatment of them, while always strict,
showed a constant care for their comfort, and a due appreciation of
their efforts to please him.

It was a bright, clear morning. The muddy waters of La Plata, flowing
slowly and silently onwards towards the great ocean, broke in rippling
wavelets upon the shelving beach at the foot of the hillock. The sun had
not yet risen, but the eastern sky was lighted up with the radiance
which marshalled his approach. The light grey clouds which hung low on
the horizon lifted themselves like a veil of gossamer tinged the rainbow
hues, heralding the advent of a new-born day. Under these light clouds,
away across a wide expanse of dark, still water, the line of the horizon
was broken by a multitude of dark objects of uncertain form; now
clustering together and merging one into the other, anon scattering
themselves and losing their identity as they were hidden from sight by
the clouds of dawn, changing continually.

Side by side stood the two brothers watching them, neither speaking a
word, each communing with his own thoughts, but in manner of thought
differing as their natures differed; the one pondering with the
far-stretching thought of a man, the other with the careless confidence
of a boy eager after novelty; upon both there came a sense of awe which
kept them silent. As they stood so watching, the sun arose steadily from
behind the line of dark waters, and it was day. Then the line of the
horizon stretched farther and farther away, the dark objects which had
broken that line faded, and the first beams of the morning sun fell
diagonally upon the white sails of a vast fleet of ships.

As the sun rose, a breeze ruffled the calm surface of the river and
swept over the hillock where the brothers stood; at the same moment
Marcelino heard a footstep behind him and awoke from his reverie with a
shiver. He looked round, his uncle Colonel Lopez stood beside him.

"Will it be they?" asked the colonel.

"Without doubt," answered Marcelino. "But they are far off yet, and it
is cold; come, let us take coffee."

Three hours later all doubt was at an end, the breeze, though light, was
favourable to the hostile squadron, which came steadily on under easy
sail. Again Colonel Lopez with his two nephews and Lieutenant Asneiros
stood on the hillock watching it. They understood nothing of naval
affairs and could not tell one ship from another, yet even their eyes
could see that they sailed on in perfect order, each ship in its own
station and keeping at due distance from the one before it. The leading
ships were men-of-war of light draught, brigs and gunboats; they had men
in their chains throwing the lead continually, but from the confidence
with which they advanced in the deep channel, avoiding the shoals, it
was evident that their course was already marked out for them. From the
gaff of each of these ships waved the white standard, bearing the red
cross of Saint George, and from their main trucks streamed the long
pennant which marked them as men-of-war. After them came transports
crowded with troops, and deeply laden with stores and ammunition, many
of them with every sail set, and yet thus only just able to keep their
places as marked for them by the swifter, lighter built men-of-war.
These ships carried the red ensign. Beyond them again came larger ships,
sloops-of-war, with their ports triced up and guns run out.

As the watchers gazed two of the brigs crowded on sail and, running
rapidly in, cast anchor, one nearly in front of the hillock upon which
they stood, the other farther to the south. Between them lay a long
stretch of flat shore, where boats might safely run aground, and where
any force attempting to oppose a landing would come under the fire of
their guns.

"Against these we can do nothing," said Colonel Lopez, as he counted the
guns which frowned from the sides of the nearest brig. "Put your men
under arms and march them to the highroad."

In half-an-hour the negroes, with their baggage mules and camp equipage,
marched off under the command of Lieutenant Asneiros; and Marcelino,
after seeing them safe through the swamp to the firm ground beyond,
returned on horseback to the hillock accompanied by Evaristo on his
pony.

No attempt was made by the invaders to land that day, many of the
transports did not come to anchor till nearly sundown. The negroes were
encamped on the high ground about a league from their former station,
patrols of cavalry were set to watch the coast all night, and Colonel
Lopez took his two nephews with him to his quarters at the village of
Ensenada, whence he sent off a despatch to General Liniers, acquainting
him with the arrival of the hostile squadron off that place, but stated
that as they had made no attempt to land it might yet be their intention
to proceed farther north and to disembark nearer to the city.

The next morning at daylight all three were again in the saddle, and
rode to the hillock from which they had watched the enemy on the day
previous. Evaristo was most unusually silent that morning, keeping near
to his brother continually and wistfully watching him. Marcelino had
hardly spoken to him, but frequently when beside him he had stretched
out his hand caressing him, and when he had spoken his voice had a
gentle tenderness in its tones which filled the boy's mind with vague
apprehensions of misfortune.

In the hollow behind the hillock, close to where the negroes had had
their encampment, a body of cavalry was drawn up where they could not be
seen from the river. The English ships were now at anchor, their sails
either furled or hanging loose in the brails, boats flitted to and fro
among them or hung in clusters at the sides of some bluff-bowed
transport. One large sloop yet lay some distance off, with her top sails
backed and with lines of small flags fluttering in the air from the
trucks of her stately masts. On the gun-brigs and on some of the
transports other lines of flags ran up to the mast-heads in answer to
these signals. The decks of the transports were crowded with
scarlet-coated men, and as the ships rose and fell, swinging to their
anchors, the beams of the rising sun glinted on polished steel.
Marcelino had seen these red coats before and knew them again, they were
the trained soldiery of England, and on the decks of the transports they
swarmed by thousands; but what he had never seen before was an English
fleet, and now his gaze was riveted upon the vast armament, so powerful
yet so completely under control. As he looked upon them his face flushed
and he exclaimed, heedless that any heard him:

"Ah! if we had these with us, what need we fear from Spain?"

Evaristo bent forward on his pony's neck and looked wonderingly at his
brother, but Colonel Lopez, who had dismounted, stamped his foot angrily
and seemed about to make some hasty reply, when from the far side of the
nearest brig there darted out a long jet of grey smoke, and a few
seconds afterwards the dull boom of a heavy gun cut short the words ere
they had passed his lips. Down came the lines of fluttering flags from
the mast-heads of the large ships outside, then three round balls of
coloured bunting ran up in a string to the main truck, and as they
reached that giddy height burst open and became three flags; then from
one of the ports on her lower deck there leaped a bright flash, a jet of
smoke, and sharp through the maze of shipping sounded the report of the
gun which gave the signal for shore.

The roar of that gun echoed in the hearts of the three watchers as a
knell. An infant people had struck down the flag of a mighty nation and
had it trailed in the dust; in all the pomp and imposing majesty of
mature strength a nation came to try conclusions once more with an
infant people.

In an instant the open water between the lines of transports was filled
with boats crowded with the red-coated soldiery, the crews of the
nearest ships sprang into the rigging waving their hats and shouting,
the soldiers responded by a ringing cheer. Then the stout oarsmen bent
their backs, the oars as though moved by one hand took the water, and
swiftly, in long, regular lines, the flotilla glided over the shallow
water to the land.

"Look, uncle!" said Evaristo, pointing to the nearest brig.

Colonel Lopez was at that moment thinking to himself, whether by a rush
of his horsemen upon the boats as they grounded he could not inflict
serious injury upon the foe; what Evaristo pointed out to him gave him
his answer at once. By some means, inexplicable to the colonel, the brig
had been warped round on her anchor till she lay nearly stem on to the
hillock; the brass tompions had been removed from the muzzles of her
guns, and now her whole broadside swept the low-lying land for which the
boats were making.

"Basta!" said the colonel, "we have seen them. Now let Liniers do what
he can with them."

Stooping from the saddle, Marcelino put his arms round his brother's
neck and embraced him.

"You have seen them, now go," he said. "One kiss for mamita," and he
kissed him again.

"But you, Marcelino! Let me----"

"Mamita waits thee," answered Marcelino, as the soft tenderness of his
face faded into an expression of stern command.

Evaristo answered no more, but throwing his arms round his brother's
neck he kissed him eagerly, then gathering up his reins, he drew the
back of his hand across his eyes and galloped off.

Half-an-hour later a strong force of the English with two guns had
landed; they were apparently about to make some forward movement, when
Colonel Lopez, who had all this time watched them in silence, turned to
his nephew and said:

"Rejoin your negroes and march by the highroad to the Puente Galvès,
there you will halt and await orders from General Liniers, I will keep
these in sight."

Marcelino touched his hat and rode off; the colonel, leaving the
hillock, remounted his horse, and dividing his men into small
detachments prepared to keep a careful watch on all the movements of the
invaders.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours after sunrise, on the 1st July, a chasque from Colonel Lopez
galloped through the streets of Buenos Aires at headlong speed; as he
passed along, many shouted to him "What news?"

The stolid paisano answered nothing but galloped straight on, and only
drew rein in the Plaza Mayor, where he dismounted in front of the
Cabildo and inquired for General Liniers.

"Are you a chasque?" asked a young officer.

"I am."

"Where from?"

"From away yonder."

"What news?"

"A letter for the Señor Reconquistador."

"He is very busy, is it anything urgent?"

"I have orders to deliver it immediately, and into his own hand."

"Then follow me."

In a large upper room the members of the Cabildo were met together in
consultation. Don Gregorio Lopez was the only native member of that
body, and had been only recently appointed, the others were all
Spaniards. Don Gregorio had just read to them part of a letter he had
received some days previously from Don Carlos Evaña.

"From this letter, Señores," he said, "it is evident that the Señor
Evaña considers it impossible that we oppose any effectual resistance to
the powerful force which is now coming against us. Resistance will only
cause useless bloodshed and expose the city to all the horrors of a sack
by infuriated soldiery. He counsels us to surrender the city and then to
attempt some negotiation."

At this a low murmur of disapproval ran round the room, and several
cried: "No! no!"

"I pray you to listen to me yet, Señores," continued Don Gregorio,
"though I fear I shall try your patience. We none of us wish to see our
country disgraced, but it is well that we shut not our eyes to the peril
which hangs over us. We have but one experienced soldier among us, the
only troops upon which we can place any confidence are collected here in
our city, if in an unequal struggle our general be killed and our troops
dispersed we are left completely at the mercy of our invaders."

"True, true," replied Don Martin Alzaga, who as "Alcalde de primer
voto," was president of the Cabildo. "And he who has Buenos Aires has
everything; but Buenos Aires is not to be swallowed in one mouthful."

"Last year," said Liniers, starting to his feet, "Beresford took our
city by surprise, but he had not everything. In one month our city
became a trap, in which we caught him like a wild beast in a net. Now we
are ready, and have an army; I for my part wish only one thing, that
they may make up their minds to advance from Ensenada upon the city, and
so give me a chance of meeting them in the open field. The first army
that Buenos Aires has ever raised shall hurl the haughty English back
again to their ships in disgrace."

"I do not know whether it will be easy to drive the English back to
their ships, but we must defend the city to the last extremity," said
Don Martin Alzaga.

"I am quite of your opinion, Don Martin," said Don Gregorio; "but I am
sorry to say that I cannot consider the army able to meet the English in
the open field. Therefore with all due deference to the greater
experience of the illustrious Señor Reconquistador, I beg to submit to
you whether it would not be better to turn our attention solely to the
defence of the city. The flat roofs of our houses, and the barred
windows, make each block a separate fortress; by cutting ditches across
the ends of the streets we can in a very few days surround the city with
a continuous line of fortifications, we can call upon every man in the
city to aid in the defence of these lines, and can direct the whole
strength of the troops at once upon the point which may be most
seriously menaced. The chief advantage which the English have over us is
their superior discipline, which will avail them little in the narrow
streets of the suburbs."

At this most of the assembly looked grave; such a step seemed to them an
admission of weakness, and there was a general murmur of dissent as Don
Gregorio resumed his seat. General Liniers glanced rapidly round the
room, and then with a smile on his face rose to reply.

"Permit me, Señor Don Gregorio," said he, "to congratulate you upon the
knowledge you have so unexpectedly shown on military matters, but I do
not at all agree with you. So long as I retain the command in chief I do
not intend to let the English approach within cannon-shot of the city;
if I fall there will be time enough to dig ditches and fortify the
azoteas, in which case, Señores, you know now where you may find my
successor."

"Señores," said Don Gregorio, very calmly, "I make no pretence to any
knowledge of military affairs, but the words I have spoken have not been
spoken unadvisedly. The Señor Evaña has to some extent studied the
science of war. He has surveyed the city, and has drawn up a plan of
defence, which I have with me now. In his letter to me he adds in a
postscript, "If you still determine on resistance remember the plan I
gave you, that is your only chance." Now, Señores, I appeal to you. Why
not----"

Here the speaker was interrupted by the entrance of a young officer.

"A chasque from Quilmes for the Señor General," he said.

"Admit him," said Liniers.

The officer stepped back and ushered into the room a slight-built man of
a clear yellowish complexion, with long black hair which flowed down
over his shoulders. He wore a striped poncho, which covered him
completely down to his knees, below which appeared his boots, each made
of the skin from the hind leg of a colt, a boot which had no seam in it,
and was waterproof except where the great toe projected for the purpose
of holding the stirrup. He held his hat in his hand, and as he came
forward his huge iron spurs clanked at each step he took.

"I seek the Señor General Liniers," said he, looking round him with the
greatest nonchalance, and tossing his poncho on to his shoulder to free
his arm as he drew a letter from a pocket in the tirador which he wore
round his waist.

"I am he," said General Liniers.

"A letter from the Señor Colonel Lopez."

"You can retire," said Liniers, as he took the letter, "but remain at
hand, I may want you."

Liniers returned to his seat, and did not open the letter until the man
had retired.

"Señores, with your permission," said he, as soon as the door was
closed; then breaking the seal he opened the letter. As he read it his
face flushed with a proud joy, then rising to his feet he looked
steadily at each of the watching faces before him.

"Señores, they come," he said; then as no one answered, each waiting
breathlessly for his next word, he continued, "and we, we are ready; I
shall at once give orders that the alarm-guns be fired, and then each
man to his post. Wait till I have given the order, and then I will read
you the letter."

In five minutes an aide-de-camp was walking rapidly across the Plaza
Mayor with an order to the commandant of artillery stationed in the fort
from the commander-in-chief, and Liniers, taking up the letter from
Colonel Lopez, read as follows:--

       "La Reduction de Quilmes,
          "1 de Julio 1807,
             "à las 7 de la mañana.

       "A su Excelencia,
         "El General Don Santiago Liniers,
    "Excelentissimo Señor,

    "As I had the honour to advise Y. E. in my despatches of the
    27th June and of each day following, the enemy's fleet anchored
    near to the Ensenada de Barragan on the 27th, and on the
    following day landed a large force about half-a-league to the
    northward of that town. For two days I have watched them as
    closely as was consistent with the safety of my men, and have
    had several skirmishes with their foraging parties and advanced
    posts without being able with my cavalry to make any
    considerable impression upon them. As far as I can estimate they
    appear to be from ten to twelve thousand men perfectly equipped,
    and with a large park of artillery, but they have no cavalry, or
    very few. Their entire force is now clear of the swamps, and is
    echelloned on the highroad between this and the Ensenada. Of
    their intention there can be no longer any doubt; they are this
    morning marching straight upon the Puente Galvès; their advanced
    guard is already within a league of this.

    "I shall continue myself with my cavalry in observation of their
    movements, but have despatched the infantry corps under the
    command of Captain Ponce de Leon to occupy the Puente Galvès.
    Doubtless this officer has already reported to himself to Y. E.

    "The advanced guard of the enemy, which marches more than a
    league in advance of the main body, consists apparently of about
    3000 men with four guns.

    "I shall this evening concentrate my forces and encamp in the
    neighbourhood of the Puente Galvès, where I shall await orders
    from Y. E.

    "God keep your Excellency many years,
       "S.S.,
         "Gregorio Lopez, hijo."

"Señores," said Liniers, as he finished reading, "I shall put myself at
the head of the troops and march at once against the invader. I shall do
my duty, I feel sure my troops will do theirs; I shall return
victorious, or you will never see me again. Meantime I leave to you the
care of the city, and trust that you will attend with the utmost speed
to any requisition for supplies that I may make upon you."

"Señores," said Don Martin Alzaga, "we are grateful to the illustrious
soldier who has just spoken for the confidence he has placed in us. To
show our appreciation of his trust, and our determination to aid him to
the utmost of our ability, I propose that this Cabildo declare itself in
permanent session so long as the danger lasts, and that we devote our
time exclusively to such measures as may be requisite for the public
safety."

"Agreed! agreed!" shouted the various members, rising from their seats.

The words had hardly passed their lips ere the roar of a heavy gun from
the fort shook the windows of the room, and drowned the sound of their
voices. They paused, looking at one another, till another heavy gun, and
then another, spoke to the startled city, telling the news that they had
just received, that the foe was at hand. Then crowding round Liniers,
each man shook him by the hand, wishing him God speed. So the
Reconquistador went forth from them in proud confidence, to win fresh
laurels or a hero's grave.

Scarcely had the echoing voices of the alarm guns ceased to reverberate
in the long narrow streets of the city, than from every tower in every
church there sprang the clanging sound of bells. No peaceful voice was
that of these bells calling worshippers to prayer, it was the fierce
clang of alarm calling upon men to hurry forth to battle and to
slaughter. Through all the city, into every home and household, rushed
this voice of terror, surprising the tradesman at his desk, the artisan
at his bench or forge, the student at his books, and the man of wealth
amid the luxuries of a life of ease. To all, the roar of the guns and
the clangour of the bells spoke one message:

"The foe is at our gates; arm, and go forth to meet him."

The summons, though startling, was expected. Each man left at once his
occupation, whatever it might be; the shops were closed, the bench and
forge were deserted, the books were cast aside, and the man of no
occupation found one which might perchance last him for his life-course
yet to run.

Everything had been prepared for this moment; each company of the
militia had its own point of rendezvous, each regiment had its
headquarters, what each man had to do was to arm and proceed at once to
his station. There was hurry and bustle throughout the city, the usually
quiet streets were thronged with groups of armed men pressing eagerly
onwards, mothers kissed their sons with tearful eyes, wives strained
husbands to their bosoms in one last embrace, but there was no faltering
or hanging back. Buenos Aires felt herself strong, and grudged not the
blood of her best and dearest in the most righteous of all causes, the
defence of home and fatherland, for Buenos Aires was a child as yet, and
her childhood was heroic.

Each company of militia as it collected marched off to the regimental
headquarters; the regiments concentrated in the Plaza de Los Perdices,
where General Liniers received them, having with him already a strong
force of regular troops, comprising almost the entire garrison of the
city.

To each regiment was allotted its place in the line of battle, the
Patricios claiming as their right the post of honour, at the head of the
column on the march, on the right flank in action. About an hour before
sundown the whole force was marshalled in order, and marched away
through the city and out by the wide, sandy road which led to the Puente
Galvès, now the Barraca bridge.

Men, women, and children crowded in the streets through which they
passed, gazing upon them in silence, broken only by words of farewell as
some well-known face passed by amid all the pomp of military display.
Many a tearful eye watched them, many a heart throbbed wildly, but as
the eyes looked along those serried files, and glanced at the apparently
interminable lines of bayonets, the hearts swelled with confidence.
Buenos Aires trusted proudly in the champions to whom she had confided
her honour and her defence.



CHAPTER VII

THE BAPTISM OF FIRE


Drearily passed the night of the 1ST July with the citizen soldiers of
Buenos Aires and their Spanish brethren in arms, who to the number of
about 8000, with fifty guns, under the command of General Don Santiago
Liniers, the Reconquistador, the hero of the 12th August, had crossed
the Riachuelo by the Puente Galvès after nightfall, and had encamped in
the open country beyond, there to await the advance of the English upon
the city. Tents they had none, baggage little more than each man could
carry for himself, and their commissariat was of the most limited
extent. The mounted auxiliaries from the campaña, many of whom had
arrived at the general rendezvous, had driven herds of beeves before
them; many of these beeves were slaughtered, abundant rations of raw
meat were served out to the hungry soldiery, but for the cooking of it
each man had to trust to his own devices. The hardy horsemen of the
campaña were accustomed to such emergencies, they threw slices of the
meat into the ashes of their bivouac fires; when the outside of the meat
was burned to a cinder they considered it cooked, and devoured it half
raw. But the more delicately nurtured citizens of Buenos Aires could not
eat the tough meat with such cookery; some of them had been provident
enough to carry small supplies with them, but the majority were
dependent upon the ration beef, and suffered accordingly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some two hours before midnight a mounted officer, covered from neck to
heels in a long cloak, rode through the encampment inquiring for the
bivouac of the Patricios, and more particularly for Captain Lorea of
that regiment. Captain Lorea, his brother-in-law Don Felipe Navarro, and
several other officers were grouped round a fire, talking together in
low tones and puffing wreaths of blue smoke into the chilly night air
from under the wide brims of their hats.

"Felices noches, Señores," said the horseman, drawing rein beside them.

"Ah! Don Marcelino," said Captain Lorea, starting to his feet; "welcome!
Dismount, and tell us what you have seen of these invaders. I hardly
thought to see you till to-morrow."

"To-morrow we shall have plenty to do," replied Don Marcelino Ponce de
Leon, dismounting; "so I have come to talk to you now, and to ask you
what preparations are making in the city. I have been encamped here for
two days, but know nothing of what has been done."

"This will not be new to you," said Don Felipe Navarro, as they shook
hands.

"Oh no! Among you city men I feel like an old campaigner. You have much
to learn yet, from what I could see as I came along. I fear some of your
men will not be in very good fighting trim to-morrow."

"To-morrow is another day," said Lorea. "We shall pass the night badly,
but it will pass."

Marcelino then gave them a detailed account of the events of the 27th
and 28th June.

"My uncle," he added, "is encamped with part of his cavalry between this
and Quilmes, a chasque has just come in from him. He says that the
English have already marched a strong vanguard in this direction, but he
believes that the main body is yet beyond Quilmes."

"So much the better," said Lorea. "We will beat their vanguard to-morrow
and there will be so many the less to fight the day after."

"And what of the city? Have any preparations been made to resist an
assault?"

"An assault! There is time enough to think about that. To-day, at a
meeting of the Cabildo, your grandfather proposed that the city should
be entrenched, and that we should let the English attack us there.
Fortunately the Reconquistador was there. Here in the open camp, in face
of the enemy, is the proper place for the defenders of the city."

"In any way," said Marcelino, looking gloomily at the fire, "this is not
our proper position, with a river and a narrow bridge behind us. We
ought to be on the other side the Riachuelo to defend the bridge and the
passes higher up."

"Oh!" said Felipe Navarro impatiently, "the Reconquistador knows what he
does."

"Don Gregorio had a plan," said Lorea. "According to him our city is
much stronger than Monte Video, just because it has no walls."

"I have seen that plan," replied Marcelino, "and I believe that if it
were adopted the English could never take our city by assault, every
street is a new line of defence. The man who drew out that plan----"

"Your friend Evaña," said Lorea scornfully. "All that he does is well
done in the eyes of a Ponce de Leon, and there is no Ponce de Leon among
you who is not worth three of him! Bah! we will speak no more of it. How
did your negroes stand the march?"

"For them it was nothing. I left them singing round their fires after a
good supper; come and see them. I can give you a good cup of coffee to
warm you up for the night."

The negro corps, which was known as "Los Morenos de Ponce," was encamped
near to the Puente Galvès, almost in the centre of the position occupied
by the army; sentries paced to and fro between the watch-fires; round
each fire groups of men lay wrapped in their thick ponchos, sleeping
soundly; beside each fire stood a row of camp-kettles filled with soup
for the early breakfast on the morrow.

At one fire sat Lieutenant Asneiros on a three-legged stool, beside him
knelt a tall negro who was feeding the fire, and watching a kettle of
water which stood on the embers. Giving his horse in charge to the
negro, Marcelino introduced his friends to the lieutenant.

"Here you are quiet enough," said one of the officers of the Patricios;
"the rest of the army is too enthusiastic to care much for sleep."

"They know nothing," said the lieutenant. "Good food and sleep are the
necessary preparation for hard work."

"For my part," said Don Isidro Lorea, "I rejoice to see the men so
joyful. I feel no inclination to sleep, and am only anxious for the
moment when I can give the word to fire on the invaders."

"You will give it without doubt to-morrow," replied the lieutenant. "I
hope to God that firing may be all we have to do."

"And what more would you have?" asked Don Felipe Navarro.

As the lieutenant only shrugged his shoulders contemptuously at this
question, Marcelino answered for him:

"Any man can fire off a musket, but only a trained soldier can
manoeuvre in face of the enemy."

"What matters it?" said Asneiros; "what will be, will be."

After this they sat or lay on the ground round the fire till midnight,
talking cheerfully together of the loved ones whom they had left behind
them in the city, sipping coffee which was served to them by the tall
negro (who was Marcelino's favourite servant, Manuel), scenting the damp
night air with the perfume of their cigars, and occasionally singing
snatches of song. When his guests left him, Marcelino wrapped himself in
his cloak, threw himself down under a low hedge on a heap of twigs and
leaves which Manuel had prepared for his couch, and slept till dawn.

Gaily the trumpets sounded a welcome to the new-born day, the men sprang
up with alacrity from their couches on the cold, wet ground, threw fresh
fuel on the watch-fires, and crowded round them chafing their hands at
the ruddy blaze.

Marcelino, climbing to the top of the hedge under which he had slept,
looked eagerly out over the encampment, marked by the blue lines of
smoke which hung heavily in the damp air over every watch-fire. The
extent of ground it covered made the force collected appear much greater
than it really was, and the heart of the young soldier swelled within
him with pride and a fierce joy as he looked upon this evidence of the
power of his native city.

A fresh flourish of trumpets saluted the rising sun, and then the whole
force stood to arms, each regiment in its own encampment, while the
aides of General Liniers galloped wildly about, for an immediate
movement was in contemplation. The Reconquistador had ridden out at dawn
to survey the ground in front of him; the aides, as they delivered their
orders to the commanders of the different regiments, announced that
fresh chasques had arrived from Colonel Lopez, that the English vanguard
had encamped that night two leagues this side of Quilmes, and must now
be close at hand. For an hour there was a great amount of marching and
counter-marching, then on a level space of ground intersected by the
southern road the whole force was drawn out in line of battle, with guns
in the intervals between the different divisions. The extreme right was
held by the first regiment of the Patricios, the left by General
Balviani's division, and the "Morenos de Ponce" were stationed near the
centre of the line. In front of them groups of horsemen were dotted over
the plain, while far away on the great southern road was seen a dense
column of infantry marching steadily towards them, their scarlet
uniforms contrasting vividly in the bright sunshine with the dark
verdure of the surrounding pasture-land. This was the British vanguard,
under the command of Major-general Levison Gower, numbering some 2000
bayonets.

General Liniers, attended by his whole suite, rode along the line from
right to left. Confidence and exultation beamed in his face, and with
many a cheerful word he complimented the commanders of the various
regiments as he rode by upon the martial appearance of their men. Each
regiment presented arms as he passed it, but the negro corps alone
received him with shouts of welcome, shouts which were sternly silenced
by Lieutenant Asneiros, as subversive of discipline. Marcelino sat on
horseback in front of his men, the Reconquistador drew rein beside him.

"What say you?" said he. "These friends of ours arrive late to the
dance. Think you that they will force their way through us and gain the
bridge?"

"That is more than they can do," replied Marcelino.

"Just so, but they will try it, probably by an attack on my right flank.
Your negroes march well; when the action commences I shall send orders
to you to make a circuit beyond yon clump of poplars and fall upon their
rear. Balviani will support you, but will advance by the road; the
success of the movement will depend upon your speed."

"Your trust shall not be thrown away, general," replied Marcelino,
dropping the point of his sword as the general rode on; then looking
round he scanned the dark, eager faces of his men, as they watched the
movements of the foe, and he knew that they would not fail him, but
would follow him where he led, even into the thickest of that forest of
glittering steel.

General Liniers had hardly completed the inspection of his forces, and
the British were yet more than half-a-league distant, when Marcelino saw
them halt. They had reached the crest of a lomada, from which the ground
sloped gently towards the position occupied by the army of Buenos Aires,
and which stretched away westwards as far as eye could reach, running
nearly parallel to the course of the Riachuelo. On resuming the march,
the hostile column left the highroad and turned off westwards, following
the course of this lomada.

Liniers, fearing to be taken in flank, immediately commenced a
corresponding movement to his right. Both armies thus marched parallel
to each other, retaining much their former relative position, but hidden
from each other by the rising ground and by the various chacras and
plantations which lay scattered about.

The British, marching on the high ground, met with few obstacles to
their progress, while the Buenos Airean army had to force its way
through swamps and the many water-courses which intersected the
low-lying grounds between the lomada and the Riachuelo. Through these
swamps the men waded knee-deep in mud; in the water-courses many of
them sank up to their elbows, wetting their ammunition. After more than
a league of this toilsome marching they reached firmer ground, where the
lomada approached nearer to the course of the river; here they found
that the British had again halted behind the crest of the lomada. Again
Liniers drew up his array, and the citizen soldiers forgot the
sufferings of the rapid march and the cold which pierced them to the
bones in their eagerness to close at once with the foe.

The British screened their movements by the rising ground, but the gleam
of bayonets to the right of their position showed that some manoeuvre
was in preparation. Then skirmishers in the dark-green uniform of the
rifles moved rapidly forward on the high ground. An aide-de-camp from
General Liniers came at headlong speed to the left centre, where stood
the "Morenos de Ponce." He delivered an order to the commandant of that
corps. Marcelino, wheeling his horse, addressed a few words to his men,
then, waving his sword, the negroes with a loud shout rushed forward,
and, breaking into skirmishing order, ran swiftly up the slope. The
British rifles received them with a spattering fire, then hurriedly
retreated to the crest of the lomada, and formed in line. A few notes on
the bugle and Marcelino had his men all again together, and, telling
them to reserve their fire, led them on. The dark line of soldiery gave
way before them and marched rapidly off. The negroes broke their ranks
and rushed after them with loud yells.

On the crest of the rising ground Marcelino drew rein, and----Where was
the British army? Half stupefied, he gazed over the vacant plain before
him. All of the enemy that he could see was this small body of
light-armed riflemen, who were in rapid retreat, pursued by his own
negroes.

"Marcelino! They have gone! They have gone!"

"Evaristo!" exclaimed Marcelino, as he saw his brother, mounted on his
pony, close beside him.

"I told you I would be with you when the fighting came," said the boy,
with a bright smile. "Before day I was up and saddled my pony and came
away. I have watched them all the morning, and I knew you could not be
far off."

"But they? Where are they?"

"They have gone, do not I tell you? There where those quintas hide the
river, the Paso Chico. They have crossed by the pass, and have marched
up the road straight away for town."

"There, Evaristo, over there," said Marcelino, pointing towards the
hollow where the army of Buenos Aires was waiting, drawn up in
battle-array, for the foe who had escaped them; "gallop as hard as you
can to General Liniers and tell him that. Tell him that I have gone in
pursuit."

As Evaristo galloped off, Marcelino put spurs to his horse, and,
rejoining his negroes, urged them on; but, rapidly as they marched, the
British riflemen, who had nothing more than their rifles and
cartridge-boxes to carry, out-paced them, and had crossed the pass ere
Marcelino and his negroes reached the river.

Evaristo was not the first to announce to General Liniers the evasion
of the English vanguard. Colonel Lopez had also watched them all the
morning, hovering on their flanks and rear, but not venturing to molest
them. When he saw them march from their second position straight for the
Paso Chico, he sent off an officer at once to the general with the
intelligence, and putting himself at the head of such of his cavalry as
he could collect around him he drew them up across the road leading to
the pass. One British regiment deployed, poured in a volley, charged,
and drove most of the horsemen pell-mell across the pass to the other
side, dispersing the rest in all directions. Again collecting some of
his scattered troops, Colonel Lopez endeavoured to cut off the retreat
of the detachment which had remained on the lomada. But the ground
favoured the light-armed infantry. Instead of following in the track of
the main body, they made at once for a quinta which lay between them and
the river, and bursting through the fences, which were impracticable for
cavalry, reached the pass, and crossed without the loss of one man. The
colonel then led his troopers to the road at a gallop, but on reaching
the river was met by a volley of grape from two field-pieces in position
on the far bank. Many of his men fell. He drew back to the shelter of
the poplars which formed the quinta fence, and awaited the arrival of
his nephew.

Marcelino, dismounting when he reached the quinta, led his men on foot
to the edge of the river, just in time to witness the repulse of the
cavalry. The owner of the quinta had a boat moored to a post about a
square down the stream, hidden from sight of the pass by a bend in the
river and the trees of another quinta on the left bank. Enjoining the
strictest silence, Marcelino marched his men with trailed arms through
the quinta to beyond the bend, rapidly passed them across the river, and
took possession of the other quinta without being perceived by the
enemy, who first knew of his whereabouts as from the shelter of the
trees he opened a heavy fire upon the artillerymen and the light
infantry who had halted close at hand. Colonel Lopez, who had been
informed by him of his intention, and who had meantime been reinforced
by several squads of cavalry, once more emerged into the main road, and,
at the head of a yelling mob of horsemen, dashed through the pass. For a
moment the capture of the guns appeared inevitable; the artillerymen
defended themselves desperately, but were completely surrounded by the
furious horsemen.

Colonel Lopez, however, by his eagerness to capture the guns, blocked up
the head of the pass, and prevented the passage of half of his troops,
and the riflemen, who were screened by the horsemen from the fire of the
negro corps, rushed upon the disordered mass with levelled bayonets,
forced many of them into the river, and drove the rest back upon the
quinta. The negroes, who were advancing from the shelter of the trees to
the assistance of the horsemen, were thrown into great disorder by the
fugitives, and before Marcelino and Asneiros could reform their broken
ranks and draw them clear they were attacked in flank by an entire
regiment of light infantry, which was sent at the double by General
Gower to the support of the rifles.

The bulk of the British vanguard had halted about a quarter of a mile
from the pass to rest the troops after their rapid march from the
lomada. General Gower had not perceived the passage of the river by the
negroes, and was taken by surprise at the sudden fire opened upon his
two guns from the quinta. The whole force was immediately under arms,
and one regiment, driving Colonel Lopez and his scattered horsemen
before them, charged upon the right flank of the "Morenos" at the same
moment that the guns opened fire upon them from the river-side.

"To the quinta, muchachos!" shouted Marcelino.

The negroes faced about and ran for it. Marcelino, catching his bugler
by the arm, followed more slowly, and as soon as the bulk of them had
gained the shelter of the trees the trumpet sounded the "rally." About
half his force obeyed the summons, the rest dispersed in confusion about
the quinta. Despatching Asneiros to collect the stragglers, Marcelino
then spread his men along the fence and again opened fire upon the
English, who replied by one volley, and then retreated rapidly up the
road, taking their guns and wounded with them.

Of the horsemen who had passed the river, hardly any were in sight; some
had taken refuge in the quinta on foot, many had forced their horses
into the river and had swam across; of what had become of his uncle,
Marcelino knew nothing for long after.

When Asneiros rejoined him, they paraded the corps once more in the open
and found they had suffered a loss of fifty men in killed, wounded, and
missing.

"We have begun badly," said Marcelino to his lieutenant.

"What would you!" replied Asneiros, shrugging his shoulders. "Alone we
should have done something. But with these others--Bah!"



CHAPTER VIII

LOS CORRALES DE LA MISERERE


On receiving intelligence of the passage of the Riachuelo by the
invaders at the Paso Chico, from which a good road led to the Puente
Galvès, General Liniers at once counter-marched to his former position
and occupied the bridge, having previously sent off an aide-de-camp with
instructions to the Comandante de los Morenos to rejoin him there with
all possible speed.

Marcelino left Asneiros to bring on the negroes by the road on the left
bank of the river, and galloped off himself at once to confer with the
general. He informed him that the English had apparently given up all
idea of attacking the bridge, and had marched away by a road which led
from the Paso Chico to the Corrales de la Miserere.

General Liniers became alarmed for the safety of the city, and leaving
General Balviani's division to hold the Puente Galvès, marched back at
once with the rest of his troops, pressing on as fast as the wearied
state of the men would permit. The citizen soldiers, and not less so the
Spanish regulars, unused to long marches, were fatigued by their
unwonted exertions, and dispirited by the unexpected manoeuvres of the
enemy; they plodded along the muddy road in silence, hundreds of them
sank down by the wayside unable to proceed farther, and many of the
guns, sticking fast in a deep "pantano," were abandoned. On reaching the
suburbs of the city they wheeled to the left, and late in the afternoon
drew near to the Plaza Miserere. The Patricios, who had some guns with
them, followed by the "Morenos de Ponce," had considerably outmarched
the rest of the army, and at once took up a position to the east of this
Plaza, so as to defend all the western entrances to the city, the negro
corps being posted at the south-east corner of the Plaza in a small
quinta surrounded by an aloe hedge, in which there were many gaps.

Meantime the British vanguard, which marched upon the city by a more
circuitous and much worse road than that by which General Liniers had
retreated, had also encountered great difficulties. The river at the
Paso Chico was more than waist-deep, through this the men had waded,
carrying their cartridge-boxes and the ammunition for the guns upon
their shoulders. The 88th regiment, which formed a part of this
division, had been for nine months on board ship, so that the men were
in no condition to undertake a forced march along roads ankle-deep in
mud. General Crauford with the 95th regiment and the rifles pressed on
in front, but after marching about a league from the pass General Gower
found it was impossible to bring on his guns any farther, and
accordingly left them behind him under the care of General Lumley, with
three companies of infantry, and such of the men from the different
regiments as were unable to proceed.

The Plaza Miserere was a wide, open space of ground beyond the suburbs
of the city, and was distant about two and a half miles due west from
the Plaza Mayor. This space was at that time surrounded by detached
quintas, and was a centre from which many roads branched off in all
directions. It was used as a slaughtering ground by the butchers who
supplied the city, and at one side were large corrales where cattle were
penned previous to slaughter. These corrales, being formed of rough
posts strongly bound together by transverse beams tied to each post by
thongs of raw hide, formed an excellent stockade.

In spite of the detachment of a division to hold the Puente Galvès and
the numerous stragglers, Liniers had yet under his orders, when he
reached the Plaza Miserere, more than double the number of men
comprising the entire British vanguard, and spared no exertion to
reinspire his troops with confidence; but the greater part of them were
yet entangled in the narrow roads of the suburbs, when the advanced
guard of the invaders under the command of General Crauford debouched
upon the Plaza from the west, and took possession of the corrales.

Without waiting for orders from General Liniers, the artillery attached
to the Patricios, and some other pieces which had been planted among the
quintas on the south side the Plaza, at once opened a heavy but
ill-directed fire of grape and round shot upon the head of the British
column, and the Patricios advancing from the suburbs upon the open
ground also commenced firing.

The sound of the musketry operated with a magical effect upon the entire
force, the men shouted to be led at once against the enemy, and Liniers
gave the order for a general advance.

From every road on the south side the Plaza dense columns of troops
poured into the open space, replying to the slow fire of the British by
rapid volleys of musketry. General Gower had drawn back his left wing
upon the advance of the Patricios, then as General Liniers in person
headed an attack upon the corrales, two regiments poured in a volley,
and led by General Crauford charged the Patricios with the bayonet,
driving them in headlong confusion back into the western suburbs. The
advance of General Liniers had been checked by a heavy fire from the
corrales; he was now charged by the entire British force, in front and
on the right flank. Liniers galloped to and fro frantically calling upon
his men to keep their ranks; but all was in vain, retreat was
impossible, the roads were blocked up by the rearguards of the several
columns. Many of the men threw down their arms and fled to the nearest
quintas, the destruction of the entire force seemed inevitable, when
Marcelino Ponce de Leon, who had received no orders, conceived it his
duty to act without them.

The two regiments which had dispersed the Patricios were in front of
him, advancing with levelled bayonets upon the flank of the main body.
Shouting to his men to follow him, he dashed through the quinta fence,
then forming them hurriedly he opened fire upon the flank of the
advancing British. The two regiments halted, wheeled, poured in a volley
at close quarters, and charged. Marcelino's horse fell under him, the
negroes set up a shout of dismay; their ranks were shattered, their
leader was apparently killed, down on them bore swiftly along a line of
glittering steel, threatening to envelop them on both flanks, they
turned and fled. In vain Asneiros struck at them with his sword, in vain
Evaristo, who had rejoined his brother at the Paso Chico, threw himself
in their way, shouting:

"Morenos! cowards! will you leave my brother to be killed by these
English?"

They were panic-struck, and fought fiercely with each other for the gaps
in the fence which would admit them to the shelter of the quinta.
Asneiros, calling two subalterns to aid him, seized the largest of these
gaps, and the three with their swords kept back a number of the
fugitives.

Meantime Marcelino had sprung to his feet, half dazed but unwounded; the
English were close upon him, for a moment he stared wildly round him,
then Evaristo galloped up to him.

"Mount behind me, Marcelino," he shouted, shaking his left foot from the
stirrup.

The next minute the pony with a double load was galloping away for the
quinta, where Evaristo sprang to the ground and Marcelino, galloping
after the fugitives, succeeded in rallying some threescore men, whom he
led back to the fence and joined to those whom Asneiros had stopped and
had already drawn up under shelter of the aloe hedge. The English had
halted, and were apparently about to renew their attack upon General
Liniers, when the negroes opened fire upon them from the hedge. With a
loud cheer 800 red and green coated soldiery rushed upon the frail
barrier which hid the remnant of the "Morenos de Ponce," burst a way for
themselves through it, or ran in by the undefended gaps. There was a
minute of wild confusion, the negroes firing at random upon an enemy who
outnumbered them five to one, and who attacked them from all sides.
Marcelino, now on foot, and his officers tried to draw them away from
the hedge, and to fall back upon some outhouses in the rear of the
quinta, but the movements of the English were too rapid, the retreat
soon changed into headlong flight; about forty of the negroes, being cut
off and surrounded, threw down their arms and were made prisoners. At
the far side of the quinta, Marcelino made another attempt to rally his
men, but was at once charged by a party of the enemy.

"Surrender!" shouted the officer who led them.

Marcelino had lost his sword when his horse was killed under him, he
stooped and seized the musket of a negro who had fallen at his feet
mortally wounded, and beating aside the bayonets of those nearest to
him, tried to force his way through them; the next moment he was beaten
down by the butt-ends of their muskets and trampled under their feet as
they rushed on in pursuit.

When Marcelino had rallied his men in the quinta, he had called his
brother to him, and telling him to remount his pony, had given him into
the care of his servant Manuel, telling the latter to go off with him at
once straight for the city. The negro took the pony by the bridle and
led him away, but on reaching the cross-road behind the quinta by an
open gateway, Evaristo refused to go any farther, and drawing tight his
rein sat there in the saddle watching the last struggle of the "Morenos
de Ponce."

"Vamos!" said Manuel, as the fugitive negroes came running past them.

"No! no!" said Evaristo, still tightly holding his pony by the head.
"Oh! my brother, even yet I can save you!" he cried, as he saw
Marcelino's last desperate effort, then twitching the rein from Manuel's
hand, he urged his pony back through the gateway, and was close to his
brother when he fell, trampled to the earth under the feet of the
furious soldiery. But Manuel on foot had kept pace with him, and now
springing up behind him wrenched the reins from him, and holding him
fast in his arms, turned the pony's head and galloped off, and neither
spoke nor slacked his pace until he had reached the house of Don
Gregorio Lopez, where he set the boy down, half dead with sorrow and
excitement, and went back himself in search of his master, whom he had
small hope of ever seeing again alive.

The "Morenos de Ponce" were utterly routed and dispersed; Marcelino had
sacrificed himself and his men, but he had saved the army of General
Liniers from destruction. A deadly fire from the Corrales de la Miserere
had checked the advance of the main body of the army, the charge of the
British infantry had driven it back in hopeless confusion into the roads
by which it had debouched upon the Plaza; had the flank movement of the
two regiments under General Crauford been uninterrupted, the retreat of
the greater part of the army would have been cut off. As it was, General
Liniers lost eleven guns, and was driven from amongst the quintas into
the open camp, far away to the left of the road by which he had
advanced. Night closed in and prevented further pursuit by the
victorious enemy. Almost broken-hearted by the misfortune which had
befallen him, and desperate at the ruin of all his high hopes, the
Reconquistador threw himself upon the ground and for hours spoke to no
one. About 1000 men lay round him in every attitude of exhaustion and
despair; of the rest of his army he knew nothing, it was dispersed in
all directions.

The army to which Buenos Aires had entrusted her honour and her defence
had melted away at the first brush with the enemy. Buenos Aires had no
longer an army and the enemy was at her gates.



CHAPTER IX

THE NIGHT OF SORROW


All day the city had been in a state of nervous anxiety, all manner of
conflicting rumours were current, every horseman who appeared in the
streets was beset by a crowd of eager questioners, men ran to and fro
and went from house to house, gleaning what intelligence they could.
According to some General Liniers had marched from the Puente Galvès at
dawn in search of the enemy, according to others he was yet encamped
there and beset by the entire English army. As either hope or fear
gained the ascendant, so each man spoke as his hopes or his fears
prompted him.

Thus the day wore on; occasionally there was heard the far-off rattling
of musketry or the dull boom of a distant gun, but nothing certain was
known. Then in the eventide it spread about that the enemy had passed
the Riachuelo and was marching upon the city, from the church towers
their red-coated soldiery could be seen manoeuvring on the open ground
of the Plaza Miserere. But where was General Liniers? where were the
citizen soldiers who had marched out so proudly to drive those English
into the sea? The anxiety of the city became consternation.

Then from the west and near at hand there came again the rattling sound
of musketry, interspersed with the frequent booming of the guns. The
sound came in gusts, fitfully, now dying away into a feeble treble, the
spattering fire of skirmishers anon swelling to a full chord, the
regular volley-firing of drilled troops accompanied with the deep bass
of the cannon. About half-an-hour the firing lasted, dying gradually
away as the shades of night fell upon the anxious city. What had
happened? Men hurried about no longer, seeking news, each sat in his own
place, waiting for the news which would surely come.

After nightfall terror-stricken fugitives hurried through the streets,
each seeking his own home, each telling his own tale of defeat and
ruinous disaster. Then the anxiety of the city, which had become
consternation, became despair.

From every household arose the voice of sorrow and of lamentation.
Mothers embraced their sons, wives clasped husbands to their bosoms,
welcoming them back from deadly peril, but they welcomed them back with
tears, and as they listened to their tale a cry of sorrow burst from
them, and there was loud wailing over the shame and disgrace which had
fallen upon their native city. And there were households to which none
returned, there were mothers who watched and waited for sons whom they
were never more to see, there were wives who listened with painful
eagerness for a well-known footstep which would never more fall upon
their ears, and who, though they knew it not, were already widows.
Throughout the great straggling city there was mourning and desolation.
And the city was in darkness, and darkness, if it be not rest, is sorrow
and despair.

Then up rose Don Martin Alzaga from his seat at the council-table; Don
Martin Alzaga, president of the Cabildo, of that body which had now the
destinies of the city in its hands. Don Martin had listened in stern
silence to the various reports brought in by members of the Cabildo who
had been abroad in the city in search of news. Of Liniers himself no one
knew anything, but of the fate of his army there could be no question,
it had been shamefully beaten and dispersed by what was, from all
accounts, only a detachment of the invading force; it was no longer an
army, Buenos Aires lay defenceless before her victorious enemy. Buenos
Aires lay defenceless, yet, though she knew it not, in her defenceless
condition lay her chiefest strength. The overthrow over which she
mourned awakened the heroism innate in the Iberian race, and at the same
time inspired the British generals with an overweening confidence, sure
prelude of disaster.

From the days of Cortes and Pizarro to the present, the Iberian race has
ever shown itself greatest in misfortune. In prosperity cruel, arrogant,
and blind, the Spanish people have, when overwhelmed by disaster, ever
shown a capacity for endurance and a fertility of resource such as has
rarely been displayed by any other. When misfortunes have fallen upon
them, such as would crush other peoples to the dust, then it is that
they first put out their strength and rise superior to all disaster. The
secret of it lies partly in national character, but more still in this
fact, that the strength of Spain lies, not in her great men and her
nobles, but in her people. When Spain was the head of a mighty empire,
her nobles were new men sprung from the great body of the people, who
had carved out their fortunes by their swords; their valour and their
skill gave Spain the empire over two worlds; these men were the
representative men of the Spanish people. Since then, the ruling class
in Spain had been gradually and systematically raised above the people,
and separated from them. The people were taught submission, and learned
to see others rule over them until they lost all care or interest in the
aims and objects of their rulers.

At the commencement of the war of succession the Archduke Charles and
his English allies overran nearly the whole of Spain and took possession
of the capital. So again, at an epoch later than this of which we treat,
the armies of Napoleon marched from the Pyrenees to Cadiz in one
unbroken series of triumphs. The great men of Spain, as imbecile as they
were arrogant, invited by their ignorance the destruction which fell
upon them; the soldiers of Spain, who were recruited from the people,
cared not to shed their blood for rulers they despised, they fled,
hardly waiting for the enemy to attack them. Then in each case, when all
was lost, the Spanish people rose in their strength and cast out the
foreign rulers set over them by foreign force.

Buenos Aires, a colony of Spain, has inherited two of the chief
characteristics of the mother-country, pride and heroism. As though they
were Spaniards, her native leaders have often shown themselves too proud
to learn, and have thus brought disaster upon their country; when the
disaster has come, they have ever met it with the heroism of the Iberian
race.

Don Martin Alzaga was a true son of Spain, he had supported Liniers in
his rash determination to face the veteran troops of England with his
militia and half-drilled levies, he had scoffed at the idea of taking
any further measures for defence; the blow had now fallen, Buenos Aires
lay at the mercy of her enemy. All evening Don Martin had sat in his
chair, listening in silence to the long chronicle of disaster; as each
said his say and sat down, his spirits rose within him, and in his brain
he revolved rapidly all that had been before said concerning the defence
of the city. If Buenos Aires must fall, then let the enemy have nothing
more than ruins over which to triumph.

Such were the thoughts of Don Martin Alzaga as he rose from his chair at
the head of the council-table and spoke as follows:--

"Señores, a great disaster has befallen us. Our army is destroyed, we
know not what has become of our general-in-chief, the illustrious Señor
Don Santiago Liniers; in his absence the responsibility falls upon us.
There is now no time for vacillation, we must look our danger straight
in the face, and, if it please God, we shall yet find a way for our
deliverance. We have now no army, but the dispersed soldiers are
flocking back to the city; we have yet guns, muskets, and men, why then
should we despair? I look upon many a downcast face, I have heard from
many of you words of sorrow, as though hope were gone from us; from what
you relate, the whole city is given over to lamentation. True it is that
we have suffered a great disaster, but shall one blow suffice to subdue
us? Are we not Spaniards? Is not this Buenos Aires of ours the first
city on the great South American continent? Are we not the same men who
not a year ago forced an entire English army to capitulate, although
they were established in our citadel and had taken our city from us? Let
us cast aside this depression and this unmanly sorrow, and join heart
and hand together in the great work which it has fallen upon us to
perform. Let us show ourselves worthy of the trust which the illustrious
Reconquistador placed in us when he marched only yesterday against the
foe. Let us rouse the citizens from the stupor of despair into which
they have fallen, let us reunite our dispersed soldiery, and to-morrow
again show a firm front to the arrogant enemy who assails us. To-morrow
this enemy, exultant with his transient success, will doubtless summon
us to surrender our city; I, as the chief of this Cabildo, will receive
this summons and shall return it with disdain, without waiting to know
what terms he may offer; never shall any treaty for the surrender of our
city bear the signature of Martin Alzaga.

"What say you, Señores? Will you show yourselves worthy to be rulers of
Buenos Aires? Will you aid me to vindicate the outraged honour of our
country?"

Don Martin paused and looked proudly round him, the faces of his
hearers, no longer downcast, reflected his own enthusiasm, each eye
sought his, brilliant with hope. Springing to their feet they crowded
round him, assuring him that they were all of one mind, and that mind
was to lay the city in ruins rather than surrender.

"Señores," said Don Gregorio Lopez, "we will entrench the city and
defend it block by block against the invaders. Old as I am I encharge
myself with the defence of my own quarter."

"Yet you have your plan, Don Gregorio!" said Don Martin Alzaga gaily. "I
believe it comes now very much to the point."

"The plan of my young friend Evaña," replied Don Gregorio.

"Let it be whose it may, we will study it together, and we two will
decide what can be done with it, but first, Señores, there are other
things more urgent. The people are in despair, and night has covered the
city with mourning; the first thing we have to do is to raise the spirit
of the people. Once that we reinspire them with confidence, we may hope
everything from their courage and abnegation, which we all know. Let us
disperse the darkness of night with bonfires and illuminations; the
sorrow and the shame will give place to enthusiasm."

"Well said," said Don Gregorio Lopez. "The illuminations will also
attract the fugitives, who may yet be dispersed about the suburbs. It
also appears that General Balviani took no part in the engagement with
the English, and is yet encamped at the Puente Galvès with his division;
let us send for him at once, and we shall have a nucleus upon which to
reform the stragglers."

No time was lost in discussion, these propositions were at once adopted.
Various members of the Cabildo sallied forth to see after the
illuminations, and a mounted officer galloped away by the southern road
with an order to General Balviani to retire at once upon the city.

Midnight came, the city was one blaze of light. Lights shone from the
windows of every house, festoons of lamps hung across many a street; on
every open space and at every street corner in the suburbs there blazed
huge bonfires, encircling the city with a girdle of flames. The British
sentries at the Plaza Miserere looked wonderingly upon these endless
lines of fire, and listened anxiously to the rising hum of many thousand
voices, which declared the whole city to be astir. That city, since
sundown so dark and desolate, so sunken in sorrow and despair, was now a
scene of wild excitement and of fierce resolve; men said only one to
another, What shall we do? Men sought only for a leader. The defeat of
the evening was an affair long past and forgotten; men thought only of
the morrow, and of the stern duty which on that morrow they would surely
do.

In the midst of all this excitement Balviani's division returned to the
city, marching swiftly along the illuminated streets, dragging their
guns with them, which guns Balviani had directed to be spiked on receipt
of the order from the Cabildo for his immediate return; but to his
command the artillerymen paid no heed, harnessing themselves to the guns
and dragging them through pantanos and mud, when their wearied cattle
dropped with fatigue, while the rain poured down upon them in torrents.
Yet in spite of the rain the people crowded round them as they marched
along, saluting them with shouts and with many a warm pressure of the
hand. Their march more resembled the triumphant entry of a victorious
army than the return of the remnant of a beaten one.

Meantime some of the elder members of the Cabildo had been occupied in a
careful examination of the plan of the Señor Evaña for the defence of
the city. It was improbable that the English would at once attack them,
a day at least must elapse before they could bring up their entire force
from the Ensenada. But the plan was much too extensive to be carried out
in one day, though it was exceedingly simple; they therefore determined
upon the adoption of one part of it only: to draw a line including one
block of houses all round the two central Plazas; to dig a ditch across
the end of every street on this line, throwing up the earth inside, and
forming on it a breastwork, and a platform for a gun; to garrison
strongly all the azoteas on this line, and to station a strong force at
each trench. Further, they determined that all the spare arms they
possessed should be distributed to such of the citizens as might apply
for them for the defence of their own houses, and that all the troops
they could spare, after providing sufficiently for the central garrison,
should be distributed about the azoteas all round to the distance of ten
squares from the Plaza Mayor, and that each block should be placed under
the command of some trustworthy officer; with instructions to harass the
invaders to the utmost of their power as they advanced towards the
centre, but not to attempt to meet them in the streets.

Then a list was made out of the officers to whom was to be entrusted the
work of constructing the various trenches and a second of those who were
to command in each block, both within and without the line of
entrenchments.

Among these appointments Major Belgrano was entrusted with the
construction of two of the defences to the south of the Plaza Mayor.
Captain Lorea, with his own company, had charge of the block in which
his own house stood, which was considered to be one of the most
important outposts; his brother-in-law, Don Felipe Navarro, had command
of the block situated to the west of the Church of Santo Domingo; and
Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon and his negroes were appointed to the block
contiguous to the Church of San Miguel. All these appointments were
provisional, for nothing positive was known as yet as to the losses
which the army had suffered in the action at the Corrales de la
Miserere.

The plan of defence thus adopted was a part only of that sketched out by
Don Carlos Evaña, which was modified by the suppression of an exterior
line of defence and of sundry details, for the carrying out of which the
time was too short. The garrisons of the Retiro and the Residencia,
which formed two most important outposts to the north and south of the
central Plazas, were to be instructed to defend themselves to the last
extremity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours after sundown on that night of sorrow, Doña Dalmacia Navarro
sat alone in her sala, alone and in darkness, save for a lamp which
burned dimly in the ante-sala on the writing-table of her husband. So
had she sat alone ever since the firing had ceased on the Plaza
Miserere, communing anxiously with herself, refusing all attention or
sympathy from those who would gladly have shared her anxiety with her,
replying only to those who would at times approach her with this one
question:

"Yet has no one come?"

And the answer was always, no. Men hurried across the wide, open space
before her sala windows and along the adjacent street; eagerly
listening, she heard something of the words they spoke as they passed
on--these words were ever of disaster, ruin and despair, and as she
listened her heart sank within her. The army was evidently completely
beaten; and Isidro and the gallant men he led, she knew them well, they
were not the men to fly like frightened boys, they would have withstood
the onset of the English even if left alone; and those volleys she had
heard, and that roaring of the guns, at whom had they been directed? who
had fired them? She shuddered to herself as she thought how she had
exulted at the sound, and had pictured to herself hundreds of prostrate
foes, stretched in wounds and death on her native soil.

Unable to bear her anxious thoughts in the quiet darkness of her sala,
she rose from her seat and went into the ante-sala, drawing her heavy
mantle round her with a shiver. She went and sat in her husband's chair,
and leaned upon his desk, turning over his papers mechanically, scarce
knowing what she did. She took up his pen and fondled it in her hands;
beside it lay a tinsel penwiper, heavily embroidered with beads and gold
cord, which she had made for him herself; she bent over it and kissed
it, as she had seen him do the day she had given it to him, his saint's
day, not two short months ago. Then she looked under the sofa and saw
his slippers lying there, and drew them out and laid them beside his
chair ready for him when he should come in. Would he ever put them on
again? As she asked herself that question a low moan broke from her, she
could look at them no longer, she could no longer bear the sight and
neighbourhood of all these things which spoke to her of him, and seemed
to ask her were they his no more? She left the ante-sala and the dim
light, and went back to the darkness of her sala, crouching down on a
low chair and burying her face in her hands.

Then there came a footstep and a voice, two voices, both of them she
knew. They were safe--her husband and her brother. What mattered defeat
and shame, they might be retrieved, but from death there is no return. A
wild joy succeeded to her anxious sorrow, she started to her feet; as
she reached the folding-doors, her husband stood before her, but oh! so
changed. Dripping wet--for it was raining heavily,--with clothes torn
and covered with mud, his face pale and haggard, his eyes deep sunk in
his head; but for his voice she would scarce have known him.

"Isidro!" she exclaimed, opening her arms to him.

But he shrank from her, and, throwing himself upon the sofa, buried his
face in the cushions.

"Do not touch me, do not come near me," he said, as she bent over him.
"You know not what has happened."

"The English have been too strong for you," said Doña Dalmacia, seating
herself beside him, and laying one soft arm on his neck.

"They were few, and we fled from them like sheep, like sheep. We are
disgraced for ever. Never more shall we dare to look them in the face."

"You are tired; to-morrow will be another day."

"Ah! Dalma, if you only knew how they made us march; all the blessed day
without a morsel to eat and nothing but muddy water to drink," said Don
Isidro, raising himself on his elbow and venturing at last to look at
his wife. What he saw in her face was a tender look of pity and of
sympathy.

"Are you not ashamed of me, Dalma?" he asked her, with a brightening
eye. "I am a runaway and a coward. Are you not ashamed of me, Dalma?"

"You are no coward, Isidro," said Doña Dalmacia, throwing her arms round
his neck; "you are tired and have eaten nothing; to-morrow will be
another day."

Don Isidro bowed his head upon her shoulder, and for a minute there was
silence between them.

Don Felipe Navarro, who had come in with his brother-in-law, had thrown
himself wearily into an arm-chair.

"Yes, Dalma, my sister," said he, "to-morrow will be another day, and we
without an army shall have all the invaders upon us. Those we saw to-day
were only the vanguard."

"Without an army," exclaimed Doña Dalmacia, looking round at him with a
fresh terror in her eyes. "Have then so many fallen? And the
Reconquistador, what has become of him?"

"Of Liniers I know nothing. We have not many killed, but the army is
dispersed," replied Don Felipe.

"We have no hope now, for there is no confidence," said Don Isidro. "All
the fight was without order; it may be said that there was no fight. We
were not beaten, we ran away because we did not know what to do."

"So long as it was an affair of shooting," said Don Felipe, "our men
stood well enough, but when they came at us with the bayonet----Do you
know, it is an imposing thing, that charge with the bayonet. Those
English with their smooth faces look like boys, but when they came at us
in a long line close together we felt that they were men. If we had
waited for them the half of our men would have stopped there for ever."

"Have many stopped there?" said Doña Dalmacia. "I have heard heavier
firing at a review."

"Of ours we have lost very few," replied Don Isidro. "The corps on the
left, where Liniers was, were all in disorder, and I don't think they
lost many. But I fear me much, Dalma, we have lost a friend."

"Say!" said Doña Dalmacia, nervously closing one hand upon his shoulder.

"'Los Morenos de Ponce,' are almost annihilated."

"Marcelino sacrificed himself and his men to save the others," said
Felipe Navarro.

"It is what one might foretell of him," said Doña Dalmacia, bursting
into tears.

"Do not weep, my soul," said Don Isidro. "As yet we know nothing
positive. Felipe and I met some of the negroes after nightfall, and went
back with them to the quinta from which they were driven. There were
many dead lying about, and we carried off a great many wounded; every
house about there is a hospital. We searched where they said he had
fallen--we found the bodies of three negroes, but of him we could find
nothing."

"Always we will hope," said the brave lady, rising and wiping away her
tears. "To-morrow will be another day."

Just then there came a knock at the outer door, and a loud voice
shouted:

"Order from the Señores of the Cabildo. That three lights be placed in
every window and a lamp hung in every doorway."

Again the knock was repeated.

"It shall be done," said Don Isidro, running out himself in answer to
the summons.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the Quinta de Ponce the whole household was astir before sunrise on
the morning of the 2nd July, roused from sleep by the cries of the
female servants and slaves, who had seen Evaristo saddle his pony and
gallop off towards town at dawn. Don Roderigo paced anxiously to and fro
in the sala, his wife covered with a loose wrapper and with dishevelled
hair vainly trying to soothe him.

"Where can that foolish boy have gone to?" said he. "Did he speak to no
one before he went?"

"I can tell you, papa," said Dolores, who came in at that moment, "he
has gone to join Marcelino; he said he would be with him when the
fighting began, and Evaristo always does what he says he will."

"What can he do? a mere boy like him?" said Doña Constancia, clasping
her hands and looking tearfully at her husband.

"Do not cry, Mamita," said Dolores, half crying herself, "God will
protect him as he will Marcelino."

"Who has made you so wise about what God will do?" said Don Roderigo
sharply. "No duty calls him away from us."

As they spoke a mulatta girl came running into the room.

"Oh! Patrona! the English! the English!!" cried she, wringing her hands.

Dolores and her mother clung to each other in terror.

"Where?" said Don Roderigo, putting himself in the way of the terrified
mulatta, and stamping his foot to bring her to her senses.

"The English Señor, Patron, the English Señor, Don Alejandro, he has
climbed up a tree, and he can see them on the highroad. They go straight
for the city, he knows them. Oh! my God! what will become of us?"

"Silence, fool!" said Don Roderigo; "if they are going to the city they
will not come here."

At frequent intervals all day long Lieutenant Gordon climbed up into his
tree, giving an account of all the movements he saw in the open country
round him. Three hours after the passing of this first body, which
Gordon had calculated at about 2000 men, and which had marched by the
highroad leading to the Puente Galvès, there came a much larger body,
which left the road, and crossing camp about half-a-league to the south
of the Quinta de Ponce, marched round the headwaters of the Arroyo
Maciel and then turned northwards towards the Paso Zamorra on the
Riachuelo.

Anxiously the day passed with them all. About noon the sound of cannon
and musketry came to them from a direction far to the west of the Puente
Galvès, but it soon ceased, and no more was heard till close upon
sundown, when it commenced again, dying gradually away as darkness came
on. Again Gordon climbed into his tree; over the tree-tops of the
quintas about the Plaza Miserere there hung light clouds of white smoke,
then night came on, all was again silent; what had happened?

This question Doña Constancia asked herself as she sat in a low chair in
the sala. Dolores, seated beside her on a low stool, resting her head
upon her mother's knee, asked herself that question also. Don Roderigo,
Juan Carlos, and Gordon each also asked himself that question; no one
answered it, and they expected no answer till the morrow. They sat in
darkness, for darkness was to them rest and relief, hiding from each the
anxiety which clouded the faces of them all; and in silence, for each
feared to give utterance to his own thoughts. There came a barking of
dogs, a trampling of horses' feet, and a confused sound of voices
outside; the door opened, a servant came in bearing a lighted lamp and
announced: "El Señor Colonel Lopez."

As Colonel Lopez entered the room he bowed gravely to all present, then
advancing to Doña Constancia he ceremoniously kissed her hand. They
crowded round him in silence, waiting for him to speak, all save Doña
Constancia, who sat still in her chair twining her fingers together
nervously, and looking eagerly at him. But he spoke not, throwing his
hat on to a chair, and fumbling with the throat-buttons of his cloak.

"Say--what news?" said Don Roderigo. "How has the day gone with ours?"

"What news?" replied the colonel. "Little, and what there is is bad.
Where can I take off this cloak of mine?" he added, looking
significantly at Don Roderigo.

"Come this way," said the latter.

"No, no!" exclaimed Doña Constancia, springing to her feet and clutching
him with both hands by one arm. "My son! have you seen him? Quick, tell
me, anything is better than this uncertainty."

"Marcelino! yes, I was with him this morning. Since then I know nothing
of him. We tried to capture two guns from these English; me they pitched
into the river, of him I know nothing."

"No, no! you are hiding something from me; he was with you, what has
become of him?"

"I tell you, Constancia, I know nothing."

"He is dead!" said Doña Constancia, sinking back into her chair and
covering her face with her hands.

"Uncle," said Dolores in a hoarse voice, "tell all you know. I know that
he can't be----" she could not finish the sentence.

"I believe he is a prisoner," said the colonel. "He passed the river
with his negroes, and was cut off from the rest. He had no way to
escape, I suppose he is a prisoner."

"I saw them," said Gordon. "There could not be much over 2000 of them.
Where was Liniers? They said yesterday that he had marched out with all
the garrison of the city."

"Liniers talks much, but knows nothing. The English played with him, got
behind him, and marched upon the city. I watched them; for my part, I
have had plenty of it. What could Marcelino and I do alone? They did not
even take one step to support us. It appears that he counter-marched at
once when he saw them across the river, and went back to the city; in
the suburbs they fell upon him and routed him completely; without doubt
you heard the firing two hours ago. We have no army now, and by this
time the English have the city. All is lost, and I have come to consult
with you," added he, laying his hand on the shoulder of Don Roderigo.

These two left the room together; the others remained, looking at one
another in consternation.

"Do not believe him, Doña Constancia," said Gordon, kneeling down beside
her. "You have been so good to me, I cannot bear you to look like that.
What he has said is simply impossible; I am a soldier and know how these
things are done. Marcelino would never have passed the river unless he
had supports, and Liniers had five times as many men as those English I
saw."

While Gordon with Juan Carlos and Dolores did all they could to calm the
anxiety of Doña Constancia, Don Roderigo heard enough from the colonel
to fill him with even deeper anxiety than before. Leaving him, he went
out, called for his horse, and then returned to the sala, covered from
neck to ankles in a large horseman's cloak, and with a brace of pistols
in his waist-belt.

"You leave us?" exclaimed Doña Constancia, as she saw him return.

"Yes," said he, bending over her caressingly. "I am not a soldier; while
we had an army I left this work to soldiers, now we have no army I shall
do my duty as a citizen. Adios!"

So he left them, and Doña Constancia, leaning upon the shoulder of Juan
Carlos, said dreamily:

"Father, sons, husband, all that I have, and this is what they call
patriotism."

So saying, her knees bent under her and she would have fallen, but that
her remaining son threw his arm round her, and supported her in a
fainting state to a sofa, where, as she lay, she heard the footfalls of
her husband's horse as he galloped rapidly away.



CHAPTER X

THE COUNCIL OF WAR


The morrow came, and it was another day.

At sunrise the drums beat to arms all over the city; again the troops,
native militia and Spaniards, assembled at their various headquarters.
Trace of the sorrow and depression of the past night had all vanished;
all was again enthusiasm and fierce resolve. On comparing notes one with
another, the losses seemed marvelously small after the crushing defeat
they had suffered. In some regiments entire companies were missing, but
they were probably with General Liniers, of whom nothing was yet known.

It was immediately resolved by the various chiefs that the English
should not be left unmolested, and sundry companies were detailed at
once for service in the suburbs, while the rest of the forces were
employed on the central defences around the Plaza Mayor.

Captain Lorea of the Patricios was the first to march with his company.
He marched straight for the quinta which had been held the previous day
by the "Morenos de Ponce." Here he found that the English had
established an outpost. He at once opened fire and advanced against
them, upon which the enemy retired. Then posting his men along the far
fence, with instructions to fire on any of the English who should come
within range, he renewed his search for his missing friend Marcelino.
But the search was again in vain. He could find no trace of him, and the
occupants of the quinta could tell him nothing. They had fled when the
fighting commenced, and had only returned at midnight.

All day long the firing continued in the suburbs, with loss of life on
both sides, but the English withdrew any outpost that was seriously
attacked, only to reoccupy it when their foes retreated. So much powder
and shot wasted in a military point of view, but not wasted in its
effects upon the citizen soldiers, who thus became accustomed to the
whiz of the shot, and whose renewed confidence might have melted away in
forced inactivity.

There was one corps in the army of yesterday which had no headquarters
in the city, the "Morenos de Ponce." At sunrise they paraded in the
Plaza de Los Perdices, under the command of Lieutenant Asneiros, about
120 men, all told. Backwards and forwards through the ranks walked the
lieutenant, rigorously inspecting arms and accoutrements, when a
horseman drew rein in front of the line. Many of the negroes knew him,
and their dark faces brightened up as they looked upon him.

"Morenos!" said he, raising his hand, "we all know how gallantly you
followed your brave leader yesterday. The country appreciates your
services. Spain, our mother-country, whose flag you have so valiantly
defended, will reward them. Your commandant, my son," here the speaker's
voice faltered a little, "is absent; wounded or a prisoner, we know not
what has become of him. We yet need your services, Morenos; we have an
arrogant enemy before us, but the city is yet ours, and we will defend
it to the last. You have shown yourselves worthy to follow the lead of a
Ponce de Leon. When the struggle commences, if my son be not with you, I
myself will take his place. Together we will avenge the deaths of your
slaughtered comrades and the loss of your commandant upon the insolent
invader."

"Viva, Don Roderigo! Viva!" shouted the negroes after which the
horseman, waving his hand to them, spoke a few words to Asneiros and
trotted off.

About an hour afterwards an English officer with his eyes bandaged, and
escorted by a picket of the first Patricios, presented himself to the
Cabildo, having been received in the suburbs by Colonel Elio, carrying a
flag of truce, and bearing a demand from General Gower for the immediate
surrender of the city. The members present glanced curiously one at the
other and some laughed. Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, as the one among
them most conversant with English, took upon himself to answer the
demand.

"Your general," said he, "deceives himself, he thinks that by his
victory of yesterday he has crushed us. He deceives himself. Tell him
that our troops are yet numerous and enthusiastic, and that to a man we
are all ready to die, if need be, in defence of our city. The hour has
now come for us to show our patriotism, and we shall do it."

All the members rose from their seats and bowed with great formality as
the officer retired.

As he went, a horseman in the dress of a paisano dismounted at the door
of the Cabildo, and announced himself as a chasque with a despatch from
General Liniers. He was at once led to the council-chamber, and
delivered his despatch to Don Gregorio Lopez, who acted as president
during a temporary absence of Don Martin Alzaga.

Don Gregorio read the letter, and then threw it across the table to his
son-in-law, saying contemptuously:

"Look at that."

The letter was from General Liniers to the Cabildo, announcing in terms
of humility, almost amounting to despair, the complete defeat and
dispersion of his army, and stating that he had yet 1000 men with him
and awaited orders.

"Just what one might expect," said Don Roderigo, when he had glanced
over it and handed it to another member of the Cabildo. "Men of his
fiery temperament are ever the most cast down when a reverse comes. It
will be best to order him at once back to the city to take command of
the defence."

"Give him the command again, when by his folly he has lost us an army?"
exclaimed Don Gregorio.

"Just so," replied Don Roderigo. "As we place confidence in him, so will
he strive to merit it. He is a soldier, and the men like him, he knows
better than any of us what to do. The affair of yesterday will be a
lesson to him."

"If we call him back he is at once the chief over us all, and our plan
of defence will be set aside."

"That, no; we have determined to act on the defensive without consulting
him, we must tell him that it is to take command of the defence alone
that we recall him. What do you say, Señores?" said Don Roderigo,
addressing himself to the other members. "Shall we not do better with a
soldier to command our troops?"

"Liniers is a daring soldier," said one of them. "The men will forget
yesterday when they hear his cheerful voice again among them. When they
see him they will remember only that last year he was the hero who
forced an entire army to surrender."

In this view all agreed, and Don Roderigo sat down to answer the
despatch at once in very few words. As he wrote, Don Gregorio turned to
look at the chasque who had remained in the room, looking about him with
an air of the most complete indifference.

"I have seen you before, my friend," said he. "Are you not the man who
brought from Colonel Lopez the news of the advance of the English upon
Quilmes?"

"Just so," answered the man. "The Señor General Liniers took me with him
that day, and yesterday I was with him to the end."

"Then you were present at the fight on the Plaza Miserere?"

"Yes, I saw it all, but I do not call that a fight. When they ought to
have rushed on them they stopped to shoot, and it was all disorder. But
what would you? They were on foot. I, yes; last year I saw a fight
farther away, beyond the Plaza Miserere. There, yes; there we went on to
the top of them like men, but it was all in vain; in the same, no more,
it ended. Look you that these English are the very devil, but have no
fear, in some way we shall arrange them."

"Were you with Don Juan Martin Puyrredon at Perdriel?"

"I was, and I escaped only by a miracle. That, yes; that was a fight.
When a man is on horseback he is worth three, but these people of the
city who go on foot! what would you have?"

"But these English, they were on foot, both yesterday and at Perdriel."

"And among houses and fences. Let them come and seek us in the open
camp; we will teach them."

"It appears that my son has had a warrior among his men."

"Your son, Señor! Who will he be?"

"Colonel Lopez, who was your chief two days ago."

"And your worship, will you be the Señor Don Gregorio Lopez?"

"I am he. And you, what is your name?"

"I call myself Venceslao Viana, at your service, Señor Don Gregorio."

At this Don Gregorio rose from his seat with a grave look on his face
and walked away to a window, while Don Roderigo looked up from the
letter which he had just finished, and examined attentively the face of
the chasque, who appeared somewhat disconcerted at the abrupt
termination of his conversation with Don Gregorio.

Then folding up the letter and sealing it with the official seal of the
Cabildo, Don Roderigo handed it to Venceslao Viana.

"This to the Señor General Liniers," he said. "But first tell me, have
you seen anything of the English to-day?"

"Much, I came right through their lines. There is another army of them
crossed the Riachuelo at the Zamorra Pass this morning."

"Then vaya con Dios, and don't lose a minute;" so saying, Don Roderigo
opened the door for him, and shaking him warmly by the hand dismissed
him, as much surprised at his politeness as at the sudden coolness of
Don Gregorio.

"One must be the devil himself to understand the ways of these men who
wear coats," said Venceslao to himself, as he mounted his horse. "That
old man must be in some way a relation of mine; he will be one of those
relations in the city of whom my father never speaks. He would speak to
me no more when he knew who I was. And that other! Who knows if he is
not a relation also. When one is a man of family one never knows where
one may meet relations."

Venceslao was not much given to thinking, and had soon something else to
employ his wits on, having to make diligent use of his eyes to escape
the scouting and foraging parties of the English. He reached General
Liniers in safety and delivered his despatch, which restored the
despondent soldier to his usual confident activity. Taking Venceslao as
his guide he marched rapidly by cross-roads back to town, exchanging a
few harmless shots with a party of English who were advancing towards
the Miserere, and at once took charge of the preparations for defence.

That evening, as Venceslao was lounging about under the colonnade in
front of the Cabildo, he was accosted by Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon.

"What are you doing, friend?" said Don Roderigo.

"I am waiting for nightfall. There are so many English about that it
will be dangerous to go out by daylight," replied Venceslao.

"Go out! And where are you going?"

"To present myself to my chief."

"That cannot be. Here in the city is the place for all good patriots.
You have seen fire, we need men like you."

"And what can I do here? Of these manoeuvres on foot I know nothing,
and my horse will die of hunger."

"Of that have no fear, remain with me, I will find something for you to
do."

"With very much pleasure; Señor, I am at your service," answered
Venceslao.

"Then go to my house, there you will find plenty of comrades. Go that
way," said Don Roderigo, pointing along the face of the Cabildo
northwards. "Take the second turning to the left and then go straight on
till close to the church of San Miguel. You will see a negro sentry at
the doorway, that is my house. The 'Morenos de Ponce' are quartered
there; tell Lieutenant Asneiros that Don Roderigo sent you. I shall be
there myself later on."

"Hasta luego, Señor Don Roderigo," said Venceslao, mounting his horse
and trotting off.

As he settled himself in the saddle he shook his head meditatively and
said to himself, "Certainly he must be some relation of mine. Look you,
when a man is of family he has duties of which others know nothing. This
Señor Don Roderigo must have some claim on my services, for that it is
that he sends me. It is necessary then that I obey, so here goes to join
the 'Morenos de Ponce.' I have seen something of them, and now that I
think of it, the comandante is that young man who was at my house with
the colonel months ago, before I made myself a lancer; the colonel said
he might be some relation of mine, I will ask him about it."

Here his soliloquy was cut short by his finding the street blocked up by
a huge mound of earth, beyond which was a deep ditch. On the mound a
party of the Catalan regiment were hard at work raising a stout
breastwork and laying down a platform for a heavy gun, which stood in
the street behind. On the azotea on each side a sentry paced up and down
with his firelock on his shoulder. A Spanish officer stopped him and
inquired where he was going.

"I belong to the 'Morenos de Ponce,'" answered Venceslao. "Where are
they quartered?"

"Pass," answered the officer, pointing to a narrow passage on the
side-walk. "Four squares from here on the left hand."

Venceslao passed on, found the "Morenos de Ponce," and was soon at home
among them, but he did not find the comandante, and his curiosity
concerning his relationship remained unsatisfied.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime the news of the landing of the English had spread over the
campaña, and the chiefs of the partidarios hastily collected their men
together. On the night of the 3rd July messengers from them made their
way into the city, bearing letters asking instructions from the
Reconquistador. To all the same answer was returned, that the men who
had firearms should repair to the city and join the garrison, and that
the rest should hover about the rear of the invading army and annoy it
to the best of their ability. During the day, and more especially during
the night of the 4th July, hundreds of paisanos entered the city, and
were spread about in small detachments attached to the different
infantry corps. A strong force of them were also embodied and encamped
on the Plaza de Los Perdices, where they would be at hand should cavalry
be required.

On the 4th, Don Isidro Lorea turned his attention to fortifying his
house. He threw open all the windows of both house and almacen, blocking
them up for half their height with boxes and barrels, through which he
made two loopholes at each window. On the parapet of his azotea he
arranged tercios of yerba and boxes filled with earth, leaving a few
inches between each to serve as loopholes. In addition to his own
company he had all the men resident in that and the two neighbouring
blocks under his command, which raised his force to about 400, all
supplied with firearms and ammunition. His instructions from General
Liniers were, that he should on no account venture into the streets, but
was to defend his position to the last extremity.

It was the afternoon of the 4th July, the British army was cantonned
all along the western side of the city, the British fleet was at anchor
in the roadstead, but as yet no attack had been made. General Whitelock
with his staff occupied a small country house close to the Plaza
Miserere, to which he had been conducted by an American named White, to
whom this house had formerly belonged. Mr White had been for many years
resident in Buenos Aires; he had joined the English army at Monte Video,
and was frequently consulted by General Whitelock, who placed much
confidence in him.

General Whitelock held a council of war that afternoon, all his superior
officers being present. The council was held in the dining-room of Mr
White's house; on the table in this room lay a map of the city, on which
most of the churches and public buildings were clearly marked, but which
was full of inaccuracies.

The council had now sat for nearly an hour; the general, seated in an
arm-chair at the head of the table, seemed somewhat ruffled at what had
passed. On the faces of many of his officers there was an evident gloom;
they had not approved of the plan of attack which had been disclosed to
them, but their advice had not been asked, they had been merely summoned
to have the plan explained to them and to receive instructions. The
troops had been under arms all the morning, General Whitelock having at
first contemplated making the assault at midday, but the constant fire
kept up upon his advanced posts had decided him to postpone it until the
next morning; even he saw the danger of advancing in broad daylight down
those long, narrow streets.

But on the faces of some younger officers there sat the smile of
undoubting confidence, and many a gay jest passed among them at the
expense of the runaway Frenchman and his Creole troops, who, after the
signal proof of incapacity which they had given two days before, had yet
dared to return a defiant answer to a second summons to surrender their
city.

At this moment the door opened, and a tall man with stern, sallow
features entered the room.

"Excuse me, General," said he in very good English, but with a foreign
accent, "I knew not that you were engaged, I will retire."

"By no means, Señor," said General Whitelock. "Come in and sit down, I
thought we had left you in Monte Video."

"I landed at Quilmes this morning, and Colonel Mahon informed me where I
should find you."

"Craddock," said the general to an aide-de-camp, "a chair for the Señor
Evaña."

"Have you heard of the answer I have received from these citizens of
Buenos Aires to my summons?" asked the general as Evaña seated himself.

"I have heard that they refuse to surrender," answered Evaña coldly.

"Refuse! Yes, and in terms which would come well from a victorious army,
but not from a defeated mob of militia. See there, read for yourself,"
added the general, handing an open despatch to Evaña.

Evaña took the despatch and read it. A flush spread over his features as
he read the proud disdainful words in which the men of an open city
defied the menace of a soldier at the head of a well-appointed army. He
glanced at the signatures, and saw amongst them those of Don Gregorio
Lopez and of Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon. His own countrymen and the
Spaniards joined cordially together in the heroic resolve to defend the
city to the last, and for what? For Spain. He sighed deeply as he
refolded the despatch and returned it to the general with a low bow,
saying:

"Then there is nothing but an appeal to arms."

"And that we need think little of," answered the general. "Perda cuidao,
as your people say, the sun will shine for the last time to-morrow upon
the Spanish flag in that fort over yonder, and you will have some
shopkeeping countrymen the fewer."

"God grant that that flag come down," said Evaña; "too long has it
crushed out the soul of my country, but, General, as I told you before,
you do not know my countrymen. If you would but have made allies of
them, that flag would have come down without your risking the lives of
thousands of men in pulling it down."

"It would have given place to some new-fangled flag of a republic I
suppose. Enough of that, Señor Evaña, the flag that has to fly there
to-morrow is the English flag."

"Then you purpose taking the city by assault?" said Evaña.

"Just so," answered the general; "I intend to give those saucy citizens
of yours another taste of the cold steel, it seems that one lesson is
not enough for them."

"You will lose many men, General. You have the command of the river, I
should have thought a blockade would have been much more certain and
would have spared useless bloodshed."

"The calculation of a civilian and not of a soldier, Señor Evaña. What
do you say, Craddock? Do you think you would win your spurs by starving
them out?"

"I should precious soon tire of that work," answered the aide-de-camp;
"besides which you would have to shoot me, General, for I should begin
to smuggle provisions into the city as soon as I heard that the pretty
Porteñas were beginning to look thin on siege rations."

"Always thinking of the girls, Craddock," said the general laughing.
"Well, I can promise you that you won't have to wait much longer before
you can begin making love to them."

"He may chance to have his love-making spoiled before he even sees
them," said Evaña, bending over the table and examining the map of the
city which lay before him.

"Every bullet has its billet," said the aide-de-camp, with a sneer; "the
billets of those of your militia seem mostly up in the air from what I
hear of their shooting."

During this talk most of the officers who had taken part in the council
left the room, but two or three still remained. One of them was a
strikingly handsome man of medium stature, with curly brown hair and
hazel eyes.

"Perhaps the Señor Evaña would like to know our plan of assault," said
this officer.

"Explain it to him, Craddock," said the general.

"We shall keep 1000 men in reserve at the corrales," said Craddock,
"besides Colonel Mahon's brigade, which will advance to the Galvès
bridge to-morrow. The rest of the troops we divide into three columns of
attack, which will advance by parallel streets through the city to the
river-side, and will then unite in a combined attack upon the great
square, where we understand the principal force of the enemy is
entrenched."

"I see a great many streets marked on the plan," said Evaña.

"Exactly so," replied the aide-de-camp; "each column will march in
subdivisions by adjacent streets, which will mutually support each other
in case of need."

"And each subdivision will be separated from the next by a block of
barricaded houses 140 yards long," interrupted Evaña.

"You see, General," said the handsome officer, "he has hit upon your
weak place at once."

"What does he know?" said the general angrily; "fire away, Craddock."

"In the Spanish cities," continued Craddock, "the churches invariably
occupy the most important positions. We have thus fixed upon two
churches upon which the three columns will form their base of attack
upon the centre."

"We have learnt to-day that they are running up barricades in some parts
of the city," said the officer who had spoken before.

"Are they?" exclaimed Evaña eagerly, as he thought of the plan of
defence he had left with Don Gregorio Lopez. "Do you know where they
have placed these barricades?"

"Near to the principal square," answered the other.

"There is nothing that we know of to prevent us reaching our first
positions," said the aide-de-camp. "We shall simply march down the
streets musket on shoulder without firing a shot, till we are near
enough to inspect these barricades. We may probably have to batter them
with cannon before we make our second advance. See, these are the
churches I told you of. On the north there is this place, a large
convent, I believe."

"Las Monjas Catalinas," said Evaña.

"A convent is always a good place to occupy as a post, it is----"

"Quite in your line, eh! Craddock," interrupted the general;
"unfortunately, my boy, you won't be with that column to-morrow."

"The columns of the left and centre will concentrate upon this convent
after establishing a strong rearguard at the bull-ring here to the north
of the city," resumed Craddock. "Then in the centre there is this
church, San Miguel I think they call it."

Evaña nodded his head.

"This church stands in the highest part of the city. When the three
columns have reached their stations, we shall march a part of the
reserve upon this church so as to open communications with the attacks
from the north and south upon the great square. Then on the south, where
Crauford has the command," said Craddock, nodding to the brown-haired
officer, "we have first a large detached house surrounded by iron
railings."

"The Residencia," said Evaña.

"I believe that is what it is called. Colonel Guard will be detached to
occupy this position. Then farther on, only three blocks from the great
square, we have a large church with a dome and two lofty towers. General
Crauford with the rest of the column of the right will form his base of
attack upon this church."

"How do you call that church, Señor Evaña?" asked General Crauford.

"The church of Santo Domingo," answered Evaña.

"Crauford takes great interest in that church," said Craddock; "he has
been all day on the roof examining it through a telescope, but he can't
see much of it from here."

"Crauford wanted to take the city all by himself on Thursday night,"
said General Whitelock.

"There was nothing to oppose me after I had dispersed the militia and
that negro regiment that fought so well," said General Crauford. "If I
had not been recalled by Gower I should have marched through the city
and captured the fort. I penetrated through the suburbs to the head of a
street which Pack told me leads straight to the great square."

"It is a pity you did not," said Evaña; "the city was panic-struck from
what I hear; you would probably have captured the fort without firing a
shot. To-morrow you will find it a very different matter to march down
those long, straight streets."

"We shall lose some men, of course," said General Whitelock, "but we
shall establish ourselves on both flanks of their principal position,
and then you will see that Frenchman will have had enough of it, and he
will surrender."

"You know not what you are doing, General," said Evaña; "if you had
studied for a year you could not have devised a plan which would have
entailed greater sacrifice of life. I tell you that if you carry out
this plan of yours, those streets of Buenos Aires will be to you and
your men pathways of death."

"Señor Evaña," replied General Whitelock, rising brusquely from his
chair, "when I need the advice of so distinguished a _militaire_ as
yourself be certain that I shall not forget to ask for it."

To this Evaña made no answer, but rising from his seat he took up his
hat, bowed formally to all present, and left the room.

"This native friend of ours has somewhat nettled the general," whispered
Captain Craddock in Crauford's ear.

"He has," answered the other gloomily, "and the worst is, that what he
says is perfectly true. Give me that city and a garrison of 10,000 men,
and I defy any 50,000 troops in the world to drive me out of it, even if
they had Napoleon himself to lead them, or that new Indian general of
ours they think so much of at home, Sir Arthur Wellesley."

"Bah!" replied the aide-de-camp scornfully; "they are only militia and
dismounted gauchos, what need we fear from them? As for Liniers, you and
Gower showed us on Thursday what he is worth."

       *       *       *       *       *

Long after nightfall Don Carlos Evaña walked by himself on the flat roof
of the quinta house, wrapped in a large cloak which kept the cold from
his body, and in thought which made him oblivious to all that passed
around him. He heeded nothing the buzz and bustle which pervaded all the
quinta, never noticed the mounted messengers who rode forth or came in
continually at the open gateway, his eye looked only on the glittering
lights of his native city, his ear heard only the distant hum witch told
him that there also all was busy preparation for the conflict of the
morrow.

His heart was sad, for his hopes died away within him. He had crossed
the ocean to urge on the despatch of this very expedition which now
menaced his native city. So far success had attended it, even beyond his
hopes, but the result which he desired seemed further from attainment
than ever. Should the struggle of the morrow end in favour of the
English, the result would be merely a change of masters; instead of
serving men of their own race, language, and religion, his countrymen
would serve strangers.

On the other hand, if the English were worsted in their attack upon the
city, then would his countrymen be more than ever attached to Spain,
more quiescent than ever under her most tyrannical decrees. For the
danger and the glory would be theirs, the blood that might flow would be
their blood, the city they had fought and bled to defend would be their
city, saved by them for Spain. Men love ever those for whom they have
done great service and for whom they have braved great danger.

In either case the dream of a republic of Argentines, of the rise of a
great, young nation on the banks of La Plata, was at an end, and an
Argentine Republic was the dream of Evaña's life.

Therefore Don Carlos Evaña was sad at heart, and the hope of years had
died away within him.

Yet his cheek flushed with pride as he thought of the defiant answer his
countrymen had returned to the summons of the British general. On what
grounded they their confidence? Surely the Corrales de la Miserere had
taught them plain enough that their troops could not meet those of
England on equal terms! Then Evaña thought of his own plan of defence.

"If they have adopted it only in part," said he to himself, "the plan of
attack devised by this General Whitelock will give them every possible
advantage."

"Oh! that it were not for Spain, and that I were with you! Oh! my
people," he exclaimed aloud.

His own voice startled him. He looked round hurriedly; no one was near.
He resumed his monotonous walk up and down, and now his thoughts went
back to the council upon which he had intruded in the afternoon, and he
pondered upon the talk he had had with General Whitelock and the others.

"Such manifest folly," said he to himself. "They all saw it except that
fool of an aide-de-camp. There are good soldiers among them, how is it
that the one who knows least commands them all? Have I been mistaken in
the English? Would their alliance be of no service to us? No, I have
seen them in their own country. The English are a great people, but
there are many fools among them."



CHAPTER XI

THE PATHWAYS OF DEATH


The Corrales de la Miserere stood in a hollow. On the higher ground
behind this hollow stood Mr White's house and some other quintas; to
the east of the hollow the ground rose gradually for more than
half-a-mile till it reached the level of the centre of the city, which
extended to within half-a-mile of the eastern face of the city, when
the ground again sloped gently down to the beach. Thus from the
Corrales de la Miserere nothing whatever could be seen of the city,
save the houses immediately bordering on the Plaza, and the orchards
and aloe fences of the suburbs which stretched to the right and left of
the position held by the British army. Even from Mr White's house,
which overlooked the suburbs and the nearer quarters of the city, very
little could be seen of it without ascending to the roof, from which
the towers and domes of the churches were plainly visible, but the city
itself appeared only as a wilderness of houses, the lines of the
streets being undistinguishable.

The city of Buenos Aires at that time was in the shape of a triangle, of
which the river front of the city, about three miles long, formed the
base, the apex being at the Plaza Miserere. On the two sides of this
triangle clustered the suburbs, cut up at regular distances into blocks
by roads which were the continuations of the streets of the city. The
city with its suburbs formed thus an irregular parallelgram, but in the
suburbs, in addition to the streets, there were many bye-roads, in which
a stranger might easily go astray.

The centre of the position held by the British army rested upon the apex
of the triangle which formed the city proper; in front of the right and
left of this position lay the suburbs.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour before daylight on the morning of the 5th July the entire
British army was under arms. Each subdivision paraded at the head of the
street by which it was to advance into the city. The number of men in
each subdivision varied from 250 up to 600 men, the total force
comprising the three columns being something less than 5000.

The column of the left, under the command of Sir Samuel Auchmuty,
comprised the 38th, 87th, and 5th regiments of the line, and was
directed to occupy the bull-ring, the Retiro, and the convent of Las
Monjas Catalinas. The column of the centre, under the command of General
Lumley, comprised the 36th and part of the 88th regiment, and was
directed to establish itself in the houses overlooking the beach, and
then combine with the column of General Auchmuty in an attack upon the
centre of the city. The column of the right, under the command of
General Crauford, comprised eight companies of light infantry, eight
companies of the 95th (the rifle corps), and seventy recruits of the
71st regiment, also the 45th regiment, which was detailed under Colonel
Guard for the special service of occupying the Residencia. General
Crauford was directed to occupy the church of Santo Domingo. Thus the
instructions to the three generals in command were to establish
themselves along the eastern face of the city, in positions distant
three miles from the headquarters of the army, and separated from it by
a wilderness of houses and quintas swarming with a hostile population.
Further than this they had no definite instructions, save that the
capture of the fort and the great square was understood to be the main
object of the attack.

The reserve consisted of the 6th Carabineers; four troops of the 9th
Light Dragoons, all dismounted; a part of the 88th regiment; pickets
from all these regiments, which remained in charge of the knapsacks and
great-coats of the men; about forty of the 17th Light Dragoons, mounted,
and such of the artillery as had not been left with Colonel Mahon at
Quilmes.

General Crauford had two light field-pieces attached to his column, the
other columns were without artillery.

Colonel Duff of the 88th regiment had such misgivings as to the result
of the day that he left the colours of his regiment behind him with the
reserve, and, when he advanced before dawn to the head of the street by
which he was to enter the city, he found his regiment so weak that he
sent back for two of the companies which had been left with the reserve.
Before these companies were allowed to join him they were ordered to
take the flints from their muskets and leave them behind, and Colonel
Duff lost much time in trying to provide them with flints, by searching
among the rest of his men for spare ones. Even so, many of the men of
these two companies entered into action without flints.

The division under the command of Colonel Mahon, which advanced from
Quilmes to the Puente Galvès on the 5th July, consisted of about 1800
men, infantry, artillery and dismounted cavalry, the 9th and 17th Light
Dragoons, and 200 sailors from the squadron, who had been landed by
Admiral Murray to assist in dragging the cannon through the swamps at
Ensenada, where five guns captured from the Spaniards at Monte Video
stuck fast and were destroyed by Colonel Frazer.

The idea of General Whitelock appears to have been, that by avoiding the
main streets of the city, which led direct from the Corrales to the
Plaza Mayor, and by a rapid march before sunrise, without firing,
through the suburbs and shorter streets, he would succeed in surprising
the principal positions to the north and south of the great square,
which idea, considering that most of these positions were a league
distant from the Plaza Miserere, presumed a great want of vigilance on
the part of the garrison, while all chance of a surprise was effectually
destroyed by the way in which the signal to advance was given.

As the day dawned a salvo of twenty-one British guns on the Plaza
Miserere gave the signal. The troops marched at once; each subdivision
in column of sections, seven men in line, left its position and
disappeared down the muddy roads, hedged by aloe fences, which led
through the suburbs. They disappeared, marching along avenues in which
they could see nothing either to the right hand or to the left, towards
an unknown goal at the end of a long, narrow path shrouded in darkness
and in mist.

Liniers had made every preparation for a vigorous defence. Including the
regular troops, the three battalions of Patricios, the Arribeño
regiment, armed citizens, slaves,[6] and the dismounted paisanos, he had
over 15,000 men under his command. The regular troops were concentrated
about the defences of the Plaza Mayor, but the militia were spread about
on the azoteas all over the city.

The thunder of the British guns roused up at once the sleeping city; on
every azotea the troops stood to arms, by every gun stood a gunner with
a lighted match. There had been much rain for several days past, now
over all the city there hung a thick haze. Men rushed up to the roofs of
their houses, and peered anxiously over the parapets into the murky
morning air. Then over the whole city there fell a great silence.

Rapidly through the suburbs marched the invading columns, meeting with
no foe, scarce seeing any sign of life; then as the haze cleared
somewhat away they entered the long, straight streets of the city, long
monotonous lines of white houses, with barred windows and parapeted
roofs, deserted streets in which was neither life nor motion, streets
stretching straight before them with no visible end. Some of the
subdivisions encountered cavalry videttes near the suburbs, who trotted
away before them, shouting up to the azoteas of the houses as they
passed the warning of their approach.

When or where the firing commenced no one knows, but presently these
deserted streets sprang at once into fiery life; on each hand the
azoteas bristled with armed men who fired without aim into the thick of
the moving mass of men beneath them, who still marched swiftly on with
shouldered muskets, and fired not one shot in return. When one man fell
another took his place, and still the word was "forward." Fiercer and
fiercer grew the fire from the parapets of those flat-roofed houses, men
no longer crouching under them for shelter, but leaning over the better
to select their victim. Losing patience at the tedious task of
reloading, casting aside their firelocks, some tore down the parapet
itself with their hands and hurled the bricks at the heads of the
marching men. Women with dishevelled hair ran about madly on those flat
roofs, more fierce, more relentless than the men, urging them on in
their work of death, seizing bricks, grenades, or any other missile that
came to hand, and throwing them in wild fury at the lines of living men,
who pressed steadily on with teeth clenched and glaring eyes, but who
still sent back not one shot in return. Rank after rank was broken, men
fell by dozens and by scores, and still where each man fell another took
his place, still with sloped muskets, and shoulder to shoulder, the
soldiery pressed on up those pathways of death, where the leaden hail
poured upon them like hailstones in a winter storm, and where, as they
neared the centre, round shot and grape from the defences of Plaza Mayor
tore through them.

Through all this tempest of fire the well-trained troops held on their
way unflinchingly, and every subdivision, or a remnant of it, reached
the position for which it marched. The bull-ring, the Retiro barracks,
the church of Las Monjas Catalinas, the church of Santo Domingo, the
Residencia, and several blocks of houses on the river face of the city
were captured and occupied. But round each position so captured crowded
thousands of the furious foe, rendered more furious still by the
unavailing slaughter they had inflicted upon the invaders.

Then the British troops came to bay, the welcome word was given to load
and fire, and in turn their shot poured havoc and death into the dense
masses about them. Many a trim soldier of the Patricios fell lifeless on
the parapet over which he leaned. Many an honest householder, who had
loaded his fowling-piece with ball that day in defence of hearth and
fatherland, then fired it for the last time, and fell back upon the
tiles which covered his own home, pouring out his life-blood from a
mortal wound. Many a swarthy, bearded paisano threw up his arms as a
pang shot through him, and glaring wildly on the unwonted scenes around
him, bethought him of the peaceful solitude of his native Pampa,
bethought him of his lowly rancho and of the half-naked little urchins
who called him father, then sank down with swiftly-failing breath as
death darkened those wild eyes for ever. Many a slave who fought bravely
with freedom before him as his guerdon then gained equality with his
master in the grave.

But, regardless of those who fell, more and more pressed fiercely round
every position held by the British troops; those regiments which
penetrated into the vicinity of the Plaza Mayor were the most fiercely
assailed.

The 88th regiment, in two subdivisions, under the command of Colonel
Duff and Major Vandeleur, entered the city by the streets now known as
Piedad and Cuyo. After an abortive attempt to capture the church of San
Miguel, Colonel Duff marched on, losing men at every step, till he found
himself under the guns of the defences of the centre, when turning to
the left he burst into and occupied a house close to the Merced Church.
Major Vandeleur, after losing half his command, occupied another house
about a square farther north. But their men were driven from the azoteas
by the overwhelming fire of the enemy, and after several hours of
unavailing resistance both divisions were compelled to surrender.

General Lumley, with the remainder of his brigade, advancing by the
Calles Parque and Tucuman, seized some houses in the last block before
reaching the beach and held them with the 36th regiment against furious
assaults and a heavy cannonade from the fort until the afternoon.

The column of the left, under the command of Brigadier-general Sir
Samuel Auchmuty, advanced upon the northern quarter of the city. The
38th regiment, under the command of Colonel Nugent, at the extreme left
of the line, made a considerable detour through the suburbs, and then
advanced by a narrow road straight upon the Plaza del Retiro. Here the
garrison was strongly posted in the barracks and the bull-ring, with
cannon planted upon the open ground, and a large, flat-roofed house in
front was occupied as an outpost. From this house a heavy fire was
directed upon the regiment, causing severe loss; but it was captured by
the bayonet, not one of the garrison escaping. Colonel Nugent then
attempted to advance upon the bull-ring, but was repulsed by a murderous
fire of artillery, upon which he detached two companies to take
possession of a house on the high ground overlooking the river, to the
north of the Retiro barracks. This operation was successful, and the two
companies leaving the house by a side door forced their way into the
barracks, drove out the garrison at the point of the bayonet and
captured several cannon, all of which but one twelve-pounder were
spiked. Colonel Nugent then hoisted his colours on the flag-staff, and
opened fire with the captured gun upon the bull-ring.

Meantime Sir Samuel Auchmuty had advanced with the 87th regiment by the
Calles Arenales and Santa Fé, thinking that they would lead him to the
left flank of the enemy's position on the Plaza del Retiro; instead of
which, after a march of more than two miles, he found himself directly
in front of their position, and was received by a tremendous fire of
artillery and musketry from the bull-ring, against which it was
impossible to advance. He accordingly retreated two squares to the
right, where the little river Tercero, which flows down the Calle
Paraguay, had scooped out a sort of trench, along which he marched his
regiment, sheltered from the fire of the enemy, and took possession of a
large house and garden on the high ground overlooking the river. Then
hearing of the success of Colonel Nugent, he advanced to his support,
and at half-past nine, after two hours of incessant firing the garrison
of the bull-ring hung out a white flag and surrendered at discretion.

By this success the British column captured 700 prisoners, thirty-two
guns, most of them of large calibre, two mortars, and an immense
quantity of ammunition, and secured at once a formidable base of attack,
and the means of communicating with the squadron.

The right wing of this column, consisting of the 5th regiment, under the
command of Lieutenant-colonel Davie, which advanced by the Calles
Charcas and Paraguay, met with but slight opposition, and captured some
spiked guns in a cross street. After occupying some houses on the river
front Colonel Davie detached an officer with a strong party to seize the
church and convent of Las Monjas Catalinas, but Major King of this
regiment in attempting to capture another large house was driven back by
overwhelming numbers of the enemy.

The right column of attack, under the command of General Crauford,
marched upon the southern quarter of the city. The left wing of this
column, led by Colonel Pack, about 600 strong, advanced by the Calle
Moreno, and penetrated to the last block without much loss, although the
Calle Moreno was but one block distant from the defences of the Plaza
Mayor. The approaches to these defences had been all night illuminated
by lamps hanging in the doorways and windows of the houses; these lamps
were still burning dimly in the murky air of the early morning when
Colonel Pack halted among the scattered houses which overlooked the
beach to the south of the fort. These houses were under the guns of the
fort and offered no position that he could safely occupy. He looked
about him; to his left lay a narrow street, closed by a black mound of
earth; once over that mound and he was in the Plaza de los Perdices, and
by one desperate effort might seize the fort and decide the fortunes of
the day. His first step was to detach Colonel Cadogan with his rearguard
to attack the church of San Francisco and so secure his rear. This
church stood close to the trench which crossed the Calle Defensa at its
junction with the Calle Potosi; the azoteas all round were strongly
garrisoned.

Advancing rapidly up the narrow street, Colonel Cadogan brought up a
field-piece to blow open the side door of the church, but from the
surrounding azoteas and from the earthwork so tremendous a fire was
poured upon him that "on a sudden the whole of the leading company and
every man and horse at the gun were killed or disabled." He was forced
to a precipitate retreat, and bursting into a house in the Calle Moreno
took refuge there with 140 men.

Colonel Pack, with the remainder of his command, wheeled rapidly into
the Calle Balcarce, and made a desperate assault upon the earthwork
which closed the entrance to the Plaza de los Perdices. Over the top of
this earthwork frowned the muzzles of two heavy guns, in front yawned a
ditch twelve feet wide by six deep. The light infantry rushed up that
narrow street straight upon the black muzzles of those guns, while the
grape-shot tore through their ranks, and an incessant fire of musketry
poured upon them from the azoteas on either hand. They reached the ditch
and sprang into it, only to find before them a perpendicular wall of
earth twelve feet high, over which they strove to clamber, while
hand-grenades, bricks, and all sorts of missiles were showered upon them
from above; till seeing no possibility of success, Colonel Pack, who was
himself wounded, drew off seventy men, the remnant of his force, and
retreated upon the church of Santo Domingo. There he met General
Crauford, who had reached that position unopposed, and who at once took
possession of the church by blowing open a side door with a shot from a
field-piece.

On the extreme right of the British line, Colonel Guard, with the 45th
regiment, penetrated through the suburbs to the south of the city, and
attacked and captured the Residencia with very slight loss, taking about
100 prisoners. The Residencia was at that time used as a hospital, the
wards being occupied by 150 sick, many of whom had been wounded in the
affair of the 2nd. It was surrounded by high walls and an iron railing,
and was a very strong position. Leaving Major Nicholls with 400 men to
hold the Residencia, Colonel Guard then advanced with the grenadier
company by the Calle Defensa to join General Crauford. Reinforced by
that general with a detachment of light infantry, he then attempted to
re-open communications with Colonel Cadogan, but had hardly advanced
fifty yards from Santo Domingo when the guns on the defences of the
Plaza Mayor opened upon him with grape, and a storm of shot poured upon
him from the adjacent azoteas. The grenadier company was swept away,
Major Trotter of the Rifles was killed, and he, with the few men left,
was forced to seek shelter in the church.

Meantime, on the Plaza Miserere, General Whitelock, surrounded by his
staff, walked to and fro, knowing nothing of what had happened, hearing
from far off the shouts and cries of the combatants, the incessant
rattling of musketry, the frequent boom of cannon. Of those troops who
had disappeared in the murky dawn into that great wilderness of houses,
not one returned to tell how their comrades fared. The firing was far
off on the eastern face of the city to the north and to the south of the
Plaza Mayor. Between these points and the Plaza Miserere there
intervened a vast mass of flat-roofed houses, which swarmed with armed
men. No messenger could penetrate that wilderness. One officer, who was
sent off to the right with a few dragoons, returned, saying that to pass
onwards was impossible.

The troops of the reserve were all under arms, and surrounded by swarms
of native cavalry, who now and then crept near enough to fire upon them,
and who watched for an opportunity of pouncing upon any weak party which
might venture away from the main body. One party of this cavalry, about
200 men, approached so near that Lieutenant-colonel Torrens, chief of
the staff to General Whitelock, was apprehensive of danger from them.
Taking with him thirty dragoons, he charged them, drove them before him,
and pursued them for nearly a league.

Then about eight o'clock General Whitelock determined upon a further
offensive movement upon the centre. Two detachments were ordered upon
this service. Three companies of infantry with two field-pieces advanced
by the street now known as the Calle Piedad, and a corps composed of the
6th Carabineers and two troops of the 9th Light Dragoons, dismounted,
under the command of Colonel Kington of the Carabineers, with Major
Pigot of the Dragoons as his second in command, was ordered to penetrate
by the next street to the right. This corps had also two field-pieces
attached to it. The carabineers were armed with carbines and bayonets,
the dragoons had muskets.

The infantry, galled by a heavy fire from the azoteas, forced their way
as far as the church of San Miguel, and bursting open the church doors
and the doors of several of the adjacent houses established themselves
there, filling the tower of the church with marksmen, whose fire soon
drove away the enemy from the neighbouring azoteas. The two field-pieces
were planted in the street in front of the church and by their fire
drove off a party of the enemy who were advancing upon them up to Calle
Piedad.

       *       *       *       *       *

At dawn Don Isidro Lorea inspected all his preparations and posted his
men with great care. At each loop-hole in the barricaded windows of his
house and almacen he placed three men, two of whom were to load while
the other fired; his own company of Patricios he stationed on the azotea
and took command of them himself. He had barely completed his
arrangements when the salvo of British guns gave the signal for the
attack. At the report of the guns Doña Dalmacia ascended to the azotea.

"Go! go!" said Don Isidro, as she approached him. "They come! How can I
do my duty if thou art in danger?"

"I come to but embrace thee once more," she answered; "I know that thou
art brave and wilt do thy duty," so saying she threw her arms round him
and kissed him. Then turning to the men she spoke cheerful words to
them, encouraging them to do their duty, and passing along the ranks
shook hands with many of them whom she had known from childhood. The men
answered her words with loud "Vivas," she left them and retired to the
security of her own room, but not to rest there in idleness, she knew
that fighting would entail wounds and death. With her maids around her
she went on with the work from which the report of the guns had roused
her--appliances for the relief of the wounded and for the alleviation of
the sufferings of the dying.

Hardly had Doña Dalmacia left the azotea than the report of a musket was
heard in the suburbs somewhat to the right, then another, then came
shouts and cries, and the musketry grew into one continuous rattle,
gradually spreading over the whole city to the north and to the south of
the Plaza Mayor, but Don Isidro could see no foe approach him, and no
musket was fired in his immediate neighbourhood.

Two hours his watch lasted and the partial cessation of the firing told
him that the heat of the conflict was over; from all sides came reports
of a fearful slaughter of the invaders. Then away in the suburb beyond
his position he heard the reports of several muskets, and there was a
cry from a neighbouring azotea:

"They come!"

He moved his men up to the parapet, and stationed himself at the corner,
looking up the street out westwards. What he saw was a dense body of
red-coated soldiery, with brass helmets, with sloped muskets and
bayonets fixed, marching rapidly towards him. What he saw was a
miscellaneous multitude of men leaning over the parapets of the houses
and firing upon these marching soldiers, or stepping back from the
parapet to reload. What he saw were soldiers dropping on their faces as
they marched, or staggering out of the ranks and clutching at the bars
of windows ere they laid them down on the side-walks to die.

As they issued from the street and emerged upon the open space, the
galling fire which had attended their progress died away. The azoteas in
front of them and about them were lined with armed men, who waited for
the signal from Don Isidro, and Don Isidro stood motionless at his
corner watching them. At the head of the column came a troop of stalwart
men, marching on with firm step and eyes looking straight before them;
in front of them rode a mounted officer, the plumes of his cocked hat
had been shot away, blood stained the white gauntlet he wore on his
bridle-hand, but stiffly erect he sat in his saddle, and his face was
calm as though he knew no anxiety, but his lips were firmly pressed
together, and the fingers of the right hand twined round the hilt of his
sabre in a convulsive grasp.

Don Isidro was a civilian, but he was also sufficiently a soldier to
admire and appreciate the perfection of military drill. Admiration and
pity struggled within him against what he knew was his stern duty; his
men looked at him in astonishment. The leading troopers were already
half way across the open space, when with a shudder he shook himself
free from his thoughts, leaped up on to the parapet, waved his sword,
and shouted:

"At discretion! fire!"

A storm of shot shattered the ranks of those stately troopers, the horse
of the mounted officer plunged wildly in the air, and fell back over
him, the head of the column was completely destroyed, the bodies of the
tall troopers strewed the ground on which a minute before they had
marched so proudly. Only for a moment was the march of the column
delayed, on it came swiftly as before, men dropping at every step under
the fire from the loop-holed windows. They reached the corner, then from
the windows of the almacen a rapid flanking fire opened upon them, and
fresh assailants, leaping over the parapets of the houses on either
hand, met them with a fresh storm of shot. The column reached the
corner, entered the street, but went no further, the leading files
melted away under that deadly fire. The retreat was sounded, the
soldiery retired out of reach of the fire of the Patricios to the back
of the open space, where, opening fire themselves, they drove the
defenders back from the nearer parapets and obtained a respite.

Meantime the infantry corps had passed on a square further north. From
this subdivision came galloping back a mounted officer, his cocked hat
and plumes showed him be to an aide-de-camp. He enquired angrily from
Colonel Kington the reason of his halt, and of his breaking the general
orders by allowing the men to fire. In reply the colonel pointed to the
heaps of men, dead and dying, who lay about the street corner.

"I am bringing up a gun. I must take that corner house, I cannot pass
it, the windows are all loop-holed."

"You know the positive orders of General Whitelock! Unless you advance
at once I shall be forced to report you."

Again the troopers formed in column, again they advanced over ground
strewn with the bodies of their slaughtered comrades, their leader
marching, now on foot, at their head, the aide-de-camp beside him, a
fine-made young man, with the blue eyes and yellow hair of the midland
counties, Craddock by name, the favourite aide-de-camp of General
Whitelock.

Don Isidro had watched all these manoeuvres; again he reserved his
fire till the column was more than half way to the fatal corner, again
leaping on to the parapet he waved his sword as a signal, again a storm
of shot swept away the whole ranks of living men. Colonel Kington fell;
the aide-de-camp reeled in his saddle, let go his reins to press his
hand to his side, his frightened horse turned and galloped off, away
back through the now silent suburb to the British camp; his rider,
seeing nothing, knowing nothing of where he went, kept his seat till the
horse stopped, when he was gently lifted from the saddle, carried into a
house and laid upon a bed. There he lingered till sundown, neither
opening his eyes nor speaking, save once when General Whitelock bent
over him and spoke to him.

"Ah, General!" he said, "Those streets of Buenos Aires, they are, as
that Spaniard said they would be, the pathways of death."

Again the column recoiled from that fatal corner, and a gun being now
brought up was wheeled into position in front of the door of Don
Isidro's house, at somewhat more than 100 yards distance. The first shot
crashed through a panel of the door and did little harm; the second
struck it full in the centre, where it was secured by a heavy cross-bar,
shattering the latter and the door itself so much that it was only held
by the lower bolts. Two more shots, and the door was a complete wreck.
Then the troopers, in open order, again advanced, firing steadily at the
Patricios on the azotea, and at the loop-holed windows.

Fiercely occupied as each man was at his own post, Doña Dalmacia was the
first to notice the shattered door. Leaving her own room she ran across
the patio to the almacen, calling upon the men there to bring out boxes
and barrels to block up the zaguan. Excited men rushed out into the
patio as they heard her voice, not comprehending what she said amid the
roar of musketry. Seeing the open doorway they fired from the patio upon
the advancing troops. In vain Doña Dalmacia ran among them, entreating
them to block up the entrance at once, they were mad with fury of the
fight. English bullets came amongst them, several of them fell, then
Doña Dalmacia, running into the sala, brought out a heavy chair and
threw it on its side in the middle of the zaguan. Hardly had she done so
ere a bullet struck her in the throat, she fell forward upon the chair,
clinging to it with her hands, her blood pouring over the embroidered
velvet in a steady stream.

Don Isidro had heard his wife's voice; calling upon some of his men to
follow him, he ran down the narrow stair from the roof; as he set foot
in the patio he saw his wife fall.

"Dalma!" he screamed rushing to her and raising her in his arms. It was
the last word he ever uttered. She opened her eyes once, looked upon him
with a loving smile, her lips moved, but no words came, he saw she was
dead. With one arm clasped round her, he shook the other hand fiercely
at the English; they poured in one deadly volley, and then rushed into
the zaguan. Don Isidro fell, shot through the heart, in death yet
clasping his wife to him; their blood, mingling in one red stream, dyed
the feet of the furious soldiers as they ran in over their prostrate
bodies.

The shouts of men, the screams of women, as they saw Don Isidro fall
back upon the pavement with his wife's body in his arms, brought the
entire garrison of the house into the patio. From the roof, from the
sala, from the almacen men rushed towards the main entrance, beating
back the soldiery with clubbed muskets, stabbing furiously with knives,
bayonets, or whatever weapon came to hand, while from the azotea the
Patricios opened fire upon the zaguan itself. The struggle was sharp but
short; all the English who had entered the patio were killed, the zaguan
was choked with the bodies of their dead. Reinforcements poured in from
every side, a strong party from the suburbs ventured into the open
street and attacked the invaders in the rear; Captain Buller who had led
the attack upon the house had fallen in the zaguan; again they
retreated. The Patricios rushed out in pursuit.

The English, re-forming their broken ranks, attempted to cover their
retreat by the fire of their cannon, but from every side poured in upon
them fresh hosts of foes. Men fell by dozens; for five minutes the open
ground was the scene of a frightful butchery. Then a cry arose among the
Patricios, "To the cannon, muchachos!"

A party of the Patricios, in something like order, rushed with levelled
bayonets on the gun; behind them came a motley crowd--shopmen in their
shirt-sleeves, their faces grimy with gunpowder; half-naked slaves armed
with pikes and hatchets; paisanos, who, wrapping their ponchos round
their left arms, threw aside their carbines and drew from their
waistbands poniards twenty inches in the blade. The artillerymen were
shot down or bayonetted, the gun captured, and the dismounted dragoons
driven in confusion back up the street by which they had advanced. Here
they were met in precipitate retreat by Captain Forster, an aide-de-camp
to General Whitelock, who assisted Major Pigott to rally them.
Re-forming them and bringing up the other gun, Major Pigott opened such
a deadly fire of grape and musketry upon his pursuers that he drove them
back across the open ground and forced them to take shelter in the
houses, abandoning the gun they had captured. He then burst open the
doors of a corner-house to the west of the open space, took possession
of it, and posting a strong party of his men on the flat roof drove off
by a well-directed fire all the men on the neighbouring azoteas.

Here he remained all the rest of the day, not venturing to make any
further attempt to advance. Throughout the afternoon the Patricios kept
up a fire of musketry, but they did not venture to attack him.

       *       *       *       *       *

All morning the crews of the British fleet, anchored in the roadstead,
had looked anxiously from the masts and yards of their ships for any
indication of how the day was going. First on the Residencia, then on
the church of Las Monjas Catalinas, then on the Retiro, then on the
church of Santo Domingo, and at length, soon after ten o'clock, on the
church of San Miguel they saw the flag of England waving in triumph. The
greater part of the city was already theirs, and it was yet early; the
first part of the plan of General Whitelock had been successfully
achieved. As the flag was hoisted last of all on the church of San
Miguel the watching sailors greeted the sight with loud shouts of joy,
with ringing cheers which were heard even to the shore.

Yes, the first part of the plan of General Whitelock had been
successfully achieved, the first positions had been attained, but at
what cost? Fully one third of the troops which had paraded at dawn in
full confidence of success were now hors-de-combat. All over the streets
of Buenos Aires lay British soldiers still in death or grievously
wounded. As yet merely the _undefended_ part of the city had been
traversed, only one attack had been made upon an entrenched position,
and that had been repulsed with fearful slaughter.

Those open streets of Buenos Aires, held only by squads of militia and
half-armed citizens, had been to the trained soldiery of England the
pathways of death.

  [6] Many of the citizens had armed their household slaves.



CHAPTER XII

THE AFTERNOON OF THE 5TH JULY


The salvo of British guns at dawn on the 5th July roused General Liniers
from the soundest sleep he had enjoyed for several days. He sprang up
with the alacrity of one who, having a hard task before him, had made
every possible preparation and was confident of success. In ten minutes
the whole of the troops in and about the Plaza Mayor, were under arms,
and every post about the defences of the centre strongly occupied.
Beyond this there was nothing he could do but wait in readiness for any
emergency which might befall.

When Colonel Cadogan attacked the church of San Francisco he sent out a
strong detachment of Spanish infantry to aid the militia, and then took
charge in person of the defence of the entrenchment which was so
furiously assailed by Colonel Pack. When these attacks were repulsed he
turned his attention to the north of his position, where two
subdivisions of the 88th regiment had established themselves in two
houses about a square distant from each other in the vicinity of the
Merced Church. On the azoteas around these houses he massed about 3000
men, chiefly militia and armed citizens, and then directed an attack
upon them by the streets and from the beach by strong parties of Spanish
troops with artillery. At the head of these troops marched the "Morenos
de Ponce," led by Lieutenant Asneiros. The English, driven from the
azoteas by the overwhelming fire concentrated upon them, stubbornly held
their position till nearly twelve o'clock; Lieutenant-colonel Duff then
yielded to the summons of Asneiros and handed him his sword, after
having 220 men and seventeen officers killed and wounded. Major
Vandeleur, whose loss had been almost as heavy, surrendered immediately
afterwards.

After this success, General Liniers repaired to the tower of the
Cabildo, and looked forth around him. To the north the English flag
waved on the church of Las Monjas Catalinas, and over some houses nearer
the river; to the west on the tower of San Miguel, and to the south on
the church of Santo Domingo; it was upon this last flag that his gaze
lingered. Round each position so held by the foe the azoteas were
crowded with armed men, the rattle of musketry was incessant, and the
guns from the fort were firing steadily and with sure aim upon those
houses near the beach which were held by the 26th regiment.

Calling to him Colonel Elio, his second in command, General Liniers
directed him to march with a strong force of infantry and four guns
upon these houses near the beach, and upon the church of Las Monjas
Catalinas. Then sending for Asneiros, he directed him to return at once
with the "Morenos" to his former station contiguous to the church of San
Miguel, and to instruct Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon to concert measures
with the commander of the Arribeño regiment, which occupied the two
neighbouring blocks, for the recapture of that position. Having so
provided for the north and west, he then turned his attention to the
recapture of the church of Santo Domingo.

The first measure of Colonel Elio was to go forward himself with a flag
of truce to the position held by General Lumley. Telling him that
further resistance was useless, and informing him of the fate of the
88th regiment, he summoned him to surrender. To this General Lumley
returned a scornful refusal, and the firing which had ceased on the
appearance of the flag of truce, recommenced with greater fury than
ever.

Again Colonel Elio went forward with a flag of truce, and this time with
a written order from General Liniers, commanding him to surrender within
a quarter of an hour, to which General Lumley replied as before. A
strong force of Spanish infantry then advanced by the beach and opened
fire with two field-pieces at point-blank range. Lieutenant-colonel
Bourne sallied out at the head of fifty grenadiers, drove the infantry
at the point of the bayonet back to the walls of the fort, and spiked
both guns. At the same time another strong body of infantry which
advanced by the streets was met by Major King with a wing of the 5th
regiment and driven back with heavy loss.

The loss of the 36th was already heavy, both in officers and men; the
ammunition was almost exhausted, the numbers of the enemy increased
every moment. After communicating with Colonel Davie, who still held the
church of Las Monjas Catalinas, General Lumley determined upon
evacuating both positions, and retiring by the beach to the Retiro,
where what remained of the two columns of the left and centre
concentrated soon after two o'clock, and restricted their attention to
securing that position.

On the block contiguous to the church of San Miguel Don Roderigo Ponce
de Leon held the command on the morning of the 5th July, having under
his orders the "Morenos de Ponce" and about 300 armed citizens and
slaves, the adjacent blocks fronting him being held by detachments of
the Arribeño regiment.

Lieutenant-colonel Duff, marching down the Calle Piedad in the early
morning with his wing of the 88th regiment, had attempted to force an
entrance into the church of San Miguel, but the massive door resisted
all his efforts to break it open, and the fire of the Arribeños from the
opposite azoteas was so destructive that he was compelled to relinquish
his attempt and march on, leaving thirty of his men lying dead or badly
wounded under the porch.

When a second party of English attacked the church some hours later, Don
Roderigo had few men with him. The "Morenos" and the Arribeños had been
summoned by General Liniers to aid in the attack upon the 88th regiment,
and many of the armed citizens had gone with them. With such as remained
under his orders, Don Roderigo withdrew to the far side of the block,
out of range of the fire of the English sharp-shooters. As the English
burst into the church, a large double door further down the street was
opened, a horseman issued from it having a boy behind him _en croupe_,
who, instantly setting spurs to his horse, galloped off, while the door
closed behind them.

"Don't fire, men, it is only a boy!" shouted the officer in command of
the English, and the horse carried his double load in safety to the
first cross street.

The horseman was Venceslao Viana, the boy was Evaristo Ponce de Leon.

On the return of Asneiros, Don Roderigo left the azotea, and descending
into the cross street where the "Morenos" were halted, proceeded to make
arrangements with the commandant of the Arribeño regiment for the
recapture of the church. In half an hour the streets to the north and
east of the church were occupied by strong parties of the Arribeños, and
hundreds of armed citizens, flushed with their recent triumph over the
88th regiment, poured on to all the adjacent azoteas, crouching down
behind the parapets, and creeping nearer and nearer to the British
position.

"Now we shall see what you are worth, Morenitos," said Venceslao Viana,
as he galloped up to Don Roderigo with a message from the commander of
the Arribeño regiment that all was ready.

"Adelante! Marchen!" shouted Asneiros, as Don Roderigo gave him a
signal.

Steadily the well-drilled negroes marched to the corner, wheeled into
the street not 120 yards from the British guns, and then with a loud
yell charged straight upon them. Round-shot and grape answered their
shout of defiance, and swept them from the centre of the street, but,
spread along the side-walks, they still advanced, firing upon the
artillerymen. The infantry drawn up in front of the church advanced to
the support of the artillery, red-coated soldiers poured from the houses
of the block beyond, of which the invaders had taken possession. The
advance of the negroes was stopped, but the roar of the cannon had given
the signal, men sprang to their feet on every azotea round about, on
every side militia marched into the open streets. The red-coated
soldiery, facing in every direction, kept their foes at bay with a
steady fire of musketry, one gun was wheeled round, and a shower of
grape drove back the Arribeños, who came by the cross street from the
north straight upon the church.

Again Asneiros formed up the negro corps. Don Roderigo himself led them
on, waving his hat, and calling upon them to trust to the bayonet. The
negroes answered him with shouts, and rushed on. Again a shower of grape
tore through them. A dozen men fell. The first to fall was Don Roderigo.
Several of the negroes, throwing down their muskets, ran to him, and,
raising him in their arms, carried him to the shelter of the next
street.

Evaristo had seen his father fall, and ran up to him.

"Tata! Tata!" he cried; "speak to me! speak to me, Tata!"

"I am not dead yet, my son," said Don Roderigo, "I think my leg is
broken--a small matter. Run and tell Asneiros----"

"Yet there is one Ponce de Leon to finish these," said Evaristo, running
off.

In front of the church of San Miguel, the second house from the corner
had a peaked roof, covered with large red tiles. This house, by breaking
the line of the azotea, had been a great protection to the English
formed in the street below. The adjacent azotea was crowded with armed
citizens, who saw with consternation the second repulse of the negroes.

"Cost what it may, we must stop the fire of that gun," shouted a young
officer of the Spanish navy who was among them. "Follow me, boys!"

So saying he clambered up on to the roof of the tiled house, and tearing
up one of the tiles from the coping threw it at the gunner, who at that
moment held the linstock in his hand. The tile struck him on the side of
the head, down he fell, and the burning tow dropped under the gun
instead of firing it. The citizens gave a loud shout as they saw him
fall. Laying down their firelocks, scores of them followed the young
officer, showering heavy tiles upon the artillerymen as fast as they
could tear them from the roof.

"Ah! Morenitos! are you afraid of a cannon?" said Venceslao Viana to the
negroes, as they clustered at the street corner: "follow me, and I will
show you how cannon are taken!"

He had already arranged the coils of his lasso in his hand; he now
galloped up the street whirling it round his head. A dozen yards from
the gun he checked his horse, threw the noose over the breech of the
cannon, then turned and drove in his spurs. For a few yards he dragged
the gun after him, then it turned over, and the fastenings of the
trunnions giving way, he galloped off with his prize, leaving the wheels
and body behind him.

"Follow me, Morenitos!" shouted Evaristo, as the gun upset; "yet there
is a Ponce de Leon to show you the way."

The negroes yelled, and losing all order, followed him pell-mell; a
party of the Arribeños followed them, wild cheers and shouts rose from
all sides, the fire from the azoteas was more furious than ever. The
negroes drove the English infantry before them from the front of the
church and captured the other gun, but were in their turn charged and
driven back, but they took the gun with them.

Then the Arribeños again advanced by the cross street from the north,
poured in a volley at not more than twenty yards' distance, and charged.
The small English force was cut in two, one part made good its retreat
to the suburbs, the other, driven into the church by a fresh advance of
the negroes led by Asneiros, had no alternative but to surrender.

The officer in command surrendered to Lieutenant Asneiros, his men threw
down their arms, the English flag was removed from the tower of the
church, and Asneiros won the second sword he took that day.

Meantime General Liniers, as a first step to the recapture of the church
of Santo Domingo, completely surrounded the house occupied by Colonel
Cadogan, keeping up a constant fire upon the small garrison, till, when
he had only forty men left able to fire a musket, that officer
surrendered.

Liniers then despatched an officer with a flag of truce to General
Crauford, telling him that the assault had failed in all quarters, that
the losses of the English had been fearful, that several detachments had
surrendered, that he himself was surrounded and completely cut off, and
calling upon him to yield himself and his men prisoners of war. To which
summons General Crauford returned a decided refusal.

On receipt of this answer General Liniers directed an advance from all
sides upon the church, militia and armed citizens swarmed on all the
neighbouring azoteas, and their concentrated fire soon overpowered that
of the British sharp-shooters who occupied the towers and leads of the
church, and forced them to retire.

In front of the principal door of the church was an open space, on which
a portion of the light infantry were stationed, screened by intervening
houses from the fire of the guns on the entrenchments of the Plaza
Mayor, and on the south side the fort. Don Felipe Navarro, who commanded
on the block to the west of the church, had just heard of the deaths of
his sister and of Don Isidro Lorea; furious at the intelligence, and
seeing the retreat of the sharp-shooters from the towers and roof of the
church, he led his men right up to the parapet overlooking the open
space, and springing upon it pointed with his sword to the troops below
him--

"There they are, muchachos! Fire upon the heretics! Fire!"

The words were hardly past his lips ere a ball struck him in the chest,
he fell from the parapet into the street below, dead ere he reached the
ground.

But now from every azotea round a deadly fire was directed upon the open
space, and the troops, unable to make any effective reply, were
withdrawn into the church.

Within the church the British troops were safe from the fire of
musketry, but their position was full of danger, the great doors might
easily be beaten in by cannon, and then the garrison would be at the
mercy of their foes. General Crauford called together a council of his
officers.

Colonel Pack, on rejoining his superior officer, after the failure of
the attack by himself, had counselled an immediate retreat upon the
Residencia, but General Crauford could not then see the necessity for
any such step, and considered that he was compelled by his instructions
to occupy the church of Santa Domingo. Later on Colonel Pack had
discovered in the church the flag of his old regiment, the 71st
Highlanders, which had been captured on the 12th August. Overjoyed at
the recovery of his flag, he had ascended to the roof and planted it on
the eastern tower of the church, and spoke no more of the necessity of
retreat. He now brought it down again and repeated his former counsel.
But most of the other officers agreed that without a strong diversion in
their rear, retreat was now impossible, that to attempt it would result
only in a wholesale slaughter of the men.

Then General Liniers mounted a heavy gun upon a neighbouring azotea and
opened fire with it upon the eastern tower of the church, at the same
time that the guns on the southern side of the fort were also turned
upon it, with the intention of bringing it down upon the heads of the
English garrison.

Until four o'clock General Crauford held out, hoping that General
Whitelock might make some effort to relieve him, while not a man of his
could show himself at any opening without drawing upon himself at once
the fire of 100 muskets, and the base of the tower crumbled away under
the steady fire of the cannon. Finding his situation hopeless, he then
hung out a flag of truce, the fire ceased, and he surrendered, yielding
himself, his officers, and 600 men as prisoners of war, and leaving 100
more, who were too severely wounded to be moved, lying on the floor of
the church under the great dome.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was four o'clock in the afternoon, a wild shout of joy rose up all
over the city, Buenos Aires was once more in the possession of her own
people. Stern men, who seemed to have no softness in them, wept like
children; friends and brothers rushed into each others' arms, embracing
each other in the exuberance of their delight. For half an hour the city
gave itself up to the delirium of triumph.

Then while daylight yet lasted those who had been foremost in the strife
took the lead in the work of mercy. Bands of the Patricios scoured the
streets all over the city, collecting the wounded British soldiers who
had so lately been their deadly foes. Where the carnage had been the
greatest, where the struggle had been the fiercest, every house became a
hospital, and every household ministered to the wants of suffering men.
And in many a household there was mourning and loud lamentation over
those who were of that household no longer; in many a house fathers,
brothers, or well-loved friends lay moaning on beds of pain; yet every
house was open to the wounded foemen who had brought that sorrow upon
them, and upon whom it had so fearfully recoiled. Gentle hands raised
them from the earth, bound up their shattered limbs, and held cups of
water to lips pale with agony.

Then night once more covered the city with a veil of darkness, the roar
of the cannon, the rattle of the musketry, which had been incessant all
day, was no longer heard.

The great struggle of the 5th July was now a matter of the past, was
already an epoch in the history of a young nation, who recked not as yet
that she was a nation. Whose sons had fought under a flag that was not
theirs, and who laid the hard-won laurels of victory at the feet of an
older nation, looking up to her in loving reverence as to a mother.

So the night passed over, and on the morrow it was another day.



CHAPTER XIII

THE CAPITULATION OF THE 6TH JULY


At sundown on the evening of the 5th July, General Liniers presided at a
council of the Cabildo; the utmost enthusiasm prevailed. The number and
quality of the prisoners they had made, the heavy loss they had
inflicted upon the invading army, filled each man with the confidence of
certain victory. In this enthusiasm and confidence General Liniers fully
shared, and he proposed that terms of arrangement should be offered to
the English General for the prevention of further bloodshed. He proposed
that on condition of the immediate evacuation of the province all the
prisoners should be given up, and that the English should be permitted
to re-embark without molestation.

"No, no!" said Don Martin Alzaga eagerly. "By that we should lose the
entire fruits of the victory we have won. Let us insist that they also
evacuate the Banda Oriental."

"It is impossible that General Whitelock should listen to such a
proposition," said the Reconquistador. "As yet not more than half his
force has been engaged. To make such a proposition would be to prevent
all chance of an arrangement."

"Let it," answered Don Martin Alzaga. "As yet he has not even seen our
teeth. Our men were cautious to-day, we did not even know our strength;
to-morrow every man will be a hero, we will attack him in his own
positions, and he shall not get away at all."

"If we are rash we shall lose the advantage we have gained," said Don
Gregorio Lopez.

"Try it, at any rate," said Don Martin, "he can but refuse."

The majority of the council supported Don Martin Alzaga, a letter was
drawn up as he had proposed, and despatched at daylight to the Retiro,
where it was received by Sir Samuel Auchmuty, who at once forwarded it
to the Plaza Miserere, where General Whitelock had passed the night in
almost complete ignorance of the events of the day, having had but one
communication with Sir Samuel Auchmuty on the afternoon of the 5th, and
none whatever with the leaders of the other two columns.

The following is the official translation of this despatch:--

   "General Liniers to General Whitelock.

   "Sir,
       "The same sentiments of humanity which induced your
    Excellency to propose to me to capitulate, lead me, now that I
    am fully acquainted with your force, that I have taken eight
    officers and upwards of 1000 men and killed more than double
    that number, without your having reached the centre of my
    position, the same sentiments, I say, lead me, in order to avoid
    a further effusion of blood and to give your Excellency a fresh
    proof of Spanish generosity, to offer to your Excellency, that
    if you choose to re-embark with the remainder of your army, to
    evacuate Monte Video and the whole of the river Plata, leaving
    me hostages for the execution of the treaty, I will not only
    return all the prisoners which I have now made, but also all
    those which were taken from General Beresford. At the same time
    I think it necessary to state, that if your Excellency does not
    admit this offer, I cannot answer for the safety of the
    prisoners, as my troops are so infinitely exasperated against
    them, and the more, as three of my aides-de-camp have been
    wounded bearing flags of truce; and for this reason I send your
    Excellency this letter by an English officer, and shall wait
    your answer for one hour.

    "I have the honour to be, &c.,
    "Santiago Liniers.

    "Buenos Aires, 5th July, 1807
    at 5 o'clock in the evening."

At daylight on the morning of the 6th, a strong column of British troops
advanced from the Retiro upon the centre, but not venturing again to
attempt the passage of those long, straight streets, descended to the
river side and advanced by the beach under cover of the fire of four
gunboats, which came close in shore for the purpose of supporting them.
Two squares from the fort they were hotly assailed by the regular troops
and the militia, but after an hour's firing the column retreated
unpursued to its former position. The gunboats continued their fire for
several hours, throwing both round shot and shell into the vicinity of
the fort and the Plaza Mayor, one shell bursting in the apartments of
General Liniers in the fort.

At about eleven o'clock General Whitelock, who was still at the
Miserere, received the above despatch from General Liniers, and returned
an answer by an aide-de-camp, after which he himself proceeded with an
escort to the Retiro, there to await the reply.

The following is a copy of this despatch:--

    "General Whitelock to General Liniers.
    "Headquarters,
    "Place de Tauros, 6th July, 1807.

    "Sir,


    "I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter. You do
    me no more than justice in believing that whatever advances the
    cause of humanity would be grateful to me; and therefore as,
    from the extent of the action of yesterday, the wounded on both
    sides are dispersed over a considerable space of ground, I would
    propose that there should be a truce for four-and-twenty hours,
    that each might collect those dispersed on the lines of approach
    of the different columns. The ground on which the armies now
    stand to be the line of demarcation, and each to bring the
    wounded of the other to deliver them to the respective outposts.

    "As to the idea of surrendering the advantages which this army
    has gained, it is quite inadmissible, having also taken many
    prisoners, captured a quantity of artillery, with all its
    stores, and gained both its flanks. I leave to your candour the
    comparison of the relative situation of the two armies.

    "I have to lament the circumstance A. D. C. having been wounded;
    I cannot account for it otherwise than by attributing it to
    those mistakes which often occur at the commencement of
    hostilities. I shall take care that nothing of the kind shall
    happen for the future; but I have to remark that my A. D. C. was
    fired at the whole way of his approach to your lines on the 4th
    inst., when I sent him with a flag of truce.

    "J. Whitelock."

To this proposition for a suspension of hostilities General Liniers
returned a decisive negative, giving the British General only a quarter
of an hour for deliberation and reiterating his previous demand for the
surrender of all the acquisitions of the English in the Rio de La Plata.
The quarter of an hour passed, no answer was returned, whereupon General
Liniers, with a strong force of the Patricios, supported by a body of
regular troops, sallied forth from his entrenchments and advanced upon
the Residencia by the Calle Defensa. This position was still held by
Major Nicholls with 400 men of the 45th regiment, who charged his
assailants with the bayonet, drove them back with heavy loss, and
captured two howitzers, with their limbers and ammunition. Later on
another attempt was made upon this position, but the attacking column
was received with discharges of grape from the captured guns and forced
to retreat.

About two o'clock General Whitelock, who was then at the Retiro, sent
another officer to General Liniers with a flag of truce, accepting the
terms offered by him in his despatch of the previous evening, upon which
the firing at once ceased.

Soon after sundown Major-general Levison Gower, with a strong escort of
Spanish troops, proceeded through the city to the fort for the purpose
of drawing up with General Liniers a formal deed of capitulation, which
should be signed on the day following. As he passed through the streets
the excited populace thronged round him with fierce shouts of defiance,
at times firing into the air, but by the exertions of the Spanish
officers who were with him he reached the fort in safety, and was led to
the room in which General Liniers was at that moment at dinner, having
several of the English officers, his prisoners, with him as his guests.
The disorderly crowd, armed with swords and pistols rushed in over the
drawbridge in front of the escort, and forced their way into the
dining-room, shouting--

"Señor Pack! Señor Pack! come out, we have something to arrange with
you."

It had been represented to the people by the Spanish authorities that
General Beresford and the officers who had escaped with him from Lujan,
in March, had broken their parole. This together with his success at
Perdriel and Colonia, and the fact of his having been the only English
officer who had attacked the entrenchments on the 5th, greatly irritated
the populace against Colonel Pack, and they would certainly have wreaked
bloody vengeance upon him had they got him into their power.

General Liniers sprang from his chair as the rioters burst into the
room, and seizing the foremost by the throat forced them back, going out
with them and doing all in his power to pacify them, in which he
partially succeeded, but apprehensive of a further attempt, he, two
hours later, sent Colonel Pack to the Retiro under a strong escort of
Spanish troops.

Two priests, who were dining with General Liniers that evening, also
interposed between Colonel Pack and the rioters, and declared that they
would lose their own lives rather than permit any harm to befall him.

The following day the treaty of capitulation was signed by Santiago
Liniers, Cæsar Balviani, and Bernardo Velasco on the part of the
Spaniards; and by General Whitelock and Admiral Murray on behalf of the
British, the latter agreeing to evacuate Monte Video within two months.

On the same day the British released all their prisoners, and about 1700
men, many of whom were wounded, were released by the garrison of the
city; but the British General was forced to leave about 200 men who were
too severely wounded to be moved, in the care of the Spaniards, and it
was impossible for General Liniers at that time to deliver up the
prisoners captured with General Beresford, they being dispersed at great
distances throughout the provinces.

Many of the dead were buried in the places where they fell, in
particular those of the left wing of the 88th regiment, which had
penetrated the city by the Calle Cuyo. This street acted at that time as
a drain to all that part of the city, the roadway near to the beach had
been washed away by heavy rains till it formed a deep ditch. After the
fighting was over, this ditch was used as a grave, and a new roadway
formed over the bodies of the slain. During the process of repaving the
city, in the year 1860, the excavations in this street brought to light
a quantity of human bones, mixed up with brass buttons and regimental
badges. Of these the then British Consul-general, Frank Parish, Esq.,
took charge, and provided them with more fitting sepulture in the
British cemetery.

In a few days the survivors of this expedition re-embarked from the
beach below the Retiro. The British flag was driven in disgrace from the
whole Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires.



EPILOGUE TO BOOKS I. AND II.

THE MONUMENTS AND THE REWARDS OF VICTORY


The Plaza Mayor, in which the fierce horsemen of Don Juan Martin
Puyrredon trampled underfoot the choicest troops of General Beresford,
bears to this day the name of the "Plaza Victoria," in commemoration of
the victory of the 12th August, 1806.

Don Juan Martin led his horsemen to victory by the street now known as
the "Calle Victoria," which is thus to this day a monument to the
prowess of the wild horsemen of the Pampas.

The Calle Reconquista, the street by which General Liniers led his
Spanish troops on that same 12th August, is to this day a monument of
that feat of arms by which he himself gained the title of the
"Reconquistador."

The Calle Defensa, in which stand the church of San Francisco, the
church of Santo Domingo, and the Residencia, is by its name a monument
to the heroic defence of their city by the militia and citizens of
Buenos Aires on the 5th and 6th July, 1807.

The vacant space which early in this century lay in front of the house
of Don Isidro Lorea is now a public Plaza, planted with trees, laid out
with walks, one of the breathing-places of the great straggling city. It
is known as the "Plaza Lorea," and is a monument to the heroic courage
and untimely fate of Don Isidro Lorea and his wife Dalmacia.

Twenty cannon-shot imbedded in the brickwork of the eastern tower of the
church of Santo Domingo tell to this day of the desperate lengths to
which the citizens of Buenos Aires were ready to go rather than yield
one foot of ground to a foreign invader. When the tower needs
white-washing these cannon-shot are carefully painted black; they speak
to all who look upon them of the days when as yet the Argentine Republic
was a dream, when an infant people yet in tutelage dared to defy the
power of a mighty nation.

Within the church of Santo Domingo, under the dome, hang six colours,
the flags of English regiments which laid down their arms, defeated on
the 12th August, 1806, and on the 5th July, 1807. One is the flag of the
71st Highlanders, seized by Don Juan Martin Puyrredon with his own hand.

Nearly 1000 armed slaves had taken part in the defence of the city on
the 5th and 6th July. To some of them their own masters gave freedom as
their reward. The Patricios raised a subscription amongst themselves,
and purchased the freedom of seventy slaves, drawn by lot from all who
had been under fire.

When the Mendicant Asylum was opened in the year 1860, the first
admitted into the institution was a worn-out old man, who was son to the
twice victorious General Liniers.

The native Argentines found their reward in the knowledge of their own
strength, and in the organization of their militia, which they preserved
after all danger from Great Britain had vanished, in spite of the
opposition of their Spanish rulers. The regiments of the Patricios and
the Arribeños were afterwards the nucleus upon which were formed those
conquering armies which eventually annihilated the power of Spain in
South America.



APPENDIX

THE COURT-MARTIAL


The disgraceful defeat of the second expedition against Buenos Aires
roused a storm of indignation in Great Britain. General Whitelock was
arrested on his return to England, and tried by court-martial.

The Court sat at Chelsea Hospital, and the trial which commenced on the
28th January, 1808, was continued by adjournment to the 15th March.

The Court consisted of nineteen general officers, under the presidency
of General the Rt. Hon. Sir W. Meadows, K. B. One active member of this
court-martial was Lieutenant-general Sir John Moore, K. B., who as yet
recked nothing of the disastrous retreat through Galicia or of the
blood-stained ramparts of Coruña.

Nearly all the officers in command of regiments or subdivisions of
regiments on the 5th July, 1807, the general officers, and the officers
of the staff, besides others connected with the expedition, were
examined, after which General Whitelock was called upon for his defence.

The sentence of the Court was, that "Lieutenant-general Whitelock be
cashiered, and declared totally unfit and unworthy to serve his Majesty
in any military capacity whatever."

Concerning the equity and even lenience of this sentence there can be no
question, but in justice to an officer at once incapable and unfortunate
it is well to state the principal point in his defence.

In the General Orders issued to the army on the 4th July occurs the
following sentence:

"Each officer commanding a division of the left wing, which is from the
88th to 87th inclusively, to take care that he does not incline to his
right of the right wing, that is, Light Brigade and 45th regiment to the
left." (_Sic._)

General Whitelock in his defence alleged that Colonels Pack and Cadogan
disobeyed this order by their attack upon the church of San Francisco
and of the entrenchment, both of which lay to the left of their line of
advance, and also General Crauford by his occupation of the church of
Santo Domingo, which lay to the left of his line of advance. Had Colonel
Pack occupied the church of Santo Domingo, and General Crauford the
houses to the rear of that church, they might in the afternoon have
retreated upon the Residencia, and the entire column would have been
available on the day following.

The chief mistake of General Whitelock seems to have been that he made
no attempt to establish a cordial understanding between himself and his
officers, seldom consulting them, and listening to the advice of
irresponsible men of far less experience. In particular, Colonel Pack,
who had resided for three months in Buenos Aires, was never once
consulted by that General. The result was that the valour of the troops
was thrown away, they were sacrificed by the ignorance and incapacity of
their commander, and deep disgrace and humiliation was inflicted upon
the British flag.

The name of General Whitelock is to this day a bye-word of reproach in
the provinces of La Plata, but there are no grounds for attributing the
misfortune to treachery, as it is the common custom of the Spaniards to
do. It is an unfortunate characteristic of the Iberian race to attribute
all disasters rather to treachery than to ignorance and incapacity.



BOOK III

THE UNKNOWN FUTURE



PROLOGUE


When a child first learns his strength he adventures to walk, and
delights in the exercise of his new-found powers; yet in every
difficulty he seeks the supporting hand of his nurse, in every trouble
flies for refuge to his mother, he trusts in her and confides in her,
obeys all her commands implicitly, questioning nothing. The day comes
when neither nurse nor mother is by to aid him, he pauses, trembling at
the unwonted solitude, then his spirit stirs itself within him, and he
thinks. The day that the child first thinks for himself he has set his
foot on the second round in the ladder of life.

Two struggles with the English had taught the Argentine people one great
lesson--that in times of difficulty and danger they need look for no
help from Spain.

Then the all-conquering genius of revolution set his heel upon Spain.
Spain, long tottering, fell, and became a mere appanage to the empire of
Napoleon. Spain had kept her children in bondage, now she was in
tutelage herself.

Buenos Aires looked around her and she was alone. Her stay and her
support was gone from her, but she knew no fear, for her spirit was
strong within her. The danger with which she was menaced was a danger no
longer--the enemy whom she had fought for Spain was now her friend.

The third expedition, with which Great Britain was preparing to avenge
the two defeats she had suffered in Buenos Aires, never reached the
shores of La Plata. Troops mustered at Cork, but ere they embarked their
destination was changed. In Portugal, under the command of Sir Arthur
Wellesley, they won the two victories of Roliça and Vimeira, the first
in that long list of victories which is called by English historians the
Peninsular War.



CHAPTER I

AT THE QUINTA DE DON ALFONSA


It was near the end of August. In a small, barely-furnished room at the
quinta where General Whitelock had held his council of war on the
afternoon of the 4th July, Marcelino Ponce de Leon lay on a low bedstead
reading a newspaper entitled "La Estrella del Sur." It was about the
size of a fly-sheet of the present day, very badly printed on very bad
paper, and it bore the date "Monte Video, April, 1807." The Comandante
de los Morenos de Ponce looked very pale; his left arm was bandaged, and
lay in a sling formed by a silk handkerchief, which passed round his
neck and hung down in front of him. He was propped up with pillows, and
held the paper in his right hand; even turning it and holding it in a
position to read was a labour to him.

There came a footstep in the patio outside, a hand was laid upon the
latch of the door, Marcelino hurriedly rolled up the paper and pushed it
under the pillow behind him. The door was softly opened, and Don Carlos
Evaña walked in.

"It is you, Carlos," said Marcelino; "I thought it was my host, for he
has not been to see me to-day. Come and sit down and talk."

"With pleasure, I have come to spend the morning with you. Don Alfonso
has gone into the city to meet his daughter, who has been living for the
last four years with Don Fausto Velasquez and his family at their
estancia."

"His daughter! I did not know he had one."

"Nor I either till yesterday. It seems that while he was in prison Don
Fausto Velasquez took pity on his daughter, and she has lived more with
his family than with her father ever since."

"But how goes my father?"

"Yesterday he was hobbling about with a crutch--the wound was nothing
more than a simple fracture. He says the only thing he has to grumble
about is your being here, and he is very anxious for you to grow strong
enough to be moved."

"There again, and none of them will come to see me while I am here, not
even my mother!"

"Poor Doña Constancia! I can tell you it has cost her many tears, but
Don Roderigo's orders are positive. Luckily I followed General Whitelock
here, or I don't think they would ever have heard of you till you got
well enough to seek them yourself."

"And the English officer who brought me here, have you never been able
to find out who he was?"

"I have not the slightest clue to him, except that he was an officer of
Crauford's brigade."

"Well, one is forced at times to accept benefits for which one cannot
even give thanks; but God knows who he is, and will reward him."

"Pish!" answered Evaña; "did you not do the same for that English friend
of yours, Gordon?"

"The circumstances were quite different. I could not have done less for
him, and I have my reward in a valued friendship which will last our two
lives. But Gordon, how is it he has never been to see me?"

"He was sent outside after Whitelock's capitulation. The Cabildo only
gave up such of Beresford's prisoners as happened to be in the city at
the time of the assault; they have kept your friend Gordon for you a
little longer. He went to the Pajonales, so I should not wonder if he
has come back with Don Fausto."

"Poor fellow! But I should have been very sorry if he had gone without
my seeing him again."

"I don't know whether I am doing right in letting you talk so much, but
you do look very much better to-day, and your voice is quite clear
again. That will be good news for Doña Constancia and Dolores; I shall
go and see them this afternoon."

"Who is this Don Alfonso? He has been to me the best physician and the
most grumpy host that ever a man had."

"If I tell you his surname you will know at once who he is, then we need
talk no more of him, and I will read to you. His name is Miranda."

"Miranda!" said Marcelino meditatively; "Miranda! Is he any relation to
the General, Don Francisco?"

"His brother."

"And what has he done that my father should think him his enemy?"

"Have you never heard? It happened before I went to Europe!"

"What happened?"

"I see you have never heard of him before. Strange! Then I suppose I
must tell you. You have heard of the expeditions of Miranda for the
liberation of Venezuela?"

"Oh yes; you and I have often spoken of them."

"Unluckily for Don Alfonso, who was in England at the time of his second
attempt in 1798, he just then determined to return to Venezuela. He had
lost his wife, who was an Englishwoman. I suppose that made him leave
England. He had never mixed in politics, and knew nothing of his
brother's schemes, but when he landed at Carracas he was thrown into
prison, and only liberated on condition of leaving the country at once.
He came here. Your father had him arrested again, and kept him in prison
for more than a year. Your grandfather and Don Fausto Velasquez
interfered to get him out, and the affair nearly ended in a complete
rupture between your father and the rest of the family. It is generally
believed that Don Alfonso revenged himself on Don Roderigo by sending
secret information against him to Spain. Whether that is true I do not
know, but soon after that your father fell into disgrace, and the two
have been deadly enemies ever since. I wonder you never heard of this."

"I remember that before I went to Cordova there was a great quarrel
between my father and my grandfather. I have seen my mother cry about it
for an hour together, but I never knew what it was about. It must have
been this affair, I suppose," answered Marcelino musingly. "How strange
of my father! He is very liberal in his ideas, but he cannot see that we
in our country have just the same rights that Spaniards have in Spain."

Then Marcelino lay back wearily on his pillows, and a shade of sadness
passed over his face.

"I have let you talk too much," said Evaña; "and I should not have told
you of this yet but that I thought you had heard before of Don Alfonso
Miranda. Let me read to you; I have brought you another paper."

So saying, Evaña drew another paper from the breast-pocket of his coat,
and began reading it aloud to his sick friend, every now and then
pausing to make comments and to add observations of his own. Marcelino
listened dreamily with his eyes half closed, and a smile playing over
his lips for some time, till his eyes closed altogether, and Evaña
looking at him saw that he was asleep.

For two hours Evaña sat in silence at the bedside of his friend,
listening to his low, regular breathing, looking at him now and then and
marking the ravages which sickness and pain had made upon his young
face. As he looked an expression of pain came into his own face, he
thought of the numbers of his own countrymen in the bloom of their
youth, or in the pride of their manhood, who would be struck down even
as his own friend here before the dream of his life could be
accomplished, before the dominion of Spain could be cast off, and a
republic of Argentines take its place among the nations of the world. Of
his own life he recked nothing, he had calculated the probable cost of a
struggle with Spain, the price of liberty would be counted down in the
lives of men, and that his own life would be one of them he thought
likely enough, for did not he seek his own place in the very van of the
great movement. But that the friends of his youth, who would follow him
in the blind generosity of their hearts, fighting for a liberty of which
they could not know the value, should fall, that thought was painful to
him, and fall they would, that he knew right well.

So passed two hours; again the door opened, and a girl entered, bearing
a tray with a basin of broth and some thin slices of bread on a plate.

"Here is your broth," said Evaña, as Marcelino awoke at the sound of the
opening door; "let us see if you will leave less of it than you did
yesterday."

"I don't intend to leave any of it to-day," replied Marcelino. "But
first, Carlos, tell me, that daughter of Don Alfonso's you spoke of,
what is she like?"

"I have never seen her," replied Evaña.

"I was at the Pajonales last summer, I must have met her there."

"She has been there for the last four years."

"There was a little girl there they called the Inglesita, I never
thought of asking her name; she could not be more than fourteen or
fifteen years old. She had a snub nose, and the most beautiful large
grey eyes I ever saw."

"That would be her; you appear to remember her very well," said Evaña
smiling; "but she must be more than fifteen, those English always look
younger than their real age. Her name is Magdalen."

"Magdalen! Malena, I think I heard them call her so."

"That's she, without doubt. So the best thing you can do is to get
strong enough to move into the sala, and then the owner of those grey
eyes will amuse you better than I can."

"You don't admire grey eyes, you admire black ones, like my mother's or
Eliza Puyrredon's; but I can tell you gray eyes are the most beautiful
of all, if a sympathetic heart shines through them."

"You have studied them?"

"I have seen one pair which I shall never forget."

"And I also," said Evaña to himself; but he added aloud, "never mind
about eyes just now, you can dream of them after you have taken your
broth."

When Evaña covering him carefully up, left the room, Marcelino lay back
on his pillows, thinking dreamily of those gray eyes that Evaña's talk
had brought back to his recollection. He had never spoken a dozen words
to the Inglesita, but she had listened attentively to what he had said
to others; he had looked at her, had seen his own ideas reflected in her
eyes, and those eyes had haunted him ever since.

Next morning at his usual hour Don Carlos Evaña was again at the Quinta
de Don Alfonso. Marcelino's eyes brightened as he took his seat beside
him after making enquiries about his progress.

"Never mind about me," he said, "I am twice as strong to-day; but tell
me your news, I am sure it is good from your face."

"Good and bad, both; but I don't know whether we need think the bad
bad."

"Then the bad first. What is it?"

"Your grandfather has resigned his seat in the Cabildo."

"But this is bad, he was the only Creole those Spaniards thought worthy
to sit with them."

"No, it is good. The best thing for us is that there be a broad line
drawn between Spaniards and the sons of the soil. The broader this line
is the easier will it be for us to tell friends from enemies when the
day comes."

"And he resigned of his own will?"

"Yes, but not till he saw that to remain was to expose himself to
expulsion."

"To expulsion! after all that he did for the defence of the city! If it
had not been for him Liniers would never have been able to rescue the
city from Beresford. And after that, who has done as much as he for the
equipment of the militia?"

"No one," answered Evaña smiling. "Why you are strong enough to be quite
indignant."

"Indignant! I should think I am."

"They only tolerated him so long as he was useful to them," replied
Evaña. "I think he has done very well to resign."

"What became of Asneiros when my men were disbanded?"

"Liniers has given him a captain's commission, but I don't know if he
has joined any regiment yet."

"He is a smart soldier, but he is all a Spaniard. Do you know, if there
were many Spaniards among us like him we could never have the country to
ourselves, they would beat us if we came to fighting."

"There are many Spaniards as good as he," replied Evaña; "but not for
that have I any fear. The Spanish system keeps the good men down, that
is the weakness of Spain, and that is also the reason why we must free
ourselves from Spain. We have many good men amongst us, but nothing can
they do so long as Spain and the Spanish system rule over us."

"True. I shall see Asneiros some day, and shall keep my eye on him."

"Well, you have my bad news, now for the good ones. Your friend Gordon
has come back with Don Fausto, and is coming with me to see you this
afternoon."

"Viva! Yes, that is good."

"You can talk to him as much as you like about the grey-eyed Magdalen.
She talks English as well as I do, and Gordon and she are great
friends."

"And Gordon, poor fellow, will be a prisoner yet for no one knows how
long."

"He does not seem to fret about it. Very few prisoners find such kind
gaolers; I am sure I do not pity him."

"What made him go to Don Fausto's estancia?"

"He had to go somewhere, for if he had been seen by any English officer
he would have been claimed, so Don Fausto took him with him when he went
back."

"Then was Don Fausto in the city on the 5th July?"

"Did I never tell you? He came in with a party of peons all armed to the
teeth, as soon as he heard that the English had landed. He got into town
on the night of the 4th, and without resting a moment set to work to
turn his house into a fortification; a lot of the Patricios went to help
him, and there they stood all day waiting for some Englishmen to come
and be shot, and not one went anywhere near them."

"I should have thought that was exactly where the English would have
tried to go in. Don Juan Martin Puyrredon went by that street on the
12th August, with Don Isidro Lorea to help him."

"They did try, but poor Don Isidro stopped them."

"Don Isidro! what about him? Now your voice changed when you spoke of
him," said Marcelino, raising himself on his elbow and looking earnestly
at Evaña.

"It was a slip," said Evaña sadly. "I did not intend to have told
you yet, but you must know some day. He was killed, fighting like
a hero at the head of his men. Could you wish for a better death
yourself--fighting for his country in defence of his own home?"

"And Doña Dalmacia! what a blow for her! How does she bear it?"

"I have not seen her since. He completely beat the English and captured
a gun. Don't ask me any more about it; when you are well and strong
again we will go all round the city together, and I will tell you all I
know of the attack and the defence. But I have something else to tell
you now. Your Uncle Gregorio is missing."

"I thought you said he went to the quinta after the fight at the Pasa
Chico."

"He did, but the next day he went outside, and has never been back. We
expected to hear of him from Don Fausto, but no one knows where he has
gone."

"Oh, that is nothing! he is always disappearing like that, but he
always turns up again. The old game, I suppose, some pair of shining
black eyes."

"But it is strange now when all the comandantes are in the city, and he
is in command of a regiment."

"Ah, Carlos, you don't understand those things; politics are everything
to you, and if you see a pair of bright eyes you don't even notice what
colour they are. When my uncle Gregorio sees a pair which smile on him
he forgets everything. He always was that way, so they tell me."

"And then, after looking at himself in those eyes for a month or so, he
gets tired of them, and goes away, and never thinks of them any more,"
said Evaña. "Frankly, I cannot understand a man like that, yet I believe
there are such men."

"Of them there are many, but you are not one of them, Carlos, therefore
you cannot understand my uncle. If you ever love it will be for all your
life; you are a tyrant to every one else, but you would be a slave to a
woman you loved."

"Therefore I had better never love," replied Evaña; "man was not made to
be slave to any, but to be lord over the whole earth."

"But not lord over his own heart, Carlos, that is in no man's power.
Proud as you are, your time will come."

"Let me read you some more of the 'Estrella del Sur,'" said Evaña
hastily.

"I have it safe under my pillow, no one has seen it," replied Marcelino.
"Ah! Carlos, if the English had only made war upon the Spaniards with
these newspapers instead of with cannon-balls, then we could have
received them as friends."

"Be it then our work to teach the lesson they have failed to teach,"
replied Evaña.



CHAPTER II

THE EPISODE OF THE FAIR MAURICIA


A fortnight passed, Marcelino gained strength rapidly, Don Alfonso
pronounced him well enough to bear removal, and very readily acquiesced
in the desire of Don Roderigo that he should pass his convalescence
under another roof. A covered litter, carried by slaves and escorted by
Don Carlos Evaña and Lieutenant Gordon, made its appearance at the
quinta one fine morning in September. That night Marcelino slept under
his father's roof and his pillow was smoothed for him by his mother's
hand. The change did him good, a few days more and he was able to spend
the afternoons on a sofa in his mother's sala.

Little by little he learnt all the particulars of the struggle of the
5th and 6th July. The sad fate of Doña Dalmacia Navarro caused him deep
sorrow, but on the whole he was surprised to learn the small extent of
the loss suffered by his fellow-citizens, and his heart swelled with
pride as anecdote after anecdote of their bravery and of their tender
care for the victims of the fight, were poured into his willing ear.

One afternoon as his sister Dolores, aided by his two friends Don Carlos
Evaña and Lieutenant Gordon, were doing their best to amuse him, Don
Roderigo Ponce de Leon hurriedly entered the room and requested Don
Carlos Evaña to favour him with his company for a few minutes.

"What is there?" asked Marcelino, as the door closed. "My father looked
very grave."

"I came in just as he did," said Gordon. "There was a gaucho waiting for
him, who seemed very impatient to see him. They went into Don Roderigo's
private room together."

"Will it be some news of my uncle Gregorio, I know grandpapa is very
anxious about him?" said Dolores.

News about this uncle Gregorio it most certainly was, and news which
caused great disquietude to Don Roderigo. While raising his regiment in
the preceding summer, Don Gregorio Lopez the younger had made the
acquaintance of Don Francisco Viana, the father of Venceslao Viana, and
had passed much of his spare time at his estancia, receiving from him
much assistance in his recruiting operations. Don Francisco had several
daughters, all good-looking, in spite of the dark blood which they
inherited from their mother. One of them named Mauricia appeared to the
Colonel of cavalry the handsomest woman he had ever seen in his life. He
at once fell deeply in love with her, and felt that life without her to
share it with him would be a burden to him greater than he could bear.
This sensation was no novelty to the Señor Colonel Don Gregorio Lopez,
it was commonly reported of him in Buenos Aires that he experienced it
at least once every six months, nevertheless he pursued this new love
with all the ardour of a first affection and prospered in his suit.

The day of the repulse of General Whitelock he made his appearance at
the estancia of Don Francisco, all the men were absent, during the night
he disappeared, and Mauricia went with him. Great was the sorrow of the
family, who knew of his love and had encouraged it. Don Francisco had
seen in the marriage of his daughter with the Colonel a means of
reconciliation with his own family, a matter which he had much at heart.
Search was made in every direction for the runaway couple, but for long
there was no tidings of them, till Venceslao returned from Buenos Aires,
who, being better acquainted than the rest with the Colonel's habits,
before many days had traced them to the Guardia Ranchos.

So much Don Roderigo told to Don Carlos Evaña as they stood in an
ante-room together, then he added--

"This man insists upon the Colonel marrying his sister at once, but this
the Colonel refuses to do, and he has come in to ask my intervention in
the matter. Now as you know, Don Gregorio is very jealous of my meddling
in the affairs of his family, and I don't see that I should be justified
in doing so in this instance. But this Mauricia is the niece of my
mother-in-law, therefore the honour of the family is involved in this
matter. You have great influence with Don Gregorio, much more than I
have, and I think it would be best for you to break the matter to him.
It will be very painful to him, he has so carefully avoided all
connection with Don Francisco Viana, that I believe he would rather see
his eldest son dead than married to one of his daughters."

Evaña did not answer immediately, but stood with his eyes fixed on the
ground, pulling nervously at his moustache with one of his long, white
hands.

"You had better see the man yourself," continued Don Roderigo, opening a
side door. "You will find him in here, and while you speak to him I will
go and consult Constancia."

Evaña entered the room of which Roderigo had opened the door, and saw
before him a handsome dark-featured man, in the ordinary rough dress of
a paisano, seated on a chair twirling his hat round between his fingers.
The man looked up at him as he closed the door behind him, then dropping
his hat he started to his feet, exclaiming--

"My deliverer! my preserver! at last I have met you. Always when I have
been in this city since, I have looked for you. Thanks be to God that I
again see you."

"Who are you?" replied Evaña, looking at him in surprise. "I have never
that I know of done you any service, or even seen you before."

"Already have you forgotten the massacre at Perdriel, where you dragged
me out from among the dead, and saved me when they were coming to finish
us?"

"You are the man that I helped from under a dead horse! I think I
remember your face now."

"Yes, I am that man whose life you saved. I am Venceslao Viana."

"You never told me your name, but I am glad that I was able to assist
you. Alas! the most of those lying there were beyond all assistance."

"Two minutes more and I should have been like the rest, beyond all
assistance, for I knew nothing of their speech, and you spoke for me.
You saved my life."

"Hum!" answered Evaña, looking steadily at the eager eyes of the man
before him.

"Yes, Señor, I owe you my life," said Venceslao, somewhat abashed by the
cold, searching gaze of Evaña. "I owe you my life, and, as I told you
then, my services, everything that I have is at your disposal, send me
where you will and I will go, tell me anything I may do for you and I
will do it."

"Perhaps some day I may need your services," replied Evaña; "then I will
apply to you freely, and shall count upon you."

"God grant that it be soon," said Venceslao, as a flush of pleasure
brightened his face.

Evaña started, Venceslao had echoed his own thoughts in his ready words.
Again he looked searchingly into the bright eyes of the paisano, but he
could read nothing more there than the gratitude which prompted a simple
nature to acknowledge and repay as he best could a signal service, there
was no ulterior thought.

"Sit down," said Evaña, taking a chair to himself. "Some other day we
will talk of that. I have come to speak with you on a matter in which
perhaps I may be able to help you better than Don Roderigo. Tell me all
about this affair between your sister and Colonel Lopez."

Half an hour they sat talking together, during which time Evaña learnt
all about the family and connections of Don Francisco Viana, and much
about Colonel Lopez of which he had no idea, for though he had
necessarily seen much of the latter he had never been intimate with him.
Now he learnt that Don Gregorio Lopez the younger had very considerable
influence over all the estancieros in the southern parts of the
province, and was looked up to by all the stout yeomanry as their
natural chief.

"Then you all knew of the Colonel's love for your sister?" said Evaña.

"Yes, all of us, it was no secret. The Colonel was always at our house
when his duties permitted him; he came and went just as he pleased. We
are very simple people, and for our friends our door is always open. We
thought him our friend, and never dreamed of dishonour."

"But you thought he was going to marry her, had nothing ever been said
about it?"

"Said, no, but it was a thing understood. We are not rich as he is, but
we have land and cattle of our own, we are people of family, and are not
gauchos. My sister Mauricia is very beautiful, and it is not strange
that he should love her. Besides, there is already some relationship
between us, his father married as his second wife my father's sister."

"Yes, I know all about that, but your father has been for many years
estranged from the rest of his family."

"What matters that? we are still of the same family. That he should
bring dishonour upon his own relations is what we never thought the
Colonel capable of doing, we esteemed him very highly."

"Then you seek the intervention of his own family to prevent this
dishonour?"

"Just so; he will not see us, not even me, and before proceeding to
extremities we would wish to try every means."

"Before proceeding to extremities! what do you mean by that?"

"Pues! that you know well enough, it is sufficient that I mention it."

"You would force him to marry her? But how?"

"If he does not marry her there are no longer any terms between us,"
said Venceslao, rising excitedly from his seat. "We are a decent family
as is any other family; I am the eldest son of my father, upon me
devolves this duty to avenge the honour of my family, and I have sworn
upon the Holy Cross that my duty I will do, although ten die and I among
them."

"Be calm, man, and sit down, fresh misfortunes cannot cancel the one you
lament. Sit down and talk rationally, I wish to be your friend."

"Among gaucho-folk this sort of thing is little thought of," said
Venceslao, still standing and gesticulating with his hands, "but among
the people of family it is different. The family gives dignity and
privileges to a man, but it also imposes upon him duties. I am nothing
more than a simple paisano, but I am an honest man, and the honour of my
family is dearer to me than my own life, as dear to me as that of any of
the grandees of the city is to him. It appears that the Señor Coronel
thinks little of the honour of his father's family, to me it remains to
teach him that being people of family all are equal."

Evaña's eyes glistened; that all honest men were equal, and that rank
and wealth were but as tinsel adornments, was one of the leading
articles of his political creed. That many of his own standing agreed
with him, he knew, but he did not know that such ideas would find any
favour among the rough, unlettered denizens of the Pampa. In thought he
peered through the mists of the unknown future, and he saw a time when
the aid and friendship of such a man as Venceslao Viana might be of
great service to him; rising from his seat he went up to him and laid
his hand upon his shoulder.

"There is justice in all you say, my friend," said he, "and to me you
may speak safely, but it is not well to speak your thoughts aloud in
every ear. Be calm, there is no need for us yet to discuss this between
us. I wish to be your friend, and I wish also to be a friend to Colonel
Lopez, I desire that he and you may be friends together and not enemies.
Trust me, he shall marry your sister."

"Ah! Señor, if you can manage that you will lift a great weight from my
heart, and will do me a greater service than when you saved me from
the English. Before this I greatly liked the Colonel Lopez, as a chief
I never wish to find one whom I would follow with greater pleasure.
This has been a great tribulation to all of us. Oh! Señor, save us if
you can, the service you will do us is infinite." So saying, Venceslao
reseated himself on his chair and bowing his face on his hands burst
into tears, sobbing till his shoulders shook with the violence of his
grief.

Evaña took two or three turns up and down the room, then coming back to
Venceslao he again laid his hand on his shoulder.

"I am going to see Don Gregorio, the father of the Colonel, he is the
only one who has any power over his son, stay here with Don Roderigo
till I see you again"; so saying, Evaña turned from him and left the
room.

In another room he found Don Roderigo and Doña Constancia, the latter
held a handkerchief in her hand and had evidently been weeping.

"You have heard what he says?" asked Don Roderigo.

"He has told me everything," replied Evaña, "and I am going to see Don
Gregorio."

"I will go with you," said Don Roderigo.

"No, no," said Doña Constancia; "let Don Carlos go alone. It is right
that my father should know of this, but I do not wish that you should
have any dispute with him. Such an idea! If you mention it to him he
will never speak to you again."

"Constancia says that it is absolutely impossible to think of such a
thing as a marriage between them," said Don Roderigo.

"The idea is folly," said Doña Constancia. "That Gregorio should amuse
himself with a gauchita, to that we are accustomed, but Roderigo says
that they insist upon him marrying her!"

"I fear me, Señora," said Evaña, "that is the only course left open to
him. This Mauricia is no gauchita, she is a cousin of your own, Señora."

"Cousin! we recognise no such relationship," replied Doña Constancia
haughtily. "What are you going to tell my father, Don Carlos?"

"I am going to tell him the simple facts, he will decide for himself
whether he will interfere at all in the matter."

"But you will be careful not to mention to him that these Vianas insist
upon him marrying the girl?"

"I shall tell him that also, Señora, and shall do my best to prevail
upon him to consent to it."

"Don Carlos!" exclaimed Doña Constancia, clasping her hands and looking
at him in astonishment.

"I see nothing so extravagant in the idea, Señora. For years you have
all been wishing that Don Gregorio would marry, he is old enough to know
what sort of a wife will suit him best."

"Pues! do what you think best, but my father, I know, will never give
his consent, and we can never receive her."

"That may never be necessary," said Don Roderigo. "Don Gregorio will
live on his estancia, it is the life for which he is most fitted."

Evaña went and saw Don Gregorio, for more than two hours they talked
together.

"My son could seek a wife in the first families. Of those Vianas of
Chascomus I wish no one to speak to me, for me they are as though they
did not exist," said Don Gregorio, as he walked up and down the
dining-room in his anger.

But Evaña would speak of the Vianas, and of their existence Don Gregorio
was most painfully aware.

"I know what you mean, Carlos," said Don Gregorio; "though you will not
say it plainly to me. You mean that Don Francisco Viana is my equal,
that therefore his daughter is the equal of my son, and that he does not
degrade himself by marrying such a woman. I deny your premises, and
therefore the whole of your argument falls to the ground. By birth Don
Francisco is my equal, in everything else he is my inferior; he has
himself married a woman not only inferior to him in birth but in race
also. His daughter is not the equal of my son, and there is less
disgrace in her in their present connection than would come to my son by
their marriage."

"In their own way they are a most respectable family, from all I can
hear," replied Evaña; "and they feel keenly the disgrace which has come
upon them."

"Bah! what matters it, that family! Bring that man here to see me,
Carlos, I will speak to him myself."

It was nightfall before Don Carlos Evaña returned to the house of Don
Gregorio Lopez, accompanied by Venceslao Viana. They were shown into a
small room in the first patio and were soon joined by Don Gregorio. Don
Gregorio looked hard at the roughly dressed but handsome man who stood
before him; the dark blood he had inherited from his mother was plainly
seen in his skin and in his hair, but his features were of almost
classical beauty, and in his face there was a look of intelligence and
of fearless honesty of purpose which won upon the old gentleman in spite
of his prejudices. Venceslao on his part also carefully scrutinised the
appearance of Don Gregorio, and recognised him at once.

"It is the same," said he to himself, bethinking him of the letter he
had carried from Liniers to the Cabildo on the morning of the 3rd July.
"It is the same, I knew that in some way he was a relation of mine,
they all of them seem to be people of 'Categoria,' but not for that
shall I yield one inch. The higher the family, the deeper is the stain
of dishonour."

"Thanks for having taken the trouble to come and visit me, take a
seat," said Don Gregorio, without however offering to shake hands with
him. "My son has behaved very badly to your sister, and to all of you;
apparently you have shown him much kindness, and he has requited you
most infamously. I am glad you have come to see me, for I have great
influence over my son, and will use my utmost endeavour to induce him
to make you every possible reparation. I shall write to him, that on
pain of my severest displeasure he return your sister at once to her
father's house, that is the first thing he must do, then we will see
what further----"

"No, Señor, excuse me," interrupted Venceslao, "that is not the first
thing. The first thing he has to do is to make her his wife, after that,
if he cares for her no longer, the door of her father's house will be
open to her, not before."

"Do me the favour to listen to me. You must be aware that an
alliance----"

"Excuse me, Señor Don Gregorio. By the side of a great Señor as you are,
my father is but a poor man, but we are an honest family, and of good
name. Our honour is as dear to us as your own is to you, and we will not
permit a stain to be cast upon our good name by any one with impunity."

"You permit yourself to talk folly, my friend," said Don Gregorio,
striving to preserve his calmness. "I asked you here that we might speak
together in a friendly manner, and I can excuse much to you as you have
reason for indignation."

"Reason!" said Venceslao excitedly. "You do not know my father. He is a
venerable old man, older than you are I think. Your son has brought
shame and sorrow upon his head, and would you that I, his eldest son,
shall talk of reason! I have well loved your son, and have followed him
as my chief, and I wish to save him from the consequences of his own
act, or I had no need to have come here."

"What is that you say?" said Don Gregorio, frowning angrily.

"I think it is useless to speak any more," said Evaña, "I see that it
can have no good result; I will go to the Guardia Ranchos, and will see
Colonel Lopez myself."

Venceslao looked at him gratefully, and rose from his seat to go.

"Not yet," said Don Gregorio, stepping rapidly between him and the door.
"You have used words which require explanation, you do not leave this
room till I know of your intentions."

"If the honour of your family is nothing to you, to my father it is more
precious than life, and I, his son, know how to avenge any affront to
the family."

"My family!" said Don Gregorio.

"I am of your family, and so is my sister Mauricia; the stain is upon
you as well as upon us. I have come to appeal to you, as the head of the
family; it appears that the honour of the family is to you of small
value, I am a man of another stamp, and will know how to take my
measures. I will know what measures to take."

"Talk no more in that way, Venceslao," said Evaña; "you forget the
respect you owe to an old man."

"It is not alone in respect that he is wanting," said Don Gregorio; "he
has used words which require explanation, and I require an explicit
explanation before he leaves this room."

"I have spoken clearly enough, and seek to hide nothing," said
Venceslao.

"You have spoken of consequences to my son," said Don Gregorio.

"I have spoken; I know my duty, and shall do it."

"You apprehend danger?" said Evaña to Don Gregorio, taking him aside.
"Dismiss all fear of that. Those who talk much never do anything. Leave
it all to me; as I told you, I will go to-morrow to the Guardia Ranchos,
and will see Gregorio myself, we shall arrange the matter, but if you
interfere with this man it will occasion a scandal. You might write to
Gregorio, and I will carry the letter for you."

"No, I will not write, I am too angry to write now, but tell my son that
he must submit to any demand they may make upon him, and that I will not
see him again until he has completely severed all connection between
himself and this family."

"I will tell him what you say, word for word," said Evaña.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days after this, Don Carlos Evaña and Colonel Don Gregorio Lopez sat
talking together in the plainly-furnished sala of a house in the
frontier town of Ranchos, which is situated about ten leagues to the
north-east of the Guardia Chascomus. For more than an hour they had
talked together, and it was now near sundown. The Colonel sat leaning
back in an arm-chair, with his legs stretched out before him, his hat,
loosely set on, completely concealed his forehead, his eyes being just
visible under the wide flap. He was smoking, and was apparently more
intent upon watching the white rings of smoke, which he now and then
succeeded in puffing into the air, than upon the conversation of the
Senor Evaña. Everything in his demeanour and attitude denoted careless
ease, yet now and then there was a hurried, anxious glance in his eye,
which showed that the ease was more apparent than real. Don Carlos Evaña
was not at all at his ease, and made no attempt to appear so. He had
laid aside his cloak and hat, and walked up and down the room, nervously
rolling a cigar between his fingers.

"All that you say to me is in vain, Carlos," said Don Gregorio.
"Mauricia is a pearl among women, the more I know of her the more
precious she is to me."

"Then marry her, and make her yours for life," replied Evaña.

"And break for ever with my father! no!"

"I gave you your father's message, word for word, as he gave it to me;
he insists upon your severing all connection with that family, as I told
you."

"With the family with pleasure; I have done that most decisively already
by robbing a daughter from them," replied the colonel, with a hollow
laugh.

"And never did you do anything more contrary to your own interests."

"Why do you so insist upon my interests? Granted that I do lose my
influence with the paisanage, and that I cease to be comandante, what
matters that to you?"

"To me! what can it matter to me? But to you it matters more than you
think. The day is not far distant when the comandantes will have the
destinies of our country in their hands."

"Ah! always at that old idea of yours--America for the Americans. It
seems to me that we fought the English for Spain and not for America. I
raised a regiment and worked like a slave for months, because it was my
father's wish that I should do so. How have they rewarded my father?"

As Don Gregorio said this all his carelessness disappeared, he thrust
his hat back from his forehead, and stamping angrily with one foot on
the tiled floor he fiercely repeated his question, "How have they
rewarded my father?"

"They despise him, and kick him out from amongst them as though he were
a dog," replied Evaña.

"Pues! why then should I be comandante, to drill troops and run upon the
fire, if need be, for them?"

"You speak well. But answer me one question. How many Spaniards are
there in your regiment?"

"None. What do I want with Spaniards?"

"In the Partido of Chascomus, how many Spaniards are there who have
houses and land?"

"Perhaps fifty."

"Then if you have all the paisanos at your back you need fear nothing
from the Cabildo if you happened to quarrel with them?"

"In my own partido I am king, and fear no one."

"Answer me yet another question. Who was it that drove Beresford from
the Plaza Mayor, and so insured his destruction on the 12th August?"

"Juan Martin Puyrredon and my nephew."

"Another question. What troops drove back the English columns on the 5th
July?"

"The Patricios. I am not a school-boy that you should ask me questions
that every one knows."

"Well, I will ask you no more. But look you here; you are an American,
and are king, as you say, in your own partido. Don Juan Martin
Puyrredon, Don Martin Rodriguez, and all the other comandantes are just
as powerful in their districts as you are in yours; the strength of
Buenos Aires is in the native militia, who obey Don Cornelio Saavedra,
everywhere the strength is in the hands of Americans; where the strength
is, there the power will go. They have turned Don Gregorio out of the
Cabildo, the Spaniards are to have all the power to themselves. Think
you this can last? No, I tell you your father must go back to that
Cabildo. You must keep up your regiment, and when the day comes your
strength and influence will put him there."

"It may be," replied Don Gregorio, again leaning back lazily in his
chair; "but for the present we have other things to think of. You did
not come here to tell me that."

"No, but if you marry Mauricia you secure your power and influence. If
you do not, your help will never be of any service to your father."

"Tales, my friend, why should I marry her? She is better off here with
me now than she ever was before, or was ever likely to be."

"You think so, but I doubt it. She must love you very dearly, or she
would not have run away from her home with you. She would be proud to be
your wife, now she is to you as your horse or your dog, you can turn her
away when you are tired of her. She has sacrificed everything for you,
but she has no claim upon you."

"She has more than a claim, she has power over me. She knows that I can
refuse her nothing; this house, everything that I have is hers, she has
only to ask, and she knows it."

"Has she ever asked you for anything?"

"Never. She is with me because she loves me, and I love her."

"Has she ever asked to see her father, or any of her family?"

"Never. I never speak to her about them, and I never wish her to see
them again."

"Yet she was much attached to them all. Do you think she has forgotten
them?"

As Don Gregorio did not answer this question, Evaña continued:

"Men cut themselves off from their families and form homes for
themselves, but women never forget the homes of their childhood. It may
be a light thing to you to quarrel with your father, but it will be a
sore trial to Mauricia to lose hers, you have blasted her life for her."

"Folly, man! Here she has a house of her own, a better one than she ever
lived in before, servants to wait upon her, and nothing to do but amuse
herself."

"Nothing to do!" answered Evaña. "Idleness either in man or woman is
destructive of happiness. If she has nothing to do she will soon be
miserable; she has been accustomed always to have plenty of work on her
hands. If she were your wife she would feel that this house was hers,
and would soon find plenty of work in ruling it for you. As the head of
your household her work would be happiness to her; as your wife she
would feel herself a queen among her sisters."

"Since when have you learned to know so much of women, Carlos?" replied
Don Gregorio, laughing. "Formerly you cared for nothing but books."

Evaña turned impatiently away from him and did not answer, whereupon Don
Gregorio arose from his chair, saying:

"I will go and speak with Mauricia, for her happiness I am ready to make
any sacrifice."

Evaña relighted his cigar and threw himself full-length upon a sofa; the
cigar was long smoked out ere Don Gregorio returned.

For several days past Mauricia had been less cheerful than she was wont
to be. Don Gregorio had noticed this once or twice when he had come upon
her unawares; he had found her in tears, which she had striven to hide
from him. When he left Evaña he found her sitting alone with some
embroidery work before her, but her fingers were idle, traces of recent
tears were on her cheeks, yet as he sat down beside her she cast her sad
thoughts to the winds, and turned to greet him with a loving smile.

"Has your friend gone?" she asked.

"No, not yet. We have been talking of your father, and of the rest of
your family; he says----"

But as Don Gregorio spoke of her father, all the sad thoughts in which
she had been indulging rushed back to her mind, her colour faded from
her face, and she clasped her hands together, twining her fingers one
over the other, and bowing her head upon her bosom. About her father and
her family she could not speak, and, as Don Gregorio spoke to her of
them slightingly, her heart for the first time rose in rebellion against
him.

"They all loved me," said she sharply, in a tone which Don Gregorio had
never heard from her before, "and I have brought sorrow and shame upon
them; what matters it that they are poor?" As she said this she hid her
face in her hands, and the tears trickled through her fingers.

Don Gregorio did all that he could to soothe her, speaking loving words
to her, leaning over her and caressing her; but to all that he said she
spoke not one word in return, still hiding her face from him, still
struggling in her own way against the remorse which lay heavy on her
heart.

"They want me to marry thee," said he, drawing slightly away from her.

At this her hands dropped from her face, she turned and looked full upon
him, a wild gleam of joy and hope in her eyes.

"Will they forgive me?" she asked eagerly.

"To my wife they have nothing to forgive," replied Don Gregorio
haughtily. "If it is that thou lovest them better than me, leave me, go
to them, and ask them to forgive thee."

"No, no!" replied Mauricia, again dropping her face on to her hands,
"with thee, wherever thou art!"

"Thou seekest me not then to marry thee?"

"Do not be angry with me, only love me, and let me always be with thee."
So saying, Mauricia rose from her seat, and threw herself on her knees
beside him, laying both her hands upon one arm and leaning upon him.

Don Gregorio put his arm round her and bent over her, asking her again:

"Willest thou that we marry?"

But Mauricia still clung to him answering him nothing. Then he took her
in his arms and raised her to her feet, and said in a low whisper:

"Venceslao is near here, I go to send him to thy father to ask his
permission for thee to become my wife."

With a low cry of joy she threw her arms round his neck, kissing him
frantically.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a Sunday forenoon, three weeks after this, that Don Carlos Evaña
accompanied by Venceslao Viana, rode up to the estancia of Don Francisco
Viana. Many horses were tethered about, and dogs rushed out barking
fiercely at them, but no one came to bid them welcome.

"They are at service," said Venceslao, as he tied Evaña's horse for him
to the palenque; "would you like to see? It is a thing you will not see
on other estancias."

"With pleasure; I am curious to see it."

"It is well worth seeing," said Venceslao, smiling. "There is no Padre
Cura can say Mass like my father does."

He then led the way into a large room where the whole household was
collected, sitting or kneeling on the ground in rows, the women having
small carpets under them, and some of the men had coarse rugs or
sheepskins. Don Francisco himself, a venerable-looking old man with
white hair, which hung down to his shoulders, and a long white beard,
stood behind a small table at one end of the room, reading from a large
book which lay open on it before him--the service of the day. His eye
flashed a cordial greeting to Evaña as he entered, he paused for one
moment to bow a mute salutation, and then calmly resumed his reading.

Evaña took a seat on a chair which stood near the door, looking with
curiosity upon a scene such as he had never before witnessed, and many a
furtive glance was cast upon him by the worshippers, more especially
from the front row, where Mauricia knelt with her mother and her
sisters. Don Gregorio was not present, and Venceslao whispered to Evaña
that he had ridden into the Guardia that morning, and would be back
before sundown. As the service ended all knelt down, bowing their heads,
and Don Francisco, raising his hands, pronounced the benediction; then
as the others rose to their feet he made his way through them, and came
up to Evaña with tears in his eyes and both hands stretched out in
welcome.

"May God all-powerful and the most Holy Virgin have you ever in their
keeping, and return to you tenfold the benefits you have worked for us.
You have saved a whole family from misery, and have brought joy and
contentment back to our household."

A feeling of shame came over Evaña as he stammered out some incoherent
words in answer, then he said:

"I had no idea you had so large a family. Are all these yours?"

"All," replied the old man, looking proudly round him; "all are mine,
sons, daughters, and relatives of my wife. I have no stranger in my
household, we are but one family."

Then taking Evaña by the hand he introduced him to his wife and
daughters, who kissed his hands, and the mother, a stout, well-featured
woman, with dark complexion and coarse black hair, thanked him and
blessed him with many fervent words for having restored her daughter to
her when she wept over her as lost.

"Boys," said Don Francisco, turning to the male members of his family,
"you see this Señor, we owe to him a benefit which we can never repay;
through fire and through water our lives and all that we have are at his
service if the day ever comes that he need them."

Then he added in a low voice to Evaña:

"Don Gregorio has told me that the day may come when you may need a few
stout horsemen at your back. Look round, you will see stout men among my
household. All are yours when you call for them."

Evaña remained three days at the estancia of Don Francisco, days which
were held as fête days by the family and their neighbours, and passed in
all manner of rural sports and games. On the Tuesday there was a grand
ostrich hunt, in which over 200 horsemen took a part. Many were the
feats of horsemanship performed, and the choicest trophies were laid at
the feet of Don Carlos Evaña, though the hunt was nominally to celebrate
the wedding of the Señor Coronel Don Gregorio Lopez and the fair
Mauricia, daughter of Don Francisco Viana.



CHAPTER III

WATCH AND WAIT


When Don Carlos Evaña left the estancia of Don Francisco Viana, Colonel
Lopez accompanied him for about a league on his way. As he drew rein to
turn back, he stretched out his hand to Evaña, saying:

"May God keep you, my friend. If you had not come to see me I should
never have married her, and now I know it is the best thing I ever did
in my life. Do what you can for me to make my peace with my father. I
have written to him announcing my marriage, but have no answer from him.
If he will receive me I will go in and visit him at once, but of course
Mauricia will remain on the estancia."

In consequence of this Evaña went in by way of the Casa-teja, having an
idea that he might find Don Gregorio there. In this he was not
disappointed, but he was much disappointed at the reception he met with.
Don Gregorio told him plainly that he believed his son to be the victim
of a conspiracy, to which he, Evaña, had lent himself for some unknown
purposes of his own, so that the interview between them was highly
unpleasant to both of them, and Evaña gave a sigh of relief as he swung
himself once more into his saddle, and galloped off for the Quinta de
Ponce.

Here also he met with disappointment. He had always been a great
favourite with Doña Constancia, but now she received him very coldly.

"And you tell me that it is actually true, Carlos?" she said. "You stood
by and did nothing to prevent it, and gave your countenance to it by
being present? I always looked upon you as one of ourselves, Carlos."

"I have no dearer wish in life than that you should continue to do so,
Doña Constancia," replied Evaña. "In what I have done I have acted as I
considered that the interests of the Colonel himself demanded. Had I
considered my own interests I should have refused to have anything to do
in the affair either one way or another. Your father seems disposed to
excuse the Colonel and to lay the whole blame upon me. I am content that
he should do so if by so doing he learns to forgive his son. But if you
blame me I shall feel that I have incurred a very heavy and most
unmerited misfortune."

"You are always generous, Carlos," said Doña Constancia, "and I should
be sorry to blame you more than you deserve. Your intentions may have
been quite right, but you have at any rate shown great want of judgment,
and we did not expect that from you. That my brother should commit such
great folly is no matter of surprise to any of us, but to papa it has
been a very severe blow, and I cannot help feeling angry with you for
the share you have had in causing him this sorrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

If Evaña felt sore at the reception Doña Constancia gave him, he was
amply compensated by the cordial greeting of her daughter Dolores, who
on this subject held very different ideas from either her mother or
grandfather, and declared them boldly, fortified as her own opinion was
by the few words which Don Roderigo had said upon the subject.

She, Marcelino, and Lieutenant Gordon were seated under the front
verandah when Evaña joined them after his short conversation with Doña
Constancia.

"What a time you have been away, more than a month, but you have been
well employed, I think," said Dolores, smiling upon him. "Marcelino and
I have talked it all over together, and we agree that you have done our
uncle a great service, if you had anything to do with his marriage, as
they say you had."

"Every one has been wanting Uncle Gregorio to marry for years," said
Marcelino, "and now they are angry because he has chosen his wife
himself."

"Sit down and tell us all about it, Don Carlos," said Dolores.

Evaña sat down and remained talking with them for nearly an hour.

"I have quite a curiosity to see that Don Francisco," said Dolores; "he
must be like one of the old patriarchs."

"And lives like one too," said Evaña. "His wife and daughters make
clothes for the whole household, they spin and weave the wool of their
own sheep, and the whole of the outside work is done by the boys, I do
not think they have any slaves."

"And he says Mass every Sunday and Feast-day? I don't think that is
proper," said Dolores.

"Ask Padre Jacinto," said Marcelino; "he will tell you that it is very
wicked."

"He does not say Mass exactly, at least I think not," said Evaña. "He
reads passages of Scripture, and psalms, and prayers, and no Latin, so
every one can understand him."

"If Don Fausto will take me out with him next time he goes I will go and
see this Don Francisco," said Gordon; "I should like to hear the service
very much."

"We will go together some day when I am strong enough to ride so far,"
said Marcelino.

"How very ungrateful of you, Marcelino. What would grandpapa say?" said
Dolores. "Don Carlos! I have something to tell you. The wonderful French
carriage that you sent out to grandpapa has actually been used at last."

"There is some hope for us then yet," replied Evaña. "When carriages are
used then we shall begin to be civilised."

"But it was a very special occasion. Grandpapa took Marcelino to the
Miserere, and they spent a day with Don Alfonso."

"And how was the medico?" asked Evaña. "As grumpy as ever?"

"Oh, no; all smiles and hospitality," replied Marcelino. "He received me
as my grandfather's grandson, and you know he can refuse nothing to Don
Gregorio. Gordon went with us, we were both told that the house was
ours, and we mean to go again."

"Bravo!" exclaimed Evaña. "Don Alfonso is coming out in a new line. It
is something new for him to invite young men to his house."

"You do not call yourself old, do you?" asked Gordon.

"Don Alfonso treats me as if I was," replied Evaña.

"That is because you are so learned and wise," said Dolores, at which
speech Evaña looked uncomfortable and the others laughed.

"My paisanita was there too," said Gordon, "so we passed a very pleasant
day I can tell you."

"And Marcelino was bashful and dared not talk to her in English," said
Dolores.

"She talks Spanish as well as you do, so why should I?" said Marcelino.

"You must ride every day while you are here," said Evaña. "When you are
strong enough to ride there she will teach you English better than
Gordon can."

"As soon as I am strong enough I shall have something else to do," said
Marcelino; "I am going into harness. I suppose you don't know the last
news. Juan Carlos is going to Spain and I am to take his place at the
Consulado."

"Juan Carlos going to Spain!" said Evaña. "What is he going there for?"

"Papa arranged it all," said Dolores. "As a reward for Marcelino's
bravery last year the Council of the Indies sent out to him an
appointment 'for his son' to a very high post at Cadiz. Of course it was
intended for Marcelino, but he won't go, so papa accepted it for Juan
Carlos. We did all we could to persuade Marcelino, but it was no use, I
don't think even if you had been here you could have persuaded him, and
it is too late now."

"You seem very anxious to get rid of me, Lola," said Marcelino.

"You know I am not. But I can't make out what could make you refuse such
an honour as that."

"I may perhaps be of some use to my own country at the Consulado, and
Juan Carlos wishes to visit Europe."

"Use! you might be of more use in Spain. Papa says that in a few years
you might have been in the council yourself, then you would have been
one of the rulers of Spanish America, and you might have come here again
as Viceroy. Juan Carlos is not as clever as you are, he will never be
Viceroy."

"I do not think he will," said Marcelino. "But if I went, who is to
command my negroes when the English come again?"

"They are disbanded," said Dolores. "Besides, the English will not come
again. Have they not enough with two defeats? Do you think they will
come again, Mr Gordon?"

At this Gordon looked troubled and made no answer, but Evaña answered
for him.

"I have lived in England and know the English, I think they will," said
he. "You have heard me speak of their game 'the box'; I have seen a man
knocked down ten times, and yet get up again all bleeding as he was and
win after all. The English are all like that, to be beaten is only to
begin again."

"It is their merchants," said Marcelino, "who will force them to
continue the war with us. Their commerce is ruined by the continental
system of Napoleon, and they think to make a market here for their goods
with cannon-shot and bayonets."

At this Gordon rose from his chair and walked away under the trees, and
Dolores, looking after him as he went, said sadly:

"It is a barbarity, this war, why cannot we be friends?"

"Our masters the Spaniards will not let us," said Evaña.

"The Spaniards! always the Spaniards," said Dolores impatiently, then
she also rose from her chair and went inside the house.

"So you do not care to be Viceroy of Buenos Aires?" said Evaña, as he
and Marcelino were left alone.

"I think I have as good a chance of becoming Viceroy by remaining here
as by going to Spain," replied Marcelino.

"How so? Everything seems to be falling back into its old channel."

"With one great difference, that so long as there is any fear of another
English invasion the militia will remain embodied. You know Liniers, the
Spaniards distrust him, for he is a Frenchman, and is very popular with
us Creoles, he knows that his power depends altogether upon the
Patricios. Don Cornelio Saavedra is his particular friend, Liniers does
nothing without consulting him; the opinions of the people are the
opinions of Don Cornelio, and he has his way in spite of the secret
hostility of the Cabildo. I tell you, Carlos, we Porteños are already
the rulers of Buenos Aires."

"Then the English are still of some service to us," replied Evaña. "So
long as there is any danger of another visit from them, Liniers and Don
Cornelio will keep up the militia, and the will of the people will be
law, but take care how you say that in the streets, my friend. What says
Don Roderigo?"

"My father expects that the Count of Aranjuez will make Liniers Viceroy,
the danger of another English invasion will make them overlook all other
considerations, but that if Spain should make peace with England then he
will be recalled at once."

"And the militia will be disbanded, and everything be as before," said
Evaña.

"But in the meantime, months, perhaps years, will pass, during which we
have the power _de facto_ in our own hands. Time is working a pacific
revolution amongst us; at last Spain will see that the only way to
preserve her colonies will be to give us the right of self-government."

"Spain give us the right of self-government! Dreams, my friend! Since
when did you get that idea?"

"Since the day when I went with my grandfather to visit Don Alfonso."

"Ah! my friend, I compliment you upon your new master in politics," said
Evaña, laughing; "Don Alfonso has worked a miracle with you. Why don't
you go to Spain and come back Viceroy? Tell me, do you really think that
Spain will ever consent to leave the revenues of the country at our
disposal?"

"Of course we should still have to pay some of it to the King as our
sovereign."

"Yes, but King Charles is not Spain. What would become of the Consulado
of Cadiz if they lost the monopoly of our trade? What would become of
the lazy Spanish grandees, who draw their revenues from us and do
nothing in return?"

"We are the subjects of King Charles as much as they are; if the King
consents to be our sovereign just as he is the sovereign of Spain, and
lets us have a Cortes of our own, what can the Consulado of Cadiz or the
Spanish nobles do against us?"

"You know as well as I do that all Spaniards, from the King downwards,
look upon us as their slaves and consider all that we have as their
property. From Don Alfonso you can never have got such ideas as these."

"There is Gordon," said Marcelino, interrupting Evaña. "Don Alejandro!"
he added, calling to Lieutenant Gordon, "come here and help me."

Then as Gordon returned to the verandah and resumed his seat, he
continued:

"You remember the conversation we had with my grandfather and Don
Alfonso that day we were at the quinta?"

"Perfectly," replied Gordon.

"Now tell me again what made your colonies in North America revolt
against England?"

"Government wanted to tax them for imperial purposes," said Gordon.

"Then formerly none of their revenues went to England?"

"No, the colonial revenues were applied to colonial purposes, but of
course they had to pay the English officials."

"And they had their own laws and their own municipal institutions, and
would have been perfectly content to remain colonies until now if
England had only left them as they were?"

"I believe they would. I don't think that King George had anywhere more
loyal subjects than in those colonies until the English Parliament began
to tax them by its own authority."

"What the English wanted to force upon the Americans of the United
States is what Spain has always forced upon us. Americans had a right to
rebel against the English, we have a right to rebel against Spain?"

"I think so," replied Gordon.

"But the Americans would have been content enough with King George if
the English Parliament had left them alone, and we would be content
enough with King Charles if he would let us have our own laws, as your
colonies had before their War of Independence."

"Dismiss any such idea from your mind, Marcelino, it is folly, and you
know it," said Evaña, rising to his feet. "Why you should try to believe
that we can ever enjoy the rights of free-born men by any procedure
short of an absolute rupture with Spain I cannot imagine."

"But I can imagine it very easily," said Gordon.

Then Evaña, looking earnestly at Marcelino, saw a deep shade of anxious
sorrow come over his still worn features.

"Ah! my friend," he said, "I see that you have some reason of your own
for wishing that we could achieve our freedom and yet preserve our
connection with Spain, but again I tell you that it is impossible."

"Oh! Carlos, do you not see why it is that I am so anxious to preserve
our connection with Spain?" exclaimed Marcelino.

"I see only that freedom and Spanish rule are incompatible," replied
Evaña.

"And my father? Do you never think of him?"

"He is a Spaniard," replied Evaña; then as he spoke the sadness which
clouded Marcelino's face was reflected in his own.

"Yes, he is a Spaniard," said Marcelino, "and there are other Spaniards
like him though not many; men of liberal minds, who would gladly see
Spain herself free from the rule of bigoted priests and ignorant nobles,
who would gladly see the colonies of Spain ruled by their own laws, but
they as sternly as any other Spaniards assert the supremacy of the royal
house of Spain."

"I wish I could think any pacific revolution possible," said Evaña with
a sigh. "But we have power in our own hands now, let us make use of it.
Why are you going to the Consulado?"

"My father wishes me to devote myself to the civil service. At present I
think I shall be of use there. And you, will you do nothing?"

"I have already done something; I have bought an estancia."

"You! you will never be an estanciero!"

"I never intend to be. But on my estancia I have peons, and my peons
will be soldiers the day I want them. I have not lost the month I spent
outside with your uncle, I have persuaded him also to do something. That
mob of horsemen he had with him at the Ensenada were just of no use
whatever, he is going to select about 200 of the best of them and form
them into a regiment of dragoons. I have a letter from him to Liniers on
the subject; if Liniers will send him arms, and three or four sergeants
to drill the men for him, he will do the rest."

"Bravo! before the English come again we shall have some decent cavalry.
Don Martin Rodriguez is also raising a regiment of hussars at his own
expense among the peons and quinteros in the suburbs. With some drilled
cavalry among them to steady them, our partidarios may be of great
service in the open."

"Your gauchos, if properly drilled and officered, would make excellent
cavalry," said Gordon.

"It is chiefly the want of officers makes them of so little use," said
Evaña.

"But tell me, Carlos," said Marcelino, "where is your estancia?"

"It adjoins the land of Don Fausto Velasquez. I have put Venceslao Viana
in charge of the place. He will have command of a troop of forty men in
Don Gregorio's regiment."

"Then if there be another invasion you will join us, Carlos?"

"If the English come as they did before, to conquer us, then I will be a
dragoon, and will lead my men myself against them. Watch and wait, that
is all we can do at present; when time lifts the veil from before the
unknown future then we shall know against what enemy to turn our arms."



CHAPTER IV

THE RAISING OF THE VEIL


"Nearly a year, mamita, nearly a year," said Dolores to her mother, as
they sat together under the wide verandah at the Quinta de Ponce.

"And it seems a long time to you, Lola?" replied Doña Constancia.

"The time has passed quickly, but it seems ages ago. Last year there was
always something happening. Marcelino was busy training his negroes, and
in town every one was talking of the new regiments, and about what the
English were doing in Monte Video, and when they were coming. Now they
say the English are coming again, but no one knows when. Marcelino is
secretary at the Consulado, grandpapa hardly ever leaves his house, and
Uncle Gregorio is always at his estancia outside."

"But we are not left quite alone, Lola; we have one visitor who comes
very often."

"Yes, Don Carlos Evaña, when he is not at his new estancia; but now he
and Mr Gordon have been there more than a month, and they said they were
only going for a week. But when they are here they never talk politics
as they used to do; Don Carlos seems to think of nothing but of his
estancia. Papa is the only one who talks of politics now, and he talks
only of the Prince of La Paz, and Prince Ferdinand."

"I never thought that you cared about politics, Lola."

"But I like to hear them talk and argue, mamita; it sounds as if it was
something important when they are so eager about it, but now they are
never eager, any of them. Even Marcelino the other day, when Don Manuel
Belgrano was here, did not seem to care anything about what the French
did in Portugal, though papa got quite excited about it."

It was nearly a year, as Dolores said, nearly a year since the last
invasion of the English, for it was now the month of May in the year
1808, a balmy day for the season, with light, fleecy clouds flitting
over the blue vault of heaven now and then hiding the sun. A calm day in
which the air was never still, and yet no one could tell from which
quarter the wind came. When there was any wind, it came in little gusts,
sweeping along the smooth walks of the quinta, creating great tumult and
bustle among the dry leaves fallen from the overhanging branches of the
trees, so stirring them as though with the intent to garner them up,
then straightway casting them down again and leaving them, and going
sighing away among the tree-tops, mourning over the past glories of the
summer.

It was nearly a year since the last invasion of the English, it was
nearly time that they came again, if so be that they were coming; and
men said that they were coming, and, full of confidence at the failure
of two previous invasions, they thought lightly of it; yet not for that
did they neglect some needful preparation, and Buenos Aires was stronger
now and better able to meet invasion than she had ever been before. So
the summer had passed, and the autumn, and the only event of importance
that had occurred had been the formal nomination by the Court of
Aranjuez of General Don Santiago Liniers as Viceroy of Buenos Aires,
raising him at the same time to the rank of field-marshal, to the great
content of the Patricios, who looked to Liniers as their own special
leader, and to the general satisfaction of all Porteños.

"Yes, Lola, we have been very quiet all this summer and autumn, but
to-day is our last day here," said Doña Constancia.

"And won't Aunt Josefina be glad to see us in town again. Marcelino is
stronger now than ever he was, so next month of course he will give that
grand ball she has promised so long in his honour; but, ah me! it is so
long ago now that he has forgotten what it is to be a hero, and has a
pale face and white hands, you would never take him now to be the
Comandante de los Morenos de Ponce."

"Then if you think heroes ought to have sunburnt faces and brown hands,
you must look for another one. What say you to Don Carlos for a hero?"

"He would make a very good hero, mamita; but he has never done anything
yet but gallop about."

"And gallop in to Buenos Aires and back whenever a certain young lady
that I know, has fancied that she wanted anything that was to be found
in the city."

"He has been very kind to us all the summer; so strange of him, who
never seemed to care for anything except his books. But every one seems
to be quite changed now, except you, mamma?"

"Yes, Lola, as time goes on every one changes; I see a great change in
you."

"In me, mamma?"

"Yes, in you, Lola. Last year you used to be as merry as the day was
long; now I often see you sitting with your hands before you quite
quiet, thinking to yourself. What do you think about, Lola?"

"Thousands of things, mamma, at times, but generally about nothing,"
replied Dolores, as a bright flush spread over her cheeks.

"Do you ever think of any one in particular, Lola?"

Then as Dolores did not answer this question, but bowed her head while
the long dark lashes fell over her eyes like a veil, Doña Constancia
added another:

"Do you think much of Don Carlos Evaña, Lola? He has paid you great
attention for months. I never before knew him pay attention to any one."

"To me, mamma?" exclaimed Dolores, looking up with a merry smile.

"Yes, to you Lola."

"Oh! mamita, what ideas you do get into that pretty head of yours! Why
Don Carlos talks three times as much to you as he does to me. Next you
will tell me that he is in love with me! Fancy the wisest of men being
in love with a foolish, ignorant girl like me!" So saying, Dolores
jumped up from her seat with a ringing laugh.

"Lola!" said Doña Constancia, "come and sit down again, I want to talk
to you, and do not like you to laugh at what I say."

"No, no, no, mamita!" said Dolores, running off along one of the walks,
and still laughing. "I hear horses on the road, some one is coming."

Dolores went up the quinta fence and looked over, then presently she
came back and reseated herself very quietly beside her mother, saying:

"They come, mamita, they have gone in by the other gate."

"Who come, Lola?"

"Don Carlos and Mr Gordon."

A few minutes passed, mother and daughter sitting in silence together;
Dolores with her hands clasped, looking dreamily out upon the trees, her
mother watching her. Then the two whom Dolores had seen coming came,
walking slowly up by a winding path together. Dolores rose and went to
meet them, smiling merrily at Don Carlos Evaña with a new look of
curiosity in her eyes, and holding out her hand to him in cordial
welcome. Then after the usual greetings she turned from him, the smile
dying away from her face, and the fringes of her eyes hiding them, to
give a silent welcome to his companion. Her hand hesitated as she
stretched it out towards him, and the flush spreading over her features
added a fresh charm to her radiant beauty. Between these two a coldness
and constraint had sprung up during the last few months, putting an end
to the careless intimacy which had previously existed. Don Carlos had
watched them closely all these months, but had spoken no word to any one
of what he had seen; now, though he was speaking to Doña Constancia and
held her hand in his, still he watched them with a jealous scrutiny.

An hour later, as they sat together talking of the morrow's journey to
the city, and of the gay doings which might be looked for during the
coming winter, if so be that the English would only leave them in peace,
two more were added to the company, Marcelino and Evaristo, who had
galloped out from town together to superintend the removal of the
morrow.

"And what news from the Old World?" asked Gordon, when the messages had
all been duly delivered. "Have not my paisanos made up their minds not
to come yet? It seems to me that we have plenty to do in Europe without
coming here."

"Great news!" replied Marcelino, looking eagerly at Evaña. "King Charles
has abdicated, and Ferdinand VII. is now King of Spain and the Indies."

"Viva! Fernando Septimo! Viva!!" shouted Evaristo, throwing up his hat.

Don Carlos Evaña had been leaning back lazily in an arm-chair, but as
Evaristo shouted "Viva! Fernando Septimo," he started upright clutching
both the arms of his chair with his hands.

"He has the French with him, Prince Ferdinand?" said he, almost
breathless with excitement.

"He depends upon French assistance," said Marcelino, "and it is rumoured
that he is to marry a niece of the Emperor."

"Spain! Spain! how art thou fallen!" said Evaña, in a hollow voice. "Nor
Charles, nor Ferdinand, but the Lieutenant of the Emperor, he will be
King of Spain. When was it that the 'Moniteur' said those few words of
Portugal: 'The House of Braganza has ceased to reign?' As yet only a few
months have passed since then. Ere this year run out there will be
another line in the 'Moniteur' concerning Spain: 'The House of Bourbon
has ceased to reign.' All Europe----but come, Marcelino, tell me more of
this;" so saying Evaña sprang from his chair, and taking Marcelino by
the arm the two walked away under the trees, talking eagerly together in
low tones.

"Now Lola, what do you say?" said Doña Constancia. "Has Don Carlos
forgotten all about politics?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"I have something else to tell you, Carlos," said Marcelino, after they
had talked long together. "My grandfather has never smiled since the day
he heard of my uncle's marriage, he has fallen off greatly; I fear my
mother will be much shocked when she sees him. He never speaks of Don
Gregorio, but I know he is always thinking of him, and I believe he only
wants an excuse to forgive him. It is very hard on you, Carlos, for us
to ask you to meddle any more in this affair, after the reproaches you
have suffered already, but I think if you could prevail upon Don
Gregorio to come in and go straight to his father that he would receive
him with open arms."

"I will go at once," replied Evaña.

"To-morrow?"

"No, now, this evening."

"There is no need for that, it is nearly sundown, but to-morrow, I shall
think it so good of you to do it. And if great changes are at hand, as
you say, if you succeed in reconciling Don Gregorio with his father you
will greatly increase your own power, with either of them you will be
able to do what you like."

"Do not say that. I owe much to your grandfather, and to his son too, to
all of you in fact. I shall bring some happiness back to you, let me
think that I do it from gratitude only, from no ulterior motive. It is a
rough road to tread, this road that I have chosen, demanding sacrifices
at every turn; love, friendship, even honour itself must be trampled
underfoot by one who devotes himself to ambition. Let me think that I
can do a service to my best friends without any selfish motive."

"What can be more noble and less selfish than your ambition, Carlos? You
seek the freedom of your native country, and are ready to sacrifice
yourself for her sake."

"Myself, yes. Ah! if that were only all! But wait here, I will rejoin
you in a minute."

As they spoke they had walked back to the front of the house, and Doña
Constancia called to them:

"We are going to walk up the road to take one more look over the Pampa,
will you come with us?"

"In one minute, Señora," said Evaña, walking away towards the back of
the house.

Evaristo found himself something else to do, but the rest were soon
afterwards walking together up the road between the long lines of
poplars, Doña Constancia walking in front with Marcelino and Lieutenant
Gordon, while Don Carlos Evaña and Dolores came behind. Doña Constancia
walked quickly, so that these two were soon left quite by themselves. At
first they talked of the news brought out by Marcelino, Dolores trying
her best to incite Don Carlos to some vehement expression of his
political opinions, which were well known to her, but she tried in vain,
his enthusiasm seemed to have quite evaporated during his talk with
Marcelino, and his thoughts seemed to be far away, and bent on some
quite different subject.

"You are very happy, Dolores," said Evaña; "why should you care anything
for Spain or for Spanish affairs?"

"Spain is Papa's country," said Dolores; "I love everything that papa
cares for."

"Your father loves you very dearly, Dolores, you are very fortunate,
every one you have near you loves you."

"Yes, I am very fortunate, and very happy, with papa and mamma and my
brothers and so many aunts and uncles and cousins to care for, and who
love me, I am very happy, I ought to be," said Dolores, unconscious that
in so saying she reopened an old wound in the sensitive nature of her
companion, who had none of whom he could so speak, and who, having none,
all the more deeply felt the need of them.

"Yes, you ought to be happy, and you are, but no one in this world can
be always free from sorrow and trouble, not even the most happy; to all
there comes a time when they feel the want of something more than the
love of those who have always been dear to them; some trouble comes to
them, in which the support and aid of some firm friend may be of great
service to them. Would you value the friendship of one who, while you
are happy in the love of all about you, would never intrude a thought or
a wish of his own upon you, but, if you were in trouble and in need of
any help that he could give, would leave everything to serve you, and
seek a reward only in the pleasure it would give him to aid you in any
way?"

Dolores looked up at him in surprise as he paused for an answer; she had
never felt the need of such friendship, and hardly thought it possible
that she ever should do, but as she saw the eagerness in his eyes her
own fell before them, she stammered out some words in reply, she hardly
knew what, and Evaña went on:

"I know you do not love me, Dolores," he said; "you never will love me
as you love your father or your brothers. We have seen much of each
other during the past few months, but circumstances may very likely
interfere between us so that we see much less of each other in future.
It would be a great consolation to me to know that sometimes you will
yet think of me, and that if some who are dear to you speak evil of me,
you will not condemn me in your heart unheard, but will think of me as
a friend who would make any sacrifice to serve you. Will you not let me
be your friend, Dolores?"

"My friend, oh! yes. Why not? We have always been friends, and you are
Marcelino's best friend, he often says so."

"Yes, Marcelino and I have known each other long and intimately, and
nothing will come between us to interrupt our friendship, but with you
and me it is different; already I see a cloud rising between us which
may drive us far apart, our ways in life are separate, but will you not
promise me, Dolores, always to think of me as your friend, whatever
happens?"

"You are my friend, and mamma's and papa's and Marcelino's, and to
grandpapa you are as a son."

"I know all that, and I value their friendship and their kindness to me,
but some of them may learn to think me unworthy of their friendship, and
you may do so too; but will you not promise me, as I have asked you,
always to think of me as your friend, whatever happens?"

There was a plaintiveness in Evaña's voice as he asked this which
startled Dolores, looking up again at him she saw his face flushed, and
an eager, imploring look in his eyes such as she had never seen before.

"Promise me that, Dolores," he continued, taking her hand in his. "To
you it may seem unreasonable and unkind that I should fear any
interruption to our friendship, but I know the value of what I ask from
you, I know that if you promise me you will keep your promise, whatever
happens; I know that you will always look upon me as your friend."

Then Dolores knew that Evaña loved her; ignorant and foolish as she had
said she was beside him, yet she knew now that he loved her, and she
knew also that he never would tell her so in words, never seek her love
in return. A strange mixture of fear and regret filled her heart, for
she knew that she could never love him as he loved her, though he was
well worthy of her love, and in that she could not love him she pitied
him all the more. And she feared she knew not what; she had always
looked up to him as to one much wiser than herself, and now he spoke of
some unknown cause which might interrupt the friendship she had always
felt for him; her hand trembled in his firm grasp and she burst into
tears.

"Do not cry, Lola," said Evaña, using for the first time that dear,
familiar name by which she was known to those who were nearest and
dearest to her; "do not cry, if you are angry I will importune you no
more, I will suffer anything rather than see you sad."

"No, no, I am not angry," said Dolores, making a strong effort to keep
back her tears. "I will promise what you wish, I know that you are my
friend, and always will be."

"And will be, whatever happens, Lola."

"Yes, whatever happens I will never doubt you, and will think of you
only as my friend."

"And as your friend you will ever trust me, and will seek my aid without
hesitation or scruple if the case should ever arise in which I may be of
service to you or yours?"

"I will, just as Marcelino does."

"Just as you trust in Marcelino, that is what I mean. God bless you, I
shall go away very happy, as happy as I ever shall be."

"Go away! are you going? Where to?"

"I am going back again outside, I shall probably not return for a month
or two."

"But you are not going now?"

"Yes, now at once. I only wished to speak with you, and win that promise
from your own lips before I went. My horse is coming, I shall wait for
him there beyond the fence where Doña Constancia is standing."

"You were always wise, now wiser than ever before," said Dolores,
stepping closer to him and laying her disengaged hand upon his arm. But
Evaña shrank from her as though this mute caress were a pain to him, and
they walked on side by side until they emerged from between the rows of
poplars out upon the open plain, and rejoined the others who there
awaited them.

"Mamma," said Dolores, "you promised me that I should see the sunset,
but there will be no sunset for us to look on to-night."

Far away on the western horizon there lay a bank of dull grey clouds,
behind which the sun had already sunk. From behind these clouds sprang
diverging rays of orange and gold, stretching up over the grey sky
almost to the zenith, and tinging all objects upon which they shone with
the reflection of their brilliance.

"No, we shall not see the sunset," said Gordon. "That cloud is a veil
which hides him from us, but if it were not for that cloud we could not
look steadily upon the western sky, the sun would dazzle our eyes, and
we should see nothing. Is not this that we can look upon more beautiful
than any sunset?"

"It is the sunset all the same," said Dolores, "only that the sun is
wanting."

"The sun has been kind enough to hide himself behind that cloud for your
sake, Lola," said her brother, "so that without dazzling your eyes you
may see how he can paint the sky. In the most beautiful sunsets of
summer you never saw anything so beautiful as this."

"No, I never did," said Dolores.

Just then the servant of Don Carlos Evaña rode up to them leading a
saddled horse by the rein.

"Don Carlos! your horse?" said Doña Constancia.

"Yes, Señora," replied Evaña; "I have urgent business outside, and shall
leave as soon as you turn back to the quinta."

All except Dolores looked at him in surprise.

"Why not remain till to-morrow?" said Marcelino.

"I have a fancy to gallop through the night," said Evaña.

"The sooner you go the sooner you will be back," said Doña Constancia.

"Look, Don Carlos," said Dolores, "there is something for you to see
before you go. Was there ever anything more beautiful than this?"

The grey cloud had lifted itself, disclosing one bright spot of fire on
the far horizon, the last gleam of the departing day. As the cloud rose
it seemed to dissipate itself, mingling its grey tones with the golden
radiance of the setting sun, tempering the brilliance of those broad
bands of glory which stretched over the western sky, melting them as it
rose over them, absorbing them into itself, then with them vanishing
away.

Then the bright spot of fire sank down out of sight, and straightway the
place so lately filled by the grey cloud became one mass of brilliant
light. Two broad bands of rich vermilion, with one band of yellow gold
between them, parallel to the horizon, hung like a gorgeous canopy over
the resting-place of the sun.

"See, Don Carlos!" said Dolores; "the flag of Spain! See, when Nature
seeks to array herself in her most glorious dress how she chooses the
colours of the most glorious of the nations."

"The cloud has risen from the face of the setting sun," replied Evaña,
"and I see the emblem of Spain before me sinking after the sun into the
darkness of night. That sky is as a prophecy, giving to all of us an
insight into what will shortly come to pass."

"Buenas noches, Don Carlos, and a pleasant journey to you," said Doña
Constancia laughing. "Come with me, Mr. Gordon; we will go back and
leave these politicians to prophesy and discuss the future as long as
they like."

Removing his hat, Evaña shook hands gravely with her and with Gordon;
then, as they walked away, he turned again to Dolores.

"Yes," he said, "I see the flag of Spain painted on the sky in all its
gorgeous colours, where but a few minutes ago there hung a dark, grey
cloud. That cloud was as a veil hiding from us the unknown future; the
veil has risen, and we stand face to face with the future, now no longer
unknown to us. The news we have heard to-day is but news of the first
step in the rapid downward course of Spain. Other news shall follow,
which shall stir our hearts to their inmost depths, till we wake to the
full knowledge that we are a free people. The genius of revolution shall
set his foot upon Spain, shall crush our tyrant in the dust, and in
crushing him shall break our chains for us for ever."

"God grant it," said Marcelino; "then may we live in peace ourselves,
Spaniards and Americans alike citizens of a new nation."

Clinging to her brother's arm, Dolores looked in wonder on them both.
There was silence for a space as the three stood side by side gazing on
the western sky, where the gorgeous colours of the sunset faded
gradually away, merging themselves into the grey tints of the evening
twilight. So they stood for a space, each occupied with his own
thoughts, each interpreting to himself as his desires led him the
prophecy of the setting sun.

Evaña took the hand of Dolores in his own and raised it to his lips,
saying but one word:

"Remember."

"Always my friend, whatever happens," said Dolores.

Grasping Marcelino by the hand, Don Carlos Evaña stood for one moment as
though he would speak, his lips pressed tightly together, and the signs
of deep emotion on his face. Then laying his other hand upon the
shoulder of his friend, he bent forward and kissed him.

"My brother," he said; then turning from them he mounted his horse and
slowly rode away.

Brother and sister stood silently side by side looking after him till
the gray shades of the falling night closed around him, when Marcelino
bent over Dolores and kissed her, putting his arm round her, and led her
away back between the rows of the tall poplar trees to the quinta.

"Marcelino," said Dolores, as they drew near to the quinta gate, "are
men who are born to be great also always born to be unhappy?"

Marcelino divined much of what was passing in his sister's mind, but not
all, and to her question he gave no answer in words, but again bent over
her and kissed her, and from that day forth brother and sister felt that
there was another tie between them, but about the evening on which they
two had looked together upon the setting sun while Evaña had expounded
for them the prophecy of the clouds they never spoke.

When Dolores thought of it she thought but of one word--Remember; and
Marcelino from that night forth looked no longer upon Evaña as his
dearest friend, but as his brother.



CHAPTER V

TO OUR FRIENDS THE ENGLISH!


Nearly two months passed, it was the 4th July. In the large sala of the
house of Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, Lieutenant Gordon stood by himself
near a window, looking out dreamily into the street, a shade of sadness
and of deep anxiety on his face. Don Roderigo had just left him, after a
short conversation in which he had spoken many kind words to him, and
had announced to him that he was no longer a prisoner of war, that he
was released from his parole, and was free to go wheresoever it pleased
him.

Don Roderigo had expected that his news would have been received with an
outburst of joy, and so had taken it upon himself to make the
announcement to him, for he had a kindly feeling for the young officer
who had been so long his guest, and he felt a pleasure himself in
telling him what he thought would give him pleasure. He was thus
somewhat surprised when he saw the colour fade from his cheek, and at
receiving answer only in a few incoherent words in acknowledgment of his
great kindness.

His release was not unexpected by Lieutenant Gordon, the course which
affairs were taking in Spain had shown him that the war between Spain
and Great Britain was already virtually at an end, there could not be
much longer any pretext for detaining him as a prisoner in Buenos Aires,
and, once free, his duty called him far away. He himself had taken no
step to obtain his release, had said no word to any one of his
anticipation; now that the release came he thought only of its immediate
consequences, and these consequences were to him painful, the
announcement of freedom was to him as a sentence of banishment.

As he stood there by the window, sadly communing with his own thoughts,
footsteps again approached him; he turned and saw Marcelino coming
towards him with both hands stretched out, his face beaming with smiles
and words of congratulation on his lips, but the words died away as
Marcelino saw the sadness in the face of his friend. Then Gordon smiled
and said--

"You come to congratulate me and you find me sad, most prisoners rejoice
when they see their prison doors open for them, but is it strange that I
cannot rejoice? I have had you for my gaoler and my imprisonment has
been one long holiday."

"We have done our best to make it pleasant to you."

"That you have, all of you. I know that in the future I shall look back
upon my prison as the dearest spot upon earth."

"We shall be sorry to lose you and shall miss you much, but have not you
promised me that it shall only be for a time?"

"I have, and if God give me life I will keep my promise. When my own
country needs my sword no longer then I will come back and aid you in
the great object you have at heart."

"That object is surely well-nigh attained already. Spain fighting for
her own liberty will hardly deny liberty to us."

"I wish I could think so, but I fear you will not become a free people
without a sore struggle, and one which will entail much sorrow upon
yourself."

"I know of what you think, it has caused me many a sleepless night for
months past. You think of my father?"

"Yes, Don Roderigo is a man of very liberal opinions, but when the
struggle commences he will remember only that he is a Spaniard."

"But he and many other Spaniards would gladly yield to us a share in the
government of our own country, that is all we ask from Spain, we do not
wish for absolute independence."

"You do not, for your father's sake, but others who have no such tie to
Spain will be content with nothing short of complete independence. That
Spain shall ever yield to you rights which she denies to her own sons is
a dream, my friend. A year ago that was your opinion also."

"It was," said Marcelino sadly.

"You know that you have my sympathy in every trouble that may befall
you," continued Gordon. "I wish I could remain and share your troubles
with you, but in your chief trouble I cannot help you, I cannot even
advise you. You will have to choose between your duty to your country
and your duty to your father, look to God and your own conscience, they
alone can guide you in each difficulty as it arises."

"God help me then, for if you cannot advise me I know not who can."

Then came the sound of feet tripping over the soft carpet towards them,
and Dolores, with a bright flush on her face and a smile on her lip,
came to present her congratulations to the newly-released prisoner of
war, but her speech stopped short as she looked upon the grave faces of
the two, and she hardly listened to what Gordon said in return, but
laying her hand upon her brother's arm she said:

"What makes you sad, Marcelino?"

"We are losing a friend, Lola," said Marcelino, forcing himself to
smile. "Is it not natural that I should be sad?"

"Yes, it is not strange, but he is not going now?"

"In three days I believe," said Gordon. "Don Roderigo tells me there is
an English man-of-war at Monte Video, and I must lose no time in
returning to my duty."

"Three days!" said Dolores, the colour fading from her cheeks.

"But he does not regret his imprisonment among us, Lola," said Marcelino
softly, "he will not forget us when he is back in his own country."

"Forget! never!" said Gordon. "These last two years have been the
happiest in my life so far. Wherever I go I shall look upon this country
as my second home, and shall long for the day when I can return to it
and to you."

"Then you will come back?" asked Dolores eagerly.

"That is my firm purpose. As yet I am only a subaltern and must rejoin
my regiment, but when the war is over I shall come back; I shall have
one great joy if the 71st has the luck to be ordered on active service,
that in my next campaign I shall be fighting for you and not against
you."

"Do not forget to say that in your speech at the banquet to-morrow,"
said Marcelino. "Are you clever at making speeches?"

"I never made one in my life," replied Gordon.

"Then if you do not prepare one you will simply say two words and sit
down again, and every one will be disappointed."

"I hope I shall manage to say something more than two words, I ought to
after all the kindness I have received, but of a set speech I am
incapable."

"Without preparation that is very probable; but if I were to write down
for you some hints, you could easily make them into a speech. You may
safely say things that none of us dare to say, such as I have often
heard you say in intimate conversation. You will be the only Englishman
present."

"That is a fact, and I will speak out boldly as an Englishman just what
I think, but in preparing my speech some hints from you might be of
service to me."

"I will go and write them out for you at once," said Marcelino, and
turning from them he left the room.

Dolores and Lieutenant Gordon being left alone stood together at the
window for some minutes without speaking. Dolores was the first to break
the silence.

"You are sorry to leave us, Mr Gordon," she said; "but it will give you
great joy to see your own family again."

"It will. You who have never been away from your own people cannot tell
the joy there is in meeting again those you love after a long absence,"
replied Gordon.

"But I can understand it, remember how long Marcelino was away from us;
I was quite a little girl when he went to Cordova, but I used often to
think of him and wonder what he would be like, and then when he did come
back I was so proud of him. Your sisters are thinking about you now as I
used to think about Marcelino."

"I dare say they are, for this was my first experience of foreign
service. I had no idea that I should come here when I left England, for
we were sent to the Cape of Good Hope."

"What things you will have to tell them! If you had never been----if you
had not stopped with us you would never have known what it is to gallop
over the Pampa."

"And more than that, I should never have known you as I do know you.
They know already what kind friends I have found here, how fortunate I
have been. When I reach home I shall never be tired of talking to them
about you."

"They will be glad to have you back again, but they will not care to
hear much about us. Marcelino has told me how in Europe they think that
all South Americans are savages."

"They will soon learn to know better when I tell them about you, and
about Doña Constancia and Don Roderigo and Marcelino, and about all of
you. And about your houses, and about your tertulias in the evenings.
They will learn to think much of you, my sisters would be ready to love
you if they only saw you. My mother knows your name already; in her
second letter she asked me a great many questions about you."

"But you will not stop long with them, will you? If the English send an
army to Spain you will go and fight for Spain against Napoleon."

"If my regiment is ordered there I shall go with it. Would you be glad
to hear that I was fighting for Spain?"

"I should. Will not you be proud to fight for Spain?",

"You look upon Spain as your own country; then if I fight for Spain I
shall think that I am fighting for you. If the 71st is not sent to Spain
I will exchange into some other regiment and go there for your sake, if
an English army does go. If I were in Spain you would often think of me.
I am only a subaltern with little more than my sword to depend upon, but
when the war is over and we have beaten Napoleon out of Spain then I
shall come back here, for I shall never forget Buenos Aires, and shall
think of you every day till I come back again. Promise me that wherever
I have to go you will not forget me."

"Oh! of that there is not the slightest fear," said Dolores, in a low
eager voice, which sounded in Gordon's ears as the sweetest music, and
the memory of which remained with him for years after, while an ocean
rolled between them.

"My time is very short here now," he said, in a tremulous voice;
"perhaps we may never be alone together again before I go, and years may
pass before I am able to return. You have promised that you will not
forget me, that you will think of me while I am far away; will you not
give me some still sweeter hope? Will you not let me hope that when I
return I shall find you as you are now? Will you not let me centre all
my hopes for life in you?"

"When you reach your own country you will find some one for whom you
will care much more than you can ever care for me," said Dolores, in a
very low voice, while the long, dark lashes fell over her eyes, and she
bent her head, gazing upon the ground.

"Never," replied Gordon earnestly; "I never met any one whom I could
love as I love you, and I never shall."

As he spoke he stepped nearer to her, and took one of her hands in his
own.

"I know not what life is before me," he continued, "but one little word
from you encouraging me to hope would gild that life so that I should
shrink from no toil or hardship which might bring me nearer to you. Will
you not bid me hope, I ask no more."

To this Dolores answered nothing, but the taper fingers of the hand
twined round his with a gentle pressure, which sent a thrill of proud
joy through his whole frame.

Again the door opened, and in came Doña Constancia, smiling, and
stretching out her hand to Lieutenant Gordon.

"I have come to congratulate you," she said, apparently unconscious of
the excitement which was only too manifest in his face. "You are going
from us, and we shall miss you very much."

Long the three sat together talking of the future, Gordon again and
again reiterating his resolution to come back and make Buenos Aires his
home.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day there was high feasting at the house of Don Gregorio Lopez.
His dining-room was very large, but there was barely room for the
numerous guests assembled. It was a political banquet in celebration of
the first anniversary of the defeat of the English army which had
attacked the city under the command of General Whitelock. The Viceroy,
Marshal Don Santiago Liniers, with many of his principal officers, was
present; also the leading members of the various corporations which
formed the government, together with the commanders of the various
regiments, both of the Spanish troops and the militia; also others who
held no official position, but were there as personal friends of their
host. Among these there was one who, among the crowd of brown and blue
uniforms, profusely embroidered with gold lace and bullion, was
conspicuous by his plain scarlet coat, and the gay tartan plaid which
hung gracefully from his shoulder. It being a political banquet there
were no ladies present.

The banquet commenced an hour before sundown; after about two hours Don
Gregorio rose from his seat, and in a short complimentary speech
proposed the health of the Viceroy, the hero of the 12th August, 1806,
and of the 5th and 6th July, 1807. The toast was drunk with enthusiasm;
then Liniers replied at greater length and proposed "The Junta of
Seville," now the virtual government of Spain and the Indies, on account
of the imprisonment by Napoleon of the ex-King Charles IV. and his son
Ferdinand. To these followed many other patriotic and complimentary
toasts; and then there was a short pause, during which each man spoke
with his neighbour in low tones, till Don Manuel Belgrano, after
receiving a nod of acquiescence from Don Gregorio, rose to his feet and
proposed the "Morenos de Ponce." His speech was a short one, but it
elicited a long one from Don Marcelino in acknowledgment of the toast.
For Marcelino was proud of his negroes; and as on the 5th July he had
not commanded them he could expatiate freely upon their gallantry on
that occasion without laying himself open to an accusation of vanity. He
told many anecdotes about them, illustrative both of their devotedness
and of their simplicity; several of these anecdotes excited peals of
laughter, and when he at length sat down he was applauded by a vehement
clapping of hands, the Viceroy himself setting the example.

Then Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon rose to his feet:--

"Señores," he said, "we this day celebrate the first anniversary of our
great victory over the English. We do right to celebrate this victory
gained by a colony of the old and glorious kingdom of Spain over the
well-appointed army of a great and valiant nation. We are proud of the
victory we gained on the 5th July, 1807, but I know that you will all
join with me in the wish that we may never gain another. The war between
England and Spain resulted from the insidious intrigues of the usurper
who, not content with seizing for himself the throne of France, seeks to
make kings and princes of all the low-born adventurers who surround him,
seizing for them by fraud and violence the thrones of every kingdom in
Europe. Thank God, the mask of friendship by which he has deluded Spain
has at last been torn from him, we have seen ere it was too late the
abyss into which he would have led us. England, Austria, Prussia, and
Russia have in vain striven to stay the advance of his victorious
standards, but at last his usurpations have raised against him a foe who
will trample them in the dust. Spain, unconquered Spain, has risen up
against him. The Spanish people have risen as one man against Napoleon,
and Spain will be the graveyard of his ruffian soldiery. We have seen
and acknowledge the errors which led us into hostilities against
England, we have stretched out the hand to her in friendship, she has
clasped it in forgiveness of the past. We forgive the destruction of our
navies at Trafalgar, she forgives the wholesale slaughter of her
soldiery in the streets of this our city. England and Spain are now firm
allies, together we shall reconquer the territory the invader has
already wrested from us, and shall bring back in triumph our rightful
king.

"No, Señores, we wish for no more victories over the English, the
English are our friends and sworn allies. We who witnessed the fight
this day one year ago, who saw how dauntlessly the English advanced
under a hailstorm of balls which strewed our streets with their dead; we
who saw how small parties of them, cut off from all succour and hemmed
in on every side, yet held out for hours refusing to surrender; we who
saw them on that day know how to appreciate the valour of such brave
allies. We rejoice that they are no longer our foes, they are now our
friends, and as friends and allies we welcome them to fight beside us in
the cause of every people. We have seen them as they are, and know that
they are worthy to fight side by side with the indomitable soldiery of
Spain.

"Señores, fill your glasses and join me in one more toast to our friends
the English!"

Again with loud "Vivas" every man rose from his seat, and every eye was
turned towards the place where Lieutenant Gordon sat in his scarlet
coat, the sole representative there of the new-found friends of Spain.
As the applause ceased he rose and spoke as follows:--

"Señores, it is with many mixed feelings that I rise to thank you for
the warmth with which you have received the toast which has just been
proposed to you by my friend Don Roderigo, whose guest I had been for
two years. Two years ago the fortune of war made me your prisoner;
thanks to Don Roderigo, and to others of you from whom I have received
unvarying kindness, these two years have been to me as one long holiday;
I cannot look upon you as my gaolers, I cannot fancy that I ever did
look upon you as my enemies, your kindness to me will make it impossible
for me ever to think of you otherwise than as dear friends. When I am
far away, I know not where, in the service of my own country, I shall
look back upon Buenos Aires as the spot where I have passed the
happiest years of my life. I came here knowing as little as Englishmen
generally do of Spain or of the colonies of Spain, I was a soldier, my
country was at war with Spain, and I came here to do her bidding, to
fight as I thought against Spain. I came here as an enemy, the chances
of war made me your prisoner, among you I have lived ever since.

"Living among you I have learned to know you, and to think it the
greatest of all misfortunes that England and you should look upon each
other as enemies. Living among you I have learned that Buenos Aires is
not Spain, and that in fighting against Buenos Aires, England fights
against a country which every interest binds to her in firm friendship
and alliance. Most of you by race and language are Spaniards, many of
you were born in Spain, but this country is not Spain, those who live in
this country cannot long remain Spaniards. In the Old World we live
fettered by the trammels of worn-out traditions, but here in the New
World the very air is redolent of freedom. Unarmed, often alone, I have
galloped for days over your boundless Pampa, I have shared the
hospitality of great landowners, whose possessions exceed the limits of
many an English county, and have also often been indebted for a night's
lodging to the kindness of some lowly herdsman; from both the reception
was the same, a frank welcome, an offer of everything I could require,
and no question asked as to whence I came, or when or whither I would
go. Galloping north, south, and west over the trackless Pampa, meeting
nowhere with any obstacle, finding everywhere frankness and open-handed
hospitality, I have felt the blood course through my veins with the joy
of unrestricted freedom. I have gazed around me to the very verge of the
far-off horizon, seeing nothing which could prevent me from galloping on
and on whithersoever my will might lead to, and have known for the first
time in my life the proud feeling of absolute independence.

"This liberty, which has been to me but as a brief holiday, has been to
the majority of the men of this country the leading influence of their
life. These immense plains which you call the Pampa are peopled by a
hardy race of yeomen, who have grown to maturity in an atmosphere of
freedom; from their earliest boyhood they have been accustomed to think
and act for themselves, they have been trained in self-reliance, the
trammels of the Old World are to them unknown, liberty is with them the
very essence of their life. And you who live in the city also feel the
impulse of this all-pervading influence. Obsolete laws and customs
fetter you and check the growth of the genuine instincts of your nature,
but you breathe the free air of America; around you stretch those
boundless plains which speak to you whenever you look upon them of the
nothingness of man in face of the immensity of Nature. No man, whether
he be a Spaniard, an Englishman, or a Frenchman, can live long
surrounded by these influences without feeling that in the sight of God
all men are equal. It has therefore caused me no surprise to find here
men who, in ideas and modes of thought, resemble the most advanced
philosophers of Europe.

"The liberal ideas, which carried to excess have been a scourge to
France, driving her to seek for peace under the iron rule of a military
despot, have yet their foundation in great natural truths; these truths
are taught to you by every influence which surrounds you. Thus the men
of this land, though colonists of Spain, are yet a separate people. In
coming here to fight against Spain we forced you into hostilities
against us, and raised up for ourselves an enemy where we might have
found our firmest friend. Spain alone is powerless against us, but twice
have we been foiled by a colony of Spain.

"A colony is an infant nation; the day will come when in the maturity of
your strength you will take your place among the nations of the world.
If in your infancy you have by your valour humbled the pride of haughty
England, that place will surely be in the foremost rank. England at
peace with Spain is now no longer your enemy and will be the first to
stretch out to you the hand, and welcome you into the great family of
the nations.

"England and Spain have now the glorious task before them of setting
bounds to the insatiate ambition of Napoleon; in this struggle I hope to
have my part, fighting once more under the red cross of St George, in
the most righteous of all causes, the deliverance of a noble people from
foreign usurpation. In fighting for Spain I shall feel that I am
fighting for you also, and thus in some degree repaying the great
kindness which during two years of captivity has taught me to look upon
Buenos Aires as my second country.

"Señores, again I thank you for the warmth with which you have welcomed
the friendship of old England."

As Gordon resumed his seat, the majority of those present commenced
clapping their hands, snouting "Vivan los Ingleses!" and some few added
in a lower tone, "The true allies of America."

But there were others, among them the Viceroy, who neither shouted nor
clapped their hands, but looked uneasily one at the other, as though
they were far from pleased.

Don Gregorio, looking round his table, saw the various emotions depicted
on the faces of his guests; he saw a cloud on the usually open
countenance of the Viceroy, ill-concealed anger in the faces of Don
Martin Alzaga and other Spaniards, annoyance and vexation in the face of
his son-in-law Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon; while in the flushed features
of many of his younger guests he read a dangerous excitement, which one
untoward word might rouse into a storm. Hurriedly he rose from his seat.

"Señores," he said, "Spain has taken upon herself a task which Europe
united has failed to accomplish. In this she will need staunch allies,
she will find them in the English, therefore fill your glasses once more
and honour a repetition of this toast, 'To our friends the English!'"

"To our friends the English!" shouted all the company, rising to their
feet, and the toast being duly honoured they left their places and began
conversing in groups about the room, upon which Don Gregorio ordered a
large pair of folding doors to be thrown open, and invited his guests to
adjourn to the sala for coffee, thus preventing the perpetration of any
more ambiguous speeches.

From the sala the guests gradually dispersed, many of them being engaged
to pass the rest of the night at the house of Don Fausto Velasquez.

"My congratulations on your speech, my friend," said Marcelino to
Gordon, as they left the house together.

"Some of them did not half like it," replied Gordon, laughing; "but I
said nothing that I have not said to you fifty times."

"True, but it would be treason for any of us to speak so before the
Viceroy. The Spanish doctrine is that 'a colony is a slave.'"

"If her colonists were slaves Spain would have lost this colony a year
ago. It takes men to beat us."

"Well, as my father said, we will never beat you again. I never drank to
a toast with more pleasure in my life than I did to his 'To our friends
the English!'"



BOOK IV

THE DAWN OF FREEDOM



PART I

THE BRIGHTENING OF THE EASTERN SKY



PROLOGUE


The thoughts of a youth are as the winds of heaven, which blow where
they list, none knowing whence they come or whither they go, yet have
they all some certain course and goal. The thoughts of a youth spring
from the instincts of his nature, and are turned hither and thither by
the ever-varying circumstances which surround him, yet all tend to one
end--the development of his strength and character. The youth has but
one object before him, to be a man; if he live, the attainment of this
object is certain, its value is to him incalculable; manhood is to the
youth the gate which opens to him the whole world.

The veil had fallen from before the unknown future, Buenos Aires stood
face to face with her destiny. Her chains had been struck from her hands
and from her feet, by events of which she could have no foreknowledge;
she stood upright in her youthful strength, unfettered, and alone.

But Buenos Aires had looked upon Spain as upon a mother; now that Spain
lay prostrate in her degradation she felt her tyranny no longer, she
remembered only that she was her mother.

The waves of the sea toss up their heads rushing to and fro, dashing
themselves in never-ending succession upon the shingly beach, each wave
after its headlong rush sinking back again into the ocean, vanishing for
ever, yet does the tide ever march steadily onwards. As are the waves of
ocean, so are the thoughts of a youth, vacillating ever, yet ever
advancing towards the one inevitable goal. As are the thoughts of a
youth, so are the acts of a young nation, which is not yet known to be a
nation, vacillating ever, yet ever advancing towards that one goal which
is the object of all her aspirations--Independence.



CHAPTER I

MAGDALEN


The quinta of Don Alfonso Miranda was not a pretentious dwelling,
nevertheless there were men in Buenos Aires who thought it one of the
pleasantest houses in or about the city, in which they could wile away a
leisure hour. Among others Lieutenant Gordon, during the last year of
his residence in Buenos Aires, had been very fond of strolling out there
either on foot or on horseback, and had frequently delighted the owner
by telling him that while there he could almost fancy himself back in
his native country, and certainly if any flat-roofed house with barred
windows could remind an Englishman of England it was the house of Don
Alfonso Miranda. Don Alfonso had lived so long in England that he had
acquired many of the tastes of an Englishman, he had learnt by practical
experience the meaning of the English word "comfort," and had fitted up
his South American home with a variety of contrivances for keeping out
the heat in summer and the cold in winter, which were complete novelties
to the hospitable people who had welcomed him amongst them, and who had
befriended his daughter when he fell under the ban of their Spanish
rulers.

This house, after his release from prison, he had purchased from an
American of the name of White, who had built it for himself, but had
special reasons of his own for being glad to find a purchaser in Don
Alfonso. This same Mr White had returned to Buenos Aires in the year
1807, in company with General Whitelock, and was much consulted by that
unfortunate officer.

In one of the rooms in this house was a large, open fireplace, where
cheerful wood fires burnt in the cold season. When Don Alfonso brought
his daughter to live with him she made tea for him in the English
fashion, presiding with demure gravity over her porcelain tea-cups,
clustered round a tall, steaming urn. This tea-urn and the fireplace
were to their native visitors most marvellous innovations, but Don
Alfonso had now no greater pleasure in life than to sit cosily in an
arm-chair beside his fire on a chilly winter evening, watching his
daughter as she so presided at her own tea-table, listening to her voice
as she chatted with some chance visitor, and thinking dreamily of his
English home and his English wife, now both lost to him for ever. Don
Alfonso was himself of rather taciturn disposition, but he liked to hear
others talk, and there was no voice he loved to hear so much as that of
his daughter Magdalen.

Magdalen was but a very young woman, her teens wanted yet one of
completion, but when she returned to the city, after her long visit at
the Pajonales with the family of Don Fausto Velasquez, her father
thought her quite old enough to govern his household for him. He had
fitted up two rooms with great care for her especial use, adorning them
with books, pictures, and trinkets which had years ago belonged to her
mother, and which he had carefully packed up and brought with him across
the ocean for the special purpose of some day bestowing them upon his
daughter.

Doña Josefina and her friends found the Quinta de Don Alfonso a very
pleasant resort in the warm summer evenings. It stood off a short
distance from one of the main roads, separated from it and from the
wide, open space which went by the name of the Plaza Miserere by
thickly-planted trees.

Where ladies go, there young men are ever sure to follow, so that before
her first summer at her father's quinta had passed over, Magdalen had
taught some score of young men who had never tasted tea in their lives
before, to drink it out of her porcelain cups. Among those who drank out
of her porcelain cups this summer there were three who had found special
favour in her eyes, Don Carlos Evaña, Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon, and
Lieutenant Gordon, for they would now and then speak to her in English;
her father having taken care that she should not forget her native
tongue, generally speaking to her himself in that language, and she was
glad when she could find any one to talk English with. Of English books
she had what her friends thought a large collection, and these three
friends would sometimes borrow some of these books from her, and talk to
her about them after reading them. But one great trouble she had; she
had not come at once to the quinta when she returned to the city with
Don Fausto, but had remained several weeks with Doña Josefina, at whose
house she had frequently met Dolores Ponce de Leon. Between Dolores and
her a warm friendship had sprung up, in which there was more than
friendship, for each became to the other as a sister, and as sisters
they loved each other, telling each other unreservedly the deepest
secrets of their hearts, hearts which had as yet known no deep emotion,
and in which there were no secrets but such as they might have told
unblushingly to all the world. Still they met occasionally at the house
of Don Fausto Velasquez, where Magdalen went often, or at the house of
Don Gregorio Lopez, where she went less frequently, but to the quinta
Dolores never came, saying that her father had forbidden her. The reason
of this remained a mystery to Magdalen, for when she had applied in her
perplexity to Doña Josefina that lady had spoken to her such words of
Don Alfonso that she felt she could never ask any more questions on the
subject.

The outside of the house of Don Alfonso differed in one respect from the
generality of the houses about Buenos Aires. On the eastern side, which
was the front, instead of the usual verandah there stood before the main
entrance a wide porch of trellis-work, over which honeysuckle and other
flowering creepers climbed luxuriantly, loading the air in the
summer-time with the sweet scent of flowers innumerable. The flooring of
this porch, on a level with that of the house, was raised some two feet
above the level of the garden, from which the approach was by three wide
steps. In this porch it was a frequent custom with Don Alfonso to sit
with his daughter or with their guests in the warm evenings of the
summer and autumn, sheltered from the sun, and gazing through the
foliage of the trees upon the green suburbs and upon the white houses of
the nearer portion of the city, and farther away upon the summits of the
towers and domes of churches.

Magdalen rejoiced with the joy of a young girl whose life so far had
been passed amongst strangers, when she found herself at the head of her
father's household, and her sweet womanly instincts developed themselves
rapidly as she felt that the comfort of others depended upon her
diligence and foresight. The household was but a small one, but there
was much for her to do in the way of contrivance and arrangement, for
Don Alfonso would never buy anything which could possibly be made at
home, or which his quinta would produce.

So Magdalen passed the spring, summer, and autumn in great contentment
with her father at his quinta; it was now winter, and though she had
made frequent visits to her friends in the city, yet she had during all
this time never passed one night from under her father's roof until the
night of the 5th July, which she spent in very unwonted fashion under
the roof of Don Fausto Velasquez, dancing and listening to soft speeches
in the spacious saloons of Doña Josefina, which were crowded with all
that Buenos Aires could furnish in the way of beauty and distinction.

The number of those having some claim to distinction in Buenos Aires was
not great at that time, for until the first invasion of the English
under Beresford the modes by which a native of Buenos Aires could
distinguish himself were very few. Two English invasions had given
opportunities for distinction, and officers of the Patricios and
Arribeños who had shown skill or courage were the favoured guests of
Doña Josefina on this occasion. Among these officers there was but one
Spaniard, a captain in the regiment of the Andaluces. To this captain
Doña Josefina showed great attention, introducing him to many a fair
partner, whispering to them to pardon his coarse manners and want of
address, as he was a protegé of hers, and had been lieutenant of the
"Morenos de Ponce."

But of beauty Buenos Aires had enough and to spare. It is said (in
Buenos Aires) that when Venus was apportioning her gifts among her
sisters she gave pre-eminence in grace and elegance to the Spanish
woman, in liveliness and savoir-faire to the Frenchwoman, to the Italian
perfection of form and feature, to the Englishwoman a complexion clear
as the morning, and so on, some special gift to the women of every race
upon earth, but that she forgot the Porteña altogether, till being told
of her neglect she took from each woman of every race a fragment of the
special perfection of each one of them and bestowed it upon the Porteña,
thus creating a race of women unequalled in the variety of their charms
in any country under the sun. However that may be, it would be difficult
to find anywhere such a collection of beauty as graced the saloons of
Doña Josefina on this evening of the 5th July.

Magdalen was not a Porteña, her friends called her the "Inglesita,"
because England had been her birthplace. She was short in stature,
irregular in feature, with high cheek-bones; her English birth had not
even endowed her with a brilliant complexion, but her figure was good,
her hands and feet were small, and there was an easy grace about her
every movement which was in itself no inconsiderable charm. Throughout
this evening she was surrounded by a constant succession of admirers
emulous of her hand, and each one as he led her to a seat after a dance
lingered near her, wondering to himself what it was that made him so
linger.

She spoke little during the dances, for this was the first city ball at
which she had ever been present; the brilliance of the scene somewhat
embarrassed her, and many of those who sought an introduction to her she
had never seen before. This was her first ball and she enjoyed it
greatly, the pleasure which she felt beamed in her face; joy is
infectious and produces joy in those who look upon it, by sympathy.

Her dress was of white muslin, richly embroidered, with a very short
body and immense balloon sleeves padded with swan's-down, which stood
out round her shoulders but left the greater part of her arms bare.
Under this dress she wore another of blue silk, the outer dress of
muslin being looped up at the left side with a small rosette of blue
silk; both dresses were exceedingly long in the skirt, sweeping the
ground for fully a yard and a half behind her as she walked. Her hair,
rising straight up from her forehead, was combed in a fashion much in
vogue at that day into one mass on the top of her head, and was
sparingly sprinkled with powder; from the back a few curls fell down
behind her ears, and two or three smaller curls lay in careful
negligence upon her forehead and temples. She wore a necklace of pearls,
from the centre of which hung a small gold cross, and her left wrist was
encircled by a bracelet of plain gold.

About an hour before midnight, during a pause between two dances,
Magdalen was walking down one of the rooms in company with Lieutenant
Gordon, who was repeating to her some of the anecdotes which Marcelino
Ponce de Leon had told about his negroes at the banquet not two hours
before, when she was accosted by an officer in gala uniform, with the
epaulets of a major on his shoulders. She started at his voice as he
spoke to her, and then looked up at him with a glad smile, but as her
eyes met his they fell beneath their earnest gaze and a warm flush
spread over her cheeks. The officer who had addressed her, and whose
bright dark eyes were riveted upon her face as he bowed lowly before
her, was Marcelino himself.

Marcelino had never forgotten those eyes which had haunted him during
the long summer and autumn which he had passed training his negroes, and
he had eagerly accepted Don Alfonso's subsequent invitation to visit him
at his quinta, but during the many evenings he had passed there since he
had never again seen the same look in those eyes, often as he had looked
into them in search of it, and he had learned to think of Magdalen as an
amiable but very plain-featured girl, with a certain nameless
fascination about her for which he could not account. Also, as a girl
with a talent for conversation, and a voice to which he could listen for
hours with the same feeling as though he had been listening to music.

Magdalen had inherited from her English mother a gift more charming than
any physical beauty, and one less liable to fade, that of a most
melodious voice. In Buenos Aires, where physical beauty is so general
among women, a melodious voice is but rarely heard, and Marcelino had
often caused great amusement to his friend Gordon during many months
past by his mode of asking him to accompany him on a visit to Don
Alfonso.

"Come out with me to the Miserere, and talk to your paisanita for me
while I listen."

As Marcelino now looked upon Magdalen, with the girlish joy beaming in
her face, he saw once again that same look in her eyes which had haunted
him for so long and which he had never forgotten. Her face seemed to him
lighted up with a new beauty all its own, a beauty far exceeding all
beauty of feature or complexion, the beauty of expression. When she
smiled upon him with the glad smile with which she received him, her
soul looked out upon him through those large grey eyes, a soul in
consonance with the sweet voice he loved to listen to, the soul of a
large-hearted, loving woman. To Marcelino she never appeared
plain-featured again.

He asked her hand for the next dance, and then instead of dancing they
sauntered away to a quiet corner, where they sat down and talked
together.

"So Gordon has been telling you about the banquet?" said Marcelino.

"Not much about the banquet, but about the speech you made," replied
Magdalen.

"I made! Yes, I did make a speech of a sort; talked about my negroes,
which is very easy for me to do; but his was the great speech, did not
he tell you about that?"

"Not a word. What did he say?"

"He said one thing, which there are some of us will take care to spread
all over the country. He said that a colony is an infant nation."

"You think so, I know. I have heard you say something like it more than
once."

"Yes, but not in public, and before the Viceroy. In us poor Creoles it
would be rank treason to say such a thing, but just at present an
Englishman may say what he likes."

"Then when he goes there will be no one left among you who will dare to
speak the truth openly?"

"No one, for a time at least; but the day is coming when all will be
able to speak openly just what they think."

"Why not begin at once? I should think it was never too early to speak
the truth."

"There you are mistaken; but you must think me very stupid to talk to
you about politics in a ball-room, though I have seen you listen when
others were talking politics at the quinta."

"I always listen, and then talk to papa about it afterwards. Papa and I
are great politicians when we are alone together. I have never seen my
uncle Don Francisco, but papa has talked to me for hours about him,
though he hardly ever speaks of him to any one else."

"Allow me to compliment you on your dress, I admire the colours you have
chosen; blue and white, are they your favourite colours?"

"Yes, they are, so I would wear them. Doña Josefina and Lola did all
they could to persuade me to wear pink, but I can be very obstinate when
I choose."

"And quite right too. I never saw you looking so well before, all the
men seem to think so, it was ever so long before I could get a chance of
speaking to you."

"That is because you are the hero of the ball, and have so many others
to speak to. Does not Lola look beautiful this evening, quite like a
little queen?"

"I think she has spoiled it by the way she has arranged her hair, the
peinete[7] does not suit her at all, and I should think it must be very
uncomfortable."

"La moda nunca incomoda,"[8] answered Magdalen.

"I am glad you have not followed the fashion," said Marcelino, "for the
peinete would suit you even less than it does Lola."

As they spoke, a lady of fair stature and of radiant beauty, in the
first bloom of womanhood, dressed in pink, and with masses of dark hair
falling in silken curls upon her white shoulders, came sailing proudly
down the room leaning upon the arm of a young officer; as she passed
near them she turned her brilliant black eyes full upon Marcelino, and
bending towards him with a peculiar wave of her fan, said in a low
voice:

"Le felicito" (I congratulate you).

Magdalen, who had apparently not heard her words, gazed eagerly after
her.

"What a beautiful girl," she said; "I do not think I ever saw such a
beautiful girl. Who is she?"

"Elisa Puyrredon; she is sister to Doña Juana de Saenz-Valiente; some
men say that the two sisters and my aunt Josefina are the three most
beautiful women in Buenos Aires."

"And what do you say?"

"I don't know any woman equal in beauty to Elisa Puyrredon."

"But we were talking about my uncle," said Magdalen. "I am so proud to
have such a man for my uncle. I think a man who has spent his life as he
has, has done more that he may be proud of than the greatest conqueror
that ever lived. He has always been beaten; but even Napoleon, with all
the battles he has won, is not near so great a man in my eyes as my
uncle Francisco."

As Magdalen spoke her face flushed, her enthusiasm beamed in her large
grey eyes, tinging them with a darker colour than was usual to them; and
Marcelino, watching her intently, forgot to speak, till meeting his
wrapt gaze she bent her head and appeared intent only upon the figures
on her fan.

"Then you think that a man who devotes himself to the welfare of his
country, even if he fail and be proscribed and banished, has not spent
his life in vain?" said Marcelino.

"In vain, no! Good work is never done in vain."

"You will miss Gordon very much."

"Indeed I shall, and so will you; but he says he will come back again,
and I think he will."

Magdalen spoke this last sentence in a peculiarly confidential tone,
raising her fan as she spoke, and looking over the edge of it at
Marcelino, but the glance and the tone were alike thrown away upon that
gentleman.

"He promised me long ago," replied he, "that if we have to fight for our
freedom he will join us; but now I think we shall win it without
fighting, the French are doing that for us. He likes the country so some
day we shall have him back again. What will you do without him? You will
have no one to read English to you in the porch next summer."

"Poor me! but it was very seldom he did read to me last summer. I think
he likes galloping about better than reading. Last summer he was always
in a hurry to get away, and his gallops were always in one direction."

"Yes, the traitor! he was always taking me to the Miserere in the
afternoons, and then leaving me to find my way back by myself."

"Yet I never saw you angry with him for deserting you."

"The time passed so pleasantly that I never missed him till it was time
to go back. You cannot think how I am wishing for the long days to come
again."

"Papa likes the winter best."

"Yes, he likes to sit at his fireside while you make tea for him, but we
Porteños like the open air better. For me the most pleasant place in any
season is where you are."

"A compliment! You know that I do not like compliments," answered
Magdalen, with a look of annoyance.

"I did not intend it as a compliment," said Marcelino.

"When men say things like that it sounds to me as if they were mocking
one. There are some men who are always doing it, and it is so annoying.
You have never said anything like that to me before."

"I never said a word to you yet that I did not mean. Do you not like to
hear the truth spoken to you?"

"Yes, even if it be unpleasant."

"And I like to speak the truth when it is pleasant to do so; when it is
not I prefer to keep silent."

"If you never speak anything but the truth to me we shall always be good
friends, and I shall know how to interpret your silence."

"Then we are good friends now, for I have never said a word to you that
is not true. I am going away, and I do not know when I shall be back. I
should be very sorry to go away leaving you angry at anything I had said
to you."

"You are going away! Where to?"

"To Rio Janeiro. I arranged it this morning. If the captain of the
English frigate which is at Monte Video will give me a passage I am
going with Gordon, so I shall not lose him so soon as you will."

"He does not know, at least he said nothing of it to me."

"No, I have not told him yet. No one knows but you and my father."

"Poor Dolores! she will be quite lonely, losing both you and Mr Gordon
at once."

"Not so lonely as you generally are. She has always plenty of people
about her. If she saw you more often she would miss us less. Could you
not come and pay Aunt Josefina a visit of a month or so, I know she
wants you to do so?"

"And leave papa all alone! Impossible!"

"Then I will tell you what to do. Come and spend one day every week with
Aunt Josefina. Lola often tells me that she wishes she could see more of
you than she does."

"Does she? Oh! I am so glad. I shall be here all day to-morrow till the
evening, and then every Wednesday morning after this I will come in and
spend the day with Doña Josefina. I am sure papa will let me if I ask
him, and when I have a fixed day for coming then Lola will come too."

"Then when I come back the Wednesdays will be an established custom, and
I shall think that I have done something to give you a pleasure by
suggesting it. Every Wednesday while I am away I shall think that you
and Lola are together, and when she speaks of me you will think of me
for a moment, and will remember that I am thinking of you."

  [7] The large comb at that time worn in Buenos Aires as in Spain,
      generally made of tortoise-shell, and sometimes two feet in
      width.

  [8] The fashion is never uncomfortable.



CHAPTER II

HOW DON GREGORIO LOPEZ A SECOND TIME SOUGHT AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION OF
THE DAY


In August there came an emissary from the Emperor Napoleon to Buenos
Aires. Viceroy Liniers received this Frenchman very affably and the two
held conferences together of which none knew the purport; but why this
Frenchman had come was no secret to any one in Buenos Aires. He came on
behalf of the Emperor Napoleon to invite the colonies of Spain to follow
the example of their mother-country, telling them that Spaniards desired
no longer that Bourbons should reign over them, but had welcomed with
joy a new king whom he had chosen for them, his brother Joseph.

But Buenos Aires had heard of this new king, Joseph, before this
Frenchman had come to tell her of him, and knew that those Spanish
nobles and courtiers who had crowded round Murat at Madrid, and had
welcomed the new king whom Napoleon had sent to them, were not the
Spanish people. Buenos Aires knew that the Spanish people would have no
foreigner for their king, and that the Central Junta established at
Seville proposed to rule Spain and to make war upon Napoleon in the name
of Ferdinand VII., who by the abdication of his father was the
legitimate King of Spain, although both he and his father were now
prisoners in France, and were said to have renounced their rights in
favour of the new king, Joseph.

Buenos Aires had no great cause to love Spain, and her reverence for her
was fast dying out, yet still she looked upon Spain as her mother, and
her spirit rose in anger as she heard of her degradation. Men went about
from house to house and stood in groups at the street corners, talking
eagerly one to the other, questioning one another why it was that this
Frenchman was hospitably entertained in their city, while Spain lay
prostrate at the feet of Napoleon, who had sent him? Then they
remembered Liniers also was a Frenchman, and their wrath was kindled
against him; and when sundry Spaniards came amongst them, striving with
soft speeches to still their indignation telling them that the question
was not theirs, but was Spain's, that Spain would decide for herself and
for them, they thrust them out from among them with scornful words.

On the 15th August Liniers made a proclamation to them, counselling them
to moderation, showing how the destinies of a colony should follow those
of the mother-country, but that while the struggle went on they should
for their own sake hold aloof. But neither to him would they listen, and
throughout the city the ferment was great.

Then on the 21st August Liniers gave answer to the emissary of Napoleon,
and justified himself in the eyes of the men of Buenos Aires by
proclaiming with all due formality and military display Ferdinand VII.
King of Spain and the Indies.

It was the evening on this 21st August, the roll of the drums was long
since hushed, the regular troops had retired to their barracks, the
militia to their homes, the quietude of a winter night had come down
over the city. The streets were almost deserted, here and there men
might be seen issuing from their houses, and wending their way through
the darkness to the house of Don Gregorio Lopez. Each man as he reached
the door of this house looked cautiously round to see that he was alone,
then struck one smart rap with his knuckles upon one of the panels of
the door, and bent his head to listen.

From the inside there came one rap in answer, upon which he struck twice
rapidly in the same place as before, and the door opened. In the centre
of the zaguan hung a lamp, which threw its rays directly on the face of
each man as he went in; under this lamp stood a tall negro. Each man as
he entered the zaguan waited till the door closed behind him, then said
to the negro one word:

"Patria."

"Buenas noches y pasa adelante," replied the negro, stepping to one side
and leaving the passage free.

Each man crossed the first patio and entered a second zaguan, where
three young men stood in silence, waiting till he should speak. To them
he also spoke one word:

"Libertad."

Upon which one of them led him across the second patio, and ushered him
into the same large room in which Don Gregorio had held another secret
meeting more than two years before, some few days after General
Beresford had taken possession of the city.

Some days previous to the proclamation of King Ferdinand, and while the
excitement of the city was at its greatest, Marcelino Ponce de Leon had
returned to Buenos Aires. His trip to Rio de Janeiro had been a pleasant
one, but he had there met with a certain Don Saturnino Rodriguez Peña, a
Porteño by birth, who had inspired him with a great idea. Big with this
idea he hurried back, and after an interview with his grandfather sent
messengers in every direction, summoning the friends of Don Gregorio
Lopez to meet at his house on the evening of the 21st August. One of
these messengers galloped out by the southern road and returned on the
day of the meeting with Don Carlos Evaña and Don Gregorio Lopez the
younger, whose father had received him with open arms when he had
visited the city in May, soon after the sudden return of Don Carlos
Evaña to his estancia.

About nine o'clock a numerous company were assembled, then the door of
the dining-room was shut, and Don Gregorio took his place at the head of
the long table, the rest seating themselves on chairs or standing in
groups about the room.

Don Gregorio rose from his seat and looked round him, pausing ere he
spoke; a proud smile beamed on his face; as the rest looked upon him
this smile was reflected in their faces and many of them clapped their
hands.

"Señores," said Don Gregorio, as the applause subsided, "it is with
pride and pleasure that I look round on you who have come here at my
invitation. It brings to my remembrance, as it will to many of you, an
evening more than two years ago when we met together as we do now. These
two years have been years which will be for ever memorable in the annals
of our country." Here Don Gregorio was interrupted by "Vivas," and
clamorous applause; when silence was restored he went on:

"These two years have worked a mighty change amongst us. We have learnt
in times of difficulty and danger to trust to our own strength and our
own ability, and we have found that we have both strength and ability
within ourselves. In former times we looked to Spain to protect us in
danger, and we obeyed without question the mandates of the rulers she
set over us. In these years Spain has been unable to do anything to
protect us, yet have we defended ourselves successfully. We turned out
the Viceroy sent by Spain as our ruler, and have now a Viceroy of our
own selection, to whom we look as the representative of our legitimate
sovereign. But our sovereign himself is in prison, cut off from all
communication with us, to whom then shall we look as to the source of
the authority which we obey?

"During the last two years ideas and wishes have grown up amongst us
which were formerly unknown, it is for the discussion of these ideas
that I have called upon you to meet me this evening. One such idea my
grandson Marcelino has asked my permission to lay before you."

As Don Gregorio resumed his seat, Marcelino Ponce de Leon rose in the
midst of an ominous silence, and in a carefully-prepared speech
disclosed a plan for bringing the Princess Carlota, sister of King
Ferdinand and wife of the Prince-regent of Brazil, to Buenos Aires to
rule over the provinces of the Rio de La Plata as queen.

During his speech he frequently was interrupted, and as he sat down the
confusion rose to a tumult. Most of those present laughed at the idea as
absurd, and some in no measured terms expressed their indignation. When
the uproar had partially subsided, Don Gregorio Lopez again rose to his
feet and said:

"Señores, it is with my entire approval that my grandson has laid this
proposition before you. I think it well worthy of careful consideration
by all of us, but I doubt much whether it would be received with favour
by our Spanish rulers."

"Our Spanish rulers!" shouted Don Carlos Evaña, springing indignantly to
his feet, "our Spanish rulers! they are the men who are to decide this
and every other question for us! Spain has fallen and with Spain the one
check which existed to protect us from Spanish rapacity; in place of
being the slaves of a great empire we are now the slaves of a handful of
Spaniards. Who are these Spaniards that they should come among us and
arrogate to themselves the possession of all authority? Do not deceive
yourselves, my countrymen, we, the citizens of this country, have inborn
rights which no Spaniard, no king, or Bourbon, can take from us. There
is no longer any question of Spain or Bourbons, we are the people, and
the time has come for us to demand our rights as men. What shall we do
to claim and take possession of these rights of ours? That is the
question which is now before us.

"To you, Don Gregorio, as the man of most influence among us; to you,
young men, who wear the uniform of our victorious militia, the rising
hope of our country, I address this question, that you take it into your
serious consideration, but I ask you not for your answer, that answer it
is not for us alone to give, that answer must come from an entire
people, and shall ere long be spoken on the house-tops in the full blaze
of the sun."

Then, as Evaña sat down, burst forth from the younger members of that
assembly a storm of applause, and Valentin Lopez y Viana, the youngest
son of Don Gregorio, raising his hand in the air, shouted "Viva la
Patria!" a cry which found its echo in every heart there present, and
which ere long reverberated from south to north over an entire
continent, rousing enslaved nations into the bold assertion of their
rights as men.

There was no more discussion of this or any other question; with many
there present the influence of Spain was yet paramount, they might
shout "Viva la Patria," but the Patria was to them a dream, and Spain
was a dread reality, and treason against Spain was a fearful crime
entailing fearful punishment; they were only too glad to take any
pretext for opening the doors and seeking the shelter of their own
homes.

In deep chagrin Marcelino left the house in company with Don Manuel
Belgrano, the only one who had shown any warm sympathy with his
project.



CHAPTER III

SEVERAL WAYS OF LOOKING AT ONE QUESTION


It was the evening after the one on which Don Gregorio Lopez had held a
secret conference with his friends as narrated in the preceding chapter.
Don Alfonso Miranda in a loose dressing-gown and slippers sat in an
easy-chair at his fireside. On the wide, open hearth logs of wood burnt
and crackled cheerfully, throwing out showers of sparks when they were
touched.

Opposite to Don Alfonso, in another easy-chair, sat Don Carlos Evaña,
holding in his hand a tea-cup which had just been refilled for him by
the small white hands of Magdalen Miranda, who sat near to him at a
round table, in the centre of which hissed a huge brown urn. At the far
side of this table, with the urn between him and the fire, sat Marcelino
Ponce de Leon, holding a silver tea-pot under the spout of the urn,
while Magdalen with her hand on the tap let just so much water run into
it as she judged sufficient for one more cup of tea.

"You did not tell us anything about that, Don Marcelino," said Magdalen.

"No," replied Marcelino, looking across the table at Don Alfonso.

"Don Carlos, you see, trusts us more than you do," replied the young
lady, with a slight toss of her head.

"It is not want of trust that kept me silent. But secrecy implies
danger; to admit you to the secret admits you to the danger also."

"Among sixty! Did you not say there were sixty, Don Carlos?" asked
Magdalen.

"Yes; and the secret of sixty is not much of a secret," answered Evaña.

"I do not see why it should be a secret at all," said Magdalen. "The
Princess Carlota could not be queen without the consent of her brother.
Did you see her when you were at Rio?"

"Yes, Gordon took me with him to a ball at the British Embassy, and she
was there for about half an hour."

"What is she like?" asked Magdalen, but before Marcelino could answer
Don Alfonso turned towards him and asked abruptly:

"You were at the British Embassy, did you speak with Lord Strangford?"

"Yes, he took me to one side and asked me a great many questions about
this country and about Whitelock's affair."

"Did he mention my name to you?"

"Yes, and seemed curious to know what you were doing here. I told him as
little as I could of you."

"Right, quite right," replied Don Alfonso, turning back again to the
fire.

"You have been several times in the city while I was away," said
Marcelino.

"I make it a custom to go every Wednesday to see Doña Josefina," replied
Magdalen, bending over her empty tea-cups and arranging them on a small
tray.

"To one person you give great pleasure by so doing," said Evaña, in a
low voice.

"And that one is myself," said Magdalen. "When are you going out again
to your estancia, Don Carlos?"

"Some time next month," replied Evaña. "Are you tired of giving me tea
in your English fashion?"

"Not at all, I like trying to civilize you proud Porteños, who suck mate
through tubes one after the other, and yet think yourselves the most
polished people on the face of the world."

"You go often to your estancia, Don Carlos?" said Don Alfonso, rising
from his chair.

The playful smile vanished from Magdalen's face as she heard her father
speak, there was something in the tone of his voice which she had seldom
or never heard before. As she looked up at him she saw that his lips
were white, and his face set as though he were a prey to some unseen
terror. She had risen from her seat to summon her maid to remove the
tray and urn, but as she looked at her father she sat down again,
clasping her hands together.

"Since I purchased the place I have spent nearly half my time there,"
replied Evaña.

"You do well, but you would do better to spend all your time there,"
continued Don Alfonso. "I have heard that when you are there you pay
more attention to men than to beasts, and think more of your horses than
you do of your cattle."

"Yet I have more cattle than either men or horses," replied Evaña
evasively.

"Listen to me, young men, both of you," said Don Alfonso. "One of you
buys an estancia and gives away his cattle to any men who will join a
regiment with which he has nothing whatever to do; the other gets three
months' leave of absence for a voyage of pleasure, meets in Rio Janeiro
a man whose hatred of Spain has driven him into exile from his own
country, and then hurriedly returns before his leave has half expired.
Then both of you are present at a secret meeting and report that the
subject discussed was a project for supplanting our rightful king by his
sister. At this meeting there was much talking, but nothing was resolved
upon, each man spoke his own thoughts. Now I know that if Don Manuel
Belgrano and Don Carlos Evaña spoke their thoughts they would say
something very different from this insane project of bringing a queen to
reign over us."

"I assure you, Don Alfonso," said Marcelino, "that Don Manuel Belgrano
is much in favour of the idea."

"It may be so," replied Don Alfonso; "but when men meet in secret to
speak their thoughts what they speak is treason. I do not ask you of
what you spoke last night, I do not wish to know, but I will tell you
what neither of you know. When I left England ten years ago I was a
hale, strong man, now look at my white hair and my weak trembling hands,
I am an old man before my time; I should have died, and my daughter
would be an orphan, but for the kindness of men who knew nothing of me
save that I was in misery. Ten years ago I thought myself a rich man,
now I am poor, as you see. All this is the result of the reckless folly
of other men, for whose faults I have suffered. You talk of patriotism
and love for your country, do you ever think of the misery your wild
schemes may bring upon others? The day I landed at Carracas six men, of
whom four had been the friends of my youth, were put to a shameful
death, hung, drawn, and quartered; when I asked why, they spoke to me of
my brother, and because my name was Miranda they thrust me into a
dungeon, loaded me with irons, and would doubtless have taken my life
also, but that I was rich and could bribe my gaolers. I know nothing of
my brother, and of your schemes I will know nothing either, can you not
leave me to enjoy in peace the little that is left to me?"

As Don Alfonso spoke, jerking out his words in abrupt sentences, his
face became nearly livid, and his hands trembled so that he could hardly
grasp the arms of the chair as he sat down again. Marcelino covered his
face with his hands and Evaña sat motionless biting his moustache, which
was a way he had when he was angry. Magdalen looked from one to the
other with an expression of deep pain on her face, then as her father
sat down she drew out a low stool from under the table, and placing it
beside his chair she seated herself upon it, and taking his hand in hers
patted it softly, caressing him as one would soothe a child when in
trouble.

Then Marcelino took another chair in front of the fire, and strove to
change the current of their thoughts by cheerful talk, but Evaña replied
only in monosyllables, and Don Alfonso spoke not at all, sitting there
moodily in his arm-chair gazing at the fire. Marcelino and Magdalen
talked together almost in whispers, speaking to each other at random on
any subject which came uppermost, Magdalen still holding her father's
hand in hers. Thus half an hour passed over, when Evaña rose to his feet
and said:

"It is late, let us go."

"Remember what I have said," said Don Alfonso, "I wish to know nothing
of your schemes."

Then, without looking at either of them, he waved his hand and so
dismissed his two guests.

Magdalen accompanied them to the porch, looking wistfully out into the
night as they put on their cloaks and hats; as they shook hands with her
she whispered softly to Marcelino:

"Something has happened to annoy papa, I knew it."

Marcelino and Don Carlos had their horses tied under the trees, they
mounted and rode slowly away. Until they were squares from the quinta
neither of them spoke. Then said Don Carlos in a musing tone:

"See you how two men of the same birth and blood may differ?"

"Don Alfonso is certainly a very different man from his brother as you
have described him to me," replied Marcelino.

"Originally he was of much the same character," said Evaña; "but the
easy life he led in England has enervated out of him the stern energy
which distinguished Don Francisco, and his imprisonments here and at
Carracas have completely cowed what spirit he had left. He is a sample
of the effects of Spanish tyranny, of which I have seen many; the good
in him has been crushed out of him, and he has become what you have seen
to-night, a drivelling coward, and at the same time he is dangerous, for
he is both treacherous and revengeful."

"Knowing what he has suffered, I think it was unwise of you, Carlos, to
say anything to him of the meeting last night. You could not suppose
that he would take any part with us."

"I did hope that he might, his name alone would be of great service to
us, and I spoke with a purpose. I have received a letter from the
General, I believe he has also written to Don Alfonso, I wanted him to
tell me."

"What does the General say?"

"Very little, and in very guarded words, but I know what he means. He
means that the time has come, and that after our triumph of last year,
Mexico, Venezuela, Chili, and Peru all look to us to give the signal.
Your idea of giving us a queen in the Princess Carlota will not find
much favour from him if he ever hears of it."

"But you will not oppose it?"

"I do not think I shall have any need to, it will fall through without
my interference. Look here, my brother, between us there must be no
secrets."

As he spoke Evaña edged his horse nearer to Marcelino, and laid one hand
on his shoulder.

"You have started the idea, be content, leave Belgrano to carry it out
if he can. As Miranda says, the time has come; all that I have done so
far is preparative, now I am going to begin my work--join me."

"And your object?"

"A republic."

"We are not yet ready for complete independence."

"So long as Spaniards rule over us we shall never be more ready than we
are now."

"How do you propose to begin?"

"I wish to form a small secret committee of men who are ready to dare
everything for the accomplishment of our one object."

"Have you spoken to any one else of it?"

"You are the first."

"Then let me be the last also, Carlos. We are so strong that we have no
need of any secrecy, what we want is publicity to educate the people
into a knowledge of their own rights and of their own power. To form a
committee as you suggest is the first step towards a conspiracy, and
will give a pretext for forcible measures of repression, which can only
end in civil war. Let us openly demand that half the seats in the
Cabildo be given to Creoles, and that Creoles be henceforth eligible for
any post under government."

"And then we will throw open our ports to the world and invite the
English to come and trade with us?"

"Just so. With our own men in every corporation all necessary reforms
are possible."

"And Spaniards are going to give up their monopolies and let us
introduce all manner of innovations, and be brothers to us so long as we
let their flag fly at the fort, and shout 'Viva La Reina!' or 'Viva el
Rey!' whichever it may chance to be."

"They will submit to necessity."

"When they see it they will, but until we show it them they will never
see it. No, my brother, we must first assert, seize by force, if
necessary, the power of governing ourselves, we must first appoint a
government of our own, then we may safely welcome all Spaniards who
choose to join us, and give them equal rights with ourselves. If we
content ourselves with asking as privileges for what are our natural
rights, they may yield them to us now that they have no strength to
struggle against us, but it will only be to take them back again so soon
as they find themselves strong enough to do it."

       *       *       *       *       *

While Don Alfonso and his two visitors were speaking in their way of the
meeting of the previous evening, the same subject was under discussion
from a very different point of view in the private apartments of his
Excellency the Viceroy. Marshal Liniers had also two visitors that
evening, Martin Alzaga and Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon.

The precautions taken by Don Gregorio Lopez had prevented unfriendly
intrusion, but had by no means sufficed to keep the meeting itself a
secret. Don Martin Alzaga had heard of it beforehand, and had warned the
Viceroy, counselling him to use his authority to prevent it; but Marshal
Liniers had refused to interfere, saying that so long as the citizens
obeyed him and paid the taxes they might meet as they liked in their own
houses. Then Don Martin had sought the aid of Don Roderigo, and between
them they had devised means for learning something of what should take
place at this meeting. Now they came together to visit the Viceroy, and
to lay before him the result of their enquiries.

"I think it strange of you, Don Roderigo, that you should move in this
matter," said the Viceroy, after they had conversed with him for about
an hour; "your son, your father-in-law, and some of your most intimate
friends are those most deeply implicated."

An angry flush spread over Don Roderigo's face as he answered:

"Nothing has yet been done. I suppose men have a right to speak their
opinions in their own houses, but it is always well for the authorities
to know what are the ideas of the people."

"When these ideas are treason they have no right to give utterance to
them anywhere," said Don Martin Alzaga; "and I call upon you Don
Santiago, to order the immediate arrest of Don Gregorio Lopez for
holding a seditious conference."

"I hope you will no do such thing," said Don Roderigo.

"Why not?" said Don Martin.

"The Patricios would mutiny at once, and we should hurry on a
catastrophe which it will require all our care to avoid."

"An example is necessary," said Don Martin.

"By due precautions we may avoid any such necessity, at any rate until
we are strong enough to act with safety to ourselves. I have enquired
into the particulars of this meeting simply as a precaution. In this
idea of offering the sovereignty of the Viceroyalty to the Princess
Carlota there is no danger whatever."

"I think it most dangerous," said the Viceroy.

"Where there is danger is in the growing arrogance of the Creoles," said
Don Roderigo. "The first thing that should be done is to disarm the
militia. We need them no longer, and so long as there exist in the city
entire regiments of Creoles, commanded by Creoles, the arrest of any
popular citizen would produce an outbreak."

"Which we would put down with our troops," said Don Martin Alzaga.

"And bring on the catastrophe at once. I know these men better than you
do, Don Martin, and my knowledge tells me that we have need of the
greatest caution. Miranda has his agents everywhere in South America."

"Evaña!" said the Viceroy. "He is the one man who I consider dangerous.
You did not mention him, Don Roderigo; was he not at that meeting last
night?"

"He was," said Don Roderigo; "but he spoke against this plan of inviting
the Princess Carlota."

"He wants neither princess nor queen," said Liniers; "he wants a
republic."

"Arrest him, then, and let him have a republic all to himself within
four walls," said Don Martin.

"I would advise your Excellency to avoid all extreme measures at
present," said Don Roderigo. "Our power is falling away from us; instead
of exciting popular opposition, I think it will be necessary to make
some concessions. The most enticing bait offered by Beresford when he
came, was freedom of commerce. Let us grant it; our treasury is nearly
empty, the English merchants will fill it for us, and we shall take the
most convincing argument out of the mouths of the demagogues of the
city."

"And the Consulado de las Indias, you forget them, Don Roderigo?" said
the Viceroy.

"The idea is perfectly inadmissible," said Don Martin Alzaga. "The first
thing to do is to disarm the militia, then we can repress by force any
attempt against our authority."

"The militia have done good service, and merit every consideration,"
said the Viceroy, "and they cost far less than the Spanish regiments."

"Then we are to do nothing, and let these Creoles conspire against us
until some day they set up a government of their own," replied Don
Martin, rising angrily from his seat. "Let us retire, Don Roderigo; it
is late, and here we do nothing."

The Viceroy rose from his chair, and bowing stiffly to both, dismissed
them.

"With this man we shall never do anything," said Don Martin to Don
Roderigo, as they crossed the Plaza de Los Perdices together. "Whilst
he is Viceroy the Creoles will keep their militia, and will do just what
they wish. I should not be surprised some day to see them demand a
'Cabildo Abierto.'"

"Yes," replied Don Roderigo; "unless they send us another Viceroy from
Spain we shall soon find ourselves unable to govern at all."

"We have turned out one Viceroy ourselves, and the result was good; we
will see if we cannot do it a second time."

"Beware, Don Martin; the Patricios had more to do with the appointment
of Liniers than we had."

"What matter to me the Patricios? With musketry we will teach them, if
they want a lesson."



CHAPTER IV

HOW THE SPANIARDS ALSO PROPOSED TO THEMSELVES A QUESTION, AND HOW DON
CARLOS EVAÑA PREPARED AN ANSWER


Winter gave place to spring, spring ripened into summer, and everything
in Buenos Aires seemed to go on unchanged, but in seeming only. As the
suns of the springtime covered the leafless trees with verdure, as the
buds developed themselves into flowers, the flowers into fruit, so the
thoughts of men developed themselves into distinct ideas, and these
ideas grew and flourished till they were ready to become deeds.

Don Roderigo had spoken to his son, had told him that he knew of the
idea he had brought back with him from Brazil, told him that it was
folly, and counselled him to have nothing more to do with it.

"But, father," replied Marcelino, "can you not see why the idea pleased
me? Do you not see that native Argentines are no longer the men they
were two years ago, and that Spain is no longer the same Spain either?
How can we accept Viceroys and laws from Spain, when Spain herself has
no king, and when Frenchmen rule over half the country? There are men
among us who speak of a republic, but most of us would be content with
far less. With a queen of our own from the royal family of Spain, the
government would remain in the hands of men such as you, who are
accustomed to govern instead of falling into the hands of inexperienced
men, who would bring anarchy upon us."

"I will not argue the question with you, Marcelino," replied Don
Roderigo, "but I merely warn you that so long as an armed Frenchman
treads the soil of Spain the integrity of the dominion of Spain must be
the first object with every true Spaniard."

Marcelino listened to his father unconvinced, yet stirred himself no
further in the matter, leaving it entirely in the hands of his friend
Don Manuel Belgrano, who, being a man of much greater experience and of
higher position than himself, was more likely to be able to bring it to
a successful issue. But he also refused to listen to the solicitations
of his friend Evaña; returning to his post at the Consulado, he passed
his days in the sedulous discharge of his duties, and his evenings in
study, or in pleasant social intercourse. At least one evening every
week he passed at the quinta of Don Alfonso, till Magdalen learned to
look for his visits as one of the pleasures of her monotonous life.
Sometimes Evaña accompanied him, but never did either of them speak a
word to Don Alfonso on the politics of the day. He was invariably civil
to them, but to him their visits gave no pleasure, and they could
plainly see that it was often a relief to him when they took their
departure.

To Evaña these visits were as a penance undertaken for the sake of his
friend, but of Don Alfonso's increasing taciturnity Marcelino took no
note, there was one there always ready to talk to him, or to listen to
what he said, who took a deep interest in all his studies, and whose
large grey eyes lighted up her plain features into a beauty all their
own as he spoke to her. To him the months passed quickly, and happy in
the present he gave but now and then a passing thought to the future.

As for Don Carlos Evaña, his thoughts were ever in the future, but his
hopes, his fears, and his projects he kept all to himself, working
continually with one object steadily in view, the overthrow of Spanish
rule, but working in a way which appeared to none to be work. His
estancia he but once visited all that spring, and then his visit was a
short one, nearly all his time he spent in the city. Don Cornelio
Saavedra, Colonel of the Patricios, offered him a commission in the
first battalion, the command of the company formerly led by Don Isidro
Lorea, which he declined, yet he practised fencing every day, and those
of his books which treated of the art of war were those most frequently
studied by him.

One battalion of the Patricios was known as that of the "Pardos y
Morenos," being composed entirely of men of colour, liberated slaves, or
the descendants of freedmen. At the headquarters of this battalion Evaña
was a frequent visitor. Don Cornelio Saavedra met him there one day and
asked him somewhat scornfully whether he would prefer a commission in
this regiment to one in the _corps d'elite_, but to him Evaña answered
that as _yet_ he had no wish to enter any regiment. Don Cornelio noticed
the accent on the word "yet," and replied:

"It would be difficult for even a philosopher to understand you, Don
Carlos; for me, I confess that I understand you not at all."

But the free negroes and mulattos understood something about Don Carlos,
of which Don Cornelio knew nothing, which was, that if they required
favour or assistance in any way, none was so ready to help them as Don
Carlos Evaña, and that the only way in which they could repay him for
any such service was to repeat to him all the tittle-tattle and gossip
they could collect among their women-folk concerning the saying and
doings of certain of the chief men of the city who were Spaniards.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Manuel Belgrano entered eagerly into a secret correspondence with
certain confidential friends of the Princess Carlota; despatched
missives to trusty friends of his own throughout the provinces,
advocating her claims; and kept alive the zeal of her friends in the
city by frequent secret conferences, which were held in the guise of
dinner-parties, or of excursions into the country, so baulking the
vigilance of Don Roderigo, or of any others unfriendly to the project.
So passed with him the spring very harmlessly, but his enthusiasm
greatly subsided as he learnt that even American air could not
liberalize a Bourbon of the royal house of Spain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Martin Alzaga was looked up to by every Spaniard as the champion of
what all Spaniards thought their birthright, the right to rule after
their own fashion and their own will all the colonies of Spain. Don
Martin knew himself also that he was their champion and thought that he
possessed every qualification necessary for a leader in such a cause.
Tall, stern-featured, and spare of flesh, with a deep, harsh voice and
an authoritative manner, his outward appearance gave the exact index to
the man within. The events passing round him taught him nothing, the
belief was innate in him that Napoleon was invincible, and that the
Bourbons would never again rule in Spain. Acting upon these beliefs of
his, he conceived the idea of erecting a new Spain in America, of which
Buenos Aires should be the capital, and of which the government should
be entirely in the hands of Spaniards, looking to Ferdinand VII. as
their king, and acknowledging the authority of the Junta Central of
Spain so long as any such Junta should exist.

Don Martin had devoted great attention after the defeat of Whitelock to
enrolling and equipping an artillery corps composed entirely of
Spaniards. With this new corps and the Spanish infantry regiments
previously existing, he considered that he might safely set the
Patricios at defiance. So long as Liniers remained Viceroy, native
influence was paramount in the State, and nothing could be done towards
recovering the ground already lost. He took counsel with such of the
leading Spaniards as were in his confidence, among whom was Don Roderigo
Ponce de Leon. Together they wrote to the Junta Central of Spain, then
established at Seville, advising the recall of Marshal Liniers.

After the despatch of this letter, Don Roderigo counselled patience,
stating that with the arrival of a new Viceroy would come a fair
opportunity for the adoption of severe measures of repression. But
patience was by no means any part of the character of Don Martin Alzaga,
he chafed at the delay, and purposed within himself to take the supreme
authority into his own hands, until such time as a new Viceroy should
make his appearance, to whom he could surrender his power intact.

Colonel Don Francisco Elio, at that time Governor of Monte Video, was a
man of the same stamp as Don Martin Alzaga. To him Don Martin imparted
his plans. The first result of their understanding was that on the 24th
September Colonel Elio, justifying his proceedings by the friendly
reception given by the Viceroy to the envoy of Napoleon, which he
stigmatised as treachery to Spain, arrested the unfortunate envoy, who
was then in Monte Video, and openly rebelled against the authority of
Marshal Liniers, whom he denounced as a traitor.

Marshal Liniers took no steps whatever to crush this rebellion; the
Spaniards of Buenos Aires hailed the event with joy, as a presage of
what they would presently do themselves, and native Argentines were
filled with well-grounded alarm. Don Martin Alzaga exulted at the
success of his first step, and steadily prepared to follow it up.

Yet among the Spaniards there was one who felt alarm at this first
success. Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon saw that the deposition of the
Viceroy would be a much more difficult matter to achieve in Buenos Aires
than it had been in Monte Video, and that any false step would bring on
a collision with the people in which not only the power of the Viceroy
but Spanish rule altogether, might be overturned.

And among native Argentines there was one who for precisely the same
reason heard of the event with exultation. Don Carlos Evaña hailed with
joy any event which might bring his fellow-countrymen into open
collision with their rulers.

       *       *       *       *       *

October passed over and nothing was done, so also November. Towards the
end of November, one warm afternoon on which the sun shone down upon the
city from a sky of intense blue, uncheckered by one white cloud, when
the white-washed houses cast a glare upon the streets such that it was a
torment to walk abroad, when steady-going citizens were just rousing
themselves from their siesta in the coolest recesses of their houses,
one man braved both the sun and the glare, left his house and walked
slowly along the deserted street till he reached the house of Don Fausto
Velasquez. Entering by the open doorway, he crossed the first patio,
passed through the zaguan into the second, and paused to clap his hands.
A mulatta girl issued from one of the side rooms at his summons, smiled
at him as she saw him, and came up to him saying:

"At your service, Don Carlos. What may be your pleasure?"

"The Señora Doña Josefina; will it be possible for me to speak with
her?" replied Don Carlos Evaña, for he it was who had thus come to
disturb the siesta of Doña Josefina.

"Certainly it will, Don Carlos," replied the mulatta. "It is late
already," she added, looking up at the sun. "If you will have the
goodness to pass to the sala, in one moment she will be with you."

Don Carlos passed to the sala as he was requested, but the one moment
had spun itself out to half an hour ere the folding doors opened, and
Doña Josefina glided into the room. She was dressed in a flowing robe of
some soft, white material, loosely girded below her ample bosom; the
short, loose sleeves left nearly the whole of her plump white arms
visible; the upper part of her dress was surmounted by a stiff sort of
ruff about three inches deep, which rose from her shoulders almost to
the level of her ears, and the dress itself was open in front to within
three inches of the girdle. Her luxuriant black hair was simply plaited
and wound round her head till it formed a sort of coronet, gold pendants
hung from her ears, and in her hand she carried a large fan with which
she fanned herself gently as she sailed down the large room to the
obscure corner in which Don Carlos had ensconced himself.

Don Carlos, reclining lazily in a low chair, was so absorbed in his own
thoughts that her noiseless approach over the soft carpet was
unperceived by him till she was close to him, when he started up from
his seat and bowed lowly to her without speaking. Then as she stretched
out her hand to him he raised it to his lips, an act of homage which the
lady received with perfect complacency, after which, leading her to a
sofa, he seated himself on a chair near to her saying:

"With your permission, Señora."

"It is yours, Don Carlos," replied the lady, languidly leaning one arm
upon a cushion, and with her head slightly inclined to one side, turning
her lustrous black eyes full upon him; then as he returned her glance
she smiled and added:

"Do you know, Carlos, you are a perfect heretic. I was going to deny
myself, but when I heard it was you I knew it was no use, and now your
face is as solemn as if you were going to a funeral. I suppose you have
something that you think very important to tell me."

"I have, Señora, or I should not have disturbed you at this hour."

"Well, I only hope it is not to recommend to me some other protegé, for,
frankly, he fatigues me, this Asneiros of yours. If you had not come I
was going to send for you before I went, to speak to you about him."

"Before you went! then you are going? I only heard of it this morning
from Marcelino, and I have come at once to ask you not to go."

"It is not quite settled yet, but I promised Constancia that I would
tell her certainly this evening. Constancia goes the day after to-morrow
and wants me to go with her. Justito has not been well lately and the
country air would do him good, but Fausto wants me to put off my visit
until the new year, why, I don't know."

"And I too want you to put off your visit."

"You! what interest can you have in keeping me in the city?" As she
spoke Doña Josefina leaned her head more to one side, and waving her fan
gently, cast a languishing glance above it, then suffered the long
lashes to fall over her eyes, veiling them.

"The interest is not mine, Señora, it is for the interest of the Patria
that I wish you to stop."

"Every one knows that to Don Carlos the interest of the Patriao is above
every other consideration, so I suppose I must stop and suffer another
month or six weeks of this heat in the city. But what can a poor thing
like me do for the Partia, Carlos?"

"One thing that I cannot do, and I know that the Partia is as dear to
you as it is to me, else I had not troubled you, Señora."

"Yes, Carlos," replied Doña Josefina, straightening herself up, dropping
her hands into her lap, and in a moment throwing off her usual languid
manner; "yes, Carlos, the Patria is dear to me as you say; though you
care nothing for me, you appreciate me rightly. You have confided to me
your hopes and plans; in what I can do you will find that I am as good a
patriot as you are. And I know that there is trouble before us; Fausto
has told me that the Spaniards will not be content until they have
deposed the Viceroy here as they have done in Monte Video. Deposed
Liniers! do you hear me, Carlos? These Spaniards are going to turn him
out and send him to Spain, perhaps in chains, because he is a
Frenchman!"

"If that were all, Señora, it would be little," replied Evaña, "that is
nothing but the first step; the next will be to disarm the Patricios,
and then----but it is not necessary to inquire what more."

"Disarm the Particios! never!" replied Doña Josefina, closing her fan
with a click, as though she had quite made up her mind on that point.
"If such are their ideas we must keep our Viceroy at any cost. We must
prevent the first step, and all the rest is safe."

"Exactly so, Señora. I have spoken the same thing to many, but you are
the first to whom I have spoken who has seen as I do the necessity of
risking everything, of daring everything, rather than permit the
Spaniards to annul an appointment we originally made."

A pleased smile came on to the face of the lady as Evaña spoke, then
looking down at her hands as she twirled her fan between her fingers,
she said in a low voice:

"We are agreed then, Carlos; tell me, what can I do?"

"When the Cabildo publishes a decree deposing Liniers, which they are
sure to do before long, they will rely upon the Spanish regiments to
enforce it if necessary. If Liniers calls upon the native regiments they
will come forward to a man to support him, but they are fewer in number
than the Spaniards and not so well organised, the result of a struggle
would be doubtful."

"Not at all, Carlos! You know not those young men how enthusiastic they
are, and Liniers they will follow to the death."

"Liniers will never call upon the Patricios to support him unless he
feels certain of success; he will yield without fighting. Now if we can
get one regiment of the Spanish troops to join us we shall then have the
superiority in numbers."

"And Gregorio's dragoons?"

"Also I shall have them at hand when the day comes, and the hussars of
Don Martin Rodriguez, all the cavalry is ours. Have no fear, Señora,
with one of the Spanish regiments of infantry, our superiority in
numbers and enthusiasm will secure us the victory. In the Andaluz
regiment nearly all the men are native Argentines, if one officer
pronounce in our favour the whole regiment will turn over to us."

Here Evaña paused and looked steadily at Doña Josefina.

"Asneiros!" ejaculated that lady, with a look of annoyance, then leaning
back again upon her cushions she commenced fanning herself.

"Yes, Señora, Asneiros. Among all the Spaniards there is no better
officer than Asneiros, and you can bring him over to us when the day
comes. I am sorry if he has given you any annoyance, but the kindness
you have shown him for these months past will prove a great service to
the Partia."

"There is one can do much more with Asneiros than I can, Carlos,"
replied Doña Josefina, looking away from him with a fresh flourish of
her fan.

"Impossible, Señora," replied Evaña; "anyone to whom you show favour is
at once your slave."

"How the men are blind," replied the lady, turning her eyes again upon
Evaña. "Always that Dolores comes to see me then comes Asneiros, and
whilst she is here he has no eyes for anyone else."

"Dolores!" exclaimed Evaña with a sudden start.

"Dolores! yes, Dolores, Señor Don Carlos. Does it appear to you strange
that that barbarian of a Spaniard should think more of Dolores than of
me?"

"But Dolores! And she?"

"What matters to you Dolores?"

Then as Evaña leaned back in his chair with a frown on his face without
answering, Doña Josefina bent forward and tapped him on the knee with
her fan, saying:

"Ah! Carlos! you are a great politician, and very wise and very secret,
but we ladies have our eyes and know how to use them. You are very
astute, and think you can hide from us what you hope and wish for, but
there are certain things that we know, and when the occasion comes, we
discover them. But we, we are friends, Carlos; have no fear, there is
one I know, for whose little fingers Dolores cares more than for the
whole body of that Asneiros."

Again leaning back upon her cushions, she turned her lustrous black eyes
upon him, gently fanning herself the while.

"All the more necessary, then, for you to remain in town," said Evaña,
after a pause. "Doña Constancia goes to the quinta the day after
to-morrow, but she does not like Asneiros, she will not ask him to the
quinta, but if you go he will visit you there, and he will be away when
we want him, for we cannot tell when the day will come."

"Look you, Carlos," said Doña Josefina, interrupting him, "I had a plan
for that Asneiros which would have suited us all very well. Every
Wednesday I have two visitors, Dolores and Magdalen Miranda. They come
to see each other, and are great friends. You have met them here on
Wednesdays. Who you came to see you have never told me, but I am not one
to whom it is necessary to tell things. I asked Asneiros to come that he
might meet Magdalen, but when you are not there to make Dolores talk to
you this gentleman can talk only to her, and for the Inglesita he has
not one glance. Then when Marcelino can manage it, he comes always for
at least one hour on Wednesdays, and has neither eyes nor words for
anyone but for Magdalen. These Wednesdays, which were to me a pleasure,
are now the bane of my life, everything goes contrary, and I counted
that by going out with Constancia I should put an end to them."

"You intended Magdalen for this Spaniard?"

"Precisely so, and she thinks nothing of him, and watches the door with
all her eyes till Marcelino comes. That Marcelino should amuse himself
with her is well enough, so long as it pass not amusement. Young men are
not all like you, Carlos; they must have amusement, and with each new
face they see they think they are in love. I wanted Elisa to come also
on Wednesdays, and she came in the winter, but after Marcelino came back
from Brazil she comes only in the evenings. That is all through
Magdalen, the insignificant little creature; I begin to lose patience
with her."

"Magdalen is a great deal too good for Asneiros," said Evaña.

"What an idea! Even he is good enough for that snub-nosed little thing.
Think you what is her father? A miserable, without soul. And what has
he? Just enough live to on. Not even presentable would Magdalen be but
that we had befriended her."

"Possibly not, Señora; you have been very kind to her. But do not
afflict yourself, let affairs arrange themselves. For Dolores there is
not the slightest fear. She is kind to Asneiros, for he rings praises of
Marcelino in her ear, and that is always music to Dolores, but more
there is nothing."

"Ah! Carlos! with what confidence you speak," said Doña Josefina, with a
toss of her head, and smiling.

"Let us leave that, Señora. What matters to us at present is that you
keep, and increase if you can, your influence over Asneiros. How to do
it you know much better than I can tell you."

"Do you want me to make love to him on my own account?" asked the lady,
with a supplicating glance.

"Far be it from me to indicate the 'how.' One thing only I ask of you to
promise me, which is that you do not leave the city at present."

"And when then will your lordship give me permission to go?"

"When we have tried our strength with the Spaniards, and have beaten
them."

"Let it be so. I give you my promise."

"And the Patria will some day thank you, and know you as one of her most
faithful children," replied Evaña, rising from his chair.

"Sit down, Carlos; do not go yet. Have you nothing more to say to me?"

"The object of my visit is accomplished."

"And already you go? Sit down again, Carlos. The Patria is your first
love, and we are going to do what we can for her; but after her there is
another love, come and talk to me of that."

"I have but one love, Señora," replied Evaña, standing before her, and
twirling his hat round with his long, white fingers.

"Sit down Carlos, and I will talk to you of Dolores," said Doña
Josefina, with a full glance of her speaking eyes, before which his
stern eyes sank back abashed.

"Not now, Señora," replied Don Carlos, in a voice in which there was so
clear an accent of pain that Doña Josefina, after looking at him for a
moment in perplexity, insisted no longer upon his remaining, but rose
herself from the sofa, and walked with him to the large folding-door
which gave exit to the patio.

"Lose all fear, Carlos," said she to him as he stepped out into the
sunshine; "between the two of us we will arrange this barbarian of a
Spaniard, and turn him into a patriot."

"That I fear we can never do," replied Evaña; "but if he serve us as we
wish him the rest is no matter."

"If he serve us well we will give him the Inglesita as his reward," said
Doña Josefina; then adding with a laugh, "and a well-matched couple they
will be."

To this Evaña made no answer, but with a low bow took his departure.



CHAPTER V

HOW THE VICEROY TOOK COUNSEL WITH DON RODERIGO


Weeks passed till it was the third week in December. One evening in that
week Don Carlos Evaña mounted his horse and galloped out to the Quinta
de Ponce. The next morning at dawn he was again in the saddle, galloping
over the level plains southwards to the estancia of Don Francisco Viana,
where he purposed passing the noon-tide heat, and thereafter in the cool
of the evening pursuing his way without halting till he should reach his
own estancia.

While Don Carlos Evaña so rested at midday, Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon
sat conversing with the Viceroy in his private room at the fort. Marshal
Liniers had sent for him, telling him that there was matter of great
moment on which he wished to consult him. Don Roderigo sat with an open
letter in his hand, which he had just been reading; his face was very
thoughtful, he seemed to be anxiously debating within himself how he
should answer the Viceroy, who was speaking rapidly and whose face
showed evident marks of excitement and something of indignation.

"Do you know who he is, this Don Saturnino Rodriguez Peña?" asked the
Viceroy.

"Perfectly. He is a brother of Don Nicolas," replied Don Roderigo. "He
is the man who put that folly into the head of my son, of which I told
you some months ago."

"But you have since told me that it remained there, and that nothing was
done?"

"And so far as my son is concerned I know that nothing has been done."

"But she speaks most plainly of a conspiracy against me? I shall write
to the Prince-regent and demand the arrest of this Don Saturnino."

"If there be any such conspiracy the publication of this letter, written
to you by the Princess herself, would at once put an end to it."

"The Princess Carlota warns me of a conspiracy, so there must be
something."

"It may be; I too have heard rumours, but take little note of them. Your
appointment as Viceroy can only be legally annulled by the Junta of
Seville, and, failing that, your great popularity secures your
authority."

"My popularity while it exists; but if the people themselves pronounce
against me? Think you that I will uphold my authority by force against
the will of the people?"

"Your popularity would vanish at once were you to do so."

"If because I was born in France the people trust me no longer let them
say so."

"Then if the people speak clearly their distrust of you, you will
resign?"

To this Liniers did not answer, passing his hand across his forehead,
leaning back in his chair with an air of great discontent, and Don
Roderigo continued:

"Permit me to tell you, Don Santiago, that if you yield at once to a
popular cry you sap the basis of all authority. If the people, applying
through the corporations of the city, should request you to resign, I
think you may take the matter into serious consideration, but not
sooner."

"There is some secret conspiracy going forward; am I to take no steps to
prevent it ripening into a rebellion?"

"Wait till we have more certain information, the Cabildo will advise you
at once if there be danger of any attempt against your authority."

"How can I tell that the Cabildo itself is not in the conspiracy?"
replied the Viceroy, looking sternly at Don Roderigo; "all are
Spaniards. Elio and those who support him in Monte Video are all
Spaniards. I distrust the Cabildo more than I do the people."

"You may have your reasons of which I know nothing," said Don Roderigo;
"but the Cabildo would never venture upon any steps against you unless
they were perfectly secure of the general acquiescence of the city."

"Then you acknowledge that you Spaniards would depose me if you were
able to do so?"

"In the present state of affairs in the mother-country it is natural
that a Frenchman be looked upon with jealousy, not only by Spaniards but
by the Creoles also. The people murmured greatly at the friendly
reception you gave to the envoy sent by Napoleon last August."

"But the people at any rate were satisfied when I ordered the
proclamation of Ferdinand VII.?"

"It was on that very day that some of them discussed together the
propriety of setting him aside in favour of his sister the Princess
Carlota."

"True, I did badly in passing over that affair without notice. In that
affair the first to move was your son, and because he was your son I
consented to pass it over. See now your gratitude; without doubt, if
there be a conspiracy he and his friend Don Carlos Evaña are the prime
movers in it, and depend upon your concurrence and that of all the
Spaniards."

"If there be any conspiracy I feel quite sure that neither my son nor
Don Carlos Evaña have any part in it."

"I have heard Don Carlos speak freely his ideas years ago, and I have
not forgotten it; I tell you that this Evaña is by nature a conspirator,
and where he goes there goes Don Marcelino also."

"In this you are mistaken, I can assure you," replied Don Roderigo
warmly. "Don Carlos left the city yesterday for his estancia, saying
that it was uncertain when he would return, and Marcelino thinks of
nothing but of his duties at the Consulado."

"But he has his ideas, which require checking. If it were not that he is
your son I should arrest him and search his papers to discover what
correspondence he has carried on with this Don Saturnino Rodriguez Peña,
who has certainly, as you will have seen by that letter, some regular
correspondents in this city."

Don Roderigo rose from his chair and walked several times thoughtfully
up and down the room, then reseating himself, he said:

"Do not let any regard for me keep you from any step which may be
necessary for the vindication of your authority. I have months since
spoken to my son, and I know that he has done nothing in this matter of
the Princess Carlota since he first mooted it. Still his arrest may
serve him as a warning not to meddle in affairs beyond his proper
sphere."

"Thanks, Don Roderigo," replied the Viceroy with effusion. "This is a
great sacrifice you make to me. I shall order his arrest at once, but to
show you that I am actuated by no unfriendly feeling towards yourself I
will entrust the examination of his papers to you together with my
private secretary."

"That I must beg to decline. I can leave the examination of his papers
with entire confidence to anyone whom you may appoint." So saying Don
Roderigo took up his hat from a chair near him and rose to go, then
adding, "In anything that I can serve you always count upon me, Don
Santiago," he went his way.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Don Roderigo sat alone in his own room that evening, the door opened,
and in walked Don Martin Alzaga.

"Now what do you say about our Viceroy, that Liniers?" said he.

"What has he done now?" asked Don Roderigo.

"Do not you know? He has arrested Don Marcelino and seized his papers."

"I knew it," said Don Roderigo quite calmly.

"You know it, and you sit there as if it were a matter of no importance!
The news has spread through the city and has caused general
indignation."

"So much the better, that was just what I wanted."

"The better! Then you are agreeable that this Frenchman shall do what he
likes in our city, and put anyone in prison as he chooses without
consulting us?"

"He consulted me about it this morning, and I see that he has done
perfectly well _for us_. To Marcelino a few days' imprisonment will do
no harm. Marcelino is young, and has his ideas; in case of any important
event happening within the next few days he might be tempted to some
course which would prejudice his future."

"I begin to understand you," said Don Martin thoughtfully. "Marcelino is
very partial to the Viceroy, and some event may occur within a few days
with which it is well for him that he should have nothing to do. You
have asked the Viceroy to arrest him, what was your pretext?"

"You mistake; the idea came from the Viceroy himself. He has some
erroneous ideas in his head, and has acted upon them. If we make good
use of this event it may produce some popular demonstration. Liniers
values more than anything else his popularity, if we can persuade the
people to cry out against him he will resign, and there will be no
necessity for any Pronunciamiento."

"I see you always wish to go your own way about it. You want to turn the
militia against him. Well, do what you can, but in this I cannot help
you; more dangerous than Liniers to us, is the pride of these
Patricios."

"All that we have to do is to persuade the militia to keep quiet. Until
the new Viceroy arrives I warn you, Don Martin, that any attempt at
coercion will bring on a struggle with them which we must avoid at any
cost."

"You always fear those Patricios," said Don Martin impatiently. "I came
to speak to you about your son, but as you do not object to his
imprisonment I see that it is a false step of this Liniers of which it
is for us to take due advantage."

       *       *       *       *       *

Later on that same evening, at the house of Don Fausto Velasquez Don
Roderigo complained bitterly of the insult he had received in the
unwarrantable imprisonment of his eldest son.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Carlos Evaña did not make a long stay at his estancia this time, on
the fifth evening from the day he left the city he was again at the
Quinta de Ponce. Short as had been his absence, he had managed to spend
one day at Las Barrancas with Colonel Lopez, and the very day that he
left him, the Colonel sent out messengers right and left summoning his
men to meet at the Barrancas on the 25th December for a fortnight's
drill.

On the eventide of this day on which Don Carlos again visited the Quinta
de Ponce, Dolores was seated under the front verandah of the house,
holding on her knee a stout little boy, her cousin Justiniano Velasquez,
who had been entrusted to her care by his mother until such time as she
should leave the city and resume care of him herself. Dolores was very
fond of her cousin, and was pleased to have the care of him. Her
affection was fully reciprocated by the little fellow who teased her and
coaxed her to let him have his own wilful way in everything, was an all
day long trouble to her, and rewarded her by an unlimited amount of
caresses, and by screaming with all his might if he lost sight of her
for an instant when he was awake. She called him the plague of her life,
and was never so happy as when she was ministering to his manifold
wants.

On this evening Dolores was somewhat pale and less cheerful than was her
wont, yet as Don Carlos stepped into the verandah to salute her he
thought he had never before seen her looking so beautiful. There was a
pensive thoughtfulness on her face not often seen there, which added an
indescribable charm to the smile of welcome she bestowed upon him.

"How soon you are back," she said; "as you said your stay at your
estancia was uncertain we did not expect you for a month."

"What has happened to you? You look triste, does that little rogue
plague you?"

"Ah! Don Carlos, you do not know," replied Dolores, bending over the
boy, and with difficulty keeping back her tears; "Marcelino is in
prison, three days ago he was arrested by an order from the Viceroy and
is in prison."

"Marcelino in prison!" exclaimed Evaña. "On what charge? what has he
done?"

"Nothing. We know nothing of why he is in prison. Papa was here
yesterday, you may imagine how angry he was, and he says all the city is
indignant about it. But why he is put in prison no one knows. They went
to our house and searched his room, and took away all his papers. Poor
mamma, she wanted to go back to the city to see him, but papa would not
let us go, and there he is with no one to speak to him, and he will
think we care nothing about it."

"No, that he will not think, he knows you better."

"What a pity that you were away. Papa says that if you had been there
you would have stirred up some demonstrations, and the Viceroy would
have been forced to set him at liberty."

"Where is he imprisoned?"

"At the Cabildo. He is not in a dungeon; papa says he is only under
arrest, but no one is allowed to speak to him. One has been very active
and offered to papa to break into the Cabildo and rescue him by
force--Captain Asneiros; his Andaluces would follow him anywhere, and
there are some of Marcelino's Morenos in one battalion of the Patricios,
who, he says, would dare anything for their old chief. But papa would
not let him; he says that the indignation of the whole city will force
Marshal Liniers to set him free. Ah! if you were only there, Don Carlos,
you would do more than Captain Asneiros, and even than papa, for Don
Cornelio Saavedra and the Patricios would all listen to you, and without
them the Viceroy is nothing, papa told me so."

"Asneiros!" said Evaña to himself, rising from his seat and walking up
and down the verandah, "Asneiros! I begin to understand. This is a trap,
and if we are careless we will run our necks into the noose."

Then again he paused in front of Dolores and asked her:

"But nothing has been done, he remains in prison, and no one has spoken
to him, not even Don Roderigo?"

"No one. Not even papa is allowed to speak to him, and nothing has been
done, but to-morrow you will be there, and something will be done," said
Dolores, looking up at Evaña with a flush on her cheek, and a trustful
look in her gray eyes.

"Not to-morrow, but to-night I will go in, but I do not tell you that I
will do anything to set Marcelino at liberty. Believe me, it may be best
for him to remain where he is just at present, but not for long, not for
long. This affair will not have the end which they think it will."

"Don Carlos!" exclaimed Dolores; "best for him to remain in prison! What
has he done, Don Carlos? You know something."

"He has done nothing to deserve imprisonment, yet for other reasons it
may be best for him to remain where he is for a few days. He is innocent
and therefore he is in no danger."

"Innocent! of course he is, and yet you would let them treat him as a
criminal, and will do nothing to help him. Are you not my friend, Don
Carlos? Are you not his brother?"

"I am your friend, he is my brother. Trust me, he shall not remain in
prison longer than is necessary."

Up to this time little Justiniano had sat quietly on Dolores' knee
listening to their talk but at the word friend he started up, saying:

"You are Lola's friend? I have no brother, but I have a friend too. Tell
me, Lola, again, where is my friend? Talk to me about my friend the
Englishman."

A deep flush spread over Dolores' face as she clasped the boy in her
arms kissing him.

"He is away over the sea, Justito, fighting the French for England and
for Spain," she said.

"He is a soldier," said Justito. "When I am big I will be a soldier, and
will go and fight the French for him, so that he may come back. He said
he would come back, didn't he, Lola?"

"Yes, dear; and some day he will come," said Dolores, again kissing the
boy and bending over him so as to hide her face from Evaña.

"Then you must not be triste, Lola; it makes me feel bad to see you
triste, Lola; yesterday you were crying and it made Justito sad to see
you," said the boy, patting her cheeks with his two little hands. "Some
day when I am big, then I will go and bring back my friend from away
over the sea. Is it far to go, Lola?"

"Yes, dear, hundreds and hundreds of leagues, and all water, with the
waves going up and down and tossing the ships about."

"Why did he go so far, Lola?"

"He had to go where the King of England sent him, for he is a soldier."

"Poor Lola," said the boy, again patting her cheeks, "again you are
crying, Lola; who makes you triste, Lola?"

"A wicked man who has put Marcelino in prison. You love Marcelino, don't
you, Justito?"

"Yes, oh so much! When is he coming again, Lola? Days that he has not
been here."

But Dolores could prattle to the boy no more, her sobs choked her speech
and he threw his arms round her neck, kissing her and looking angrily
back at Don Carlos, as if he thought he was the cause of all her sorrow.

"Come to me, Justito, and I will tell you about Marcelino, and about
your friend," said Don Carlos, bending with one knee to the pavement and
holding out his arms to the boy.

"No, no, go away," said Justito. "Are you the wicked man who has made
Lola cry?"

"No, no, Justito, Don Carlos is not wicked; he is going to take
Marcelino out of prison, and then Lola won't cry any more," said
Dolores.

Then Justito jumped from Dolores' arms and ran to Don Carlos Evaña.

"You will go, won't you, and bring Marcelino back with you, it makes
Justito bad to see Lola cry?" said he.

"I will go, and will not come here again till I bring Marcelino with
me," said Don Carlos, raising the boy up in his arms and kissing him.

Dolores rose from her seat with a smile on her face as Evaña spoke.

"Always my friend and his brother," said she, then taking the boy from
him she led him away with her into the house.

Don Carlos Evaña only remained long enough at the quinta to speak a few
words to Doña Constancia, and to learn from her all she knew concerning
the imprisonment of his friend Marcelino. Then, declining her urgent
invitation to pass the night at the quinta, he remounted his horse and
galloped away through the darkness for the city.



CHAPTER VI

THE EVE OF A GREAT EVENT


It was nine o'clock when Don Carlos Evaña reached the city. Without
stopping either to change his dress or to take food, he had no sooner
dismounted than he went straight to the house of Don Gregorio Lopez. In
the first patio he met Valentin.

"Don Carlos! Back already, I am so glad," said Valentin. "You know what
has happened?"

"Marcelino has been imprisoned, that I know. Is there anything else?"

"That is enough, I think," replied Valentin. "He has been three days in
prison, and nothing has been done. It is scandalous, but we will soon do
something. There are some men here this evening in consultation with my
father, pass forward, you will find them in the dining-room."

"Then has nothing been done?"

"Nothing."

"I am glad of it. There is more in this than you know of, my young
friend, be content yet for a few days to do nothing."

So saying, Evaña passed on to the dining-room, where he found Don
Gregorio Lopez in consultation with Don Fausto Velasquez, Don Cornelio
Saavedra, Don Manuel Belgrano, and four others. Evaña joined them, and
for an hour they remained talking earnestly together, then, as some of
them rose to go, Don Manuel Belgrano said:

"Yet after all I do not like the idea of leaving my young friend in
prison, when, if that be the crime charged against him, I am the real
culprit."

"For many reasons I agree with Don Carlos," said Don Gregorio, "that it
is the wisest course."

"Above all things it is necessary that they take the initiative," said
Don Cornelio Saavedra. "The Señor Don Santiago Liniers is a man of no
decision, and in order that he put full confidence in us we must show
our acquiescence in any measure that he may think fit to adopt."

"We all know well what Liniers is," said Don Gregorio. "If we arouse in
any way his suspicions, Don Martin and the bishop, between them, will
persuade him to resign."

"If he resign we shall have in his place a Junta of Spaniards, and we
all know what that means," said Evaña.

"I for my part assure you that we will have no Junta," said Don
Cornelio. "Do you know, Señor Evaña, that if you had not fortunately
returned so soon from your estancia I think we should have made some
false step. Don Roderigo has infected us all with his own indignation;
we must not forget that Don Roderigo is a Spaniard, and in these days it
is not well to take everything that a Spaniard says, quite for what the
words mean."

"Then let it be so," said Belgrano. "If Don Roderigo does not release
him without our help he must yet remain some days in prison. Afterwards
we will explain everything to him."

"I am sorry for him," said Don Fausto. "To pass these hot summer days
shut up in a small room would kill me very soon, but when Don Gregorio
and Don Carlos Evaña both say it is for the best I say no more."

"One word more, Don Cornelio," said Evaña. "Have you not yet any idea
when the Pronunciamiento is likely to take place?"

"It may take place any day," replied Don Cornelio. "But if nothing
occurs to hurry it on, I expect we shall see something on the occasion
of the municipal elections on the 1st January."

"The 1st January leaves not many days to wait now, and we are ready. In
future years we shall look back upon that day as a great epoch in the
history of the Argentine people. Upon you, Don Cornelio, depends the
present welfare and the future greatness of a young nation; to you our
country entrusts her destinies in the most critical moment of her
existence." So saying, and looking fixedly upon Don Cornelio Saavedra,
Evaña bowed to him with great solemnity and retired.

"The ideas of the Señora Evaña," said Don Fausto Velasquez, laughing.
"When shall we see the end of them?"

"In this the Señor Evaña is not mistaken," said Don Gregorio Lopez. "May
God help you, Don Cornelio, and remember that where you go you have an
entire people behind you, who have placed their destinies in your
hands."

       *       *       *       *       *

Three days after this, as Captain Asneiros returned to his quarters
after an early drill and inspection, he found a young slave waiting for
him with a message from Doña Josefina Viana, who requested him to call
upon her that evening without fail. The swarthy face of the Spaniard
brightened with pleasure as he listened to the words of the little
negro, but:

"It is well, you can go," was all his answer.

In the evening twilight Doña Josefina, dressed in a graceful negligée
fashion well suited to the season, sat in a low chair beside one of the
windows of her sala, which was thrown wide open, gazing out into the
street. Young men as they passed doffed their hats, bowing lowly, and
many of them paused, hoping that the graceful head which answered their
salute with a gentle inclination might bend yet further forward and
speak, and so give them an excuse for loitering there leaning against
the iron bars, and talking for a few minutes. If any such favour had
been granted to any of them they would have strutted off after
exchanging a few conventional phrases, with the feeling that a great
honour had been bestowed upon them, of which they might speak with great
access of personal dignity in whatever social circle they might spend
the rest of the evening. Men of mature years who passed that window were
even more eager and obsequious than the young men in their manner of
salutation, but after one glance at the figure reclining there behind
the iron reja, enveloped in clouds of gauzy muslin, half shaded from
view by the light curtains which draped the window, they passed on
without any pause, perchance muttering to themselves:

"She awaits some one, our queen of the saloons, who may that fortunate
be?"

To the salutations of both young and old Doña Josefina had but one
stereotyped answer, a slight lowering of her fan, and a still slighter
inclination of the head, with half-closed eyes. Thus she sat for about
half an hour, when a man of medium stature, slightly built, but with
square shoulders and very erect bearing, paused before the window. He
was dressed in a coat of dark crimson velvet, embroidered with gold
lace; his waistcoat, also richly embroidered, came well down over his
thighs; his small-clothes were of black satin, and he wore black silk
stockings and jewelled buckles in his shoes. The frill of his shirt
front and the ruffles at his wrists were of the finest lace. His hair
was gathered together behind, tied with a ribbon, and powdered. In one
hand he carried a thick golden-headed cane, and in the other his
three-cornered hat, which he had removed as he performed an elaborate
salute before the window. By his dress he was a dandy of the first
water, but of rather an antiquated fashion, but his face and carriage
were those of a stern soldier.

The large black eyes of Doña Josefina dilated with surprise and with
something of amusement, as she looked at this finely-dressed gentleman
who had paused before her window; for a moment she held her fan before
her face to conceal the smile which played upon her lips, then bending
forward she returned his salutation with great affability and said:

"Come in, Don Ciriaco, the hours that I have been watching for you."

"Then with your permission, Señora," replied Asneiros with another bow
as he moved away towards the door of the house.

Springing lightly to her feet, Doña Josefina drew forward an easy-chair
and placed it at the other side of the window opposite to her, in such a
position that such daylight as yet remained should fall full upon the
face of anyone seated in it, and that he should be plainly visible to
anyone passing in the street, then she pushed her own chair further back
so that her face should be quite shaded by the window-curtain, and a
portion of her dress only should be visible to anyone who might glance
in at the window. Hardly had she reseated herself ere Asneiros entered
the sala. Somewhat awkwardly he took her hand in his as she held it out
to him in welcome; for a moment she feared he was going to raise it to
his lips, however, he refrained, and seated himself in the easy-chair
she had placed ready for him.

"How is this, Señor Capitan?" said the lady. "In moments so critical as
the present can the Viceroy spare even for one day the services of one
of his most trusted officers?"

"You advert to my gallop out to the Quinta de Ponce yesterday, Señora?"
replied Asneiros. "Have then my movements so much interest for you?"

"You saw then my little Justiniano?" replied Doña Josefina, performing
meantime some elaborate movements with her fan.

"Yes, Señora, I saw him, and he sends to you many expressions of his
love. Better he could not be."

"Cruel! And you could remain a whole night in the city and yet not come
to tell me of him!"

"It was late, Señora, when I returned, but even without your message I
should have been bold enough to have presented myself to you this
evening."

"And my good Constancia and Dolores?"

"Well, Señora, but sad, as you may believe, whilst the son and the
brother suffers unmerited imprisonment."

"You went to speak to them of him, and to tell them what you are doing
for him?"

"To speak to them of him, yes, Señora, without that I would never have
had the temerity to present myself there. But yesterday Doña Constancia
was all that the amiable can be, and the beautiful Señorita was if
possible more of an angel than ever, Señora, yesterday I felt myself in
Paradise, for the first time in my life I found myself admitted to the
confidence of two angelic creatures, who wept as they spoke to me of
their sorrow, and who looked to me with confidence and with smiles when
I assured them that my own life should pay the forfeit for his liberty,
if it were not otherwise to be achieved."

"And are they the only women who ever treated you with confidence?"

"Ah! forgive me, Señora, but when I think of them and their sorrow I can
think of nothing else. And it was sorrow to me that I could not tell
them that I had done anything for him, I could only tell them what I
wished to do."

"What did you wish to do?"

"Señora, you are cruel to me! Did not I offer to break into the prison
at night with my own men and set him free, at any risk to myself?"

"You did, and I told you to do nothing till I had enquired further into
the matter. You have done well to listen to me, for there is more in
this imprisonment of Marcelino that I well understand even yet. And
ill-considered violence might have resulted in great disaster to us all,
which Marcelino himself would have been the first to deplore. Now I have
sent for you to know if you are yet ready to risk everything for your
old chief?"

"Señora, you give me back my life, for I can obey you no longer if you
tell me yet to do nothing. When I saw that angelical creature in tears
for the sake of her brother, I could restrain myself no longer. I laid
my hand on my heart, and swore to her that I would never see her more
till her brother was free. Señora, I have listened to you and to Don
Roderigo, and as yet have done nothing, but now I must do something, I
have begun to-day. I have spoken to several of my men, all of whom will
follow me. This night, if you wish it, I will seize the Cabildo, but I
had planned to leave it for one day longer, as I have not yet spoken to
any of my brother officers, and if they do not join me I must secure
them."

As Asneiros spoke of Dolores, Doña Josefina leaned back in her chair,
pressing her fan to her forehead, and so completely hiding her face.
When he paused she still kept her face concealed, and did not answer.
There was silence between them for a minute, then Asneiros resumed:

"You do not like to speak, Señora; there is no necessity that you
should. It is not needful that you should know anything further of my
plan. If possible I shall achieve the rescue without bloodshed. There is
great excitement among the troops. I do not know if you are aware of it,
but if I shout 'Down with the Viceroy' there is no Spaniard will raise
his musket against me."

Then Doña Josefina renewed her manoeuvres with her fan, opening it and
fanning herself gently, then shutting it again with a click. A girl
entered the ante-sala with a lighted lamp, which she placed upon a small
table in a corner, and then retired. Doña Josefina looked round at her
as she moved about. Then, as she closed the door behind her, she again
leaned back in her chair, gave two or three flourishes with her fan, and
with a low sigh said:

"You think very much of my little niece, Señor Capitan?"

"How is it possible for anyone to know a creature so amiable and not
think much of her?" replied Asneiros.

"Then because she, an ignorant little girl, asks you to do something for
her you will do it even though I request you not?"

"Señora, what is this that you say to me? She has not asked me to do
anything, but she weeps for her brother who is in prison, and I have
sworn that I will rescue him. You have asked me if I am ready, do you
yet want me to delay?"

"I want you to be ready, but to do nothing till I give you the signal.
Now listen. You say they have placed confidence in you by telling you of
their sorrows, I am going to put more confidence yet in you, for I am
going to tell you my reasons of which they know nothing. You think that
it is the Viceroy who has put Marcelino into prison, and you are ready
to shout 'Down with the Viceroy!'"

"And so is every Spaniard."

"And yet you know that the Viceroy and Marcelino have always been the
best of friends. There is a conspiracy on foot. There are men here who
dream of a republic. They have tried to implicate Marcelino, and make
him one of their leaders. He is rash and hot-headed as you know. The
Viceroy has put him in prison until the danger has passed over, then he
will let him go, and the real culprits will take his place. In this
Marshal Liniers has shown himself a true friend to Marcelino."

"I know that there is some conspiracy, but I understood that we were to
put down this Frenchman and name a Junta, as has been done in Monte
Video."

"That they say to deceive you. While the troops remain faithful to the
Viceroy these rebels can do nothing. The first step is to excite the
troops to mutiny against the Viceroy. If they are successful all is
lost, and we shall have a government of the Lord knows who."

"And Don Marcelino knows of this?"

"He does. Don Roderigo pretends to be angry at his arrest, but he is
well content that he should be out of this conspiracy. Who has more
influence with Marshal Liniers than Don Roderigo? One word from him and
Liniers would set Marcelino at liberty, for as yet he has taken no part
in the conspiracy, and is quite innocent. The Viceroy expected to find
some clue to the conspiracy among his papers, but I believe nothing has
been found, and he would be set free to-morrow if Don Roderigo wished
it. Now what I want you to do is to take care that these revolutionists
do not tamper with your men, and when the Viceroy calls upon you, join
him at once with all your battalion, then you can demand the liberty of
my nephew, and all of us will thank you for the great service you have
done."

"But, Señora, it may be days yet before they attempt this rebellion.
What will the Señorita Dolores say if all these days I do nothing?"

"Dolores herself shall thank you; I will tell her what you have done for
her sake."

"Why does not the Viceroy arrest the conspirators if he knows of the
conspiracy?"

"As yet he knows but little. He wants to make sure of the leaders before
he arrests any of them."

"I could put my hand upon one of them to-day," said Asneiros fiercely;
"and here he comes," he added, in a low tone, as Don Carlos Evaña
entered the sala.

Behind Evaña came Don Fausto Velasquez, who saluted the infantry captain
with great cordiality, but Evaña, merely bestowing upon him a nod of
recognition, seated himself beside Doña Josefina. Soon after, others
dropped in. Among them came Don Juan Martin Puyrredon and his sister
Doña Juana, the Señora de Sañez-Valiente, a tall, stately lady of very
affable manners, who was an intimate friend of Doña Josefina. With her
also came a younger sister, shorter in stature than Doña Juana, with
large, dark eyes, luxuriant hair, brilliant complexion, and a face and
figure said at that time to be unrivalled for beauty even in Buenos
Aires, Elisa Puyrredon.

Among these, Asneiros would have felt himself strangely out of place,
but Doña Josefina watched over him, and exerted herself so successfully
to set him at ease, encouraging him to talk, that when, after a couple
of hours, he rose to go, he felt as though he had never passed so
pleasant an evening in his life, and was resolved that come what might
he would let himself be guided by Doña Josefina, though he was too
astute to believe all that she had told him concerning the conspiracy
against the Viceroy.

Doña Josefina accompanied him to the patio as he went out, and said to
him:

"Pass by my window every evening at sundown, I will call you in if I
have anything to say to you. When you have anything to tell me come at
any hour."

"What it is to give oneself to politics," said Elisa Puyrredon, as Doña
Josefina returned to the sala. "Have you many paroquets like that to
show us, Doña Josefina?"

"Picara!" said Doña Josefina; "this Asneiros was the Lieutenant of the
'Morenos de Ponce.'"

"I did not know that," said Elisa. "And this poor Marcelino, when will
they let him go?"

"That is just what this Asneiros came to ask me," replied Doña Josefina.

"Asneiros makes no secret of his wish to break open the prison-door
himself at the head of a party of grenadiers," said Don Juan Martin.

"Why does he not do it then?" asked Elisa.

"He would do badly to do so," said Don Fausto.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every day for more than a week Asneiros strolled at sundown past the
window of Doña Josefina Viana, every day he found her sitting there
watching for him. Sometimes she would rise from her seat and, leaning
against the reja, would stand there for some minutes talking with him;
sometimes she would invite him in, when if alone together she would
listen in patience to his praises of Dolores and encourage him to think
that he alone should have the credit of the release of Marcelino from
prison; while every evening he had something to tell her of the progress
he had made in re-establishing the waning popularity of Marshal Liniers,
not only in his own regiment, but also in the artillery corps which was
supposed to be completely under the influence of Don Martin Alzaga.

So the days passed over till the morning of the 31st December, when he
called at the house, and being admitted at once, was shown into the
sewing-room of Doña Josefina, where she never received any but her most
confidential friend. Nearly an hour he remained there talking with her,
being on this occasion dressed in uniform, and speaking in a sharp,
decisive manner which Doña Josefina had never before observed in him.

"Señora," said he, as he withdrew, "I know not whether you have been
deceived, but I will delay no longer, and if Don Marcelino is not out of
prison by this hour to-morrow I myself will head a mutiny against the
Viceroy, in which case I can assure you that the whole of the garrison
of the city will join me."

When he had gone Doña Josefina sat for some minutes very thoughtful,
apparently far from pleased with the result of the interview till with a
start she exclaimed:

"To-morrow! that is the new year. It is done, he will be too late; now
Carlos will acknowledge that I also have done something for the Patria."

Half an hour later Don Carlos Evaña was with her, summoned to a
consultation by an urgent message.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime, while Marcelino's friends were thus interesting themselves in
his fate, there was one who was dearer to him than any other who spoke
of him not at all, but who thought of him every hour in the day, and
wept for him and prayed for him in the solitude of her own room at
night. A young girl who lived in great quiet with her father at his
quinta at the Miserere. To her parent she had spoken of him, but he had
chid her roughly, telling her that doubtless he deserved his punishment,
and that she was not to speak of him any more. On one Wednesday only
during this time had she paid her usual visit to Doña Josefina, who had
laughed at her when she had timidly asked news of Marcelino, saying:

"What matters it to you?"

But as she sat sewing in Doña Josefina's own room there came in another
lady, young and of radiant beauty, who spoke much of Marcelino, and to
her Doña Josefina talked unreservedly, and spoke confidently of his
speedy release. When she had gone:

"What think you of my friend Elisa?" said Doña Josefina; "Lola is very
fond of her, but you and she seem hardly ever to speak to each other."

"She is very beautiful," replied Magdalen.

"Marcelino says she is the most beautiful girl in Buenos Aires," said
the elder lady; "and he also so handsome. They are well matched, I do
not know why they delay so long; Marcelino wants to amuse himself a
little longer, I suppose, young men are like that, and Elisa is not
impatient, but if I were she, I should be jealous."

After this there was yet one Wednesday in December, but Magdalen told
her father that she had a headache and would not visit the city that
day.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the last days of December there was much excitement throughout
the city. Spaniards openly exulted in the speedy downfall of the
Viceroy, under whose rule their monopoly of power was slowly but
steadily slipping away from them. Quiet citizens, who troubled not their
heads about politics, were tormented by vague apprehensions for which
they could give no reason. Argentines of all ranks and ages, who had
learned during the past two years to look upon their country as their
own, fiercely determined that come what might, the leader they had
chosen for themselves should not be thrust from his position if he would
but call upon them for support.

Two men only fully appreciated the danger of the crisis, Don Roderigo
Ponce de Leon and Don Carlos Evaña; each of these in his own way
prepared to meet it.

On the morning of the 27th December, Don Carlos Evaña called his servant
into his private room, and after a short conversation with him took up a
sealed letter from his writing-table, which he gave to him. This letter
was addressed:

  Al Señor Coronel
  Don Gregorio Lopez,
  Comandante de los Dragones de Las Barrancas,
  Su Estancia.

"Now away you go," said Don Carlos, "and neither rest nor sleep till you
have delivered that letter."

"Before sunrise to-morrow he shall have it, Señor Don Carlos," replied
the man.

On the morning of the 31st December, Colonel Lopez arrived at the Quinta
de Ponce; he was dressed in uniform, and had two orderlies with him. He
listened to all that Doña Constancia and Dolores had to tell him, but
was very taciturn himself, and they were somewhat hurt at the small
sympathy he expressed for his nephew in his imprisonment.

At sundown Evaristo reached the quinta, saying that Don Roderigo was
not coming out that day and that he himself was to remain there till
Monday.

"We shall have plenty of room for you to-night, Gregorio," said Doña
Constancia. "We have generally a house full on a Saturday evening, but
it appears we are to have no visitors this week. Even Don Carlos has not
been out to see us since he came in from his estancia."

"I shall not stop the night here," replied Don Gregorio; "I am going on
after dark."

At ten o'clock Don Gregorio was still there, though he had ordered his
horse to be saddled. They were seated under the verandah, looking out
into the quiet night, talking little, for each one had his or her own
thoughts, and none of these thoughts were cheerful. Evaristo was the
most talkative, and his talk was of his brother or of the Viceroy
Marshal Liniers, and of whichever he spoke his words were words of
anger. Suddenly he started to his feet.

"Hush!" he said. "Listen! who are these that come at this hour of the
night?"

They stepped out into the garden, and from the south, through the thick
foliage of the trees, and near at hand, there came the sound of the
trampling of hoofs as of a multitude of horses at a quiet trot. Mingled
with this sound came the jingling of sabres in steel scabbards, and the
hum of many voices.

"Who are those, Gregorio?" said Doña Constancia, as a gruff voice
shouted "halt," and the trampling and the jingling ceased. "They have
stopped at the tranquera."

"They are my dragoons," replied the Colonel, "Sleep tranquil, Marcelino
will not be many hours longer in prison."

"My God!" exclaimed Doña Constancia, clasping her hands; "what is it
that you are going to do?"

"Who sent for you?" asked Dolores.

"Evaña," replied the Colonel; then kissing both of them he looked round
to bid good-night to his nephew, but Evaristo was not to be seen.

Five minutes later Don Gregorio Lopez, at the head of a well-appointed
squadron of dragoons, trotted down the road past the quinta gate, where
Doña Constancia and Dolores stood watching them in silence. Beside him
rode one who was not in uniform and carried no arms; this horseman, who
was but a youth, turned in his saddle as they passed the gate and
shouted:

"Good-night, mamita! good-night, Lola! to-morrow I will come back with
Marcelino."



CHAPTER VII

THE 1ST JANUARY, 1809


It seems to be a very old custom in Spanish-speaking countries to hold
elections on the first day of the week, the day set apart by all
Christian people as a day of rest. In these countries the right of all
free-born men to choose their own rulers is not considered to be work,
it is looked upon more as an amusement; the consequences of so looking
upon one of the most important duties of a citizen are frequently
disastrous.

This day, Sunday, the 1st January, 1809, was the day appointed for the
election of the municipal officers of the city. The citizens of Buenos
Aires on this occasion made no claim whatever to be admitted to some
share in the election, being content that these officials should be
selected, as they always had been, by the Cabildo, their attention being
entirely engrossed by a subject to them much more momentous.

At sunrise on this Sunday morning the whole city was astir. Steady-going
householders donned their uniforms and marched off to the barracks of
the several militia corps, the Patricios and Arribeños. Shopmen,
artificers, and peons left their homes all with one destination. Ardent
young patriots of the more wealthy families buckled on their swords and
proceeded to the headquarters of their regiments. All were animated by
one enthusiastic determination--to suppress by force, if necessary, any
attempt against the authority of the Viceroy they themselves had chosen.
All looked to Don Cornelio Saavedra as their leader.

At the same time, to the west of the city, on the wide, open space known
as the Plaza Miserere, the suburban cavalry, composed of the butchers
and quinteros who supplied the city markets, assembled under the orders
of Don Martin Rodriguez, who had with him Don Juan Ramon Balcarce as his
second in command. Most of these men had taken part in the defence of
the city against Whitelock, the name of General Liniers was to them as a
tower of strength.

The dragoons from Las Barrancas had passed the night encamped near to
the Puente Galves, at dawn Don Carlos Evaña was with them. Calling the
officers together he spoke earnestly to them, commending the appearance
of the men and the condition of their horses, telling them that they had
not been sent for without deep necessity, that their country had need of
them, and looked to them to vindicate her rights against the domination
of foreigners.

"Have no fear, Don Carlos," said Don Gregorio. "My men will do their
duty."

"What you or Don Cornelio Saavedra tell us, that we will do," said the
others.

Among these dragoons there was one troop which excelled in efficiency
and appearance, the horses all of one colour, dark bays, the men most of
them of one family, brothers, cousins, or nephews of the wife of Don
Francisco Viana. This troop was under the command of Venceslao Viana,
all the horses were the property of Don Carlos Evaña. After speaking to
the officers, Don Carlos addressed himself to the men of this troop,
speaking to them one by one, and asking after their families, then he
drew Venceslao Viana to one side and spoke to him alone. As Venceslao
listened, his face showed signs of great perplexity.

"Without orders from the Colonel?" asked he.

"More than a year ago you promised me----"

"Say no more," said Venceslao; "ask for no reasons. Give me the signal,
and I see no other chief than you."

"If all goes well I shall not give it, then you have nothing to do but
to obey the Colonel. But remember, if to-day pass without bloodshed
everything is to begin again."

"Decidedly this Don Carlos is a man of few scruples," said Venceslao to
himself as Evaña galloped away for the city. "But if he says it, it must
be done; by the faith of a Viana, to-day we will do for him some
service."

Soon after sunrise the trumpets sounded to saddle and mount, and
defiling over the Puente Galves, the regiment marched by the wide, sandy
road to the city, passed the suburbs, and halted on an open space of
ground near to the Residencia.

The Spanish troops were also early under arms, each corps in its own
barracks, among them also there was much enthusiasm. In every quarter of
the city armed men were collected together, and peaceably-disposed
citizens shut themselves in their houses, fearful that the day would not
pass without some great catastrophe.

At an early hour the members of the Cabildo met together, and were not
long in deciding upon the list of municipal officers for the ensuing
year. Having drawn up this list, a deputation from them, headed by Don
Martin Alzaga, proceeded across the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza de Los
Perdices to the fort, where they presented this list to the Viceroy. Few
words passed between them and the deputation retired. In both Plazas
hundreds of the citizens were walking to and fro, or stood conversing in
groups, all anxiously waiting for what the day might bring forth. As the
deputation left the fort after their interview with the Viceroy, passing
through these groups of men, who gazed upon them in silence as though
they would read their purpose in their faces, several of these Spaniards
took off their hats, waving them in the air and shouting:

"Junta! Junta! como la de la España! Abajo el Frances Liniers!"[9]

Among the people this shout found no echo. Then began the church-bells
to clang and the drums to beat to arms in the streets. Three corps of
the Spanish troops left their quarters with their arms and ammunition,
and marching hurriedly to the Plaza Mayor drew up on the west side the
Plaza with their backs to the Cabildo, shouting as their leaders had
already instructed them:

"Junta! Junta! como la de la España! Abajo el Frances Liniers!"

As the bells rang out their peal, Marshal Liniers sent off a messenger
to Don Cornelio Saavedra requesting him to garrison the fort. As the
Spanish troops entered the Plaza Mayor, the first battalion of the
Patricios marched through the Plaza de Los Perdices, crossed the
drawbridge of the fort, and occupied all the defences of this
stronghold. At the same time Don Carlos Evaña, with a drawn sabre in his
hand, at the head of a strong party of armed citizens, entered the fort
by a postern gate, and placed himself and his followers at the orders of
the Viceroy.

Marshal Liniers in full uniform stood at the foot of the flag-staff on
the parade-ground, looking anxiously out towards the city, listening to
the clangour of the bells and the shouts of the troops in the further
Plaza, when a Spanish officer in uniform and with his sword in its
sheath stood before him and saluted him.

"Asneiros! you here!" said Marshal Liniers.

"Yes, your Excellency," replied Asneiros, "I am here; my Andaluces are
also close at hand, the Spanish artillery have not left their barracks.
It appears that there is some conspiracy against you; I, my Andaluces,
and the Spanish artillery all put ourselves under your orders if you
grant me at once a favour that I require of you."

"Speak," said Marshal Liniers.

"You have imprisoned an honourable gentleman, Don Marcelino Ponce de
Leon; I demand his immediate release."

"He is in the Cabildo," replied Marshal Liniers. "If to-day at sundown I
am Viceroy I will set him free."

"A thousand thanks, your Excellency; not to-day only, but many days you
will yet see yourself Viceroy."

Then as he turned away Asneiros looked around him, and his eye fell upon
Evaña, who, with his drawn sabre in his hand, was talking eagerly with a
number of militia officers.

"He here and armed!" said Asneiros to himself; "he then is not of the
conspiracy. Fool that I am, I have let myself be deceived by the soft
voice of a woman. But it is not too late yet; if I go and shout for the
Junta over there Don Martin will set him free for me."

But as he crossed the drawbridge, and looked to where he had left his
men, he saw a mounted officer sitting in his saddle in front of them
speaking to them. As he ceased, the men took off their round caps and
tossed them in the air shouting:

"Viva Don Cornelio!" Then as Don Cornelio, raising his hand for silence,
again spoke, they shouted even louder than before:

"Viva el Virey Don Santiago Liniers! Viva!!"

It was too late; to turn back now was impossible; he had nothing left to
do but to follow the lead of Don Cornelio and to trust to the Viceroy.

During all this excitement one man stood quietly on the balcony of the
Cabildo, watching everything, but since the selection of the municipal
officers taking no part in anything, Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon. From
his position he could see the sheen of the bayonets as the Patricios
marched into the fort; he looked down into the Plaza below him upon the
troops there assembled, he noted at once the absence of the artillery
corps and of the Andaluces. None of his colleagues were with him, they
had proceeded from the fort to the house of the Bishop of Buenos Aires,
Monseñor Lue, who, with Don Martin Alzaga, was at the head of the
conspiracy against the Viceroy. Unless some measures were immediately
adopted to allay the excitement a struggle seemed inevitable; to this
struggle Don Roderigo could see but one end, the total overthrow of
Spanish authority. Hastily he descended from the balcony and walked to
the house of the Bishop. His report considerably damped the enthusiasm
of the conspirators; the Bishop consented to go alone to the fort to
endeavour to prevail upon the Viceroy to dismiss the militia to their
homes.

"Promise him anything," said Don Roderigo; but Don Martin Alzaga saw him
depart without speaking, and with the rest of the conclave returned to
the Cabildo.

As the Bishop presented himself to Marshal Liniers he was confronted by
Don Cornelio Saavedra, and between these two there ensued a hot
discussion. The Bishop protested that his only wish was to prevent
bloodshed, and promised that if the Patricios would retire, the Spanish
troops in the Plaza Mayor should be sent back to their barracks. To him
Liniers seemed disposed to yield whereupon Don Cornelio, still
protesting against any attempt on the part of the Spaniards to depose
the Viceroy, consented to retire from the fort with his troops, but
declared that he should keep them under arms until such time as the
Spanish troops had evacuated the Plaza Mayor.

Out over the drawbridge marched the Patricios in perfect order, the sun
shining on the bright barrels of their muskets and upon their glistening
bayonets. In one long column they crossed the Plaza de los Perdices,
passed through the wide arch of the Recoba Vieja, and in imposing array
marched straight for the artillery barracks, where the chosen Spaniards
of Don Martin Alzaga joined them with acclamations, and with loud shouts
of:

"Viva Don Santiago Liniers! Viva el Virey!"

Then came the second battalion of the Patricios, the "Pardos y Morenos,"
and the Arribeño regiment. Mounted messengers were despatched at speed
to the Residencia and to the Plaza Miserere. The swarthy troopers, tired
with long waiting in the hot summer sun, received the summons with joy,
and noon was not long passed ere Don Cornelio Saavedra found himself at
the head of a force nearly double in number to the entire force the
Spaniards could bring against him, even should the Andaluz regiment,
which remained under arms in the Plaza de los Perdices, ultimately
declare for them.

Meantime Don Martin Alzaga and his colleagues save one (Don Roderigo
Ponce de Leon held himself aloof from them), determined upon a direct
appeal to the people. Again the bells rang out their clang of alarm, and
the royal flag of Spain, brought out from its seclusion, was displayed
on the balcony of the Cabildo. Vain hope to excite loyalty to Spain in
the breasts of men who already knew that they were Argentines. Few
citizens responded to the appeal. Don Martin had none upon whom he could
depend save upon those three Spanish infantry corps which were still
drawn up in the Plaza Mayor, underneath the balcony on which waved the
proud flag of Spain, the symbol of the conquest.

Yet one other course was open to him. Sundry citizens who were
well-affected to their Spanish rulers were summoned to the Cabildo, and
incorporated with that august body, thus forming what was called in
those days a "Cabildo Abierto," a corporation in which both Spaniards
and Argentines were represented, and which might be thus supposed to
embody the wishes of the people.

Then a deed of resignation was drawn up, by which the Viceroy resigned
his office and authorised the formation of a Junta, in which his powers
should be invested. With this deed the whole of the members of the
Cabildo, both Spaniards and Argentines, with the exception of that one
man who still held aloof, crossed over to the fort and presented it to
the Viceroy, notifying him that it was the will of the people that he
should resign his office.

Liniers looked around him in surprise. All the ruling corporations of
the city were represented in this group of men who presented this deed
to him for signature. Among them were also several well-known citizens,
Argentines by birth, and men of influence among their fellow-countrymen.
It seemed to him that the voice of the people called upon him to resign;
he took his pen and signed the document.

As Liniers gave his assent, and ere he had yet signed the deed of
abdication, a messenger was sent across the two Plazas to the Cabildo,
to the Spaniards who had remained there, telling them that their cause
was won. Eager hands seized upon the flag of Spain, waving it
triumphantly; eager voices shouted the pæan of victory, yet still Don
Roderigo Ponce de Leon held aloof, leaning on the rails of the balcony
and gazing out upon the Plaza, watching ever, but neither by voice nor
sign showing that he had any part in the triumph.

Then from the Calle Defensa, memorable for the repulse and capture of
General Crauford on the 5th July, 1807, issued into the open Plaza the
firm array of the citizen soldiers of Buenos Aires, with their trusted
leader, Don Cornelio Saavedra at their head. First came the Patricios,
who ever claimed the post of danger, the post of honour; then came the
Arribeños, the artillery, the Pardos y Morenos and the Andaluces, who
had last of all made up their minds to join the ranks of the patriots.
The infantry with bayonets fixed, the artillery bringing their cannon
with them, the gunners marching with the matches lighted in their hands.
These drew up on the east side the Plaza in dense ranks, with the Recoba
Vieja behind them, facing towards the Cabildo, where the three Spanish
corps ceased their cries and jubilation as they gazed upon the
formidable array so unexpectedly marshalled against them.

Behind the infantry and artillery there came yet two other corps, two
squadrons of cavalry, the hussars of Don Martin Rodriguez, and the
dragoons from Las Barrancas, dark-featured, long-haired men, who sat
their horses as though they were parts of them, and whose bright sabres
were held by brawny hands, wielding them as though they were toys. These
two squadrons of cavalry, with the Andaluces, were drawn up behind the
Recoba in reserve, but at the cross streets and at the central arch,
spaces were left in the long line of infantry through which the cavalry
might advance were there occasion for their services.

When all his arrangements were complete, Don Cornelio Saavedra glanced
proudly over the serried files of men who obeyed his word, glanced
indignantly across the Plaza at the troops still there in spite of the
promise given him by the Bishop, then, deputing the command to Major
Viamont, away he galloped to the fort. Followed by a group of his
principal officers, he walked into the saloon of audience, in which the
deed of resignation had just been signed.

The assembled grandees were struck mute at this unexpected intrusion.
Monseñor Lue was the first to speak; turning to Saavedra he said--

"Thanks be to God, all is finished. His excellency loves the people, and
does not desire that there be bloodshed for his sake. He has agreed to
abdicate."

"Who has given his Excellency the power to resign the command legally
conferred upon him?" asked Saavedra in reply.

"Señor Comandante," replied the Bishop, in a supplicating tone, "do you
wish to involve this people in blood?"

"Neither I nor my comrades," answered the Commandant of the Patricios,
"have caused this revolution. I have said, and I repeat it, that there
is no cause for this violence."

Then hearing the Bishop say that it was the will of the people that the
Viceroy should resign, Saavedra interrupted him, saying--

"That is a falsehood. In proof of it, let the Señor Liniers come with
us, let him present himself to the people; if the people refuse him, and
will not that he continue in command, then I and my comrades will sign
the deed of abdication."

Then he and Don Martin Rodriguez took the Viceroy by the arm, saying to
him--

"Descend with us, your Excellency, and hear from the mouth of the people
what is their will."

It was already sunset when Liniers, surrounded by Argentine citizens and
officers of the militia, crossed the drawbridge of the fort. The Plaza
de los Perdices was full of people, beyond them were drawn up the dense
ranks of the native troops. From all these there burst loud cheers and
shouts of "Viva Don Santiago Liniers! We will have no other to rule over
us."[10]

Negro slaves, tearing off their clothes, strewed them on the ground
before the Viceroy as he walked forth, so that he might not soil his
feet with the dust. Behind this group came the discomfited members of
the Cabildo, among whom walked the secretary of the Cabildo, carrying in
his hand the deed of abdication. As he crossed the drawbridge, Don
Carlos Evaña, who was close to Liniers, turned back, ran to the
secretary, and snatching the deed from him tore it into pieces, and
threw the fragments contemptuously into the air, at which sight the
exultant populace burst out again with shouts of triumph.

Meanwhile, at the first shouts of the people, the Spanish officers in
the further Plaza gave orders to their men to load with ball cartridge.
Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, who still stood on the balcony of the
Cabildo, heard the order given. Descending at once to the Plaza, he ran
along the front of the line of soldiers, shouting--

"To your barracks, Gallegos and Viscainos! To your barracks, Catalanes!"

At the same time an aide-de-camp from Marshal Liniers came to them with
an order from the Viceroy to lay down their arms. Contradictory orders
of all sorts were given by the officers, all was confusion; some of the
men wheeled round and marched away, others grasped their muskets and
glared defiance across the Plaza at the steady ranks of the citizen
soldiers drawn up in defiant array in front of them.

At this moment Don Carlos Evaña, standing under the arch of the Recoba,
shouted to the cavalry sitting motionless on their horses, with sabres
drawn in the Plaza de los Perdices--

"To me, muchachos! now is the moment!" at the same time pointing with
his sabre to the confused groups of soldiery who occupied the far side
of the Plaza Mayor.

"Follow me, muchachos!" shouted Venceslao Viana, driving in his spurs
and dashing at full speed through the arch of the Recoba.

His troop followed him pell-mell, and the rest of the cavalry, supposing
that some order had been given, charged through every opening into the
Plaza Mayor.

Don Roderigo ran frantically along the ranks of the Spanish infantry
tearing the muskets from the hands of the men and shouting--

"To your barracks! to your barracks! Españoles!"

All was confusion and wild panic; the Spaniards broke their ranks, and
in headlong flight ran off up the streets abutting on the west side of
the Plaza, throwing away their arms, many of them seeking refuge in the
open doorways of the houses as they passed. After them came the fierce
horsemen of the Pampas, striking at them furiously with their sabres,
trampling them underfoot if they made any attempt to resist. Few of them
reached their barracks, all over the city they were dispersed, and the
power of Spain was broken for ever in Buenos Aires.

Then the royal flag of Spain, which had fluttered so proudly all the
afternoon on the balcony of the Cabildo, was withdrawn, never more to
see the light as an emblem of conquest and subjugation; when again it
was brought forth it was to grace some festival of a free people.

As the horsemen poured tumultuously into the Plaza, the native infantry
looked eagerly to Don Cornelio for a signal, but Don Cornelio riding
along the line called upon them to ground arms and not to move; all
obeyed, watching in silence the discomfiture of their enemies, except a
small party on the left flank where the "Pardos y Morenos" were
stationed.

During the whole day a slim youth of small stature, who by his dress
evidently belonged to one of the principal families of the city, had
hovered about under the arcade of the Recoba Nueva, absent occasionally
for a short time while the patriot troops were concentrating under the
orders of Don Cornelio Saavedra, returning with them to the Plaza, and
resuming his former station under the arcade. As the horsemen dashed
through the arch of the Recoba Vieja this youth ran towards the "Pardos
y Morenos," waving his hat and shouting--

"Now, Morenitos! now!"

About a score of negroes obeyed his call, left their ranks, and, mingled
with the horsemen, rushed across the Plaza straight for the main
entrance to the Cabildo. The wide gateway and the courtyard beyond were
crowded with panic-stricken soldiery, whose terror the sudden rush of
the negroes yet further increased so that they fled before their
levelled bayonets and left the way open to the main staircase. Up this
staircase the youth, who was Evaristo Ponce de Leon, led the way towards
a corridor where a sentry stood on guard.

"Back! back!" shouted Evaristo to this man as he levelled his musket.
The negroes crowding up behind him gave a fierce yell; he dropped his
weapon and fled.

"The key!" shouted Evaristo after him as he ran.

"The key!" said a stalwart negro, "I have key sufficient." And seizing
the barrel of his musket with both hands he struck the side panel of the
door as strongly as he could with the butt. The lock gave way and the
door flew open.

Marcelino, pale with his confinement, and listening anxiously to the
cries and shouts which he could plainly hear, but of the cause of which
he knew nothing, stood in the centre of a well-furnished room as the
door flew open. He gazed in wonder upon the joyful faces of the negroes,
and the next moment was clasped in the arms of his brother.

"I have saved you, Marcelino, now you are free," said Evaristo, and
without further explanation he snatched a hat from a peg, and a light
poncho from a chair, saying--

"Put these on and come. It is sundown already, and I promised mamma and
Lola that I would go back with you to-day."

Marcelino asked no questions, but put on the hat and poncho, taking his
brother by the hand went forth along the corridor, down the staircase,
across the courtyard, and so out into the open Plaza. Here groups of
excited men were talking and gesticulating together, troops were
manoeuvring on the open space in the centre, all the ground in front
of the Cabildo was strewn with muskets and accoutrements, a body of
horsemen with drawn sabres were stationed in front of the cathedral, and
a party of the Patricios came along the side-walk, under the upper story
of the Cabildo, carrying on their crossed muskets two men in the uniform
of the Catalan regiment, whose heads were bound up with blood-stained
handkerchiefs. Around him and behind him came the negroes who had burst
open his prison door, their black faces shining with delight, and their
white teeth gleaming between their thick brown lips.

"What has happened?" said Marcelino. "There is my uncle Gregorio with a
party of his dragoons! There has been a fight! What has happened,
Evaristo?"

"Never mind now, come along quick, presently I will tell you all," said
Evaristo, hurrying him on past the cathedral and round the next corner.

Here Marcelino's own servant, the negro Manuel, stood holding two
saddled horses by the bridles. The two brothers mounted at once.

"Now I am free!" said Marcelino with a shout of joy as he settled
himself in the saddle. "I shall not forget this service which you have
done me, Morenos."

The negroes answered him with a loud shout, "Viva el Comandante Ponce!"
and drawn up in line presented arms.

Both brothers touched their hats in acknowledgment of this salute, and
then, slackening their reins, galloped away. Neither spoke till they had
left the suburbs behind them.

"Tell me now what has happened, Evaristo?" said Marcelino.

"I knew there was going to be something," replied Evaristo, "for Tata
sent me out to the quinta yesterday and would not go himself. I found
Uncle Gregorio there, and his dragoons came, Evaña had sent for them,
and uncle said you would be set free to-day, so I came back. First thing
this morning I went to the barracks of the Pardos y Morenos, there were
some of your men there and they were glad enough to promise me. All day
I waited but there was never a chance, there were the Catalanes and
Gallegos right in front of the Cabildo. Suddenly the arch of the Recoba
appeared a volcano vomiting dragoons with drawn sabres, the Spaniards
were all in confusion, I saw that the moment had come. I called to the
Morenos, they followed me like 'guapos' and here we are."

"Yes, here we are, thank God, but why were the Spaniards there and the
Patricios?"

"It appears that the Señores the Spaniards took it into their heads to
depose the Viceroy. That did not please Don Cornelio Saavedra, and the
dragoons of Uncle Gregorio have trampled on them some little I warrant
you."

  [9] "Junta! Junta! like that of Spain! Down with Liniers the
      Frenchman."

  [10] For this scene see "La Historia de Belgrano," by General Mitre.



CHAPTER VIII

EVAÑA'S DREAM


It was long past nightfall ere the Viceroy, wearied with the day's
anxieties, returned to his official residence at the fort. As he crossed
the drawbridge he was joined by Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon.

"I come to congratulate you, Don Santiago, on the happy result of the
day," said Don Roderigo.

"Ah! Don Roderigo, is it you?" said the Viceroy. "I have looked for you
several times to-day. How is it that you never came with the other
members of the Cabildo?"

"I knew what they purposed doing and chose to take no part in it. I like
not these popular demonstrations."

"But the people were with me entirely."

"By good fortune, and owing to the firmness of Don Cornelio. But after
all we have only just escaped a great catastrophe."

"A catastrophe! Well, yes, if the Spanish regiments had stood firm there
would have been bloodshed, but the end would have been as it is."

"If the artillery and the Andaluces had been against you to-day, you
could only have crushed the conspiracy by great sacrifice of life, and
the danger is merely postponed."

"I shall disarm all the Spanish regiments."

"Disarm the Spanish regiments! If you do that you are lost, you put
yourself entirely in the power of these Creoles."

"The militia or the troops, I must choose between them," said Liniers.

"You do not see the danger from which both you and we have escaped
to-day. Why did the cavalry charge the troops when all was over? I will
tell you. There is a strong revolutionary feeling abroad in the city;
there are many among the Creoles who supported you to-day who did so
simply for the furtherance of their own schemes. They supported you for
the sake of destroying the authority of the Cabildo, their next step
will be to depose you. They seek to take advantage of the misfortunes of
Spain to establish here a republic."

"Evaña?" said the Viceroy.

"I mention no names," replied Don Roderigo, "but I warn you that in the
Cabildo only can you find a loyal and steady support to your authority."

"As I have seen to-day."

"To-day has been a foolish outbreak of Spanish pride and jealousy, of
which I had forewarned you, but, as you know, all Spaniards did not go
with Don Martin Alzaga. The artillery passed over at once when the
Patricios went to them shouting 'Viva el Reconquistador.' We Spaniards
have not forgotten the 12th August and the 5th and 6th July. Whilst you
hold your power by legitimate appointment from the supreme government of
Spain we look to you as our chief and as our defence against revolution,
there are not many of us who are hot-headed fools like Don Martin
Alzaga. Beware of the revolutionary party, they are the men who are
really dangerous. There has been bloodshed to-day, happily not much, not
enough to satisfy those reckless revolutionists. The cavalry charged
without order from Don Cornelio, it was the last effort of the
revolutionists to force on a conflict for the purpose of plunging us
into anarchy and so making an opportunity for themselves."

The Viceroy listened attentively to Don Roderigo, but merely answered by
inviting him to supper with him, and several others being present they
had no more confidential talk together. As he rose to go Don Roderigo
said--

"I think I have done your Excellency good service to-day, one boon I ask
you in return, the liberty of my son."

"Pues!" said the Viceroy, with a look of surprise; "he is free hours
ago."

"I did not know it," said Don Roderigo, "but I give you a thousand
thanks, and also for the leniency with which he has been treated during
his arrest."

"Then you knew nothing of it? I thought you had taken advantage of the
confusion to release him yourself. When the troops dispersed, a party of
negroes burst into the Cabildo and set him free by force, I thought you
had sent them."

"This is the first I hear of it," said Don Roderigo.

"I am glad of that," said the Viceroy, "for this violence was quite
unnecessary. I promised Captain Asneiros this morning that I would
release him at sundown. To-morrow I will send you a formal order for his
release, and his books and papers shall be returned to you."

Don Roderigo bowed and retired, feeling greatly disappointed, for he had
planned to himself to end the day by bearing the order for his son's
release, himself to the Cabildo, and by being himself the first to
congratulate him on his liberation.

While Don Roderigo and the Viceroy sat at supper, the commandant of the
dragoons from Las Barrancas and Don Carlos Evaña had a stormy
altercation together at the house of the latter gentleman. They were in
a large, plainly-furnished apartment, Don Gregorio seated in an
arm-chair with his hat on, and his left hand resting upon the hilt of
his sabre, Don Carlos walking excitedly up and down the room, while near
the door stood Venceslao Viana, bare-headed and unarmed, his sword-belt
and sabre lying on a side-table, near to which the Colonel was seated.

"Without doubt you are to blame, Don Carlos," said Don Gregorio, "but
that in no way excuses the conduct of Venceslao. My officers are not to
receive orders from any one but me, if they do not incur the extreme
penalty of martial law. Your act, Venceslao, has cost the lives of six
men, and there are some two score wounded; your act was in disobedience
to my express orders, and your life is forfeit for the vindication of
military discipline."

"To Don Carlos I owe my life," said Venceslao calmly. "If I lose it in
his service, I do no more than pay my debt."

"Then that debt is paid," replied Don Gregorio. "If the Viceroy pass
over this affair without enquiry I shall say no more about it. Take up
your sabre and go."

Without the slightest change of countenance Venceslao buckled on his
sabre, then with a low bow to both the others replaced his hat and left
the room. In the patio outside the door of this room stood two
dismounted troopers with their carbines; in the streets outside half a
troop were seated in their saddles with drawn sabres; one of these men
held Venceslao's horse by the bridle, he mounted and trotted slowly
away.

"It appears that I am to be a great warrior," said he to himself, as he
trotted through the suburbs; "I am always just going to be killed, and
away I go without a scratch. When I heard the order for my arrest I said
to myself, 'Of a certainty he will shoot me.' I deserved it without
doubt, yet here I am."

Without giving more thought to the matter he then commenced singing one
of the monotonous songs of the paisanos, and so trotted on to a quinta
beyond the suburbs where his regiment was encamped.

"Sit down, Carlos," said Don Gregorio, as Venceslao closed the door
behind him. "Explain to me your ideas. Why did you seek to force on a
conflict when all had ended as we wished it?"

"Because all has not ended as we wished it," replied Evaña, throwing
himself upon a sofa. "We wished to break for ever the power of the
Spaniards over us. What we have done is to secure the power of one who
will maintain everything as it has been. I wished to force him into open
collision with the Spaniards, as it is he has half the Spaniards with
him. If I had succeeded he would have been forced to depend in
everything upon native Argentines; until the government is in every
department in the hands of Creoles we are not a free people, and that is
the end to which you, I, and every true Argentine aspires."

"Truly it is so, but I like not your way of going to work. Liberty
without strict discipline is anarchy, discipline is more necessary among
a free people than among slaves."

Then there was silence for a space between them, till Evaña sprang from
his sofa saying:

"Yet it is possible that we may do something. Promise me that you will
return slowly, and not go further than the casa-teja till I see you or
write to you."

"You have some fresh scheme in your head?"

"I have, and I may need your assistance."

"For three days I will wait, but no longer. Do what you can, and count
upon me."

"I am going at once to see Liniers, to try what can be done with him. He
must see by now what he can expect from the Spaniards. If he will but
declare for us our cause is won."

Darkness shrouded the city which during the day had been the scene of so
much tumult. It wanted but an hour of midnight, the moon had not yet
risen, and the stars shining calmly down from the blue vault where they
kept their stations, were the only lights which illumined the path of a
tall man, enveloped in a large cloak, who picked his way carefully
across the Plaza de los Perdices. He walked up to the drawbridge which
crossed the dry ditch surrounding the fort on the land side. The bridge
was down, but the gate beyond was closed, and on the bridge a sentry of
the Patricios kept watch and ward.

"Good-night, friend," said the tall man to the sentry.

"Keep back, whoever you are," said the sentry, bringing down his musket
to the charge.

"Do not alarm yourself, Pancho, I am no enemy," said the other. "Who is
the officer of the guard?"

"Back!" replied the sentry. "Who are you? How do you know that my name
is Pancho?"

But the tall man came still nearer, taking off his hat, and throwing
back his cloak.

"Don Carlos Evaña!" exclaimed the sentry, recovering his musket. "What
would you at this hour? Have you not the word?"

"No. But who is the officer of the guard?"

"The Señor Lieutenant Lopez y Viana."

"Valentin!" exclaimed Evaña; "it could not be better. Do me the favour
to knock at the gate, and ask him to come out and speak to me."

The sentry walked back across the bridge and knocked at the gate. After
a lengthened parley a sergeant stepped out through a wicket, and
requested Don Carlos to come forward and step inside. Don Carlos walked
across the bridge, passed the wicket and found himself in the midst of
an armed party of the Patricios, one of whom held up a lantern to his
face.

"Ah! it is you, Don Carlos," said a young officer, stepping forward.
"Excuse the delay, but after the affair of to-day no precaution is too
much."

"You do perfectly right, Valentin," replied Don Carlos; then passing his
arm over the shoulder of the young officer he whispered some few words
in his ear.

Five minutes later Don Carlos was seated in the private apartment of the
Viceroy, and with him held earnest converse for nearly an hour.

"Then your Excellency entirely rejects my proposal," said Evaña.

"I do," replied the Viceroy. "I hold my authority from the Court of
Spain, and will suffer no innovations without consulting the supreme
authorities, whoever they may happen to be."

"Think well what you do, Don Santiago. Such an opportunity as the
present may never offer itself to you again. The people have to-day for
the third time shown their power. Twice have they repulsed invasions of
the English, to-day they have humbled the arrogance of the Spaniards.
Put yourself at the head of this new power which has risen up in
America, and a new career of greatness and of glory will open up before
you. Attempt to arrest the progress of the people, and they themselves,
who to-day have offered their lives for you, will crush you to the
dust."

"You threaten me," exclaimed the Viceroy.

"I do not threaten you, I merely warn you. If I stand forth myself and
proclaim the liberty of the people they will rise as one man to demand
their rights. Who is there that shall say them nay?"

"The people would not listen to you," replied the Viceroy.

"I wish to avoid bloodshed and contention, therefore I ask you, who hold
the power in your hands, to put yourself at the head of the people.
Under your leadership there will be no contention, no bloodshed."

"Know you not that this is treason which you propose to me? What hinders
me from ordering your immediate arrest as a conspirator against Spain?"

"Do it," said Evaña, rising. "Call in your guards, order them to arrest
me. Doubtless they will obey you, but to-morrow's sun will see the last
day of your authority in Buenos Aires. Shoot me if you like. I should
die joyfully, for I know that my blood would purchase the liberty of my
own people."

"No. You have come here unarmed and alone. I respect the trust you have
placed in me, but give some attention to my words. I have long had my
eye upon you as a man of dangerous ideas--ideas which you have now
disclosed to me. Look well what you do, for whilst I hold authority as
Viceroy I will maintain that authority intact, and will punish any
revolutionary attempt with the extremest rigour of the law."

"And how much longer will you hold this authority?" asked Evaña. "Have
not the Spaniards to-day shown you how little they respect it? I know
it, if you do not, that months ago they sent to Spain for a successor to
you, who may come at any time. What becomes then of your authority? Why
should you submit to be deposed by the Junta of Seville? They did not
appoint you. Your authority was bestowed upon you by the people; you
retain it now solely by their will. I say no more, but I give you three
days to consider of the proposal I have made to you. If at the
expiration of that time you are silent, then I shall know that you have
chosen your own course, and shall abandon you to your fate; but again I
warn you, beware how you oppose the progress of the people. You, who are
to-day their favourite, will be the first victim of their rage in the
day when they rise up in their strength and seize those rights which you
have conspired to keep from them."

As Evaña spoke he raised himself to his full height, looking with a
stern, threatening gaze upon the Viceroy, who answered him not a word,
but sat motionless in his chair, while the colour faded from his face
and lips, and the sweat stood in great beads upon his brow. He forgot
that he was in Buenos Aires, he forgot that he was Viceroy; in memory he
stood again in the streets of Paris as he stood in his youth; again
before his eyes there rushed a furious, half-starved mob, brandishing
strange weapons and shouting fiercely in hoarse voices the refrain of
that deadly song:

  "Ca ira! Les Aristocrats à la lanterne."

Evaña saw the pallor in his cheeks, saw the vacant stare in his
terror-stricken eyes, and waited for him to speak, half hopeful yet; but
no words came, slowly the eyes recovered their usual expression and
turned upon himself, their expression then becoming one of fierce anger.
The Viceroy started from his chair, laying his hand upon the hilt of his
sword, for one moment he stood irresolute, then his eyes shrank beneath
the stern, threatening gaze of those dark eyes which confronted his so
unflinchingly; once more he sank back into his chair covering his face
with his hands.

Evaña, taking up his hat and cloak, made a low bow to the unconscious
Viceroy and left him to himself. In the ante-room he met young Valentin,
with whom he spoke for a few minutes; crossing the parade-ground, where
the guard drawn up presented arms to him as he passed, he stept out
through the wicket, and folding his cloak closely round him went forth
over the drawbridge and with long, rapid strides walked swiftly away for
his own home.

His servant had supper waiting for him as he arrived; he tried to eat,
but it seemed to him as though his food would choke him; he poured out a
goblet of wine, drank it at one draught, and retired to his own room.

"Only six killed, and they men of whom no one thinks twice," said he to
himself, and he paced up and down. "To-morrow it will be all forgotten,
and we shall be as good friends as ever with our lords the Spaniards.
That fool Liniers! I have given him three days, but I know it will all
be in vain; to-morrow he will have some one else at his ear, he will do
nothing. But can I do nothing? He said they would not listen to me; but
many would, and lose themselves with me perchance. No, patience,
patience yet, my day will come."

So he laid himself down to sleep, and in the visions of the night there
came to him a dream.

Legions of red-coated soldiery obeyed his orders, encompassing his
native city on all sides, assailing it with storms of shot and shell,
laying the suburbs in ruins and advancing through streets of burning
houses, slaying all who opposed them, till the city was won. Then he
himself led the attack upon the fort; forcing his way across the
drawbridge, encumbered with heaps of corpses, he rushed to the tall
flag-staff on which fluttered the standard of Spain. With his own hands
he tore down this standard and set up another. Then as this new standard
gave itself to the winds, floating high in air amidst smoke and dust, he
turned, pointed to it with his drawn sword, and called upon his
countrymen to acknowledge him as their liberator.

But when he looked around him he was alone, and there was none to answer
him. Then from afar off there came to him an answer from the city. From
amidst the crumbling walls and burning houses there reached him through
the murky air the wailing voices of women and the piteous cries of
children.

Then he was perplexed, and his heart smote him that he had done
unwisely; and as he thought of the desolation he had accomplished there
rose up before him from a pile of mangled corpses one ghastly figure,
covered with blood and wounds, which, frowning angrily upon him, rushed
upon him with a dagger to stab him to the heart. Fiercely he struck at
this phantom with his sword; as he struck, another figure rushed in
between them, the figure of a woman, whose long dishevelled hair
enveloped her with a radiance as of molten gold. His sword buried itself
in her breast; wildly she threw up her arms, gazing upon him out of a
pair of large grey eyes, full of terror and reproach.

"Always my friend, whatever happens!" she shrieked out, then threw
herself at his feet to die. It was Dolores.

With a loud cry Evaña started from his couch and woke.



CHAPTER IX

THE DAY AFTER


Mother and sister received the rescued prisoner with open arms. Far into
the night they sat together talking over the events of the last three
weeks, while of the day itself the events were detailed to them by
Evaristo after a fashion somewhat hard of comprehension.

When they separated, Marcelino retired to his couch with a heavy heart.
During his imprisonment and since, he had learned sufficient to tell him
that his father, though professing the greatest indignation at his
arrest, had taken no one step towards his deliverance, and had rather
hindered the plans of those who had interested themselves for him.
During his imprisonment he had been subjected once only to a cursory
examination, when the questions put to him showed him that the cause of
his imprisonment was the scheme for inviting the Princess Carlota to
Buenos Aires, which he had been the first to enunciate. In this scheme
he had taken no further part, yielding to the wish of his father, though
he still looked upon it as the only means of achieving independence
without plunging the country into civil war.

That his father knew the cause of his imprisonment, and could have
procured his release at any moment, he felt certain, yet he had neither
written to him nor had been once to see him. The Viceroy would hardly
have ventured upon such a step without consulting him, he must at least
have consented to, perhaps even suggested his imprisonment. So Marcelino
pondered within himself, lying on his couch sleepless through the night
until the dawn of another day, his mind filled with bitter thoughts and
his heart with anger.

The next day Venceslao Viana, passing the quinta with the dragoons on
the march outside, left a note from Colonel Lopez to Doña Constancia,
telling her that if Marcelino was with her he need be under no fear of
arrest, for the Viceroy had sent an order for his liberation to the
Cabildo on the preceding evening.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great heat of the day was past, the sun was already dipping towards
the tree-tops, and the shadows were beginning to stretch themselves out
over the broad walks of the Quinta de Don Alfonso. The wide porch,
covered with honeysuckle, passion-flowers, and other creepers, was at
this time of the day the coolest part of the house, here Magdalen sat
alone in a low chair, sewing. She was dressed in a plain gown of
dove-coloured muslin, fitting closely round the base of her neck,
leaving her throat uncovered, girded round the waist with a belt of blue
velvet, fastened by a silver buckle. Narrow straight sleeves covered
her arms down to the wrists, where they were confined by bands of blue
velvet and terminated in little white frills. Her glossy brown hair was
bound round her head by a fillet of blue silk, from which sundry stray
locks had escaped, and lay in broad curls upon her neck and shoulders.
She was not very diligently at work, every now and then she would pause,
and laying down her task gazed with dreamy, far-looking eyes, out
through the bright sunshine and through the foliage of the trees upon
the white towers and domes of the city, so near to look upon, and yet to
her so far off. For she knew hardly anything of what had happened there
for two weeks past, she herself having never left the quinta and her
father but once all that time, while the only visitor who had been with
them was Don Fausto Velasquez. Since his visit her father had been very
anxious and troubled, but of his trouble he had told her nothing. That
morning his face had brightened, and he had gone into the city, from
which he had not yet returned.

So she sat alternately stitching and gazing, watching the lengthening
shadows of the trees, eagerly looking at any who passed on the adjacent
road, listening to the sound of any footstep that came near her, waiting
and thinking. Waiting for her father, who came not, thinking of many
things. Waiting for her father, who had told her when he went that he
hoped to bring her good news on his return; thinking of what these news
would be, yet doubting much that the news which would most please her
would be but of small import to him.

As she thus sat she heard a footstep close to her, a footstep which she
knew well, coming up the garden walk, close to the house. This footstep,
light and quick, she had learned to know, for it had brought her joy
many times, and now her heart bounded with a wild delight, and she
whispered to herself:

"He is free."

Then a sudden pang shot through her and quenched her joy. The blood
which had rushed to her face at the first sound of that footstep fled
back again to her heart, and left her with pale cheeks and a nervous
contraction of the lips, as she thought of some words which had been
said to her days before by Doña Josefina, and of a girl of radiant
beauty of whom he had spoken in terms of warm admiration.

The footsteps ceased, a figure stood in the entrance of the porch, and a
low voice spoke to her in tender accents, one word only:

"Magdalen."

As she heard that voice, and that one word so tenderly spoken, the
tremor of her heart ceased, the blood rushed back to her face, suffusing
cheeks and brow, she started to her feet, stretching out her hand and
trying to speak some word of welcome, but no word came. Marcelino took
her hand in his own and raised it to his lips, then leading her back to
her chair he seated himself beside her on a low stool, still holding her
hand in his. So sat they silently for some moments, Magdalen was the
first to speak.

"Papa is not at home," she said, drawing away her hand; "all day he has
been in the city."

"It is three weeks since I have seen you," replied Marcelino. "They
have been to me like three years. I have been in prison, I have been
thinking of you all the time and wondering whether you would miss me.
Have you been much in the city since I saw you last?"

"No, only once," said Magdalen. "Doña Josefina said that you would soon
be free."

"I escaped last night, and am free, yet in great trouble; I cannot live
here any longer, I must go, but I could not go without seeing you
first."

"Going! Where are you going? Don Fausto said that it was a mistake, and
that you had done nothing."

"Yes, I had done something, I had dared to love my country, and had
dared to speak of a scheme which would free her from tyranny. To love
one's country is a crime in the eyes of our lords the Spaniards, and my
father is a Spaniard."

Then again there was silence between them for a space, till Magdalen
spoke.

"Yesterday morning there was a squadron of horse here in the Plaza," she
said; "all the morning they were there. Papa was very anxious and kept
watching them, till in the siesta they marched away into the city. What
happened there?"

"At sundown there was a fight in the Plaza Mayor. Evaristo with some of
the Morenos of mine bust into the Cabildo and set me free. It appears
that the Spaniards made a revolt against Liniers and failed. More I know
not, but this is the beginning I hoped to have avoided, now I have to
choose between my father and my country."

"Your father! But he was a great friend of the Viceroy, he would not
join a revolt against him."

"My father is a Spaniard, what Spaniards do is always well done in his
eyes, and without doubt he was with them."

"But you say they have failed; he may be in danger. When did you leave
the city? What have you heard?"

"I left the city last night, and I have heard nothing more than I have
told you."

"And all the day where have you been?" said Magdalen, looking at him in
surprise.

"I have been all day at the quinta, I have just come from there. I could
not pass the first day of my freedom without seeing you."

"And your father in danger! Oh, that is wrong, it is so unlike you.

"In danger of what? a prison? I have just escaped from the prison where
he put me."

"He put you! It was the Viceroy put you in prison, and Don Roderigo was
very angry about it; Don Fausto said so."

"The Viceroy does nothing of himself, he always consults some one, none
more than my father. My father warned me of this conspiracy, and I told
him that if the Spaniards here pronounced against Liniers, as Elio did
in Monte Video, all Argentines would support the Viceroy against them.
He wanted me to promise him that I would take no part either one way or
other. I refused, and a few days after I was in prison. Do not you think
that one word from my father would have set me free? That word he never
spoke. None knew better than he that in the affair of the Princess
Carlota nothing could be proved against me, and I fear that he himself
suggested my imprisonment."

"Even if it be so it was for your sake he did it. If you had been with
the Viceroy, and the Spaniards had been successful, no one knows what
perils you would have run, in prison you were safe from all risk."

"Am I boy, that my father must lock me up to keep me out of mischief? I
gave up my scheme to please him, and see now how he trusts me."

"Oh! do not speak so, do not speak so, quarrels between Argentines and
Spaniards are bad enough, but between father and son they are far worse.
Your father has done this out of his care for you; perhaps he is now in
danger. You must forgive him and help him."

"What can I do if he joins himself with the enemies of my country? Am I
to be a traitor to my country for his sake?"

"Nevertheless he is your father. Where is he? Perhaps in prison."

"I wished to avoid this, he stopped me, and said my scheme was folly.
They have commenced it, and now we shall have civil war here in America,
with my father on one side, I on the other. I see nothing but misery in
the future."

"Have you no faith in God? Mr Gordon told me that you used to study the
Bible, yet you seem to despair; he who has faith in God can never
despair."

"For months I have not opened the Bible. I begin to believe that there
is no God."

"But you did believe there was a God once. You read the Bible and
learned lessons of faith from it, have you forgotten them already? When
the English came you did your duty, though you said yourself that there
was no hope of beating them. Have you less courage now than then? Can
you not do your duty and leave the result to God?"

Then Marcelino looked up at Magdalen in surprise, he had never heard her
speak so before; her voice was low, and there was a sweet tremulousness
in her tones which showed that there was a deep earnestness in what she
said. Again he took her hand in his, leaning upon the arm of her chair.

"Do you ever read the Bible?" he asked.

"Every day; my mother taught me when I was quite a little girl in
England, and papa promised her that I should always read it. When I came
here to live with papa he told me what he had promised my mother for me,
and he gave me her Bible which he had kept for me. Every day I read it
now."

"When I was at Chascomus with my Morenos I read the Bible every day."

"And when you read the Bible what did you learn from it?"

"Once Gordon told me that the great lesson of the Bible was faith, faith
in God. I love my father, till now he has always been to me the best of
friends, now we are separated for ever. Think you that I can have faith
in God when my father becomes my worst enemy?"

"You have not read the Bible well or you would know that that is
impossible. If you have faith in God you will do your duty now as you
did before. You will help your father if he is in danger."

"I have to choose between my father and my country. Tell me, what is my
duty?"

Magdalen was silent, and a troubled expression came over her face. She
had admired the eager patriotism she had seen in Marcelino and in
others, but of this sentiment she herself knew nothing, she had but one
duty that she knew of in her life, her duty to her father, and she could
not understand how any other duty could clash with that.

"Tell me, what is my duty?" said Marcelino again, looking earnestly at
her.

"Where your father is, you will learn your duty," replied she.

Then there was silence between them for several minutes, and when they
spoke again it was on other subjects, about Doña Josefina, about Lola,
about Don Alfonso, but of whatever they talked both thought of Don
Roderigo, though of him they spoke no more.

As the shadows deepened on the garden walks there came another footstep
through the quinta towards the porch, a footstep very different from the
one that had come before, a heavy, plodding footstep, as of one out of
whose life the light and strength had departed, but Magdalen started up
as she heard it, a smile beaming out from her eyes. That step, though so
heavy, was lighter than she had heard it for many a long day, it was her
father's step, and he was bringing her the good news of which he had
spoken to her. She ran out to meet him with a flush of pleasure on her
face.

"Ah! Chica," said he gaily; "how has the long day passed with you?"

And when he saw Marcelino, who stood on the step of the porch waiting
for him, he stretched out his hand to him with greater cordiality than
was his wont.

"Felicidades!" he said. "In the city every one is asking for you. The
general idea is that you are with your mother at the quinta."

"I went there last night," replied Marcelino. "But what has happened? I
hardly know anything."

"Then you had better return to the quinta, there you will learn all. A
large party has gone out there this evening in search of you. Don't be
frightened, Chica," he added, as Magdalen started while she clung to his
arm, "all are now friends, and Don Martin Alzaga is in prison."

"And my father, what of him?" asked Marcelino.

At this question Don Alfonso frowned, but he answered gravely:

"Your father is more astute than I thought him; he has managed in some
way to keep well with all parties."

"Did not I tell you so?" said Magdalen, with a bright smile. "Don
Roderigo would never join a conspiracy against the Viceroy. Don Fausto
said that he was his best friend."

"In the friendship of some men there is more danger than in the enmity
of others," said Don Alfonso gruffly. Then leading his daughter into the
porch, he added, turning to Marcelino:

"At the Quinta de Ponce there are many who wait for you."

Marcelino wished much to ask more, but after this he could remain no
longer. Bowing in silence he took his leave of them both, somewhat
repaid for the gruffness of the father by the sympathy which looked
upon him from Magdalen's gray eyes. He had left his horse tied under the
trees at the back of the quinta, thoughtfully he walked from the house
to where he had left him, mounted, and galloped away.

"How long has he been here?" said Don Alfonso to his daughter, when
Marcelino was beyond hearing.

"Nearly an hour," replied Magdalen. "He said there was fighting
yesterday in the city. Something good had happened, I can tell that from
your face, Tatita."

"Yes, I can breathe freely at last, the danger has passed over, and in
no way am I compromised. But listen, Chica, I like not that this Don
Marcelino come here so often. The Señor Evaña is a friend of mine, and
for friends of his my door is open, but with the family of Don Roderigo
I want no friendship. Doña Josefina told me to-day that you had
frequently met his daughter at her house, this is bad. Do not forget
that such friendships are not convenient."



CHAPTER X

AMERICA FOR THE AMERICANS


That evening Doña Constancia could not complain of being lonely at her
quinta. At sundown Don Fausto Velasquez arrived in his carriage,
bringing his whole family with him, and attended by Don Manuel Belgrano
and Captain Asneiros, who rode. Soon after them came Don Roderigo and
Colonel Lopez. Don Roderigo asked at once for Marcelino, and was greatly
chagrined when he heard that he had left in the afternoon for the city,
as he had seen nothing of him there, but his annoyance was not of long
continuance; before it was quite dark two more horsemen passed along the
road by the quinta gate to the stable, and Evaristo, who had been on the
match, came running back to the verandah, announcing them to be his
brother and Don Carlos Evaña.

As these two came up to the house after dismounting, both of them looked
grave; on Marcelino's face there was even a deep shade of sadness. But
Don Roderigo was in exuberant spirits, and warmly embraced his son.

"Evaristo was too quick for me," he said. "I had planned to set you free
myself as the crown to the day's work. But you are free, and I have
arranged it all; you will receive no more annoyance on that subject."

Then he gave his hand cordially to Evaña, saying:

"Ah, Carlos, at last you have emerged from your seclusion. I welcome you
amongst us, we men of experience need the help of younger men like you.
We will work together and between us raise up a new Spain in America,
with laws and customs fitted to a new world, now that the old Spain is
tottering to her fall."

Then Evaña, looking upon the smiling face, listening to the cordial
words of Don Roderigo, felt for the first time doubt of the
practicability of his own schemes, fear for the success of his darling
object, a Republic of Argentines.

"A new Spain in America, with laws and customs fitted to a new world!"
said he to himself, "what is this? Can Spaniards be freemen? Can
Spaniards and Argentines live together as equals under the free laws of
a new Spain?"

His heart was troubled; he walked away by himself under the trees,
turning this matter over and over in his mind, and finding no solution
to this fresh problem which was based upon the, to him, new idea, that
tyranny and injustice were not essential ingredients in the character of
a Spaniard. As he walked to and fro in the dim twilight a small hand
was laid upon his arm, and a voice he loved to hear, spoke to him in
words soft and low.

"Don Carlos, what are you doing here all alone? You have not been inside
even to speak to us, and I have so much to say, so much to thank you
for, and mamma too, she has been asking for you. How nobly you have kept
your promise. We have heard all about it now, Don Fausto and the Señor
Belgrano have told us what you did yesterday."

To all that she said Evaña answered not one word, but he took her hand
in his and side by side they walked together under the trees in the dim
twilight, she talking on, telling of her joy at seeing her brother once
more free, and of her certainty that now all would go well, and that
there would be no more talk of quarrels between Spaniards and Creoles.
Had not her father said so? And to Dolores that which her father said
was truth unquestioned. As Evaña listened to her, her voice was to him
as the rippling of waters, a music soothing the trouble of his soul, yet
of what she said he knew nothing, for his thoughts were far away peering
into the dark future which seemed darker than ever from the veil which
had been thrown over it by the words of Don Roderigo.

As Evaña walked away Don Roderigo took his son by the hand and led him
inside, where his mother embraced him, chiding him tenderly for having
left her, and the others crowded round, overwhelming him with
congratulations.

Eagerly they talked together recounting the events of the day past and
of the day now closing, of most of which Marcelino was entirely
ignorant. As they talked to him his sadness and his anxiety vanished,
his face flushed with a proud joy, it seemed to him that the work was
already accomplished, that he was already a free citizen of a free
people, that the power of Spain was broken for ever in Buenos Aires,
that the bonds of Spanish rule were burst asunder, never more to fetter
the energies of a young nation.

Then as he looked upon his father, whose face and words were joyous as
those of the others, and to whom all ascribed the credit of having by
his foresight and intrepidity prevented a murderous struggle, his heart
smote him that he had been unjust towards him. His heart yearned towards
him, prompting him to confess his mistake and to beg forgiveness. He
rose from his seat beside his mother and went to him, taking him by the
arm and leading him out from the brilliantly lighted sala to the
verandah.

"Forgive me, Tata," he said; "I have been unjust to you in my thoughts.
I looked upon you as one of them and you are one of us. I even thought
that it was to you that I owed my imprisonment, and accused you of
cruelty to me and want of confidence. Forgive me."

"Right willingly I forgive you, my son," replied Don Roderigo; "your
fault is nothing more than the inexperience of youth. I did not imprison
you, but I could have procured your release sooner had I been able to
trust in your discretion. You are an enthusiastic partisan of Don
Santiago Liniers, and if affairs had gone badly you might have seriously
compromised yourself for his sake, and all to no purpose. I warn you
that this Liniers is not the man you think him, but I tell you he will
not rule much longer. The failure of this conspiracy will greatly
increase my influence, and I trust that native Argentines will so
support me that that influence may be exercised for the welfare of us
all. We who are Spaniards must give up our old traditions of conquest
and domination, and young Argentines must indulge no more in senseless
dreams of republican equality. So, all may yet go well with us, and we
may form a free and united people."

"Ah! father, that is just my wish, as I have said to you long ago,"
rejoined Marcelino. "If the Princess Carlota----"

"Do not speak to me of her," said Don Roderigo, interrupting him; "that
scheme is quite inadmissible. Ferdinand VII., though in a French prison,
is King of Spain and the Indies."

As Don Roderigo spoke his eye fell upon his daughter and Don Carlos
Evaña, who passed near them walking side by side, the low murmur of the
girl's voice falling indistinctly upon his ear.

"See," said he, "there is the master spirit of the new generation. He is
your dearest friend, may he not also be to me a son? With two such sons
to help me I have no fear of the future."

Then Don Roderigo laid his hand upon his son's shoulder leaning upon
him, and Marcelino followed with his eyes those two forms which glided
slowly along side by side under the trees, seen only by the light of the
stars of heaven which twinkled down upon them through the overarching
foliage. On the face of Don Roderigo there was hope and confidence, but
on his son's there was doubt. His thoughts carried him back to an
evening months gone by, when he had stood with Evaña and his sister at
the end of the long avenue of the poplar trees, watching the setting of
the sun, an evening on which he had seen sorrow and pity in his sister's
face as she had looked upon his friend, an evening on which that friend
had called him "brother."

As they stood there watching, Dolores saw them and, leaving Evaña, ran
gaily towards them. Her father opened his arms to her, and kissing her
fondly led her with him back to the sala, while Marcelino walked away
and joined his friend under the trees. Passing his arm through his:

"Are you my brother?" he asked him.

"Most certainly I am," replied Evaña.

"And his son?"

"Never."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was past midnight, most of the household lay asleep, but in one inner
room lights were still burning, and the window and the door thrown wide
open let in a constant draught of the cool night air, causing the lights
to blaze unsteadily and filling the room with flickering shadows. Here
four men sat at a small table talking together in low tones. On the
table stood a tall glass jug half full of claret, and several goblets.

"I knew nothing of it," said Don Carlos Evaña.

"Where have you been all day that at this hour you come to learn what is
old news to all the city?" said Colonel Lopez.

"I remained in my room all day, and saw no one till Marcelino came."

"And the idea of last night, what came of it?"

"Nothing. It was a dream, and as a dream it vanished. I thought to do
something with Liniers. I proposed to him to join us. With his great
popularity to secure union among us, we might at once have declared our
independence, and have achieved it without a struggle. He refused, and
the victory of yesterday is sterile."

"From him we can hope nothing," said Marcelino. "Even my father says so,
and my father says more yet--he says that his power is nearly at an
end."

"Your father does not speak without knowledge," said Don Manuel
Belgrano, who was the fourth man present; "without doubt they will send
us a new Viceroy from Seville."

"The power is in our hands now," said Marcelino; "what we have to study
is the means of keeping it. Such Spaniards as Don Martin Alzaga we can
look upon in no other way than as enemies, but all Spaniards are not as
he. Spaniards there are who would willingly join us in building up a new
Spain, where the will of the people shall be the law of the State, and
the welfare of the people the first object of government."

"Dreams!" said Evaña.

"A dream as yet, but it may become a reality," rejoined Marcelino. "To
conciliate such Spaniards we must maintain our connection with the Old
World, and we must abstain from startling novelties and from rash
experiments which may lead us no one knows where."

"Your love for your father blinds you to the truth," said Evaña. "If in
all the Viceroyalty there were to be found six Spaniards like Don
Roderigo I would support you. The Spaniards who come here, come with but
one object, to amass wealth by any means in their power, and then to go
back. For us Creoles or for our welfare they care nothing."

"You say true," said Colonel Lopez, bringing his fist down upon the
table with a force which made the glasses clatter together. "Whilst
Spaniards govern, we are slaves. Out with the Spaniards, and all is
possible for men who know that their country is their own."

Marcelino looked up in surprise at his uncle; never before had he heard
him speak thus. But Evaña smiled, and from him Marcelino turned away his
eyes, for that smile was not one pleasant to look upon--there was no
mirth, no joy, in it, nothing but fierce resolve.

"My correspondence with Rio Janeiro has not inspired me with any great
hope of good from the Princess Carlota," said Belgrano, "but I would
willingly make great sacrifices to keep among us such men as Don
Roderigo, and I do not agree with Evaña that there are no other
Spaniards like him, I believe there are many."

"There is but one sacrifice necessary," said Marcelino. "Some of us
dream of an independent republic, we must give that up. When you write
again to Rio state positively that we demand a 'Cabildo Abierto.' If the
Princess yield that, all is possible. We shall have a new Spain, in
which the majority of the citizens and all the troops will be
Argentines. What would you more, Carlos? We shall have the liberty of a
republic and keep the stability of an ancient nation."

"Dreams!" said Evaña. "The Princess is a Spaniard, her advisers are
Spaniards and priests."

"We want no Spaniards and no Bourbons," said Colonel Lopez, "we want a
government of our own. Spaniards such as Don Roderigo, who have married
into our families, and have property here instead of sending it to
Spain, are of us, concerning them there is no question. But Spaniards
who come from Spain to rule over us and plunder us, what know they of
us, or what care we for them? Out with them! We are no longer slaves
that we should obey them!"

"As I have said already," said Evaña, "the triumph of yesterday is
sterile, and we have need of all our vigilance to prevent the loss of
everything we have gained since the victory of the 12th of August."

"Let us watch then," said Marcelino, "and from time to time let us meet
together to consult upon the events as they fall out."

"At last then you see the necessity of adopting my idea," said Evaña, "a
secret committee."

"I did not say so," said Marcelino.

"Nevertheless it is necessary, my friend," said Don Manuel Belgrano.

"If it has come to that it is time that I retire," said the Colonel;
"with secret societies I will have nothing to do. But remember, prepare
you everything and when the day comes leave the work to us, we want no
civilians interfering with the troops."

So saying the Colonel poured himself out a goblet of water and left the
room.

"He says right," said Marcelino, as he went out; "it is for us to
prepare the work, for others to do it."

"We must not only prepare, but much we must do also," said Belgrano.

"Without doubt," said Evaña. "The people are accustomed to look to one
central power, we will destroy the Spanish power, but we must put
another in its place, a central power ruling by the will of the people.
This power we must guide ourselves, but we must also hold ourselves
ready to act at times as its instruments."

"If we are not careful we shall but substitute one despotism for
another," said Marcelino.

"Without danger nothing is done," replied Evaña. "To discuss fully all
these points, and to provide as far as we can against all these dangers,
it is necessary that we form a secret committee. A secret committee is
irresponsible, and its members are pledged to nothing, we will have but
one tie between us, that of nationality, we must all be Argentines. Each
man will give account to the others of all that he does for the common
cause, will consult with them as to what he may purpose to do, and will
know where to look for aid in any event that may befall in which the
co-operation of others is requisite.

"Who do you propose to invite to join us?" asked Belgrano.

"If you will both join me the committee is formed at once, then we may
consult together as to whom we shall invite."

"I refuse no longer, I see that it is necessary," said Marcelino.

"I will join you also," said Belgrano.

"The first I propose to invite," said Evaña, "are Nicolas Rodriguez
Peña, Francisco Passo, and Berruti."

"And Dr Vieytes," said Belgrano; "his house will be a good point of
reunion for us."

"And I propose Juan Jose Passo, Donado, and Miguel Yrigoyen," said
Marcelino.

"I think all those will join us," said Evaña.

"All of them think as we do," said Marcelino; "all demand the liberation
of our country from foreign domination; but even among so few there are
many opinions as to the means of doing it. What plan of action do you
propose in which we may all combine?"

"I propose nothing, the time has not yet come," replied Evaña. "One idea
unites us, America for the Americans, let that suffice us for the
present."

"America for the Americans," said Belgrano; "let that be our watchword."

Then the three stood up joining hands across the table, repeating
together that watchword which expressed more fully than any other words
could do, the crude plans and ill-defined aspirations of the new
generation:

"America for the Americans."



BOOK V

THE DAWN OF FREEDOM



PART II

THE MISTS OF THE EARLY MORN



PROLOGUE


The vacillations of a youth are by no means a sign of instability. An
unknown world opens up before him, at every step he meets some object,
to him, full of novelty. When a prize seems within his grasp he draws
back his hands and turns away to enquire into the substance of some
fleeting shadow, which seems to him to have all the solidity of a great
reality. Disappointments fall upon him, and he loses much that was
easily attainable in the pursuit of intangible myths. Yet are these
disappointments no loss, they are the lessons by which his ignorance is
cleared away, and he grows in knowledge as he grows in years. These
disappointments are experience, without which no lesson is perfect.

When the beams of the yet invisible sun brighten the sky in the east,
men know that the day is at hand. Yet do these beams often raise up
mists from earth, moist with the dews of night, which cover their
brilliance as with a veil, throwing out a new shadow of darkness; but
that darkness is not of the night, it is the herald of the day. Behind
that veil rises up the sun, soon to dissipate those shadows, bathing the
earth in the full effulgence of his glory.



CHAPTER I

THE TWO VICEROYS


The Señor Don Ciriaco Asneiros was far from satisfied with the part he
had taken in the affair of the 1st January. To him there remained no
doubt that he had been the dupe of Doña Josefina. On the evening of the
2nd January he rode out to the Quinta de Ponce, determined to come to
some explanation with her. She, confident in her own power of
fascination, was ready enough to give him the interview he sought, and
soon succeeded in soothing his resentment. As they sat under the
verandah together she spoke to him of Magdalen.

"Why do you not marry, Don Ciriaco?" said she to him; "if you were to
marry your position would be secure."

"Señora, you know well----"

"Of folly I wish to know nothing, Don Ciriaco; be wise and listen to me.
What you require is a rich wife; I can get you one. What think you of
Magdalen Miranda?"

"The Inglesita!"

"Why not?"

"Think you I have no eyes, Señora? For Don Marcelino there is no other
in the world."

"Marcelino!" exclaimed Doña Josefina, interrupting him. "Have you also
that folly in your head? Even though Marcelino worships the ground she
steps on he can never marry her. I know you have great regard for
Marcelino; believe me you would be doing him a service if you would help
to cure him of that folly."

"You said to me, Señora, a rich wife; the old medico is as poor as a
rat."

"So they say," replied Doña Josefina, "but I know that when Don Alfonso
came here he was rich; it is only a few days since that Fausto told me
so. You must not mention this to any one, but when his daughter marries,
it will be found out what he has done with his wealth."

"The medico would not have me for a son-in-law, he hates Spaniards,"
said Don Ciriaco.

"Don Alfonso fears everything; every one who can protect him is his
friend. Who can protect him better than the favourite of the Viceroy?
Leave that to me." So saying Doña Josefina rose from her chair, and
tapping her protegé on the head with her fan glided away.

Don Ciriaco gave but a passing thought to this proposition of Doña
Josefina. The man in whose opinion he wished to stand high was Don
Roderigo Ponce de Leon. He knew him to be a bitter enemy of Don Alfonso;
no alliance with the medico could thus be thought of for one moment. As
he so pondered, sitting alone under the verandah, Don Roderigo came out
from the house, and, seating himself in the chair lately vacated by Doña
Josefina, entered into conversation with him.

"His Excellency the Viceroy has told me," said Don Roderigo, "that you
led the Andaluces to his support solely for the purpose of procuring the
release of my son."

"It is true," replied Asneiros.

"It was a mistake," said Don Roderigo; "but we will say no more of it. I
do not doubt your loyalty to Spain, and I have come to put it to the
proof. I have heard from Doña Josefina that you are on intimate terms
with the family of Don Alfonso Miranda. Are you aware who he is?"

"I know nothing of him, Don Roderigo," replied Asneiros; "I have met him
sometimes at the house of Don Fausto, that is all."

"I have been misinformed then, and I am sorry; your acquaintance with
him might have been of great service to me."

"How? I will do anything I can to be of service to you, as you know, Don
Roderigo."

"You can be of service only if you are intimate with him, and visit
frequently at his quinta."

This conversation was prolonged far into the night, and resulted in the
establishment of a complete understanding between the grandee and the
soldier, one immediate result of which was, that Don Ciriaco Asneiros
received his commission as major before a week had elapsed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Carlos Evaña had received the congratulations of Don Roderigo Ponce
de Leon upon his debut as a politician with great coldness. He seemed to
have no wish to distinguish himself further in that way, but he
surprised many of his friends by adopting a new pursuit, one for which
he had in former years shown great distaste; he became a sportsman.

The one business of his left seemed to be to plan excursions into the
country for shooting or fishing. On these expeditions he never went
alone, Marcelino Ponce de Leon was frequently with him, Don Manuel
Belgrano more frequently still, and there were other such as the Passos,
Don Juan Jose and Don Francisco, Don Nicholas Rodriguez Peña, Don Miguel
Yrigoyen, Don Antonio Beruti, and Don Agustin Donado, some of whom were
always of the party. Their favourite point of meeting when starting on
these expeditions was at the house of Dr Vieytes in the Calle Venezuela.

Often during the heat of the day when on these expeditions did they seek
shelter under the hospitable roof of Don Roderigo at the Quinta de
Ponce; not unfrequently, as the season advanced and partridge and snipe
flocked to the "boñados de Flores," which are situated about two leagues
west of the city, they would spend an hour or two on their return at the
quinta of Don Alfonso Miranda.

These excursions seemed to afford to them all great pleasure, they
looked forward to them and spoke of them with eagerness, as though they
were events of the greatest importance, yet withal the trophies of their
prowess were but meagre, and it was no unfrequent chance for them to
return with empty bags. Partridges whirred up in front of them, the
snipe piped his shrill cry and hovered before them, then flew away
unharmed. If they went fishing it not rarely happened that some unlucky
fish would hook and have full leisure to unhook himself again, ere the
careless fisherman found that the bait was gone. They were but poor
sportsmen after all, though so enthusiastic.

Dolores had many a laugh at them, telling them that she feared they
would fare but badly if they had to depend for food upon their own
exertions. And one day when Don Carlos took Magdalen a brace of snipe,
after a long day's sport in the bañados, she held them up, one in each
hand, saying merrily:

"Poor little things, how clever you must be! It took six men with guns
all day long to catch you!"

In fact, during these excursions the shooting and the fishing occupied
but a very small portion of their time, most of it was taken up in
conversation. In knots of two or three, or all in one group, they would
sit for hours by the side of a stream or under the shade of some clump
of trees, talking together. Their talk was of the events of the day, and
of the influence of these events upon the future. These friendly
sportsmen formed in reality a secret committee; one watchword they had
among them:

"America for the Americans!"

But of the meaning of this phrase there was as many opinions among them
as there were speakers.

During the year 1809, to the end of which these sporting excursions
continued, events succeeded each other with great rapidity. Each event
as it fell out was followed by an excursion, during which all its
bearings were discussed under the free air of heaven; if any
acquaintance chanced to join them, discussion ceased, and their talk was
solely of their sport.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Manuel Belgrano had taken a very prominent part in the affair of the
1st January, his conduct gained him the confidence of the Viceroy, who
after that day began to consult him on many occasions. One of the chief
difficulties of the Viceroy was the empty state of the treasury, the
consequence of his lavish expenditure. For this Don Manuel Belgrano set
himself to work to devise a remedy, and found it in free trade.

The restrictions imposed upon commerce by the Spanish colonial system
paralyzed the productive industries of her colonies. Their trade was
restricted to certain channels, marked out by the Consulado of Cadiz.
The ports of Monte Video and Buenos Aires were closed to foreign
merchants and to foreign ships.

Belgrano proposed to throw open the port of Buenos Aires to English
ships and to invite English merchants to settle there, satisfied that a
brisk trade would soon spring up, upon which a revenue might be levied
ample for all the purposes of Government. With the approval of the
Viceroy, he proceeded to draw up an extensive memorial on the subject.
Previous to submitting it to the Viceroy himself, he wished to discuss
it in detail with the members of the secret committee. In April a
shooting excursion was planned to the neighbourhood of Quilmes; Don
Manuel Belgrano was of the party, carrying his memorial with him.

It was evening, most of the sportsmen had returned to the city, but two
of them, Don Carlos Evaña and Don Manuel Belgrano, rode off together to
the Quinta de Ponce.

"Marcelino was not with you to-day," said Doña Constancia, as she sat
with her two guests under the verandah.

"No, he could not leave the city," replied Don Carlos; "I shall see him
to-morrow, have you any message for him?"

"You will not have to wait till-to-morrow, for here he comes," said
Dolores, jumping up from her chair as a horseman passed along the road,
and walking away to greet him as he dismounted.

"Is Carlos here?" asked Marcelino, as he walked with his sister to the
house after giving up his horse to a slave.

"Yes, and Don Manuel Belgrano," said Dolores; "they did not expect you,
they said you were too busy to leave the city."

"I have news. I could not have slept to-night if I had not seen Carlos
to tell him."

"It is good news, I can see by your face. Is Juan Carlos coming back?"

"No, but some one has come."

"Who?"

"Guess."

"The Princess Carlota?"

"No such luck. But what do you know of the Princess Carlota?"

"Oh! I know things. I know more than you think."

"Then as you are so wise I will tell you. A new Viceroy has come from
Spain."

"A new Viceroy!" exclaimed Dolores; then, breaking from him she ran
before him to the verandah.

"Mamma!" said she, "great news, there is a new Viceroy, who has come out
from Spain. Now we shall be all quiet again, there will be no more
quarrels, papa said so, don't you remember?"

As she spoke, Don Carlos started to his feet, and Don Manuel Belgrano,
biting his lip pressed his hand upon the breast of his coat, in the
pocket of which there was a thick roll of paper.

Marcelino, bending over his mother, kissed her, and then turned to shake
hands with his two friends, who stood silent, waiting for him to speak.

"It is true," he said, as he held their hands in his. "Last week Don
Baltazar Hidalgo de Cisneros arrived in Monte Video, bringing his
appointment by the Junta of Seville as Viceroy of Buenos Aires. When I
tell you that Don Martin Alzaga is already his confidential friend I
tell you all."

"Don Martin Alzaga! But he is in Patagones," said Doña Constancia.

"He was, mamita," said Marcelino; "but his exile was short. Elio sent an
armed vessel to rescue him and the others; he has been living at his
ease in Monte Video for nearly a month now."

"My God! Is there then war between us and Monte Video?"

"Not now, Señora," said Evaña. "This new Viceroy of ours will doubtless
soon bring us all to order and make us all good friends again."

As he spoke, another horseman came up the road, and, dismounting at the
gate, threw his reins over a post, and walked up the narrow pathway to
the house. It was Don Roderigo.

The three younger men stood in silence waiting for him, their anxiety
visible in their faces.

"Ah! Marcelino has been before me," said Don Roderigo cheerfully. "You
know the news already."

"Yes," replied Don Manuel Belgrano. "How long has this new Viceroy been
in Monte Video."

"A week. The north winds have kept the news from us till now. He was
expected in Colonia to-day."

"Then to-morrow or the next day we may expect him here," said Evaña.

"And the Junta of Monte Video?" asked Belgrano.

"It is dissolved."

"And the members imprisoned for their rebellion against the legal
authority?" asked Belgrano.

"No," replied Don Roderigo slowly; "they have not been imprisoned. Their
proceedings were ill-judged, but they were actuated by a regard for the
interests of their country, they cannot be considered as criminals."

"And now they will be the counsellors of our new Viceroy," said
Marcelino. "That may not be, Liniers will not give up his authority to
men who have shown themselves to be his enemies."

"Quietly, my son," said Don Roderigo, as Doña Constancia looked up in
alarm at Marcelino's indignant words. "Liniers is a loyal servant of
Spain, though he is a Frenchman; he will yield at once his authority to
a successor legally appointed by the Junta Central."

"Liniers holds his authority from the King of Spain; when the Junta
Central have re-established the King, then the King may cancel an
appointment which the King made," said Marcelino.

"The appointment of Liniers came from the people," said Evaña. "Are the
people to have no voice in this matter?"

"Liniers has told me of the memorial in favour of free trade, which you
had promised to draw up for him," said Don Roderigo, turning to
Belgrano, "it will now be useless so far as he is concerned, but if you
will oblige me with a copy of it I will take care that it be submitted
to the attention of the new Viceroy."

"With much pleasure, Don Roderigo," said Belgrano. "Within two days you
shall have a copy, and believe me, that if this Don Baltazar de Cisneros
seeks the real welfare of the country, he cannot inaugurate his rule
better than by opening our ports to foreign trade."

"I am perfectly of your opinion, Don Manuel," replied Don Roderigo;
"with a Spanish Viceroy, reforms are possible which could not be
entertained under the rule of a foreigner."

"You have probably seen Don Santiago Liniers to-day," said Evaña. "Does
he himself announce his intention of yielding his authority into the
hands of this new Viceroy?"

"He does. Of that there could be no question," replied Don Roderigo.

After some further conversation Don Roderigo and Doña Constancia
retired into the house, and the three friends walked away from the
verandah to the gate, where they paused, looking up and down the road
and around them, to make sure that no one was within hearing. Evaña was
the first to speak.

"America for the Americans!" said he. "Now has come the time, my
friends, for us to put our principles to the test. If this Spaniard
lands, we shall lose every advantage we have gained."

"I am not surprised that Liniers should declare his intention of
yielding at once," said Belgrano. "He always yields to the first
counsellor who gains his ear. He has shown great confidence in me for
several months past, I will go to him to-morrow, and I think I can
persuade him to put himself at the head of the people."

"You are aware that he rejected a similar proposal from me?" said Evaña.

"If he yield to Cisneros he signs his own death-warrant," said
Marcelino. "He is in no such danger then."

"I shall show him his danger," said Belgrano, "and we must also devise
means to prove to him that the people and the troops will support him."

"I can manage that easily, by a popular demonstration," said Evaña. "I
have also another piece of news to tell you, of which my father knows
nothing," said Marcelino. "A gentleman, who is nominally travelling for
amusement, has to-day arrived from Rio Janeiro, he has brought me a
letter from Don Saturnino, his name is Don Feline Contucci. He brings
for you, Belgrano, an autograph letter from the Princess Carlota, he is
in reality an emissary of hers."

"Bah!" exclaimed Evaña. "Unless we concentrate all our energies upon one
object, we lose everything."

But Marcelino and Belgrano looked at each other, and each read the
thought of the other in his glance. There was hope yet of reconciling
all differences, and of founding a new Spain in America.

       *       *       *       *       *

The news of the appointment and arrival of a new Viceroy spread rapidly
through Buenos Aires, rousing in the Spaniards hope that their dominion
had not yet passed away from them; awakening in the breasts of native
Argentines something of fear, for the glamour of centuries is not to be
effaced by a year or two of light.

Days of doubt and hesitation succeeded; the new Viceroy approached
Buenos Aires with the greatest caution, sending emissaries before him to
prepare the people for his coming, and to sound the disposition of the
leading citizens and of the troops. When he at last reached Colonia it
was with such an escort, as would have befitted a general advancing upon
the capital of an enemy. Then Liniers declared openly that he had not
the slightest intention of opposing in any way the will of the Junta of
Seville and would himself aid the new Viceroy to establish his
authority. These words of the Reconquistador were sedulously spread
about the city and roused the indignation of the people. They thronged
the street in which stood the private residence of their chosen leader,
shouting that they would have none other than him to rule over them, and
calling upon him to come forth and speak to them.

"You hear the shouts of the mob?" said Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, who
was at that moment with the Viceroy. "As loud as that will they shout
'Viva Cisneros!' when Don Baltazar thinks fit to cross the river."

Then went out Don Santiago Liniers on to his balcony and spoke to the
people such words as seemed fittest to quiet them, caring nothing what
pledges he might take in their esteem, thinking nothing of the trust
they placed in him. To him they listened, and as he concluded by
requesting them to disperse, they tossed their hats in the air shouting
again:

"Viva Don Santiago Liniers! No queremos otro Virey. Viva!"

Then acceding to his request, each man retired to his own home.

Marshal Don Santiago Liniers standing on his balcony, looking at them as
they slowly dispersed, listening to their shouts and cries of confidence
and trust, words which he was never more to hear, was aware of a tall
man leaning against a door-post some fifty yards off, watching him
intently. From this man he could not withdraw his eyes, he felt
attracted to him by some deadly fascination for which he could not
account, yet there was nothing peculiar in the attitude of this man.

"Don Roderigo," said the Viceroy, stepping back into the room behind
him, "look here one moment, tell me if you know this man?"

Don Roderigo stepped onto the balcony and looked over into the street,
but the man had left his post and was walking slowly away with his back
towards them.

"Is not that Evaña?" said the Viceroy.

"Evaña? impossible!" replied Don Roderigo. "There is nothing for which
Evaña has greater contempt than for the shouts of a mob." And so saying
he went back and looked no more.

But Liniers lingered on the balcony, still fascinated by the slowly
receding figure of the tall man who had looked at him so intently. He
watched him till he reached a corner, turned it, and vanished from
sight. But it seemed to the Viceroy that, as he vanished, he turned once
more to look at him, and raised his hand in angry menace toward the
evening sky.

Still borne on the evening air from neighbouring streets came the shouts
of the citizens slowly dispersing to their homes:

"Viva Don Santiago Liniers! No queremos otro Virey. Viva!"

Listening to these shouts, the Viceroy then turned his gaze to the
evening sky toward which that figure had raised its threatening hand. To
the west, where the sun had sunk below the horizon, the sky was covered
by broad bands of scarlet and yellow, two of scarlet with one of yellow
between them, and over these there hung a dark, black cloud, sinking
lower and lower, till the crimson glories of the sunset faded away into
the darkness. Over that dark cloud the sky was of the purest blue, and
straight before him in the midst of it there shone one brilliant star.

Clutching the rail of the balcony with both hands, the Viceroy gazed
upon this star, and as he gazed again through the evening air there came
the sound of voices shouting from far off, in accents clear and
distinct, his own name. He thought of what he was about to do; again he
thought of the people who had placed their destinies in his hands, and
a sort of dreamy hallucination fell upon; he forgot that he was in
Buenos Aires, he forgot that he was Viceroy, again in memory he stood in
the streets of Paris as he had stood in his youth, and the shouts
changed from acclamations to yells of deadly menace:

  "Ca ira! Les aristocrats a la lanterne."

He shivered, an unknown terror seized upon him, he averted his rapt gaze
and turned back quickly into the room. Walking to a side table he filled
a goblet with wine and drained it at a draught. As he filled the goblet,
his hand trembled so that he spilled some of the wine upon the table,
whence it flowed upon the uncarpeted floor; the rays of a lamp falling
over the spot lighted up the drops of wine as they trickled slowly from
the table, falling upon the floor in great red splashes like drops of
blood. Liniers started back covering his face with his hands.

"What is the matter with you, Don Santiago?" said a friendly voice in
his ear. "Let us dine, for all is ready and we have no time to lose."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours after nightfall three men, muffled in large cloaks, left the
fort by the postern gate, and walked away towards the beach, where a
boat awaited them. He who walked in the centre was Don Santiago Liniers;
they who attended him were Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon and Don Martin
Rodriguez, confidential friends, who had counselled him to set at nought
the will of the people, who had made him Viceroy. The three men reached
the boat without molestation, stepped into it, and were rowed to a small
armed vessel, which immediately weighed anchor, spread her sails to the
wind, and steered for Colonia.

The next morning, as Don Baltazar de Cisneros, in a loose dressing-gown,
was imbibing his morning cup of coffee, an aide-de-camp came hurriedly
into the room, announcing the approach of the Señor Mariscal Don
Santiago Liniers. Cisneros started up from his chair, in his alarm
dropping his cup onto the floor.

"Liniers!" exclaimed he, "with what force?"

"Two friends are with him," replied the aide-de-camp.

The next moment Liniers stood in the doorway, a smile curled his lip as
he saw the agitation of his rival, and the broken cup lying on the floor
at his feet. For a minute the two Viceroys stood looking intently one at
the other, then they mutually advanced, and opening their arms embraced
like brothers.

Some hours later Don Baltazar de Cisneros walked on the azotea of his
house in earnest conversation with Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon. "I have
been informed that I can place implicit confidence in you," said Don
Baltazar, "and that your counsel may be of great service to me."

Don Roderigo bowed and replied:

"I trust I may merit your confidence, Don Baltazar, and it is not
unlikely that I may be of service to you. I have lived half my life in
Buenos Aires, and am intimately acquainted with most of the leading
citizens. In any way in which I can aid you, you may securely count upon
me."

"So I was given to understand before I left Spain," answered Don
Baltazar. "I will give you a proof of my confidence by telling you my
secret instructions and asking your advice as to how I can carry them
out. In the first place I am instructed to send Liniers under arrest to
Spain, and to disarm the native militia of Buenos Aires. I see great
difficulties in the way of accomplishing either of these two clauses in
my instructions."

"They are neither of them to be thought of at present," said Don
Roderigo. "Don Santiago Liniers is immensely popular, not only in Buenos
Aires, but throughout the provinces, his arrest would provoke an open
rebellion against which we should be powerless. You must make use of his
popularity to establish your own authority, and at the same time seize
every opportunity of undermining that popularity, which is a great
source of danger to us. To disarm the militia is at present a simple
impossibility, thanks to the thick-headedness of Don Martin Alzaga."

"What steps would you then advise me to take? You say that the
excitement of the populace in Buenos Aires is so great that it would
hardly be safe for me to cross the river?"

"Your presence in Buenos Aires would ruin everything. I would advise you
to send a delegate in your name to take command of the troops, and leave
the nominal authority for a time in the hands of Don Santiago Liniers.
In a month or two when this excitement has cooled down, you may safely
come to us, and you will find everything prepared for your reception."

"Ha! Don Santiago," said Cisneros, as Liniers ascended to the azotea,
and came towards them, "I have been talking with Don Roderigo, and find
that his opinion is the same as yours, that it would be unsafe for me to
cross over to Buenos Aires as yet."

"Your Excellency may have perfect confidence in the wisdom of any advice
given you by Don Roderigo," said Liniers.

"Not less confidence than I have in your experience and loyalty, Don
Santiago," replied Cisneros. "Your services are highly appreciated in
Spain, and it will be a fresh claim upon the liberality of the Junta if
you will consent to retain your office for a month or two longer, by
which time you will be able to smooth matters sufficiently for me to
resume the reins of government myself."

"I fear your Excellency overrates my influence with the citizens of
Buenos Aires."

"Not in the least, Don Santiago," said Don Roderigo; "I have explained
the matter to his Excellency, and we have both the fullest confidence in
you. It is to you alone that the Junta can look for the establishment of
its authority in Buenos Aires."

"The Junta will have no cause to find their confidence misplaced,"
replied Liniers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days after this, Don Santiago Liniers returned to Buenos Aires,
taking with him General Nieto, who held a commission from the new
Viceroy as commandant-general of all the forces of Spain in the
viceroyalty of Buenos Aires.

The two Viceroys separated with great cordiality on both sides, and with
mutual expressions of esteem and confidence.



CHAPTER II

THE TERTULIA AT THE HOUSE OF MY LADY JOSEFINA


The return of Marshal Liniers to Buenos Aires, quieted the excitement of
the people, which had risen to a dangerous pitch, but did nothing to
allay the distrust of Liniers which was felt by the members of the
secret committee.

A shooting excursion was at once planned by Don Carlos Evaña to the
bañados of Flores. On this occasion not one member of the committee was
absent. Seated under a clump of trees close to a deserted rancho, their
guns unloaded, their dogs lying lazily stretched out in the sunshine,
they discussed the topic of the day, the avowed intention of Marshal
Liniers to surrender his power into the hands of Don Baltazar de
Cisneros, the assumption by General Nieto of the command of the native
troops.

The sun was sinking towards the horizon, when their dogs became uneasy,
and, leaving them, went up to the deserted rancho, snuffing round the
walls, some of them barking furiously.

"What is the matter with the dogs?" said Evaña impatiently.

"An opossum or a skunk, or some such beast," said Belgrano.

"I'll have a look," said Beruti, starting to his feet.

Round the rancho he walked but could see nothing, while the dogs became
more furious in their clamour. He tried the door but it was fast shut,
and he could find no means of opening it.

"That door was open," said Marcelino, "when we came, for I went in and
looked through the rancho, and it was empty."

"Let us go," said Dr Vieytes. "It is late already and I think we have
decided that we can do nothing until we have secured the troops."

"I will first see what is in that rancho," said Evaña, taking up his
gun.

Walking up to the door of the rancho he tried it, as Beruti had done
before him. He could not open it, it was evidently fastened on the
inside. He raised his gun in both hands and struck a furious blow with
the butt upon the side-panel of the door. The stock of the gun broke
short off, leaving a useless iron tube in his hands, but the door
remained uninjured.

Perhaps it was as well for you, Don Carlos Evaña, that you did not
succeed in bursting open that door. Behind it, in darkness, stood a man
who held a cocked pistol in each hand. Had you crossed the threshold of
that door, you would never have recrossed it alive.

"What are you doing, Carlos?" said Marcelino, seizing him by the arm.
"Come, we have belayed here too long already."

"Come! come, Evaña!" shouted the others; "we may shoot a few birds as we
go back."

"And we have need of special caution just now lest we excite suspicion,"
said Marcelino.

Evaña stopped, picked up the broken stock, and walked slowly away after
the others, every now and then looking back upon the rancho, and never
losing sight of it till they were free from the bañado and on the high
road for the city.

"Do not let us go on to town yet; let us go to the quinta and see
Magdalen," said Evaña to Marcelino, as they reached the Plaza Miserere.
"I have forgotten how the tea tastes out of her porcelain cups."

"Let us go," rejoined Marcelino; yet his eye did not brighten as he
acceded to the proposition of his friend, and something very like a sigh
issued from his lips.

"My brother, you are sad," said Evaña, stretching out his hand and
laying it upon his shoulder. "Do Magdalen's grey eyes look less kindly
upon you than they did formerly."

"Magdalen's grey eyes never look upon me now, Carlos. She shuns me, all
our old intimacy is at an end. What I have done to offend her I do not
know, for I have spoken to her and she refuses me any explanation."

"Let us follow the others," said Evaña.

"No, let us go on," replied Marcelino; "she will talk to you, and her
voice is music to me still."

They found Magdalen alone, seated by the fireside, busily sewing. Her
eyes brightened for a moment as they fell upon Don Carlos Evaña, who was
the first to enter the room, but the light in them died away as she saw
Marcelino enter behind him. In silence she stretched out her hand to
each of them, without rising from her chair.

"Papa is in the quinta," she said, as they seated themselves without
invitation. "Or perhaps he may have walked up the road to meet Don
Ciriaco, who said he would be back before dark."

"Don Ciriaco comes very often to see you now," said Marcelino.

"He is more constant in his friendships than some gentlemen I know,"
replied Magdalen. "It is months since you were last here, Don Carlos."

"Not months, Señorita," replied Evaña, "but weeks; when I have been here
I have generally met Don Ciriaco, who is a gentleman whose friendship I
have no wish to cultivate."

"Papa and Doña Josefina think very highly of him, and they know him
better than you do, Don Carlos. You have been out shooting to-day in the
bañados, have you not? What did you shoot?"

"Nothing; I broke my gun, but the others have some birds in their bags."

"I was on the azotea, and saw you passing this morning. Did you not meet
Don Ciriaco?"

"No. Did he go out shooting too?"

"Not when you did, but he came here in the afternoon, and when I told
him I had seen you pass he said he would go and join you, but how he is
to shoot without a gun I do not know. Papa offered to lend him his, but
he went without it, and alone on foot."

To this Evaña answered nothing, but sat biting the ends of his
moustache, while Marcelino twirled his hat round between his fingers,
looking upon the ground in silence.

"If you had let me break open the door of that rancho we should have
found a skunk inside," said Evaña.

"It is quite possible," replied Marcelino.

"A skunk!" said Magdalen. "And in a rancho! If you had found one what
would you have done with it?"

"Shot him," replied Evaña.

Don Alfonso Miranda had walked up the road, but he returned alone, and
Magdalen made tea for them in her porcelain cups. All the evening
Marcelino and Evaña waited, at every sound they looked towards the door,
and there was a constraint over them all, but Don Ciriaco did not come
back, at which Magdalen expressed her surprise, but her father said
nothing.

When their guests had at last taken their departure, Don Alfonso called
to Magdalen to come and sit by him. She seated herself in her favourite
low chair, and recommenced her sewing without making any remark.
Presently her father spoke to her.

"This Don Marcelino does not often now trouble us with his presence,
Chica," he said; then he paused as though he expected a reply, but none
came, and he continued:

"He seems almost as keen a sportsman as our friend Don Carlos, and when
he is not shooting birds I suppose he has all his time pretty well taken
up paying court to the fair Elisa. When a man chooses the prettiest girl
in the city for his lady-love he does well to keep a strict watch on all
rivals."

"Are they to be married soon?" asked Magdalen, with the greatest
composure.

"I know nothing about it, I never troubled my head with such matters,"
replied Don Alfonso. "Who told you that they were to be married?"

"No one; but Doña Josefina said one day----I don't know what she said,
something, but what does it matter?"

"It is about time for me to think of finding a husband for you Chica."

"Oh! don't say that, please don't papa," said Magdalen, for the first
time that evening showing any animation, "I don't want to marry."

"All girls say that," replied Don Alfonso, "but the most of them do
marry for all that."

"Some don't," said Magdalen.

"And some find husbands for themselves, without waiting for their
fathers to find them for them, as they ought to do. There is a gentleman
comes here very often who does not come to see me. What do you think he
comes here for, Chica?" said Don Alfonso, with something of tenderness
in his tone.

"I don't know what you mean, papa," said Magdalen, flushing scarlet.

"Ah ha! Chica! You think that we old folks have not our eyes about us.
You know who I mean, you need not tremble, for I am not angry, for he is
a gallant soldier, and if you would like him for a husband I should be
proud to call him my son. You must not expect me to get a rich husband
for you, for I am poor, very poor."

"But, papa, he does not often come here now, and----" here Magdalen
stopped in confusion for she hardly knew what she was saying.

"Not come here often!" said Don Alfonso, laughing; "why he was here
three times last week and again to-day. Do you want him to come every
day, Chica?"

"Who are you talking about, papa? Here to-day! and three times last
week, no one comes here so often but Don Ciriaco Asneiros."

"Don Ciriaco, the gallant major, who is winning his way up from grade to
grade, who is the confidential friend of Marshal Liniers, and who will
soon be one of the most powerful men in Buenos Aires. Of whom else
should I speak but of him? Why does he come here so often if it is not
to see you, and who is there that talks to you so much as he does?"

"Don Ciriaco!" exclaimed Magdalen, and she hung her head in
bewilderment. It was true as her father said that he came very often,
true also that when others were there he almost monopolised her
conversation, but he had never given her the slightest reason to believe
that he had any tender feeling for her, in fact he made no secret to her
of his boundless admiration for her friend Dolores Ponce de Leon, and
she had felt pity for him, and had shown it to him in many ways, for she
saw that he had small hope that his love would ever be returned, and she
thought herself that it was utterly impossible that it should be so. So
she had felt pity for him, and had shown him great sympathy and
consideration, for was she not also indulging in a hopeless love. Now
her father spoke to her of him as a possible husband. She thought of
some jesting words which Doña Josefina had said to her not many weeks
ago, concerning the success of a gallant soldier who both in war and in
love carried everything before him. These words had dyed her own cheeks
crimson, as she thought of a soldier who was to her the impersonation of
all that was brave and noble, but could it be possible that Doña
Josefina had meant quite another man, no other than this Don Ciriaco?
Then she began to hate this Don Ciriaco, and to think of the awkward
manners and of the rude speech which had made him a laughing-stock to
the polished youth among whom she had first met him at the house of Doña
Josephina.

Don Alfonso waited for a space to see what answer his daughter would
give him, but as he got no further reply than that one exclamation, Don
Ciriaco! he spoke again.

"And why not Don Ciriaco?" said he. "Why have you encouraged him to come
here so often to see you if you are to be frightened when I speak about
him?"

"Don Ciriaco, papa! Don Ciriaco never came here to see me. If no one
else is here he always talks to you, and if he comes when you are out he
always waits till you come back. He comes to see you, papa, he thinks
much about you, he talks more to me about you than about anything else.
He seems never to be tired of listening when I talk to him about you."

"About me!" exclaimed Don Alfonso, startled. "What can you find to tell
him about me?"

"Hundreds of things, papa. You have no idea what strange questions he
asks me at times."

"What questions? Tell me what questions he asks you?"

"If you are away he always asks me where you have gone, and how long you
have been away, and when you will be back. And he always wants to know
all about every one who comes to see you, especially about Don Carlos
Evaña, and what he comes to see you for, and what he talks to you about.
Several times he has asked me if you get any letters from Europe or from
Rio Janeiro. I think he is very rude to ask me such questions, I have
told him so more than once and have refused to answer him, but he will
ask them, I suppose he knows no better. Some of the young men at Doña
Josefina's used to call him the barbarian."

"And does he never speak to you about--about--does he never talk
love-nonsense to you?"

"Never, papa, I assure you. If he had, I should have known better than
to listen to him."

Then Don Alfonso bowed his head on his hands and spoke no more to his
daughter, sitting motionless in his chair for more than an hour, and
when he at last raised his head, and rose from his seat to retire to his
own room, Magdalen saw again on his face that old shadow of care and
anxiety which had vanished from it during the last few months.

"If not a tyrant, then a traitor, so is every Spaniard," said Don
Alfonso as Magdalen lifted up her face to his for a kiss before
retiring.

As Magdalen lay down to rest, she buried her face in her pillow, longing
to cry, but the tears would not come. Her sleep was troubled; in the
morning she rose unrefreshed with a vague fear of something dreadful
impending. The day passed quietly, just as other days did, and in the
evening came Don Ciriaco, who was received by Don Alfonso with more than
usual cordiality, but Magdalen pleaded a headache and hardly spoke to
him at all.

A week after this, Doña Josefina Viana de Velasquez had one evening a
numerous company in her sala. The occasion was a tertulia, an undress
ball, given in welcome to her niece Constancia who had returned to the
city after spending the summer at her quinta. At least such was the
pretext announced for the tertulia, but Doña Josefina and her husband
Don Fausto were fond of indulging their hospitable tastes and delighted
to fill their rooms with young people and to give due scope to the
flirting propensities of their friends, flirtation being in the opinion
of the lady the most important business of life.

Some few days before this tertulia, she had paid a visit to Don Alfonso
Miranda at his quinta, and noticing that Magdalen looked pale and out of
spirits, had taken her back with her to spend some days in the city.

This day of the tertulia was also the day for one of the shooting
excursions of the secret committee, and Doña Constancia told her aunt
that she did not think Marcelino would be there that evening. But
Marcelino heard that day from Evaña that Magdalen was staying with Doña
Josefina; he hurried back to town, determined not to lose such an
opportunity of conversing at his ease with her, away from the watchful
eyes and often sneering words of her father. For months he had missed
the smile of welcome with which she had been wont to greet him, and
report had told him that the heart which he had once fondly thought was
his had been given to another. He resolved to know all that evening, at
the house of his aunt Josefina.

It was late when he entered the sala, the first person he met as he went
in was Elisa Puyrredon. He and the fair Elisa had been playmates
together when they were children; his little playmate was now a
beautiful woman, with whom romping games were things of the far-off
past. Yet the frank cordiality of her friendship for him had left him
nothing to regret.

One jesting compliment Marcelino exchanged with the fair Elisa, and then
went up to salute his aunt.

"How cruel of you to leave Elisa to herself," said Doña Josefina; "do
not you see they are just going to dance?"

"I have been shooting all day, aunt, I had rather talk to you than
dance."

"Stupid!" said she.

But Marcelino hardly heard the remark, looking eagerly all round the
large saloon for a face that he could not see, yet Magdalen, for whom he
was looking, was close to him. She had seen, him enter the room, seen
him speak to Elisa Puyrredon, and had then retired into the deep recess
of a window as he approached to speak with Doña Josefina.

"For whom are you looking? She is there where you left her," said Doña
Josefina.

"Yes, I see she is, aunt, but she is going to dance with Valentin."

"With Valentin! I will soon arrange that for you. Give me your arm, I
have been looking for Valentin all evening."

So Marcelino was walked off by his aunt, and presently found himself
dancing with Elisa Puyrredon.

Don Ciriaco Asneiros had taken so much trouble to ingratiate himself
with Don Alfonso Miranda, and had succeeded so well by the assistance of
Doña Josefina, that that lady made sure one of her schemes would end
successfully. She was therefore greatly chagrined when she learned from
Don Alfonso, on the occasion of her last visit to the Miserere, that her
plan of marrying her protegé to Magdalen was likely to fall through. Don
Alfonso had spoken to her vaguely of a certain distrust of the motives
of Don Ciriaco for his repeated visits to the quinta, but Doña Josefina
had found no great difficulty in laughing him out of his suspicions, she
herself had no doubt whatever of the reasons which took that gallant
officer so often to the Plaza Miserere. She had twitted him once or
twice upon the subject, and all his answers had tended to prove to her
that he had quite given up any hopes he might ever have formed of
winning the love of her niece Dolores, and now thought only of
Magdalen. Thus she treated him with greater favour than ever and began
to take some real interest in him, for his manners had greatly improved
under her tuition. He was high in favour with Marshal Liniers and with
Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, and General Nieto seemed to place great
confidence in him; her pupil was evidently a man who would do her
credit.

Of all this Doña Josefina was thinking to herself as she watched her
nephew dancing with Elisa Puyrredon, flattering herself that she was
managing very well for the happiness of all concerned.

"Once we dispose of Magdalen, all will come right," said she to herself;
"even of Carlos I do not despair, thought I confess both he and Dolores
are a puzzle to me."

When this dance was over Marcelino left his fair partner and renewed his
search for Magdalen, whom he found seated by herself, looking with
lustreless eyes upon the gay scene about her, as though her thoughts
were far away. His cordial words of greeting brought no smile to her
face, to his questions she answered only in monosyllables, and when he
asked her to dance she declined, saying that she was too tired. As he
seated himself beside her, she rose, saying something about Doña
Josefina, and went to where that lady was sitting and spoke to her.

"What nonsense, Niña," said Doña Josefina. "I did not bring you into
town to mope yourself in your room, you can do that at the quinta. Come,
I know what you want, you have hardly danced at all, if you won't dance
to please yourself you must dance to please me. Here is a great
favourite of mine coming, I don't dance, you will dance with him for me,
won't you?"

Before Magdalen could answer, Don Ciriaco Asneiros stood before her,
bowing low and asking for her company in the next dance. Doña Josefina
answered for her, and she felt obliged to go. As they took their place
Don Ciriaco began talking to her of Dolores, a subject on which she was
ever ready to listen, and more so now than ever, for she had not seen
Dolores for months till that evening, and when she had met her, Dolores
seemed strangely cold to her and had hardly spoken to her three words.

Marcelino remained in the dancing-saloon for some minutes exchanging
salutations and compliments with such of his acquaintance as passed near
him, but keeping his eye constantly upon one couple who were in earnest
conversation together. He saw the dull, vacant look disappear from
Magdalen's face, a faint colour came into her cheeks, and----he waited
to see no more, he bowed his head as though in answer to some unspoken
question, and with his lips firmly pressed together left the room.

While the more youthful friends of Doña Josefina's were amusing
themselves by dancing, Don Fausto and some more particular friends of
his had retired to the dining-room. The large table running down the
centre of this room was covered with salvers and dishes of sweetmeats,
and with trays on which stood tall water-jars, surrounded by glass
goblets of very varied design. Such was the refreshment provided by the
abstemious Porteños for their friends on such an occasion as the
present. In the intervals between the dances, servants waited upon the
dancers, handing round these sweetmeats, which they ate from small
plates with spoons, then other servants followed with the trays covered
with goblets of water. Doña Josefina pressed the sweetmeats upon her
friends, telling them that after eating they might drink water with
safety. At one time during the evening chocolate was handed round, but
there were no edibles of more solid description. On the dining-room
table there were also jugs of claret, and bottles of the more fiery
wines of Spain, but these were reserved for the use of such friends of
Don Fausto as cared not for dancing.

When Marcelino entered the dining-room, Don Fausto with several of his
friends were collected in a small knot at the end of the room; all
looked round as he entered, and their conversation ceased.

"I give you welcome, Marcelino," said Don Fausto. "Shut the door and
come here."

Don Fausto stood leaning against the table, in front of him sat Don
Gregorio Lopez, beside him stood his son the Colonel, several others
stood around. Don Juan Martin Puyrredon was speaking as Marcelino
entered, and resumed as soon as the door was again closed.

"It comes to this," said he; "the excitement of the people has warned
off our new Viceroy for a time, but that will pass. With the troops
under the command of General Nieto, the influence of Marshal Liniers
will be slowly undermined. Liniers himself has been cajoled by promises,
the disorders in the interior will afford a pretext for the
reorganisation of Spanish troops. What say you, Señores? Are we to
welcome this Cisneros amongst us, and give ourselves up again to the
rule of such men as Elio and Don Martin Alzaga?"

"We have had enough of them," said Colonel Lopez. "Now has come the time
for us to demand our due share in the administration. What want we with
Viceroys who are sent from Spain? There are men amongst us who know well
how to lead us if Don Santiago persists in retiring."

"Quietly, my son," said Don Gregorio, "without Spaniards there is no
organisation among us. Let us seek by every means in our power to
conciliate such Spaniards as are friendly to us."

"We can do well enough without a Viceroy," said Don Juan Martin; "but we
want experienced soldiers for our security, of whom there are many among
the Spaniards; and we want a governing Junta, in which Spaniards of
experience would naturally form the majority, but that the Junta of
Seville should choose a Viceroy for us is, in my opinion, degradation to
us."

"A Junta!" exclaimed Marcelino; "that was the idea of Don Martin
Alzaga."

"And the idea was not a bad one if we had had no Viceroy, but at that
time we had one," replied Don Juan Martin. "Don Santiago Liniers was
then the legally-appointed representative of the King of Spain; but
there is now no King in Spain. Each province in Spain has its Junta, we
have an equal right to have a Junta of our own."

"Now that Liniers deserts us we remain without a legal head to the
government," said Don Gregorio.

"In all the year of the English invasion we were in the same position,
and it appears to me that we were none the worse for it," said Colonel
Lopez.

Then others entered the room, and the conversation became more guarded.

When Marcelino returned to the sala he found his friend Evaña, who had
told him that he was not going to the tertulia, standing in a doorway
strangely excited.

"I have been looking for you, I could not see you anywhere. Come with
me, I have news for you, which I am afraid will pain you greatly, but I
could not keep it from you." So saying Evaña led the way into a small
ante-room where they could talk undisturbed.

"What was the name of the vessel in which our friend Gordon was about to
sail for Lisbon, when he last wrote you?" asked Evaña.

"The sloop-of-war _Petrel_," replied Marcelino.

"I thought I was correct," said Evaña; then drawing an English newspaper
from his pocket he added:

"I have just received this, read."

Marcelino took the paper and read the paragraph to which Evaña had
pointed; as he read his eyes glazed over. He read an account of how
H.B.M. sloop-of-war _Petrel_, with a detachment of troops on board for
the army then assembling at Lisbon, and with several officers, who were
on their way to rejoin their regiments, had been totally lost on the
coast of Galicia, two boats' crews only escaping. To this was appended a
list of the names of the survivors. Eagerly Marcelino scanned that list,
but the name of his friend Gordon was not among them. A strange calmness
came over him; half an hour before he had felt wild and reckless under
the pressure of a sorrow of his own, now he thought only of the sorrow
this news would give to another, and that other, his own dearly-loved
sister.

"Do not let any one see this paper, do not mention it to any one, it may
not be true after all, he may have escaped."

Evaña tore the paragraph, from the paper, and twisting it up, burned it
in the flame of a taper.

In the ante-room Marcelino remained alone, moodily thinking of what he
had heard and seen that evening; but Evaña returned to the sala, and
seeking out Dolores was especially attentive to her, even once to her
great surprise dancing with her. When he spoke to her his voice had a
soft tenderness in it which she had never heard before. Don Gregorio
Lopez and several others came and spoke with him, whispering to him that
they had matter of much moment to impart to him, but he resisted all
their attempts to draw him from her side. His thoughts were far from
politics, far from all that had been hitherto the business of his life,
he had given himself up to an intoxicating dream of love, he was a prey
to the glamour of hope.



CHAPTER III

LA JUNTA DE LOS COMANDANTES


The affair of the 1st January had resulted in giving Don Manuel Belgrano
so much else to think of, that he left the project of inviting the
Princess Carlota to Buenos Aires, very much in abeyance during the early
month of the year, until the arrival of Don Felipe Contucci aroused his
dormant zeal. He introduced Don Felipe to many of the leading citizens,
and to such of them as were in his confidence, he unfolded the purpose
of his visit. Above all he considered that it was necessary to gain the
concurrence of Don Cornelio Saavedra whose position at that time gave
him an influence in Buenos Aires, second only to that of Marshal
Liniers.

Many conferences had Belgrano and Saavedra together, in which the ideas
of the latter underwent a gradual change, till Don Manuel became
sanguine of ultimate success.

One evening in June Don Manuel Belgrano sat alone in his study,
anxiously awaiting a visit from Don Cornelio, and prepared to concert
with him some decisive step. His servant threw open the door,
announcing:

"El Señor Don Juan Martin Puyrredon."

It was not he whom he expected, and his disappointment showed itself in
his face.

"You are waiting for some one?" said Don Juan Martin.

"Yes, Don Cornelio Saavedra promised to visit me this evening," replied
Belgrano. "I think I have at length persuaded him that the best solution
of our differences will be to invite the Princess Carlota to take the
supreme government of the Viceroyalty into her hands."

"There is no longer any question of the Princess," said Puyrredon. "At
eleven o'clock this evening all the military commandants of the city,
both Spaniards and native, will meet at my house. It appears that this
Cisneros will not much longer put off his arrival, Liniers will do
nothing to hinder him. But he shall not come here, we have had enough of
these Viceroys from Spain. To-night we meet to concert measures for a
totally new order of affairs."

Belgrano started to his feet, his face glowing with animation. If the
leaders of the troops were only united, there was no longer any
impediment to the immediate assertion of independence.

"You invite me to join you?" he asked.

"I do. Your military rank entitles you to a place among us, and it is
not sufficient that we have the soldiery with us, we also wish the
concurrence of the people, in this you may give us most powerful aid.
Marcelino Ponce de Leon has also promised to be with us."

"And Don Carlos Evaña, will he be there?"

"No, I have not asked him. There are many Spaniards with us, and Don
Carlos will never agree cordially with any plan in which Spaniards are
included."

Then the enthusiasm of Don Manuel cooled down considerably, yet he
promised Don Juan Martin that he would be at his house at the hour he
had named.

Puyrredon departed, and Belgrano was again alone, and so he remained,
until it wanted little more than an hour of midnight, pondering deeply
within himself. Native chiefs and Spanish soldiers, Evaña, who was as
the soul of the fiery youth of Buenos Aires, shut out from the
conference; from this what could result? Nevertheless, Belgrano had
faith in the future of his own country, and having faith he hoped, and
hoping he put on his hat and cloak and sallied forth through darkness to
the house of Don Juan Martin Puyrredon, who, as commandant of the
cavalry on the 12th August, 1806, had won for himself a place in the
first rank of the military leaders of Buenos Aires.

All the commandants of the city militia, many commandants of the cavalry
of the campaña, several of the chiefs of the Spanish troops, which had
been disbanded in January and several of the leading citizens were there
assembled; as also some whose only claim to be there was the distinction
they had won during the two invasions of the English. Among those men
were Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon and his former lieutenant, Don Ciriaco
Asneiros.

The presence of such Spaniards as Don Ciriaco introduced at once an
element of discord into the conference. These men were ready to support
any project, however extravagant, that might be proposed, but to the
welfare of the country they gave not a moment's consideration; they
thought only of their own advancement, and welcomed the idea of a civil
war, in which they might sell their services to the highest bidder.

The conference had lasted two hours, and it seemed impossible for them
to come to any understanding together, when Don Ciriaco stepped forward,
and placing himself in front of Don Juan Martin Puyrredon said:

"Promise me the post of Inspector-general of arms and I will guarantee
to raise 2000 men in a week; I will cross over into the Banda Oriental,
seize Monte Video, and will shoot Cisneros and Elio for you in the
Plaza, then you can make whatever government you like."

Don Juan Martin started back as though he had been struck, and
consternation was visible upon the faces of most of the native
Argentines, but several of the Spaniards laughed.

"Traitor!" exclaimed Marcelino, seizing Don Ciriaco by the collar and
drawing him back, "think you that we are assassins?"

The Spanish major laid his hand on his sword, but Don Manuel Belgrano
stepped in between them.

"See you not, Marcelino," said he, "that this is a joke? This good
gentleman wishes to show us that all the plans that have been proposed
are alike impossible of fulfilment."

"A joke!" said Asneiros, turning sullenly away.

After this there was no more discussion, the conference broke up, and by
two or singly the members separated to their own homes.

Marcelino and Don Manuel Belgrano walked away together.

"If Evaña had been present we might have arrived at some resolution,"
said Marcelino; "but with these men of the sword it is useless to
discuss anything."

"With Evaña it would have been impossible to come to any arrangement
with the Spanish officers, and without their concurrence any plan we
might devise would most certainly entail a civil war," replied Belgrano.

"We might have striven to conciliate them, but to admit them to our
conference was folly," said Marcelino. "What ideas have they but such as
Don Ciriaco was bold enough to proclaim?"

"That was absurd; that was nothing but a joke," said Belgrano.

"A joke!" said Marcelino; "I fear me much some of us may find the whole
affair something more than a joke."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Don Ciriaco Asneiros left the conference he walked quietly away to
his own quarters, but before sunrise, in the dress of a private soldier,
he stood at the bedside of General Nieto.

The following afternoon Don Juan Martin Puyrredon was arrested in his
own house and taken to the barracks of the Patricios, where he was
placed in solitary confinement, and no one was allowed to visit him.

The news of his arrest spread consternation through the city, and
brought sorrow and fear into many a household; to none more than into
the household of the Señor Saenz-Valiente, whose wife, Doña Juana, was
the sister of Don Juan Martin. That night and the next morning Marshal
Liniers was besieged on all sides by applications for him to interfere
and procure the release of the prisoner, but to all alike he turned a
deaf ear. Even to Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, who represented to him
that he was likely to bring odium upon the rule of the new Viceroy, and
so endanger the very existence of Spanish authority, he had but one
answer, that the affair was none of his, and that doubtless General
Nieto had sufficient reasons for what he had done, and would in due time
declare them.

It was about two hours past noon when Don Roderigo left the Viceroy.
Instead of going himself to tell Doña Juana of the non-success of his
mission, he sought out his son, and commissioned him to tell her of it.

Marcelino found Doña Juana and her sister, with Doña Josefina and Doña
Constancia, who had spent all the morning with them, sympathising and
encouraging their hopes, though every hour brought intelligence of some
fresh failure. When Marcelino announced his message, their last ray of
hope vanished, for if Don Roderigo could not prevail upon Marshal
Liniers to interfere, they well knew that all other intercession was
useless.

Elisa Puyrredon burst into tears, and Doña Constancia, bending over her,
endeavoured in vain to soothe her, tears trickling down from her own
eyes also, in sympathy. Doña Josefina clasped her hands tightly
together, and composed herself into a most fascinating attitude of
despair, but Doña Juana listened as Marcelino spoke, in tearless
silence. As he paused she rose from her seat, tossing back her head, and
drawing up her stately figure to its full height.

"Now that the men can do nothing," said she, "it remains for us to do
what we can, and in our way. Will you accompany me, Marcelino?"

"With pleasure, Señora; it will be an honour for me to attend you
wherever you may choose to lead me."

Five minutes afterwards Doña Juana and Marcelino left the house
together. Three squares they walked in silence towards the Plaza Mayor,
then Marcelino made as though he would turn a corner, saying:

"This way, Señora, is the shortest."

"No," replied the lady, "let us keep straight on."

"Are you not going to the fort?" said Marcelino.

"No, to the barracks of the Patricios."

The courtyard of the barracks was crowded with soldiers. In addition to
the detachment ordinarily on guard, nearly all the officers of the
regiment, and many officers from other native regiments had met there
that afternoon to talk over the affair of the arrest, which was the
engrossing topic throughout the city. They were soldiers, and were
accustomed to obey orders without question. They had lodged their
prisoner in a strong room, posting sentries and guarding him securely,
nevertheless they liked not that their barracks should be turned into a
prison, and that they should be appointed gaolers over one of the most
distinguished of their fellow-citizens.

As they talked together, there stood in their midst a stately lady, who
looked round upon them with an air of great disdain. They doffed their
hats to her, and looked upon her with sympathising eyes, for many of
them recognised her as the sister of the prisoner they held in durance.
But she still looked haughtily upon them and returned not their
salutation, merely waving her hand to them to keep silence.

"Fellow-citizens!" she said, "I have come among you to know if that be
true which men have told me of you. Men tell me that you are no longer
the gallant soldiers who in the day of danger stood foremost of all to
confront the onset of a mighty foe, shedding your blood and offering up
your lives willingly in the defence of your homes and fatherland. Men
tell me that you are no longer the heroes on whom your country can look
with pride, to whom she may look with confidence for the securing of her
rights and liberties. Men tell me that you are now no more than the
trained minions of a despot, and are the gaolers of such of your
fellow-citizens as dare to entertain the thought of the complete
liberation of their country. Can this be true?

"I look around me and I see in your faces the answer. You are the same
gallant soldiers that you were two years ago, you are not the men to
whom a despot can entrust the execution of his tyrannical designs! You
are Argentines, and are as ready as ever you were to shed your blood in
defence of the country which is equally dear to us all. You are citizens
as well as soldiers, and the rights and liberties of your country are as
dear to you as they are to any.

"How is it, then, that you allow your barracks to be turned into a
prison? How is it that you, who are gallant soldiers, constitute
yourselves the gaolers of the most noble amongst you all?

"He is your friend and your fellow-countryman, he whom you keep shut up
within four walls, with barred windows shutting out from him the light
of heaven, with a locked door and armed sentries shutting him out from
all communication with those who love him. He is your friend and
fellow-countryman, I say, whom here you keep locked up, over whom you
keep watch and ward as though he were a dangerous enemy; he who in the
day of danger was as forward as the bravest amongst you!

"What accusation, what charge has been brought against him? None that I
know of, save that he has dared to love his country, and to plan how
best to secure to you those liberties which you have won with your
blood, and which are the inborn right of every freeman. Yet for this he
is imprisoned, for this he may be brought up to judgment and sentenced
to some fearful punishment, such as is reserved for those who are
traitors.

"Citizens, will you consent to this? Will you consent that he, your
friend, your fellow-countryman, be sacrificed to the cruel injustice of
a despotic ruler?

"No, Patricios! I know you better, you will not permit that this eternal
shame fall upon you. You will let my brother escape, so shall you
preserve unstained those laurels which you have no nobly won."

Doña Juana paused and looked around her; no man spoke, but in the eyes
turned upon her from all sides, in sympathy and in admiration, she read
their answer, and knew that her brother was saved. She clasped her hands
together in mute thanks, bowed her head courtesying lowly to them, then
turned, and passing her arm through Marcelino's, walked swiftly away.

The tears stood in Marcelino's eyes, but he spoke not one word till he
had conducted Doña Juana back to the shelter of her own roof, then as
she, speechless also, stretched out her hand to take leave of him, he
knelt down on one knee before her and raised that hand to his lips,
paying homage to her as he might have done to a queen.

From the house of the Señor Saenz-Valiente, Marcelino went straight to
that of Don Manuel Belgrano, and with him speedily concerted means for
securing the safety of Don Juan Martin in case he should effect his
escape.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shortly before sundown that evening, the door of the room in which Don
Juan Martin was confined, opened and an officer walked in, told him that
he was required to change his quarters. Don Juan Martin rose and
followed the officer, who was attended by a guard with fixed bayonets,
to another chamber far less comfortably furnished than the one he had
previously occupied. He had no sooner entered than the door was closed
and locked, and he heard the usual formula of the posting of a sentry
outside. He glanced around the room somewhat discontentedly, hardly able
to discern what was in it in the dim light, for the window-shutter was
nearly closed. He walked to the window and set the shutter wide open,
when to his surprise he saw that the window had two bars on it. He
looked out and saw a small courtyard surrounded by high walls, in one of
which there was a wooden door. The courtyard was deserted, there was not
even a window in the blank walls which rose straight up before him and
on either hand. He stepped out of the window and walked across the
courtyard to that door which he saw in the further wall, it was only
closed with a latch, he opened it, and looking cautiously out, saw a
quiet street. Just then a young officer of the Patricios came sauntering
carelessly along, he recognised him as Valentin Lopez y Viana, and made
as though he would speak with him.

"Not yet, wait till dark," said the young officer, laying a finger on
his lip and passing quietly on, as though he had never noticed that the
door was open.

Then Don Juan Martin knew that he was free, and gently reclosing the
door he went back through the window to his prison-chamber and waited,
looking upward at the evening sky and watching the shadow as it mounted
higher and higher up the eastern wall, till there was no flicker of
sunshine left to tell him that it was yet day save from the far-off
reflection of the clouds. Then he watched the clouds till their pink
tints faded into one dull grey, then they disappeared, no longer to be
distinguished in the ever-increasing darkness from the deep blue sky
under which they floated. Then the stars came out, faintly shining with
their own pure light, and waxing brighter and brighter as their great
rival the sun sank further and further, down below the verge of the
black horizon.

When the stars twinkled brightly, Don Juan Martin stepped forth again
from his window, crossed the courtyard and opened the door. No one was
near; he walked out, closing the door behind him. At the first corner he
met two officers of the Patricios, who passed him without a word;
further on he met two more, who, after he had passed them, turned and
walked slowly after him, but presently, as he looked back, they were no
longer visible; unmolested and unquestioned he reached the house of a
trusty friend.

Three days afterwards he had said farewell to his native country, and
was on board a vessel bound for Rio Janeiro, bearing credentials to the
Princess Carlota, and charged by Belgrano and others to do his utmost to
prevail upon her to come at once to Buenos Aires, where the advent of a
Princess of the house of Bourbon was looked upon by many ardent patriots
as the only means of delivering their country from the thraldom of
Spanish domination.



CHAPTER IV

HOW DON CARLOS EVAÑA ATTACKED THE WILD-DUCK, AND ROUTED THEM WITH GREAT
SLAUGHTER


Marshal Don Santiago Liniers felt his power and his popularity slipping
away from him. The arrest of Don Juan Martin Puyrredon had injured the
latter, his escape was a proof of the former. This escape was hailed by
the citizens of Buenos Aires as a great triumph, but among their rulers
it created consternation. A hasty council was convened, and General
Nieto sent for Major Asneiros, whose evidence had caused the arrest of
the Señor Puyrredon.

"As I told you before, my general," said Don Ciriaco, after his
examination had lasted some time, "there is one man much more dangerous
than the Señor Puyrredon, whom you refused to arrest, and whose arrest
would not have occasioned such excitement in the city."

"You speak of the Señor Don Carlos Evaña?" said General Nieto; then as
Don Ciriaco simply answered by an inclination of the head, he continued,
"I have received from the Señor Don Roderigo the most positive assurance
of the loyalty of the Señor Evaña."

"I have told you what I have heard and seen," replied Don Ciriaco,
carefully avoiding the eye of Don Roderigo, who was looking at him
intently.

"I know not what reasons the Señor Don Roderigo may have for placing
such confidence in the Señor Evaña," said Marshal Liniers, "but I know
him to be a man of the most dangerous ideas, and advise his immediate
arrest."

"Without any specific accusation against him?" said Don Roderigo.

"Repeat the words you heard him say," said General Nieto.

"We can do nothing until we have secured the troops."

"And was that all you overheard of their conversation?" asked Don
Roderigo.

"I heard nothing more," replied Don Ciriaco. "I had great difficulty in
reaching the rancho unobserved, and had no sooner entered than their
dogs began barking round the place."

"Did you recognise none of them except the Señor Evaña," asked Marshal
Liniers.

"There was another came up to the rancho with the Señor Evaña whom I
should recognise if I saw him again, but I do not know who he is."

"Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon very probably," said Marshal Liniers, with
a distrustful glance at Don Roderigo.

"I am quite certain he was not Don Marcelino, I should recognise him at
double the distance," replied Asneiros.

"Then the only thing certain is that a number of sportsmen ceased their
sport to discuss politics," said General Nieto, "that this Señor Evaña
was one of them, and that he made use of words which prove that he at
least is engaged in some treasonable conspiracy in which doubtless the
next step was the meeting of the Comandantes at the house of the Señor
Puyrredon."

Other members of the council concurred in this view of the case, and
some spoke of Evaña as a dangerous man, against whose machinations every
precaution should be taken.

"We need discuss the matter no further at present," said Marshal
Liniers. "I shall at once order the arrest of the Señor Evaña. You will
acknowledge the necessity of this measure, Don Roderigo?"

Don Roderigo made no answer and the council broke up. Loitering in an
ante-room some few minutes later, Don Ciriaco Asneiros was joined by Don
Roderigo, who drew him into the recess of a window and said:

"My son Don Marcelino was with that shooting party in the bañados, are
you sure you did not see him?"

"See him! Perfectly, as well as I see you now, but if you think I would
bear witness against your son you do not know me, Don Roderigo,"
answered Don Ciriaco.

"The Señor Evaña is almost as a son to me, might it not be some other
who said those words which you have reported?"

"I am positive that it was he said them," answered Don Ciriaco. "He is
at the head of a conspiracy, his arrest will put an end to all danger,
but so long as he is at liberty it will never be safe for his Excellency
Don Baltazar to come here."

"There is a disaffection, but there is no conspiracy," said Don
Roderigo. "His arrest will cause great sorrow to many of us and may
occasion an outbreak, it must in some way be avoided and I look to you
to help me, Don Ciriaco. I cannot interfere myself to prevent the
execution of an order issued by Marshal Liniers, but I wish you to
inform Marcelino at once of it, he will warn Don Carlos to keep out of
the way for a few days and so give me time to arrange the affair."

       *       *       *       *       *

While Marshal Liniers and General Nieto so took counsel with their
advisers, several members of the secret committee met at the house of Dr
Vieytes. Evaña proposed to them some time before that the assumption of
power by Don Baltazar de Cisneros should be resisted by force; few of
them were convinced of the necessity for any such extreme measure, but
the excitement caused by the arrest and escape of Don Juan Martin
Puyrredon was an opportunity not to be lost of making some popular
demonstration which might deter the new Viceroy from crossing the river.
Summoned by Dr Vieytes, they met to consult upon this matter, when to
the surprise of most of them, Evaña, who was commonly the most reckless
of them all, now counselled moderation.

"We have the troops with us, what need we fear?" said Beruti.

"I think also that we should do nothing at present," said Don Manuel
Belgrano. "Liniers deserts us, we have no settled plan; unless the
Princess Carlota makes up her mind to come at once, we have no visible
head for any government we may establish."

"We want no princess or king," said Evaña; "what we do want is the
co-operation of men already experienced in government, which we shall
lose if we make any open demonstration against the new Viceroy. With
the co-operation of such men as Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, Baltazar
will be forced to yield to our demand for a complete reform of the
administration, and even under a Spanish Viceroy we shall establish a
popular government."

Never before had Evaña been heard to speak such words as these, the
listeners looked upon him with wonder, but further discussion was
prevented by the sudden entrance of Marcelino Ponce de Leon, who walked
hurriedly up to Evaña and laid his hand upon his arm.

"Carlos," said he, "Don Santiago Liniers has issued an order for your
immediate arrest."

"Another prisoner for the Patricios," said Yrigoyen, laughing.

"No," said Marcelino. "It is a picket of the escort has the order, and
his prison will be in the fort. There is no time to lose; hide
somewhere, Carlos, till night, then we will get you away."

"Who told you this?" asked Evaña.

"Asneiros; my father sent him to me."

"Ha!" replied Evana, taking up his hat; "I will enquire further into
this."

"Where are you going, Carlos? The troops will be already at your house."

"Come with me, I will consult your father."

As Marcelino and Evaña went off together, the rest looked at each other
in silence, then said Beruti:

"I cannot make out what has come over Evaña, I never saw such a change
in a man as I have seen in him during the last two or three weeks. How
has he come to have such faith in the liberal principles of Don
Roderigo?"

"Don Roderigo is very astute, and has persuaded him that between them
they can work out a pacific reform," said Dr Passo.

"If an angel had told me I would not have believed Evaña capable of
yielding to such counsel from a Spaniard," said Beruti.

"An angel has more to do with it than you think," said Belgrano
musingly. "Let us go, we shall see no more of Evaña to-day, and without
him we can do nothing."

"They may arrest Evaña but they won't keep him long a prisoner," said
Beruti.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Roderigo returned to his house after the council at the fort, very
thoughtful and somewhat sad. As he crossed the patio he was met by
Dolores, who, noting the sadness on his face, leaned upon his arm
praying him to tell her what had happened.

"I fear a serious misfortune has befallen a great friend of ours, Lola,"
said he.

"Have they caught Don Juan Martin?" asked Dolores, in alarm.

"No, it is another who is in danger, one who is very dear to me, Lola,
almost as a son to me."

"Don Carlos?" said Dolores, in a faltering voice.

"Yes, Lola; Don Santiago Liniers has issued an order for his arrest."

"But, papa, what has he done? Tell me, he was not at that meeting, for
he told me so."

"I believe he has done nothing, Lola, to merit imprisonment, but he has
extravagant ideas, and sometimes he speaks them too freely."

"Ideas! so has Marcelino, you said so, papa; but you told me--Oh, papa!
you will not let them keep him in prison."

As Don Roderigo entered his wife's morning-room he had the same tale to
tell over again to her, and looking upon them he saw wife and daughter
gaze upon him with reproachful eyes, as though they thought that he
could have prevented this great sorrow which was about to fall upon
them. His heart sank within him, and he painfully revolved in his mind
all the danger to his rapidly increasing power and influence, which
would result from any open interference on behalf of a native Argentine
charged with conspiracy against rulers of whom he himself was one. On
the other hand, the power of Marshal Liniers was passing away, the post
held by General Nieto was a mere temporary appointment, it was to the
assistance of Evaña and such as he, that he looked, when he proposed to
himself to obtain such influence over the new Viceroy as should leave
the real power in his own hands. More still; he had said that he looked
upon Evaña almost as a son, and such was the fact. Evaña's devotion to
Dolores was no secret to any of them, and he waited in joyful
anticipation for the day when he should ask him for his daughter and
become his son in reality. The frank friendship which Dolores professed
for Evaña, and her open admiration of his great talents, prevented him
from feeling any doubt of what her answer would be, when he should
propose the alliance to her, and the happiness of his daughter was as
dear to his heart as his own ambition.

As these thoughts passed rapidly through his mind, sitting in silence,
he saw Dolores hide her face from him on her mother's breast, while Doña
Constancia bent over her soothing her, she was evidently weeping. He
could bear it no longer, he started to his feet, resolving within
himself to risk everything for the sake of the man whom his daughter
loved. He was about to speak, when the door opened and gave entrance to
Marcelino and the man of whom he was thinking.

"Don Carlos," said he, going to meet him with both hands stretched out
in welcome, "never was I more glad to see you. In my house you are safe
from arrest, and I know you can remove these unjust suspicions which
have fallen upon you."

"I am perfectly ready to meet any accusation which may be brought
against me," replied Evaña, placing his hands in those of Don Roderigo,
but looking over his shoulder at Dolores, who had started to her feet on
his entrance and on whose face the traces of recent tears were but too
evident.

"Come with me," said Don Roderigo, drawing him away, "we will talk over
this matter quietly together."

In his own study Don Roderigo talked long and earnestly with his guest,
but on neither side was there perfect frankness. Evaña did not deny that
there had been talk of resisting the assumption of power by the new
Viceroy, but he asserted that it had been merely spoken of in casual
conversation, and that no one had the faintest idea of getting up a
conspiracy for that purpose. He also denied that he had ever made use of
the words which had been given in evidence against him, and had made no
attempt whatever to secure the adhesion of the troops, which was partly
true and partly false. On his side Don Roderigo refused to give up the
name of the accuser, but Evaña learnt sufficient to confirm his
suspicion that he and his comrades of the secret committee had been
watched, and their conversation partly overheard by Don Ciriaco Asneiros
on the occasion of their expedition to the bañados ol Flores. He learnt
also that Don Roderigo was sincerely anxious to secure his co-operation
in forcing gradual measures of reform upon the new Viceroy, but would
resist to the utmost any attempt to dispute his authority.

Evaña was in a frame of mind which rendered him only too ready to give
full weight to the specious arguments by which Don Roderigo sought to
convince him that popular institutions might be established without
severing the bond which bound her colonies to Spain; his heart for the
time overpowered his reason, and made him willing to grasp at any chance
which might permit him to work in concert with Don Roderigo for one end,
the liberation of the Argentine people from the colonial system of
Spain. This chance seemed now within his grasp, Spain might send
Viceroys, but she was powerless to coerce her colonies; with the aid of
such men as Don Roderigo the gradual introduction of salutary reforms
was feasible, the ultimate end of such reforms would be the
establishment of the Argentine Republic.

Evaña yielded, quieting his reason by saying to himself that he only
rendered more certain of success the great work of his life by
postponing for a time the execution of his designs.

All the time he passed listening to the arguments of Don Roderigo there
floated before his eyes a fair vision, a sweet face looking upon him in
tender sympathy; through all his reasonings there ran one thought, may
not that gaze be yet turned upon me not in friendship but in love. So
dear was this hope to him that he felt that for one glance of real love
from those eyes, which that day had looked upon him in pity and in
sympathy alone, he could even give up that purpose which had been the
work of his life so far, and for the accomplishment of which, life
itself had seemed to him but a small sacrifice.

Evaña yielded, and grasping the willing hand of Don Roderigo assured him
of his aid and sympathy in every measure he might bring forward for the
welfare of the people.

Night closed in ere their conversation came to an end, and darkness
brought Marcelino, who announced to his friend that his house was
occupied by a party of grenadiers under the command of Major Asneiros,
and that it was reported in the city that he himself had fled to the
campaña, where all knew that his safety was secure.

There were many anxious faces as they sat down to dinner that evening at
the house of Don Roderigo, but Don Roderigo himself was very cheerful,
speaking of the danger to their friend as passed over, while Evaña was
in excellent spirits, talking much more gaily than was his wont,
surprising Dolores into many a laugh by his sayings, but withal
occasioning her some undefined uneasiness by the unusual tenderness he
threw into his manner when addressing her. As they rose from table he
said:

"Now, Don Roderigo, come with me. Let us go and visit this ex-Viceroy,
and I will ask him myself his reasons for sending a picket of infantry
to occupy my house. If Don Ciriaco Asneiros wishes to inspect my papers
in search of proofs of some conspiracy he is welcome to do so, but I
should prefer to be present, he may mistake a treatise on algebra for
the records of some secret society."

"Now!" exclaimed Don Roderigo; "wait till to-morrow, then I will see him
myself, and I assure you I can arrange everything. I have secret powers
from Don Baltazar which I can use on an emergency. I am even authorised
to arrest Don Santiago and depose him if I find it necessary."

"No, let us go at once," replied Evaña. "I intend to sleep under my own
roof to-night."

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Señor Evaña has left the city."

Chafing angrily within himself at the trammels which bound him on every
side, trammels from which he might have freed himself by one vigorous
effort, which would have placed him at the head of a free people;
chafing angrily at his waning popularity, evidences of which met him at
every turn, the ex-Viceroy heard these words, telling him that the man
he dreaded had escaped him. Leaving his house he returned to the fort to
consult with his colleague General Nieto.

It was nine o'clock, steps were heard in the ante-room, the door opened,
the next minute Evaña stood before him. With head erect, and dark
flashing eyes, Evaña stood before him, demanding in stern words the
reason of the order which had been sent forth for his arrest.

"Two files of grenadiers and a priest, that would be my answer," said
General Nieto, springing angrily from his chair and laying his hand upon
a small bell which stood on the table.

Don Roderigo laid a hand upon his arm and drew him away.

"Señor Mariscal, I repeat my question," said Evaña. "Upon what grounds
have you issued an order for my arrest."

Still the ex-Viceroy answered not, but sat in his chair staring at him a
strange fascination slowly creeping over him. Who was this man who came
again to him in the darkness of the night, as he had come once before? A
conspirator, whose life was forfeit, and who totally reckless of danger
again stood before him, looking down upon him with fierce dark eyes. Who
was this man that he should so persistently defy him, and before whose
gaze his own bold spirit quailed?

"Two files of grenadiers and a priest," said Evaña. "That butcher who
sat beside you just now, has repeated the sentence which Spanish
jealousy would pass upon yourself, but that they fear the Argentine
people, who are your friends; yes, Don Santiago, even yet your friends.
It is not too late, even yet you may save yourself from the fate which
looms over you. Choose now at once, will you put yourself at the head
of the people, or will you fall their victim? Choose now, for the time
is short; two file of grenadiers and a priest, such is your fate from
Spanish jealousy or from the indignation of the people you have
betrayed. That fate may yet be averted, but the time is short. What say
you?" added Evaña, stepping up to the ex-Viceroy and laying his hand on
his shoulder.

That touch broke the spell; Liniers sprang from his chair, pushed Evaña
from him with such violence that he reeled backwards for several paces
ere he could recover his balance, and seizing the bell rang it. For a
minute there was silence; to this summons there was no response, and
Evaña, folding his arms across his chest, stood motionless in the centre
of the room with a fierce glare in his dark eyes. Liniers strove to meet
that glance with one of defiance, but his own eyes fell before it; again
he rang the bell, then as there was still no answer he walked to a door,
opened it, and shouted:

"Officer of the guard!"

In the ante-room all was darkness, no one was there; he went on, opened
another door, and found himself face to face with Don Roderigo.

"Did you call, Don Santiago?" said Don Roderigo.

"The officer of the guard; where is he?"

"Beyond," said General Nieto.

"You do not want him," said Don Roderigo in a sharp voice, then taking
Liniers by the arm he lead him back to the further room, while General
Nieto followed, closing the doors behind them.

In the further room stood Evaña, motionless, just as Liniers had left
him.

Without a word Don Roderigo seated himself at a table, drew a sheet of
paper towards him, and writing a few lines handed it to Marshal Liniers
for his signature.

Liniers read the paper, it was an order to Major Asneiros to withdraw
his men from the house of Don Carlos Evaña, and cancelling the order of
arrest issued against that gentleman. Liniers looked in perplexity from
one to the other, but General Nieto refused to meet his glance, and in
the resolute countenance of Don Roderigo there seemed a consciousness of
power to enforce his will which awed him into compliance. He took up a
pen and signed the paper, feeling as he did so that he abdicated the
last remnant of his authority.

General Nieto countersigned the order without a word, then Don Roderigo
folded it up, put it into the breast-pocket of his coat, and turning to
Evaña said:

"Let us go."

Evaña walked up to the ex-Viceroy, bent over him and whispered in his
ear:

"Beware the day we meet again."

The next minute Liniers was alone, and alone he remained till near
midnight, buried in gloomy reverie, when shaking himself free from his
thoughts he rose to go to his own house.

"Two file of grenadiers and a priest, such is the reward of Spain for
those who have served her too well," he muttered to himself as he threw
his cloak over his shoulders.

On the 30th June, Don Baltazar Hidalgo de Cisneros, General of the
Spanish navy, by the will of the Junta Central of Spain and by the tacit
acquiescence of the Argentine people, Viceroy of Buenos Aires, arrived
at the capital city of his Viceroyalty, landed and entered into the full
exercise of authority. The people of Buenos Aires, both natives and
Spaniards, received him with acclamations, the Spaniards rejoicing that
their former predominance would now be restored to them, the natives
anxious to conciliate the good-will of their new ruler.

Many men looked on as he landed, who took no part in these acclamations,
among them two fast friends stood side by side listening to the shouts
of the people in far differing mood, Marcelino Ponce de Leon and Don
Carlos Evaña. Marcelino's face was clouded over, he saw the last chance
of freedom slipping away, he saw in Don Baltazar de Cisneros a
triumphant agent of that ruthless despotism which had for so long
crushed the young energies of his country, he saw in his enthusiastic
reception the ruin of those high hopes he had dared to entertain. But on
the face of Don Carlos Evaña there was no trouble or despondency, he
looked upon it all as a pageant, meaning nothing. Marcelino looked at
him in surprise as he saw the smile upon his lip.

"How can you smile, Carlos," said he, "when this man comes to undo all
that we have gained during three years?"

"He will undo nothing," replied Don Carlos. "He comes to give stability
to what we have already gained, and to help us on in our career of
progress."

"He, Carlos! he is a Spaniard, and the nominee of Spain!"

"Don Roderigo is a Spaniard. Your father is his chosen counsellor,"
replied Don Carlos; Marcelino was silenced and spoke no more.

Then Don Roderigo, who was in close attendance upon the new Viceroy,
perceived them and came up to speak with them.

"Ah, Carlos," said he, "those who stood forward in defence of the law on
the 1st January have to-day reason to rejoice. Natives and Spaniards
join to welcome our new ruler. There is now no longer division amongst
us, once more we are a united people."

"And you know how our present union may be preserved," replied Don
Carlos.

"I do, and I look to you both to assist me. Many reforms in the
administration are of urgent necessity and are now possible, but of this
we will talk later. At one o'clock his Excellency Don Baltazar will give
a reception in the saloon of audience, I shall expect to see you there
and shall have the pleasure of introducing you."

Both the younger men promised to attend, and Don Roderigo left them.

"But, Carlos," said Marcelino, as his father walked away, "we must
discuss this matter with our friends, from this, no one can tell what
will result. If my father maintains his influence with the Viceroy and
has the real direction of affairs, all will go well, but his power
depends upon the caprice of a man of whom we know nothing, and it may
cease any day; we are in ignorance of the secret intentions of this Don
Baltazar. There will be many wild-duck on the marshes now, let us go and
shoot."

"With all my heart," said Evaña. "Whatever day will suit you, I will
make convenient to me."

Marcelino soon found a day convenient, and a party which comprised all
the members of the secret committee, sallied forth betimes to the
bañados in the neighbourhood of Quilmes, where wild-duck swarmed by
thousands. All looked to Evaña to fix upon some spot for a general halt;
the name of the new Viceroy had as yet not been mentioned among them.
But Evaña, instead of seeking out some secluded spot and establishing
himself there as was his wont on such occasions, split the party up into
knots of twos and threes, which he despatched in different directions
about the swampy plain, with instructions to concentrate towards one
central point and to fire at any duck flying away from this point. His
comrades looked at him in surprise, to reach this point would occupy the
greater part of the day.

"They laugh at us, do our friends in the city," said Don Carlos; "they
say that such sportsmen as we are a disgrace to them, let us show them
we can do something besides talk of sporting, I think we have been
sportsmen long enough to know how to shoot straight."

Then the same thought came to them all, their empty bags might well have
excited suspicion that it was not for simple sport that these excursions
were arranged, especially as they never took any servants with them; the
new Viceroy might well be suspected of special vigilance, after the
caution he had shown in taking possession of his post; it would be well,
therefore, that they should do something to merit the name of sportsmen.

No man made any further observation, but each one went to his post as
directed, and spent the entire day wading through swamps, scrambling
across water-courses, crawling on hands and knees through the long grass
to get within shot of their game. Of them all none was more
indefatigable than Don Carlos Evaña. He had kept Marcelino with him, and
rejected all his attempts to converse on any other subject than the
sport on which they were engaged.

An hour before sundown the whole party met again at the place which had
been fixed upon for concentration, with their clothes wet and covered
with mud, their powder-horns and shot-belts empty, but their bags and
pockets full of duck, teal, and snipe, and also with a few wood-pigeons,
which Evaña had gone out of his way to shoot in a small plantation.
Fatigued as they were, they yet found spirits to laugh at each other's
draggled appearance, and to recount the misfortunes which had befallen
them by falling into water-holes and so forth.

"But," said Marcelino, "there is yet an hour of sunshine, we have yet
time to learn the opinions----"

"For my part, Señores," said Evaña, interrupting him, "I have but one
opinion, which is not washed out of me by that last bañado, I never
thought it was so deep or I would have gone round it; my opinion is,
that the sooner I reach home and change my clothes the better I shall
feel to-morrow, and I think it is an opinion that you all share with
me."

"At least it is also mine," said Don Miguel Yrigoyen.

"They can laugh at us no longer," said Don Manuel Belgrano. "We have
earned our laurels to-day, let us be content with that, for the rest
there is no great hurry. We have a new Viceroy, and it appears to me we
shall have some years yet in which we may discuss his qualities. As for
the Princess Carlota, I wash my hands of her."

"She has let the opportunity pass, and it will never return," said
Marcelino.

Without further ado the horses were saddled, each draggled sportsman
bestowing as best he could the unwonted trophies of his skill, and away
they went for town, discussing among themselves no more serious subject
than the weight of their respective bags.

That day's work quite redeemed the reputation of these friendly
sportsmen, and was for long after a theme on which they were wont to
descant with immense gratification to themselves.

In spite of his exertions Don Carlos Evaña was not too tired to spend
the evening at the house of Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, which had of
late been his great resort in leisure moments, and where he was always
welcome. But before he even changed his clothes, he selected the finest
birds from his bag and sent them by a servant to Doña Constancia.

"Now, Señorita, what do you say?" said he, as he sat near Dolores that
evening. "Yesterday you laughed when I told you that Marcelino and I
were going out shooting."

"I am sorry for the poor birds," said Dolores, "and I won't laugh
again."

Months passed before Dolores had another chance of laughing at Don
Carlos for his bad success as a sportsman. The wild-duck had flown back
to their haunts in the icy south, and partridges were sitting on their
dark-brown eggs, in nests hidden by the long spring grass, ere Don
Carlos Evaña again shouldered his gun and went forth shooting with the
members of the secret committee.



CHAPTER V

HOW THE VICEROY PLACED A SWORD IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMIES OF SPAIN


The first great difficulties which beset the new Viceroy arose from the
same cause which had so greatly hampered his predecessor, the empty
state of the treasury. The revenues of government from all sources
little exceeded $100,000 a month, the expenditure was more than double,
in addition to which there was a heavy debt incurred in repelling the
second invasion of the English.

The Viceroy applied, in the first place, to the Spanish residents for a
loan, his request was refused; in his perplexity he turned for counsel
to Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, who in reply laid before him the memorial
on free trade, which had been drawn up by Don Manuel Belgrano.

"You think that by opening our ports to the English we shall increase
the revenue sufficiently to meet all the expenditure?" said the Viceroy.

"I feel sure of it," replied Don Roderigo.

"It is in direct contradiction to my instructions," said the Viceroy.

"I believe the main purport of your instructions is, that you put an end
to these disorders that have broken out, and re-establish the full
authority of government."

"Yes, and how am I to do it with native troops who release their
prisoners and can't be punished, and without money, is to me a mystery.
You see what has happened at Chuquisaca, the Audencia quarrelled with
the President, and appealed to the people. The Creoles have set up a
Junta of their own, now this Junta of Creoles overrides the decisions of
all the Spanish corporations, and neither the President nor the Audencia
has any power left. What is to be the end of all this? Before long we
may have a Junta of Creoles here in Buenos Aires."

"Your Excellency does not overrate the danger," replied Don Roderigo.
"You want money; open the ports to the English and you will have it. You
want troops; by establishing free trade[11] you will win the confidence
of the people, and I engage that the Patricios themselves shall put down
this Junta at Chuquisaca for you."

"I will think of it," said the Viceroy.

What the Viceroy did was to submit the memorial to the Cabildo and to
the Consulado, both of which corporations were composed exclusively of
Spaniards. Both returned the same answer, that the project was
inadmissible.

Marcelino Ponce de Leon, as secretary to the Consulado, had the
mortification of having to draw up the reply of that body himself, a
work which clashed so completely with his own convictions that he was
only prevented from throwing up his post by the earnest entreaties of
his father.

To relieve his mind he organised a shooting expedition, in which the
sport gave but a poor result in birds, but produced an idea which was
carried out with great zeal by the various members of the secret
committee. All the wealthy landowners were forthwith subjected to a
vigorous canvass in favour of the project of free trade, and their
interests were so plainly sacrificed to Spanish greed under the present
system, that they were with no great difficulty prevailed upon to unite
in support of the scheme of Manuel Belgrano. A number of them met at the
house of Don Gregorio Lopez and selected Dr Don Mariano Moreno as their
advocate to combat for them the arguments of the Spanish corporations.

The result was that Dr Moreno drew up another memorial, dated 30th
September, 1809, and entitled "La Representation de Los Hacendados," in
which occur the following remarkable words:

"The Sovereign did not confer upon Y. E. the high dignity of the Viceroy
of these provinces in order that you might watch over the interests of
the merchants of Cadiz, but over our interests. It is a tyranny, that
monopoly which the merchants of Cadiz have usurped, and the
remonstrances of this city are echoed everywhere in bitter complaints,
which are heard there only with contempt, expressive of the
shamelessness with which they seize upon the wealth of a people in no
way inferior to themselves. Y. E. rules over a great people, protect,
then, with vigorous justice the development of the great wealth of which
nature has been prodigal to us."

"At last, we begin to understand the meaning of the words, 'America for
the Americans,'" said Don Carlos Evaña, as he read a copy of this
memorial which Marcelino had procured for the secret committee.

In October the ports of Buenos Aires and Monte Video were opened to
English ships, English merchants soon made their appearance, the empty
coffers of the Viceroy were rapidly replenished, trade was developed to
an extent never before known, and the increased value of their products
doubled and trebled the wealth of the native hacendados.

Having resolved this matter, the Viceroy next turned his attention to
the revolts in the interior. A strong detachment of the Patricios formed
the nucleus of an expedition which, under the command of General Nieto,
marched to Chuquisaca. With this expedition went as a volunteer Evaristo
Ponce de Leon, the youngest officer in the regiment of the Patricios.

So under the rule of the new Viceroy, winter passed into spring and
spring into summer, and the men of Buenos Aires saw the power which they
had thought of as their own slowly slipping away from them.

But Don Baltazar de Cisneros distrusted their apparent apathy, he knew
that any untoward circumstance might arouse the dormant spirit of
revolution of which Liniers had warned him. Again he turned to Don
Roderigo for counsel, and the result was that he determined to extend
his influence over the people by means of an official newspaper.

This was not the first newspaper which had ever been published in Buenos
Aires. In the first year of the century was published the _Telegrafo
Mercantil_, which was succeeded in the following year by the
_Semanario_. The English also, during their occupation of Monte Video,
there published a newspaper, entitled _La Estrella del Sur_, which was
printed partly in Spanish, and partly in English; both this paper and
the _Semanario_ ceased to appear during the confusion occasioned by
Whitelock's invasion of Buenos Aires.

The editorship of the newspaper was entrusted by the Viceroy to Don
Manuel Belgrano, who at once convened a meeting of the secret committee
at his own house.

"Señores," said he, when all were present, "there is no longer necessity
for secrecy; I have invited you here to-day to assist me in conducting a
newspaper, which his Excellency the Viceroy has commissioned me to
publish, in order to teach the people by the writings of men of
education and experience, the due appreciation of their rights and
privileges. Every article before publication will have to be submitted
to his Excellency for approval, the teachings of the newspaper will thus
have official sanction and authority. The subject to which he desires me
more particularly to direct attention is the necessity for union and
public spirit. I think we may on these subjects easily devise such
articles as may merit his approval, and at the same time may teach our
fellow-citizens that the prosperity of our country depends upon our own
union for the assertion of those rights which are most wrongfully
withheld from us by Spain."

Before the end of January, in the year 1810, the prospectus of the new
_Diario del Comercio_ was published in Buenos Aires, and extensively
circulated by viceregal authority throughout the provinces.

Through the summer and autumn the newspaper appeared at regular
intervals, and in every number there was at least one article which in
covert language was an attack upon the colonial system of Spain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Long and weary were these months to Marcelino Ponce de Leon, the sweet
voice of Magdalen Miranda no longer cheered him in his troubles, in vain
he looked for sympathy into her deep grey eyes; he seldom saw her at
all, when he did there was a cold constraint in her manner to him, which
more effectually kept him at a distance from her than would any
outspoken anger. And of one great trouble he dared not speak even to
her. Since the day when Evaña had shown him that fatal newspaper
paragraph recording the loss of the _Petrel_ he had heard no further
tidings of his friend Gordon; he had written to England, but
communication was slow and uncertain in those days, he had received no
answer to his letter, the fate of his English friend was yet in
suspense, and suspense is more wearing than the most dreadful certainty.
Sorrowing over the loss of the first love of his life, alternately
hoping and fearing as the days wore on, the colour faded from his
cheeks, and even faint lines of care began to show themselves upon his
smooth forehead. In vain his mother and Dolores strove to cheer him,
knowing nothing of the cause of his grief, or if Dolores suspected
somewhat of the cause, she kept it to herself and never spoke to him of
Magdalen Miranda.

Of his trouble he could not speak even to his friend Evaña, who was to
him as a brother, for Evaña had spoken to him scornfully of Don Alfonso
Miranda, and slightingly of her who was to him the one pearl among
women. And in the face of his friend he had seen hope and love softening
the harshness of his features and infusing a gentle tenderness into his
dark eyes, he knew that the loss of that other friend was to him great
gain, he could not look to him for sympathy.

To Evaña this time had passed as one long holiday. As month after month
went by, and there came no news of Gordon, the thought that he had
perished in the wreck of the _Petrel_ became to him a certainty, yet of
this certainty he spoke to no one, he dreaded what the effect of the
intelligence might be upon the girl he loved; he knew the firm constancy
of her nature, firm even in faults, steady with a steadiness which he
had learned to look upon as a most unusual trait in the character of a
woman. Her constancy was itself one source of the admiration he felt for
her, even though her love were lavished on another. While Gordon lived
he knew that her heart would never swerve from its allegiance, and he
disdained the thought of seeking for himself the love of a heart which
owned another master. But if his rival no longer lived, then he thought
that it might be his to soothe the pain of a fearful wound and to win
that heart wholly to himself.

Yet he dreaded the day when this intelligence should reach her, he knew
that the pain would be all the more severe from the stern courage with
which she would hide it in her own bosom; he loved her, and her
suffering, however bravely it might be concealed, would he knew, rend
his own heart with fearful agony. He dreaded the arrival of every ship
from Europe, yet every letter he opened, every letter he saw opened by
his friend Marcelino, awaked within him a wild hope that his suspense
was ended.

This time had been to him one long holiday, but a holiday to the full as
replete with alternate hope and fear, as it had been to him he called
his brother. As the months passed on, hope grew stronger and stronger
within him, and as hope grew stronger so his love waxed bolder, till he
began to say to himself that he had no longer any living rival whom he
need fear, and that he might venture to seek for himself the love of a
heart that might yet be his.

He talked much of the uncertainty of a soldier's life, spoke much of the
desperate fighting in the Peninsula, of which each ship from Europe
brought them fresh details, but as he did so, his heart often smote him
with bitter anguish as he looked upon the face of Lola Ponce; in the
tightly-compressed lips and watching eyes he saw a question which she
never asked him; he saw her ask herself, was there any meaning to her in
these words of his beyond such meaning as they had at all.

The long summer days began to draw in, the wheat was garnered, apricots
glowed temptingly on the trees like balls of frosted gold, grapes hung
from the espaliers in great purple bunches, inviting the despoiler, and
the peaches, losing their dull-green hue, began to deck themselves in
scarlet and yellow, toned down with an exquisite bloom. The Quinta de
Ponce looked more like an oasis than ever, the dark-green leaves of the
trees contrasting strongly with the dry yellow grass of the Pampa, and
with the arid hardness of the dusty roads, as Marcelino and his friend
Evaña rode up to it, one evening in February. Evaña had been unusually
silent on the way out; he had resolved that the time had come, for him
to break as gently as he could the news to Dolores of the great loss she
had suffered, and he had resolved to do it himself, for, as he thought,
none but Marcelino and himself had penetrated her secret, and he sought
to shield her as he could, even at the risk of bitter sorrow to himself.

Dolores came to meet them as they walked under the trees together, but
no longer welcomed them with buoyant cheerfulness, there was a
listlessness about her, as though she were a prey to some secret care.
She laid her hand on Marcelino's arm and walked beside him, but her eyes
looked searchingly into the face of Don Carlos Evaña. Few words they
spoke together; as they neared the house Marcelino left the other two,
and went himself to speak with his mother. Backwards and forwards paced
the two under the trees side by side, saying little, but each with
furtive glance watching the other. Evaña had said to himself that the
time was come, but now that Dolores walked beside him he knew not how to
commence, he knew not with what words he should prepare her and
strengthen her, so that he might lessen the shock of the truth he had
resolved to tell her.

"We have been friends a long time now, Dolores," said he, "and our
friendship has met with no interruption such as I once feared."

"I do not know why it should," replied Dolores.

"At one time I feared much that there was great danger of an
interruption to it, but the danger has passed over, and there is now no
cloud between us. Shall I tell you what the danger was?"

"I know," said Dolores, "I have asked papa, and he has told me. Papa
says that you learned many extravagant ideas when you were in Paris,
ideas which might have been your ruin, but since then you have learned
better, and papa says there is no other in whom he has such confidence
as he has in you."

"Not only that," said Evaña, "Don Roderigo is now, next to Don Baltazar
de Cisneros, the most powerful man in the city, and the system of
government is completely changed. We Creoles can cheerfully submit to be
ruled by men such as he, who will educate the people, till some day they
will know how to rule themselves."

"That can never be," replied Dolores.

Don Carlos paused, the abruptness of the answer somewhat startled him;
again they walked for a space in silence under the sheltering trees,
again Evaña spoke:

"Your father has a hard task before him, Dolores," said he. "In some
things I have been able to aid him; it has been a pleasure to me to aid
him in any way, for my help to him brings me nearer to you."

"You come to see us much more frequently now than you used to do," said
Dolores.

"I should like to come more frequently still; I should like to see you
every day," replied Evaña.

"I fear the new _Diario_ would not have much help from you if you came
galloping out to see us every day, Don Carlos," said Dolores, with a
faint attempt at a laugh.

Again Don Carlos was silent, for this mention of the _Diario_ brought a
recent slight to his recollection, under which his proud spirit chafed.
With great care he had written an article for the first issue of the
_Diario_, previous to sending it in he had shown it to Don Roderigo. Don
Roderigo had read it carefully, and after drawing his pen through one
sentence, saying but one word "inadmissible," had handed it back to him
without comment. This sentence contained the pith of the whole article,
but Evaña had submitted; mutilated as it was, this article had appeared
in the _Diario_, and he never thought of it but with secret shame.

Again they walked on in silence, side by side, till Dolores asked
abruptly:

"What is the matter with Marcelino?"

"I fear he is not well," replied Evaña.

"I am sure he is not," said Dolores. "But you see more of him than we
do, what is to do with him?"

"I fear he is not happy," replied Evaña.

"I know he is not," said Dolores. "When any ship arrives from Europe he
is miserable for days after."

"The news from Spain is continually worse," replied Evaña. "Even the
English appear to be unable to do anything to stop the progress of the
French armies."

"He has had no letter for months," said Dolores.

"Not from Gordon," replied Evaña. "But Gordon can have little time for
writing if he is with the army."

"If! you say if; is he not with the army?"

"He was on his way when Marcelino last heard from him."

"But that is long ago," said Dolores sadly, then turning from Evaña, she
left him and went into the house.

Evaña followed her, entered the sala, but found it vacant, seated
himself, thinking over what he had said to Dolores, and telling himself
that he had not said one word of what he wished to say, but had aroused
in her mind vague suspicions of evil which in no way advanced his own
cause. He had wished to tell her plainly of his own love first, asking
nothing in return, but hoping everything, then gradually breaking the
truth to her to make her feel the need of the sympathy he yearned to
offer.

As he thus tortured himself, saying to himself that he had let the
chance go by, Dolores entered the room. Evaña rose to meet her but
stopped as he saw the extraordinary pallor on her face, every shade of
colour had vanished from it, even her lips were white and were firmly
pressed together, while her eyes, looking straight into his, had a
peering, anxious expression in them which caused his heart to cease for
a moment its beating, too well he divined the reason of the change in
her. She walked up to him and laid a hand upon his arm.

"I have been talking with Marcelino," she said, in slow, measured
words. "What is this that you are hiding from me? He will tell me
nothing."

"Hiding from you!" said Evaña; "Marcelino has no secrets from you."

"Are you not my friend, Don Carlos? Do you think I have no courage? Do
you fear that I shall disgrace my name? Tell me, what is this that you
are hiding from me?"

"Be sure that if we had any secret between us you should share it, were
there any necessity that you should do."

Then the hand which lay upon Evaña's arm closed upon it with such force
that the finger-ends buried themselves in his flesh, causing him severe
pain, but he hardly noticed it, so fascinated was he by the determined
eagerness of those gray eyes which so near to him seemed to defy him.
The white lips parted once more, and through the half-closed teeth there
came low but distinctly the question he dreaded to hear:

"Is he dead?"

For one moment there was wild conflict in Evaña's soul. He dared not
tell the simple truth, though he had come there that evening to tell it,
he dared not look upon the despair which that truth told bluntly would
bring into the face he loved to look upon, he dreaded to see in that
despair the ruin of his own hopes. But as he gazed down into the grey
eyes which looked into his own defying him to attempt a falsehood, he
could no longer pretend ignorance and he answered rapidly:

"He has been in great danger, but the worst is over."

The next moment he would have given worlds to have retracted his words,
but it was too late, she had believed him, the fierce grasp upon his arm
relaxed, the defiant look of sorrow in those eyes melted into one of
grateful hope, and Evaña learnt then what he would well-nigh have given
his life to have never known, that in life or in death she had given her
heart to one only, and that no other could supplant him even though
fathoms deep under the sea.

"Always my friend," she said, then turning from him glided with slow
step away.

Evaña saw Dolores no more that evening, Doña Constancia said she was
unwell and had retired to her own room.

Long after nightfall, when the household had gone to rest, he paced in
solitude to and fro under those trees, whose branches had overshadowed
him and Dolores as they had walked and talked together but a few hours
before. But a few hours and yet how everything was changed to him! then
with a heart full of hope and tenderness he had sought to tell her of
the great blow that had fallen upon her, hoping that she might then turn
to him for consolation, and that in the deep devotion of his love for
her she might find solace, till her heart turning to him might forget
its old allegiance and become entirely his. She had given him the chance
he had sought, one word from him might have destroyed at once that hope
in which her heart lived, that hope which was the barrier to his own
happiness, for she trusted him so completely, she had never doubted him
for one moment. And that word was the simple truth, "dead," yet he had
not dared to speak it. He had bid her hope yet, when there was no hope,
he had betrayed the confidence she had placed in him, he had shown doubt
of her courage and strength of mind, some day she would learn the truth,
then her confidence and her trust in him were gone for ever. And even
though it were not so, had he not read in the grateful thanks which had
beamed upon him from those grey eyes the baselessness of all his hopes.

"In life or in death, his only," he muttered to himself.

Then he thought of how he had sacrificed all for her, how he had
sacrificed the creed which had been so far the guiding principle of his
life, and had united himself with those who could never be other than
the tyrants of his country, how he had sacrificed his ambition,
perchance even the future of his country; for, as he now said to
himself, the power of a man such as Don Roderigo could be but transient.
He thought of the sentence in his article for the _Diario_, through
which Don Roderigo had drawn his pen, the only sentence in that whole
paper which spoke plainly of the right of all men to think for
themselves, which spoke plainly of some future day of freedom.

As he thought of all this, he asked himself why he had so forsaken his
old creed, why he had forced himself to think that a republic of
Argentines was a dream, practicable only in some remote future, in which
he could have no part. To these questions his heart answered for him,
that he had done it for her sake.

Then he pictured to himself what would have followed had he and his
friends boldly resisted the assumption of power by Don Baltazar de
Cisneros. He saw the country rent by civil war, himself and Don
Roderigo, leaders on different sides; he pictured to himself this deadly
strife, and as he did so his thoughts flew back to an evening on which
he had dreamed a dream, a dream full of presage of future woe, a dream
so bitter that its memory had been present with him ever since, a dream
in which Dolores had fallen dead at his feet, stricken to the death by
his own hand.

"It cannot be, it cannot be," he said to himself. "That fair young life
sacrificed to a memory that is gone. Fool that I was not to tell her the
truth at once!"

As he said this he struck himself fiercely on the breast with his
clenched fist, and a sharp pang shot through his arm. Drawing up the
cuff of his coat and unbuttoning the wristband of his shirt he turned up
the sleeve; there on his arm, where her hand had rested, were four black
marks corresponding to the four fingers of the tiny hand of Lola Ponce,
four bruises inflicted by the pressure of those small fingers. Evaña
walked into the moonlight and gazed long upon these four black marks,
then raising his arm he pressed his lips upon them, muttering to himself
with a deep sigh:

"In life or in death, his only."

  [11] This is a translation of the then popular cry, "Libertad de
       Comercio!" and has not the thorough meaning of the English
       expression. It simply implies an open port.



CHAPTER VI

CADUCÓ LA ESPAÑA!


The expedition of Chuquisaca met with no effective opposition. The
Spanish authorities were reinstated, and many of the principal citizens
of that far-off city were tried by court-martial and banished to Peru,
there to languish in the stifling casemates of Callao. An expedition
from Peru against La Paz, under General Goyeneche, was more stubbornly
resisted. But the insurgents, badly organised and half armed, were
routed with great slaughter, La Paz was taken by assault, many of the
leaders perished on the gibbet, and their dismembered bodies were nailed
on the sign-posts which marked out the public roads in Upper Peru.

The Patricios returned to Buenos Aires, but they cared not to speak of
their exploits. Then men began to rouse themselves from their apathy and
to murmur indignant words, whispering to one another with bated breath
that Spain was ever the same Spain, that there was one law for Spaniards
and quite another law for Americans. Elio and Alzaga and their
companions, who had revolted against a Viceroy holding his appointment
from the regal Court of Aranjuez, were held high in favour by the new
ruler, who held his appointment only from the Junta of Seville. For
Americans who had dared to revolt, there was the gibbet and the garotte,
or imprisonment in a dreary dungeon.

The war in the Peninsula in the year 1809 was one long series of
disasters to Spain, broken only by one or two insignificant triumphs,
relieved only from utter disgrace by the heroic defence of Saragossa and
that of Gerona, both alike unavailing.

The Sierra de la Morena stood as a huge, natural rampart around the
ancient kingdom of Boabdil. Andalusia was as yet unsullied by the
footstep of the invader, but to the north of the sierra, all organised
resistance had ceased, the honour of Spain was upheld only by scattered
bands of guerillas. Even the British allies of Spain, after their bloody
but fruitless victory at Talavera de la Reyna, had retired to the
frontiers of Portugal. Joseph reigned tranquilly at Madrid. All Spain,
save that last stronghold of the Moors, lay prostrate at the feet of
Napoleon.

Then the Junta of Seville determined upon one last desperate effort.
Early in November an army of 50,000 men, with 7000 horse and sixty guns,
issued from the defiles of the Sierra de la Morena, and marched upon
Madrid. On the 12th November, on the wide plains of New Castile, they
encountered their enemy at Ocaña. All that personal bravery could
accomplish was done, but military skill and discipline were stronger
than patriotism and fanaticism combined. The last army of Spain was
completely routed--20,000 Spaniards breathed their last on that fatal
field. The Sierra de la Morena remained almost undefended, the last
bulwark of Spanish nationality.

Don Baltazar de Cisneros did all he could to prevent the extent of this
disaster from being known in Buenos Aires, but it was impossible to keep
it long concealed. In February, 1810, the minds of men, already excited
by the news from the interior, became still further excited as they
learned the full extent of the great defeat at Ocaña.

Men, no longer fearful of Spanish tyranny, thronged in the streets
walking about in groups unchallenged, shouting boldly one to the other:
"Spain has fallen!"

One day in the last week of February Don Carlos Evaña received a letter
by private hand from General Miranda, who was at that time resident in
London, and who was more active than ever in his revolutionary projects,
as he saw Spain daily sinking lower and lower in her struggle against
France. Enclosed in this letter came another for Don Alfonso Miranda.
Don Carlos had not been near the Miserere for months, but on the evening
of this day he walked out there. He found Don Alfonso and Magdalen
seated in the porch together. Don Alfonso received him very cordially,
and Magdalen, smiling upon him, reproached him for his desertion of
them.

"It is so many months since I have seen you, Don Carlos," she said,
"that I have almost forgotten the sound of your voice; but I went to see
Doña Josefina last week, and she told me about you. You have been
spending these last months very pleasantly, no wonder you forgot us. I
did not think we should ever see you again."

"What nonsense are you talking, Chica?" said Don Alfonso.

But Don Carlos did not seem to think it nonsense, and smiled pleasantly
upon her.

"There is some one who often speaks to me of you," he said. Then
noticing that Magdalen looked troubled at this, he turned to Don Alfonso
and spoke to him.

"To-day I received a letter from your brother the General," he said.
"Every letter is more sanguine than the one before. He sends me an
enclosure for you, which----"

"Go and walk in the garden, Chica," said Don Alfonso, interrupting him.
Then as Magdalen left them he signed to Don Carlos to follow him to the
sala, the door of which he closed before he spoke again.

Magdalen had not walked long in the garden before the gate opened and
Don Ciriaco Asneiros entered. She received him with much less cordiality
than she had formerly shown him. Even the name of Dolores failed to
arouse her to animation, but for some minutes she walked beside him,
listlessly attending to what he said, and answering his questions at
random.

"And the old man?" said Don Ciriaco, tiring at length of this one-sided
conversation.

"He is in the sala," replied Magdalen.

"Let us go and talk to him."

"No, do not go in yet, he has a visitor with him."

"Who is it?"

"The Señor Evaña is with him."

Then Don Ciriaco, leaving her, walked softly up to the sala window,
which was wide open, and bent down, apparently intent upon the
examination of the flowers growing beneath it.

"Don Ciricao!" called Magdalen, "come here, there are some much finer
roses at the other side."

"The time has now come. The people that has not now the courage to
strike for freedom is unworthy to become a nation."

Don Ciriaco had heard the rustling of paper, he had heard the above
words read in a low voice by Don Alfonso. It was enough, he left the
window and went back to Magdalen.

"Your uncle, Don Francisco, when do you expect him here?" he asked her
brusquely.

Magdalen turned pale, looked at him with frightened eyes, and then said
hurriedly:

"My uncle! I did not know he was coming. Papa never told me. My uncle
never writes to papa."

"What is that you tell me?" replied Asneiros. "He is now reading to the
Señor Evaña the letter he received to-day."

"You are mistaken," said Magdalen. "It is the Señor Evaña who has
received a letter from my uncle. They sent me out here, I do not know
anything of it."

Then twining her hands together and with tears of vexation in her eyes,
as she saw him smile at her trouble, she turned from him and sought
refuge in her own room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nearly a week after this, Don Carlos Evaña passing along one of the
streets abutting upon the Plaza Mayor, paused to look upon a group of
men who, standing in the open street in front of a large almacen, were
discussing excitedly together, the latest news from Europe.

"I have said to myself that my work is all in vain," he said within
himself. "In all that I have done I have done nothing, men have laughed
at my words, and have scoffed at my ideas as at those of a dreamer. But
has it been all in vain? who has given these men courage to speak such
words as I hear now, in the open street? has not the day already come to
put an end to this absurd farce of allegiance to Spain?"

As he so mused a hand was laid upon his arm, he turned and found himself
face to face with Marcelino Ponce de Leon. In the face of his friend
there beamed a look of pleasure such as he had not seen there for many
months.

"You have heard the news of which those men talk," said Evaña, "and you
are glad."

The smile faded from Marcelino's face, and passing his arm through
Evaña's he led him away up the street. Turning his face from him and
speaking in low tones he said:

"I have news which did make me very joyful, yet now I feel sad.
Look----"

Putting his hand into his pocket, he drew out a letter and showed it to
Evaña. The letter bore an English postmark, the address was in a bold
hand which Evaña recognised at once. For a moment his firm step
faltered, and a deadly pallor overspread his cheek, but it was for a
moment only, the next he asked calmly:

"How did he escape?"

"He never sailed in the _Petrel_," replied Marcelino.

For a minute or two they walked on in silence, then Evaña spoke again.

"But you have not answered my question," he said. "Is not the day at
hand? are we not already a free people?"

"Alas! it is too true. Spain has fallen," said Marcelino.

Again they walked on in silence; again Evaña was the first to speak.

"I have been idle," said he, "but the work has been done for me, while I
have been asleep, dreaming. The day has arisen, the dreams of the night
have passed from me."

Then seizing the hand of his friend he pressed it fiercely in his own,
and turning from him strode rapidly away towards his own dwelling.

For two days Don Carlos Evaña shut his door to every visitor, on the
third day he sallied forth and took his way to the house of Don Manuel
Belgrano. He found Don Manuel in his study, and drawing a roll of paper
from his pocket he handed it to him.

Don Manuel spread open the roll on his desk, and glanced over the
papers. They consisted of a series of political articles for the
_Diario_.

"It is too soon," said he, as he turned the last sheet and looked up.

"They would not meet the approval of his Excellency Don Baltazar?"

"I dare not even submit them to his inspection."

"The day is at hand when the editor of the _Diario_ will scorn the
approval of the nominee of Spain," replied Evaña.

       *       *       *       *       *

Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, walking through the streets of Buenos Aires,
heard the careless comments of the people on the disasters which had
befallen Spain, heard them as Don Carlos Evaña had heard them, but their
effect upon him was far different.

"I have sought to raise this people from their ignorance," said he to
himself; "I have studied their interests and welfare in every measure
which I have adopted; I have even sought the aid of some of the most
intelligent among them in the hope of inspiring them with the true
spirit of patriotism, yet they can rejoice at the misfortunes which have
fallen on my country, upon the country to which they owe the love and
reverence of children to a parent."

So musing bitterly to himself he took his way to the fort. As he passed
through the ante-room leading to the official apartments of the Viceroy,
the door opened of a room in which Don Baltazar de Cisneros was
accustomed to give private audience to such as were most in his
confidence; from this room came forth Don Alfonso Miranda. Don Roderigo
started, an angry frown spread over his features, he returned the
obsequious bow of the medico with a haughty stare, and passed on into
the presence of the Viceroy.

"Your Excellency is perhaps not aware of the character of the man who
has just left you," said he to Don Baltazar, as he closed the door
behind him.

"You speak of Señor Miranda?" replied Don Baltazar.

"I do," said Don Roderigo. "I have just passed through the city, I have
listened to the comments of the Creoles upon the disasters which have
fallen upon Spain, I have come to warn your Excellency that we are on
the eve of a catastrophe."

"And what has that to do with the Señor Miranda?"

"In admitting such a man to your confidence your Excellency runs great
danger, if he visits you, he comes as a spy."

"Yes, but as my spy."

"You are acquainted then with his character, and employ him?"

"I seek to do so, for, before I left Spain, he was named to me as a man
who might be serviceable in procuring for me secret information. I am as
well aware as you that there are dangerous ideas abroad in the city, and
there are some men upon whom I wish to keep watch. The Señor Miranda
visited me at my own request."

"And what has he told you?"

"Nothing; but he has promised to report to me upon the movements of one
man, of whom Marshal Liniers entertained great suspicions, the Señor
Evaña. If this excitement of the people should culminate in any outbreak
against my authority, I am assured that the Señora Evaña will be at the
head of it."

"Do you know that the Señor Miranda is brother to Francisco Miranda of
Venezuela?"

"Of Francisco Miranda! No, I did not know that."

"Your Excellency should enquire more carefully into the antecedents of
the men you trust," said Don Roderigo, with something of contempt in his
tone.

"I was informed that about ten years ago the Señor Miranda gave timely
information to the Consulado of some conspiracy which was thus averted."

"Of a conspiracy invented in his own brain," replied Don Roderigo
angrily; "his information averted no conspiracy, for there was none, but
cast suspicion upon some most loyal Spaniards, and drove some of the
best servants of Spain from her service. I was one of the conspirators
he denounced; think you that I am a less trusty servant of Spain than a
Miranda from Venezuela?"

"Yet you have your ideas," replied Don Baltazar softly, "and you had not
then the experience you have now."

"The experience I have now, teaches me that the ideas I entertained ten
years ago were correct. You have removed the restrictions upon trade,
you admit Creoles to your counsels, such were the steps which I
advocated in the year '98; for this I was denounced by your friend the
Doctor Miranda to the Consulado of Cadiz, and lost my seat in the
Audencia Real."

"You introduced the Señor Evaña to me on my arrival, he is an intimate
friend of yours, but I believe him to be a most dangerous man."

"He is a man who may be of great service to us," replied Don Roderigo;
"I have sought his friendship in order to wean him from the extravagant
ideas he learned during his residence in Europe."

"I am informed that he is about to marry your daughter. You would not
give your daughter to any man suspected of disloyalty?"

"Your Excellency is well informed," said Don Roderigo, smiling.

"Then I will accept your guarantee for the loyalty of the Señor Evaña,
but General Miranda has agents in this city and I suspect that the Señor
Evaña is in correspondence with him."

"The principal correspondent of General Miranda is his brother," replied
Don Roderigo, "that I can prove to you by the testimony of Major
Asneiros, who has been commissioned by me to keep watch on this medico.
Major Asneiros surprised him not a week ago reading to the Señor Evaña a
letter from the General, doubtless with the intention of drawing him
into some conspiracy. If your Excellency were to order the arrest of Don
Alfonso, we should certainly learn from his papers the real nature of
the projects of Don Francisco."

After some further conversation, Don Roderigo took his leave, and an
hour later Major Asneiros sent by him, sought an interview with the
Viceroy. The Major laughed heartily when he heard of the suspicions of
Don Alfonso which Don Roderigo had excited in the mind of Don Baltazar.

"There is one man much more dangerous than the old medico ever can be,"
said Asneiros, "the Señor Evaña. He is the correspondent of General
Miranda, that Don Roderigo knows well enough, and he overrates his
influence with him if he thinks he can prevent him from engaging in any
conspiracy against your authority."

"I have been frequently warned against the Señor Evaña," replied the
Viceroy, "but without proofs of the existence of some conspiracy I dare
take no steps against him, his arrest would only end in a fiasco like
that of Puyrredon. How did you discover that he is in correspondence
with Don Francisco?"

Then Asneiros recounted to Don Baltazar how he had surprised a
confession of this fact from Magdalen Miranda, and continued:

"When she left me I went in after her and walked straight to the sala.
Don Alfonso had an open letter in his hand which he crumpled up and
thrust into his pocket. The Señor Evaña looked at me as though I were a
wild beast, and soon afterwards put on his hat and went, but Don Alfonso
kept the letter, and has it yet I don't doubt, for I know he has some
secret hiding-place in his house. If we could get that letter we might
find some proof against the Señor Evaña."

"I agree with you, in spite of the assurances of Don Roderigo, that
Evaña is a most dangerous man," replied the Viceroy, "but I have every
confidence in Don Roderigo himself, and shall entrust the management of
this affair to him; if he instructs you to arrest Don Alfonso, do so,
but remember, that what I want is a proof that the Señor Evaña is
engaged in some conspiracy--proof such as I can show to Don Roderigo and
to the Audencia Real, then I can proceed against the Señor Evaña without
danger of having my orders set at defiance."

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening Don Ciriaco set off alone on foot, for the Plaza Miserere.
He reached the Quinta de Don Alfonso, opened the gate very cautiously,
and walking to the sala window looked in. The medico was alone, seated
in his arm-chair, buried apparently in deep thought, a shaded lamp
burning on the table at his elbow. Don Ciriaco went back to the porch,
and finding the house door open, entered very quietly and went in to the
sala, treading softly and laying his finger on his lip. Alfonso started
up with a faint cry, then sank down again into his chair, pale and
trembling, as he recognised his untimely visitor. Asneiros went up to
him, laid one hand on his arm, and whispered into his ear:

"Silence! all is discovered; but I have arranged a way for you to save
yourself."

"What is discovered? I assure you I know nothing of it," answered Don
Alfonso.

"I have come with the intention of helping you. If you wish me to be of
any service to you, you must give me your entire confidence."

"But I assure you I refused to have anything to do with it, and would
not listen to what he wished to tell me."

"The Senor Evaña spent the evening with you?"

"Yes, he did, but I kept my daughter with me, he could not speak with
me."

"And the letter from your brother, did you return it to him?"

"What letter?"

"The letter he brought to show you last week."

"Mi Dios! Why should I return it to him? Why should I give him my
letters? I burned it."

"You did badly, and you should have listened to the Señor Evaña this
evening, he had something important to tell you."

"What matters to me that newspaper or the education of the people?"

"Look you, Don Alfonso, I did not come here to talk nonsense about
newspapers or education. If you refuse me your confidence, I cannot help
you. Your name is in the list of the suspected, but the head of the
conspiracy is this Señor Evaña. Give me all the papers he has given you
to keep for him, and I have a promise from the Viceroy that you shall
not be molested in any way."

"The Señor Evaña has never given me any paper of his."

"Then I cannot help you at all," said Asneiros, rising from the chair on
which he had seated himself. "Sleep well to-night in your own bed,
to-morrow night you will sleep in the calabozo."

"Dios mio! Don Ciriaco," said Don Alfonso, seizing him by the arm, "what
have I done? Why should they put me in the calabozo? I would not even
listen to the Señor Evaña when he wished to speak to me of things."

"You did wrong not to listen, you might have learned something, and your
evidence against Evaña would have saved yourself. But perhaps it is not
too late, I will give you three days, after that I cannot protect you
any longer; you will be arrested, your house searched, and all your
effects confiscated."

"But, Don Ciriaco, do not leave me. Why do you say such things? You say
there is some conspiracy, if there is I know nothing of it. The Señor
Evaña has never spoken of it to me, how can I give evidence against him?
Don Baltazar asked me----"

"A conspiracy there is, and we will know all about it very soon. Don
Baltazar de Cisneros is not like that Frenchman Liniers, the least
punishment the conspirators may expect will be imprisonment and
confiscation. Take care of yourself, you do not appear very rich, but
everything you have will be confiscated."

Don Alfonso fell back in his chair with a groan.

"I am not a conspirator, and I am very poor. God help me!" he said.
"But, Don Ciriaco, you have always been a good friend to me, even yet
you may do something for me; even if they put me in prison you will not
let them search the house, you will prevent that. Why should they, I
have nothing worth the trouble of carrying away."

"You can prevent it yourself; if you have no papers belonging to the
Señor Evaña, you can find them."

Just then the door opened and Magdalen entered the room. Seeing the
miserable state of her father she ran to him.

"Papa! papa!" she said, throwing herself on his breast, "what has this
man been saying to you? Do not believe a word he says, I know that he
comes here as your friend to do some treachery to you. Pay no attention
to him."

"Look you, Don Alfonso," said Asneiros, "I give you three days to find
those papers. If you do not find them you will explain to the Viceroy,
and not to me, why you have secret hiding-places cut in the walls of
your house."

At that, Don Alfonso thrust his daughter from him, and gazing with
terror-stricken eyes at Asneiros tried in vain to speak, but Asneiros,
turning from him went out through the door and through the porch and
walked rapidly away.

Don Alfonso passed a sleepless night sitting in his arm-chair moaning
and lamenting, Magdalen doing all she could to comfort him, till he
sternly bade her leave him, saying that she had brought all this trouble
upon him by attracting Asneiros to the quinta.

The next day Don Alfonso walked into the city, went straight to the
house of Don Carlos Evaña, and told him everything that had occurred on
the previous night, after he had left the quinta. Evaña listened
somewhat scornfully, but looking at the haggard cheeks and blood-shot
eyes of the old man, he felt pity for him.

"He wants proofs of a conspiracy? Pues! He shall have them. Here is all
the conspiracy that there is," said he, taking up a copy of the _Diario_
which lay upon the table, "and his Excellency the Viceroy is at the head
of us. We are conspiring to educate the people, and I fully believe that
the Señor Asneiros is correct in thinking that it imperils the existence
of Spanish rule among us."

Don Alfonso looked helplessly at him, and answered:

"He spoke of a letter from my brother, how has he come to know of that?
The letter you gave me from him I have burned, I kept it two days, then
I burned it. I always do, I want no letters from Francisco. What matters
to me his plans, all that I want is to live in peace. Cannot you help me
in some way? You told me that the time of arrests and confiscations was
gone, and I lived without fear, but it appears that is all to begin
again."

"You think so! I can assure you that those times are gone, never to
return."

"And he assures me that in three days I shall be put into the calabozo."

"That will not do you any great damage, and may help the cause of the
people. It would be a scandal, for nothing can be even alleged against
you, and we shall soon get you out again. Now that I think of it, it is
well that you be arrested, the city is very quiet and an arbitrary
arrest might arouse a little excitement."

"Don Carlos!" exclaimed Don Alfonso, "what is this you say to me? They
will search my house and rob me."

"Rob you! unless you have some treasure buried away under the flooring I
don't think they will rob you of much."

"No, Don Carlos, no! I assure you I have no treasure. You know how poor
I am. What can I have to bury under the floor?"

Don Carlos looked at him attentively one moment, then taking up the
_Diario_, he folded it carefully into a small oblong packet, wrapped it
in a sheet of paper, which he carefully sealed with three seals, and
drawing an inkstand towards him, endorsed it:

     _Proofs of the nefarious Conspiracy against the People of
     Buenos Aires, entertained by H. E. Don Baltazar de Cisneros,
     with the aid of Don Carlos Avaña and various others._

"I cannot compliment you on your choice of friends, Don Alfonso," he
said, handing him the packet; "but when this distinguished major, the
Señor Asneiros, next visits you, you can give him this as a proof of my
treason. If after that he wishes to arrest me let him come, I am ready
for him."

"But, Señor Don Carlos," said Don Alfonso, holding the packet at arm's
length, "if I give him this he will say that I am mocking him, and then
they will arrest me, and----"

"When do you expect him to visit you?"

"The day after to-morrow, in the evening."

"Then the day after to-morrow in the evening he shall meet me. If he
should visit you in the meantime you can easily put him off."

The second day after this, about sundown, Don Carlos Evaña and Marcelino
Ponce de Leon rode side by side through the suburbs towards the
Miserere.

"You have judged rightly, Carlos," said Marcelino. "Any misfortune that
might befall the old man would cause her great sorrow, and I thank you
for asking me to assist you in anything that may keep a sorrow from
her."

"Yet she treated you very badly," said Don Carlos. "She led you to feel
sure of her love, and then transferred her affections with the greatest
ease to that traitor of a Spaniard."

"I do not think so, she loved me once. But her father wishes it, he
never liked me, and she submits."

"It is strange, I always thought her a girl of much strength of
character. Did you ever tell her that you loved her?"

"Not in so many words, but she knew it; an avowal of love needs no
words. But it is now more than a year since I have had a chance of
speaking with her, she shuns me. When we meet she will not let me pay
her the simplest attention. She has not forgotten me, but she is trying
to forget me."

"Perhaps we have been mistaken all the time."

"Oh no, I made sure, I asked my aunt Josefina, and she told me that they
were only waiting till Asneiros got some settled employ which the
Viceroy had promised him."

"That will all be at an end now."

"I suppose it will, but it will make no difference to me, her father
will find another husband for her. When a girl once gives up her own
choice at her father's command it matters very little to her whom she
marries. You and I have seen many instances of that."

"Too many," replied Evaña.

After this they rode on in silence till they reached the quinta, where
they dismounted, tying their horses under the trees behind the house.

In the porch they found Magdalen, sitting alone, with her face buried in
her hands, weeping bitterly. From inside the house came the sound of a
voice raised high in anger.

"Do not weep, Magdalen," said Marcelino, bending over her. "Don Alfonso
has two fast friends here, who will see that no injustice is done him."

Magdalen's tears ceased instantly at the sound of that voice, and a
thrill of joy shot through her as she looked up and met the glance of
the dark eyes bent upon her in tender sympathy.

"Oh, help papa!" she said. "Do not let them take him, he has done
nothing."

"I will remain with Magdalen," said Don Carlos, seating himself beside
her. "You are more likely to arrange the matter amicably than I am, he
always shows great respect for you. Go you and see what this is all
about."

Marcelino went instantly to the sala, and, opening the door, saw Don
Alfonso, hardly able to stand, clinging to the back of a chair, while
Asneiros, standing in the centre of the room, was speaking to him.

"You are mocking me," he said. "I know where to find these proofs if I
choose to look. If that letter is burned you can procure another, or you
can make a declaration, which will do as well. I wished to give you the
chance of setting yourself right with the authorities. You refuse; well
go your own way, and do not blame me if your house is robbed while you
are in gaol."

"Señor Asneiros," said Marcelino, stepping forward, "this is not the
tone in which you should speak to a man whose hairs are white with age.
Permit me, Don Alfonso," he added, turning a chair round and assisting
the medico to seat himself.

"Señor Don Marcelino," said Asneiros, softening his tone considerably,
"it is a fortunate chance that has sent you here."

"It is no chance at all, Señor Asneiros," replied Marcelino; "I heard
that you were threatening Don Alfonso with imprisonment for complicity
in some conspiracy which exists only in your own imagination. What may
be your real purpose I do not care to enquire, but I insist upon it that
you leave this house immediately."

"Señor Don Marcelino, I assure you that I am only acting under orders,
and am actuated by the most friendly motives to Don Alfonso. There are
grave causes of suspicion against him, and I have shown him the means by
which he can set himself right with the authorities."

"You wish him to save himself by bringing a false accusation against
some one else. Enough of that, Señor Asneiros. Don Alfonso knows nothing
of any conspiracy, and can in no way assist you."

"You speak well, you speak well, Don Marcelino," said Don Alfonso, still
in great perturbation; "there is no conspiracy, but do not speak harshly
to this gentleman. He has been a good friend to me on many occasions,
and will protect me. Is it not so, Don Ciriaco? You will tell his
Excellency that you have made every enquiry, and have found that there
is no truth in the accusations that have been laid against me."

"I shall have the honour of reporting to his Excellency what you have
told me, but I hope that further consideration may induce you to take a
wiser course."

So saying, Asneiros took up his hat, and with a low bow to Marcelino
left the room.

In the porch he was somewhat startled to find Don Carlos Evaña in
earnest conversation with Magdalen, but passed them without a word and
walked away.

"He knows nothing, and cannot assist me in any way," he muttered to
himself as he slowly crossed the Plaza Miserere; "but I should like to
have the inspection of that black coffer of his, he has some reason for
keeping it so secret. Don Roderigo would be glad of any pretext for
putting him in prison and looking through his papers. I'll give him one,
who knows but I may do myself a service too?"

Don Carlos and Marcelino remained for two hours longer at the quinta,
and had the pleasure of drinking tea once more from the porcelain cups
of Magdalen Miranda, but the evening was not a pleasant one to any of
them--there was a general feeling of constraint. Don Alfonso trembled at
every noise, and was more than usually taciturn; Magdalen seemed
confused, and spoke only in whispers.

As the two friends rode back to the city together through the darkness,
Don Carlos spoke.

"I told her of the reports that are in circulation concerning her and
this Señor Asneiros," he said. "It may be her father's wish but it is
not hers, nor does she think that the major has any idea of it. She says
that he has been a constant spy upon her father for more than a year
past, and that she warned her father of him, but that he refused to
listen to her."

"Poor girl!" said Marcelino, and then rode on in moody silence, hardly
hearing a word of what Evaña said after that, till they reached the
centre of the city and separated.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Asneiros left the Miserere he walked straight to the house of Don
Roderigo Ponce de Leon, with whom he had a long interview, the result of
which was, that at midnight a party of soldiers, under the command of
the major, proceeded to the Quinta de Don Alfonso, woke up the inmates
by knocking at the door, and shouted to them to "open in the name of
the law." Don Alfonso was arrested and his private room rigorously
searched, but for some time nothing worthy of notice was found, till
Asneiros, prodding the wall behind the bedstead with his sword,
discovered a hollow carefully concealed by the wainscot. Not knowing how
to open it, he ordered a panel to be wrenched away, and disclosed a
small coffer of black oak, bound with brass and very heavy, which he
took away with him, together with all the letters and written papers he
could find, while Don Alfonso, more dead than alive, was lifted into a
small cart and driven away to the Cabildo, where he was imprisoned in
the same apartment which had formerly been occupied by Marcelino Ponce
de Leon.

During the examination of Don Alfonso's room all the inmates of the
quinta had been, by the major's command, imprisoned in the sala. When he
had secured the black coffer he prosecuted the search no further, but
proceeding to the sala, ordered Don Alfonso to come out alone, saying
that he merely wished to speak with him for a minute. Magdalen appeared
with her father, clinging to him, when Asneiros rudely pushed her back
into the room and shut the door, placing a guard there with instructions
to allow no one to leave the house before sunrise.

On the morning following this arrest Don Fausto Velasquez, who was an
early riser, was walking about in his patio, wrapped in a loose
dressing-gown, when a girl, enveloped from head to foot in a large
shawl, hurriedly came in through the open doorway, and, throwing herself
upon her knees at his feet, caught his hand in both her own, crying:

"Papa! Don Fausto, papa! They have taken him! Don Ciriaco----"

She could say no more, and would have fallen on her face, but Don
Fausto, taking her in his arms, raised her up and saw it was Magdalen.
He carried her inside into his wife's room, where she presently
recovered sufficiently to give a clear account of what had happened, but
it was a long time before Don Fausto could persuade her that her father
was in no danger, and would very soon be set at liberty.

Don Alfonso was but little known in the city, and those who did know him
had but small respect for him, yet in the then excited state of the
public mind, a very slight circumstance was sufficient to create great
agitation. Men enquired eagerly one of another who was this Don Alfonso
Miranda, and what was the cause of his imprisonment; and when they
learned that he was the brother of General Miranda, whose exploits in
Venezuela had caused him to be looked upon as the champion of liberty by
all Spanish Americans, his crime became clear to them at once--he had
dared to devise some scheme for liberating them from Spanish tyranny,
and in their eyes he rose to be a hero and a martyr.

Groups of men paraded the Plaza Mayor and the principal streets, as they
met they asked one another in loud voices:

"How long shall these things be?"

And as some Spaniard high in office passed them, frowning angrily and
chafing within himself at his impotence to put a stop to such
disorderly assemblages, they would turn and shout after him as he went:

"Spain has fallen!"

Don Carlos Evaña, strolling through the streets of the city, heard these
shouts and smiled to himself:

"The day is at hand."

Marcelino Ponce de Leon, busy at his desk in the office of the
Consulado, heard these shouts, and passed his fingers through his curly,
black hair, saying resignedly:

"It is too late, America must be for Americans alone."

Don Manuel Belgrano, revising the proofs of his _Diario_, heard these
shouts, and turned over with his fingers the sheets of a series of fiery
articles he had received some days before, saying to himself:

"I might almost venture them now; they do but say what men now shout
aloud at the street corners."

Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, in the quiet of his own study, heard these
shouts and said nothing, for his heart was heavy with a foreboding care.

To the Viceroy, surrounded by his guards and sentries, came these
shouts, and he shrugged his shoulders and thought nothing of them. To
him they were but as the utterance of a fact, and conveyed no warning.

"Spain has fallen!" said old men, joining hands together, and reading
each in the face of the other the realisation of a hope long deferred.

"Spain has fallen!" shouted men in the vigour of life, throwing back
their heads proudly, and striding through the streets of their own city,
treading the soil of their own country with a joyful sense of freedom.

"Spain has fallen!" shouted young men, as they saw the world opening up
before them with prospects of which their fathers had known nothing, and
who saw themselves the centre of proud hopes, as yet but dimly discerned
through the mists of the unknown future.

"Spain has fallen!" So throughout the great, straggling city was heard
the voice of the people, asking nothing, demanding nothing, proclaiming
only a fact known to all.

Yet was this voice both a warning and a menace to those who sought to
rule the people for their own ends. Buenos Aires had looked to Spain as
to a mother, yet in this voice there was no pity. Buenos Aires still
looked upon Spain as a tyrant, yet in this voice there was no fear.

The hatred of an enslaved people against their tyrants, the jealousy of
a dependent race against the race which has dominated over them for
centuries were both expressed in that one shout, which had in it nothing
of love, nothing of fear:

"Spain has fallen!"



BOOK VI

LIBERTY



PROLOGUE


The division of youth from manhood is marked by no fixed line
established by law or custom. To each youth there comes a day when,
without aid or counsel, he has to decide upon some important step which
shall influence the whole course of his future life. According to the
bias of his nature he ponders long upon this step, or he comes rapidly
to some decision. The day he so decides marks for him the end of his
youth, the commencement of his manhood.

When a youth so steps into manhood, he meet the world face to face, and
braces himself for the encounter. Hope, which is the dowry of youth,
attends upon him; he puts forth all his energies, never doubting of
success, and achieves that which is deemed impossible.

Buenos Aires, long impatient of Spanish tyranny, saw her tyrant
helpless; she saw a continent around her, groaning with the slavery of
centuries; she felt within herself the strength of a young nation, and
asked herself whether the task were not hers to give liberty to these
enslaved peoples, to achieve it for herself.

Long she pondered over this question, doubting within herself whether
the day were come. Having decided, with resolute hand she cast aside the
trammels which bound her, broke through the subterfuges of those who
still sought to impose upon her ignorance, and stood forth, free
herself, and the champion of freedom for all Spanish America.

As the sun, bursting through a veil of clouds, dissipates the mists of
the early morn, rousing men from the slumbers of night to the active
work of day, so Buenos Aires, bursting through the traditions of
centuries, dissipated for ever the mists of ignorance, under which
slumbered in ignoble servitude the colonies of Spain.

The sun of May, emblem of Buenos Aires, shone forth over the New World,
rousing enslaved peoples to the bold assertion of their rights as men.
In the struggle which followed, this emblem was ever in the fore-front
of the battle, the rallying-point of a band of heroes, whose swords
achieved the liberation of an entire continent.

Buenos Aires, free herself, became at once the apostle and champion of
freedom for all Spanish America.



CHAPTER I

HOW THE LAST TIE WAS BROKEN


Spain has fallen! These words echoed through the city from end to end,
but to the majority of men they were simply the proclamation of an
acknowledged fact, an outburst of that jealousy of Spain, that
fretfulness of Spanish domination, which had for years been growing up
in Buenos Aires. But there was a minority in Buenos Aires, a minority
ever increasing, a minority of men of cultivated minds, of men of
far-seeing intelligence; to these men these words taught a lesson, in
them they inspired a hope.

At the head of this minority were Don Carlos Evaña, Don Marcelino Ponce
de Leon, and the other members of the secret committee. They consulted
among themselves, asking one another, "Has not the day come?" "What
shall we do?"

Then, true to their principle of keeping themselves as much as possible
in the background, they decided upon requesting Don Gregorio Lopez to
call again together a meeting of the chiefs of the militia and of the
leading citizens, and to propound to them these questions, to which they
themselves purposed to find an answer.

Yet March passed over and nothing was done, and all this time Don
Alfonso Miranda lay in prison, and his daughter, who was not allowed to
visit him, found shelter under the roof of Don Fausto Velasquez. Many
efforts were made by Don Fausto and by Don Gregorio Lopez to procure his
release, but in vain, and their enquiries as to the cause of his
detention were met by evasive answers. Then as they insisted that they
should at least have liberty to speak with him, the Viceroy referred
them to Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon.

Don Roderigo answered his father-in-law and Don Fausto with great
brevity, saying that he had long suspected Don Alfonso of treasonable
designs, and had only acted upon receipt of positive information.

"Have you discovered anything in his papers to criminate him?" asked Don
Fausto.

"Nothing. He either keeps his correspondence well concealed or has
destroyed it."

"Then upon what pretext do you keep him in prison?"

"His examination is not yet concluded," replied Don Roderigo.

"And you still refuse us permission to visit him?" said Don Fausto.

"I can allow him to have no communication with any one. In the present
excited state of the city it would be unsafe to permit him any chance of
communicating with his accomplices."

"I compliment you upon your policy," replied Don Fausto. "It may cause
the death of a harmless old man, and can only tend to increase the
popular excitement, of which you seem somewhat apprehensive."

"His daughter spoke to me of a black coffer which was discovered in his
room, and by which Don Alfonso seemed to set great store," said Don
Gregorio; "do you know what has become of it?"

"All his effects are in the hands of Major Asneiros, who had charge of
the examination of his papers," replied Don Roderigo.

"Asneiros has behaved like a brute," said Don Fausto.

"The Señor Asneiros has small sympathy for traitors," replied Don
Roderigo.

Don Gregorio and Don Fausto returned to the house of the latter
gentleman but little pleased with the result of their interview. In the
ante-sala they found Doña Josefina with Magdalen and Elisa Puyrredon; to
whom they recounted the ill-success of their errand.

"It is a barbarity," said Elisa Puyrredon. "Where are we going to stop?
Wait till my brother comes back. I cannot understand it at all."

"Nor I," said Doña Josefina. "This Asneiros has not come to see me for a
month, why do you not go to see him, Fausto? He will tell you more than
Don Roderigo. Magdalen says it is all owing to him that her father was
arrested, and he was so great a friend of Don Alfonso."

As Doña Josefina said this she looked sharply at Magdalen, who flushed
scarlet, and said:

"I do not think the Señor Asneiros was ever a friend to papa, he was a
spy."

"I know he did not go to the quinta so often to see Don Alfonso," said
Doña Josefina.

At this moment Marcelino Ponce de Leon walked in at the open door. His
entrance caused no surprise for he had been a frequent visitor at his
aunt's house for a month past, but Magdalen rose from her seat
immediately and left the room.

"She is always so," said Doña Josefina, shrugging her plump, white
shoulders. "If any gentleman pays her any attention, from that moment
she abhors him. I can remember when Marcelino and she were the best of
friends, now see how she treats him, she will not remain a minute in the
room if he comes in. Without doubt it has been the same with this
Asneiros, you heard how she spoke of him just now. He has resented her
treatment of him, we have the old man in prison, and the daughter----"
here came another shrug of the plump, white shoulders, then turning to
Marcelino she asked:

"Are all English girls like that, Marcelino? The Señor Gordon at any
rate knew how to behave himself."

"The Señor Gordon was as polished as a Porteño," said Elisa Puyrredon.
"You thought he was drowned, Marcelino, and never said a word of it for
so many months. But I saw you were triste about something."

"Where is he now?" asked Don Gregorio.

"He was on Marshal Beresford's staff," replied Marcelino; "but, as he
can talk Spanish, he says they have set him to drill the Portuguese,
from the idea that he can make them understand him."

"Well, Fausto, if you intend to see Don Ciriaco I think the sooner you
see him the better," said Doña Josefina.

"We will go at once," said Don Gregorio.

When the two elder gentleman had gone, Doña Josefina rose from her seat
and went through the folding-doors into the sala.

"You are triste yet," said Elisa Puyrredon, drawing her chair nearer to
Marcelino. "Have you some other sorrow than the supposed loss of your
friend? You might tell me."

"Think you it is no sorrow to me to see that when my father has the
power he is a tyrant, the same as any other Spaniard? In this
imprisonment of Don Alfonso he has committed a great injustice. I have
been told that years ago this Don Alfonso did him some injury; now that
he can he revenges himself, like a Spaniard. I thought him both too
good-hearted and too politic to have taken such a false step in times so
critical as the present."

"You take great interest in all that concerns Don Alfonso?"

"I think of my father and do not like to hear him accused of tyranny,
and to be able to say no word in his defence."

"Magdalen is very unhappy. Have you no sorrow for her. As Doña Josefina
said just now, once you were the best of friends together."

"Naturally I am sorry for her, I have done all I can for Don Alfonso for
her sake."

"What have you done?"

"I have used all my influence with Asneiros, who has the charge of
examining Don Alfonso's papers, to prevail upon him to declare at once
what he has found. But he refuses to examine them and says he has simply
sealed them up until further orders."

"Have you not spoken to Don Roderigo?"

"How can I go to my father and accuse him to his face of injustice?"

"I thought that when men loved they would dare anything, even the anger
of their father, for the sake of the one they loved."

"But if that love is slighted, and thrown aside as a thing of no value,
why should I risk what is next in value to me for the sake of what is
lost?"

"Are you sure it is lost? I have heard say that when a girl once loves
she loves for ever. You once thought that you were loved."

"I more than thought so, I was sure of it. I have been told that girls
easily love and easily forget. It is their nature to love some things,
but it is very little matter to them what they love."

"You heretic! You never deserve that any one should love you, never."

"I do not care now if no one ever does love me. I am content with such
love as I have. I love my mother and Lola, and I would give my life to
preserve to its end my love and respect for my father."

"Don't tell me that, I know better. The love of father and mother and
sister is never enough for any man. A man is not a man until he have
some other love."

"And if he win another love, such a love as he dreamed about, such a
love as would make his life complete, only to lose it, what then?"

"The grave," said Elisa, in a very solemn voice, then bursting into a
merry laugh she clapped her hands. "Mi Dios!" she exclaimed, "you have
the face of a hero of tragedy."

"You have never loved or you would not laugh at me," said Marcelino.

"I never loved! I have been in love fifty times. Why the first time I
ever met that Asneiros I fell in love with him at once. He was dressed
in a gorgeous coat of crimson velvet, and had diamond buckles in his
shoes; it was those buckles that captured me, the first glance at them."

Again she laughed, and this time Marcelino laughed with her.

"But I can tell you one thing I should not like," she said, after a
pause; "if I were very much in love with anyone I should not like to see
him _very_ friendly with some one very much prettier than I am."

"You need never fear that. Most men say that there is no one in Buenos
Aires prettier than you are."

"Traitor! Is not the girl you love fairer to you than any one else in
the world?"

"Dearer, yes. But beauty is to be admired, not loved. It is not
essential to love that the loved one be beautiful."

"Yet the loved one is always fair?"

"Always."

"Even when she turns her back upon you and leaves you and smiles on some
one else?"

"Even then."

"Then I retract my statement that I have been in love fifty times. I
suppose I have never been in love, not even with the Señor Don Ciriaco
Asneiros. I could never forgive a lover who was rude to me and had
smiles for some one else--never."

"The love of women differs from that of men, it is more exacting," said
Marcelino.

"I suppose it is," said Elisa, with something of weariness in her tone.
"You and I have been always very good friends, do you know that there
are people who say that there is more than friendship between us?"

"What matters it what people say?"

"Nothing to us, but if any one has said so to Magdalen it may matter
much to her." Then Elisa looked down confusedly, twining her fingers
together, and with a flush on her fair face.

Marcelino rose from his chair and went into the sala where Doña Josefina
was sitting out of sight, but within hearing of them.

"Aunt," said he, sitting down beside her, "was there any truth in what
you told me, that Magdalen was going to marry Don Ciriaco?"

"I thought there was," replied Doña Josefina quietly. "I know Don
Alfonso wished it, but Magdalen tells me it is quite false, and now I
suppose it is impossible."

Marcelino remained talking with his aunt and Elisa Puyrredon for nearly
an hour, when Don Fausto returned alone, saying that Don Ciriaco
Asneiros could give them no help or information whatever, alleging that
he was merely acting under orders and knew nothing of the cause of the
arrest of Don Alfonso.

"You will speak to your father now, will you not?" said Elisa Puyrredon
to Marcelino, as he took up his hat to go.

"I am going at once," asked Marcelino.

"At last I shall believe that there are some men who know how to love,"
said she to him in a whisper.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was late in the afternoon when Marcelino reached his father's house.
Don Roderigo had left half an hour before for the quinta, where the
family were then staying. He ordered his horse to be saddled and sent
after him to the house of Don Carlos Evaña, whither he proceeded on
foot. He found Don Carlos in his study, his table covered with sheets of
manuscript which he was revising. Marcelino took up some of these sheets
and glanced over them.

"If Don Ciriaco Asneiros still wants proofs of treason, you had better
send him a few of these, Carlos," said he.

"Treason, you say," replied Evaña, "wait a month or two and you will
call them patriotic."

"So soon?"

"For what are we to wait? Everything is now ready, it wants but a spark
and the mine explodes."

"Is this the spark?"

"Scarcely so. This is the wind to keep the spark from going out."

"You seem to have done enough for to-day, a gallop would do you good. I
want you to help me with my father as I helped you with Asneiros."

"You want him to set Don Alfonso at liberty. I tell you he will refuse."

"I hope not, it is a gross injustice."

"Then Don Roderigo is at the quinta?"

"Yes, and I had rather see him there than in the city. He will not like
my interference, and may say things which I should be sorry if any but
ourselves were to hear."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours afterwards Don Roderigo was seated in his sala at the quinta,
his face was flushed, as though something had angered him. Near him sat
Don Carlos Evaña with a quiet smile playing upon his lips. Marcelino
stood leaning against the window frame, evidently suffering bitterly
from some disappointment. Doña Constancia entered the room, and seeing
the sorrow in her son's face walked up to him.

"Do you know, Constancia, what has brought these two young men out here
this evening?" said Don Roderigo.

"They have come to see us, I suppose," answered the lady. "Don Carlos
has been quite a stranger lately."

"Not at all; they have come to ask me to set that traitor Miranda at
liberty."

"I can excuse Marcelino for that," said Doña Constancia. "Don Alfonso
was very good to him when he was wounded."

"Don Alfonso is a physician, and found good practice in his broken ribs.
He was well paid for his trouble."

"I did not know that you paid him," said Marcelino; "he refused any
acknowledgment from me."

"You cannot think that I would accept a favour from a man like him. I
can assure you he was ready enough to take my gold."

"I have no doubt he deserves his imprisonment or the Viceroy would not
have put him in prison, so do not trouble yourself any more about him,
Marcelino," said Doña Constancia.

"It is not about him that I trouble myself," replied Marcelino. "If he
were justly imprisoned I would not say a word for him, but we have made
enquiries and can hear of no accusation having been brought against him,
merely suspicions. And men say----!"

"Who are _we_ that have made those enquiries?" asked Don Roderigo.

"My grandfather and Don Fausto as well as myself."

"They were with me to-day. In future you had better leave such enquiries
to them."

"But, father, have not you heard how people talk about it all over the
city? It has brought discredit upon the Viceroy, and upon all those who
act with him. We all thought that the days of arbitrary imprisonments
were gone by."

"What matters it what the mob says? You may be sure that the Viceroy has
good reasons for what he does."

"Then why does he not bring him to trial? Why does he say that he does
not know anything of the charges against him, and refer those who ask
him to you?"

"I have given you my answer, and I request that you never mention the
man's name to me again." So saying Don Roderigo rose from his chair and
left the room.

As Don Roderigo left the room by one door Dolores entered it by another.

"What is to do?" said she. "Papa looked quite angry."

"There is this to do, my sister," said Marcelino; "that the cause of
Spain is lost in America. There are many of us Creoles who would have
gladly joined the Spaniards in raising up in America a new kingdom for
King Ferdinand now that the French have taken his old one, but we demand
equal rights and equal laws for all, and the best of the Spaniards will
not yield that. There is one law for Spaniards and another law for
Americans."

"What nonsense you talk, Marcelino. King Ferdinand will soon win back
his own kingdom again."

"By the help of the English?" said Don Carlos.

"Yes, the English will help him. But what is it all about?" said
Dolores. "Papa was angry."

"Marcelino wanted him to ask the Viceroy to pardon Don Alfonso Miranda,
and to let him go," said Doña Constancia.

"No wonder then, that papa was angry. How could you think of making such
a request, Marcelino?"

"I did not ask for pardon, my sister, I asked only for justice."

"Justice! of course he will have justice, he will be well punished."

"For what, fair lady?" said Don Carlos.

"They would not put him in prison unless he deserved it. I am not a bit
sorry for him, but I am for Magdalen. Is she stopping yet with Aunt
Josefina?"

"Yes," said Don Carlos, "the poor girl has nowhere else to go to."

"And I suppose the Señor Asneiros goes there every day to see her?"

"He has not been near the house since she has been there."

"Then do you think it is all over between him and Magdalen?"

"There never was anything between them. Magdalen merely looked upon him
as a friend of her father's, but now she says that he only went to the
quinta to spy upon him."

"That is strange; but Aunt Josefina is always trying to get people
married who care nothing about each other. I thought it very strange
that Magdalen should care anything for a man like Major Asneiros."

"Then we shall have another laugh at Aunt Josefina, she is always making
mistakes of that sort, but she never tires of her amusement," said Doña
Constancia.

"I fear it will be no laughing matter for Don Alfonso," said Don Carlos.

"I will tell you what I will do," said Dolores, going up to Marcelino
and leaning upon his arm. "In a few days, I will ask papa to speak to
the Viceroy for Don Alfonso; but not yet, he is angry now, and no
wonder, when you talk to him about injustice."

       *       *       *       *       *

Marcelino and Don Carlos remained that night at the quinta, the next
morning, as they rode together to the city, Marcelino said to his
friend:

"You think, then, that our errand has been successful?"

"I think it has," said Evaña. "Don Roderigo will yield to the prayer of
his daughter what he refused when you asked for justice."

"From my father I hoped better things than that."

"Do not blame Don Roderigo, it is the Spanish system which makes such
things possible. Unlimited power debases not only those who are subject
to it, but quite as much, or even more so, those who exercise it. A few
years of such power as he has at present, would change your father from
a most liberal-minded man to a despot."

"We can only put an end to this system by establishing a government of
our own," said Marcelino.

"Then let us do it at once. For what are we waiting? The people and the
troops all anticipate a change, they wait only for the leaders to give
the signal."



CHAPTER II

HOW DON GREGORIO LOPEZ FOR THE THIRD TIME SOUGHT AN ANSWER TO THE
QUESTION OF THE DAY


Spain has fallen, but that made no difference to Buenos Aires, all was
apparently as it had ever been, Spaniards were the lords, Americans were
but vassals born to do their will. Yet in one respect all was not as it
had been, the troops who upheld the power of the Spaniards were no
longer Spaniards also, they were Americans.

Then was seen the anomaly of a small handful of men ruling over an
immense country, whose power was based neither upon the will of the
people nor upon brute force. Neither was there any external power upon
which they might fall back were their authority disputed, their power
rested solely upon an old tradition. They were men born in the Old
World, who upon this accident of birth based their claim to rule in the
New.

Again Marcelino Ponce de Leon urged upon his grandfather that he should
call together a meeting of the principal citizens, and ask them this
question which was in the mouths of every one:

"What shall we do?"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a calm night in April, when men, singly or in couples, wended
their way through the streets of the city as they had done on two former
occasions, and sought the house of Don Gregorio Lopez:

One password, "Libertad," admitted them to the house and to the large
inner room.

Valentin Lopez y Viana, who had a list of those who had been invited,
and who had accosted each man on his entrance, announced to his father
that all were present, whereupon Don Gregorio took his place at the head
of the table, and when his guests had arranged themselves round the
room, rose to his feet and spoke:

"Señores," said he, "the question which I have invited you here this
evening to discuss, is one which occupies the minds of all. We have no
king, for our king is in a French prison; we have no longer a
mother-country, the fall of Spain has been proclaimed aloud in our
streets. How, then, shall we submit any longer to be ruled by a handful
of Spaniards, who derive their authority from a power which no longer
exists? We in no way disown our allegiance to Ferdinand our king, if we
assert our right to provide ourselves for the government of the country
until such time as he may be able to re-assume his authority over us.

"Señores, the idea of choosing from amongst ourselves the men who shall
rule over us is now no novelty amongst us. Spain herself has set us the
example. What we demand is a Junta. Among us there can be no question of
our right to demand a Junta, the question I propose to you is this":

"Has the day come for us to demand the appointment of this Junta?"

"Yes, yes!" shouted several of the younger men, as Don Gregorio paused
and looked round him.

"A Junta! a Junta! we are free," shouted the others.

Then rose up Don Carlos Evaña from the chair on which he was seated,
half way down the room.

"Junta! Junta! like that of Spain," said he. "We are a free people,
therefore we must take example from a people who are not free, and must
have a Junta to rule over us.

"What are these words that I hear? Have we not suffered long enough from
the tyranny of Spain? Are we yet, when we cast from us the domination of
Spain, to set her up before us as an example? Why should we take Spain
as our example. We are a free people and demand a government of our own,
but why look to Spain for a form of government suited to a free people.
The history of the whole world is open before us, there we may learn how
in ancient days free men have chosen their own rulers, and have been at
once victorious abroad and prosperous at home. Let us not look to Spain
for any guidance in the path before us, the example of Spain can be
nothing more than a warning to us. Neither need we look far back into
the history of the world for an example we may follow; in our own days a
great people has risen against its oppressors, has stood forth as the
champion of freedom to an entire continent, has fought unaided against
the united strength of many despots, has triumphed over them and has
given liberty to a multitude of peoples. France, emulating the most
glorious days of Greece and Rome, freed herself from tyranny, and, as a
Republic, gave to all the world an example of heroism such as even her
enemies were fain to regard with admiration.

"Señores, let us talk no more of a Junta like that of Spain, or of a
king, but let us concert measures for calling together a representative
assembly of the people, and for proclaiming at once the Argentine
republic."

Opposite to Don Carlos Evaña sat Don Cornelio Saavedra, a handsome man
with somewhat stern features, dressed in an old-fashioned uniform, and
wearing his hair combed back and united in one broad plait which fell on
to his shoulders, which style of dressing the hair was _de rigueur_ in
the regiment of the Patricios, of which he was commandant. His face
flushed with anger, and as the speaker sat down he made as though he
would rise at once, but Don Fausto Velasquez, who sat next to him, laid
his hand upon his arm, saying to him:

"Cosas de Evaña! What matters it?"

Then several spoke one after the other, some saying a few words without
rising to their feet, others interrupting those who spoke with
contradictions, and there was much confusion. At length Don Gregorio
Lopez leaned over and whispered to Don Manuel Belgrano:

"Speak you something, to you they will listen."

Then Belgrano stood up and there was silence.

"Señores," said he, "the idea of an Argentine Republic seems new to many
of you, to others of us it is not new. We have thought of it years ago,
but we thought of it then and we think of it now as a possibility, which
may be considered of at some date far in the future. It is not for the
consideration of any such matter that we have been invited to meet
together this evening. We look upon ourselves already as a free people,
while our present government is composed entirely of Spaniards, who are
responsible to no one. The means of putting an end to this anomaly in
the government of a free people is obvious and being of Spanish origin
will therefore be the more readily adopted by us; the appointment of a
Junta of government, and the immediate abolition of the viceregal power.
A Junta may not be the most perfect form of government, but it is the
form which we can adopt at once, and which will secure to us opportunity
for the full discussion of plans for some superior form of government."

The words of Don Manuel Belgrano, spoken calmly and deliberately,
soothed at once the excitement which had been produced by the speech of
Don Carlos Evaña; as he resumed his seat Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon
rose.

"Señores," said he, "the only measure which is possible for us as an
immediate step, is the substitution of a Junta named by the people for a
Viceroy named by Spain; this I think even my friend Don Carlos Evaña
will admit. Now the question before us is, not whether we be ruled by a
Junta or an assembly, but whether we demand at once the resignation of
the Viceroy and the vesting of his powers in a Junta. Shall we demand
this at once, or shall we wait? If we must yet wait how much longer are
we to wait, and why?

"I say that the day has come, and that any longer delay in the assertion
of our rights expose each one of us to suffer from arbitrary acts
against which there is no appeal."

As Marcelino sat down he was warmly applauded, and many shouted:

"The day has come! The day has come! Junta! No more of an irresponsible
government. Down with the Viceroy!"

Then Don Cornelio Saavedra rose to his feet and there was instant
silence.

"Señores," he said, "it is not for us who are men of experience to give
heed to the dreams of an enthusiast; let us look upon the peculiar
circumstances in which we are placed with the sober eyes of mature
reason. We are colonists of Spain, we are loyal subjects of King
Ferdinand VII., but it very just that we should not obey irresponsible
rulers. If it were, as has been stated, a fact, that there exists no
power to whom our present rulers are responsible, I should immediately
concur with many here present in at once demanding the appointment of a
governing Junta. But such a power does exist; so long as the Central
Junta of Spain holds its position at Seville, the second city of Spain,
that Junta constitutes in the absence of the king, the legal government
of Spain and the Indies, and to its commands we, as loyal subjects of
King Ferdinand, are bound to submit. Some of you have cried out that
the day has come for the appointment of a Junta of our own; I tell you
that so long as the Central Junta maintains itself at Seville, Spain has
not fallen, and the day has not come. When the French force the passes
of the Sierra de la Morena, when a French army chases the Junta from
Seville, then Spain has fallen, then may we with justice demand a Junta
of our own, without violating our loyalty to our king. I pray to God
that that day may yet be far off, that it may never arrive, but if it
come then I will join you in demanding what will then be our right, a
Junta of our own."

Don Cornelio was listened to with deep attention, and when he sat down
men looked at each other, many seeming anxious to reply to him, more
looking towards Evaña, as though they expected him to speak. Then Don
Gregorio Lopez rose again.

"Señores," said he, "the question I have asked you has, I think, been
satisfactorily answered by Don Cornelio Saavedra. Let us do nothing
rashly; in so important a step as this we have discussed, it is of the
first importance that we be all united. By many of us the establishment
of a Junta of government may be looked upon as a first step only; be it
so, but let them join us to accomplish this first step, there will
afterwards be time enough to discuss what further steps the majority of
us may think necessary. Let us await with patience the day when Seville
shall fall into the power of the French, then we will look to Don
Cornelio for that powerful assistance which will make the establishment
of a governing Junta a matter of no difficulty whatever."

Don Juan Martin Puyrredon, who had returned from exile two days before,
had sat near to the head of the table all the evening without speaking.
As the door was thrown open, and the meeting commenced to disperse, he
crossed the room and remained for some minutes speaking in low tones to
Don Cornelio Saavedra, after which they left the house together.

Two days after this Don Juan Martin held another meeting in his own
house, to which none were invited save military officers, both native
and Spanish, above the rank of captain. To these he propounded the same
question which had been proposed by Don Gregorio Lopez and his friends.
The native officers were almost unanimous that the day was come for the
deposition of the Viceroy and the establishment of a Junta Gubernativa,
but many of the Spanish officers demurred, saying that they could see no
present necessity for so extreme a measure.

After much time had been expended in useless discussion, Don Cornelio
Saavedra rose and spoke to the same effect as he had spoken at the house
of Don Gregorio. His words carried weight with them, and his proposal
met with general acquiescence.

Throughout the city it soon became known that the principal citizens and
the military commandants, had agreed together that the fall of Seville
was to be the signal for the deposition of the Viceroy, and the
establishment of a Junta Gubernativa, which should rule in the name of
King Ferdinand over the whole Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires.



CHAPTER III

THE OPENING OF THE MONTH OF MAY


It was the first week in May, the family of Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon
had returned to the city, Dolores had come to spend the day with her
Aunt Josefina, and was sitting with her and Magdalen Miranda in the
ante-sala. The door opened, and in came Marcelino and Don Carlos Evaña.

Marcelino went at once to Magdalen and took her hand.

"I have come to bring you good news," he said, "Don Alfonso will be set
at liberty to-day. Don Fausto has gone with the order to the Cabildo."

"Thanks, thanks," said Magdalen. "Poor papa! at last!"

"Do not thank me, thank Lola."

"I knew papa could, if he would try," said Dolores. "The Viceroy will do
anything that papa asks him. I made him promise me last night; you know
I told you I would not rest until I had made him promise."

She could say no more, for Magdalen threw her arms round her neck,
kissing her, and the two girls wept together, speaking to each other
with many endearing words, till, becoming more composed, they sat hand
in hand beside each other, waiting; Magdalen listening with all her ears
for the sound of a footstep in the patio.

Half an hour they waited; then was heard the voice of Don Fausto.
Magdalen sprang from her chair, and ran out into the patio. An old, old
man, bowed with weakness, tottered towards her, leaning on the arm of
Don Fausto, so old, so bent, Magdalen could hardly believe her eyes.
With a cry she ran up to him, and threw her arms round him, it was her
father.

"Chica!" said Don Alfonso, straightening himself a little, but he said
no more, suffering himself to be led into the house and seated on a
chair, where he looked round him with a bewildered gaze, apparently deaf
to the welcome of Doña Josefina and to the congratulations of the
others.

Magdalen drew a stool to his feet and seated herself upon it, leaning
upon his knees.

"Papa, won't you speak to me?" she said. "You are free now, we will go
back to the quinta and you will soon be quite strong again."

Don Alfonso laid his hand upon her head and smiled at her, then looking
up with an anxious gaze at Don Fausto he said:

"And my coffer, where is it? Did not you tell me they would give me
everything back?"

"Yes, I have an order to Major Asneiros that he return to you everything
he took from the house on the night of your arrest."

"Give me the order," said Marcelino, "I will go and get them at once."

Don Fausto drew a folded paper from his pocket and gave it to Marcelino,
who immediately left the house. During his absence Don Alfonso still sat
in his chair with a vacant stare in his eyes, answering nothing to the
questions that were addressed to him, and resisting every effort of Doña
Josefina, who pressed him to eat something. Dolores placed a basin of
broth in his hands; mechanically he took the spoon and stirred it, but
put it away from him untasted.

Marcelino was not long absent. When his footstep was heard in the patio
Don Alfonso pushed his daughter from him, and rising to his feet walked
to the room door to meet him, with a firmer step than seemed possible
from his former gait. Marcelino had with him two peons, one of whom
carried a large package of books and papers, the other bore on his
shoulder a small black coffer, bound with brass bands and with a brass
lock. To one of the handles of this coffer hung a bunch of keys tied
with a string.

"Bring it in, bring it in," said Don Alfonso to the peon who carried the
coffer.

"Jesus! but it is heavy," said the man.

Then as he set it down roughly on the floor there came from it a
jingling sound as of pieces of metal striking against one another. At
this sound Don Alfonso's eyes sparkled, and he rubbed his hands
together; then, stooping, he took hold of the coffer by one of the
handles and tried to lift it, but it was too heavy for his wasted
strength.

"Yes, it is heavy, it is heavy," he said, chuckling strangely to himself
and again rubbing his hands together.

After this he took up the basin of broth which he had refused, and as he
supped it he commenced talking, but when they questioned him of the
lonely days he had spent in prison he shuddered and would answer
nothing.

In the afternoon, Don Fausto took Don Alfonso and Magdalen out again to
the quinta in his carriage, Don Alfonso insisting upon having the black
coffer placed inside and sitting with his feet upon it. He seemed to
have recovered strength surprisingly since the morning. Magdalen was in
great spirits at finding everything at the quinta in good order, and
that many needful repairs had been made during their absence, but she
did not then know that this was owing to Marcelino Ponce de Leon and Don
Carlos Evaña, one or other of whom had visited the place every day
during the imprisonment of Don Alfonso.

Don Fausto left them at sundown, feeling no anxiety for Don Alfonso,
whose prostration in the morning he attributed solely to the effects of
solitary confinement upon one who was accustomed to live much in the
open air.

Soon after dark Magdalen who was setting out her tea-things, was
startled by a shrill cry which came from her father's room. Running in
she could see nothing, there being no light in the room, but she could
hear a low moaning. She called aloud for her father, but there was no
answer. Attracted by her cries, the single maid-servant who lived in the
house with them came running with a lighted candle in her hand, to know
what was the cause of the alarm, then Magdalen saw her father stretched,
apparently lifeless, on the floor. Beside him stood the black coffer,
open and with the lid thrown back; on the floor lay a small hand-lamp,
broken; strewn about lay a number of silver coins, and under her
father's hand there lay something which had been wrapped in paper, but
from which the paper was partly torn away.

The two had great difficulty in raising Don Alfonso and laying him upon
his bed, and for long all their efforts to restore consciousness were in
vain. When at last he opened his eyes he gazed vacantly round him,
answering nothing to Magdalen's eager questions, till he saw the black
coffer which they had left untouched. Then he started up, and struggling
from their hands staggered to it, throwing himself upon his knees before
it, and groping with his hands inside of it. He pulled out handfuls of
silver coins, throwing them on the floor, and several packages wrapped
in paper, like the one Magdalen had noticed lying on the floor when she
had discovered her father's state. From each of these packages he tore
off the wrapper as he took it out and threw it from him. Each package as
it fell upon the floor gave a dull, heavy sound, as though it were a
block of lead. As he threw from him the last package, he started to his
feet, clutching his hair with both hands, and uttering a wild cry like
that which had brought Magdalen to him.

Then he burst out with foul curses and imprecations, grinding his teeth,
and stamping his feet in his rage, while Magdalen and the maid both
looked upon him in terror, thinking he had gone mad. When at last his
rage subsided, he clasped his hands together and bent over the coffer
once more.

"Not one! not one have they left me!" he exclaimed. "Fool that I was,
ever to let a Spaniard inside my house!"

With a hollow groan he fell forward over the coffer, striking his head
upon the floor. Again Magdalen and her maid lifted him up and laid him
upon his bed, where for hours he lay insensible, breathing heavily, and
when at last he began to speak it was in incoherent words, mingled with
curses, which made Magdalen shudder as she listened.

So the weary night wore through, and with the day came more efficient
help, but days and days passed ere Don Alfonso knew anything of what
went on about him, or recognised his daughter. These days were a fearful
trial to Magdalen, yet there was one who came to see her every day,
whose loving words strengthened her and encouraged her in her arduous
duty. Not a day passed that Marcelino Ponce de Leon did not sit with her
for at least an hour, by the bedside of her unconscious father, telling
her of all that was happening in those days, big with the destiny of a
young nation, seeking counsel and solace from her in the sore struggle
which was going on within himself. Years before he had thought of the
day when he must decide between his father and his country, he had
thought of it with trembling and dismay, and pondered long and anxiously
of how he might avert it. Now the day was come, his resolution was
fixed, yet it was none the less painful to him to array himself in
direct opposition to his father, that his resolve was the result of
mature deliberation.

Magdalen fully sympathised with him in his anxious wish, if it were yet
possible, so to arrange matters that Don Roderigo might yield a tardy
assent to a new order of affairs, and forget that he was a Spaniard for
the sake of his children, who were Americans. But as she listened to the
incoherent words and occasional curses which fell from the lips of her
own suffering father, her heart refused to let her counsel Marcelino to
give up one iota of what he considered his rights as a free-born citizen
of Buenos Aires, or to shrink from any duty, however painful, which the
assertion of those rights for himself and others might entail upon him.

And through all those days between those two there passed no word of
love, yet were their hearts open to one another, the most simple words
that all the world might hear, yet bore from one heart to the other a
message of love, the most common act of politeness became a caress.

       *       *       *       *       *

A week after the return of Don Alfonso to the Miserere, Don Baltazar de
Cisneros, the Viceroy, gave audience in one of his private apartments,
to two in whom he placed great confidence, Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon
and Don Ciriaco Asneiros.

"I have brought the Señor Asneiros that he himself give you an account
of this affair," said Don Roderigo.

"You opened the coffer yourself?" said the Viceroy to the major. "What
was there in it?"

"Some few papers written in English which appeared to be bonds or
titles, about $400 in silver coins, and some heavy packets wrapped in
paper, what they were I did not look, I was searching for documents,"
replied Asneiros.

"And did no one but yourself examine the coffer?"

"No one. When I saw that there was nothing there of what I expected to
find, I relocked it, and kept the keys in my own possession, till I
received an order, signed by your Excellency, to deliver it and the
other articles I had brought from the Miserere."

"But with false keys any one might have opened the coffer in your
absence?"

In reply to this Asneiros merely shrugged his shoulders:

"And you did not open any of those heavy packages of which you speak?"
said Don Roderigo.

"I pricked them with my knife and found them all solid metal, but I did
not open one of them. They say now that they are ingots of lead, and
that the medico expected to find them of gold and has gone out of his
mind. There are men who will believe anything, and there are others who
will say and do anything to throw discredit upon a loyal Spaniard."

"It is a most unfortunate affair," said Don Roderigo. "The people are in
such an evil frame of mind at present that they lay upon us the blame
for any unfortunate accident that may befall."

"It were easy to cure them," said Asneiros.

"How?" asked the Viceroy.

"Shoot half a dozen men that I can point out to you."

"And bring on a revolution," said Don Roderigo.

"When men talk treason in their houses without hindrance, a revolution
is not far off," said Asneiros. "Your Excellency thinks the troops will
not support you, and whilst they are officered as they are at present
they will not, but shut the troops in their barracks, arrest all the
Creole officers, and commission me to raise a regiment for you, which I
can do in two days, and I assure you these citizens will think twice
before they will fight."

The Viceroy looked from one to the other irresolute. Asneiros was not
the first Spaniard who had warned him of danger, and had counselled
extreme measures of repression ere it was too late.

"There is at least one regiment upon which I can rely," said he.

"The Tijo," said Asneiros; "it is little better than a skeleton
regiment, but it would be easy to bring it up to the full complement,
and there is only one regiment from which there is any danger, the
Patricios. In the other regiments all you have to do is to change the
officers, and they will serve you as well as the Tijo. There are scores
of Spaniards unemployed, while these Creoles strut about the streets in
uniform as if the city were theirs."

"Any extreme measure will force them into revolt and then the city will
be theirs," said Don Roderigo. "Your Excellency would do well to shut
your ears to such counsel, our only chance lies in temporising. The
misfortunes of our country have excited the most extravagant hopes in
these insolent Creoles; as you know it has been actually proposed among
them to demand a Junta Gubernativa."

"That was the doing of your friend Don Juan Martin Puyrredon," said the
Viceroy. "It was false clemency on my part to listen to your request and
permit his return."

"I think not," said Don Roderigo; "he was not alone in proposing this
Junta, and it is better that if any such revolutionary measure be forced
upon us, we should have men such as he to treat with, and not men whose
heads are full of extravagant French ideas. There are men in the city
who look upon a Junta as only the first step to the establishment of a
republic."

"The people generally will not support them," said the Viceroy.

"At present they will not; but if we irritate them by measures of
repression they will commit any extravagance."

"But we must repress with severity any such idea as the establishment of
a Junta."

"Our best plan would be to forestall any popular demand by appointing a
Junta ourselves."

"They will want a Junta of Creoles."

"They will; therefore it would be wise to prevent all chance of their
demanding a Junta by appointing one ourselves. If we set up a Junta half
Spaniards and half Creoles, and appoint you President, all the moderate
men among the Creoles will side with us."

"Well, I will take the matter into consideration," replied the Viceroy;
"but I am not disposed even to yield so far as to appoint a mixed Junta,
until no other course is left to me."

"Your Excellency does not fully appreciate the danger."

"I see no necessity for any immediate action, but you will do me the
favour to advise me if you see symptoms of any increase in the popular
excitement."

"When all remedial measures will be too late," replied Don Roderigo;
then seeing the Viceroy indisposed to continue the colloquy, he took up
his hat, and with a low bow retired.

Don Ciriaco Asneiros lingered till he had seen Don Roderigo pass through
the first ante-room, then stepping up to the Viceroy he said to him in a
low voice:

"Do not alarm yourself, your Excellency, at the warnings of this worthy
gentleman. We all know him; though loyal, he is so intimately connected
with Creole families that at times he forgets that he is a Spaniard.
What want we with Creoles in a Junta, or a Junta at all? What we want
are troops, troops, good Spanish soldiers, upon whom we can depend, and
I assure you we will soon bring these Creoles to reason. When I told you
that I could raise you a regiment in two days I did not speak without
thinking, we Spaniards are tired of the insolence of these Creoles."

"You were not at that meeting at the house of the Señor Puyrredon?" said
the Viceroy.

"These Creoles know me too well to ask me to talk treason with them."

"If they had resolved upon anything, we should know it?"

"According to what I have heard, the resolution is postponed until there
come more certain news from Spain."

"Think you that this Puyrredon is a dangerous man?"

"Without doubt; but there are more dangerous. Whilst the Señor Evaña
lives in Buenos Aires your Excellency is always in danger of some
conspiracy."

"Evaña! But against him you have been unable to bring me any proof."

"Give me authority to arrest him and search his house."

"For the present there is no danger, this excitement will calm down,
when something positive occurs, there will be time enough for severe
measures." So saying the Viceroy bowed and dismissed the major, who left
him at once and walked away to his own house in deep thought.

In an inner room of this house Don Santiago Liniers, ex-Viceroy of
Buenos Aires and Marshal of the armies of Spain, walked restlessly up
and down. Don Baltazar de Cisneros had not dared to send him under
arrest to Spain in accordance with his instructions, but had exiled him
to the learned city of Cordova, where he considered that his popularity
would cease to be dangerous. Liniers, hearing of the excitement in
Buenos Aires, had returned in secret, proposing to offer his services to
the Viceroy for the preservation of the authority of Spain. Asneiros had
been commissioned by him to speak to Cisneros telling him of his
arrival, if he found him disposed to adopt stringent measures of
repression, but not otherwise.

As Asneiros entered the room Liniers paused in his walk, waiting for him
to speak.

"Don Baltazar will do nothing," said Asneiros. "Let us not think any
more of him, he is lost. Before many days we shall have a Junta of
Porteños."

"And this Evaña, can you do nothing against him?"

"Nothing. He has always the protection of your friend Don Roderigo. But
have no fear, he will fall with the rest."

"When? A Junta is a revolution, and he will be one of the chiefs. He is
a man of terrible energy and respects nothing."

"Without doubt he is our most dangerous enemy."

"Then you feel sure that we shall have a Junta?"

"Or something worse, and without troops what can we do? Don Baltazar
gives not the slightest attention to my offer."

"Then my journey here will result in nothing."

"Return to Cordova, it is the best thing you can do, but prepare at once
for a second reconquest of this Buenos Aires. Against a Junta of
Porteños it will be a very easy matter to stir up the Provinces."

"To Cordova then this night," said Liniers. "Adios! Buenos Aires; twice
have I saved you from foreigners, yet once more will I come to save you
from your own people."



CHAPTER IV

DIAS DE LA PATRIA


In January the French armies forced the passes of the Sierra de la
Morena, and poured like a deluge over the smiling plains of Andalusia,
sweeping everything before them. Cordova and Granada fell, and on the
1st February King Joseph, at the head of his triumphant army, marched
into the city of Seville.

Rumours of these events reached Buenos Aires in April, but till a month
later there arrived no certain information. On the 13th May full details
were received by a ship from Europe which anchored in the port of Monte
Video. On the 14th the news reached Buenos Aires.

Don Manuel Belgrano had been for a fortnight absent from the city,
recruiting his strength and refreshing his jaded energies in quiet
solitude at a quinta he possessed at the little town of San Isidro,
which stands on the banks of the river about five leagues north of
Buenos Aires, leaving the _Diario_ in the care of Marcelino Ponce de
Leon. On the afternoon of the 14th he received a letter from Marcelino.

"Come at once, we have need of you. The moment has arrived to work for
the Patria, and to achieve our longed-for liberty and independence."

Before nightfall Don Manuel was again in the city. A meeting of the
secret committee was at once convened, not one of the brotherhood was
absent, long and earnestly they discussed the measures they should
adopt. The proposition of Don Carlos Evaña to appoint a committee of
public safety with absolute powers, and to proclaim a Republic, was
overruled. It was determined to call upon the Ayuntamiento of the city
to appoint a Junta, elected in "Cabildo Abierto," which should unite the
powers of the various corporations; that this Junta should invite the
concurrence of each Province of the Viceroyalty for the purpose of
assembling a Congress which should decide upon the future of the
country; and that for the prevention of any attempt to oppose the
authority of the Junta the first act of this body should be to despatch
an army into the interior, the commander of which should be invested
with ample power for the repression of any hostile movement.

       *       *       *       *       *

For three days the city was in a state of great agitation; Spain had
fallen, the colonies of Spain were free.

"What shall be done?"

"What authority shall take the place of that which exists no longer?"

Every man asked these questions of himself, and of his neighbour, and
the members of the secret committee, spreading themselves through the
city, did all in their power to increase the general excitement, and to
prepare the way for such answers to these questions as should secure for
ever the liberties of Buenos Aires.

Again the Viceroy sought the counsel of Don Roderigo, repenting him that
he had not followed his advice, and prepared beforehand an answer to
these questions which convulsed the city. In accordance with his present
advice he now published a fly-sheet giving in detail an account of all
the recent events of Spain, which he followed up on the 18th by a
proclamation, recommending the people for their own sake to preserve
order and union, until such time as he, in concert with the other
Viceroys of Spain in South America, might adopt such measures as were
requisite for the public well-being, and for the due preservation of the
royal authority in America.

That same day, the 18th May, Don Cornelio Saavedra and Don Manuel
Belgrano applied to the Ayuntamiento in the name of the citizens that
they should:

"Without delay convene a Cabildo Abierto, so that by a general assembly
of the people it might be determined whether the Viceroy should resign
his powers into the hands of a Junta of government for the better
security of the public weal."

On the night of the 19th the Viceroy called together all the commandants
of the troops quartered in the city, both Spaniards and native, and
announced to them that he depended upon them to put a stop to this
demand for a Cabildo Abierto, and to maintain his authority. To this Don
Cornelio Saavedra replied:

"Your Excellency cannot count upon me nor upon the Patricios for that
purpose. Our future and that of America is in question, and we do not
consider it secure in your hands. The time has come for your Excellency
to resign your authority; the source of that authority no longer exists,
therefore it also has ended."

With one exception all the officers present supported Don Cornelio, and
the deposition of the Viceroy was thus virtually achieved.

During these days of excitement the secret committee had admitted
several new members to their counsels. On the night of the 20th they
issued orders to the native troops to remain in their barracks in
readiness for any emergency. The troops obeyed, as though the committee
were some recognised authority. At the same time they resolved that two
of their number should wait upon the Viceroy, and notify to him that his
authority had ceased. Dr Don Juan Jose Castelli and Comandante Don
Martin Rodriguez were chosen for this perilous mission.

The fort was that night garrisoned by a grenadier corps of native
troops, the officers of which were for the most part Spaniards. With the
two envoys went Comandante Terrada, who, entering the fort with them,
took command of the grenadiers. Without sending forward to announce
their visit, the envoys proceeded straight to the private apartments of
the Viceroy, who, far from expecting any such visitors was playing cards
with some friends. Castelli spoke first;

"Most excellent sir," said he, "it is our painful duty to announce to
you, that we come in the name of the people and of the army to notify to
your Excellency that your authority as Viceroy has ceased."

These words caused the greatest consternation among those present, but
Cisneros started angrily to his feet.

"What insolence is this?" said he to Castelli; "how dare you insult thus
the King in the person of his representative? This is the foulest
outrage you could commit against his authority."

"There is no need for anger, your Excellency," replied Castelli with
perfect calmness; "there is no alternative."

"Señor, they have given us five minutes in which to return with your
answer. Your Excellency would do well to think carefully what you do,"
said Don Martin Rodriguez.

Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, who was one of those present, drew the
Viceroy with him into an adjoining room, whence the latter soon
returned.

"Señores," said he to the envoys, "I deeply lament the evils which will
fall upon this country in consequence of the step you have taken. But if
the people cease to respect me, and the army abandon me, pues! do what
you will."[12]

Next day, the 21st, the Cabildo applied to the Viceroy for authority to:

"Convene a meeting of well-disposed citizens, who in public congress may
give expression to the will of the people, so as to put an end to this
state of dangerous excitement."

The Viceroy gave the needful permission, and the Cabildo, composed half
of Spaniards and half natives invited between four and five hundred of
the leading citizens to meet the next morning in the saloons of the
Cabildo.

On the 22nd, at nine o'clock, the citizens commenced to assemble; more
than 250 accepted the invitation, while the Plaza Mayor and the
approaches to it were filled with dense crowds of people, a detachment
of troops being stationed at each corner to preserve order.

The place where this memorable assembly was convened, was a large saloon
in the upper story of the Cabildo, to-day occupied by the Tribunals of
Justice. Long straight-backed forms, borrowed from the churches, were
arranged in lines down this saloon from end to end. At the head of the
room was placed a large table covered with a crimson cloth, round which
were seated in arm-chairs the bishops, the members of the Ayuntamiento
and Cabildo, and other public functionaries, who presided over the
meeting.

The discussion was opened by the following address from the Cabildo:

"Faithful and generous people of Buenos Aires, you are now met together,
speak then with all freedom, but with the dignity which is natural to
you, showing yourselves a wise, noble, docile, and generous people."

In this meeting three parties were represented. One, headed by the
bishop and the Spanish employés, desired the continuance of the Viceroy
in his office; the second, which included many Spaniards, such as Don
Roderigo Ponce de Leon, who preferred measures of conciliation, desired
to invest the higher powers in the Cabildo, until such time as a
provisional government might be organised, which should rule under the
supreme authority of the government of Spain; the third, which included
all the more ardent of the patriots, desired the deposition of the
Viceroy, and the establishment of a government chosen by the people.

Many speeches were made by the most distinguished orators of all
parties, the discussion and the voting on many different propositions
lasted all day, and the Cabildo clock sounded the midnight hour ere the
meeting broke up. The resolution which was at length adopted by a
majority of votes was proposed by Don Cornelio Saavedra, who was
supported by Belgrano, by all the more moderate among the patriots, and
by some of the Spaniards. It was as follows:

"The permanence of the Viceroy in his office and the continuance of the
present system of government being incompatible with public tranquility,
the Cabildo is hereby authorised to appoint a Junta in conformity with
the general ideas of the people and with present circumstances, which
shall exercise supreme authority until a meeting of deputies from the
other cities and towns of the Viceroyalty may be convened."

So terminated the first session of the first assembly of the Argentine
people.

From this assembly Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon walked rapidly away to the
fort, where the Viceroy had been for hours awaiting him.

"Then all is lost," said the Viceroy, as Don Roderigo read to him the
resolution of the assembly.

"By no means," replied Don Roderigo. "Everything remains in the hands of
the Cabildo, and I do not think it will be difficult to appoint a Junta
which will keep the power in our own hands. You cease to be Viceroy, we
will make you President of the Junta."

But as Don Roderigo walked away to his own house his heart was heavy
within him, not from sorrow only, but from anger. That day one of the
most violent speeches made at the assembly had been spoken by his own
son, and Don Carlos Evaña, from whom he had hoped for aid in
establishing a better order of affairs, though he had not spoken, had
been incessantly active all day among the most determined opponents of
Spanish rule, reconciling the varied opinions which prevailed among
them, and at length uniting them to vote for the resolution which was
carried.

The next day the sun shone gloriously upon an emancipated city. The
bright but not scorching beams of the sun of May, shone upon a people
who woke for the first time conscious that they were a people. In
deliberative assembly they had decided upon the future of their own
country, they had decided that they were no longer to be ruled by
foreigners, responsible only to a foreign court, but were to be ruled by
men chosen by themselves, by deputies from every city and town, by men
who, representing the people, should be the exponents of their will, and
should be responsible to the people alone.

The streets and public places were thronged with crowds of men, who
greeted each other joyously, looking with a friendly eye even upon the
Spaniards who passed among them, for Spaniards were no longer tyrants to
be dreaded, and might be with them citizens of a new nation.

The Cabildo met at an early hour, and deliberated long with closed
doors, hours passed and nothing was done, no new announcement was made
to satisfy the eagerness of the joyous people. The Viceroy still
occupied his official apartments at the fort, still the sentry paced to
and fro before his door, to all appearance he was Viceroy yet, and the
Junta was as yet but as a thing spoken of, as a thing which had no
existence. So the day wore on, and the joyousness of the people
disappeared and became impatience.

The secret committee had ceased to be a secret committee, its existence
was known to the whole city, men spoke of it as the "Revolutionary
Committee," and having none other to whom they might look, looked to the
members of this self-appointed committee as their leaders.

The meetings of the committee were no longer secret, many men of
influence among the townsmen joined them on the 23rd May, many of the
officers of the native regiments sought their advice on that day, and
proffered their services for the enforcement of their resolutions.

At the house of the Señor Rodriguez Peña the committee was assembled,
awaiting the announcement that the Cabildo had formally decreed the
deposition of the Viceroy, awaiting also with anxiety the list of the
members of the new Junta. No such announcement, no such list reached
them. The delay roused in them suspicion, as it had roused impatience in
the people.

But, dreading the effect of a popular commotion, they determined to do
all they could to allay the excitement of the people, and to demand from
the Cabildo the immediate carrying out of the resolution of the assembly
of the day previous.

Don Cornelio Saavedra and Don Manuel Belgrano were deputed to wait upon
the Cabildo, and the rest of the committee dispersed about the city,
where they soon calmed the agitation of the people and restored general
confidence.

As the brilliant sun which had shone upon the city throughout this
memorable day touched the western horizon, a company of the Patricios,
with drums beating before them and bayonets fixed, marched through the
streets, a guard of honour to a herald from the Cabildo, who at each
street-corner proclaimed in a loud voice that the power of the Viceroy
had ceased in the provinces of the Rio de la Plata, and that the
Cabildo, by the will of the people, took the supreme authority upon
itself.

The Cabildo met again early next morning, and, warned by their
experience of the day previous, proceeded at once to the election of the
members of the Junta. They decided that the Junta should consist of two
Spaniards and two natives, and should act under the presidency of Don
Baltazar de Cisneros, who should retain the command of the troops. The
two natives selected were Don Cornelio Saavedra and Dr Castelli. At the
same time they offered an amnesty to all who had taken part in
opposition to the authorities on the 22nd.

"Don Cornelio Saavedra, always inclined to avoid extremes, accepted in
good faith the decision of the Cabildo, and his vote drew with it that
of the other commanders of the troops, who pledged themselves to sustain
the authority so established by the Cabildo."[13]

The Junta was proclaimed amid the ringing of the church bells and the
thunder of the cannon, the colonial system of Spain was re-established
under a new form, and Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, who had taken a
leading part in this arrangement, returned to his house triumphant,
doubting no longer of success; Spaniards were a majority in the Junta,
and the support of the troops was secured by the accession of Saavedra.

As Don Roderigo entered his sala he met Marcelino, who made way for him,
bowing his head in silence.

"Ah, my son!" said he, "we have seen nothing of each other for several
days, except at a distance. I congratulate you on your speech the other
day, it did you credit, but you see we have not yet arrived at the stage
when such ideas can be more than dreams."

"I think that if you will walk through the city you will see that they
are more than dreams already," replied Marcelino.

"Excuse me, I would rather not, it is raining steadily and there is a
most disagreeably cold wind."

"Yet the streets are thronged with people as though it were as fine as
yesterday. What, think you, is the reason that these people brave the
weather in the streets instead of seeking the shelter of their homes?"

"What matters it to me, the people?"

"I am afraid it matters less to you than I once thought and hoped."

"This people was almost in open mutiny yesterday, as we did not appoint
the Junta quick enough to please them. Now they have their Junta, what
more would they?"

"The people have been deceived and they know it. In the assembly on
Tuesday it was resolved by the great majority of votes that the power of
the Viceroy should cease, and that a Junta composed of men possessing
the confidence of the people should exercise his powers, until deputies
from the different cities and towns should meet to decide upon a new
form of government for the whole country. Don Baltazar de Cisneros is no
longer Viceroy, but he is President of the Junta, and Commander-in-chief
of the troops, which comes to the same thing. What confidence have the
people in such men as Salas and Inchaurregui? To give us such a Junta as
that is to invite a revolt."

Don Roderigo turned pale with anger, but ere he could speak in reply,
Dolores, who had listened in alarm to this altercation between two of
those whom she loved most in the world, ran up to him, and throwing her
arms round him drew him away.

"Papa! papa!" she said, "do not look so at Marcelino, he does not know
what he is saying. They have put quite strange ideas into his head in
that committee."

"You love him, Lola, and he is your brother, he makes me forget that he
is my son."

With this answer to his daughter Don Roderigo turned away, and Marcelino
left the room and the house, and walked hurriedly to the Plaza Mayor.

The wide causeway of Recoba Nueva was covered with groups of excited
men, other groups filled the roadway under the balconies of the Cabildo,
shouting loudly their demand that the Cabildo should cancel the decree
just published. Among these groups Marcelino walked, till he found Don
Carlos Evaña declaiming angrily to a number of young men, who were
collected round him, calling upon them to resist to the last extremity
this fraud which had been practised upon them by the Cabildo. Taking him
by the arm Marcelino drew him aside.

"Do not let us waste time in harangues in the streets," said he; "let us
first secure the troops, all the junior officers of every corps are with
us, through them we can secure the men, and even if Don Cornelio still
desert us, to-morrow we will upset this Junta by the bayonet, if no
other course is open to us."

Evaña agreed with him, and separating they went among the groups,
calming the excitement of the people by assuring them that next day they
would secure the appointment of another Junta, composed of men in whom
they might trust. Both of them were well known as prominent members of
the revolutionary committee; men hearkened to them, believed in their
assurance, and dispersed quietly to their homes. Before sundown the
Plaza Mayor was tranquil.

Marcelino and Evaña then went to the barracks of the Patricios, where
they found the troops under arms, and all the junior officers of the
regiment collected in the guard-room, debating whether they should not
at once march upon the fort and put an end by force to the authority of
Don Baltazar de Cisneros. The great majority were in favour of this step
and received Marcelino with shouts of welcome, calling upon him, as an
officer of higher rank than any there present, to put himself at their
head. Marcelino acceded to their request, but proposed the postponement
of any active step to the next day, as night was already closing in, and
it was necessary to concert measures with the rest of the native troops.
After some warm discussion, the young officers consented to wait until
Marcelino and Evaña could consult with the other members of the
revolutionary committee.

Meantime the committee, convened at the house of the Señor Rodriguez
Peña, also discussed the proceedings of the Cabildo with great warmth
and indignation. Opinions were divided, but the great majority were in
favour of an appeal to arms. As Marcelino and Evaña entered the room
where they were assembled, the Señor Peña was speaking, calmly
advocating the employment of all other means to procure the peaceful
resignation of the Viceroy.

"But if he will not resign?" said Evaña.

Don Manuel Belgrano, wearied out with the anxieties of several days, lay
on a sofa in an adjoining room; as Evaña repeated his question in a loud
voice, Don Manuel, who was dressed in uniform as a Major of the
Patricios, sprang from his sofa, and standing in the open doorway, his
face flushed with indignation, his eyes flashing, laid his hand upon the
hilt of his sword.

"I swear to my country and my comrades," he exclaimed, "that if by three
o'clock in the afternoon the Viceroy has not resigned we will cast him
out from the windows of the fort."

"Leave that to us, Don Manuel," said Marcelino, laying his hand upon the
shoulder of Valentin Lopez y Viana, who had come with him from the
barracks of the Patricios, and who with several other young officers
there present had grasped the hilts of their swords as Belgrano spoke.
"Leave that to us, the Patricios wait but the word and are ready to
storm the fort at once, if it appear to the committee that such a
measure is advisable."

There was great confusion and excitement as Marcelino told of what was
occurring at the barracks of the Patricios, but the committee had
already learned one thing, of which Marcelino was yet ignorant, which
was that Don Cornelio Saavedra had reconsidered his hasty acquiescence
in the decree of the Cabildo, and that they could count upon his support
to a "Representation," which they had resolved to present to the Cabildo
on the following day. Don Nicholas Rodriguez Peña had with some
difficulty succeeded in calming the excitement, and proposed that they
should send a deputation to the Patricios, informing them of the change
in the ideas of their commandant, and asking for their support to the
"Representation."

This proposal was agreed to; two members of the committee left at once
for the barracks of the Patricios, where they arranged that the men
should remain in the barracks all night, and that the entire regiment
should be under arms next day, at an early hour, in readiness to support
the people in case the Cabildo refused to listen to their demands.

After the departure of this deputation most of the members of the
committee retired to their homes to recruit their strength for the next
day; Marcelino Ponce de Leon threw himself upon the sofa where Don
Manuel Belgrano had been lying as he entered, and fell at once into a
sound sleep, but Don Carlos Evaña and a few others remained together and
passed the night in endeavouring to draw up a list of names for the
Junta, which should meet with general acceptation. All agreed that Don
Cornelio Saavedra was the best man they could appoint as President, but,
as the original members of the secret committee refused to allow their
names to be proposed, there was great difficulty in deciding upon his
colleagues. The discussion lasted till nearly dawn, many lists had been
made out, but to all there were objections. Then Evaña, rising from his
seat, went into the next room, and shook Marcelino by the shoulder.

"I am going home to sleep for an hour or two," said he. "Come with me."

Marcelino sprang up from his sofa, and he and Evaña walked away together
along the muddy streets in the semi-darkness of the early morning, the
morning of the 25th May. It had ceased to rain, but there was a cold
wind, and the clouds hung heavily over the city. They reached Evaña's
house, but the cold wind and the morning air had revived Marcelino from
his sleepiness; he declined his friend's offer of a bed, and asked him
for the loan of his horse.

"It is three days since I have seen Magdalen," he said. "She always
rises before the day since her father has been ill. I will go and talk
with her while you sleep; a talk with her always puts me into good
spirits, and I have so much to tell her."

Evaña laughed, but lent him his horse, watched him as he rode away,
awoke his servant, telling him to rouse him in two hours, and then
throwing himself, dressed as he was, upon a sofa, slept soundly.

  [12] For this scene see "La Historia de Belgrano," by General Mitre.

  [13] "La Historia de Belgrano," by General Mitre.



CHAPTER V

THE 25TH MAY, 1810


Out through the silent streets, out through the quiet suburbs, galloped
Marcelino Ponce de Leon, arousing many an unquiet sleeper from uneasy
slumbers, for few slept soundly in Buenos Aires on that night between
the 24th and 25th May.

Spaniards cowered in their houses, mindful of the 1st January, 1809,
dreading an explosion of popular wrath, which they knew themselves
powerless to resist. Natives, indignant at the fraud which had been
practised upon them, remembered also the 1st January, 1809, and looked
anxiously for the day, resolute to overcome all obstacles to the full
execution of their will.

Trampling through the mud, splashing through pools of water which lay in
the unpaved roadways, Marcelino galloped on, heedless that many a window
was thrown hastily open as he passed, and many an anxious eye gazed
after him as he rapidly disappeared from sight; heeding no more the
anxious looks of men than he did the angry snarling of the curs, who
leaped up upon him from many a hedgerow in the suburbs.

He reached the Miserere, and, drawing rein at the quinta gate, looked
over the hedge at the windows of the house beyond. That of the sala was
thrown wide open, and the mulatta servant girl stood there, staring with
a bewildered look upon the clouds. Marcelino dismounted and, throwing
his rein over the gate-post, walked up to the porch; the door was opened
for him by Magdalen herself. She was dressed in a white wrapper with a
frilled collar, and her hair was bound round her head with a fillet of
blue silk. She seemed not in the least surprised to see him at that
untimely hour, and her eyes spoke her welcome as she met him.

Marcelino took her hand, and she turned with him to go inside.

"I have not seen you for three days," he said; "I could not let another
day pass without telling you what we have done, and to-day will be one
which will mark an epoch in our history."

"I have heard something, but not all; you will tell me."

"Señorita!" exclaimed the mulatto girl, running out from the sala, "have
you not seen the sky? In all my life I have seen nothing so strange."

Marcelino and Magdalen looked behind them through the open door of the
porch. A bright light shone upon everything they saw, tinging everything
with pink.

Then the two went out and stood in the porch, the young man and the
maiden, hand in hand, together speaking not, and in their silence was
there more eloquence than in many words.

Together they stood watching the dawn of the morning, their hearts
communing one with another in silent sympathy, the sympathy of mutual
trust and love. Together they watched the rising of the sun on the
morning of the 25th May, a sunrise which is now hailed every year as the
day comes round by the thundering salute of the cannon of emancipated
peoples, and by the voices of thousands of children, who in every city
and town throughout the one-time colonies of Spain welcome with
patriotic songs the rising of the sun on the 25th of May.

Together they stood in the porch and looked forth upon the eastern sky.
The clouds which hung low over the city seemed to form but one cloud,
stretching from horizon to horizon in one dense mass of dark grey,
shaded with pink, which cast a bright pink reflection upon the domes and
towers of the churches, and upon the white-washed walls of the houses in
the nearest quintas. Then as they stood together and looked, the pink
tints died out of the sky, and the dark grey of the clouds changed to a
brilliant orange. Far away on the eastern horizon, just in the path of
the rising sun, there was a break in the vast uniformity of cloud, a
semicircle of deep blue; in the centre of this blue sky, up rose the
sun, launching his fiery beams straight on the concave surface of the
cloud. In an instant the orange tints died out, and the whole cloud
became one mass of brilliant yellow, so brilliant and free from shades
that it was impossible to tell that there was any cloud at all. It
seemed as though a noonday sun had spread himself over the whole sky,
that the sky itself had become a sun, bathing the world beneath in a
flood of yellow light, which was reflected from every object round,
dazzlingly brilliant, but without one ray of warmth in it.

As they gazed in silence, still hand in hand, from north to south there
darted a rosy streak of lightning, and the curtain of cloud sank down
over the blue space on the eastern horizon, shutting out the sun. As the
cloud descended the golden sheen faded away out of the sky, and there
came from far off in the north a clap of thunder, which rolled and
rolled away above the clouds, echoing and re-echoing till it lost itself
in the farthest south. Then the clouds were again one mass of dull grey,
hanging low over the city, and heavy drops of rain fell pattering on the
roof of the porch above them.

"What is this?" said Magdalen, drawing closer to Marcelino; "never have
I seen a sunrise like this."

"Nor I," replied Marcelino; "and if I mistake not, the day which follows
will be a day such as has never been seen before in Buenos Aires."

"Saw you the sun, how brilliantly he shone out? Then there came that
angry flash of lightning, all the glory died out of the sky, and there
was a long roll of thunder. Do you believe in omens? Do you not
tremble?"

"I do not tremble," said Marcelino; "have you not taught me faith? to do
right and fear nothing? What can be more right or more noble than to
free one's native country from the slavery of centuries? The liberty we
shall win to-day, may but give us the right to toil and labour for years
to come, but is it not more noble to labour than to sleep?"

Then Magdalen leaned upon his arm and whispered:

"Yes, that is faith."

Marcelino, throwing his arms round her, pressed her to his breast and
kissed her. For a minute there was silence between them. That kiss was
the seal of a compact of which both had thought much, but of which
neither had spoken until this day--a compact which bound them to each
other so long as their lives should last, a compact which made the cares
and toils of one, the cares and toils of both, a compact which blended
their two lives into one life, and which death alone could cancel.

Marcelino was the first to speak.

"The presage of the rising sun," said he, "may be fulfilled. The liberty
we shall achieve to-day may be soon clouded over, the storm may burst
upon us, and all our efforts may be long unavailing to raise the people
from the sloth and ignorance into which they have fallen under Spanish
rule, but this sun over which the storm-cloud has fallen, this sun which
is now hidden from us, will shine out again to-morrow when the storm has
passed over. This storm is but the herald of the winter, which will tear
off the last leaves from the trees, which will wither up the few
remaining flowers. It is but the first of many storms, but they also
will pass over. Winter will give place to spring. Again the genial sun
will shine out, clothing the whole earth with verdure. The earth,
refreshed and invigorated by the stern discipline of winter, will give
new strength to the trees, fresh beauty to the flowering shrubs, and in
the joyous springtime we shall forget the storms of winter. Shall it not
be so with us, Magdalen? Life has many storms in store for us, but we
will not shrink from facing them. Shall we not walk together, cheering
and strengthening each other, looking together in faith to the future?"

Magdalen's lips spoke no answer to his question, but her eyes looked up
into his with a brave confidence, which was answer sufficient.

"Señor Don Marcelino, shall I not tie your horse under the shed, your
saddle will be sopping wet in five minutes?"

It was the gardener who spoke, an old man with a face like a block of
wood. How long he had been standing there neither of them knew.

"Leave it," said Marcelino, turning sharply on him.

"You must not go yet," said Magdalen, "I have so much to ask you. Papa
is asleep, so I can make coffee for you myself."

Old Antonio got no further answer, and stood looking after them as they
went back into the house together. Then, with a wink of his cunning old
eyes, he hobbled to the gate, and taking the horse by the bridle led him
away.

An hour later, Marcelino and Magdalen again stood in the porch side by
side and hand in hand. Still the rain poured down, still the wind sighed
mournfully among the trees, still the withered leaves broke off from
the swaying branches, and gathered in sodden masses on the wet ground;
over all hung the leaden sky, and the far-off towers and domes of the
churches were invisible, shrouded in thick mist and driving rain. The
prospect as they looked out was dismal, yet they looked upon it with
cheerful eyes, the confidence which filled their hearts made them
oblivious to aught else than their own thoughts.

"Come to me when all is settled and tell me what you have done,"
whispered Magdalen.

"The knights of old went forth to fight with their lady's glove in their
helmet," said Marcelino. "There will be no shivering of lances to-day,
yet may I not carry with me some gage of love, to remind me that I fight
to-day not for myself nor even for my country alone?"

As he spoke he looked at the fillet of blue silk which bound Magdalen's
brown hair. She, with a smile, twisted it from her head and, unfastening
it, passed it through the buttonhole of his coat, tying it there in a
small bow from which hung two short streamers. Then she stood off to
look at him, but shook her head, and going back to his side untied the
bow and pulled away the ribbon.

"Wait a minute," she said, shaking back the hair which hung over her
face, and then went off to her own room.

Some minutes she was away. When she came back her hair was again bound
up with a fillet, but the fillet was no longer a simple blue ribbon, it
was of two ribbons, one blue, the other white, twined together. In her
hand she carried a blue-and-white rosette, from which hung three
streamers, of which the centre one was white, the other two blue. She
brought also a needle and thread, and the active fingers stitched the
rosette with its three streamers to the lappel of Marcelino's coat.

"There," she said, as she finished her work and stood back to admire it,
"there you take not only a gage but an emblem. The sky in the springtime
is not blue only, it is blue and white. If you meet with more difficulty
than you expect, look on this ribbon, blue and white, and think of the
springtime of which you told me."

As Marcelino rode away Magdalen stood in the porch looking after him,
till a tall aloe hedge shut him out from her sight, then she seated
herself in a low chair with her hands folded before her, gazing vacantly
at the raindrops as they fell from the eaves, in deep thought, till the
sound of a bell called her to her father's room.

"You have had a visitor this morning, Chica," said Don Alfonso, in a
more natural tone than she had heard him speak in for weeks.

"Yes, papa," said she, what little colour she had in her face fading
away, and her lips closing firmly together.

"Who was it, Chica?"

"Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon, papa," she answered.

"Does Don Marcelino love you, Chica?"

"Yes," she said, trying hard to answer in a steady voice.

Don Alfonso stretched out his hand, and drawing her down to him he
kissed her, and murmured in a low voice in English:

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against
us."

Then Magdalen fell on her knees beside the bed and burst into tears.

When Marcelino reached Evaña's house he found his friend already gone.
On foot he followed him, not doubting that he would see him or hear of
him on the Plaza Mayor. Neither here nor in any of the streets as he
passed along did he see any troops, every corps was in its own barracks,
under arms and ready to march at a moment's notice, awaiting orders only
from the revolutionary committee to appear. But every street leading to
the Plaza Mayor was thronged with groups of citizens, who, careless of
the rain, wended their way thither. As Marcelino entered the Plaza he
saw the wide causeway of the Recoba Nueva occupied by long lines of
young men, all of whom were armed, some with pistols, some with
sword-sticks. Among these young men Evaña walked hurriedly, striving
apparently to establish some organisation amongst them, which was each
moment destroyed by the accession of fresh recruits.

"What is that?" said Evaña, as Marcelino walked up to him and he saw the
blue and white rosette on the lappel of his coat.

"These," answered Marcelino, taking the streamers in his hand, "are the
colours of La Patria."

"Viva La Patria!" shouted Evaña, taking off his hat.

The shout was taken up and echoed all over the Plaza, and in an instant
all the organisation which Evaña had been labouring to establish was
destroyed. Each man after he had shouted turned to his neighbour to ask
why. One only obtained a satisfactory answer, and he was Marcelino, who
asked the question of Evaña himself.

"You have given me the idea I wanted," said Evaña. "There are of all
sorts here, and we must have some means of knowing our own. Choose your
pickets of young men we can trust, and station them at every entrance to
the Plaza. I will procure blue and white ribbons for distribution to all
patriots, your pickets will keep back any who seek to enter the Plaza
who have not these ribbons."

Half an hour later the Plaza was crowded with people, but every man
there had in the buttonhole of his coat two ribbons, one blue, the other
white.

The Cabildo met at an early hour that morning. The first subject which
engaged their attention was the resignation by Don Baltazar de Cisneros
of the dignity of President of the Junta, which had been conferred upon
him the day previous.

Don Cornelio Saavedra had been with Don Baltazar during the night, and,
showing him that it would be impossible otherwise to preserve public
tranquillity, had persuaded him to send in this resignation.

The second subject before the Cabildo was the "Representation" drawn up
by the revolutionary committee, and signed by some hundreds of citizens,
which formed a protest against their proceedings.

Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon exerted himself to the utmost in favour of
moderation, counselling them to name Don Cornelio Saavedra President of
the Junta in place of Don Baltazar de Cisneros, and Don Manuel Belgrano
as the fourth member of that body, in the place of Don Cornelio. But Don
Roderigo was feebly supported by the native members of the Cabildo, his
proposal was scouted as an act of cowardice by the more violent of the
Spaniards. He warned them that hundreds of the people, greatly excited,
and most of them armed, patrolled the Plaza Mayor and filled the cafés.
The answer of the Cabildo to this popular demonstration was to send for
the commanders of the troops. As soon as these officers were assembled
at the Cabildo they received orders to march their troops to the Plaza
and disperse the people at the point of the bayonet. Most of these
officers refused point blank to obey the command, the rest stated that
any such attempt would infallibly produce a mutiny among their men.

The Cabildo thus found themselves powerless, but even then would not
listen to the moderate counsels of Don Roderigo. Hours passed, and, as
they debated the matter angrily among themselves, there came a violent
knocking upon the outer doors, which were closed.

The people, wearied out by long waiting, had sent a deputation headed by
Don Carlos Evaña and Don Marcelino Ponce de Leon, who demanded the
immediate deposition of Don Baltazar de Cisneros. Don Martin Rodriguez,
who was at the Cabildo with the other commanding officers, opened the
door and went out to them. He was instantly surrounded by a number of
excited young men, who asked him angrily what the Cabildo were doing,
that for hours they kept the people waiting, instead of at once revoking
their edict of the preceding day.

"Don Baltazar de Cisneros has sent in his resignation himself," answered
Don Martin, "which renders necessary the appointment of an entirely new
Junta. They require time to decide upon what men to choose for the
Junta."

"Is that all?" replied Evaña. "We will save them the trouble of debating
that question any longer."

So saying, Don Carlos drew out his pocket-book and turning to a blank
leaf wrote on it in pencil, seven names.

"There," said he, tearing out the leaf and presenting it to Don Martin,
"there, give that list to the Señores of the Cabildo, and tell them that
that Junta and no other will satisfy the wishes of the people."

"Come in and present it to them yourself," said Don Martin, drawing
back.

Upon this Evaña and Marcelino Ponce de Leon followed Don Martin into the
council-chamber, a large room in the upper story, lighted by windows
which reached to the floor of the room, and opened upon the balconies
overlooking the Plaza Mayor.

Evaña, holding the paper in his hand, strode up to the table round which
the members of the corporation were seated, and laying it before the
Alcalde de primer voto--

"Señores," he said, "you are but wasting your time here, the people have
chosen a Junta for themselves, you have nothing more to do than to draw
up an edict appointing this Junta according to legal forms, and then to
retire and leave the power in their hands."

"The people!" exclaimed Don Roderigo Ponce de Leon, starting to his
feet, "where is this people? and how have they chosen this Junta?"

"Step this way, Don Roderigo, and look upon the people," replied Evaña,
drawing the bolts of one of the windows and throwing the window wide