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Title: Wanderings in Patagonia - Life Among the Ostrich-Hunters
Author: Beerbohm, Julius
Language: English
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WANDERINGS IN PATAGONIA.

       *       *       *       *       *

Crown 8vo., cloth extra, 3s. 6d. each. THE WANDERER'S LIBRARY.

=The World Behind the Scenes.= By PERCY FITZGERALD.

=Merrie England in the Olden Time.= By GEORGE DANIEL. With Illustrations
by Robert Cruikshank.

=The Old Showmen and the Old London Fairs.= By THOMAS FROST.

=The Wilds of London.= By JAMES GREENWOOD.

=Tavern Anecdotes and Sayings=; including the Origin of Signs, and
Reminiscences connected with Taverns, Coffee Houses, Clubs, etc. By
CHARLES HINDLEY. With Illustrations.

=Circus Life and Circus Celebrities.= By THOMAS FROST.

=The Story of the London Parks.= By JACOB LARWOOD. With Illustrations.

=The Lives of the Conjurers.= By THOMAS FROST.

=The Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack.= By One of the Fraternity.
Edited by CHARLES HINDLEY.

=Low-Life Deeps.= An Account of the Strange Fish to be found there. By
JAMES GREENWOOD.

=Seven Generations of Executioners.= Memoirs of the Sansons (1688-1847).
Edited by HENRY SANSON, late Executioner of the Court of Justice of
Paris.

=London Characters=: Illustrations of the Humour, Pathos, and
Peculiarities of London Life. By HENRY MAYHEW. With Illustrations by
W. S. GILBERT, and others.

=The Genial Showman=: Adventures with Artemus Ward, and the Story of his
Life. By E. P. HINGSTON. Illustrated.

=Wanderings in Patagonia=: or, Life among the Ostrich-Hunters. By JULIUS
BEERBOHM. Illustrated.

⁂ _Other Volumes are in preparation._

CHATTO AND WINDUS, PICCADILLY, W.

       *       *       *       *       *


  [Illustration: AN INDIAN CAMP.      p.96.]



  [Illustration: AN INDIAN CAMP.      p.96.]


WANDERINGS IN PATAGONIA

Or

Life Among the Ostrich-Hunters

by

JULIUS BEERBOHM

[Illustration]

A New Edition, with Illustrations



London
Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly
1881



WANDERINGS IN PATAGONIA.



CHAPTER I.


In the month of August, 1877, I found myself on board ship, bound from
Buenos Ayres for the coast of Patagonia, in company with a party of
engineers, who were going to survey that portion of the country which
lies between Port Desire and Santa Cruz.

After leaving the River Plate we encountered adverse winds and heavy
weather, which kept us tossing about for three weeks, without making
any material progress on our course. At last we got a fair wind,
however, which soon brought us close to our destination, the port of
St. Julian (lat. 49° 20' S.); and one morning, together with my five
o'clock coffee, the cabin-boy brought me the welcome news that land
was in sight. I jumped out of bed and ran on deck, careless of the
hail and rain which were falling in blinding showers, and of the wind
which blew off the land, far colder and sharper than we had hitherto
experienced. On looking to leeward, I could at first see nothing but
a thick bank of clouds; but presently the horizon got clearer, and I
descried a dark, lowering line of coast, of fierce and inhospitable
aspect, rising abruptly from the sea to a considerable height.

I had not long to examine it, for a sudden shift of the wind shrouded
the whole coast in mist, and it did not become visible again till the
afternoon, when the weather cleared up, and the sun shone out
brightly. The wind, however, slowly increased in violence; by the time
St. Julian came in sight we were plunging along under reefed topsails,
and the captain began to think that we should have to stand off the
port till the force of the storm had abated--a prospect which threw us
all into dismay, as we had already been looking forward with vivid
expectations to the pleasure of stretching our legs on _terra firma_
the next morning--a luxury which those who have made a long sea voyage
can fully appreciate.

While the captain was yet doubtful what course to take, the matter was
summarily decided by the weather itself. The wind, which had hitherto
been blowing from the north-east, shifted to the south-east, and
redoubled its fury; and rather than run the risk of standing off the
port for the night, under a lee shore and with a strong current
setting in to the land, the captain elected to face the lesser danger,
and enter the port.

The necessary orders were accordingly given; a man was sent aloft to
look out for banks or rocks, and all preparations were made for any
emergency. An anxious time ensued for all on board, as we steered
slowly in under the northern headland of St. Julian, menaced on either
side by steep and rugged cliffs, falling vertically down to the
water's edge; the sea dashing at their base with an angry roar, and
hurling the white spray almost to their very summits. The gale howled
through the rigging, and a thousand sea-birds, startled at such an
unusual apparition, circled round the ship, white and silent, seeming
to eye us with an unpleasant curiosity.

Suddenly we heard a shout, "Breakers ahead!" and everyone turned pale
and looked anxiously forward. Right in front of us, and forming a belt
across the entrance of the port, stretched a line of breakers, boiling
and foaming like a cauldron; while to the left a long ledge of black,
jagged rocks pierced through the waters, promising certain
destruction, should we drift upon them. For a moment the captain was
irresolute; but it was too late to go back; in any attempt to put the
ship round we should have gone on the rocks, and there was, therefore,
no alternative but to continue our course and dash through the
breakers, leaving the rest to fate. On we went, with beating hearts
and strained nerves, as the threatening roar of the foaming rollers
became louder and louder. In another second we were in their midst,
and everyone held his breath in suspense. Suddenly there was a shock;
the ship quivered, and I was thrown violently on my face. By the time
I got to my feet again, all danger was over. We had crossed the
harbour bar, and were now sailing slowly up the bay, in comparatively
smooth water, and congratulating ourselves on our escape from what had
looked a most serious peril. The wind, too, had lulled, and by the
time we let go the anchor all was still and calm. The sun was just
setting; one by one the gulls, albatrosses, and other sea-birds, which
had hitherto been continuously sweeping round the ship, disappeared;
and not a sound was heard from either side of the broad bay.

On arriving in port, after a long sea voyage, the sudden change of
scene and associations, the bustle and the noise of commercial
activity--the steamers, lighters, and other small craft, plying from
shore to shore; the ships moored alongside the wharves, taking in or
discharging cargo, the busy hum arising from the distant town, the
sight of new faces, and the sound of strange voices--all combine to
excite and bewilder one, contrasting forcibly with the dull, quiet,
and drowsy sameness of the life one has just been leading during
several weeks of dreary navigation.

But none of these accustomed sights and sounds gladdened our hearts in
the desert harbour where we had just safely come to anchor, after our
stormy passage. The silence of death reigned everywhere, and its
mysterious effect, joined to the wild character of the surrounding
country, whose bold, bare hills were now looming gigantic and black in
the gathering dusk, impressed me with a vague sense of awe and wonder.

And not out of harmony with the gloomy spirit of solitude which broods
over St. Julian, are the tragic memories connected with the three
famous nautical expeditions which have visited its inhospitable
shores.

We were anchored between two islands--Justice and Execution Islands.
These names were given to them by Sir Francis Drake, who visited St.
Julian in 1578. On the former he caused one of his party, a Master
Doughty, to be put to death for alleged insubordination. Sir Francis
found a gibbet already erected on one of these islands, which had been
left there by Magellan, who passed the winter of 1520 at St. Julian,
and who, during his stay, had also to quell a formidable mutiny which
broke out amongst his little fleet; and which, but for his timely
energy, foresight, and courage, might have ended fatally for him. The
ringleaders were executed. In more modern times, another fatality
occurred during the expedition of the _Adventure_ and _Beagle_, 1832.
A Lieutenant Sholl, a young officer of much promise, died there, and
was buried on a point overlooking the bay which now bears his name.
The spot is marked by a small cairn, bearing an inscription recording
the date, etc.

As I looked over the bay, for all the change that has happened there
since, either in the rugged outlines of its shores or in the spirit of
silence and desolation that hangs over them, it seemed that it might
have been but yesterday that Magellan dropped anchor there, with his
quaint, high-pooped craft:

     'The first who ever burst into that silent sea.'

Peering into the darkness till a mist rose into my eyes, I gradually
fell into a half-dreaming, half-waking state, and presently I seemed
to behold some strangely rigged vessels lying close to me in the bay.
Magellan's own ships! There was the tall, spare figure of the intrepid
commander himself, standing on the poop of the largest vessel, dressed
in a brown leather jerkin, the cross-hilted sword at his side; and I
could plainly mark the expression of dauntless enterprise on his
weather-worn brow, and the determined gleam of his sharp grey eyes,
whose glance now wandered over the far shore and now rested
reverentially on the high cross fixed on the poop. I could see the
quaintly-costumed sailors busy at work on deck, repairing rigging,
mending boats, or making sails, talking and shouting the while in a
strange tongue. Hardy, noble figures these men, who, in the frailest
of craft, braved a thousand dangers in the wildest countries, and
fearlessly carried the symbol of their religion to lands which
mariners of today with all the advantages of modern instruments and
superior vessels, approach with the utmost mistrust and dread. Soon a
bell rang, and all was silence; the men left their work and gathered
round the commander, who, I thought, seemed to be addressing them. And
then floating over the waters came the sound of the 'Ave Maria!'
weirdly sweet and plaintive.

But at this juncture somebody shook me, and I woke up, to find it was
all a dream, and to remember that Magellan had been dead and buried
for centuries, and that I, a son of the nineteenth century, had come
to that spot, not to plant the true Cross, but to find what the
country was capable of--and that, finally, it was time for supper.



CHAPTER II.


The next morning we were up betimes. The weather was fine, and, as
there was no wind, not too cold, though the taller hills were covered
with snow, and the thermometer stood considerably below zero. Plenty
of sea-birds were flying round the ship, or disporting themselves in
the water, heedless of our presence; but on shore there were no signs
of animal life stirring anywhere. Preparations were made for getting
the horses on shore as quickly as possible, as their long confinement
was beginning to tell injuriously upon them. In the meantime a boat
was lowered, and, taking our guns, a few of us started off for the
shore, to find some suitable spot to land the horses, and to have a
general look round.

A short pull brought us in sight of a little cove, with a strip of
sandy beach leading up to the mainland, which fell steeply down on all
sides, so as to form a kind of natural corral, where the horses would
be quite safe and conveniently sheltered from the wind. There we
accordingly landed, roughly waking the echoes, which had doubtless
been comfortably sleeping for many a long day, with a loud hurrah, as
we jumped on shore and climbed up the bluff which shut in the cove.
There the first object which met our sight was the little cairn,
already mentioned, commemorative of Lieutenant Sholl. It was standing,
probably, just as it had been left by the hands which reared it, as
the Indians seldom, if ever, come so near to the port. The letters of
the inscription were still tolerably visible, for the stones suffer
little from the action of the atmosphere, and gather but few mosses or
lichens in that dry climate, where, during nine months of the year,
hardly any rain falls, and where all vegetation is stunted and scanty.

The view we obtained from our present standpoint was very limited, the
horizon being bounded by a chain of conically shaped hills, flattened
at the top, and generally similar in outline and height. The country
which they enclosed appeared to consist of a series of irregular
plains, broken up by glens, or 'cañons,' as they are aptly called in
Spanish, with here and there an isolated hill and an occasional plain
of short extent. There were plenty of bushes of a thorny species
scattered everywhere, and in the glens the grass seemed to flourish in
tolerable luxuriance, though on the higher-lying land it was less
plentiful, the ground there being covered with pebbles of porphyry,
worn round and smooth by the action of water at some remote period.

After our long cooping-up on board, we were not equal to any prolonged
exertion, and soon got tired of climbing up the steep hills and
escarpments, especially as there was no employment for our guns,
either in the shape of beast or fowl. We therefore went back to our
boat, to get at which, as the tide had already fallen considerably, we
had to wade knee-deep through a long tract of black, slimy mud. As
there is a tide-range at St. Julian of from thirty to forty feet, the
ebb and flood tides rush in and out with great rapidity, and we often
had great difficulty in pulling back to the ship, even with four oars,
when the wind and tide happened to be against us.

The rest of that day was employed in getting the horses on shore, a
task which was successfully accomplished before the tide commenced to
rise again, so that they had comparatively little distance to swim to
the cove. The poor animals seemed as glad as we had been to find
themselves on land once more, and testified their satisfaction by
neighing and frisking about with great vigour. In the evening we made
a short excursion to Justice Island, close alongside of which we were
anchored. Whilst exploring it we startled a large covey of shag,
numbering quite a thousand, which, to judge by the accumulation of
guano, appeared to roost there habitually. They did not fly up
immediately at our approach, but waddled clumsily down to the beach,
holding their bodies quite erect, and flapping their wings in a
ludicrous manner. The sailors killed several with sticks, and
subsequently cooked and ate them, notwithstanding the strong fishy
taste of the flesh.

Early the next morning, together with two of my companions, I started
on an expedition towards the interior, with a view to discover what
kind of country lay beyond the range of hills which bordered the
horizon. We took some provisions with us, as we did not expect to be
home till the evening, thinking it prudent not to rely on our guns for
our dinner, after the experience of the previous day of the absolute
absence of game; indeed, we left them behind us, as being rather
irksome on horseback.

Mounting the three freshest horses we could find amongst our stock, we
struck off at an inspiriting gallop. We had not gone far, however,
before it came to an abrupt ending. The plain over which we were
riding suddenly terminated, descending into a deep ravine, which
seemed to wind from the hills down to the port. The descent was rather
steep, but we got down somehow; and then our horses had a hard climb
up the opposite side, rendered still more arduous by the loose nature
of the pebbly soil, which afforded no reliable hold, giving way under
their feet. On reaching the top, we found ourselves on another plain,
intersected a little further on by a ravine similar to the one we had
just crossed and so we continued, now scrambling up and down these
cañons, now leisurely trotting over short plains, whose level surfaces
gave our horses time to get breath and to prepare for tackling the
next ravine, until gradually we got nearer to the hills, beyond which
we hoped to meet some more pleasant variety of landscape.

Presently we came to a very broad cañon, on the surface of which we
observed some irregularities, which, on inspection, proved to be the
remains of some human habitation. Portions of wall, about three feet
high, were still standing, and here and there lay several pieces of
timber; but, excepting a millstone, half embedded in the soil, there
were no other vestiges of those who had once attempted to create a
homestead in this lone spot.

The colony, on the site of which we were now standing, was founded in
1780 by Antonio Viedma, under commission from the Viceroy of the River
Plate Provinces, and was abandoned in 1784, in accordance with a royal
order, chiefly on account of the sterility of the soil, which rendered
agriculture impossible. The colonists also suffered severely from
scurvy, and were further troubled by the Indians, whose hostility they
seem to have incurred. The Spaniards, whatever grave faults they may
have committed in the administration of their South American
possessions, developed great energy and spared no expense in their
endeavours to colonise Patagonia, and numerous expeditions were
despatched from Buenos Ayres with this object. Settlements were
established at Port Desire and other spots on the coast, all of which,
sooner or later, came to share the fate of the colony of St. Julian.

And indeed it is not to be wondered at. Unless some very cheap manure
be discovered, by means of which sand may be profitably fertilised, or
unless some new source of riches at present hidden be discovered
there, it is much to be apprehended that Southern Patagonia is
destined to remain almost entirely unpopulated and uncultivated till
the end of time. In the cañons, where there is a little alluvial soil,
some scanty crops might be harvested, or a patch of potatoes might be
cultivated; but the spring and summer months are so dry, that even
these limited attempts at husbandry might not always be attended with
favourable results. Sheep might be reared in the valley of the Santa
Cruz River, though not in great numbers, as the pasturage there is
rather limited, and the grass itself is coarse and long, and not
particularly adapted for sheep, for which it is preferable that it
should be short and fine.

The coast is extremely rich in fish, however, and a dried-fish trade
might, perhaps, be successfully carried on with the Brazils, where a
good market exists for this article, which forms the staple diet of
the poorer classes in that country. An attempt to start an industry
of this kind was made by a Frenchman, M. E. Rouquand, who established
himself, in 1872, at Santa Cruz, with all the machinery, boats, etc.,
necessary for such an undertaking, under a concession granted to him
by the Argentine Government. He built several houses and sheds there,
the materials for which were conveyed at great expense from Buenos
Ayres; and when everything was ready, and he was about to go
practically to work, a Chilian man-of-war steamed into Santa Cruz one
day and signified to him that he was trespassing on Chilian territory,
and would be required to leave immediately. Chili, it appears, claims
jurisdiction over Patagonia as far as Santa Cruz River, and could
therefore not permit anyone to attempt to benefit that country whose
authorisation to do so came from the Argentine Government. The latter
country does not admit Chili's claims to possession over the territory
in question, but contented itself in this case with a diplomatic
protest against the act of violence committed in defiance of the
Argentine flag, under whose protection M. Rouquand had laid out his
capital and his energies. In the meantime, M. Rouquand is of course
ruined, as neither Government has granted him any compensation for the
losses he has sustained by his arbitrary ejection. After such an
example, and as the settlement of the territory dispute seems to have
been indefinitely shelved by the easy-going countries concerned, it
is easy to understand why no one has hitherto been found disposed to
risk his time and capital in an endeavour to establish any industry on
the Patagonian coast.

Turning our backs on the 'Glen of the Spaniards,' as it is still
called in Indian traditional nomenclature, we again continued our
journey towards the hills, which were in reality much further than
they had appeared at first sight, being, by the rather roundabout road
by which we had come, about fifteen miles from the port. Another
hour's ride brought us to their base, and as the keen morning air had
made us all rather hungry, before going any further we dismounted, and
having made a good fire with the branches of some of the thorny bushes
which abounded everywhere, and which proved an excellent combustible,
we discussed a hearty breakfast of cold meat and biscuit.

After a short rest we remounted and rode slowly up a glen which led
between the hills, craning our necks expectantly as we climbed the
escarpment which bounded its further end, from the top of which we
should have a good view of the surrounding country. We emerged on the
summit, and behold, there was nothing but an immense plain, stretching
away in dreary uniformity to the far horizon. The scene was not a
cheerful one. Down in the cañons the grass is long and green, and
clumps of underwood, growing at intervals, lend a pleasant variety to
the landscape. But on the plains, which often extend uninterruptedly
for thirty or forty miles, all is different, and nothing more dull and
dreary can be imagined than the view presented by these immense tracts
of land, where, by reason of the sterility of the soil and the fierce
winds which sweep continuously over them, no vegetation can possibly
flourish. The soil is sandy and covered with stones, with here and
there an isolated tuft of grass, withered and grey, whilst a peculiar
gloom is further added to the melancholy of the scene by the sombre,
melancholy hue of a straggling, stunted bush, the jume, which grows
there in considerable quantities--in its blackness and ugliness, the
fit offspring of such an uncongenial soil.

The plain we were now standing on was no exception to the general
rule, and we found but little inducement to remain immersed in a long
contemplation of its charms; so, turning our horses' heads, we
followed the course of the hill range, which trended in a semicircle
towards the port. After having ridden for some distance, the plain
terminated, and we descended into a broken country again, marked with
the usual peculiarities of glen and plateau. We presently came in
sight of a large lake, which we thought might contain fresh water, but
on coming closer we found that the shores were covered with salt
crystals, and that the soil in the vicinity was impregnated with salt
too. The lake measured about two leagues long, by a league and a half
broad at the widest part, but the water was very shallow everywhere.
We could see a herd of guanacos standing in the centre, and the water
did not reach to above their knees. I have frequently observed these
animals standing in the salt lakes which abound everywhere in
Patagonia, but whether they actually go to drink I am not prepared to
say, though it is hard to account in any other way for their presence
there. We looked with some curiosity at these guanacos, as they were
the first animals we had met with as yet on the mainland, but they
were too far off for us to be able to observe them with accuracy. I
shall describe the species at another opportunity.

In the meantime it was getting late, and our horses, which had been
severely tried by the nature of the ground we had gone over that day,
were beginning to show signs of fatigue. My horse, in particular, was
completely done up, and it was with great difficulty that I managed to
keep up with my companions.

At sunset we were still a long way from the ship. Dusk came on apace;
the hills around us first grew indistinct and hazy, and then gradually
settled down into a dark, solid mass, blackly defined upon the lighter
background of the sky, over which the stars were now glittering in
the frosty air. It was getting cold, too, and I began heartily to wish
myself on board, especially as every moment it became more apparent
that my horse was in imminent peril of collapsing altogether.

Still he stumbled on, occasionally shying wildly at the glimmering
whiteness of some heap of bleached guanaco bones, or startled at the
fanciful shapes assumed by the bushes in the deepening shadows of
night.

Presently, as I was riding up a rather steep escarpment, my horse's
saddle-girths slipped back, the saddle rolled over, and I fell with a
heavy thud to the ground. The moment he felt relieved of my weight,
and before I could jump up and seize the reins, the horse turned round
and leisurely trotted back to a glen we had just left, where there was
some fine grass, which had evidently taken his fancy in passing. I ran
after him as fast as I could, but he gently, though firmly, refused to
be caught, pausing now and then, whenever he had distanced me, to
snatch a few mouthfuls of grass, and then starting off again as soon
as I came near to him. This kind of thing went on for a long time, and
when I had at last caught him, and had picked up the various
saddle-belongings, I was completely done up. Not more so, however,
than the horse, for when I remounted him he refused to budge an inch,
and at the first touch of the whip, quietly lay down. I was now in a
pleasant plight. I shouted, in the hope that my companions would hear
me, but no answer came. They had evidently not noticed my mishap, and
had continued their route, thinking I was coming up behind.

Reluctantly I had to make up my mind to stop where I was till the
morning, though the prospect was anything but cheerful. I was too
tired to go on on foot, and no persuasion would induce my horse to
stir. I was very hungry, and, unfortunately, one of my companions
carried what remained of the meat and biscuit; and though it was
extremely cold, I had no other coverings for the night but my
saddle-cloths, having neglected to bring my fur robes with me.
Luckily, I had a box of matches; and having broken off a sufficient
quantity of dry branches from the bushes, I soon managed to have a
good fire burning, whose warm glow afforded me no little comfort. As a
substitute for supper, though it was not a satisfactory equivalent, I
smoked a pipe, and then, wrapping myself up as well as I could in the
saddle-cloths, I lay down by the fire and tried to go to sleep. This I
could not accomplish; for although I fell into a half-doze at first,
as soon as the fire got low, the cold thoroughly woke me again, and I
had to set off and look for a fresh supply of firewood--by no means a
plentiful article. I soon made the fire burn up again; but, do what I
would, I could not get to sleep, and finally had to abandon the
attempt as hopeless.

The night seemed interminable. Occasionally I would get up, and walk
to and fro to pass away the time quicker, but the cold soon drove me
back to the fire. I confess I should have liked some companion to
enliven my weary vigil. All alone in the wild desert, surrounded by
the dark night, I felt quite an uncanny feeling come over me as I
listened to the strange whisperings which seemed to creep through the
grass and hover in the air, as the wind rose and swept down the narrow
glen where I was camping. The more I listened the more these noises
seemed to multiply, till at last there was quite a Babel of confused
sounds and vague murmurings. Now and then I would start to my feet,
fancying I heard voices close to me, or something would rustle
mysteriously past, and a sound as of faint laughter would seem to ring
from out the depths of the darkness around me. For a time I was kept
in quite a state of nervous agitation; but it gradually wore off, and
soon I became stolidly indifferent to everything except the fire, to
replenish which from time to time I had to make an excursion in search
of wood.

The hours went slowly by, as I sat watching the stars creeping over
the heavens, longing wearily for daybreak. At last, worn out with
fatigue, I fell into a troubled slumber, and when I opened my eyes
again the sky was already grey with dawn. My fire had gone out, and my
limbs were stiff with cold. On a bush near where I was lying four
carranchos, a kind of hawk, were perched, eyeing me with a
complacent, watchful look, as if they expected shortly to make a meal
of me. Feeling quite uncomfortable under their unholy gaze, I flung a
stone at them; but they merely flew up a little, circled once or twice
round me, and then lighted again on another bush, as much as to say,
'Never mind; we can wait.' They abound in the pampas, and assemble in
great numbers whenever a puma slays a guanaco, as the former often
contents itself with merely sucking the blood of its victim, leaving
the rest to these birds and the vultures, who soon pick the bones
clean.

I rekindled the fire, and after I had warmed my stiffened fingers, I
saddled the horse, which I had tethered to a bush during the night,
and rode off towards the port. I arrived at the cove after about an
hour's sharp riding, and found that my companions had also been
obliged to pass the night in the open air, as their horses had
eventually succumbed, under the fatigue consequent on their hard day's
work.



CHAPTER III.


During the next few weeks we were busy examining the country in the
vicinity of St. Julian, without finding anything of special interest
to reward our pains. Near the salt lake alluded to in the last chapter
we discovered some extensive deposits of phosphate of lime, but as
they are very far from the port, they must be considered to have
practically no commercial value. Perhaps, however, when all the guanos
and nitrates of more accessible regions have been exhausted, the
phosphates of Patagonia may be utilised for manuring purposes, but in
the interests of agriculture it is to be hoped that that day is as yet
far distant.

St. Julian is a far superior harbour to either Chubut or Port Desire,
but there is a dearth of fresh water in its vicinity during the months
from October to June, which is of course a great drawback, and
neutralises its other advantages. Indeed, the whole country is but
sparsely watered. South of the Rio Negro, which must be considered as
the dividing line between Patagonia and the Argentine Provinces,
there are only small rivers, the Chubut, the Desire, and the Santa
Cruz. Coy Inlet and Gallegos rivers during nine months of the year are
unimportant streams, and the former at certain periods frequently
dries up altogether.

The river Chubut has never been followed to its source by any
trustworthy traveller, but Dr. Moreno, an Argentine explorer, from
personal observations and from information obtained from the natives, is
inclined to place its source as taken from a lake, called Coluguapé by
the Indians, which lies somewhere between lat. 44° to 45° S., and long.
68° to 69° W., Greenwich. Thence it flows in a north-north-easterly
direction till within about sixty miles from its mouth, and then,
having received near this point the waters of several small streams
from the Cordilleras, it flows from west to east, and finally empties
itself into the Atlantic in lat. 42° 20' S. The depth of the river at
forty miles from its mouth varies from five to eight feet, according
to the time of the year. Its current is not so rapid as that of most
Patagonian rivers, but its extremely tortuous course makes it
difficult to navigate. Its estuary forms a tolerably safe harbour for
craft of light draught.

The Welsh Colony at Chubut, which numbers at present about 700 souls,
was founded by the Argentine Government in 1865. It is not, and never
has been, in a flourishing state; but this is due not so much to the
unfertility of the Chubut valley as to the fact that most of the
people sent out from Wales by the Government agent to form the
proposed agricultural colony were miners, who of course knew nothing
about farming matters. For a great many years the colonists were
supported entirely by the Government, and on several occasions when
accidents had happened to the vessels which were bringing stores for
them from Buenos Ayres, they were saved from starvation by the
Indians, who supplied them with guanaco and ostrich meat. At present
the prospects of the colony are rather more hopeful: about 15,000
bushels of wheat were harvested last year; but even now the colony is
not self-supporting, and costs the Argentine Government large sums
annually for provisions and other assistance afforded the colonists.

South of Chubut lies Port Desire, formed by the estuary of the river,
or rather stream, of that name. The Desire does not rise in spring and
summer, like Gallegos and the other Patagonian rivers, to any great
extent--a circumstance which makes it probable that it does not take
its source in the Cordilleras, but rather from a chain of hills,
which, according to Dr. Moreno, traverses the centre of Patagonia,
running south-southwest from the Sierra de San Antonio, near the Gulf
of San Matias. The Spaniards formed a colony at Port Desire, which,
after having existed for a few years, was officially abandoned in
1807. The remains of a fort and some houses are still standing near
the port, as well as some apple and cherry trees, with which the
climate of Patagonia seems to agree very well.

I pass over the incidents of the rest of my sojourn at St. Julian, as
having no relevancy to the object of this work. Suffice it to say that
by the little Government schooner which makes two or three voyages
annually from Buenos Ayres to the Rio Negro and Santa Cruz, and which
on this occasion put into St. Julian to bring us our correspondence, I
received some letters, conveying important news, which made my speedy
return to Buenos Ayres imperative. About the same time a party of
ostrich-hunters, attracted by the smoke of our fires, came to St.
Julian from Santa Cruz, partly out of curiosity to see the unusual
visitors, and partly to trade for biscuits and tobacco. They did not
stop long; and as they were going back to Santa Cruz, and from there
to Sandy Point in the Straits of Magellan, where I should be able to
take a steamer for Buenos Ayres, I embraced this favourable
opportunity, and packing up a few things, started off with my new
acquaintances.

We had not gone far, however, when it commenced to rain; and there
being no particular object in getting wet, we halted for the day, and
took shelter under our tent, hoping that by the next morning it would
be fine again. In this hope we were disappointed; it rained
incessantly for about four days, during which we of course remained
where we were, and very tired I soon got of it. The ground was as damp
as could be, and so loosened by the moisture that the stakes of our
tent gradually gave, and the slack canvas being no longer water-tight,
little pools of water gathered round the furs and saddle-cloths which
served us in lieu of bedding, permeating them with a general dampness,
which made our nightly slumbers rather uncomfortable. The daytime we
passed cowering round the fire, with some covering thrown over our
backs to keep off the rain, the front part of the body requiring no
extra covering, for as fast as it was wetted it dried by the fire,
which for this purpose was allowed to assume formidable dimensions.
Under such unfavourable circumstances, conversation rather flagged, as
may be imagined, being limited to occasional prophecies and
conjectures as to when the weather might be expected to change for the
better. But in revenge, the tobacco-pipe and the maté-pot went round
the circle without any intermission, and during the days of forced
inaction consequent on the rain, we consumed startling quantities of
those two almost indispensable commodities of pampa life.

Yerba-maté is a kind of tea in great repute throughout South America,
especially amongst the country people, who drink it at all their
meals, and whenever they have nothing particular to do, which is very
often. It is the leaf of a shrub (_Ilex Paraguanensis_) extensively
cultivated in Paraguay and the Brazils, constituting, in fact, the
chief article of commerce of the former country. The powdered leaf is
steeped in boiling water, and imbibed through a thin pipe
(_bombilla_), perforated with holes, so as to prevent the fine herb
from being sucked up with the fluid. It has a bitter, aromatic
flavour, and though usually taken with sugar, many find it equally
palatable without the latter adjunct. Its restorative powers are
marvellous, and frequently, when thoroughly exhausted after a hard
day's ride, I have taken a cup or two of maté, and found myself
immediately revived and invigorated. It is decidedly a better
stimulant than either tea or coffee, and as it does not seem to lose
its flavour by exposure to the air and damp as quickly as those
articles do, it is naturally preferred by those whose profession
forces them to take these qualities into account in the selection of
their victuals. Maté, as I have already said, is indispensable to the
hunter in Patagonia. For months it is often the only addition he can
make to his otherwise exclusively meat diet. In fact he is never
without it, except when in the saddest plight, and for its sake he
would forego any other luxury, such as sugar, biscuit, or rice.

It is surprising that hitherto no attempt has been made to introduce
yerba-maté into Europe as an article of domestic consumption. It has
only to be known to be appreciated, and as it could be imported
_pure_, far cheaper than tea or coffee, it might in time prove a
formidable rival to those beverages, especially among the working
classes, to whom its invigorating qualities would particularly
recommend it.

Whilst the rain is pouring down upon us, I may as well take the
opportunity of introducing my four companions to the reader. But first
a few words as to their common profession, that of the ostrich-hunter.

In the plains that stretch from lat. 40° to 53° S., and from the
sea-coast to the Cordilleras, the ostrich and the guanaco roam in
immense numbers, their procreativeness being such as to more than
neutralise the ravages caused among them by their numerous enemies,
such as the Indians, the pumas, and the foxes. The Patagonian ostrich
is much smaller than his African cousin, and the feathers are not
nearly so valuable, the price usually paid for them at Sandy Point
being from $1 to $2 per lb. The trade of the ostrich-hunter is not,
therefore, very lucrative; but his wants, on the other hand, are very
modest. Besides, he follows his profession more from a love of the
wild pampa life, with its freedom from irksome restraint and awkward
social obligations, than from any desire to amass wealth; more from a
necessity to satisfy his vagabond instincts, than from any impulse
derived from some definite aim in life. His hunting-ground extends as
far as he chooses to gallop. His stock-in-trade consists of ten or
twelve hardy horses, five or six dogs of a mongrel greyhound species,
a lasso, a pair of bolas, a knife, a revolver, and a long steel;
besides, of course, all the necessary accoutrements for his horse,
which, together with the indispensable capa, form his bed at night.

The capa is a long robe of guanaco furs, about five and a half feet
long, by four and a half broad. They are made by the Indian women, who
are very clever at sewing, notwithstanding the primitive clumsiness of
their rude tools. Their needles consist of pieces of bone sharpened to
the requisite point, and the thread they use is made from guanaco
sinews. The skins are of the young guanacos before they are three
weeks old, as after that time the fur becomes coarse and woolly. These
capas are extremely warm, and effectually protect one from the cold
winds that blow over the pampas, when almost any other garment would
prove insufficient. A novice experiences considerable difficulty in
the management of their somewhat awkward folds, especially on
horseback; but the Indians wear them with infinite ease and grace.

The bolas, or balls, are of two kinds, being either two round stones
or pieces of lead, covered with leather and joined by a thong of from
six to eight feet long; or three balls, united by thongs to a common
centre. The latter are used chiefly for guanaco-hunting, and not a
little skill is required to handle them efficiently. After having been
swung round the head till the requisite pitch of velocity has been
attained, the balls are hurled at the animal pursued, and becoming
firmly twisted round whatever part of its body they may fall on, they
effectually hamper its speed, and enable the hunter to come up to it
and give the _coup de grace_ with his long knife.

With no other _impedimenta_ than the above-mentioned, the
ostrich-hunter roams at will over the vast pampas. At night-time he
makes himself at home under shelter of some thick bush, which, if such
be his caprice, may become his head-quarters for weeks, and even
months, especially if the game in the vicinity be abundant. His
movements are altogether uncertain, and by no means regulated by any
reference to time, to the course of which he is sublimely indifferent.
The chase supplies all his wants. With the hide of the guanaco he
makes his lasso, reins, bolas, and even shoes; whilst its flesh,
varied by that of the ostrich, forms his staple article of diet. When
he has collected a sufficient quantity of feathers, he pays a flying
visit to Sandy Point, sells them, and with the produce lays in a new
stock of tobacco and maté, renews his wardrobe, _i.e._, say a shirt, a
poncho, a jacket, and a chiripà; and if there still remains anything
over, he may buy another horse, or some dog which may have taken his
fancy.

For the rest, he is a careless, easy-going vagabond, always cheerful,
whatever plight he may be in, and submitting with calm philosophy to
any of the many hardships the inclemency of the climate may entail
upon him. There are, however, few Ostrich-hunters _pur sang_ in
Southern Patagonia, though up near the Rio Negro they are more
numerous; but those one does meet with are all distinguished by the
characteristics I have described.

I will now attempt a sketch of my four companions, beginning with the
most striking among them, Isidoro, who is several times mentioned in
Captain Musters' interesting book, 'At Home with the Patagonians.' He
was an Argentine Gaucho, with a dash of Indian blood in his veins, who
had come down to Patagonia many years ago from the Rio Negro. He was a
slender, well-built man, with a pleasant, swarthy face, of a warm,
earth-brown complexion, set in by a profusion of long black hair,
which he carefully groomed every morning with a comb, whose teeth,
being old, were decayed and few and far between, kept for the purpose
in the recesses of a rather greasy cap. Broad and shaggy eyebrows,
meeting over a bold Roman nose and shading a pair of bright, restless
eyes, habitually veiled by half-closed lids and the longest of lashes;
slightly high cheekbones, full thick lips, and a shaggy beard and
moustache, completed the _tout ensemble_ of his really striking face,
the general expression of which was one of intelligence and good
humour.

His dress, which combined materials of Indian as well as European
manufacture, was not unpicturesque, and consisted of a woollen shirt
and a 'chiripà'--a covering for the lower limbs something like a kilt,
secured by a strap at the waist, into which were stuck the inevitable
hunting-knife, revolver, pipe, and tobacco-pouch--while his feet were
encased in potro boots, tied at the knees with Indian-worked garters;
and over all hung the long capa.

The recipe for making a pair of potro boots is very simple, and the
operation requires no previous knowledge of the cobbler's art. Having
killed your horse, you make an incision with a sharp knife round the
hide above the hock, say at the commencement of the lower thigh, and
another a couple of inches below the curb-place, and then proceed to
draw the hide off the legs. Each leg will thus supply a comfortable
Wellington, in which the point of the hock has become the heel. Of
course, before fit for wear, the hide must be well softened by hand--a
task which requires no little patience; for if not thoroughly done,
the boots after a time will become quite hard and useless. As soon as
they have been worn long enough to have taken the shape of the foot,
the toe-ends are sewn up, and the transformation of your horse's hocks
into easy-fitting boots is an accomplished feat.

When hunting, the belt and bolas are strapped outside the capa, so
that the upper part of the latter may fly loose whenever any exertion
requires that the arms should be free, as when lassoing or throwing
the bolas.

Isidoro was one of the best riders I have ever seen, and even amongst
the Indians he was allowed to have no equal. The most unruly colt
became quiet in his hands, and after a few ineffectual attempts to
dislodge its rider, would sullenly acknowledge the mastery of his firm
hand and easy seat. All his horses were wonders of tameness and
careful and intelligent teaching. His method of taming them I
subsequently had an opportunity of studying, and in due course will
revert to it. He was equally proficient in the use of the lasso and
bolas, seldom, if ever, missing his aim. One of his peculiarities was
his extreme watchfulness; not the slightest detail could escape his
vigilance; and when anyone, as often happened, would mislay a knife or
some such object, to save further trouble, Isidoro was always appealed
to as to its whereabouts, which he would invariably point out
immediately--the missing article often lying under a bush or
saddle-cloth, where it had been thrown by its careless owner perhaps a
day or two ago. It seemed as if Isidoro made it his special duty to
look after everyone's things, though, to judge by appearances, he
never paid particular attention to anything except his pipe, which
seldom left his mouth. His sharpness of vision was intense, and he
could detect guanacos and ostriches on the far horizon, when I could
see nothing but bushes or clouds. Another distinguishing feature was
his taciturnity. Only on very rare occasions have I heard him utter
more than three or four words at a breath, and often he would sit for
hours with the rest of us round the fire, listening attentively to all
that was said, without breathing a syllable the whole evening. As the
owner of some thirty fine horses, he was considered quite a rich man
amongst the Indians and ostrich-hunters; and, on account of his
honesty, good-nature, and quiet, unassuming bearing, he was a
favourite with everyone.

We will pass on to Garcia, who, in appearance at least, formed a
striking contrast to Isidoro. His yellow beard, brown hair, and blue
eyes seemed to betoken a Saxon rather than a Spanish descent. However,
be that as it may, he was a true Gaucho, and but slightly inferior to
Isidoro in horsemanship and general address as a hunter. He had
formerly been a soldier on the Argentine frontiers, and in that
capacity had had many a fight with the Indians, thrilling accounts of
which he would often favour us with over the evening's fire.
Subsequently he had worked as 'tropero' (cattle-driver) on the Rio
Negro, a profession which in due course he had relinquished in order
to become an ostrich-hunter. Having lived more amongst civilised
people, his manners were less abrupt than Isidoro's, and he was rather
more talkative and genial than the latter.

Next comes Guillaume, who was by birth a Frenchman, and who had
originally been a blacksmith; but some chance having wafted him to
Patagonia, he had taken a fancy to the country and remained there, and
was now fast becoming naturalised. He was an active, intelligent
fellow, and equal to any amount of hard work. One of his most striking
features was his enormous appetite, the amount he could devour at one
meal being simply astounding. It is on record amongst his companions
that he demolished a whole side of a young guanaco at a sitting. But
notwithstanding this extraordinary faculty for eating, he was as thin
as could be, and always had a hungry, half-starved look.

His very antithesis was Maximo, the last of the group, who in size and
corpulence might have competed with the most Herculean Patagonian
Indian. He was an Austrian, age twenty, I think, and had formerly been
a sailor, but having been wrecked on the syren shores of Patagonia,
like Guillaume, he had been unable to withstand its subtle
attractions, and having embraced the profession of ostrich-hunting,
with the natural aptness of sailors, he had soon mastered the
mysteries of his craft, and was already an adept in the use of lasso
and bolas. His strength was such as his burly dimensions warranted,
and he would often surprise us by the ease with which he would tear up
firmly-seated roots, and stout underwood for firing purposes. He was,
moreover, as I was surprised to find, an accomplished linguist, and
spoke Spanish, Italian, French, German, and English with tolerable
fluency, though I think he could neither read nor write. His appetite,
like Guillaume's, was Homeric, the two being a host in themselves.

Maximo was not so rich as his companions; indeed, his whole property
consisted in a horse and a dog. The former was a wiry little animal,
and apparently impervious to fatigue; for its owner was by no means a
featherweight, and it was a matter of continued astonishment to me,
how it managed to carry him along, day after day, over tiring hilly
country, with occasional fierce gallops after ostriches, without ever
showing signs of distress. Neither was his attire so elegant or so
comfortable as that of his companions. It consisted, on my first
becoming acquainted with him, of a shirt and a pair of trousers; boots
he had none, but would now and then wear a pair of sabots, made with
the skin of the hind-legs of the guanaco. However, the capa made up
for all defects in dress, and Maximo was perfectly content with things
as they were. Withal he was the best-tempered fellow imaginable, and
the stoic indifference he showed to the discomforts of rain and cold,
and his equanimity under all circumstances, were simply heroic.

As these four men, who by various strange chances had been thrown
together on this desert spot, from such different parts of the world,
were to become my companions during a long period of hardship and
adventure, I have described them at some length, especially as I feel
sure that their peculiar and utterly unconventional mode of life, so
different from that of the ordinary people one meets in everyday
intercourse with the world, will invest them, in the eyes of my
readers, with the same romantic interest with which I regarded them.



CHAPTER IV.


The rain continued to pour down almost without interruption for four
days, till one afternoon a shift of the wind brought a definite change
for the better; the clouds cleared off, the sun shone out brightly,
and we were cheered by the sight of blue sky again.

We hastened to spread our furs, sheepskins, and general clothing on
the bushes to dry, as everything had got more or less damp during the
recent downpour, and, thanks to the wind and sun, by supper-time we
were able to indulge in dry shirts and stockings again, which, with
the luxury of having dry beds to creep into that night, in
perspective, sent up our spirits a hundred degrees, and made the
conversation over that evening's supper as lively as it had hitherto
been dull.

Maximo told the story of the shipwreck which had first thrown him on
Patagonian shores; Garcia related some exciting incident of his
frontier warfare experience; Guillaume recounted the hardships and
dangers he had undergone during the siege of Belfort in 1870, having
belonged to the brave garrison which defended that fortress; and even
Isidoro, yielding to the genial influence of the moment, so far
abandoned his accustomed silence as to tell us how, when a soldier in
the Argentine service at Rio Negro, he had deserted and run away with
a tribe of Tehuelche Indians, who were going south, with whom he lived
for a long time, and from amongst whose brown-skinned daughters he had
eventually taken unto him a wife. He admitted, however, that his
matrimonial existence had not been a happy one. Mrs. Isidoro, it
appears, took to drinking, and became too noisy and violent for her
husband, who of all things loved quiet; so without any further fuss,
and without many words, as was his custom, he led her back to her
father's tent, where, with a short explanation, he left her, thus
consummating his divorce _a mensâ et thoro_ with expeditious ease, and
securing for himself the blessing of undisturbed peace for the future.

We rose at daybreak the next morning, and commenced preparations for
starting. The horses, some fifty in number, were driven together;
those selected for the day's work were severally lassoed, and this
being done, the others were allowed to disperse again and return to
their grazing, whilst we got ready.

Although as tame as cats in every other respect, very few of these
Indian-tamed horses allow one to approach them on foot; as a rule they
can only be caught with the lasso. When a horse observes that it has
been singled out from the herd for capture, it does its utmost to
evade the flying noose, and often gives a great deal of trouble before
it can be finally caught; but the moment it feels the lasso alight
round its neck, it will stop short in the fiercest gallop, and
immediately gives up any attempt at resistance, which it knows would
be useless; and when once it is bridled, the lasso may be removed, and
it will stand in the same spot for hours, without attempting even to
graze.

Our stock of provisions, viz. some rice, biscuit, farina, sugar, maté,
and a stone bottle of gin, were carefully packed up, and together with
the tent and cooking utensils, an iron pot, a saucepan, and a tin
kettle, were placed on the pack-horse, a sturdy animal, who trotted
away under his load as if it had been a feather-weight.

We then commenced saddling our own horses--a somewhat lengthy
operation. The articles which constitute the saddle-gear of a horse in
the pampas are rather numerous, and at night-time serve, with the aid
of the capa, as mattress, bed-clothes, and bedstead. First one lays
two or three blankets or cloths, folded square, on the horse's back,
taking care that they lie smooth and form no creases; over these comes
a covering of leather, called a 'carona,' which consists of two thick
pieces of leather sewn together, and which is very useful at
night-time, as it forms a damp-proof foundation for one's bed. On the
carona the saddle is placed, and firmly secured to the horse by means
of a broad leather girth, and over the saddle again are laid the
sheepskins, furs, or whatever coverings one may possess. All being
ready for starting, we strapped our capas well around us, a few logs
were heaped on the smouldering fire, we warmed our hands, which had
got stiffened with the cold whilst saddling, smoked a last pipe, and
after a look round to see if anything had been forgotten, jumped into
the saddle, whistled to the dogs, and we were off, _en route_ for
Santa Cruz.

It was a bright morning. The wind was just cold enough to make one
feel grateful for the warm sunshine, and to give that exciting tingle
to the blood which influences one's spirits like a subtle wine. I felt
its power, and a strange elation made my pulse beat quicker, as I rode
gaily along, inspirited by the strong, springy step of the good horse
I bestrode, and inhaling deep draughts of the pure clear air, which
seemed to sweep the cobwebs of care from my brain, and to blow all
unpleasant thoughts far from me, making me feel gloriously happy in
the mere consciousness of the fact that I breathed and had being.

I seemed to be leaving the old world I had hitherto known behind me,
with its turmoils and cares and weary sameness, and to be riding
merrily into some new sphere of free, fresh existence. I felt that
without a pang I could break with old associations, renounce old
ties, the pomps and the pleasures, the comforts, the bothers, the
annoyances of civilisation, and become as those with whom I was now
travelling--beings with no thought for the morrow, and therefore with
no uneasiness for it either, living the life of our nomadic ancestors,
in continual and intimate contact with nature--an unchequered,
untroubled existence, as wild, simple, and free as that of the deer
that browse on the plains.

We were riding along a broad glen, down the middle of which a rapid
stream was flowing. Guillaume and Maximo were busy driving the horses
before them--no easy matter, as, now and then, one or two would lag
behind to crop up a mouthful of grass, or the whole troop would make a
dash in the wrong direction, only to be got together again after much
galloping and shouting.

The neighing of the horses, the continual cries of 'Jegua! Jegua!'
with which they were urged along, and the tinkling of the bells on the
'madrinas' (bell-mares), broke cheerfully on the silence of the glen,
and startled many a flock of wild geese, who were disporting
themselves there in numbers; and occasionally a guanaco or two, who
had been grazing in the young grass, would gaze at us in a momentary
fit of curiosity, and then bound away with their graceful, springy
gallop, neighing defiance at us as they glided swiftly up the far
ravine.

After we had gone some way, Isidoro and Garcia and myself rode ahead
of the horses, in order to look out for ostriches, Isidoro taking one
side of the cañada, which was about a mile and a half broad, and
Garcia and myself the other. I felt very excited, as it was my first
hunt after this kind of game. The dogs, with erect and quivering
tails, and noses down, were eagerly running this way and that,
scenting the ground, or snuffing the wind which came in light puffs
down the cañada.

Presently they made a simultaneous dash forward, and started off after
something, and my horse, evidently an old hunter, with a sudden start
that almost threw me out of the saddle, dashed after them, _ventre à
terre_, like wild-fire, side by side with Garcia, who was already
loosening the bolas to prepare for action.

I soon descried the ostrich, which was hurrying along as fast as its
legs would carry it, wings drooping and neck outstretched, with the
whole covey of dogs close on its heels. The race was at first
doubtful, but a moment of indecision brought the ostrich into
difficulties, and the dogs slowly gained on their prey. Already the
foremost one was up to it, when the ostrich suddenly darted sideways,
whilst the hounds, unable to stop their impetuous speed, shot forward
a long way before they could recover themselves. By that time the bird
was half-way up the side of the glen, and out of danger; and Garcia
whistled to the dogs, who came back slowly and sulkily, with their
tails between their legs, looking wistfully over their shoulders at
the retreating bird, which was already a mere speck on the summit of
the ravine.

Garcia told me that the ostrich, like the hare, often resorts to this
trick of 'doubling' when hard pressed. It is not always as successful
as it had been in the present case, as the dogs generally know the
exact moment and in what direction the ostrich is going to double, and
are prepared accordingly.

We were riding slowly along, talking about our late disappointment,
when another ostrich started up almost from under our very feet. With
a wild shout we dashed after it, Garcia getting ready with the bolas,
now our sole means of capturing the bird, as the dogs had lagged far
behind us on some wrong scent. The horses were on their mettle, and in
headlong chase we tore after the distressed quarry; but though we
strained every nerve, we could not gain an inch of ground, and in
another second we should have lost the ostrich, who was making for the
steep ravine-side, when Garcia swinging the bolas two or three times
round his head flung them with strong hand at the retreating bird.
Luckily lighting on its neck, they entangled its legs and it fell to
the ground kicking desperately. An instant after and we were up to it,
and Garcia ended its struggles by breaking its neck, and then
proceeded to disembowel it--a process watched with peculiar interest
by the dogs, the offal, etc., being their share of the spoils.

  [Illustration: OSTRICH HUNTING.      p. 50.]

The trophy was then hung to Garcia's saddle, and we went back on our
tracks to look for the nest; for, from the bird having started up so
close to us, Garcia surmised that it must have been sitting, as during
that period they are loth to leave their nests, at the approach of
danger, till the very last moment. Garcia proved to be right, for,
after a short search, we came upon the nest, which contained fourteen
eggs--a prize we were not long in securing to our saddles.

I found the nest to be of the roughest description, being simply a
hole scooped in the ground, under shelter of a bush, and made soft for
the young chicks by a few wisps of grass.

The number of eggs found in a nest varies from ten to forty, being
usually about twenty. In size the Patagonian ostrich's egg is equal to
about eight hen's eggs. It is the male bird that hatches the eggs and
looks after the young--being, I believe, the only male among birds
which does so. The period of incubation is from twenty to twenty-four
days. During rainy weather he never leaves the nest, but will sit for
six or seven days without feeding. In fine weather he grazes for an
hour or two in the evening, but never strays far from the nest, as
Master Reynard, who is always prowling near, would soon make a raid
on the eggs. It is said that if one egg is broken or abstracted from
the nest during the absence of the male bird, on returning he will
immediately detect the theft, and become so furious that he will dash
the remaining eggs to pieces, and dance round the nest as if frantic.

After the hatching period, the birds lay their eggs promiscuously
about the plains. These eggs are called 'huatchos' by the natives.
They keep for a long time, and I have frequently met with huatchos in
April, which, although they must have been laid more than six months
at that time, were still fairly eatable.

The ostrich of Southern Patagonia (_Rhea Darwinii_) is smaller than
the 'Avestruz moro' (_Rhea Americana_), as the species which frequents
the country near the River Negro is called by the natives. The colour
of its plumage is brown, the feathers being tipped with white, whereas
the moro, as its name indicates, is uniformly grey. The _R. Darwinii_
are extremely shy birds, and as their vision is remarkably acute, it
is by no means an easy matter to catch them, unless one has very swift
dogs to hunt with.

At the approach of danger the ostrich often crouches flat on the
ground, with its neck stretched out under the grass, remaining
motionless in this position till the dogs have gone past. This
stratagem is successful when the wind is blowing against the scent;
but when the contrary is the case, the dogs soon discover the hiding
bird, which, doubtless too bewildered by the sudden failure of its
naïvely artless ruse, makes no attempt to escape.

Our companions by this time were a long way ahead of us, so we started
after them at a brisk gallop. On the way we met Isidoro, who had also
been fortunate, as two ostriches dangling from each side of his saddle
evinced.

We continued our journey along the winding ravine, all helping now to
drive the horses and keep them well together--an essential matter when
rapid progress is desirable, for if the troop once gets broken up and
scattered, one may spend no end of time in galloping about and herding
the horses together again.

At about five o'clock we passed a fine thick bush, of considerable
height, which appeared so well adapted for affording shelter, that we
resolved to camp under it for the night, especially as I, not being
accustomed lately to such long rides, already began to feel rather
tired and shaken.

In a few minutes after we had made this decision our horses were
unsaddled, the saddle-gear, packs, ostriches, etc., thrown
higgledy-piggledy in a heap, and everyone lay down in the grass to
stretch his limbs and smoke a pipe--a simple indulgence which, under
such circumstances, becomes an absolutely priceless luxury.

A small fire was then made, the kettle filled from the rivulet which
ran down the centre of the ravine, and as soon as the water boiled,
maté was prepared, and we sat for some time silently imbibing that
stimulating concoction, whose wonderful powers of banishing fatigue I
have already alluded to.

Presently Maximo and Guillaume went off to collect firewood, whilst
Isidoro and Garcia busied themselves with plucking the ostriches and
laying the feathers in bundles, in which form they enter the market. I
stretched myself out on my furs and awaited the dinner-hour with eager
expectation, as my ride and that sharp, dry air peculiar to Patagonia
had given me the real pampa appetite, under the influence of which one
becomes so inordinately and irksomely ravenous, and experiences such
an unnatural craving for food, as quite to justify one in considering
one's self attacked by some transitory, but acute disease which has to
be undergone by the stranger in Patagonia, like those acclimatising
fevers peculiar to some tropical countries.

In an hour or so Guillaume and Maximo returned, bringing a huge bundle
of dry wood between them, and the kitchen being Maximo's special
department, he immediately set about getting dinner ready. Thanks to
his efforts, a fine fire was soon blazing; the big iron pot was filled
with water, ostrich meat, and rice, and set to boil, and several other
dainties were set to roast on wooden spits or broiled in the ashes,
emitting odours of grateful promise as they sputtered and browned
under Maximo's delicate handling.

Meanwhile, we sharpened our knives, took up comfortable positions
round the fire, and the _chêf_ having declared everything ready, the
onslaught commenced.

  [Illustration]

I append the _carte_ for the benefit of those curious in such matters:

     _Pot-au-feu_ (rice, ostrich meat, etc.).
     Broiled ostrich wings.
     Ostrich steak.
     Cold guanaco head.
     Roast ostrich gizzard, _à l'Indienne_.
     Ostrich eggs.
     Custard (ostrich eggs, sugar, gin).

A glance at the above will show that a pampa dinner may be pleasantly
varied. Of the items mentioned, I think the ostrich wings are the
greatest delicacy, tasting something like turkey, and, as I then
thought at least, perhaps even finer. The ostrich gizzard, too, was
worthy of note, being broiled Indian fashion, with hot stones--a task
which, as requiring great care, was superintended by Isidoro himself,
who in his way was a remarkable cook. The flavour of ostrich meat
generally is not unpleasant, especially when fat. It varies greatly,
according to what part of the bird it is from. The wings, breast, and
extremity of the back are the tit-bits. The thighs are coarser, and
bear a close resemblance to horseflesh.

When all the meat was consumed, Isidoro, who, by-the-bye, seemed to be
able to produce anything that was required from somewhere or other
(generally from his cap, which was quite a storehouse for all kinds of
extraneous articles), now turned up with a small soup-plate and a
dilapidated spoon, and I was requested to help myself to the broth and
rice in the pot, handing the plate back to Isidoro when I had
finished, who in his turn passed it to Garcia, and so on till it had
gone round the circle.

We then lay back to smoke and recover from our exertions, whilst the
dogs cleared up whatever fragments remained from the feast.

Here I may say a few words about the dogs, of which there were in all
about eighteen with us. Most of them were greyhounds, of more or less
pure breeds, imported by the Welsh settlers at Chubut; the others
being nondescript curs of heavier build, which were useful for pulling
down the guanacos brought to bay by the fleeter but less powerful
greyhounds. Their various merits and failings formed the usual topic
of an evening's conversation, their owners comparing notes as to their
respective achievements during the day's hunting, or recalling
previous wonderful performances worthy of remembrance.

We were quite overrun by such a number of dogs, and often they became
a nuisance only to be borne when we remembered that after all they
were the meat-givers, without whom we should find ourselves in a very
unpleasant plight. They had a peculiarly happy knack, when wet, of
creeping into one's furs, and making one's bed damp for the night; and
often I have been awakened by one of them trying to go comfortably to
sleep on the pillow beside me, and thrusting its cold nose into my
face as a preliminary. When eating, if I happened to lay down a piece
of meat for a moment, it was sure to be immediately snapped up by one
of them, and they would even snatch away the morsel held in my hand,
if I did not take care to keep them at a safe distance. All provisions
had to be put on the top of a bush, well out of their reach, as
neglect in this particular might bring on the unpleasant alternative
of going supperless to bed.

We sat for some time round the fire, chatting and smoking, and then
each looked out for his furs and bed-gear, arranged his couch, and
before long we were all fast asleep.

I woke once, roused by some horse which had strayed from its
companions, and which was snuffing at me curiously, till on my
starting up it bounded away, snorting with terror.

Before going to sleep again I looked around me. There was a faint
scent of fresh earth on the cold night air, and a slight frost had
fallen over bush and grass, which told that dawn was not far distant.
The moon was shining full over the valley, bathing it in hazy light. I
could see the horses standing about in black knots of twos and threes,
some dozing, some grazing, the bells of the madrinas occasionally
breaking the deep silence with a soft tinkle. Round the fire, some
logs of which still smouldered redly, my companions lay motionless,
sleeping soundly under cover of their warm furs.

Fascinated by the strange novelty of the scene and the calm silence of
the hour, I lay for a long time gazing about me. I watched the soft
charm of silvery indistinctness, lent to the landscape by the moon's
rays glittering on the frosty crystals, gradually fade away, as the
moon's splendour paled before the new light which sprang up in the
east. Soon the bushes, the grass, and the winding ravine stood out
sharply defined, looking grey and bleak in the sober light of dawn.
The face of nature seemed blank and wan, like the face of a man on
whom the morning light streams after a night of vigil. With a shiver I
drew my head under my capa, and fell into a sound sleep again.



CHAPTER V.


When I awoke there was a good fire crackling and blazing cheerfully,
and I lost no time in getting up and joining my companions, who had
already risen, and were taking maté and enjoying the warm glow of the
fire, which at that damp, chilly hour was indeed welcome.

As we were not going far that day, we were in no hurry to start off,
preferring to wait till the sun should get high enough to dispel the
cold mist which hung over the country.

We took our ease over breakfast, therefore, and it was already nearly
midday when Maximo rode down the ravine to collect the horses. We
waited for a long time, but, to our surprise, he did not reappear, and
presently Garcia went after him to see what was the matter. After a
time they both returned, driving the horses before them, but reporting
Isidoro's stallion and several of his mares missing. From the
appearance of the tracks, Garcia seemed to think that some wild
stallion had made a raid on the mares and driven them off--a piece of
news which filled Isidoro with consternation, as he feared that by
that time the missing animals might be forty or fifty miles away,
beyond any hope of recapture. Without losing any time, therefore, we
all saddled; and leaving some of our gear and packages under the bush
where we had been camping, we started off on the trail.

Some way down the cañon we came to a place where there had evidently
been a fierce struggle. The ground was torn up in all directions, and
Isidoro's sharp eye was not long in detecting some tufts of hair lying
in the grass, which he declared came from the coat of his own bay
stallion. Some of the hoof-marks were very large--larger than could
have been made by any of his horses--and he quite confirmed Garcia's
surmise, that some 'bagual' (wild horse) had carried off the mares,
after having previously fought and vanquished his own stallion. We had
no difficulty in following the trail, as the recent rain had made the
ground quite soft. The tracks went along the cañon for some distance,
and then suddenly turned and went up the cañon-side on to the plain.
We had not gone far over the latter when our horses pricked up their
ears and began to sniff the air in a nervous manner. A few strides
more brought us to the edge of the plain, and in the cañon at our feet
we discovered Isidoro's bay stallion, looking very crestfallen and
wobegone. At our approach he gave a faint neigh of satisfaction; but
he had hardly done so, when it was answered by a triumphant pæan from
another quarter, and from behind a bend in the cañon, meekly followed
by Isidoro's mares, issued a magnificent black stallion. Undeterred by
our presence, he made straight for his but recently vanquished rival,
with head erect nostrils distended, and his long mane and tail
streaming in the wind. As for the bay,

     'Not a moment stopped or stayed he;'

but ignominiously took to his heels, and started up the cañon at full
speed.

Isidoro, who was some way ahead of us, galloped to the rescue. The
bagual, strange to say, however, suddenly rushed at him, standing upon
its hind-legs, and beating the air with its fore-feet in a threatening
manner. Taken by surprise, Isidoro had hardly time to loosen his bolas
when the furious brute was upon him, and for a moment I thought it was
a bad case. But Isidoro was as cool as he was adroit, and in another
second the bagual dropped on its knees, half stunned, struck full in
the forehead by a well-aimed blow of the balls. Before it could
recover, Garcia's lasso whizzed through the air and lighted on its
neck, and then, setting spurs to his horse, he galloped away at full
speed in an opposite direction. The shock, as the lasso tautened,
threw his horse on its haunches, but the stallion lay half strangled
and powerless. To finish matters, Maximo whipped his lasso over its
fore-feet, and drew them tight together, and the poor brute was thus
reduced to utter helplessness.

We could now contemplate it at our ease. It was a splendidly-made
animal, and far larger than any of the horses of our troop. I was very
much astonished at the way it had shown fight, as I had imagined that,
being wild, it would have fled at the sight of man. I pleaded strongly
that its life might be spared, but the fact that it was in very good
condition weakened the force of any argument I might bring in support
of my plea, fat meat in spring being a luxury which my companions did
not feel justified in depriving themselves of, if fate chanced to
throw it in their way. The poor bagual was accordingly despatched,
skinned, and cut up; but eventually none of the meat was eaten, for,
much to everyone's disappointment, it proved so strong that even the
dogs did not care to touch it.

We now returned towards our camp. The bay stallion, his wrongs avenged
and his abducted wives restored to his affectionate keeping, kept
neighing and tossing up his heels in a state of high glee, without, to
all appearance, being troubled by any misgivings as to whether his
recent ignominious defeat had caused him to forfeit the esteem of his
family circle.

On our way back, Isidoro told me that he had frequently seen troops of
wild horses near St. Julian, and that at times the Indians make
excursions to those regions on purpose to catch them. At the foot of
the Cordilleras there is a smaller, and in every way inferior, breed
of baguals, several tame specimens of which I subsequently saw amongst
the horses of the Southern Tehuelches.

Having reached the camp, we loaded the pack-horse, and resumed our
journey southwards. We continued to follow the windings of the ravine
for some distance, and then, turning abruptly, we rode up one of its
steep sides, and found ourselves on a broad plain, which seemed to
stretch away interminably, presenting the characteristics of dreary
gloom and hopeless sterility I have already described.

The wind, which down in the ravine we had scarcely felt, blew with
astonishing violence upon the plain; the gusts were so strong
occasionally that we could hardly keep our saddles, and at intervals
we encountered squalls of hailstones of unusual size, which, coming
full in our faces, caused us no little annoyance. It was bitterly
cold, too, and I was thankful for my capa, which kept me tolerably
warm, though I had great difficulty in keeping it tightly folded round
me, for if the wind could but find hold in the smallest crevice, it
would blow the capa right off me. In fact, it requires a peculiar
knack, only to be attained by long experience, to enable one to wear a
capa on horseback with ease and comfort.

Conversation under these adverse circumstances was not very
practicable, and we rode on for the most part in silence. It was
altogether a miserable day, and that tedious plain seemed as if it
were never going to end.

We reached its limit rather suddenly, however. I had been holding my
head down for some time, to avoid a passing squall of hailstones, and
so had fallen insensibly to the rear of my companions. On looking up
presently, I found, to my astonishment, that they had vanished as if
by magic, and I was apparently alone in the plain.

I galloped forward, and their sudden disappearance was soon explained,
for in a couple of minutes I found myself at the edge of the plain,
which terminated abruptly, descending almost vertically into another
plateau, which lay some two hundred feet below, down towards which my
companions were slowly winding their way in a zigzag line, as the
descent was too sharp for them to ride straight down. I had
considerable difficulty in following them, as the violence of the wind
seemed doubled at this spot, and it was only by clinging firmly to the
neck of my horse that I prevented myself being blown from the saddle.
In a measure as I descended, however, the wind grew less boisterous,
and on arriving below it entirely ceased. I soon rejoined my
companions, and presently, on coming to a spring of fresh water, with
some good pasture near it for the horses, we resolved to go no further
that day.

We accordingly unsaddled and made the usual arrangements for the
night, which, as the sky looked rather threatening, on this occasion
included setting up the tent. This precautionary measure was a wise
one, as towards morning there was a slight fall of snow, and when I
woke up I found the whole landscape whitened over.

Garcia and the others were of opinion that we had better remain where
we were for the day, as they considered that travelling through the
snow might be bad for the horses; so, there being nothing better for
us to do, we crept under our furs and went to sleep again till about
midday, by which time the snow had nearly all melted away under the
influence of the sun, which shone out brightly. Isidoro and Garcia
then rode off hunting. Maximo, Guillaume, and I, being lazily
inclined, remained by the fire, and beguiled an hour or so with
breakfast.

Afterwards they went to fetch firewood, whilst I amused myself by
practising with the bolas. I found it very difficult to use them with
any precision; in fact, they always took exactly the opposite
direction to that in which I wished to throw them, and finally, in an
attempt to 'bolear' a bush, I very narrowly missed poor Maximo, who
was just coming up behind me.

As an instance of the skill which may be acquired in the use of the
bolas, I have several times seen Isidoro throw them at some refractory
colt at full gallop, with such true aim as to make them alight round
its hind legs, and effectually pinion them, without doing the animal
any harm whatever--a feat which requires immense confidence and nerve,
as the bolas, which are very heavy, being generally made of stone or
lead, have to be flung with considerable velocity.

The first hunter to return was Garcia. He had killed a female puma, a
great prize, as the meat is excellent, and especially esteemed during
the winter and spring months, when it is always fat, whereas the
ostriches and guanacos are at that time generally miserably lean. The
brute looked very fierce and dangerous; the half-opened jaws displayed
a row of cruel white teeth, which gave its face an uncomfortable
expression of rage and spite. The fur was of a yellowish-grey; and the
length of the animal from tip to tail was about nine feet.

The puma abounds in the pampas, where it preys on the guanacos and
ostriches, lying in ambush for them in the ravines near where they are
in the habit of going to drink. With one blow of its huge paw, it can
kill a full-sized guanaco; but, notwithstanding its great strength,
the Patagonian puma is of very cowardly instincts, and if attacked by
man, quietly receives its death-blow from the balls without any
attempt at self-defence. If taken young they can be easily tamed, and
in that state their manners closely resemble those of the domestic
cat. They are very fond of being taken notice of, and will purr and
stretch themselves under a caressing hand, like any old tabby. They
are extremely playful and good tempered, attaching themselves with
docility to those with whom they are familiar.

I was travelling in a steamer once, on board of which there was a
young puma about two months old, which was being sent to the
Zoological Gardens. It was a graceful, affectionate little animal, and
became a great favourite during the voyage, relieving many a tedious
hour with its playful gambols. Its great delight was to lie hidden
behind a spar, and then suddenly spring out on some unwary passer-by,
to whose leg it would tenaciously cling, until some other object
attracted its attention. Its inseparable companion was a little Scotch
terrier, with which it would play for hours together, rather roughly
sometimes, it is true, but still without ever showing any traces of a
treacherous or spiteful disposition, though occasionally its temper
must have been severely tried, as the dog would often seize and carry
away its dinner--a fighting matter with much better-disposed animals
than pumas.

At dinner that evening we ate a side of the puma Garcia had killed.
After I had overcome the repugnance I at first felt at eating the
flesh of a beast of prey, I found the meat excellent, tasting, as I
thought, something like veal.

We started early the next morning, as we had a long journey before us,
being anxious to reach the Rio Chico, a tributary of the Santa Cruz
River before night-time.

At every step the country across which we were now travelling grew
more sterile, and after about an hour's ride, we found ourselves in a
region of extraordinary barrenness. Not a blade of grass was to be
seen anywhere, and even the miserable scrub of the plains could find
no nourishment in that bleak tract of salt sand and broken scoriæ.
Traces of volcanic action were everywhere apparent. Immense boulders
of solid rock were scattered here and there in chaotic confusion, and
on some spots sharp ridges of dark porphyry pierced through the soil,
towering up in fantastic shapes, gloomy and bare. It seemed like an
unfinished portion of the globe, the very skeleton of a landscape. The
outlines were there, indeed, the framework of the intended structure.
There were bold hills, sheltered valleys, isolated peaks, deep basins;
but over all was silence and desolation, all was empty and void. The
finishing-touch had been withheld--the last touch which was to have
softened and modulated those rugged contours, clothing their
barrenness with verdure, filling the dry basins with clear water, and
bringing life and gladness to what was now lying in sad and eternal
deathliness.

Nature must have made Patagonia last of all her works, and the horn of
Plenty, from which an abundance of rich gifts had been poured over the
rest of the world, was well-nigh exhausted when that country's turn to
be endowed came round. There still remained a little grass seed,
however, and this was carefully scattered over the length and breadth
of the land. But little alighted on the hills and plains, for the
strong pampa winds swept it down into the ravines and gulches, under
the shelter of which it took root and flourished, affording
nourishment to the ostrich and guanaco, and preserving the springs of
fresh water from the scorching rays of the summer's sun.

But one nook had been altogether forgotten during the distribution of
the scanty remains of Nature's gifts, and accordingly had been doomed
to remain desolate and barren to the end of time, sustaining no
vegetable life, and shunned by all living creatures. And through that
unfortunate region I was now riding, gloomily oppressed by the spirit
of mournful silence and wild solitude which hung over it, whilst my
weary gaze sought in vain some token of organic existence to relieve
the monotony of lifeless stone and bare sand-hillocks.

We rode swiftly, for we all felt the same desire to escape as quickly
as possible to more cheering scenes, but several hours elapsed before
the sight of an occasional stunted bush or tuft of grey grass showed
us we were nearing a less inhospitable region.

Presently we rode past a long chain of salinas, which glittered and
sparkled whitely in the sun. They were now partially covered with
water, but in summer it evaporates altogether, leaving a crust of salt
on the surface of the lake of from two to four inches thick. These
salinas are met with all over the pampas, and from afar often deceive
the thirsty hunter, in search of fresh water, by the similarity they
present to a sheet of the latter, when the sun shines on their white
surfaces. In the depression over which we were now riding, I counted a
succession of more than fifty salinas, which stretched away as far as
I could see towards St. Julian.

I passed one salina which, at a distance, appeared to be covered with
rose-coloured plants. On riding nearer, I found this delusion to be
occasioned by a flock of flamingoes, which were collected there in
great numbers, to all appearance in solemn conclave, after the fashion
of storks--a bird which they also resemble in their general build.
They let me come close up to them, and then, stretching out their long
necks, slowly glided away, alighting again on another salina a little
further off. As they flew up, I observed that the wings were black
underneath, in fine contrast to the brilliant hues of the rest of
their plumage, which is of a bright crimson colour, and very
beautiful. One fine, long feather floated through the air to my feet,
and I picked it up, intending to keep it, along with other similar
trifles, as a relic of my journey. Isidoro, half in joke, half in
earnest, said the occurrence might possibly be an omen of ill luck and
bloodshed--a prediction which was subsequently strangely verified,
though I laughed at it at the time, and, of course, thought no more
about it.

By this time we had got into the ordinary style of country
again--short, undulating plains, and ravines with plenty of grass and
underwood. Several ostriches were caught there, and three nests were
pillaged, yielding in all some forty eggs, which we secured to our
saddles and bodies in various ways.

We now approached the limits of the deep basin or depression across
which we had been travelling all day, and were faced by an acclivity,
similar in height and steepness to the one we had descended the day
previous. In scaling this wall I had a slight mishap; the prolonged
strain on my saddle caused it to slip back, the girths loosened, the
saddle rolled round, and, hampered by my capa, I was thrown violently
to the ground, breaking in my fall four eggs which I had previously
somewhat imprudently secured inside my shirt. Maximo came to my
rescue, and helped me to my feet again. My ribs felt very sore, and I
was severely bruised on the head; but I was glad to come off so
cheaply, for if the horse had taken fright and run away, entangled as
I was in the saddle-gear, and with my limbs imprisoned in the folds of
the capa, I might have incurred considerable risk of being dragged
over the pampa. We readjusted the saddle, I remounted, and we started
off again, reaching the summit of the escarpment, without further
mishap.

There we found ourselves on another plain, across which we journeyed
for some time, but finding that it was too late to reach the Rio Chico
that day, we halted for the night, under shelter of a stout bush of
unusual size.

We had a novel dish that evening, in the shape of a pair of
armadilloes, which some one had caught during the day, and which
Isidoro had artistically roasted with hot stones.

The species of armadillo which inhabits Patagonia (_Dasypus minutus_)
is much smaller than any of the other varieties known in the Brazils,
Paraguay, and the northern provinces of Buenos Ayres. It is found in
great numbers throughout the pampas north of the Santa Cruz, though
south of that river, according to the testimony of the Indians, it has
never been met with. Why the limit of their range is thus sharply
defined, I am not prepared to say, though the phenomenon may possibly
be accounted for by the fact that the temperature on the plains a
short distance south of the Santa Cruz River is surprisingly lower
than that of the northern plains, the change being far greater than
the mere difference in latitude would warrant. The 'mulitos,' as the
Spanish call them, are remarkably good eating, and even in the towns
they are considered great delicacies. In autumn they have a layer of
fat on their backs of from two to three inches, on which they have to
draw in winter, as they pass that season in a state of torpor, which
relieves them of the trouble of looking for food.

Those that we ate on this occasion were rather thin, as in that month,
September, they commence to leave their holes; but otherwise the flesh
was succulent and tender, and tasted very much like sucking-pig.

The next morning we set out for the Rio Chico. On the way we passed
several herds of guanacos, some of which must have numbered more than
two hundred head. They seemed very shy, and disappeared at our
approach with great rapidity, though now and then one or two, more
courageous than the rest, would hang around us almost within reach of
the bolas, frisking about and executing the most comical antics, as if
to show their contempt for us and their confidence in their own
superior speed.

This self-reliance is not altogether unjustified; the guanacos which
roam about singly, and which show such impertinent audacity, are
generally tough old males of immense endurance and speed, and to
overtake them the swiftest greyhound would have to do its utmost.

It is different when a herd is being chased, as then each animal tries
to push into the middle of the flock, and a general scuffle takes
place, which of course considerably lessens the speed of the mass--a
fact of which the dogs are perfectly aware, inasmuch as they will
hardly ever take the trouble to chase a single guanaco, unless
specially ordered to do so by their masters, whereas if a herd comes
in sight, it is difficult to keep them from immediately dashing off
after them.

The guanaco has been well described by Captain Musters as having the
head of a camel, the body of a deer, the wool of a sheep, and the
neigh of a horse. The wool is of a reddish-yellow, intermixed with
white in certain parts of the body. They are scattered in immense
numbers all over Patagonia, and one can never ride far without hearing
the shrill neighing of the sentinels, which always outflank the main
flock to give warning of the approach of danger. The flesh, when fat,
is excellent, and closely resembles beef; but at the season I am
writing of it is terribly lean and insipid, and affords very little
nourishment, the only palatable part being the head, which we
generally roasted under the embers, eating it cold.

We travelled along over the usual succession of shingly plain and
grassy ravine for some time, without anything occurring to break the
tedium of the ride. Presently, however, a little off the direction in
which we were going, I noticed a guanaco lying dead, with fifty or
more carranchos hovering expectantly over it; and as the most
commonplace incident becomes of deep interest to the traveller on the
pampas as to the passenger on board a ship, I rode up to have a glance
at the dead animal. It must have been just then killed, for I found
the body still warm, and the blood was trickling from a deep gash in
its neck. I looked round, but I could not see the author of the deed
anywhere, though I did not doubt but that he was prowling near, or
else the carranchos would already have settled on the carcase. We had
plenty of other meat, so I merely cut off its head, tied it to the
saddle, and then rode after my companions.

I had not gone far, however, when my horse suddenly stopped, snorting
wildly and quivering in every limb. I soon discovered the cause of its
terror. Crouching under a bush, about twenty paces ahead of me, was a
large puma, glaring sullenly at me, with its ugly cat-like head
resting between its outstretched paws. I urged my horse closer towards
it, but the frightened animal would not budge an inch, and, as I was
not within range, I was obliged to dismount.

Drawing my revolver, I cautiously approached the puma, till I was
within easy distance. I then hesitated, not knowing exactly whether to
fire or not. I had heard a great deal of the cowardice of these
animals, how you may go close up to them, and strike them dead with
the bolas, without their offering any resistance; but still, this
particular puma, I reflected, might happen to be an exception to the
general rule, and turn out to be an unpleasantly brave animal, which
might possibly resent being fired at, especially if not dealt a wound
instantaneously fatal.

However, I finally plucked up my courage, took steady aim at the head
of the motionless beast, and fired. It did not stir; I had missed. I
went nearer, and fired again; same result. I began to get excited, and
went still nearer to the unaggressive puma, which was now hardly ten
paces distant, its eyes gleaming at me with a fixed and stolid stare.
I fired once more, and this time I thought the head twitched. At that
moment Isidoro, who had heard my shots, came up to see what was the
matter, and with him, of course, came his dogs. They no sooner saw the
puma than they flew at it, and dragged it from under the bush. The
reason it had remained so immovable was immediately explained; the
brute was stone dead. On examining it, I found that two of my bullets
had lodged in its skull, and another had penetrated its chest, my
first shot having probably caused instantaneous death. With the help
of Isidoro, I took off the skin, which was a very fine one; and
leaving the carcase to the carranchos, we galloped off after the rest
of the party.

We reached the Rio Chico at about twelve o'clock. The exact site of
its source is not known, but according to Indian testimony it comes
from an insignificant stream at a very short distance from the spot we
were now at. Like all rivers in Patagonia, it flows down a broad
valley, which seems to have been in former times the bed of a much
broader river than that which at present flows through it. Thus the
valley of the Rio Chico is about three miles broad, whilst the river,
at the time I am speaking of, rather swollen by recent rains, was only
some two hundred yards in width. The valley of the Rio Gallegos is
much broader even than that of the Rio Chico, while one can almost
jump over the river itself in summer.

On account of the fine pasturage they afford for horses, these valleys
are the usual camping-places of the Indians, and we were therefore not
surprised to see several of their tents pitched on the other side of
the river. I was extremely glad of the opportunity thus afforded me of
making the acquaintance of these wandering tribes, for whom, having
read Captain Musters' 'At Home with the Patagonians,' I had always
felt a peculiar interest. Captain Musters adopted the only plan by
which it is possible to obtain a thorough insight into the
peculiarities of the morality and customs of such people, and to
discover the principles which guide their dealings amongst each other
and towards strangers. For the nonce he forgot that he had ever
belonged to civilisation, and became to all intents and purposes a
Patagonian Indian, living amongst them as one of them, sharing their
pleasures and hardships, and doing his duty in the hunting-field or in
the ball-room with as much zest and earnestness as if he intended
passing his whole existence among them, and finally becoming a
candidate for some vacant caciqueship.

By these means he became intimately acquainted with their habits and
ways, their domestic life, their virtues and failings, their loves and
their hatreds; and was thus enabled thoroughly to understand them, and
appreciate many interesting traits in their character which would have
escaped a less attentive and less conscientious observer.

When we reached the ford, some doubts were expressed as to whether it
was practicable, the river being swollen far beyond its ordinary
level. Garcia rode cautiously over first, therefore; and on his
arriving safely on the opposite side, none the worse for a little
splashing, the rest of us followed, driving the horses in before us.
The dogs remained behind, setting up a most dismal yell as they
watched us making our way through the water; but finding no one
offered to carry them over, they at last took heart and swam after us.

Leaving our horses to graze with those of the Indians, which were
scattered about in knots all over the valley, we set off at a gallop
towards the encampment, on arriving at which we were soon surrounded
by a crowd of dusky aborigines, who, to judge by their incessant
smiles and laughter, must have been exceedingly glad to see us.

Our first care was to set up our tent and carefully stow all our traps
and saddle-gear away under it, as there are some amongst the Indians
whose curiosity prompts them to minutely inspect any article one might
be careless enough to leave within their reach, and whose absence of
mind is so extreme as to frequently make them forget to restore such
articles to their rightful owners.

I was then at liberty to examine the chattering groups which had
gathered round us, watching all our doings with the greatest interest,
and probably criticising my civilised appearance with a freedom which,
had I understood their language, I might perhaps have thought the
reverse of complimentary.



  [Illustration]



CHAPTER VI.


The plains of Patagonia, barren as they are, afford sustenance to a
marvellous profusion of animal life, and swarm with countless numbers
of ostriches, guanacos, armadilloes, pumas, foxes, and skunks. But
they are but sparsely peopled by the human race. It may be estimated
that the native population of that vast territory which lies between
the Rio Negro and the Straits of Magellan barely numbers three
thousand souls, and if the mortality among them continues on the same
scale as hitherto, it is to be feared that in a comparatively short
period they will have disappeared altogether from off the face of the
earth, and survive only in memory as a sad illustration of the
remorseless law of the non-survival of the unfitted.

But at no period of its existence as a habitable country can Patagonia
have been well populated; no people would voluntarily choose it for a
permanent abode, as long as they could range unmolested in the more
hospitable regions of the north, and such tribes as have from time to
time elected to brave its inclement climate have in so doing doubtless
only yielded to dire necessity, finding the elements, less formidable
to encounter than the unceasing hostilities of more powerful tribes.
Thus the Tehuelches, as the Indians who at present inhabit the
southern plains are called, have in all probability gradually been
driven to this extreme corner of their continent by the more warlike
but intellectually inferior races of the north, such as the
Araucanians, the Pampas, and others, who in their turn, as
civilisation advances, may perhaps be forced to quit their present
rich pasture-grounds and moderate climate, and fly to the bare plains
of Santa Cruz and St. Julian, eventually to encounter the same fate of
extermination as that which now hangs over the doomed Tehuelche race.

The Tehuelches are divided into two tribes, the Northern and the
Southern. The Northerners are the least numerous, but, on the other
hand, they have the advantage of being less 'civilised' than their
Southern kindred, who, being frequently in contact with the settlers
of Sandy Point, have assimilated not a few of the pleasant vices of
'_los Christianos_,' as all white men are called by them. The
Northerners generally pass the winter at Santa Cruz, and move as
summer comes on towards the Cordilleras. The Southerners range over
the country between Coy Inlet and the straits, and now and then pay a
visit to the settlement at Sandy Point. In customs and language there
is no difference between these two tribes, and in speaking of the
Tehuelches, I must be understood to be referring indiscriminately to
the Northerners and Southerners.

Notwithstanding that the exaggerated accounts of early travellers as
to the stature of the Patagonians have frequently been contradicted
and disproved, a great many people seem still to be firmly impressed
with the idea that the race of giants is not yet extinct, and that it
has for its abode that favoured portion of South America which the
Spaniards christened Patagonia. The truth is that, as regards height,
all that can be said of the Tehuelches is that they are on the average
a tall race, varying in stature from say five feet ten inches to six
feet. Their muscular development and consequent strength, however, are
decidedly abnormal, and in that sense, at all events, they cannot be
denied to possess one of the most important attributes of giants.

I once witnessed a remarkable feat of strength performed by a Northern
Tehuelche of the name of Koloby. He was leading a horse towards the
camp by a lasso, when the animal for some reason or other suddenly
stopped short, and obstinately refused to stir from the spot. After a
few coaxing, but ineffectual tugs at the lasso, Koloby gave a short
grunt of impatience, and then, taking the lasso over his shoulder,
bent forward, seemingly without effort, and dragged the horse by main
force for about twenty yards, notwithstanding its determined attempts
at resistance.

The Tehuelches are on the whole rather good-looking than otherwise,
and the usual expression on their faces is bright and friendly. Their
foreheads are rather low, but not receding, their noses aquiline,
their mouths large and coarse, but their teeth are extremely regular
and dazzlingly white. Their hair, which is long and black, is kept
from falling over their faces by a fillet tied round the head. They
have little hair on the face or body, and even that they eradicate as
much as possible, including the eyebrows, an operation which must
cause no little pain. Why they do this I don't know, except it may be
that they consider it improves their appearance, in which case it
seems that in its application to the 'poor Indian,' the saying '_Il
faut souffrir pour être beau_' loses none of its truth or point. In
addition to this embellishment, some tattoo their arms or chest, but
it does not seem to be the general custom.

Their eyes are small and deeply set; the prominence of the cheekbones
gives great breadth to their faces. The colour of their skin seems to
vary according to the individual, or rather according to the
individual's cleanliness; but as far as I could ascertain, it is of a
reddish-brown, running in some cases more into a yellowish tinge.
Their general carriage is extremely graceful and dignified, and their
manners towards strangers and one another are polite and deferential,
without a trace of servility; in fact, they have a certain well-bred
air of restraint, which is quite impressive, and one never feels
inclined to treat them with that familiarity which is bred of
contempt, or that convenient assumption of superiority which the white
man is so apt to display towards 'niggers.'

I do not wish to incur the charge of attempting to revive the exploded
legend of the 'noble savage' in favour of the Tehuelche race, but I
must say that in general intelligence, gentleness of temper, chastity
of conduct, and conscientious behaviour in their social and domestic
relations, they are immeasurably superior not only to the other South
American indigenous tribes, but also, all their disadvantages being
taken into consideration, to the general run of civilised white men.
Their natural talents are displayed in a marked manner by the rapidity
with which they pick up a new language, and the ease with which they
grasp the totally new ideas which the acquiring of a complex foreign
tongue must necessarily entail on a race whose original range of
thought is of a most limited nature. Amongst the Southern Tehuelches I
met several who spoke Spanish with ready ease, notwithstanding that
they seldom had opportunities of practising it. There was one Indian,
who called himself Captain Johnson, who surprised me very much when I
first met him by asking me, with a round British oath, for 'a plug of
tobacco.' Further conversation brought out that many years before he
had lived for a few weeks on board an English schooner, and hence his
knowledge of the language, which he spoke extremely well, considering
that he had of course never had occasion to keep it up since.
Guillaume told me several instances of the ease with which the Indians
picked up and retained French phrases, which at their request he had
repeated to them. To their many other praiseworthy characteristics I
shall presently revert.

The dress of the men consists of a chiripà, fastened at the waist by a
belt, which is frequently richly embossed with silver. The capa, or
mantle of guanaco furs, already described, completes their attire.
When on horseback their feet are encased in botas de potro; but for
reasons of economy they do not wear them at ordinary times. The women
wear a long calico robe beneath the capa, which is fastened at the
throat with a silver brooch, or a simple wooden skewer, according to
the circumstances of the individual. Potro boots are a luxury reserved
for the men. The children, on whom most of the silver ornaments of
the family are lavished, wear a capa like their elders, and on
attaining the age of four or five are invested with the dignity of a
chiripà.

When the women grow old they become repulsively ugly, but the young
girls are by no means ill-favoured, and the looks of even the plainest
among them are invariably redeemed by the bright, smiling expression
habitual to them. Their hair is worn in plaits, artificially
lengthened by means of horsehair; their complexion, when free from
paint, is of a ruddy healthy colour, and their eyes, which are shaded
with long black lashes, are soft and clear.

Without going so far as to assert that the _affaires de cœur_ of
the Tehuelche maidens are always strictly platonic, I must say that,
according to my own observations, and the confirming statements of
others, the relations between the sexes are uniformly characterised by
a strong sense of decency and unimpeachable propriety. Polygamy is
admitted on principle; but no man may marry more wives than he can
afford to maintain, and there is, therefore, seldom more than one
mistress to each household. Marriages _de convenance_ are very rare;
but, as a matter of form, the bride is purchased from her parents for
a certain number of mares, or whatever objects her lover can afford to
give. But as the dowry of the girl generally quite compensates for
the expense her lover has incurred in obtaining her, the transaction
must be considered rather as an exchange of presents than as a mere
unsentimental bargain. Out of mere curiosity to learn the technical
details of Tehuelche marriage-settlements, I once entered into
negotiations with a rich old squaw, for the purpose of contracting
matrimony with her daughter who was a charming girl of about fifteen.
The price we finally agreed upon was eight mares; a bag of biscuits,
and some sugar, which I was to procure from Sandy Point. The dowry of
the daughter consisted in four new guanaco mantles. I held out for
five, and on my remaining inflexible on this point, the negotiations
fell through.

Husband and wife seem always to get on very well together; indeed, one
of the pleasantest traits in the Tehuelche character is the affection
with which relations regard one another. The love of the parents
towards their offspring is almost morbid in its intensity. Their grief
at the decease of an only child frequently manifests itself in the
most exaggerated manner. It is not unusual in such cases for the
parents to burn all their belongings, kill all their horses, and
reduce themselves to a state of utter poverty--a touching proof of the
sincerity and depth of their sorrow, if not of the soundness of their
views on practical economy.

Their indulgence towards their children is unlimited. I have never
seen a child chidden or remonstrated with, whatever mischievous pranks
it may have been up to, and in all their internal arrangements the
interest of the baby portion of the community seems to be the first
which is consulted. For my part, I must say I by no means shared in
the feelings of the elders with regard to their youthful progeny; on
the contrary, I always considered the latter as a most unmitigated
nuisance. They are dirty and vicious, as mischievous as monkeys, and
as thievish as magpies. The 'Artful Dodger' would have had to look to
his laurels if he had had to enter into competition with a young
Tehuelche. Their deftness of hand, as I have many a time experienced
to my cost, is remarkable. On one occasion, I rode over to their camp
from Santa Cruz, on an English saddle, and as I knew that the
stirrup-leathers, which are in great demand for belts on account of
the buckles, would prove too great a temptation, I took care not to
leave the saddle at all during my short stay, thinking by that means
to obviate any danger of losing my cherished stirrup-leathers. But
even this precaution proved insufficient. In an unguarded moment,
whilst bending over my horse's neck in conversation with an Indian who
was sitting on the ground below me, by way of resting myself a little,
I incautiously slipped one foot out of its stirrup, and lay at my full
length along the horse's back. I was hardly two minutes in that
position, but I was two minutes too long. On resuming my seat in the
saddle, my foot sought in vain for the stirrup, and on looking down I
discovered, to my wrath, that during my momentary inattention the
stirrup-leather had quietly been slipped off and made away with. Of
course, I immediately dismounted in a great rage, and set to to find
the thief. After a fruitless search, I returned to my horse, and, lo
and behold, in the meanwhile, the other stirrup-leather had
disappeared! In my precipitate haste, I had quite forgotten that
whilst I was looking for its fellow, it might be abstracted as well;
and the upshot of the whole affair was that, with many a strong
interjectional reference to my own stupidity, I had to ride
stirrupless back to Santa Cruz, some fifteen miles away. I had no
doubt at the time, and indeed I subsequently discovered, that two
youngsters had been the perpetrators of the neat theft.

One would think that under such training, as they grew older, their
faults would increase; but just the contrary is the case, and by the
time they attain their fifteenth or sixteenth year they abandon their
brattish ways, and become 'respectable,' steady-going members of their
community.

The division of labour in a Tehuelche _ménage_ is perhaps not strictly
equitable, for by far the greater part of the day's work falls on the
fair sex. The men go hunting when the larder is low, and occasionally,
in a dawdling kind of way, they mend their riding-gear, or make
bolas, lassoes, etc.; but they have an insurmountable aversion to
anything that looks like hard work. The squaws, on the other hand, are
busy from morning till night. They are the hewers of wood and the
drawers of water, and all the onus of housekeeping, breaking up the
camp, arranging the tents--including, of course, the care of the
children, the _cuisine_, and so forth--is delegated to them. When not
otherwise employed, they sew guanaco capas or weave fillets, and their
fingers, at all kinds of work, are as nimble as their tongues, with
which latter they keep up an incessant chatter, which, however, does
not prevent them from getting through an astonishing amount of work.

Of their origin little is to be said. They recognise a good spirit and
a bad spirit (Gualichu); but there is little sincerity or earnestness
either in their reverence for the one, or in their fear of the other.
According to the caprice of the moment, either of these spirits is
most cavalierly treated by them, and the respect they occasionally
profess towards them gives way as often as not to indifference,
contempt, or anger. The fact is, that with the Tehuelches the prime
rule in life is to take everything as easily as possible, to the
exclusion of all other considerations; and, acting on the doctrine of
the Epicureans, that it is a man's duty to endeavour to increase to
the utmost his pleasures and diminish to the utmost his pains, they
are careful not to admit any theories which might possibly disturb
their peace of mind. Thus they are strongly averse to the idea of
vesting in a supernatural agent the power of interfering in their
affairs to any great extent, arguing that such power having once been
vested, it might on a contingency be used detrimentally to their own
comfort and interests. On the other hand, it could not escape them
that very often a most convenient excuse for their peccadilloes was to
be found in attributing them to the evil influence of some bad spirit.
To avoid the dilemma occasioned by the above conflicting
considerations, they accordingly created the Gualichu, a most
accommodating devil, who allows himself to be ignored or brought
forward, as may best suit the momentary purpose of his clients. The
good spirit, for obvious reasons, one hears very little about; the
Tehuelche is quite willing to take the credit of his good actions on
himself alone.

The office of chief or cacique among them is not altogether a
sinecure; but its authority is extremely limited, being exercised
merely in such slight matters as the choice of the spot where the
tribe is to camp, the route to be followed, and so forth. The
Tehuelches are very jealous of their personal liberty; and complete
individual equality is the recognised basis of their social and
political system. Paraphrasing Wordsworth, I may say in prose, 'A rich
man is a rich man to them, and he is nothing more,' In other words,
the fact of one of their number possessing forty or fifty horses more
than his fellows, seems to be accepted by them as a simple fact, which
excites neither respect for the possessor nor envy of his good
fortune. Nor would it for a moment occur to the owner of the forty or
fifty horses to fancy himself in any way superior to his poorer
brethren. The little credit which wealth, _per se_, commands, saves
the Indians from a great many of the repugnant vices of white men,
such as avarice, jealousy, servility, etc., and keeps up a healthy,
independent feeling among them, which is pleasantly manifested in the
politeness and kindliness of their personal intercourse.

They have a peculiar custom, moreover, which is well calculated to
preserve the existing state of things. When an Indian dies, however
many horses he may possess, they are all killed, and his other
belongings are scrupulously burned. Thus, no family can acquire such a
preponderance of wealth as would enable it, in time, to obtain an
ascendant influence over and curtail the liberties of the rest of the
tribe. Whatever the defects of this system may be, from the political
economist's point of view, it seems to be very well adapted to the
desires and circumstances of the Tehuelches; and as an instance of how
socialistic tendencies may be practically modified to suit certain
exceptional conditions of existence, it is, perhaps, not without some
interest.

If required to distinguish the Tehuelche by a single characteristic
epithet, I should call him, not the noble, but the happy savage. Far
from being saturnine or grave, he is as light-hearted as a child, all
mirth and contentment, and wonderfully easily moved to laughter. Life
is, indeed, a very pleasant matter for him. Without any exertion on
his part being necessary, all his wants are supplied in abundance. He
has no onerous daily drudgery to undergo; he has no enemies to fear;
he is not driven from his hunting-grounds to starvation and death,
like his North American cousins, by the ever-advancing white man. He
is seldom visited by sickness, and his life is unusually prolonged.
That he has absolutely no troubles I will not affirm, but if he has
any he certainly takes them very lightly.

To conclude these few remarks on the Tehuelche race in reviewing their
characteristics it is impossible not to award them a high rank in the
list of uncivilised nationalities. To admit that they have many
faults, is, after all, merely saying that they are human; but these
faults are redeemed by many unusual excellences. They are
good-natured, hospitable, and affectionate; their instincts are
gentle; violence and ferocity are foreign to their nature; and though
not invariably veracious nor strictly honest, if they think you trust
them, they will take care not to deceive you. Their one great failing
is their addiction to rum, to whose fatal agency the rapid decrease
in their numbers, and the consequent fast-approaching extinction of
their race, must be ascribed.

But to return to my narrative. Our tent having been set up, and all
our saddle-gear stowed away, I strolled into the Indian camp, followed
by the chattering crowd which had come out to meet us. My curious
glances at these children of the desert were certainly repaid with
interest; and they subjected my person and belongings to the closest
scrutiny. The texture of my coat was carefully examined, and appeared
to give rise to a lengthy discussion, which was carried on with more
zeal and earnestness than the merits of the subject would seem to
warrant, and nothing but a good stare of several minutes' duration at
my face seemed to satisfy even the least curious among them.

The camp was composed of five toldos, or tents, each tent containing
on the average about twenty-five souls. These toldos are very
practically constructed, and, notwithstanding their formidable size,
they are set up or taken down by the squaws in a surprisingly short
space of time. A covering made of guanaco skins is drawn over a rough
framework of wood, consisting of a double row of stakes and
cross-beams, lashed together with thongs of guanaco hide. The front of
the tent is generally open, but it can be closed whenever occasion
requires. The interior is divided into partitions, each inmate having
his own bunk, where he sleeps and where his gear and chattels are
stowed away when not in use.

I entered one of these tents, and looked about me. In the front part
there were three or four small fires, round each of which sat a circle
of Indians, who were warming their toes, and smoking or taking maté.
The squaws were all hard at work, sewing capas, weaving fillets, or
tying up bundles of ostrich feathers. At my approach they stopped
working, and broke into a chorus of guttural commentaries on my
appearance, interspersed with a great deal of noisy laughter, which
they kept up till I left the tent. Little children and dogs were
sprawling about the place in all directions, apparently on very good
terms with each other--a dog not unfrequently gnawing at one end of a
piece of meat, off the other end of which a young Tehuelche hopeful
was making his dinner. In another corner was a group deeply immersed
in the chances and changes of a game of cards. Some of the Indians are
inveterate gamblers, and play for very high stakes indeed. It is not
an uncommon thing for a 'plunger' to risk all his horses and his
saddle-gear, knife and bolas to boot, on the chances of a single game.

We visited all the tents, and then went back to enjoy a pipe by our
own fireside. We had not been long seated when quite a deputation of
pretty young squaws arrived, to interview us. They bashfully sat down
at some distance from our fire, and for a time did nothing but giggle
and look shy. At last one of them, the prettiest (artful daughters of
Eve!), after a great deal of argument and some persuasive pushing,
seemed to consent to become the spokeswoman of the party, and taking
courage, came boldly up to us, and producing a plate from under her
capa, with a very engaging smile she held it out to me, repeating the
word 'Azucar' several times in a pleading, coaxing tone, which it was
impossible to resist. I gave her some sugar and biscuit, with which
she returned to her companions, seemingly very much pleased. After
having sat for a few minutes longer, just for politeness' sake, as it
were, they got up and went back to their homes. They must have
reported favourably on the results of their expedition, for they had
not been gone long when another lot arrived, who also wanted azucar.
We had just doled out a small portion to them, when still another
crowd came down upon us, composed chiefly of elderly squaws, each with
a plate, and such a cheerful desire to see it filled with sugar, that
it became necessary to restrain our generous instincts, and stow away
the sugar bags in the depths of our tent. Finding us inexorable, the
elders soon took their departure, in great good-humour, and seemingly
as happy as if they had got all they wanted.

We were favoured with a great many visits during dinner, and at one
time we were the centre of a circle of men, women, and children, two
rows deep, who were incessant in their demands for biscuit, sugar, or
something, but so calmly indifferent under the inevitable refusal with
which, in self-defence, we were obliged to meet all their
supplications, that it seemed they really did not care whether they
got anything given to them or not. Post-prandially I mused whether,
after all, they had not the advantage over me. It is true I had 'the
cakes and ale;' but then, on the other hand, to make matters even,
they had the finely-balanced temperament which enabled them to bear
the want of those luxuries with the most perfect equanimity.

After dinner, Garcia sat down to play cards with an Indian. I watched
him lose successively his bolas, his lasso, his knife, and his saddle,
and when I went to bed he was just commencing another game, for which
the stakes were a horse a side. I fully expected to wake up the next
morning and find that he had lost his whole troop; but he was not so
unfortunate, and when they finally left off playing he was only a pair
of bolas to the bad.



CHAPTER VII.


The next morning, having said good-bye to Isidoro, who was stopping
some days with the Indians before coming down to Santa Cruz to
accompany me to Sandy Point, we started off at a brisk gallop, which
in about three hours brought us to the broad valley down which the
Santa Cruz River rolls its rapid and tortuous course.

The weather was already sensibly colder than at St. Julian. On our
road we encountered several snow and hail-storms, and were therefore
not sorry when we at last arrived in front of Pavon Island, where
there is a small house, built many years ago by an Argentine, who
lived there for the purpose of trading with the Indians--a business
still carried on by its present inmate, Don Pedro Dufour.

On hearing our shouts, the inmates of the island, _i.e._, Don Pedro
and his peon, came over to us in a small boat, in which our effects
and persons were safely transported to the island. The horses and dogs
had to swim over as best they could, and a very hard and cold job they
must have found it, as the current of the river runs with extreme
velocity, something over six miles an hour.

The house into which Don Pedro gave us a hearty welcome, was built of
adobe and stones, and contained two dwelling-rooms, a kitchen, and a
store-room. There was another smaller house on the island, used as a
store-room for the sugar, biscuit, aguadiente, etc., which Don Pedro
barters with the Indians for guanaco capas and ostrich feathers.

In the long grass behind the house a troop of horses was grazing,
together with four or five fine sheep, with which, judging by their
splendid condition, the pasturage of Patagonia evidently agreed. A pig
was grunting and clamouring greedily for food in a pen hard by; ducks,
pigeons, and other poultry were pecking about the yard; a thrush was
singing in a cage hung up outside the house, and altogether there was
quite a homely, civilised look about the place which I should not have
expected to find, considering that it is the only fixed human
habitation in that immense desert, which extends for a distance of
some seven hundred miles, from Chubut to Sandy Point--a desert whose
area is twice that of Great Britain, and whose only inhabitants are a
few ostrich-hunters and Indians.

Pending Isidoro's arrival, I made several excursions in the
neighbourhood of the island, amongst others, one to the port of Santa
Cruz, where in the hollow of a sheltered ravine stands the settlement
of M. Rouquand. The houses, of which there are several, built of
timber brought from Buenos Ayres for the purpose, I found to be little
the worse for wear or weather.

The cañon where these houses stand is still called 'Les Misioneros,'
for it was there that some missionaries resided in 1863, who laboured
for a time at the attempted conversion of the Tehuelches to
Christianity, without, however, meeting with the success their
endeavours deserved.

It is a pity that M. Rouquand's courageous attempt at colonising that
desert place and founding an industry, whose success would have been
an incentive to further enterprise, should have been thwarted by
Chili's having taken umbrage at his occupying a miserable piece of
ground, of no possible value to anybody, without having previously
gone through the formality of asking their ratification of the
concession granted him by the Argentine Government.

The port of Santa Cruz is formed by the confluence of the river of
that name and its tributary, the Rio Chico, which at this point
expands into a broad bay, capable of affording shelter to a number of
ships, and of easy access from the ocean, there being about fifty feet
of water over the bar at high tide.

The river Santa Cruz varies in breadth from four hundred yards to
nearly a mile, and runs along a winding valley, which extends in a
direct line to the westward. In 1834 an expedition under Admiral
Fitzroy, composed of three light boats, manned by eighteen sailors,
started up the river, with the object of ascertaining its source; but
having ascended a distance of 140 miles from the sea, and 240 by the
course of the river, want of provisions obliged him to turn back,
especially as, finding no diminution in the volume of its waters, he
inferred that its upper course must be along the base of the Andes,
from north to south, and that its source must probably be near that of
the Rio Negro, in lat. 45° S.

In this conjecture he was at error, for in 1877 Dr. F. Moreno
successfully determined the source of the Santa Cruz as being taken
from a lake situated in lat. 50° 14' S., and long. 71° 59' W., some
miles from Lake Viedma, with which, however, it has no visible
communication. This fine sheet of water measures thirty miles from
east to west, and ten miles at its greatest breadth; its depth Dr.
Moreno was unable to ascertain--with a line of 120 feet he could find
no bottom at a short distance from the shore.

According to the same authority the greatest depth of the river is
seventy feet, but the rapidity of the current, in some places as much
as fifteen miles an hour, must have prevented reliable soundings being
taken.

Near Lake Viedma is a volcano, the Chalten, which, according to the
Indians, still throws out quantities of ashes. At the time Dr. Moreno
was there, a column of smoke was issuing from its crater.

The country around Santa Cruz River differs in no way from that I had
already traversed, one of the peculiarities of Patagonian landscape
being its complete sameness. The plains, which occupy the greater
portion of the country, extend along the Atlantic Ocean. The line
separating them from the fertile mountain regions is extremely sharply
defined. Beginning at Cape Negro, Magellan Straits, lat. 53° S. and
long. 75° 50' W., it runs thence west-north-west to the north-eastern
extremity of Otway Water, following the channels of Fitzroy Passage,
and the northern shores of Skyring Water to long. 72° W., and then
extends along the eastern shores of Obstruction Sound and Kirke Water,
running then due northward towards Lake Viedma. These plains rise
almost uniformly, 300 feet high, one above another, like terraces, and
are traversed occasionally by ravines and flat-bottomed depressions,
which latter frequently contain salt lakes. The formation of the
country is tertiary, resting on porphyry and quartz, ridges of which
often protrude through the surface. Near long. 70° W. the plains are
capped with a layer of lava, about a hundred miles in width.

Darwin accounts for the regularity with which the plains rise one over
the other by the supposition that the land has been raised in a mass
from under the sea, the upheaving movement having been interrupted by
at least eight long periods of rest, during which the sea ate deeply
back into the land, forming at successive levels the long lines of
escarpments which separate the different plains.

In that strange country the vegetable kingdom is as little varied as
the aspect of the landscape: from Chubut to Sandy Point, from the
sea-coast to the Cordilleras, one meets the same few species of
miserable stunted bushes and coarse grasses.

The following is a cut showing the formation of the country at Port
St. Julian:[A]

  [Illustration:
               { 3 feet    Sand.
               { 7  "      Red clay, quantities of shells and
               {             macranchenia bones.
               { 3½  "     {
               { 3  "      { Layers of porphyry pebbles, alternating
               {           {   with porous sandstone.
               { 3¾  "     {
     42½ feet. { 6½  "     Fossil mass in three layers, consisting
               {             chiefly of oysters and pecten.
               { 3  "      Porous sandstone, numbers of scutella
               {             shells.
               { 7¾  "     Green sandy clay, containing broken
               {             masses of chalk and quantities of
               {             _Ostrea Patagonica_.
               { 1  "      Sand.
               { -----     Level of the Sea.
               { 4  "]

[A] From a perforation made by E. de Ville Massot, C.E.

Of bushes, the most frequent are the jume (_Salicemia_) and the
calafaté (_Berberis axifolia_). The former plant is remarkably rich in
soda, as will be seen by the following analysis of its ash:

     Chloride of sodium          19·38
     Sulphate of lime             9·50
     Carbonate of magnesia        1·94
     Phosphate of potash         12·15
     Carbonate of potash          7·50
     Silicate of soda             7·80
     Carbonate of soda           41·73
                                ------
                                100·00

Though they are so little favoured by nature, still I must confess
that in the sober-hued Patagonian landscapes, with their grave breadth
and stern severity of outline, and in the grand monotony of solemn
silence and solitude pervading their barren plains, there is something
which has left a far deeper impression on my mind than has the
brightest and most varied tropical scenery. Standing in the midst of
one of those seemingly endless plains, one experiences an indefinable
feeling of awe, akin to that which the contemplation of the ocean
produces, only, perhaps, more impressively grand; for the ocean is
ever noisy and restless, the pampa eternally silent and still.

During my stay at Santa Cruz, nothing of importance occurred, if I may
except a ball given by the Indians at the Rio Chico, in honour of
somebody's marriage or funeral: I forget which. An Indian who came to
the island to get the rum, which is a _sine quâ non_ at all their
entertainments, invited us to assist at the ball--an offer which we
readily accepted.

On arriving at the camp, a very lively scene presented itself to our
eyes. As is customary on such occasions, several mares had been
killed, and roasting and boiling was going on at numerous fires.
Everyone was feasting in the greatest good-humour, which on our
approach was further heightened, scouts having already brought the
news that we were coming with the aguadiente.

The advent of the latter was greeted with loud acclamations; some of
the older men gathered round the cask, which was speedily tapped, and
then with great unction and solemnity they proceeded to taste the
liquor, in order to see whether it had been overwatered. Several
decided grunts of satisfaction, however, showed that these aged
fathers approved of its strength; whereupon a general and doubtless
equitable distribution of the spirit took place, and before long the
whole camp--men, women, and children--had ample opportunities for
judging of its merits for themselves.

Presently a dance was organised. The men who took part in it were all
specially painted for the occasion, and wore long feathers on their
heads. The dance itself was a monotonous jig, executed to the
excruciating music of various drums or tom-toms. The women, strange
to say, do not dance; at least, they did not as long as they were
sober.

As the evening wore on, after vast quantities of meat had been
consumed and innumerable dances had been performed, special attention
began to be paid to the aguadiente, and the fun consequently soon
began to get very fast and very furious.

Long before midnight everyone was more or less drunk, and the ball
which had commenced with becoming order and solemnity had now
degenerated into a wild orgie. The flames from the different fires,
strangely blended with the pale moonlight, cast a lurid glare on the
dusky bodies and painted faces of the revellers, who, mad with
excitement and drink, were dancing, singing, and whooping in deafening
concert. A more gruesome scene it was hard to imagine. It seemed as if
the imps of darkness were celebrating their unearthly rites in this
desert spot, and I half expected, at any moment, to see the whole crew
vanish, with a flash and a bang, into the bowels of the earth, leaving
the orthodox smell of sulphur behind them.

Nothing of the sort occurred, however, though I presently received a
shock almost as startling as any supernatural event could have been.
An old squaw, who was painfully of this world and the vanities
thereof, and who had previously been addressing me for some time in
the most eloquent of gutturals, finding that nothing could melt my icy
demeanour, as a last resource suddenly threw her arms round my
unsuspecting neck and hugged me in a greasy embrace.

With great difficulty I managed to free myself, whereupon I ran away
towards some other part of the camp, to escape further annoyance. Had
this old beldame been acquainted with woman's privileges on such
occasions, she would have known that, under the circumstances, the
correct thing to have done was to have fainted or become hysterical.
But nothing could have been further from the thoughts of this
unenlightened savage--the impulse of her untrained mind being to run
after me as hard as her legs could carry her. And the rest of the
Indians, with one of those sudden whims drunken people are liable to,
took it into their heads to join in the chase, and I soon had the
whole crowd shrieking and howling at my heels. What their intentions
were I don't know, nor did I feel inclined to discover; fortunately,
before they came up to me I reached my horse, which I had left ready
saddled, and galloping swiftly away, I soon left them behind me.

I was presently joined by Garcia and the others, who had taken the
same opportunity to escape in order to avoid the rows with which these
balls frequently wind up. They are not often attended by actual
bloodshed, however, as the squaws, with naïve foresight, generally
hide all weapons before the ceremonies commence. We reached Santa Cruz
shortly after daybreak, and so ended my first experience of a
Tehuelche merry-making.

I called at the camp the next day to pay my _visite de digestion_, and
made a point of going to the tent where the old squaw, who was so near
becoming _teterrima causa belli_, abode. She had a bad headache, and
looked very demure and penitent. I rallied her with smiles, and
attempted, by my assiduous attentions, to make up for my discourteous
behaviour of the previous evening. But she took no notice of me, and
received all my overtures with the utmost indifference. It was a case
of--

     'The devil was sick; the devil a saint would be.'



CHAPTER VIII.


Shortly after, on the 2nd of October, Isidoro came over to Pavon
Island, with his horses and some 250 lb. of ostrich feathers sewn up
in hides, which he was going to take down to Sandy Point to barter,
and I accordingly made the necessary arrangements for accompanying
him.

Never was a more unlucky trip commenced under more unfavourable
auspices.

I was extremely unwell, and my indisposition increased with every
hour. Isidoro, in crossing over to the island, had lost his whip in
the river, and he seemed to consider this a sure omen of misfortune.
The mishap threw quite a gloom over his mind, and he almost decided on
giving up the journey altogether. With great difficulty I persuaded
him to relinquish this intention, though I little thought as I did so
that I was indirectly drawing him to his ruin.

The weather, too, was unpropitious. Twice heavy showers of rain made
us turn back when on the point of starting. We had already unsaddled
our horses and put off our departure till the next day; but towards
midday the sun again shone out, and that finally decided us to make a
definite start.

As we calculated that our journey to Sandy Point would last about
eight days, we took but few provisions; and in order to spare the
pack-horse as much as possible, we left our tent behind, trusting to
the weather not to be too severe upon us. The cavalcade consisted of
Isidoro, Guillaume, and myself, twenty-eight horses, and five dogs.

Having said good-bye to Don Pedro, Garcia, and Maximo, who were
remaining at Santa Cruz, we mounted our horses, forded the river, and
got under route.

We had not gone far when the weather again changed for the worse. A
drizzling sleet--half rain, half snow--began to fall, and a thick mist
settled down on the hills, giving an indescribably mournful appearance
to the at all times gloomy country.

We rode along in the lowest of spirits and in the midst of a cheerless
silence, broken only by the patter of the rain or the splashing of our
horses' hoofs over the marshy ground. As we went on, my headache grew
more and more violent, and every movement of the horse made me wince
with pain; but not wishing to turn back now that we were once off, I
bore up as well as I could for several hours, till at last, burning
with fever and thoroughly exhausted with the efforts I had made to
subdue my sufferings, I fairly began to reel in my saddle, and,
finding it impossible to continue any longer on horseback, I called
out to my companions to halt.

Although we were just in the middle of a bare plain, there was
fortunately a little grass growing round the borders of a small sheet
of water near where I dismounted, or otherwise, on account of the
horses, we should have been obliged to continue till we got to the
next ravine, which was still a considerable distance off.

They made a bed for me under a low bush, and I was glad to be able to
lie down. I suffered intensely all through the night, tossing
sleeplessly about, and longing for dawn to appear.

The morning found me in such a state that, much to my own and my
companions' regret, it was quite impossible to continue the journey,
though, had I foreseen the consequences of that one day's delay, I
would have gone on, even if I had had to be lashed to the saddle.

It was altogether a very miserable time. It is pleasant enough to roam
over the pampa when you are strong and well, and can enjoy a good
gallop after an ostrich in that pure, inspiriting air, when the
coarsest food seems delicious, and you can sleep as soundly on the
hardest couch as on the softest feather-bed; but it is another thing
when you are sick and in pain, and miss the darkened room, the
tempting viands, the cooling drinks, and the thousand devices which
make sickness less trying. When, instead, you have to face the weary
pangs of illness, exposed alternately to the glaring sunshine and the
cold rain showers, stretched on the bare ground, a hard saddle for
your pillow, a miserable bush your sole shelter against the cutting
wind. Then, like me, you will probably lose a little of your
enthusiasm for the romantic life of the pampa, and sigh for the
comforts of humdrum civilisation.

The next day my anxiety to reach Sandy Point as early as possible,
urged me to declare that I felt well enough to continue the journey,
and enabled me to support the unintermitting pains the movement of the
horse inflicted on my sore body, which, without the assistance of so
strong a motive, I should hardly have been able to do.

However, I gradually got better, and by the time we reached Coy Inlet,
which was on the fourth day after leaving Santa Cruz, I felt all right
again. We found Coy Inlet River rather swollen, but the ford was still
quite passable, from which circumstance we concluded that that of the
river Gallegos would be equally so--a matter of congratulation for us,
as at that time of the year the snows melt in the Cordilleras, and the
rivers are frequently impassable for several days together.

We were in high spirits over that evening's supper, and already began
calculating how many nights we had yet to pass before we should be
able to go to sleep, heedless of wind or rain, under roof in Sandy
Point. It was the last cheerful evening we were to pass for a long
time to come, though we little dreamt it.

The following morning we started for our next stage, Rio Gallegos,
which is about fifty miles from Coy Inlet.

The pace we travelled at was a kind of amble, half trot, half canter,
though occasionally, when the nature of the ground we were riding over
permitted, we would break into an easy gallop. The horses of Patagonia
are remarkable for their endurance; seventy or eighty miles a day over
that most trying country, with its rapid succession of steep
escarpments, seems nothing to them, and if at the end of the day's
journey an ostrich starts up, they will answer to the spur and dash
away after it as fresh and as gamely as if they had just been saddled.

The guanacos seemed more numerous than ever in the plains we were now
crossing; some herds which swept past us, I think, must have numbered
quite six or seven hundred head. They gave us far more trouble than we
gave them, for every now and then the dogs, who with difficulty could
keep cool in the presence of such abundance of game, would make a dash
at some peculiarly tempting quarry, only to be brought back to their
masters' heels, after much whistling and shouting, thereby causing
considerable delay in our onward progress.

On this day I was particularly struck with the change in the
temperature, which had been gradually growing colder since we left
Santa Cruz, and which was now already unpleasantly raw and severe.
Over the plain, too, there was a keen wind blowing, which seemed to go
right through one, and we were glad when we at last reached a long
ravine called the Ravine of the Squaws, which leads down from the
plains into Gallegos valley. It bears this name because, when coming
from Coy Inlet, the Indian women always enter the valley by that
route. As they then form in single file, the hoofs of so many horses
following in each other's wake have gradually worn several deep but
narrow trails into the soil. The men ride down anywhere, without
reference to the movements of the squaws, who always approach their
camps from exactly the same points. The Indians change their camps
with tolerable regularity according to the time of the year. They
generally pass the winter together in Coy Inlet or Gallegos valley,
and in spring, after the young guanaco hunting is over, they break up
and disperse; some going to the Cordilleras, others to Santa Cruz, and
others again to Sandy Point, though the latter settlement is never
honoured with their presence long, as there is not sufficient
pasturage for the horses in that region, and the dogs, too, have to
subsist on very short rations, as ostriches are rather scarce in the
vicinity of Sandy Point, and guanacos do not range so far south.

Presently a turn of the ravine brought us in full view of the valley,
though the river itself was as yet invisible. A few minutes would now
settle all doubts as to the state of the ford. We broke into a gallop,
craning our necks anxiously to get a glimpse of the water, in rather
dubious suspense. It was of material importance for me to take the
steamer of the 15th of that month, and if the river was unfordable I
knew we might have to wait for at least eight days before the waters
would subside, and that delay would cause me to lose my steamer.

Suddenly Isidoro, who was some way ahead, drew in his reins and
stopped short, turning round with a look of blank dismay on his brown
face, which told but too plainly that our worst fears were realised.
With drooping reins we rode slowly on till we got to the river, now no
longer the shallow stream which in summer one can wade over knee-deep,
but a broad torrent, which eddied, swirled, and foamed, as it dashed
rapidly over its stormy bed through banks which were already growing
too narrow for its swollen waters. In the middle we could still see a
single tuft of long grass, which was bending with the current, and
this, Isidoro told me, grew on a little island, which when the river
is fordable, is several feet above the water's level. Twenty-four
hours ago it had doubtless been high and dry. We had arrived just a
day too late--the day lost on account of my illness!

We stood for some time in silence, staring blankly at the obstacle
which had suddenly sprung up to bar our progress, with a feeling of
utter disgust and helplessness; and then, the first shock of the
disappointment over, we began to discuss the chances in favour of a
speedy fall of the water. Isidoro was of opinion, from previous
acquaintance with the river at that season, that in eight days at the
most, it would have sunk to its ordinary level, two or three
consecutive days of frost being quite sufficient to arrest the thawing
of the snows on the Cordilleras, and to cause the river to fall as
rapidly as it had risen.

But even eight days seemed a long time to look forward to; eight days
to be passed in tiresome inaction and constant exposure to the
weather, and we now bitterly regretted not having brought the tent
with us. Our provisions, too, had only been calculated for a ten-days'
trip, and were already almost exhausted. Though, of course, we need
never want for meat, still lean meat, without salt or any farinaceous
adjunct, is not the kind of diet to keep up one's strength in cold
weather, and under all sorts of exertions and hardships. All these
disagreeables, however, seemed slight ones, compared with the
misfortune of having lost the steamer of the 15th, by which, for
pressing reasons, I ought to have immediately proceeded to Buenos
Ayres. There was now no other chance of leaving Sandy Point till the
30th. Isidoro, too, had some reason to be concerned at the delay, for
if he did not reach the settlement soon, he knew the price of feathers
would have fallen considerably, and he would make but a bad bargain.
Altogether, it was with heavy hearts that we slowly turned from the
river, in search of some suitable spot for camping at. In that respect
we were unfortunate also, not being able to find a sheltering bush
anywhere. Gallegos is the favourite camping-place of the Indians
during several months of the year, and consequently any bushes which
may formerly have existed in the immediate neighbourhood of the
valley, had long been broken up by the squaws for firewood. Finally,
we had to camp on the open, about three miles from the river,
sheltered slightly on one side by the tall escarpment which bounds one
side of the valley, but exposed on all others to whatever wind might
choose to blow, and if it should happen to rain we had of course no
means of keeping anything dry.

Another inconvenience of not having some bush to camp under was that
the fire was completely at the mercy of the wind, and flared away
without emitting any warmth, blinding those who sat round it with
smoke, and making it very difficult to cook anything properly. With
the packages containing Isidoro's feathers we managed to rig up a kind
of makeshift to obviate this difficulty, and then we all three set
about looking for firewood, to collect which we had to wander about
for a long time, as the whole country round seemed to have been swept
bare of that necessary by the Indians.

We were not very cheerful over our dinner that evening, as may be
imagined. The fire burned badly, the air was cold and damp, and soon
after our meal we rolled ourselves in our furs, and prepared to pass
the first of the many nights we were fated to sleep through on the
banks of the river Gallegos.



CHAPTER IX.


My first thought on waking the next morning was, of course, the river.
During the night, in a moment of wakefulness, a steady rumbling noise,
the rush of distant water, had struck on my listening ear, and I was
accordingly prepared to find a further rise in the river at daylight.
But the sight which now met my gaze took me by surprise
notwithstanding. The whole of the lower-lying portion of the valley,
as far as the eye could reach, was one sheet of water, and the flood
was almost visibly rising towards those parts which yet remained dry.
The river itself was no longer distinguishable, being confounded with
the general mass of water, but we could plainly hear the dull roar of
its mighty current, which was still sweeping down with unabated force,
bearing on its curling waters huge trunks of trees, which, perhaps,
but the day before had been torn from the distant Cordilleras.

On account of the high position of our camp, we were as yet far from
the flood, though if it continued to rise as rapidly as hitherto, we
might soon have to move further on.

Isidoro, too, was quite aghast at the dimensions the inundation was
assuming. He had never seen the river so swollen before, and began
seriously to doubt whether, in a fortnight even, we should be able to
cross over, as there was no knowing how long the rise would continue.
The snowfall of the past winter had been heavier than any of the
oldest Indians could remember, and it might reasonably be supposed
that the spring-floods would be proportionately unusual in volume and
duration.

We passed all that day in gloomy forebodings, watching the progress of
the water. At night-time it was still steadily rising. The following
morning we found the flood had risen to within fifteen feet of our
camp; but we had the satisfaction of finding that it was already
abating, for during the night it had been several feet higher, as
evinced by the marks left on the grass. Indeed, all day it kept on
falling, and so rapidly that we commenced to speculate on whether the
river might not eventually subside as quickly as it had risen, and
allow us to cross over, after all, within the eight days we had from
the first considered as the probable duration of our enforced stay at
Gallegos.

The next day again brought despondency. The water seemed to have
remained stationary during the night, and there was a change for the
worse in the weather. The thick mist which had accompanied daybreak
resolved itself, as the morning wore on, into a steady heavy rainfall,
which seemed grimly resolved to reduce us to the last stage of misery
and discomfort.

We covered up our furs with the packages of feathers, so as, if
possible, to have something dry for bedtime; and then cowered round
the drooping fire in resigned helplessness, whilst it rained and
rained down upon us with merciless pertinacity.

There is nothing so trying as having to sit hour after hour in
dejected silence, exposed to a cold rain-storm, which you know may
possibly last for days, and from which you have absolutely no shelter,
feeling, as time goes on, the damp gradually creeping through your
clothes, till it at last reaches the skin and chills you to the bone,
while occasional rills of water run off your back hair and trickle
icily down your shivering neck, till you are thoroughly drenched and
numbed and cramped with cold.

We passively sat shivering in this wretched plight till long after
noon, getting up now and then to have a look at the weather or to
stretch our stiffened limbs. At last the clouds began to break up, the
storm collected its dying force in one last fierce downpour, and then
ceased altogether, giving us just time to dry our clothes and bodies
with the aid of a good fire before night came on.

The days dragged their slow length along, and at last a week, which,
in the weariness of eternally watching and waiting, seemed more like a
month, had gone past without any signs of a speedy abatement in the
height of the river. The waters had fallen, it is true, and were still
falling, but how slowly and sluggishly!

Day after day I used to climb up the tall escarpment bounding the
northern plain, from the top of which a good view was to be obtained
of the valley, which was now one vast sheet of water, dotted here and
there with green islands, a long line of foam showing where the course
of the river lay. There I would sit for hours, watching how little
tufts of grass would gradually enlarge into islands, which in their
turn would slowly grow and grow till they joined and formed part of
the mainland, which was slowly but steadily reclaiming its lost
domains from the retreating waters. This was my only occupation; I had
no heart to join Isidoro on his frequent hunting expeditions; the
river was my sole thought, the only topic of conversation in which I
could take any interest, and beside that everything else was of the
utmost indifference.

It was not that I had any actual fear of losing the steamer of the
30th, especially after the eighth day of our sojourn, during which the
water had fallen with such surprising quickness that the banks of the
river were in some parts beginning to uncover again. Still,
occasionally, the fact that it was just within the limits of
possibility that I might not be able to pass in time would obtrude
itself unpleasantly on my mind; and though I would immediately
triumphantly argue any such idea away, yet I felt that nothing was
absolutely sure till we were actually on the other side of the river,
and, pending that event, I was in a continual state of worry and
restlessness.

When we had been nine days at Guaraiké, as that part of Gallegos is
called by the Indians, Isidoro suggested, in view of the late rapid
fall of the water, that we should go to another pass, some forty miles
further up the river, which he thought might perhaps be fordable
before the one we were now at.

Any change was welcome to me; I had got to know and grow weary of
every line, every curve of the country, every stone almost, round our
present camp, and leaving them seemed a step towards crossing the
river. It was, therefore, with a comparatively light heart that I
helped to drive up, pack, and saddle the horses, and soon we were off
for the 'Paso del Medio,' or Middle Pass, as it is called.

As usual there was a boisterous wind blowing upon the plains, though
far colder and sharper than any we had as yet experienced. In fact,
the weather, instead of daily growing warmer, had been steadily
becoming colder and colder, and of late snow-squalls had become of
quite frequent occurrence.

Several hours' riding brought us to the Middle Pass. Before camping we
rode down to inspect the state of the water. At Guaraiké we had been
unable to approach the river itself, as all the land on our side had
been flooded over; but here at one spot the river bent in towards the
northern side of the valley, and flowed for some distance along a
steep cliff, which, of course, it could not overflow, and we were thus
enabled to go down to its very brink, which was in so far satisfactory
as it enabled us to gauge with more exactness the rise or fall of the
flood.

I drove a stake into the bank, and notched it at the water's level,
and then we went back to a bush we selected for camping under. It was
rather a small one, and, being upon the plain, was exposed to the full
force of the wind. However, it was the most suitable place we could
find, and with the aid of some drift-wood, quantities of which were
lying along the banks of the river, we managed to build up a kind of
one-walled hut, which formed a tolerable shelter against the wind. The
latter, during the whole of my stay in Patagonia, blew almost
uninterruptedly from the west, either more or less cold, according as
it came from the north-west or south-west.

That evening we ate our last biscuit; our other provisions had already
been exhausted, and henceforward we were reduced to a regimen of
guanaco and ostrich-meat, _pur et simple_, without salt even, for our
small stock of that necessary, notwithstanding careful nursing, had
also gradually thinned away. At first the results of this exclusively
meat diet were very unpleasant. However much I would eat at a
meal--and the quantity of meat I consumed at times was incredible--half
an hour afterwards I would feel as famished as if I had touched
nothing for days; in fact, I seemed to derive no nourishment at all
from my food. As time went on, however, I got more used to the change,
and soon ceased to experience so phenomenal and troublesome an
appetite, though, of course, I grew very weak, and had it not been for
the ostriches' eggs we occasionally found, and which kept up my
stamina a little, I should not have had sufficient strength to support
me through the exertions I was subsequently called upon to make.

It became quite an important event when, as now and then happened, we
managed to kill a puma, as we were then enabled to indulge in fat
meat. On these occasions, I remember, I used to feel rather disgusted
at the voracity with which we all used to gorge ourselves on the fat,
without biscuit, salt, or any other condiment. But when one passes
days and days, eating nothing but the leanest and most tasteless of
meat, and more especially in cold weather, one feels a hankering for
fat, as strong as the habitual drunkard's craving for alcohol.

The day after our arrival at the Paso del Medio, the waters commenced
to retire at a rapid pace, and such improvement shortly took place in
the state of things, that we quite looked forward to being able to
cross in three or four days.

The water had disappeared everywhere except in close vicinity to the
river, which still looked of formidable breadth, however, though its
banks were for the most part uncovered. We had had several sharp
frosts, and the weather had continued bitterly cold, to which
fortunate circumstance we attributed the corresponding speedy
abatement in the water. But now came two successive days of warm
sunshine, and, though the water still continued to fall, Isidoro grew
apprehensive of a fresh thaw taking place in the Cordilleras, before
the effects of the first flood had subsided sufficiently to allow of
our passing the river.

This new danger threatening us gave me extreme uneasiness. I had
already observed how sensitive the river was to the state of the
temperature, its fall varying in measure as the weather, in the
preceding one or two days, had been more or less cold, and I therefore
looked doubtfully forward to the morrow for the effects of the
before-mentioned comparatively warm days.

Our apprehensions were unfortunately but too well founded. The next
day I had no need to go down to examine the notch on the stake, to
find out whether the river had fallen or risen. Without leaving our
camp, which was at some distance from the valley, one could see but
too plainly that a fresh flood had taken place during the night. The
banks of the river had disappeared, and half the valley was under
water again. Thus one night had undone all the progress of several
days, and our chances of crossing the river had become as
problematical as they had been ten days ago.

This was a heavy, disheartening blow to me. Now it was indeed
difficult to foresee when we might be able to pass. Any attempt at
calculating the event was gratuitous in the face of what had just
happened. The water might rise and fall in the same manner a dozen
times. The unusual fall of snow that winter might entail, and had in
fact already entailed, unusual consequences. We might be kept waiting
for weeks, and months even, during which my friends would be kept in a
state of great anxiety and suspense as to my fate; and, apart from
these considerations, now that the charm of novelty had worn off, the
life of hardship and isolation I was leading had become extremely
distasteful to me; a deep _ennui_ fell upon me, which I could not
shake off, and which the society of my companions was not calculated
to dissipate. I impatiently longed for those refinements and
associations of civilisation, from which, at the outset of my trip, I
had thought it pleasant to escape.

Under the influence of all these feelings I resolved to attempt to
swim the river. On the first day of our arrival at Guaraiké I had
seriously entertained this plan, but I had then rejected it as being
attended with considerable danger, and also because I had hoped that
in a few days the river might be fordable. The danger was now, of
course, still greater; but the prospect of an indefinite prolongation
of my present unbearable position was so terrible that I felt ready
for any enterprise, however risky, which might free me from it.

Guillaume, to whom I communicated my intentions, thought my idea was
practicable, and declared himself ready to accompany me whenever I
chose. He, too, was anxious to get to Sandy Point for several reasons,
of which the chief one was that he had no tobacco left, and life
without it, he seemed to think, was not worth living.

It was now the 18th October, and if we crossed the river by the 26th
we had plenty of time to get to Sandy Point by the 1st November, on or
about which day the next steamer passed for Buenos Ayres. We therefore
deferred the carrying out of our plans for a few days, in order to
await a fresh fall in the water.

I felt much more tranquil now that I had made up my mind to take the
bull by the horns, and my companions were surprised at the sudden
change of my spirits, which henceforward were more cheerful and
buoyant than they had been for a long time.



CHAPTER X.


We stopped two days longer at the Paso del Medio, and then, tormented
with continual restlessness, we moved thirty miles further up, to the
last pass, called the 'Paso de Alquinta.'

We camped at about six miles from the pass itself, under shelter of
what Isidoro, rather grandiloquently, persisted in calling a 'house,'
but which was in reality nothing but three low walls, barely four feet
high, built by some Indian traders of blocks of lava, the chinks
between which were stopped with mud and grass.

The 'house' was, of course, roofless, and by no means so good a
lodging as a thick bush would have been; but still it was better than
nothing, and at all events enabled us to have always a good fire
burning without consuming too much fuel--a very important
consideration, as there was very little wood to be met with anywhere
in that region.

During the first night there was a heavy fall of snow, and on waking I
felt an unusual weight on my furs, and under them an excessive warmth
I was certainly not accustomed to.

  [Illustration]

Thrusting out my head I found everything covered with snow. The
distant hills stood out in glittering relief against the dark grey
sky, and the whole landscape was specklessly white, except where the
river flowed along the valley, looking inky black by contrast with the
surrounding country. Our horses, poor animals, plentifully
besprinkled with snow, too, were standing near to the camp, herded
motionless together, with sadly drooping heads, and an expression of
patient suffering and forlorn misery in their rough faces, which
filled me with compassion for them.

We remained in bed till the afternoon, when the snow began to thaw
away, soaking all our bedding and making things generally
uncomfortable for us.

Fearing the effect the melting of the recent snow might have on the
river, we resolved to make an attempt to cross it the following
morning. Isidoro, to whom we now communicated our intention for the
first time, seemed quite alarmed at the idea, and did everything in
his power to persuade us to desist from it. Until this occasion, I had
never been able to get more than half a dozen words out of him at a
time; but now, in his efforts to induce us to give up our undertaking,
which he qualified as an act of utter madness, he waxed quite
eloquent, and made a longer speech than he had probably ever delivered
himself of in his whole existence. The current, he urged, was too
strong for our horses to stem; moreover, a companion of his, he told
us, had once tried to cross the river when it was not nearly so
swollen as now, and had narrowly escaped being drowned. Finding,
however, that we had made up our minds, and were not to be persuaded
to alter them, Isidoro relapsed into his usual silence, whilst we
made our preparations for the ensuing day.

We intended crossing over at sunrise, so as to have ample time to dry
our wet things on the other side before night-time. In order to be
able to rely on having something dry to cover ourselves with
immediately after our swim over, we rolled two capas up as tightly as
possible, and stuffed them into a small water-tight canvas bag. In the
middle of the capas we carefully placed our greatest treasure--twelve
wax matches in a little tortoise-shell box, which we rendered
impervious to damp by securely wrapping it in pieces of guanaco hide.

Of matches, I must mention, we had run short, as of everything else,
and were compelled to be most economical in the use of the few that
still remained to us, to which end the fire was kept burning day and
night. We put into our saddle-bags sufficient ostrich meat and puma
fat to last us for three days--the time we calculated we should
require to reach Sandy Point in. Guillaume intended leaving his dogs
with Isidoro, as they would suffer unnecessarily from the fatigue of
such a rapid journey.

Having concluded our preparations, we sat down to dinner, over which
we discussed our chances for the morrow, and arranged our plan of
action. There were two ways of crossing over--either we might swim
over on horseback, or put our clothes and things on the horses and
make them swim over first, and then follow ourselves as soon as they
had safely arrived on the opposite shore.

The objection to the first method was that the horses' strength might
possibly give way in the middle of the river, or that by some accident
we might be unseated at a distance from the shore, in either of which
cases, encumbered with our clothes, etc., we were almost certain to be
drowned. The difficulty which presented itself in connection with the
second method was the doubt we felt as to whether we should be able to
stand a long immersion in the icy-cold water without succumbing to
cramp and exhaustion, especially taking into consideration the weak
state our late poor diet had reduced us to. After a long discussion,
we finally adopted the plan of swimming over on horseback.

We went to bed early, but it was a long time before I could fall
asleep; I was too excited with the thoughts of the coming struggle. At
last I was to try conclusions with the river, which had so long
baffled me. If successful, four nights from then I should be at Sandy
Point, sure of my steamer, relieved from the hardships I was now
suffering, and soon to be restored to civilisation, for which I was
longing as ardently as an Indian, confined to the close, noisy streets
of a populous town, might long for the breezy solitudes of the pampa.
In my dreams that night I must have crossed the river twenty times at
least, and I was splashing in the midst of its cold current for the
twenty-first time, when Guillaume woke me up, to tell me it was time
to get ready.

Day was just breaking, and the weather was cloudy and cold. We ate a
hurried breakfast, saddled our horses, and rode down towards the pass,
which was about six miles from where we were camping. On the way we
had to cross the open, and came full under the blast of the bitter
wind, which was especially sharp at that early hour; and we were blue
and shivering long before we got to the river. There was unfortunately
no sun, though I would have given anything for a sight of his cheering
face to keep up my _morale_, which, I must confess, at the prospect of
a cold and dangerous plunge on that wintry morning, had sunk extremely
low. Presently we reached the river, and never, I thought, had it
seemed so broad or looked so unpleasantly dark and treacherous as now.
Its eddying current slid past us with a rapidity which made me giddy
to watch long. The water foamed viciously as it broke into waves, and
showers of spray, swept up by occasional gusts of wind, flew over its
troubled surface.

  [Illustration]

Without further delay, we said good-bye to Isidoro, tightened our
saddle-girths, and rode towards the point from which we intended
starting. There we paused a moment before taking the decisive step
forward--a moment of extreme nervous tension for both of us. I felt
an oppressive contraction of the throat and chest, which, to be
candid, I must attribute to a passing feeling of fear that came over
me at the last moment, now that I was about to commit myself, not
without serious misgivings as to the consequences, to the mercies of
the broad torrent which had so long baffled my progress. However,
remembering that the longer one looks at a leap the less one likes to
take it, I called out to Guillaume that I was ready, and with spur and
whip we urged our horses down the steep bank towards the water.

For a moment, rearing and snorting, they instinctively recoiled from
the dangerous element, but the pebbly bank giving way under their
feet, they could not stop themselves, and down we went--plunge!--head
over ears into the cold water. I came to the surface snapping for
breath, but still in the saddle, though the water, dripping over my
eyes, for a second or two quite blinded me.

After a little urging, the horses at first struck out right enough,
but I found that to keep my seat the greatest exertions were required.
Till then I had never swum on horseback, and had no idea how difficult
it is to remain in the saddle during the process. The water insinuates
itself cunningly between your knees and thighs, imperceptibly you lose
your grip, and, before you know it, you are gently lifted from your
seat, and find yourself afloat, especially when dealing with a current
as strong as the one in question.

In the meantime, our horses went all right till they came to the
middle current, which swept down with great force. The moment they
felt it they suddenly swerved, and made for the bank we had just left.
I tried to make my horse turn again, but it became quite unmanageable,
and Guillaume in a similar attempt was unseated, and was only able to
regain his saddle after a severe struggle, which I watched with
intense anxiety, as I was unable to go to his rescue, being myself in
difficulties.

Breathless and dripping, and humiliated with the consciousness of our
failure, we finally got to shore again, and, after a hasty council,
resolved to make another attempt the following day, as, after the
facer we had just received, our nerves were not equal to another
ordeal for the present. As long as the excitement of the danger
lasted, we had felt neither wet nor cold, but now that it was over
Nature re-asserted herself, and, drenched to the skin as we were, and
exposed to the blasts of a savagely inclement wind, we were completely
prostrated, quaking, and shivering, and in such a state that it would
have been mere foolhardiness to go into the water again. The
six-miles' ride back to the camp in our wet clothes was another
disagreeable trial. By the time we got there we were perfectly numbed,
and had to warm our stiffened fingers a long time by the fire before
they were sufficiently supple to enable us to undress. Having
stripped, I rolled myself in my capa, and, thanks to that
never-sufficiently-to-be-praised covering, warmth and circulation were
soon restored to my chilled limbs. We had, unfortunately, no maté
left, though on this occasion we stood more than ever in need of its
stimulating and restorative aid.

Notwithstanding our failure, we were by no means disheartened, or
disposed to relinquish our endeavours to cross the river; on the
contrary, the non-success of our first attempt only intensified my
firm resolve to reach Sandy Point, come what might, by the 1st of
November, and nerved us to a fresh encounter with the dangers of the
river and the inclemency of the weather.

The next morning we again made the attempt, and were again
unsuccessful as before. The horses went well till they got to the
rapid middle current, and there nothing would induce them to continue.
In the struggle with my horse I was swept from my seat. I caught
successively at the mane and saddle, but missed them both, just
managing to catch hold of a valise that was strapped to the back of
the latter. I clung to it like grim death, whilst my horse swam back
to the bank. Several times I was in danger of being dragged under by
the current, and the valise, under the strain of my weight, began
gradually to give way. When it did come down, saddle and all, we were
fortunately already in shallow water, and I came to no harm; though it
was lucky it held so long, for, heavily booted and clothed as I was,
had it happened a little sooner, I should have gone to the bottom.

We rode disconsolately back to the camp, suffering extremely from the
cold wind, as on the previous day. It was useless, we had now
convinced ourselves, to swim over on our horses, for as soon as we
came to the middle current we were at their mercy. We therefore
resolved to try the other expedient, of driving them over first, and
then following ourselves.

For topographical reasons we considered the pass at Guaraiké to be
more favourable for this mode of crossing than the one we were now at,
and we therefore resolved to go there. We said good-bye once more to
Isidoro, who preferred remaining where he was, as there was better
pasturage for his horses. We took enough meat with us to last us four
days, and leaving the dogs with Isidoro we started off for Guaraiké,
where we arrived late in the evening, after a long gallop.

We did not camp on the old spot, but rode further down to a little
'house' Guillaume knew of, similar to the one at the Paso de Alquinta,
but with rather higher walls, and which had also been built by some
Indian traders.

We ate a very small supper, as it was necessary to economise the
little meat we had with us, consoling ourselves with the hope of soon
being able to indulge in less meagre fare, and finally we went to bed,
confident of passing the next night on the other side of the Gallegos.



CHAPTER XI.


Early the next morning we were up and off to the river. To get to its
banks we had to ride through about a mile and a half of slack water,
of varying depth, but seldom above the knees of our horses. Near the
river there was a dry spot on a tract of high-lying land, and there
accordingly we made our preparations. We took off our clothes, and
placed them, together with the matches, revolvers, etc., in the middle
of the capas, which were rolled up in the canvas bag, as on the
previous occasions, and then carefully and firmly strapped on the
saddle of one of the horses. All this was done as quickly as possible,
for we were now, of course, almost naked, and the wind, as usual, was
blowing hard and cold, with mingled hail and snow. We had little doubt
as to the success of this our third effort. Indeed, we had, as it
were, cut off our own retreat, in putting all our clothes and furs on
the horses, for if they once got safely to the other side, we were of
a necessity forced to follow somehow, or expose ourselves to the
alternative of perishing with hunger and cold. It was a foolhardy
action, but we had become desperate, and were ready to run a slight
risk, if only we could surmount the hated obstacle which barred our
way to Sandy Point.

Everything being ready, we drove the horses, not without great
difficulty, into the water, following ourselves as far as we were
able, though such was the force of the current that we had hardly
waded in knee-deep before we were knocked off our feet. After immense
trouble, with the help of stones and sticks, we managed to drive the
horses into the middle current, down whose centre they were soon
swept, puffing and snorting and endeavouring to turn back towards the
bank we were standing on. Whenever they did so, however, we would
fling a volley of stones at them, and by these means at last we got
them to head towards the other bank. We watched their progress with
beating hearts, in painful suspense lest any accident should happen to
them; for they carried, as it were, our lives as well as their own.
After a few seconds, which seemed an eternity to us, they reached the
land, and we gave a shout of joy and relief. But our triumph was of
but a second's duration; fate was still against us. As ill-luck would
have it, the horses happened just to touch land with their noses at a
part where the bank was almost vertical, and where they consequently
had no footing. Instinctively they turned round and made straight for
our side again.

Dismayed and disappointed, we no longer made any attempt to drive them
back; indeed, we were against the current, they would not have
strength to get back again. At last they landed, however, though of
course a long way down from where they had started. We ourselves by
this time were in a most pitiable state; for more than half an hour we
had been splashing in and out of the icy-cold water, exposed to wind
and weather, and we were now thoroughly exhausted, our teeth
chattering, our bodies doubled up, and unable to speak to one another
except by signs.

We had just strength enough to get the capas out of the bag, the inner
ones being fortunately quite dry; and wrapping ourselves well up, we
lay down for about an hour, by which time we were sufficiently
recovered to be able to remount our horses and ride back to the camp.

We were now at last discouraged. An unexpected stroke of bad luck, a
mishap we could not possibly have foreseen, had occurred just at the
last moment, and spoiled everything, converting what had appeared a
certain triumph into a disastrous failure. If the horses had only
happened to touch land ten feet further up, or ten feet further down,
where the bank was less steep, by this time we might have been on the
road to Sandy Point. But everything seemed to be against us. I had
brought all my energy to this last attempt, the last chance of
reaching our destination in time for the steamer of the 1st November.
It had failed, and I felt unmanned and dispirited. My physical
strength, too, was giving way under these repeated exertions and the
poor diet of the last two weeks.

All these considerations combined, and there being no immediate
necessity for crossing the river now, as the next steamer did not
leave Sandy Point till the 10th November, made us resolve to wait a
few days longer before risking another attempt at swimming over,
especially as all this time the water had been rapidly decreasing
again; and, judging by the height of the river, we might now
reasonably expect to find it fordable in, at most, three or four days,
always supposing that no new flood occurred. We had, therefore, merely
to closely watch the river, so as to be ready to cross again if any
signs of a fresh rise should appear.

Notwithstanding that we were now well into spring, I was surprised to
find but little corresponding change in the weather. Occasionally we
had a warm day, but it was the exception, and was sure to be
immediately followed by unusual cold. The west wind blew almost
unintermittingly, and always with extreme violence. In fact, with all
my memories of Patagonia are closely associated, as one of the most
prominent peculiarities of its landscapes, the fiercely cold but
exhilarating blasts of that same wild west wind. But though the
weather had got but little warmer, there was everywhere a marked
change in the vegetation. The grass in the glens was gradually
becoming fresh and green, and the bright young leaves of the calafaté
bush were interspersed with bunches of small yellow flowers. Flowers,
too--red and white orchids, and pink cowslips--were springing up
amongst the grass; and that none of the associations of springtime
might be wanting, clouds of tiny little swallows, white-breasted and
with glittering blue wings--come from Heaven knows where--were to be
seen skimming through the air in all directions. Wretched and
miserable indeed must be the spot over which spring can pass without
making her genial influence felt in some way, though it be but in the
transitory brightening of a few poor blades of grass.

It is fortunate that the calafaté is everywhere abundant in Patagonia,
as its wood affords excellent fuel, being extremely hard and burning
very slowly. At night-time we would cover up the embers well, and were
sure to find them still smouldering in the morning, and were thus able
to economize our matches, of which we had now but few left.

The valley had become the rendezvous of wild fowl of all
descriptions--swans, wild geese, ducks, snipe, etc.; and many a time
we regretted not having brought a gun with us. A roast goose now and
then would have made a welcome improvement on our eternal diet of
lean guanaco and ostrich. A bevy of ibis, or 'bandurria,' as the
Chilians call them, used to make a point every evening of assembling
close to our camp, and lifting up their voices and quacking till an
hour or so after sundown. Their note resembles that of the duck,
though it is rather shorter and drier. They seemed to know, confound
them! that they had nothing to fear from us, and would let us come
quite near enough to enable us to see how provokingly fat they all
were. The Indians call the wild geese of those parts 'kay-kén,' in
imitation of its cry, which has a rather melancholy sound, and which
was always sounding in our ears, morning, noon, and evening, repeated
by a thousand throats in lengthened and mournful cadences. All these
wild fowl remain in the southern valleys till their young are fledged,
and then as the warm weather comes on they fly north, and play havoc
among the rich corn-fields of the Rio Negro.

Two days went by, and we began to find ourselves running short of
meat, our stock having only been calculated to last for four days, as
we had made our provision on the assumption of reaching Sandy Point by
that time. It was, therefore, necessary for Guillaume to go back to
Isidoro to fetch the dogs. As it was a long distance, being more than
120 miles there and back, and being anxious to spare our horses as
much as possible, we first went out to see if we could hunt up a
puma, the only animal one can kill without the aid of dogs--the bolas
or a revolver being all that is required.

But after a long search we were unsuccessful, and early the next
morning, therefore, Guillaume started off, leaving a small piece of
meat which was to last me till the evening of the next day, by which
time he hoped to be back.

When he was gone, I saddled my horse and rode up the Cañada of the
Squaws to collect firewood, as there was none near our camp. I found
it no easy task to break off the dry branches out of the thorny
bushes, or pull up old roots which were firmly seated in the ground,
in my present weak state, and I was glad when I had got sufficient
wood to last me for that and the following day. At no period of my
sojourn in Gallegos had I felt so weak as I now did. For three days we
had eaten next to nothing--in fact, less than I could ordinarily eat
myself at _one_ meal--and I have already said how little sustaining
power there is even in a large quantity of lean guanaco or ostrich
meat.

When I got back to the camp, I cooked a small piece of the meat
Guillaume had left me, and then carefully deposited it on the top of
one of the walls of the house, so as to be out of reach of the foxes,
who are terrible marauders, and who will eat your reins, lasso, saddle
even, or any leathern article you may be so incautious as to leave
lying about.

Feeling tired, after my frugal meal, which compared to my hunger was
but as a drop in the ocean, I lay down on my furs and dosed off into a
sound sleep, from which I was presently awakened by a confusion of
strange screeching and flapping of wings. Starting up, I found the
noise proceeded from some carranchos, who were quarrelling over my
meat, or rather over the bone, which was all that I found of it, after
I had driven them away with stones and strong language. '_Incidit in
Scyllam_,' etc. In my endeavours to secure my food from the foxes, I
had delivered it into the beaks and claws of the carranchos, and felt
not a little annoyed at my own carelessness. It was no pleasant matter
having to fast for the next thirty hours, hungry as I already was, and
if Guillaume by some possible accident were detained a day longer, I
might find myself in a very serious plight. I was evidently out of
luck, and that with a vengeance, and I began to wonder what my next
mishap would be. The only misfortune that could now happen to me was
that my horse might take it into his head to run away, and then I
should indeed be in a desperate fix. He was quietly grazing at the
time, but the idea of such a possibility so startled me that I
immediately tied a lasso to his halter and secured it to a huge stone
near the house, so as to prevent any such untoward eventuality. Then,
feeling hungry, I commenced to search my traps for any stray piece of
meat that might possibly have been forgotten there. All I could find
was a small piece of puma fat, wrapped up in a piece of linen, in a
coat-pocket of Guillaume's, which had doubtless been intended for
greasing the dog's paws when wounded, for which purpose it is
considered an excellent specific. To me, under my present
circumstances, however, it was quite a treasure, and I immediately
cooked and ate half, keeping the rest for the next day.

Having made all my arrangements for passing the night, I made a good
fire, as it was very cold, and wrapping myself up well in my capa, I
sat down beside it, waiting as stoically as I could for night-time,
and trying to forget, amidst the splendour of the sunset, the small
sharp whisper of the little voice within my stomach.

From the slight elevation where I was now sitting I could overlook the
whole of the surrounding country--the far hills and plains; the
winding valley shut in by steep cliffs, past whose base the river
swept its tortuous course; the broad lakes formed by the overflow of
its waters, dotted everywhere with green islands, where thousands of
wild fowl were now assembled--the harsh cries of the gulls and the
plaintive note of the kay-kén being the only sounds that broke the
otherwise intense silence. Over all the setting sun was pouring his
last rays, bathing the distant hills in a warm haze, and burnishing
the waters at my feet with fiery showers of light, and lending, with
his magic tints of red and gold, a transitory gleam of grace and
beauty even to that wild desert spot.

But as the sun went down the charm sped with him. The glory departed
from the distant hills, and they became grey and cold as before; the
light faded from the valley, the waters assumed a muddy hue, and the
islands blackened on their surface. The cry of the wild fowl slowly
ceased, and below me, soon, all was silent and dark.

The stars crept out one by one, and still I sat by the red gleams of
the dying fire, listening to the whispering voices of the night-wind
and watching the weird, ghostly shapes occasionally assumed by the
white mist that now hung over the valley, as it swayed mysteriously to
and fro, like a band of unquiet spirits.

The whole thing seemed so unreal, the turn of events so fantastic,
which had brought me, a child of noisy towns and bustling marts, into
my strange position, alone in that immense solitude--the wildness of
the scene, starlit and dim, the strange noises of the night, the
thousand sounds which yet seemed silence--I thought it must all be a
dream, and most surely I must awaken and find myself in my own room,
under warm bedclothes, with the voice of the servant with my
shaving-water ringing in my ears.

But a shiver of cold which went through my body, and the strong pangs
of hunger, were quite sufficient to remind me of the reality of all
around me; so, heaping some more wood on the fire and giving another
look to see if the horse was secure, I sought my couch, to sleep as
best I might till morning.

A sharp frost fell during the night, much to my satisfaction, as I had
now strong hopes of crossing the river in a couple of days. Having
satisfied myself that the water was still falling rapidly--always my
first task of a morning--I cooked and ate the remaining piece of puma
fat, and then, still feeling terribly hungry, and as a means of
killing time till Guillaume should come, I tried to stalk wild geese
with my revolver. I could never come within range, however, though
they are not very shy, and finally gave up this unexciting and
unproductive sport in a rather unpleasant state of mind, as I began to
ask myself what I should do if Guillaume should happen not to come
back that day.

Casting my eyes about, they happened to fall on a large island in the
middle of the valley, which had often attracted our attention on
account of its being the rendezvous of a bevy of swans, which we
imagined must have nests and eggs there, and we had often meditated a
raid on the latter. Hitherto we had been hindered from doing so,
because the island was surrounded for a long distance by very deep
water, which, as may be imagined, was quite sufficient to keep the
swans' eggs safe from us as long as anything else could be found to
eat. Since we had last surveyed the defences of the island, however,
the water had fallen very much, and it occurred to me, in my present
stress, that by carefully searching I might find a tolerably dry road
to the island. I accordingly saddled my horse, and set out on my
exploration. After a great deal of splashing and several narrow
escapes of tumbling into holes, varied by occasional energetic
protests from my horse--who, by-the-bye, after all his late experience
and his daily three or four rides through the water to examine the
river, must have thought I was trying to convert him into an
amphibious animal--I at last managed to discover a route which was
almost practicable, and which by the next day, when the water would
have fallen still further, would probably be thoroughly so. I could
distinctly see several swans sitting on their nests, to whom I waved a
light _au revoir_, and then returned to the camp, feeling that even if
Guillaume were not to come back that day, I now knew where to find my
dinner, although at the expense of a slight wetting.

However, I fortunately had no necessity for incurring that
inconvenience; for, towards five o'clock, just as--despairing of his
return--I was getting ready to swim over to the island, I descried him
galloping towards the camp. He presently arrived, bringing the dogs,
some meat, and four ostriches' eggs he had found on the way.

Famished as I was after my long fast, I lost no time in spitting some
meat and setting it to roast, busying myself whilst it was cooking
with the preparation of an ostrich's egg _à la Patagonienne_. The
process is as follows: You break a small round hole in the top of the
egg, and after having removed some of the white, which is rather heavy
for the stomach, and having thoroughly beaten up the yolk, you set the
egg on its end in the ashes, at a little distance from the fire,
carefully turning it now and then to prevent the shell from cracking.
Whilst cooking, it must occasionally be removed from the fire, and the
batter must be stirred well, or else it will stick to the sides of the
shell and burn. In a quarter of an hour it will be well roasted; add
pepper and salt, if you have any, and serve. Our stock of these useful
condiments had unfortunately long been exhausted. Cooked in this way,
ostriches' eggs are excellent, and far better than when boiled. The
act of removing and placing them near the fire whilst roasting
requires great nimbleness of finger. I had, during my noviciate, two
standing sores or burns on forefinger and thumb, as I would sometimes
cook as many as three or four eggs a day. They are held to be very
indigestible, two eggs eaten in a day being said to endanger a man's
life; but the foregoing is a proof to the contrary. I have known
Guillaume to eat six eggs in the space of eight hours, independent of
his ordinary meals. It is true his powers were beyond the usual run,
even of those of his own habits and profession.

In the conversation which ensued, when I had in some degree allayed
the pangs of hunger, Guillaume told me that on his way down he had
paid a flying visit to the Middle Pass, the result of which was that
he considered it the best place to cross over, in case, contrary to
our present expectations, we should again be obliged to swim for it.
The banks on the other side were all low-lying, and there would
consequently be no danger of a repetition of the accident which had
prevented us from crossing over at the pass we were now at. In return
for this information, I told him of my discovery of a road to the
island; and, eggs being almost indispensable to us for keeping up our
failing strength, for which the meat alone was quite inadequate, we
resolved to make a raid on the nests the following morning.

Shortly after daybreak, therefore, we set out towards the island, each
of us armed with a stick and a revolver in case the birds, which are
said to be very savage, should think fit to resent our seizure of
their eggs. The road to the island was not as favourable as it had
appeared to me the day before, and we got soaked up to the waist in
crossing over; but, in the excitement of the chase, we took little
notice of that. Long before we arrived, a commotion was visible
amongst the inmates of the island; several male swans, and crowds of
wild geese and other fowl, flew up and hovered over us, watching our
onward course with signs of marked disapproval. The female birds,
however, kept their seats till we were within ten yards of them, and
then rose with a hissing cry and much flapping of wings, circling over
our heads, and occasionally gliding close to us, whilst we were
despoiling their nests, though without making any attempt at attacking
us. We found eight swans' nests, containing each four eggs, besides
some forty wild geese's eggs. To mitigate the distress of the birds,
we left one egg in each nest, and with the rest of our booty returned
to the camp in triumph. Whilst our wet clothes were drying by the
fire, wrapped in our capas, we set to and commenced roasting some
swans' eggs. They are about half the size of ostriches' eggs, and of a
similar taste. Amongst the other eggs were some of a species of duck,
which to my taste seemed incomparably finer than the best bantam's,
and, as may be imagined, we were not slow in doing full justice to
them.

At five o'clock I mounted my horse, and rode leisurely towards the
river, as was my habit, in order to watch the progress of its gradual
decrease, which, as I have already said, had been very satisfactory
lately. But to-night, already from afar I was startled by the
appearance of the banks, which seemed to me lower than usual. The
mark confirmed my fears. The water had risen more than two inches. In
deep dismay I galloped back to the camp, and told Guillaume the bad
news. For a moment the blow left us bewildered. Experience had taught
us that one night would suffice to flood the river as high as it had
been before. It seemed as if we were again to be thrown back a
fortnight. It was time to adopt some decisive measures. Late as it
was, I suggested that we should ride off that very night to the Middle
Pass, and swim across at daybreak, be the river as it might. There was
no time to lose in indecision, and half an hour after I proposed this
plan, we had packed up our things, saddled the horses, and were once
more on the march. The sun was setting as we emerged from Gallegos
valley into the plain, and before long it was quite dark. It was
midnight when we arrived at the old camp at the Middle Pass, cold and
blue, after a long buffeting with our old enemy, the wind. Tired as we
were, we had to collect wood to make a fire with, in order to warm
ourselves by, before we could get to sleep.



CHAPTER XII.


The morning broke, as it always did whenever we tried to cross the
river, bleakly and coldly. The river had risen considerably during the
night, and was still rising rapidly. Previous to our other
arrangements, we fixed on a site from which to start ourselves, after
the horses should once be safely across.

The chief danger in passing the river lay in the possibility of the
middle current being too strong for us to stem, in which case we
should of necessity be swept along with it, without being able to
reach either bank, until, our strength giving way under the combined
influence of the cold and our exertions, we should ultimately perish.
The spot we chose seemed to obviate this danger, as a little way down
the opposite bank made a broad curve, forming a point which shot for a
long way into the river. I could see that the current followed the
curve, running inside the point. By committing ourselves, therefore,
to the current at some distance above the point, we must of necessity,
I argued, bring up in the little bay formed by the curve
above-mentioned, in which case the point would act as an effectual
bar to our being swept down the centre of the river. All this seemed
plausible enough; but we were reckoning without our host, however, as
I presently discovered, and in ignorance of the course taken by the
current, which did not, as we supposed, always follow the bend of the
banks or keep in the centre of the river, where the water was deepest,
but darted about capriciously, without apparently depending on any
topographical influences, though no doubt it did.

We first made a large fire near the river, to warm ourselves by whilst
packing and saddling the horses, so that the caloric of our bodies
should not be all exhausted, as on the last occasion, before we had to
make the final struggle, when we should have most need of it. It
proved a most providential act; this same fire subsequently saved my
life. We made our preparations in deep silence, being both too busy
with our own thoughts to say much. We were firmly resolved that,
_coûte que coûte_, this was to be our last effort. We had the usual
difficulty to induce the horses to enter the water. Once in, however,
they were soon seized by the current and swept down the river. We
watched their course with the most intense anxiety. At first it seemed
that they could not stem the current, which was evidently stronger
than it had been at our last attempt. For a moment we held our breath
in painful suspense, but gradually they began to gain towards the
opposite bank, and presently we saw them emerge safe and sound from
the water, though the distance they had been carried down showed what
the strength of the current must be.

Everything now depended on ourselves. The supreme moment had come, and
not a second was to be lost, for already I began to feel numb with the
cold. On the other side were our clothes, our furs, our matches--our
existence, in fact. Between us lay the river. We must cross it; there
was no alternative. I ran as quickly as possible towards the place we
had chosen for starting from, not daring to look at the river on the
way, lest my courage should fail me now that I most required its aid.
I had to wade for some distance through a sheet of shallow water
before reaching the river itself. It only came up to my waist, which
made it colder than if I had been completely immersed, and the wind
was piercing all the time to the very marrow of my bones. Suddenly I
fell into a hole, sousing head over ears into the water. Chilled and
breathless with the shock, I emerged after a short swim, and hurried
on my way, anxious to get it all over. At last I came to the river.
Without pausing a moment, I jumped in, with a feeling of relief that
the worst would now soon be passed. I struck out with the current,
and, as I had foreseen, it swept me rapidly towards the point. In a
few seconds I was close to the bank. I stretched out my hands to
clutch at the grass, when, to my horror, the land seemed suddenly to
recede from me again. The current had swerved off before actually
reaching land, and I was being hurried with fearful swiftness into the
middle of the river. I tried to make for land, but my legs and arms
stiffened, and I seemed to be dragged under the water. A desperate
struggle brought me once more to the surface. I remember catching a
glimpse of the blue sky, and feeling with sickening terror that I was
lost, and again I sank under.

For a second or two I think I must have been unconscious; when I came
to myself again, I felt I was in warmer water. My strength revived a
little, and I struck out several times towards a bank, close along
which I was being hurried in the direction of another point a little
further down. At times I came so near the bank that I could actually
stretch out my hands and reach the long grass growing on it, but my
fingers, stiffened with the cold, refused to close on what alone could
save me from being swept away again. It was a horrible moment, for if
I passed the next point, I was indeed lost. I shouted for help, but no
one answered; it almost seemed that I was to be drowned with one foot
on land, so to speak.

Suddenly, however, my feet touched the bottom, and in another second,
carried bodily against the extremity of the point, I found myself in
shallow water, where I was able to regain my footing, and take breath
once more. I managed to drag myself up the bank; but on reaching the
top, my strength gave way again, and, overcome with cold and fatigue,
I sank down, utterly prostrate and helpless. On emerging from the
river, a glance had shown me that ill luck had willed that I should be
thrown up on the same side from which I had started. Fortunately, I
found myself not far distant from the fire we had made before
crossing, and with my remaining strength I now endeavoured to reach
it. I could only breathe with the greatest difficulty; at times I
thought I must choke. I tried to raise myself up and walk, but failed;
my legs were like lead, all circulation seemed arrested, and I could
only crawl slowly along on all-fours. Many times I thought I must give
in, but with the energy of despair I struggled on, and at last reached
the fire, which was still burning. Some logs of wood were lying close
to it; I pushed them in, and there was soon a good blaze. It seemed to
give me no warmth, however, though in my agony I almost thrust my body
into the very flames. Nearly an hour elapsed before circulation was
properly restored, during which I lay shivering with cold, and gasping
for breath in a state of the most acute suffering.

When I had in some measure recovered, I began to realise the critical
position I was now placed in. Terrible as the idea was to me after my
recent narrow escape from drowning, I had no alternative but to
attempt to cross the river again. If I remained where I was, certain
death from starvation or exposure awaited me; and it was useless to
endeavour to reach Isidoro, who was at least forty miles away, for,
naked as I was, I could not have gone even half a mile upon the
plains, in the teeth of the cold wind, which was, of course, still
blowing. I had all this time thought it strange that Guillaume had not
come to my assistance, as I had expected that he would have delayed
crossing himself until he had watched the result of my own attempt.
That he had safely crossed, however, now became evident, for I could
see the horses grazing unsaddled on the opposite side. Where he had
crossed, there was no reason why I should not be able to follow,
unless it was that as he had swum over comparatively fresh and strong,
whereas I had now hardly recovered from the effects of my first
unsuccessful struggle.

It was at worst but a question of taking another plunge, and then a
few seconds would decide one way or the other, and after all, sooner
or later, I should be forced to cross, as it was simply impossible to
remain where I was. It was better, therefore, I reflected to go
through the ordeal at once, rather than increase its terrors by long
anticipation. Screwing up my courage, without more ado I started off
as quickly as I could, to look for the place Guillaume had started
from. At this juncture he himself suddenly appeared on the opposite
bank, and guessing my intention, ran forward and pointed the exact
place out to me. It was much higher up than where I had started from,
and to get to it, as before, I had to wade through some shallow water,
which now and then was deep enough to oblige me to swim. When I
reached the exact spot, I could easily see why he had chosen it--no
doubt after having witnessed my mishap--for the current ran almost
straight across from where I stood to the other bank, where it broke
with great force, so that there was no danger of my being swept away
from the bank, as before, just as I got up to it. I had in fact,
merely to jump in, and allow myself to be swept passively over by the
current. Notwithstanding the apparent simplicity and easiness of the
undertaking, I stood for some time looking at the water, with an
instinctive dread, not daring to take the first step. A man who has
just escaped drowning may be excused from fearing to trust himself,
five minutes after, to the water again. But, feeling a chill come over
my body, and apprehensive lest by further exposing myself to the air I
should bring on a cramp, I nerved myself for the plunge, and, shutting
my eyes and setting my teeth, I sprang into the water. Once in, all
fear left me, and I struck out boldly, and, aided by the current, soon
reached the opposite shore.

My feelings on finding myself in safety on the Sandy Point side of
the river may be imagined. All the hardships I had endured, the
reverses I had suffered, the dangers I had undergone--all was
forgotten in the triumphant elation of that moment; the fatal obstacle
which had so long retarded our onward march was at last overcome, and
there was nothing to prevent us now from speedily arriving at our
destination.

Meanwhile I staggered through the band of shallow water which still
separated me from Guillaume, who was waiting for me with a dry capa.
With the support of his arm, I managed to reach a fire he had made at
a little distance from the water, and there I covered myself with
three capas, which restored the warmth to my body quicker than a
thousand fires could have done.

In about half an hour I was sufficiently recovered to eat an
ostrich-steak, and to listen to Guillaume's account of what had
happened to him since we had last seen each other. He had watched the
course of my ill-fated attempt, had seen me struggling for life in the
water, and at last disappear altogether; after which, as he had not
seen me return, he had naturally concluded I was drowned. But his own
safety required that he should not linger any longer, or the horses,
finding themselves left to their own devices, might take it into their
heads to run away with the furs and clothes. It was clear, too, that
he must not commit the same error in the selection of his
starting-point as had brought me into difficulties, and he had,
therefore, followed the course of the river till he came to the spot I
have already described, and which, as the result proved, possessed the
necessary requirements for insuring his safety. Naturally enough, with
the demoralising impressions of what he had just witnessed in my case
fresh in his mind, he was not without some unpleasant misgivings as to
the eventual result of his own attempt. He had crossed with ease,
however, and it was in going to look after the horses that he saw me
in the act of creeping towards the fire on the other side. He
certainly had not thought I should have strength enough to cross the
river again, and had been very much troubled about me, not knowing in
what way to assist me. In the meantime he had made a good fire, and
with the aid of the wind and sun, which latter had at last come from
behind the clouds, he had thoroughly dried our clothes and furs, and
was just considering what could be done to relieve me from my perilous
plight, when he observed me running along the opposite shore, with the
obvious intention of once more trying to swim across.

By this time it was about half-past two, and, burning with the desire
to accomplish my journey, I proposed we should continue our march
immediately, as we might still go a good way on our road before
sundown. I accordingly dressed; we saddled our horses, and soon rode
out of the valley up to the plain, turning as we reached the top of
the escarpment which bounded the valley, to have a last look on our
vanquished enemy, the river--now, thank God, at last behind us--and
then, facing towards the south-west, we broke into a brisk gallop,
once more _en route_ for Sandy Point.



CHAPTER XIII.


We presently came to a hilly country, where the plains were of shorter
duration, and cut up in all directions by steeper and more irregular
cañadas than I had hitherto met; whilst occasionally we passed broad
tracts of scoriæ, which forced us, in consideration of our horses, to
change our gallop for a soberer pace. These tracts grew more and more
frequent as we approached a range of high hills, at whose base we
hoped to camp that night, though as yet their jagged and fantastic
outlines showed but dimly on the distant horizon.

We passed several herds of guanacos, who fled away at our approach.
Presently, however, one solitary animal, whose curiosity was stronger
than its good sense, came neighing and frisking around us, halting at
last almost under our very noses. The voice of his master had hitherto
kept back our remaining dog (the other had refused to cross the
river); but this was rather more than he could stand, and darting out
from behind our horses, where he had hitherto very unwillingly kept
himself, he flew out at the startled guanaco, who, on seeing him,
gave an affrighted bound, and stretched away over the plain with the
speed of lightning. The dog followed pretty close on its heels. Our
blood was up, and we dashed after them as fast as the horses would
carry us, to aid the dog in case he should turn the guanaco round our
way. For a moment they ran pretty evenly, but then the guanaco,
evidently a tough old male, gradually distanced his pursuer, though
the latter was a remarkably swift dog, and of very good breed. We were
just despairing of the chase, when it suddenly became apparent that
the guanaco was in difficulties, his flight having been arrested by a
belt of marshy ground, where his heavy weight immediately put him at a
great disadvantage. The very efforts he made to redouble the force of
his bounds only caused his sharp hoofs to sink deeper into the heavy
soil; and in a few seconds the dog, whose speed was not so much
affected by the nature of the ground, had reached his now helpless
prey, and flown at his throat. We soon came up to them, and Guillaume,
dismounting, despatched the guanaco with his long hunting-knife.

After all, the game turned out to be not worth the candle, or rather
the sunlight we had lost in its pursuit, for it proved to be as lean
of flesh as it had been swift of foot. We, therefore, merely stayed to
cut off and secure its head, and then resumed our journey with all
speed, as the sun was already getting low, and we had still a long
ride before us. Fate, however, seemed determined to prevent us
reaching our intended halting-place that night. Not long after the
guanaco-hunt an ostrich started up, so close to us that Guillaume
could not resist the temptation, but went off in its pursuit, whilst I
looked about for the nest. I found it to contain fourteen eggs, which
I carefully packed up so that they should not break, and then rode off
to meet Guillaume, who, I was glad to see, had the ostrich already
dangling at his saddle. It turned out to be tolerably fat, which,
considering the season, was quite a miracle. This piece of fortune put
us into high spirits, and, as we remarked to each other, our bad luck
had evidently abandoned us at last.

On we rode, gradually getting nearer to the hills, which now loomed
blackly against the sky; for the sun had already sunk behind their
sharp, irregular peaks, and night was coming on apace. We passed
several large lakes, which proved to be salt; and gloomy and dismal
they looked, encircled by broad belts of shingle and sand, with not a
single bush or blade of grass in their blighting vicinity. Leaving
them behind us, we stumbled on over the lava-covered ground, across a
wild-looking plain, strewn with jagged masses of rock, through which
our horses picked their way with extreme difficulty. The ruggedness of
the country increased as we proceeded, and when we at last came to a
break, where there was a small plain with plenty of grass and a pool
of fresh water, we resolved to go no further, but to remain there for
the night.

We brought our saddles and traps to a clump of stones, which made a
good shelter against the wind, and then hobbled one of the horses, and
secured the other with a long cord to a heavy stone--a precaution not
absolutely necessary, as after a hard day's work they do not care to
stray far, but which we thought better to take on this occasion, as we
were in a broken country, where we might have a great deal of
difficulty in finding them again, even if they only strayed a couple
of hundred yards. Having made our minds easy on this point, we set
about preparing supper, which, with the abundance of material at our
disposal, was an easy and a grateful task. We were altogether in the
very best of spirits that evening, under the influence of our unwonted
good cheer, and at the thoughts of our speedy arrival at Sandy Point
and the indulgences we should then be able to allow ourselves in such
long-missed luxuries as coffee, sugar, bread, tobacco, etc., of which
and similar dainties we talked till our mouths watered again. We
reviewed the events of the day, too, and recounted the various
impressions and feelings they had given rise to. It was an open
question who had passed the worst _quart d'heure_--I whilst struggling
in the water and feeling that all was over, or Guillaume, when, after
he had seen me disappear without returning, he reflected that he must
run the same risk, and possibly incur the same fate. Meanwhile, having
roasted and eaten as many eggs as we dared, we sought our couches,
and, overcome by our day's exertions, soon fell into a sound sleep.

The words with which Guillaume woke me in the morning brushed the
sleepiness from my brain in an instant, and made me jump to my feet
and stare blankly about me in utter dismay. 'The horses have
stampeded!' I said, repeating the sentence slowly after him, dwelling
on each word in complete stupefaction. He nodded his head dejectedly,
and sank down on his couch, and for a long time neither of us spoke,
each giving way to his own gloomy train of thought.

It was, indeed, a stroke of misfortune, which, happening as it did on
the very night after we had overcome what we believed to be the only
obstacle which separated us from Sandy Point, appeared almost in the
light of an intimation that we were fated never to reach our
destination.

The idea took such firm hold of my mind, and so completely paralysed
my energy, that for a short space I allowed myself to give way to
despair, and to a feeling of incapacity to struggle any longer against
what in my agitation appeared to me a superior decree of destiny. In
truth, the difficulties which beset us were no ordinary ones. We were
about 150 miles from Sandy Point--no great distance to walk, it is
true, for a strong, healthy man, who can depend on a supply of proper
nourishment. But we were so weakened that even such a slight exertion
as saddling our horses seemed often too much for our strength; the
effort required for crossing the river had been a spasmodic burst,
which we were quite incapable of sustaining for any length of time.
Besides, we were wholly unaccustomed to walking, and long inaction had
relaxed those muscles we now most required. Even then, however, it was
not so much the actual distance which frightened me as the nature of
the ground to be gone over. There were streams to be crossed, which at
that time of the year would be swollen and perhaps impassable for us;
marshy grounds to be traversed, which to a man on horseback were
nothing, but to cross which on foot implied continual wettings; and we
had only four matches left, and therefore no means of making a fire to
dry ourselves by when once these were used. Taking the uncongenial
season into consideration, we were not wrong in doubting whether our
bodies would stand all these hardships. With proper food, no doubt
they would; but there was another great difficulty. When once we had
consumed the ostriches' eggs and the meat we had left, how were we to
procure more? We had a dog, it is true; but how could we follow him on
foot, when, in a few minutes, he could pursue a guanaco for ten
miles, and run his prey to earth somewhere, far beyond our ken?
Besides, within a certain distance from Sandy Point the guanacos cease
altogether, and ostriches are very scarce. The Indians, Guillaume
knew, were somewhere near the colony. We might, therefore, meet them
on the road, in which case we should be all right; but, on the other
hand, they might have struck towards the Cordilleras, which certainly
would have been more in keeping with our general luck. Whatever
happened, one thing was certain, and that was that we had a great deal
of misery and hardship to face, even supposing we should have strength
to overcome all difficulties and reach our destination in safety.

All these considerations passed through my mind in rapid succession,
but having once looked the situation steadily in the face and
contemplated it in all its bearings, my courage rose again, and I felt
it was a great deal too soon to despair. After all, there are very few
difficulties that are not to be vanquished by determination, and, my
momentary fit of despondency over, I nerved myself to face whatever
new trials might be in store for us.

Guillaume now told me how he had risen at daybreak and found the
horses gone, the cord which had tied one of them being broken. Amongst
the confused tracks he had seen footmarks of a puma, a circumstance
which led him to suppose that this animal must have frightened the
horses during the night, and caused them to stampede. He followed the
tracks for a great distance, and then lost them in a plain of scoriæ,
where it was, of course, impossible to trace them any further. As a
last chance he had climbed several hills, and overlooked the
surrounding country, without, however, being able to see the horses
anywhere; and at last, completely exhausted, he had returned to the
camp. Having rapidly reviewed our position, we resolved to commence
our pilgrimage immediately, as time was precious, in view of the poor
state of our larder. Not a moment was to be lost--not on account of
catching the steamer; that was no longer uppermost in my mind--but we
must now hurry over as much ground as possible daily, to save our
lives.

I rolled two of my capas tightly together, and strapped them on my
shoulders like a knapsack. Guillaume took a capa and a pair of
saddle-bags, in one side of which he put the six remaining eggs, and
in the other all that was left of the ostrich, which was not much
after our supper of last night, and what we had given to the dog, for
the bird, though fat, had unfortunately been small. With as strict an
economy as was compatible with keeping up our strength, we had enough
provisions to last us for four days; after that--well, _quien sabe_;
but I had resolutely made up my mind not to think of the future, so
all was right--for the present. We took our knives, of course, and one
tin cup; our revolvers, as being too heavy, we left behind us, as well
as our saddles, beds, superfluous clothes, etc., etc., for the benefit
of the foxes, or whoever should chance to find them.



CHAPTER XIV.


We started off in tolerably good spirits, and it was well we did so,
for we had to draw upon them considerably before the day was over. Our
way lay over a short plain, and across the range of hills above
mentioned. For the first two miles all went well, but after we had
climbed a couple of hills, I began to feel distressed. My burden,
which at the commencement had weighed lightly enough, now began
seriously to incommode me, and I asked myself, if my strength was
giving way before the journey had hardly begun, how was I to reach its
end? Still, with closed teeth and bent brow, I dragged myself wearily
along, determined not to give in. Guillaume was in no better plight
than I. We had long since abandoned any attempt at conversation--it
only used up our precious breath, and tired us the more.

At last we had to halt and rest a little, starting off again after a
few minutes' breathing-time, till we were again obliged to stop to
collect our strength; and in this manner we went on all that
afternoon, panting up steep hills, and dragging ourselves along over
plains which succeeded each other in weary monotony, and where the
boisterous winds, blowing full against us, obliged us to double our
exertions. At each fresh start we made I had to put forth my whole
strength to nerve myself for the effort, and each time, I felt, would
surely be the last. Somehow or other, I kept on, however. It is
wonderful what one can do in the face of certain alternatives. I soon
suffered from another cause; my feet, tender from long disuse, began
to swell under these sudden exertions. I was unable, after suffering
for some time, to keep my boots on, and had to continue the march
barefooted, over pebbles and short grasses which were only slightly
less merciless than the boots had been.

At sunset we found ourselves descending into a valley, where there was
a small river. We had fortunately no necessity to cross it, as our
road lay along the valley itself. In this region the bushes, which had
gradually been getting scarcer, ceased altogether. In the country we
were about to traverse, you may ride for leagues and leagues without
being able to find a piece of wood big enough to make a toothpick
with. The Indians, when they pass through this region, always bring
sufficient firewood with them on their pack-horses to last them during
the transit. I can in no way account for the absence in that
particular region of the bushes peculiar to the rest of the country,
especially as the soil, the formation, and the atmospheric conditions
seem to be the same there as in the rest of Patagonia.

By the time we had gone a little way up the valley we were all but
completely exhausted; my legs felt like lead, my breath came with
difficulty, and I staggered along as if about to fall at every step
under my pack, whose weight seemed to increase almost at every step.
It soon became necessary for us to halt altogether. We threw off our
burdens and stretched ourselves on the grass, to enjoy the luxury of a
good rest before troubling ourselves about getting supper ready.

But this important task could not be long deferred, especially as it
was getting dark. We therefore began to cast about for some substitute
for firewood, of which, as I have already mentioned, there was
absolutely none in that region. Guillaume consolingly remarked that as
soon as our four matches were exhausted, we should have to eat our
meat raw, and might as well, therefore, begin to do so at once. I was
not of his opinion, however, feeling that the longer that unpleasant
necessity was deferred the better. The only suitable combustible we
were able to find was the dry dung of guanacos, of which we managed to
collect a good heap. We purposed to ignite it with some dry grass, but
as we only allowed ourselves one match that day, I trembled for the
result. Carefully sheltering it from the wind, the match was at length
struck in safety and applied to the grass. It blazed up quick enough,
but it had to be fed some time before the dung could be coaxed into
taking fire, or rather smouldering, for the flame it emitted was
almost imperceptible. With the aid of the wind, the glow gradually
spread itself over the whole heap, and in it we managed to roast our
eggs and even to cook some meat. The latter had a disagreeable
flavour, even to our hardened palates. As soon as we finished our
supper, we lost no time in getting under our capas, now our only bed,
as the fire held out but few enticements to linger over it longer than
was absolutely necessary for cooking purposes.

At daybreak the next morning we got up, and in the heap of dung, which
was fortunately still glowing, we cooked some eggs, and prepared for
starting. I wrapped some pieces of cloth round my feet, to protect
them from hurt, and then we saddled ourselves and continued the march.
I felt very stiff, and altogether thoroughly done up. In fact, I did
not think I should be able to go on for more than a couple of hours at
most. Our path still lay through the valley alongside the river, and
we had now come to the beaten track to Sandy Point, made in the course
of long years by the Indians on their annual visit to that settlement.

Here we were pleasantly surprised by the sudden apparition of a big
dog, who frisked and jumped about us in great glee, no doubt glad to
have met with human beings. He probably belonged to some Indian, and
had lost himself somehow in the pursuit of a guanaco, as frequently
happens.

This was the first gleam of sunshine after our late bad luck, for the
poor brute was very fat, and we foresaw that its flesh would prove a
godsend if we should not happen to fall in with Indians. Our own dog
was not worth killing, being merely skin and bone. In view of his
probable fate, we called the new-comer 'Infeliz'--a name to which he
soon got to answer. He became quite attached to me, little knowing why
I paid him such anxious attentions.

We went on pretty well for some time, of course, with the usual halts
every ten minutes. To-day, too, the weather took it into its head to
change; the sun became unpleasantly warm, which, of course, increased
our fatigue considerably. At about twelve o'clock the path broke off
from the valley, and the country assumed a threatening appearance,
hill rising above hill for a long distance. As we had walked more than
six hours already, we allowed ourselves a long rest before facing the
difficulties which now lay before us. We felt very hungry, too; but,
not daring to use a match, we were obliged to eat some raw
ostrich-meat. I thought it had a peculiarly revolting taste, and more
than ever I deprecated the idea of perhaps having to undergo a regimen
of uncooked meat. I wondered, too, how Infeliz would taste raw, and
felt that I certainly would not try him unless pushed to the very last
extremity.

When we felt somewhat restored, we arose, carefully collected the
fragments of our meal, and then continued our wearisome journey. The
path now lay across a succession of hills, or undulations, which were
very steep and told fearfully upon us. We would rest a while on the
crest of each, and then go at the next one with a rush, our teeth set
and eyes bent on its summit; for if we flinched once on our upward
course, or halted but a moment, we were done for, and had to take
another rest previous to collecting our strength for a new spurt.
Several times I thought I must give in, and at last I could literally
hardly move one leg before the other. The perspiration rolled off my
forehead in streams, and the weight of my capas seemed to break my
back. Still we had set ourselves a certain goal, which was yet a long
way off; and though I was inwardly wishing that Guillaume would give
in, I was determined not to be first to speak, but to go on as long as
he did whilst there was a step left in me. I believe he was in the
same plight as I was, but kept on for the same reasons. At last a
higher hill than usual fairly brought us to a regular standstill, and
we threw ourselves down, feeling that, for that day at least, we could
go no further.

We lay motionless for about half an hour, when I rose to take off my
pack, and in so doing perceived a column of smoke, not far, at least
to all appearance, from where we were. My shout of joyful surprise
brought Guillaume to his feet, and we both examined it for some time,
half doubting our own eyes, and fearful lest every moment it should
prove a delusion. Nor were our feelings of pleasure wholly unmitigated
by certain apprehensions that it might be some old fire that had been
lit two or three days ago, and which was now burning up again.
Guillaume told me that he had known fires to smoulder on in grassy
glens for weeks together. It might be but an hour old, and yet those
who had made it were, perhaps, already miles away in some direction,
far from the path we must follow; and we could not signal our own
whereabouts, as the country we were then crossing was bare of grass
and bushes. Our doubts, however, were speedily set at rest. Even as we
watched the first column with eager eyes, another rose up not far from
it, and another still, and then we knew that the fires were being made
by Indians, who were hunting on the plains. A little to the left of
the smoke was a place called the 'Campo de Batalla,' where the Indians
always camp when in that neighbourhood, and to it we accordingly
directed our steps, as we were almost certain to find them there. The
vicinity of human beings gave us new strength. All fatigue disappeared
as if by magic; the hills, hitherto so formidable, seemed to shrink
into pigmy mounds; my pack became light as a feather, and the rags
round my feet seemed suddenly to possess the virtues of the famed
seven-mile boots. Not only should we be able to get horses from the
Indians, but, as they must have recently left the settlement, they
would have plenty of tobacco, maté, sugar, and biscuit, with the
thought of which I charmed away any relapse into exhaustion, which, as
hill followed hill in endless succession, now and again threatened to
overcome me. At last, about four o'clock, we descended into a valley,
a sudden turn of which brought us in full view of the Indian
encampment. My heart bounded at the sight of the tents, amongst which
I could descry dark human figures in long robes moving slowly to and
fro; hundreds of horses were grazing in the valley, whilst the yelping
of the swarms of curs that infest the Indian camps fell on my ears
like pleasant music.

The Indians were just returning from the chase, and were pouring down
from the plains on all sides. They soon perceived us, and presently
fifty or more horsemen came flying towards us at full gallop. In
another moment we were surrounded by a chattering, laughing,
gesticulating crowd, who escorted us towards the camp in triumph. One
of their number, who could speak a little Spanish, asked us a thousand
questions, the answers to which he translated for the benefit of the
others, to whom every item of information seemed to furnish an excuse
for the most unbounded merriment; they would all giggle and laugh,
though what I had to say to them did not contain anything
extraordinarily funny, at least as far as my perception of the
humorous goes.

When we reached the camp, we were surrounded by another crowd of
Indians, as eagerly curious as the first comers to know where we came
from, what we had done with our horses, and where we were going to--in
fact, all particulars as to our situation. As soon as one group left,
another arrived; and in this manner we ran the gauntlet of the whole
of the camp, everyone apparently deeming it incumbent on him to come
and have a good stare and grin at us.

Having satisfied their curiosity, we felt ourselves at liberty to
consult our own comfort; and Guillaume having discovered the
whereabouts of the tent of a cacique of the name of Orkeke, with whom
he was on intimate terms, we directed our steps towards it. Orkeke
himself, we found, had not as yet returned from the chase; but his
wife, an immensely fat and good-humoured-looking old squaw, accosted
us in some friendly gutturals, of which the evident purport was that
we were to make ourselves at home--an intimation on which we speedily
acted. With a deep sigh of relief, I divested myself of the pack under
whose weight I had trudged for so many a weary mile, and, stretching
myself out on the ground, I inwardly congratulated myself that the
unpleasant episode of our foot-pilgrimage was fortunately a thing of
the past.

We had now, for the first time since we had seen the smoke, leisure to
muse over our providential delivery from the serious danger that had
threatened us--a danger whose full magnitude only became apparent now
that we had no longer to fear it. But these thoughts did not occupy us
long; very soon Orkeke arrived, heavily laden with the spoils of the
chase. He seemed very pleased to see us, and greeted us affably in
broken Spanish. To the story of our mishaps he listened with great
interest, and when I told him that I had not taken maté or smoked for
several weeks, he showed particular concern, and immediately produced
a pipe and tobacco, and bade me smoke, at the same time telling his
wife to prepare maté, remarking very justly, 'No fumar, no tomar maté;
muy malo!' Smokers will feel with me when I say that my hand trembled
whilst filling my pipe, and that, having lit it, I sat for a few
minutes in a state of semi-ecstasy, enveloped in a fragrant cloud of
the long-missed soul-soother. The maté, too, seemed delicious; and as
a great treat, from a bag which contained similar treasures, Orkeke
brought forth a musty biscuit, which he broke into three pieces,
solemnly handing a share to Guillaume and me. The biscuit was coarse
and black and hard, no doubt, but it melted away on my lips like a
_meringue_, nor did I allow one crumb of it to be lost.

Orkeke was an admirable specimen of the Tehuelche race. He was tall
and well proportioned, and, notwithstanding his great age, extremely
vigorous and agile. His long grey hair and the benign expression of
his face gave him the look of a venerable patriarch--a character which
he rather affected to maintain. He was careful to inform me, at an
early stage of our acquaintance, that he never got drunk, like the
other Indians; that he never told a lie; and that his father had been
converted to Christianity--a circumstance which he evidently
considered to reflect in some way meritoriously on himself. On my
asking him why he had not followed his father's example and become a
Christian too, after a long pause he answered rather vaguely, "Quien
sabe." I did not press the question any further, as the Indians who
speak Spanish always make use of this expression when puzzled, or when
they do not care to give a direct reply, and if once they proffer it
as an answer, it is perfectly useless to attempt to elicit anything
more explicit from them.

Orkeke told me that he remembered perfectly well having paid a visit
to St. Julian, as a boy, when the Spanish colonists of Viedma were yet
there. If that were true--and I have no reason to doubt his word--his
age was now at least ninety-six or ninety-seven, and, judging by his
looks, I thought he might easily live twenty or thirty years longer.
His movements were as easy and as free from effort as those of a young
man. Indeed, I should imagine few climates are healthier or more
favourable to longevity than that of Patagonia; its crisp, dry air has
a peculiarly beneficent effect both on mind and body, and under its
influence one experiences a buoyancy of spirits, and a general
well-being, which are quite astonishing.

Orkeke spoke Spanish with tolerable fluency, and I was able to have a
long conversation with him on various topics, during which I gleaned
some interesting information about the customs and thoughts of the
Indians.

The tribe I was now amongst was more numerous than that of the
Northern Tehuelches, but it seemed to me that they were, on the
average, slightly inferior in physique to the Northerners, and
certainly there were not so many pretty squaws among them as among the
latter. Otherwise there was no marked distinction between them. The
camp consisted of twelve tents, containing in all from four to five
hundred souls. The whole tribe, I found, had just been paying their
annual visit to Sandy Point, to receive the rations of sugar, biscuit,
maté, and tobacco, which the Chilian Government accords them. These
visits generally cost them rather dear, as the inhabitants of the
colony, on these occasions, make a rich harvest of furs and feathers,
with which, under the influence of aguadiente, the Indians are then
extremely prodigal.

I made Orkeke promise to get me two horses the next morning, in order
that we might immediately continue our journey, and having eaten a
hearty supper, I went to sleep on a couch of furs, which Mrs. Orkeke
had prepared for me, and, notwithstanding the incessant squalling of
babies in various parts of the tent, I managed to pass a tolerable
night.

The next morning, as soon as Orkeke had risen, I asked him to get the
horses in readiness, as I was leaving at once. But there was an
unpleasant surprise in store for me. Orkeke seemed to have no
remembrance of what he had promised the previous evening, and coolly
told me that he could not lend me any of his horses, as, according to
him, they were all 'thin and tired,' 'Mi caballo, muy flaco, muy
cansado,' was all I could get out of him in reply to my indignant
demands for an explanation of the unaccountable change in his
intentions. In vain I argued, entreated, and stormed; in vain I
offered to pay him double the sum we had previously agreed on--nothing
would move him, and finally I gave up pressing the matter, directing
my energies instead to discovering some more accommodating Indian.

My task was not an easy one, and I soon found out that to drive a
bargain with an Indian one must have the patience of Job and the
temper of an angel. It is next to an impossibility to get a plain
'yes' or 'no' out of them, as they have an insuperable aversion to
committing themselves finally, either one way or the other. The
consequence is that one may haggle with them for hours, without
arriving at any result, and without even being able to judge whether
one is likely to arrive at any, so vague and circumlocutory are their
answers. Unfortunately, too, I was obliged to employ an interpreter,
thus reducing still further the chances of my coming to any definite
understanding.

After having interviewed some forty Indians, who all, after more or
less vacillation and delay, proffered the stereotyped objection, 'Mi
caballo, muy flaco,' I began to despair of succeeding at all, and as a
last resource, went back to Orkeke, who, I hoped, might possibly again
have changed his mind and become less obdurate. But the obstinate old
cacique was inexorable, and calmly recommended me to wait patiently
for a few days, as very soon some traders would be coming from the
colony. He could not understand that anyone could possibly be in a
hurry. Indians never are; and I have no doubt that the fact of my
being in such a desperate haste to get away awoke some suspicions in
his mind as to my motives, and inclined him to persist in his refusal
to accommodate me. I was at my wits' end. Nothing could be further
from my intentions than to wait with the Indians till some trader
should come to the camp. The very thought made me furious. I had not
risked crossing Gallegos for that, and yet I must either remain or
start off on foot, neither of which prospects I contemplated with much
satisfaction.

Though my own attempts had failed, I thought that perhaps Orkeke might
be able to negotiate more successfully for the hire of two horses from
some one amongst his acquaintances; and as an inducement for him to
exert himself in my behalf, I offered to give him a guanaco mantle. My
proposal set him thinking, and presently he said: 'I know Indian--very
rich man--three hundred horses--quien sabe, he lend you two.' Of
course, I jumped at the suggestion, and proposed that we should
immediately go and see this great and good man, the owner of three
hundred horses. But Orkeke met my impetuosity with a tantalising 'Mas
tarde,' and I had to restrain my impatience for more than an hour,
during the course of which I relieved my feelings with many a bitter
imprecation at Tehuelche supineness. At last Orkeke seemed to have
nerved himself for the tremendous effort, and signified to me that he
was ready to accompany me to the tent of the rich man. I approached
this awful being, whom I found reclining at ease on his furs, with
feelings of the deepest respect, for did he not hold the means of
relieving me from the serious and aggravating plight which fate and
the obstinacy of his brethren had brought me into?

Orkeke conversed with him for some time--very leisurely and
unconcernedly, I thought, considering the gravity of the issue of the
negotiations--and then, turning to me, he asked me to tell his friend,
who understood Spanish, what I wanted.

I began. 'You have plenty horses?'

'Yes, plenty.'

'Quien sabe, you lend me two?'

Here a long pause, during which I anxiously endeavoured to read the
answer to my question in the face of the Indian. But its expression
was a blank. Presently he suggested:

'How much you pay?'

'Oh, plenty sugar, plenty biscuit, plenty silver dollar,' I exclaimed,
gesticulating to an unlimited extent, and radiant with satisfaction,
as now I thought the matter had taken a practical and final turn.

'Bueno! But how send back horses to Indian?'

'Guillaume come back with horses and presents from colony in six
days.'

Here another long pause. The Indian seemed to be looking at some
object on the hills fifty miles away, apparently oblivious of my
presence. As he did not offer to resume the conversation, after a
while I suggested cheerfully:

'Very well, all is settled; you go and fetch the horses, whilst I
prepare my things and get ready to leave.' To my surprise he did not
respond to my suggestion as readily as I had expected. I presumed I
was going too quickly for him, and accordingly I modified my proposal
this wise: 'Quien sabe, when will you fetch horses for me?'

No answer: the object on the hills still claimed his undivided
attention. I waited patiently, wonderfully patiently, for a reply;
though now and then, in the course of the quarter of an hour's silence
which ensued, I did feel that it would have been an unspeakable relief
to have given my _nonchalant_ friend just one little cut with my whip.
We cannot all have the dispositions of saints.

I contented myself, after the lapse of time mentioned, with repeating,
'Quien sabe, when will you fetch horses for me?'

Then fell on my ears 'some words, which were warning of doom!'--'Mi
caballo, muy flaco, muy cansado.'

After having had my hopes raised to the highest point of expectation,
to see them thus suddenly dashed to the ground for some mere whim, and
without a show of reason, was more than flesh and blood could stand; I
regret to say that I lost my temper, and hurled at the passive Indian
a shower of furious imprecations. I am bound to say, however, that
they did not seem to have the slightest effect upon him, and merely
provoked a chorus of mocking laughter from the squaws. I went away in
high dudgeon, and my reflections, after I had cooled down a little,
were not rendered any pleasanter by the confession I had to make to
myself, that I had no business to lose my temper, as, after all, the
Indian had a perfect right to do as he chose with his own. Still, it
was rather exasperating that, much as I wanted them, with two thousand
horses grazing in the ravine around me, I could not obtain two.

Fortunately, relief was near at hand. I was just discussing with
Guillaume what was to be done next, when Orkeke came up to us, and
said that a scout had just arrived, and had told him that a white man
was camping at a lake some eighteen miles away, and that, for a
consideration, he would lend us a couple of horses to take us so far.

In half an hour the horses were driven up; and having made some small
presents to Mrs. Orkeke and her family, I hastily left, fearing lest,
acting on some new caprice, Orkeke might, at the last moment, find
some pretext for taking the horses away from us again.



CHAPTER XV.


At last we said good-bye to the Indians, and set out, accompanied by a
man who was to take the horses back, _en route_ for a lake called the
'Laguna del Finado Romero,' after an ill-fated white man, who, like
ourselves, had lost his horses in the pampa, and, unluckier than we
had been, had failed to fall in with anyone on the road, and had
finally died of starvation near the lake that now bears his name.

Our horses were lean, overworked, and broken-winded, and we were
obliged to ride bare-backed, as the Indians had refused to lend us
saddles; but we cared little for such slight drawbacks, in the joy of
once more being able to look forward with certainty to a speedy
arrival at our destination.

We had only been on foot for three days, but, looking back, it seemed
to me an age since I had last bestrode a horse; and the pleasure I
experienced, as we broke into a tolerably swift gallop, was heightened
by the remembrance of those unpleasant days during which we trudged
wearily along on foot, esteeming it a great triumph if we
successfully scaled some pigmy hill without having to lie down two or
three times to take breath, and when we hardly dared look at the vast
expanse of plain before us, lest we should lose courage at the sight.
Contrasted with that period of our journey, our present situation was
all _couleur de rose_. Our sorry nags seemed gifted with the fleetness
of the wind, their distressed puffing sounded in our ears like the
proud snorting of the fiery steed scenting the chase, and their
irregular pace, half gallop, half stumble, seemed as soft and pleasant
as the gentle amble of a pampered park hack.

After about three hours' sharp riding, we reached the lake, beside
which was pitched the tent of the white man of whom the Indians had
told us. The barking of the dogs warned him of our approach, and he
came out to meet us, not a little astonished at our appearance, as the
Indians had told him that the Gallegos had risen, and, of course, he
had not imagined that anyone could have come from Santa Cruz. He
kindly welcomed us into his tent, where the first thing that struck my
eye, as smacking pleasantly of civilisation, was an empty
preserved-milk-tin. Our new host, whose name was Emilio, was an old
acquaintance of Guillaume's, and he very kindly offered to lend us
horses to continue our journey to Sandy Point with, as the Indian was
returning with those we had come on.

As the weather looked very threatening, and big rain-drops were
already beginning to fall, we thought it best to defer our start for
another day, feeling that, in one way and another, we had had quite
enough wettings lately.

The tent we now found ourselves in seemed 'fitted up' with all modern
conveniences; indeed, Emilio appeared to be, as he in reality was,
rather an amateur than a professional ostrich-hunter, and his neat
riding-suit and general clean appearance made me, for the first time,
painfully conscious of the strange scarecrow figure I must have made
in the eyes of a civilised human being. The pampa had dealt rather
roughly with my wardrobe. I was hatless, shoeless, and coatless,
having tossed away or lost all these necessary articles of wear at
various periods of my peregrinations. My shirt and trousers were
tattered and torn; my hair, which had been a stranger to the comb for
weeks, was long and matted; and my face, from continual exposure to
sun and wind, had become of a deep Tehuelche brown. Fortunately, no
excuses for my appearance were necessary; and, having dismissed our
Indian friend with his horses, we sat down in the tent to discuss some
maté and a pipe, over which luxuries Emilio satisfied my voracious
appetite for news of the war in the East, with such items of
information as he had picked up lately in Sandy Point.

Touching the dinner-hour, which was now approaching, he told us that
his companion had gone to the settlement ten days ago to fetch
provisions, and as he had not yet come back, he (Emilio) had run short
of everything, and had not so much as a biscuit in the place--a piece
of information which gave me a shock, which I trust I bore with more
outward composure than my inner feelings warranted. However, when
dinner was served, matters turned out to be better than Emilio had
represented, and our hearts were gladdened over a puchero of guanaco
meat, seasoned with onions, pepper, and salt, and other old
acquaintances, whose want we had lately so often and so feelingly
deplored.

Darkness came on soon after dinner was over, and we were accordingly
not long in turning in. All through the night there was a heavy
downpour of rain, and as I listened to it pattering on the canvas of
our tent, snugly rolled up in my warm capa, I thought, with a shudder,
in what a different plight I should have then been had we not had the
good fortune to meet the Indians. Instead of lying warm and dry under
the shelter of the tent, we should doubtless have been stretched
somewhere on the muddy ground, in damp clothes and soaking furs,
hungry and sleepless, and exposed to the inclemency of the weather,
without even the means of making a fire.

The next day the rain cleared off at about ten o'clock, and Emilio,
who was anxious to know what had become of his companion, resolved to
accompany us, leaving his tent and horses in charge of a servant. On
the previous day I had felt little inconvenience from riding
barebacked, the satisfaction of having a horse at all far outweighing
the consideration of any minor discomforts. But to-day I could no
longer remain callous to the inconvenience and pain of bumping up and
down hour after hour on the back of a not over well-conditioned horse.
After the first few miles, the sensation experienced became extremely
unpleasant, and gradually developed into a species of mild torture--to
culminate, after galloping some thirty miles, in the most excruciating
anguish the mind can conceive of. However, we were not to be stopped
by mere pain, and jogged along as best we could.

The country we now traversed began to differ essentially from the
regions I had hitherto passed through. The monotonous alternation of
plains and ravines gave way to a not less monotonous succession of
soft swells or undulations. The height of the crests of these
undulations was about twenty feet, and the soil which covered them,
judging from the appearance of the grass, seemed of a more fertile
nature than that of the country farther north. As yet, however, there
was no appearance of any new species of bush. Occasionally an ostrich
would start up at our approach; but already we began to miss the
familiar sight of the guanacos, which are, until one arrives as far
south as we now were, an inevitable feature of a Patagonian landscape.

After emerging from this undulating tract, the transit of which
occupied several hours, we came into an irregularly-formed country,
abounding in fresh-water lakes, which were covered with wild geese and
ducks. Here the calafaté bushes seemed to grow stronger and
healthier-looking; and the now green grass, growing in abundance
everywhere, gave an unaccustomed look of fertility to the country. We
were not far from Cape San Gregorio, and occasionally we could catch a
hazy glimpse of the sea.

Meantime evening came on, and we began to look about for a favourable
place to camp at for the night. In casting about we observed a thin
column of smoke arising from a small gorge some little way ahead.
Thither we accordingly rode, and presently came upon a young fellow
who was just making a fire, he having evidently arrived a few minutes
ago. His horses were grazing about the cañon. He started up at our
approach, and greeted us very cordially, Guillaume being an old
acquaintance of his. He turned out to be a Frenchman, and had formerly
been cook to the Governor of Sandy Point, but had subsequently taken
to ostrich-hunting and trading with the Indians as more congenial
pursuits.

He was a very pleasant and lively companion, and we had a very
cheerful evening together. Besides, at dinner he gave us some
specimens of his art, which stamped him as a master, or at least I
thought so then. I actually found a laurel-leaf in the puchero of this
epicurean ostrich-hunter, and presently he turned out an _omelette aux
fines herbes_, which might have been prepared in a royal kitchen,
instead of in the desert, over a smoky, green-wood fire, by the
doubtful light of a few stars. As he kindly offered to lend us horses
to go on with, there was no necessity for Emilio to accompany us any
further, especially as, through our new acquaintance, he had got news
of the coming of his absent companion. Before we went to bed,
therefore, I thanked him for his kindness, and said good-bye to him,
as Guillaume and I intended starting at about three o'clock in the
morning, in order to get to Sandy Point the same night. We purposed
starting thus early as there was an arm of the sea to cross, which, if
we happened to reach it at high-water, might detain us for several
hours. I also took leave of our host, and then we all went to our
beds, to sleep through what I hoped was to be my last night on the
pampa.

When the position of the stars seemed to indicate its being about
three o'clock, Guillaume and I, after a hasty cup of coffee, bridled
the horses that had been lent to us, and waving a silent adieu to our
sleeping companions, we rode off through the darkness towards the
Cabeza del Mar, or 'Head of the Sea,' which we hoped to reach at
low-water. We were not so well mounted as the day before, as we soon
discovered to our cost. My horse, in particular, was a lean, raw-boned
animal, with a terribly rough gallop, and as the trail had now become
swampy and full of holes, it would occasionally stumble and throw me
forward in a most punishing manner, and I suffered even more than the
day before from the want of a saddle. Meanwhile, the darkness slowly
gave way to dawn, and by the time the sun had risen, we reined in our
panting horses, on whom the steep hills and heavy ground had told
severely, at the rocky shores of the Cabeza del Mar. The water was at
ebb-tide, and we had to wait an hour or two before we could cross
over. Cabeza del Mar, marked on the Admiralty charts as Peckett's
Harbour, is an inlet of the sea which runs for some distance into the
interior.

Having crossed over without any accident, we again continued our
journey at a gallop. The ground was very soft, and for miles was half
under water. At one spot my horse sank into a quagmire, and it was
only with the greatest difficulty that I finally got it out again.
Altogether, our horses, which were very thin and in wretched
condition, began to show signs of distress as the hours wore on, and
at times we were apprehensive lest they would not be able to reach
Sandy Point. Still we splashed on through mire and water, without
sparing whip or spur. Now and then we caught sight of the sea, and
when the rising wind swept away the mist which obscured the horizon,
the snow-clad peaks of the distant Cordilleras showed plainly against
the blue sky. We hailed them with delight, for we knew that at the
foot of the last spur lay Sandy Point.

Presently we passed a stunted clump of beeches, standing in the midst
of the bare plain, like an advanced picket of the dense forests which,
a little farther south, clothe the sides of the straits and the broad
slopes of the Cordilleras. After having passed so many weeks without
having seen any vegetation but the grass and low scrub of the pampas,
the sight of these beeches was indescribably refreshing and cheering,
and produced the same exhilarating effect on us as the sudden
appearance of land after a long sea-voyage does on the traveller,
weary of the eternal sameness of sea and sky.

On we went, leaving the beeches behind us, over a broad grass-covered
plain, now half under water and a mere swamp, the distant hills
growing gradually more and more distinct. By this time I had grown as
tired as my horse, and had left off the use of either whip or spur, as
it seemed to take no notice of them, just jogging along at its own
pace, a kind of slinging shuffle, varied now and then by a lurch
forward, as if about to fall--an ending to our ride which would not
have surprised me in the least, considering the condition of the poor
animal and the distance we had gone since morning. But the Patagonian
horses are wonderfully hardy, and can do an astonishing amount of work
in a condition which makes it seem doubtful whether they will be able
to carry their own weight. This was the case with those we were now
riding, which were mere skin and bone; and yet we had been already
nine hours on the road, scaling steep hills, and staggering over
swampy, heavy ground of the most trying nature.

Time went on. The beeches became more frequent, and finally we arrived
at the foot of a thickly wooded hill, which seemed to mark the
commencement of a totally new region; for whereas hitherto all
vegetation had been scarce and stunted, it now became comparatively
varied and luxuriant. Following a beaten track, we rode up the hill
through a glade of beeches, which were just bursting into leaf. On
reaching its summit I paused, for suddenly flashed on my gaze, lying
at the foot of the hill on whose crest I now stood, the shining waters
of the Straits of Magellan. With avidity I feasted my eyes, wearied of
the eternal monotony of the pampa horizon, on the varied and sunlit
scene before me. In strange contrast to the bare plains I had just
left was the bold outline of the winding coast, which sank abruptly
down, green with dense foliage, to the very edge of the foaming water,
whilst in the background rose the gigantic ridges of the Cordilleras,
their sharply-cut and snow-clad peaks standing plainly defined on the
for once cloudless sky.

On the opposite side of the straits the tall cliffs of Terra del Fuego
were plainly visible; and presently, emerging from a bend in the
coast, a little schooner came skimming down, with all her sails set
and her colours flying, bound, no doubt, for the neighbouring Falkland
Islands.

But time was precious, as we wanted to get to Sandy Point before
night-time; so off we started again, down the precipitous side of the
hill, the bottom of which we reached after many a slip and stumble,
the melting of the snows having carried away whole lengths of what had
been a beaten pathway. The farmhouse of Cabo Negro now came in sight,
and near it, grazing at their ease in the fresh young grass, were
herds of horses and cattle. As their familiar lowing fell on my ears,
my heart quite warmed towards the sleek-coated, gentle-eyed cows, and
I bestowed a kindly greeting on them in passing, quite as if they had
been human beings. But to me at that moment they represented something
more than mere milk and butter in perspective (though that
consideration was not altogether absent from my mind). In their staid,
respectable demeanour, so different from the wild capers and antics of
my late friends, the guanacos, I recognised the softening influences
of civilisation, and in my present mood I was only too glad to be
able to hail its presence under any symbol, even though it were but in
the lowly guise of a simple-minded cow.

On reaching the farmhouse we dismounted for a while, in order to give
our horses the rest they sorely needed. The owner, Lieutenant
Gallegos, received us very kindly, and asked us into the house to take
some refreshment. Whilst the meal was being prepared, I explained to
him the circumstances which had brought us into the strange plight in
which he beheld us, our saddleless nags and our dilapidated appearance
having naturally aroused his curiosity. He was not surprised to hear
of the unusually high flood at Gallegos, as, on the melting of the
snows, there had been great inundations all round the colony, and an
unprecedented snowfall during the winter. The winter itself had been
of unusual duration, for although it was now almost summer-time, until
a few days since, like ourselves, they had experienced regular wintry
weather. In the meantime a repast had been served, and I sat down
actually on a chair, and ate off a plate with knife and fork, feeling
quite awkward and bearish, as if I had till then never enjoyed such
luxuries. However, this feeling soon wore off, and before I had
finished my meal I felt quite at home again. As soon as we had
exhausted our respective budgets of news, we said good-bye to
Lieutenant Gallegos, and remounted our horses, who had profited by
the short respite allowed them, and had become tolerably fresh again.

Our path now lay along the Straits of Magellan. The water almost
washed our horses' feet as we rode along the narrow path, for the
mainland falls almost vertically down to the waters edge, and is
covered with a dense, impenetrable mass of trees and bushes--the
latter chiefly of the magnolia species--and one is forced to keep on
the meagre strip of stony beach, which in some places is hardly three
feet broad. This narrow track was further occasionally obstructed by
trunks of beech-trees and other drift-wood, torn probably from the
land on the opposite side, and swept thither by the sea in its angry
moods; and sometimes a still more formidable hindrance would present
itself, in the shape of a landslip, with a whole slice of virgin
forest torn away with it, the trees, bushes, and creepers still green
and flourishing. In those cases, where the soil had already been
washed away by the sea, all the less durable vegetation having long
mouldered away, a prey to the wind and waves, only the dead trees
remained, looking sad and ghastly in their untombed nakedness--some
fallen, others still upright, but leaning against each other in
forlorn helplessness, their white, bare roots firmly interlaced, and
their long, dry arms rattling against each other in the wind, like the
bones of so many skeletons.

Following its numerous bends, we rode along the beach for about three
hours: and then, in measure as we approached the long sandy strip of
land which stretches out into the sea, and which has given the name of
Sandy Point to the settlement, the beach got broader, the fall of the
land less abrupt, and the forest gradually lightened, till, reaching
the Government sawmill, which is situated at about six miles from the
colony, we came to an open plain, studded here and there with beeches,
across which we galloped for some time; and finally, having forded one
or two small streams, we at last arrived in sight of the town itself.



CHAPTER XVI.


The colony of Magellan was founded by the Chilian Government in the
year 1851. The population of Sandy Point, including the convicts and
garrison, and the Swiss settlers of Agua Fresca, numbered, at the time
I am speaking of, about eight hundred souls. The town lies at the foot
of a high ridge of hills, facing the straits. It contained a fort, a
church, and some tolerable-looking Government buildings, but,
excepting one or two streets in the lower part of the town, the rest
of the place had a poor, straggling appearance, the houses being
mostly one-storied wooden shanties, and the streets grass-grown and
hillocky, with here and there the stump of a beech-tree sticking up
from the ground. But to me, as I rode through it, just before sundown,
tired and fagged with my day's ride, it looked pleasant and cheerful
enough, for it held out promises of shelter, rest, and good cheer,
after a long, weary time of exposure and hardship, and it was,
besides, a connecting link with the outer world, to reach which had
been my only thought for weeks--weeks which, as I looked back on
them, in the variety of sensation and incident which had marked their
course, seemed almost so many years.

I rode slowly up the main street, letting my eyes wander leisurely
over the unaccustomed sights which everywhere met my gaze, and which I
greeted inwardly one by one, as it were renewing an old acquaintance.
The shops with their many wares displayed in the windows, the knots of
drinkers standing at the bars, which in Sandy Point grace every
establishment, be it a butcher's, or a baker's, or a tailor's; the
little children playing about the streets; the housewives taking in
their little washing from the clothes-line, and doing a great deal of
gossip over it, as is their wont; the cows coming lowing down from the
woods with their calves, and going to their respective homes to be
milked; the loungers in collars and neckties (strange sight), who
stared at me as I went past--everything and everybody came in for a
share of my attention. Each one sight helped to confirm the complacent
feeling of security from further danger which had come over me since I
passed the Cabo Negro farm-house. The turn in the long lane had come
at last, the chapter of accidents was over, and, like the heroes of
the fairy tales, I was to live happy ever after. Alas for human
foresight! Could I have foreseen the events which in a few hours were
to take place, in all probability I should then and there have turned
my horse round and ridden with all speed back to the pampas. But if
coming events do cast their shadows before them, it is very seldom
that our imperfect mental vision can perceive them, and certainly
there was no forecast of the horrors of the coming day in the
atmosphere of the settlement of Sandy Point, on the evening of that
10th of November. People came and went, and laughed and talked with
each other, just as usual, little thinking that by that time to-morrow
they would be flying from their pillaged and burning homes, with their
wives and children, and that the colony, now so tranquil and peaceful,
would to-morrow be delivered into the hands of a set of sanguinary
ruffians, free to indulge in their worst passions unchecked.

There are no inns at Sandy Point, visitors being of rare occurrence,
so we put up at the house of an Austrian, named Pedro, who had
formerly been an Indian trader, and now kept a small shop. After
having indulged in the luxury of a warm bath and a shave, and having
made some suitable changes in my raiment, I sat down to dine with
Pedro. The havoc I made amongst cheeses, fresh butter, bread, jam,
etc., was tremendous. I think--and it is an important consideration
which, strange to say, has escaped even Brillat-Savarin--that every
man who has any pretension to considering himself a gastronome, should
make it a supreme duty to give his palate a complete rest, at least
once a year, and subsist for a month or two on as poor a diet as is
compatible with keeping body and soul together. His temporary
self-denial will be more than repaid by the renewed sensibility of his
palate which will result from such a course, and he will return to his
favourite dishes with that fresh zest and exquisite enjoyment which is
vouchsafed to most people only in the palmy heyday of their schoolboy
appetites.

After dinner I lost no time in going to bed. I had been fifteen hours,
not in the saddle, but literally on horseback, and I was weary enough,
as may be supposed. I felt, as I lay down on my bed, that I had well
earned a good night's rest, and was but little prepared for the rude
awakening in store for me.

Towards midnight I was aroused by a noise which at first I took for
thunder, but which on repetition, to my astonishment, proved to be the
report of cannon. While I was still listening and wondering what could
be the matter, Guillaume came hurriedly into the room and cried: 'The
convicts and the soldiers have mutinied, and are firing on the lower
town.' I was too sleepy to be able to quite seize the situation, and
this startling piece of news only elicited a growl from me to the
effect that I thought they might have waited till the morning, and I
fell back, and was just dozing off again, when a volley of musketry,
discharged at that moment close to our door, followed by a loud
shriek, thoroughly awoke me, and I jumped out of bed and hurriedly
put on my clothes.

As soon as all was quiet outside the house, I went to the door and
cautiously opened it. It was still dark, but daybreak, to all
appearance, was not far off. The streets near Pedro's house were quite
deserted, but in the direction of the plaza there was a great
commotion, and the shouting of many voices, the rattling of horses'
hoofs over the paved streets, the deep growl of cannon, or the sharp
report of a Remington, broke ominously on the silence of the night.
Curious to know what was going on, Guillaume and I slipped into the
street and stole towards the plaza, in order to question any person we
might happen to meet as to the exact nature of the disturbance.
Presently, in running along, I stumbled over something, and on turning
back to look I found, with a shudder, that it was the dead body of a
man, probably the one whose shriek we heard a short time ago. We had
not gone far, when we saw somebody hastening our way as fast as his
legs could carry him. We detained him for a moment, though he was as
impatient to be gone as the wedding guest in the ballad, and he told
us that the convicts and soldiers had mutinied, and had killed the
governor of the colony, the captain of the garrison, and all the
officers, and were now engaged in fighting among themselves. With this
information we went back to the house, wondering what the upshot of
the whole affair would be--a matter which it was rather difficult to
foretell, as the Chilian man-of-war generally stationed at Sandy Point
was at that time surveying the straits some distance away, and till
she arrived the convicts and soldiers would be masters of the
situation.

Our evil star, as I remarked to Guillaume, was still in the ascendant;
indeed, it was a most peculiar instance of a continued run of bad
luck, that _on the very night_ of our safe arrival amongst civilised
people, after having overcome not a few obstacles which had risen one
after the other to frustrate our plans, an event should occur whose
ultimate consequences might cause us to regret that we had ever
crossed the Gallegos. Besides, it was not as if it were one of the
ordinary accidents that may reasonably happen at any moment; far from
it, the event in question was of so unusual a nature as to fairly make
it improbable that it could happen even once in half a century. This
being the case, it was rather provoking that, given all the
antecedents of my journey, it should just happen at the very moment of
my passing through Sandy Point.

There were as yet, however, no grounds for apprehending anything
serious. It was probable that the mutineers, having obtained their
liberty, would make use of it to escape as quickly as possible to the
pampas, though what they were to do when they got there was best
known to themselves. With these and sundry other unpleasant
reflections passing through my mind, I lay down on my couch, and went
to sleep again. When I awoke it was broad daylight. On opening my eyes
I was startled by the sight of a drunken convict, who was leaning
against the door of my room, holding a box of sardines in one hand and
a piece of bread in the other. His Remington rifle, which, judging by
the smell of powder it emitted, had been discharged several times, lay
on the table beside my bed. He glared stupidly at me as I got up and
went past him into the shop, which I found full of convicts and
soldiers, who were eating and drinking and squabbling, and brandishing
their Remingtons about in such a clumsy way that I expected at any
moment to see some accident happen. They told me that they had killed
the governor and all his family, and that they were now going off to
the pampa to escape to the Argentine Republic. They professed to have
no intention of harming any of the colonists, all they required being
that they should be allowed to take whatever they wanted free of
payment. They were continually quarrelling among themselves, the chief
object of their dispute being the honour, to which every one seemed to
lay claim, of having killed the governor--the truth being that he had
not been killed by anyone, having escaped on horseback shortly after
the revolt broke out. When one crowd left, another would come in, and
so on all the morning, till very soon all the drinkables and eatables
in Pedro's shop had disappeared.

Most of the mutineers, both soldiers and convicts, were Chilotes, as
the people of the island of Chiloe are called. To do them justice, I
must say that I have never seen a more repulsively ugly and
wretched-looking race than these same Chilotes, at least, if I am to
judge of them by the numerous specimens I had the pleasure of seeing
at Sandy Point. They are of low stature and light build, their
complexion is swarthy, their foreheads low, and the general expression
of their faces is one of brutish stupidity blended with savage
ferocity. I think there is, on the whole, very little to choose
between them and the Fuegians, who, I believe, are commonly admitted
to represent the lowest type of humanity extant.

Meanwhile the day wore on, but the mutineers did not seem in any hurry
to quit the colony. It was impossible to leave the house to obtain any
news of the revolt, as they were amusing themselves by firing random
shots in all directions, during which pastime not a few of their own
number were accidentally killed. About this time they commenced a
wholesale pillage of the shops, at which task they were assisted by
the women and the Chilian colonists generally. I do not think the
latter actually took part in any of the acts of violence subsequently
committed, but at the commencement of the revolt they certainly
fraternised with the mutineers, and, in company with the latter,
plundered and drank freely. Some colonists who lived opposite Pedro's
house were busy all day long in carrying loads of wearing apparel and
goods of all descriptions from the various shops into their dwellings.
What they were ultimately to do with all their spoils, I suppose they
hardly knew themselves, though, if they had not been too drunk, they
might have reflected that so soon as order had been restored to the
colony, a general search would be made, and they would not only be
compelled to disgorge their plunder, but the fact of stolen goods
being found in their possession would necessarily implicate them as
having taken part in the mutiny. But the whole uprising was marked by
the same utter absence of forethought, and the same incomprehensible
indifference to inevitable consequences. If any pre-concerted plan of
action had originally existed, it was certainly not acted upon, and to
this fortunate circumstance it is owing that all their intended
victims escaped with the exception of the captain of the garrison.

Towards three o'clock I was agreeably surprised by the sudden
appearance of the German steamer in the offing, and I immediately
began to make preparations for leaving by her, as I supposed that the
mutineers would offer no objection to my taking my departure. My
hopes were doomed to be disappointed, however. When the steamer
arrived abreast of the English consul's house, which is situated about
five miles further up the straits, a little cutter put off from the
shore, evidently with the intention of acquainting the people on board
the steamer of the mutiny. I watched with anxious eyes to see what the
steamer would do. Having parleyed for a while with the people in the
cutter, she moved slowly on again towards the colony. Presently the
boat of the captain of the port put off from shore and went out to
meet her. She had hardly got alongside, when a sudden report was
heard, and a cannon-ball, fired from the fort, struck the water just
under the steamer's bows. It was quickly followed by another, which
fell rather wide of the mark. In the meanwhile, the steamer got out of
range as quickly as she was able, and keeping well on the opposite
side of the straits, she soon passed the colony, and gradually
disappeared from sight, taking the boat of the captain of the port
with her.

It appeared that the latter had been manned by several mutineers, who,
disregarding the maxim anent honour among thieves, had made off with
their own and their companions' share of certain moneys which had been
plundered from the military chest. They had hoped to palm themselves
off on the authorities on board as peaceful citizens, who had made
good their escape from the dangers of the revolt, but the captain
took the liberty of doubting their representations, and put them all
into irons. They were eventually brought back to Sandy Point by an
American man-of-war, which met the German steamer a few days
afterwards.

Partly from rage at having been duped by their comrades, and partly
from pure love of mischief, the mutineers had endeavoured to shell the
steamer, and their first shot was very nearly attended with disastrous
success.

I consoled myself for the disappointment I had just experienced, by
the thought that the Pacific steamer for Monte Video, the _Cotopaxi_,
was due on the following day, and I was determined that I would not
miss her in the same way. There was no other steamer after her for
another fortnight, and it would indeed be a fatality if, after all the
efforts I had made in order to reach Sandy Point in time to take her,
she should actually pass by before my very eyes, without my being able
to go on board.

As it was possible that she might arrive at any moment, I resolved to
go immediately to the English consul's house, in order to go on board
with him, for I did not doubt that he would put off to warn her not to
approach the colony.

Without losing any time, therefore, I started off with Guillaume. On
the way we met several bands of mutineers, who were in a very
advanced state of intoxication. They told us that they were going to
set fire to the town, and leave that night for the pampas; but though
they were always threatening to shoot one another, they did not molest
us in any way. I noticed that they were all dressed in new clothes,
and some even had as many as three waistcoats on.

When I arrived at the English consul's house, I found there was no one
in it except the foreman of the sawmill, a Scotchman, who had but
recently arrived at the colony, and who was by no means tranquil in
his mind as to the turn events had taken. He told me that Dr.
Dunsmuir, the consul, had gone off in his cutter to meet the German
steamer, but that he had not yet returned, probably owing to a strong
head-wind which was then blowing. I remained, therefore, to await his
coming, and Guillaume went back to the colony, to see how matters were
going.



CHAPTER XVII.


I found McGregor, my new companion, in a state of despondent dread
lest a party of mutineers should arrive from Sandy Point 'and murder
us a'.' I endeavoured to convince him that there was no danger, as
indeed I believed there was not; but he refused to be comforted, and
grew so gloomy at the thought of the terrible fate in store for him,
that at last I gravely said: 'Well, I see there is no use in hiding
the truth from you. We are in a most dangerous plight, and if bad
fortune does lead the soldiers here, we are as likely as not to get
our throats cut.' This lugubrious intimation had the effect I
anticipated. Feeling that nature unaided was not strong enough to
sustain him under the present critical circumstances, McGregor applied
himself so assiduously to a jar of whisky that was fortunately at
hand, that in a very short time he became quite cheerful, and even
warlike, and sang 'Scots wha ha'e wi' Wallace bled' with astonishing
vigour and persistency, till, yielding to the soft influences of his
native stimulant, he at last sank into that sweet, calm slumber from
which the awakening is 'hot coppers.'

Meanwhile, evening came on apace, but no signs of the consul, and I
began to fear that he had been blown too far out to sea to get back
again that night. To pass away the time, I inspected the house, which
was one-storied, and consisted of two large front rooms, a
sitting-room, and a bedroom, behind which were two smaller
compartments, one used as a larder, and the other as a kitchen. From
the back-door one had only to step out to find one's self in a dense
beech forest.

Just as it was getting dark, I heard the sound of horses' hoofs, and
Guillaume galloped up to the house, breathless and excited. He told me
that matters had taken a very serious turn in the colony; the
mutineers had committed several acts of violence, and a general
massacre being apprehended, great numbers of the colonists were flying
to the woods. He himself had had a very narrow escape. He had been
seized by a party of mutineers, who were making preparations for
leaving for the pampas, and who wished to requisition his services as
guide to Santa Cruz. All his remonstrances were in vain, and they
plainly intimated to him that he had to choose between accompanying
them and having a bullet put through him; he was compelled, therefore,
to appear to assent. In order to gain time, he asked that he might be
allowed to go to Pedro's house to fetch some clothes, and his request
being granted, two soldiers were sent with him to prevent any attempt
he should make to escape. They were, fortunately, so drunk, however,
that they had hardly been a few minutes in the house when they lay
down and soon fell fast asleep. Profiting by this lucky circumstance,
Guillaume lost no time in jumping on a horse which happened to stand
in Pedro's yard, and in a few seconds he placed himself out of danger
of pursuit.

All this news was the reverse of reassuring, and I began to think that
McGregor's fears were, after all, not wholly unfounded. The consul's
house was only a few yards off the road which led from Sandy Point to
the Swiss colony at Agua Fresca, and at any time we might expect an
unpleasant visit from some of the soldiers, who were continually going
that way in search of horses or plunder. To make matters worse,
neither Guillaume nor I had a revolver, and although we searched all
over the house, we could not find an arm of any description. If
attacked, therefore, we had no means of defending ourselves--a
consideration which did not tend to allay our apprehensions.

After supper we made preparations for passing the night. McGregor, who
in the meantime had awakened, made up a bed for himself on the floor;
and although I advised him not to, he would insist on taking off his
clothes. I lay down on a sofa to take a short nap, pending the
consul's arrival, which I hoped would not now be long delayed. I soon
fell asleep, but at about midnight I awoke, roused by the pattering
of rain on the roof. I got up and looked out at the weather. The night
was pitch-dark, and the rain was falling in torrents; there was a
stormy wind blowing, and I could plainly hear the hoarse roar of the
waves on the beach. I went back to the sofa, but lay tossing about for
a long time, unable, tired as I was, to go to sleep again.

An hour went by, and I was just dozing off, when I thought I heard a
slight tap at the door. Hurriedly lighting the lamp, I got up and
looked out. Something touched my hand, and looking down, I saw a
little boy standing close to me. His first words were:

'My mamma is waiting at the bottom of the garden, and wants to know
whether she may come in.'

'Certainly, my boy,' I said. 'But who is your mother?'

'My father is the governor, and we have had to run away from the town,
for the soldiers are burning the houses and killing everybody.'

With that he ran away into the rain and the darkness, and came back
after a second or two, followed by a lady, with several children and
two maid-servants.

I immediately took them into the bedroom, and handed an armchair to
Mrs. D----, the governor's wife, who was pale with exhaustion and
suffering, and almost in a fainting condition. As soon as she was
sufficiently rested to be able to speak, she told me that on the
previous night, shortly after twelve o'clock, she had been startled
from her sleep by the discharge of cannon, with which the mutineers
had signalised the commencement of the revolt. Her husband immediately
rushed into the street. He had hardly been gone two minutes, when
suddenly a hail of mitrailleuse bullets began to crash through the
house, riddling the very walls of her bedroom. By a miracle, in the
midst of this deadly fire, she had time to collect all her children,
and escape with them unhurt into the street by a back-door. In a few
seconds more the house was in flames, and as she hurried away, she
could hear the jubilant shouts with which the mutineers greeted the
supposed successful slaughter of her husband and his family. She
managed to escape to a little house on the beach, where she had
remained hidden during the day without having been detected. But
towards night the uproar and fighting amongst the mutineers increased,
several houses were set fire to, and fearing that any moment a passing
soldier might burst into the house and discover her, as soon as it got
dark she had decided on attempting to reach the English consul's
house. By chance she had learned during the daytime that her husband
had escaped, and that in all probability he had gone to fetch the
Chilian man-of-war _Magellanes_, now at Skyring Water, to put down the
revolt.

I told her that Mr. Dunsmuir would, in all probability, not be back
that night, but that, in the meantime, I should be glad to render her
any assistance that she might require.

The children, the eldest of whom was the little boy who had come to
the door first, and he was only seven, were dressed in whatever
clothes the servants had hurriedly been able to snatch up on the night
of the first alarm.

The poor things were in a terrible plight. They had been more than two
hours on the road from Sandy Point, and were drenched to the skin with
the rain and mire. They had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours. I
took them in some tea; but rest being what they chiefly required, with
the help of mattresses and rugs, etc., we managed to make some
tolerably comfortable beds for them. Having done this, we withdrew to
the sitting-room, there to consult as to our plan of action, should
the mutineers come to the house.

In the midst of the discussion, there was another knock; and on the
door being opened, two more fugitives from the colony, an Irishman and
his wife, made their appearance. Both seemed to have had recourse to
strong stimulants to support their courage, and under the
circumstances they were certainly not a desirable addition to our
party.

During all this time McGregor had preserved a cheerful, unconcerned
demeanour. He had been particularly active in his attentions to the
D---- family, to the extent of insisting, with well-meant but
misplaced zeal, that all should swallow a drop of whisky before going
to bed. He found the new-comers did not require so much pressing.

Guillaume and I were sitting by the fire in the kitchen, trying to get
a little sleep, of which we were sorely in need, when suddenly there
was a loud banging at the front-door, followed by a loud chorus of
oaths and vociferations. We immediately ran into the sitting-room, and
Guillaume went to open the door, whilst I took the lamp into the
kitchen. I had hardly put it down, when I heard a crash in the
front-room, the house was filled with shrieks, and the Irish couple,
McGregor, and, as I thought, Guillaume, rushed madly past me into the
forest. Seized with the panic, I followed them for a moment; but
reflection returning, I went back to the house, ashamed of my want of
courage. I found half a dozen drunken soldiers in the sitting-room,
parleying with Guillaume. Owing to the darkness, they had fortunately
not discovered the other room, where Mrs. D---- was concealed; and in
order to divert their attention from it, we induced them to go into
the kitchen. There we plied them with more whisky, in the hopes of
quickly reducing them to a state of complete inebriety. The transition
phase was not a very pleasant one, inasmuch as they never let go their
carbines, and frequently, half in joke, half in earnest, they pointed
them threateningly at us. At times, too, they would wander into the
sitting-room, and then moments of terrible suspense ensued for us,
lest they should open the door of the bedroom. We were careful always
to follow them, and had made up our minds, in the event of their
attempting anything of the kind, to suddenly throw ourselves upon the
two men nearest us, seize their carbines, which were sixteen-repeating
Winchesters, and open fire on the lot. There was every chance in
favour of the success of such a measure, as the mutineers were already
so drunk that they could hardly stand, and if taken by surprise, would
have been too bewildered to offer any resistance.

The tension of these moments was heightened by the probability that at
any moment Mrs. D----'s babies might begin to cry, and thus reveal the
secret of the room. Miraculously enough, however, they kept quiet, and
we always managed to get the men back to the kitchen without the
dreaded crisis occurring. It seemed as if they never would leave.
Twenty times they got to the front-door, and we began to breathe
afresh, thinking they were at last off; but twenty times, for some
reason or other, they would come back again. From their conversation
it was very hard to find out what they exactly wanted. Those who were
still sufficiently sober to speak articulately, at times told us that
they were going to start off to the pampa immediately, and at others
that they intended holding the colony against all comers. At one
moment they would be maudlinly affectionate; at another, they would
lengthily discuss which mode of killing us was preferable--shooting us
or cutting our throats. Of course we were always on the alert, and
ready to make good our objections to either of these methods.

At last we had the indescribable satisfaction of seeing them depart
for good. Guillaume followed them at some distance, to give the alarm
in case they should come back, whilst I ran to the bedroom to tell
Mrs. D---- that for the moment the danger was over. What she must have
suffered all this time may be imagined. For two hours, every second of
which must have seemed an eternity to her, she had been expecting to
see the door burst open at any moment, and herself and her children at
the mercy of the mutineers, of whose murderous intentions towards her
she had had terrible proof in the bombarding of her house on the night
of the commencement of the revolt. But her courage had not given way,
as it might well have done under even less trying circumstances; and I
found her, though pale and prostrate, thoroughly calm and collected. I
hurriedly told her that at any moment the mutineers might come back,
and that we had better leave the house, and fly to the woods.

We accordingly set out immediately. I took two of the smaller children
in my arms, the maids each carried one, and the others walked by the
side of their mother; and Guillaume, who had returned after having
seen the soldiers safely off to the bottom of the garden, brought up
the rear, carrying a mattress and some rugs and blankets. We then
dived into the forest. It was still raining, and the night was as dark
as could be. At every step we would meet with some mishap, now
stumbling over the fallen trunk of a tree, and now slipping into some
boggy hole. The children, who had hitherto behaved admirably, having
borne hunger and cold and fatigue without a murmur, could now hardly
be kept from crying. I carried a little girl of about four years old;
her shoes and stockings had been lost in the hurry of collecting the
rugs and bedclothes, and her uncovered feet were icily cold. But
though I could hear her sob now and then on my shoulder, she was too
brave to cry aloud. How the two babies lived through all this exposure
was a miracle.

After having walked for about half an hour, for we could make but slow
progress, we came to a spot which seemed far enough from the house to
be safe, and there we spread out the two mattresses on the wet ground,
under the lea of the trunk of a fallen beech-tree. The whole party
managed to lie down on this rough bed, and, having covered them over
with the rugs and blankets Guillaume had brought, we left them, to go
back to the house to fetch some provisions and some more coverings,
for there was no knowing how many days we might be compelled to pass
in the woods.

We went very cautiously towards the house, as we could hear voices in
the kitchen, and feared lest the soldiers might have returned already.
The strains of 'Scots wha ha'e,' which pleasantly smote on our ears,
reassured us, however, and we went boldly forward. We found that the
Irish couple and McGregor had returned. They were toasting their happy
escape with more whisky. McGregor was delighted to see that we were
still alive, and said he had run away at the approach of the soldiers
because 'I dinna speak Spanish, ye ken.'

We were cold and exhausted with the night's exertions, so whilst
Guillaume went to see whether the coast was clear, McGregor set about
making coffee, and I busied myself collecting provisions and other
necessaries for taking with us to the woods.

Guillaume soon came back, bringing three carbines, which he had found
at the bottom of the garden. From the marks in the ground, he surmised
that, under the influence of their deep potations, the soldiers had
probably lain down to sleep there, and on awakening had forgotten
their arms. This was indeed a prize. Each carbine still contained some
six or seven charges. As McGregor would have nothing to do with a
weapon, Guillaume and I kept one each, and hid the other away in a
bush near the house. As good luck, like bad, seldom comes singly,
whilst rummaging about the bedroom in search of the little girl's
stockings, I found a revolver. This might prove a more valuable weapon
under certain circumstances than the carbine even, and with it safe in
my coat-pocket I felt quite a different man.

We were just pouring out the coffee, having made all preparations for
finally leaving the house, when Guillaume, who was always on the
look-out, rushed suddenly in, and shouting, 'Run for your lives!'
seized me by the arm, and dragged me out of the house. We had just
time to snatch up the carbines and dash into the woods, when we heard
the soldiers banging at the front-door. We did not stop till we had
got some distance into the forest. Guillaume told me that there were
about a dozen soldiers, amongst whom, doubtless, the three whose
carbines he had taken. What they would do on not finding them anywhere
in the house, we did not know, but it was not impossible that in their
rage they might set fire to the house, and perhaps follow us into the
woods. We now deeply regretted having tarried so long in the house, as
we had now no provisions to take back to our charges. Whilst debating
what to do, we were startled by the sharp crack of a rifle, discharged
close to us, followed by the sound of approaching voices; and fearing
the soldiers were in pursuit of us, we hurried as fast as possible to
where we had left Mrs. D----.

On reaching the spot, we found she had risen, anxious on account of
our long absence, and startled by the shot she had just heard. Without
saying that I thought we were being followed, I told her that it was
perhaps better that we should go still further into the forest, and,
without losing a second, we gathered up the children, and again
commenced our pilgrimage, plunging deeper and deeper into the dense
mass of underwood, till we had got so far that pursuit seemed
impossible.

By this time all the younger children were crying bitterly for want of
food. A tin of preserved milk, which I had put in my pocket, had
dropped out somehow, and it now became almost a matter of life and
death that the babes should have some nourishment. Feeling the urgency
of the case, Guillaume and I again started towards the house, hoping
that the soldiers had given up their search for us, and had perhaps
gone back to Sandy Point. We crept along with beating hearts, starting
at the crackling of the branches under our feet, and fearing to find a
foe concealed behind every tree, till we at last got to the open near
the house. Under cover of some bushes, we crept close up to it. By the
hum of voices we could tell that the soldiers were still inside, and
presently one came out of the house and stood peering into the wood
for a short time, standing so close to us that we could hear his
breathing. After he had gone inside, we profited by the opportunity to
slip back into the wood, and having made a circuit, we ensconced
ourselves on an eminence on the other side of the house, where we were
more secure, and where we could better watch the coming and going of
our enemies.

There we lay hour after hour, and still they did not leave; they were
in warm quarters, and the whisky was doubtless too strong an
attraction for them. What, I began to think, if they should not leave
all day? Our only chance would be to steal into the house after dark,
and risk the rest. But it was doubtful whether the younger children
could live till then without some nourishment. The tin of milk I had
lost would have saved all anxiety, and I half made up my mind to start
off and follow the path I had taken from the house to the woods, on
the desperate chance of perhaps finding it again. Fortunately, matters
did not reach that pitch, for at last, after having impatiently waited
for about three hours, we saw ten or twelve soldiers leave the house,
mount their horses, and ride off in the direction of Sandy Point. We
immediately quitted our watchtower, and ran as fast as we could
towards the house; but to our horror, just as we got to the door, we
heard voices within again. We were desperate by this time; besides, it
was too late to turn back, so, holding our guns in readiness, we
cautiously approached the doorway. Then an anticlimax; for suddenly
the Irishwoman, followed by her spouse, rushed out and almost received
our fire.

On hearing Guillaume's shout of warning, they had waited a moment too
long, and before they could get out of the place the soldiers were
upon them. They had furiously demanded the missing carbines, but of
course they were not to be found anywhere, whereupon they threatened
to burn the house down. Here again the whisky saved the situation.
They lingered so long over the cask that they quite forgot to look for
the carbines, much less to go off in pursuit of us. Two or three of
them went a few yards into the wood, and fired off a single shot at
random, but they probably thought it would be dangerous to risk
themselves too far, and they accordingly went back to their comrades.
They stayed as long as the whisky lasted, and then went off again.

We lost no time in collecting a quantity of provisions, tins of
preserved meats and soups, milk, ham, eggs, etc., etc., to which I
added some plates, saucepans, knives, spoons--in fact, everything
necessary for a prolonged sojourn in the woods. I told McGregor to
come with us, if he liked, as to all appearance the mutineers seemed
in no hurry to leave for the pampas, and sooner or later he might get
into trouble. The Irish couple, having found a case of sherry, seemed
to think their lines cast in a very pleasant place, and as the
soldiers had as yet not done them any grievous harm, they made up
their minds to stay.

Loaded with the remaining blankets and with the provisions, we made
our way back as quickly as possible to Mrs. D----, who, as we had been
away for more than four hours, had become quite alarmed lest some
mishap had befallen us. We turned out the provisions, soon made a
fire, and having dissolved some milk for the younger children, we
commenced to prepare a substantial meal, of which everyone stood in
great need. We were just beginning to feel a little more at our ease,
the children had been able to dry their clothes and warm themselves by
the fire, some meat we had set to roast was nearly done to a turn,
and, feeling secure now from all danger, we were able for the first
time to quietly talk of the late events and discuss the probability of
the speedy arrival of the Chilian man-of-war--when two women came
running through the woods towards us, pale and frightened, calling out
as they got near, "The soldiers, the soldiers! Run for your lives!"

We all started to our feet in dismay. It was perhaps already too late
to fly. We were at all events armed, and could at least make a good
stand if necessary. Meanwhile we hurriedly lifted the children in our
arms, and leaving everything else behind us, we again "moved on,"
turning our heads at every second, to be prepared should the soldiers
arrive. No one appeared, however; and it seemed merely a false scare
of the women. The forest had become so dense that occasionally we had
to pick our way through thick underwood. The ground was a mere swamp,
full of treacherous holes, and the rain and moisture clinging to the
leaves of the bushes drenched us all to the skin as we brushed through
them. But still we kept on, determined to place such a distance
between the road and our camp as to leave us perfectly at ease as
regards the mutineers, who would certainly never take the trouble of
looking so far into the wood for anybody, even if they were to stop
another month round the colony.

When we reached a small open in the thicket, where the ground was
tolerably dry, we set down the children, and returned on our tracks to
fetch the mattresses, coverings, and food we had left behind. We found
everything just as we had left it, and not a sign of anyone having
been near the place. The women who had run past us had, perhaps, heard
some branches crackle, and had immediately concluded that the
mutineers were coming. However, there was nothing to be done but to
carry everything to our new camping-place--no easy task, as both
Guillaume and myself were completely done up with our continued
exertions, and the mattresses and various other articles were in
themselves heavy enough.

We had hidden our charges so well that we could not find them
ourselves; and only after a great deal of searching, quite by
accident, we happened to stumble on the place again. To keep off the
wet, which was dropping from the trees, we rigged up a kind of tent
over the mattresses with some blankets, and under its shelter the
whole party lay huddled together. We then tried to make a fire, but as
the wood was wet it could not be got to burn, and only blinded us with
smoke. After a great deal of blowing, we at last succeeded in raising
a fair glow, by the aid of which we managed to cook a meal, which was
actually eaten. And quite time it was, too, as the children had had
nothing but the milk for nearly forty-eight hours.

It was now about four o'clock. I became anxious to know what was going
on in the colony, and whether there was any possibility of the
mutineers leaving soon. Leaving McGregor in charge of the camp,
Guillaume and I made our way down to the road, and keeping under cover
of the wood, slowly proceeded in the direction of the colony, in the
hopes of meeting some one who could give us some news. We had not gone
very far when we saw a stout little man coming running along the road
at full speed. Guillaume recognised him as one of the bakers at Sandy
Point, and called to him to stop, as he ran past us. As soon as he
could find breath to speak, he said that a short time before the house
where he lived had been attacked by the soldiers, two of his
companions had been killed, and he had only saved himself by jumping
out of a window, just as the mutineers were standing in the doorway of
his room, with fixed bayonets, inviting him to pass through their
midst. There was hardly anyone left in the colony, most of the
inhabitants having taken refuge in the woods. He had seen several dead
bodies lying about as he had hurried away, but having never been out
of his house since the commencement of the revolt, he could give us
little information as to the doings of the mutineers.

We went back to the consul's house with him. The Irishwoman was still
there, and was sleeping peacefully in an armchair; her husband we
found lying in the kitchen, with several severe head-wounds. A
pillaging party had evidently gone through the place, for drawers were
upset, crockery smashed, curtains torn down, and general disorder
prevalent everywhere. The baker was in a hurry to be off to the woods,
for after his recent narrow escape he had a wholesome, but perhaps
excessive, dread of being suddenly seized by the mutineers again.

But though we had plenty of provisions of all kinds, there was neither
bread nor biscuit in the house, so I asked him--flour, eggs, and
butter being at hand--to make the dough for some cakes, which could be
baked up in the woods at our leisure. Very reluctantly he agreed to
do so, on condition that Guillaume should watch the road, to give
timely warning of the approach of danger. Presently Guillaume called
me, and on going out I saw a dense cloud of smoke rising in the
direction of the colony. The convicts had evidently set fire to the
town, a prelude, perhaps, to their departure. There was no wind, and
soon a heavy downpour of rain commenced; but we had little hope that a
stick would be left standing in the whole settlement, which was built
exclusively of timber. The dough being ready, though I think it had
not been kneaded very carefully, we went back into the wood, losing
our way as on the former occasion; and had it not been for the
familiar strains of 'Scots wha ha'e!' with which McGregor was cheering
the children, and which at last guided us to the camp, we might have
wandered about for hours.

We were now quite a large party, the possibility of being again
disturbed by the mutineers was out of the question; and if only we had
been able to make a good blazing fire, than which there is nothing so
cheering to the spirits, we might, comparatively speaking, have felt
fairly comfortable. But whatever wood we could collect was quite wet,
and it was difficult to get it to burn sufficiently to cook the dinner
by.

Under shelter of the improvised tent we had managed to rig up, and
with the aid of the few coverings procured from the consul's house,
Mrs. D---- and the children were fortunately kept tolerably dry and
warm, and overcome with the anxieties and exertions of the day, they
were able to forget their troubles in sleep. As for myself and the
other men, we tried for some time to do likewise, but having no
coverings, the cold and wet effectually kept us awake, and we passed
the night huddled round the smouldering logs, listening to the
monotonous pattering of the rain on the canopy of leaves above us, and
longing wearily for the morning.

It broke at last, and with it came better weather. As soon as the sun
was well up, I went down to the house to see if there was anything
new. On reaching a point from which the settlement was visible, from
the changed aspect of the town, it was evident that the fire had done
great ravages. It was, however, too far off for me to recognise
whether many of the houses were left standing, which, considering the
nature of their construction, was not probable. A thin column of smoke
was still rising from one part, but the fire itself seemed spent. I
then looked down the straits towards Dawson's Island, but as yet there
was no sign of any coming steamer. The Pacific steamer _Cotopaxi_ was
due on the day before, and as it is very unusual for the vessels of
that line to be behind time, I concluded that she had been met by the
English consul, and was possibly awaiting the arrival of the Chilian
man-of-war, whose coming could not now be long delayed, before
approaching the colony.

On my way back to our forest sanctuary, I stumbled on a knot of
Chilian women, who told me they had escaped from the colony the
previous night, for fear of being taken to the pampas by the
mutineers, who were making preparations for leaving immediately. They
all had big bundles of clothes with them, and, strange to say, all
wore brand-new shawls and gowns. I had not the slightest doubt but
that they had done their share in the general plundering. It was good
news, at all events, to hear that the mutineers were at last really
off, of which the burning of the colony was the best proof.

After breakfast I started off with Guillaume, with the intention of
going to Sandy Point, if possible, and discovering the real state of
affairs there. But on reaching the road just below the consul's house,
to our surprise we found it thronged with fugitives from the
settlement, who were issuing from all parts of the woods, where they
had been hiding. On looking seawards, the reason became apparent.
Steaming along at full speed, and already nearly opposite the house,
we saw the long-expected _Magellanes_, the Chilian man-of-war. I
immediately ran back to take the welcome news to Mrs. D----, that her
troubles were now over. For the last time we carried the children
through the wood down to Mr. Dunsmuir's house, which, by the time we
got there, was crowded with women and children, carrying such of their
household goods as they had been able to take with them in their
flight.

As soon as the _Magellanes_ arrived in front of the house, a boat was
sent off to the shore, in which Mrs. D---- and her children embarked
to meet her husband, who was safe on board. Shortly after, another
larger boat came to fetch off the other women and children.

Here a rather ludicrous scene ensued. Just before the boat touched
land, the people on shore were suddenly seized with panic at the sight
of some dark bodies advancing on the road from Sandy Point, and which
they thought were the soldiers coming towards them. Immediately the
air was filled with shrieks, and, throwing down their bundles, they
all rushed into the water to meet the advancing boat. The sailors had
to keep them off with their oars, or they would have swamped the boat.
Meanwhile, the foe came nearer, the shrieks grew louder, some of the
men even sharing in the general weakness, till at last the coming
squadron of horsemen resolved itself into a herd of cows, who came
trotting leisurely down the road, ignorant of the panic their presence
had created.

The women and those of the men who chose to go were at last brought
safely on board, and the _Magellanes_ steamed slowly up the straits
towards the colony. Guillaume and I had already started off some time
before, and we arrived at the first house in the settlement almost as
soon as she arrived abreast of the pier.



CHAPTER XVIII.


As we got nearer to the town it became evident that the better portion
had been burned down; of the fort, the hospital, the Government
buildings, and a great many private houses, nothing remained but a
smoking heap of charred timbers. The first house I entered was
Pedro's--the one in which I had slept on the night of my arrival. The
state of things inside was deplorable; the shop had been completely
ransacked of its contents, the taps of the casks had been turned on,
and the wine and aguadiente had run out on the floor, which was strewn
with the _débris_ of crockery and glassware, broken bottles,
half-emptied tins of preserved meats, odd boots, wearing apparel, rice
and flour--the remains, in fact, of what had once constituted Pedro's
stock-in-trade. The other rooms bore marks of the same spirit of
wanton destruction. Everything smashable had been smashed, and
everything conveniently portable had been carried off. The pillaging
had been done with remarkable thoroughness--no article seemed to have
been too insignificant to escape the rapacity of the marauders, who
had thought it worth while to take the cruet-stand, the clock, and the
knives and forks of ordinary household use even.

Opposite Pedro's was the baker's house, which had been stormed by the
mutineers, the owner having unwisely closed his doors and refused them
admission. They killed two of its inmates, and the others had a narrow
escape from sharing the same fate, just managing to take flight unhurt
under a shower of bullets. Walking down to the plaza, I passed several
dead bodies, chiefly of convicts or soldiers. The streets were as yet
almost completely deserted, but on turning a corner I found myself
face to face with a villainous-looking man, who, on seeing me,
suddenly pointed his gun at me, and for a second I thought he was
going to fire. He lowered his weapon immediately, however, saying that
he had taken me for a mutineer.

I had not the slightest doubt that he was one. In fact, not a few of
those who took a very active part in the mutiny remained behind in
Sandy Point when their companions left for the pampas, either because
they were too drunk to be able to follow them, or because they
calculated on being able to pass themselves off on the authorities as
peaceful and inoffensive citizens, and thus escape the punishment they
had so well deserved. Hence the officious zeal with which this man had
felt himself called upon to offer to shoot me, in the hopes of
impressing me with his profound sympathies for the cause of order.

In the meantime, some forces were landed from the _Magellanes_, and
gradually the colonists began to flock down to the town from all parts
of the woods, or from wherever they had been hiding during the revolt.
Many came back to find their houses burned to the ground; and there
were few who were not completely ruined by the wholesale and wanton
destruction of their property.

It was estimated that damage to the amount of about $500,000 had been
done--a very large sum indeed, considering the size of the town and
the calling of its inhabitants. About sixty persons perished during
the revolt, and several died subsequently from the effects of their
wounds. Strange to say, the day after the mutineers left Sandy Point,
no less than three men-of-war lay anchored in the straits in front of
the town. Amongst them was a United States steamer, which had been
warned by the German packet of the mutiny, and which, but for the
heavy weather encountered off Cape Virgines, might have arrived at the
colony on Tuesday morning, and have quelled the revolt before it had
developed its worst features.

The mutineers had chosen a favourable moment for their rising. Most of
the colonists were away seal-fishing, and the man-of-war generally
stationed in the straits was temporarily absent from Sandy Point,
being engaged on a survey of Skyring Water. The nominal head of the
mutineers was a sergeant of the name of Riquelmes. Their plan had
originally been to kill the governor and any of the Government
officials obnoxious to them, and then immediately set out for the
pampas, and cross the Santa Cruz River into Argentine territory, where
these naïve scoundrels imagined they would be hailed as an
acquisition, and be received with open arms by the authorities. On a
par with such absurd reasoning was their conduct throughout the
revolt, and when they left Sandy Point they loaded their pack-horses
with bales of shawls, dresses, ponchos, and similar useless articles,
but with not an ounce of provisions of any kind.

Riquelmes, as I have said, was their nominal chief, but he dared not,
had he wished to, enforce his authority, and each mutineer plundered
or murdered at his own sweet will, without reference to the doings of
his comrades. Owing to this absence of organisation, their intended
victims, with the exception of the captain of the garrison, were
fortunately able to escape. The governor, Major D----, on hearing the
first alarm, had run into the streets. A passing soldier, without
recognising him, struck him over the head with a gun, and he fell
senseless. When he recovered, aided by the darkness, he managed to
reach a house on the outskirts of the town, where he was well
received and enabled to dress his wound. He then procured a horse, and
after an unbroken ride of twenty-three hours, arrived at Skyring Water
just in time to catch the _Magellanes_, which was getting up steam
preparatory to leaving, and apprise the captain of the mutiny. The
captain of the garrison, less fortunate, was murdered as he was
leaving his bedroom, and his dead body was barbarously mutilated
before the eyes of his wife and children. The other officials escaped.

During the two ensuing days the mutineers were chiefly occupied in
drinking and plundering--pastimes which they varied with occasional
fights among themselves. On the first day they had respected the lives
and persons of the colonists, and many of the latter, foreseeing that
this moderation might not be of long duration, wisely withdrew from
the town and hid themselves in the woods, with their wives and
children. Those who remained behind, in the hopes of being able to
save their homes and property from destruction, soon had cause to
regret their imprudence. The conduct of the mutineers, in measure as
the effects of the continued drinking in which they indulged began to
tell upon them, grew more and more violent, and before long, breaking
all bounds, they gave themselves up to the most ferocious licence. It
is not necessary to recount the details of the horrible scenes that
took place; as may be imagined, given the antecedents of these men,
human life was of as little account with them as female honour. Though
there was nothing to be gained by it, they seemed to find a peculiar
satisfaction in destroying everything that was destructible, and it
was not from any want of intention that the whole colony was not
burned to the ground by them, but simply that they were too
intoxicated to be able to carry out the necessary arrangements for so
doing with sufficient thoroughness.

In the midst of their orgies they were surprised by the appearance of
the _Magellanes_ early on Wednesday morning. Thereupon they hurriedly
collected some forty horses, which they loaded with all kinds of
plunder, but forgetting, as I have already said, incredible though it
may seem, to take any provisions with them; and the whole crowd, which
numbered about 180 souls, including some women, then started off for
Cabo Negro on foot. At that place they expected to find sufficient
horses to mount everybody, as most of the horses belonging to the
colonists were kept there, on account of there being little or no
pasturage in the vicinity of Sandy Point. In this expectation,
however, they were disappointed--the farm-owner had taken the
precaution of driving the whole of his stock out of harm's way, and
the mutineers, on arriving at Cabo Negro, found themselves obliged to
abandon the useless plunder they had brought from the colony, for most
of them were already tired out, and required the few horses they
possessed for more practical purposes than that of carrying bales of
guanaco mantles and dry goods. As many as three men had to ride on
each horse, and even then a great number had to drag themselves along
on foot as best they might. The whole band, therefore, moved very
slowly, and they were, moreover, under continual dread of the arrival
of a pursuing party from the colony.

For some reason known only to those having authority, no such party
was despatched, however; though there is little doubt that forty or
fifty men, well armed and well mounted, might easily have brought the
mutineers to bay, and effected their capture without much trouble.
Many had already thrown their guns and ammunition away, and now that
they were brought face to face with almost certain starvation, would
have been glad to surrender on any terms.

In the evening, though they could ill spare them, they had to kill two
or three horses for food. The next day they fell in with an
ostrich-hunter, who, not knowing what had taken place during his
absence, was quietly returning to Sandy Point. His troop of horses
was, of course, an invaluable prize to the mutineers, and him they
forced to go with them, in order that with his dogs he might help to
supply them with food. He contrived to lag behind the main band,
however, and when once fairly amongst the foot-stragglers, he
suddenly turned round, and, galloping away, made good his escape,
unpursued by the mutineers, who had no inclination to tire their
horses unnecessarily.

They now conceived the plan of surprising the Indians, with the object
of massacring them and seizing their horses and dogs, but unforeseen
circumstances again transpired to frustrate their intentions. Five or
six mutineers had left Sandy Point on the first day of the mutiny, and
these men, on passing through the Indian encampment, besides stealing
several horses, had killed an Indian who had remonstrated with them.
This incident put the Indians on the alert; they despatched scouts in
all directions, and as soon as these latter announced the coming of
the main band, the camp was hurriedly broken up, and long before the
mutineers arrived at Campo de Batalla, the site of the encampment, the
Indians were half-way to the Cordilleras, and far out of reach of
pursuit.

The day after their last disappointment poor Isidoro fell into their
hands. He had crossed the Gallegos, which in the meantime had fallen
considerably, two days before, and was travelling leisurely towards
Sandy Point, little dreaming of what was in store for him, when one
evening, on turning a bend in some cañon, he suddenly stumbled on the
mutineers' camp. He was immediately surrounded, dragged from his
horse, and taken to Riquelmes, who, without saying why or wherefore,
ordered him to prepare to be shot within five minutes. Any attempt at
resistance was, of course, useless, and Isidoro quietly resigned
himself to his fate. Ten men were told off to do the fatal office, and
Riquelmes was just going to give the command to fire, when it suddenly
occurred to him that Isidoro might be useful for tracking the Indians,
to find whom the mutineers still thought it was possible, and
accordingly he agreed to spare Isidoro's life, warning him that,
should he attempt to escape, he would be punished with immediate
death.

The next day they continued their march. Isidoro, surrounded by a
strong guard, was allowed to ride on horseback, his other horses,
twenty-seven in number, being of course requisitioned by the
mutineers. During the first day no opportunity to escape presented
itself, but on the second day such an occasion occurred, and Isidoro
adroitly profited by it. In the course of the march some specks were
observed moving about on the horizon, which Riquelmes and his
followers fancied must be the Indians; and appeal being made to
Isidoro, he confirmed their supposition, although his own superior
power of vision enabled him to detect that the specks in question were
nothing but guanacos. Whereupon ensued great excitement. A halt was
immediately made, and a council of war held, with the object of
determining some ruse by means of which to obtain the Indians'
horses. After everybody had spoken, Isidoro offered to decoy the
Indians into the hands of the mutineers on condition that, in the
event of his being successful, his own horses should be returned to
him, and he should be allowed to go back to Sandy Point.

Isidoro was well known to most of the mutineers by reputation as a man
of great craft and adroitness, and as they had no doubt of his ability
to be as good as his word, his offer was eagerly accepted. He then
explained that in the first place it was necessary, before maturing
his plans, that he should reconnoitre the Indian camp, and in order
not to arouse the suspicions of Riquelmes, he requested that two men
should be sent to accompany him. Of these two he had no doubt that he
would be able to dispose in some way or other, as soon as he had got a
safe distance from the main band, as, strange to say, his capturers
had neglected to take his revolver from him. The rest of his escape he
left to Providence and his good horse.

But Fate was willing to make matters easier for him than he
anticipated. Riquelmes was completely taken in by this little
artifice, and, fearing lest the sight of the Chilians should awaken
mistrust in the minds of the Indians, he suggested that Isidoro should
go alone.

Five minutes afterwards Isidoro was leisurely cantering over the plain
in the direction of the mysterious specks, to whose timely appearance
he owed his sudden release. After he had gone about two miles, the
plain was crossed by a deep cañon. Into this he descended,
disappearing, of course, from view of the mutineers, who expected to
see him shortly emerge again on the opposite side. How long they
watched for his reappearance is neither here nor there, but after a
certain lapse of time it no doubt gradually began to dawn upon them
that they had been guilty of considerable simplicity, and that in all
probability they would never see Isidoro again.

As for him, the moment he reached the bottom of the cañon, he clapped
spurs to his horse, and followed its windings at breakneck speed till
night-fall, and then, after a short rest, he rode up on the plain, and
commenced travelling southwards again, so that by daybreak he was many
miles behind the mutineers, and perfectly secure from any chance of
being pursued. He was, of course, happy to escape with his life, but
all his horses being lost, he was now a poor man; his prediction as to
the unfortunate issue to his trip, which he had made on losing his
whip in crossing the Santa Cruz, was thus strangely verified. It was
providential, after all, that Guillaume and I had crossed the Gallegos
when we did; for we should otherwise have doubtless been taken
prisoners by the mutineers, together with Isidoro, and being _bouches
inutiles_, they would probably have shot us.

The mutineers slowly worked their way northwards, their numbers being
thinned by the fatal disputes, which were of frequent occurrence. The
horseless stragglers, too, unable to keep up with the main body,
gradually died off from starvation and exposure, and finally, in the
month of February, an expedition sent to the Patagonian coast by the
Argentine Government, captured all that remained of the band, in the
persons of about forty half-starved wretches, who were found wandering
about the country somewhere in the vicinity of Port Desire. They were
taken up to Buenos Ayres, and some difficulty as to their extradition
having arisen between the Chilian and the Argentine Governments, they
are still in prison in that city. The most culpable of the band taken
prisoners by the _Magellanes_ were shot at Sandy Point, March, 1879,
and the others were condemned to various periods of penal servitude.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was leaning over the bulwarks of the steamer which was bearing me
rapidly out of the straits back to the noisy work-a-day world. I had
come up on deck to have a last look at Patagonia, for we were nearing
Cape Virgines, and should now soon lose sight of land altogether.
Darkness was coming on apace, cold gusts of wind ploughed up the
foaming water, and the clouded sky looked gloomy and threatening. The
mainland, half shrouded in a thick white fog, frowned sullenly down
upon us as we swept past; and the dull muffled roar of the sea on the
stony beach, which at intervals struck dismally on my ear, sounded
like a half-suppressed growl with which the genius of the solitudes I
was now leaving bade me good speed.

'Well,' said a friend at my elbow, 'I suppose you would not care to go
to Patagonia again?'

I glanced at the scene before me, and as certain unpleasant memories
which it called forth passed through my mind, I answered, shuddering,
and with decided emphasis, 'By Jove, no!'

Perhaps, had the day been fine, the sea smooth, the sky cloudless and
blue, and the green slopes of the mainland bright with cheering
sunshine, my answer might not have been so uncompromisingly in the
negative. Forgetting minor inconveniences, I might have remembered
only the pleasant features of my sojourn in the pampas, the rough
simplicity of my everyday life, the frank kindness of my
unconventional companions, the delights of the chase, the glorious
gallops over immensity, with the pure exhilarating air of the desert
rushing into my lungs and making my whole being glow with intense
animation, the cheerful gathering round the warm campfire after the
day's hard work, the hearty supper, the fragrant pipe, and then the
sweet sleep in the open air, with the stars shining into my dreams.


THE END.


BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS AND ELECTROTYPERS, GUILDFORD.



          _April, 1881._

  [Illustration]

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_NEW NOVEL BY JUSTIN MCCARTHY._

=Gentleman's Magazine for January, 1881=, Price One Shilling, contained
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⁂ _Now ready, the Volume for_ JULY _to_ DECEMBER, 1880,
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=History of Our Own Times=, from the Accession of Queen Victoria to the
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=Hueffer's The Troubadours=: A History of Provencal Life and Literature
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=Janvier.--Practical Keramics for Students.= By C. A. JANVIER.

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=Ouida's Novels.--Library Edition.=

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     =Cecil Castlemaine.=  By OUIDA.
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     =Folle Farine.=       By OUIDA.
     =Dog of Flanders.=    By OUIDA.
     =Pascarel.=           By OUIDA.
     =Two Wooden Shoes.=   By OUIDA.
     =Signa.=              By OUIDA.
     =In a Winter City.=   By OUIDA.
     =Ariadne.=            By OUIDA.
     =Friendship.=         By OUIDA.
     =Moths.=              By OUIDA.
     =Pipistrello.=        By OUIDA.

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=Maid, Wife, or Widow?= By Mrs. ALEXANDER.

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=My Little Girl.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=The Case of Mr. Lucraft.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=This Son of Vulcan.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=With Harp and Crown.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=The Golden Butterfly.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=By Celia's Arbour.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=The Monks of Thelema.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

='Twas in Trafalgar's Bay.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=The Seamy Side.= By WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=Antonina.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=Basil.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=Hide and Seek.= W. COLLINS.

=The Dead Secret.= W. COLLINS.

=Queen of Hearts.= W. COLLINS.

=My Miscellanies.= W. COLLINS.

=The Woman in White.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=The Moonstone.= W. COLLINS.

=Man and Wife.= W. COLLINS.

=Poor Miss Finch.= W. COLLINS.

=Miss or Mrs.?= By W. COLLINS.

=The New Magdalen.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=The Frozen Deep.= W. COLLINS.

=The Law and the Lady.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=The Two Destinies.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=The Haunted Hotel.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=The Fallen Leaves.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=Jezebel's Daughter.= W. COLLINS.

=Deceivers Ever.= By Mrs. H. LOVETT CAMERON.

=Juliet's Guardian.= By Mrs. H. LOVETT CAMERON.

=Felicia.= M. BETHAM-EDWARDS.

=Olympia.= By R. E. FRANCILLON.

=The Capel Girls.= By EDWARD GARRETT.

=Robin Gray.= CHARLES GIBBON.

=For Lack of Gold.= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=In Love and War.= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=What will the World Say?= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=For the King.= CHARLES GIBBON.

=In Honour Bound.= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=Queen of the Meadow.= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=In Pastures Green.= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=Under the Greenwood Tree.= By THOMAS HARDY.

=Garth.= By JULIAN HAWTHORNE.

=Ellice Quentin.= By JULIAN HAWTHORNE.

=Thornicroft's Model.= By Mrs. A. W. HUNT.

=Fated to be Free.= By JEAN INGELOW.

=Confidence.= HENRY JAMES, Jun.

=The Queen of Connaught.= By HARRIETT JAY.

=The Dark Colleen.= By H. JAY.

=Number Seventeen.= By HENRY KINGSLEY.

=Oakshott Castle.= H. KINGSLEY.

=Patricia Kemball.= By E. LYNN LINTON.

=The Atonement of Learn Dundas.= By E. LYNN LINTON.

=The World Well Lost.= By E. LYNN LINTON.

=Under which Lord?= By E. LYNN LINTON.

=With a Silken Thread.= By E. LYNN LINTON.

=The Waterdale Neighbours.= By JUSTIN MCCARTHY.

=My Enemy's Daughter.= By JUSTIN MCCARTHY.

=Linley Rochford.= By JUSTIN MCCARTHY.

=A Fair Saxon.= By JUSTIN MCCARTHY.

=Dear Lady Disdain.= By JUSTIN MCCARTHY.

=Miss Misanthrope.= By JUSTIN MCCARTHY.

=Donna Quixote.= By JUSTIN MCCARTHY.

=Quaker Cousins.= By AGNES MACDONELL.

=Lost Rose.= By KATHARINE S. MACQUOID.

=The Evil Eye.= By KATHARINE S. MACQUOID.

=Open! Sesame!= By FLORENCE MARRYAT.

=Written in Fire.= F. MARRYAT.

=Touch and Go.= By JEAN MIDDLEMASS.

=Whiteladies.= Mrs. OLIPHANT.

=The Best of Husbands.= By JAMES PAYN.

=Fallen Fortunes.= JAMES PAYN.

=Halves.= By JAMES PAYN.

=Walter's Word.= JAMES PAYN.

=What He Cost Her.= J. PAYN.

=Less Black than we're Painted.= By JAMES PAYN.

=By Proxy.= By JAMES PAYN.

=Under One Roof.= JAMES PAYN.

=High Spirits.= By JAMES PAYN.

=Her Mother's Darling.= By Mrs. J. H. RIDDELL.

=Bound to the Wheel.= By JOHN SAUNDERS.

=Guy Waterman.= J. SAUNDERS.

=One Against the World.= By JOHN SAUNDERS.

=The Lion in the Path.= By JOHN SAUNDERS.

=The Way We Live Now.= By ANTHONY TROLLOPE.

=The American Senator.= By ANTHONY TROLLOPE.

=Diamond Cut Diamond.= By T. A. TROLLOPE.


Post 8vo, illustrated boards, 2_s._ each.

Popular Novels, Cheap Editions of.

[WILKIE COLLINS' NOVELS and BESANT and RICE'S NOVELS may also be had
in cloth limp at 2_s._ 6_d._ _See, too, the_ PICCADILLY NOVELS, _for
Library Editions_.]

=Maid, Wife, or Widow?= By Mrs. ALEXANDER.

=Ready-Money Mortiboy.= By WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=With Harp and Crown.= By WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=This Son of Vulcan.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=My Little Girl.= By the same.

=The Case of Mr. Lucraft.= By WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=The Golden Butterfly.= By W. BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=By Celia's Arbour.= By WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=The Monks of Thelema.= By WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE.

='Twas in Trafalgar's Bay.= By WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE.

=Seamy Side.= BESANT and RICE.

=Grantley Grange.= By S. BEAUCHAMP.

=An Heiress of Red Dog.= By BRET HARTE.

=The Luck of Roaring Camp.= By BRET HARTE.

=Gabriel Conroy.= BRET HARTE.

=Surly Tim.= By F. E. BURNETT.

=Juliet's Guardian.= By Mrs. H. LOVETT CAMERON.

=Deceivers Ever.= By Mrs. L. CAMERON.

=Cure of Souls.= By MACLAREN COBBAN.

=Antonina.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=Basil.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=Hide and Seek.= W. COLLINS.

=The Dead Secret.= W. COLLINS.

=The Queen of Hearts.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=My Miscellanies.= W. COLLINS.

=The Woman in White.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=The Moonstone.= W. COLLINS.

=Man and Wife.= W. COLLINS.

=Poor Miss Finch.= W. COLLINS.

=Miss or Mrs.?= W. COLLINS.

=New Magdalen.= By W. COLLINS.

=The Frozen Deep.= W. COLLINS.

=The Law and the Lady.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=The Two Destinies.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=The Haunted Hotel.= By WILKIE COLLINS.

=Fallen Leaves.= By W. COLLINS.

=Felicia.= M. BETHAM-EDWARDS.

=Roxy.= By EDWARD EGGLESTON.

=Filthy Lucre.= By ALBANY DE FONBLANQUE.

=Olympia.= By R. E. FRANCILLON.

=The Capel Girls.= By EDWARD GARRETT.

=Robin Gray.= By CHAS. GIBBON.

=For Lack of Gold.= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=What will the World Say?= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=In Honour Bound.= By CHAS. GIBBON.

=In Love and War.= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=For the King.= By CHARLES GIBBON.

=Queen of the Meadow=. By CHARLES GIBBON.

=Dick Temple.= By JAMES GREENWOOD.

=Every-day Papers.= By A. HALLIDAY.

=Under the Greenwood Tree.= By THOMAS HARDY.

=Garth.= By JULIAN HAWTHORNE.

=Thornicroft's Model.= By Mrs. A. HUNT.

=Fated to be Free.= By JEAN INGELOW.

=Confidence.= By HENRY JAMES, Jun.

=The Queen of Connaught.= By HARRIETT JAY.

=The Dark Colleen.= By H. JAY.

=Number Seventeen.= By HENRY KINGSLEY.

=Oakshott Castle.= H. KINGSLEY.

=Patricia Kemball.= By E. LYNN LINTON.

=The Atonement of Leam Dundas.= By E. LYNN LINTON.

=The World Well Lost.= By E. LYNN LINTON.

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       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
been preserved.

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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