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Title: Francisco Our Little Argentine Cousin
Author: Brooks, Eva Cannon
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Our Little Argentine Cousin


Little Cousin Series


    Each volume illustrated with six or more full-page plates in
    tint. Cloth, 12mo, with decorative cover,
    per volume, 60 cents



(unless otherwise indicated)

    =Our Little African Cousin=
    =Our Little Alaskan Cousin=
        By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
    =Our Little Arabian Cousin=
        By Blanche McManus
    =Our Little Armenian Cousin=
    =Our Little Australian Cousin=
        By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
    =Our Little Brazilian Cousin=
        By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
    =Our Little Brown Cousin=
    =Our Little Canadian Cousin=
        By Elizabeth R. MacDonald
    =Our Little Chinese Cousin=
        By Isaac Taylor Headland
    =Our Little Cuban Cousin=
    =Our Little Dutch Cousin=
        By Blanche McManus
    =Our Little Egyptian Cousin=
        By Blanche McManus
    =Our Little English Cousin=
        By Blanche McManus
    =Our Little Eskimo Cousin=
    =Our Little French Cousin=
        By Blanche McManus
    =Our Little German Cousin=
    =Our Little Greek Cousin=
        By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
    =Our Little Hawaiian Cousin=
    =Our Little Hindu Cousin=
        By Blanche McManus
    =Our Little Hungarian Cousin=
        By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
    =Our Little Indian Cousin=
    =Our Little Irish Cousin=
    =Our Little Italian Cousin=
    =Our Little Japanese Cousin=
    =Our Little Jewish Cousin=
    =Our Little Korean Cousin=
        By H. Lee M. Pike
    =Our Little Mexican Cousin=
        By Edward C. Butler
    =Our Little Norwegian Cousin=
    =Our Little Panama Cousin=
        By H. Lee M. Pike
    =Our Little Persian Cousin=
        By E. C. Shedd
    =Our Little Philippine Cousin=
    =Our Little Porto Rican Cousin=
    =Our Little Russian Cousin=
    =Our Little Scotch Cousin=
        By Blanche McManus
    =Our Little Siamese Cousin=
    =Our Little Spanish Cousin=
        By Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
    =Our Little Swedish Cousin=
        By Claire M. Coburn
    =Our Little Swiss Cousin=
    =Our Little Turkish Cousin=

    New England Building,      Boston, Mass.


(_See page 33._)]


Our Little Argentine Cousin

By Eva Cannon Brooks

_Illustrated by_ John Goss


    L. C. Page & Company

    _Copyright, 1910_



    _All rights reserved_

    First Impression, June, 1910


    Katharine and Elizabeth Brooks


IF you take a steamer in New York whose destination is the eastern coast
of South America, and remain on it a little over four weeks, you will
reach the great metropolis of our twin continent, Buenos Aires.

In all probability they will be weeks of infinite content and delight,
for the southern half of the Atlantic Ocean is milder in her moods than
the northern half, and there will be a sufficient number of stops _en
route_ to relieve the journey of monotony.

First comes the Barbadoes, then Pernambuco, Bahia, Rio-de-Janeiro, and
Santos in Brazil, and then Montevideo, the capital of the Republic of

At Montevideo the steamer leaves the ocean and enters the mouth of the
River Plata, which is several hundred miles wide at this point, and in
ten hours the beautiful city of Buenos Aires, the gate-way to the
Pampas, is spread out before the eye.

It is more like a city of North America than any of the South American
metropolises, both in its appearance and its remarkable spirit of

Beyond, and about this attractive port, lie great tracts of level
country known as the _campo_, and here you will find conditions not
unlike those existing in some parts of our own western territory. Large
ranches predominate, although the industries are varied.

The people are of mixed nationalities, but the greater proportion is of
Spanish extraction and a new race, or type, is being welded with a
sufficient infusion of Anglo-Saxon blood to counteract the inherent
tendency of all Latin races towards procrastination. Because of this,
and aided by an unequalled climate, a fertile soil, and definite aims,
they are already achieving a part of their manifest destiny.

This, the year of 1910, the publication date of this small volume, marks
the one hundredth anniversary of Argentina's independence; may it mark
also the beginning of an era of even greater harmony and more splendid


    CHAPTER                                     PAGE
          PREFACE                                  v
       I. FRANCISCO'S HOME                         1
      II. A WONDERFUL DAY                         15
     III. A LESSON IN HISTORY                     29
      IV. CURIOUS SIGHTS                          47
       V. GREAT SURPRISES                         60
      VI. NEW EXPERIENCES                         75
     VII. ON THE RANCH                            92
    VIII. CATTLE BRANDING                        104
      IX. A SUCCESSFUL SEARCH                    122
       X. THE CARNIVAL                           142

List of Illustrations

          STATUE OF SAN MARTÍN" (see page 33)        _Frontispiece_
          LLAMA"                                            24
          OF THEM"                                         100


Our Little Argentine Cousin



FRANCISCO sat crosslegged in one corner of the _patio_ under the shade
of a small pomegranate tree which grew in a tub. He had moved halfway
around the _patio_ since morning, trying to keep out of the sun. Just
after _café_ he had started out under the shade of the east wall, where
wistaria vines and jasmine grew in a dense mass of purple, yellow and
green; then he had gone from one tubbed shelter to another as the sun
mounted higher, until now only the heavy foliage of the pomegranate
offered protection from the hot rays. All of the long varnished blinds
at the doors of the rooms opening upon this central, stone-paved
courtyard, had long since been closed securely, for it was middle
December and the house must be sealed early against the noon heat of

Francisco might have gone inside, where the darkened rooms furnished
some relief, but he chose to sit crosslegged on the red and white
square stones of the _patio_, with his back to the main part of the
house, so that the mother and sisters could not see what occupied his
busy hands.

Francisco's father was dead, and he, with his mother, La Señora Anita
Maria Lacevera de Gonzalez, and his two sisters, Elena Maria, who was
six, and Guillerma Maria, who was eighteen and very beautiful, lived in
the Calle[1] Cerrito, in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentine Republic,
South America.

Francisco, himself, was nine, and his uncle who was a colonel in the
army and who supported his widowed sister and her family, expected him
to be a soldier also. His great-grandfather had been a general, and
because of his services during the revolution that had brought
Argentina her liberty nearly one hundred years ago, his family was one
of the most distinguished in the Republic. Francisco's own grandfather
had given his life for his _patria_ during the ten years' blockade of
Buenos Aires, when the French and English forces combined to overcome
General Rosas, who then commanded the city. His mother and his uncle,
the Colonel Juan Carlos Lacevera, were then little children, but they
were fired with a patriotism that comes only to those who have given of
their own flesh and blood for native land.

"El Coronel Lacevera" was now retired, and with his wife and six
daughters lived in a spacious, palatial home in the Calle San Martin
facing the beautiful plaza, or park, where the statue of General San
Martin on his rearing charger stands, a constant reminder to the
hundreds of little Argentine boys and girls who daily play in the
pebbled space around it, of the wonderful man, who, like George
Washington, was first in war, first in peace, and is still first in the
hearts of his countrymen.

The monthly allowance bestowed by Colonel Lacevera upon his sister was
enough to keep them in comfort, but not sufficient to allow them to live
in luxury, and to-day, because Francisco had not enough money to buy his
Christmas _pesebre_ at the toyshop, he was doing what many little boys
of that country do,--he was making his own.

Now, you must know right here, that Christmas in these South American
countries is not the greatest festival of the entire year, as it is with
us; it is simply one of the many that are celebrated at frequent
intervals, for Argentina is a land of _fiestas_; there is scarcely a
month that does not allow three or four holidays from school because of
some _fiesta_, either of church or state. Although they do not celebrate
this great holiday as we do with Christmas trees and visits from Santa
Claus, they have something in their places, and it is the "Coming of
the Three Kings." In anticipation of this, all over the Republic,
children erect _pesebres_ or mangers.

A _pesebre_ consists of a miniature open shed, or merely a roof of straw
or bark, underneath which, in a tiny box, lies a porcelain baby doll to
represent the infant Christ. Bending in adoration at the head of the wee
box that holds this image kneels the mother, Mary, and at the foot, with
folded hands, stands Joseph, the father. About them, placed in sand or
moss, that forms the floor of the stable or yard, are figures to
represent the worshipful neighbours, also the farm-yard fowls and
animals; cows and donkeys predominating. They look like Noah's Ark
people, stiff-legged and prim. Now all of this remains unmoved, a spot
of reverent adoration, throughout Christmas week, New Year's day, and
until "twelfth night," or the fifth of January. It is awaiting the great
event for which it was erected, the "Coming of the Three Kings."

On that auspicious night, through the same magical means that aid Santa
Claus to enter the homes of North American children while their eyes are
closed in sleep, come the three richly decorated and delicately carved
kings on miniature camels with costly trappings and bags of spices on
their little brown backs.

On the morning of the sixth of January the children awake, all eagerness
to see the arrivals of the night. Rushing to the _pesebre_ they find the
three little wooden kings kneeling beside the manger, the faithful
camels standing in the grass without, and all about on the floor are the
wonderful gifts that the kings have brought to their _pesebre_. Indeed,
as you can see, it was erected for just this purpose, exactly as the fir
tree with its glittering ornaments forms the nucleus in other lands for
Christmas gifts.

It was these wooden people and animals that Francisco's small fingers
were fashioning. He had cut himself several times, and one finger was
bound up in an old handkerchief, but his enthusiasm was not lessened
because of it. He knew exactly how they should be carved, and how many
there should be, for in the toyshop windows there had been sets of them
on display for weeks, and Francisco had studied each necessary bit

In a box beside him were the finished product of his penknife. Joseph
and Mary were completed even to the paint; Mary's red and blue gown and
Joseph's yellow robe were not quite dry, and the cows were too vividly
red, but that would not matter; Elena was no severe critic, and it was
mainly for her that he was carving them. Elena had been ill and this was
to be her "getting well" gift. The flashing light in her great brown
eyes when she should see them would be sufficient reward for cut fingers
and weary back. Besides, this was the summer vacation and there was
nothing else to do.

In all countries on the other side of the Equator the seasons are the
reverse of those on this side. In Argentina the children are having
their summer holidays in December, January, and February, when the
children of the Northern hemisphere are busy in school, or skating and
sleighing; and they are having their winter when the Northern children
are dressed in their thinnest clothing and are going away to the
seashore or mountains.

Francisco had just completed a wonderful set of bent pin horns for one
of the red cows when he was called to breakfast, and it was _half-past
eleven_. But you see their meal hours, like their seasons, are different
from ours. At eight o'clock he had had his _cafe con leche_, or coffee
with hot milk, and a roll; at half-past eleven he was accustomed to
having his breakfast; at four he would have _máte_ or tea; and at seven
dinner would be served.

Francisco gathered his treasures into the tin box, and hurried to the
bath-room to make himself ready for _almuerzo_. When he entered the
dining-room his mother and Guillerma, the elder sister, were seated, and
the little Indian serving-maid was arranging a tray to carry to Elena in
the bed-room.

The meal consisted of beef broth and rice, called _caldo_ and the usual
beginning to every hearty meal in that country; then came fried fish
with garlic, followed by a stew of mutton, carrots, cabbage, potatoes,
and large pieces of yellow pumpkin, this being the native dish of the
Argentines and commonly known as _puchero_. After that came fruit and

Guillerma chatted continuously of the wonderful new gowns which she had
seen being packed at the great house in Calle San Martin, where she had
been the day before, to bid her aunt and six cousins good-bye, before
their departure for Mar-de-la-Plata, the fashionable watering place on
the Atlantic Ocean, a day's ride by rail from Buenos Aires.

Meanwhile, as they sat thus, eating and talking, over in the great house
of the _Coronel_[2] the master sat at his massive library table playing
solitaire. He always ended his meals thus with his after-dinner
coffee-cup beside him. The walls were lined with well-filled bookcases,
for the Colonel was a scholar.

Indeed, he cared little for the gay life that ebbed and flowed about him
because of his high social position, and because of the six comely
daughters, ranging from fourteen to twenty-four; the eldest ones of whom
were favourites in exclusive Buenos Aires society. He suffered it
because of his love for them, but his natural fondness for quiet and
study led him to think longingly of the large estate in the Province of
Santa Fé, where he could spend the remaining years of his life in the
free open air, enjoying the quiet and solitude he so loved. But the
daughters must be educated and their mother did not like the country, so
the Colonel was forced to live through the winter months in the noise
and roar of the great city; contenting himself with a few months each
summer at the estate, when he rode at will over the wide prairies on his
swift Argentine horse, or read for hours under the shade of the wide
spreading _ombú_ trees which surrounded the country house. This
_estáncia_, as they term a very large farm or ranch, was really his
wife's; in fact, so was the city house, for no retired colonel's pay,
nor general's pay, for that matter, could have met the expenses of his
large family, accustomed to every luxury; indeed, it was just enough to
cover his own personal expenses, and provide a living for his widowed
sister, who had been left penniless, but dared not earn her own living,
since the custom of the country forbids women of class to do work of any

His matronly wife with her six daughters (large families are the rule
among these Latin Americans) had left the evening before, with several
French maids, for Mar-de-la-Plata to spend the entire summer; he would
be detained in the city for two weeks, and then--for freedom and the
life he loved.

But he was strangely lonely; the house echoed his and the servants'
footfalls with an intensity that made him nervous; the pillared
corridors rang with no merry girlish laughter, and the luxuriantly
furnished _patio_ with its marble floors, and softly pattering
fountains, seemed to mock him of his loneliness. Always before, he had
left for the _estáncia_ before his family had gone to Europe or the
seashore for their summer outing, and he never would have believed that
he--an old soldier--could be so overcome by sentiment.

He was minded to take up his abode for the next two weeks, previous to
his leaving for the country, in his widowed sister's humble home, when
the splendid thought came to him;--he would bring Francisco, his nephew,
there with him to the lonely house.

For some time he had been drawn towards the little fellow, partly
because his heart was desolate that he had no son of his own, partly
because the boy was developing so many manly traits, and reminded him
frequently, when he turned his round brown eyes towards him, of his own
long since fallen soldier father.

He desired to know him better, to get closer to the lad--and now this
was his opportunity; he would ask Anita to let him have Francisco for
the summer, and the boy would keep the empty house lively for the few
days until they should both leave for his Tres Arroyas ranch. He clapped
his hands sharply, and a servant appeared.

"Have Enrique bring the motor car at four, when the afternoon is
cooler," he ordered, and turned to his bed-room for the _siesta_, or
rest, that all tropical and semitropical climates demand of their


[Footnote 1: Street.]

[Footnote 2: Colonel.]



PROMPTLY at four, the huge red machine puffed up to the front curbing.
The Colonel was walking up and down in the Plaza opposite, smoking a
cigarette; for when not eating or asleep, an Argentine gentleman is
seldom seen without the thin, white _cigarrillo_ between his lips. He
looked most distinguished in his scarlet and green uniform.

It took but a few moments to reach his sister's _casa_,[3] and the maid
who answered his ring in the narrow vestibule that opened directly onto
the street told him the family were having _máte_ in the _patio_, which
was partly shaded in the late afternoon. He was welcomed heartily, and
was kissed by each one twice, after the foreign fashion, once on either

The _máte_ cup, an egg-shaped gourd, was passed from hand to hand as
they sat talking, each one in turn sucking the fragrant tea through the
same silver tube; the little Indian maid refilling the gourd again and
again with hot water.

This is the universal custom in South American countries below the
Equator, and aside from the benefits derived from the drinking of the
pungent herb itself, it has a significance akin to the "loving cup"
idea, and is a symbolization of family love and domestic ties.

A guest is always asked to partake of _máte_ with the family, and if he
is unaccustomed to the manner of its usage, the fact that he is expected
to obtain his share by means of the one, universal tube, is at first
disconcerting, but he dare not refuse under penalty of offending his

This herb is called "Paraguayian tea," or "Jesuits' tea," as it was used
extensively by the early Jesuit Fathers, who were one of the most
important factors in the civilization of the lower half of South
America. It is grown mostly in Brazil and Paraguay and its cultivation
has become quite an industry.

The dried leaves are placed in a small gourd, hot water is poured into
it, and it is then sucked into the mouth through the long silver tube,
which has a bulbous end, perforated with small holes so that the tea is
strained. At the first taste it is exceedingly bitter, but one soon
grows very fond of it. It is very stimulating and a _gaucho_, or cowboy,
will sometimes, under stress of circumstances, ride all day with only
his morning gourd of _máte_ to sustain him, and then eat his first meal
of the day at sundown.

The Colonel soon made known his errand, and Francisco was beside himself
with joy. He danced about the _patio_ clapping his hands, and then ran
indoors to sick Elena to smother her with kisses, and to tell her of his
good fortune.

"Oh, Elena, just think of it! Two whole weeks in the big _casa_ with
servants, horses and automobiles--and then two whole months in the
_campo_[4] with uncle to ride with me, and teach me something new every

"But Elena mia, you will miss me," and a note of sadness crept into his

"Yes, Francisco, I shall miss you, but I shall enjoy myself every day
thinking of what you are doing, and you will write to me; Mamá will read
me your letters, and then there will be so much to talk about when you
return,"--and Francisco embraced her another time.

Half an hour later, clean and shining in his best suit of clothes,
exchanged for the long linen duster that all Argentine schoolboys wear
to play in, he was spinning along the asphalt streets, sitting beside
the man who stood, to his young mind, for every virtue assigned to his
patron saint.

At first he was slightly shy, for this wonderful soldier uncle had never
paid any particular attention to him, so engrossed was he always with
his books and his family; but as they threaded their way in and out the
traffic-crowded streets, among the heavy carts, the noisily clanging
electric tram-cars, and low, open victorias filled with elaborately
dressed women, and fleet wheeled automobiles of every size and class,
Francisco began to ask questions, and forgot his timidity. They were
soon chatting interestedly.

"How would you like a spin out to Palermo?" his uncle asked, as they
reached the central part of the city.

"Better than I could say," replied the happy lad; his heart meanwhile
bounding, for he seldom saw the trees and flowers of the vast park that
is one of the city's most picturesque attractions.

"Then, Enrique--to the park, via the _Avenida[5] Alvear_," said Colonel
Lacevera to the chauffeur.

It was late afternoon now, and being Thursday, the broad avenues were
filled with hundreds of vehicles; since Thursday and Sunday are the
afternoons chosen by fashionable Buenos Aires for the diversion of
riding or driving to the great Prado to hear the military band, and to
mingle in the long lines of carriages and motor cars.

The _Avenida Alvear_, broad and smoothly paved, with its magnificent
residences on either side, makes a desirable avenue from which to
approach the park. As they rode along, the odour of jasmine and roses
hung heavy about them, coming from the beautiful gardens surrounding the
palatial homes. Long arbours of American Beauty roses, looking like
crimson lined tunnels; majestic palm trees, over which trailed Marechal
Niel roses and cypress vines; bulky shrubs, with sweet scents; all these
lent their charm to the scene, and Francisco, ever alive to the beauties
of nature, felt this to be a foretaste of Paradise.

Soon they were in the palm bordered drives of the park; but they crept
along at a snail's pace, as the speed on crowded afternoons is limited
to a funeral pace, in order that the lines of carriages both coming and
going may avoid confusion.

Through the trees and shrubbery Francisco caught glimpses of cool
running streams, crossed by rustic bridges; clear, limpid lakes with
swans and boats, and here and there, pavilions where ices and
_refrescos_ were being enjoyed by the gay crowd. At intervals, on
splendid black horses, were stationed picturesque looking mounted
policemen, their long horsehair plumes trailing over their shoulders,
from which hung scarlet lined capes. It was their duty to keep the half
dozen columns of vehicles in proper line.

The Colonel's car had entered the wide area of the Avenue Sarmiento when
he leaned towards the chauffeur and said, "Turn towards the Zoological
Gardens, Enrique." And then, to the boy beside him, he said, "How could
you stand half an hour in the Zoological Gardens, Niño?"[6]

"I would try to bear up under it, Uncle," replied Francisco, as his eyes
twinkled an answer to the merriment in the older man's. They alighted at
the curbing, and entered the immense iron gates into that Mecca of all
Argentine boyish hearts.

All of this seemed as a dream to Francisco for although his mother had
frequently brought him here, she knew little of the animals and birds;
and now with Uncle Juan he could ask questions innumerable without
getting the reply: _Yo no se_.[7]

They paused first at the great cage, fifty feet in height and covering
an area of half a city block, built over a small artificial mountain
where hundreds of eagles and condors wheeled, fought and chattered.

"See the pavilion that looks like a Hindoo temple, Francisco; let us see
what animal makes that its home."

"Elephants, Uncle Juan, and perhaps we can see the baby elephant that
was born here a few weeks ago." Sure enough, in a park all their own,
surrounding the Hindoo temple house, was a family of elephants and the
baby elephant stood beside its mother, who was rubbing it affectionately
with her long trunk.

The alpacas, llamas, deer, bison, guanacos and vicuñas came next, and
Uncle Juan could answer every question that the eager boy put to him,
for, during his active service in the army, he had spent much time on
the frontier, and on the Cordilleras of the Andes, where these animals
are found.


He permitted Francisco to take a ride on the tame llama, who rivalled
the Lilliputian steam engine in its popularity as a mode of progression
around the garden. As it did not trot, but walked sleepily along with
Francisco, having served all day, no doubt, as a vehicle for children
visiting the "Zoo," Uncle Juan walked beside him, and, as they
proceeded, he told him much about the small camel-like animal upon whose
back he rode.

"You see, Niño, a llama is almost like a camel, but its size and
strength are inferior. It has no hump on its back, but as you saw when
you mounted it, it kneels like one. They thrive best at a high elevation
where they browse on reeds, lichens, mosses and grass. If the grass is
succulent they can go without water for a long time. When they are
domesticated it is for their fine fleece. Their flesh when young is
deliciously tender, and it is then that they can be caught with dogs and
a lasso, but the old ones can only be shot at a distance, and their
flesh is fit only to be dried and salted. I have seen them in Perú used
as beasts of burden, and the Indians make a very beautiful and valuable
cloth from the soft fleece. But come, lad, the sun sinks, and we may
come here another time."

As they walked towards the gate where the car was awaiting them, they
passed lakes where waded and swam many birds of brilliant plumage.
Herons and flamingoes, red and gray and pink, stood on one leg, lazily,
watching for minnows.

"Why are some of the flamingoes scarlet and some pink?" asked Francisco.

"Those with red plumage are the old ones and the delicate rose coloured
ones are not yet in their second year. At old Roman feasts their tongues
were considered the greatest delicacy; I have eaten their flesh roasted,
and it is wonderfully palatable."

"Oh, Uncle, we haven't seen the lions, nor the bears, nor the monkeys,
nor the boa-constrictors," coaxed Francisco, as they came in sight of
the gates.

"But we shall see them another time, Niño. We cannot see the half of
these great gardens in a day, for they cover many acres, and contain the
finest specimens of any garden on the continent." As they passed out the
bugles at the military post opposite were sounding for the soldiers'
dinner and the avenues were no longer crowded.

"With haste now, to the _casa_," ordered the Colonel, and the enormous
car plunged ahead, along the deserted boulevards where the electric
lights were beginning to appear one by one. Francisco had never flown so
fast and he cuddled close into his uncle's arm; the strong man held him
tenderly, lovingly, and they entered the electric lighted _patio_ of the
_casa_ arm in arm.

Now the Colonel's home was not unlike many others of its class, but to
the little lad's eyes it seemed a palace. The main part of it was
perfectly square, and built around an inner court from which many of
the rooms were lighted and all were entered. The windows facing the
street were heavily barred, and small balconies of wrought iron
projected from each window, over-hanging the pavement a few feet below.
The house was flat and of but one story; into this first court opened
luxuriously furnished parlours, drawing-rooms, smoking-rooms and
library. Behind all of this was another court with smaller rooms opening
into it, exactly like a smaller house. Into this opened all the
bed-rooms, the bathrooms and the long elegantly furnished dining-room.

Quite separate, and reached by a rear street entrance, was yet another,
a third court or _patio_, and into this opened the pantries, kitchen and
servants' quarters. The walls of the high spacious parlours were richly
decorated, and the chandeliers were of silver and crystal; while
ornaments and valuable souvenirs from all parts of the world were
displayed throughout the entire house.

Although only Francisco and the Colonel sat at dinner that night, the
table was lavishly decorated, and the cut glass, silver and dinner of
many courses, including fish, game, meats, vegetables and fruits, were a
source of constant bewilderment and admiration to the boy accustomed to
humbler fare and less luxurious surroundings.


[Footnote 3: House.]

[Footnote 4: Country.]

[Footnote 5: Avenue.]

[Footnote 6: The affectionate name for all small boys.]

[Footnote 7: I do not know.]



FRANCISCO awoke very early the next morning, for he was unaccustomed to
sleeping away from home. He lay quite still listening to the unwonted
sounds. He heard the servants scrubbing the marble floors of the _patio_
and corridors; he heard the call of the _panadero_[8] and the hurrying
feet to answer; for no private family ever bakes its own bread in
Argentina, and the bakers have it all their own way, which isn't a very
bad way since their bread is light and deliciously crisp; he heard the
chattering of the parrots and paroquets in the servants' _patio_; then
the clatter of a squad of mounted policemen on their way to the day's
duty, the hoofs of their horses beating a tattoo of haste on the smooth
asphalt still wet with the daybreak bath of the sprinkling carts.

Then he became interested in his room. Such luxury as surrounded him! He
sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes, for he had never viewed these
bed-rooms except from the corridor, on his infrequent visits to the
house. His bed was heavily carved and overhung with a canopy of pale
blue plush and silk; the walls were panelled and painted in delicate
colours, with angels and cherubs everywhere; huge mirrors reflected each
other as they hung in their frames of Florentine gold, and after he had
viewed it all for a few moments, he buried his head in his pillow and
wished for his own bare room and his mother. Then he longed for Elena
that she might enjoy the beauties about him; and this reminded him of
the _pesebre_, which was still unfinished, but which he had brought with

He wondered how he could get it to her without her finding out--and--he
must have fallen into a doze, for soon he heard an imitation _reveille_
blown through human hands, outside the closed blinds that shaded his
door into the corridor, and his uncle called good-naturedly: "A pretty
time for a soldier of the Republic to get up!"

Francisco hurried into his clothes and found the Colonel taking his
coffee and rolls in a shaded corner of the _patio_.

"I am going to give you all of my time to-day, Niño, as I feel lazy, and
I find there are many things here in your own native city that you know
nothing about, and that a boy of nine should see and learn. Your mother
could not be expected to do it, so it falls to me. We must start
immediately, before the heat of the day drives us indoors. Get your cap,
lad, and we will start over in the Plaza San Martín opposite, and have a
lesson in history."

They donned their hats, and Francisco felt very proud to walk beside his
uncle, who, if not a very large man in stature, loomed up big before the
boy's worshipful eyes.

"What do you know of Buenos Aires, Niño?" he asked as they sauntered
towards the centre of the park.

"Not much, Uncle Juan. I know it is the largest city on the South
American continent, and that it has over one million inhabitants. My
teacher said once that it is one of the largest produce markets in the

"Yes, and there is much more. It is the largest Spanish speaking city in
the world, as it is twice as large as Madrid, the capital of Spain. But
it is also very cosmopolitan."

"I don't think I know just what that means, Uncle Juan."

"Cosmopolitan? Why that, in this case, means that there are many
nationalities represented in Buenos Aires. There are thousands of
Italians, Germans, Frenchmen, Englishmen and Russians; and one can hear
half a dozen different languages in an hour's time walking along the
streets. But, to-day, I want to start with a little history of our
country. So let us sit here on this bench and begin. At this early hour
we will not be disturbed."

They sat down almost under the shadow of the high statue of San Martín
and the Colonel reverently uncovered his head. Without being told,
Francisco took off his cap, and his uncle patted him affectionately on
the back. "Good, good, my boy! He deserves it, for no greater soldier
ever fought; but we will have to go back several centuries to get the
run of things," and as he leaned back he paused and puffed thin clouds
of smoke from his cigarette.

"You see, when Buenos Aires was really founded, it was in 1580,
sixty-four years after the River Plate was discovered by Solis, who
called it the River of Silver, because he believed silver could be found
on its banks. They called the city 'Good Airs,' because of the fresh,
invigorating quality of the air that blew over from the vast prairies.
This first settlement grew, and others farther into the interior sprang
from it; all of them Spanish settlements; and in 1661 the King of Spain
recognized them as a colony and appointed a governor. Thus it continued
until in 1806, when England was at war with Spain, and they sent Lord
Beresford, with several thousand men, down to this colony to take
possession of it.

"Buenos Aires then, as now, was the key to the entire country, and as it
had but forty thousand inhabitants, and was without any military
defence, he took it without trouble. But the Spaniards, at last,
overcame him; and he was obliged to give up his prize and leave. England
then sent another army, but this time the natives were prepared, and
their victory was complete. General Whitelock, in command, capitulated,
and his flag, the flag of the famous Seventy-First Regiment of the
British army, hangs in the Cathedral over yonder, where you see the
double spires beyond the house-tops. We are justly proud of that flag,
for that Seventy-First Regiment is the one that caused Napoleon no end
of trouble in Egypt.

"After this victory our people began to feel the stirrings of
independence from Spain itself, and a spirit of revolution took hold of
the officials and people. At last, an open revolt took place in the
Plaza Mayo, on the twenty-fifth day of May, 1810, and under the
leadership of splendid men--patriots all of them--our independence was

"But this was only the first step, just as it was with the great
republic of the United States when on the fourth of July they declared
their independence from England. So our twenty-fifth of May was but the
beginning of a long struggle. A _Junta_ was formed to govern, but it was
no easy task. To the north were Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia; to the
west Chile and Perú; all Spanish colonies. The _Junta_ sent troops to
these countries to endeavour to arouse the people to throw off the yoke.
They sent General Belgrano to--"

"Oh! Belgrano! I know about him, Uncle. His tomb is in the little square
in front of the church in Calle Defensa, and it was he who originated
our flag. He said the long blue bars were to represent our
faithfulness, as true as the beautiful blue of our skies; and the white
bar was to symbolize our honour, spotless and fair."

"Yes. Well, he went first to Paraguay; but the Spaniards had so
intermarried with the Paraguayan Indians, whom they had found in that
wild country, that they did not respond to the stirring appeal of
General Belgrano. He, however, succeeded in some of the northern
provinces, and thus encouraged, they organized a small navy. Do you know
who was our first admiral? No? Well, it was an Englishman and his name
was William Brown.

"With this navy, Montivideo, the capital of Uruguay, was taken.
Enthusiasm ran high, and it was just here that Don José de San Martín
came into the light of publicity, as commander-in-chief of the army. Now
let us take the automobile, awaiting us over in front of the house, and
ride to the Cathedral where the remains of our hero rest, and I will
tell you more about him there."

They rode along the clean streets, the fresh morning air blowing
straight into their faces, the curious, sing-song cries of the street
venders following them as they sped along Calle Florida.

"Uncle Juan, why is it that most of these street peddlers are Italians?
See, there goes an onion-man with his long strings of onions, their
stalks knit together into yard lengths; there is a vegetable cart; there
is a vender of fruit, and all of them speaking broken Spanish with an
Italian accent."

"Yes, Niño, most of the peddlers are Italian. I do not know why, unless
it is that each nationality turns to a special kind of work in this
world. The Italians are naturally merchants, they like to bargain. They
are also very fine mechanics. Did you ever notice that our plasterers,
or masons, who plaster the outside and inside of all our houses, speak

"And that group of men on the corner, see, Uncle, they are all dressed
alike, and must be of the same nationality; what are they?"

"Those"--indicating half a dozen men wearing full trousers held up by
red sashes, adorned with dozens of coins, their heads covered with round
full caps also red. "Those are Basques or Vascongados. There are many
here, and they come from a small piece of country to the west end of the
Pyrenees, in Spain, bordering the Bay of Biscay. Like the Italians,
they, too, follow the work best suited to them, and they are mostly
porters, because of their physical strength and powers of endurance.

"I have noticed, too, that the majority of our milk men are Basques, and
I account for that because in their native home they are a pastoral
people and such pursuits attract them. Listen as we pass: their language
is unintelligible to us although they come from Spain. It is unlike any
other European language."

They were now entering the great square called Plaza Mayo. It is the
heart of the city, although it is not in the centre. It covers about ten
acres, and is two blocks back from the muddy La Plata River; and scores
of masts and smoke-belching funnels of great ocean vessels can be seen
from its benches.

"That is our Government House. That much I know," said Francisco,
pointing to the rose-tinted building, modelled after the Tuileries, and
facing the plaza. From its rear to the river intervened grass plots and
groves of sturdy palmettoes.

"Yes, that is where our Senate convenes and where all the business of
the Republic is done. The President has his offices there, and all the
public receptions are held there. You see, our government does not
provide a home for our President; that, he must look after himself. Why,
we are just in time to see His Excellency now."

There was a clatter of hoofs under the wide _porte-cochere_ and a smart
closed coupe drew up before the side entrance. The liveried footman with
a cockade of blue and white (the Argentine colours) in his high hat
sprang to the ground and opened the door. A man, slightly above the
usual Argentine height, quite handsome, with pure Castilian features,
and dressed in afternoon garb of tall silk hat and frock coat, got out,
and walked spryly up the wide stone steps, past the sentries in scarlet
and green, into the vestibule.

"Do you know him, Uncle Juan?" asked Francisco, with awe in his voice.

"Señor Alcorta, El Presidente, is a warm friend of mine," replied the
Colonel, and as he said it he grew fully half a foot in his nephew's

"A warm friend? Do tell me about him."

"Another time, Niño, we must hasten to yonder Cathedral; but he is a
good man and a good President."

They turned towards the enormous building, shaped like the Pantheon with
its blue tile-covered cupola, and its long portico supported by huge
Corinthian columns.

It was built by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century and hundreds of
Indians were employed by these pioneer fathers, in its construction.
Like all houses in Buenos Aires, it is of masonry untinted except by
years. With the Bishop's palace next to it, it covers an acre of ground.

Francisco and his uncle entered it and crossing themselves, knelt on the
bare stone floor, for like most Argentines, they were Catholics, and
this was their greatest cathedral. After a few minutes spent in
devotion, the Colonel led the way to one of the naves, where the tomb of
the great liberator, San Martín, stands, a huge sarcophagus upon a high
pedestal of marble. The Colonel stood in meditation a moment, then drew
the boy beside him on a bench. In a low voice he said:

"Francisco, San Martín, the father of our country, was not only a great
general, but he was also a remarkable organizer, for his troops were
composed mainly of _gauchos_ of the wild uncivilized kind, who were not
easily trained or drilled. It was he who originated the plan of crossing
the Andes and liberating Chile and Perú from the Spanish yoke.

"With his army of five thousand men, and in the face of public derision,
for the undertaking seemed impossible, he crossed the rugged Cordilleras
in twenty-five days; met the Spanish general in charge of Chile and
defeated him. He was thus the liberator of the Chilean people, for that
battle on the twelfth of February, 1817, gave them their independence
from Spain. In Santiago, Chile, there is a statue to General San
Martín, and one to the city of Buenos Aires. After his wonderful
achievement in crushing the power of Spain, in Argentina, Chile and
Perú, he retired to private life, refusing to serve in any civil

"Following this revolutionary triumph, Brazil waged war with the
Argentine Republic over the disposition of Uruguay. After three years,
they agreed on its independence. This was followed by a dictatorship
lasting twenty years, that was a period of the greatest tyranny in our
history. Don Juan Manuel Ortiz de Rosas, at the head of a powerful troop
of half savage _gauchos_, appeared on the political stage, and literally
wrested the reins of government from Dorrego, who held them.

"Some time you will read in history of his twenty years of despotism. It
was during this reign that my father, your maternal grandfather, lost
his life in the blockade of Argentine ports, by French and English
forces. Rosas was at last overthrown by General Urquiza, who organized
the government upon its first solid basis, with a constitution modelled
closely after that of the United States of North America. Since then,
although we have had a few revolutions and several financial crises, we
have maintained our freedom; and our wonderful natural resources and our
rapid commercial development are giving us a stable place in the world's
congress of nations."

Francisco listened attentively, and when his uncle concluded, followed
him out a side entrance into the street, like one in a dream. They
stepped into the Calle Bartolomé Mitre, which seemed congested with a
torrent of vehicles pouring down its narrow channel like a noisy stream
and discharging itself into the great Plaza in front of the Cathedral.

"What if San Martín could see this now?" ventured Francisco, still
under the spell of the hero's achievements. "Wouldn't he open his eyes?"

"Yes, lad, the growth of this city has been phenomenal, and this
afternoon I will show you more of it. Why, you're not homesick, are
you?" he asked, noticing the far away look in the boy's eyes as they
sped along the _Avenida_.

"Not exactly, but I would like to see Elena, and find out how she is

"Why, bless my heart! I had forgotten the sick sister. We will go past
thy mother's house and if the little rose is well enough this afternoon,
we shall include her in our ride in the city."


[Footnote 8: Baker.]



ELENA was propped up with pillows in a deep chair by the window which
opened out upon the street. She looked lonely, but when she saw the car
sweep along the street and stop at their door, her face beamed happily.
There was no jealousy in Elena's heart because her brother was being
thus favoured by their uncle.

"Oh, Elena, mia," cried Francisco, throwing his arms about her, and
kissing her on each pale cheek. "Do you feel able to take a ride with us
this afternoon?"

"I think she is," answered his mother, entering the room, and taking her
son into a close embrace. "But how I have missed my Niño, Juan," turning
to her brother, the Colonel.

"Perhaps I have been selfish in taking him from you, Anita. Shall I
leave him here?"

"Ah, no! The lad needs you, Juan. He has no father to teach him as he
should be taught. It is the very opportunity for him; and I am most
pleased. Only, let me see him often, and I shall be content."

"That you shall, and this afternoon just after _máte_, we will come to
take you and Elena with us for a ride. It may bring roses to her
cheeks," and he pinched the pale cheeks as he passed her on his way

True to their promise, at five o'clock the automobile drew up in front
of Francisco's home and the Colonel, himself, carried Elena out to it,
and placed her in the nest of pillows on the broad leather seat. Her
mother followed and before Elena realized it, they were speeding toward
the central part of the city.

"Where does the little White Rose wish to go?" inquired her uncle.

"Oh, anywhere--away from this horrid street. I am so tired of it. If I
may, I should love to see the water."

"To the river, Enrique," laughingly ordered her uncle. "Only, the river
isn't a very pretty sheet of water. It is so murky, and I think should
be called the River of Bronze rather than the River of Silver."

"I know, Uncle Juan; but when I had the fever it was water, water, water
I dreamt of, and now I want to see my fill of it."

"That you shall, White Rose, for right here at Buenos Aires the river is
over twenty-five miles wide and the city has a frontage of four miles
along the waterfront."

They passed through the Plaza Mayo, and Francisco had to tell Elena of
having seen el Presidente that morning. Then they turned into the
Paseo-de-Julio, a one-sided boulevard facing the river two blocks away.
The intervening space was a maze of small plazas where palms, flowers,
shrubs and statuary edge the waterfront like a band of solid green.
Beyond, before Elena could see the water, were the busy docks, huge
masonry basins, where over two thousand ocean-going vessels come and go
during the span of a year.

Electric cranes were swinging the great cargoes of wheat and cattle into
the yawning holds of the vessels, and on and on the sea of funnels and
masts stretched until the muddy line of water at last broke on the
sight. Francisco was alert, his brown eyes taking in every detail of the
stirring busy scene; but Elena's hungry eyes looked past this to the
water beyond.

"Some day, I hope to go away in one of those big vessels," she

"Indeed, and which one will you choose, little White Rose? Here is a
wide choice. That large one with the enormous smokestacks and the
British flag flying above her, is a Royal Mail Steam-ship from England.
One of these leaves every Friday for England, and besides the mail,
carries about fifteen hundred passengers. On one of them you would
travel in great luxury; electric fans, electric elevators, an orchestra
with dances every evening, and dressing for dinner at night. Oh! it's
gay enough, the life on those magnificent steamers!

"Then, alongside of it you see a smaller boat, a French liner from
Marseilles. They go weekly also, and they bring us our champagne and our
opera companies; why, this very automobile came on one of them. There's
an Italian liner and just beyond are some German boats. In the South
Dock is a river boat that goes up country to Paraguay; our oranges come
on those. And all about are smaller boats, some sailing vessels that
carry coffee from Brazil, and yellow pine from New Orleans in the United

"Why, that one just over yonder flies the Stars and Stripes of North
America," cried Francisco, pointing to a small vessel.

"Not exactly, Niño. It is from _Los Estados Unidos_.[9] You must not
confound them, for the United States are but a part of North America,
although many of our people do not seem to think so. But you do not see
many of their flags in our docks. The commercial relations between our
two countries are as yet in their infancy. The most of our export and
import business is done with Europe."

"Do they not send anything at all down here, but yellow pine, Uncle?"
this from Francisco.

"Yes, oh! yes. They are sending us machinery, especially agricultural
machinery. When you go with me to the country you will see their
wind-mills, steam threshers and binders in great quantities. They send
us other machinery, of many kinds, but in comparison with our trade with
Germany and England it is very little."

"And do these big ships go back empty to Europe?" inquired Elena,
pointing to the long wharves.

"By no means, little girl. See those heavy carts going towards the
docks? Well, I don't suppose your young mind can take in the figures,
but Francisco will understand, when I tell you, those carts carried one
hundred and fifty million bushels of wheat last year to those returning
ships, to say nothing of millions of sheep, frozen quarters of beef,
wool, cheese and even butter and eggs. Anita," turning to his sister, "I
doubt if you, yourself, have ever been to the Barracas, have you?"

"No, Juan. It is so far from the residence district and I never happened
to drive that way."

"Then we will ride over there now and let you all see the largest
wholesale produce market under one roof that you can find in all the

For two miles they sped through narrow streets; past crowded tenements,
in front of which scores of dirty children quarrelled and played, and
where the _peons_ or working classes huddle, sometimes families of
fourteen in one room; past _tambos_, where the cows and goats stand in
sheds, open to the street, awaiting to be milked while the customer
waits; past gray spired churches, their wide doors always open, inviting
the pious passer-by to enter for prayer; passed _fideos_ factories,
where curious shaped macaroni hangs drying in the sun in the open
courtyards; on and on they bumped, for the streets here were
cobble-stones, until, at last, they reached the vast building covering
many acres, where wheat, wool, corn and produce are bought and sold to
the foreign trade.

"Were it not so late, we would alight and see it closer. However, Elena
could not walk, anyhow. Already, I fear she has had too long a ride for
her strength, and we hope not to tire her on this, her first outing; eh,
White Rose?" But Elena was fast asleep, her head on her mother's

The chauffeur turned the car towards the city, where here and there, in
the gathering dusk, an electric light could be seen as if notifying the
day, by these advance signals, that its duty was over.

Elena slept on and did not see the wonderful _Avenida_ as they flew
along its smooth surface, so like Paris as to seem a bit of that gay
city picked up and transferred to American soil; the plane trees
bordering it, with here and there a small newspaper _kiosk_ like a
miniature temple; the splendid building of "La Prensa," the richest
newspaper in the world, where the Buenos Aires public can obtain the
services of the best doctors, lawyers, or dentists free of charge;
invitingly odorous confectioneries or restaurants with small tables on
the sidewalks at which handsomely dressed men and women sit eating and
drinking and watching the gay multitude; bewildering shop windows full
of the latest Parisian novelties; fruit and flower boys, with their
trays of luscious fruits and delicately scented blossoms balanced
unaided on their heads; hotels just beginning to glitter with their
myriads of electric lights; all of these passed by them as Elena slept
the sleep of exhaustion.

Francisco, however, missed none of it, for his was the Latin spirit
full of love of pleasure and display, bright lights and gay crowds. His
uncle watched him intently from under his heavy brows.

Suddenly a weird, unearthly wail arose above the hum of the traffic all
around. Elena started up, frightened and trembling, but, as she had
heard it before, she recognized it, and fell back asleep again.
Francisco had heard it also, but never so close, it seemed right beside

"Uncle, may we not go back by the Prensa building and see what has
happened?" he cried excitedly.

The Colonel agreed and Enrique crossed to the other side of the street,
entering the long line of vehicles going west, for the "rule of the
road" in Argentina is "keep to the left." The hoarse, wailing steam
whistle had drawn the crowds towards the handsome building from whose
tower it was issuing, and they could not reach it within half a block.
Mounted policemen were everywhere trying to disperse the crowd. It was
good-natured as any Latin crowd, but refused to be moved; like a hot
water bag, it bulged out in one spot when pressed down in another. And
all of this--because the bulletin methods of this mighty newspaper are
so unusual.

Whenever any unexpected occurrence takes place in Europe or any part of
the world this enterprising "daily" apprises the public of it by blowing
this stridently piercing steam whistle. It was blown when Queen Victoria
passed away; its howl distressed the nervous citizens when San Francisco
was almost in ashes, and its present message was that a son and heir had
been born to the King and Queen of Spain. This was made known from the
front steps of the building and very soon the crowd was a cheering,
hat-waving mob. It was momentarily growing more excited and Enrique
turned into a side street and sped towards the house in Calle Cerrito,
where Elena, now thoroughly aroused by the boisterous tumult about them,
could be tucked away into bed.

As Francisco and el Coronel Lacevera sat at dinner that evening
discussing the event of the afternoon, while softly gliding servants in
quiet livery served them, the Colonel said:--

"Did you know, Niño, that every time La Prensa blows that whistle as
they did to-day, it costs them three hundred dollars?"

"Why, Uncle Juan, does it use up as much steam as that?" earnestly
inquired Francisco.

"Scarcely," laughed the Colonel, as he lifted up an enormous bunch of
muscatel grapes, weighing several pounds, from the platter of fruit
before him, "scarcely that, Niño, but our city government fines them
that amount every time they blow it, as they term it a public nuisance.
Now, when they want to indulge in this sensational advertising, they
send a messenger on to the _Commissaria_ post haste to deposit the fine,
timing his arrival just as the last howl of the whistle sounds across
the city."


[Footnote 9: The United States.]



ON the Colonel's desk the little revolving calendar was set at "December
25th," and the letters were in red ink, showing by this that it was a
feast day. The Colonel was writing, and evidently did not notice a
little figure clad in a long linen coat standing behind his chair
waiting a chance to speak. He wrote on and on, until Francisco's
patience was exhausted and he coughed warningly.

"Not much of a soldier, Niño! A soldier must have patience if it is to
wait all day."

But Francisco was used by now to his uncle's chaffing; indeed, they were
close friends and Francisco went right to the heart of his errand.

"Uncle, it's _El dia de Navidad_."

"Why, so it is," looking at the calendar. "I had forgotten it was
Christmas. We've so many feast days one cannot keep the run of all, and
I can scarcely remember my own patron saint's day. If it wasn't such a
well known and widely observed one, it would often pass before I knew

Francisco laughed. "Why, Uncle Juan, you couldn't miss St. John's day
unless you were deaf and blind. They make such a noise and have such
huge bonfires always. For weeks before it comes the children save every
piece of wood and paper, and last St. John's night I stood on our roof
and looked over the city. My! how pretty it looked; the whole city
seemed on fire; for nearly every street had half a dozen bonfires. I
wish _my_ saint was as popular. But to-day, I want to ask if I may go
home just for a little while."

"Indeed you may, lad, whenever you choose."

"Well, you see, to-day, I've a special errand, Uncle; I've been making a
_pesebre_ for Elena and it's finished now just in time. I would like to
go and set it up."

"Let me see it," said the Colonel.

"Oh, it's fine, Uncle. I've got twenty-eight figures and the paint is
dry on every one of them. I worked all day yesterday in the back
_patio_, and José, the _portero_, helped me cut out the camels. He said
mine looked like giraffes." And the boy began to lay them out on the
desk, tenderly lifting each one as though they were alive and breathing.

As each little representation took its place in the long row the
Colonel's face grew tender. He dared not smile at their crudity for
behind the rough, unskilful carving, he saw the ideal that had been in
the carver's mind. He was seeing some new thing each day in the little
fellow's character that made him love him more; and when they were all
placed formally together, he drew the little linen coated figure into
the circle of his arm and together they discussed the merits of each wee
wooden figure.

"Niño, we will go together! That's what we'll do," he exclaimed almost
boyishly. "I am tired of these long army statistics, so let us go

A span of Argentine thoroughbreds took them this time, for the Colonel
was a genuine lover of horse flesh, and he owned several of the finest
in the country. It is said that an Argentine will lavish as much care on
his favourite horse as a mother will upon her child; and these two,
Saturnino and Val-d'Or, were the pride of his heart.

"This pair, Francisco," he began, as they took their seats in the open
victoria, and the silver studded harness tinkled as the splendid horses
started off; "this pair are to be taken abroad next month with my two
trotters, Benita and Malacaro. Our horses are attracting more and more
attention in Europe as they see the fine specimens our stables are
sending there.

"I shall enter them on the English turf, and I am ready to hazard their
price that they will come back, at least one of them, with a blue
riband. At any rate, I am sure there are no finer appearing horses
anywhere than these; but all of our horses are good to look at. Of
course, I except those miserable cab horses; they are a disgrace to
their name, and should be called sheep."

Thus he chatted on, full of his subject, until they reached Francisco's
home. They found Guillerma and her mother away. They had gone to
celebrate mass and Elena, with the one _servienta_, was alone in the

"You entertain her, Uncle Juan, while I erect the _pesebre_," whispered

So the gray haired soldier took Elena on his knee and told her the story
of a little girl who was lost in a forest and of the convention of
animals that met to discuss her fate. He put most eloquent speeches into
the jaws and beaks of the different birds and animals, such as the deer,
the puma, the ostrich, the jaguar, and many others. Elena's eyes were
wide as the big bear growled out his belief that she should be cut up
into half _kilo_ bits, and divided among them; but just then Francisco
entered the room and asked them to come into the dining-room where
Estrella, the servant, was preparing _máte_.

As they entered the _comedor_[10] Elena spied the manger with its
surrounding images in the corner, on the floor.

"_Que hermosa! Que linda!_"[11] she cried, clasping her hands in
ecstasy. "Only yesterday did I tell Encarnación, when she came to bring
me Christmas cakes full of almonds and raisins, that we should have no
_pesebre_. She is to have one of ivory that cost a small fortune, but I
had rather have this. Oh! it is so beautiful! Who could have brought it?
Who could have put it here?" and she looked up inquiringly, first at her
uncle and then at her brother. Uncle Juan's face pleaded "not guilty"
but Francisco's was so beamingly tell-tale that she flew to him and
embraced him and kissed him over and over again.


When each figure had been carefully inspected and discussed Uncle Juan
proposed a ride, this time behind his favourite horses. As they entered
the house on their return he was pleased to see a faint colour on
Elena's face and a brighter look in her eyes.

Thus the days passed, swiftly enough; New Year's with its fireworks and
noisy crowds of celebrating _peons_, and at last came twelfth night.

Elena awoke on the sixth of January feverishly expectant. Surely, after
having set up such a lovely _pesebre_, the Three Kings would not forget
her. An excursion into the dining-room proved their faithfulness, for
there they stood--three smartly covered camels, and three wee kings,
bowing before the tiny babe in the manger.

Around the room were the gifts they had brought to her. A toy piano, a
wonderful French doll with a trunk full of clothes, a few picture-books
and a china tea set. She was still admiring them when Francisco arrived;
he was dressed for travelling and was quite excited, but Elena could not
notice that, so absorbed was she in her toys and doll.

"See this _muñeca_,[12] Francisco, mio! Did you _ever_ see such glorious
blue eyes, just like the English Señora's on the corner. Why, you act
as though you had seen them before, Francisco, are you not surprised to
see so many?" exclaimed Elena, impatient that he would not kneel with
her among her gifts.

"They are beautiful, Elena, every one of them. But I am in a great haste
for Uncle Juan and I are leaving from the Retiro Station in half an
hour. The servant, José, has taken our trunks and large bags ahead, and
I stopped here to bid you all goodbye, as Uncle Juan had another errand
to do on his way down. We go a day earlier than we had planned in order
that we may stop over for a day and night in Rosario. I am glad, Elena,
that your gifts are so lovely, and if I were not in such a hurry, we
would have a long play together. But I shall write to you, all of you;"
and he embraced them, each one, mother and two sisters, hastily, not
trusting himself to prolong the goodbye.

The Estación Retiro was full of a holiday crowd, for it was early
morning. José was awaiting him, and they stood watching the long trains
of cars coming and going, discharging their loads into the long sheds,
and swallowing up another one and puffing out again. Francisco's
knowledge of railroads was limited. He had never taken a long journey on
one; his mother and Guillerma had taken him with them on one of their
yearly pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Lujan, some forty miles
distant, for being devout Catholics, this was never omitted. He began to
grow nervous, fearing his uncle would be too late, as the train for
Rosario was puffing and blowing just outside the iron gate and the guard
was preparing to ring a huge bell, which announced the departure of all
trains. Just before its first peal broke from its brass throat his uncle
strode in, and, motioning the servant to follow with the bags, he
hurried Francisco through the gate.

José, the _portero_ accompanying them, was an Araucanian Indian by
birth, but he spoke Spanish fluently. When a mere boy, the Colonel's
father had brought him from Chile, when returning from a military
expedition into that country; and he had been a faithful servant of the
family ever since. As slavery is prohibited in Argentina he had been
paid wages since he became of age, over forty years ago, but no power on
earth could have induced José to leave the service of Colonel Lacevera.

He was but slightly bent and possessed the broad face and high cheek
bones of the South American Indian. His skin was like parchment, and his
eyes slanted peculiarly like the eyes of the Chinese. When Francisco had
spoken of that last characteristic to his uncle he had been told that
many people believed these Indians to be a tangent of the Oriental
races, and upheld their theory mainly because of the peculiar similarity
of the eyes.

José and Francisco were great friends and Francisco was much pleased
that José was to be with them at the _estancia_, since his knowledge of
animals, birds, herbs, in fact all out door life, was unlimited.

The car they occupied was a compartment car of the English type,
although the ponderous engine was North American. As the railroads of
Argentina are mainly under English control the English railway customs
and equipments are largely in evidence.

The pretty stations at each suburb are surrounded by grass plots with
beds of flowers, and the English system of overhead bridges across the
tracks at all stations reduces the number of accidents.

Francisco found out all of this by a series of continuous questions as
their train sped through the pretty suburbs with their numbers of summer
homes, surrounded by well kept gardens. The villages began to grow fewer
and fewer and Colonel Lacevera said:

"Now it's my turn, Niño! Can you bound the Argentine Republic?"

Francisco began in the sing-song manner of the Spanish schools:--"On the
north by Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, on the west and south by Chile;
on the east by Brazil, Uruguay and the Atlantic Ocean. Its area is one
million, one hundred and eighteen thousand square miles and its
population is over six million. It is--"

"There! There!" exclaimed his uncle, laughingly. "You may stop. No
telling how long you could sing the praises of your native land. I want
to tell you a few things that you may not have learned. Do you know what
alluvial soil is?"

"It sounds like some metal," ventured the boy.

"But it isn't. You see, Argentina was once part of the ocean bed; for
under the soil, way back in the interior of the country, I, myself,
have found shells and gravel. This long level stretch of land between
the Atlantic Ocean and the foothills of the Andes, that was once covered
with water, is now called the Pampas; and you are now in that region.

"See that long, coarse grass stretching as far as the eye can reach; it
is the finest pasture land in the world and explains why we produce such
quantities of cattle, sheep and horses. You see, having this excellent
pasture-land, so well watered, and a climate that insures grazing the
whole year through, our expenses for raising and rearing cattle are very
low. We are a larger country than we appear on the map, my boy. Why! we
are twelve times as large as Great Britain."

"Uncle, as we have so many things that are the largest and best in the
world, tell me, is this the longest railroad on the earth?"

"No, Niño, not quite that. Our railroads are developing our country at a
rapid rate and we have some of the finest road beds in the world, but
that is because our country is so level. Now that I think of it, we have
got something connected with railroads that is interesting. We have the
longest straight stretch of railway in the world, it is said. On the
Argentine Pacific Railway from Buenos Aires to the Andes it runs like a
surveyor's line two hundred and eleven miles without deviating a foot.
But come, let us go into the dining car for breakfast; it is already
half-past eleven."

This was Francisco's greatest surprise of all in a long list of the
day's surprises. To eat in a railway car, speeding fifty miles an hour,
with delicate china and napery, shining silver and food like he had been
having daily at his uncle's table, seemed too wonderful to be true.


[Footnote 10: Dining-room.]

[Footnote 11: How beautiful! How lovely!]

[Footnote 12: Doll.]



"LEVANTESE! Levantese!" came José's voice to Francisco's ear, just as
the latter was lassoing a llama he had been pursuing on the back of an

Francisco rubbed his eyes and woke from his dream to a babel of voices,
and the train was not in motion. Where could he be?

As he rubbed his sleepy eyes again his uncle took him gently by the

"Wake yourself, Niño. We are in Rosario; come, follow me."

Francisco followed him through the long hall of the compartment car out
into the big station where insistent porters and shouting cab-men made
frantic grabs at them and their baggage, only to be beaten off by José,
whose language as he scolded and berated them was not what is known as
"polite Spanish."

Selecting a victoria from the long line of waiting ones, they entered,
José sitting with the driver, and were soon before the lighted portals
of a large hotel.

The building was two stories in height and perfectly square; the second
story bed-rooms all opened on to a porch or corridor, which ran
completely around and overlooked the central court on the first floor.
The entrance was very imposing with marble staircases and marble
pillars; and Francisco's sleepy eyes opened wide in astonishment. They
were just in time for dinner; already the marble tables in the _patio_
were filling with men and women sipping their afterdinner coffee in the
cool open air.

As this was Francisco's first dinner in a hotel it might be interesting
to know what he ate. Being an Argentine, he always ate several different
kinds of meat, and began this meal with a platter of cold meats: tongue,
pressed chicken and jellied veal. Second, a vermicelli soup with grated
cheese; third, fried _pejerey_, the most popular fish of the country;
fourth, partridge fried in oil; fifth, asparagus with melted butter;
sixth, macaroni with tomato and garlic sauce; seventh, roast mutton;
eighth, a salad of lettuce and tomatoes; ninth, a sweet jelly in wine
sauce; tenth, fruits; and then they adjourned to the _patio_ for coffee.

While his uncle smoked and talked with friends, whom he had chanced to
meet, Francisco slipped away and José helped him undress for bed, as he
was very tired.

He remembered no more after José turned off the electric light until he
opened his eyes into the full glare of the sun, the next morning. It
was nine o'clock and José was laying out clean linen for him. After a
refreshing shower bath, he returned to his room to find his rolls and
coffee on a table beside his bed.

"Why, José, I'm not a lady that I must have my _café_ in bed!" exclaimed
the lad. "Mother and the girls always do that, but I'm a man and I want
to have mine in the dining-room with Uncle Juan."

José explained that in hotels one must always take one's morning coffee
in one's rooms; and he talked on while Francisco ate and dressed.

"_El Coronel_ will be busy all of the day and he has placed you in my
hands. Rosario, I know like a book, and together we will see it."

"Oh! that will be great fun, José. Where shall we go first?"

"Would you like to see them load the vessels? This city is where much of
the wheat of our country is brought to be loaded into the vessels for
Europe. The river is so deep here that the largest ocean-going vessels
can come up to the docks."

They walked through crowded, busy streets until they came to a high
bluff, and from the edge of this they could look down on the very tops
of the long rows of steamships below, all being loaded with wheat.

This was just the beginning of the busy season, for the harvest was
scarcely under way. In January and February the whole city of Rosario
would seem nothing but wheat, wheat, wheat.

Francisco saw all of this with deepest interest; he was beginning to
comprehend the resources of his own country.

They sat watching the course of the wheat bags as they shot down the
long chutes from the high bluffs to the vessels below, until Francisco's
eyes grew tired and even when he closed them he could see long lines of
bobbing bags, like yellow mice, chasing one another into the water.

So they walked along the bluff, counting the flags of the different
nations displayed on the boats beneath them; English, French, Italian,
Dutch, German and a few that Francisco had never seen before.

For a while they watched the _lavaderas_ or washer-women pounding the
clothes of the city on the rocks at the edge of the water; and spreading
them on the higher rocks behind them to bleach and dry.

Steam laundries are uncommon in South America and all of the washing is
done in this manner. The _lavaderas_ carry the soiled linen from the
houses to the river on their heads, balancing huge bundles as easily as
though they were trifles, their arms folded across their breasts.

As they stood watching this cleansing process Francisco spied a
raft-like boat piled high with small logs tied on securely.

"It looks out of place here, José, among all these enormous freight
steamers. What does it carry?"

"Willow, Señorito, and see, there are others coming down the river. It
goes to Buenos Aires to be made into charcoal, the principal fuel of
that city. Great quantities of it are raised above here; it is quick of
growth and needs only to be planted so," and José demonstrated by taking
a short twig and sticking it into the earth.

"Behold! and in seven years, it is as you see it there on the rafts
ready for market. They use the twigs for making Osier baskets. But _hace
calor_[13] let us go to the cool shady _patio_ of the hotel and there I
will tell you a story of some charcoal burners until the Uncle comes."

But the Colonel reached the hotel before they did, for Francisco must
stop to see this thing and that as they sauntered along. The mid-day
heat meant little to him while so much of novelty challenged his
attention. José was always ready to answer his questions, and he
frequently drew the boy's notice to something that would escape any one
but a keen observer, and this the Indian was.

The sun was almost in midheaven, and the daily _siesta_ was beginning in
some parts of the city. Workshops were being closed, and under every
tree some cart driver had drawn up his horse and stretched himself on
the grass under its shade; even the beggars were curled up on the church
steps fast asleep.

"Why do some of those ragged beggars wear metal badges, José?"

"They are licensed beggars, Señorito. The city has authorized them to
beg, and when you help them you may know you are helping no rogues."

Francisco drew his nose up into a prolonged sniff. "I believe I'm
hungry, José. What smells so good?"

"Step here on to this side street and I'll show you."

The street was being torn up to be repaved, and the _peon_ workingmen at
this noon interval of rest were eating their _almuerzo_. Gathered in
little groups, they sat around something that was cooking and emitting
odours of stewing meat, potatoes and onions.

"But how are they cooking here in the street?"

"Go closer and you can see," replied José.

Francisco walked to the curb, and looking over their backs into the
middle of one circle he saw--the stew cooking in a shovel.

"They buy these things at the market and use their street shovels for
stewpans, as you see."

"Ugh! I hope they wash them first," laughed Francisco.

They were now passing the market, an enormous affair covering the best
of a large block. But the scene was no longer animated for the
chattering and bargaining were beginning to cease; and the merchants,
themselves, were nodding over their wares.

Along the curbing were piles of merchandise; here, a stack of peaches,
pears, apricots, figs, nectarines, grapes, and plums; there, an array of
earthen ware, in curious shapes; here, a stock of readymade clothing,
aprons, trousers, _ponchos_[14] and shoes. The vegetables were heaped
high in piles; tomatoes, beans, lettuce, cardon, celery, potatoes,
cucumbers, and onions in long ropes, their stems so plaited together
with straw that they can be sold by the yard; or, in that country's
measure, a _metro_.[15]

Many of the stalls offered cooked foods; roasted partridges and
chickens; pâtes of jellied meats; cleaned and cooked armadillo, whose
meat tastes like tender roast pork. The Argentines are very fond of them
and they consume thousands every month.

Around the curbing, at one end of the market, stood great carts, with
wheels fully eight feet high. These, José told Francisco, were the
market carts that brought the produce into the city. They look rude and
cumbersome, but carry several tons and often as many as a dozen oxen are
hitched to them.

These interested Francisco but José bid him hurry as no doubt his uncle
would have breakfasted. Which, indeed, he was doing, for as they entered
the hotel Francisco caught sight of him, seated in the long dining-room
with several gentlemen; all of them, including the Colonel, in cool
looking white linen suits. Francisco joined them and was introduced to
the strangers.

They were wealthy _estancieros_ but not Spaniards. One was an
Englishman and the other a North American, owning ranches near Rosario,
and they were negotiating with Colonel Lacevera for some pedigreed
horses which he owned.

They talked partly in Spanish and partly in English; for like most
educated Argentines, the Colonel spoke some English and understood more.
Francisco had studied English at school just as he did French, and he
was delighted to be able to understand some of their conversation.

Before they parted, the Englishman urged Colonel Lacevera to attend a
large sale of cattle and horses which was to take place at his
_estancia_ the next day, Sunday. Patting Francisco on the head he added:

"Bring the Niño also, he may enjoy it."

So early the following morning José had their horses at the curb of the
hotel, saddled and ready for the three league gallop.

Francisco had not ridden often, but his enthusiasm knew no bounds when
he saw the Argentine pony that was to be his mount.

The Colonel looked at José meaningly, for he knew that this eagerness
would not outlast the long gallop.

At first they rode briskly in the cool morning air. Francisco held on
bravely, but the Colonel noticed the firm set of his lips, and that he
talked less and less as they rode on.

They were riding through beautiful country. The turf was fresh and green
in spots where the old coarse grass had been burned off and the tender
young sprouts were coming up through the rich soil. They passed droves
of several thousand sheep nibbling peacefully on this succulent new
growth. There were shepherds, with here and there a hut made of poles
covered with mud; the roof thatched with asparta grass.

Francisco was so tired and his bones began to ache so desperately that
he ceased to show any interest in the things they passed. Colonel
Lacevera and José exchanged knowing looks, but dared not permit
Francisco to see them. When they came to one of these rude huts his
uncle said:

"Niño, would you not like to see the inside of one of these _prairie

He admired the boy's pluck, but he feared to tax his physical endurance

Francisco willingly assented, and they rode up to the door around which
a swarm of dirty, half naked children sat on the ground.

José called: "Ola!" and a copper-coloured woman appeared at the door,
dressed only in one garment, a dun-coloured chemise.

She was an Indian, and when José spoke to her in her own tongue, asking
for a drink, she pointed to the square kerosene tin filled with water,
beside which hung a gourd.

She said her husband was out with the sheep; and she had no chairs to
offer them, but they might alight and rest.

They stepped into the hut, the door of which was a horse's hide; the
floor was the hard earth; a box stood in the middle and served as a
table, while bundles of straw in the corners served as beds. Instead of
chairs there were dried skulls of oxen; their wide, spreading horns
serving as arms to these unique seats. Francisco was glad, however, to
rest his weary body within their grewsome embrace and he sat thus for
half an hour, while José watered the horses and the Colonel talked to
the children.

Francisco himself proposed that they start on, but José was obliged to
lift him into his saddle. One more league and they were in sight of the
_estancia_, where the sale was to be held.

The house was of the usual Spanish style of architecture, and the many
buildings grouped around it gave the place a resemblance to a village.

Señor Stanley met them and "gave" them his house, after the manner of
all Spanish hosts, and they entered to wash and rest.

As the Señor Stanley was an Englishman, his house interested Francisco
in spite of his weariness. It was fitted with every luxury of a high
class English home; the baths being supplied with cool spring water
which flowed through them constantly. There were handsomely furnished
parlours, a well-filled library and a billiard room. The stables were
commodious and sanitary; and the tennis courts and golf links, gardens
and _patios_ were numerous.

In the corrals they found several hundred men gathered and there was
much confusion and noise.

It was Sunday and therefore a holiday spirit pervaded everything, for
Sunday is not observed in Argentina as a day of quiet and reverence; it
is the day for sports, games and excursions. This sale had been set for
Sunday to insure a large attendance.

First, breakfast was served. Under a long arbour, formed by tall
eucalyptus trees, the table, fully a hundred feet in length, had been
set. At each place was a bunch of flowers and a bottle of native wine.

Despite his aching body, Francisco did full justice to the soup,
barbecued meats and fowls, vegetables and fruits that were served. But
after he had eaten he crept under the shade of one of the trees to rest.

He fell asleep and slept until his uncle wakened him at _máte_ time.

"Hello, my boy! Slept through all of this noise? You were certainly
exhausted, for such a clatter as there has been. One hundred thousand
dollars and many pedigreed animals have changed hands, and it wasn't
done quietly either. We will have our _máte_ and then ride home in the
cool of the evening. Come." And the Colonel helped the stiff jointed,
weary boy to his feet.


[Footnote 13: It makes hot, literally.]

[Footnote 14: Blankets.]

[Footnote 15: A little over a yard.]



"WHAT is that you have, Manuel?" cried Francisco, to one of the _peons_,
five days later, as he sat under an ombú tree in the garden on his
uncle's _estancia_, playing with some tame _tierra_ birds, that kept the
garden clean of worms.

Manuel was one of the house _peons_ and he had a queer looking machine
with a long snout under his arm.

"Why, this is an ant destroyer, Señorito; would you care to watch me
kill ants?"

For answer, Francisco ran eagerly to his side and the two walked toward
the peach orchard. Francisco had had five days of rest from his tiresome
ride the day of the sale, and he was now ready for any new adventure.

They had arrived at the Tres Arroyas ranch three days before and he had
made friends with every one connected with the house and gardens. The
heat had been too great to allow of any wider acquaintance, which would
have included the gauchos, or cowboys; at least the nearer ones, for the
Tres Arroyas ranch was very large, and Francisco never could have known
them all. José had told him that one could ride all day from the centre
and not reach its boundaries.

"Why do you use that to kill ants?" he asked of Manuel. "Our _servienta_
at home uses hot water when they get into the _patio_."

"Ah, yes, Señorito, but these country ants come in such armies it would
take a geyser of boiling water to kill them. Now, we are here in the
orchard; you can see how they destroy things."

Curious rivulets of tawny brown ran here and there as far as the eye
could reach.

"Last spring these ants fairly cleaned our peach trees of their tender
young leaves, and it was only by continuous labour that we exterminated
them. Now, look at them! Thick as ever."

"But how can you kill millions of ants with so small a machine?"

"Well, I can't this afternoon. I brought the machine here to place it
and get it ready; then early in the morning I will tap on the iron bars
of your window and you must follow me."

It was scarcely more than dawn the next morning when Francisco heard the
gentle tapping on the _rejas_ at his window. He had forgotten his
engagement with Manuel, and started up in bewilderment. The sight of
the _peon_ reminded him and he hurried into his garments and was soon
with Manuel in the crisp morning air.

"A little more of the sun above the horizon and we would have been too
late for to-day," said the swarthy Spaniard, as he busied himself
lighting the machine.

"Ants are early risers, and it's only by getting up before they have
made their morning toilets that we can manage to make war on them."

Francisco laughed at the idea of an ant bathing and dressing, and bent
over on his knees beside Manuel who was scratching a match to light the
dry rubbish in the cylindrical can, in one end of which was a small
amount of sulphur. He screwed a lid on the other end, inserted the snout
into an ant hole and with a pair of bellows he sent the volumes of
sulphurous smoke into the labyrinthine passages of the ant houses.

"Look, look," excitedly cried Francisco, as quantities of smoke were
seen issuing from many holes, here and there, within a radius of several
hundred yards; showing how intricate and many winding are the
underground passages of these industrious pests.

"Yes, there won't be many ants getting out to work this morning. But in
a short while they will be just as bad as ever."

They went from one part of the orchard to another until the sun was too
high, and they were obliged to stop until another morning. Francisco
learned, as they walked toward the house, that these ants are the worst
pest, excepting the locust, that the farmer has to combat. They
particularly delight in carrying away whole beds of strawberries and
they often come in armies that swarm over every obstacle in their path.

As they entered the house, Francisco noticed that his uncle had had
_café_ and was in his riding breeches ready for a morning gallop.

"May I go with you, Uncle Juan?" cried Francisco.

"Hey! That's spirit for you! Rode yourself to fragments a few days ago
and ready for another trial to-day. _Che_," clapping his hands as a
_peon_ appeared.

"Saddle Barboza for the Señorito, _inmediatamente_."

Francisco gulped his _café_ and nibbled at a biscuit, but he was too
excited to eat more.

When the horses were brought to the door, his eyes gleamed, for he saw
that the smaller horse, that was to be his to ride while he was on the
_estancia_, was resplendent in a new saddle, bridle and bit. The servant
brought a set of solid silver spurs and smart leather riding boots which
he assisted Francisco to put on, and which he told him his uncle had had
sent with the saddle and outfit from the city.

The stirrups were of silver, beautifully chased, and the head stall,
ornaments for the brow band which covers most of the horse's face, and
the _pretel_ bangles that jingled across the horse's breast, were all of
the same valuable metal. It was indeed the outfit of a gentleman, and on
Barboza, the sleek bay horse, with the neat, light hoof of the prairie
steed, it seemed an equipment fit for a prince. His uncle appeared at
the mounting block and Francisco kissed him again and again as he
thanked him for the lovely gifts.

"Hey! Hey! We can't waste time thus, my boy. I am going over to the west
of the _estancia_ to inspect some horse branding that is to take place
to-day. The _mayor domo_[16] will follow me later."

They cantered off across the corral and were soon on the open plains. On
and on, over the pastures, some of them red, like battle grounds with
the scarlet _margarita_ or verbena; when again they would reach a huge
patch of white ones that looked at a distance like snow.

"What was that, Uncle?" exclaimed Francisco, startled, as a large bird
with yellow breast and gray wings screeched across their path, emitting
a harsh cry of several syllables.

"That is the _bicho-feo_."[17]

"Why do they call it ugly bug? It is a bird."

"Because its cry is not unlike those words. Listen again and you will
hear how plainly he says it. It is a bird of prey and lives on smaller
birds. That bird just fluttering up out of the grass at your left is a
scissors bird."

"Oh, I know why. See how its two long tail feathers clip the air like
scissors as it flies."

They passed numbers of small gray owls; and once Francisco spied a flock
of flamingoes across the water of a small lake. Occasionally they passed
a shepherd's hut; but now they were getting on beyond the sheep grazing
pastures and great herds of cattle came in sight.

Francisco leaped in his saddle with joy. "Oh! Uncle, are we coming to
the cowboys?"

His boyish enthusiasm had pictured them on their native heath so often,
and now he was really to see them! He had watched them when they came to
the city on holidays and walked along the Paseo de Julio, where the pawn
shops, with their tempting offers of silver sheathed knives, gaily
striped _ponchos_, and silver mounted _rebenques_[18] draw them as honey
draws bees; but to see them on the plains,--that was what he wanted!


He did not have to call on his reserve of patience; indeed, soon after
his eager question they passed a group of them, crouched on the ground
around a fire of dry thistles, over which hung a can, suspended by wire
from a tripod, and which held the water for their morning _máte_. They
arose to their feet as the Colonel galloped past and greeted him with

"Do they often use those murderous looking knives on each other, Uncle?"
asked Francisco; the sight of their weapons having subdued his zeal
somewhat. They were rougher looking men in their working clothes than
when they came to the city dressed for a lark.

"Seldom, Niño; unless they are intoxicated. They are not very civilized
and they have no education whatever. They fairly live on their horses'
backs and cannot be persuaded to do any work that must be done outside
their saddles."

They were, indeed, fierce in appearance. Their knee-high boots were made
of rawhide; they wore no trousers, but a striped blanket held around the
waist with a belt, then brought between the legs and fastened again to
the belt in front, formed the covering of the lower part of the body.
This is called the _chirapa_ and when walking it gives the wearer a
bulky appearance, not unlike a Turk.

As these were _peon gauchos_, or low-class cowboys, they were not so
picturesque as the gentleman _gaucho_, who is entirely different in
appearance and character.

The _mayor domo_ rode up to them within the first hour, and his costume
was that of the _caballero_ class or gentleman _gaucho_.

He also wore the _chirapa_, but it was over long white cotton trousers,
the edges of which were embroidered and finished with hand-made lace.
Instead of the rawhide belt of the _peon gaucho_, his was a strip of
hogskin doubled, the inside forming a pocket, which was stitched into
compartments, these being made secure with clasps made of silver coins;
from all of this hung a festoon of coins encircling the entire waist.
The large clasp in the front was of solid silver, carved to represent
the crest of Argentina. Several knives were thrust through his elaborate
belt, and his riding whip was of closely braided rawhide, with a heavy
silver handle.

Francisco eyed him curiously, but with evident admiration. This was more
to his liking, and he rode between this gentleman of the Pampas and his
soldier uncle with great pride. Almost, he was persuaded to be a
_gaucho_, but a side glance at his idolized uncle brought quick
repentance to his heart.

How could he be so disloyal to his family traditions! A _soldado_,[19]
of course, that was his destiny.


[Footnote 16: Superintendent.]

[Footnote 17: Beech-o fay'-o.]

[Footnote 18: Riding whips.]

[Footnote 19: Soldier.]



THEY reached the western corral about ten o'clock, and found the
branding already under way. Several dozen _peon gauchos_ had assembled
and they had driven the horses to be branded into an enclosure.

"See, Niño, these are all young animals; they have never had the iron on

"Why do you brand them, Uncle Juan? Your _estancia_ is so large surely
they could not stray on to a neighbour's ranch; and then the _gauchos_
watch them carefully?"

"Yes, but there are so many thousands that, despite the best of care,
our horses stray away occasionally. Before every yearly round-up, we
send _peons_ to all the neighbouring ranches to gather in the strayed
ones; and if our brand is on them there is never any question as to
their owner. I am gradually having the outskirts of the _estancia_
enclosed in barbed wire fencing, but it is so many leagues around that
it is no easy matter. But look, see how they catch them!"

They were using the _bolas_, and although Francisco had often seen them
in the shop windows, he had never seen them in use. They are an
aboriginal device for lassoing cattle and horses. They consist each of
three stone balls covered with leather and all attached to long thongs,
two of which are longer than the third. The ends of these thongs are
attached together and when the _gaucho_ uses them he raises his hand
holding these ends above his head and whirls them around and around to
gather momentum, then opening his hand the weapon flies away to coil
itself about the feet of the animal that he wishes to lasso. These
_gauchos_ are so skilful in the use of the _bolas_ that their aim is
unerring, and although it sometimes bruises the captive's legs, it is a
most convenient method for catching a fleet-footed horse or cow.


When the _gaucho_ in the enclosure had caught a horse by this means, he
immediately pulled it to the ground. A _peon_ sat on its neck while
another held it by a rope around its fore-legs, and a third blazed the
lines of the Tres Arroyas brand on its hip. The mark was in the shape of
a horseshoe, inside of which was a cross; and at least ten of these
groups were busy all of the time, burning it on the young animals.

"What do you raise these wild horses for, Uncle Juan?" inquired
Francisco, who had not missed one single detail of the performance.
"They are not fine horses like Barboza here," and he patted his steed's
neck affectionately.

"No, they are not, by any means. These wild horses are raised for their
hides mainly, although very little of them goes to waste when they are
skinned. Look over yonder, near that cluster of mud huts, where the
hides are drying in the air and sun."

Francisco's eyes followed the end of the silver riding whip that his
uncle used to point with, and saw tier after tier of poles, from which
were stretched horsehides to stakes in the ground below.

Turning to Don Carlos, the _mayor domo_, who was near-by, the Colonel
inquired the worth of the horses being branded.

"Not less than ten or twelve dollars each," answered the superintendent.
"These are very good ones. Does the Señor care to have his breakfast

For some time, Francisco had been feeling pangs of hunger. His hurried
_café_ had not been sufficient nourishment for the long hot ride, and
now his hunger was aroused by odours that came to his nostrils like
pleasant messengers; yet, he could not see anything cooking.

"Uncle, shall we eat out here with the _gauchos_?" he asked, wild-eyed.

"Very near them anyhow, but not exactly _with_ them. Manuel came ahead
of us to prepare our _almuerzo_, which is in process of cooking over
yonder behind that clump of willows. Before we eat you shall see the
_gauchos_ eat, but I warn you it is not a prepossessing sight.

"Here, Don Carlos, have the men go to their breakfast now, the lad wants
to see their table manners."

Don Carlos rode into the corral, spoke a few words and the branding
ceased. Each man mounted his own pony, for an Argentine cowboy never
walks, be his journey ever so short. With cheers and shouts they
galloped toward the mud huts near-by.

Francisco and the Colonel followed at a more dignified pace. They found
the men gathered about in groups, squatting on the ground or sitting on
ox skulls.

The beef had been quartered and roasted on a spit over a charcoal fire,
outside one of the huts. Each man, without ceremony, had "fallen to" and
helped himself, by cutting great chunks of the meat from the large piece
on the fire.

Holding one end with his teeth and the other with his hand, each man
would sever the bite about two inches from his mouth with one of his
silver-handled belt knives.

"You see how superfluous are knives, forks and plates," said the Colonel
in an undertone to Francisco as they watched this primitive process.

"And now for our own breakfast. I am as hollow as is the wild pumpkin
at the end of summer," and he gave a sharp blow to his horse, another to
Barboza, and they were off towards their own waiting meal in the shadow
of the willows.

Manuel had killed a small kid soon after reaching the corral, and had
roasted it on a spit in its skin over a fire of dry thistles and
charcoal. He was basting it with salt water, which he had brought in a
bottle. In the coals below were sweet potatoes roasting in their
jackets. So tempting were the combined odours of lamb and sweet potatoes
that Francisco ran to the little stream to wash himself, in order that
he might begin to appease his appetite at once.

"I _never_ was so hungry," said he, as he took the tin plate offered him
by Manuel. "I think I could eat with my hands like the cowboys! Do they
ever eat anything but meat?"

"Seldom. They care but little for vegetables; not enough to take the
trouble of raising a few. Meat and _galletas_, the hard biscuit of the
Pampas, often three or four months old, is all they have besides their
_máte_, that they _must_ have always.

"Que esperanza! lad, this lamb is good! It takes me back to other days.
Many times on our expeditions into the provinces have I eaten thus."

"Tell me, do tell me of one while we eat and rest," coaxed Francisco.

"There were many, lad," said the Colonel, as he passed his plate back to
Manuel for another piece of the smoking, savoury lamb. "I've never told
you of the expedition of General Roca into Patagonia. I was commanding a
regiment at that time, one of the regiments that became famous because
of that remarkable undertaking.

"Patagonia is all of the southern-most part of this continent lying
between the Rio[20] Negro and the Straits of Magellan, excepting the
narrow strip between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, which belongs to
Chile. This country is not the barren, unproductive country now that it
was before our expedition carried civilization to its wild wastes and
reclaimed those vast prairies from the Indians."

"But, Uncle Juan, what right had Argentina to take the land from the
Indians of Patagonia? They had lived there for centuries and it was

"It is a long story, Niño, and I shall give you only the bare outline.
You see, Patagonia is a series of vast terraces from the Atlantic Ocean
to the foot of the Andes. On these well watered steppes, Patagonian
Indians, mainly the Chennas, raised their cattle, allowing them to rove
at will. But the winters there are most severe, especially when a
_pampero_ blows; so, during the winter months, they drove their immense
droves of cattle to the northward into the foothills of the Andes, where
it was warmer. During these winter sojourns close to the frontier of our
Republic, they lived by murdering and stealing from our settlements, and
the development of our lands was being retarded because these pioneers
were obliged to flee to the cities and leave their fields of grain and
maize, their vineyards and their cattle to the mercy of the marauders.

"Gradually the outposts of our civilization were creeping closer to
Buenos Aires, instead of extending and growing as they should. Do you
now see why we were justified in fighting them?"

"Yes, but I didn't know they had made any trouble. I supposed they were

"Far from it. At last when Don Nicolas Avellaneda became President, he
sent General Roca, who was my general, and the Minister of War, into
Patagonia to exterminate these Chennas.

"It was not an easy task, for these Indians are a fierce race, giants in
size and strength. Do you know how they came by their name,

"I have never heard, it must have something to do with their feet as
'patagon' means 'large foot.'"

"That's it exactly. Magellan, the discoverer, saw their footprints in
the sand and because of their magnitude, he believed them to be giants,
and called them that before he had ever seen them.

"Well, General Roca never knew discouragement, and he set about their
defeat by digging great trenches, twenty feet deep and twenty feet wide,
while the Indians were up in the mountains with their herds of cattle.

"These trenches he covered with boughs, over which earth was scattered,
and when all was ready he sent us back to drive the Chennas toward the

"It was a terrible price to pay for their cruelty, and I shudder now as
I recall that awful day; but nearly all civilization is bought with
blood, and it certainly ran in torrents then. The Indians, unsuspecting,
fell headlong, thousands of them, into the trenches, and the few that
were unhurt by the fall or by being crushed in the trenches were made
prisoners and distributed among the victorious regiments as servants or
soldiers. The women and children were captured and sent to the cities to

"Ah! But those ditches! The birds, foxes, and armadillos must have grown
fat on the thousands of bodies we left on that plain."

Francisco begged for more, his eyes were ablaze and his cheeks flushed,
but the Colonel said:

"No more of fighting, anyhow; but come here by the stream, now that we
have finished our meal, and I will tell you of some of the animals I saw
in Patagonia."

"Did you ever chase ostriches?" eagerly inquired the boy.

"Yes, yes, several times and it is great sport; and once, for three
days, I had only ostrich eggs to eat. You see, we were digging those
same trenches and could not spare many of the men for hunting. I was ill
and could not eat the army rations, so José brought me ostrich eggs and
cooked them as the Indians do--in the red-hot coals."

"And was José with you on that expedition?" exclaimed Francisco.

"Yes, through all my campaigns he has been my body servant. It was José
who told us how the Indians catch ostriches; he had heard it when a boy
among his tribe of Araucanians."

Francisco clapped his hands in anticipation.

"A circle of fire around a great area was built and the huntsmen
remained within this circle. The ostriches and guanacos that were thus
imprisoned in the circle of fire were easy prey for they fear fire and
ran almost into our arms. Why, what's the matter, Niño?"

The interest had died out of Francisco's eyes and he sat with his hands
clasped over his knees.

"Well, Uncle Juan, I'll tell you. I'm disappointed!"

"Disappointed! How?"

"Uncle Juan, I don't think that's fair play or good sport."

"_Que esperanza!_" exclaimed his uncle, secretly proud of the boy's
loyalty to his conviction, but determined to draw him out on the

"And who are you that you may sit in judgment on generals and captains?"

"Oh! I don't think one's rank has anything to do with one's opinions.
Uncle, if a _peon_ thinks a thing is not right he must not do that even
though the President, himself, commands him; and I don't think hunting
animals in that fashion is fair. The little English boy I play with at
school is always saying that we Spaniards are not--well, he calls it
'sporty.' That's their English word for it. He says that the Englishmen
are the truest sports on earth and that they would never hunt as we do."

"To a certain extent he is right, Francisco. We don't care for the
excitement of the chase merely for the excitement as they do; we are
less active in our temperament, and prefer to gain our ends with the
least expenditure of energy. I want you, above all things, my lad, to be
broad-minded, and able to see your own shortcomings, so think this
matter out and if you are convinced that we are not right as a people,
in our attitude towards sports, or anything else for that matter,
formulate your own opinions and then stick to them.

"It is through such men that all nations grow; and the men that are able
to see their national deficiencies are the great men, the reformers,
and the leaders.

"But in regard to the ostriches. How would you catch them if you had the

"I should do it as the English lad tells me he saw them do it in Chubut
Territory; that's part of Patagonia, isn't it, Uncle?"

The Colonel nodded, smoking industriously.

"Well, he says the real way to catch ostriches is with the _bolas_. He
saw his father chase them there and he says they hunt them in an open
plain, not in a circle of fire. They give the birds an equal chance with
them for their lives, and if the ostrich can't outrun them, then, when
they are within throwing distance, they whirl the _bolas_ around their
legs and trip them. He says it is fun to see an ostrich run; it
stretches out its long neck and with its awkward long legs kicks up a
great cloud of dust behind it. He also told me about seeing guanacos
and pumas. Did you ever hunt them, Uncle?"

"Yes, but guanacos are hard to shoot because of their keen sense of
smell, they can scent a human being over a mile away; but their flesh is
delicious, tasting much like venison.

"Have you ever seen the puma skin in the library of my city house?"

"Yes, I have often seen it and one day I measured it; it was over two
metros in length. Are those guanaco skins in the dining-room at the
_estancia_--the tawny yellow ones with white spots and such deep soft

"Yes, and the ostrich robe that your aunt uses in her carriage is made
of the breasts of young ostriches; it is as soft as down and marked
brown and white. The Patagonian Indian women often wear them for capes,
although they are very expensive.

"You know, the ostriches we have here are not the kind that produce the
long plumes worn in ladies' hats; these are called the 'rhea' and are
an allied species. Speaking of skins, Francisco, I will tell you of one
that will interest you. It is a vicuña, and one of the finest I have
ever seen. It was presented to your great-grandfather, General Lacevera,
by a chief of the Incas, as a vicuña robe is worn only by one of royal
blood among the Indians. It saw service as your great-grandfather's
_poncho_ during his remarkable career, and is now over one hundred years
old, yet it is as soft as velvet. Being one of our family heirlooms, it
shall be yours, as I have no son."

"That pleases me and I shall be very proud of it."

"As you well may be. Whatever fortunes come to you in life, Niño,
remember you are a Lacevera."

Sleep was sweet that night, and Francisco's head was scarcely on his
pillow when guanacos, vicuñas and even _gauchos_ were forgotten in
dreamless slumber.


[Footnote 20: River.]



THERE was not a dull moment for Francisco during the weeks that
followed. Don Carlos, the superintendent, lived in the great house the
year through. He was a bachelor and a man of education, so that when the
Colonel came each summer he insisted that he keep his usual quarters;
for the house was very extensive and the Colonel enjoyed his company at
meals and during the long evenings.

Francisco had accompanied Don Carlos on several excursions and once,
with a _tropilla_ of horses (eight or ten riding horses driven loose by
a _peon_ for fresh mounts on a long journey), they had gone on a journey
of five days to a neighbouring _estancia_ to purchase algarroba posts
for the extensive fencing that was taking place on the Tres Arroyas
ranch. This algarroba wood is like iron and under water is almost

They had passed by one small _estancia_ devoted almost exclusively to
peanut culture; there were leagues and leagues of them being raised to
be shipped to the Mediterranean ports to be made into _olive oil_. They
had their dinner at this _estancia_ and Francisco ate bread made from
powdered peanuts mixed with wheat flour and he found it very delicious.

José had taken him on several fishing excursions, and once they had
hunted _armadillos_ with small dogs. Francisco had laughed heartily at
the antics of one dog, who had almost caught the horny-plated little
animal when it suddenly rolled up into a ball, its back of movable, bony
bands enveloping it like an armour, and rolled off a bluff over the
river bank, falling fully fifty feet; while the puzzled dog peeped
cautiously over the brink to see it unroll itself and with its short
legs hastily dig a retreat under the earth.

On Francisco's birthday his uncle had given a _fiesta_ in his honour.
There were fireworks and races, and cowboys from all parts of the
_estancia_ came in their full cowboy regalia on their best horses to
participate. It was very interesting, and then there was a dinner for
everybody and after that a dance. Francisco, himself, presented the
prizes, and his uncle made a speech.

After so much excitement Francisco overslept the next morning, and awoke
to find that his uncle had ridden to a far corner of the _estancia_ to
inspect some of the new fencing; he had left word that he would not
return until late that night.

Francisco sat under his favourite ombú tree, watching a _mangangá_, or
carpenter bee, that was humming loudly in the foliage above his head and
looking like a shining ball of gold among the green leaves. He had
received a letter from his mother that morning, and he was a bit

"El Señorito is _triste_. No?" It was José's voice behind him.

Francisco brushed away a tear that had stolen down his cheek, and turned
to greet the Indian with a smile. "I was wishing to see Elena, but it
won't be long now; and I shall hate to leave this lovely place, too. But
one can't have everything one wants, all at the same time, can one,

"No, Señorito, but we always have _one_ happiness; have you noticed it?
There never comes a time when we haven't one, at least. Now I've one
just now, and I am going to share it with you. It will take away your

"Is it--is it another fishing trip?"

"No, but it's better. Now listen, and I will tell you about it.

"While the _gauchos_ were dancing and making merry over your birthday,
last night, some miserable robbers got into the horse corrals and stole
all the horses' tails."

"The horses' tails!" gasped Francisco.

"Yes, you see that's partly what we raise wild horses for; their skins
and their tails. South American horsehair for mattresses is famous all
over the world, and it brings good prices. Now, these thieves make their
living by visiting the different _estancias_ and helping themselves to
the horses' tails.

"Word came to your uncle, just before he left, that when one hundred of
his horses were driven out of the Corral De Oeste this morning, they
hadn't a single tail among them. So he has offered one hundred _pesos_
to the one, or ones, who can catch these thieves. Would you like to

Had José asked him if he would like to swing on to the new moon by his
toes Francisco could not have been more startled.

"Try--! Why José, you can't be in earnest!"

"_Como no?_" grinned the Indian cheerfully.

"But José, wouldn't they shoot us, and, anyhow, I know you are jesting
when you ask _if I_ would care to try. You,--you are a strong man, even
if you are getting old, and I heard the _peon_ children down by the huts
say that there was no man for leagues and leagues around that could
wrestle as you do; that you learned how from a Japanese soldier years
ago in Chile. And I know you can shoot; but I would just be in the way."

"No, Señorito, you wouldn't be in the way. Manuel and I want you to go
with us because we need you."

"Need _me_! Oh, José!" and Francisco's eyes gleamed brightly. "Do you
think Uncle would allow me to go with you?"

"He is not here to say, and we must leave before he returns. But he left
you in my care and if I feel sure no harm can befall you, I see no
reason why you should not go."

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" shouted the happy boy, dancing around José and clapping
his hands.

"This is the greatest adventure I ever had. To hunt brigands! Why, it's
too good to be true. Won't Ricardo grow green with envy when I tell him
about it, and won't the little English boy sit with his eyes wide open,
while I recount the story to him. He will hush up about his ostriches
and guanacos after this," and Francisco sat on the ground hugging his
knees, and rocking to and fro gleefully.

"Well, don't clean your turtles till you've tied them, Señorito. We may
not get them. It's only because I have a clue and a scheme that I am
willing to try; for they are pretty clever fellows and they won't be
easy to catch. We want to take you for a decoy, and besides, I think you
would enjoy it. A Lacevera, even at nine years of age, is no coward."

"A coward, I should say not. Why, José, I am _never_ afraid. But what is
a decoy?"

"A decoy? Well, that's what we used when we caught flamingoes the other
night. Do you remember how we put young frogs on the end of a string and
then lay low in the grass and waited?"

"But, you can't tie a string to me, José--and--and--besides I don't
be--believe I want to be a decoy. It isn't that I'm not brave; no,
indeed, José--but I think I would rather you would decoy them with
something else."

"Leave that to me, Señorito, and I promise they won't hurt you. You must
have forgotten you are a Lacevera. They shall not gobble you up as the
flamingoes did the frogs. Just what would you buy, anyhow, if you got
your share of the reward?"

"Buy!--Let me see. There are so many things to buy. But now that I have
my lovely saddle and silver stirrups I don't need much for myself. I
think I would buy a beautiful parasol, all lace and chiffon, for
Guillerma, for young ladies don't care for anything much but clothes.
Then I should buy a jewelled fan for Mamá, and then--well, I believe
Elena and I would spend the balance for Carnival as it comes next month.
But José, what did you say about not cleaning your turtles till you had
tied them?"

José laughed and patted him on the back. "True, Don Francisco. But let
me tell you our plan, or part of it. I have reason to believe that these
two horsetail thieves are taking shelter with some charcoal burners over
near the river. These charcoal burners are rough men, who live almost
like savages. They injure no one, however, and it is only when they
quarrel among themselves that they do any harm. They may not know who
these men are, and are allowing them to tarry with them, believing them
to be beggars, or _gauchos_ hunting employment.

"I feel sure they are too loyal to the _estancia_ to harbour them if
they knew who they were. Now be ready immediately after breakfast, for
we must start in time to reach the charcoal kilns before dusk."

It was twelve o'clock, when José, Manuel and Francisco galloped off in
the direction of the river, and it was just _mate_ time when they came
in sight of the charcoal kilns and adobe huts near the river's bank.

Gathered about the fires, over which hung boiling water for making the
_máte_, were several clusters of these uncouth appearing men. Dirty
looking women sat in groups apart, with dozens of dirtier children
rolling about on the hard earth at their feet. A pack of dogs ran out to
greet them, yelping in front of their horses, until they were called off
by their respective owners.

José and Manuel approached one group, and after greeting and being
greeted, asked for boiling water with which to make _mate_. This was
given willingly, and with Francisco they sat down on the ground among
the men and began leisurely to sip _mate_ from the gourd that Manuel
always carried in his saddle bags.

They talked in friendly fashion with the dirty _carboneros_, who were as
black as the fuel they made. Francisco noticed two men, who were less
grimy in appearance and who sat quietly side by side, taking no part in
the conversation.

They glanced occasionally at José and Manuel in a hostile manner, and
suspicion seemed to lurk in their attitude towards them. Francisco felt
sure these were the thieves, but José and Manuel took no notice whatever
of them and Francisco feared his friends had not seen them.

After _mate_ Francisco asked to see the kilns and José and Manuel took
him over to examine them and explain to him how the willow was made
into charcoal. It was quite dark when they returned to the huts and
proposed that they return to the _casa_.

"Can the boy take another long ride in the same day?" asked one of the
_carboneros_, more kindly in manner than the rest. "Is he not exhausted?
We have no shelter here, but you are welcome to roll up in your blankets
by the fires, for the night wind from the Pampas is cool."

"No, it is moonlight. A thousand 'gracias'[21] for your offer, but the
lad is a good rider and we shall be home before midnight;" and bidding
them _adios_, José and Manuel with Francisco, wondering at their
behaviour, started towards the enclosure where the horses had been
staked together with several other animals.

And then José did a thing that made Francisco's eyes fairly start from
his head. He deliberately lifted up the stake to which a piebald mare,
belonging to one of the thieves, was tethered, and throwing the knotted
end of the long bridle across the pommel of his own saddle, rode out at
the far end of the enclosure.

As he galloped off, Manuel and Francisco followed and soon they were all
abreast, their horses' swift feet brushing the evening dew from the
pampas grass as they flew along the level prairie. They rode so fast
that the little fellow could not venture a question, it required all of
his wits to keep his seat.

They had gone thus for fifteen or twenty minutes when he heard the sound
of horses' hoofs away off in the distance.

"Carramba! They are after us," cried Manuel. "Good! Now for the chase.
Let your heart be glad, Señorito, they have taken the bait."

Still Francisco wondered, he could not yet see through their plans, but
excitement made his blood run hot through his veins; and he held on to
Barboza's neck and spurred her on to keep the pace.

When a glimpse of water ahead of them, sparkling in the moonlight, told
them they were near the river Salinas, a small tributary to the great
river they had just left, the men slackened their speed and Francisco
was able to get a full breath.

He could hear the soft thud of the pursuing horses' feet on the pampas
grass plainer and plainer, and when their own horses were within a few
hundred feet of the stream he could hear the men's shouts.

"Are there more than two?" asked José.

"No, just the two thieves, themselves. Those _carboneros_ would never
give us pursuit. It is none of their affair and they seldom meddle.
They probably loaned one a horse in place of this one you are leading."

"Or they helped themselves as we did," chuckled the Indian.

They were close to the ford now; in the bright moonlight the middle of
the river gleamed and danced; but the two banks were in deep shadow
because of the heavy clumps of willows and low growing trees.

The thieves were but a short distance behind them when their horses
plunged into the water.

"Heaven be praised! So far--so good," whispered José to Francisco. "Now
do just as I bid you; our time is come."

They crossed the ford and were leaving the water, enveloped in the dense
shadows, when José dropped from his horse and threw the reins into
Francisco's hand; Manuel did the same, as José's voice said in a

"Ride half a league and wait for us."

And now the boy saw their plan; he was to ride ahead, the hoof beats of
the four horses indicating to the pursuers that they were all still
fleeing, and José and Manuel in ambush would have it all their own way.

He spurred his horse to its highest speed; but it seemed to him that his
heart-beats would drown the hoof beats, so vigorously was it pounding
against his side. It was an anxious interval and to the fleeing boy
seemed an eternity; but it was really but half a minute when he heard a
sharp cry, and then--a shot. But he rode on, fearing to stop until the
half league was covered. He knew the fight was over and that either José
and Manuel were being carried back to the huts beside the big river, or
that they would soon overtake him with their prisoners.

Soon a shout came to his ears. It was José's voice and his mind was
relieved. He reined in the horses, which was an easy matter for they
were panting, and waited beside a shrine, whose white cross stood like a
ghost beside the trail; and soon he saw four figures toiling along, two
in front and two behind. The two in the rear were José and Manuel, and
they were holding their pistols close to the heads of the two in front,
who walked with the shambling gait of men whose feet were hobbled, as
they were, with stout _bola_ thongs; their hands were tied behind them,
and as they shuffled unevenly along they were bawling out curses, the
like of which Francisco's ears had never heard.

But the boy was so eager to hear about their capture that he paid no
attention to the vile language, that at any other time would have made
him cringe and tremble.

"Oh! José--Manuel--Do tell me all about it! How did you get them?"

"Well, you see, we grappled with them so unexpectedly that they had no
time to defend themselves; thanks to the little frog on the end of the
string," and José patted the boy on the shoulders encouragingly.

"One of them tried to shoot as he was regaining his feet, just after we
dragged them from their horses, and Manuel has a scratch on his thigh,
but otherwise, we are all well and doing finely. Manuel will ride on to
the _casa_ for help and you and I will remain here to keep these
gentlemen company. They are great on talking, just listen to them now.
Maybe they will tell us the price of horsehair per kilo--eh, gentlemen?"
and the Indian grinned derisively at the cursing men.

"But José, Manuel is not fit for the saddle; let me go to the house.
Please, I beg of you--"

"What! Alone--and at night. Why, the Colonel _would_ say I had risked
much should he see you ride in at midnight--alone."

"Uncle? Why uncle Juan is always pleased when I show any bravery; and
besides there is nothing else to do. Manuel can't stay with just me
here--he is suffering, and he can't ride--so it's the only thing to be

"Well, but you will have to ride pretty fast, Señorito, and tell them to
send the _peons_ immediately. Here, ride the piebald mare. It's yours
anyhow, I dare say, or will be. It has been all day in the corral and is
fresh, while Barboza is tired."

José changed the saddle, and Francisco was off towards the _casa_.

It was nearly two o'clock when Don Carlos awoke the Colonel, who had
returned about midnight from his journey.

"Who calls, Colonel? It sounds like the Niño's voice."

They were out by the edge of the house corral, as Francisco rode up, and
with almost the last breath he seemed to have left in his little body,
he shouted,

"We've caught them! We've caught them! They are over by the 'Last
Tribute' shrine near the Rio Salinas, and José and Manuel are waiting
for help to bring them here; José could not bring them alone, and Manuel
has a wound."

His uncle was lifting the tired Niño from the saddle, but he did not
place him on the ground; he carried him close to his heart into the
house and laid him on his soft bed. He left him saying he would go with
Don Carlos to help rouse the _peons_, and Francisco heard him blow his
nose vigorously as he crossed the _patio_, and knowing that his Uncle
Juan had no cold, he accepted the tribute to his bravery with a proud
smile, and was asleep before he knew it.


[Footnote 21: Thanks.]



FRANCISCO had been at home now for a week. He had returned to find Elena
rosy and well and the house in a turmoil of preparation, for Guillerma
was to be married. Her fiancé was a wealthy _estanciero_ from the
province of Mendoza, which lies almost at the foot of the Andes, and he
had made a fortune from raising grapes for wine. His _estancia_, also,
produced great quantities of figs, dates and sugar cane.

Guillerma was very happy, for although El Señor Conquero was older than
she by fifteen years, theirs was a genuine love match. He had seen her
at mass, one morning, and the following day, he had presented himself to
her mother and her Uncle Juan with irreproachable credentials, and their
engagement of six months was to culminate in the celebration of their
marriage during the early part of March.

It would be a very quiet wedding, for Señor Conquero was in mourning for
his father, who had died over a year before; and the custom of mourning
in Argentina demands two years of seclusion from all social events after
the loss of a parent.

Her Uncle Juan had been most generous in his allowance for her
trousseau, and she, with her mother, was busy all of each day visiting
the dressmakers and shops.

Francisco, at first, was very much distressed because Guillerma was to
live in Mendoza, as that fertile province is the seat of numerous
earthquake disturbances. Scarcely a month passes that the inhabitants
are not startled by one, and as a rule they sleep with open doors to
insure a quick exit in case one occurs during the night.

But Guillerma assured him she did not fear them, as there had been no
serious ones since 1861, and when she began telling him of the beautiful
home she would have, surrounded by wide vineyards and orchards of olives
and figs, where he could come to visit her, and with Elena play just as
they pleased, he became better reconciled to her marriage.

He was very busy, himself, for Carnival, the great festival, came early
this year, and never before had he had so much money to spend in its

He and José and Manuel had divided the reward money they had received
for capturing the horsetail thieves, and Francisco felt very proud of
his share of it. He and Elena had counted it over and over, and planned
how each _peso_ should be spent. Each one of the family, including the
servant, should have a gift, and the balance would be their own to use
as they chose for the celebration of the greatest _fiesta_ of the whole

As in many Roman Catholic countries, Carnival comes during the week
preceding Lent; and although it is really a church festival, it is the
least religious of any celebration, whether of church or state.

In Buenos Aires everything dates from it and everything stops for it;
even business is suspended. It is a festival of merriment and revelry,
and every house and every street is decorated before its arrival in
flags, banners, streamers and lanterns. There are processions and
continuous parades, with crowds of people in masks and dominoes, blowing
horns, dancing and singing.

This year, Francisco and Elena were to be allowed to enter the _corso_
or Carnival parade, and Uncle Juan had offered his motor car, which was
to be decorated with garlands of paper flowers; José was to be their
chaperon and Enrique would drive the car.

Elena and Francisco owned their little costumes, which they had used on
previous occasions, but as they had their own money this year, they had
decided to buy new ones to wear in the parade.


Elena was to be dressed as a shepherdess, and Francisco as a Spanish
king. Their mother had neglected Guillerma and her trousseau one entire
day, in order to go with the children to help them select their costumes
and masks; for no one enters into the streets in costume without a mask
or domino.

The morning of the day on which the great parade was to take place the
children spent, dressed in their old costumes, playing with the
neighbours' children in the streets.

Although the law had forbidden the custom of throwing water at
pedestrians, the number of people who were drenched by unexpected pails
of water thrown from upper balconies was not lessened, and the children
broke dozens of _pomos_, or rubber balls filled with perfumed water, on
each other and strangers, as well, who chanced to pass.

After _siesta_ that afternoon, Elena and Francisco began their
preparations for the parade; and when the gayly decorated car drove up
about six o'clock with a fiery red representation of His Majesty, the
devil, on the front seat and a _pierrot_ or harlequin with one half of
his costume a vivid green and the other half yellow, Elena and Francisco
were dressed and ready.

The harlequin jumped out and bowed low to the ground, and Elena ran back
into the house, for she was sure this comical looking fellow could never
be José. But she was reassured when he lifted his mask, and soon the
huge car was puffing along the street with the red driver in front and a
dainty little shepherdess, a small king in velvet, gold lace and a
crown, and a harlequin in green and yellow, all sitting on the back
seat, throwing confetti and waving banners and shouting at the people
gathered on the corners or on the balconies of the houses.

Enrique took them up one street and down another, among the crowds of
the other carriages and automobiles, all full of gayly dressed maskers
bent on making as much noise as possible.

As it grew darker the streets began to blaze with arches of electric
lights, many of the bulbs being swung inside Chinese lanterns. The crowd
grew denser and many times they were caught in a mass of carriages, that
could move neither one way nor the other. Mounted police were
everywhere, trying to disperse the people where the crowds were too
thick, and even they were treated to the contents of hundreds of _pomos_
until their horsetail plumes and scarlet lined capes dripped perfume
like water.

At eight Enrique stopped the car in a side street opening on to the
great Plaza, where the procession was to form; his plan being to allow
the children a view of part of the parade from this vantage point, and
then to slip out the side street and enter the _corso_ from the rear.

It was nine o'clock when the bands of music took their places at the
head of the procession and they were followed by large fancifully
decorated wagons, filled with young ladies dressed to represent well
known allegories.

Then came floats with papier-mache figures caricaturing political events
in the history of the Republic. These were followed by companies of
horsemen dressed in every sort of fantastic costume; victorias filled
with merry maskers, floats with goddesses, and burlesqued well-known
public characters. King Carnival was seated on a high throne, very
handsomely draped, and drawn by sixteen pure white horses. When the
children grew tired of looking, Enrique joined the procession itself,
and the hearts of Elena and Francisco were beating high with excitement,
for their ambition was realized--to be a _part_ of the great Carnival

It was quite one o'clock before José could persuade them to leave it and
be taken home; and it was many days before they ceased to talk of their
wonderful experience.

But school would open immediately after Carnival and Francisco was
anxious to reenter, as he was fond of books and made good progress in
his studies.

His Aunt Sarita with her six daughters had returned from their summer
outing and Uncle Juan was preparing for a trip abroad immediately after
Guillerma's wedding should take place. Francisco saw him often, for they
had grown very fond of each other during their summer together, and even
Aunt Sarita began to love him more as she saw him oftener.

The first day of school had arrived, and Francisco, in his clean linen
duster, had proudly led Elena to the school, for this was to be her
first year. He was very proud of his pretty sister, who was shy, and
held on tightly to her protector's sunburned hand.

He introduced her to her teacher, kissed her, and then hurried out into
the large _patio_ to greet his old school friends.

They were all there, like a flock of tan coloured butterflies in their
linen coats, their hair brushed sleekly into place and their faces and
hands smelling of recent cleansing with perfumed soaps.

Francisco was a favourite. Soon he was in the middle of a group of
interested listeners, recounting to them his experiences on the

He was only human, and you must forgive him if he told of his adventure
with the horsetail thieves. Even the little English boy grew excited and
plied him with questions that seriously retarded Francisco in his
account of their capture. The bell rang just as he finished, and they
all fell into line in the _patio_, where the beautiful Argentine
national hymn was sung, and the Argentine flag of blue and white was
saluted by each pupil as they passed it on their way into the



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       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Varied use of accents mate/máte, estancia/estáncia, and Martin/Martín
were retained.

Page xi, Table of Contents, "v" changed to "vii" to reflect actual
first page of Preface.

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